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April 30, 2008

A Life Worth Living
Uncle Tupelo

Growing By Alex J
Click images for desktop size: "Growing" by Alex J
Busy day planned for today. Its cold but sunny out so there's no excuse not to take the pack to the last day of the Dog Park's existence.
Feel for me. I demand sympathy for this. I figure I'll be carrying the little blind dog in my back pack or in my arms for most of the way there and back. My puppy will keep demanding to be in the lead and will criss cross her lead behind me and to the left and right to ensure her position. The giant dog The Incredible Shrinking Man will try and keep up with her . . . in any way possible, with occasional jerk dead stops and refusals to move forward because "he saw something". While the good dog will jump the entire way so he can look me in the eye and decide the exact right moment to bite my hand . . .
Why do I do this to myself . . .
Cause it's fun! And the dogs and I always deserve a little bit of fun.

Yesterday we went and found a place for my puppy's birthday party next month. (These things have to be carefully planned.) Its just a little dog and burger stand but they try and keep it nice. The owner is a dog lover, which makes me partial to her place. They gave us a flier for a dog walk this Sunday, for Great Dane rescue.
I'm for all dogs being rescued. If it stays sunny we can give the dogs baths on Saturday and look semi-decent for the 2 and a half mile walk Sunday. Prior to the walk the great part is getting to stare at people and defy them not to make a pledge or a donation.
During the walk, well, my puppy and I have been in these before. She thinks that anytime you have a bunch of dogs together it is quite clearly a race! Even if I'm too stupid to realize this she'll drag me along until we win.
Last year we did a five mile walk in under 45 minutes . . . we won . . .

April 29, 2008

You'll never have to hear surf music again
Jimi Hendrix

Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Crestock Photos
Talking about music yesterday I forgot to mention one of my favorite newer albums: "Right To Chews" is covers of old 60's pop tunes as done by some of the newer pop-punk bands.
Its surprising how many of these tracks the Ramones covered. Maybe that's one of the reason I always liked the Ramones. I've always liked pop.
The Damned Don't Cry For every pre fab group out there like The Spice Girls or Brittney Spears there's guys out there who love the music and really want to try and do something. What happens to their songs in the hands of the producers is a different thing. Like I hated Spears version of it, but when pop punk outfit Bowling for Soup cover "Hit Me Baby One More Time" I can hear something was in the song, something better that doesn't need adolescent hips and tits to get across.
Me First & The Gimmee Gimmees have done a great job of taking weak pop tunes and turning them into grinding grunge fests. When they get their musical mitts on a decent track like "Stand By Me" they light onto something special.
So with that part of my history in place you can understand why I think that "Right To Chews" is one of the best albums I've heard in a while. None of the tracks are anything less than interesting and some are outrageously hep.
The bands have cool pedigrees, there's the staunch Rubinos, The Mitch Easter Sound!, Cliff Hillis, The Wonderboys. Twenty four tracks of goodness. My fave at the moment is The Beagles doing "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" a sickly sweet tune by Edison Lighthouse that the Beagles keep fun and punchy and grindish.
As high as that album gets me there's a downer in music.
My bestest friend in the world (not my puppy) confessed that she doesn't like surf music . . .
That seems incomprehensible to me. Surf is the purest guitar music out there. Only in surf does the guitar get its own distinctive voice in pop. It skips and stutters around with a rage that a vocalist can only ponder and try to emulate.
Surf has the thrash, the stomp and the floor scuffing For Men Only
Click images for desktop size: "For Men Only" by Anonymous
danceability that decrees instant greatness. "Too cool for words."
We were listening to a track. We were speculating on whether it was Joe Satriani or even Eric Johnson tuning down his sweet synthesized tone. It might even been Steve Vai turning down the frills and going for something pure. It was a guitar god for sure. It turned out it was The Hellbenders doing "Passion", a surf tune done by a surf band . . . Surf can be played by the beginner and then it pushes its practitioners to higher and higher levels. Eventually you have to move from side winder to over the top of the fretboard, pushing for steps and riffs that border on the classical and flamenco guitar steps of virtuosity. The riffs are meant to impress but also to entertain and most importantly they have to keep the groove on, keep the dane going, keep the dreams flitting through your head as you sweat and stomp your way to a world that sees rain storms as enemies while seeing rain storms as your best friend.
Dick Dale invented surf music. Flat out, he created a sound and a genre in his guitar shop in Balboa Beach. He perfected it at the Balboa Ballroom.
He played a Fender. He was left handed, like his eventual student Jimi Hendrix, he played a right handed Strat upside down. This makes it really hard to follow his hands and steal his riffs . . . he played through a Fender Music Man amp, a cool tube amp powered with AX7's The Day Of The Triffids to keep it creamy and crisp. But the real secret, the thing that made his super high speed double picking technique sound like a Vaseline Machine Gun was the Fender Tank Reverb.
Nothing has sounded like it before or since. Pure analogue, driven by a heavy coiled spring that bounced and rattled to the drive in it. To make it pure Dale wound his guitar with the heaviest strings he could, .14's and .58's!! Guitarists know that's heavier than most acoustic guitars.
It gave Dale a purity of tone and enough violent vibrations to send the tank to places it never was intended to go.
If you drop a tank reverb unit it makes a tres cool explosive sound, like an atom bomb. When Dale would play riffs on the bottom strings he took those little atom bombs and made them dance to his tunes.
We all know his classic always covered "Miserlou" but the defining rip of rage was originally called "Run For Life" but when Dale tried body surfing the notorious Wedge in Newport, a wave made by man, an unexpected effect of a Three C's project to stop erosion, it was a series of jetties that ended up pushing the waves back to sea. You can't control the sea. It just kept storing up the power, rejoicing in the juice until the Pacific would explode in a paroxysm of giant tubes that chewed up fiberglass and even wood boards as the walls pounded the shallow sand bottom and rolled over the valiant surfers who dared. Dick Dale's "The Wedge" tries to capture that fury in under two minutes.
I've never gotten how some people think that surf music sounds like the waves. "The Wedge" sort of justifies that specious claim.
Dale inspired countless guitarists. Their fingers weren't strong enough to emulate his heavy strings. Most weren't fast enough to duplicate his frenetic double picking style (even in the world of guitar gods and shredders their aren't that many who can hit 32nd notes at 200 bpm), but they call save up and get a tank reverb.
They came up with other sounds, Fruit
Click images for desktop size: "Fruit"
other ways to sing their song. The Chantays in "Pipeline" came up with that impossible glissando to open their ode to the righteous coral reef tube in Hawaii. In "Baja" The Astronaughts, out of landlocked Denver, came up with palm muting and a fabulous staccato sound to touch the nerves and fray the soul. In Downey Paul Johnson formed The BelAirs to play "Mr Moto" and bring a new lyricism to the surf sound. Paul Johnson continues today playing surf music with insane virtuosity of acoustic guitars!
Surf was huge. Movies were co-opting it. Even MOR star Henry Mancini tried to write a surf tune (Banzai Pipeline!!) and then used the sound when he wrote the TV theme for "Peter Gunn".
When Ennio Morricone copped the sound for Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western trilogy he took the surf sound to the dust and the plains but kept its under lying rage and cold passion intact. It led the way for The Sentinels "Latin'ia" to take the music to a universal place.
Surf never died. The record industry wanted it to be just a fad. The Hoodlum It was hard to play and girls didn't like it. Girls like romance and words was the thinking. Cute crooners are easy to have a crush on then monstrous take no prisoner guitar players. So they stopped pushing the music.
It keeps erupting like the black sheep son who refuses to die. Its not just a memory, its a force, a purpose unto itself. Every guitar player has attempted surf music. Its a pinnacle, a goal. Even Stevie Ray Vaughn tried. His was good enough to release.
Their are still working surf bands out there. One of the best is out of CANADA!! Canadian surfers? They can play at least but I doubt they surf.
Huevos Rancheros go back to the roots, like in "Ace O' Spades" their amalgamation of Link Wray, Dick Dale, old school metal and early white noise punk. It works it rocks.
The ocean goes on forever. The surf will always be their. You can't conquer moving mountains of water. You can only learn to survive and exist with them.
Surf music will never die.
And she'll always be my bestest friend

April 28, 2008

You must be unpredictible, like the wind blowing from all directions at once. Then men will never know which windows of their souls to close to you
Richard Sapir

Ancient Japanese Art
Click images for desktop size: "Ancient Japanese Art" by Unknown
It was a good weekend.
We had pancakes, homemade from scratch pancakes.
We got to take a couple of walks, my puppy, my little blind dog and my friend. Part of its a new strategy, trying to wear the little guy out so that he'll sleep through the night and not wake us up with his bronchial cough.
He likes walking out there at night, The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari he gets so excited you wouldn't imagine he was blind until he steps off a curb and goes splat or walks into a tree or post. That doesn't seem to dampen his spirit at all. I've learned not to panic or fawn over him when he has that kind of accident.
On Saturday night I did have to carry him home. He suddenly pulled up lame. No idea why. He was miraculously cured when we got back home . . . we'd only gone about 3/4's of a mile. Maybe that's his limit now.
Then got the new Alkaline Trio EP. Three songs . . . I was excited, as excited as a teenaged girl at her first pop idol concert. Its good but not great. Rephrase that - its great but not as great as some of their old stuff. "Help Me" starts the EP and its pretty much an example. Matt Skiba continues to do cool stuff with the guitar. The wah pedal belongs permanently in his kit bag. The best part is that its still Alkaline Trio, pure thrash skateboard music, surf music. No strings, no angelic choirs, just pure grinding sound. For me that's the best news.
I also listened to some of The Hives new album, "Black And White". It definitely cool. The Hives are that retro Swedish thrash band that had a couple of mega hits with "Hate To Tell You So" and another one that they even used as promo music on the Cartoon Network!
The band's been pretty quiet for the past few years with some pretty uninteresting stuff that seemed to be just for fulfilling a contract. I got "Black And White" on a flier and a hope. Its alright. The lead singer is back to being annoying , glib and fun. The guitar is fat and nasty and the new millennium effects work okay. "Try It Again" is as good a track as any to show them off. It rocks, grinds and seems desolate while poking fun at its own impotent rage. Good stuff.
For the rest of the time I did yard work. A small miracle here. I kept my glasses on and even while running a gas powered weed whacker and bundling up the stuff I never got anything in my eyes! Except when standing next to my friend doing nothing . . . go figure.
My vision has started to settle down. I've had enough Blood Of The Last Vampire By Spaceman
Click images for desktop size: "Blood Of The Last Vampire" by Spaceman
experience with diabetes now to know that it takes a month for my vision to end up where its going to be. I'm presuming that the damage done by the Bells Palsy will be the same. I mean, it will take a similar amount of time for my eyesight to stop bouncing around and end up where its going to be.
I'm going to need new glasses. Right eye keeps doing funny things but the left eye seems to be pretty well eroded and different. Closing my right eye and the world becomes an incomprehensible blurry mess. My present glasses correct it somewhat so I have hopes.
Been experimenting with various ways of encoding DVD's for AppleTV, listening to music and reading.
More on that later, I think.

April 25, 2008

Sitting in my room humming a sickening tune
Dee Dee Ramone

Untitled - Slava Groshev
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Slava Groshev
I'm finally getting mature.
Yesterday I was walking to an appointment. I came across a large patch of recently poured hot tar.
I walked around it instead of tromping through it. I did it out of respect for my shoes.
Then there was a stretch of freshly laid cement. The Beach Girls And The Monster I didn't sign my name to it or put in my hand and foot prints.
I resisted. That's maturity, that is. That's being an adult. That's being dull.
Of course I still walked the entire 3.4 miles and never once stepped on a crack. Stepping on cracks is my most meaningless fervent superstition. I wouldn't get excited yet about my entering into adulthood. It might be premature. Premature maturity.

