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January 30, 2006

Its those drums! They just never stop pounding pounding pounding in my head!! Its the beat!

Hopper Edward Morning Sun
Click images for desktop size: "Morning Sun" by Edward Hopper
No one seems interested in the Elephant martial arts movie. (Which doesn't mean it doesn't demand to be seen) but there have been a few questions about drummers.
One thing is that a lot of the musicians I like are real old school. Its one of the reasons I question why people make an argument for vinyl. The physics of playing a record make it impossible to properly duplicate the sounds of drums and force the sizzle of the cymbal to be downplayed.
Now a days drum kits are the most heavily miked insturment but throughtout the 70's it was the general practice to hang a speroid mike over the drummers head and that was considered enough. Partially that was the fault of vinyl records and the RAIA eq curve (which had to be observed if a mastering engineer expected to ever work again.)
Masqueofthereddeath X01 (1964)There was a major "scandal" in the late 70's caused by the mastering of Von Karajian's recording of Berlioz's "Requiem". The horn section is magnifenctly used by Berlioz and Von Karajian got his horn section to play it splendidly.
The mastering engineer was also blown away by the great playing the the fabulous recording of it. He decided to try and get the sound on the tape into the vinyl. He let the horns go just exactly up to the RAIA specs (Yes, the creeps who sue grandma's and children used to have other functions like setting the standards for record pressings - They were too busy trying to get a tax, paid directly to them, on blank cassette tapes at the time, to make up for the lost income of people recording badly mastered records . . . to ever improve or desire to improve the sound of vinyl)
It was released with this little flare up. Duetche Grammaphone had to recall all of the records as it made even the most expensive cartridges and turntables skip. If it didn't skip the sound was horribly distorted. With the sonic limitations of the RAIA curve in mind you also have to remember that most mastering engineers are not artists. It's a job to them. They need to make sure the recordings will play on most home equipment and on the radio. They just need it to sound like something. There aren't any rewards for being adventurous. Even today this temerity is shown in the way most pop music is mastered - the eq curve set to max so that it can rip through the cheapest ghetto blaster. Now you ignore dynamic range to get the most volume on the radio and on MTV.
Back then it meant you buried the drum kit if it was on mono or moved it to the far right if on stereo (which caused an odd moment in music - amatuer bands started to play on stage trying to duplicate the stereo mix so the drummer was always at the far right of the stage, the bass player to his left etc)

Nobody objected. The checks kept clearing.

All that in mind, understand, my favorite drummer is Hal Blaine.

Sb Wildstorm
Click images for desktop size: "Wild Storm" by Steve Baxter
Blaine was the drummer on Phil Spector's Gold Star recordings. He played the drums on Jan and Dean's records including the masterful "Dead Man's Curve". Blaine was tight and percise and kept a meticulous metronome like beat, which is not to he ever played mechanically. He filled the beat with tighter faster flourishes than you can imagine but, and this is where I think he's a genius, he never let musicianship get in the way of the song.
He kept the beat to keep the music flowing and to keep the kids dancing.

Sandy Dennis was a star drummer. His songs were always about his drums. I don't rate that except when it came to the floor toms this guy could make time stop and switch to his cadence. He is the only guy who could make a bit of the trap kit actually swing out and sing in it's own solo voice.

D.J. Fontana has to be on the list. He was Elvis Preley's drummer on the early RCA hits. You can make the argument that he and Dickie "Be Bop" Harrell invented the rock drum style. Scratch that. There's no argument. Until those two came along there was no such thing as a drummer.
What I liked most about Fontana was that we met in Tiny's in Naylor's once. He went and found some Elvis tracks, his tracks, on the juke box (anyone remember those) and would comment in a loud voice to everyone and anyone. "I don't know about that singer but can you believe those crazy drums!"
Fontana's other saving genius was his lesson that, "a drummer ain't no good unless he can play the drum section of Wipe Out . . . with just his hands . . . on the hood of a '57 chevy."

DarlingDickie "Be Bop" Harrell was 15 when he joined Gene Vincent's Blue Caps. He combined the delicate stick work of the bop jazz musicains with a manic driving beat. Sometimes he'd get himself so excited that he just had to scream, a blues like death rattle that always came in on the beat.
Keith Moon was the drummer who justified my existence! Fills all over the place; flourishes just because they could be jammed in! I only wish he'd been more famous than Ginger Baker who I still dislike.

That's enough about drummers I think only I remember. They're old cause I'm old and they are what fired my imagination.

I've been bothered lately by pain in my right shoulder. Nice it's not in my left for a change. Ten months ago I was throwing a baseball in the low 80's. On Friday I threw the stick for my puppy about 50 or 60 times, that was enough to wreck my shoulder for the past 3 days . . . It makes me feel pathetic.
Odder is that it makes me nostalgic for that time 10 months ago when everything was horrible and things were desperate.
I miss the desperation I guess. I'm not making enough money now but I have food and the bills are paid. Some how none of the food tastes as good as a 25 cent box of macaroni and cheese tasted when it was the only food I'd have for a week.
Its not desperation I want back, its the reflexive ability to appreciate the little I have and had.
The only thing I have like that right now is my puppy.

None of that doesn't mean that I still don't feel for a friend. They lost their job in an ugly bad way and when it looked like they would strike lucky in a new job right off the bat, they got dejected for being honest . . .
Possibly a good thing even if it doesn't feel that way now.

