A pig just flew by my window

Many years ago, one of the then-defunct Eagles remarked that he wouldn’t work with a former bandmate until hell froze over. When the band finally re-united, their reunion tour was called, naturally, the “Hell Freezes Over” Tour.

Something similar has happened involving one of my favorite TV personalities and “The Worldwide Leader In Sports.”

Thanks to TV Barn for the heads up.

Guilt and grace in Gotham City

Who Needs A Superhero?: Finding Virtue, Vice, And What's Holy In The ComicsIn light of this week’s movie premiere, Christianity Today has published a terrific chapter from H. Michael Brewer’s book “Who Needs A Superhero?” which compares Batman to the rich young ruler from the gospels. The essay points out some symbolism and allegory in Frank Miller’s seminal “The Dark Knight Returns” that I had never noticed before.

Billy Dee’s not two-faced

For the second time this year, I will have to miss the premiere of a heavily-anticipated movie due to preparations for my mission trip. I’ll be going to Mississippi next weekend and will miss the opening of “Batman Begins.” But I’ll see it soon enough. I’d like to go to the IMAX theater in Nashville and see it there.

While whetting my appetite, I was looking at some trivia on IMDb related to the moves that were produced between 1989 and 1997. This new movie essentially restarts the franchise; it’s not really a sequel or a prequel to those movies, more of a remake.

Anyway, I found a couple of very interesting facts about casting which I’d never heard before.

When “Batman Forever” came out in 1995, I recall explaining to my editor at the time — a movie buff — that Tommy Lee Jones was playing the same character that Billy Dee Williams had played in the original 1989 movie. In “Batman,” Billy Dee played district attorney Harvey Dent, essentially a cameo role. As comic book fans know, and as is briefly explained in “Batman Forever,” Dent is horribly disfigured and becomes the bitter criminal Two-Face.

Well, it turns out that Billy Dee was well aware of Harvey Dent’s ultimate destiny when he played the straight district attorney part in the first movie. In fact, he apparently had it written into his contract that he would get to play Two-Face in a sequel. When the producers eventually decided to cast Jones, they reportedly had to pay Billy Dee a large sum to buy out his contract.

The other piece of trivia concerns another Williams — Robin Williams. When the producers of the original movie were trying to convince Jack Nicholson to take the part of The Joker, he held out for a lot of money. At one point, they made a big show of talking to Robin Williams about the part, and sure enough Nicholson came around. But he needn’t have worried: according to IMDb, Nicholson made so much from his share of the profits, marketing and merchandising that he holds the record for the best compensation of an actor for a single film.

Anyway, the producers later tried to recruit Robin Williams for the part of The Riddler in “Batman Forever” — but he was still furious at having been used as bait to threaten Nicholson, and insisted on an apology from the producers! Whatever happened after that, Jim Carrey ended up with the part.

“Batman Begins” looks like it will return to the serious tone of the first movie, avoiding the campiness into which the other movies slipped. I can’t wait to see it, but I’ll have to wait.


I am only about 20 miles as the crow flies from the annual Bonnaroo rock festival, which enters its fourth year this weekend. The Woodstock-like event draws 100,000 visitors to a farm just outside Manchester, Tenn., but it really doesn’t have much impact on me. I’ve never covered it for the newspaper (two of my co-workers are sharing the honors this year), and it’s not really in my way.

Manchester is directly due east of Shelbyville, but when I go out of town it tends to be north (to Murfreesboro or Nashville) . When I do go southeast, to Mountain T.O.P. events, I usually bypass Manchester anyway, by taking the Arnold Engineering Development Center access road. I would only pass through Manchester if I were headed to Mountain T.O.P.’s camp near Spencer, Tenn., and as far as I know I won’t need to go there this weekend.

Nashville, too, has a big event going on this weekend — the CMA Music Festival, formerly known as “Fan Fair.” But you don’t notice a big event in Nashville as much as you notice one in Manchester. And I don’t plan to go to Nashville this weekend either.

More disturbed than Michael

I don’t know whether Michael Jackson committed the specific crimes for which he’s now being tried. But I do know that the things he publicly admits to doing — these “innocent sleepovers” with young boys — are wildly inappropriate.

Michael Jackson grew up, from what we’ve been told, with an abusive father. He had an incredible degree of stardom thrust upon him at a young age. Those factors don’t excuse his actions, by any stretch of the imagination, but even the casual outside observer can recognize that Michael Jackson needs help. First and foremost, he needs someone who can say “no” to him — someone who isn’t afraid to tell him that something is out of line.

The people I have no sympathy for are the slack-jawed idiots and the publicity-seeking activists who are demonstrating on Michael’s behalf outside the trial. Who do these people think they’re protecting?