I don't much care for "Social Networking" sites. They seem too flip, too competitive about things I don't feel should be a competition. I had to sign up for a few of them so that I could log in and post messages asking people to stop hot linking the images on this site. (About 117,000 images hot linked last time I looked). Then I promptly forgot about them.
Last week I got an email telling me I'd gotten a message from one of them. It was arduous logging in. I don't know why I bothered. It was worth the effort. It was from a friend I hadn't heard from in a few years. That was pleasing.
He asked if this was indeed me by explaining that "following Kantian logic, and your black hole vortex since this can't possibly be you it must be you." Kantian logic?
I wrote back to him and finally figured out how to turn off the social site's email notifications. All of his news wasn't good but he's well and still struggling onward. What could be better news then that?
I thought about that yesterday while I walked. I had to go meet my friend's parents for her mother's birthday dinner.
I walked the 3.4 miles in about 40 minutes. Hardly burning speed but a steady 12 minutes a mile which is acceptable.
I walked plugged into my iPod, dark glasses on and eyes fixated with my usual butterfly concentration. I like walking to music. It sounds like crazed hippy stuff and nonsense but walking This Old House By Tim Melideo
Click images for desktop size: "This Old House" by Tim Melideo
and listening to music really does take my mind to places it normally wouldn't go. When I was younger I used to imagine something like iPod's and Walkman's. Something better than transistor radios and boom boxes and car stereoes. When I was surfing or rock climbing and looking out at the endless vistas of the sets humpbacked in the ocean or a world where people didn't appear to exist and there was only sky and ground, I always thought that it would be great to have music blasting my ears out. How world changing such a thing would be.
I got the first Walkman, the Sony WM1 (I think). It was a great machine, I know a fellow who used it to record the rain and sound effects for a Sissy Spacek, Mel Gibson flic, "The River". His recordings sounded just fine on the big screen. He didn't get any awards but no one complained about the sound quality. The WM1 was a great sounding music player. I enjoyed putting together metal tape mixes. (The tape type - only some of the music was metal.) Having that Walkman with Stax earphones and a portable power supply that out weighted the whole rig showed me I was right, having your own private music was world changing. It added drama, depth and an innocent grimy beauty to anything.
Yesterday I'm walking down the street locked into my own tiny world listening to The Beat Generation Big Daddy doing "Bacon Fat" when a little tan puppy rips around a corner and plows right into my legs. He sits panting for a moment then puts his paws on me, looks up and laughs. A little Asian girl, about 11, comes tearing around the same corner, in hot pursuit, shouting, "Taffy, Taffy!"
I held onto the leash Taffy was trailing. The puppy looked at me as if I were a cop who had just ruined his great game. I guess he was right.
The little girl scooped him up and I guess she thanked me. At least she smiled at me while she held her puppy. I kept listening to the song and thought how nice it was having a soundtrack to life.
I kept walking and Johnny Kannis' cover of The Trashmen's "King Of The Surf" was just ending and during the fade out I realized a woman with a back back was walking besides me and chattering away.
I don't know how long she'd been there. I was absorbed in the song and a sign advertising an extra large pizza for $8.99, and thinking my puppy would be interested in that.
Since it didn't seem my participation was required or at least that the participation I was giving was sufficient I just let the next song come round. Edmund DuLac
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Edmund DuLac
(The Sunnyboys doing "Alone With You" which seemed appropriate somehow.) By the time the song ended she'd gone.
I was getting tired so I was only vaguely interested in what she might have been saying to me. I hope she wasn't cursing me out for ignoring her. The first time I went to Paris some cute French girl was walking behind me chattering away (in French). It wasn't until she called me a "Stupid American" that I realized she'd been chattering at me. Being suave I asked her how she knew I was American . . .
I finally reached my destination, where I had to wait for a lift. I listened to more music and watched a broken down car get towed away. I wondered for a bit about why I had to come here for a lift when the restaurant was only another 15 minutes down the road. If it doesn't bother someone having me walk 3.4 miles what's the thing about me going another 1.2 miles?
Dinner was okay. I didn't much like the food and they messed up my friend's order. To my shame I was so hungry I ate mine instead of waiting the 10 minutes for her order to show up. I didn't even apologize, which seemed overtly hostile on my part. I wasn't feeling hostile, just remarkably disoriented. The walk, for some reason, left my right arm numb and tingling and in pain at the shoulder. That bothered me as to why. My hands were cramping badly, but that's the norm now. The pain was only a minor distraction.
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf The conversation would have been interesting but was too filled with jokes. My friend's step father is diabetic and had just gotten a glowing report that claimed his numbers didn't even show any trace of diabetes!
He'd already lost a toe to the disease so this was better than good news. But he's still on insulin. I couldn't find out why. When I asked questions they got ignored. So I just got quiet and thought about things, like how my friend interacted with her parents and puppies.
The conversation was disorienting. It was like being the new kid in school. There's a whole subtext I'm not privy to and there's a whole world of personal knowledge its presumed I'm aware of.
It was okay. I'm content with just listening. Except when asked about the election. Politics, the danger topic. I gave a long bitter discourse about all the candidates . . .
When we left they gave me a small gift. That's cool. I like gifts.
My friend was dead quiet on the way home. Hardly a word said until we stopped to drop off four big bags of books for a donation to the Salvation Army. Then I got yelled at for dumping the books in the chute inside a bag. Seems she wanted to keep the bags. They were like those plasticky woven stripy bags you always see at the Markets in London.
That was the end of the quiet though and the night ended calmly and nicely. I probably owe apologies to people but I'll wait until they're asked for.
Best to wait for the demand before acknowledging a debt. That's business, American business.

April 23, 2008

How can I break down your resistance when you keep me at a distance
Gary Lozzio

Listen Mr DJ
Click images for desktop size: "Listen Mr DJ" by Anonymous
Yesterday I didn't get to go on my anticipated bike ride.
A few days ago I tested the bike out and it worked beautifully. Yesterday it just died. It beeped some sort of error message. I don't speak machine well enough to know what it was saying.
Super Monsters Fussed with a lot but tried to avoid taking it apart. Noticed some places I needed to grease but accomplished nothing else.
So my puppy and I walked our chores.
Then later on we walked to the Dog Park. Just my giant dog my puppy and me. According to sources its only 2 and a half miles to the dog park. Felt like over 3 to me. Maybe I'm getting older . . . I used to be good at that sort of thing, judging distances, measurements and stuff. Tired legs and botched vision could mess up my perceptions enough.
The Dog Park was empty which sort of defeats our purpose. We could chase balls in the yard. My puppy disagrees. She's one of those, "Its the journey not the destination" types.
Maybe I should wait until I get goggles to go e-biking. I got more junk in my right eye. Very irritating.
I think its because I've still got residuals to the Bells Palsy. The blink reflex isn't what it should be so I keep getting junk in it. It keeps ruining my vision, makes it hard to judge just where my vision is going to end up.
While I was doing some house cleaning, well, I always keep some fringe film on while I work I listen, stop and watch if it sounds interesting, while I work.
I watched "Hi Yo Silver" like that. It was decidedly very cool.
"Hi Yo Silver" is the 62 minute abridged version of the 1940 "The Lone Ranger" serial. I now need to see the whole 210 minute version.
Great moments abound here. Not least is the opening where the top billed star is "SILVER THE WONDER HORSE". He gets a Jeremais Laments  By Remrandt
Click images for desktop size: "Jeremais Laments . . ." by Rembrandt
a leadoff title card where he rearing and clawing at the air wearing a remarkable Mexican silver saddle!
It just gets better. I was never a huge Lone Ranger fan but this little movie really makes a fictional character transcend prose and brings him into myth and legend.
Income Tax was implemented during the Civil War. The bad guy kills and steals the identity of the Federal Tax Collector for Texas. He starts a reign of terror, recruits his own army, and steals LEGALLY from the poor cattlemen and Texas dirt farmers.
The Texan's organize their best and brightest into a militia, the Texas Rangers. The bad guy hears about this and ambushes them, massacres them.
An indian, Tonto, comes across the scene. Only one of the three dozen men clings to life. Tonto rescues him and takes him to a cave where he nurses him to health.
It has to be said here, Tonto is the coolest character in the movie. He's actually tougher and smarter than the Lone Ranger. Tammy And The T-Rex He not only saves his life he uses the Ranger's rabid thirst for revenge to create the Lone Ranger's persona.
Also notable is that in the film the good guys treat Tonto with respect and deference while the bad guys hurl every imaginable racial epithet at him and about him.
(On a kid note Tonto does some oh so nifty things. Like stopping a wagon train to stick a knife into a giant tree. He puts his ear to the tree and clamps his teeth around the knife blade. He explains to the ignorant cowboys that "the roots of the tree grow deep. The tree hears many things. Tonto asks to share the tree's wisdom. Thirty riders coming fast." No wonder I always wanted to be an Indian.)
The Lone Ranger becomes a character like Batman. A good man warped by a blind need for revenge. He's near unbalanced but because he fights for justice we forgive and accept. Batman relied on a teenager, Robin, to keep his fragile grasp on reality. The Lone Ranger depends on the wise stoicism of Tonto to help him and his sanity survive. Pretty deep for a kiddie flic but right there on the surface and told in a way that kids would understand and grasp.
There's an appearance by the "wisest man in Washington" Abraham Lincoln, nicely blurring the line between fever dreams and history. Shockingly the filmmakers use the assassination of Lincoln in an unexpected way, showing how his death impacted individuals. With a stroke they manage to not only cement the illusion that this a true story but they also manage to draw a tensile connection for every kid to his elected officials.
The Lone Ranger gets a group of four other men together. They help him in his mad quest to rid Texas of evil. They also all die, one by one, in glorious heroic ways. Anime by Sohryu
Click images for desktop size: "Anime" by Sohryu
Each time one of them dies the Lone Ranger steals their bodies and buries them in the cave he uses as his home and headquarters. A macabre constant reminder should he ever feel his madness begin to relent.
There's a lot of plot and action. This is also awesome as the masked Lone Ranger is played by legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt, the greatest rider and horseman in the history of motion pictures. He was also a swell fighter.
Of course good finally triumphs. The Lone Ranger seems to rise from the dead. His madness should have been calmed but it continues. He trumpets that evil still exists and that he MUST seek it out and destroy. He promises/threatens that should the Great State of Texas ever again feel the heel of oppression he will return.
When I coached in Texas I have to admit that they are the only people I've met who are fervid about their homes. I was once talking about the quality of Texas football when I was politely but firmly corrected that I was talking about WEST Texas football. I like pride.
Pride is an assest I spent a lot of time trying to instill in my players The Amazing Collosal Man Not just on the field but in their lives and their life within the community. To see a little movie so effortlessly create those chest swelling moments and to do it transparency and to make it enjoyable is sobering and uplifting.
Myths and movies like this reflect and instill that kind of innate birth right pride. I love that because the pride it instills is based a bit on madness and that madness is devoted to equality, fairness and freedom. YOW!
I need to find the complete serial!
Now I need to go see what I can stick in my eyes today . . .