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January 29, 2006

Where's my elephant

Click images for desktop size: "Sandstone Iceberg" by Scot Chitwood
Things have been quiet and still, percolating nicely.
I was thinking about music. A couple of the kids still want me to do something. I consider it but only because I need cash to pay for the treatments. Its a bad idea.
It does make me think about music and that's always pleasant.
For me music always starts with the beat. The pounding of the drums.
For me there is and will never be anything hotter cool than walking into a club and watching some crazy cat wailing on the skins. The first instrument I learned was the drums. Scott School of Music in Santa Monica. I spent hours learning to syncopate, to get the beat and hold it steady.
I always wanted to rush the beat and to compensate I always put in way too  many fills and trills and flourishes.
Manwhoturnedtostone, The X01 (1957)Then comes the thing that too many bands forget - the rhythm. The best bass player I ever played with was a Jamaican. I'd write simple rock tunes but he made sure they always had a dance rhythm, serious hip swaying twitching rhythm. Bang your head to the beat and sway your hips to the rhythm.
Its the rhythm that made me move to rhythm guitar. The drive that propelled Buddy Holly records propelled me now.
I didn't have much interest in playing 32nd notes at 200 bpm. I learned to drill and shred but it was the rhythm guitar that I loved.
Joe Perry shreds for Aerosmith, can anyone name the rhythm guitarist? Guns N Roses has Slash, but until Izzy Stradlin left the band no one was really even aware that they had a rhythm guitarist.
The best thing about rhythm guitar was that I didn't have to drag a drum kit all over town, I just needed my amp and my axe. I liked that.

Yesterday I went for walk in the woods with my puppy. She was ecstatic. She ran back and forth and far ahead and then back to hurry me up so she could run further ahead. Exploration at full speed.
I had fun. A lot of fun and laughs and smiles.
I paid for it by getting violently ill. Nothing serious but all that happiness left my guard down and the chemo sickness used the chance to sneak on in.
I woke up in the night and decided to watch a movie. It was a shock to discover a film that is easily one of the best films I've ever experienced.
“Tom Yum Goong” is a Thais film. Martial arts movie . . . It's by the guy who made Ong Bak but that's the extent of the similarity.
Tony Jaa is a little guy, diminutive, and like Alan Ladd he carries himself like a special effect. He is the best fighter I've seen in movies since Bruce Lee. He makes the things that impressed you with jackie Chan seem second rate. He's got more heart and more drive. Watch him run over a 12 foot chain link fence and you'll understand.
Like Bruce Lee he uses his sheer physical presence to establish and define his character. He does it wonderfully.
Bench In Snow
Click images for desktop size: "Bench In Snow" by EPA Designs
The film manages to entertain at every moment. It also illuminates another culture. It highlights the sheer alienness of another world in order to show us that no matter how alien we are we have much in common, more than sheer humanity, we have emotions and concern and love that transcends all other concerns.
That this is so elegantly and poignantly stated in a film where a tiny man wins friends and influences people by beating the crap out of people show an understanding of the finest ways to preach a difficult message. The plot of “Tom Yum Goong” is so simple. Tony Jaa has an elephant. That elephant is kidnapped and taken to Sydney. Tony follows and cuts through humanity to recover his pet, an animal that another Thai describes as “A father, a mother, a sister and a brother. All of that and more.” Tony Jaa must say a few words in the film but all you'll remember is blinding speed and astonishment. You'll love him and the only thing he says is “Where's my elephant!”
When you can run up an 8 foot glass window while running from a car  and then back flip over that car as it crashes through that window, you really don't have to say much else.

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January 24, 2006

A steely hand on a shaky gun

Manganese Oxides-1
Click images for desktop size: "Manganese Oxides"
I'm the sort of guy who prefers the Mighty Mighty BossTones' version of Detroit Rock City to Bullet LaVota's version which I prefer to the original by Kiss.
Which either says it all or says nothing; which is always the best way to explain yourself.

There's change brewing. A scent that I used to welcome but now just seems like tedium, no matter how much the change is needed and welcome there's no denying that change is hard on old bones and young puppies.
I've got sweat pouring into my eyes and I'm doing nothing but sitting still. My puppy's a mass of mud and spittle and couldn't be happier.

It all must mean something, but what?
Beats me. I'm just trying to get it down. Get it all down before I forget what it was I was trying to remember.
Kingkongvsgodzilla X01 (1963)
Bad night last night. Pain. Have to get tough when the pain gets bad. Have to remember to keep moving forward. Thirty minutes to walk 1 and 1/2 miles. Each foot coming down was electric. You have to decide if you want to let the pain win and just lie down and die or if you want to keep lifting the next foot to take the next step.

Movies keep me from thinking about myself. Its always best to not think about yourself. Think about yourself is just a waste of good foolishness. You are what you are and meandering about till your 40 in an attempt to discover what you are just means its already settled: you're a lost soul. And not in a good way like the ones out there who lost everything to chance or to tragedy, but like the ones who never grew up and stayed tied to some false god who didn't even provide its own demons.
“I was born on the planet Mars.”
I like most things about all movies. I love the plastic surfaces, the graceful way the camera makes people seem to move, the way a shotgun mike makes even small things seem important and pertinent.
I like Westerns and Easterns and the permutations in between. I like happy endings when they can be made to look plausible. I like sad and downbeat endings when that's the only way things could end.
I liked the end of Sam Fuller's “Shock Corridor” which was a love song to actors as well as a film designed to enrage our spirits. I thought it's line from the 400 pound “Palliacci” summed it up for all movies; “I was simply singing you to death, John.”

