Help Save Mai Tai – Update


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(Layton the Knight on his trusty steed!)

Mai Tai’s GoFundMe Page Link:  https://www.gofundme.com/62xtax2k

Update: Nature is a fickle *expletive*. :P Mai Tai’s condition has been quite a roller coaster of ups and downs. Overall he seems to be doing much better – he was even allowed home from Tufts once he started eating again. But since being home his appetite has diminished and so he is heading back to Tufts. I am EXTREMELY grateful for all those that have already donated or shared this posts. If you could keep at it that would be truly amazing. You’re all the best!

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Hi readers…I haven’t posted much in a while…but I come to you tonight not with a review…but a request for help. To sum up – as best I can – Mai Tai is a wonderful, and quite handsome, pony who has seriously touched the lives of many people. Throughout his many years he has helped many others…but now he needs help in return. Hence why I am sharing the below fundraiser. No one wants to have to go around asking people for money but sometimes things don’t work out, problems arise and financial issues can ensue. Then it becomes necessary, when the cause is worthy – in this case it very much is – to then reach out for help. So I am posting the above link asking for whatever help you can give. Be it $1, $5 – anything helps. Even if you can’t give (which is always understandable) please forward the link on, share it on social media, etc. and spread the word. The more people who know, the more donations – no matter how minor – the more successful the fundraising will be. :) Please read below for more information.

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Mai Tai is a 31 year old palomino Mustang pony who has touched the lives of hundreds of children over his lifetime. For the past decade, Mai Tai was owned by SJ Riding Camp in Ellington, CT, where every summer he would win the hearts of young riders with his amazing character. He was always the “favorite,” in high demand. He is a one-in-a-million type pony with a heart of gold, and seeing that he was ready to slow down *just a little*, SJ Camp decided that he should come to live at Bella Rosa Stables in Wrentham, MA with trainers Sarah Muntyan and Alexandria Quayle. At BRS Mai Tai is still gainfully employed as a teacher of small children. He is a bright, lovable, and still remarkably athletic little pony who is always happy to go to work. He teaches little boys and girls to walk, trot, and canter around the ring, to steer on their own, to trot over ground poles, and to walk on the trails. He also has added a NEW component to his resume, filling the special role of a Therapeutic Riding pony. Mai Tai’s calm, quiet, and incredibly agreeable demeanor makes him an excellent partner for working with children with special needs.

Mai Tai’s excellent health to this stage in his life has been remarkable. We don’t know much about his early life, but the distinctive freeze brand underneath his mane is an indicator that he at one point lived in a free-roaming Mustang herd, and came through a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Auction. Now at age 31, Veterinarians and Equine professionals have marveled at how he is thriving. Many horses that are 10 years his junior do not have the level of fitness, soundness, or general good health that Mai Tai has maintained to this point.

Mai Tai’s one major health concern over the past few years has been his teeth – he has very few left, and the ones that are left are worn smooth. He eats an unusual diet as he cannot eat hay. Until recently he did not appear to have any problems with this. However in the third week of January 2016, we noticed a sudden, sharp decline in Mai Tai’s appetite. He was still cheerful and active, but did not want to eat any of his meals. We tried adding everything from molasses to shredded carrots to apple sauce to Splenda….. you name it, he wasn’t interested. A few days after this started, he began kicking out (unheard of before this) when you touched his belly. Clearly something was wrong.

Dr. Sarah D’Oench of the Massachusetts Equine Clinic performed a gastroscopy for Mai Tai on the morning of January 26th, 2016. Owner Sarah Muntyan was expecting (as were the Doctors) for the gastroscopy to reveal severe stomach ulcers (a possible explanation for his symptoms). Instead, they discovered a large fibrous mass partially blocking both the entrance and exits to his stomach – a highly unusual condition. It was clear that unless this was resolved, Mai Tai was not going to make it. Whether there were additional problems causing the decline in his health could not be determined at this point. He was loaded onto the trailer and brought to the Tufts University’s Large Animal Hospital in Grafton, MA.

