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February 27, 2009

Life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel
Horace Walpole

Pin Up Art by JW McGinnis
Click images for desktop size: "Pin Up Art" by JW McGinnis
Just like in books movies have scenes, moments mainly, that stay fresh and alive in our minds forever. Since the genius of the scenes in books are always open to our personal interpretation, (I Spook Warfare always imagine the hero as looking like me . . . sort of thing) and the moments in movies are plastic concrete, universal and indisputable, I prefer movies.
No surprise there.
The dogs woke me at 1:30 this morning. I still have no idea why, although I expect it has something to do with two new dogs who moved into the area, even though they're about 200 yards away at the closest point to our yard, our dogs take great umbrage to their presence.
I woke up in pain. After letting the dogs out I took some ibuprofen and meditated about some of the great moments in movies. It helped get me to sleep in a nice way.
Somehow think about movies almost always starts with John Wayne. I don't know why, it just does. I guess I'm still surprised that he was a lineman at USC.
Wayne had a few great moments; indelible scenes that stay with you forever. Whenever things get hopeless I always have a flash of Wayne as Ringo in "Stagecoach", falling forward into the dust as he takes on three bad guys with only a winchester and 3 bullets. And that moment in "True Grit" when Wayne confronts Robert Duvall and Duvall's gang in the natural arena. After Duvall points out the obvious truth that Wayne is old, fat, one eyed and tired Wayne shouts, "Fill your hands you sonsabitches!" Put his horse's reins in his mouth and rides at the gang firing wildly.
A lot of movies have moments like that, moments that help us survive what our own imaginations Kitchen
Click images for desktop size: "Kitchen" by Unknown
might not let us survive. That's one of the reasons for art.
I wasn't thinking about those moments I was thinking about the moments that codify a movie so well that it burns and illuminates not only our lives but the lives of others, enabling to let us see things we perhaps never even sensed.
Like for me the greatest moment for Wayne came in "The Searchers". Its a movie loaded with great moments, like the crazy teenaged girls who've escaped the Apaches, or the moment when Wayne scoops up Natalie Wood as though she were no more significant than a doll, a wisp an image. But moment that fits my definition is when Wayne returns Natalie Woods to her family. He stands in the doorway a hero, but a hero ignored, Jeff Chandler pushes past him and we know that because of Wayne's efforts all will be better for the world, the people in that house whose life he has touched and Slaughter High improved will leave a version of happily ever after. But Wayne just stands in the doorway, gripping his own right arm with his left hand, while the Sons of the Pioneers acting like some bumpkin Greek chorus exhort him to ride away, ride way.
The house looks so dark, cool and inviting. We know it is filled with celebration and happiness, while the world beyond the doorway is bright, harsh and unrelenting. (The technology required to get that shot are remarkable considering 1957 film stock and lenses.) And Wayne turns away and does that John Wayne walk to his horse while invisible hands slam the door shut, locking him forever outside.
What makes this great is that in 45 seconds without being lectured or told we understand so many things; the nature of heroes, the way some men are meant to only be alone, how single decisions can unhinge and change the trajectory of a life, decisions fueled not with logic but with emotion.
The Monkees
Click images for desktop size: "The Monkees"
I'm glad they never made a sequel to "The Searchers". It would have destroyed that perfect moment.
Who doesn't remember Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape"? When he's sitting on his motorcycle looking at the miles long barbed wired fence that is the only impediment to his freedom. The German army closing in on him, surrounding him. And that moment when he revs the bike up, spins it around and makes that unforgettable leap. A fails.
What propels the scene from cool to the frisson I'm talking about is that while McQueen lies tangled in the wire that this is not a failure, its just a set back. He'll escape and if needed he'll escape again. Freedom is our nature and it doesn't take greatness or even great determination for all of us to be seeking freedom until we finally succeed.
There is a difference between totally cool and the frisson that impacts and makes fact of the swirl of thoughts and emotions that circulate around us everyday. Clint Eastwood's "The Unforgiven" offersSex Kittens Go To College up the best example of this. Everyone remembers the final scene in the bar where Eastwood blows everything apart and there's that great confrontation between Eastwood and Gene Hackman where Eastwood hisses out the line, "I've killed women and children, just about everything that's lived or crawled and now I'm going to kill you."
That scene is just cool entertainment but the scene proceeding, the New Ponies
Click images for desktop size: "New Ponies" by Unknown
bit that sets all this up is the powerful one that cuts to the quick of our humanity.
The whole film has shown Eastwood to be extremely strong, strong enough to change his life for a woman he loves and after she passes away his strength carries him through to continue for the sake of his two children. The biggest change has been for him to avoid liquor at all costs. Eastwood listens to the girl who brings them their money. He listens to the atrocities Little Bill has perpetuated against Eastwood's only friend.
Against a silver streaked black and gray sky he listens and in his shock and pain he gets week. He takes a bottle of whiskey and in between his horrified questions he pours the whiskey down his throat. The camera takes a low angle as if to frame him heroically against dramatic sky. Eastwood's aged face and cracking voice destroy any illusion of heroism, it simply denies us the ease of assuming he's transforming into a mere beast.
And its in that moment that so much is revealed about ourselves. The little kid cheerleader who sees the whiskey as Eastwood's spinach. We know as he drinks he's turing into an indomitable killer. Life Is A Stage by WallColl
Click images for desktop size: "Life Is A Stage" by WallColl
Then there's the profound sadness. We see a man so overcome with grief at losing his friend that he destroys himself the only way he knows will work. Eastwood gives up the sobriety and humanity he has struggled to maintain for nearly a many years as he was a mad outlaw. He gives up what he has fought to become out of rage, loneliness and a love for another that is greater than the love he has for himself.
"A Man Who Was Superman" is a movie I hold in high regard. I seem to be pretty much alone in this. Its okay. I can always wait for the rest of the world to catch up.
"A Man Who Was Superman" has a lot of those cool moments. But it also has an explosive scene that plays so simply and elegantly that it speaks not only of talent but fortuitous happenstance.
The movie is about this guy who is stark raving bonkers. He dresses in bright Hawaiian shirts andTeenage Caveman chinos. This is his "Superman" outfit. Most of the time he is deliriously happy. He spends his days helping people, saving kids, catching purse snatchers, doing what he can to save the planet. He always smiles, remembers people and adores his life.
He has bad moments. He can't always fly because Lex Luthor has exposed him to kryptonite. And he has psychotic breaks. He lives in a condemned building. One morning the wreckers show up. He sees the bulldozers as carnivorous monsters. He fights them.
This fight lands him back in the mental hospital. They treat him. He's heals. The medicate him to at least hold his level of healing. Everyone is certain they are doing the best for him.
"Superman" becomes Mon Suk. Mon Suk shuffles through life. Not happy. Not sad, He simply is. He remembers the trauma that drove him to madness but it is a distant memory that he cannot touch. The drugs see to that.
In his madness Mon Suk was tracking down a beast that lived in the sewers. It turns out the beast was actually a patch of explosive methane gas. It blows.
Mon Suk is a witness to the explosion. Many people are hurt, house and cars catch a fire. The fire engines rushing to the scene get caught up in the explosion. There is no more help coming.
For every person injured there are ten spectators who watch.
Mon Suk watches too and sees that a little five year old girl who was "Superman's" friend is trapped in the fire, trapped on the third floor. And the drugs that keep him calm, that keep him in twilight Monkey by WallColl
Click images for desktop size: "Monkey" by WallColl
allow him to simply watch.
Helpless he turns and walks away, doing that drug induced shuffle, holding his briefcase to his chest. He walks away.
A friend goes to look for him and she finds Mon Suk at a garden hose. He's dousing his head and his clothes. At first she thinks he's gone mad again but then she realizes that he's planning to go into the fire and rescue the girl. I guess you can't kill Superman.
In that moment you realize that sanity does not always mean happiness and that sometimes it takes insanity to save the world. It rushes at you and forces you to identify with Mon Suk. It makes you realize we can all be something more than the rest of the world thinks we can be. Its beautiful and its frightening.

Meditating on movies always brings something out of me. Something I feel is good. Even bad movies can sometimes have that fleeting movement where happenstance has more art than theThe Amazing Collasal Man guys behind or in front of the camera. Moments that encapsulate life and meaning.
I love the movies.

Its been raining for 18 hours now. Hard rain. All the snow has melted and the ground feels like primordial ooze. The dogs all had groomer baths . . . gentle dog and giant dog also got haircuts. My puppy got her nails trimmed. They seem to enjoy ruining the clean look playing in the muck. They make me laugh and it will all wash off eventually.
I'm pretty much over the cold. One odd side effect. I seem to have expended so much energy fighting the cold that I'm irretrievably fatigued. It takes a huge amount of energy just to move.
It's nowhere near the fatigue from leukemia. I just don't like it. I don't like the feeling of wanting to just curl up in a ball and forget the world. The rain and mud makes me not want to take a walk with the dogs. I may have to anyway. Cold rain and mud are better than this feeling.
My friend's cold is still lingering! This worries me more than I'm worried about myself.
She basically had two days off. She had to drive an hour to a meeting (GO GO LITTLE NEW CAR!) and then we had a lot of errands to run but I would have hoped that it would have been a gentle enough time for her to recover more fully.
We picked up our new glasses. Just lenses, used old frames. They help me a lot. Even through the cataract. I have to wear them a couple of weeks to see if my eyes are stable enough to invest in the tinted bifocals I'm supposed to wear outside.

February 25, 2009

If two wrongs don't make a right, try three
Laurence J. Peter

4 CM a Second by Kabegami
Click images for desktop size: "4 cm a Second" by Kabegami
Walked to the bakery with the dogs yesterday. They sell bread, fresh bread, for twenty cents less a loaf then the supermarkets. That's twenty cents less than the ultra cheap tasteless gummy generic5 Biker Classics supermarkets sell.
When we got there I realized I didn't have any money. At least I made the discovery before I went in, so its a good thing I spared myself that bit of humbleness.
At first I had a bit of panic that I'd lost the cash. But it was on my desk at home, all happy to see me.
My friend has to be gluten free. She gets painfully ill if she makes a mistake. I never ate much bread before. Once in a while, maybe. Now bread has become a luxury thing for me. Toast is my new filet mignon. Plain bread m steak tatar.
Amazing what we miss when its denied. I never missed drugs or alcohol when I stopped them. I sometimes miss sugar, but not often. I don't mind artificial sweeteners. I do sort of miss fat and meat in a funny compulsive way. Fat is far worse for me than sugar. Its interesting that so many American foods are too high in fat.
One thing I discovered, early on in the regime, is that the super cheap non-brand foods are generally lower in fat than the high priced brand name lo-fat equivalents. Some of those cheap foods are even edible. A few taste just fine.

