Mission Of This Blog

The overall mission statement of this blog is to share many unique topics of this blogger's interest. Topics include (but are not limited to): Travel & Photojournalism, Nature & Wildlife Preservation, Americana, Local Places Of Interest, Southern Cultural Heritage, Local History of the South Carolina Upstate, Confederate Heritage Preservation & Awareness, Science & Science Fiction, Astronomy & Night Sky Photography, Literacy & Writing, Southern Cuisine, Popular Culture & Philosophy, Fandom, Local Folklore ....as well as various other topics explained from the blogger's point of view. The following website contains the UNCENSORED thoughts and opinions of a Southern-born country writer from upstate South Carolina - the living, beating heart of the great American Southland!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

RIP Gene Wilder (1933 - 2016)

RIP Jerome Silberman aka Gene Wilder
(June 11, 1933 - August 29, 2016)

Far too many times it seems like this month has been a time where this blogger has had the unhappy duty to say goodbye to celebrities that have, in some form or another, touched my life profoundly. 

It is with a heavy heart that it was reported on social media that actor Gene Wilder - perhaps one of my all-time favorite comedy actors, and certainly one of the greats in that field - passed away on Monday the 29th of this month due to complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 83 years old. 

Born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Wilder began studying to become an actor at age 13, and had his first performance onstage at age 15.

He took the professional name Gene Wilder after graduating from the University of Iowa and starting his decades-long acting career beginning with stage productions and his first film role in Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

In 1971, Wilder's film career took off with his portrayal of the eccentric candymaker Willy Wonka in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) - a film based on the excellent book by Roald Dahl, which did not gross very well at the time of the film's release (Dahl himself disowned the final product and didn't care for Wilder's preformance), but grew in popularity over the next decade with repeating broadcasting on television. 

Wilder is perhaps best remembered for his role as the eccentric
Willy Wonka from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).

In 1974, Wilder would work with legendary comedy director Mel Brooks in two films that would be among his best remembered comedy roles.  

The first was the satirical Western comedy film Blazing Saddles (1974), where Wilder played a recovering alcoholic gunslinger named Jim (aka The Waco Kid) as a sidekick character to actor Cleavon Little portrayed as the town's unpopular black sheriff Bart. In the film, the duo would work together to gain the acceptance of the townspeople and stop badguys from destroying the town. 

Wilder alongside actor Cleavon Little in Mel Brooks'
Western comedy film Blazing Saddles (1974).

Later the same year, Wilder starred as another eccentric comedy character in Brooks' horror comedy film Young Frankenstein (1974) where he plays a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein from Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus - later shortened to just Frankenstein.    

In Young Frankenstein, Wilder played alongside actress Teri Garr as Inga his lab assistant and actor Marty Feldman as Igor (pronounced "eye-gor" in the film). Wilder and Feldman would both team up again a year later in the musical comedy film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975) in Wilder's directorial debut.

Wilder as Victor Frankenstein in Mel Brooks' Young Frankentein (1974)
with Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, and Cloris Leachman.

A year later Wilder would team up with legendary comedy actor Richard Pryor in the comedy thriller film Silver Streak (1976). The two actors would play a duo in two other comedy films: Stir Crazy (1980) where they played a pair of wrongly accused men sent to prison, and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) where Wilder played a deaf man to Pryor's blind man who both work together to thwart murderous thieves. 

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor worked together
on three films between 1976 - 1989.

Wilder was married four times. His third wife was actress Gilda Radner, with whom he starred in three films. Her 1989 death from ovarian cancer led to his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda's Club.

Rest in peace Jerome Silberman, aka Gene Wilder. 
Thank you for all the memories, sir. You will not be forgotten.

Friday, August 19, 2016

RIP Jack Riley (1935 - 2016)

RIP John Albert "Jack" Riley Jr.
December 30, 1935 - August 19, 2006.
Thank you for the memories.

Actor John Albert "Jack" Riley Jr. passed away earlier today at his home in Los Angeles, California, USA reportedly from pneumonia and infection. He was 80 years old and retired after a successful career that spanned decades in various forms of media - including notably voice acting for animated shows. 

