The Galaxy Gang Welcomes You!

Monday, October 3, 2022

 OCTOBER 2022

Halloween and the Art of Horror
By George A. Haloulakos

Although celebrated on the last day of the month, Halloween dominates October from start to finish as Baby Boomers enjoy revisiting classic horror films designed to entertain, surprise and scare the audience.  In this month's GNN Blog, we pay tribute to filmmaker Val Lewton, who is best remembered for his signature work, the 1942 film "The Cat People."  This landmark film is a case study of high-quality low-budget filmmaking that captivates its audience through implied rather than explicit horror.  Lewton's masterful use of sound, shadows and low lighting in "The Cat People" easily surpasses today's reliance on computer graphics with its shock-and-awe approach.  Moreover, it provides a sharp contrast to the blood and gore of the 1940s violent slasher films or terrifying monsters (think Universal Studios with The Wolf Man, Dracula, Frankenstein, et al).


This is because Lewton created suspense along with a sense of terror by focusing on the unknown or the unseen such as a feeling of being followed, watched or stalked by an unknown presence or force.  Despite operating on a $150,000 budget (a rather low sum even by the industry standards of the 1940s), Lewton created a taut, psychological thriller that continues to scare its audience decades after its release while affirming filmmaking -- especially the horror film -- as an art.

In this month's GNN Blog, yours truly will try to refrain from major spoilers regarding the plot of this vintage horror classic.  However, with the hope of stimulating the interest of those who have not seen "The Cat People" I will offer the following as a teaser.


The main character, Irena Dubrovna (expertly portrayed by Simone Simon) is NEVER shown in cat form but there are a couple of notable scenes where the power of suggestion and the film viewer's imagination provide moments of sheer terror.  For example, supporting character Alice (portrayed by Jane Randolph) is shown walking at night in New York City alongside a large wall bordering a park with the sound of her clicking heels growing ever louder as Alice feels she is being stalked and starts to walk at a more brisk pace.  Was that a gust of wind that rattled the bushes overhead along the wall?  Or was something or someone there?  Later as Alice is swimming in an indoor pool, are the shadows in the dimly lit swimming area a giant cat, reflections of the water or perhaps a trick of the eye?  When Alice emerges from the pool, she finds her terry cloth robe torn to shreds as if a large animal (perhaps a feline) with very sharp claws had gotten hold of it.  Irena (Simone Simon) suddenly emerges from the shadows and surprises Alice (as well as the film audience) making a seemingly innocent query as to the whereabouts of her (Irena's) husband.


The clicking of heels on pavement and the echoing of screams in an indoor pool from the two aforementioned scenes, are demonstrations of great film noir as the sharp contrast of black-and-white film, fog and shadows are equally important to the plot in helping to create a memorable horror movie.  The ambiance is terrifying while still evoking empathy for Irena, who feels haunted by the curse of "The Cat People" from her native Serbia.


As testimony that profit and artistic filmmaking are not mutually exclusive, "The Cat People" ended up costing $134,000 (well below its $150,000 budget) while grossing $4 million in box office receipts -- a nearly 30x return on investment!  In sum, "The Cat People" is a film noir aficionado's Halloween delight, a triumph of filmmaking artistry and a great financial success.

What are your favorite horror films that you enjoy watching to celebrate Halloween?  Please share them with us either through the Galaxy Nostalgia Network (GNN) website or go to the GNN Facebook Page (and please "like" us when doing so).  From all of us here at GNN, Happy Halloween!
_______________________________________

Sunday, September 4, 2022

 SEPTEMBER 2022

Seasons Change ~ And So Do We !

For Baby Boomers, the month of September was typically associated with the start of a new season for TV programming on the major networks.  Since the late 1970s / early 1980s, there has been an exponential increase in Cable TV channels and more recently "streaming" services via the Internet.  With this increase in both available programs and channels (or access portals) for worldwide viewers, the nature of seasons for TV programming has radically changed.  Essentially new beginnings and finales for various TV programs occur throughout the year (i.e., in all seasons).  In this context, time takes on a different nature.  For example, a program that runs for 10 calendar years, may, in fact, be composed of 20 "seasons" (not 10) given how the TV program seasons have changed, along with our viewing habits.

