What? I just found out that Kurt Vonnegut died! How the? Brain injuries and not lung cancer? Well, I guess since he died right about the time we went to the hospital, it is understandable that we missed the news… Maybe that explains how little Elinor is such a curmudgeon right off the bat. But still. Man. Okay, so his novels are a bit silly, but they pretty much are the bedrock of my teens and early 20′s and I had just started looking at them again a month or so ago. I know he was old and all of that, but it’s still a shock. Like him or not, he was the American Novelist of the 20th Century and though his books got well removed from any regular sense of Literature, A Man Without A Country was a great work.
“And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, ‘Kurt is up in heaven now.’ That’s my favorite joke.” “
The moment has come. The new drive has been received and installed. Thoughts? Well, I am quite glad that dvd’s and cd-rom’s are now within the reach of my humble old computer again (speaking of old, you know you’ve had a box too long when you open it up and find a third hard drive inside that is not even hooked up… Where/when did that come from?), so hopefully (and also now that the little girl is sleeping more at night) I will get some good movies in. Speaking of good movies, I was surprised with the positive mentions that the recent QuiT movies (the Kill Bill’s and Grindhouse) got over at WWdN. Maybe I shouldn’t be? But I like WW’s blog and I can’t stand QuiT. But maybe I’m just letting my dislike of the fellow and his intentionally ironically derivative material (and worse of all, trying to attach his name to every cult Asian action film he can) stand in the way of enjoying some pure entertainment. Well, whatever.
Anyway, other aspects… This drive I put in is a Pioneer-DVR112D from New Egg. So I now have DVD-R and DVD-RW capabilities. Which I didn’t have before with the stock Apple Combo drive that I replaced. All for under $40. It is startling how much the prices have come down on these things… So that was a good surprise. Another funny surprise, after I got it all reassembled (not that it’s any chore or anything), I realized that the stylish curves of my MDD wouldn’t let the tray open! Well, a quick removal of the drive and a prying off of the front of the tray and all is well, but it certainly was a bit of a surprise.
Okay, so maybe I won’t add color. But I did decide to spruce things up a bit by moving to black. I dunno. I like it. I realize it may seem a bit dull, but (at least at this end) I like the way that the text colors look against a black background. I am curious though if the gray text might be hard to read on some color profiles. So, if you can’t read this, let me know!
No other news, except for we’ve now seen the 4th episode of the last bit of The Sopranos. I must say, I don’t really like this “half” season much. The first episode? Well, I never like those, too much of the “here’s how things are now after all these months” stuff. But I do understand the need, so I forgive them the first episode. Then came episode two. Now that was an episode! Good focus on Phil Leotardo and some great ending scenes, pointing to much drama to come! Sadly, three and four haven’t been much. I mean, I’m not hoping for a 9 episode bloodfest, but I’d like some good drama. The teaser for next week’s looks quite exciting though, so we’ll have to see what’s what…
Okay, though I am still recommending folks try Niceplayer, it was a short-lived solution to my drive issues. After my last post, the drive in my computer died completely. I do have a new one on the way, so keep your ears peeled for the details next week… And the return of screen-shots.
This week we watched another of those tough documents about conservative America, Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room. This one has a particular resonance here in town, because of Enron’s short-lived ownership of PGE, which seemed to be aimed primarily at destroying the retirement funds of PGE employees by changing all of the monies into Enron stock. But I digress.
We all know how terrible is the stain of greed (especially greed at the expense of others), but no matter how cynical you may be, I doubt that you can make it through this movie without feeling that people have let you down more than you could have expected. The fantastic loss of money for the working class, the taped conversations of the traders as they were laughing about ripping off grandma in California and leaving her without power (it’s hard to second the argument that anyone straight out of college would have done the same. Unless that’s just the type of people who go to college for that sort of career), the California legislature letting them rob that state (I mean “de-regulate”) and forcing out Gray Davis as governor. It’s really just another one of those tales of Bush-family-related shenanigans and it is yet another terrifying tale of corporate greed (and government complicity) gone wild. And though Schilling was probably the worst of them all, I do have to somewhat agree with the notion the there were just a couple of scapegoats… It really is the culture to blame. Once people feel that acquisition of money is not only something to focus on, but also a right, things can get nasty. The funny part is, not only was all this horrible fraud and theft going on, but the shenanigans to get Gray Davis forced out and replaced with Arnold? It’s too much like a joke to be true, but seemingly it is true.