Jack Riley's roots in television were firmly within comedy, as he came from a radio background where he had his own comically-inclined show. He moved west where he partnered with legendary funnyman Tim Conway on The Tim Conway Show which got his foot in the door with appearances on comedy shows like Occasional Wife, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and Hogan's Heroes  before landing the biggest break in 1972 with his live-action career: The Bob Newhart Show

On the show Riley played Elliot Carlin, one of the many patients that Bob Newhart's psychiatrist saw on a daily basis. Mr. Carlin was as condescendingly neurotic as one gets, with a sense of humor that geared towards the cynical side, making him one of the show's stronger personalities. The character was so popular that Riley would go on to reprise the role on both the TV series Alf and St. Elsewhere.

Other roles credited to Riley include characters on M*A*S*H, Barney Miller, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, One Day at a Time, Gomer Pyle, Diff'rent Strokes and Night Court. He was also a favorite of Mel Brooks, appearing in several of his films: High Anxiety, History of the World: Part I, To Be or Not to Be, and (cameo only) Spaceballs. He also appeared on episodes of Seinfeld, Son of the Beach, Friends, Coach, The Drew Carey Show, That '70s Show and, in a gag appearance, as an unnamed but obvious Mr. Carlin in an episode of Newhart.

Stu Pickles, father of Tommy Pickles from Rugrats.
As a voice actor Riley is best remembered from 1991 - 2005 for voicing the character Stu Pickles in the Nickelodeon animated series Rugrats, the sometimes bumbling toy inventor and father of the series main character, Tommy. The franchise consisted of the TV series, the spin-off All Grown Up! and the Rugrats film trilogy.

Mr. Riley had also served in the United States Army and is survived by his spouse, Ginger Lawrence-Riley and their two children.

Thank you for the memories Mr. Riley.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

RIP Kenny Baker (1934 - 2016)

English actor Mr. Kenny Baker, the stunt actor for R2-D2
in both the original and prequel films of the Star Wars franchise. RIP.
British-born actor Kenneth "Kenny" George Baker, best known for his role as R2-D2 in six of the Star Wars films and Fidgit in the 1981 cult classic Time Bandits passed away at his home in Preston, England, UK. 

Baker was born in Birmingham, England, UK on August 24, 1934 and died on August 13, 2016. He was 81 years old. Over his career, which spanned five decades, Mr. Baker, who stood at 3 feet 8 inches tall, played various dwarf-like characters in such notable films as: The Elephant Man (1980), Willow (1988), Labyrinth (1986), and Flash Gordon (1980).

One of this blogger's favorite childhood films was the original Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope (not the &*%$#! 1997 remastered version, the original!) and probably one of my favorite characters was the droid R2-D2. 

Since the films are among my favorites, I own copies of them on DVD along with the making of documentaries such as Empire of Dreams: The Making of the Star Wars Trilogy, which featured the actors behind the scenes. I especially loved hearing Mr. Baker talk about how he preformed his role as the droid and working with his counterpart, C-3PO played by English-born actor, Mr. Anthony Daniels.

Kenny Baker as R2-D2 with Anthony Daniels as C-3PO on the set of the original Star Wars film at Elstree Studios near London, England, UK in 1976.

Mr. Baker died in his home after a long illness on Saturday, August 13th of this year, many decades after doctors told him he would not live long past puberty. He is survived by his two children. He was an amazing man who overcame much in his life and had a great career to be proud of. 

The world will be a much poorer place without him in it, but God has a new angel in Heaven.

RIP Mr. Kenny Baker. Thank You For The Memories!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Planetary Photography - 08-12-2016 - The Waxing Gibbous Moon & Planetary Triangle!

This evening I was able to get a shot of the waxing gibbous moon (Luna) with the planets Saturn and Mars with the bright star Antares completing the trinity in an amazing triangle. 

I took the photo in a field near my house. Unfortunately I was unable to get a good background shot of any trees for scale. 

I'm going to return later after midnight to try and get at least one good shot of the Perseid Meteor Shower, though I don't hold out any real hope with the crappy camera I have. Still you never know till you try.

Wish me luck.

UPDATE! 08-13-2016

As expected I was unable to get any good shots of the meteor shower. Sorry folks! I swear I am going to get a faster camera at some point.