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February 28, 2007

I never drink wine

Octoberwind
Click images for desktop size: "October Wind" by Unknown
Its finally the end of the month.
Nothing good happens in February, I think.
March holds no promise but at least its a different time and a different name.
A little worried about my paycheck next monday. I've haven't gotten a raise (no one has) in over a year. With the short month and me being a per the hour worker, this is going to be a scary payday.
If I last until the end of March I'll get a disproportionately large check. Go figure employers looking out for the welfare of their employees.
Mine don't, that's for sure. They've increased the budget requirements by 20%, increased prices by 10% but no talk about us getting something, even cost of living. Oh well. Have to get past everything and keep looking harder.

I'm stressed today. No real reason, just feeling down. I've finished half of the preponderant rambling about film #6. Got a surprise today. A check for a review I wrote months ago. ANother cool $20. It will go to cab fare for my puppy's trip to the vet, I guess.

At the hospital all the tests for my kidney turned out to be for nothing, or for very little. It appears it is most likely the physical therapy exercises for my back may have caused the pain . . . I feel like a wuss.
Death Song1Xs Anyway, I dug it up. Here's the review of "Once Upon A Time In Italy: Spaghetti Westerns", a set of DVD's: (I'm such a wordy guy . . .)
There have always been westerns.

Rock 'n Roll, Coca Cola, McDonalds, fried chicken and The Western: America's number 1 exports. Two thousand years from now that might be the only thing left that proved America ever existed.

There have been black westerns, Chinese westerns, midget westerns, gay westerns, Jewish westerns, Argentinean Westerns and Brazilian Westerns. The first film to use a close up was a Western. When Marlon Brando started his own production company and bought in brilliant newcomer Stanley Kubrick for his big Hollywood break, they made a Western.

Almost every European country has made westerns. Like rock n'roll they seem so simple. The good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear the black hats. The only women are faithful or mothers and the only justice is you and your gun.

In the 60's westerns had left the movie theaters and taken over the living rooms. Some of the blandest entertainment imaginable was being pushed into people's homes, getting airtime because the dad rode a horse and carried a gun.

Sergio Leone was making a peplum called "Sodom And Gemorrah" when he noticed that Spain looked a lot like his idealization of the old American west. He conceived an idea about an amoral character shooting anything that got in his way. He wanted an American and got lucky. He hired Clint Eastwood to make two films for $35,000.

Leone ripped off the plot for Kurosawa's "Yojimbo", which was cool because Kurosawa ripped off the plot from Dashiel Hammet's "Red Harvest".(No mention of Faulkner, please.) It's funny because everybody remembers "Yojimbo" and "A Fistful Of Dollars" but hardly anyone has read "Red Harvest" nowadays . . . so much for plagiarism.

The first Leone film, "A Fistful Of Dollars" was a monster hit. Leone the businessman had the sequel, "For A Few Dollars More" in the theaters at the height of the buzz.

The films were made on the cheap but they certainly became more than the budget. Eastwood was the Number One Box Office Star in the world, Ennio Morricone became an icon - he reversed himself in interviews about the scores after the films were a hit - and Leone was considered a genius that had created a genre.
Skyline1 By Akmonides
Click images for desktop size: "Skyline" by Akmonides

For the Italian film industry to survive they needed to get plenty of product out domestically. International distribution was a dream; the local cinemas were a paycheck. Because of that it was pretty much the norm for the producers to rip off any successful film that came along. It was pretty natural for them to go after their native son's handiwork.

It was a mixed bag. With the coffers of gold in America some of the producers were willing to take a chance and allow their writers and directors a little bit of room to expand the limited genre. That attitude gave us films like "Django". It also gave us plenty, like nearly a thousand of the worst films ever made - most discouraging were the hybrid attempts combining spaghetti westerns with the kung fu craze . . .

"Once Upon A Time In Italy" isn't going to convert anybody into loving Westerns or even Spaghetti Westerns, but for the people who've seen the "Dollar" films or Django and have an interest in the movies, or even for film students who need to see how to make art out of pancake make-up and empty landscapes this is a marvelous set.

Anchor bay has done a very good job of restoring and packaging these films. They fall short of the high standard set by Celestial Films with their release of the Shaw Brothers catalog but there can be no doubt this is a pleasant package. The box is chintzy but each DVD case has a lobby card or poster from the original Italian release of the film. The images are bright and clear and the sound tracks cleaned up nicely with no addition of gimmicky 5.1 effects.
Babe Comes Home2Xs
There are plenty of okay extras. Each disk has a filmography of all the principals involved. There are some decent interviews. Each disk makes an impressive package.

The big finds here are "A Bullet For The General" who makes a serious attempt to blend politics with the genre. It fails because of the American actor being incredibly weak, but it is an interesting and worthwhile failure.

Lucio Fulci's amazingly humanistic and compelling, "Four For The Apocalypse" is good enough to see his talent beyond his rather tedious slasher flix.

And finally there is the infamous "Keoma". It features a brilliant sound track by the DiAngelis Brothers. (Although I still think their greatest score was for the very good film "A Man Called Blade") The score is so revelatory that it has caused a lot of academia discussion and forced as much attention on itself as it has the movie. Franco Nero is at his best. The story telling techniques are novel, and suitable.

"Adios, Texas" and "Companeros" are better than average examples of the genre. Very much worth seeing for key scenes and genuine entertainment, but they both trod ground others have trod before instead of pushing the genre forward.