Last night while my friend is still trying to catch up to her deadlines, (she's feeling about 50% better. So am I.) I watched an old TV show with one of my wife's old flames as the featured actor. I Mooz
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Mooz
supplanted him in her life. I thought the show was really funny. It wasn't meant to be. It put me in a good move to think that when people compared us, and he was a notorious pretty boy actor, they used to say we were equally good looking but that I was taller and fitter.
Curse me for having mirrors in the house! The tyranny of mirrors is in their truth. I remember hearing that he went bald . . . I'm not there yet.
The I watched the first episode of a 1941 serial, "King of the Rangers". It's an English-Whitney Republic serial and it was pretty good. Its pretty silly, even in the first episode. Its a western but set in that mystical place where guys still wear six shooters and Nashville cowboy duds while driving those great monster 1930's cars. The cars look like they weigh about 6 tons! Cars are used for speed but horses are the preferred transportation.2001
The plot is the Texas Rangers versus the Nazis!! For some reason, maybe war hadn't been declared or something, they aren't called Bogart
Click images for desktop size: "Bogart" by S4W
Nazis and there aren't any swastikas, but even a 6 year old would know. They give the Nazi salute and say "Hail!" instead of "Heil!" sort of thing.
The coolest bit so far was the meeting between the spies and the Overlords. The Overlords fly around in a giant Zeppelin! I guess no one ever looks up in this part of Texas . . . and when they meet with the spies, the spies fly to the zeppelin in a monoplane which has a big hook on the top. They hook onto the zeppelin then climb a rope ladder up to the ballon cockpit!
They didn't show how they get the plane off of the hook. I'm looking forward to that. I imagine the plane plummeting to the ground while the motor kicks in somehow. Planes can't do a reverse so I think the only way off the zeppelin has to be dropped!
The thing that drew me to the serial was the cast. It stars Hall of Fame QB "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh. That's even how they billed him. He was in the middle of his NFL career. He looks great especially Polar Light by Mr Zer0
Click images for desktop size: "Polar Light" by Mr Zer0
when he takes out bad guys with a flying tackle. He says his lines clearly, which is the most you can say about his acting.
The Washington Redskins must have been cringing every time their Superstar QB did a stunt. Back then they paid him nearly as much as a shop foreman. He was getting nearly $500 a week to be in movies!
The other big draw is his side kick is the cool Duncan Rinaldo (who's biggest fame was as the "Cisco Kid" in old time TV). Rinaldo really looks great as the Mexican lawman who's helping out the Rangers. Snake thin, very quick, dangerous AND friendly looking! Very cool. Sadly his job as the Mexican sidekick is to lose fights and get rescued. His appearance doesn't make that seem possible. He's the hero, or at least he should be.
Oh, basic plot. Tom King (Sammy Baugh) is a superstar college football player. While the Texas All2019-After the Fall of New York Stars are playing the Alabama Unnameds Tom's father is driving to Austin to deliver a list of spies and saboteurs while he listens to his son's game.
The spies shoot him. Why he was driving a convertible and why he made no copies of the list is not addressed. He's shot skids off the road and dies while Tom scores the winning touchdown.
There's no real great old time football footage here.
After the game Tom is changing when he gets a telegram telling him his father has been murdered. He quits school and joins the Texas Rangers to avenge his father. They make him a captain!!
The adventures thereafter are a bit contrived, even by serial standards. But they are done with great gusto and astonishing special effects. Great fires, huge explosions.
What I liked as well was that they cross the border between Mexico and Texas with no impediment at all! It's noticed that at one time or another Baugh and Rinaldo are out of their jurisdiction but its handled with a simple, "Don't worry. You're with me," lazzies faire. I think that even in 1941 there was at least a little more border protection but where would the excitement be in that.
I have to admit I'm looking forward to more of this.

February 24, 2009

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking
George S. Patton

Igniting Colours by KGRZ
Click images for desktop size: "Igniting Colours" by KGRZ
The skanky cat came back.
It's snowing.
I'm sick with a cold.Maple Leaves at Mt. Takao, Kyoto, Komai Ki (Genki), 1747-1797
My friend is sick with her cold. She shared it with me.
And that brings it all up to date.
Pretty much.
The day is snowing and the snow looks like glitter gently raining down. Its still snow. Its still cold.
The Oscars were Sunday. Pretty horrible affair. The winners anyway.
I refuse to acknowledge any award that doesn't go to Marisa Tomei this year. Although even if I don't think much of Penelope Cruz there is something infinitely cool imagining the party afterwards. Her ex, Tom Cruise, covets an Oscar as much as his Faces
Click images for desktop size: "Faces" by Unknown
"Theatan" brain can crave anything and while he's trying to rebuild a career his wackiness threatens to take from him him having to congratulate Cruz at one of the Post-Oscar parties would have been astonishing.
I've tried to watch "Slumdog Millionaire" twice. Fallen asleep once and found cutting my fingernails more interesting the second time. Now I feel obligated to try again . . . nothing like movies as home work assignments.
Its pretty much the same with "Milk". Keep trying to watch it and keep getting distracted. Watching it has become another chore.
Heath Ledger got the Oscar . . . Peter Finch got one after he died for his role in "Network". Finch was at least good. Ledger's take on Joker, that nothing has to make sense in his entire performance He Was My Friend by Hebus
Click images for desktop size: "He Was a Friend of Mine" by Hebus
and consistency from day to day is a trivial thing when you're playing a madmen isn't anything I could appreciate.
I liked the tech awards though . . .
I finally did watch Truffaut's "La Nuit Americane". It won a best foreign film Oscar, back in the day. Back then they used to put the foreign winner as an automatic candidate for Best Picture the following year. None of them ever won so they dropped the idea.
A lot of my fears were justified. When I first saw the movie I went to the theater everyday for a week to see it. It solidified my ambitions. I was going to be an NFL running back who used his fame to promote his band and then when I retired from the NFL I was going to use my fabulous wealth to make movies. This little movie made me certain that's what I wanted and was going to do.Goldilocks and the Three Bares
The movie is great, up there with "Sullivan's Travels" as one of the best movies ever about making movies. Back then it was a film that inspired me and made me want to be something more than I was. Now, its just a great "film".
Watching it reminded me of something. Bernie Grant was a black member of Parliament. The first black member if I recall. I liked him and was seriously grieved when he passed away.
One of the crazier dreams he had that he let me be a small part of was to start an Arts and Entertainment Academy. Fancy as heck. Not to be just a school but an open place where kids could come and use the creative urges they were overwhelmed with. Dance, theatre, music, TV, film, whatever. A place to learn and a place to create.
Bernie even had a location picked. Cheap land behind the sewer processing plant up by Edmonton. My light involvement was in the recording studio and the theatre. The construction and equipment end.
He had the dream, the location and the people lined up to make it a reality.
Then the focus for his plan got shifted, at least by the money people, to the London Olympic Committee. I was involved in that too, until I quit. I thought it was, is and will be a lousy idea. The London Olympics seemed to be an ego and money thing. There wasn't going to be any lasting legacy for the kids. The all white, all upper class steering members wanted the ego and the money. The benefits to kids that they insisted were there were all Iron Snowflakes
Click images for desktop size: "Iron Snowflakes" by Unknown
a sham that only rich white guys who never talked to poor, minority, or working class kids could ever take seriously.
And then Bernie died. His widow tried to keep his idea alive but she lacked the charisma and drive. The new blood who took over Bernie's seat had different ambitions. Not that his desires and drives weren't okay but they didn't focus on the kids.
So the dream died. Vanished as if it never existed. I think the world would have shifted some if it had happened. There's be fewer criminals, because they'd have had a chance to be something else. There'd have been a rise in self esteem. There'd have been hope, not just for the kids in Haringay but all the kids around the country and then the world. To go to the Academy all you had to do was want to.
That was what I felt now watching "La Nuit Americane". It was watching dreams die. It was seeingHide and Creep the few things in my grandiose plans seem small and ridiculous. I know they weren't. I know a lot of people would kill to have some of the chances I had, the chances I missed and the chances I seized on and the ones I made for myself.
It might seem silly to most but I realize that the only accomplishments that I truly think were important were the things I helped others accomplish. The kids who got into school, the ones who played sports pro and the few who got to the Olympics. Even the bad movies and plays that my work helped get finished. The puppies I've found who became friends and family.
I guess that's why I was a good tech and never really wanted to be a director.

There's a drag about being sick. My friend's cold has hung on for well over a week. Mine was terrible yesterday but only bad today. I figure tomorrow I'll be close to well and by Thursday I'll, hopefully, be fine.
Alice 19th by H02B
Click images for desktop size: "Alice 19th" by H02B
One drag is that the dentist called. They had a cancellation and could see me then. But the stupid cold caboshed that.
I figure the dentist will add to but ultimately reduce my discomfort by at least 40%, at least for now. Maybe someone else will cancel next week.
I did get the Medical History form to complete. I hate that, reliving the past. Somethings I remember far too clearly. I remember it through my eyes, my feet, my hands and my heart. I don't much like recalling the past. It hurts.
I know I write a lot about the past but those are thoughts that come unbidden. I don't dredge through "back then" except when I need it to understand "now".
At least this medical history form seems cognizant of chemo and its effects on the body, teeth etc.
The final drag is that the sold is slowing my friend down at work. She missed a couple of 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse inconsequential deadlines. She takes that sort of thing seriously. It distresses her. Then she had her first major conflict at the job.
Her boss retired last month. The job is now held by a woman wearing two hats, as a National VP and as a Regional VP. Its temporary but for right now . . . Her normal position is National VP. She seems to be trying to use the new regional position to entrench her position Nationally while subordinating the regional objectives to her other objectives.
By all accounts he can be pretty rude too.
It will pass but its silly which makes it a drag.
The final drag is skanky cat. I put food out for her. She eats it. Problem is I'm not dead cert its a female. I don't know if she vanished because she found better food and warmth elsewhere or if she vanished to have a litter. If she's around at spring I'll have to catch it/her and probably have to have it neutered. Stupid cats.

February 20, 2009

The look of a country changes to the looks of the people it admires
Larry McMurtry

Evolution by Luis Royo
Click images for desktop size: "Evolution" by Luis Royo
I went to make our appointments at the hair dressers yesterday. They're closed. As in out of business.
Just goes to show you can't make a living giving a good seven dollar haircut even if you chargeAn Ache in Every Stake fifteen bucks for it.
Going to try one of those shopping center joints now. Get to pay too much but you also have to do bit less praying that they don't make you look freakish.
I had the dogs with me. Maybe they just went out of business when they saw us in the driveway . . . The dogs get groomed on Thursday. They are not overjoyed.
I have to go to the dentist.
Beau coup pain there too. Remember how I used to have a beautiful smile? Now I look almost like I'm British.
It makes me irritated that I spent so much time brushing twice a day and all those miles of floss. I still don't have any cavities! Still, I figure to lose at least 3 teeth this trip. Only one in the front. At least its the lower front. Can't even afford to get dentures yet. Its just a matter of time till other fall out.
The good thing is that I won't be in that much pain. The teeth are dead for the most part. The jaw bone is receding and the teeth are just hanging on by those little claws they have. I'm too prone to infections that creates most of the pain and pushes the teeth even further away from the jaw. Side effects truly suck.
Because the teeth are mostly dead pulling them hurts some put not as much as it normally would and the pain after is also remarkably less.
I'm stuck choosing a dentist based on how nice their office looked. I'm terrified of the cost. I liked my old City sponsored dental plan: Fist come, first served, twenty five bucks flat fee. Getting to the Fernando Vicente
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Fernando Vicente
health clinic by 6 to get in line and waiting till 9 for them to open was a drag, but I was never first in line.
The dentists were all volunteers. They gave up their private practice to give one day a week to the people. Because of my health history I always had to see the same dentist. That worked fine for me. She was good and after the second visit she managed to drop her hardened veneer of working in a charity clinic.
One thing that was good at the health clinic was it pre-Obama health data base. While people can roam around and sweat HIPPA violations having all the various doctors I had to see be able to pull up my medical records from a data base made things go a lot faster and easier. It saved me some grief and it spared me having to remember what drugs I was taking and what ones I had to avoid. It was all there and highlighted. If there were contraindicationsThe Big Parade they got redlined and beeped. Made me feel more secure.
I'm sure we've all had friends who ended up sicker or near death because they forgot to tell a dentist or a specialist about some drug they had to take or avoid.
My free dentist was good. She even responded to my vanity.
Galactacus
Click images for desktop size: "Galactacus" by Marvel Comics
Lets hope that a small town pricey dentist is as good. At least I'll be hoping.

