Friday, April 14, 2017

"Whip It" in Austin

On a recent visit to Austin we made our usual visit to 6th Street.  Our first stop was The Museum of the Weird but now we're going a little farther down the street for some shooting locations from the roller derby movie "Whip It."

At one point in the film there's the standard "love montage" featuring Whip It Girl & Whip It Boy having fun at various places in Austin. Here, it looks like they just stopped by Roppolo's Pizza to have a slice and a quick piggy back ride:

Later they went down the street a few feet and took in a movie at The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (which is one of the greatest movie theaters in the world despite the fact that they've never screened any of our films):

Here's a scene where Juno/Kitty Pryde/Whip It Girl gets off a bus in Austin. The location is on South Congress Avenue near Elizabeth Street and has some of the the Wacky Austin Shops™ in the background.

The most recognizable shop is Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds costume shop/clothing store/Wacky Austin Shop™.  As you may have noticed, it has a great big Carmen Miranda Zebra on the roof.

You can see downtown Austin in the background. Apparently a giant skyscraper was built after the filming of the movie but the rest of the skyline is relatively the same. You can see the Capitol Building in the middle.

Austin and the surrounding area have had plenty of films shot there (like Office Space) so hopefully I'll stumble across a few more the next time I'm down here.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Check Please


We've seen that Marvel Comics has never been shy about visiting the Lone Star state but you might have noticed a lack of visitors from their "Distinguished Competition."  Sadly DC Comics never put out the kind of geographically specific freebie issues like Marvel did but they did come around from time to time.  Here's proof:

Ok, so it's not Superman or Batman.  It's not even the Teen Titans but we'll just have to make due.  Checkmate was/is one of DC's team of spies that mixes it up with both superheroes and foreign agents.  Their organizational structure is that of a game of chess.  Ranks include Kings, Queens, Bishops, Knights, etc.

They go about the business of espionage all over the world but when a quartet of mobsters are found dead in Big D, it's time for one of their agents to head to the Lone Star State:

Checkmate dispatched one of their Knights (and former Texas Ranger) Jake Tyler.  After doing a little recon, he confirms his suspicions that local crime boss M.T. Cavanaugh is not only responsible but has much bigger plans in store.

After doing a little research on Cavanaugh at the offices of the "Dallas Express" (which I assume is the Dallas equivalent to the Metropolis Daily Planet in the DC Universe), he finds out the identity of one of Cavanaugh's top lieutenants: Stan Allen who just happen to have dinner plan's at the city's swankiest restaurant.

Where would that be, you ask?  Why at the top of Reunion Tower of course.  So Tyler suited up and invited himself to dinner.

To make a medium-sized story short, after a failed attempt to pose as a local shakedown enforcer, Tyler is abducted by Cavanaugh's men and brought out to where the dirty deeds are done.  On a completely unrelated case, a Checkmate Pawn is staking out this oddly designated building:

If you check out the signage you'll see that this place is referred to as:
  • "Texas National Guard"
  • "Dallas National Guard"
  • "Texas State Guard"
The narration just calls it "A Dallas Armory..."  Maybe that's a real thing?  I don't know.  Regardless, this is where Cavanaugh's men are stealing weapons for him to sell.  The Checkmate Pawn hops on one of the trucks they're stealing and shows up to the party right as Cavanaugh is conveniently explaining his evil plan:

You'll notice that Tyler is tied down like he is on the  cover.  And if you think there's an airplane coming to squash him, just like on the cover, then you'd be right.

So the Pawn pops out of the truck he stowed away in, laments the fact that he doesn't get paid as much as a Knight, decides he's had just about enough of all of this, and then proceeds to open fire on ever everybody with one of the stolen weapons.

Pawny McGee also realizes that he is surrounded by stolen weapons and decides to be a bro by firing a rocket launcher at the approaching plane so his co-worker could avoid the impending squashing:

And as the plane goes off course, as you would expect, it heads right for the weapons cache and we get the big explosion that, let's face it, we all kind of needed.  And the only thing left to do was wink and quip:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Top 5 Things For Sale at the Sam Houston Statue Gift Shop


The first time you head south on I-45 to Houston you get a big wake up call when "the world's tallest statue of an American hero" pops out of nowhere to say "Howdy!"  The 67 foot tall Sam Houston statue in Huntsville is hidden by trees as you approach from the north and seems to appear out of nowhere (it's more visible from a distance when you approach from the south):

The statue has its own Visitor's Center and, you guessed it, gift shop.  So we pulled over and headed inside to do a little shopping and here's our Top 5 List of what we found:

5.  Sam Houston Statue Moonshine Hot Sauce

Yeah, I know that these types of gift shop food items all come from the the same place and just get custom labels but things little beauties still appeal to me.  I like knowing that if you wanted Sam Houston Statue branded hot sauce with a "moonshine" theme, then the world has provided you with that option.