April 22, 2008

Fire In The Mountain

Anime By Kenshin
Click images for desktop size: "Anime" by Kenshin
Today I'm taking my bike out for the first time this year.
Will I survive? Will this city survive an electric onslaught fueled by testosterone and hi amp batteries?
Who knows?
Sound Of Fury Stay tuned!

As I lie awake last night. Listening to the dogs and the sounds of trains and songs softly playing, songs I liked but couldn't identify, feeling warm and held secure I kept thinking of something. The real tragedy of getting old isn't that death is creeping closer. Its that there are so many things you love.
A long uncategorized list of lovely loved things: Songs, books, movies, dogs and people. Most of all people.
You can always re-read a book. You can go to the library, read it there. No cost and no personal info exchanged, just the great rush of words. Libraries are cool, once you get past the smell. I like the library crowd. Students, homeless, poor people, old people and young. Its a place where you can only read or watch.
Sounds dull unless you've got a good book.
You can always find a movie you remember. Video stores, VHS tapes for sale at yard sales, movies are almost everywhere and you'll have enough time to find the one you remember.
Its dogs and people you love many of whom you'll never get to see again.
Its tragic to the point of being unfair. Cruelly unfair.
How many unknown smiles cross my face suddenly flashing on a line a near forgotten friend once said. A memory of a pretty nameless girl flirting with you. The feel of a hand in my hand. The people you once loved and ended up hating. The people who loved you but were afraid to tell you so. A dog looking at you pleadingly for a home. A dog barking at you to come back and forget work today, play is more important. You know the drill.
I hate them being gone is all. Blu Combustion By Supereveil Design
Click images for desktop size: "Blue Combustion" by SuperEvil Design
I hate that they'll never be again except in my memory. And how reliable is that.

I finished my course of penicillin. As usual it knocked out most of the pain.
I understand how I'm more susceptible to whacko infections but I don't understand why they enter into my bones and cause that tooth achey pain, like the gristle and cartilage are trying to pull themselves away from the joints. I've heard people say that a tooth ache makes them want to pull out all their teeth. That's how I feel about my skeleton during times like that.
My mouth feels like I've borrowed someone else's for the week but at least my bones feel like my own again.
I get nervous claiming this but I feel better.
Did some yard work, toted stuff and after my bike ride I plan to do more. Yard work is too much fun when you do it with a pack of dogs who are convinced your every action is the most fascinating thing in the world, Step Down To Terror or that you might suddenly strike a vein of meat and they want to get in on your bacon mine.
There's a lot of yard work to do. I take the sufi method. Eat my way out of it a little at a time until I'm finished.

Last night we had a whole home made pizza. It was great. Feta cheese! Olives! It could have used mushrooms. My puppy thought it needed some beef! But that's quibbling.
Its always startling when someone you love does something unexpected that makes them more lovely . . .

April 21, 2008

Alone in the endzone

Faust And Marguerite In The Garden
Click images for desktop size: "Faust And Marguerite In The Garden" by Unknown
It was a good weekend.
The weather was the first spring I've actually experienced. Like a sweet autumn day only in reverse.
Warm enough to feel the sun but cool enough to wear a flannel shirt and feel comfortable. I like it like that.
Satan Met A Lady We did a lot.
Started by trucking all the bags of killer leaves (that the garbage men wouldn't take!) down to the dump. That promised to be interesting but was mostly dull, except the rules were that the leaves had to come out of the bags, which meant, of course, that even through my glasses I got a right eyeful of debris.
It was alright though. I managed to blink and tear it out. (That's tear as in crying not tear as in paper.) It was fine after that. A good omen, I think, one that bore out.
We stopped and had a breakfast. I like restaurant breakfasts. I had an Ultimate Omelet, rye toast and coffee. It wasn't very good but I liked eating something named ULTIMATE! The coffee was typical greasy spoon style. There has to be a secret to making coffee bitter, strong and watery all at the same time!
We went to the hardware store and got the bolts and washers needed to fix the gate. It was fun pretending to be all manly and fingering bits of sharp and shiny metal.
Then, on impulse we stopped at a guitar shop!
The only discouraging thing saw this weekend was that the shop had 4 "Guitar Hero" axes prominently displayed. The prices shocked me.
I must still look like a guitar player because the kid started apologizing for having the things in his shop. He also pointed out that he always tried to tell the kids that they could buy a real guitar for less than the fancy "Guitar Hero" things.
It wasn't a good shop. Mostly Mexican and Japanese Fenders, a couple of Jackson's and Ibanez's. Pretty -eh- stuff. No great effects racks and just a couple of peavy amps. A decent enough starting out shop.
We ploughed through to the Acoustic Room. Nothing special there either. I still hate Fender Acoustics, which they had plenty of.
There were a couple of mediocre Guilds and some Hagstrom's which I also think are pretty toneless and unplayable. I was surprised there weren't any used guitars hanging up there.
The big deal is that I actually played over a dozen of them!
I was terrible. I tried some easy 3/4 time fingerpicking routines, a few scales and a few Randy Rhodes riffs. Every thing at about 20% of the correct time.
My hands hurt like hell. I just kept flexing them and noodling about. Without thinking I tuned a couple of the guitars so my worthless noodling would sound . . . less worthless.
All the guitars were strung with 8's so I could still do 4 fret bends and a wicked butterfly vibrato. Boat
Click images for desktop size: "Boat" by Anonymous
The only downside to that was deadly pain in my left hand and killer cramps in my right. I just flexed them and kept embarrassing myself. I was having fun and didn't care.
The crazy part was the guitar I liked the best was this creepy plastic Gretsch. It was strung with 6's!! It was a funny looking thing. Lots of plastic and the entire thing was coated with a layer of flat black plastic and had this bizarre Cowboy style mural painted on the face with the slogan "Go West" emblazoned on it.
The box . . . that's right it came in a card board box had the legend, "Make REAL Guitar Noises!" I have to admit, this increased its appeal. It was $150, which I think is about twice what it should cost. Sick thing was it had better tone than anything except the 700 buck flaming maple Guild! It was dead playable, no fret burr. The tuning gears looked wonky but it didn't lose tune while I was bashing it . . .
The Shining I wouldn't buy any of those but it gets me back to wanting to have a guitar to bash around. I'll need to find something in a pawn shop or yard sale. Guitars have gotten to expensive to just have lying around. They need to be money makers or they're too close to masturbation for me to feel comfortable.
After we, regretfully, left the guitar shop we did some light grocery shopping. Having a good friend with you makes even the mundane seem fun and exciting.
We went to the Bulk Store and got peanuts. Looked into a Baskin Robbins and got freaked by the prices. The went to Salvation Army store where I nearly found a air pump. Good pump but no attachments or any easy way to make the attachments to make it work on car or bike tires. No wonder it was donated.
My friend has a few hundred books to get rid of. Now we have a place to donate them. I figure they'll sell them quickly. Too bad no dog charities have used book stores.
That evening we fixed the gate. The dogs will be incredibly sad about not being able to make any more mass escapes! My friend did most of the power tool work. She was good at it. I wanted to do all the power tool stuff but got the feeling I wasn't trusted with my hands and health and eyes.
I got to use my wrenches which is almost as good. The bolt was a half inch too long. I couldn't find the locking lockers I wanted so I get to turn the repair into a major project. I always like that!
Sunday I continued cleaning up the yard. Fill 'er Up by Uncle Grumpy
Click images for desktop size: "Fill 'er Up" by Uncle Grumpy
Its going to be a massive job, but plenty fun when you have dogs helping you and good tunes on the iPod. Dance a little, pick up a little. Its alright.
Then we took the dogs to the dog park. Its a pretty nice location even if the dog park itself is a bit barren. I threw the ball for this lab mix puppy. My guys had no interest in chasing balls.
They behaved well. Its been a long time since I'm seen my little blind dog smiling and so happy. He had to stay on lead but still managed to smell a couple of doggie butts, which pleased him.
My puppy was alright. She still frets and isn't fond of people being around me. But even she went off by herself a little bit.
The big surprise was that my manic cowardly giant dog was well behaved. Talked to a couple of strange dogs all by himself and actually came when he was called!
It was the only time this weekend that I lost my sight.
I spoke a bit to my new neighbors. I wasn't impressed Son Of Kong but they seem to be making a effort to be neighborly. At least they asked if it was okay to give my guys treats. I explained that my little blind dog has too many allergies. They were surprised he was blind until they looked a bit more closely.
We have some other new neighbors on the other side. They've got three little Scottie mixes. Those three and mine were mixing it up all day. Having a great time yelling at each other and urinating on the fence at each other. Their owner decided to come out late in the day and reached over the fence to try and pet my puppy. She reacted with a fury I wasn't expecting. If the boob had persisted I think she would have harmed him. She's a girl who protects her yard!
The good part is that the second I called for her she gave up her attack and trotted calmly up the hill to me, all smiles and happy.
I trust her judgment about people.
So I think with gas circling five bucks a gallon we had more fun than any right thinking man could expect this weekend. Even if we didn't find any live dinosaurs or dig up any buried treasures.

April 19, 2008

You come into my house with a gun in your hand!

New York City By Paulo Barcellos Jr
Click images for desktop size: "New York City" by Paulo Barcellos Jr
Been a bit of zombie today. Everything acting up. Figure it due to lack of sleep.
My little blind dog had a terribly bad night. I tried to sleep on the floor with him. Me being there gave him some comfort but he still pushed around and kept me awake.
Rear Window Don't really mind. Its easy to remember that no matter how bugged or tired I get its a lot worse for him.
The day was shot because my puppy becomes my canine nurse. She knows I don't sleep during the day so if I passed out she'd lick my face.
She was never more than 6 inches away from me all day. Again, it would drive me crazy except she felt so assured because she was doing her job.
But I need sleep.