The Flight Of The Angel
Click images for desktop size: "The Flight Of The Angel" by Ed Bryant

I like how in movies when a person does a bad thing its recognized as evil and not discounted as being “within the limits of the law”. I like bad things to be bad things and ethics to be a matter of universal consciousness and not a fiddle faddle of what we can get away with by pointing fingers at recess kind of thing, you know what I'm meaning here.
I don't like that I suddenly identify with Jeff Goldblum in Cronenberg's “The Fly”, just the scene where he has painstakingly set out all of the body parts that have fallen off of him, laid them all out in the medicine cabinet like a very personal pornography collection.
I prefer thinking of Rivette's “The Mother And The Whore”. There's a scene there where an artist (and this was in the 60's!) explains his latest art work. He is having his left hand amputated and then will pickle it and set it in a museum in a large jar of formaldehyde. It will bear a small brass plaque: “The Artists Hand 1947 - 1967”

January 23, 2006

I kill because I'm scared of being killed

Click images for desktop size: "Let Me Slip Into Something A Little" by Pixelhust Girl
The NFL Championships are over and I thought they were a disgrace. Only the Seahawks played with a nice precision, speed and accuracy.
The Steelers won. They have some nice players but the Cowher interpretation of the NFL credo leaves me vaguely uneasy. I have always disliked the, “Just win baby!” philosophy of the NFL. It cheapens what I consider the greatest sport in the world.
At it's best its 22 world class athletes in the peak condition throwing their bodies around in a stirring example of stamina, toughness and vision. At its worst its the Steelers.
When Carson Palmer of the Bengals completed a 66 yard pass to his 3rd receiver on the second play of the game does anyone really know for certain that the Steelers would have gotten out of Cincinnati?
They clearly didn't which is why Cowher sent in an expendable DE to end Palmer's career. They don't play smash mouth football, they play “take out the players who can beat us” football. That's approved in the NFL, that's why they only call it a 15 yard penalty instead of a forfeit.
I'm hoping for the Seahawks to win. I like the way they played and the fact that they did it with no one noticing that they were on anyones schedule. I like teams that have stars but that the stars are secondary to the team. Its one of the reason I enjoyed seeing the Patriots win.
Killer Shrews, The X01 (1959)Where this attitude really bothers me is that all the pee wee, Pop Warner and high school [players see this and they get it into the head that the NFL is the universal truth. We're Americans. When we see someone get millions of dollars you have to figure that the NFL way is the right way. Some come to think it is the only way.
American football is a tough sport, tough enough. I had two South Africans who were on the under 19 International Rugby Team try out for my team. They barely survived the practice played in one game and they had to quit. It was too hard on them.
When you are teaching a player how to play the game you teach them how to defend themselves, how to fall to avoid injury, how to tackle to avoid injury to yourself and your opponent, how to condition yourself to avoid injury; proper protective gear and tape etc etc.
That should be enough. More and more it isn't. When NFL players are allowed to celebrate knocking a player out of a game, when coaches no longer have their teams to cheer when an opponent moves off the field on his own power, the kill or be killed method comes to play.
This undermines far too many salient points of the game. The vast majority of football players are not going to play in the NFL. I still feel, strongly, that football is the finest sport available for young people. The game teaches many things such as perseverance, teamwork, sportsmanship, discipline, and the struggle through adversity. Things that no other sport can teach to the level where the lessons become ingrained life messages.
To me that is and shall be the beauty of the game. But when the NFL shows shoddy vandalism and brutality as the ways to go, when coaches at lower levels seek to emulate the NFL and teach these outmoded and foolish tactics they diminish the beauty of the game.

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January 21, 2006

Whatever they say I am is what I'm not

Gbd Enki-Bilal And-2Euxmill
Click images for desktop size: "Bilal and 2euxmill" by Enki Bilal

Was a time when work was a way of identifying who you were in the world. I never thought that was a good thing. The glory of a man does not reside in the work he has to do to survive.
I've been gone from the US for a long time and coming back here and not being able to physically do the work that gave me pleasure and actually generated money was a harshness I dealt with. I was still able to coach football and work with kids in a diminished capacity. It wore me out and gave me pleasure.
What didn't give me pleasure was the employers. I had to find a stress free job and found myself at the lower end of the pay scale. Not doing stuff I enjoyed but trying to find work I didn't mind. In economic and sociopolitical terms I found myself in the land of the weak and frightened.
Invasionofthesaucer-Men X01 (1957)In a country that used to stand up for the weak and pass laws to prevent the rampant exploitation of the weak I found out that the US has gone another way, more of that Tri-Lateral nonsense that the Bushs have been propagating; producing a single world economy where the rich can gouge the poor and increase their holdings while the poor become the Oliver Twists needing to beg for more.
We've all seen friends become jerks because they suddenly get a job that pays too much and watched them step all over the others they should be protecting. (its an individual right to decide how much support to give when the overpaid friend finds their attitude and arrogance brings them crashing down) Even people not in that position give enough thought is given to the people who live every day on the edge. Honest people, hard working people, good people.
LA used to have the cardboard city: 5,000 families who worked every day, sent their kids to school but couldn't raise the cash to get an apartment. The families lived in refrigerator boxes, cooked on camp stoves and entertained themselves by making music and telling stories. Their employers are usually flabbergasted that their workers had to live in such conditions, meaning it never reflected in the quality of their work. And we still haven't raised the minimum wage in, what? A decade?
A friend of mine lost their job. No reason except the new company owner wanted to do some unethical things to try and pull as much cash from a business he'd led to ruination. We all know the type of jerk; lives off the with holding taxes until the audit come crashing down, sort of animal. He wanted an ally and appears to be nonplussed that my friend wouldn't aid and abet. It sounds odd but that's the climate in the US. Not helping your employer defraud his employees and the government is considered not doing your job and grounds for termination. Even when the government auditor confirms the employees assertions the employer can still dump them.
P-Wolves Bay Street Cal2001
Click images for desktop size: "Wolves" by Bay Street Photography
Now, not all employers are like that. I have a friend who has 15,000 employees world wide. He fights with the Unions, he meets with employee reps and every night he worries that he will make an error in judgement that would cost one of his employees the money to send their kid to college. He's rare, too rare, nowadays; some would say he's outmoded.
Preston Sturges, a man raised in wealth and art (his mother was Isadora Duncan's “companion”) once rain a business, cosmetics. What he gained from that is revealed in the telling scene in “Christmas In July” where a first level manager takes the employer to task for not sharing the happiness of his employees with words on the order of, “These people are your family. They feed you and you feed them. They are not children but they are <em>your</em> children and if you can't see that you'll never be a success in this or anything!”
And the employer is, as far as his character will allow him to be, <strong>grateful</strong> for the remonstrance. Franklin Pangborn, playing an idiot who inherited the business sees that the manager's words are true and accurate.
They still are. Even in an economy that rewards looting from the investors, raping the employees, the sentiment is true.