During the 1950s and 1960s, TV viewers eagerly awaited the new programs aired by ABC, CBS and NBC to be unveiled in September.  Before the availability of video cassette recorders, the competition for viewership was very intense because the financial stakes (as measured by advertising revenues) were so very high.  During the summer while the networks typically aired either reruns of popular prime time shows or featured summertime replacements, there would be teasers or previews during commercial breaks to promote not only new episodes for well-established TV programs but also brief snippets to spark interest in new programs as well.  By the mid-to-late 1960s, this intense competition for viewership took some interesting turns that marked the beginnings of how TV seasons would change.


One such example was the use of a combined cliffhanger / series finale to "start" a new season in 1967:  ABC aired a two-part series finale (August 22 and 29, 1967) for its top-rated show The Fugitive (featuring actor David Jansen as Dr Richard Kimble who is wrongly convicted for murdering his wife).  In keeping with network practice, the fourth season had ended in April 1967 leaving viewers wondering whether or not Dr Kimble would find the real killer and be exonerated.  With so many close calls during its four-year run, viewer interest was extraordinarily high.  ABC was able to capitalize on this viewer interest by ending this iconic series in a spectacular finale to inaugurate its new network TV season for 1967-1968 with record ratings!!  In those days, a TV season typically started in September and ended in the following calendar year during the April - June time frame, so this innovation allowed ABC to leverage on momentum from the prior season by stoking TV viewer curiosity during the summer and power its way into the 1967 season!  During this same period it was not unusual for all three of the major networks to sometimes feature actors from their leading prime time programs hosting a series of preview shows - usually about one week prior to the "official" start of the new season - that introduced the lineup for the fall.

However, one of the most unusual, if not bold strategies ever undertaken was by NBC in 1966.  In order to catch the attention of viewers BEFORE they had an opportunity to sample the CBS and ABC schedules, NBC previewed three of its new programs one week before the 1966-1967 season began.  The primetime programs aired/introduced by NBC via its "Sneak Preview" on September 8, 1966 from 7:30 to 10 PM were: TarzanStar Trek and The Hero.  It is indeed an interesting bit of trivia that the popular Star Trek series had such a unique start in TV history!


With the huge increase of Cable TV channels and "streaming" via the Internet, the definition of seasons in the context of viewership has radically changed.  New seasons typically begin all year round, and often they are of shorter duration than the original practice followed by the major networks.  For example, it is not uncommon for a single season of a popular program to air from September to December, and then a new season for that same program to then air from March to June.  Or simply to run during summertime!  The compressed nature of these new seasons and the advances of digital technology have now enabled viewers to follow their programs at any time to suit their individual schedules and be viewed from any location in the world.  This change has also given impetus for "binge" watching as viewers await the completion of these compressed seasons so they can be watched over the course of a weekend!  In the intervening decades since the early 1980s, the use of the cliffhanger has now evolved so that viewer interest can carry from one season to the next but not necessarily having to wait for six or more months to find out how it is resolved.

Do you have special or favorite memories about your favorite TV programs and how they were unveiled for the start of a new season?  If so, please submit your thoughts or reminiscences to the Galaxy Nostalgia Network (GNN) website or to the GNN Facebook Page (and please "like" us when doing so).  From all of us here at GNN, enjoy the change of TV seasons!

