Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hare Transplant

Years ago Bugs Bunny and his pals kicked out the Spelunkers (and other animatronic folks) so they could settle in at Six Flags.  But that wasn't his first trip to Texas.  In one of his earliest animated shorts, he headed out to the Lone Star state with a belly full of carrots and an ax to grind.

The 1943 cartoon short "Super-Rabbit" was an early entry in the Bugs Bunny pantheon and, as you probably guessed, is a parody of iconic superhero Superman.  (And, yes, it involves Texas).

Instead of being a strange visitor from another world, Bugs gets his powers from a a batch of specially irradiated carrots created by your standard mad scientist.  After chowing down on his first super power inducing snack, he immediately decides how and where to use his newfound powers.

It's understandable that a rabbit-hating hunter like Cottontail Smith might not be beloved in the rabbit community but Bugs was walking around with this newspaper clipping in his pocket.  So it's clear he's been waiting for an opportunity to enact some old school justice...Texas Justice!

And so with his new powers and costume, Bugs heads to Texas to match wits with a rabbit hunter...which would eventually become one of his trademarks.  We may never know why Elmer Fudd eventually rose to villainous infamy while Cottontail Smith faded into obscurity since this seems to be Smith's only appearance.

There's some online speculation that he was based on Lyndon B. Johnson but I'm not convinced.  LBJ would have been in the House of Representatives at the time and I'm not sure if he infamous enough to warrant a cartoon parody just yet.

Deepinaharta, TX looks to be in either the west Texas area or, more likely, the panhandle region.  The buttes and rock columns in the background are reminiscent of sights like the"Lighthouse" that you can see at Palo Duro State Park (after a little bit of a hike).

And that's pretty much where the Texas connection ends.  There's your usual Looney Tunes shenanigans with vague west Texas scenery in the background as Bugs makes a fool out of Cottontail and his horse for the rest of the cartoon.  But it ends on a patriotic note:

Bugs hops into the phone booth for one last change and emerges as "a real super man."  As a newly enlisted Marine, Bugs marches past his foes and into the war effort.  And that's way this one ends. 

So the next time you head to Six Flags and see your old pal Bugs's face all over the place, just remember he's no tourist...he's been here for awhile.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sandwich Tour of Dallas Part 3 - State Fair Edition

It's State Fair time but put away those corn dogs and drop those turkey legs because the Sandwich Tour of Dallas continues!

We start with an item that mades its State Fair debut a few years back.   Deep Fried Mac & Cheese Sliders can be found at the Steve Velasquez's food stand in the Grand Place Building (the building where they sell hot tubs, sewing machines and alpaca fur blankets).  It's like a regular slider but includes a deep fried patty of three-cheese macaroni and cheese.

When I first heard of these I didn't realize that it came with the beef patty.  I just thought the mac & cheese replaced it instead of accompanied it.  I think they could have gotten away with that but I'm glad they didn't.  The taste is great and the two components are great compliments to each other.  Apparently it takes a while to cook, or maybe they haven't streamlined the process, so there was a wait after I ordered.  But they are definitely a unique fair snack and worth a try.

Little Bob's B-B-Q inside the Tower Building (where the food court is) is a yearly stop for me at the fair.   It may seem a little unusual (or perhaps too usual) but they've got a great thick-cut Bologna Sandwich.  But this time I went for the chopped pork bbq sandwich.

Now, Dallas bbq is a whole other set of blog entries but I'm fond of Little Bob's and bbq sandwiches are a fair staple.  This is a great option for those who might need a respite from deep fried shenanigans but still want to EAT.  The sauce is a milder variety than you usually find and the meat is smokey and flavorful.  It's filling but not too heavy and makes a great lunch.

And now on to dessert and since this is the State Fair of Texas it MUST be deep fried!  You may think that the two elements of being deep fried and in sandwich form would narrow your options but not at the State Fair.  I decided on the Deep Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich.

I've mentioned before that as great as peanut butter is, it becomes ten times better when it's heated up.  The variety of flavors and textures meld together greatly and the batter is so good that it could be fried up and served on its own.  Like many deep fried desserts it's dusted with powdered sugar and served warm.  This one is definitely filling so you'll need to pace yourself.

These are only a small sample of what the fair has to offer.  So grab your Fair Park map, come up with a good game plan and bring your appetite.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Salt Seeing

The Morton Salt Girl has never been one of the more flashy product mascots but she's a bit of a workhorse.  She's been holding her umbrella and spilling her salt for over a century.  Sure, she may be frequently overlooked by flashier guys like Mr. Peanut or the Green Giant but I found a palace where she reigns as queen.

The Grand Salt Palace is just that...a building dedicated to, and made of, salt!  Found in Grand Saline in east Texas, the museum and visitors center celebrates America's favorite spice.  That's because there's a huge salt deposit in the area and Morton mines it for potato chip lovers everywhere.  It's what you call a "Salt Town."  (I don't know if anybody calls it that but I do.)

So proud of their natural resource, the town built its Welcome Center out of it.   You can build buildings out of rock, and salt is a rock so naturally synergy won the day.  Visitors are even encouraged to taste the salty we did...

Guess what it tastes like?  If you guessed salt, you're right!  I can't make any claims about how hygienic it is but pretty much every visitor seems to give it a lick.  My advice to new visitors is to try and find an unappealing corner somewhere that has had a minimum of licking.  Good luck!

Inside you'll find the type of pamphlets and local history displays that populate many small town museums.  What makes this one stand out is the free rock salt samples (Spoiler: they taste like salt) and, of course, Morton Salt Girl Memorabilia in its various forms.

As usual, there's a surprising amount of stuff with this particular mascot on it but, to paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm, Marketing...finds a way... 

Also on site is the standard little old lady to answer all your salt and salt related questions, an educational video about salt playing on a loop and the obligatory penny smashing machine.  I would definitely recommend a stop at this place if it's only a few hours off your pre-planned route.  But I'm into weird stuff like this.

Outside, in addition to the lickable walls, you'll find a Texas Historical marker about legendary aviator and adventurer Wiley Post.   And not too far from that that is even more salt!  This time in the form of a great big chunk:

Atop a wooden table and shaded by an outdoor roof, this guy has been welcoming folks to town for years.  The rain and wind have probably done their best to wear it down but it remains in place waiting for the next curious visitor to give it a lick.

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.