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Now in our eleventh calendar year!

PCR #548 (Vol. 11, No. 39). This edition is for the week of September 20--26, 2010.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! Feeling older this week. Shall we begin?

"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"  by Mike Smith
The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region, Part 12  by William Moriaty
Dark Night of the Scarecrow  by ED Tucker
September Album reviews: Weezer,Interpol, The Walkmen, and Boston Spaceships!  by Terence Nuzum
Pop Culture Potpourri: Anniversaries R Us ... R.I.P. Luna Vachon  by Lisa Scherer
Battle Royale  by Jason Fetters
You Say It's My Birthday .... Hate To Say I Told You So (no I Don't) .... The Big 5-o .... Where Was Matt? .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

Thank you to everyone who sent congratulatry emails and dropped me a line on Facebook for my birthday. It was a great week, as you'll soon read below.

A great and wise man once said, "if they ever do a film biography about the late, great frontman for Queen, Freddie Mercury, I could easily see (Sacha Baron) Cohen in the role."

Of course, that man was me, who made those comments four years ago in my review of "Talladega Nights." Earlier this week it was announced that Sacha Baron Cohen will indeed play Freddie Mercury in an upcoming bio-pic about the legendary lead singer for Queen. Ironically, the film is being written by Peter Morgan, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "The Queen." Talk about karma. Queen guitarist Brian May is pleased with the choice and has been in discussion with Cohen on this project for some time. The film will cover the musicians career culminating in the bands performance at Live Aid, recently chosen by yours truly as the greatest live rock and roll moment in history.


Let me say right at the beginning that when I did an early edition of the Rant to mark the passings of Kevin McCarthy and Harold Gould that I had no idea I wouldn't be near a computer to finish it at the end of the week. With my birthday approaching I kept secretly hinting about a trip to Las Vegas but was very happy with the idea of staying in Kansas City and spending the day with my family, culminating in a dinner at our favorite steak place on Thursday night. Our nephew is a graduate student at Iowa State and works with the football team. As the team was going to play Kansas State in Kansas City on Saturday the 18th my wife announced that we had been given tickets to the game. Our son,Phillip was invited as well. I had originally taken the entire week off from work (in case I was headed to Vegas) but had decided to just take Thursday, the actual day of the big 5-0 off. My wife suggested I take Friday off as well, so I did. We went out to breakfast on Thursday morning and then I spent the day relaxing at home. We got ready for dinner (reservations at 6)so we left the house around 4:30 with Juanita driving. She had decorated my car windows with birthday messages and had drawn a large circle on the passenger side window with the 50th birthday message on it so that if a car passed they would see my face in the circle. After a few minutes on the road I noted that we were heading in the wrong direction from the restaurant. That is when she remarked that we were, in fact, going somewhere. I was thinking "cool, off to Branson...we can catch the Osmonds and Jim Stafford." But instead we ended up at Kansas City International Airport. On the way I'd asked if Phillip knew that we weren't going to dinner or, apparently, to the football game and was told yes, he knew. As we checked our luggage I learned that we were flying to Chicago to see my mother and celebrate the big day with her. Nice surprise. A few minutes after 6 my cell phone rang. It was Phillip who asked me why we weren't at the restaurant. As I turned to Juanita to say, "I thought you told Phillip we weren't having dinner" I caught Phillip walking towards us. He was going to Chicago with us. Nicer surprise. We landed safely and spent the night at my mom's house. Friday morning we went out to breakfast and I was told that Phillip was taking me into Chicago (my mom actually lives about 90 minutes outside of the city) for a "guy's night out." We took the train into Chicago and walked around, admiring the sites. We stopped at Giordanno's for some of their world famous pizza (if you like stuffed pizza, it's the best) and were talking about what to do after dinner. Phillip had been carrying a map most of the day and he pushed it over to me to see if there was anywhere I wanted to go. But he tricked me because instead of a map he had handed me a "ticket" printout telling me that we were going to head to the south side to take in that night's White Sox game (apparently Dave Matthews was playing at Wrigley Field that night...no Cubs in town). We had great seats in Left Field, about 12 rows from the field. It had been a long time since he and I had gone to a game together and talked baseball and we had a great time. We caught the train home, where Juanita picked us up at the station. Off to bed I went, smiling happily I know.

Saturday after breakfast Juanita and I went for a drive around the area, taking in the sites. We were going to dinner later that night so we just killed some time before we had to get ready to go. At about 5:00 Juanita, Phillip, my mom, my step-father Rick and I piled into the car and headed out. We drove for a while until we entered the town of Woodstock. While heading down the main drag we passed a VFW Hall with someone on the corner holding up a sign reading "Movie Trivia Tonight." My mom commented on the sign and I told her that we play trivia every week in KC. Plus I was hungry. She insisted that I turn around so I did and let her get out to check it out. While sitting there Rick remarked that he had to use the bathroom. Phillip did too. Juanita got out to walk over to the sign holder with my mom. Soon I'm the only one in the car, hoping we can go soon. Juanita comes to the car and says "you should talk to her, honey." So I get out of the car and the woman is going on about how they have great prizes, ect. So I decide to humor them and follow them inside. They point to a set of stairs and we walk down into a darkened room. A beat passes and I suddenly feel like Warren Beatty at the end of "Bonnie and Clyde," or Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas" when he realizes he's been had. With a yell of "Surprise!" the lights come on and I am surrounded by family and friends from around the country.

The rest of the evening is kind of a blur but I hope the attached photos suggest the great time I had. Hope my 100th birthday is just as exciting!

The birthday boy wearing the requisite hat!

Who wants cake?

Look who I found in Chicago!

Back row (l to r) My brother Joe, my brother Barry, my sister in law Bonnie, my sister Terri, my sister Debbie's boyfriend Mark, Nancy Drinnenberg, her very tall husband Mark Drinnenberg, co-worker Paul Zuniga, J.R. Deeter, Todd Jones (another co-worker), my son Phillip.

Front row (l - r) My brother Dino, my step-father Rick, my mom Rose, me, my wife Juanita, J.R.'s wife Kim, my sister Kelly, my sister Debbie.


As you may have noticed, Matt wasn't in attendance at my party. Unfortunately, the Cowboys were on television at the same time. (a little inside joke...right now Nolan is laughing his head off)
But he was certainly there in spirit. And he truly gave me the birthday present of the year when I opened his package and found a beautiful wooden replica of the ORCA, the ship from "JAWS." Pretty cool, huh (as is the sweet Beatles memorabilia on the wall).

Thanks buddy! It will sit in a place of honor.

Biggest Hits - Chubby Checker

West Side Story - Original Soundtrack Recording

This week I thought I'd try to find some albums on the shelf that are older then I am.

I'm pretty close with Chubby Checker. His most popular song, "The Twist," hit #1 in 1960, the year I was born. In fact, the song was so popular that when it was reissued in 1962 it hit #1 again! The only other song to achieve that feat is Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." Checker obviously enjoyed the twist, as other hits include "Let's Twist Again" and "Slow Twistin'" What I like about this album is that the front cover is a photo frame, with the inside cover removeable to reveal another photo. On the back of the album are 8 more photos you could remove (mine are still intact) to hang on a mirror or in your locker. He's still making music and most recently provided the music for an Oreo's campaign. Come on, baby, let's do the Twist:


Though the film "West Side Story" came out in 1961, the original musical opened on Broadway in 1957. The score, by Leornard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, is timeless and the music still resounds today. Here's a look at one scene that incorporates several of the songs. Feel free to sing along:


Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "Mike's Rant" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.