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Ruminations

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On the Road
or
If it's Friday, this must be Reno?

Wasting no time, I'm taking a page from the Editor's book and have placed my series on various Bay Area amusements on hiatus. It will be back, but not for a couple of weeks, I think...

I'm in Reno today attending the memorial service for a great-uncle. He had managed to beat some tough medical challenges, but things eventually caught up with him as they must with us all. So it's not a funeral, but a celebration of his life that I am looking forward to sharing with family and friends.

It's no secret that the success of Las Vegas and Indian gaming in California has had an impact on Reno. Yet things change. And for the better. This link from the San Francisco Chronicle has the story of some of the efforts to bring folks back to downtown Reno. And it seems to be working. While casino hotels like the El Dorado, Silver Legacy and Circus-Circus (all conveniently linked so you never need to venture out the door. Hey, you might spend your money some place else!) have managed to get by, it's the other part of downtown, south of the tracks that seems to have bigger challenges. The big guys (a.k.a. Harrah's) can handle it better than the smaller folks (such as Cal-Neva). But the new development along the Truckee River, noted in the article from the link, is a positive step. Even if downtown is divided by ongoing construction (of a trench to divert the trains of the Union Pacific and Amtrak), people have a real reason to venture out and see what is happening.

Now if you're in the mood, Reno (and Sparks!) still has it's fair share of entertainment to tempt you into visiting. How about some of these folks in the coming month? Don Rickles, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Loggins and more at the Nugget in Sparks. (Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood will be there in mid-September!) Or downtown at the Silver Legacy? The line up of shows there includes Smokey Robinson, Clay Walker, LeAnn Rimes, Albert Humperdinck and the Beach Boys. Here's another link with more information on all of the hotel casinos and their entertainment.

And don't forget these big events in town. Hot August Nights runs from July 31st through August 8 this year. Classic cars of all kinds hit the streets here in what is without a doubt the most popular event in town. That's when the Beach Boys will be at the Silver Legacy, too! The Nugget hosts what has become a Labor Day weekend staple, "The Best In The West Rib Cook-Off!", September 2nd through 6th in Sparks. And in the skies over Reno, September sees first, "The Great Reno Balloon Race" on the 10th through the 12th, and then the fastest event in motor sports, "The National Championship Air Races and Air Show" on the 16th through the 19th. All together a busy and fun time in the Reno/Sparks area!

Rex Steele! Is there anything this guy can't do? Last Sunday, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Student Academy Awards, "Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher" and director Alex Woo was recipient of the 2004 Gold Medal Award for Animation (and a $5,000 prize from the Academy). Pixar's Pete Docter (a former Student Academy Award winner and three-time Oscar nominee) was the presenter of the awards in the Alternative and Animation categories.


Smile for the camera's guys! Pete Doctor on the left and Alex Woo on the right.
Photo courtesy A.M.P.A.S.

Alex shared that there is more good news as Kodak will be showing "Rex" in Cannes at the 2005 Film Festival, and the film now becomes eligible for 2005 Oscar consideration as an animated short subject. "Woo-Hoo!"

Here's an updated schedule for future showings near you:

10th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards
Date: September 21st, 2004 6:30PM
Location: DGA Theater, 110 W 57th Street, New York, New York

Rex Steele wins the 10th Annual East Coast DGA (Director's Guild of America) Asian American Student Film Award! To be presented there!

2004 Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention
Date: August 15th, 2004
Location: Shrine Auditorium Expo Center, Los Angeles, California

2004 San Diego Comic Con
Date: July 23rd, 2004 5:20pm-6:00pm
Location: Room 4 Upper Level of San Diego Convention Center, San Diego,California

2004 Fantasia Film Festival
Date: July 8th - 31st, 2004
Location: Montreal, Canada

2004 Boston International Film Festival
Date: June 26th, 2004 9am-11am
Location: Heinz Center (BWAY 7 Theatre) Boston, Mass

2004 Oxford Film Festival
Date: June 17th-20th, 2004
Location: University, Mississippi

And as if that wasn't enough, "Rex" is coming to DVD shortly from Monkeysuit Press. You can pre-order this two disc set and get a coupon for two bucks off the upcoming "Rex Steele" comics collection, too! In addition to the animated short, the set will include a wealth of goodies including commentaries, "making of" documentaries, pencil tests, animatics, 3D designs, and a soundtrack disc with the great soundtrack by Ryan Shore and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Such a deal for only $15.99!

Speaking of DVD's, I got my copy of the first season of "Quantum Leap" last week. On the whole, worth the discounted price from Amazon. Sound is great, and the transfers look good, except for an interesting amount (now and then) of dirt and other things on the prints that were used as source materials. Call me picky, but I hope that future seasons (and yes, we want the remaining four!) will not have that problem. Likewise it would have been nice to have seen more features or behind the scenes "goodies". How about a gallery of promotional photos or other artwork for the show such as scene designs or even some of the costume sketches by Jean Pierre Dorleac? If you're gonna ask a premium price, it would be nice to receive more bang for the buck. I've seen enough stuff floating around on fan videos, and own my share of it to know that with some work on clearances, etc., this stuff should be on the future volumes. Nice to see Scott and Dean (and Don, too) chat about the show, but again let's hear from others such as writers/producers Deborah Pratt or Chris Rupenthal who made major contributions to the show's success.

Now for fans of another "cult" television favorite, "Dark Shadows" almost made a comeback on the WB. Seems how there was a pilot episode produced but the network passed on it. Here's a link with information on all of the various incarnations of this Dan Curtis project. Much like it's central character, it refuses to stay dead...

"Things change." Actually a great little David Mamet movie. Although the action in the film is supposed to take place at the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, it's the opposite. The casino/hotel in the film? It's Cal-Neva Resort at Crystal Bay. And just as the name implies, it straddles the state line with the casino on the Nevada side and the show room on the California side. At one time it was owned by Frank Sinatra and was quite the Rat Pack hangout. Here's another link with some history.

The area at Crystal Bay also did duty as the U.S. and Canada border for the 1954 film, "Johnny Dark" with Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie. State Highway 28 between the Nevada Lodge and the Crystal Bay Club was the starting line for the fictional auto race. Scenes of mountain racing were filmed on the Mount Rose highway as well as climbing the Geiger Grade (the road between Reno and Virginia City). Here's another link with views from the film on Lobby Cards. Depending on your point of view, the film being not on video (tape or DVD) may or may not be a blessing. Even with the stars, it's a typical "B" picture of the 50's...

Now there is one Tony Curtis film on video (VHS tape only, so far) that Disneyland fans might remember. "40 Pounds of Trouble" has a great set of scenes (including a slapstick chase) of Disneyland in 1962. My favorite line has Tony Curtis claiming that the whistle of the Mark Twain is actually his new hi-fi! It's also interesting to note that this was not a Disney picture, but actually a Universal production. Gotta wonder who approved that one or "what favor was being redeemed" by allowing the filming at the Park. Would be fun to see this on DVD someday. Maybe Jim can relate some tidbit about it on one of those upcoming tours?

Speaking of those, next week? Well, I'm off to Anaheim to join this edition of the Jim Hill Disneyland tours. Promises to be an interesting weekend of merriment and misadventures!

And if you like what you've been reading, drop a buck into the Jim Hill Media box and keep the frontiers of electronic communication plugging along. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it! Why not you?

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