Hot Topics: 'Cowboys & Aliens,' Linda Ronstadt, Hummers Recycled
Baby boomers grew up watching Jim Arness as Marshal Dillon tame the old West on TV, and can remember back when John Wayne tipped his 10-gallon hat and rode off into the sunset in scores of classic cowboy movies. But if we weren't watching Westerns, we were engrossed in sci-fi alien-invasion thrillers such as 1953's War of the Worlds. That's why director Jon Favreau's ingenious mash-up of the two genres, Cowboys & Aliens, which opens today in theaters, might be the rare summer action blockbuster that resonates with boomer audiences as well as teens and twentysomething moviegoers.
Independence Day meets High Noon? True, the concept of gunslingers in spurs in a showdown with extraterrestrial invaders is so outlandish that it may be challenging to get your head around it; audiences who saw the coming attractions trailer last year sometimes mistook it for a comedy, according to this New York Times article. But as the eminent critic Roger Ebert opines this week: "As preposterous moneymakers go, it's ambitious and well-made." Ebert praises Favreau for taking care to develop his human characters rather than just to rely upon bug-eyed monsters and computer-generated special-effects wizardry to carry the film. He's also favorably impressed by the two heavyweight lead actors, Daniel Craig, of James Bond fame, and Harrison Ford, who at age 69 is still convincingly rough and tough. (New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis calls Ford's performance "pretty swell.")
Another of the film's attractions is Brendan Wayne, the Duke's grandson, who in this Vanity Fair interview reveals that he's pretty adept at riding a horse and, like his grandpa, has engaged in some real-life fisticuffs on occasion.
Here's some other boomer-related news that's trending on the web.
Most Boomers Say They're in Good Health and Are Eating Better to Stay That Way: A new Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll reveals that boomers tend to see themselves as healthy and fit, and are making lifestyle changes to maintain that glow. Sixty-seven percent say their health is good or excellent, and 70 percent think they compare favorably to others at the same age. Not that they don't have health worries; the biggest fear is cancer (44 percent) followed by memory loss (20 percent) and heart problems (13 percent). Interestingly, boomers are not all that concerned about being hobbled by arthritis and other joint problems (just 2 percent) or hearing loss (less than 1 percent). As for lifestyle changes, 67 percent say they've changed their diet to lose weight, and 74 percent are eating more fruits and vegetables. But boomers could use more physical activity. Walking (35 percent) is the most popular exercise, while 13 percent do sports such as running, swimming or tennis, and 11 percent do exercises in a gym or at home.
Cosmetic Surgery, Without the Surgery: If you'd like to look more youthful but are hesitant to go under the knife, you'll be interested in this Los Angeles Times article about the number of increasingly popular nonsurgical cosmetic treatments available these days. One example is Zeltiq, a device that vacuum-attaches to the body and delivers precise and controlled cooling through the skin to freeze and kill subcutaneous fat cells, without damage to the skin or internal organs. Its co-inventor, Dr. Dieter Manstein, says the typical patient needs one or two treatments to get rid of love handles.
Boomer Rock Heroes and the "27 Club" Myth: The shocking death last weekend of 27-year-old British retro-soul chanteuse Amy Winehouse is giving some of us flashbacks to the similarly tragic demises of our youthful rock heroes Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison at precisely the same age. Were all these singers and musicians doomed by some sort of Faustian bargain that gave them extraordinary talent in exchange for robbing them of the chance to reach middle age? Or is self-destructiveness -- all of the before-mentioned stars had drug and alcohol problems -- the inevitable flip side of musical virtuosity? MSN Entertainment blogger Marc C. Brown's "Debunking the Myth of 27" helps to dismiss those gloomy notions, pointing out that many popular music greats -- Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Pete Townsend, Eric Clapton -- got past that supposedly deadly milestone and went on to produce some of their best work, while others, such as Chuck Berry and Bruce Springsteen, didn't even reach their creative plateau until they were close to 30.
The Great Coffee Debate Continues: The late fitness guru Jack LaLanne used to say that if we wouldn't give a cup of Joe to a pet dog, we must be crazy to drink it ourselves. Similarly, we've all heard plenty of admonitions over the years that the hot brown liquid we crave in the morning is bad for our nerves, hearts and stomachs. But even more perplexingly, we've also been assured that coffee, in moderate amounts, has no significant negative effects, and may actually improve physical and mental performance, in addition to providing antioxidants to fight cancer and aging. So which view is correct? In this well-researched Slate article, Christie Aschwanden reveals that even scientists really aren't sure.
Recycling Hummers as Houses: Okay, maybe General Motors' now-defunct gas-guzzling clone of a military vehicle seemed like the ultimate luxury SUV, back in the days before gas prices hit the stratosphere and we didn't have a record summer heat wave in the Midwest and East Coast to remind us of the prospect of human-caused climate change. But as Zak Stone's blog post for the optimistically minded news site Good informs us, a pair of architects "have found a way to redeem the environmentally disastrous vehicle" -- by taking it apart and repurposing the parts to build a pre-fabricated, environmentally-friendly micro house. Wow.
Thrift Stores are Booming: Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez reports that there's at least one upside to the frustratingly sputtering economic recovery. Thrift stores such as St. Vincent de Paul and Goodwill are doing a booming business, catering to consumers who think they can stretch their dollars further by buying good-quality used clothing and home furnishings rather than settling for the flimsier, higher-priced wares offered by discount retailers. And shabby chic is suddenly cool again, too. But that actually can be a problem for LA-area shoppers. Lopez complains that you can't walk into a second-hand shop "without the threat of bumping into a hipster, artist, musician, or even a bona fide celebrity who might not be there because of economic need."
The IBM Selectric Turns 50: It was big, bulky, and pretty much nonportable, unless you had muscles like Peter Lupus of Mission: Impossible fame. It made a weird, whirring sound, and the keys pushed back hard against your fingertips. You got that disgusting-smelling white gunk all over your clothes from painting over your mistakes. But still, there was something endearing about the IBM Selectric, which first went on sale in July 1961, as this Technologizer post reminds us.
Linda Ronstadt Memoir in the Works: The queen of 1970s Southern California country-rock, who also made gossip-column headlines by dating California Gov. Jerry Brown and filmmaker George Lucas, is penning an autobiography. Simon & Schuster plans to publish Ronstadt's Heart Like a Wheel in 2013.
Website of the Week: In a blog post a while back, I told you about GetMilkshake.com, the website that offers tips on socially and ecologically responsible -- and stylish -- ways to spread your money around. I'm pleased to report that the website continues to come up with cool and sometimes amusing suggestions. Here is today's post on Whiner and Diner, a pet-accessory company that recycles old wine crates and makes them into elevated pet feeders that allow your dog or cat to dine in a way that doesn't strain the neck, joints or digestion, the way that bowls flush on the floor can.
Last Word: "How many people 61 years old do I know who put themselves out to literally risk being eaten by sharks to do something that no one has ever done before?" -- Susan Levy, publisher of the Well-Fed Heart website, on long-distance swimmer Diana NyadBonus: Here's the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens. Enjoy!
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