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Wednesday Open Thread



Rank and Organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion,1st Cavalry Division
Date of Issue: 07/16/2001

Citation: Captain Ed W. Freeman, United States Army, of Boise, Idaho, who distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November 1965 while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force. When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone because of intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water, and medical supplies to the besieged battalion. His flights, by providing the engaged units with supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, directly affected the battle’s outcome. Without them the units would almost surely have gone down, with much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area because of intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing lifesaving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers-some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter, where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman’s selfless acts of great valor and extraordinary perseverance were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman’s extraorinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Film Review: Iron Man 3


Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Sam Cooke, Kurt Cobain, James Dean, River Phoneix – name your favorite artist who passed too soon and play the game. What if? What if Hendrix found another sonic barrier out there, or Joplin wedded her blues with her prodigious talent and a hint of stability in her life, or if Cobain could have saved popular music from itself, or if Phoenix had a chance to live up to his potential.

It’s a game played on various documentaries, in books, on message boards and in conversations between friends and fans, and one every culture writer with a keyboard has played.

Robert Downey Jr. was a piece in the game. What if Downey wasn’t an irascible drug addict, who once said, “It’s like having a gun in my mouth, and I like the taste of metal.” What if he hadn’t spent the prime years of adulthood in and out of courts and jail?

Downey was nice enough to give us an answer to the question, which is one reason why he’s so much fun and so easy to root for. Every movie is a blessing, for him and us, and every glorious moment an answer to that formidable question.

What if Downey wasn’t a raging drug addict? He could have caught on to the onslaught of comic book movies and turned a middle-tier Marvel character into a box-office beast and a work of art, on the sheer force of his personality. He could take a dumbfounding role in black-face in a Ben Stiller comedy and turn it into an Academy nomination. He could be Sherlock Holmes for the next generation.

We don’t have to ask what if, because he did all these things, thankfully. And no one is as thankful as Downey, who took his second chance and turned it into a mega-career.

Roles in movies like “Zodiac,” “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” and others brought him out of the wilderness. Then Jon Favreau, the guy who played “Gutter” and directed “Elf’ of all things lands a summer tent pole. Along comes a desperate Downey, with a huge insurance take-out, and redefines the way actors approach comic book movies.

It’s something Shane Black has witnessed before. He directed Downey in “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” and directs him again in Iron Man 3, and quickly realized Downey is more interesting than the suit.

How interesting? He’s having sleep issues and panic attacks, the result of the fallout from last summer’s “The Avengers.” In come two crafty villains to make his life hell, and all Downey’s Stark has left is a sizable ego, his brilliant mind and desperation to fuel him the rest of the movie. It’s all pure, sparkling Downey, which is who people paid for.

I enjoyed the hell out of “Iron Man 3,” despite the flaws, most of which aren’t the fault of anyone writing the movie or directing the movie or acting in the movie. It’s the third film in five years for Iron Man, not counting “The Avengers,” the cameo in “The Incredible Hulk,” the numerous cartoons and whatever I may have missed. The character re-occurs every year, or so it seems, and finding a place to take him now that he’s been through hell on earth so many times is a difficult proposition. Black does well, with Favreau (the director of the first two films) attached as a producer.

I would put it on par with the underrated second film, and I found it much more satisfying than last summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” which to me tried to wrap things up too nicely, too conveniently.. We know Downey will return in The Avengers sequel. Whether or not he’s game for Iron Man 4 remains to be seen, but not knowing doesn’t put the viewer in the predicament of just wishing for the end of the movie so you can find out what happened – a predicament I went through with “Rises.”

And while the movie is flawed, it’s hard not to appreciate how well Black gets the Iron Man characters, specifically Downey. We have a flashback scene with well-thought and welcome cameo to open, then Black is on his way. He knows Tony Stark, despite his billions, is at heart a mechanic. Downey refers to himself as “The Mechanic” at one point in the movie, and it plays back to the opening moments of the original Iron Man, when Stark leaves his one-night-stand reporter to tinker in his garage on his flat-head hot rod, all with “Suicidal Tendencies” blasting. This is a wonderful grounding of the character that Favreau captured and Black continues. Not everybody knows a brilliant billionaire, but everyone knows a mechanic.

The movie has a unique twist, and it may upset some of the comic fans. I enjoyed it. Ben Kingsley is note perfect. Guy Pearce shines, and seems to have dug himself out of whatever hole he’s been in since “L.A. Confidential” and “Memento.”

“Iron Man 3″ would be a suitable bookend to the franchise. It certainly leaves that feeling, though we know there is one more appearance left.

And per all the Marvel movies, stay past the credits. It won’t answer any questions, or leave any hints, but the non-teasing teaser scene in the end is set up exceptionally well throughout the movie and should be appreciated.

And let’s appreciate Downey, and the what-if’s he has gladly answered.

The Secret Garden…

The lost wonder of the ancient world — The Hanging Gardens of Babylon’s — fate and/or location may soon be known.

The whereabouts of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the fabled Hanging Garden of Babylon – has been one of the great mysteries from antiquity. The inability of archaeologists to find traces of it among Babylon’s ancient remains led some even to doubt its existence.

Now a British academic has amassed a wealth of textual evidence to show that the garden was instead created at Nineveh, 300 miles from Babylon, in the early 7th century BC.

After 18 years of study, Stephanie Dalley of Oxford University has concluded that the garden was built by the Assyrians in the north of Mesopotamia – in modern Iraq – rather than by their great enemies the Babylonians in the south.

She believes her research shows that the feat of engineering and artistry was achieved by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, rather than the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.