I did get one hobby chore completed. I updated the Movie catalogs.
There are now 3,000 movies there. The number sort of staggers me. Three thousand stories rattling around in my head.
There's a whole lot of gunfights at the OK corral, a whole lot of Chinese students avenging the deaths of their teachers, young men and women falling desperately in love being torn apart and then bought back together again. So many wars and so many times a man had to do what a man had to do. The good guys always wear white and the really bad guys laughed insanely at the pain and torment they caused.
Of course I've seen a heck of a lot more movies than that but 3,000 is a number I can now prove. When you add in all the people I know and all of their stories its small wonder I walk around always a tiny bit confused. (It feels like only a tiny bit to me. I can't control your perceptions!)
Movies mean a lot to me. They have a power. The Nazi's and other governments figured this out. Propaganda films are usually pretty dull, even great directors made dull propaganda. When governments Sworn To Fun Loyal To None By Robert Williams
Click images for desktop size: "Sworn To Fun" by Robert Williams
figured that out they just started banning or censoring anything that they couldn't find an argument against.
Before movies the ultimate art was considered Opera. Opera combined theater, drama, music, acting and song. A pretty potent stew. And it gave all this art the transient air of heaven because after that one performance the scenes would play over and over again in your mind, the beauty of it constantly re-exploding. There was never anything to contradict you memory.
You could study the score, dissect the libretto but you could never overtake the memory.
That's a power movies didn't have. Whatever you remembered could always be confirmed, alway re-remembered for you. Remembered in plastic which compliments, if not replaces, the spontaneity of a live performance.
Movies influenced me a lot. The movies I liked the most are the same as the stories I like most in people. I like movies where people change. Riot In Cell Block 11 When there's an epiphany or a moment of frisson that says look back at all you've done and realize it bought you to this point so that you can now go here, is for me the best of times
Movies taught me a lot. Like an old friend I hadn't heard from in years wrote to me recently and told me his divorce was just about finalized.
I was around for the romance that led to his marriage. I saw all the drama the two of them went through, all the grief, all the pain and the passions.
I've never been divorced. I've never ended a relationship where there was that much commitment, love and passion. At least not since high school, and that's not the same thing.
When books write about these things prose gets too analytical, it takes the heart out. Poetry gets too ephemeral. The translation of the music of words to the heart gives me a prosaic self knowledge that doesn't seem to extend to the comprehension of others. But movies, ah, movies.
Even dullard films like "Kramer vs Kramer" or "An Unmarried Woman" give a light that exposes and comprehends. Its like one man's vision shattered through a prism of the hundreds of others, the writers, the actors, the crew. All those beams of colored lights shining through celluloid create an image of humanness and gives us the power to understand our fellows.
See, as much as I like seeing fantastic planets, fantastic worlds, crawling terrors, vampires and werewolves, dusty streets where two men face each other over hand guns and a spit of tobacco, as much as I love to see new and old worlds The Androids Workshop By Pleasures
Click images for desktop size: "The Androids Workshop" by Pleasures
what I love best about movies is when they show us ourselves in a way we can understand and love. They do that all the time and they don't preach, they entertain. For me, like most of us, I learn the most when I'm enjoying what I'm learning. When I don't even know what I've learned until the time I need it. ("Wax on, wax off.)
I like movies in theaters with giant screens where faces are as big as the wing span of an angel. Theaters have changed now. The way we watch movies has changed.
It used to be that once they got your money and got you into the seat they could tell you the story at their pace. They could lead you along into their dream.
Now DVD's, cable etc make up most of the money most films are ever going to see, so they have to work fast, they have to grab you and hold you there so you don't flip the channel, don't change the disc.
Some producers don't care if that's what you do, so long as they got the money, but almost all the filmmakers do care. They want you to hear the story they have to tell. Robot Monster They're people too and we all want you to listen to the stories we're telling each other.
New technologies, new times, new ways of telling the story.
I don't have a preference for the old or the new. As long as there's a story to tell and so long as most of the time the good guys win.
So 3,000 movies. I now some like to look through the lists and have that kind of nostalgia, that reverse deja vu where a title or a poster takes you back to a place you'd forgotten for a while. Some people remember being kids and wearing their pajamas while they watched some movie on TV alone or with their family and the warmth and feelings they had there and then. Lots of power from just a movie's name, I think and I think it gladly.
Some people look at the lists with a collector's eye, looking to fill in a gap in their collection. ("I need ALL the Shaw Brothers titles!")
Some look for ideas of what to watch tonight or what to put in their NetFlix queue. Its all fun. Its all good.
I want to print up some stats about the movies. I'll do it later.
I have to say that none of these movies are for sale. For trade foe sure.
In the lists click on stuff, it will pop things around and open up pictures and details.
I have to go. I have stuff I want to watch and the puppies want to see a kung fu fighting movie so they can steal some ideas for their next big dog fight.

April 17, 2008

Cause your small and sweet and round and a penny to the pound
Eddie Cochran

Oh Bondage Up Yours By SB
Click images for desktop size: "Oh Bondage Up Yours" by SB
It appears I owe Apple, or at least Apple TV an apology.
iTunes will update from Apple TV. It just needed a reboot from my computer to start working properly again . . . a reboot . . .
Poultrygeist How Windows of it! I only discovered this because I had to reboot to install a new version of Safari . . . Normally I go 90 plus days between reboots. I know that Windows is so poorly designed and riddled with memory leaks that everyones first solution to a problem is to reboot to get their computer to have that cool, "just rebooted" feeling. The second solution is to uninstall and reinstall every app on their machine . . . how droll . . . how ludicrous that it might actually work.
I guess that's cool for Windows addicts but I don't use Microsoft because of that and several moral issues.
If OSX is going to turn into Windows it will be more of a reason to scope out Ubantu or maybe just run a vanilla version of FreeBSD. But jeez, I do like the look and feel of Apple. I like just working instead of the Windows method of spending 3/4's of my time trying to figure out how to make it work, and when I do becoming an official Windows expert.

I'm getting better. Its the misery before the dawn better.
Penicillin has taken away a lot of the pain in my mouth and in my joints. Who knew that infections could cause agony in my joints. Who knows where I get all these weird infections.
Fatigue hitting me hardest. Vision keeps bouncing around. I think this latest attack has permanently screwed up my eyes. Not to the point of blindness but to the point of needing new glasses. Money again. Money . . . Well, as big a problem as money is for most of us its comforting to know that the Presidential candidates are more concerned about Flag Lapel Pins then whether I can see those pins.
Untitled by Rey Ortega
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Rey Ortega

Other than being appalled by the latest Candidates debate I watched a movie called "The Profit".
"The Profit" is a pretty undisguised slam of Scientology. As I know the facts it was accurate in a superficial way.
It was a pretty bad movie. It bothered me though that it was such a virulent attack on a cult.
I don't much care for Scientology. When a few of my friends have blown some money on the Church I could offer comfort. When some of the zealots had the stupidity to grab me on the street and spit in my face while trying to get me to take a personality test you could pick them up and put them in a garbage can and keep walking.
I think that everyone I've ever met who was seriously into Scientology was a stupid jerk, a sly con man and an obnoxious prat. You could say the same for most Fundamentalists, most Catholics etc. One thing about Scientologists they seem pretty happy at least within themselves.
What's wrong with that?
Rancho Notorious I don't feel any more comfortable about a movie slamming a religion just because it seems apparent its a shoddy scam, no more comfortable with that then the Fundamentalists picketing other denominational churches or zealots blowing up Women's Health Clinics or Jihadists blowing us up.
Religion is personal. It used to be important that we allowed each other to believe what we needed to believe in. That's one terror Bush has inflicted upon our civil rights, the tacit approval to sneer at others religions. I don't think its right.
I hold to certain rights for myself. That carries the responsibility of holding those rights for others just as hard.
I still hold that I'm no better than anybody else and nobody else is any better than me.

I have to go check on my dogs. They've figured out how to open the gate and escape! My puppy comes and tells me when the others have gotten out but I really don't feel much like running down the street playing with and chasing them today.

April 16, 2008

The New And Improved One Armed Swordsman

Moody Waters By BE Photographic
Click images for desktop size: "Moody Waters" by BE Photographic
I got word today I have to go see another doctor.
I hate new doctors, which is unfair but totally justified.

I raked up 6 big bags of garbage and leaves Pigs! yesterday and set them out by the curb. They go about 40 pounds each so I took them out one at a time. On the final bag my neighbor from across the street came and told me that the garbage guys won't take the leaves because I used clear plastic leave bags. They'll only take them if they're in paper bags . . . she told me on the sixth bag . . . my puppy was glad to see her and she did tell me so I guess its cool . . . the sixth bag . . . its about 70 yards from the gate to the curb . . . six . . .

My facial paralysis is lessening. My vision seems to be improving but just when I'd decided it was good I completely lost sight. It didn't go black. Its like someone shoved a large wad of crinkly saran wrap into my eye sockets, like I was looking at life through blown glass window panes. (Until World War II and the introduction of machine manufactured glass if you witnessed a crime through a window you couldn't testify in court. Looking through glass was the same as seeing nothing.)
I was walking with my puppy. I don't remember why. She must have known something was wrong because she stopped pulling her leash and began to "herd" me, staying close to my right hand and nudging me this way and that. I was surprised that she didn't lead me to a pizza parlour or an ice cream shop.
The vision hassle passed. It went like that for the rest of the day.

Before I moved, back in that town, I worked with a group to save dogs. I enjoyed it. My puppy enjoyed it. It was beau coup fun for sure.
Edmund DuLac
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Edmund DuLac
There was a woman associated with the group. I had very mixed feelings about her. I admired the work she put into saving dogs even when I doubted her methods. But there were odd looks and gestures, an occasional stray phrase that set up alarms.
While everyone else in the group was pretty chilled and cool, if a bit crazed and scatterbrained (myself included no doubt) this woman seemed strangely driven. She was also incredibly self promoting and self serving. She liked to give orders and read people well enough that when they started to pin around at the tone of her voice she would coddle them.
Its a tact I'd seen often before. Usually from untalented directors and writers who managed to always get work in front of other more talented people. The kind of musicians and filmmakers who could get work despite a string of desperate flops.
X - The Man With The X-Ray Eyes There was an agenda in her I couldn't figure out.
I couldn't discuss it with anyone because she was much admired for her hard work and I had nothing to go on but that uneasy feeling. I put it out of my mind.
Today I got an email. This woman has snagged herself a job. A paying gig on a State Board over seeing the care and disposition of animals . . .
Her agenda, politics? Probable.
I think its sad that this is the best we can hope for nowadays. Someone who cares a lot about their job is an excellent choice. Someone who wants the job for other reasons raises flags for me. She'll do a good job, I'm sure. To a point anyway. The person who mollifies can't be trusted to stand and make the tough calls. The person who cares more about how others perceive them instead of putting their charges safe and protected behind them bothers me.
I don't think that compromise works when you're talking about children or animals. For some jobs I want people who care more about the job then they do their image.
I guess this is similar to what bothers me about the current crop of presidential candidates. They want to mollify me, occasionally inspire me instead of seeing a world that they know they can change for the better. And then be willing to fight for that vision at all costs.
Well, at least I know what it was that bugged me about this woman.

There was a software update for the Apple TV this week.
I wish I hadn't installed it.
It makes the menu's a tad snappier. It improves the Genre filter Odilon Redon
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Stephen Youll
(a feature I could care less about) and it allows you to add favorites in YouTube (a feature I could care even less-er about. I don't care much for YouTube due to the quality of the videos. Of course if I do go blind the quality will be fine. I learned how to make and host and serve my own video files to avoid having YouTube mangle the pictures of my puppy).
It also took away a feature I really liked and used. It no longer does a two way communication with iTunes! Part of this is simple anal stuff on my part. I liked when I played a track and iTunes would update adding 1 to the play count and changing the "Last Played" date.
That was anal I know but when watching a Serial it was tres cool in marking which chapter I had just watched. It saved me energy and kept the hardware software transparent to my enjoyment.
I hope they fix this.
You know I'm squawking.