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

 AUGUST 2022

HAPPY 75th ANNIVERSARY to the US AIR FORCE

This summer the Galaxy Nostalgia Network is proud to salute the United States Air Force (USAF) as it celebrates its 75th Anniversary!  The USAF was formally established in 1947 making it an equal and independent branch of the United States Armed Forces, after having been originally created in 1907 as a part of the United States Army Signal Corps.  The enormous advancement in aeronautics and aviation during the first half of the 20th Century paved the way for the USAF to be developed into an equal, stand-alone branch of the military.  In particular, during World War II, the Air Force was crucial to the Allied victory in every theater of the war as it enabled our nation to project power in ways that historically had been inconceivable.  This development was punctuated as an exclamation mark in 1945 as the long-range Boeing B-29 Superfortress delivered atomic bombs against the adversary thereby bringing the War in the Pacific to a swift close.



In the post World War II period (i.e., the Cold War), the changing global power structure and highly charged political tensions elevated the USAF into perhaps the most vital part of the US nuclear arsenal.  While the US Navy had charge over submarine-based nuclear weapons, it was the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command that had operational control over land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) along with nuclear bombs carried by long-range bombers like the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.  In the aftermath of the Cold War (i.e., 1991 to date) there have been numerous reorganizations to not only reflect the changing global political climate but to incorporate upgrades in technical and operational capabilities.  For example, during the Cold War, the USAF's mission was largely positioned to provide "massive retaliation" -- which is associated with the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) policy that characterized the wartime posture of the era.   But with improved technology, this mission evolved into "flexible response" and eventually to "precision guided munitions."  However it should also be noted that the USAF has also been an integral part of major humanitarian operations.  Examples include but are not limited to the Berlin Airlift (1948-49), Operation Safe Haven (1957-58), Operations Babylift, New Life, Frequent Winds and New Arrivals (1975), Operation Provide Promise (1992-96) and Operation Tomodachi (2011).  In war and peace, the USAF has ably served our nation and global allies.


The ability of the USAF to provide long-range assistance in both military and humanitarian terms on a rapid-deployment basis, often in expeditionary or harsh environments, make this 75th Anniversary an opportunity to salute a branch of the US military that truly exemplifies its motto:
"Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do."




Do any of you in our wonderful GNN audience have special memories of the US Air Force either through your own life experience or perhaps a loved one or friend who has served in this remarkable branch of the US military?  If so, please submit your thoughts or reminiscences to the Galaxy Nostalgia Network (GNN) website or to the GNN Facebook Page (and please "like" us when doing so).  I will start the conversation by noting that my mother, Victoria Villarreal Haloulakos (1925-2018), was a US Civil Servant in the US Air Force and shared vivid recollections of meeting General Curtis LeMay (who was in charge of the USAF Strategic Air Command during the Cold War) and that her favorite aircraft was the B-52 (which is still in active service more than 65+ years after its inception).  In blessed memory of all those who have served while also saluting those currently in active service, please join us in wishing the US Air Force a well-deserved HAPPY 75th ANNIVERSARY!


Sunday, July 3, 2022

THIS IS CINERAMA!

by George Haloulakos

With "Top Gun: Maverick" now surpassing the $1 billion revenue mark in just two months following its release, this blockbuster action film that is dazzling film audiences worldwide -- especially via the IMAX (i.e., large, tall screen) format that places the filmgoer into the cockpit of supersonic jet fighter aircraft -- the popular success of this newly released film hearkens back to a time Baby Boomers will vividly recall as the CINERAMA experience -- when going to the movie theater was very special! 


CINERAMA was a widescreen process introduced in the 1950s that simultaneously projected images from three synchronized 35mm projectors onto a very large, curved screen.  This process was later modified into a system that relied on a single camera with 70mm prints but still shown on the large, curved screen to continue giving the audience a "you are there" experience.  CINERAMA was marketed to the public as a major theatrical event, with reserved seating and printed programs.  As such, audiences in attendance were dressed in their best (i.e., "formal") attire!  Although various theaters could be adapted to show CINERAMA films, the best movie-going experience was associated with special or dedicated CINERAMA theaters that were built in various cities worldwide.  Yours truly recalls such special theaters in both Seattle and Los Angeles, with the latter perhaps being the most famous: the CINERAMA Dome in Hollywood!

