Friday, February 27, 2015

I Grok Spock

1966. Space was the rage; NASA was sending up rockets and we all watched every launch (they'd bring in TV's in the classrooms so we could watch).  We avidly followed the exploits of the astronauts. 

My buddies and I were “Lost in Space” fans, but it was getting pretty laughable (even for 9 year olds).  A new “space” show debuted on NBC, and we were hooked from the beginning.  After the show was over, we would either call or get together and hash out the plot, the characters, how long it took a red shirt to die, etc.

We were little geeks.  The show, of course, was Star Trek.

We didn’t know we were watching history, we just knew we liked it.

We all adopted two things:  the Vulcan Nerve Pinch and the “Live Long and Prosper” “V”.  Spock was everybody’s favorite character (followed, for me, in order, by McCoy, Kirk, Scotty, Sulu, and Uhura).  We all adopted the Vulcan method of speaking (which drove our parents and teaches bonkers—“Mother, it is highly illogical to expect me to remove refuse to the external receptacle when Star Trek is on.”). 

Leonard Nimoy had no idea then (I’m sure he did later) how much of an impact he was having on so many people.

Every Star Trek cast member, from the Original Series through Enterprise and now the new movies, has had the experience of someone saying, “Oh, I got into science because of you, Mr. Nimoy” or “I wanted to be a doctor because of you, Ms. McFadden.” 

The originals are old now and Nimoy was 3rd oldest (behind Kelley and Doohan, respectively).  Nimoy smoked heavily and gave himself COPD; you could really hear the rasp in “Into the Darkness”.  He died today.

I will always owe you a tremendous debt, Mr. Nimoy.

“Thrusters on full.”

Friday, January 9, 2015

Another Piece of Childhood Vanishes…

According to Max Brantley (a great reporter, editor, and columnist/blogger) in the Arkansas Times (the Times is the last great hope for those of us from Arkansas who remember the wondrous, sorely missed Arkansas Gazette) the beleaguered Village Shopping Center at the intersection of Asher and University in Little Rock has been bought by new developers; they are going to redevelop the corner and raze the center—including the old UA Cinema 150.


Photo credit Arkansas Times

The UA Cinema 150 was a marvel of the 60’s.  It was one of only 20 or 30 theaters worldwide to utilize the “Dimension 150” equipment.  A round building, the 70mm (!!!) screen was curved.  Patrons sat in plush velvet seats tiered in what we now call “Stadium Seating”.  Sound was astonishing; 8-channel stereo from speakers hidden behind the curtains covering the walls, an approximation of “surround sound.”  Consider the movie houses of the day—either dilapidated former palaces downtown or the hideous new suburban “box” theaters (multiplexes), featuring small theaters which had flat floors and an aisle down the middle.  In most, you actually got a “crick” in your neck from craning to see the screen, which was usually mounted high above the floor.

By contrast, the 150 was STYLE.  It looked vaguely like a spaceship (tres’ chic in 1966), had an amazing, state-of-the-art, huge (for the day) concession stand, and going there was “special”. 

Only the finest movies played there.  The Sound of Music.  Patton.  Star Wars.  All in 8-channel stereophonic sound, on that curved 70mm widescreen, taken in from your plushy reclining seat with nary an obstacle between you and the screen.  It was like being immersed in the movie.

We take these things for granted now, but then they were amazing.


Photo credit “Marysgrandaughter”,

In the shopping center across the parking lot was Central Arkansas’ favorite mexican restaurant (there were only 3…), Casa Bonita.  Casa Bonita (immortalized by South Park) was a Little Rock company before the owner moved to Tulsa and sold the chain.  It was huge and featured themed rooms, waterfalls, and audio-animatronics a la Disneyland (not as good as Disney, but pretty good for us!).  You went through the buffet line, telling the nice serving people what you wanted; then, your tray was whisked away to your table, where you stuffed yourself till sick.  When you wanted a refill, whether of food or drink, or even wanted something else entirely, you raised a small flag at the table; a waiter immediately appeared and almost as quickly returned with whatever you wanted.  It was paradise, especially for kids.

So the thing to do was go to Casa Bonita for food, then head over to the 150 for the movie. 

But, things change.

Asher and University is a poster child for urban blight now; it could be in inner-city Detroit, it looks that bad.  This was not always the case.  At one point, Interstate 30 stopped at Geyer Springs Road; it became US 67, which route was University Avenue up to the intersection with Asher, then right on Asher for its trek through downtown Little Rock, across the Broadway Bridge, and into North Little Rock on its way north.  All the gleaming new car dealerships, the huge new Haverty’s Furniture, the beautiful Ethan Allen Showcase; all in that area.  The apartments diagonally across the street (now crack houses or worse) were the “swinging singles” apartments of choice in Little Rock.  The area thrived.  It was building out like crazy; it was a popular middle class destination.  (The people who lived there subsequently moved on to Alexander, Bryant, and Benton…). 