There's a music blog, TruStar Vibrations, that I follow via RSS. Recently they repeated a cool rant from Steve Van Zandt. (Little Steven, Miami Steve, Original guitarist for Bruce Springsteen, The Asbury Jukes, The Disciples of Soul, and the best guy on "The Sopranos". He was the guy in the good wig who did a great Al Pacino "Godfather III" impersonation)
Van Zandt's rant against the record companies, RIAA and music publishers is the best one since Courtney Love's article, (back before Love decided she was more of a celebrity than a musician, pre-collagen injections etc).
You can read it here: Steve Van Zandt's Rant. Its cool.
He points out that the music business is a pretty artificial concept. It used to be, up until Edison, that musicians survived by playing clubs and on the street unless they were lucky enough to get a Ice Queen by Inspired Pixels
Click images for desktop size: "Ice Queen" by Inspired Pixel
king or a duke to support them. Most of the really great musicians just played where ever they could, sometimes for a bottle and a meal.
Edison changed that when he invented the recording cylinder. Edison gets thought of as a genius. Maybe he was. All I know for sure is that he forced people to pay. He tied up electricity so we have to pay for nature. He created Hollywood. His DRM was so strict and severe that people who wanted to make movies had to run away from him, had to get so far away from him that it was too big a pain for him to sue you.
He soaked every nickel out of every person he could. He was so good at it that others decided that his gouging of people was a right and not just a clever scam.
In the 40's things started, but it was in the 50's that music exploded. Music wasn't something youVivra Sa Vie listened to, it was something you had to have. Records were cool. They gave you something to touch that was as close to most of the teen idols as you were going to get.
You know the record companies were upset because kids could swap records, trade them. Their solace was they made them so poorly that they'd wear out and you'd have to buy another copy.
When Sony transformed their El-Cassette into BetaMax and Phillips launched the cassette is when things got sticky.
Suddenly you could tape your albums and give them to your friends. A lot of corrupt public officials were working with the record companies to try and get a whopping 5 buck tax on every blank cassette sold. The five bucks to go to the record companies because you MIGHT use that tape to tape some of their music. They owned sound.
Van Zandt has to be listened to. He's rich and one of the guys who stands to benefit from the jerk Electrogoth by HR Giger
Click images for desktop size: "Electrogoth" by HR Giger
tactics of the RIAA. I like when one of their own stands strong (unlike Metallica) and remembers the fans. The rant is on Van Zandt's site. I find his site is a mess, over designed by somebody, too hard to get around. I know its there but I couldn't find it again.
Fortunately there's still plenty of music that hasn't been tainted.
Some of the stuff I've been listening to lately continues to be the same stuff I've always listened to.
The Rooks are still one of my fave 80's bands that nobody has ever heard of. A shame. Their "Glitter Best" isn't even their best song but its sweet. Cool guitars and nice harmonies.
Most people know the tune, "Gimme Some Loving". Steve Winwood and The Spencer Davis Group had a massive hit with it. It can almost always be found someplace on the radio dial, classic rock . . . they usually play it after "Stairway to Heaven". Its a good tune. I've recently discovered that The Kingsmen's version of "Gimme Some Lovin" is my favorite. First off its live, it pounds, they play that cool organ riff on a Hammond B3Soylent Green and the Kingsmen never ever played jazz or fusion.
I still listen to surf. It rules. Just check out Sandy Nelson's "Let There Be Drums" and try and tell me it don't.
There's plenty of newer surf out there too. Like Speedball Jr tearing through "Scalped". A band that takes the thrash of speed metal and turns it into gorgeous dawn patrol stuff.
And of course there's always Canada's greatest surf band . . . even if there was tons of competition these guys would still be great, Huevos Ranchero's "What A Way To Run A Railroad" show that punk, thrash and surf are the sweetest sound.
Tribute albums are still a great way for bands to get stuff out there. One I didn't much care for was the Kinks tribute "Kinks Size". It had some weak stuff but then out of nowhere it had a couple great covers. One I really liked was Tim O'Brien's pure country take on "Muswell Hillbilly". Its cool, touching and funny all at the same time.
John Frusciante is great with The Red Hot Chili Peppers. So great I checked out his solo album. I hated it. Totally pretentious, over blown and near as bloated as any Steve Vai solo album. I was stunned and disappointed, especially since I'd heard Frusciante's terrific take on the Ramone's "Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World". Love with a howl instead of a scream and a strut. Very nice. I was hoping for more like this.
Designing the Sphinx by Michael Parkes
Click image for desktop size: "Designing the Sphinx" by Michael Parkes
And I guess I'll end with a band that some people love, The Milkshakes. I think they're just okay. I do think their cover of "Hippy Hippy Shake" is a lot more than okay.

While writing this I managed to get the hair appointments and a dental appointment . . . I got an emergency appointment on MARCH THE TENTH!! YOW! Glad I'm not like really really in pain . . . All the benefits of a central database became apparent. They're mailing me a medical history to fill out and I have to bring all my drug vials with me . . .

February 19, 2009

Dreams are necessary to life
Anais Nin

Eclipse of Saturn
Click images for desktop size: "Eclipse of Saturn" by Unknown
We were going to get the dogs groomed this weekend but changed plans; we've decided to groom ourselves.A Journey to Mars
I've re-evaluated my stand on the five dollar haircut. I've decided to go as high as SEVEN DOLLARS! You can't put a price on good grooming. Well, I guess you can and that price is seven bucks.
Women's haircuts cost more. I reckon its because they have so much more hair. But I realize its probably not sold by weight or volume. They must charge more because women are notoriously fussy about their looks. I figure my friend's haircut will probably go ten maybe even twelve dollars.
I just hope there's no riot of hair dressers clamouring for our custom when they find out the excessive amount we're willing to spend.
We both went to the eye doctor yesterday. It could have been worse.
The doctor was pretty good. Just looking at the photo's and without reading any medical history could see the effects of chemo and diabetes.
My vision has not degraded as much in the past year as I feared. There's some degradation but not as much as my ailments would normally cause, so I'm doing okay on that score.
There were two hemorrhaged blood vessels in the right eye and four in the left. None of them were major veins or killing hemorrhages.
The cataract in my right eye, the one from a football trauma, is still just there. No real problem. The cataract in my left eye, the one caused and common to chemo is growing. Its gotten so bad thatEl Capitan by Matt Mosher
Click images for desktop size: "El Capitan" by Matt Mosher
the photo of my eye was close to worthless. It blurred the image as badly going in as it did coming out.
I had to get my eyes dilated anyway but now I had to use something "extra" so the doc could get a clear view in my eye for a closer inspection.
Right now the cataract is growing but not yet to the point of surgery. The doc said that these sort of cataracts can change rapidly. I have to keep "an eye" on it . . . Doctors have dog like senses of humour.
She said that I might not ever need the cataract surgery. The implication being that I might not live long enough to need it. The doc got a touch nervous while she tried to rephrase the statement. Explained she's not an oncologist and asked permission to send the info to my regular doctor.The Informer
I appreciate sensitivity, especially when its directed towards me . . . or anyone really.
The only real negative of the whole experience was that my friend had her eye exam first. This gave me the chance to try on every frame they had in the little adjunct optometrist shop.
In those mirrors I was startled at how bad I looked. Homeless, scruffy. I looked haggard, tired but still Fashion And Politics by S4W
Click images: "Fashion And Politics" by S4W
remarkably sexy. It was the main reason I decided to raise my offer for a haircut.
The mirror used to be my best friend.

My friends new car is working out well. She looks cute in it. She looks cute anyway but the new car enhances it better than cosmetic surgery, I think.
Two problems with it. When we got it home from the car lot there was smoke billowing from the left rear wheel! It smelled like terrible. I assumed it was a brake pad burning up, or worse, a wheel bearing. Its hasn't happened since but there's now a bad squeaking coming from the same axle.
The second issue is that the car was advertised as having cruise control. According to the manual cruise control is standard equipment. But there's no cruise control.
I called the car lot. We've got 7 months of warranty. Once again they startled me in a positive way.
I was all armed with my meg adult voice. The one constantly tinged with a hint of disapproval and just three tics left of anger. I meet nothing but pleasantness. They said we could bring it in and they'd even give us a loaner!!
Emily Dolphin
Click images for desktop size: "Emily Dolphin" by Unknown
Since my friends assistant has a 3 month old brand new Hundayi that had a strange freezing issue and they didn't offer a loaner, this was a big surprise. To take it even further they said we could take it to our own mechanic and if it were a smaller repair he could do it and they'd pay for it!
We took it to our mechanic to pick up the cash from junking the old car. That was sad. My friend had the car from the day it was born and had had i for ten years. He went and looked at the new car, tested it and said it was safe enough for now but to pay attention. (Boy, we sure have a lot of stuff to pay attention to.)

The dogs are fine. They don't even seem upset about not getting baths this weekend . . . They alsoIt Conquered The World approve of the new car. More room for lying down they say. Only my puppy is unsure, but she always hates anything new.
My friend had to go the "The Big City" about 100 miles away for a retirement dinner/business meeting. (The car did fine, even coped well with her getting lost and driving the wrong way down a one way street) While I was outside opening the gate for her the dogs started a terrible racket, with my puppy putting up a terrible heart wrenching howl.
When I went in (I was invited to the free food fest!) she clung close to me while the other two ran outside to inspect the gate, certain my friend would realize that my friend had forgotten to take a dog with her. My puppy wouldn't go out with them.
I fell asleep sitting up on the sofa and woke up twenty minutes later with my puppy pressed hard against me, her head resting on my stomach while the giant dog was on the other side with his head on my shoulder. There was no more room on the sofa so gentle dog was wrapped around my feet.
I have no idea why they decided I might abandon them.

February 18, 2009

Why do you think we've rode together for so long?
Burt Kennedy

Dreams of Smoke
Click images for desktop size: "Dreams of Smoke" by Unknown
Finally wrapping up my thoughts about the Budd Boetticher Box Set.
I know I'm going on about them but this is an important body of work to me. Boetticher is anHigh Noon important director who makes films that not only help me to understand the movie making process but also give dense glimpses into the make up of people and the different perceptions people have of each other and of the world.
Besides they're great fun and Boetticher is a great story teller. I still Cute Pug
Click images for desktop size: "Cute Pug" by Unknown
think fun is a vital part of any great work of art, any masterpiece and just as important as variant views of the world.
And sometimes thinking about these stories brings insight and sometimes its just a way to avoid, if only for a little while, the steady stream of upsets that come into your life.
Its like William Blake and Kenneth Patchen new the "real" world we all live in but saw worlds beyond that, worlds just as real but not as easily obtainable. Movie maker Anthony Mann saw the world but barely noticed the people. For him mankind was just a natural part of environment, twisted and shaped by emotional forces as powerful as the winds and water that carve mountains and canyons. John Ford saw people as caricatures that were burnished by their environment; men who lived in the spectacular landscapes became capable of spectacular things, but they were always in battle. Peace was a thing to be strived for but it was Dreams of Water by LawnElf
Click images for desktop size: "Dreams of Water" by LawnElf
seldom granted except to those people on the fringe who were really just spear carriers in the great framework of life.
Budd Boetticher didn't understand the real world. His midnight admissions to mental institutions prove that. He understood the stage and he understood people. The world for him was vacuum where men drifted occasionally stumbling across love but most often just drifting waiting for a place to cling to, to hold and belong to.
The twenty first century has gone even further than the twentieth in isolating people from their environment. People exist and live in a place they create in their minds. Boetticher's insights into people seem even more valid today, at least to me, than they did back in the late 50's.
Understanding people, especially people in extremis is important. Personal communication is driftingGorath and rage is seizing to many people's hearts. Icy rage, killing rage too much of the time. When cowards are being foisted as hero's, when groups are being idolized instead of people its time to reassess and to grasp at understanding.
I think Boetticher supplies some of those keys. I think its important to understand his movies so that we can have a cleaner view of the guy sitting next to us. Understanding can bring contempt as well as love. Both emotions need a real basis for growing other than to be mired in surfaces and glitz.
You have to start somewhere.

I've been asked to explain a couple of terms: low menemic and high menemic. Northrop Frye, a Canadian literary critic coined the phrases in his "Anatomy of Criticism". He thought characters in novels could either be classified as low menemic - average people, the normal guy trying to just get by in this life; high menemic - the superior man, a character with all the tools to not only survive but to conquer, control and dominate any situation; and finally the mythic character - the man emboldened with near supernatural powers, he cuts a swath through the world near invulnerable.
The terms are pretty commonplace in criticism nowadays and are especially apt when discussing movies and genre films specifically.

