Saturday, September 28, 2013

Screenshots from Viva Max! part 3

The final collection of screen shots.

Okay then, I guess they were marching down East Houston St.

The front of the Alamo.

Henry Morgan as the crusty police chief.  I only put this here to remind myself to say that the scenes that took place in the police headquarters were actually shot inside the old police HQ.  Several of the officers were used as extras.  A Rolodex!  Black desk phones!

Rushing through the streets to see what was going on at the Alamo.

The Mexican troops hoist their flag over the Alamo.  I bet this drove the DRT absolutely nuts, but by the time they knew about it, it was too late.

More downtown with Morgan checking the time on the big clock.

Another angle of the same scene.

Jonathan Winters testing the firmness of mattresses by jumping on them.  Maybe this was shot inside the Fawcett Furniture Company?  Anyway, he jumps on these a few times and says, "Yeah, yeah, that's firm."  Then he gets down and looks at the ends of the mattresses and shouts, "Now who in the hell cut all these labels off?"

Cops rushing through the streets at night.  The whole movie takes place during two days and the night in between.

A chaotic street scene as soldiers run toward the Alamo to battle the Mexican soldiers.  But don't worry, this is a G-rated, family-friendly movie and there's no fighting, just a humorous (cough) Mexican standoff.

Well, as I said before, I know someone who was an extra in this movie, and he told me all about it, so I knew where to look for him.  His entire screen time is less than 10 seconds as Henry Morgan walks around this corner, about to leave for the day, right before all heck breaks loose.  Anyway, the guy way in the back on the right, bent over and wearing a dark coat, is the guy who I know, who was a police officer at that time.

He has always had a dark complexion, very dark brown eyes, and back then when he was much younger, black hair.  He said that some of his Mexican-American fellow officers joked that he got hired because he looked more Mexican than they did.  But the real story is that Jerry Paris (the director), wanted someone who was exactly 6 feet, 2 inches tall to be back there messing around with the cigarette vending machine.  This seems odd to me, because the whole time he's on camera, he's bent way over working the machine.  But I guess that's directors for you.  Anyway, he was exactly 6'2", so he got picked as the extra for that scene.  For that scant time on camera, he said he was paid for 3 days at union scale, and, he told me, "they fed us like kings."  They had a buffet going on the whole time that was available for all the cast and crew, and while they were extras, they ate from the buffet.

So that's it.  Rated G, 93 minutes.  Written by news anchor Jim Lehrer.  For some more interesting details about the controversy this film caused, check out the trivia at  If you miss funny movies with no bad language* or violence, you'll like this.  Make it a Peter Ustinov double feature with Blackbeard's Ghost and you'll be all set for a great evening of movie-watching.

*unless you count the word "whorehouse"

General DeSantos:  She said my men would not follow me into a whorehouse!

Sergeant Valdez:  She is wrong, General.

General:  What?  You think so?

Sergeant (leering):  Yes, General.  Your men would most certainly follow you into a whorehouse.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Screenshots from Viva Max! part 2

As before, I tried to get some shots with good backgrounds.  This set are all from downtown.

Headed toward the Alamo.

At one point, a whacky old lady backs her car out into the street and plows into the army column.  One of the men gets a hurt ankle and can't march anymore, so they put him on this bus.  Unfortunately, this bus doesn't go to the Alamo, but a helpful lady inside tells him how he can transfer to a bus that does.  Check out the Joske's "product placement."

The Battle of the Alamo vintage game.  More product placement, I suppose.

Okay, this is supposed to be out of the front door of the Alamo chapel, or gates, or something.  This movie makes the same mistake as some other shows I've seen, in that they depict the Alamo as a place that still has surrounding walls with gates that can be closed so no one can get inside the grounds.  That lady on the left is hilarious.  She has a hugely exaggerated fake Texan accent and she's a tour guide who is giving a group of tourists a tour (3 tours in one sentence).  By the way, some of this movie was also shot at the Alamo Village set in Bracketville.

The army column somehow manages to get down to the Riverwalk.

Another familiar building.

And here they go marching down a bustling downtown street, but I don't know which one.  Jefferson is a short joining street that runs from Pecan on the north to Houston on the south, if I read the map correctly.  I never work in this part of downtown, so I am wholly unfamiliar with it.

Same as the last shot but from a lower angle as they've approached closer to the camera.

I don't know if this is the same street as the last two, but in the movie they are still marching toward the Alamo.

And I should be able to pretty much finish this up in one more post.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Screen shots from Viva Max! part 1

Quite some time ago I had posted a few screen shots from Viva Max!, a movie that was filmed in San Antonio in 1969.  So here's a more complete collection of screen shots, but I have so many that I'm going to do this in at least 3 posts.