April 15, 2008

The Flaming Highway

That Special Place By Cassel Gentry
Click images for desktop size: "That Special Place" by Cassie Gentry
I know a lot of people, I guess. I like people. It keeps me balanced, leads to different sorts of mistakes.
I like a lot of different people, a lot of them people most others can't understand why or how I could possibly like them.
I had a friend, once. (Not the "Naked Spur" once, the "once upon a time" once).
Oh, No! Zombies!!! He was a crazy kind of guy. I met him on a TV set when I was AD'ing. He was a government grifter guy. The one's production crews have to take on in order to shoot on public streets. They have no real function other than to take a large fee, part of which gets kicked back. Sometimes they get in the way pretending they really have some specific job but most of the time they just flirt with the actors and extras. They eat a lot of the donuts and food.
I don't remember why he started talking to me. He did.
After a while he'd start meeting me for breakfast. You know the general actor and tech's ritual and primo meeting.
He was an amusing guy and grabbed the check often enough.
He had a job with the State. He coordinated some sort of functions at the State Fair. It was a political job. Payed high 5 figures and required he work about 200 hours a year.
He also got some perks, a State car with State plates so he could park anywhere, flout a lot of minor traffic laws, get free gas. He had a 90% pension. His job was so minor but so entrenched that he survived every political change of power.
His big problem was filling up his days. He could go into his office but it bored him, so he took jobs on movie and TV sets. When he started hanging out with us he got himself an agent and got some print work. It was important to him, I don't think it was sudden. I think recognition was an over powering need in him.
He never figured out that he had beaten the system. Sinner by Top
Click images for desktop size: "Sinner" by Top
He wasn't locked into a 9-5 lifestyle. He didn't have to show up everyday until he died. He'd won but never figured out that he was a winner in the capitalistic life.
He cheated heavily on his wife. He went through a string of minor celebrity types and actresses. Maybe it was just boredom. He did though. He used to bring in and show us polaroids of the best looking ones. Like he had over 30 of a regional beauty queen. (That sort of minor celebrity).
We always looked at them. Even disapprovingly. I mean, we were guys and this was pix of naked women. So even if some of us thought it was disgusting we still always looked. The more excited he was to show them off the more we looked.
He was a pretty nasty racist. He complained at length about having to hire blacks because he worked for the states and even he was above the discrimination laws.
I was never certain whether he was just a pure racist or just seriously resented not being completely above the law.
Phantom Of The Paradise He was the sort of guy who could hate an entire race because they reminded him was an imperfect god.
With my pedantic sophistic morality you'd think I'd have pretty good cause to scorn this sort of guy. But I liked him even when I disapproved of him.
Part of it was the fact we're all human and just from that we have something always in common. And we are all something more than the total of our actions and beliefs.
He listened to people. For someone as self centered as he was it was surprising. He tried to help others. Not in general but specifically. Like if some guy was complaining about not finding movie work and facing foreclosure or similar he'd try and find them a temp job that would get them over the hump.
He did it reflexively and never with a sense of largesse. He liked making his friends happy.
He was a funny looking guy. Until you stood next to him you'd never realize he was 6'2". Even close up he looked like a squat fireplug. He played football in college but admitted he wasn't disciplined enough or interested enough in education to play in college.
He was still a student of the game. He understood the mechanics of it clearly and grasped the strategy and fundamentals. He once tried to help me coach but he had no patience with the kids not doing what was in his head immediately. He never took it out on the kids and tried to seem patient. He wasn't and had the courage to admit it to me and quit.
It seemed like it was a failure in himself that he struggled to recognize in himself. He didn't accept much in the way of failures in himself.
I couldn't have done it. I admired that sort of guts and self awareness.
He didn't stay away from us either, avoid the team. Anime By Mota
Click images for desktop size: "Anime" by Mota
He used his contacts to get us equipment he saw we needed, got it donated with no strings attached.
But what I think I liked about him the most was that whenever he saw my dogs he would always pull out a plastic bag full of steak scraps. And even after 12 years he always asked if it was ok to give them his treat.
I always wondered why he always had a baggie of fresh looking steak scraps in his pocket. Did he eat that much steak? Did he keep them for any dog he might run into or did he replenish the bag each night in case we ran into each other?
I never asked.
He passed away last week. Heart failure, following a quadruple bypass.
He was part of my past. He shows that every person out there has something in them. something that can help make your world a little bit better. It doesn't mean they don't bring a whole load of aggravation and annoyance with them, but I like people.
Pharoh's Curse
Feeling marginally better. Yesterday I discovered I can whistle again, so I'm getting some feeling back in the right side of my face. I still dribble when I eat or drink anything. I can close my right eye and keep it closed while I sleep. Its still not seeing as well as I'd like, but then it never has.
Feeling a touch ill at ease about it but I'm used to this feeling.
Today's plan is yard work. Going back to face the stack of mulchy leaves that bit me (that I still think triggered this Bell's Palsy attack, for no other reason than I want to believe that.
The dogs love it when I work outside. They take a passionate delight in impeding any real progress. I delight in their delight.

April 14, 2008

I'm not a doctor. I play one on TV
TV Commercial

Adam Strange - DC Comics
Click images for desktop size: "Adam Strange" by DC Comics
When not attacking the world with an all encompassing blind rage and unfueled passion I like to watch movies. Movies with dogs in them.
We watched "Fire House Dog" this weekend. It was sort of stupid but it had a dog in it so I liked it. It had the greatest end credits I'd ever seen. Night Of The Living Dead-Remake With each credit card for director, producer, etc. they showed a picture of the person's dog.
Then when it got to the scroll credits they scrolled, in counterpoint, pix of the crew's dogs. It was great and better than the movie. It was a sweet and gentle love song to dogs. Most of the pups looked like shelter and rescue dogs. They were all beautiful and happy and, for the most part goofy.
It was such a love song it made me think that the film was either better or worse than I'd thought while watching it. And endless stream of dogs is something I think is hard to top.

I had a few other movies on. My eyes are so screwed up its hard to say I watched them. Its a long list. I went out of my way to only watch those films I figured were pretty dispensable. Things like "100 Million BC" (not to be confused with "10 Million BC" . . . ), the horror flic "Candy Stripers", "The Kid From Kwan Tung" (which was okay). In the mess I did find one of them that nearly justified watching some of these films on fast forward.
Its surprising. "The Cottage" is a British horror/comedy . . . I have a gentle distaste for most British cinema and I'm not fond of horror comedy but this pastiche of genre's worked for me because it was exactly those things, British, funny and pleasantly scary.
Click images for desktop size: "Godiva" by Anonymous
The acting was also first rate. The characters sharply written. What I liked best was that the characters were all real, not the agitprop snide Brit stuff or the cool East End Gangsters "Vinnie Jones" sort but real Brits as I've known them. It was highly enjoyable.

Of course the new (temporary) blind listen to a lot of music. What I don't like is it seems that there's not a lot of new stuff creeping into my playlists. I mean its there but nothing is grabbing me and shaking me by the heels.
I mean its mainly stuff I haven't heard before but every song I tend to like is OLD! Like discovering the decent new track is just The Stems-At First Sight or Yo La Tengo-Little Honda, which is like a ten year old cover of a 40 year old tune . . . maybe I'm mired in a happier past that never existed, Night Without Sleep like the bag people who remember a happier era and decide to stop their reality and live forever in that golden time. Or maybe these are truly great grinding tracks that deserve to be heard.
But the track that really and finally blew me away was Robert Gordon-Someday Someway. I mean YOW!! An ancient syrupy love song rocked and amped up by an 80's Rockabilly flash in the pan.
"You've taken everything from me,
I've taken everything from you"
Two minautes seventeen seconds of real actual love. YEAH!
Its now like my number one love song and you can dance to it!
Who needs a love song you can't dance to.

April 13, 2008

Got leukemia 14 years old looked like 65 when she died
Jim Carroll

Sacred Fire II by Michael Parkes
Click images for desktop size: "Sacred Fire II" by Michael Parkes
I can still see. Its difficult at times. Not getting any worse. Not getting much better.
Massage, heat. Not rubbing my eyes but the muscles around them gives me temporary relief.
I can close my eye. Mot of the time it closes all the way. With the Mac's zoom feature I'm functioning.
Mutant Chronicles It snowed last night. This is spring?
Bleakness in extended winters.
I keep wondering if America's time at the top of the pile as ended.
Eight years of of an unmitigated bloodthirsty prejudiced blood monger idiot has pretty much insured the decline of America. The rest we're all responsible for. Me and you.
Look at out candidates. Though there is something cool about a rich white woman calling a black candidate "elitist" my sense of humour wears thin.
These 3, Obama, Clinton and McCain are the best this country has to offer? We're screwed.
Maybe China is going to pick up the pace, take over from Japan and become the next big deal. America will just become customers.
Why not? What have we done to deserve better. Where have we stood?
We started a war based on lies. Supported it and kept the young over there to die.
We haven't caught Bin Laden and haven't fired the sheriff.
We've let China rewrite human rights policies, host the world's biggest party and just stared into space.
We've protected our own individual rights and watched patiently while others oppressed others. Hey, so long as its not me, right?
You know I respect the right people have to believe that God will come down and save the believers and damn the rest of us. I even respect it when guys pay lots of money to believe that God will come in a spaceship and you have to book your ticket now.
Ali Babba by Maxfield Parrish
Click images for desktop size: "Ali Baba" by Maxfield Parrish
I don't respect when some bully thinks he can make me or you believe that. And a government that allows that to happen is not a government but a virus that needs destroying.
We've been doing it here since we elected Bush and tried to set Fundamentalism as the State Religion so we really have no right to criticize the Chinese. But we should. We've shouldn't let the moron's we were foolish enough to elect destroy what we are. Let them represent themselves and let the warriors, men and woman, stand in a country we can believe in, even when it only exists in our hearts.
We boycotted the 1980 Olympics and dashed the hopes of a lot of young studs like Kurt Thomas and Bruce Baumgartner because the Russians invaded Afghanistan. And now . . .
I'm sputtering and shotgunning, violent core dump.
I'm sick. At least its an excuse.
At least I'll get better. And I've got a greeat puppy and a blind dog who cares about me. And a friend and a whole lot.

April 11, 2008

Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy saidup jump the boogy
Kid Rock

In Progress 2 By Lotsa Treez They promised me it wouldn't happen. They were wrong. Did they lie?
Doctors are too much like real people sometimes. Maybe its the world wide lessening of standards. I know that the doc's avoid patients they know are dying. I know they like to give you a rosy picture. Who wants to deliver bad news. Or its often easier to give the cowardly answer Missle To The Moon instead of dealing with the patient who can't quite take the bad news.
I've never heard of a doc getting slugged by a patient who didn't like the news on his health, but I can imagine it happening.
For me, they told me that Bell's Palsy was a once a lifetime thing.
I got it again. Dang.
I looked it up on google. Yeah, I know I should have done it right away but I can't be bothered to look up everything, let alone something that I already have decent news about. I mean I found this great sounding band, Relient K, pop punk. I didn't look them up. I wanted to hear about them not look for them from other people who bothered to look them up.
So how could you expect me to look up a disease?
Seems that there's a lot the doc's didn't bother to tell me. Like that diabetic's have a 40% greater shot at scoring them some Bell's Palsy. (Thanks for some more fringe benefits chemotherapy) And they have like a 20% chance of scoring it again. Which pretty much contradicts what the doc's told me. I was fit then. Maybe they figured I'd slug them if I got bad news.
Having half a paralyzed face isn't all that bad. The hardest thing is shaving, and you know I have to shave. When we spent two weeks crossing Death Valley I still shave every third day. After 3 days I figure I look like Gabby Hayes (archaic reference). Its really hard to shave something you can't feel. I mean barbers do it all the time so I guess its more a failing in me.
The other nasty part is that food and drink fall out of the paralyzed side of your face. Which is nastier for guests and partners than for me. It also makes interesting stain patterns on my shirts.
I guess I could wear a bib La Femme Fatale By Robert Williams but that feels like giving in to the disease! I get stupid that way. Never concede to a disease. Then it knows you're watching it, I guess.
The worrisome part is my eyes.
The first time it really thrashed out my left eye. Funny that a paralyzed face causes your eye to remain open and not shut. I washed it plenty, liquid tears, the eye patch, the whole shot but it still got dried out and a speck of dirt must have gotten into it. I can get along with it. But I couldn't function at the same level with two eyes that messed up.
The pain is annoying but nothing to freak out about. This case isn't as bad as the last one. And it clears up relatively fast. I just wish they'd told me so I could add some sort of preventative into my daily regime.