After Van Cleef (Frank) makes his calm reasoned speech understanding what Brigade is doing the film quietly shifts. We leave the light dusty browns of the desert for foliage and greenery; the first WalpapersMania
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by WallpapersMaina
incipient signs of civilization and femininity.
As they enter the grove the arena is dominated by a large lightening stripped tree with two cross like branches. "A hanging tree," Roberts proclaims it. He makes some off the cuff "gallows" jokes and is gruffly rebuffed by Brigade, "You talk too much."
Steele still doesn't like any of these men but she's grown to accept them. She's still grieving her husband but, as Roberts put it, "She's a woman that needs a man." The men begin to turn to her for a softness that wasn't one of their needs in the desert, only a need now when they're in the shade of trees and greenery.
Roberts begins by saying, "Mrs Lane, I'd be obliged to look after you when we hit Santa Cruz." He then proceeds to tell her about his place up in the Secos, he repeats the story about the bible salesman explaining the word Amnesty to him and how after he gets Billy away from Brigade how he plans to start a new life.Grizzly
Steele is horrified at the idea of Roberts killing Brigade to get Billy. Even more horrified that Brigade is trading Billy's life for money. Steele goes to Brigade and confronts him and tells him how Roberts plans to kill him for Billy. Brigade takes it nonchalantly until she begins to berate him for being a bounty hunter. Brigade erupts with a cold desolate fury.
He used to be the sheriff of Santa Cruz. One day he threw Billy's brother, Frank, into prison. Frank swore to get even. The day came when Frank was released. His wife pleaded with Brigade to leave Santa Cruz, to go someplace with her and to start a fresh. While Brigade was out of town Frank came and kidnapped his wife. Frank hung her on the hanging tree.
Not surprisingly Steele is unprepared for this shocking story. Brigade ends any comfort with a chilly, Gamago
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Gamago
"Goodnight, Mrs Lane." Unknown to him is that Roberts was in the bushes and overheard the entire conversation. It clearly impacts the bad man but its unclear in what way.
He talks with Whit (James Coburn). Whit wants to plan how to kill Brigade and snatch Billy. "Brigade ain't a man you can take head on," he says.
"It wouldn't be right to do him any other way," Roberts replies, "Don't worry. When the time comes I'll take care of it."
Then in one of the movies most memorable scenes Whit asks Roberts. "I was thinking, I sure would be obliged if I could come work for you at your place."
What happens next is purely predictable but satisfying all the more for that. People sometimes needHorrors of Spider Island to have things go the way we want them to. After all the tales of carnage and the tension building up to a carnage promised conclusion we need to see affection turn right.
"Work for me! You ain't working for me Whit!"
Defensively Whit protests, "I don't know much but I can scratch at the dirt and I slop hogs real good . . ."
"Whit, how long you and I been riding together?"
"I don't know," Whit pauses, "About two years I reckon."
"More like five! Why do you think that is?" Roberts asks.
With a shrug Whit answers, "Guess your kind of used to it."
"No Whit, I like you." "Really?" Whit answers surprised.
"You ain't working for me Whit. We're partners. Right down the middle. Now go keep an eye on Billy. I got thinking to do."
This scene in all its simplicity is the one that everyone who has ever seen the film always remember. Its nearly sad that we are most moved by a man begrudgingly admitting to friendship.
Come the dawn Roberts sends Whit to the rise to watch for Frank and his men. He then confronts Brigade. Roberts tells him he overheard his conversation with Mrs Lane. He tells him that Whit and he will back his play with Frank but when its over it won't make a difference. He's going to go right over Brigade to get Billy and get that amnesty.
Brigade is stoic and dismissive.
Its worth noting, Whit goes to look for Frank. He stands in some odd otherworldly place. The rear of Babies
Click images for desktop size: "Babies" by Unknown
his horse stands in the green comfort while he gazes out at the burning deadly desert. He watches a dust cloud appear and turns and rides back hard to the embracing coolness of the trees and the grass, shouting Frank's coming.
The group prepares. Roberts and Whit hide in the bushes. Whit is giving the "chore" of protecting Steele.
Brigade tosses a rope over the branch of the hanging tree . . .
When Frank enters the arena he sees his brother on a horse with his neck in a noose. Brigade stands next to the horse, totally exposed, a rifle in his hand.
Nastily Brigade explains the situation to Frank. Frank understands and says, "If that horse spooks you'll kill him!"
Brigade responds, "If his neck don't snap you'll have time to cut him down."House of the Damned
"This ain't right, Brigade. What happened between us was so long ago I near forgot about it!"
Brigade gives one of the scariest responses in movie history, "A man can do that." When a man suspends his humanity or denies it, when he places himself below a level there's nothing left to do.
Frank charges firing wildly. Billy's horse spooks and Billy is swinging, gasping from the tree while Brigade calmly raises his rifle and blows Frank out of the saddle.
Frank's men start to followup the charge but retreat under a withering hail of fire from Roberts and Whit. When they retreat Brigade pulls out his six gun and shoots a single shot to cut the rope. Billy collapses still alive.
While Brigade inspects his prisoner Roberts comes thundering up on his black horse he dismounts on the run making you wonder what he's running from or to.
"I come for Billy," he says.
Blowout at Exit 168 by Till Nowak
Click images for desktop size: "Blowout at Exit 168" by Till Nowak
Brigade says in the same dead humanity denying voice, "Come get him."
Brigade stands perfectly erect while Roberts advances, his hand ready to draw. Suddenly Brigade turns his back to Roberts, turns back and tosses him the keys to Billy's handcuffs.
Roberts is google eyed. Brigade says in a voice that tries to sound friendly but can't, "If you ever go against the law again it will be me comes looking for you."
Laughing Roberts says, "I'll remember that. I surely will."
The two outlaws, Billy and Steele gather up to make the few hour ride to Santa Cruz. Steele's future is undetermined, Billy's future will be decided by an old west court and Whit and Robert's have a dream.
Brigade has no future. He burns down the hanging tree, that hateful symbol.
From the top of the rise Roberts can't see the fire but he sees the black smoke curling to the sky.I died a thousand times He turns and rides with the group saying, "It figures."

Scott should have retired after this. Ben Brigade was the pinnacle of his acting career. He used every power he had and made it into a memorable character it was the finest acting job he was capable of and the finest of his career.
"Ride Lonesome" was a big enough hit that Ranown rushed to do a follow-up, "Comanche Station".
Maybe if I'd seen "Comanche Station" sometime removed from "Ride Lonesome" I'd have a different opinion of it.
It's a good movie, good enough for anyone to be proud of. Unfortunately fresh off of seeing "Ride Lonesome" it seems like a redux, a rehash.
This time Scott is a man searching for his wife for the last ten years. She's was captured by Comanches. Every time he hears of a white woman captive being offered for trade he heads to the hills with "two bucks worth of blankets and a winchester rifle" to rescue the woman. He's constantly disappointed that it is not his wife.
On the mission he's on this time he rescues Nancy Lowe, played by Nancy Gates.
The first night out she's starts to escape the memory of her capture even trusting Scott far enough to ask if he thought her husband would still love her even after she'd been held captive by the Comanche.
Scott's response is predictable, "If he's man enough he will."
They go to Comanche Station, the stage coach point where he runs into Claude Aikens, a scalp hunter, and Aikens two young gunmen. Scott had Aikens courtmartialed when they were in the Army together. Aikens clearly has a festering hatred for him. He also informs Scott and Gates that there is a $5,000 reward on Gates, offered by her husband. Dead or alive. Her husband wants her dead body so he could at least have closure and give her a proper burial.
In Like Flint by JW McGinnis
Click images for desktop size: "In Like Flint" by JW McGinnis
Aikens and the gunmen plan to ride along with Scott, they need the extra gun because the Comanche are on the warpath in retaliation for some scalp hunters raiding their camp and killing the women and children. When its convenient they plan to kill Scott and the woman. The plan to kill the woman so she can't bear witness to their murder of Scott.
The two young guns are an amalgamation of the two young guns in "The Tall T" and Robert's and Coburn. Skip Homier plays essentially the same role in both films!
They are given some chances but they don't ever explode like the other two films. Its satisfying but not mesmerizing.
Aikens is not as strong as other Boetticher villains. Aikens is a good actor and reaches as well as he Imitation of Life did in Howard Hawk's "Rio Bravo". Aikens another guy who became a star playing a whacky sheriff, his turn came in "BJ and the Bear"! He's competent and shows some promise but he doesn't inspire fear or hatred. He's just a bad guy.
Its actually a great film but it is not up to the greatness of the ones preceding it.
The ending is odd and seems to be going for some point I failed to see.
Aikens is bothered by the fact that a man would post a reward instead of hunting for his wife himself. Scott rebuffs him with, "if he'd done that, they'd both be dead."
Aikens keeps at it though.
At the end when Scott finally delivers Gates it turns out she has a child and that her husband is blind.

There's a decent biography on Boetticher to complete the box set. It didn't teach me anything new but it might be informative for some just meeting his work.
Boetticher's work is the thing. It is brilliant. Its sad that he never released another film except for "Legs Diamond" a movie I never really got. He wasted his life in his dream. He was trying to make a documentary biography about Carlos Suara, the great bullfighter. Aside from the fact that I don't find men fighting cows entertaining the movie was doomed and afterwards irrevocably when Suara died in a car wreck. Boetticher spun out of control after that but for one great brief period he was amongst the best that ever was.

