UB-Day October 31

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Peter Jackson (10/31/1961)

A New Zealand native, a film buff from early on with little formal training, Jackson managed to secure the rights to J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and therefore himself a place in film history (not to mention some hefty paychecks).

Trivia: Jackson’s early efforts, before LOTR, were mostly “splatstick” low-budget horror comedies.

Age Today: 46.

Shares Birthday With: Fred McGriff (39), Rob Schneider (43), Dermot Mulroney (44), Jane Pauley (57), Deidre Hall (59), David Ogden Stiers (65), and Dan Rather (76).

This Day In History: Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Palace church, marking the start of the Protestant Reformation in Germany (1517).

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Westward Ho

I didn’t feel well on Sunday, and I had a notion why. My diet has been poor in carbohydrates, not because of philosophy as much as psychology. I don’t really buy into the “metabolic advantage” Atkinsspeak, but I feel better generally and I’m aware of two things: (1) White flour is my weakness, pizza, tortillas and bread, and (2) the world is, like, made of sugar.

Seriously. Read the labels. I’m convinced that this childhood obesity epidemic we’re looking at in this country has little to do with sedentary habits (I see soccer and baseball fields filled) and mostly with what we feed our kids, even inadvertently. I spent a lot of summer days reading in my room and never got fat, but then our refrigerator wasn’t filled with sugar. It’s hard to avoid, and somehow then harder to see. Scary stuff. I’d think that dentistry and endocrinology would be good fields to enter now.

But it occurred to me Sunday that maybe I was feeling the lack; my brain was fuzzy and I was dragging big time, and I started entertaining the notion of a carb binge. Something good, pizza or ice cream (or both). I’m circling 30 pounds lost at this point, and one hedonistic afternoon wasn’t going to slow that.

So I went to the store, shopping list in mind, and a funny thing happened.

I parked at the edges of the lot, my habit lately, and as I headed inside I felt something weird. A bounce. A lift. A boost. Sure, I’m lighter now. Gravity is a little less oppressive, but this was different, and you know what it was?

I was outside, and I was moving.

I knew this, of course, but knowing and doing…

So I ditched the treadmill, and yesterday I plugged in my iPod, stuffed with tunes and podcasts, tied my shoelaces tight, and headed west. My goal was to walk straight for 30 minutes, then turn around and walk back.

It was nostalgic, something that surprised me. In 10 minutes, I’d approached Beth’s first elementary school. I passed streets where her former friends had lived, and established neighborhoods where I remember vacant lots and trees. I kept walking.

I saw stuff I’d forgotten, and kicked leaves out of my way and smelled woodstoves. At times I could have been lots of different places, in New England or the Midwest, if I just squinted and let my imagination go. I went up hills and down them, mentally calculating the way back, and then, as I neared 25 minutes, I saw something completely unexpected.

I mean, I knew where I was heading. Realistically. But it still jolted me, living where I do, to come over a rise and see water. I just hadn’t thought about it, but there was Puget Sound at dusk, just a walk away. I went out for some exercise and I caught the sun setting over the western world as a prize.

The walk back was less adventurous, and those four miles all at once, not to mention the hills, were reminding certain joints that they’d been a little lazy, but it was a nice walk and a nicer accomplishment, knowing I’d found a solution that didn’t come in the frozen food aisle.

I bought that pizza, by the way, inertia and rationalization kicking in at the worst time, but I never ate it; it’ll be a nice addition to a youth group lock-in one weekend. I walked instead, watched the sun set, knowing it was an illusion, that I was the one actually moving, finally.

And it was only when I got back home, and was dragging my trash can in from the street, that I realized I’d never turned on the iPod, not even once.

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UB-Day October 30

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Kevin Pollack (10/30/1957)

One of my favorite entertainers, Kevin Pollack was born in San Francisco and began his career as a comedian at the age of 10. By 20 he was touring, doing dead-on impressions of a wide range of celebrities.