The evidence presented by Dalley, an expert in ancient Middle Eastern languages, emerged from deciphering Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform scripts and reinterpreting later Greek and Roman texts. They included a 7th-century BC Assyrian inscription that, she discovered, had been mistranslated in the 1920s, reducing passages to “absolute nonsense”.

She was astonished to find Sennacherib’s own description of an “unrivalled palace” and a “wonder for all peoples”. He describes the marvel of a water-raising screw made using a new method of casting bronze – and predating the invention of Archimedes’ screw by some four centuries.

Dalley said this was part of a complex system of canals, dams and aqueducts to bring mountain water from streams 50 miles away to the citadel of Nineveh and the hanging garden. The script records water being drawn up “all day”.

R.I.P. — Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen, a genius, and giant, of movie special effects has died at age 92.

Ray Harryhausen, the animator and special-effects wizard who found ways to breathe cinematic life into the gargantuan, the mythical and the extinct, died on Tuesday in London. He was 92 and lived in London.

His family announced his death.

Often working alone or with a small crew, Mr. Harryhausen created and photographed many of the most memorable fantasy-adventure sequences in movie history: the atomically awakened dinosaur that lays waste to Coney Island in “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”; the sword fight between Greek heroes and skeleton warriors in “Jason and the Argonauts”; the swooping pterodactyl that carries off Raquel Welch in “One Million Years B.C.”

Though his on-screen credit was often simply “technical effects” or “special visual effects,” Mr. Harryhausen usually played a principal creative role in the films featuring his work. He frequently proposed the initial concept, scouted the locations and shaped the story, script, art direction and design around his ideas for fresh ways to amaze an audience.

Mr. Harryhausen made use of many different photographic effects and often combined several in the same film. But he was best known for stop-motion animation, a painstaking process using three-dimensional miniature models that are photographed one frame at a time, with tiny, progressive adjustments made by hand to the models between frames to produce the illusion of movement.

The effects he achieved inspired the generation of filmmakers who produced the digital-effects-laden blockbuster films of the 1980s and beyond.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Peter Jackson all cite his films as crucial antecedents for their work, and modern animators often slip homages to him into their films, like the Harryhausen piano in Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” and Harryhausen’s restaurant in the Pixar feature “Monsters, Inc.”

Unlike later animators like Mr. Burton and Nick Park, who used stop-motion in highly stylized ways, Mr. Harryhausen strove for realism. He constantly sought ways for his creations to share the screen and interact with live actors and settings as seamlessly and believably as possible.

h/t: Matt Helm in the OT

From the Trailer Park — Ender’s Game

This Afternoon’s Broadcast is brought to you by…

David Lee Roth. Well, east coast girls are hip. I really dig the styles they wear…

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Sexy Pool Party

pretty funny spoof of the “coming out of the pool” cliche…. There’s something at the end many of you will appreciate — especially Tracy.

h/t: The Awesomer

Tuesday Open Thread

Combat operations at Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, November 1965. Bruce P. Crandall's UH-1 Huey dispatches infantry while under fire.

Combat operations at Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, November 1965. Bruce P. Crandall’s UH-1 Huey dispatches infantry while under fire.


Rank and Organization: Major, U.S. Army, Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Place and dates: Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam, 14 November 1965. Place and date of birth: Olympia, Washington, 1933. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Major Bruce P. Crandall distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as a Flight Commander in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). On 14 November 1965, his flight of sixteen helicopters was lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam, to Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley. On the fourth troop lift, the airlift began to take enemy fire, and by the time the aircraft had refueled and returned for the next troop lift, the enemy had Landing Zone X-Ray targeted. As Major Crandall and the first eight helicopters landed to discharge troops on his fifth troop lift, his unarmed helicopter came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight aircraft to abort their mission. As Major Crandall flew back to Plei Me, his base of operations, he determined that the ground commander of the besieged infantry batallion desperately needed more ammunition. Major Crandall then decided to adjust his base of operations to Artillery Firebase Falcon in order to shorten the flight distance to deliver ammunition and evacuate wounded soldiers. While medical evacuation was not his mission, he immediately sought volunteers and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the two aircraft to Landing Zone X-Ray. Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded soldiers aboard his aircraft. Major Crandall’s voluntary decision to land under the most extreme fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue to land their own aircraft, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time. After his first medical evacuation, Major Crandall continued to fly into and out of the landing zone throughout the day and into the evening. That day he completed a total of 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the Infantry battalion. His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded. Major Crandall’s daring acts of bravery and courage in the face of an overwhelming and determined enemy are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.


First Attack!

First Attack
Whatever else we accomplish with this blog I will always be proud of helping to facilitate, in some small way, the meeting of filmmaker Kenn Christenson and now retired Army aviator Outlaw 13 aka Dan McClinton resulting in Kenn’s soon to be released historical documentary about Dan’s unit. Peabody Award winning International film and television star Nick Searcy did the narration, Dan provided a lot of information, technical know how, hook ups with unit members (and more than that I’m sure), Eric Porvaznik facilitated a lot of logistics including the upcoming premiere in Burbank (and getting Nick on board — and more than that I’m sure), Kenn produced, directed, photographed, key gripped and bested boy the thing and I, well I made sure Kenn’s trailer was stocked with orange M&Ms and bottles of Evian water chilled at no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

So we are having a premiere this Thursday May 9 at 8:00 PM at the AMC 16, 125 East Palm Ave. Burbank, CA 91502. Members of Dan’s battalion will be on hand as will Outlaw, Kenn, Eric P, and little ole me. Word has it that -fritz will put on pants long enough to appear and the word has been put out to Tink if she can make the trip down (and Texacalirose cannot — something about “having something better to do” which I take as a dirty euphemism).

It is open to whomever, tickets are $10 and there will be a get together afterwards. Y’all are invited of course.