Better Late Than Never: A Thai Goodbye – So Soon? (Review)

 Better Late Than Never - Season 1

Better Late Than Never ended things in an apparent rush with the guys visiting Thailand. Last week saw the group in Seoul, South Korea where Jeff played a brilliant practical joke on his aged companions.

This travelogue ended on a rather restrained note as the travelers said goodbye to Asia after a number of activities.  There was a tuk tuk race, visiting with elephants, tattoos,  a water fight, and Terry Bradshaw’s birthday.

Better Late Than Never, which is, amazingly enough,  an American travelogue version of a South Korean production; Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team, has been interesting and very popular. The viewing figures are impressive with an average, not counting this episode, of 7.196 per segment.

(The “Grandpas” show featured a group of 20-something detectives who grow old “overnight” – except for one member who stays young – and they must investigate their new body’s issues and how to change back. BLTN is quite a leap from the original.)

In “A Thai Goodbye” George Foreman “knocks out” Bill Shatner in a Mai Thai boxing ring.  The two icons spar in the ring and it looks like Shatner pushes it that bit too far. (Something that Bill has been accused of for years…)  Foreman turns serious and pastes a right on Shatner that takes him to the matt.

Better Late Than Never - Season 1
The smiles before the “fight.”

The whole thing is played for laughs and afterward the guys put ice on Bill’s face. Sidekick Jeff brings out a larger bag of ice for Shatner’s ego. (Very funny.)

Once again there are clips shown that are never followed up on. The trip to the monkey island for example.

Terry Bradshaw got to celebrate his 67th birthday in Phuket, Thailand.  As part of the celebration a Thai ladyboy came and sang for him.  The transgender performer tricked Bradshaw into a “lip smack.”  The former quarterback went with the flow and enjoyed his party.

(On a sidenote, there was obviously a little smoke and mirrors editing done for this sequence, or at the very least a  David Copperfield feat of teleportation. Jeff manages to be in two places at once, sitting at the table with the birthday boy and then popping out of the giant birthday cake seconds later.)

The group end up in Chang-Mai where they visit the elephants and partake of the culture. Shatner heads to the library and Bradshaw falls in love with Chang-Mai while Henry and George take cooking lessons.

Both Foreman and Shatner try the hottest pepper in Thailand. Later the guys ride elephants and they meet one that paints flowers on canvas.

They finish up in the Karen Hill Tribe village. While they tour this cultural area, Terry sings and it begins to rain.

“A Thai Goodbye” was more about wildlife, suburbia (jungle style) and less about city life, and weird foodstuffs.

Better Late Than Never - Season 1
Thailand travel…

The show ends with a “lana meal” and the guys all recap their feelings about the journey and their experiences. They also send off a prayer, or wish, via a floating lantern.

Although Better Late Than Never  ended far too soon (when the show first started it seemed there would be five episodes and not four) it was a fun look at four older icons traveling outside their comfort zones.

Jeff Dye, with that whole Ben Affleck thing going on, was a good fit with the young at heart actors and athletes  on the show.  (Dye looks so much like Affleck that one wonders if he is a sibling. He would have to be as Ben is not old enough to declare Jeff as a secret love child.)

The big question, after this fond and somewhat sentimental goodbye, is whether or not the show will return for another season.  It is doubtful. After all “Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team” was set in South Korea. Going back with the same guys would be redundant.

Still, for “summer filler” this was an entertaining, if not completely factual, travelogue. Well done chaps, even if  you did leave out the Sumo visit…

CAST:

Better Late Than Never: Seoul Brothers Kpop & KDMZ (Review)

Better Late Than Never - Season 1

This week’s episode of Better Late Than Never “Seoul Brothers” continues the show’s theme of leaving things out.  Last week it was the sumo wrestling, this week it was the dragons. Once again tantalizing clips are shown but not the actual event.

Missing dragon’s aside, this episode was funny and the highlight was definitely the Girls’ Generation interaction with the “old geezers” who filmed a music video with the group. Unfortunately, the video clip shown at the end, was to their 2009 video “Gee.”

(An excellent toe tapper that has over 167 million views that are well deserved. This is a song that, even without the video of achingly gorgeous young women dancing and singing,  is addictive to the extreme.)

