Thursday, September 19, 2019

J.R. Jr. on the Town in Big D


TNT's Dallas remake from a few years back was a great continuation of the legendary franchise.   Unfortunately, the series just couldn't recover from the death of its star Larry Hagman.  But it was fun while it lasted and while it lasted it made great use of several Dallas filming locations.

Episode 2 showed off a few different places in Big D.  Let's jump in starting with the Ewing cousins favorite hangout: The Cedars Social:

This bar and restaurant on the south side of Dallas is where Christopher hangs out to drown his sorrows.  The producers must have liked this location because John Ross returns in a future episode.  It's also right next door to the South Side apartments where both John Ross and Rebecca (respectively) live and it's next door to the Jack Evans Police Headquarters which was featured in a couple of other episodes.

I haven't eaten here yet so I don't have any meal recommendations but they were very nice to me when I showed up to take pictures and as the saying goes "If it's good enough for the Ewings..."

Later in the episode the Ewing clan heads to the Cattle Baron's Ball which is being hosted at the American Airlines Center (where the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars play):

Interested in the AAC's unique architecture?  You better say "yes" because our resident, award winning geologist Devin Dennie is going to break it down for you:

Remember in the first episode when John Ross had his "secret meeting" on the 50 yard line of Cowboy's Stadium?  Well in this episode he picks an even less subtle for his secret meeting...the State Fair of Texas:

The actual State Fair begins in a few weeks and Big Tex will be debuting new boots and a new outfit.  Here is a little bit about the old man:

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Mission Accomplished


A big piece of Texas/Human history got cleaned, polished, buffed and looks shiny and new!  The original Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston got the makeover treatment over the past six years and I was fortunate to be one of the people who got to see the unveiling recently. 

The project was done by a company called GRAVitate which, among other things, works on historical restoration projects.  Over the course of several years every part of Mission Control was cleaned and refurbished or completely refabricated to an exact match (or just about) from fifty years ago.  This included not just the consoles, but the wall paper, carpet, ash trays and coffee cups.  Here's a few close up looks at the work areas:

This was the last time anyone would be allowed to get this close to the consoles.  They're now roped off with an alarm so feel free to be jealous.  You'll notice that the screens and buttons are illuminated.  These are recreations of what you would see during the Apollo missions. 

The viewing room has also been restored.  A lot of people felt it necessary to take "souvenirs" like fabric from the chairs and the tops of ash trays in the back of the chairs.  Replacements for those tops were 3D printed to be an exact match.  But there were other things that guest felt compelled to leave behind...

Here's a great big bag of gum that was scraped off the Mission Control viewing room chairs.  It's all part of the glamorous life of a historical preservationist.  This was on display as a part of the exhibit for the Ribbon Cutting ceremony.

Manning the giant scissors are Jim Thornton (Project Manager), Mark Geyer (JSC Director), William Harris (CEO Space Center Houston), Milford Wayne Donaldson (Advisory Council of Historic Preservation), Sandra Tetley (JSC Historic Preservation Officer), Ed Fendell (Apollo Flight Controller) and Gene Kranz (Apollo Flight Director...he is the real life guy that Ed Harris played in the film Apollo 13).  This was a "big deal" kind of crowd so I almost wanted to see a bigger pair of scissors.

My thanks again to Adam, Natalie and the rest of the team at GRAVitate for letting me attend this historic event and shoot video!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Texas Stranger


It was the early 90s and the corporate synergy stars aligned when Sports Illustrated, Kellogg's and DC Comics decided to mash themselves together into a chunky paste they called "Tony's Sports Comics."  The concept involved the legendary Frosted Flakes mascot teaming up with sports stars to encourage kids to get active and burn off the calories they racked up from, say...I don't know...various sugar frosted cereals?

I've seen other examples with Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Ozzie Smith but, of course, the one I'm most interested in features the great Nolan Ryan.  He played for both the Astros and the Rangers and is one of the top Texas sports icons of all time.

Our story begins in Cooperstown with Nolan and Tony visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame.  They notice a weirdo talking to the Babe Ruth statue and decide to intervene.  Young Paul wants to make it to the big leagues some day but he's weak in the hitting department.  Nolan tells him about some great former players that also couldn't hit worth a darn but it's hardly a comfort and Paul bolts.

Swing and a miss for the would-be mentor.  But Tony is right there for his bro and he's raring to go track down that kid and bug encourage him some more about baseball.  It's the kind of well meaning enthusiasm that only a sugar-buzzed cartoon tiger could have.  In fact, he's so hyped up he feels the need to go through some of the highlights of Nolan's career.