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February 26, 2007

It's like trying to tell a stranger about rock & roll
Lovin' Spoonful

Exotocroach-Angel Orchids
Click images for desktop size: "Angel Orchids" by Exotic Roach
You ever play catch?
Of course you have. Who hasn't, even if only by accident.
With a baseball and with gloves, leather baseball gloves I mean.
Its something. I like the sensual slap of the ball into leather. I look the ball into the glove and pluck it out, throw it back. I can always feel it, see it, when my teammate grabs the ball out of the air. Arrested development in motion. Then there;s the smell of the glove, soaked in neats foot oil and the winter's dust. Playing catch, part training, part timeless tradition, and a large part of a link to a communal past, redolent of spring hibiscus, night blooming jasmine and sweaty arm pits. Its a thing we all have in common, a thing we all know. Its a part of what bonds us together and forces us to be aware that we are all different and we are all the same.
My favorite play in baseball, the one I used to like to make anyway and the best way to play catch, was when I was deep in the hole and had to make a fast move to my right (I'm right handed - a right handed goofy foot), lay out for the ball and then tumble in the dirt coming up facing the first baseman, still on my knees whipping the ball with all my arm strength and getting the batter out by a single step. The coaches used to stop me from cheating towards second base because I loved to make that play, I loved watching the ball swoop into the sky and bury itself in the first baseman's Christmas Stocking of a glove. Sometimes the umpire would give the simple thumb to signify the out, but sometimes they'd be as thrilled with the throw as I was and take those three skitter hops and swing his whole arm and torso into the "yer out!"
Call Northside 777 (1948) If it were a great throw I'd take the time during the infield tosses to dust myself off and get back into position, hoping for a chance to do it all over again. Major leaguers do that play all the time. Its routine. But you can see a lot of short stops still get that schoolyard charge of watching the ball curl in and cut the runner down.
Only love and puppies are better than it. Only love and puppies.
Spring camps are open. Players are steadily trickling in. I, for one, can hardly wait to see the first Gyroball! Better yet to see the first player flail away at it and look back at it in the catcher's glove untouched and undamaged.
Of course that also mean I can't wait until the first guy drives the Gyroball over the top of the Green Monster.
Baseball.

Work is terrible. What's changed? At least the paychecks don't bounce.

My puppy's brother sent us some wonderful stuff. She got plenty, almost enough to share a little with our foster dog. I got a magnificent cup that is covered with pictures of my puppy and her brother Jimmy. Just looking at it cheers me. I was on the phone with my friend while I was opening it and even she was agog with how much pleasure I got from that cup.

The Oscars were a dreary affair. I fell asleep after Best Sound Design. I woke up just in time to hear that "The Departed" was adapted from a Japanese film. How pathetic and insulting. "Infernal Affairs" was made in Hong Kong. At least they could have said China. I felt ashamed.
The entire thing was saddening and cheap. I never had any negative thoughts about Ellen DeGeneris before . . .

I saw my friend Patrick's band perform on Saturday. I still hate bars. Even though I'm sure I've passed the stage where drunken women pinch my butt and whisper strange things to me by bellowing close to my face, I still don't like them.
It was okay other than that. I never know what to think when a "student" begins playing far better than I can . . .

I'm too tired tonight and don't feel enough inspiration to write about film 6 . . . its great though. The film, not what I plan to say about it . . .

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February 24, 2007

I'll be sorry but I don't care
The Five Americans

Steampunkkb1
Click images for desktop size: "IBM Keyboard" by SteamPunk

Yesterday, on the bus ride home, I ended up speaking with some of the other workers around here. We all agreed our jobs suck. One woman was happy, she had put in nearly 100 hours in the previous 2 weeks and figured to get a paycheck decent enough to take care of her bills.
Then the conversation turned to drinking beer. I got bored and put the iPod on. They each punched me in the shoulder to say goodbye when they got off at their stops.
At home I got a call from one of my kids in London. He's the tragic one - all the talent and physical specs to be a young god but cursed with psychosis which brings him fears with no compensation. He called on my mobile. I'm glad I didn't change the number.
He remembered happy times when the future looked real to him. Now all he has is a present and a dimly remembered past. He's not yet 21.
There was nothing in particular wrong. He just needed to talk with someone who was on his side, who believed in him.
Then I got an email from the electric company reminding me that I had not sent in my payment which is due in TWO WEEKS!
The embarrassing part is that I'd forgotten it completely so I can't act as outraged over this as I'd like. It also blew my budget to hell. That budget seemed too easy . . .
Bad And The Beautiful, The (1953)