It Came From Outer Space X01 (1953) And in my imbecilic way that leads me to think about the fact that I haven't found a new band since The White Stripes and Alkaline Trio, nor heard a great new album since Green Day's American Idiot. It bothers me that there's not a lot of new music that gets me excited or makes me want to dance.
Its been years since I walked into a club and was blown away by the band (Last time was LA Central and the band was George Thorogood and The Destroyers - forget what he became, its what he was then, in a club that seated less than a hundred - his name in magic marker on a shirt cardboard while he played that Chet Atkins all sweaty and hard, doing Chuck Berry's It wasn't me. To come off a city street into that sonic explosion was tres cool.)
Not enough bands are out in front of real audiences learning what works, learning what is mere self indulgence and learning what is just masturbation.
You need an audience. A real audience, not just your pals and mates but people who don't care about you and just want to shake out the grayness and forget about their jobs, their old ladies, their cheating men. They don't want to remember paychecks and they don't want to have to get roaring drunk, they just want you to take them on home.
I always thought it was an obligation to do that the second you strapped on a guitar or picked up a drum stick.
Maybe its the lack of new music that makes the world what it is today . . .

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January 19, 2006

Novacaine for the soul
The Eels

Click images for desktop size: "Bartholomew" by Impiglia
My life is about 75% where he needs to be. Reduced stress, safe, secure; in other words bland.
Bland isn't as bad as it sounds. See, I have a dog and she makes me laugh dozens of times a day. She makes me proud all of the time. Like yesterday when she was being a therapy dog, she was running around like a loon being nothing but crazy.
She had a toy block in her mouth and 7 kids were chasing her. There was a wheelchair girl and my loony dog suddenly went over and put the block in the wheelchair girls lap. My dog sat and smiled at her. When the little girl didn't respond my puppy lifted up her paw and put it on the little girls leg and smiled some more.
Maybe the kid smelled like hamburgers or probably there was some other real pedestrian logic to it. I only know what I saw and how it made me feel. That was really real.
It might not seem like much but it was a lot.
Invaders From Mars X01 (1953)

And all this time not thinking about stuff leaves me time to consider other weighty matters like, “How did the Bears'” defense totally crumble before the mediocre Panthers attack“, or ”Should Roger Clemens retire as the greatest right handed pitcher ever or risk coming back and spoiling the legend,“ and, of course, ”Chinese Cinema.“

Hong Kong used to churn out about 300 films a year with most of them receiving international distribution and about 200 of them receiving US and European distribution.
Mainland China made about 20 films a year and about 2 a decade got seen outside of Mainland China. Oddly the two most famous are an intransigent art film, ”the Red Lanterns“ which leftists world wide trumpeted as a dense denunciation of the Maoist Cultural Revolution and the totally hip and popular debut of the National Kung Fu Champion, 17 year old Jet Li in ”Shoalin Temple“ which was the first film to show the Forbidden City and the original Temple. So you got to see a kicking kung fu flic and justify it as an intellectual souvenir.
Now that Hong Kong has been pretty well totally submersed into Maoist Communism it has been reflected in the films. Just as the Kong Kong money market is too serious for the Mainland to ignore or shut down, the HK movies generate a lot of serious revenue, enough to impact the entire Chinese economy. It can't be stopped, nor could it continue in its wild cowboy style that runs to the antithesis of the Cultural Revolution. It's taken some loopy turns. At first the HK producers attempted to mollify the Mainland before any action might be taken. This produced some of the dreariest movies in HK's history, see ”Zho Shyu's Train“ as a horrifying example of doldrums. This tact enabled both Korea and Thailand to establish a serious foothold in the marketplace. Korea first established it's emotionally lush soap opera movies and then has almost stolen the crime and caper shoot 'em ups that John Woo and Ringo Lam helped establish.
No Escape
Click images for desktop size: "No Escape" by Scott Watson
More worrisome for the Chinese economy was the way the Thai's co-opted the ”chop sockey“ genre. they did it with more insane and daring stunts and they made it pure by eschewing ”wire fu“ (ala the execrable ”Crouching tiger Hidden Dragon“) and proving that the coolest special effects are the ones we can do with our bodies. The lower number of films produced and the encroachment on the marketplace saw China's share of the global cinematic economic pie drop 60%!
The Mainland response was a touch peculiar. It became known that they would stay hands off of HK movies  . . . unless there was something in them to offend the status of the people . . . or some such nonsense.
It must have made sense to someone as the new HK films have evidenced some serious changes, most of the for the good.
Firstly, in scripts and casting. Casts are now very international. Even Michael Behin (so brilliant in ”Terminator“) has done outstanding work in Daniel Lee's ”Dragon Squad“. The scripts themselves now make light jokes about not understanding the various dialects spoken by the Chinese. In ”Mobster Sister“ there's an affecting moment when the criminals attempt to understand the bad Cantonese of their boss's daughter.
Incredibleshrinkingman, The X01 (Lc)(1957)Yet some people can use enforced restriction the way artists in the 50's used genre to circumvent and comment on the oppression of thought and story telling.
One film that is in some ways cliched in in many ways brilliant. It is entertaining, and isn't that the first order of concern?
Stephen Fung's ”House Of Fury“ is a wonderful enlightening film. It begins with Anthony Wong as cool Kung Fu secret agent battling cgi ninjas who literally melt into and explode from the surrounding environs. In a lovely shot a little girl suddenly appears and begins meticulously counting the corpses.
They are in a school yard and she questions the veracity of Wong's statement by claiming there weren't enough dead ninjas! Wong is an embarrassment to his children. They call him the eternal ”bullshitter“, and, indeed all of his stories take on a wonderful ”And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street“ tone.
Wong is a Chinese Doctor. His medical practice is called the ”House Of Fury“ and it's here he sets bones for skate boarders and dispenses old style herbs for old men who refuse to step into the modern world. these men are depicted as foolish but valued.
Wong has good scenes where he speaks to his dead wife trying to understand their children, wondering how to make them happy adults.
Of course the children are skilled fighters, so skilled that even a sibling tussle over the remote control becomes an exciting beautiful ballet.
There's a plot but it's predictable. Wong's stories are true and an evil AMERICAN with a deadly child seeks revenge. The American was an assassin attempting to kill a Filipino terrorist leader. A Chinese agent paralyzed him from the neck down.
The fights are glorious and  the ending is satisfyingly happy.
But what is most of note are the characters struggling towards accepting a new world. Apologizing for not having proper accents, but above all, valuing each other even though the words they say have different meanings to each other.
To me it's a microcosm of the new Chinese cinema. It's worthwhile and exciting.