I strongly suggest watching this documentary. While I think that Enron is an excessive case, the story told is something that is part of every large corporation and the more that people become aware of it, maybe it will start to be more unacceptable?
And finally, after lord knows how many years, I got a chance to watch The Big Gundown. My “most eager to see” western for many years, I can say that it is certainly one of the better (non-Leone) Italian westerns that I’ve seen. It features a fuller story-line and the coolest Western actor, Lee Van Cleef. Van Cleef is again the superior fellow: coolest looking, coolest acting and the best shot around. He plays a “lawman” sent to hunt down a Mexican who is an accused child rapist and murderer. Sadly, the Mexican is played by Tomas Milian who brings the same foolishly smart, yet badly overplayed Mexican stereotype Cuchillo to the screen that later graced the sequel, Run Man Run (in fact, the title song to this film is Run Man Run). But this is a much stronger film, and less ridiculous. Though Cuchillo does manage to evade Van Cleef too many times in a ridiculous variety of close-calls, the rest of the movie excels over others of this kind. Van Cleef is just so grand in these roles that with the fine qualities the rest of the movie has, Milian’s scenes are easy to overlook. It also features one of the best elements of westerns, the arrogant European. This time it is “The Baron”, a monocled German who, in the last part of the film, wears the best outfit I’ve seen yet in a western.
Also finally, we watched May. The Horror-movie that was all the rage a couple of years back. Well, is it a horror-movie? It’s not a romantic comedy, yet it is a romance and it is comedic. May is the story of a sad lonely girl who grows up wearing an eye-patch and without any friends except for a doll made by her mother that she talks to but is not allowed to remove from its display case. She is now an adult, a girl looking for love and friendship. Of course, as happens with lonely people, branching out socially can frequently lead to failure, anger and murder. Well, maybe murder isn’t the right word, since it is a movie about love, but love in the same vein as Frankenhooker.
May comes across very much like an indy ennui film, but with some twisted notions and brutal moments and Angela Bettis is rather unpleasantly odd (as I think she’s intended to be). It is, though, another one of those films where you don’t really feel the urge to like any of the characters (especially since Jeremy Sisto plays one of them… I just can’t get Six Feet Under out of my head, and the characters are quite similar), which lessens the tension of the film and makes it less compelling. It is certainly worth seeing though, and it does incline me to look into more of Lucky McKee’s movies.
There has potentially been a surprise victor in the war I’ve been waging with my computer through “dvd player” and VLC. They both have been crashing terribly with DVD’s (and I mean regular retail movies). Sometimes they crash so severely that I need to restart the box to get everything working again… even to get the disc out. I don’t know where the problem lies, but I’ve been thinking that it’s with my combo drive. Well, this week, I tried a different angle.
These days, it seems like there is always a better piece of software out there. Something smaller, with lower memory needs and fewer bloat from features that you don’t use… So I looked around and came across NicePlayer. Yes, it does just nicely. A small piece, only 2.6 mb (10% the size of the other two) with a similar RAM usage… and no unpleasant interface to look at. Anyway, the two DVD’s that I’d been having problems with? It played one them fine, no crashing or failure to eject the disc or anything. So here it is.
First off, join Paddy Considine (writer and star) as he takes a walk in a Dead Man’s Shoes. Picture a nice rural woods and fields scene with two brothers heading cross country for miles. It’s very, very pretty and rustic in a desolate sort of way. The older brother, Richard (Paddy, who I liked in In America, but doesn’t really convince me in this role), had headed off to the army and now he’s back and looking to take care of some old business…
See, the trouble is, when Richard went off to the army, a gang of a half dozen loser drug dealers decided to have fun with his feeble-minded brother. Not torture really, but taking advantage of him, telling him lies, putting him down, feeding him acid, beating him…. Richard aims to return the favor. He’s come to town to tease the poor blokes and make them, maybe, feel a bit vulnerable. Maybe threatened even. This chain of events unfolds as black and white flashbacks unfold his brothers experiences at their hands.