The episode does not mention that these Kpop bands and groups are all manufactured. Scores of school kids, male and female, aspire to be the next big thing in the world of Kpop.

As Jeff points out to the group, Seoul is famous for its emphasis in youth and Kpop. It is also one of the most technologically advanced place in the world.  The guys eat live octopus, except for Terry who refuses to try the wriggling creature. He does, however, crack Shatner up with a nose blowing gag. George is not impressed and leaves the restaurant.

If the Kpop video in a Seoul studio is the highlight, and Winkler steals that moment  with happy feet that will not stop, the visit to Korea’s DMZ is a close second. The men nervously approach the “border” and freak out when Jeff drops his mobile phone in North Korea and all the guards get very excited.

Winkler is the first to break ranks and streak for the car. Later Dye reveals that the whole crossing area is a left over film set and that the guards are all actors. Anyone who has watched the brilliant 2000  South Korean film  J.S.A.: Joint Security Area will recognize the crossing immediately.

Better Late Than Never - Season 1
“I don’t want to die in this shirt.”

The looks on the men’s faces were priceless.

Prior to the vist, Jeff sets his older companions up to sleep on the floor of a spa, the cost for one night is $6, and the men manage to annoy the hell out everyone else. A combination of pillow fights and loud behavior makes them the least popular ones in the large room.   Terry Bradshaw, however,  is delighted  to see Shatner actually laugh and clown around.

Bradshaw says that it is the first time that William Shatner  has been “fun” since the trip started. After the men wake,  Jeff takes his charges to a Seoul nightclub.  It is a place where the oldest local participant would be 35 years old.

All the older, and married men, attempt to get Jeff hooked up with one of the many beautiful young women in the building.  George starts the initiative  and despite their best efforts Dye manages to strike out.  He gets slapped no less than three times by a young lady who does not look amused.

Bill sings, somewhat mercifully he did not perform Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. Later, Shatner and Winkler talk about “swiping right” and Henry has no idea what Bill is on about.

The episode ends with the chaps having an outdoor picnic where they have their food delivered by drone.

Better Late Than Never - Season 1
Drone picnic.

While Better Late Than Never may be all scripted, all  “reality” TV is and this show falls under that caveat, it is still entertaining. Each of the iconic men on board for this travelogue come across naturally and none seem too concerned with their images. (One of the benefits of old age.)

We leave you with the highlight of the episode, the guys in all their costumed glory performing with Girls’ Generation:

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Leonard Nimoy: Saying Goodbye to a Pop Culture Icon

The news that Leonard Nimoy has died at age 83 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, something he told his many fans about last year, met his legion of fans on the Internet this morning. Now the world must face saying goodbye to a pop culture icon, one that has spanned decades to become one of the most beloved characters in the Star Trek verse. Nimoy brought the part-human Vulcan to life back in the 1960s and his Spock, complete with “satanic” earpieces, caught fire with the show’s audiences rather quickly…

Read the rest of the article at Viral Global News…

Leonard Nimoy LLAP No More

Leonard Nimoy as Spock
Leonard Nimoy, the man who maintained an image as cultural icon across several generations, is gone. The talented individual who signed off on his Twitter feed with LLAP (Live Long and Prosper) will do so no more.The 83 year old actor became a household name in the 1960s when he portrayed Spock, half human, half Vulcan, who was the first officer on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in “Star Trek.”

The character became a hit with audiences, although not with producers who wanted the role written out of the show. The show struggled to find enough fans overall but Spock became so popular that the show’s touted star, Bill Shatner, was a little put out that the Vulcan got more fan mail than he did. There were rumors of quibbling between the two stars when the show was on its short three year run.

Later on, in the 1999 comedy “Galaxy Quest,” Tim Allen and Alan Rickman would play character’s based upon Shatner and Nimoy, respectively, and both did a brilliant job parodying the “rumored” relationship of the two.

Nimoy became so connected to the role in Roddenberry’s space opera that it was shocking to see him without the “elf” (or satanic as the producers called them) ears of his character. The actor was, however, believable in whatever role he played.