4.  Texas Shaped Flask

Texas has a unique shape which lends itself to merchandising like belt buckles or bolo ties but it never occurred to me that it would lend itself to a drinking apparatus.  But if you need an accessory for your secret drinking problem then you might as well get one that shows off your Texas pride.

3.  Texas Monuments Notepad

When jotting down your grocery list or your "Honey-Do" List it's important to be reminded that everything is bigger in Texas.  These handy pads show off the Sam Houston Statue, the State Capitol building and the San Jacinto Monument.  They're so big they don't leave a lot of room to write.

2.  "How Tall is Big Sam?" Postcard

If you can't tell already, size matters in Texas.  And it REALLY matters in Huntsville, TX where a big claim to fame is "Big Sam."  On this card he lands smack in the middle between other statues in Texas and the United States.  You'll notice that the Dallas Zoo Giraffe statue is not listed since there's a little bit of controversy and possibly bad blood between the two Texas giants.

1.  Sam Houston Statue Christmas Tree Ornament

If you love the Sam Houston Statue as much as I do then you'll definitely want to incorporate it into the holidays.  This little guy would like great on the tree in between the J.R. Ewing ornament and the Big Tex ornament.  Pass the Hot Dr Pepper!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Not the Brightest Bulb (But Almost)

The sights and sounds (and, yes, smells) of the Fort Worth Stockyards are plentiful.  You've got Texas history, honkey tonks, cowboys (both real and rhinestone) and just about anything you could ask for to give the out of town visitors plenty of Texas take-home.

But among the meat packing memorabilia and cowpoke collections, in a dark little corner of the Stockyards Museum, shines a little known claim to fame.  Take a gander at this long lasting little beauty:

This little light of mine (and yours) is the world famous Palace Theater Light Bulb!  It burned bright, nonstop, for over a century.  Even when the Theater was scheduled to be destroyed in the 70's, it was saved and somehow moved (George Costanza/Frogger style?) while still plugged in.

It holds the Guinness Book of World Records title as the Second Longest Burning Light Bulb.  Now I know that Texans aren't accustomed to second place but I'd like to think it has its own charm.  A charm that fits right in with the cast of characters in the Stockyards.  So the nest time you're in the neighborhood, stop by and bask in the light of history.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Houston Heroes


We've seen Marvel Comics superheroes come to Texas before but so far they've been confined to Dallas.  Sure, it's an adventurous city but when out-of-towners want the "Everything's Bigger in Texas" experience they almost inevitably want to visit the biggest city in Texas.  And so it was only a matter of time before Spider-Man and the Hulk showed up in Houston:

What we have here is another newspaper freebie from Marvel Comics in the 80's.  It was given away in the Houston Chronicle and sponsored by Foley's Department Stores (and believe me, you'll get the hint throughout the story).

So what brings our heroes to town?  An emergency at NASA?  Nope, just the further frustrations of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson:

After lamenting the lack of good NYC based news stories, JJJ is tipped off by Peter Parker about a Houston Chronicle article about rodeo superstar Rex Ryder and Jameson is immediately smitten.  So there's nothing left to do but hop on the first plane for the Lone Star State:

One of the disappointments of the comic is that other than the setting, there are just about no Houston area name-checks.  They head to the rodeo but don't actually say it's the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.   We don't even get a decent shot of the city skyline.

So we must be content with generic cowboys and cowboy accoutrements at the parade and the stockyards.  And there are a few distinctly non-Houstonian elements at the festivities.  Peter's Spidey Sense kicks in almost immediately as he spots members of the criminal ne'er-do-well gang known as the Enforcers:

So now that Peter Parker is a "Spider-Man with a mission," we turn our attention to the nearby stables, and if you weren't satisfied with the amount of Marvel characters that inexplicably decided to converge on Houston this day, then you're in a for treat!

Yep, the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner is still trying to Bill Bixby his way across the country and picked Houston as a place to stop.  Apparently he pulled on his best pair of purple dungarees and got a job at the rodeo.  And it doesn't take long for him to also realize that there's troubling brewing.