The villains are basically a bunch of loser small time drug dealers with some too-thick accents and the greatest drug dealer ride since King Willy’s Cadillac in Predator 2. The first target, Herbert, doesn’t take anytime at all to realize that the threat of vengeance is in the air. And though that does seem to be the case, through most of the movie is Richard is messing with them. He tries silly frat boys tricks, scary masks and then it really gets fun when he spikes their water for some fun hallucinations (a sequence which I really enjoyed) and then comes by to pay a visit.
The gang leader, Sonny, is terrible in so many ways. Not only is he a bad person, but he is way to weak to be in his position and shows no leadership whatsoever. Remember, in a movie, if someone is out to kill you, and you have a gun that you are willing to shoot, would you shoot, or drive away? But, of course, these guys are the lamest bit of toughs ever put to screen, so I guess it fits.
The movie is very engaging though, it has low action for a brutal revenge movie but it works well. A lot of film of the gangsters hanging around and at one point, when they know he’s after them, there are long, almost comical, scenes of them just hanging around the house, eating soup cups and doing the dishes…
It’s very low-key and low-budget, but not in a bad way. The kind of movie budget that I really respect. Just regular actors (wasting money on “stars” and sets and action scenes is always a waste for a non-genre movie) in some regular rooms with some good blood stuff… Why would anyone need a bigger budget? But I did suffer from the horror-foolishness of, “what on earth is Sonny thinking?” with some of the decision making in the movie. But I highly recommend it for any fun DVD collection. Very well done with some entertaining (albeit lame) characters and a fun story and some good brutal elements.
dead man’s shoes 17:02
you get the idea…
dead man’s shoes 37:14
Yes, I realize that one can’t expect much from a Diamond DVD, but it certainly takes some gall to label this cheap crap “fully restored & re-mastered digital masters”. The darned thing looked worse than most of the 20 year old vhs that I have. What was this washed out thing? Why none other than the famed Count Dracula and his Vampire Brides! In a lot of ways, it comes across just like a 1970′s action film, with very little on the horror. Lots of gunfire and scenes of police supposing back and forth. The bad guys? Well, let’s just say that sideburns and sheepskin vests do not an intimidating security force make…
dracula & his vampire brides 36:08
Dracula and his four powerful friends are going about having satanic rituals as they plan to spread the bubonic plague across the world. Looking like a home movie remake of Eyes Wide Shut and 12 Monkeys turned into a Dracula movie, it just doesn’t convince. The immortal count comes across more like an evil CEO than an supernatural being of extreme power. It does perk up when Van Helsing shows up and starts to take care of things. Peter Cushing carries this role off well, of course, he does his same old grand job, as the indomitable actor he always has been. Christopher Lee though, is almost a cameo role until the hour mark where he finally shows up and struts his stuff…In addition to wasted appearances by Christopher Lee and Cushing, it also features some of the most unconvincing vampire brides I’ve ever seen, lame action scenes, bad sets, terrible 1970′s music and, well, it is just plain not good. Though there are some good scenes later in the film, but, even with it’s last few minutes (which have been mined for many dramatic images of Lee) it is certainly one of the lesser vampire films I’ve seen. Though it may be improved with a better transfer and some cleaning up, it’s just not particularly convincing as a Dracula film.
mailorder vampire brides…
dracula & his vampire brides 43:25
It is also available as The Satanic Rites of Dracula (from The Hammer Collection), which hopefully looks better but, like I said, I’m not certain that would be enough to save it from itself.
dracula & his vampire brides 1:16:18
Oi yes. And then a film that I have much been awaiting watching again. We watched Escape from New York. It’s been on my wish list for years… not anymore. I’m glad I watched this before buying the dvd. I have such fond memories of this film: the great cast, the fun concept, a place called Chock Full o’ Nuts, the car with chandeliers… While Carpenter has made some great classics, he has made some big bad ones, too. This one wastes an incredible cast: Donald Pleasence, Adrianne Barbeau, Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton… how did it go so wrong?
