moving and shaking

I woke up today to the cheery sound of typing on the keyboard… A bit of a surprise, since I tend to be the one who starts this beastly box in the morning. As it continued, I could tell that my wifey was up to something fun!

It turns out that she was moving her blog, The Gauge, from Blogger to Typepad. An intriguing event, since I am fascinated by all things computer (much to the dismay of my free time). So as the time went on I had to start getting nosy, and I learned a few things. One, Typepad costs money. Two, migrating posts and comments from Blogger to Typepad is a simple affair and works quite well, which I was surprised by, as I always expect trouble with things like this. And three, even though basic Typepad costs money, if you want to make your own template or do any real customization, you need to pony up even more money for a “better than basic” account.

Now I don’t know if that really is the case, but it certainly seems like it. It just struck me as odd that the Bloggies that I have used (Blogger and WordPress) are both free and enable you to futz with your blog as much as you want (or just make your own template), but Typepad costs money and will not let you customize the templates. Hmm. In fact, unless I am mistaken, there is no way to even get a header image unless you pay for one of the more expensive accounts.

But… This is still new, the process was just finished a few minutes ago, so I don’t have enough experience to know anything much about typepad. Though it seems a bit odd about customization and the header picture, it is fun to get a fresh blog and I like the new look! You should head on over and check out the new home of The Gauge!



i spend my cash on looking flash

So I’m listening to I Started a Joke. Another one of the Bee Gee’s pre-disco classics of depression. Am I the only one who doesn’t think of it as a Jesus song?

As you may recall, last night we watched The Hills Have Eyes and felt inspired! Inspired, that is, to seek out the real one. So I trotted off to Everyday Music and found a used copy of the 2 disc version. Well, I haven’t watched it yet, but soon! I also broke down and bought the director’s cut of Das Boot, though I’ve been holding out for the 5 hour mini-series cut, I just can’t get around to spending the money to acquire it. So I figured, well, this one would work. I also, last night, downloaded some Zolar X mp3’s. Who? Well, I still haven’t heard them yet, so I don’t really know.

The backlog of media to consume never really seems to go away. I should be watching these, instead, tonight we watched the new Omen. Now I don’t really remember too much of The Omen, but it seemed that this one followed it pretty well. And that’s the good part. The movie just wasn’t that good. I didn’t think that they did a good job with tension, the movie wasn’t scary or foreboding. Visually it wasn’t too exciting and the scene where the priest dies is too terribly corny. I normally enjoy any Vatican goings-ons in movies, but this was a lame papacy and their impending armageddon presentation was dumb. But a big part of the film’s problem was the cast. The fellow playing Thorn wasn’t good at all. Not only did he seem wrong for the role but he played it very dully and was not at all convincing. His wife did a better job but still seemed totally wrong for her role… And Mia Farrow? No, not good either. Even the black dogs didn’t convince me. On the plus side there were a couple of good bloody scenes (just a couple though) and I thought that David Thewlis was entertaining as the photographer.

All in all, another terribly unneeded remake that adds nothing to the original, yet certainly loses something to it. The original had Gregory Peck and David Warner (the evil genius from Time Bandits)! This one has Liev Schreiber? No. That’s just not right.



flimflam

What really is the problem with working in a bookstore? It is that you have to see all of the books. And hear about the books that people are looking for. What they really remind you of is that people do really believe what they want to believe, regardless of how blatantly false it may be. I believe (ha!) that in their hearts of hearts people know that a lot of this BS they subscribe to (Foxnews anyone?) is really BS, but they like the way it sounds, so off they go waving whatever flag they have.

Case in point, today I was shown this book “America’s Victories: Why the U.S. Wins Wars and Will Win the War on Terror” (tellingly credited to the author of “A Patriot’s History of the United States”, that sure sounds objective). I don’t think that anyone ever believed that Saddam Hussein was any kind of threat, I don’t think people believe that Iran is a threat, or Cuba. And I strongly doubt that 20% of Americans really believe that the apocalypse will come in their lifetime (or ever…). I think that people like to be a part of something potent and especially they like to be part of “the most powerful country on earth” and they like for that country to flex its muscle (reasonably or not) because it makes them feel better about themselves and personally more powerful. I think it’s beyond sad, because it’s harmful to others. Just like rape and murder, this violent military and economic power over others to make yourself feel better is just plain wrong and I bet that everyone knows it, no matter how many flags and ribbon magnets they put on their cars.