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January 17, 2006

We who are fly salute you

Art 1024
Click images for desktop size: "Art" by Jill Masters
Today has turned out to be majestic and beautiful. As they were determined that it was going to do nothing but rain and thunderstorm I'm pretty glad.
Of course this nice weather simply means, to some, that tornadoes and hurricanes are now our destiny. And you have to say destiny all deep and boomy.

Last night saw WWE RAW LIVE.
I had children with me who could explain the intricaciesof the events, matches and love affairs. Odd thing was that it felt exactly like being in a TV show, except you had to PAY for tickets . . . there were warm up acts and instructions, pretty typical stuff. But I kept thinking about all those earnest PA's wandering around Hollywood Blvd. begging you to take a ticket to their show.
F(1931)-02It was the same bad touristy rigamarole, same tense hope for excitement from the audience, the same constant bits of admonition (people thrown out for taking snapshots from their seats!) but here the top end was $40 a seat!
Vince McMahon deserves serious credit for making us pay for what the rest of the world is not only giving away but is begging you to take, for free.
While the show was good, lots of fireworks and music (which are always cool indoors) at least a third of it we had to watch on TV! A big Mitsubishi Diamond VIsion screen, which I guess is part of the traveling stage because the kids were as cranked to see that as they were about anything else.
I mean they were blown away to see each of the wrestlers (rasslers) but the guy who got them bug eyed and whispering, was Vince McMahon! When he made his entrance they were WHISPERING, "Oh my! Its Mr McMahon!"
As I was aware of McMahon back when he was Madison Square Garden Wrestling Productions and his biggest star was Jimmy Super Fly Snuka (who was cool no doubt), and was then horrified when he turned that little early cable time filler into TNT. TNT was a talk show where McMahon played Jay Leno to Lord Alfred Hayes and they had rasslers come out and INTERVIEWED them, or had them do things like COOK. He always seemed just a desperate steroid loaded huckster. I was surprised at the reverential way the audience responded to him.
His character is now some sort of total jerk megalomaniac who demands to be "the boss." Apparently the kids eat that super jerk authority figure up! Compelling reasons behind that no doubt.
The wrestling itself was dreary. It was a monstrous shock to see Shawn Micahels, the Heartbreak Kid, start the show. He has to be closer to 50 than 40. even odder they seemed to be trying to rekindle the memory of one of the most disgusting disgraceful moments in the WWF history - When Vince McMahon blatantly and cruelly lied to Bret Hart.
Morpho Butterfly
Click images for desktop size: "Morph Butterfly"
But if HBK wasn't starling enough Rick Flair RASSLIN' was a shock!
He has to be well over 60. He looked terrible. He used to be totally cool. "We're jet flyin', limousine riding, death defying, woman loving sonsabitches." That kind of cool.

That's just my history. That still favors Dick The Bruiser and the Crusher while still preferring the Olympic greatness of Bruce Baumgartner in my wrestling.
For the kids with me, this was creating their history. Their was some pretty surprising overt sexual allusions in the show. They seemed tawdry and stupid really. Fortunately the kids were oblivious and much more concerned that I understand the complicated history and relationships of all the wrestlers.
It was a long exhausting night for them. It's been a long time, maybe ever, that I had to carry 3 sleeping kids home. That made it pretty worthwhile.