But enough grandstanding!  It's time to track down that kid whose name I think is Paul.  Let's face it, between the All-Star pitcher and the cereal mascot, he was kind of forgettable. Once they eventually catch up with him they suggest that maybe hitting just isn't his thing...but what about pitching?

Now that these two have totally inserted themselves in this kid's life, it was time to start the hard work.  The comic seems to genuinely try to include actual exercise/training information, or at least I think it does.  But since I don't know anything about training to be a pitcher I couldn't tell you if anything is actually accurate.  But there's something about learning a desirable skill form a freebie promotional comic book that seems very natural to me.  That being said, you'll never guess what training for the big leagues involves starting your day with...

Start the training montage!  If you like stories about weight training, stretching, fastball grips and form on the mound then this is the story for you!  Tony and Nolan (mainly Nolan) go over the fundamentals with Paul and they practice, practice, practice!  Or they just tell him to practice and then go back to their respective ranches.  I know Nolan has a ranch and I assume Tony has one too...filled with delicious sugar frosted antelopes and gazelles (with some sliced bananas to keep it healthy)!

Game time!  Later at a impromptu playground ball game, one of the kids gets called home for dinner (perhaps a cross-over story followed up in a Kraft Cheesasaurus Rex comic?) so Paul gets his big shot at the mound.  And, wouldn't you know it, Nolan & Tony's advice pays off!  Paul struck out the batter and I learned the term "whiffed."  But that's not all...

Looks like Paul made it all the way to State!  And all it took was some personal coaching from one of the best baseball players of all time, encouragement from a professional cereal legend, and (reading between the lines here) bowl after bowl of Frosted Flakes!  Sounds like a winning combination to me!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Mad About Walker


Several TV shows have been set in Texas.  The unique people and places of the Lone Star State make an interesting backdrop for all different types of stories from the drama of Friday Night Lights to the comedy of King of the Hill.  With so much ground to cover, things can sometimes get out of hand.  When that happens in TV Land we call upon the righteous boot of justice to roundhouse kick its way across bad guys' heads and into our hearts.  And of course that boot is firmly on the foot of one man...

Chuck Norris is a quirky guy.  Without going into his specific politics, he has a very straightforward opinion on how a TV narrative should be done: with bad bad guys and good good guys and no particular shade of grey between.  Walker, Texas Ranger was a real throwback in that sense.  And it seemed to work.  The show was incredibly successful, hugely popular and ran for approximately 20 billion seasons.

But with fame comes criticism...and also some good natured mockery.  And, as it has so many times before and since, the mockery came from the "usual gang of idiots" at Mad Magazine.  So today we'll take a look at Mad's skewering of the legendary show Walker, Texas Ranger.

So we start off in the usual Mad method with the main cast introducing themselves and cracking wise about their characters and the show.  Since Mad usually likes to go through the motions with their TV parodies, we get the standard Alex (the District Attorney/Walker's love interest, here called "Aleck") gets kidnapped plot.

They got the "always a car chase in every episode" jokes out of the way early on and then landed squarely on the "Chuck is a wooden actor" jokes.  And they made themselves at home there.

So as the "story" goes on, Walker and his partner Whatshisface track the baddies down to their baddie hideout and Walker "dusters up."

It does get hot in Texas and I always seem to notice that Texas TV characters never seem to be drowning in sweat and completely miserable the way I am during the 8 months of summer we get here.  But there's no time to sweat when there's karate chopping to do so bring on the quips...

I like that joke and wish that it had actually made it into an episode of Walker or literally any TV show.  I've made a mental note to plagiarize it if/when I find myself about to attack a room full of bad guys...or maybe at an accountant's office...but I'll have to change it up a little to make it work.  Regardless, Aleck/Alex was rescued and it's time for the weekly postscript at the saloon...

...where for some reason they're unveiling the Walker wax figure...cue the obvious joke.  Well, we did it!  We got through the Walker, Texas Ranger Mad magazine parody.  This will have to hold you over until track down the issue where they really give it to Jerry Jones.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Cape Fair


 I take a lot of pictures and shoot a lot of video, both for work and for personal reasons.  One of the challenges involved in such an activity is cataloging and organizing all the media I come home with.  So occasionally I lose track of a pic or two.    