Yours truly vividly recalls that seeing a major film at CINERAMA Dome in Hollywood was indeed, a very memorable event.  You really needed to make seat reservations in advance, and there were wonderful printed programs available for purchase that featured in-depth biographies on the film stars, writers and producers along with offering deeper context on the screenplay (including color photographs of various scenes from the film).  It was so much fun to dress up in formal attire and attend such an event with your parents as it became a rite of passage into adulthood for many of us who came of age here in Southern California (where the major studios are headquartered).

Among the CINERAMA films I personally attended with my parents were "Battle of the Bulge," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Ice Station Zebra" and "Krakatoa - East of Java."  As one would expect in such a creative, dynamic and competitive industry, other filmmaking / screening processes evolved and CINERAMA gradually lost its novelty and uniqueness.  Yet there are other CINERAMA films that members of the GNN audience may also fondly recall from the same era such as "The Greatest Story Ever Told," "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "Grand Prix" and "How the West Was Won."  It is certainly a very special moment in time as it sparks wonderful memories of moviegoing as a major event rather than a casual family activity.

In my background research for this Blog, I learned of two famous people -- well known to Baby Boomers -- who were directly responsible for bringing CINERAMA to the general public.  Lowell Thomas (the famous traveler and broadcaster) and Mike Todd (producer of the 1956 Best Picture Academy Award film "Around the World in 80 Days") were the founders and chief investors that created CINERAMA.  It is indeed a tribute to their vision and entrepreneurship that filmmaking advanced so greatly with the advent of CINERAMA, thereby continuing to make movie going a wondrous, magical experience.



Please join us here at the Galaxy Nostalgia Network in recalling the magical experience of CINERAMA while enjoying the new films of today that remind us of the way we were.
___________________________________________
(Rev Protodeacon) George A. Haloulakos ~ CFA & Owner of Spartan Research
1st Place (2014-15) & 3rd Place (2017-18) - Excellence in Journalism (San Diego Press Club)
Author of CALL TO GLORY (ISBN 9780692475454) -- Order your copy at:  https://www.ucsandiegobookstore.com/00000003802?location=1&quantity=1
Voice & Text Messages:  Cell # 425-241-5016

Friday, June 3, 2022

JUNE 2022

THE FOUR SEASONS OF JACKIE ROBINSON

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Major League Baseball (MLB) rookie season (1947) as well as the 50th anniversary of the untimely passing (1972) of this truly remarkable man.  I just finished reading a newly released biography titled TRUE: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson, by Kostya Kennedy and published by St Martin's Press.  This book is an unconventional but innovative biography in that it examines four transformative years in Mr Robinson's inspired life:
1946, his first year playing minor league ball for the Montreal Royals; 1949, when he won the Most Valuable Player award in just his third season of his MLB career with the Brooklyn Dodgers; 1956, his final season; and 1972, the year of his untimely passing.  Each of these four chapters are titled after the four seasons - Part One:Spring (1946), Part Two:Summer (1949), Part Three:Autumn (1956) and Part Four:Winter (1972).  Hauntingly, if not appropriately, there is a "fifth" chapter titled The Afterlife, which affirms in the author's words, "Whatever the context and circumstances, Jackie Robinson remained true -- true to the effort and the mission, true to his convictions and contradictions."


While the organization and content of the book evokes The Holy Bible's Ecclesiastes 3 ("To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven ..."), it also gives fresh, new insights and deeper context into information about Mr Robinson's life.  This is accomplished by a vivid writing style that brings to life these four transformative years through interviews with fans and players as well as surviving family members who witnessed Robinson's impact in both public and private venues.  One such example is the memorable steal of home plate by Robinson in Game One of the 1955 World Series (eventually won by the Dodgers in seven games vs the Yankees).  In a very close play, the umpire ruled it safe, much to the vehement chagrin of Yankee catcher Yogi Berra.  The image of Robinson sliding in safely conveys a sense of determination, defiance and triumph in the face of adversity.  In the ensuing decades and long after the passing of Jackie Robinson, the "out, safe" exchange continued whenever Berra would encounter Rachel Robinson (Jackie's widow).  Typically, in his gregarious manner, Berra would say "Out" when he would see Rachel, and in return, with a gentle smile she would say "Safe."  This lifelong exchange had a special poignancy in 2015 when at a celebration for Berra's 90th birthday, Rachel greeted the Hall of Fame Yankee catcher by sweeping her hands out, palms down, giving the "Safe" sign while Berra replied by giving the "Out" sign with his right hand.  The two then gave each other a big smile and embraced.