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January 14, 2006

The joy in my heart & the sadness in my eyes

Click images for desktop size: Versace designs
I've been messing around with the look of the site.
I want to get more Ajax and stuff in it. No reason. I just need to see if I could really do it. So far I'm failing miserably. But I'm learning something.
I upgraded to WordPress 2.0.1 ALPHA. As this seems sort of contrary to my wanting to move back to Movable Type, I guess an explanation is needed.
I hate the look of side bars on blogs.
The side bar contains stuff that interests some people.
In WordPress there's the thing under the picture which serves the side bar purpose without looking totally ugly. My problem has been that I can't accomplish the same thing in Movable Type! I can get the look but I can't pull up the information. I'll keep trying though because it's something I still want to do.
There was a reason for this blather . . . yes, so if things look creepy here I'm fixing it. . . honest . . .

Hunchbackofnotredame X01 (1957) Its been a fatiguing week.
I'm happy about one thing. On Thursday I stopped taking the pain killers completely. The pain still wakes me once or so a night but it is controlled.
I prefer a bit a pain to feeling dependent on more pills. And I don't like pain at all. It still feels good, calmer to have my body, at least what's left of it back in my control. I'm hungry but almost any food seems to be making me sick. Not as sick as swallowing all those pills though.
Right now I'm as happy with my body as I've been in the past few months. We won't discuss my appearance . . .

My puppy's vet is expecting her first child on . . . MONDAY! Friday was her last day of work. . . Rah!
She invited my puppy and I to her party. I figured it was like one of those embarrassing open house things but I like her and the way she is with my dog enough to want to go. Besides, I think the invitations was to my puppy and "that guy you hang around with."
It wasn't like that. It was an office party during their lunch break. We were the only patients there!
We had a great time.
My puppy got fawned over by the other two people she trusts and she got to eat a world of vegetarian meatballs!
I got to hear a world of stories about cats and dogs (the dog stories were the only interesting ones). It felt happy.

I hope she comes back to work but I wonder. I'm happy for her, happy enough to just want her happy. My puppy likes people but she's nervous about many of them. She's fine as long as I'm around, she's actually full of personality. But when I'm not with her she frets. She wants to be alone or with me. Even people she knows, even my housemate. She won't even go outside in the yard unless I'm there.
Except for her vet and a nurse there.
I think they are in the right profession. I'll miss her until she comes back.

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January 11, 2006

Weeping continues continuously

Click images for desktop size: "Flowers" by A to B Graphics
No major issues with the doctors today. I got yelled at becasue I explained that Wednesday was my only day off and the only day I could come in.
They seemed to be unaware of the fact that I was still working and, for some reason, it distressed them.
I regret I found that amusing.
I'm surviving the pain well.
The infection is of a type that should be succumbing to the tetracylin. Even without pain killers it is endurable, in fact, today in the sun and the rain it gave me an edge that felt like life. It made my senses smart and it enabled my body to move pretty naturally.
The big warning was to not try to be more than human, whatever that means.
Hideous Sun Demon X01 (1959) My puppy and I managed to get to the hospital where she has her job as a therapy dog.
I love my puppy dearly. She makes me smile constantly. She looks after me and she is always laughing and planning something. I'm pretty sure she has no idea what she is planning but she is planning tricks and jokes.
Today two of the kids had looked my puppy's breed up on the internet. As she was playing and chasing them they would take turns coming over and reporting to me that my puppy was herding them. They then explained to me 3 or 4 times that was because that was her nature.
I liked the kids reading some poetry into my puppy's rampant goony insanity.
When we went to visit the kids in wheelchairs she was very much gentler and calmer. She confined all of her tricks to me.
I was proud of her, even in the rain it felt good to be with her.
For the football picks I have to back off this week. I have a rooted interest. One of my customers at work has offered to give me his tickets if one of the teams makes it to the championship game. It would take a near miracle but it is possible so despite intelligence I'm pulling for all the upsets for the purely selfish reason that I'll have a corporate box on the 40 yeard line!
Sportsmanship dies in the face of greed, I guess.

I'm worried about a friend who has a lot to lose. She was terminated without cause from her job. New owner who hasn't paid the Feds the with holding etc to an astronomical amount.
I don't care much about that.
I do care about my friend, who is tough enough and resilient enough to be safe to worry about.

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January 8, 2006

What happened to the rest of me?

Surreal2 Nbd Spent time on Friday talking to the doc's. They're trying to figure out why every January I seem to come up with a vicious infection.

This year it's my whole body. Last year it was tonsillitis (which felt like it should be fatal). Two years ago it was Bells Palsy which was as frightening as anything I've personally endured, and then before that some oddball virus I wrote off as picking up in Jordan.

I guess they're trying to set up some sort of pattern so they can understand and explain.

For me, the pain has abated. I'm feeling worse today.

Guess its just not being able to afford to miss work so I suck it up. I got off work on Saturday and have proceeded to sleep about two thirds of the time.

Destination Moon (1950) Thursday was the worst day emotionally. My bosses came to work I decided to take my puppy in with me anyway. That was the pleasant part. She's a little superstar dog and deflected most of their attention away from me.

Otherwise all the flirting and innuendo just got on my nerves.

But there's still football. In the contest I ended up finishing 116th. My final tally was 128-26. My best week had me finishing 5th. My worst week I finished 25,046th.

these are real picks, even if I should have made them yesterday.

Washington over Tampa Bay - Gibbs is too good a coach to lose a rematch. I dislike his style but he knows how to win.

Patriots big over Jacksonville - I love Jack Del Rio but his team isn't there yet. Leftowitz still has the most horrifying delivery I've ever seen on a QB.

Giants over Carolina - I figure this to be very close even though the Panthers have the tools to blow out the Giants, especially with the Giants LB problems. Still in a close game I pick the homer.

Cincinnati over Pittsburgh - I think having teams face each other for the third time this season in the first round is stupid. This is an emotional pick. I want to see Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer put on their show as long as possible.