I got lucky and found that it was showing on a movie channel one time when we had some free movie channels for a while due to some promotional thing DishNetwork was running.  This was a few years ago.  I had always been interested in seeing this movie, because 1) it was a comedy about the Alamo, and 2) someone I know was an extra in it.

If you haven't seen it, I recommend it highly because it's still very funny.  It stars Peter Ustinov as Mexican Army Brigadier General Maximillian Rodrigues DeSantos, John Astin as his somewhat sadistic seargent, and Harry Morgan as the cranky chief of police.  Other names you'll recognize are in it, like Jonathan Winters, who plays the owner of a mattress store who is also technically a brigadier general in the National Guard, and character actor and perennial wacky next-door neighbor Alice Ghostly (who thinks the Mexican soldiers are Chinese communists invading the United States).  Oh yeah, Keenan Wynn is also in it.  If you watch it, you'll most likely see other faces you recognize but whose names you don't remember, like this guy, or this guy, or this guy.

Unfortunately, these grabs are not of the highest quality, but I hope that if you still remember San Antonio in 1969, you'll recognize some of these scenes.  I tried to mostly stick with shots that show buildings and signs in the background that could trigger some memories.  Please feel free to leave comments about any of these photos.  Click on the pictures to see larger versions (but not a whole lot larger).

Just the Alamo itself with some tourists milling about in front.

Boy Scouts walking in front of the cenotaph.

The Alamo gift shop.  The guy in the foreground is one of the Mexican soldiers in disguise wearing a Baylor t-shirt.  I always wanted that play set that the kid is holding.

The General is riding his horse at the front of his column of soldiers, marching down the overpass of one of the freeway interchanges.  Based on how the story goes, this should have been IH35.

I managed to get this shot showing the Tower of Americas in the background.

Another shot taken right after the previous one, with some familiar buildings in the background.

What is that domey-looking building?

Downtown as they approached the Alamo.

A shot of Peter Ustinov with some building in that background that someone else who is more familiar with the downtown area can probably identify.

John Astin with Fawcett Furniture Company in the background.  What's that tuba doing there? you ask.  The army group had its own brass band.  They played the same piece of music everywhere they marched.  It was written just for this movie, and was called the "Viva Max March."  We played it for one of our half-time shows when I was in high school band.  Here it is on YouTube.

And here's a clip with Jonathan Winters, just for fun.

Steering without a steering wheel

I thought this gif at cheezburger was interesting.  This is supposed to be a funny "fail," but the guy obviously--to me, anyway--had done this before and knew what he was doing.

When I was a kid, my dad needed farming equipment but--back then--had very little money with which to purchase such equipment.  So eventually he ended up finding a good deal on an ancient Ford 8N.  It looked quite similar to the one in the picture at the link, except a previous owner had installed a front-end loader on it, so it had a little extra weight in the front.

Later on, he found another good deal on a shredder, but the shredder was made for a much larger tractor than the 8N, and it was so heavy that it would lift the front end a little.  Not nearly as much as that tractor in the gif is lifted, though.  But it lifted the front end enough that the tires would just skim the ground and weren't as useful for steering as they should have been.

One of my chores on the farm was shredding the field, and I got pretty good at keeping it in a straight line using the brakes.  Because, for anyone who has never driven a tractor, the back wheels each have a separate brake.  These are usually used to make a tight turn at the end of a row when you need to head back in the other direction.  But because of that extremely heavy shredder, we had to use them to steer with.

Later on he bought another smaller shredder that was more suited to the 8N.  All of that old equipment is gone now, though.  Now he can afford two tractors, and he bought two because he got tired of hauling the one he had back and forth between the two properties where he needed tractors.  They both have front-end loaders because he likes to dig things with them.  One of them also has a back hoe.  Whenever it gets dry enough that his tank goes completely dry, he digs it back out again.  It's his hobby.

That 8N gave us lots of problems.  At one point, the starter gave out so we had to "hotwire" it with a bent piece of threaded rod.  Then when that didn't work anymore, we had to pull-start it every time we wanted to use it.  Several times we had to take the tractor to another property, which meant driving it about 2 miles down a dirt road, then 4 miles down the highway, then another mile down another dirt road.  It topped out at 8 mph.  During the winter, that was a cold drive.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A clash of cultures

My daughter recently checked out the first volume of Death Note (manga) from the school library.  She says they also have Bleach there, so I told her to get the first one for me so I could see what it looks like.

Anyway, the other day she got out the Death Note book so she could show it to me, and she flipped open the front cover.  I told her, "You know you have to read that from front to back, bottom to top."