February 16, 2009

I did him a hurt once
Burt Kennedy

Clarence Carter
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Clarence Carter
The main problem with "Decision at Sundown" was that the whole movie was set in a town.
Civilization for Boetticher is best represented when it is shown as a roughly held together series of Die You Zombie Bastard shacks that bend but determinedly refuse to buckle under the desert winds.
Its odd that Boetticher can take a crew into the desert and we always feel centered and easily understand our location in relation to the rest of the world, but when he moves into towns its disorienting and confusing.
In "Buchanan Rides Alone" its hard to keep even the relationship of the hotel, saloon straight. And its relationship to the judge's home is an absolute mystery. Sometimes you can walk there but most of the time you have to take a horse.
It seems that Boetticher is making a strong statement about our relationship to cities and towns.
In "Buchanan Rides Alone" the town of Agry is a border town. A bridge with a hand painted sign (and no border guards) details the imaginary line between countries. Scott crosses the line into Agry. He is smiling, jovial clearly happy to be back in the USA. But for all his genial demeanour he wears the crossed bandoliers of the Mexican Revolutionary. He smiles but resists orders from the corpulent aggro sheriff.
You can see him resisting anger, insisting to himself that he's going to keep his happy mood at nearly any cost. In total its a brilliant economical way of introducing a character.
The story itself is a bit quizzical and too complicated for what's involved, filled with elections, trials, familial squabbles and far too many people!
It can't be discounted completely. For one thing there is a remarkable portrayal of Mexicans. They Surf
Click images for desktop size: "Surf" by Unknown
are presented as being as smart and courageous as the Americans and far more honest. Its a handsome portrait of the people and surprising in a film of this era where the only good foreigners were the base totally submissive ones. Foreigners who had any ambition were normally criminals or spies, an enemy.
Ranown must have realized they had some problems and they got Burt Kennedy to doctor the script. His hand shows in a couple of fascinating ways.
During the Scott's trial the sheriff (who has his eyes on stealing the $2,000 dollar "stake Scott was carrying to buy his dream ranch) asks him, "So you're just another hard case drifter willing to kill for money?" Scott's laconic answer id "You could say that."
Kennedy's other obvious contribution is the character of Pecos, beautifully played by L.Q. Jones. Pecos is fascinating, easy going, amoral, amiable and loyal - to a point.Empire Strikes Back
He's attracted to Scott because they're both from West Texas. He admires Scott's ability to speak with unabashed love for West Texas.
After the trial the sheriff has the innocent Scott escorted out of town by two gunmen who's job is to murder Scott. As they ride along Scott conceals his gloom over his impending death by waxing euphoric on the beauty of West Texas.
Pecos apologizes for having to murder Scott. Scott accepts the apology.
At the river bank the other gunman forces Scott to dismount and unsaddle his horse. Pecos asks the other gunman if there's anyway to avoid having to do this killing. He's told no, they have to do the "job".
Scott stands with his hands at his side and his back to his executioners. A shot rings out and Scott collapses. After a moment Pecos walks up to Scott and kicks Scott's boots. "You ain't dead," he says.
The shot that Scott figured had ended his life was from Pecos shooting his partner in the head.
They try and bury the dead gunman but the hole they dug fills up with water so Pecos straps the body high up in a tree.
Dangerous Curves by 3D Fiction
Click images for desktop size: "Dangerous Curves" by 3D Fiction
Before Scott can gather up and take off Pecos starts to deliver a eulogy to his victim. Its darkly macabre and very funny. Scott keeps waiting for it to end his eyes growing larger as he listens to Pecos. He says "Amen" to end the unbalanced "tribute" and the explanation to the deadman that Pecos just couldn't allow a fellow West Texan to die.
As they ride along Scott offers Pecos a partnership in his dream ranch. He tells Pecos he's riding back to Agry to get his stake that the sheriff stole. He assures Pecos that even if he doesn't follow him into town he's still going to be his partner in the ranch.
Amazingly for movies but actually pretty sanely, Pecos agrees to wait for him then! He lets the hero ride off to fight the bad guys alone and has no qualms or issues about it!
If he'd stayed alive for the entire movie Pecos could have given the film a needed lift.
When you have talent it shows up most when you try and learn from your mistakes. Randolph ScottDouble Indemnity was talking about retiring. Ranown decided to make a masterpiece. They succeeded.
When I was 11 I'd outgrown Captain Spaceman's Cartoon show. Channel 13 started showing 90 minute movies after school, "After School Theater" or something. It's where I learned to love Corman flics like "Teenage Caveman" et al. One week they were doing a Robin by DC Comics
Click images for desktop size: "Robin" by DC Comics
Western week. I remember seeing a mash up of "Cisco Kid" episodes disguised as a movie, even a Roy Roger's thing. The care that they selected these films was apparent. Its where I first saw the movie, "The Man From Laramie" Anthony Mann's revenge film where Jimmy Stewart gets a bullet in his hand: Crucifixion with hot lead. The only thing I got out of that film was a long living fear of having my body desecrated and a fascination with anatomy. I figured a bullet through the hand was far worse than death. Jimmy Stewart was a good enough actor to convince me I was right. The next day they showed "Ride Lonesome".
Even as a kid I was blown away. Even watching it on a B&W TV couldn't detract from the power. Two people who were no more than icons (Scott and Karen Steele), a crazy bad guy (James Best), A bastion of evil (Lee Van Cleef) and two guys I thought were really funny (Parnell Roberts and James Coburn).
Throw in some Indians and a plot that was merely "3 guys and a girl get chased by Indians and bad guys while they take another bad guy to jail, was primal enough to reach through to the lizard brain in any of us.
It was pretty shocking to see the movie again, some 20 years later, and see that things weren't quite that simple.
You can make a pretty good argument for Boetticher being a genius in the fact that he constructed a movie that could reach out and impact a child and an adult. Its not that easy to do with out maudlin Candy
Click images for desktop size: "Candy" by Unknown
pandering ala Disney. Nor is it a simple thing to inject such complex dreams into minds and dreams of people without making the process opaque and annoying.
I watched the movie a few times off of a VHS tape I made from some late night broadcast. It wasn't available anyway else. Seeing the DVD in an excellent reproduction of the Cinerama process was illuminating. With Scott's impending retirement from movies they clearly went all out.
The movie opens with Scott hunting Billy John. James Best is superb here. He'd match this performance with his equally superb performance a couple of years later in Sam Fuller's "Shock Corridor". It leaves me nonplussed that he wouldn't gain fame or recognition until he played the moronic sheriff in the "Dukes of Hazard" TV series. Flash Gordon COnquers the Universe
Billy John is aware that Scott (as Ben Brigade) is close by. He continues to sip his coffee and sits easy and relaxed.
We know he's the bad guy. All characters in Boetticher movies are organic. They look like they were grown in the earth and locked in there until they felt the need to roam around the stones and bones of the desert. Boetticher villains are vain, created not by nature but by man. Richard Boone affected a silken peacock green scarf, Chink a fiery red shirt etc. In low budget productions these are considered options. In the equally sparse world these movies inhabit they are bright beacons.
Billy wears natural dusty gray but affects a long eagles feather that droops down the back. In this world something natural being worn for a sense of élan is more depraved than silken scarves.
(Its interesting to note that you can still go to Western Costume and find, Glen Ford hats, John Wayne hats, etc. It was commonplace for stars to effect one style of hat and then use it as a symbol for their entire career. Scott wasn't allowed this. He always wore a distinctly different style. I once worked with a director who thought that any scene could be saved by having the actor wear a "silly hat". He swiped the concept from Preston Surges. Boetticher seems to use the inverse of the principal in his costume choices. In "Ride Lonesome" Brigade wears a more standard wide brimmed Stetson.)
Billy shot a man in Santa Cruz; shot him in the back.
Billy is calm. He's prepared an ambush for Brigade. Three of his buddies are hiding in the sandstone rock ready to blow him apart. Brigade defuses the trap by the simple measure of assuring Billy that Desert Blooms
Click images for desktop size: "Desert Blooms" by Unknown
before they get him he will surely cut Billy down before he dies. Its no bluff.
In that one moment its apparent there's a radical change here. Previously Scott played nothing but low menemic characters, normal men pushed by circumstance to be something more than they ever intended to be. The confrontation with Billy establishes as a high menemic character, the man of will and talent.
It also sets up expectations of Billy's character, something of a coward, something of a rattlesnake, someone easily led.
Brigade starts the long task of dragging Billy back to Santa Cruz to be hanged. He lets Billy ride free, except for a pair of heavy handcuffs. Billy spends the time reminding Brigade of his brother, the dangerous brother Frank who is, no doubt, tailing them now rushing to catch up and free him.
They stop at a stage way station. Suddenly Brigade is ambushed! Billy is sure it is his brother FrankThe Fortune Cookie but it turns out to be someone Brigade knows; the outlaws Sam and Whit. (Roberts and Coburn).
Surprisingly Roberts is every bit the physical match for Brigade, broad shouldered, tall and moves with an athletic grace. Whit is tall, gawky but clearly efficient within his strictly limited range.
There is a tense moment when Roberts gathers up Brigades rifle. He's garrulous and chatters about meeting him out here.
Brigade listens, introduces Billy. Roberts says, "I heard of you. You're not as small as I figured you'd be."
Brigade says, "A man needs a reason to ride this Country, Boone." Stating his question as a fact.
Robert's response is equally laconic. "That he does. Can see what yours is." and then he casually tosses Brigade back his rifle.
Suddenly Karen Steele steps out of the Stage House yelling at the men to clear out! To punctuate her sincerity she fires her rifle sending a bullet uncomfortably close to the group. They scarcely react.
It pleases me that during the filming Steele and Boetticher were in love. In the movie she's the other icon, the tough blonde who should have been born in the noir 40's. She's soft, not brittle but strong and capable. She lives her life without a plan but lives it to the extreme.
Now she does not want 3 outlaws and a low life bounty hunter as her guests. She only wants the man she loves, the stationmaster to return from rounding up stray horses. She doesn't want him greeted by this motley crew.
Before there can be a serious confrontation the stage coach approaches. Roberts assures Brigade The Helper
Click images for desktop size: "The Helper" by Unknown
that they were not there to rob it. When the coach gets closer they see that the driver is dead, an Indian lance through his chest. The stage crashes into the corral but rights itself.
The men open the door and apparently everyone inside is dead. Surprisingly, while the men stare in silence, it's Billy who yells out to Steele, "Don't come out here! Ain't nothing for a woman to see!"
It strikes as discordant tone to have the bad guy be the only character who reacts to the woman's presence. It hurts us in our need to view Billy as merely scum.
Steele still wants the group to move out. She insists she is going to stay to wait for her husband's return. Until a group of Indians show up. They want to trade a horse for Steele . . . they play along with it until Steele discovers the horse they want to trade for her was the one her husband was riding when he left the station the day before.
Accepting her loss she agrees to travel with the stoic Brigade, his trophy and the two comicalFrom Hell It Came outlaws. Travel with them back to a distant civilization, a civilization that seems to make them all uneasy.
They travel. Roberts rides with Brigade shattering at him non-stop. At one point he tells them why they were riding this forbidden territory. It appears that there is not only a bounty on Billy John. They are also offering unconditional amnesty to anyone who brings him in.
It seems Roberts already has a patch of land up around Secos. Its nothing now but he plans to "run some cattle and work the dirt" until it is "someplace that a man can belong to."
While they're talking on the far distant sand hills some figures converge and begin to trail the group. They tiny shadows seem to be ignored by Roberts and Brigade. Its just one of the ways Boetticher uses the Cinerama screen and its great depth of field. For the most part it is used to show the vast panorama and to frame the men with it in such a way that they seem to dwarf the EndEffected_02-Envy.jpg
Click images for desktop size: "End Effected" by Envy
immensity of the world by force of will.
The indians weren't ignored. Brigade interrupts the conversation by telling Roberts there's an old adobe corral just over the next rise and they ride like demons to get into it while the tiny shadows start to converge on them resolving into a murderous pack of Indians.
The adobe corral is a cool set. A skeletal reminder of civilization conquered. The only thing that remains are the bricks that were made from the surrounding dirt. The four ride like demons to get to its thick walls while Brigade plays skirmisher and lays back firing efficiently into the onrushing Indians.
After beating back the Indian attack they settle in for the night. Brigade sets with his horse. Brigade is the only one Steele seems comfortable being around, She asks how his horse is doing. Brigade explains in a way that seems to be as much describing himself as the animals condition. "His legThe Ghost of Frankenstein ain't broke. He just won't get up. He's got it in his head that its all over and he's just waiting to die."
"What can you do for him?" Steele asks.
"Not much. Sit with him. Let him now he's not alone and hope he'll realize he can get up if he wants to." Brigade answers.
Later the horse does finally stand but only after Brigade has given up hope. The horse stands because Roberts saves Brigades life from Billy. As a sardonic joke Roberts fires off a round from his rifle in response the horse almost leaps to its feet. Power of life coming not from loving attention but from negligent bad bahaviour?
Roberts also uses the stop over to wax lovingly, if pornographically, about the psychology and beauty of Steele. Whit looks at Steele with different eyes after Roberts Rhapsodic reveries.
They also wonder why they're traveling out in the open when they all know that Frank is in hot pursuit. "its like he wants Frank to catch up to us!"
Frank (Lee Van Cleef) has been in hot pursuit with three of his men. He's run his horses near to death, but when he reaches the adobe corral he suddenly realizes he can slow down. "I did Brigade a hurt once. He's not taking Billy to hang, he's using him to get me. Water the horses and lets get some sleep. There's no hurry now. He'll wait for me."

I'll try to finish up the analysis of the Budd Boetticher Box Set in my next post. This one seems to be getting long.

Brown by Benoit Vanneuville
Click images for desktop size: "Brown" by Benoit Vanneuville
My back is better.
We picked up the new car on Saturday. Its pretty and seems to fit my friend well. Hoping it can reduce some of the tension that's been crawling up our spines and into our brains.
Only two things wrong with it so far. It was advertised as cruise controlled. Cruise Control is standard on it. But there's no cruise control!
Driving it home when I got out to open the gate saw a lot of white smoke coming from the wheel well. To me the smell and smoke meant a dragging brake! But there was no excessive heat from the brakes. I waited a half hour and checked again. Still no big heat or remnants of same. No sound like bad bearings or signs of the tire rubbing anything.Godzilla VS The Sea Monster
They checked the brakes before hand. Maybe they left something dangling. Its still under warranty so I'm waiting to call them to see if there's anything else to complain about.
I still plan to write them a letter of appreciation.
The puppies are all fine here.
One blast of negative news. My puppy's aunt was laid off today . . .
Makes me real happy that the Republican pigs did everything in their power to destroy the effectiveness of the Stimulus bill and then after gutting it still bragged about how they'd made it ineffective.