People are all the same, now as they were 1000, 2000 years ago, the only difference is what they’re told and what they experience when they grow up. What is the difference between a liberal Christian, a medieval Catholic Inquisitor, a Tibetan monk, a Celtic warrior or an Islamic jihadist? When they were born and what they were told. Though of course some people bother looking enough to go their own way, most don’t. They live life however they are told it is to be lived, and I cannot help but believe that people must realize how subjective all of society’s beliefs are. So, while I don’t have a problem with people being conservative, progressive, religious, psychics, or patriots all I ask is that they admit that it is just their culture and stop acting like it’s some universal truth that everyone needs to follow. We are all just cavemen who have time traveled, but at such a young age that we don’t know the difference, regardless of what era we happened to be born in.

Nationalism is about the strangest… Doesn’t it seem funny how every nation has nationalists and they all say the same thing about how superior their respective countries are? And how dangerous and barbaric their neighbors are? Shaw may have said that “In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.” But it’s not just the other animals that are blindly victimized, it can be any human that one doesn’t consider to be part of one’s own little “us”.

But then, I’ve always said that no one really likes hot weather, they’ve just always had it implied to them that they should like it so they don’t even think about how unpleasant it is. And maybe that’s just me.



well… he won’t be doing the crossword tonight

So I finally watched my first Michael Powell film, Peeping Tom. Well, what can I say but “mmmm.. yes, very nice, very nice indeed.” Peeping Tom seems to have virtually ended Powell’s film career, sadly because it is a wonderful film about a not-so wonderful chap. Mark Lewis is an awkward fellow, he is a mild-mannered, creepy and shy film crew member by day and a creepy and lethal photographer of racy images by night. He is well played by Carl Boehm, though it did take me a while to get used to him, the character came across as a bit too awkward at the beginning but then it started to work for me and I actually started to like the guy.

Mark goes nowhere without his camera, and he lets no one see the “documentary” that he is making. You see, he was raised as almost a test subject by his psychologist father (who studied fear in children) so he is himself fixated on recording (with film) peoples ultimate fear. Of course, to get his models to react correctly, there are some unsavory lines he must cross. It is an interesting film, not so much a slasher (no blood or gore to speak of, but then, it was 1960) as it is a mild-Hitchcockian thriller about obsession. Boehm could well be a prototype for a Hitchcock character and the storyline wouldn’t be too out of place there either.

It is a beautiful film, nicely shot, richly colored and the sets are pleasantly designed. The story is intriguing and “our hero” manages to seem innocent and sympathetic. Really just a great, fun and dramatic film.

Also on the disc, there is an interesting documentary “A Very British Hitchcock” that is pretty interesting and also covers the connection between the film and 84 Charing Cross Road.


look who’s watching

first, you take the camera like this…

so many layers
Okay then, well, we watched The Hills Have Eyes remake. I have mixed feelings about this one. Of course, as a general rule I am opposed to remakes, but this one is actually pretty good and entertaining. There is a lot of blood and some great and in your face gore scenes and make-up effects. In terms of the story, a lot of it pretty much just follows the original along and it’s brought to you by the folks who made Haute Tension. That all sounds good… What is the problem? Well, the problems revolve around what’s been added…It includes a bunch of political/historical exposition that I don’t remember being in the first one. It’s done to such an extent that instead of fleshing the story out it seems irrelevant and heavy-handed yet makes it weaker and harder to buy into.A big Hollywood budget that turns it away from seemingly like the experience of watching something happen to the experience of watching a movie about something happening. As a long time fan of the classic 70’s films, I feel that their low budget and low production values, instead of making them seem cheesy, made them seem genuine… Like you were witness to the events. Here the actors looked like they just stepped out of their trailers after long hours of having make-up applied. In a movie like this one, Hollywood budgets don’t drag me in, they push me away.

Finally, it felt like it was The Hills Have Eyes shot by the Haute Tension people with some Saw like dumb scenes, irritating cuts and out of place obnoxious music thrown in for good measure. Which I guess it was. All in all, if you don’t plan on or haven’t seen the 1977 original, you may as well watch this. But personally, I’d go for the real deal. Or watch them both.