"What?" she said.

"That's how they write in Japanese, so that's how they put their books together.  They just replace the words in the word bubbles with English, but you still have to read it back to front, bottom to top."

So she said, "No wonder it wasn't making any sense!"

Friday, September 20, 2013


Prevous rant about Customer Service Week here.  No need to rant about it this time, except to say that it used to be a week full of onerous, tedious mandatory "fun" while the company allegedly showed everyone in the Customer Service section how much we are appreciated.

But...this year, the woman who usually organized all of our torture, didn't.  So we didn't have hardly any mandatory "fun" at all.  It was such a relief.  We still got our free barbecue plate on Thursday, so that was good.

Since the tropical storm rains began a couple of days ago, we've had nearly six inches of rain at my house.  I'll have to go empty the gauge tonight in case it rains more, but right now it's stopped.

Thanks to YouTubers who have uploaded full albums to that video service, I have been listening to the full studio album discography of Mott the Hoople this week.  Last week I did the same with Blue Oyster Cult.  I found a few BOC songs that were new to me that I like.  I still think "The Revolution By Night" is my favorite album, but it's a close one between that and "Imaginos," which I for some reason bought on CD as a new release back in '88 or whenever it was that it came out, and listened to it a lot.

Back in the 80s, I found a discounted cassette of Mott the Hoople's Greatest Hits at the local music store and bought it, even though I had never heard of them at that time.  I liked the whole tape, and listened to it a lot, but never bought any of their other albums, mostly because the store didn't stock any of them.  But I remember there was a guy who worked for a while as a pizza delivery guy at the restaurant where I also worked.  His name was Kenny, I think.  I don't remember his last name.  He was another country boy who liked rock & roll, so we talked a lot about things like music, guns and hunting.  I guess I must have mentioned my Mott the Hoople tape to him.

By the way, that tape just one day vanished.  I don't know what happened to it.  As time passed, I developed the theory that I must have left it in my old Ford Courier and forgotten about it when I finally sold the pickup.  But that's just a guess.

Anyway, several years went by and one day I went to the Wal-Mart in Seguin to buy a new tire, and found him working there in the automotive department.  We caught up with each other, and he thanked me for telling him about Mott the Hoople.  He had bought all their albums and they had become one of his favorite bands.  I didn't even remember ever talking about that tape but I guess I must have.

Well, he was right.  There's a lot of pretty good music from that band that wasn't included on their "Greatest Hits."  Actually I don't think anything from their first three albums made it onto their "Greatest Hits."

I've been trying to get used to my new capo.  I think that when I eventually get a tenor uke it will be easier to use the capo because the neck won't be quite so cramped.  And then when I get around to buying a baritone uke it should be easier still.  The main reason I wanted it is because sometimes my voice just doesn't do the low notes too well, so I can key it up a step to give my voice a little more room to work with and still play it the way I've already practiced it.

Here's one by Mott the Hoople.  That audience looks a little too calm, to me.  Maybe they were there for someone else.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New accessory

The other day I saw this video...

...and I decided, okay, if a professional musician is going to use a capo on a ukulele, then so am I.  She has that capo fretted so that she can use the fingerings for the key of C, but play in the key of E.  So be it.

My son needed a new alto sax band book for this year, and he "graciously" reminded me that our small town does have it's own music store.  So while there buying his book, I asked about capos, and they guy there grabbed a uke off the shelf and a guitar capo and tried it out right there in front of me, and it worked just fine, so I bought it.  I tried it for a few minutes when I got back home just now, and it works great.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Good article

6 Real-Life Gunslingers Who Put Billy the Kid to Shame at Cracked.  #6 on the list literally did put Billy the Kid to shame.  Also, there's a photo of a young George Patton smoking a pipe.

Friday, September 06, 2013

It's the greatest henge of all

I just now discovered this, and I watched a couple of their videos.  I think this one is pretty funny.  Ylvis is a group from Norway who make music that sounds like typical extremely polished power-pop, but their lyrics are a lot more--or at least, a lot different--than the typical overblown heartbreak love songs.  Hilarious.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Tech fail

Which doesn't use batteries, either.

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Long weekend this week, with Labor Day tomorrow.  Unfortunately it means I'll have mandatory overtime next Saturday, but at least it should be a not-so-bad route by that time.

I think I mentioned that I had re-strung my ukulele.  It's working well, except the C string goes out of tune faster than the others.  I'm not sure if it's still stretching, or if it's slipping.  I'm not sure that I tied it off well enough, so I might re-string that one soon just to be sure.

