Friday, June 14, 2019

Texas Stranger

Previously:



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

Previously:  


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

Previously:




 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:


Jor-El:


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

Previously:

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

Previously:


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!


Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Red Headed Stranger

Previously:




We've seen several comic book characters visit the Lone Star State over the years, especially the gang from DC and Marvel.  But it was only a matter of time before the kids from Archie Comics wanted to get their piece of the action...which brings us to 1991's Veronica #17.


The story begins with Riverdale rich girl Veronica Lodge on a plane headed to DFW Airport to visit her father who is already there on business.  She passes the time by reading a paperback adventure of "Dusty Marlowe, Rodeo Star."  When a bit of turbulence gives her an old school, sitcomy konk on the head, naturally she gets the type of amnesia where you believe yourself to be the character you were just reading about...very common stuff..


Armed with the confidence that comes with a brand new persona, Veronica (or "Dusty" as she now calls herself) then proceeds to lasso a wild bucking bull who was loose in the airport (They really gloss over the whole "bull is loose in an airport" element of the story) like a champ.

The bull's owners, father and son rodeo organizers, Harry and Matthew Chase, offer her a job in their rodeo which she promptly accepts.  They even seem to be okay with giving the amnesiac teenage girl they just met a ride in their truck.


One bottle of red hair dye later, Matthew starts laying on the charm by taking Veronica out to dinner at whatever the restaurant at the top of Reunion Tower was called in the early 90s.  Check out artist Dan Parent's take on the Dallas skyline:


The house style for Archie comics might seem somewhat simplistic but if you take a minute or two to examine the drawing above you'll see several details of the Dallas skyline were included and not just the obligatory Reunion Tower cameo.  At this point in the story we get into a tour of Texas landmarks.  Since we're starting in downtown Dallas, let's do some side-by-sides from that area:


One of the first sights is the JFK Memorial, a.k.a. the JFK Cenotaph which is unfortunately mostly covered by word balloon.  Making matters worse is that the Old Red Courthouse Museum is featured prominently in the panel but the artist didn't seem to have a good reference pic to work from so the resemblance is not very accurate.


Veronica notices that Dallas founder John Neely Bryan's log cabin was not necessarily matching its downtown Dallas surroundings.  The cabin has been moved around and refurbished several times over the years and always seems to get attention.  You may remember that a few years back another comic book tourist noticed it when Spider-Man teamed up with the Dallas Cowboys.


After a while it was time for the traveling rodeo to start traveling and it was southbound to Houston.  Amnesiac teenager "Veronica/Dusty" continued to tag along and nobody seemed too weirded out about it.  And the tour continued!  This time at NASA in Houston.

While all this is going on there's a few subplots in the story trying to keep the queso spicy.  One involves a pair of rodeo clowns planning to steal from the Chase Rodeo's box office.  Another involves Veronica's father hiring a private detective (who's always eating something for some reason) and Veronica's mother hiring a psychic (who, like all psychics, is faking it til she makes it) to track down their daughter.


And, of course, the tour continues!  This time it's a Texas history lesson at the San Jacinto Monument.  Either Veronica is genuinely interested or she's doing a great job of faking it.  But there's no time to bask in Texas Independence...it's time to head to Austin!


Like most tourists, one of the kids' first stops is the Capitol Building.  It's an impressive sight (and a great drawing) but I can't help but stare at the mustache bro who's looking right at the reader:


Yeah, this guy knows what's up.  He's got a secret...a dark secret.  But that's a story for another day.  Unfortunately, our fate is to continue following Veronica and Matthew on their tour of famous Texas sites:


The last stop on the tour was a quick swim at Hamilton Pool.  Looks like there wasn't a postcard handy for the artist to use as a reference because this one was a little off too.  The real thing is more of a grotto than what you'd think of as a traditional water fall but it was still pretty cool that a natural landmark was included in the issue.  Now all that's left is the wrap up.


The rodeo clown robbers were foiled, Veronica got her memory back, her parents finally caught up with her and they all celebrated with some BBQ and some Texas two-stepping.  All in all, a pretty standard trip to Texas.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Bar Necessities


The 1991 film "Necessary Roughness" was a part of a wave of "ragtag misfits come together" sports movies that were hugely popular in the 80s and early 90s.  It fit right in with movies like "Major League" or "Wildcats" and works for our purposes because it was filmed in Texas.

The majority of the movie was shot at the University of Texas in Denton which filled in for the fictional Texas State University (go Armadillos!) and there are are few other north Texas locations, but what brings us all here today is a bar room brawl at the World's Largest Honky Tonk.



Scott Bakula, Sinbad and the rest of the gang decide to blow off some steam at Billy Bob's Texas in the Fort Worth Stockyards.  Billy Bob's is a world famous bar and entertainment venue that attracts some of the biggest musical acts in the world.  So of course, I had to stop by and see if I could find some of the specific areas where they filmed.



The problem, of course, being that the movie is a couple of decades old and the bar has been remodeled a few times since then.  Gotta get the saw dust off the floors and keep it fresh!  So consider this an exercise in seeing how the place has changed and updated over the years.  For example, you can see that the light fixtures over the pool tables are different.



Seems like some of the neon has been moved around or replaced too.  Normally I try to match up shots as closely as I can but I had to settle for just getting close on this trip.  There are a few other shots in Billy Bob's rodeo area and out front but the main action happened where the drinking gets done.

There's a lot to see in the bar, like the concrete hand imprints of the musicians who have performed there and several celebrities who have visited.  But there's also an interesting prop from a forgotten movie above the dance floor.



The duded-out saddle from the movie "Rhinestone" serves as the disco ball above Billy Bob's dance floor.  The movie stars Dolly Parton as a singer who makes a bet that she can turn Sylvester Stallone into a country music sensation...which sounds like a totally made up movie parody but it was real...and the proof is in Fort Worth!