Whether he was a villainous “mercenary” gunslinger (1971 “Catlow”) or a shrink (1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” [remake]) he was entertaining and watchable. But it was Spock that Nimoy was best known for and while he would leave the logic bound alien behind in his twilight years, most notably in the 2009 – 2012 television science fiction show “Fringe.”

Leonard was rushed to hospital with severe chest pains last week and this morning the world learned that the multitalented performer had died at home. Nimoy tweeted more than a year before his hospital visit, in January 2014, and told his fans that despite quitting smoking over 30 years ago, that he had COPD and he should have quit sooner. He ended his tweet saying “Grandpa says, quit now!” and finished, as with all his missives on Twitter, with LLAP.

That the actor had a “love/hate” relationship with his character on “Star Trek” in the beginning was a well known fact, back in the day. His two autobiographies related his search to “live” or come to terms with the consequences of being Spock, the first “I Am Not Spock” was followed later with “I Am Spock.”

One thing is certain. Bill Shatner has more than a fair share of those who worked with him in the TV series and the films who do not get on with him. Shatner is a larger than life character off set who makes no apologies for his opinions or for stepping on the toes of others. As he has aged, he has mellowed very little and is still one exciting individual to witness at conventions. Leonard Nimoy, on the other hand seems to have more than his fair share of friends from both small screen and large.

Nimoy, apart from spending a lot of time directing, doing one-man shows and playing Spock in various mediums, had become a sort of elder statesman for Science Fiction and “Star Trek,” as well as an almost mythic pop culture icon. It only takes the sound of the actor’s voice to bring back memories of his performances as the Vulcan so loved on screen.

The perfect example of this was the screening of the 2009 Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg and Zoe Saldana “Star Trek.” Watching the film in England, when Spock (Leonard) starts reciting the “boldly going” speech at the end of the film, I was engulfed in goosebumps and the rest of the usually reserved British audience stood up in the theatre and cheered.

The loss of Leonard Nimoy at 83 is devastating. It almost feels like the spirit of Spock has died and in essence it has. The actor was the one who brought the half-alien character to life. It was his embodiment of the role that made the pointy eared chap so real. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and wife Susan and we will all miss those LLAP tweets from the man himself.

27 February 2015

Trapped in The Twilight Zone?

Old Gas Station in Quartzsite Author Photo

Since moving to the little snowbird community of Quartzsite, Arizona life has begun to resemble an episode of The Twilight Zone; the one where William Shatner is trapped in the diner with the fortune telling machine. Not the one which still gives me the screaming meemies everytime I watch it (black and white old timey effects be damned), “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

In the “Nick of Time,” Don Carter and his new wife become fixated with, and scared to leave, a fortune telling machine that seems to really work. At the end of the episode, both he and Mrs. Carter are seen feeding pennies (That’s how long ago the show was, now that sort of machine would cost you a quarter at least.) into the thing, refusing to leave the diner. Trapped by their own curiosity and not wanting to leave before getting another fortune told, again and again and…

While I am not trapped by a device that predicts the immediate future, I am caught by several different things in this tiny burg. For one, I find the whole area deliriously addictive. On main street alone, there are abandoned buildings, old and new, that pop into view as one rides or walks along it. The petrol station above, and its partner the garage below, are both quite old. At a guess, probably built in the 1930s or 1940s. Although looking at the pumps; the 1950s is probably more accurate for a time frame in terms of usage.

Petrol station's garage...
Downtown Quartzsite Petrol station and garage circa 1950?

Here is where my innate laziness comes in, I could probably find out when the building was used or at least built but since my Internet signal is intermittent as best, as Stevie King says, “fuhgeddaboudit.” I did Google 1950s pumps and my last guess appears to be correct, but the time the buildings were constructed will have to remain a mystery for now, or until I get better access to the net.

Interestingly enough, on the other side of Main Street is another closed down petrol station. Much newer in design with modern fuel pumps sitting alone and forlorn in front of the boarded up brick building, it makes Quartzsite look like a ghost town in the making. There are other old buildings that are remnants of  days gone by that were old before a time when the average automobile that passed through Hi Jolly’s final resting place were gas guzzling monsters all made in Detroit.