In reading this wonderful biography, yours truly vividly recalled the beautiful eulogy delivered by the Reverend Jesse Jackson in 1972 at the memorial service for Mr Robinson.  The Reverend Jackson movingly described Robinson as "...the Black Knight in a Chess game.  He was checking the King's bigotry and the Queen's indifference.  He turned a stumbling block into a stepping stone ... and his body, his mind, his mission cannot be held down by a grave."  The closing chapter of TRUE features a photograph of Robinson's grave site depicting Mr Robinson's very own words as his epitaph: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."


As a man of faith, a lifelong fan of Jackie Robinson and one who loves baseball, this biography affirms that this truly great man is Safe at Home.  Please join us here at the Galaxy Nostalgia Network by celebrating the inspired life of Jackie Robinson not only by checking out this new biography but also through acts of charity to others.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

 MAY 2022

CAMEOS & FACES IN THE CROWD

This month we invite all the members of our wonderful Galaxy audience to participate in a fun reminiscence of classic film, TV and music videos.  One of the most interesting features in the aforementioned media venues is the cameo -- i.e., a brief appearance of a well-known person within the tapestry of the story.  In many instances, cameos are not featured in the credits and so it becomes a treasure hunt in identifying famous or favorite people that are essentially faces in the crowd!

Here is a sample of notable cameos.  Perhaps one of the most famous was the recurring cameos by film director Alfred Hitchcock in 40 out of his 54 classic films from the late 1920s to the mid 1970s.  Often Hitchcock would be spotted in a crowd scene near the beginning of his many films and this was viewed as his "signature" or "watermark" for his artistic directorial work.  This made for heightened audience interest right from the start as filmgoers would keep sharp lookout for the iconic director whose cameos were so brief that if you happened to take your eyes off the screen for a single moment you would miss him!  One of the most interesting cameos was in the 1944 film "Lifeboat" (set in World War II).  In such a confined setting, Hitchcock was seen in a newspaper being read by one of the characters while seated in the lifeboat.  Specifically the newspaper showed a before-and-after photo sequence of Hitchcock in an advertisement for a weight-loss program.


Some classic cameos on film are only "heard" but not seen!  Two such instances are in the motion pictures "A Letter to Three Wives" (1949) and "King of Kings" (1961).  "A Letter to Three Wives" tells the story of a woman sending a letter to three women, informing them she has left town with one of their husbands but not specifying which one!  The unseen woman who wrote the titular letter is a constant presence throughout the film because of her occasional narration of key events in the story, including the surprise but ultimately satisfying ending.  This "voice" cameo was uncredited but was performed by Celeste Holm.  Similarly, the Biblical epic "King of Kings" was narrated by none other than Orson Welles.  His deep, sonorous voice, while familiar to one and all, was also uncredited.  But it played a noteworthy part in heightening the illuminating story on the life and ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Baby boomers who watched the "Batman" TV series (1966-68) will fondly recall the window cameos in which very famous people would have brief conversations with the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder as they would scale up the side of tall apartment buildings.  There were 14 such window cameos that included such luminaries as Sammy Davis Jr, Dick Clark, Don Ho and Edward G. Robinson.