So apparently the Enforcers have kidnapped Rex's best girl Annie and decided to use her for leverage to make him throw his Bull Riding event.  And if that wasn't enough, they let him know (for some reason) that they're also going to rob the box office.  That's a pretty ambitious scam for a rodeo caper.

Meanwhile, as Bruce Banner investigates, he makes an additional discovery.  If the triple decker coincidence sandwich that is this story hasn't satisfied you so far then get ready for the fourth heat!

 Yep, the Spider-Man villain "Rhino" has also decided to brave the humidity to rob what must be an amazing box office and he makes Mistake #1: he backhands Puny Banner!  Well, you can guess where this is going...

Yep, the manure hits the fan as two different sets of heroes and villains converge at the rodeo and the results include the Rhino punching a bull...

...Spider-Man "lasso-webbing" the kidnappers...

...the Hulk beating up the Rhino, which inadvertently leads to a van (which was unfortunately left in neutral) being pushed by the two warring brutes down a hill, straight for the runaway wagon that held the kidnapped Annie...

...leading to a daring "double rescue" and solidifying the notion that super heroes cause as many problems as they solve.

So when all was said and done there was nothing left to do but have a celebratory shopping Foley's, of course:

And with that, our action packed adventure in the Gulf has concluded.  Sure, there's a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of murky motivations but thanks to our heroes, the rodeo funds were saved and Rex and Annie get to ride off into the sunset.

If experience has told us anything it's that it won't be long before the Lone Star state ends up in the comics pages once again... be continued?!?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Let's Open Five Packs of Dallas Trading Cards

Now is as good a time as any to crack open these packs of Dallas Trading Cards (or Bubble Gum Cards, as it says on the packages).  I've picked these beauties up over the years at flea markets and eBay it's time to get 'em unwrapped, catalogued and filed away...because  that's what I do apparently.

These are from Donruss, a major sports and non-sports trading card company from awhile back, and were released in 1981 when the show was a juggernaut.   As was common at the time, it looks like original artwork was commissioned for the wrapper.  I don't know who the artist was (but I would love to) but here is his or her interpretation of the cast:

I don't recall Jock's bright red cowboy hat but other than that the likenesses are pretty good.  It may be hard to understand the potential customer for collectible cards for what is essentially an adult oriented soap opera but you have to remember what a phenomena this show was.  This was after "Who Shot J.R.?" and everyone and everything was all about the Ewing clan.

One of the first realizations you have when you are opening up 36 year old cards is that a stick of gum isn't meant to hang around that long.  And if you want to keep your cards in good shape then you don't want them next to whatever that gum is made of because what you'll get is a fusion of the two:

Yeah, that's gum and yeah, those aren't coming off.  Luckily, it only affected the first cards in each pack.  The rest are in somewhat decent shape and they fall into a few categories (that I just made up) and they are:


"J.R., We Need to Talk About What You Did/Are About to Do"

"Looking Off Camera at Something"

And, of course, "J.R. Getting Shot"

Those are just s sample of the cards I got in this haul.  Sure, there were some doubles but, overall, I'm happy with the outcome.  I was hoping that there would be some text/stats on the back of each card but they went with the "puzzle" option. 

The back of each card has part of a picture and when you put them all together you can see the image.  I didn't have enough cards to get a good picture of the image otherwise I would have posted it.  So I guess my only option is to get more be continued?!?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Matchbook Memories: Texas Sesquicentennial Wagon Train


If you're not old enough to remember the Texas Sesquicentennial, you missed a lot!  It was a year long celebration of Texas' 150th anniversary and it was everywhere.  Parties, parades and prestige filled the Lone Star State in tons of different ways.

One of the more ambitious projects was the six month, 3,000 mile trip around the state made by more covered wagons than you can shake an armadillo at.  You can consider it a half year long homecoming parade...Texas style!

While they had several stops along the route, it wasn't uncommon for folks to line up along the road to wave and cheer the wagons on.  There's a good chance that the wagon train even came by your neighborhood.  Here's the path they took:

Along the way (probably near the toward the end of the journey) my grandparents went out to see the big brouhaha.  With their camera in tow and their Texas pride at an all time high, they took their gander.  Say "Howdy" to Paw Paw:

Some wagons were owned by wagon enthusiasts, some were made specifically for the fun of the event and some were sponsored.  Here's a look at some of the ones that stood out including...

A Winchester Rifle Wagon:

A Port-O-Pottie "Wagon":

And even a Grandy's Wagon:

With only a mere nineteen years left before the Texas Bicentennial, it's time to get started on the next generation of wagons.   Personally, I'm hoping for a Whataburger Wagon!