Now, however, it is “bombed out and depleted” to quote Dave Chappelle.  Now the neighborhood is "nothing but a breeding ground for trancs, lobos and zipheads..." (Officer Reese, commenting on the state of Hilldale ca. 2015, Back to the Future Part II…which played at the 150). 

Casa Bonita folded and a series of restaurants (never as good) took its place; the theater fell on hard times.  It was a single-screen, so when everyone had seen the movie, the theater was often playing empty.  No one buying tickets, no one buying concessions, and the theater stuck with the movie for the length of the contract.  The suburban multiplexes could run one theater with the “old” movie while having “fresh” movies in other theaters, as theater operators do today.  Not so the 150.  Accordingly, there was no extra money to renovate or even maintain the former “space-age” palace.

The last movie I saw at the 150 was Star Trek:  Generations.  The atmosphere was still festive, but the old theater was showing its age, with worn velvet seats, a tear in that big wonderful screen, the rear channels out on the stereo system. 

Sometimes, historical preservation is the way to go; Little Rock certainly has it with the beautiful Quapaw Quarter.  Sometimes, though, “old” is just “old”.  It’s too small and outdated for today’s movie patrons, who watch their movies at the Colonel Glenn 30.  Crime in the area at night is hideous.  It’s just no longer viable.  The theater  hasn’t been a movie house since 2003; it was renovated for live shows.  It has had its day.

So, farewell old friend.  Fond memories (you too, Casa Bonita). 

I wish the development company success in revitalizing the area.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Texas Bowl 2014: Arkansas 31, Texas 7

Here are all my pictures from the Advocare v100 Texas Bowl, December 29, 2014 at nrg stadium, Houston, Texas.  It's always great to go to an Arkansas Razorbacks football game; it's always great to go to an Arkansas Razorbacks Bowl game, and it's ALWAYS great when Arkansas beats texass u (spit).  When you can do all those things in your own back yard, it's even better.

Many thanks to Marty Barnes Cornell, Nathan Seitz, and Pam Lipsey Seitz for making it possible for me to attend.  Marty got us great seats; Nathan drove while Pam navigated.  I had been sick all week with the flu, and it was my first time out of bed--but what a great time it was.  #texasbowl #gohogs #neveryield

I have the large versions of these if anybody wants one; just email me or comment below.

If you want to view them as a slideshow (recommended), click the first photo; it'll open large and you can click through.  (You'll miss my pithy captions, though... ;-)

Toughest schedule in College Football 2014

If you get 2 big foam fingers and put them together, they become very useful

Swing March:  Bigscreen

Swing March:  from my seat

Longhorn Band

He totally nailed it

The Hill!

Opening kickoff Hog Call

Nice catch

First series

nrg (a.k.a. Reliant) Stadium is a great place to watch a game

Not quite sure what this was about, but fun!

When it got far enough toward the south endzone, it was easier to watch on TV


Second series

This photo starts the sequence where Texas' endzone fumble was recovered by us for a TDAOM.  Nifty catch. 



I thought this was funny (though probably coincidental).  Whataburger and Coca-Cola were both sponsors.  Whataburger's colors are orange and white; Coke is red and white.  They put the Whataburger ad on the Texas side and the Coke ad on the Arkansas side.

This photo begins the next series leading to a TDAOM

Nice pass, nice catch!  TOUCHDOWN, ARKANSAS!  OH, MY!

I know the boom's in the way; nothing I could do about it.

Add caption

Iiiiiiitttt's halftime!

The Best in Sight and Sound

Longhorn band watches the Razorback band perform

All I could think of while watching her: Julia Sugarbaker:  "She didn't twirl just a baton, that baton was on fire. And when she threw that baton into the air, it flew higher, further, faster than any baton has ever flown before, hitting a transformer and showering the darkened arena with sparks! And when it finally did come down, Marjorie, my sister caught that baton, and 12,000 people jumped to their feet for sixteen and one-half minutes of uninterrupted thunderous ovation, as flames illuminated her tear-stained face! And that, Marjorie --- just so you will know --- and your children will someday know --- is the night the lights went out in Georgia!" Julia Sugarbaker: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

The Traditional Go Gogs spellout!

What's that spell?  GO HOGS!

Marty, Nick, Nathan, and Pam say GO HOGS!

These fun people sat behind us.  I didn't get their name, just email address.  They're from Conway.

Razorback and Longhorn bands:  combined performance

And now I have a picture of the flags on the field at the Texas Bowl in Houston.  I have them at every SEC stadium except Mizzou, which I have yet to visit, plus all the bowl games I attended. 


2001!  (Sarchastically holds up 4 fingers while chanting, "Who's number 1?  We're number 1!"  Except, I think Bama is #1 right now....)

Hogs rule at nrg stadium

And I don't think the Horns like it much

In honor of our little Australian kicker, Sam Irwin-Hill, who boomed it all night

Start of next TDAOM series


Gotta love Victory formation



First game

Bert leads the celebration

Bert "derp"

He's a good looking kid--and Player of the Game

Hardware for the Broyles Complex

That's all, folks!