February 13, 2009

There are some things a man just can't ride around
Burt Kennedy

Betty Pabe by Olivia
Click images for desktop size: "Betty Page" by Olivia
Until Sergio Leone unraveled the western with his "Dollars" movies there were three kings of the genre. John "He made westerns" Ford, Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher (pronounced bet-ek-er).
John Ford remains something of an icon, nearly a legend. Anthony Mann found the westerns tooCreature from the Black Lagoon small! He moved into epics like "El Cid" and Spartacus (the movie that launched Stanley Kubrick who took over when Mann died during production).
While Mann is appreciated he doesn't have the fame and accolades he deserves. Boetticher has been mainly ignored. A few guys, like me and a couple of other western aficionados have been playing him up forever, in just the same way I played up Preston Sturges, as a man who was an entertainer first and through his entertainment managed to produce first quality art. (Art, there's an ugly off putting Solitary Hunter
Click images for desktop size: "Solitary Hunter" by Unknown
word for most. It makes it sound like the opposite of fun, like something you can't just enjoy but a thing that has to be approached with awe and a tinge of fear. Bad art (Cecile B DeMille, I think, wants that aura. Sturges and Mann and Ford wanted you to have a rollicking good time first.)
But all in all Boetticher has been ignored. People still catch some of his movies on TV and marvel but it's usually too late in the movie for them to remember the credits.
As DVD sellers are desperate for product suddenly guys like Boetticher are getting some notice. It started when they finally discovered the Batjac library. Batjac was John Wayne's short lived production company. It was designed to make money but Wayne didn't have much of a head for Boat Girl by Scott Jackson
Click images for desktop size: "Boat Girl" by Scott Jackson
business.
I like the idea of great films being made while guys sit on the beach sharing a bottle, the deals finalized with a handshake and maybe, somewhere down the line we draw up a contract to appease those union guys. That's filmmaking I can appreciate.
When John Wayne died no one had any idea where the films even were! They found the Batjac library about 2005, stashed in one of the old Hollywood film vaults. There wasn't much of interest there but there was the Randolph Scott. Lee Marvin western "7 Men From Now." It was the first release from Batjac and got an excellent release, capitalizing on the fact that this film was never on TV and unseen since 1956. Tied into the John Wayne legend it did okay.
"7 Men From Now" was also the first collaboration between, Scott, Harry Joe Brown, Burt KennedyThe Curse of Frankenstein and Budd Boetticher.
It wasn't readily apparent but this was a stew that would grow into a gorgeous monster.
The disc didn't set any records but it made enough to justify gathering up the other RANOWN films (RAN-dolph Scott and Harry Joe Br-OWN=RANOWN) and making an interesting box set. Even though none of these films run over 72 minutes they're all on separate discs. The only extra of note is an okay talking head documentary about Boetticher.
The disks are all wide screen and done well enough. Since my memories of all these films are from TV the bright color and widescreen is a heady enhancement.
For Burt Kennedy "7 Men From Now" was his first produced screenplay. He learned a lot from it. He avoided the mistakes it made for the rest of his career. Kennedy eventually moved into directing, working in TV until he got a shot with "Return of the Seven" a sequel of sorts to "The Magnificent 7". The he exploded with the chilling western, Cherry Red with Butterfly
Click images for desktop size: "Cherry Red with Butterfly" by Anonymous
"Welcome to Hard Times" and the "Support Your Local Sheriff" and "Support Your Local Gunfighter". He even did an adaptation of Jim Thompson's brilliant pulp novel, "The Killer Inside Me."
Kennedy was in his mid 30's when he churned out "7 Men From Now". It was a learning experience. He used it to learn so he could now write some awesome things.
Boetticher was a hanger on fringe director. His last job before directing was as a Matador down in Mexico! Somehow he used this to get into Hollywood show biz.
He did maybe a dozen B type adventure films. Nothing truly astonishing from any I've seen. Then he had a small hit with his autobiographical movie, "The Bullfighter and the Lady." The movie didn't impress me, more because of my distaste for bullfighting then anything else. But the guy had learned how to tell a story.
He started to make westerns. His first was the Audie Murphy movie, "The Cimarron Kid". It wasThe Cycle Savages alright. It stepped him up to better budgets and better actors, like Glenn Ford in "The Man From the Alamo".
But it wasn't until "The Tall T" that he really exploded.
"The Tall T" is a movie that moves you in many different ways, few of which you could readily anticipate. Part of this is due to some astonishing acting. Part of it is due to Randolph Scott acknowledging the limits of his abilities and his willingness to see himself as the centerpiece of a project and not just a movie star.
"The Tall T" starts off with Scott pretty much playing the hapless buffoon. His buffoonery is amplified over and over. The only typical "manly" attribute he's given is honor.
Instead of going for a drink he goes to by the candy he promised a young boy he'd pick up. When he makes a bet with his old boss (his horse against a prize brahma "seed" bull) to ride the bull Scott looses and then dives into a water trough to avoid getting trampled. He rises from the trough looking like a rodeo clown.
Next we see Scott walking the 20 miles back home. His friend, Ringtoon, picks him up over the complaints of his chartered passengers. They pull into Scott's destination. The stage line office where Scott plans to borrow a horse and deliver his candy to the 9 year old boy.
Suddenly the movie transforms. It becomes galvanic with the appearance of Richard Boone, as gang leader Frank, and Henry Silva as Chink. The names are important. They are as much adjectives as they are nouns.
Program Cover by Maxfield Parrish
Click images for desktop size: "Program" by Maxfield Parrish
Boone is magnificent, quietly deadly, thin and easily quick, totally self aware and, by implication, totally self obsessed, and most of all charismatic. Silva, who became famous for playing noir-ish type deranged gangsters brings the edge of urban psychosis juvenile delinquency to the wild mountain scenery.
When the stage coach pulls into the station they are robbed by Frank, Chink and Billy Jack. Scott stands by helpless and ineffectual while Chink kills his friend Ringtoon.
They've already killed the station master and the 9 year old boy. Billy Jack takes the candy Scott bought for the kid and happily eats it. They dumped the bodies down the well, polluting the only water for miles. They refuse Scott the right to give his friend a "proper burial". Scott is forced to dump his friend into the well.
Its clear that Frank plans to kill Scott and the two passengers; the newlywed Mims. Mrs Mims is anThe Cabinet of Dr Caligari heiress. Her father owns the richest copper mine in the territory. Her husband bargains with the robbers by telling them this, even outlying a plan where the robbers can collect a huge ransom for the woman. In effect he's selling his wife, trying to barter her for his own life. She remains unaware of this.
Boone decides to follow through with this plan, asking for 50,000 in ransom. Mims' is relieved to be out of immediate danger and proud of himself for concocting such a masterful scheme to extort money from his father-in-law.
Mrs Mims is played by the lovely Maureen O'Sullivan, best known for playing the primally sexy Jane in the Weismuller Tarzan flics. Here she startlingly transforms herself into a dowdy, mousey subservient sub-human thing. She reacts, clearly, not with her heart but with what her mind tells her that her heart should feel. Its a wonderful performance.
To Chink's disappointment Frank doesn't allow him to kill Scott and put him in the well. At first that seems to be a mere plot contrivance. You can't kill the hero, sort of thing. It might have been that but it is used effectively to show what the film is really about, the revelation of character. The make up of humanity and the masks we use in order to live each day in a savage barren world. With that intent Boetticher steps very close to genius just for making the attempt.
The film plays out. The scheme plays out. It never cheats. It never loses its tension. What the story does to is astonish and surprise.
Disruption by Krabban
Click images for desktop size: "Disruption" by Krabban
The thrills start with Boone explaining to Scott that he kept Scott alive because he liked him. Scott works hard to contain his disgust at being "liked" by this criminal.
Boone doesn't notice. He tells Scott of the hours of tedium riding with young guns like Chink and Billy Jack. How they never have dreams beyond a bottle and a woman. And Boone is weary of that sort of conversation. He forces Scott to talk about his ranch.
True to the sociopath Boone turns Scott's wistful memories of his "place" to reflect on his own need to belong somewhere to have a part of the world where he belongs, that is absolutely his.
This small exchange makes us start to like Boone. It sets us up for the next scene.
Mims returns with Billy Jack. Their errand was successful. His father-in-law will raise the 50,000 and ransom his daughter. The three outlaws are joyous at the impending wealth. In a burst of generosity Boone tells Mims they don't need him anymore. He's free to go.The Decline of Western Civilization
Mims is stunned, but he can't stop talking. He tries to make Boone see what a brilliant idea this is. How much he will be able to speed up the money collection. He can even lead the father-in-law back to the money drop off.
Affably Boone agrees with him, nearly compliments him. Mims looks at the shack that imprisons his wife and says, "I should say goodbye. No, it's best I get going right away and get this done." He can barely conceal his glee as he mounts up and rides away.
Boone's performance is unsettling. He seems genuine and sincere but underneath the tone is the unhinged cruelty of a man who has had a lifetime of living with his mental disease and no longer recognizes it as a disease but merely a part of his life and personality.
Everybody but Scott, who is disgusted, is ecstatic. O'Sullivan comes out of the shack at the sound of all the laughter. When her husband reaches the top of the hill he turns and waves.
Now the first time I saw this scene my stomach dropped, like when you're playing Mario Brothers and you send the little guy jumping across a chasm and he misses and he plummets to his electronic death.
Boone stops smiling and says, "Bust him, Chink." Instantly Chink stops laughing and fires his rifle kitting Mims. Before he can finish falling Chink draws his six gun and shoots him twice more.
O'Sullivan shrieks in terror. Boone is stunned.
"What's wrong with her?" he says nonplussed. He speaks to her like he was talking to a slow child. "Lady, you should be thanking me for this. That man sold you. Do you hear me, lady? He sold you!" Then, rather annoyed, "She should be thanking me for ridding her of a thing like that husband of Ali Landry
Click images for desktop size: "Ali Landry"
hers."
"He was her husband," is Scott's laconic reply.
"That don't mean never mind," Boone grumbles, "it don't mean he's a man."
O'Sullivan gets her scene too, where she seems to spark inside her dowdy face and confess she's not crying for her dead husband but for herself. Now she thinks she is doomed to be forever alone. Good stuff. Touching and not jarring the mood.
Scott continues as a low menemic hero up through the end. His dispatching of the two youngsters is violent. More so that only because the deaths of Mims and Ringtoon were shown before. This is the 50's so the gore is only implied but the implication is horrendous enough.
When the two young guns are dispensed with and Boone is miles away O'Sullivan wants to run away, escape. Its a sensible plan. Scott rebuffs her with the line, "There are some things a man just can't ride around." And he plans to murder Boone.
Boone trumps him. He returns to the hideout, money bags stuffed with cash. He discovers his The Devil's Bride henchmen savagely murdered and then falls into Scott's trap. Instead of desperately fighting back he complies with Scott's demands to drop the money and his gun but he keeps his back to Scott and walks to his horse. "You won't shoot me in the back. Your not that kind of man."
And he rides off.
In some ways I would have preferred that would have been the ending. Boone stirred up so many ambivalent feelings that having him simply ride off would have been totally satisfying. But this was the 50's of Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. Bad guys couldn't ever just get away with it.
Boone rides out of sight and pulls his rifle from its scabbard and gallops back into camp where Scott blasts him out of the saddle. Scott and O'Sullivan walk to their horses gradually growing closer together.
For a B feature, "The Tall T" was a success. A lot of people going to see it instead of the A feature it Blueprint by Louie Mantia
Click images for desktop size: "Blueprint" by Louie Mantia
was played with.
After directing a couple of episodes of "The Count of Monte Cristo" TV show. (!) RANOWN wanted another movie. They rushed out "Decision at Sundown".
After the high achievements of "The Tall T" this was a let down. Burt Kennedy didn't do the script. This movie was pretty formulaic. Stranger rides into town makes complacent town people reassess their life etc. The interesting parts are plentiful. Scott was called on to play a psycho reminiscent of Howie Kemp, Jimmy Stewart's character in the great "Naked Spur". Its too nuanced a character for Scott to altogether pull off.
The movies not a waste and is enjoyable; but that's all.Dinosaurus
For the next one they bought Kennedy in to punch up an interesting but formulaic script' "Buchanan Rides Alone".
More of that next time and then the rest of the box set.

My back is about 95%. It usually is. No pain if I don't move to fast and I no longer have to crawl up my own body to stand up. Except I have a cold. I'm fighting it pretty well.
Tomorrow we pick up my friends new car. Getting stoked.
Beau coup walking today WITHOUT A DOG! Getting license plates, checks, the usual drill. You have to work for everything even the things you've earned.