Featuring Snake Pliskin, badly overplayed by Kurt Russell, as an infamous criminal given one last chance for freedom by saving the President. See, the President’s plane is hijacked and crashed into Manhattan (which has become a prison) but the President escapes in his escape pod. Van Cleef, as the police superintendent, gives Pliskin the chance to earn his own freedom by finding him and bring him safely out. But the President has fallen into the hand of the Duke (Hayes) and his group of loser’s (especially the one goth who looks uncannily like a cross between young Steve Buscemi and Klaus Kinski). Snake teams up with Maggi (Barbeau in an eyecatching trademark outfit) and the Brain (Stanton) and Ernest Borgnine!
Anyway, the movie has aged badly. The “Manhattan in the background” scenes are bad, the airplane scenes are bad. the acting is bad, the script is bad. It’s basically all around bad. But it was charming as a fond memory for folks like myself who were 13 when it hit the theaters. Now though I realize that it’s really just on par with those Van Damme and Chuck Norris action cheapos.
So, yes, I have managed to get in a couple of movies this week. Hopefully that will pick up as we get more accustomed to our new ways. These bebe’s are just so entertaining, it’s hard to pay much mind to anything else. Oh yes, and if you are hoping for family updates (which are worth it, because my little daughter is the greatest and the cutest), be sure to check out the wife’s site and the family site.
Our big headline, one that will last a long time… We have finally had our little daughter, Elinor, after many years of anticipation!
The full story, as we have time and energy to report it, shall be told at the family site…
So in the late 1970′s I was living here, Portland, just not too many miles upriver from a nuclear plant that had one of the largest reactors yet built. It was quite a sight and quite a target for the large number of progressive citizens in these parts. I went on a tour of it in grade school, which I found quite memorable and I even got to look into the control room from the observation deck! In 1978 they discovered: building construction errors, the proximity of a faultline and cracking of the steam tubes.
It was made all the more interesting because this plant was, strangely & symbolically, named Trojan Nuclear Power Plant (yes, it even used a chess knight for a symbol… Were they trying to make us think of the condoms or, more likely, the Trojan Horse… Either way, the meaning seemed such a blatant signpost of hidden threat, I am still shocked at the gall it took to use it.). Of course there was a concerted effect to shut the plant down.
Into all of this, a movie was released called The China Syndrome (it even featured cracking welds on tubes…just like Trojan!). Most of the meat takes place in the control room, which was modeled after the Trojan control room (in fact a lot of it took place on the observation deck for the control room, making it doubly eerie to me). Then to make matters worse, two weeks after the movie came out, the incident at Three Mile Island occurred (don’t even bring up the double Pennsylvania connection!). This all made for a very unfriendly Nuclear environment here and Trojan suffered many protests, shutdowns and minor accidents before being finally closed 16 years into its 35 year lifespan. Of course, in walks Chernobyl (and more recently, Robert Polidori’s brilliant photography book on it, Zones of Exclusion) and for a lot of people, including myself, nuclear was removed from the table as a viable energy source.
Well, to be realistic, I know that the fuel disposal is the big issue and that there have been hundreds of Nuclear plants operating for years without any known big problems. But it still is a dangerous industry. It seems to me like it may be the future of power, whether we like it or not, but boy, if we would build houses and buildings with modern solar panels for roofing, our need for dangerous power would be much diminished. But then again, I am a renewable resource person, living somewhere that most power is hydroelectric (31 power generating dams?).
In honor of the 60 Minutes last night where they were discussing the embracing of Nuclear Power in France and the weakening reluctance towards it in the USA. We watched The China Syndrome. I hadn’t seen it in many years, but I think it has aged well. The threats of nuclear power, the attempts to downplay those and the reluctance of the media to confront these issues remain timely, especially now when plans are being presented across the nation for additional plants to be constructed (for the first time in something like 20 years). It is the story of a reporter who is in the right place at the right time to witness a near-accident at a nuclear plant and the efforts of the power company to silence the story. Things get ugly, as one might imagine and, as Carter Burke would say, a few deaths were involved. I may be cynical, but I don’t feel like the lengths the company would go to to protect itself were exaggerated and it really does make you think about the dangers of Nuclear Power and it feels like it was based on a true story (though it wasn’t really) and it is, in fact, very similar to Silkwood. It’s also pretty involving: they don’t shy away from technical jargon, and it has some good little thriller aspects to it and a car chase! Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas are the film crew (I am not a fan of either one, but they do just fine) but two actors that I always enjoy make it an a-list movie: Jack Lemmon plays the plant supervisor who is torn between his plant and the knowledge that he has of its faults and James Karen (yes, of Return of the Living Dead fame) plays Fonda’s producer.