Mai Tai has been at Tufts since the morning of January 26th. The Doctors at Tufts have been providing him with extraordinary care. It seems however that the more diagnostics are done, the more questions arise. Mai Tai has been fitted with a nasogastric tube, and the doctors have been attempting to break up the fibrous mass in his stomach, both manually and with administration of Coke soda (scary but true!) which has the ability to eat through most materials. Reflux from his stomach and small intestine is coming up in excess, and it contains a large amount of sand which is concerning. This led to extensive ultrasound imaging, which revealed no complete blockages or tumors, but a thickening of stomach and intestinal walls – from the sand? From something else? We are not sure yet, and will not know for sure until the mass in his stomach can be bypassed for a better look (and a biopsy) of what is underneath. In order to keep Mai Tai stable, he is currently on IV fluids.

Doctors at this point are cautiously optimistic that Mai Tai can be brought back to a state of good health, and continue a happy and useful life for years to come – but this can only happen if they have the time to diagnose and treat the problems occurring in his GI tract. The biggest roadblock for Mai Tai now is finances. Mai Tai’s current owner, Sarah Muntyan, has emptied her savings (almost $4,000) to get him through his first few days at Tufts. As anyone who has owned horses knows, these big powerful creatures come with equally big Vet bills. The Doctors at Tufts are of the highest caliber, and have the best chance of bringing Mai Tai back home safe and sound, but at the moment there is simply not enough funding to continue his diagnostics and the treatments that he needs. We are asking those who know Mai Tai, who love Mai Tai (for those are one and the same), whose lives or whose children’s lives have been touched by Mai Tai, or those that are generous enough out there to read his story to please make a charitable donation of any amount to contribute to his medical bills – to help us to get him well and to bring him home. Mai Tai has done so much for so many. Please help us to return the favor to this noble pony and give him the care that he desperately needs right now. Thank you.

Donate If You Can!

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A Dying Man, Scared of the Dark: John Wayne in THE SHOOTIST (Paramount 1976)


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THE SHOOTIST is John Wayne’s valedictory statement, a final love letter to his many fans. The Duke was now 69 years old and not in the best of health. He’d had a cancerous lung removed back in 1964, and though the cancer was in remission, Wayne must’ve knew his days were numbered when he made this film. Three years later, he died from cancer of the stomach, intestines, and spine. There were worries about his ability to make this movie, but Wayne loved the script and was determined to do it. The result is an elegy to not only the aging actor, but to the Western genre as a whole.

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The movie begins with footage of older Wayne westerns (EL DORADO, HONDO, RED RIVER, RIO BRAVO) narrated by Ron Howard (Gillom). “His name was J.B. Books…he wasn’t an outlaw. Fact is, for a while he was a lawman…He had a credo that…

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TAMI Part 2: The Big T.N.T. Show (1966, directed by Larry Peerce)


In 1964, American International Pictures released the first concert film, The T.A.M.I. Show.  After the success of T.A.M.I, AIP followed up with a second concert film.  This one would be shot in front of a live audience at Los Angeles’s Moulin Rouge club on the night of November 29th, 1965.  The line-up included Ray Charles, Petula Clark, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Bo Diddley, Joan Baez, The Ronettes, Roger Miller, The Byrds, Donavon, and Ike and Tina Turner.  Phil Spector was recruited to produce the show and he brought with him a live orchestra.  Conducting the orchestra and serving as the night’s emcee was The Man From UNCLE‘s David McCallum.

Originally announced as The T.A.M.I. Show Part II, the title was briefly changed to This Could Be The Night (after a song written by Spector and Harry Nilsson and performed by The Modern Folk Quartet) until AIP finally went with The Big TNT Show, an appropriate title considering the explosive performances that were recorded that night.  The Big TNT Show also recorded the growing division between the rock and roll of the 50s and early 60s and the music of the emerging counter culture, with Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, and Ike Turner sharing the same stage as The Byrds and Donavon.