I started watching "Spy Smasher". Its okay. I cans see why a lot of people pick it as their fave serial.
Mr Sardonicus Kane Richmond looks truly cool leaping over walls and off 8 foot cliffs. He's over six foot and looks impressive in the fights.
There's some impressive Pre Quasi Steam punk style gadgets and weapons. Its okay. But it doesn't move me.
I think the main issue I have is that the villains are the Nazi's. This at least justifies the impressive amount of henchmen and the cool weaponry.
There's even some international heroism and an interesting picture of the Vichy Government and a touching scene involving sacrifice, so touching its surprising it wasn't saved for an American.
The thing was made at the weight of WWII. I mean what they were fictionalizing was really going on. I guess this sort of propaganda could keep some spirits higher.
I can see how this touch of filmed history could add to the impact of the serial to present day viewers but I keep seeing the kids in the 40's, kids who's brothers, fathers and friends were really there dying. This sort of harmless propaganda may have encouraged them but it discourages me. The War To End All Wars.
I have to go wash out my eyes. Take some pills. I'm looking forward to the pills. A part of me thinks each pill will lead me out of this. Bad way to think.

April 10, 2008

So simple a child of 5 could do it!

5 Cm a Second by Kabegami
Click images for desktop size: "5 cm Per Second" by Kabegami
This is going to be that great definitive Apple TV encoding thing. Except my eyes are failing badly.
Calling doctor's tomorrow. Maybe it will get better.
So forget the even more typos' than usual and trust in the touch typing I had to learn in high school.
Mantis In lace
I like the Apple TV. In fact I think its great.
My issues are simple: More codec support, accept external HD's, more responsive menu's. Since that seems to be everybody else's issue with the thing doesn't seem a lot of point to belabour it.
For music I've had issues with it choking on some aac and a couple of MP3's that caused it to crash! The MP3's seemed to have malformed ID3 tags (2.5). Why the m4a files choked I'm not sure. I simply get a screen saying that this file is not compatible with Apple TV. In a playlist it just skips the track.
Since I encode all m4a's through the command line and the built into Apple codec and tag them all in iTunes this is peculiar. I use true VBR encoding so that might be part of the issue. It shouldn't be.
For video Apple TV only supports mp4 encoded with the H264 (or the open source X264) codec. Sound tracks have to be either aac or, if you've got a digital output to a digital preamp, AC3 (surround sound).
There are plenty of apps out there designed to automate and simplify encoding your DVD's or avi's into the proper format.
Avi's are problematic. No codec will improve the image or sound of the source. Avi's are lossey files (data is dispensed with to make them smaller). Most of the time avi's transcode okay and a few have been excellent but in general they look pretty poor, kind of smeary and avi blockiness is not removed, nor are halo's (a creepy effect of a bright spot in a dark background).
But my issue was in finding the best way to encode my DVD's.
Fly With Me
Click images for desktop size: "Fly With Me" by Anonymous
I picked "Spider-Man", the first one. Because I had the SuperBit DVD. SuperBit prides itself on making the best possible DVD's of movies.
I ripped the DVD 3 ways.
I used Handbrake and their Apple TV preset. This encoded the movie at 2500 kbs and allows for embedding both the aac and the surround audio track.
I always use two pass encoding. The first pass examines the movie and creates a log. The second pass examines the movie and the log and then decides where you can get by with more or fewer kbs. It produces the smallest possible file and the best image quality for the bit rate.
To encode "Spider-Man" a 1 hour 52 minute movie it took about 4 hours! It made an mp4 of 2.5 gigabytes. (The DVD is 8 gig) I used An anamorphic setting which produces a 1024 by 526 image. Apple TV handles the Anamorphic image with no problems at all. The original is like 720 by 360.
Mark Of The AstroZombies I then encoded the movie with MpegSteamClip. On this encode I upscaled the image to 720p, the widest resolution the Apple TV can handle. I had to scale back the bitrate to 4.8 mps per second, the Apple TV can handle 5 mps but that would have made a file of over 5 gig. I used multipass encoding. This passed the file 4 times! It took 36 hours!
MpegSteamClip does not allow for any but the aac soundtrack.
I then encoded the movie in Xvid with Handbrake at 1500 kbps with the surround Soundtrack. In multipass this took about 2 hours . . . It produced a file of about 1.5 gig.
Oh, both Handbrake and MpegSteamClip are freeware apps.
To compare the Xvid, DVD I used my Oppo DVD?Xvid player. The Oppo uses its own upscaler to bring each movie up to 720p.
I watched on My Sony lcd.
Now what I saw (even with Bad eyes).
The Xvid was unsurprisingly, the least of them. The picture was acceptable but displayed all the flaws of the codec, smears, occasional blockiness in dark scenes and haloing. None of these would prevent you from enjoying a movie and at least on this encode there were none that were truly horrible.
The Handbrake encode was excellent and it took a cautious eye to detect any difference between it and the DVD! It benefited greatly from having the surround soundtrack. It was bright clear and I never noticed any artifacts. It streamed flawlessly over my class g network, never a stutter.
The MpegSteamClip upscaled image was fantastic! In comparisons it was BETTER than the DVD! The picture was bright and details were crystal clear, revealing wisps of hair and specks of dust in the air. All impeccable. As common sense says it couldn't improve the image quality I put it down to a software upscaler Celebrating The Migration Of The Swans
Click images for desktop size: "Celebrating The Migration Of Swans"
taking about 6 hours to enlarge the image was an improvement on the Oppo's excellent but on the fly upscaler.
Where the MpegSteamClip fell apart was in having only the aac soundtrack. Dolby ProLogicII is does not have the dynamic range of AC3 and the flatter, less dynamic range sounds really makes a huge impact in side by side comparisons.
It was disconcerting in that it was noticeably better than the Handbrake encode but it was very difficult to decide if the 36 hours of encoding time is worth the extra detail.
For me I've decided that there are only a few movies out there worth the extra hassle and then only movies that don't have a massive booming soundtrack. Even the Xvid sounded better than the MpegSteamClip. For some movies that would be cool.
And I've probably left out some pertinent detail or fact that you need to know. But I'm feeling creepy enough at the moment to not really care.
Oh, Handbrake is also available for Windows. I note this with chagrin that Handbrake was originally created for BeOS. BeOS was for a brief moment the finest OS ever created.

April 9, 2008

We're going to get into each other's heads
Walter Doniger

Our Man Flint by JW McGinnis
Click images for desktop size: "Our Man Flint" by JW McGinnis
Yesterday I was going on about how the drugs made me feel like a prisoner. Some people didn't get it.
I understand.
I'm not looking to run away. There's nothing to escape but myself and that would take some awful fast running. I just want an open door as an option.
Mad Doctor Of Blood Island Plus Blood Curse Its a sense of freedom that's been born in me and purified over the years. No country is big enough to hold me. I need that as much as I need the drugs.
But with the drugs it was always a wearisome chore. I had to have them. I have to have them. Its a medical condition addiction, I guess.
They cost money and I always have to have a doctor write me a prescription. They very seldom will give me more than a month at a time. So I'm on a time tether.
It usually means if I go someplace I have to have a week to find a doctor, or a free clinic who'll write me the prescriptions, then I have to find a drugstore I can afford. Its funny, but one of my meds was like $125 at Ekarts, $85 at Walgreens, $60 at Walmart and I ended up getting it at a tiny corner druggist for $25 . . . So, yeah, I have to look and they won't always tell you over the phone.
And then I have four weeks before I have to start all over again.
I've always resented it. Always hated the bus rides, the walks and the bike rides, the time spent getting my drugs so I can stay alive, not go blind, not die.
So Three months supply feels like freedom. I like looking at the bottles and knowing I could go anyplace I can get to in 11 weeks.
Even now it means I don't have to go through the monotonous routine of getting them.
That's all I meant. I hate my drugs. I hate that they keep me alive but don't make me feel better . . . But I still look at them, my massive 3 month supply, and I feel wealthy.

I finished "Atom Man VS Superman". It was cool. Very.
I've already rabbited on about the acting and all. This would be "Highly Recommended" instead of "Warmly Recommended" because of three major caveats.
The first is the special effects. Its got cool space ships made of riveted tin, rockets and flying saucers (but, sadly, no robots!) but when it comes to the coolest effect, Superman flying, it cuts to a rotoscoped cartoon image. Sometimes they try and make it cool but the Superman flying over the horizons of Metropolis (A very very cool old LA) it is always a cartoon Superman . . . which is kind of disappointing. It never looses that jarring effect.
The second is common with Columbia serials. I Remember Papa
Click images for desktop size: "I Remember Papa" by Unknown
They LIE TO YOU! Like, you see a flood come rushing down a mountain and just sweeping a truck carrying Lois Lane over a cliff where the truck is dashed to bits and the announcer intones "Will Lois survive!"
But when you come back to the next episode it doesn't happen . . . Cartoon Superman swoops down and lifts Lois and the truck out of the way of the flood, just in time. No truck ever goes over the cliff . . . personally, I prefer the old pulls her out of the truck just in time sort of thing.
The final concern might actually be a plus. I found it pretty amusing. Seem Luthor has invented a device that can transport people anywhere in the world, he's invented a TV camera that can see and hear through walls, a heat ray, an earthquake machine that can level any city in the world, space ships, ATOM BOMBS and this criminal genius uses these fabulous inventions to commit a rash of robberies. In one night his gang robs a Shoe Store, a Dry Man Thing Cleaners and a Candy Store . . . yup. A bit of overkill is what I'm thinking . . . And you can't help but wonder how many atom bombs can the day's take a candy store finance?
Then to avoid being busted for petty larceny he launches an Atom Bomb at Metropolis . . . to avoid a bust on a candy store stick up . . .
Still, it was fun through out. Next on the serial watch list is Michael J Foxe's fave, "Spy Smasher".
I've also come to terms with the fact that I'm a Jean Claude Van Damme fan. I have almost all of his movies and I find them diverting and enjoyable. They have no pretensions other than to entertain. Van Damme works within his limits and succeeds. And he looks great kicking people in the head!
His recent films have taken an interesting tact, presaging Stallone's again of his characters. Van Damme's heroes' are mortal, more so, often just aged and disillusioned. One he was a drug cop who used his position to get himself addicted to heroin!! Not to preserve anything but only from ennui, rage and loss. It was shockingly real and well played, but not so heavy as to detract from all the head cracking to come.

I've finally finished all the encodes for my big Apple TV encoding experiment. Now I have to watch and compare. That will take a bit depending on how my eyes hold up.
My eyes feel marginally better. I've noticed an odd thing about my face. Its not Bell's Palsy paralyzed but its not moving right. I can't clamp my eyes shut. I'm only smiling with the left side of my face.
The good part is that with concentration and effort I can still move the right side of my face. I'm not gravely concerned. Death By Beauty by Lai Nguye
Click images for desktop size: "Death By Beauty" by Lai Nguye
I figure it will pass. If it doesn't I've got a doctor.
The penicillin is doing its job. I wonder if its part of the semi-paralysis in my face - some weird eye infection its fighting. Its knocked a lot of the steady pain out. The only drawback to that is that its let me realize just how badly my right shoulder is aching! I'm used to that. Concentrating on one set of pain allows you to ignore the lesser pains.
The only grief from that, other than an upset stomach, is the sudden electric bursts of pain that escape. Nothing heavier than the previous constant pain so its just a wake up call reminding me to keep taking the pills.
Other than that its just the usual of my body readjusting to the chemistry of the drugs. I go through it every time I run low on the drugs in my system. Its uncomfortable but not debilitating.
And I'm looking at the world with the old stupid wry look.
I'm feeling quirky and as happy as I usually am.
But crabby always very crabby. It keeps me predictable.