I do highly recommend it for people who have issues about nuclear power, for people who don’t have issues about nuclear power, and just plain for anyone who likes a good drama with some political meat to it.
Since everybody likes discussing the “browser wars” and platform popularity, I thought I would throw in my two cents. It seems that when people report on market share, they give about 80% to internet exploiter and 90-95 percent to windows users.
Looking at the stats for this site, the last 100 visitors show this breakdown (the different versions are compressed…):
62.00% Firefox (2.0=35%, 1.5=25%, 1.0=2%)
27.00% Safari 1.2
7.00% MSIE (6.0=6%, 7.0=1%)
4.00% Other (Camino=2%, Mozilla=1%, Omniweb=1%)
45.00% Mac OS X
39.00% Windows (XP=33%, 2003=5%, 2000=1%)
And for the old Blogspot incarnation?
61.00% Firefox 1.5.0 (1.5=32%, 2.0=28%, 1.0=1%)
18.00% MSIE (6.0=13%, 7.0=5%)
2.00% Other (Camino=2%, unknown=1%, Mozilla=1%)
60.00% Windows (XP=56%, 98=2%, Vista=1%, 2000=1%
16.00% Mac OS X
I don’t know if that means anything but I certainly like the looks of it. It shows a very strong tendency towards Firefox and Mac OSX, well above the average… Though blogspot shows 60% windows (what are earth is that “16% other”), even the 16% Mac is above the trend.
Well, well, well.. So the Beastie’s played a private party here in town 3 days ago. Now, I know, you’re thinking, so what? Well, settle in, it’s a long sad story. See, I have a hard time going to concerts. I usually change my mind day of show, figuring that I’d rather just stay home. But I always imagine that I’d break that tradition for the Boys. See, I first stumbled on them on the USA network in about 1985 when I encountered the “she’s on it” video. I then ran out and picked up the Rock Hard 12″ and they’ve been in my “big three bands” list ever since. And since their most recent album, To the Five Borough’s, is easily the second best of their career, attending a show should still be a going concern.
So, of course, I’m going to be checking them out whenever they come to town, right?
Well, seemingly wrong. With my history I feel that even had this weeks show not been a private party, I probably wouldn’t have gone anyway.
I must, sadly, list my failures in this regard to attend the local Beasties shows… Here are the ones that I can think of:
1) (no) Roseland Theater for LTI tour. I changed my mind, though most of my friends went.
2) (no) Coliseum. With RUN-DMC on the Together Forever Tour. I didn’t get around to it.
3) (no) Lollapalooza (with the monks) Didn’t go. I can’t stand the thought of festivals.
4) (yes) Salem Armory. Had to go. Couldn’t miss them 4 times! Oh, and L7 was playing too…
5) (yes) Rose Garden (Hello Nasty). Went to that one.
So since then it’s been a quiet 7 years, with no shows to worry about. Then I learn of that secret show three days ago, and then next month (on what seems to be their only American tour date for 2007) they’ll be right up the river for the Sasquatch festival which I won’t be going to. Oh well. At this point, why worry. I’m still just feeling some reeling from the unexpected show.
Image from w+k blog
The King and Mike…
Image from w+k blog
Image by Bgirl*555
In more media news, The Sopranos debuted tonight. Well, I wasn’t super fond of the episode, but I think that was the intention, to leave people with big questions about what’s just about to happen. I kept waiting for more of Paulie and to see Sil. Instead, Janice and Bobby, over and over… I can’t stand Janice or any of her storylines.
In non-media news, I have recently discovered that those big blow up birthing balls (or exercise balls, whatever they are), make great everyday seats!
Does this page need more color?
Much minorlies afoot this week as that darned baby has yet to arrive. But we are wait wait waiting… Sadly, not sleeping though. So we need some TV to keep us occupied while we wait… Luckily, The Sopranos Season 6, Part 2 (the end…) starts in 3 days! With no other options being apparent, we ended up ordering cable. And no, not the “crazy money plan”, the “patch things together and get HBO for as cheap as possible ($37) plan”… like we did last Sopranos time. It’s too bad that you can’t just order HBO and skip cable all together… But oh well, it’s worth it for just a couple of months and to see the Sopranos freshly! That will go in tomorrow (just like the diaper delivery), just in time!