February 10, 2009

They're all looking at me like I'm a fool but down inside they know I'm the coolest they've ever seen
The Capitals

Welcome by Walter Girotto
Click images for desktop size: "Welcome" by Walter Girotto
Feeling despondent.
Need to clarify. I'm not the sort who feels empty and suicidal. There's too much pain in this world to Casablanca ever give harm to intentionally bring harm to yourself. There's too much rage on the street to ever cause that sort of hurt to loved ones and even unloved ones.
I'm more the sort who wanders deep in thought on onto a freeway ramp and then oblivious wanders into on coming traffic suddenly coming to and wondering why there are all these car accidents and collisions and thinking, "People just won't ever learn to drive."
Green Lantern by DC Comics
Click image desktop size: "Green Lantern" by DC Comics
I know that makes me pretty normal. At least normal for the kind of guy I am.
A lot of this is this damn pain.
This is not how I imagined getting old. I thought I'd be up on that isolated hill with a view of my thousand acres. One road so that trespassers would be easy to spot. I sit in my rocking chair with my dozens of dogs and watch while music blared out of my shack. A shack is all I'd need.
I never figured on the pain. I get weary of it. I get tired of not being the person I used to be. When I was younger I got tired of not quickly becoming the person I dreamed of being. That was just prep work.
So many things I loved doing that I just can't do anymore. And then there's all the predictions of what's going to happen to me. They keep coming true. I've been indestructible too long to believe that my being indestructibility is just a lie.
It is not comforting knowing what's coming for me. What's coming is pain. When they gave me the last chemo, the one that really worked they warned me I'd probably lose my teeth within 6 or 7 years. I signed off on it. Somewhere hidden in my mind was the decision that it probably wouldn't happen. It had only happened in 70% of the trials. I liked the odds. I'd signFlying Dog
Click images for desktop size: "Flying Dog" by Unknown
off on it again.
I mean feeling hollow, fatigued and in a slow burning achey stench that ends only in death. A chemo that won't make you real sick and has an 80% chance of stopping that and keeping you alive vs a slightly worse than 50/50 chance of losing some teeth and those other side effects don't sound too bad just so long as I keep looking good.
Yeah. I'd sign off on it again.
And all except the first chemo were trials. My kind of leukemia is the kind most often found in kids and very old men. Trials lead to cures. No downside, right? I mean I'm not scrapping and pleading for my own life I'm offering myself up as a guinea pig to save some kids. I never actually thought that until now but it was probably somewhere in my head. I always insisted on having 48 hours before I made any of these decisions, then I spent that 48 hours barely thinking about it. Always need to make a calmChump at Oxford decision.
The only chemo I regret was that first one. It made me sick, bald and made me regret being alive. The only decent part of it were the "survivor" meetings. I didn't participate but I remember watching and listening to others. I can still recall some of those scenes and encounters with a comforting clarity.
Most of the memories aren't of the words but of gestures, of a woman being down and broken looking, baldness poorly concealed by a cheap wig, her chest concave from the mastectomy and for a flashing moment recapturing her former grace and power. People fumbling with cigarettes. Hands moving in an attempt to describe something so big that there just aren't any words and the vision is so intently personal that eventually communication fails and the failure doesn't bring despair but a sense of backlit reality and cool blue spaces between stars and people, spaces that are terrifying and comforting by turns.
I planned to live the rest of my life totally alone. This didn't mean to forget people. Even now I still like people, most people. One thing you can't turn off is love. You can ignore hate and contain anger but love is pervasive and refuses to die no matter how hard everyone tries to kill it. I always care for people.
But I planned to live alone with my puppy and our foster dogs. Dogs don't think anything of it when you you groan with every moment. Grunting and groaning in front of people distresses me. It makes me feel less than human.
One thing I remember from those "survivor" meetings is phrases, slogans. I like slogans. Most pop The Wolfman by Jack Pierce
Click images for desktop size: "The Wolfman" by Jack Pierce
songs are just cool sounding slogans strung together.
"Stop ignoring the elephant in the living room."
"Don't judge yourself more harshly than you'd judge others."
Stuff like that.
I still don't think anyone else can be expected to endure my constant sickness, my grunts and groans. The dead starings and irritability while I try to quell my rebellious body.
My back is still hurting. Its better. Last time I hurt it badly it was far worse. Far worse. Yet I still managed to walk a mile and a half to the bus stop and then back home. Never missed a day of work and I pretty much hated that job. I did it to prove to myself I was still a man. To prove that hiring somebody sick wasn't a mistake.
I did it by being alone and thinking about nothing else but enduring the pain. Didn't make me a very good employee but nothing fell behind.Confessions of a Sexy Supervixen
I can't help the way I feel. Being sick makes me feel like less than human. I can't help it the same way some people can't help being afraid of earthquakes or an ocean filled with 20 foot waves.
It embarrasses me and I can't bring myself to think that anyone could want to be around someone like "that". The pills, the blood, the constant agony. Its a thing best done alone I think. Right or wrong, its what I think. I don't need much proof to reinforce the belief either.

The weather is hideous. Hovering around 50 then lightly freezing at night. Plenty of slickness and ice. Nearly fell this morning but managed to stay erect without flailing my arms or wrenching my back some more. Easy enough when you have no idea how you did it.
The sky is flat dead gray. No feature to it. Like a bad backdrop at an equity waiver show.
Orangutan
Click images for desktop size: "Orangutan" by Wallpaper Collection
I'm taking the dogs for a walk now. They always make me feel better. My puppy straight ahead, always on a mission to get there, where there might be. The gentle pup flying around excited and happy. The giant dog just happy and then afraid of anything new we might encounter. Its a show that never gets old to me.
The rain is coming. The dogs will keep me from wandering on any freeway ramps. They're smarter than me about things like that.
I'll be back.
Its inevitable.
If I get the time I think another day of moist heat, exercise and floor sleep will give me back my back by tomorrow. It feels loose, painful but not like my lumbar spine is a high tension elecrical wire bouncing and sparking in a storm. It should keep getting better. Just guessing but it feels that way.
Then there will probably be real trouble!

February 9, 2009

Always repect anything that runs faster than you do
Anthony Rubino Jr

Vampi by Frank Frazetta
Click images for desktop size: "Vampi" by Frank Frazetta
I need a haircut.
A good five buck haircut. I know they exist.
Bohachi Bushido
When I was a little kid my mother and I would go visit people. Invariably, when it got late, we'd stay the night. This meant I had to sleep on the floor. I liked it. It felt like being someplace special. I never got to sleep on the floor at home so this was an adventure.
The best times were when my uncle would stumble out in the middle of the night and trip over me. My aunt would yell at him and my cousins would all come out to watch the trouble. I craved excitement then the way only a five year old who dreamed of talking helicopters would.
I no longer like sleeping on the floor. Its still exciting. If you find The End of Romance
Click image: "The End of Romance" by Unknown
dogs leaning over you at odd hours of the early morning exciting, anyway.
They like to snuffle me and check on what I'm doing and maybe see if I'm interested in a quick game of catch. Now that my friend is back home they don't insist on sleeping with me, they sort themselves out as usual, but they feel a canine duty to rotate checking up on me. Except my puppy. She comes, looks and then goes to pick out the prime sleeping spot.
My backs getting better, sleeping on the floor does help. My friend, in a simpatico move, tried to sleep on the floor with me one night.
That didn't work out. Especially when I discovered this meant I got about 20% of my pallet and NO covers! It was sweet but I prefer suffering and twisting around in private.
Today the pain is less but more enduring. I figure it was always feeling this way but I didn't notice due to the constant spikes of pain.
I've added two aspirins to my regular meds to, hopefully bring the inflammation down. I don't know if its helping.
The moist heat pad is doing something, I mean more than burning me. It loosens things up enough Eternal Love
Click images for desktop size: "Eternal Love" by Anonymous
to do my exercises. (Mainly squats, lunges, undulating pushups, and crunches.)
I also tried the glucosamine sulfate. I figured it had worked so well on the dogs that it would help, maybe at least reduce the pain in my hands. It seem I should have done more research. In my case that means looking past page 1 on the google searches. You know, after all the adverts.
Seems that people with osteoporosis or people who've gone through chemo-therapy and diabetics should consult with a physician before taking . . .
The only negative side effect I seem to have had was a loosening of my teeth. That doesn't seem to be a normal side effect but was seen in less than 2% of those studied. Sometimes I take being unique too far.The Blob
Today will be spent doing laundry, doing my exercises and taking the dogs for a walk. Won't accomplish much more than that.
Yesterday we took the dogs for a walk. Its coming close to 60! Which mean everything is wet and ugly. There are also great patches of ice in the shade and on packed snow driveways and the like.
There never were any ice storms. I figure ice rain is one of those jokes the locals like to pull on tourists and new comers.
The dogs didn't knock me down at all! My friend was with me. They were behaving so well so that she'll be a witness for them at the trial after they murder me. "I'm sure the dogs weren't responsible. They're so well behaved. Look, they heel so beautifully and never ever pull on the leash!"
Its a sad day when dogs become as devious as cats.
My friend went to work today. Her assistant came and picked her up. I think that was very nice. Her assistant bought her puppy along. He'd just been fixed and had his dew claws removed. Being a puppy he was still cranked and excited. I liked him immensely. When she goes to Aruba we may get to take care of him. I only hope my dogs don't infect him with their murderous intents towards me.

Spam has become a problem again. Blocking the IP's seems to be the only quick solution. The email spam just bugs me. My puppy's email address seems to be the focus of dating sites! I get all the viagra ads and fake watch spam.
Tracks
Click images for desktop size: "Tracks" by Sarrongbom
The comment spam is effectively blocks by Movable Type.
The junk that comes here is just silly. The stuff that comes to my puppy's site is discouraging and horrifying. Bestiality and one Child Porn spam. The Child Porn one I forwarded to all the cops I could think of. (I used to be a Pete Townshend fan until he got busted with a computer full of child porn. This was about the same time Gary Glitter and Jonathan King were in court for the same thing. Glitter and King went to prison. Townshend's story was that he was doing research on a book . . . never heard another thing about Townshend. Glitter and King; you got to sell more albums, I guess. I don't listen to Townshend anymore.)
One thing I'm considering is a robot.txt file to stop some of the bots that crawl the site. It would stop google , yahoo and the legitimate ones easily enough. It would have to be pretty strict to stopCalendar Pin Up Girls the spam bots, and then would have minimal effect and none at all on the more aggressive ones.
I don't have advertising so search engine visitors are pretty meaningless to me. Most of them I don't know. They just come to "harvest" the graphics. I don't care about that. I'm glad that people appreciate them. I hope as much as I do.
But google still sometimes lets old friends find the site. And like, there was the David Drake book I was agonizing over because I couldn't remember the title. Some nice fellow left a comment telling me the title was most likely "Killer" and he left a link so I could read more about the book. I liked that.
More problematic is my puppies site. I really get sick at the idea of some kid clicking on a link for one of those porn sites. Movable Type has not ever let one through. Small comfort.
90% of the kids who visit her site come from hospitals and about 20% of that from grammar Spider by WallpaperMania
Click images for desktop size: "Spider" by WallpaperMania
schools. But a number of kids still come to the site by doing a search. Popular searches are "Shelby and Blue", "silly dog Shelby", "the great black dog", even, "Shelby and Ben" and my latest favorite, "Shelby the dog who is smarter than David".
Even if they are only 10% or less of the traffic I fret that these kids may be the most in need of looking at pictures of silly dogs.
I guess my internet time today will be spent trying to figure out how to write a proper robot.txt file that might accomplish what I need.

That should leave me enough time to worry about the economy and wonder why Obama thinks the Republicans are interested in bipartisanship. He better get hip.
They and most of the democrats just want to stay rich and get richer. They're all going to take care of their buddies a long time before they worry about us.