In one of the show’s best moments, Joan Baez sings You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling while Phil Spector accompanies her on piano.

Other highlights include the Byrds performing Turn, Turn, Turn,

Roger Miller performing his novelty hit King of the Road,

Petula Clark singing Downtown,

The Ronettes performing Be My Baby,

Donavon’s Universal Soldier,

and Ike and Tina Turner’s entire set.

At the end of the film, the viewers are told to “be sure to tune in for next year’s show!” but, one year later, both the world and music would be very different.  The Big TNT Show captures that one final moment before things changed forever.

“Hard Workers” Alan Moore And Jacen Burrows Put In Overtime On “Providence” #7


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It occurs to me that as we begin the second “leg” of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence with the just-released seventh issue that we as readers are on no firmer ground, metaphorically speaking, than hapless protagonist Robert Black is in a more literal sense — having fled Manchester without even knowing how much time he spent there much less what happened both to and around him, our hero/victim next turns up in Boston smack-dab in the middle of the notorious round of riots and looting instigated by the city’s police strike of 1919, an engineered debacle both triggered by the actions of, and then capitalized for political gain by, then-governor Calvin Coolidge, one of early-20th-century America’s more loathsome figures. For our hopelessly cracking (or maybe that should be already cracked)  former newspaperman, though, the violence and depravity he sees unfolding on the streets of Beantown is a pretty accurate…

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No Safe Space: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon (2015, directed by Douglas Tirola)


Drunk_Stoned_Brilliant_Dead_PosterThe documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead pays tribute to National Lampoon.  Founded in 1970, National Lampoon was published for 28 years and, at the height of its popularity, its sensibility redefined American comedy.  When it came to National Lampoon, nothing was sacred and nothing was off-limits.  The success of National Lampoon led to a stage show called Lemmings and The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which featured everyone from John Belushi and Bill Murray to Chevy Chase and Harold Ramis.  Michael O’Donoghue, famed for his impersonations of celebrities having needless inserted into their eyes, went from writing for the Lampoon to serving as Saturday Night Live‘s first head writer.  National Lampoon’s Animal House, Vacation, and Caddyshack are three of the most influential film comedies ever made.  Everyone from P.J. O’Rourke to John Hughes to The Simpsons‘ Al Jean got their start at National Lampoon.

As influential as it was, National Lampoon is a magazine that would not be able to exist today’s world.  Just looking at the cover of most issues of National Lampoon would reduce today’s special little snowflakes to the point of hysteria.  In Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, National Lampoon‘s publisher claims that the Lampoon ultimately ceased publication because the religious right threatened to boycott any company that advertised in the magazine.  Today, it would be the “safe space” crowd complaining that the magazine did not come with proper trigger warnings.  Lena Dunham would look at one issue and go into a rage spiral.  Salon would publish a hundred hand-wringing think pieces about how National Lampoon was the worst thing since Ted Cruz.  Colleges would ban it and religious groups would still burn it.  National Lampoon was a magazine that went out of its way to be offensive to both the left and the right but, as editor-in-chief Tony Hendra puts it, the job of satire is to make those in power feel uncomfortable.  By poking fun at everything and challenging its readers, National Lampoon exposed the absurdity behind both the country’s prejudices and some of its most sacred beliefs.

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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead follows the National Lampoon from its founding to its ignominious end.  Along with interviews with Lampoon alumni, it also features archival footage of both Lemmings and The Radio Show, providing glimpses of  Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis before they became famous.  There are also interviews with celebrity admirers of the Lampoon who talk about how the magazine inspired their own work.  It makes sense that Judd Apatow was interviewed and Kevin Bacon made his screen debut in Animal House but what was Billy Bob Thornton doing there?