I also learned some exciting movie news! One, which I’m not sure if I like the sound of is that there is a sequel to 28 Days Later… on the way. Sadly, it is titled “28 Weeks Later”! Hopefully it is all just an April Fools’ joke, but either way, sequels (except, of course, The Godfather, part 2) really should be done away with. Yes, yes, yes, some of them are quite good, but I would be willing to forgo the good ones if it meant that we wouldn’t have any at all. Just like retreads of horror movies that are all the rage. While I don’t like J-horror much anymore, they are certainly much scarier than the American re-makes and re-making the classic American horror films? Well, I can’t even go there…
The other news, which is something that I am quite excited about… In my most recent package from Lurker Films, I got a postcard advertising Zompire: the Undead Film Festival! How I missed the first Z:tUFF that happened last year a mere mile or two away is unknown, probably because I missed the HPLFF the prior year and it’s put on by the same fellow. Well, sadly, last year I missed: Night of the Comet, Dead Alive, Return of the Living Dead and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (I also missed Fright Night but I certainly never need to see that swill again… Though I like roddy, as I said last time, I can do without Chris Sarandon)! Anyway, quite a line up and there is no way I will be missing it this year!
Be there to be scared!
Anyway, back to the reptiles…
Yes, we know that Tadanabo Asano is the man, but he proves it again in this gem of a movie that I’ve been waiting a long time to see, (I don’t really know why I waited soo long) Electric Dragon 80,000 volts…. Masters of Horror be damned, you can’t beat this for a way to spend an hour. . a total Black and White, Electricity Fight masterpiece! Easily slinks into my top (modern) Japanese film queue!
Asano stars as Dragon Eye Morrison, a professional lizard investigator, who, due to a childhood accident is chock full of electricity which he expels by playing crazy electric guitar in between the time he spends wandering the streets of Tokyo looking for lost lizards. In the meantime, in comes Thunderbolt Buddha: the Electricity Man (all wavelengths are his)… He seems to have a bone to pick with a lot of people, especially the fur coat man who spins his cell phone on his finger… And then with our hero. When the two meet up, there is high energy, full power, lighting bolt action to be had! It is short (only about an hour) and great fun! The soundtrack is really great (except for Dragon Eye’s crazy guitar playing) and the plot, while a bit vague, doesn’t really serve any purpose except for setting up the big rumble. Anyway, it was sort of a cross between Wild Zero and Bullet Ballet (both of which I really liked) and though it maybe wasn’t as fulfilling as either one of those, it was a blast and great fun to watch!
electric dragon 15:59
Whoa nellie! On to my pick of the month! Calvaire
! A Totally great film! Creepy, funny and disturbing! Also it had the rare aspect of being a horror-type film that isn’t boring for the first 40 minutes, it engaged me all of the way through. Lesson learned? Don’t get lost and have to rely on strangers. When a musician on the road gets his van stranded and he shows up at an inn, someone has something in mind aside from helping him. A forlorn innkeeper, some rustic “animal lovers”, cross-dressing, jealousy, guns, pigs, crucifixions, a wonderfully bad bar, the creepiest villagers (um, no women?) and some of the most incredible bar “music and dancing” that I’ve seen takes place in this crazy little French village, just a wee bit too far off the beaten path. It’s not titled “Ordeal” for nothing. Imagine Deliverance
plopped down in the French countryside and, okay, it’s not super scary or tense, but it has some great characters, maintains a forbidding atmosphere throughout and is filmed with some nice imagery and a lot of creepy activity. Sadly the disc won’t load in my computer (though it will eject). So I have no screen shots to show you.
And speaking of not loading in my computer…I also tried to watch The Whip and the Body
, but the DVD player in the computer is going out on me and if I put the disc in, it won’t load and it it won’t come out again, short of restarting (yes I tried drutil and other terminal tricks) but I’ll get it done soon. It seems fun so far. So there’s something to look forward to.