Adobe ruins on Main Street Quartzsite Az
For instance, this Adobe structure could have housed Hi Jolly…

Apart from the dead and dying businesses that litter the streets, there are signs that modern amenities exist in the town. For one thing, RV sales clutter up the main road through town and Burger King just got in WiFi for its customers, to compete with MacDonalds and Carl Jr’s, and most places that sell cigarettes also sell “vapes;” the modern “healthier” equivalent of tobacco smokes. Never mind that the WiFi offered for free, and for purchase is slower than dial up used to be and that no one seems to be too interested in cigarettes that are electric and “safe.”

The other strange, or Twilight Zone-ish thing about Quartzsite is that there seem to be no young people. Certainly there are those passing through, one visiting young lady that was stunning enough to make the heart pound, but on the average the population is aged. There are a few younger folks who work in the Dairy Queen, Subway and the other few fast-food eateries in town but the area is not overrun with denizens much younger than their mid 70s.

*And yet, surprisingly, there is a grade school here. The bus can be seen coming out to the community where I’m living at the moment. So there must be a younger population somewhere; just not, apparently, along Main Street.*

In fact, at 56, I feel like a youngster myself.  While this has nothing to do with feeling trapped it does add to the surreal flavor of this town. Apart from my fascination and the feeling that I’ve stumbled onto the geriatric version of Never Never Land,  there is the lack of transportation. I have a $50 bicycle that I am slowly getting used to, but no car or any other motorized vehicular mode of travel.

Cactus and Mesquite

I feel that I’ve stepped back to yesteryear in terms of time it takes to get anywhere. From my current residence, if I bike, it takes me around 40 to 50 minutes to get to main street. By foot, it takes roughly 100 to 120 minutes depending on the heat and my physical state. I have learned that the fall, aka face plant, in the desert really banged me up pretty well. This has not helped speed up travel times.

Running out of one of my heart meds hasn’t helped either. It is apparently in the post office now, but my poor father couldn’t stand in the huge queue to pick it up. I told him not to worry, that if I didn’t need the stuff I wouldn’t stand in line behind 50 people either. It’s been three days since taking it and I’m not dead yet…

The Quartzsite USPS is tiny and when the season hits, an army of snowbirds queue up to get their general delivery mail and the “lady” who runs the place appears to be eccentric and not a little contrary. Apparently it is a prerequisite to be this way when dealing with an elderly population. And yes, that last sentence was meant to be facetious.

I have learned that there is a bus to Prescott, AZ for Veterans ride to the VA there. I will be using it as I have no other way to get travel to that facility.  The actual VA “run” takes place twice a month. There does not appear to be a bus running anywhere else, either from or through this tiny hamlet.

This lack of motorized transport definitely adds to the feeling of being trapped. The inability to get decent internet or even a television signal at the RV is also a contributing factor.  Financial situations dictate that if it ain’t WiFi at the Burger King watching Hulu Plus the day after, I’m not seeing it or writing about it. I continue to get invites to screenings of films but thus far have no way to travel and watch/review them.

However trapped I may feel, there is no question that this is beautiful terrain. The feel of Quartzsite is that of a western town lagging behind the rest of the world. It has just enough modern amenities to keep it from feeling like the “town that time forgot” but apart from looking like the world’s largest flea market, the town has an aura of yesteryear. This is not helped by the average age of those who both live here year round and the snowbirds who flock here every winter running easily into the retirement range.

Camel Stop Auto Repair
The old Camel Stop

In essence this surreal flavor of Quartzsite, combined with the step back in time, equates to a trapped in The Twilight Zone feel. While there is no Rod Serling providing an introduction or epilogue there are signposts “up ahead.” One final odd note on this quirky little town; there seems to be a regular contingent that migrate here every year, and the locals as well as these snowbirds appear to know immediately when a new bird flocks in.

Anecdote: While sucking up the Burger King WiFi, a lovely local Snowbird, assumed that I was a feathered fly-in seeking warmer climes and said as much. I responded, “No love, I came here from Vegas.” Her confused and shocked face was truly funny and gave me the best chuckle of the day. To that friendly woman I say, “Thank you.”

10 February 2015