7) The Naked Spur - Anthony Mann
In the 60's there were the spaghetti Westerns. Everyone jumped on them for their depiction of brutality. They must have been com paring them to TV shows because in the 50's Budd Boetticher, Anthony Mann and Borden Chase were rewriting the genre and making the most cynical, hard edged, physically and psychologically most violent westerns ever imagined.
I think this is one of the best, but this could as easily been "Ride Lonesome" (Coburn:"What you mean you like me? Like we're friends or something?" Roberts: "Why the hell you think I've been riding with you for 7 years?" Coburn: "I thought you'd just kind of gotten used to me or something.") or "The Tall T" ("Break him Chink."), "Winchester '73", or "The Man From Laramie". They are all superb films as well as great movies. "The Naked Spur" rises slightly above them in my mind as it makes it own rules and standards and then rises above them.
It starts with the absurdly lurid title, gathers steam until a crashing crescendo of vileness and humanity restored.
The plot is there, its interesting enough - a bounty hunter ends up with some accomplices he doesn't want. They have to escort a criminal and his girl friend back for the reward.
The plot is only there as a convenience, to help us understand the people involved here, people all like ourselves.
Jimmy Stewart is brilliant, a true psychotic sociopath. He delivers one of the greatest line readings in film history when the men are jawing around the camp fire: "I loved a woman . . . once."
He wants the reward money to buy back his ranch, a ranch he lost because the woman he loved and wanted to marry sold it out from under him so she could run off with another man. The film never excuses his irrationality or his foolishness, instead it lays it as the bulwark on which this misadventure is set.
Stewart is brilliant combining his "Every man" charm with a psychotic's refusal to admit wrong and a sociopath's indifference to the affect his actions have on others.
Reunion
Click images for desktop size: "Reunion" by Unknown
Robert Ryan gives one of the great villain performances of all time. His "Ben" is the only likable character throughout most of the movie. He sees all life and his evident predicament, being taken back to be hanged, with humor and detached amusement. In fact his character is identical to Stewart's, except in Ryan's mind there is no line between legal or illegal, there is only what feels good.
then there is Janet Leigh, adding to the perverseness of the group by being made up to look as if she were 12 years old. She is by turns a gamin, a tom boy and a sensual lover.
Though clearly not a criminal herself she is on the run with Ryan, even helps him throw stones that could be fatal in their own primitive way. She wants to help him escape not because she is in love with him but for more ephemeral reasons: A concept of freedom and rightness and because he was only nice to her.
The other two, Ralph Meeker and Millard Mitchell are archetypes who's often sudden displays of humanity are jarring and dramatic. They both want Ryan for the reward. Millard is the grizzled prospector who sees more gold in Ryan than he ever found in the hills. Meeker is a lecherous disgraced calvary officer who doesn't see the Indians as human beings.
This is a small potent package of people with a mission that ensures one of their deaths.
Hallelujah1Xs Anthony Mann virtually created the film language of landscape as character. He explained it: "In a western you don't have a character enter stage left. The land, the environment is what makes them what they are, like a mother and father."
In previous films landscapes were jagged rocks and deserts, or high mountains and blinding snow. In "Naked Spur" it is the bucolic Rockies, tender and beautiful but with the foretelling of doom that hides in the bright sunlight.
While this film is more character driven than most westerns it does not lack plenty of physical as well as psychological action. Mann knew Chandler and followed his dictum, "If you're ever afraid of things slowing down just have someone open the door and find another guy standing there with a gun."
In westerns that means Indian attacks. The attack here is remarkable for two reasons. Firstly it is through action and response that Mann establishes character's and more importantly the character that they present to themselves and to the world, but it is through action and idleness that the character we conceal from ourselves is revealed to others.
Secondly the attack is told silently but at no time is it not understood as a tactical maneuver. We know what the Indians are doing, what our group is doing and how they each plan to defeat the other.
When Mann started work on "Spartacus" - a film he quit, his battle sequences were of this sort and stand out from Kubrick's battle sequences by the clarity with which the action unfolds. This is a smaller scale lesson to move up to that level, where people aren't just fighting but fighting to a purpose.
Mann's film is a testament to clarity and to humanity. It entertains and enthralls, bewilders and holds up a mirror.
I still think that's what great filmmaking and great movie making are all about.

Oscars tomorrow night. I'm most excited about the tech awards . . . a bad sign . . .
I'll keep trying to complete the list of the 10 best but the films keep getting better and harder to describe as merely great . . . sorry . . .

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February 22, 2007

There isn't any name that I can't rhyme
Shirley Ellis

Reinventingthewheel
Click images for desktop size: "Reinventing The Wheel"
I managed to replace the iMac's hard drive. It seems to be working pretty well. It still makes me nervous and starting to think about actually doing back-ups . . . or to at least think very seriously about doing back-ups . . . really seriously . . .
Noelle, the new foster puppy, is something more in need of fretting over. She's a warm loving little dog who has clearly been abused. She is terrified of almost everything. She wants to come see me and talk to me, she gets all wiggle butt when I come home but she has to work on overcoming her fear if I reach a hand out to her.
She and my puppy play well together. I like that. My puppy gets aggravated because Noelle doesn't understand the rules of the games she plays. Sometimes my puppy insists on playing with me instead of Noelle.
Animals are fascinating things. This morning I gave them chew toy treats. They were busy stealing each others . . .
Bride Of The Monster X01 (Insert)(1956)
As the Oscars approach I read a surprising article calling the original "Rocky" the most undeserving winner ever.
How odd.
I remember when the film came out. The buzz grew about people standing in the aisles and cheering at the big fight scene. Then the stories started to come out.
Written by and starring a guy with 2 film credits ("Lords Of Flatbush" and "Death Race 2000") Stallone had written a script. The studios wanted the story of the fighter but Stallone insisted he star in the film. The studios passed.
Now as Stallone was living with his mother and older brother walking away from $50,000 - $75,000 took some guts.
It took even more guts to take just $15,000 for the script and for his acting.
The producers figured on a little crowd pleaser like Phil Karlson's "Walking Tall" and figured that no actor could help or hurt the script. They hired John Avildsen to direct it. Avildsen's background was in porn.
(Okay, it was just a couple of soft core porn features but the story plays better if you just say porn)
The biggest name in the movie was Talia Shire, who was famous for being in her brother's "Godfather" films . . .
The film was a hit. A crowd pleaser. For some reason I've never grasped being a piece of art or music that a whole lot of people enjoy makes the work somehow "bad" in the rest of the world.
I thought the movie itself was all right. Stallone hadn't taken to calling himself a genius yet so it was easy to admire his guts. When the film won it pleased me.
It signified that there was a chance, a slim chance to get out there and make a big hit movie.
But the reason I figured it won was because it really is actors who hold sway on the final votes. I've met plenty of actors who are planning to do a "Stallone". They have a script and they want to star. They want to control their own destiny.
What's wrong with that?
I don't think "Rocky" was the worst film ever to win Best Picture. Even with what came afterwards.