There was something about Kevin, though. Something that made directors want to put him in their movies somewhere. Making his screen debut in Ron Howard’s Willow in 1988, Pollack quickly followed that with a featured role in Barry Levinson’s Avalon, and then appeared in L.A. Story with Steve Martin in 1991. It was his role in A Few Good Men, though, in 1992, that showed he could carry his weight with the big boys (and girl; he costarred with Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore).

Along with some franchise work (Wayne’s World 2, both Grumpy Old Men films, Dr. Doolittle 2, and the two Whole Nine Yards offerings), in 1995 Pollack appeared in a couple of classics: Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and The Usual Suspects (with UB-Day July 26 honoree Kevin Spacey).

As a comedian, Pollack’s best known work was his 1992 HBO special Stop With The Kicking, and he’s widely known as having the best William Shatner and Christopher Walken impressions in the known universe.

Last December, Pollack played Karl Kreutzfeld in the Sci Fi Channel miniseries The Lost Room.

Trivia: He was the original host of Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown.

Age Today: 50.

Shares Birthday With: Charles Martin Smith (54), Harry Hamlin (56), Henry Winkler (62), Otis Williams (66), Ed Lauter (67), Grace Slick (68), Dick Gautier (70), and Dick Vermeil (71).

This Day In History: Orson Welles broadcast his radio play of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, causing a nationwide panic (1938).

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UB-Day October 29

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Dan Castellaneta (10/29/1957)

Must be Simpsons month. Dan Castellaneta is a Chicago native and a veteran of Second City, and an Emmy-winning voice actor and comedian. He’s married to writer Deb Lacusta, with whom he’s co-written a couple of Simpsons episodes and produced a comedy album.

Trivia: Last April Castellaneta moved past James Arness and Kelsey Grammer to become the record holder for longest time portraying a character on prime time television; he’s been Homer Simpson now for 20 years.

Age Today: 50.

Shares Birthday With: Winona Ryder (36), Kate Jackson (59), Richard Dreyfuss (60), Melba Moore (62), and Sen. Connie Mack III (67).

This Day In History: The New York Stock Exchange crashed on “Black Tuesday,” thus beginning The Great Depression (1929).

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Bare Facts

Leonard Pitts has another good column today, although that’s hardly new. It’s about political correctness, and if you don’t want to click I’ll sum it up for you.

He argues, and I agree, that the term “politically incorrect” is used, well, incorrectly, at least by some. Particularly by some who don’t want to own up to the stupid, or rude or thoughtless or hurtful, stuff that comes out of their mouths. For example: Referring to a co-worker as a “fat pig” and then saying, “Sorry, I guess that’s politically incorrect” is a wink-wink-nod-nod justification for being rude, and it doesn’t wash, sorry.

Putting your beer cans in the trash can and not the recycling bin is politically incorrect. Wearing a Yankees cap at Safeco Field is politically incorrect (also, sort of dangerous). Smoking anywhere in North America is politically incorrect (including in a super-secret, well-ventilated cubbyhole in your own home).

Everything else pretty much comes down to ignorance, impreciseness, rudeness or wrongness. So no more excuses.

But forget about that. Let’s talk about naked people.

Julie and I went to see a local production of “Hair” last night in downtown Everett. A friend in the cast gave us tickets, although it sounded like fun even if not for free. And the director was a church acquaintance, and the music director was another church acquaintance. It was sort of a church event, then. Except for the nudity, which I’ll get to. Keep your shirt on.

It’s not on my top 10 list for American musicals (or top 20). It has four good songs and about 400 mediocre ones. It’s topical, which means quaint now; it might have blown your mind in 1967, depending on your mind, but it’s now a museum piece, of more interest to me from a theater history point of view than American history.

It’s not even nostalgic for me, although Gary, the music director, asked me if it took me back. Yeah, to the fourth grade, I thought. I have to shave this damn beard, I guess.