Finally I found a solution to a problem I have been having… Getting songs played on my iPod to scrobble to Last.fm. Well I found a program that, though it is still in beta, works quite well. It is scrobblepod. So if you have the silly Last.fm habit and are an iPod user…

Now if only I could get iTunes to stop crashing…



patriotic fervor, part two

As I was saying…

When it comes to moving somewhere, as in our notion of re-locating to Vermont, it is important to determine where to go. Now I’m someone who is fairly flexible about what I would do for a living, and also someone who does not tend to have any interest in nightlife (except for the occasional movie or beer… I mean, movie and beer. It is Portland, after all), but I still feel the need to look at all sorts of aspects of where to put the family: house prices (you know, someday), jobability, at least one store somewhere that might sell vinyl records (not that I buy them anymore, but it would be weird to not have a record store around), a used bookstore or two, maybe somewhere to find a vegetarian meal and some nice beer… And, I suppose, maybe some folks to talk to who we have some interests in common with.

Anyway… So we look at all of these factors and the options we are thinking of: St Johnsbury, Brattleboro and Montpelier.

Brattleboro seems like the most west coast type town and like it would be the most fun and most interesting (maybe the one that I wouldn’t feel totally out of place in),
plus, I think it has by far the best job potential for me. But it looks to be the most expensive.

St Johnsbury would be the easiest for us. It’s the most low-key and inexpensive place. Plus it’s in the Kingdom (that’s a big plus) and it’s near my mother-in-law (another big plus) and it’s where my wife grew up… Plus I really like the hill. And houses are much cheaper then the others spots. But, I’m not sure what kind of work I could find, there’s no where to go for beer or music… Though there is one good movie stop, Catamount Arts.

Then there’s Montpelier. It seems to me like the middle ground between these two other towns in all of these factors.

I don’t know, we think and think about it. We don’t want to move to a town and then decide to move to another town soon thereafter. Honestly, the more we think about it, Brattleboro seems to be the big winner, except for: we’d like to live in the Kingdom, we’d like to live near Mom and looking at homes for sale and places to rent in Brattleboro seems almost like doing the same in Portland…



patriotic fervor, part one

Why is there always so much to think about? I mean, I enjoy thinking about the things that are just there for thinking… History, the places beyond our atmosphere, movies… It’s those things that actually can have an effect, that’s where the trickiness lies.

In our 3 year quest to move to Vermont, I feel repeatedly psychologically tripped up by the decision making process. As someone who has never lived outside of this one city, the thought of relocating 3000 miles away is an interesting quandary. Add to that the thought of moving to a small town, when I’ve never spent much time in a small town. That’s a whole other angle. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea. I’m sick of the city thing. Even though Portland isn’t that big of a city, this 15 year run of being one of the hippest places to move to has lead to endless changes (I think they call it progress, development, maybe cashing in, even) that I find unacceptable. And I don’t just mean house prices tripling in that time. I feel like people moved here with a vision in mind of what this city is and have proceeded to remake it into that. Which, while it is hip and urban and (sort of) cultural and prosperous (maybe too much so), it’s not the place I picture from my 40 years of memories. To add insult to injury, my place of employment, Powell’s City of Books, is indeed a loved icon of old Portland past, yet it is right next to the greatest blight on the cities face: the loathed “Pearl District”. It is a disturbing thing to sit and enjoy this store which I have been visiting for nigh on 25 years (though yes, it has changed quite a bit too), but to have to witness the yuppiefied hip zone of overpriced condominium’s and arrogant strangers right out the window where before was nothing but warehouses and our beloved Henry Wienhard’s Brewery (forever, the I-405/I-5 trip from here to Seattle was graced by four classic beer icons: Weinhard’s in Portland, Lucky in Vancouver, Olympia in Tumwater and Rainier in Seattle. In under 10 years, they were all gone)… It is too much.

All of these $200 faded jean wearing, latte sipping, lap dog carrying, fake tan wearing folks who feel like they are relishing the “Portland thing” when in fact they are relishing some other thing that they brought here and used to squash what was here already. It always makes me think of those silly “keep Portland weird” bumper stickers. Honey, Portland hasn’t been weird since 1990-92, when what was going on here was genuine. I don’t think natives even bother going outside anymore.



you, you there with my shoe

Now for some high adventures on the seas of cheese!