April 8, 2008

I saw a life before me but now I'm blind
Death In Vegas

Indian's Death By Akhareshe
Click images for desktop size: "Indian's Death" by Akhareshe
Went to the doctor's yesterday. It was a curious non-event.
I still have no idea what the visit will cost. They said they'd bill me. Of course I'm hoping they'll forget! But I don't count on it.
There was one excellent thing. I got THREE months of drugs at a shot. Lonely Hearts Bandits With THREE refills. Suddenly I feel . . . free. Or at least freer. Three months not being tethered to a place, freedom for a year. Even if I don't go anyplace, which is likely, the fact that I can makes me feel so much better.
I also got penicillin. If I can rely on my body and the past the antibiotics will knock out about 80% of my discomfort.
Rah for losing 80% of the discomfort.
The doc looked at my eye too. Saw nothing in there, like debris I mean. It still hurts like hell.
My left eye got down twisted pretty hard from the Bells Palsy (that was a special scary treat, swollen face and paralyzed. And I never missed any work). I have double vision from just the one eye. I can usually compensate with my right eye and it doesn't bother me much.
I found it impossible to keep my right eye closed though. The longer it was open the more it hurt. Finally I resorted to the old Bell Palsy eye patch . . . somethings you just can't throw away. Somethings you drag from coast to coast so that if you're ever inclined to forget . . .
It worked pretty well. I enjoyed seeing everyone and everything being pursed by their translucent ghost. Keep me occupied for a good four minutes.
It worked though and I was able to watch a movie that way. The movie was not worth the effort. Steven Chow made "Shaolin Soccer" which I thought was great and followed that up with "Kung Fu Hustle" which was pretty entertaining. "CJ7" was his first film in over two years, so there were a lot of high expectations from everyone, including me.
I watched the trailer on the Apple site and was intrigued about the cute little, pliable space-puppy. So we sat down to watch this with glad hearts and empty thoughts. Necronom by HR Giger
Click images for desktop size: "Necronom" by HR Giger
And left with the empty minds and bored hearts. The movie is sadly and inexplicably dire.
Its a kid's movie, so were Chow's others, but this one seems geared and aimed at sub-normal 4 year olds, where the rest were kid movie aimed at adults. The film is cruel, shows a "loving" parent swatting his child in public. The kid then does vicious things to the cute little space-puppy.
Like all puppies CJ7 forgives the violence perpetuated against him, even rewards it. Very strange, stranger moral lesson there too.
A movie to avoid, I think. Especially for kids.
I woke up and my eye was not hurting at all. That lasted for 90 minutes. Which is a good thing. I've got the eye patch on now and find it funny to type and watch the ghost words pop up.
I'm planning to work on my bike today. If other people think 60 is T-Shirt and shorts weather (it isn't) then I can get my bike ready for spring and tool around some. The battery is charged, the tires need some air but not as much as I feared.
I, of course, would be terrified to see someone on an electric bike wearing an eye-patch while he dodges between the ghost cars.
But what do I know.

April 7, 2008

I figure wherever I am is where I'm from, where I belong
Borden Chase

Night Windows By Edward Hopper
Click images for desktop size: "Night Windows" by Edward Hopper
I have a doctor's appointment today . . .
Nothing special, just the first time for seeing this doctor. Most of my worries are about money. Will he see me without insurance? Will he at least write me my regular scripts? Will he make me re-do a bunch of expensive tests? Will I have to plead and beg? Can I get a 3 month supply? I'm out of meds . . .
Just the normal in this life, my life.
Lake Dead What really bugging me are my eyes.
I was raking the yard yesterday and when I was picking up the leaves (from last autumn, so they've semi-mulched nicely under the snow) a gust of wind lifted some debris up and smacked me in the right eye.
I did all the right stuff: Didn't scratch it, washed the eye out etc. Buts its been hurting all day and over night . . . Now I'm almost glad that I'm not seeing my old doctor because this would entail a 45 minute lecture about wearing my dark glasses at all times when I'm outside.
My new sin: Not wearing my dark glasses.
My left eye feels like its getting worse. More blurry and it feels more at ease when I keep it closed and just watch things with my right eye. I try and avoid doing that, especially now that my right eye is hurting me.
I'm not sleeping well but at least I'm staying in bed and not wandering around. When I wander around too late it bothers my puppy. I can't stand her worried face when she looks at me like that.
I like her to be carefree and happy. I like my puppy to laugh and try and trick me and joke with me. Her pathetic helplessness, her worry when she has no idea what to do bothers me. The only solution she comes up with is to stay as close to me as she can.
My little blind dog keeps hanging on. Blind, stinking, scratching and a chronic cough (that doesn't help my non-sleeping) doesn't seem to be a codec for happy but he is happy.
He gets mad because he gets comfortable and then I move and he has to get up and follow. I don't know why he has to follow but he feels he does. I drive him crazy when I run back and forth. Tiles By Geopics
Click images for desktop size: "Tiles" by Geopics
He's still feeling enough himself to let me know I'm driving him crazy.
Every morning I give the dogs raw hide ships, for treats and for their teeth. The little blind dog gets a pork hide or similar. He can't have beef at all. Today my puppy and he negotiated a complicated ritual that ended with them swapping treats.
They were both pretty hacked with me for nixing the deal.
As long as he can get mad at me I don't worry too much. Concerned but not worried. Get the difference?
Watched a lot of disappointing movies this weekend. They were disappointing not because of my mood or physical state but because they were films that anyone would expect to be disappointing. It ended up with me watching them on fast forward and stopping for the fight scenes . . . even Mark Descanzo, usually a pretty reliable guy, was creepy in "Alien Agent".
I finally got a copy of Jet Li's debut film, "Shaolin Temple" (Shaolin Si). He was 17 and the 12 time Wushu National Champion.
I first saw this in Chinatown when it was released. I was blown away by the sheer athleticism of the actors, all members of the National Wushu team. They were astonishing in a way the Chinese Opera Company Legend Of Seven Golden Vampires (the main breeding ground for Chinese kung fu stars) could never envision. And that's saying a lot.
I have a feeling the version I saw was cut because , after the rousingly stupid opening them song ("Shao Lin Shao Lin All the world looks to your mysteric ways") and the astonishing first movie shots ever of the Shaolin Temple and the Forbidden City (Boy, I want to go to China) there followed some very nasty animal cruelty. Including a bizarre propaganda style piece showing the monks cooking and eating a dog!
I don't remember seeing that before and I would have remembered. I stopped watching when the bad guys started slaughtering a flock of sheep. I don't have much confidence in the Chinese not hurting animals. I mean they haven't shown much respect for students or Tibetans so . . .
If that makes me seem squeamish, I can live with that.
The one thing I found enjoyable, that started out as pretty dire, is the serial "Atom Man vs Superman". Kirk Allyn is now my third favorite Superman (George Reeves and Christopher Reeves are numbers 1 and 2). He gets more and more engaging. The nicest touch is that he's always grinning and the grin could be interpreted in so many ways. Sometimes its, "boy can you believe. Bullets bounce right off of me!" and other times, "You mortal fools don't you see I'm the closest you'll ever see to a god!" and you can go on and on.
Lyle Talbot, who I recall as the Next Door Neighbor in a lot of ancient sitcoms, is tres cool as Lex Luthor. He works his multifarious schemes to perfection and accepts his ruthless genius as a cool matter of course, especially when he tricks Superman into helping his evil plans.
Noel Neill, as Lois Lane, is much cooler than she was in the TV show (hard to believe but its so). She sassy, belligerent and headstrong. Very excellent.
There's the usual odd serial plot holes. If Luthor has the money to own a TV station why does he need a gang of idiots to do a series of penny ante robberies . . .
I'm still working on the encodings to test out the Apple TV. I've decided to get comprehensive about it and be real exact and precise so I can figure once and for all the best way to watch my meager movie collection.

April 5, 2008

So you want to be a rock and roll star
Gene Clark

Friendly Monsters
Click images for desktop size: "Friendly Monsters" by Anonymous
I like video games. I like Grand Theft Auto, the fighting games, even some of the sports sims. I like games you can play with a mess of people.
Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero sort of bug me.
Kiss The Blood From My Hands I can understand how most people are never going to get to be secret agents, explore space, be robbers and killers and swordsmen. Its fun to pretend. But anybody can pick up a guitar or a set of drum sticks and start a band. I don't get the kick in pretending to be something you could easily be.
Its like that weird game where you pretend to be a waitress and have to seat people and deliver their orders ASAP. I mean, aspire to be a waitress? Its a job and thats always cool, but an aspiration, something fun to pretend to be?
Guitar Hero et al seem to be teaching kids how to play Simon to air guitar. Since they've made air guitarists micro-stars, I guess there's something small in that. It just seems it could have been cooler.
Most people want to play music. They want to pick up a chunk of wood and make some noise that shouts out at the world with all the rage and passion they've got inside of them that needs to get out there. Whenever I was in a band there were always a large group who looked at me with envy because I could play guitar.
Some of them even worked up the courage to come ask me for lessons. Not because they wanted to play like me but because they wanted to shout out loud.
Its easy. A handful of chords can let you fake an obscene number of tunes. Learning to barre moves you into semi-pro, lets you dance around the neck and look like something.
Last century somebody came out with this weird guitar. The neck was lined with LED's. You told it what notes and chords you wanted to play and the LED's flashed to show you the proper strings and frets to play.
Ghost Town By DiHa1977
Click images for desktop size: "Ghost Town" by DiHa1977
I thought this was hyper-gooney at the time. I mean the way I and most guitarists learned was with a crappy Mel Bay Teach Yourself Book, playing along with records, and staring intently at guitarists fingers and amp settings at shows.
Somehow it seemed important to note that Angus from AC-DC did a mini-barre when he played an open D, or that BB Kings left a couple strings out when he did a D Major 7. And all the stuff we could steal from our local guitar heroes until we worked up the courage to ask if we could play with them some afternoon, or if they'd give us a lesson.
Now I'm thinking how much cooler it would be to have to play Guitar Hero with a guitar like that. Instead of pushing nasty Fisher Price colored buttons you follow LEDs and press strings hard enough to fret. You could actually learn to play.
I know how much fun it is to play music together with friends and Knock On Any Door I can see the rush from getting a Rock Band thing together to mimic a track. But I'm positive its a lot more fun to turn off the TV and see and hear yourself blasting through the years of mediocrity to make a noise that comes from only you.
It'll never happen or someone will figure out how to do it with nylon strings that won't give you callouses on your fingertips and make even more money.
Like I thought that Bill Gates Video was funny where he was playing Guitar Hero and then decided he should go play with U2. That reminded me of when you'd walk in on a friend who was blasting his music and you'd catch him playing air guitar. He'd look at his sheepishly and grin and you understood. Who knew that in a race towards the pablum that sheepish grin could have led to fortunes.

Okay. I'm really LOVING my friends Apple TV. When its set up, which is dead easy, it really feels like you're your own program director. And its unlikely I'll ever rent or purchase a movie "from my sofa" its a cool attribute to ignore.
Flowers - Wallpapermania
Click images for desktop size: "Flower" by Wallpapermania
Forgetting the fact that I still find the Flickr screensaver its coolest feature (It shows, with Ken Burns effects, you entire Flickr library while your music plays. I find it enthralling and entrancing) the biggest issue I've had with it is ripping my movies into H264 Apple TV friendly files.
That parts easy but its hard figuring what is the best possible format: DVD, Upscaled to 720p DVD H264's, Anamorphic Widescreen, or DivX or Xvid.
I'm experimenting and will let you know what I discover.

