Lawrence Trueaud, better known as Mr. T, was born this day in 1952. Mr. T is best known for playing Sgt. B.A. Baracus on the 1980s NBC-TV action series “The A-Team.” His personality also inspired a Saturday morning cartoon series, “Mister T,” in which his animated self drove a bus for a group of crime-fighting gymnasts. That sounds silly when you type it, but it was fun to watch at age 8. Mr. T also played Clubber Lang, who battled Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in the third installment of that film series. With his muscles, Mohawk and scowl, Mr. T looked tough, but he always gave positive messages to children, such as drink your milk, exercise and stay in school. Here are five facts you should know about Mr. T on his birthday:
- Mr. T grew up in the toughest project neighborhoods of Chicago, witnessed crime around him of all kind but stayed out of trouble by the grace of his minister father and love of his mother.
- Mr. T was military police officer in the U.S. Army. A platoon commander once punished him by ordering him to cut down trees. The commander didn’t tell him how many to cut down. Mr. T cut down 70 trees in about 4½ hours, until a higher ranking order told him to stop.
- Mr. T tried out for the Green Bay Packers, but failed to make the cut due to a knee injury.
- Mr. T worked as a bouncer. His trademark wearing of jewelry around his neck came as a result of that job. Customers who were ejected by Mr. T would often lose gold chains or other items at the club. Mr. T stood outside and wore the lost items in plain site. A customer could reclaim the item in plain site without having to reenter the club or cause further confrontation. He reportedly was involved in more than 200 fights in his bouncing career.
- Mr. T worked as a body guard. He began his career protecting community members, but eventually protected celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Leon Spinks, Joe Frazier and Diana Ross.
I like Cher. I love Cher. I have Cher CDs. I listen to them. On purpose. I have friends. Some of them make fun of me for this. They imply my like of Cher is uncool and unmanly. These people are my friends. But on this point they are stupid. Other friends tell me that it is OK to have guilty pleasures. I disagree with this as well. Why should I feel guilty about something that gives me pleasure and doesn’t harm to myself or anyone else? I can’t think of a reason. One reason might be that some people need to feel superior about their choices and so they spend a lot of time talking about how “important” some art is in comparison to other art. These people are called Rush fans and music critics. They usually write blogs about how smart they are and how dumb you are. I have a number of thoughtful responses to this kind of thinking, such as “Fuck off, I’m listening to Cher.” Anyway, today is Cher’s birthday. Here’s five essential Cher tracks:
- “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves”
- “Half Breed”
- “Just Like Jessie James” (with Bonnie Tyler)
- “Heart of Stone”
- “Song for the Lonely”
Bonus track, my all-time favorite Cher song and one of my favorite songs ever:
I was in Ames the other day. I stopped by the university and had lunch with my old friend T-square who works there. We went to East High School together. We haven’t seen much of one another over the last few years. He’s a grown up with a wife and two daughters, a house and a job. I am a manchild with paragraphs to type, deadlines to beat and “M*A*S*H” reruns to watch. We both grew up and our lives took us in different directions. Even though we only live about 45 minutes apart, our paths seldom cross. That is the way of things.
When you’re a kid, you say things like “best friends forever.” You mean it at the time. That is, in part, because your concept of forever is skewed. Forever is a long time. We don’t actually live that long. Most of the time you drift away from the people you knew as kids. I can’t even remember the people I went to Woodlawn Elementary School with in Des Moines. There was a kid named Joe. My parents paid for his mom to take the two of us to the Shriner Circus one night. It was a good night. Sometimes I wonder what happened to Joe. Then I have another spoonful of Cocoa Krispies and move on with the day.
I have some friends from high school who keep in touch. They live all over the country, but take the time to visit each other. They gather at the Iowa State Fair for East Side Night. They take vacations together. They’re all grown up, too. Most are married and have kids. T-square and I talked about this over sandwiches. We laughed. We both consider the other a good friend, even after years and distance. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t talked in a long time. I’ve never even met his daughters. But if I called him tomorrow and asked for help and it was humanly possible for him to do it, he’d be there. The same goes for me. “But, no offense,” he joked, “but I don’t have any particular desire to go on vacation with you.”
Friendships and adulthood are strange. Parents 2.0 are in their middle 60s. They sometimes lament that other than each other, they did not make a lot of friends in their lifetime. They worked. They tended to their house and their families. Then they took in me, a stray from another family that went awry. That was 20 years ago, though. They’re retired now. They are each others’ best friend. They dote on one another and motivate one another. They take vacations together, of course. They do house and yard work together. They relax together. It would be rare for one of them to go to an event without the other. It is impossible for me not to think of one without the other.