I finally got around to one of the great classic science fiction films that I hadn’t seen. H G Well’s The First Men in the Moon. Right off, I could sense the enjoyability in this film. Overwhelming dramatic music and beautiful titles set us off on this classic adventure… One that mankind had dreamed of ever since they realized that the moon was a solid thing out there and not, well, whatever it was they had thought it was prior. It’s based on the H G Wells story but, alas, I have not read that so I can not attest to it’s loyalty to the tale. But it is a great little film and, as is common with these stories, mixing the modern with the classical. Or the modern with the future, as they were originally envisioned. I always find it odd about these sort of stories. Written in the 19th century to take place in the current time and in a far off time. Then they are made into movies where the old far off time is now the current time, and the original current time is now the far away time. Anyway, I think it is kind of interesting.

When I think of “men to the moon” launch stories, I cannot help but compare them with Rocketship X-M, which was possibly the first “modern” film of this kind. First Men in the Moon is certainly much more interesting and entertaining than X-M was and the equipment and effects are much better too. Of course, it is 14 years more recent (1964 to 1950) and was made after the point when people had ventured to space, but still. I liked the look of it and the well done moon approach scenes after the titles do it justice.


just like real life
 
As one would guess, it is the story of the first mission to the moon! The trip goes just as planned, big U.N. fanfare and scenes of excited journalists from around the world (all with the mandatory nation-identification signs in front of them). Only, once the astronauts get to the moon, they locate a Union Jack and a 65 year old letter from England. At this point, the space agency decides to head to England to track down the person named on the letter to determine its validity. They end up coming upon an old man who claims to have gone to the moon in 1899 and seemingly has long been involved in a letter writing campaign to stop people from going to the moon, due to what he discovered there. At this point the movie than descends into a flashback mode where we return to Victorian England and the tale of how this broke and unsuccessful playwright and his girl get involved with a crazy inventor with anti-gravity paint and head for the moon. It becomes one of those droll British Victorian adventure story movies, in the vein of Journey to the Center of the Earth. I was a bit disappointed for the entertaining modern moon romp to end, but once they got past the dull carryings on in the British countryside and got themselves moon bound… Even the olde tyme stuff picked up.


who knows what we’ll find…
 
Of course, it’s not long before they encounter civilization up there. No, not the statuesque blonde’s, brunettes and redheads you have learned to expect to find on the moon, but short people in costumes with funny bugheads on. They dwell in underground caverns and, strangely for creatures who live on the moon, seem to require oxygen to breath… Which is very helpful for our intrepid crew, as they also need it to live. The Brits are captured by these Selenites and studied…


or what may find us
 
Would you escape to Earth or stay to study? Of course, it then gets a chance to make some commentaries on human culture, its violence and paranoia. So it’s actually quite good. Of course, it should be… not only is it a Ray Harryhausen film, but it is also filmed in Dynavision, the miracle of the screen!And then an odd film that I find strangely appealing. The Secret Lives of Dentists. The story of… Well, two dentists. The husband (played by Campbell Scott) thinks he might have witnessed his wife kissing another man and he begins to suspect that she is leading a, ahem, secret life. He becomes fixated on this as she is gone longer and longer each day and he is left to care for the children until she returns… always late, always in a rather perky mood. He also has to deal with a patient named Slater, an irritating and self-involved man who cannot stand dentists and who goes as far as publicly chastising “our hero” for his lack of dentistry skills.Scott begins to descend deeper and deeper into his fears and begins having fantasies: flashing back on moments with his wife, imagining her not having an affair, imagining her having affairs (with just about all the other men in their lives, it seems). He is joined on this journey by his anti-conscience, a foul mouthed harsh adviser who is represented by that unruly patient again, Slater. Of course, it is this relationship of him to his inner Slater that is the focus of the film, and the highlight. Slater is well played by Denis Leary which makes for a very entertaining film. Their interactions, both alone and in the company of others, are quite engaging. One thing that makes this a worthwhile film is that the story of a man who has a foul-mouthed comedian as his make-believe friend is right for the dreaded silliness, but Scott plays this really straight and it works out quite well.



in all honesty

I need to spend more time futzing with this code stuff, or get a better sense of aesthetics. I can futz around with these themes to my hearts delight (which, yes, does delight my heart some) and never like how they look.