And now it looks like spring may actually be here. I have a puppy who demands play time.

April 3, 2008

We can have us some fun cause we got a little mon
Joe Penny

Flaws Of Fancy by Anonymous
Click images for desktop size: "Flaws Of Fancy" by Anonymous
Okay, so two people got my joke . . .

Writing out of that exquisite boredom that only comes from being on hold on the telephone.
Figure to spend the morning on one task and the afternoon on another.
Keoma Pain has not abated. But I'm doing better with it.
I figure that most of the effects of torture are derived from the ability are derived from the fact that there is the possibility that the pain can cease.
That thought is one of the reasons that I get agnostic about the fundamentalist version of Hell. What good does eternal torment do?
There's this one little book by a Chicago writer that takes it to the necessary extreme. In Stanley Elkins' "The Living End" a pretty normal guy, a Jew, is condemned to eternal suffering because he wore zippers on his trousers . . . It could happen.
Without the possibility of redemption what's the sense of pure revenge, eternal revenge.

I've been listening to the new Raconteurs' album, Consolers Of The Lonely. I wish it were great. It isn't but its okay.
Best bit is how nice it is too hear Jack White's guitar. There's a bit of acoustic thrown into it as well. White isn't overwhelmed by his band members, which is good but they don't let those pure Jack White excesses come to the front, and I like them excesses.
I've also been listening to the Nomads. A Scandinavian punk group! They're alright and a few tunes hit the great mark.
I first came aware of them because they covered She Pays The Rent (not one of my songs but one of the songs I played).
Its funny. I guess if I was uber successful I'd get uptight about bands covering my tracks without contributing 20 bucks of the 200 they make from the gig to my well oiled coffers. As it is I'm merely flattered and hope that the bands get to keep playing. Except in this case where they do a better version of the tune then I ever envisioned! Long live the Nomads!
Alladin by Maxfield Parrish
Click images for desktop size: "Alladin" by Maxfield Parrish

I'm also near finished with the serial "The Purple Monster Strikes".
Its pretty cool and features one of the greatest ham bones headed heroes in serial history.
Ignoring the fact that he fights the Purple Monster single handedly (or takes along his girl friend who valiantly tries to assist but only gets knocked out in the path of some greater danger necessitating a rescue that enable the henchmen to escape) the great hambone headed play of all time was when his car is blown up by a destructo ray, the most powerful weapon on earth. After a good fight where he manages to daze the head henchman he then runs off after the truck driver leaving the henchman time to recover and speed away WITH THE WEAPON!
I mean, compared to the top villain and the most destructive weapon n earth how important is the truck driver . . .
Well, he got the job and I didn't. Maybe the idea is that if all the truck drivers are shot down or put away the villains plans would crumble for lack of transportation.
Killers From Space The Purple Monster is old cowboy star Ray Barcroft. He's not very monstrous but is a good movie fighter. I guess his leotard is purple and he does monstrous things. He's from Mars and is a one man invasion. The plan is he steals the plans for a jet plane, flies it back to Mars and then they build a fleet and invade earth.
Somehow I figure they'd have done better if they sent a mess of Purple Monsters, but who am I to question the wisdom of the Emperor of Mars . . . He does get an assistant, a girl who looks pretty snazzy in her purple monster costume (with cute drum majorette skirt). Her name is Marcia . . . seriously. Then I realized MARS-cia . . . get it?
Its still a lot of mindless fun and moves so fast that only an adult would think to contemplate the plot holes, and only then only after the episode was finished.

April 2, 2008

We don't need another hero
George Miller

Angel Returns
Click images for desktop size: "Angel Returns" by Lawnelf
No one ever gets my jokes . . .

I always have something to say. I'm like that. We're like that.
Sometimes someone needs to remind us that we need to believe in certain things, not because they're true but because they're the only things worth believing in.
Some of the cliches like; people are basically good, good always trumps evil, that we do what's right because it is what's right, that money is not as important as friendship, and true love never dies.
Beat Of Blood and Curse Of The Vampires Babbling here takes it out of my head and makes it real. It makes it true. All I ever really wanted to do was lay my life out so I could see it, see where I'm human and where I'm not. What principals I've stood firm by.
I think you need some values to stand firm with. Principals that you won't desert whatever the pay off.
Right now I've got 3 teeth that are killing me. They're probably going to fall out. The doctors told me they probably would. They hurt like hell.
I've got an electric current running through my bones that making me twitch gasp and breathe heavy. Nothing can be done to stop it. I mean, I OD on ibuprofen right now . . . the pain is so bad that I lie and listen to the trains go by and I think how easy it would be to lie down there and stop this hurting for once and forever.
That's when you can decide if you're worth trusting. If the little cliches you've used as the foundation of your life are rock or just sand.
And I think I'd sell out a stranger to stop this jerking pain. Not a loved one, not family, not a child or a dog. Maybe a cat, but then, not even that. And a stranger? Well, maybe he loves somebody, or maybe someone loves him. So I guess there's nobody to sell out. Nobody.
I can't lie under that train. No matter how ugly I look now and no matter how ugly I'm going to look its not vanity to know that somebody needs me to be here as long as I can. Maybe not you or you but somebody.
There've been large chunks of my life where I felt so terribly alone. Often it was my own fault, just as often I was merely a victim. Each time I survived because someone needed me to. Sometime for love, some times for just being human.
I've done some rotten things in my life. Rotten by my standards, possibly not by yours and probably not by most peoples standards. Cleopatra By Michael Parkes
Click images for desktop size: "Cleopatra" by Michael A Parkes
I don't live with most people. I've done some rotten things. Nothing worth killing over.
I got blind to things. I needed to make money to support a family and to support them the way I felt they deserved.
I got wrapped up in my grief and forgot about others.
I'm not honest with everyone. I don't correct misconceptions very often. I don't always feel like saying the truth.
I try and stay honest with myself and I stay honest with the people who love me and the people I love.
I'm not forgiving. I trust the people I love and understand, but I can forgive them. That's as deep as my pool (puddle) of forgiveness goes.
I get angry. I get enraged. And not just from the things that should get me enraged. Blind Fury I keep quiet about it, at least, except with the people closest to me.
I had to deal with the fact that I wasn't a superman. That I was just the same as you. That made me angry at first and ashamed, but then I came to rejoice in it. Its hard to accept that I was just normal.
I've made mistakes in my life. Some of them pretty stupid. Believing in those cliches doesn't feel like one of them. Being another human being wasn't one of them.
I confess my cruelty, my ego and deceit.
I haven't felt funny enough to work on my puppies web site. To help her work on it, I mean. I saw yesterday I hadn't even taken a picture in a month. I know I'm feeling bad when I can let something that important get slipped away.

Most of you know I have an MFA. It was almost just an accident. It maybe the most worthless accomplishment of my life.
The only cool thing was that I had to take the GRE. I was the only person in anyone's memory who scored higher on the GRE than I did on the SAT. It took me four shots to get the 750 on the SAT to get into school. It takes 800 to ace the GRE. I guess it proved I wasn't as stupid as everybody thought. Most likely it just showed that I was educable.
But I got an MFA. It was an accident. I wanted to make movies. I wanted to be part of telling stories of showing people how they are and how they could be.
I wrote some. But I didn't want to be a writer or a director . . . that's right, I never wanted to direct. I wanted to work in sound. When I found out that production sound was pretty boring Cartoon Girls
Click images for desktop size: "Cartoon Girl" by Unknown
I worked as an AD until I discovered post production . . . and proceeded to drive people insane.
To get my MFA I had to teach some classes. I have no idea if I was any good at that. I didn't mind it but I didn't love it. That means I probably wasn't very good at it.
One of my tasks was watching student films . . . I was amazed at how many kids couldn't even figure out how to get a character to walk through a door. Conservative rough estimate - I've probably seen 900 student films.
A lot of girls/women made movies of horses running through pastures, lots of horses . . . I guess it was easier than working with people. There were a lot of whacky drunken poorly scripted monologues. The ones I admired most were the guys who used making a movie as an excuse to talk some girl out of her clothes.
For the most part they were arty and pretentious. They were talking Godard and using film as a way to get a message across to the ignorant masses. The message they wanted to get across was never very clear. At least to me.
There were a lot of killings and a lot of badly done violence, which usually made me think that they'd never been in a violent situation in their lives.
Blues In The Night They tried though and it was part of my job. So I watched, hunched over a movieola most of the time, and tried to give them a break even when numbness was fast setting in.
See, they wanted art and I believed in entertainment. They thought those were exclusive terms and worlds apart. I did and still do think they're the same thing.
Like no one ever sings the praises of Richard Brooks. He's a writer director and he made some heavily successful movies. A few of his films actually had world changing effects on society.
He didn't start working until he was in his 30's. Then he was writing westerns and serials. Out of nowhere he pulled together the script for "The Killers", one of the first film noir's. It helped start a genre.
He followed that up with the incredible Jules Dassen flic, "Brute Force". A movie that still makes prison seem like the lowest circle of hell.
In the 50's (when he was just turning 40) he began to direct. Nothing great but he was learning and his films were successful, successful enough that in 1955 he fought to write and direct the first rock and roll movie, the film that laid juvenile delinquency out there and gave it a plastic sheen, "The Blackboard Jungle". It made Vic Morrow and Sidney Poitier stars. It launched a bunch of near delinquents into long running movie making careers.
To follow that up he attempted the butt numbing task of trying to film Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karmazsov", and Tennessee William's "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof". Movies that are remembered for their stars (Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Burl Ives) but not for the guy who guided them and let them sparkle. Which is odd somehow, that he'd be so forgotten. Dream Catcher by WJ
Click images for desktop size: "Dream Catcher" by WJ
He hit on themes other writers and directors would avoid but his films were hits, successes. The only solid line in all of them was that he wrote and directed them.
He got an Oscar for "Elmer Gantry", not one of my faves but that let him do for the 60's what he did for the 50's, turn it upside down and shake it so we can see what falls out. He did the unthinkable and made a brilliant film of a great book, "In Cold Blood".
It remembered today for Robert Blake's head turning performance, but I liked the oddly constructed documentary style that he twisted around when the drama needed it.
And then in the 70's he made a movie that got attention on the front pages and in the editorial sections of newspapers. TV guys and preachers talked about it, everyone had an opinion, "Looking For Mr Goodbar" was the movie, it secured stardom for Diane Keaton, Brainstorm who stunned everyone because she could really act. It started Richard Gere's career . . .
There was a lot of furor about them, but none about Richard Brooks, the guy who made the movie.
I think his career was swell. He made movies that entertained that made you think and bought home serious messages about sexuality, about homosexuality, about kids, about freedom, about doing what's right no matter what the cost.
Like John Sturges nobody talks about him anymore.
I don't think he would have cared much.
See, I think my film students would have learned more from Richard Brooks or even a clunky serial than they learned from Dzeiga-Vertov or Northrup Frye.

April 1, 2008

It finally had to happen

Tunnel by Lowes
Click images for desktop size: "Tunnel" by Lowes (Jai Z)
Even with opening day.
The war.
The election.
I've run out of things to say . . .
Astro Zombies