But sometimes even they hunger for the company of people outside their small circle. They are very good neighbors. They invite neighbors over for dinner and to enjoy their well-manicured lawn and flower gardens. They have a big picnic every year on the Fourth of July.
I have a lot of friends. Perhaps it is more accurate to say I know a lot of people. My career requires me to make contact with a variety of different people. Some of them I get to know better than others. I rarely become close friends with sources and colleagues, though two or three of my very best friends are coworkers and former coworkers. One buddy comes over nearly every Saturday to watch old science fiction reruns. We haven’t done so in a few weeks, but he’s been on vacation and busy at work. He’ll come again one day.
I went to two high schools and have close relationships with several people from both Winterset and East. Once or twice a year I get together with my friend Lew, usually in the fall. He puts on a haunted house for his neighborhood. He raises money for charity. I help on preparation for a couple days each year. It reminds me of the old days when we worked on building projects as Cub Scouts in the basement of his parents’ Winterset home. We gossip about our classmates and make art. It is wonderfully atavistic.
Facebook and Twitter have led to rekindling of old friendships. I got back in touch with Lew that way. I have a friend I went to East with whom runs a nice movie review page on Facebook. I was not that close with him in high school, but I thought he was an affable fellow. But interacting with him as an adult is so much more satisfying. He is a loving husband and father. He has a wicked sense of humor and an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. I enjoy our electronic exchanges far more than any of the chats we had in high school.
The friend I have the most contact with is Memphis Paul, the co-creator of this blog. He lives in Memphis, so we seldom see each other, although we have, in fact, taken vacations together. Mostly, we exchange emails and talk on the phone a lot. Rarely do two or three days pass before one of us calls the other to talk over some pop culture nonsense, complain about society or discuss the latest episode of “Mad Men.”
Then there are my friends like T-square. There’s no reason we don’t hang out, other than all of the reasons that we don’t. He has a life. I have a life. Our paths seldom cross. But T-square is one of the best friends I’ve ever had and one of the best men I know. I met T-square on my second day at East High School. I had come from Winterset, population 4,500. East had 1,800 kids at the time. I managed to find my first class OK. But when the bell rang at the end of that class, I stood in the hallway bewildered. There were more people in this hallway than nearly all of my hometown. I was lost. My parents 1.0 were dead. I was scared, lonely and sad.
T-square tapped me on the shoulder. “You look like you could use a friend,” he said. I handed him my schedule card. He showed me where my next class was. He hustled off to gym. After gym, he came back and showed me where the rest of my classes were. the next day, he did the same until I knew how to navigate those hallways by myself.
It turned out he lived a few blocks away from parents 2.0. Soon, we rode to school together everyday. I read the paper in his parents’ living room while he ate breakfast nearly every morning for more than two years. We played basketball at his house or my house. It was violent, awkward basketball by two young men who were not nearly as coordinated or skilled as they thought they were. There is still a chunk of T-square’s scalp imbedded in the paneling of his parents’ garage, the result of a rebounding tussle.
He went off to college in Nebraska and then back to Iowa State. I went to Drake and then went to work at the newspaper. We kept in touch. I was in his wedding. But soon I lived in another town. He had a daughter and then another. I changed jobs. And so it went.
But whenever I see T-square, I remember that day in the basement hallway of East. I was damned near in tears. He helped me when I really needed it. It remains the singular act of kindness to a peer by which I judge all others. Nobody asked T-square to help the lost-looking kid in the hallway. He got no extra credit points. He earned no higher place in heaven. He just did. It was in his nature to do so. He was a good man then and he’s an even better one today. I will always love him as a brother for that and would stop anything to help him in effort to return the favor.
That is a friendship that lasts forever and no amount of time or distance or silence changes that.
- 30 -
Original air date: May 19, 2013
1. “Mad Men” effectively satirized drug culture with “The Crash,” which showed drugs turn people into morons.
2. Jim Cutter (Harry Hamlin) arranges for the office to get injected with amphetamines and everybody loses their goddamn minds: Don (Jon Hamm) spends three days thinking of ways to woo Sylvia (Linda Cardellini) back; Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) makes a pass at Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who kind of accepts it and denies it all at once; and Ginsberg (Ben Feldman), who didn’t take the shot, spends much of the time moralizing like the terrible bore his character has always been.