Unfortunately, drunk, stoned, brilliant, and dead describes some of the most important and talented figures in the Lampoon‘s history.  The documentary especially focuses on Doug Kenney, the Lampoon’s co-founder.  Everyone interviewed agrees that Kenney was a comedic genius who was also often emotionally troubled and who would vanish for months on end.  After the initial critical failure of Caddyshack, Kenney disappeared in Hawaii.  His body was later discovered at the bottom of the cliff.  Did Kenney jump or did he slip or, as director John Landis suggests, was he murdered by a drug dealer?  Nobody seems to know but Kenney’s ghost haunts the documentary.  This collection of very funny people get very serious when it comes time to talk about Kenney’s death.  Even Chevy Chase briefly redeems himself after years of bad publicity when he gets choked up.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is tribute to both a magazine and a bygone era.  See it before it gets banned.

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Book Review: ANDY & DON: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show (Simon and Schuster)


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THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW is one of the most beloved sitcoms in television history, still being run on cable networks fifty-five years after its debut. The show about life in small town Mayberry revolves around the friendship between mellow Sheriff Andy Taylor and his hyperactive deputy, Barney Fife. ANDY & DON not only tells us about them, but about the real life friendship between the two stars, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.

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The book shows us the very similar backgrounds of the two comic legends. Both came from poor rural towns (Knotts in West Virginia, Griffith in North Carolina), and had their share of grief and difficulty growing up. The pair met when both were cast in the Broadway hit No Time for Sergeants, and hit it off right away. When Griffith was slated to star in a new sitcom as a country sheriff, Knotts called and asked if…

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Film Review: The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960, directed by Budd Boetticher)


TheRiseFallofLegsDiamondIt’s the 1920s.  Prohibition is the law of the land and gangsters control the streets of New York City.  Jack Diamond (Ray Danton) and his tubercular brother, Eddie (Warren Oates), arrives in town.  Jack and Eddie are small-time jewel thieves but Jack has ambitions to be something more.  He works with his girlfriend, Alice (Karen Steele), as a dance instructor but he dreams of being the most powerful mobster in the world.  His first step is to get a job working as a bodyguard for New York crime lord (and fixer of the 1919 World Series), Arnold Rothstein (Robert Lowery).  Though Rothstein never trusts him, Jack works his way into his inner circle and even gets a nickname.  Because he is a dancer, he is renamed “Legs” Diamond.

From the minute that he starts working with Rothstein, Legs Diamond’s cocky personality and ruthless ambition make him enemies.  When he is shot three times, Legs shocks everyone by surviving and announces that he is invulnerable and cannot be killed.  After Rothstein is mysteriously gunned down, Diamond goes to war against Leo “Butcher” Bremer (Jesse White, better known as the original Maytag repairman) for control of the New York underworld.

The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond was directed by the legendary Budd Boetticher, a bullfighter-turned-director who is best known for directing a series of low-budget westerns in the 1950s.  The violent and hard-boiled The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond was Boetticher’s only gangster film and it’s a good one.  The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond is tightly-written, fast-paced, and Lucien Ballard’s black-and-white cinematography ranks with the best of film noir.

The role of Legs Diamond was originally offered to future producer Robert Evans (of The Kid Stays In The Picture fame) but when Evans turned it down, the role was given to Ray Danton.  Though he is occasionally a little stiff, Danton still gives a good and tough performance as Diamond but it is still hard not to wonder what Evans would have been like in the role.  The rest of the cast is full of recognizable B-movie actors, all of whom do a good job.  Actress Dyan Cannon made her film debut in Legs Diamond, playing one of Diamond’s girlfriends.  Meanwhile, in only his third film role, Warren Oates is memorable and sympathetic as the sickly Eddie.  Though Oates does not get to do much in the film, his performance still shows why he went on to become one of the most popular and well-respected character actors of all time.

Though hardly historically accurate (in real life, Arnold Rothstein never knew Jack Diamond and Diamond received his nickname not because he was a dancer but because of the speed with which he ran away from the police), The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond is an exciting and entertaining Depression-era gangster film.

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