That's all I can think of. the Panthers just scored a TD. I'm struggling to stay awake.

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January 6, 2006

On Wednesday we lost a football game. On Thursday we lost a legend.

Click images for desktop size: "Marlon Brando as The Godfather
On Thursday Rod Dedeaux passed away. He was 91. He suffered a stroke on December 2nd. On Wednesday he watched the Trojans play in the National Championship. On Thursday he succumbed to complications of the stroke.
Rod Dedeaux was the Trojan baseball coach. He loved USC.
The numbers are 11 National Championships, including 5 in a row. Until 1994 he led the college baseball world in wins. He still ranks second.
Of his players, he sent 60 to the Major Leagues, 6 of them to the Baseball Hall Of Fame.
For the last 20 years the USC Baseball Field was named for him.
Coach Dedeaux recruited heavily from the USC football team. Jack Del Rio, coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, played catcher for him. Athletic Director Mike Garrett played in the outfield. Myself, I played Short Stop for him.
Highsociety(1956)-01-1 Coach Dedeaux liked football players because we were fit and intense. I can't speak for the others but I liked playing for him because he let the game be fun.
then, most of us grew up always wanting to be baseball players, major leaguers - poking a homer off of Sandy Koufax in the bottom of the ninth to win 1-0 sort of thing.
Coach Dedeaux knew this. He loved the game. He loved us. He taught us how to play better, how to play as a team. (Although he could never teach me how to hit the slider or the curve. Lord knows he tried.)
The world is emptier without him. He changed the world and the way most of America sees it all with a little game played with bats and balls. Always making sure we were having fun and having fun winning.

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January 4, 2006

What are you going to do? Kill me? So what! Everybody dies . . .
John Garfield
Force Of Evil

Getty-Images-1 It was a tuff day at hospital. Rough but not totally destructive.
To sum up the chemo and treatment have somehome caused a sort of ostereoposis, my bones are shrinking, and where the soft bone tissue esits is getting invaded by infection that is wrapping itself around the nerves . . . that might not be completely accurate but its as close as I'm going to get.
The penicillin didn't whack out the infection the last time (hey, even my germs are tuff!) So I'm on a massive run of tetramyacin. I wanted one of the cool fancy named ones but I'm stuck with the brute force one.
We had a discussion (fight) about pain killers. They wanted to give me morphine!! I demurred and we settled on 1600 mg every 4 hours, "even if I'm not in great discomfort every 4 hours!"
The pain isn't going to go away for at least a week but then I'm back.
The worst parts were sucking out the various infections with long needles . . . it made my eyes tear.
Lc(1930)-01 But the part where I have to stifle scfreams is when they take the bone marrow sample. Its one of those pains you can't accept or prepare yourself for. They take a long strong needle and then pound it into your pelvis bone until it's in deep enough to get a sample! The operative word is pound! I have tuff bones too.
Now a foolish person would wonder if all of this and no sleep means that I'm going to have to forgo seeing my alma mater attempt to make history tonight, if USC winning a 3rd National Championship is at all important or if I need to get some rest. . .
I'm not missing work tomorrow either . . .

One thing about a small town: When I arrived at the hospital there was a small brown puppy with a blue collar, odd becasue she was female. The little thing wouldn't leave me alone and followed me three times into the hospital. A few nurses said she lives around there, but she'd never come inside before. On the third time that I took her out I was relieved that her owner, a 10 or 11 year old girl was there looking for her.
She took the puppy without saying thanks or anything, just remonastrated the little thing.
I had to get strapped to this table that swept me up down and all over while it did some traces and scans. When it left me hanging upside down, my head maybe inches from the floor when a little brown dog ran in licked my nose and then went running out.
The nurse said, "did someone come in here?"
I said, "no."

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January 2, 2006

Building character doesn't mean much. Keeping character does.

End Of Time 1024
Click images for desktop size: "End Of Time" by Shifted Reality
This has been a wasted day off. Spending it in pain management. That feels foolish.
Irritating that it interferes so badly with sleep. All the pain killers cool things enough that I can fall asleep but they wear off after 3 hours and I wake up wanting to groan. It takes the meds about an hour to kick in before I can fall asleep again.
It just feels stupid.

Here is my list of the 5 best films I saw in 2005. These movies may not have been released in 2005 but this was the year I saw them in. Hows that for qualifying all over the place.
Beastwith1Millioneyes X01 (1955)
5: Jakarta by Cho Sing Jung - This is a twisty quasi caper movie full of deception and trickery. It is also filled with incredibly human characters. The one who feels most like a caricature is revealed to be the most human and loving of them all.
Jakarta is a Korean criminal phrase for "the big score," as in, "Lets go to Jakarta!"
It's not deep. It's meant to be sheer entertainment but more and more Asian films have begun to rely on examining people as the greatest possible entertainment. Rah! Great idea.

4: Batman Begins by Christopher Nolan- A big glitzy summer movie. I didn't care much for the ending. It felt trite and cheap.
But the start when they give weight to a child twisted by tragedy and happenstance it rings like great drama. When the young man wanders lost and helpless it approaches greatness in a way that movies haven't, for me, since the films of Budd Boetticher and Anthony Mann.