It was community theater, and the cast was naturally very young, so the talent varied widely, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was a tight show, and there was amazing energy.

And lots of politically incorrect behavior, of course, particularly drug use. There was even a fair amount of smoke, and odors that were very familiar (and nostalgic, I admit), I assume some concoction of incense but then maybe I assume too much.

And at the end of the first act, the lead actor, singing a plaintive solo as he prepared to go off to the induction center and then Vietnam, shucked his pants. And then the rest of the cast appeared, skillfully lit and momentarily, without clothing of any kind. And it wasn’t that dimly lit.

Theatrical nudity is a tricky thing. Symbolically we get it; everybody gets it. Vulnerability. Exposure. Threat. It’s a broad dynamic that needs to be fine-tuned to work. Otherwise it’s just naked people.

The group nakedness didn’t work for me. The singer’s did, but maybe because he was kind of big (I mean his weight, people; don’t get ahead of me) and somehow that made him seem more exposed.

I’ll also note that Julie immediately ducked her head. This was very cute, I thought.

At any rate, I enjoyed our night of politically incorrect theater. I enjoyed the music and the enthusiasm. I enjoyed getting out for the evening. I enjoyed seeing the work of friends.

In fact, the only thing I didn’t particularly enjoy — or maybe I was just surprised at — was my reaction to that brief image of young naked bodies on a stage 20 feet in front of me:

For God’s sake, I hope no one catches a cold!

So I’m thinking maybe the beard is not the issue.

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UB-Day October 28

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Bill Gates (10/28/1955)

If Bill Gates called me up and invited me over to his house, right now, I could be there in 15 minutes. I’m just saying; he’s local.

Aside from the fact that he was born into a well-to-do Seattle family, Gates’s story is pretty much quintessential American, a mixture of bravado, brilliance and timing. Any number of things, particularly miscalculation and a lack of prescience on the part of others, could have changed his life, if not history, but there you go. He was smart, cocky, and lucky. Also extremely competitive. And a nerd. But a very, very rich nerd.

He owns 8% of the common stock of Microsoft, which seems small but, of course, makes him the richest man in the world (although Carlos Slim of Mexico is closing fast and may have already surpassed Gates, who seems dedicated to giving his money away as fast as he can); currently estimated at 56 billion.

Trivia: The property tax on his Medina home on Lake Washington runs him a cool 1 million a year.

Age Today: 52.

Shares Birthday With: Joaquin Phoenix (33), Terrell Davis (35), Julia Roberts (40), Andy Richter (41), Annie Potts (55), Bruce Jenner (58), Dennis Franz (63), Jane Alexander (68), Lenny Wilkens (70), Charlie Daniels (71), and Cleo Laine (80).

This Day In History: The Alcan Highway, running through Canada to Fairbanks, linking the lower 48 with Alaska, was completed (1942).

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UB-Day October 27

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Jeff East (10/27/1957)

I mentioned Jeff East a while back in reference to The Hazing (aka The Campus Corpse, 1977), since he filmed that movie on the campus of my alma mater and was the talk of the town for another year. His career has been small but will always have an interesting footnote — he played young Clark Kent in the 1978 Richard Donner film Superman. His first role was as Huckleberry Finn in the 1973 film Tom Sawyer and its sequel (guess). He currently works in real estate and lives in Kansas City.

Trivia: Unbeknown to East during filming, Christopher Reeve dubbed his voice for Superman.

Age Today: 50.

Shares Birthday With: Kelly Osbourne (23), Brad Radke (35), Robert Picardo (54), Peter Firth (54), Roberto Benigni (55), Fran Lebowitz (57), Ivan Reitman (61), Lee Greenwood (65), John Cleese (68), Warren Christopher (82), Ruby Dee (83), and Nanette Fabray (87).

This Day In History: Ronald Reagan delivered a speech on behalf of the Republican candidate for president, Barry Goldwater. The speech launched his political career and came to be known as “A Time for Choosing” (1964).

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