I'm still recovering the hard drive and I still mark any day without pain with a white stone.
I'll continue with the 10 best list next.
I may duplicate some pictures as I try and sort out the artwork. I know the most important part are the pictures, the words are here just to make pretty frames.

February 18, 2007

Refried Hard Drive

The new foster puppy showed up yesterday. Here name is Noelle, 8 months brindle hound mix. She's sweet, lonely and scared. My puppy will get her over being scared.
Just this second discovered she's not completely house trained. Its the kind of job that doesn't bother me.

Then this morning I discovered that my hard drive is now trash. I've managed to get it up and limping. With a loan I've gotten an external drive to save the bit of music and art and photos I have. Two major crashes in a month is hard on the heart!
I was disgusted to learn that the warranty on the drive and iMac expired less than two weeks ago. Also disgusted with the cavalier approach I sensed to it from Apple.
I still like OSX and I hate Microsoft much more than this, but it is disenchanting to see that all big companies end up behaving in the same way. Yes, I'm disappointed in Apple in their mad rush to court Microsoft users they ignore their core.

And to add to my disgust there was a nasty turn with Time Warner today. Everyone has nasty disgusting stories about cable companies so I won't waste precious time elaborating on it. Its the price we pay for allowing greedy politicians the right to give monopolies to uncaring companies.

And February still continues . . .

February 16, 2007

The men most in need of a beating are always large and strong
Preston Sturges

Mike Ploog
Click images for desktop size: "Frankenstein" by Mike Ploog
There was a comic in the papers today about how ugly February is . . .
There's a bright spot in the month. It appears that the new foster puppy will be with us Saturday! I am happy enough to have her here to overlook the circumstances of her arrival. This has my puppy overjoyed, although she has started laying down her rules of the house.
Her house rules seem to also take in the decorating. My puppy practices feng shui. She has taken all of her toys and very carefully placed them all over the house. A couple of nights ago we were playing and she ran to get one of her toys - to increase our fun I guess. She picked up a large teddy bear from the living room floor. She moved it to the kitchen and then went back to re-arrange the 7 or 8 other toys in the living room before running back, scooping up the teddy and attacking me with it.
When we were done playing she took the bear back to the living room and again rearranged the mess of toys.
How curious.
Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars, Ep#00-A (1938-Teaser-Signed) Despite requests I am not going to simply list all the songs I think of as great!
It would be like reading the acceptance speeches at the Oscars. A lot of names no one recognizes and the only joy coming when something sounds familiar, and huge disappointment when you realize that wasn't exactly the name you were thinking of.
But it is never too wrong to make a list of best films. I've seen so many great movies recently and I haven't made up a list like this in years.
It gives me something to think about at work anyway.
This is just fun!

10) Blood Of The Beasts (George Franju) & La Jette (Chris Marker) - Okay these are two films but they are both shorts. The two of them wouldn't fill an hour of TV! I thought about putting in a third short to make a 90 minute film - like Cocteau's "Blood of The Poet" or Bunel's "Un Chein Andalou" but those films weren't good enough.
"Blood of the Beasts" is a documentary. It presents the facts dispassionately, with beauty and clarity. Like anything of greatness it illuminates the world and makes our own world larger.
There are images in this little film that can only be called traumatic - the genuflecting horse that maintains more dignity than its killers, the abattoir where the killers sing pop tunes as they go about their work. A 12 year old girl narrating the travelogue style poetry.
The images almost outweigh the power of the movie, which places this carnage in our living rooms, in our hopes for the future.
"La Jette" is also concerned about the future. The film got a boost when they copped the plot of it for "Twelve Monkeys". They took the plot but forgot the poetry.
Marker tells his story in a series of rapidly flipping still images. They are seldom repeated. The scifi concept is that where the brain goes the body will follow, and we need to go to the past to stop ourselves from destroying our future.
And its a love story.