I performed my first "gig" last July at our family reunion.  I discovered that one of my relatives also plays ukulele and we had a discussion about them.  Some of the songs I pick out are because I'm pretty sure that people at the reunion will know them, and possibly enjoy them if I don't screw up too badly; some other songs because I have an idea that they might not know them but would like them if they heard them.  I was gratified to hear some people singing along with a few songs, and I even got some applause for my performance of "Dark as a Dungeon."  I just played and sang for over an hour while everyone else was sitting around talking and playing dominoes or cards.  It was fun, but by the time I was finished, I was pretty tired.

So here's a list of more songs that I've printed out and added to what I call my "fake book."  My fake book doesn't have a melody line in it like a real fake book (a real fake book?); I just go on the melody by memory.

Jim Byrnes - Just a Pilgrim:  I'm still working on this one a lot.  It has a bridge that uses a couple of chords that are still pretty difficult for me to play.

House of the Rising Sun:  I gotta be honest, I don't feel at all confident with this one.  But I played it at the reunion and people were singing along with it.

Alex Woodward - Reno:  I added this one even though I can't really do it right because it's a male/female duet.  Maybe someday I can find someone to sing it with me.

Daydream Believer:  Another song that people were singing along with.

Bread - Yours for Life:  This popped up on my phone one day while I was working, and I thought, hey, I bet I can play this.  This song finally got me to wrap my head around playing a syncopated rhythm, with the down strokes on 2 and 4 instead of 1 and 3.  I had a lot of trouble with it at first, but of course the more I practiced it the better I got.  I'm playing several songs with that kind of strum now.

The Gray Havens - Silver:  This was part of a free download a while back.  When I heard it on my phone and started singing along with it, I knew I had to try it.  I think I actually do it fairly well for such an amateur.  It's in a very brisk 3/4 time, and it's another one of those ubiquitous I-V-vi-IV songs.  They actually have the chords for this song on their official website, but they're wrong.  As I joked on FB, they must've had some unpaid intern do it.

4 Non Blondes - Spaceman:  This is one of my two favorite songs from the only album that group ever recorded, and I know better than to ever try the other one.  I think I do this one pretty well, considering.  It has one weird chord in it that I am still not sure about, and I think it may be one of those extended chords that you can't really play with only 4 strings.  But I figured out a substitute that I think works okay.

Steve Young - Seven Bridges Road:  I do this one in a slow 3/4, more like the original Steve Young version and not like the fast 4/4 version by the Eagles.  I just printed out the lyrics for this one; I didn't bother to worry about the chords.  I already know it too well.

Puff the Magic Dragon:  Another one that I didn't print the chords for, just the lyrics.  I found the chords on some website and just looking at them and playing it my head, I knew they were wrong.  This was my first ever favorite song when I was a kid.  I had the single of it by Peter, Paul & Mary that I listened to over and over until one day it was tragically melted when I left it outside in the car.

Johnny Cash - I Still Miss Someone:  I had been wanting to add something by Johnny Cash, but was hesitant to do it because everything he did is still so iconic.  But I think I do this one okay.

Shriekback - Cradle Song:  A weird one.  The only Shriekback song that I would ever even attempt to play on the ukulele.  I've been trying to practice this one finger picking instead of just strumming, but it's going to take a lot of practice for me to get it.

Carly Ritter - Save Your Love:  I recently heard this one when I streamed her debut album.  It was written by a country songwriter named Jerry Lynn Williams, if I recall correctly, and has been recorded by others--I found one version by Bonnie Tyler on YouTube which I didn't really like at all.  By the way, Carly Ritter is the late actor John Ritter's daughter, Tex Ritter's grand-daughter.

Sons of Bill - The Rain:  I got this song as a free download several months ago and it has just haunted me since.  It's a very powerful song and I probably butcher it horribly, but I still keep working on it.  I recently got their newest album, plus I went to their official website and downloaded a bunch of live stuff for free that they had available there.  I'm probably going to buy their two previous albums soon.  They're my newest favorite group.

Sons of Bill - Roll On Jordan:   This was on one of the live sets that I downloaded.  It's a gospel-tinged Americana song.

The Baptism of Jesse Taylor:  I grabbed the lyrics for this one just about an hour ago, and it's another one that I didn't bother printing out the chords for.  I came across the Oakridge Boys' version of it while blog-reading earlier today, and thought to myself, how could I have forgotten this song?  So I looked up the original, which is by a guy named Johnny Russell.  He recorded a bunch of albums himself, but mostly he wrote songs that were hits for other country singers.  Russell's only top 10 hit was "Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer."  He also wrote "Let's Fall to Pieces Together," which was a hit for George Strait.

My next step is to pick out 5 or 10 songs and just practice those until I get them all completely memorized.