Saturday, November 29, 2008

Civil War trivia time!

You may be wondering why I'm starting a Civil War trivia post with a picture of CNN celebri-journalist Anderson Cooper.

Well, as I wrap up the book "The Class of 1861"on the May and June graduates of West Point at the start of the war, I find an interesting series of genealogical ties.

The foreword to the book, for instance, is written by George Plimpton, the author, above.

He is the great-grandson of this man:

Adelbert Ames, a member of the May 1861 class, who was the last living Civil War general at the time of his death (which statement somehow is grammatically incorrect, but I can't say how).

However, I think it likely that to today's tele-centric audience, the late Plimpton is not the most famous descendant of a member of the Class of 1861.

You see, the not-so-handsome man above, Judson "Kill-Cavalry" Kilpatrick — so nicknamed for his reckless disregard for his men's lives — is the great-great-grandfather of the handsome anchorman who tops the page.

Kilpatrick, who went on to serve as a minister to Chile, had twin granddaughters, one of whom became the second wife of Reginald Vanderbilt and gave birth to Gloria Vanderbilt; who is, of course, the mother of the host of CNN's "360."

(The other, by the way, was the mistress of the Prince of Wales in the early 1930s, until she made the tactical error of introducing the future Edward VIII to her friend, Wallis Simpson. That turned out about as well for all involved as Kilpatrick's cavalry charges at Gettysburg did for Brig. Gen. Elon Farnsworth.)

Aside, at the top of the May class, ahead of both Ames and Kilpatrick, was a fellow whose ancestors and descendants were among the rich and famous: Henry Algernon du Pont — of those du Ponts.

The "goat"of the May class (the last-place graduate) was a fellow named Sturgeon. He had the good sense, after the war, to retire from the cavalry sometime before the "goat" of the June 1861 class led the regiment to the Little Bighorn.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Nuance is what makes good dramas into great ones.


Because nuance means a serious show can have a light moment in just a look, a glance, a moment. A funny moment can be a clue to a puzzle, in just a tilt of the head.

Right now, for my money, there is no cast on TV better at that than the cast of my current favorite show, "Life" on NBC.

Just picked up for a full second season a year after debuting in the writers-strike-marred 2007, "Life" also just got moved to a better time slot, between Wednesday's "Knight Rider" remake and the "L&O" mothership.

And after a bit of a shaky beginning on Mondays and then Fridays (yeah, all in one year), "Life" is starting to find the footing that made its 11 episodes in Season One so memorable.

The key, to any show with a "quirky" main character, is the little things. Unlike the broad comedy of "Monk" or the oppressive drama of "SVU," "Life" has a nice (if sometimes erratic) mix, thanks to lede actor Damian Lewis.

And, more importantly, his parter, cheerleader-turned-actress Sarah Shahi, who is so much more than a pretty face: She is the master of the "did he just say that?" look, and that offsets the odd remarks and Zen detecting skills Lewis' Charlie Crews brings to his dual missions as homicide cop and seeker of the truth behind the frame-up that sent him to jail.

Nuance goes a long way. Tune in Wednesdays at 9 Eastern if you don't believe me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Check it out!

Another movie I appear in will be hitting DVD soon:

John Paul Kinhart's "Blood, Boobs & Beast"is a documentary on the life and work of the late horror producer/director Don Dohler, who was one-half of Timewarp Films.

A lot of footage was shot by John and his Video Kitchen crew on the set of "Dead Hunt," and (at least in the version I saw at the premiere) I'm quoted in both my (former) role as a reviewer for HorrorTalk and in snippets during the on-set footage.

John got a Troma release for this one, so be sure to check it out!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Movie meme!

OK, so I stole this one from Jin, who stole it from this guy, who made up a bunch of rules she didn't repeat, so I'm not going to bother looking them up.

The gist of it is, you pick the 26 letters of the alphabet and list a DVD you own that begins with that letter, skipping things like "A" and "The" and so forth. Plus, you link to that first guy's website, I think. (Maybe it's a girl, that's a generic "guy," since I didn't bother reading the original post.)

I know y'all are a bunch of movie fans, so give it a whirl.

Me, just for kicks, I'm going for an action/horror theme. And I'm going to stick with flicks I like, so consider these recommendations, too.

A is for "Aliens," my favorite of all time.
B is for "Below," the underrated submarine scare flick.
C is for "Curious George," just because I like monkeys.
D is for "Dawn of the Dead," the remake that's better than people think. (You thought I'd say "Dead Hunt," didn't you?)
E is for "Event Horizon," with a ship's log to watch on slo-mo.
F is for "Friday the 13th," greatest slasher of them all.
G is for "Ginger Snaps," with luscious Kate Isabelle.
H is for "Halloween 4," "Halloween 5" and Danielle Harris, pre-Zombie.
I is for "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," a great comic treat for fans.
J is for "Jaws," and not swimming for years.
K is for "A Knight's Tale," which may be the late Heath Ledger's best.
L is for "Land of the Dead," Romero's fourth in the trilogy.
M is for "The Mummy," such brainless fun.
N is for the cult Nights: "... of the Comet," "... of the Creeps" (OK, it's a boot) and "... of the Demons."
O is for "Once," my wife's favorite low-budget music movie.
P is for "Planet Terror," the silly fun half of "Grindhouse."
Q is for, um, well, let's skip this one...
R is for "Resident Evil," with the best audio commentary ever.
S is for "Se7en," and what's in the box.
T is for "The Thing," with its awesome old-school effects.
U is for "Underworld," with vampires, werewolves and guns-guns-guns.
V is for "Versus," perhaps called yakuza vs. zombies.
W is for "What About Bob?" which came with the wife, and I've never seen.
X is for another X; read: N/A, I'm afraid.
Y is for "Youngblood," not action or horror, but hockey.
Z is for "Zombi 2," or "Zombie" to some, and we're done.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Don't forget to vote!

What are you sitting there for? Go out and vote!

This is important, folks!

I mean it. I regard voting as one of the most important rights/privileges Americans have. Making an informed choice is a civic responsibility, and one of the joys of being a journalist is knowing I have in some small way contributed to people being informed when they choose.

End of sermon.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Worst job of the day

Today, on the way to work, I saw an NJDOT crew picking up dead deer off the side of the highway.

They had a whole truckfull of roadkill.

I had a buddy who once spent a summer with PennDOT holding one of those "stop/slow" signs. Said it was great - in the sun all day, making union wage, turning his wrist every few minutes.

Of course, that's the state where the DOT infamously paved over a dead deer.

Here in Jersey, a couple of poor schmucks had to sling 'em into the back of a truck all morning.