9) Dirty Harry - Don Seigal Seigal started out shooting montage sequences for big movies. He created those little elegiac 90 second moments that transitioned films and stories along, you know, like the calendar pages falling to the ground to show the passage of time.
His were so good and poetic he was given a chance to make features.
Who would have thought that a guy rooted in greeting card symbolism would make hard uncompromising films that loved people but despised the society that wouldn't let humanity evolve.
This is a cop drama. Its famous. It features one of the great performances in film history in Andy Robinson's psychopathic killer.
Jw Year 7 Fsf Art Wall 034 - Stephen Youll
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Stephen Youll
(I was in a Thai restaurant in Los Feliz with Robinson and a group of actors. They were all talking about their careers (hey, its Hollywood) when Robinson mentioned he'd done a film with Clint Eastwood. He said he had a little part and then the conversation moved on.
I was tremendously embarrassed for everyone, including myself, because I didn't stand up and shout at everyone that this man gave one of the greatest performances in screen history in one of its best films.) Forget the Dirty Harry franchise and just examine this film, not only as a document of the time but as an indelible document about humanity and the choices we are forced to make rightly or wrongly in order to accept ourselves.
Harry is being pushed into accepting mythic status when he knows he is only a man. The film demonstrates his humanity over and over again while the mythic creature status all falls to the killer, even the killers home is presented not as merely a little nasty hovel but as the key to something enormous and spectacular.
Everything the killer does is abhorred but supported by society, by the law. Harry is spit on, forced to be tortured, to roll in the dust and dirt for the crime of trying to protect children.
People forget sometimes that a work of art is supposed to be entertaining. That's the only reason I can think of to explain why this film isn't held in the highest regards.
Terror By Night3Xs
8) Shock Corridor - Sam Fuller
Fuller is one of those miscast directors. On his best pictures he was producer/writer/director and starred his wife, Constance Towers.
He was potent and created a world of admiration, men and women who could stand up for themselves and weren't afraid to believe. They could be independent yet still love another, even when they disagreed. "Shock Corridor" is based on a delicious improbable conceit; That the mad are prone to fits of sanity the same as most of us are prone to fits of insanity.
The interesting macguffin of a plot makes use of this but the real joy of the device is the rage, despair and horror that this allows the actors to display as they sink from madness to sanity then back to insanity.
The acting is impeccable and surprising as most of the leads are guys we know primarily through their work on second rate TV shows. The familiarity of their faces adds to the power of their work. It makes the situation more and not less real. It allows us to identify with the characters but also to step outside of ourselves and sympathize and empathize with them as well.
Constance Towers is brilliant, her wonderful and incredibly hot non erotic strip tease dance number is beguiling in too many ways.
Peter Best (The Big Valley) is smarmy, stupid, and then utterly incredible and always touchingly believable. Even when you find his character smug and annoying you never lose sight of that is what the character is and that is what will drag the character to the conclusion.
James Best (Dukes of Hazzard) is wonderful as the Korean defector who believes he is Civil War General Jeb Stuart.
But the most major find is Larry Gilbert who plays Palliacci, the opera singer. He's an enormously fat man who acts like a Greek chorus to the drama enfolding in front of us. He is attempting suicide by eating himself to death, to punish himself for murdering his wife with a song. He's an explosion who knows where all the pieces are going to land.
The film has great set pieces (The Attack of the Nymphos cannot be forgotten) that keep it grounded in reality as well as drama.
Beautifully shot by Stanley Cortez in tight black and white, it is interspersed with the madmen's delusions, shot in 16-mm color.

I'm tired. Next I'll do films 7-6 and 5. Promise.
Really.

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February 15, 2007

They've got to prove that they can move
Brian Anderson

Julianikolaeva Ifwekissed 1440X900
Click images for desktop size: "If We Kissed" by Julia Nikolaeva
February has never been a kind month for me.
Maybe its just that its the shortest month. Or maybe its that the northern hemisphere is in the last throes of winter.
February's the month of dull skies and impending sunshine. Its the month where an honest cop feels the new years bills and finds himself taking a $50 from a speeder. Faithful wives notice the cute walk of the delivery man. Bachelors, desperate for spring, join the gym and hope. Little kids , desperate for summer, join street gangs, just because they need something to do.
Its when all the bright promises of January first have finally been squashed.
Its the time when your hourly paycheck is short but the bills stay the same.
People die, but people die all year long. Its a short month so they all seemed jammed in there.
Yeah, February is a lousy month.
Thinking about the bad times always brings out memories of the good times.
Devil Horse, The Ep#11 (1931) Wild LoyaltyBack before being homeless became pandemic, back before we all were forced to accept it as natural. Way back then when you notice bag ladies and homeless guys it always struck me how they had managed to zone in on a time. Consciously or unconsciously they pick a time when the world meant something to them, when they had happiness.
In LA we had General Hershey who wore a military uniform decorated with outsized colorful plastic planes and stars. He had a moment of notoriety during the love-ins of the 60's and some how his mind would not let him move forward. In 1989 he still handed out brochures demanding we pull the troops out of Viet Nam.
There was the green coat lady who wrapped herself up tight in a green coat that was a solid mass of pins advertising various punk bands from the 70's. She had a nice round face. She accented the roundness by wrapping it tightly in a green wool scarf. I never saw her hair color, or if she even had any. Maybe she was a nun, one of the orders that demanded you shave your head.
When you spoke to her she would gaze at you and smile pleasantly and sing you a song from the Dils' set, or the Weirdos or the Screamers. If you handed her a dollar she'd snatch it away. You didn't get a song. You knew her world was prettier than yours. Once it was actually real.
There was the Vocabumat trio, who all spoke a gibberish that they at least pretended to understand while they listened to tinfoil radios that seemed to broadcast big band music. On Hollywood Blvd there's a house owned by an ancient woman. She refuses to sell. Its old clapboard gothic. She makes money by selling dinner place mats. The place mats all have different foreign phrases written on them - hence Vocabumats. The Vocabumat Trio were 3 guys. It was generally assumed they were gay. They bopped and swayed in perfect rhythm to the tin foil music, executing some nifty old school jitterbug moves. They bopped and swayed and gibbered at each other and seemed happy and immune to our concerns or stares. I often wondered what happened to them there. They weren't street performers. They took the money if offered. They weren't stupid, but they never would pick up money that was thrown to them. They were at that spot because that's where the fun was, some fun they all shared. Some fun that kept the rest of us out.
We all like those places where the world seemed right. For me its the beach anytime that the waves are big, or the sand is warm.
Its a good thing for people to have a spot in the world or in time where they can look back and feel and remember what it was like to be whole, optimistic and even content. We all need it if only to prove to ourselves that such spaces existed in our lives.
Jw Year 7 Anime Art Wall 025
Click images for desktop size: "Unknown Anime" by Unknown
It is good unless it overwhelms you, or some shock in the present convinced your brain the only safety lies in moving back to that space or time and your brain decides it has to protect you by dragging you along with it. Or you're a politician.
In politicians its crazy. None of them ever seem to understand that this is their personal interpretation of the world and that most of it is fantasy, so they spend most of their careers trying to preserve a fantasy that usually only applies to the rich boys and girls.