For those who remember "Friday Night Music Videos" in the 1980s, there is the official Bruce Springsteen "Dancing in the Dark" video of the Boss performing at a 1984 concert in St Paul, MN.  In this truly amazing video -- noted for the very high energy level by Springsteen, his bandmates and the audience -- a 20 year old Courtney Cox (a full decade before her iconic Monica role in the 1990s TV series "Friends") is first seen standing in the front row right up against the stage fully involved with the concert and then in the closing sequence is brought up on stage by Springsteen to dance with the Boss in what is now regarded as a scripted spontaneous event!


What are your favorite cameos?  What made them so special or memorable to you and your loved ones?  We invite you to share them by emailing us directly through the GNN website or posting to the GNN FACEBOOK page (and "liking" us when doing so).  If you are looking for a fun way to make binge watching more interesting, using the "cameo" theme is a fun way to revisit favorite films, shows and music videos.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

 APRIL 2022

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JANE GOODALL

This month we pay tribute to Dame Jane Goodall, DBE, as she celebrates her 88th birthday (April 3).  Dr Goodall is a familiar if not lifelong presence in the consciousness of baby boomers who came of age while watching her pioneering work in primatology and anthropology unfold in real time through the National Geographic media platforms from the mid-1960s to the present day!  Goodall is regarded as the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees.  This United Kingdom born scientist who earned her University of Cambridge doctorate in Ethology (study of animal behavior) has helped raise awareness and understanding of conservation, sustainability and ethical treatment of animals.  Her pioneering work showed that similarities between humans and chimpanzees were evident in emotion, intelligence as well as social and family relationships.  Jane Goodall's trailblazing career has not only expanded the boundaries of science but has opened up new pathways (or in corporate business terms - broken the glass ceiling) so that the once male-dominated fields of primatology and anthropology are now nearly evenly made up of both men and women.  In sum, she has been a role model of professional excellence, dignity, integrity and dedication.


Most baby boomers first became acquainted with Jane Goodall through the National Geographic publications (School Bulletin for young readers and its adult mainstream National Geographic Magazine) and most notably, via network TV, the 1965 primetime National Geographic Society special "Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees."  In these venues, a worldwide audience witnessed how Goodall gave personal names to each of the chimpanzees instead of numbers, as she observed them to have unique and individual personalities - a rather unconventional idea at that time!  She recorded peaceful, affectionate behavior along with an aggressive side to chimpanzee nature.

In the decades that have followed, Dr Goodall has not only helped to raise awareness and understanding of the animal kingdom, but her humanitarian and environmental work has helped inspire public support for pursuance of scientific research as a career path.  Her title of "Dame" is associated with the DBE award (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) which reflects her scientific contributions along with public service via charitable organizations and research institutions.


A couple of fun facts or trivia concerning the inspired life of Jane Goodall:  First, her career benefited enormously from the mentorship she received from the famed paleoanthropologist Dr Louis Leakey. Goodall worked directly for Dr Leakey, who later sent her to various parts of Africa to do field research and in between pursue academic study with the leading authorities of the day.  Dr Leakey also helped raise funds to help Goodall with her scientific research.  A second fun fact shows that Jane Goodall has a good sense of humor.  The famed cartoonist Gary Larson featured two chimpanzees grooming each other in his "Far Side" comic strip and when one discovered a blonde hair on the other, inquired "Conducting a little more 'research' with that Jane Goodall tramp?"  As Dr Goodall was in Africa when that cartoon was published, the Jane Goodall Institute thought it was in bad taste, describing it as an "atrocity" and threatening legal action.  When Goodall returned from her travels and saw the cartoon, she thought it was amusing and stopped the Institute's legal action!  In Larson's Far Side Gallery 5, Goodall wrote the preface and praised his work while detailing her perspective on the controversy!


One more fun fact, and this occurred very recently (March 3, 2022) as The Lego Group -- in honor of Women's History Month and International Women's Day -- issued set number 40530 "A Jane Goodall Tribute" that depicts a Jane Goodall minifigure with three chimpanzees in an African forest!  In appreciation for her groundbreaking work that has promoted a better understanding of our world, please join us in wishing Jane Goodall a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY ... and many more!