Oh well, maybe I need a picture? Maybe I should try and stay away from black (yeah, that’s likely)? Well, whatever. Just another annoyance…

Like how I can never, ever, never get the last.fm/scrobblers to actually register the songs I play on my iPod (which is where I play my songs). I’ve tried 3 different scrobblers to get those songs to last.fm, two of them worked… Once.

So I stick with the album quilt, but that never changes. Some of those albums I played one song weeks ago and the same darned album is still appearing.

I feel like saying, “how come no one can get this right (mainly the last.fm application for not supporting iPods) “, but then again, that wouldn’t be fair, since I haven’t done it either…

And I am thinking that black is a bad color for links…

In more exciting news, the folks at pesky’apostrophe have some entertaining quotes in honor of the passing of The Most Reverend Jerry Falwell. Fun reading!



yes, and again…

Though I was already to go with another blogpost I decided that I didn’t like the blackness of the blog. I then saw that WordPress had been updated again… So I kicked out the old wordpress, installed 2.2 and now I am searching for some new style…

In the meantime, I will be trying themes and notions out, so don’t be shocked by altering states here…



contemplate this on the tree of woe…

Of course, as those loyal readers may remember from an earlier post… When I have events to go to, I don’t go. So yes, I skipped the Zompire FF after all… This time though, I have a good reason, with the wife and new bebe, I just don’t have much interest in going out without them.

I know, everyone was waiting to hear about Choking Hazard… Well, I have got something better!

It is an ancient tale of a powerful man, a soldier, thief and king… skin painted with stripes and wielding the greatest gift of the gods, a sword of steel… He comes down from Cimmeria, with greed in his eyes, revenge in his heart and blood splattered across his chest! Yes, it is Conan the Cimmerian, the focal character of fantasy literature created by Robert Howard (in his short and Lovecraftian life style).

This well-remembered film, Conan the Barbarian, from Dino De Laurentius, Oliver Stone and John Milius, starts off with a touching parenting moment reminiscent of Charlton Heston (if he had been in a historical drama of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father), passing down religion and history and knowledge… but then Doom comes calling…

The movie is a standard coming of age story of a young boy, filled with: the slaughter of the parents, enslavement to a grain wheel and years of fighting in the pits until his biceps are the size of my waist, it is an adventure straight out of Boy’s Life!

Once he is freed from his captors, our hero wanders the dunes, raids a long forgotten tomb, gains his first sword, his first friend, and, now a sort of buddy movie, heads off to the big city to track down the man who killed his people: the 1000-year old “Servant of Set” Thulsa Doom. Now we get to the meat of the story. Conan is nominally an Arnold movie (capitalizing on his fame as a weightlifter) but it’s really all about James Earl Jones, as in the contemporary Star Wars movies where you only hear his voice, Jones can’t play supporting to anyone. He’s just too great a character.

For other outstanding characters, there are Max Von Sydow as the sad King Osric, full of despair at Doom’s aquisition of his daughter (Osric was my favorite character) and Doom’s right hand men, Rexor and Thorgrim were awesome! Thorgrim wielded the biggest hammer ever to grace the screen and Rexor had about the roughest looking bar-brawl face I’ve seen yet…. whatever band they were cast from must really rock. I kept thinking of KK Downing and Lemmy whenever they were on the screen.


Osric.


which way to the stage?

Arnold, though, is a bit silly and unconvincing as Conan (though once he shows up at the hippy den surrounding Doom, you can’t wait from him to break out the sword and break some flower draped skulls), he continually reminds you of the liberties taken with the original stories which, though it has been many moons since I read these books, in the movie they make the character too goofy and they make it a bit much of a romance. But the story that they tell is still good.There are dopey musical interludes, good action scenes (particularly the bloodwork.. effective, yet not excessive, it looks quite nice), surprisingly good character development, a great soundtrack, and interesting sets which, while they may not be to elaborate, they have a nice feel to them and work well at getting across the sense of the setting… the costumes though, aren’t too hot. While they are stylistically good, they just look a bit too much like costumes. Basically, an entertaining and well-balanced film. An action adventure with not too much of either: not too much action to harm the story and the characters, yet enough to get you jumping in your chair! A classic adventure film well worth plopping down for a couple of hours with…



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