As usual I took a lot of stick for picking a song. I like violent emotions over something trivial. A few wanted me to list my top 100! I've no authority, just opinions.
I can't list that many songs. I couldn't put them in order either. The other songs I thought about were Alkaline Trio - This Could Be Love; White Stripes - Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground; Gene Vincent - Dance To The Bop; Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come; Johnny Burnette Trio - Tear It Up; Del Shannon - Follow The Sun; Human Beinz - Nobody But Me
. Just songs.

February 10, 2007

I give it an 86, it has a good beat and you can dance to it

Livewires  6
Click images for desktop size: "Livewires"
I need a new rut. An every day good old fashioned rut.
Brainless, thoughtless repetition of motion. In there is the best chance of dreams.

I have decided that Jack White (White Stripes and The Raconteurs) and Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) are the 21st Century Guitarists.
White has made the electric guitar a solo instrument again and gotten away from the "little symphony" that was crowding to the forefront. On stuff like "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" I think he redefined the guitar sound as much as Hendrix did in the 60's. He doesn't have pure speed but his choice of chords and novel finger picking styles blaze some pretty awesome trails. And his riffs are fun to try and copy!
Skiba has remade power chords and fuzz tone rhythm something special again. I thought "Crimson" (his last album,) was just all right. Lately I've been blown away, especially with the guitar work on "Burn". Its impressive when he performs it with the band but on the solo - demo track it is unwordly. When you take into account that this is with a freshly broken wrist - he's a skateboarder, and skaters always have a special place - and his retake on the Dunlop Baby Wah is nothing less than magnificent. He can match Johnny Ramone for speed (and Ramone had the blazzingest right hand I've ever seen or heard. I mean those riffs he played were ALL downstrokes) but he reaches past him in delicacy and power. He plays full barres and not powerchords, avoids diochromatic chords and never touches a triad.
When he plays acoustic its more a pleasant surprise than a revelation.
Dressed To Kill1Xs
Waiting to get another foster puppy. Not only do I love the dogs around but my puppy thinks the foster dogs make the best toys ever.
She helps quiet them and she never plays meanly or cruelly with them. It impresses me that my puppy will run at them but never over them, and if they have no interest in playing with her, she finds it easy to just walk away and come bother me.

Just heard that the little penny saver paper here is going to publish a little article I wrote about role models for children. Its about justice, freedom, about sports and about responsibilities to the community. The first item I don't really know but like to pretend I understand it as well as the next guy. Who understands freedom, but now I've got my whacky definition published so I can point to it as a black and white fact. Sports I know about and responsibilities to the community is nebulous enough.
I get ten bucks.
I can use it.

And people keep asking me what my fave all time number 1 song is . . . which is not easy. I think a good song is one you can identify with; that fits your mood. A great song sets your mood.
The old guys like Mahler and Berlioz worked for this. Old Scriabin gave his entire life to this - he thought a song would totally change the world.
I've spent the past few days thinking about this. The main thing I realize is that there are a hell of a lot of great songs out there. How can you not like that?
I also realized that the song that sticks its nose out of the water and reflects the sun is one that is going to tic people off when I name it.
I think a pop song is written for a purpose. Its supposed to exist in all consuming fury for a while, shoot up to number 1, impose itself on our conscious and then fade away. One week you play it 15 times a day, over and over again just in shock about the awesomeness of it and then you get it pushed out of your head for the next slice of material emotions. You hear it a few years later and it brings back that time of your life and makes it a good time in your life, happiness with a wisp of sadness.
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Click images for desktop size: "Different" by Conscar
I like that. I like pop.
The song I think about is a song that ended a movie. The more semiotic critics realized that the song codified and raised the movie up to a different level. Of course the critics who noted that were so un-hip that they thought Hal Ashby and Warren Beatty had commissioned this song because it fit the mood and expressed the forlorn hope and giddiness of an age that "Shampoo" was trying to crystalize.
About 15 years later a comic strip used the song to devastating effect. "Doonesbury" had a character dying of AIDS. He was clinging on to life because they were finally releasing the album on CD. He passes away while the lyrics from the song come from the speakers. He dies happily. Its the only time I can think of when a song was used in a comic, and the only time that a 4 panel comic strip managed to make me misty eyed. You maybe have figured it out in which case you won't feel insulted when I tell you that it doesn't matter where these guys ended up. It only matters for that one moment when for 3 minutes they filled the world with happiness. Its the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice".

This is what you have to put up with when I have no football or baseball to dwell on.