3: The Return Of The Five Deadly Venoms by Chang Cheh - This was passed off in America as a sequel to The 5 Venoms. Its not. The Chinese title translates as "Crippled Avengers", which is a better title. for sure.
A Chinese hero's family is attacked by his enemies. They kill his wife and cut off his son's arm. The hero replaces his son's arms with vicious iron contraptions. Then the hero and son become hate filled villains wantonly smashing innocent bystanders as a replacement for grief.
The cripple 3 men. Blinding one, cutting the legs off another and cruelly forcing a third to drink a drug to render him deaf and dumb. A hero decides to avenge them. He's captured and turned into an idiot by wrapping a chain around his head . . . (?) (crafty Chinese I guess). the four are trained in Kung Fu so they can walk the world as real men.
What propels this film into the stratosphere, for me, was the sheer physical presence of Philip Kwok and Sheng Kiwang. Sheng never walks anywhere, he flips, tumbles and cavorts. When he and Kwok fight the villain using iron hoops they dive around and through the hoops and create a new form of exhilarating poetry. It is beautiful beyond words and done without wires, CGI or special effects. It's is simply young men rejoicing in physicality and it is beautiful.
Chicago Lake Lincoln 1024
Click images for desktop size: "Chicago, Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park"

2: Dellamorte Dellamore by Michele Soavi - More beguiling than great. It has a charm you wouldn't expect from a film by an Argento camp member. Rupert Evertt is the caretaker of a cemetery where the dead come alive. He and his retard assistant Nogi calmly redispatch the dead. It seems trite but then Evertt falls in love with Anna Falchi and reality starts to come unraveled.
I'm still not sure what this is all about but it's a lot of fun contemplating. especially the ending which doesn't so much other throw our perceptions but confirm them.

1: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance by Chan Wook Park - This film is something you can't be prepared for. A 19 year old confess to the brutal murder of a 5 year old and serves 13 years in prison. She is beautiful and charming. In prison she calmly murders all the bullies and dislikable. The other prisoners start to view her as a bhudda.
She seeks redemption and makes a sincere and impassioned plea that gets her an early release.
Within the hour she begins to plot her revenge. And with that you'll still be dazzled and dismayed as Park examines the drives and loss of being human and the plight of children. It's a wonderful film.

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January 1, 2006

A New Year For You

Sb Stolenart Boudoir
Click images for desktop size: "Boudoir" by Stolen Art
There's enough thoughts and dreams and writing about a new year. I've nothing to add to that, no revelatory thoughts for sure.

Mine was nice, calm and spent with things and people I like - including my puppy - it wouldn't be a holiday without a puppy.

The football was good - Tiki Barber was impressive for the Giants. He and the defense have kept the team interesting. It was also good seeing Kerry Collins play well. I hope he gets to a team with a good line and an offense that suits his considerable talents.

This is an exciting week in the NFL. The teams are battle tough or war weary and now it ends for most of them.
Last week I made no picks because of Tony Dungy's son. Somehow that moved me from 134th for the season to 120th!
I figure that is because of people dropping out completely. I doubt if I'll vault 118 places to get the coveted 2nd prize expresso machine but it will still be interesting to see where I end up at the end of it.
Home teams first my pick in bold.
Indianapolis v Arizona - Dungy returns to the team. THe impact there is hard to measure. A lot of stars will be protected for the playoffs but Arizona still has nothing.

New York Jets v Buffalo - I like the Jets and think that Herm Edwards is a good coach but this has been a disaster year for them. They're playing for the chance to draft Matt Linhart. Buffalo is a goofy team but will be trying to make a statement.

Atlanta v Carolina - Two schizo teams playing the year on hype more than talent. Carolina is in a must win situation and Atlanta is embroiled in gooniness - a coach making calls on his mobile during the game?

Kansas City v Cincinnati - Game of the day. Dick Vermiel, on of the greatest coaches ever, announces he is retiring! KC has slim playoff hopes but must win to have any. Bengals have it tied up and can gain nothing. After the near destruction of Carson Palmer in the embarrassment against Buffalo last week you know they'll be protecting him. I still hope Chad Johnson gets his TD; he'll have a hard time topping last weeks Christmas celebration but it will be fun to see what he tries.

Pittsburgh v Detroit - Steelers have a must win but Detroit has a world of talent and a wasted season. Will provide some interest.

New England v Miami - Bruschi won't be playing. Patriots are still the two time defending champions.

Tampa Bay v New Orleans - I dislike Gruden's coaching tactics but in this game the Buc's must win. Ronde Barber will fire up the defense and that's all it will take.

Click images for desktop size: "Dawn" by Scott Chitwood

Green Bay v Seattle - I hate picking against Brett Favre in what might be his last game. He is a great QB and this was just a bad season. Seattle will let Shaun Alexander get his records and the rushing title and then rest all the starters but that is probably all Seattle needs. I'd still like to see the Packers win.

San Francisco v Houston - Cruddy game of the year and maybe the decade. After the stupid #1 pick last year the 49ers might be laying down to get into the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. But really, who cares what these two terrible teams do. This is the StuporBowl.

Jacksonville v Tennessee - Something of a joker game here. Jacksonville wants to win but injuries will lead to a test of character. The Titans only have the superb Steve McNair and a lot of kids.

Minnesota v Chicago - The Bears have decided to rest Grossman . . . he's played 4 or 5 games in 2 years . . . OK, they're protecting him. Fair enough. Brad Johnson will be Brad Johnson for the Vikings; that's not enough against a proud Bear defense that has realistic chances at the SuperBowl.

Philadelphia v Washington - Washington must win. The Eagles have self destructed but might have some fight in them. Best chance they have is Gibb's bizarre choice to start a gimpy Brunell. The Redskins are still the team no one wants to meet in the playoffs.

Dallas v St Louis - I dislike the Parcell's coaching philosophy. St Louis has fallen apart and pride won't be enough when the Cowboys have a vague chance at the playoffs. They'll know their situation at game time and that will be a big influence.

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