Fortunately, I tend to do frequent hard drive clean outs so nothing stays lost forever.   New discoveries of old pics \can even lead to a blog entry or two.  So let me take you back in time all the way back to the 2013 State Fair of Texas.  With a belly full of Fletcher's, I turned a corner at the Auto Show and was surprised to find enough Superman suits to fill a Fortress of Solitude:

Apparently the Superman 75th Anniversary Costume Tour made a stop at the fair.  Highlights include Christopher Reeve's costume from Superman III:

Dean Cain's costume from Lois & Clark:

Brandon Routh's costume from Superman Returns:

And a few costumes from the recent Man of Steel movie including Superman:


And Faora:

I don't know if the exhibit is still traveling but the costumes fit right in at the great State Fair.  Maybe they'll fly to your town soon!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sandwich Tour of Dallas Part 3


Part 1  - -  Part 2

It's time once again to gently nestle a new blog entry between two slices of bread.  So let's squirt on some mustard and get started.

As I mentioned earlier, the best thing a sandwich place can offer is a drive-through window and that's what you'll find at Great Outdoors on Greenvile & Park.  Your sandwich mileage may vary but all too often my sandwich time is rushed so something simple like not having to get out of my car is a big incentive.

There's a variety of subs on the menu and I went with the Invention.  It comes with buffet ham, provolone, cream cheese & fresh mushroom.  After a bite, my first impression was how good the bread was.  Very soft and tasty. 

Too many sandwich makers see bread as an afterthought, but true sandwich geniuses realize it may be the most important ingredient (yeah, that's right!).  The mushrooms and cream cheesed worked great together to create their own unique type of sauce and the ham did what ham does best:  it was ham.

Moving forward, we move backward.  Most towns, at one point or another, have a nostalgic soda fountain type restaurant.  They typically go out of business after about 15 minutes but the Highland Park Soda Fountain on Knox & Travis has been hanging in there for a while and is a very popular lunch spot. (UPDATE: Yeah, it went out of business)

In celebration of this, I went old school with my lunch order and got the Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich.  It comes with, you guessed it, peanut butter and jelly and is then grilled to perfect.  You may scoff at the idea of grilling this lunchtime staple but I've found that, as awesome as peanut butter is, it becomes a billion times better when you heat it up (try it yourself).  I was worried about how the heat would affect the jelly but after all these years it's still the perfect compliment to it's peanutty partner.

It's also always good to get grilled bread that maintains a soft texture without the roof-of-you-mouth-scratching phenomenon that typically comes along with the toasted bread on sandwiches.  This one is a great take on a timeless classic.

Jen's Place Bakery is an unassuming place on Alpha near the Tollway but once inside you can see how popular it is.  It was another packed lunch spot with specific lines for eating in or for taking out.  Menu items range from breakfast to lunch to fresh baked cakes and pies.

I chose the Greek Chicken Sandwich.  It comes with chicken breast, feta cheese, creamy cucumber sauce, lettuce, tomato, and onion.  Similarly to the first sandwich in this post, there was the mingling of ingredients to create a new type of sauce.  When the feta and cucumber sauce got together they gave birth to a much superior sandwich ingredient.  The chicken was very tender and the bread had a great texture.  The overall flavor was understated but satisfying.

If you're not hungry after three entries in our Sandwich Tour of Dallas then you either a) already recently finished a big meal or b) you don't like things that taste good.  Either way, go out and try some of these!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Launch Time


One of the biggest draws in Houston, TX is the Johnson Space Center, home of NASA.  To get into the spirit, and appeal to tourists, several local businesses have embraced a space motif.  It's not uncommon to to see rockets and spacemen as a part of the neighborhood's decor.  Even the gang with the Golden Arches get in on the fun with a special ambassador welcoming hungry guests:

The fry-clutching astronaut statue has been on the roof of this McDonald's for at least 15 years (around the first time I saw it) and was created by a local Houston artist.  NASA is just down the road from this Micky D's so I like to think it's been frequented by real live astronauts, mission specialists and just rando goofballs from off the street like me.

The theme continues inside.  Sure, I would have liked to see a spaceship themed playground and/or the employees dressed as bleep-blorp aliens but I had to settle for 2-D decor.  All your favorite McDonaldland characters are decked out in their finest space gear in extensive murals along the walls of the play area.

I think it's also worth noting that the "Mac Tonight" guy also makes an appearance.  I'd like to think they added him specifically because he fits in with the celestial theme but my best guess is that the short lived 80s mascot was included because these murals were painted when he was at the height of his "popularity" (and, yes, I felt the need to put the word "popularity" in quotation marks).

Further dating the artwork is this tribute to the crew of the Challenger.  It's a somewhat melancholy adornment for a playground yet it feels strangely appropriate.

Morose reminders of national tragedies notwithstanding, it's still a unique enough place to stop in after a a long day of touring NASA to pick up a Big Mac and Space Fries...although I guess they just call them fries.  Anyhoo, more themed McDonald's please!