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February 6, 2007

Bip a little, bop a lot
Joe Penny

2006-12-25 13-24-39
Click images for desktop size: "Peso"
There's a whole lot of flap and furor now because Bush's budget has been presented.
My take on the budget is that its typically self interested, promoting agendas and totally unrealistic.
There is a nerd-ish fascination with one section - Increasing the funding to NASA while decreasing the budget to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Since Bush has gone on record as conceding that Global Warming is a reality and not a figment of some commie's brain, the logical conclusion is that he's written off the planet earth and is expecting us all to fly away on silvery space ships.
Sadly I'm not a person who trusts anyone who professes to believe in "The Rapture". When someone believes that they are chosen and that God will come down and take care of them and them alone (when the time comes), this is not someone to allow to plan anyone's future.
The budget is the budget. It will flounder around until it doesn't much matter anymore, at least to people who have to work for a paycheck.
What is important to me is something that this budget folderol is looking to drive from the public mind. Hell, I'm kidding myself. It never had a chance to concern anyone except the few it touches directly.
Captain Midnight, Ep#00-A (1942-Teaser) Children suicides are way up.
Children, meaning people under 13 years old.
Twelve year old kids are so filled with anger and despair that they're offing themselves.
It staggers me.
It saddens me that it isn't staggering anyone else.
When child murders - murders committed by children - shot up there was a big hew and cry: Charge them as adults; bring back the death penalty for kids; repeal the child labor laws and all the other sick quick fixes that actually got implemented.
I didn't hear of anyone who mattered saying that this was a big failing on our part, that we have made a huge error and made a world that wasn't fit for children. Or that we had taught children that life was so worthless that the expedient way to cope with a problem was murder.
Now, in our insufferable adultness we have made more and more children feel that their own lives are worthless.
Nowadays we clearly listen to our children so well that when a small kid crisis comes up they've got no place to go. The best solution their little kid's mind come up with is to swipe daddy's or mommy's gun from the bedside table and blow their little brains across their bedroom walls.
How did we let this happen? How have we let children feel so alone, so unloved?
What grave sins have we committed that the only punishment suitable is to allow children to take their own lives?
Everybody nows I'm not smart. When child murder touched me the only solution I could see was to go out with the kids who felt that badly about themselves and give them the chance to play a little ball; listen to them while we chucked the ball around.
I'm simple like that. Still stubborn enough to spend over a decade going out and finding those kids, letting them know that they were just as good as anybody else.
Some egg head called it "social inclusion of youth via sports".
I'm not that smart, I called it, "playing a little ball." I'd be afraid to do the social inclusion thing. It sounds hard.
Playing a little ball worked well enough I thought. I was wrong. It was ripples in the ocean. Yeah, a lot of those kids went on and picked up the task and carried it as their own into their own adulthood.
There weren't enough of them.
I think that the only real purpose of this life is to clear the way for the future. The only future we have is kids.
That means the greatest tragedy in the entire history of the world is a child's death. The most tragic kind of death I know of is self inflicted.
I don't know what to do about it. I know that every child out there is a radiant ball of potential. I know every kid has value and worth far greater than my own. I don't know how to convince them of it.
Outsiders 2
Click images for desktop size: "The Outsiders" by Unknown
I know its not enough to just say it. It has to be shown and illustrated and proven to them every day. Its a pleasant enough task, honest.
I did it. I have a good sense of self worth but I know that if I could do it then anyone - ANYONE - else can do it and probably do it better.
What I don't know how to do is to convince you to get up and care.
My little puppy does it and has a world of puppy fun doing it. You can say she's just a dog. I agree except for the "just" part.
If she is just a dog then why is it she can extend herself to love children? Why is she can work to make a child happy when you cannot.
God save us from do gooders who look to raise their won egos by benefitting the needy when the do gooders don't understand what the need is.
God save the children.

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February 5, 2007

We got no wheels to race
Joey Ramone

Mando Gomez-Woman-In-Red-1024
Click images for desktop size: "Woman In Red" by Mando Gomez
At least this Super Bowl wasn't as cruddy as last years . . . at least the 1st qtr wasn't . . . Rex Grossman played with Bambi Eyes. Last year the guy went into the playoffs and was chucking the ball all over the place, yesterday he looked determined not to be responsible for losing. That's the best formula for defeat; playing not to lose and forgetting the object is to win.
Brian Urlacher played scared too. It becomes endemic.
The most interesting thing was how the Colts kept the ball for 22 minutes of the first half. If the Bears' O could have gotten just a few first downs the game would have been different. Instead fatigue and battery were all the defenders could whip up on Manning. He got the MVP but did not look marvelous.
In fact parity is a vile thing. Neither of these teams looked good, nor have they for most of the season. This is arguably the worst Colts team this last 5 years. Before they couldn't get through Belichik's New England. Brady nearly whomped them this year and he had no world class receivers and a very ordinary defense.
This may be the new thing in the NFL. Parity. Victory through attrition.
Makes me glad I'm a college football and baseball fanatic.
And I still think the NFL Channel violates a lot of free enterprise and monopoly laws. Its unfair too.
Blake Of Scotland Yard, Ep#00-B (1937-Teaser) Funny, this is a weird thing to miss but I used to like it when they'd rush up to the SuperBowl MVP and in a deep stentorian voice say something like; "He's just lead the Colts to their first Championship in 30 years.
So Peyton was is there left? Where do you go from here?"
And Manning would whip off his helmet and say, "I'm going to Disneyland!"
Odd tradition. They payed an insane amount of money for the MVP to "spontaneously" say that at the end of a game.
I do miss it.

I'm feeling better but not 100% yet. Still freaking out about money, still not so freaked out that I can avoid "outright prolonged laughter" when my puppy tells me her puppy jokes.

Just tired and feeling vague.