3. Don becomes less likable with each passing episode and the flashbacks to his sickly childhood and losing his virginity to one of the kinder whores in the brothel in which he grew up really didn’t sell me that his rocky childhood explains away his pathetic, self-indulgent and bewildering behavior.
4. The women do better this episode as Peggy gives Stan good, heartfelt advice — you can screw and drink away pain — upon learning of the death of his cousin in Vietnam and Sylvia gives Don better advice on breaking off an affair: Be grateful you got away with it.
5. Don sobers up and acts mature at the end of the episode, giving Sylvia the cold shoulder she wanted, and begging off the Chevy account because cars turn the office into a whorehouse, but the truth is Don is still very much a man with no idea who he is and is quickly losing track of which lie he wants to tell himself and everybody else.
Series 7, Episode 13
Original air date: May 18, 2013
- To quote a line from the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant): “What? What?!”
- The Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) threatens the Eleventh Doctor’s (Matt Smith) friends Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny (Catrin Stewart), Strax (Dan Starkey) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in order to draw our hero to his own grave, a place no time traveler should visit.
- There, an echo of River Song (Alex Kingston), who bids a touching apparent farewell to the series after recurring as the Doctor’s wife dating back to guides the Doctor and Clara to a confrontation that could erase the Doctor from history, but Clara saves him by scattering her existence through time and space and apparently giving the Doctor a push in just the right moment throughout his many incarnation.
- The homages to Doctors past — the most of any episode since the series revived in 2005 — was lovely and well-done, but the revelation that Clara “was created to save the Doctor” is never explained, including just who created her for this purpose.
- While never giving us the name of the Doctor, “The Name of the Doctor” apparently gives us a new, or at least different, Doctor — a paradoxical fellow played by the veteran actor John Hurt in a stunning and wildly confusing cameo at the end of the episode, leaving the viewer a tantalizing cliffhanger not to be resolved until the 50th anniversary special set for November.
- “Star Trek Into Darkness” is by far the best-acted, most well-written and visually spectacular of any in the franchise, but it vexes me.
- The movie does so much so well, from dialogue to action to heart, giving every major character — Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Checkov (Anton Yelchin), Scott (Simon Pegg) and newcomer Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) — at least one terrific scene or more apiece, with Pine and Quinto just terrific.
- Benedict Cumberbatch is wonderfully menacing as Khan — and yes, he plays Khan, despite one of of the lamest efforts to disguise this in movie marketing history.
- This is a good movie and I had a great time watching it, but I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I was 20 years younger and would have not recognized the overt echoes ripped from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
- Then the seemingly obligatory Leonard Nimoy cameo as “alternate universe Spock,” the death-and-resurrection role reversal in the engine room, complete with Quinto stealing William Shatner’s signature line, would not have felt so predictable and cheap, which didn’t ruin the movie for me, but it felt hallow and lazy: Is there no other story that can be told with these characters other than rewrites of stories that have already been told?
Director: J. J. Abrams
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Nolan North, Nazneen Contractor and Noel Clarke.
Writer and comedian Tina Fey celebrates her 43rd year on planet earth today. I’ve never really watched “30 Rock” and am not a big fan of “Saturday Night Live,” but I understand she’s very popular with some people. She’s been in some movies. I haven’t seen any of those, either. Some of them made money, I think. A lot of women tell me how great she is. As a man, I’m not allowed to disagree with women because that would mean I’m a sexist jerk who prevented Hillary Clinton from being president. Or something like that. I’m never really paying that close of attention. Anyway, here are some funny things Tina Fey said:
I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all ‘crazy.’ I have a suspicion — and hear me out, because this is a rough one — that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.
I really love cursing a lot. But as I get older, I realize it’s a little unseemly for women of a certain age. But then once you pass sixty-five, you can hit it full tilt again and it’s charming. Once you’re Lauren Bacall’s age, you can be like, “What the fuck.”
I like to crack the jokes now and again, but it’s only because I struggle with math.
Let’s admit it, yellow hair does have magic powers. You could put a blond wig on a hot-water heater and some dude would try to fuck it.
I don’t hate animals and I would never hurt an animal; I just don’t actively care about them. When a coworker shows me cute pictures of her dog, I struggle to respond correctly, like an autistic person who has been taught to recognize human emotions from flash cards. In short, I am the worst.