I saw "The Last King Of Scotland". It was appallingly bad. Forest Whitaker was good, he almost always is. His Oscar worthy performance was, for me, in the excruciating "Bird".
But Whitaker's Idi Amin Dada isn't even the star! That falls to a totally obnoxious British WHITE wanker. The coolest thing being that you really wanted to see him get tortured to death, but the filmmakers, while going out of there way to show what a worthless piece of drek this fellow is still expect us to feel sympathy and root for him when he falls into the clutches of the black goon squad.
It a bad British movie is all.
If you are interested in Idi Amin Barbet Schroeder did an incredible documentary of Amin, had full access to him. Stunning interviews, remarkably candid. Its revelatory. Amin was some sort of monster, granted but the film can't deny him his base, if ignored, humanity. It also explains something that "Last King" doesn't even attempt: As disgusting as Amin was the people of Uganda still feel in awe of him as a man.

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February 2, 2007

It probably started in poetry, most good things do
Raymond Chandler

Jackp Blacklab 1440X900
Click images for desktop size: "Black Lab" by Jack P
About 80% recovered from the cold.
Odd to think of it that way. Measuring recovery from something as commonplace as a head cold . . . I can still feel some congestion in my lungs, but lighter each day.
I was perplexed because it appears I've given contradictory information about where I was born. This bothers me some.
Like when they are checking you for being concussed or stark raving mad don't they ask you things like, "What year is this? What day is this? Where were you born?"
The info isn't on my drivers license.
Part of the problem is that I spent a long time having to answer the question with a quick, "USA".
Back in the US, that answer doesn't cut it.
I'm looking for my passport for a definitive answer. I don't care, really, just concerned that the mind is going. Mind follows body. Doesn't it?
Pretty soon I'll only remember the distant past, but I still won't remember where I was born.
Like Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) I have to believe that they eradicated my memory from the age of 2 backwards, probably because I knew too much . . . or not enough.
My puppy is exploiting my memory by constantly insisting that I haven't fed her or given her the treats she's earned.

I can finally say I've seen all the best pictures nominated for the Oscars this year.
4 Sadly I was stunningly unimpressed.
Its much different not being in LA now. Then the Oscar season is totally fun - billboards, massive ads, DVD's floating around. Anyone old enough to remember the Z Channel will also remember all the films being blasted over the cable for Nominations and all the Best Picture nominees being played in time for the voters. And then on the times when a friend got nominated it was excitement of the highest order.
It was better than a game of football.
Still this is a paltry group of films. They seem remarkable unambitious. Remarkable short of the mark.
The way I watch movies is confusing in terms of being eligible for Oscar voting. But I have a neat passion for lists. So the five best films I've seen in 2006 are:

The King And The Clowns - A Korean film that is highly astonishing, funny, brutal and ribaldry real. Its also a movie dealing with gay themes that shows "Brokeback Mountain" up as the pretentious sham it was. In fact it makes "Brokeback Mountain" look like a movie made by the guy who made "The Incredible Hulk".
The film opens with the staid pronouncement that Korea has had a King for over 500 years, the longest run in world history, and then goes on to explain how records of the kings were kept.
This was in the first 90 seconds and had me prepared to squirm and run out, but then the next shot is of a man in costume telling a ribald joke while balancing and bouncing on a tightrope. And then the magic starts. The acting is superb throughout. The ancient characters seem real, concise and cogent. It becomes a great story that anyone can identify with.
The clowns, the traveling troubadours end up deciding they can make money by parodying the king. They do. They also get arrested and face execution. They dare the Cabinet Minister to let the king see their skit. They wager, he will laugh or they will die. And it rolls on gathering constant momentum until it explodes in beauty and catharsis.
I think its the best film of the year and at least one the top 25 films ever made. It is art and it is entertaining. We forget that they are supposed to be the same thing.

Yoshitaka Amano
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Yoshitaka Amano
The Gridiron Gang - Yeah. A movie starring the Rock. I think he's cool but I've seen enough of him to realize he's learned how to act. This is a movie based on a brilliant little documentary. One of the oddest things about it is when they duplicate a shot and dialogue from the original film.
Both films are about one man's determination and the reality that one man cannot change the world alone, but sometimes he has help when he doesn't expect it. Its a movie about the community and young people's and our place in it. It has football, good acting and a premise that uplifts, excites and instructs.
Thats good enough for me.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance Not as straight ahead and exciting as "Old Boy" the third part of the Vengeance Trilogy focuses on beauty and meditation as well as the cruelty we inflict on each other and the cruelty society inflicts in its quest for revenge.
The heroine confesses to the brutal abduction of murder of a child. She is sent to prison where she is considered a buddha, a person so good and beautiful she glides through prison. Soon its discovered that she is not a buddha, merely patient and cunning. She is also innocent of the crime she confessed to. She is released from prison and begins an existential quest to regain the life she sacrificed and to get revenge against the person who cost her that life.
In seeking that revenge she learns about community, and the cycle and the unrequited lust for vengeance that resides in too many people. Butterflies in the snow.

Atom Man Vs Superman, Ep#00-A (1950-Teaser) V for Vendetta - Yeah, its based on a comic book. It has glitzy special effects, a macguffin of a plot and the most potent political statement made in an American film since King Vidor's "Our Daily Bread". And oh yeah, ITS FUN!

The Guy Was Cool A light little love story about the toughest guy in town accidentally kissing a girl he was planning to beat up. She's not very cute but he is. Being so tough he is also popular with the right and the wrong people. They don't pursue each other but somehow they fall in love, a real love that sees their difference as complimenting each others strengths and weaknesses. This is a movie that proves being true to yourself is the way to be true to others and that love is an inevitability, not a biological recourse.
I've also been reminded that along with all the insightful melodrama this is also one of the sweetest and funniest films ever. Its easy to forget that. There's no real jokes. Just people learning about each other and themselves.

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