February 7, 2009

Start every day with a smile, and get it over with
W.C. Fields

Spirit of the Summit by Charles Leighton
Click images for desktop size: "Spirit of the Summit" by Charles Leighton
I made a dumb mistake Thursday night. My friend got home safely so I was feeling buoyant. I decided to sleep in bed instead of the floor.Blacula
A mistake. Woke up Friday and my back was worse that before. Had to take a 90 minute drive with my friend which aggravated it some. No more rental car after that trip so I enjoyed the ride and enjoyed being with my friend, then paid a small price.
I did discover something interesting. For the first time I felt cold. Like some people can only think about one thing at a time it appears I can only ignore one thing at a time. I could keep my back under control enough to not walk like a freak but to do that I had to let my In the Wake of the Buffalo Hunters by Charles Russell
"In the Wake of the Buffalo Hunters" by Charles Russell
body feel the cold. Interesting, at least to me.
Slept on the floor last night. The giant dog was ecstatic that mr friend had returned home so he stayed with her through the night with only four trips off the bed to snuffle my face. I guess he was worried I might do something interesting and he'd miss it.
My puppy stayed close to me. I think she figured I'd do something stupid. She finally settled on a position where she could keep an eye both on the bedroom and on me. Why this was important when all she did was fall asleep probably has some deep dog logic that I'll never be privy to.
The gentle dog was pretty angry that my friend had gone away and not taken him with her. After his Steve Argyle
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Steve Argyle
initial enthusiastic greeting her spent the rest of the time pointedly ignoring her. Sometimes he would have to go over and nudge her just so that she would see that she was being ignored. No point in ignoring someone you love unless they know they're being ignored.

I spoke to the car lot and explained the situation. I was as honest as you can be with strangers. I was surprised that they had no problem holding the car for the two weeks! Better yet they were going to start doing all the certification the same as if we had the money in hand.
Amazing amount of trust from them, I think. And no word from the bank at all. Bank silence just added somewhat to my tension over this. The Brides of Fu Manchu
Next week my friends assistant is going to give her rides back and forth from work. I worry that the assistant doesn't know what she's gotten into. If she already knows the time and distance then you have to be even more grateful. At least I do.
I'm not considering what ulterior motives any of this could portend. No reason to think like that.

No football this weekend.
The pro bowl hardly counts.

I've stopped using the "Google Search Box" app. The third alpha is a significant improvement but it still doesn't do all I want. Unlike Quicksilver it still doesn't remember the last app you used. Quicksilver was able to remember the weird abbreviations I used to call up apps and functions, like hb calls Handbrake and ps calls Photoshop.
Star Ball
Click images for desktop size: "Star Ball" by Unknown
The "Google Search Box" still requires I type in most of the name, which is time consuming as "photo" calls up a half dozen apps with Photoshop buried in the middle somewhere. The app does learn that "photo" means I want Photoshop but PS only gives me the option to do an on-line search!
Also the "Google" thing doesn't do append and edit calls like Quicksilver. At least not yet. I'm used to editing with Quicksilver so that I could call up an html doc and at the same time open Smultron or Komodo to edit it, while using Quicksilver to append at second document to the first.
Very quick and very easy.
The final thing I dislike about all Google apps is it insistence on installing spyware disguised as Updaters. I'm used to deleting that stuff but its tedious. I'm always nervous when an app insists on a THe Blue Dahlia root password to install itself. That's a Windows thing and its stupid. They should give me the option. I resent an application transmitting info without asking me if I want it to. I also see no sense in an app checking hourly to see if it (or its brother apps) can be updated.
All google apps do this. I use as few of them as I can.
I still plan to keep trying out new build of the search box. Its got potential, for sure.
I watched a great old movie. WC Field's "It's A Gift". Its not the best Field's movie by far but it is funny. I laughed out loud a half dozen times. The movie only lasts 65 minutes so it never gets a chance to flag, nor do any of the scenes ever feel rushed.
Its not as awesome as "The Bank Dick" nor as insane as "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break", but it was memorable and leaves you chuckling hours later.

It is supposed to be 40 today with promises of icey rain . . . whoever heard of such a thing? Ice rain? It promises to make this world a very gross, muddy flooded place. All this snow starting to melt and rain and ice . . . I prefer the cold if this is the way they announce spring around here.
So I'm going to the store. Tempting fate, seeing if I can get there and back before the ice torrents fall.
Its what passes for dare deviltry with me now.
I'm taking my puppy. She needs a thrill too.

February 5, 2009

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being
Jackie Robinson

Soa Lee
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Soa Lee
It was not a great recruiting class for USC this year. It was a good class but it held some potential for greatness.
Some of the kids who chose other schools I think made a mistake, a few of the kids I'm glad didn'tAn Evening with Karloff come to USC.
There's the five star linebacker that chose Arizona State primarily because their academic standards are so much lower. ASU also has an excellent tutoring program set up because they take in so many marginal scholastic athletes. I'm all for that. The most important Blonde in Green
Click image: "Blonde in Green" by Unknown
thing is for these kids to get an education.
But I do think that the demands of football and school are too much for a lot of these kids.
One of my great delights in the 80's was when unranked Stanford was routinely dismantling Lou Holtz's top ranked Notre Dame teams. Keith Jackson pointed out a few times that Notre Dame didn't have a single player on their squad who could have qualified academically for Stanford.
Education is still the thing. The one complaint I have with Pete Carroll is that I would like to see the percentage of athletes getting their degrees get up to 100%.
I was dismayed about the number of kids USC lost to UCLA. I feel sorry for those kids. Seriously. Woman's Figure
Click images for desktop size: "Woman's Figure" by Unknown
Rick Neiuhisal has a pretty horrid reputation as an academic coach.
The kids who chose Notre Dame. It depends on their reasons for attending the school. If its to get playing time and falling for the glitter of the program and ignoring the horrendous job Charlie Weiss has done then they made a mistake. If it was for the traditions in the program and a great education its impossible to fault them.
As much as I like the intrigue of Signing Day I wish it weren't such a media event today. These are kids and this is insane pressure. 80% of these kids are never going to get to the NFL. I want them to have the dream. I had it. But I wish the dream were more in line with USC's old wide receiver John Jefferson, to get the best education he can get and to have some fun playing a greatAsphalt Jungle game in a wonderful spotlight. Playing in the NFL would be great for money and fame but its not the end all. What's important is to have the foundation of a great life.
I worry about guys who leave school early and then get 1 or 2 years in the NFL and then have no real future. I worry about guys like Rickey Ervins. A great little college back who played 2 years for the Washington Redskins and then nothing. I worry every time I read the news and see how some former NFL player was arrested for drugs, Art and Beauty by Robert Crumb
Click image: "Art and Beauty" by Robert Crumb
robbing a liquor store. You know the drill.
Its a shame that guys like Pete Carroll and Joe Paterno are the exceptions among college coaches. They want to win, sure, but they also have an investment in the young men's future.
I hope all the kids do well and that they attain the dreams and remember the people who love them and the ones who cheer for them.

I spoke to the bank yesterday. It appears we may be on the path to something that could result in my friend getting her car. I'm not happy with the whole package but it appears to be the only way forward. The alternatives are far worse.
So far I'm still very pleased with this used car lot. So far they've been holding the car with no issues at all. I have to talk to them today to see if they'll go along with this new deal: The loan could take a week to 10 days to process and while it looks better than 90% that it will happen there's always Spider's Ice Cream by J3 Concepts
Click images for desktop size: "Spider's Ice Cream" by J3 Concepts
that doubt. While the loan should go through and might happen much quicker can't be promised.
I wouldn't blame them for not wanting to hold the car for my friend. If they couldn't I would still go back to them to look for its replacement.
I never thought that I'd trust a used car salesman. It feels like trusting Nixon or Bush!

My friend is due back from her business trip tonight. We're looking forward to it. I think she'll be exhausted. I also hope she doesn't have a 12 hour day and get get out of there early enough to get home at a reasonable hour.

Yesterday I shoveled the entire driveway and the yard. My back is sore this morning but not really hurting except for those stupid moves I tend to make. Slept on the floor again. The dogs seem toBeyond the Time Barrier love that or else they might be trying to crowd me off the floor.
I developed a new technique for flicking the snow away. I can't fling it as far, maybe only 4-6 feet instead of the usual 10 to 12 feet. The technique involves using my left arm as the fulcrum and then just using the right as the weight to toss the snow. It worked well enough.
While I was shoveling the driveway the next door neighbor spoke to me. Not the guy but the woman. She asked about us giving them the old snowblower. I agreed for reason of wanting it out of our yard. I tried to talk about some other things, some just social but no real progress there.
She did tell me one thing. One of our neighbors I like. I thought her husband was still in hospital. The neighbor insisted her husband had died two years ago! I don't know if she's right and I've just blocked out someone having to deal with another dead spouse or . . .

February 4, 2009

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
Steven Pinker

Road to November by Project Cozo
Click images for desktop size: "Road to November" by Project Cozo
Yesterday I was walking back to the house when I slipped on the ice. I didn't fall. I found there are worse things than falling.
I started to do the crazy arm windmilling to try and regain my balance and that wasn't working soThree Stooges before I fell I twisted my body and spun about 180 degrees on one foot. It stopped my from falling but as soon as I stamped my foot down I felt my lower back go sprong.
The pain waited until I got inside the house. Which I thought was polite of it.
It was no where near as bad as when I wrenched my back a couple of years ago. That took a couple of weeks to heal up. That was a wrench this is more like a torque. I don't think that makes much sense in reflecting pain so before it was 7/10 this is like 5/10.
Here's how all you curious guys can calculate my age. I had a compressed disk in my lumbar region. I got it playing football when spearing was still legal. They also allowed liquid filled helmets. They were wicked heavy and a few guys used them as clubs. They weren't very protective either but they felt like getting hit with a 10 pound sledge hammer. They faded away after spearing was made illegal.
I lived with it for years until the daily grief caused me to have surgery even through the leukemia. It was amazing how it felt to be virtually or at least comparatively pain free. I was given stern warnings about strain almost as blunt as the warnings I now have about avoiding stress. It always reminds me of that plastic bubble thing and clean rooms.
The back didn't stop me from accomplishing a few things.
I spoke to the bank. They declined the loan. I had a long talk with the branch manager. He sent my Untitled by Dark Art
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Dark Art
friend an email offering some alternatives.
I know I didn't put the fear of god in him. I also know I didn't appeal to his sense of decency or draw him to see things in a fiscally responsible and compassionate light. He did see a chance to turn a bigger profit.
I think it was in the 30's, during the last Great Depression, that bankers passed a resolution to no longer wear long black capes, top hats and curly handlebar mustaches. There was a lot of consternation and debate about not laughing maniacally when evicting orphans into the snow, but it finally passed.
They had to take their joy from only causing and then profiting from depressions and recessions. That hardly seems like enough to them. They need to gloat.
I still view banks as the greatest villains of the 20th and 21st centuries.
I'm calling him again today to see what the precise terms are, risk etc. Where Eagles Dare
It makes me uneasy but the alternatives may be worse.
We had about 6 inches of snow yesterday. I was able to shovel out the gate and the walkway but couldn't do my usual path with the back. Took me 3 tries but at least its sufficient until my friend gets back home. they're saying it will be 42 and raining on Sunday . . .
Took the dogs for a walk in the snow. They hadn't been out on a long walk for a week. They were crazy rambunctious at first but calmed down fast. Probably decided it wasn't sporting to try and kill me when I'm modestly defenseless.
Sharks
Click images for desktop size: "Sharks" by Unknown
I got the garbage out. That was more of an accomplishment than it sounds. The curb here is now five feet high so you have to do some climbing to get the recycling bins and bags of trash positioned up there. In bleaker moments I think the garbage guys look for excuses to not take your trash so you have to be very exact about everything. I got it done to perfection and even got the bag of trash they left last week dug out and positioned properly.
Did some light cleaning and missed my friend to fill out the day.
The only thing about her not being here that is of benefit is that I get to be a lot louder! The dogs like it loud. It doesn't impact their sleeping at all and they like to dance with me. They call it dancing, I call it biting me while I glide around the room with sylvan grace bad back or not!
I slept on the floor. Went to bed about 11. I figured the 3 dogs would go take over the bed and sofa's but instead they decided they all had to sleep on me. Which was warm, I guess. Woke up at 3:00 AM. Puttered about doing much of nothing and managed to lie down again at 6.
Took me over a half hour to go to sleep. I tried to sleep in Waiting and Mad by Charles Russell
Click images for desktop size: "Waiting and Mad" by Charles Russell
silence. Never works for me. I woke up with the giant dog wrapped around my feet and my puppy breathing in my face with a leg draped over my chest. The gentle dog was on the floor beside me.
Back pain no worse, no better. I'll do some more exercises today for it. Put on the heat roll. It should be fine.
One of the crazy things I did yesterday was to set up a twitter account. Not sure how I feel about twitter yet.
One good thing is my friend, the archaeologist used it to announce that he has finally been granted UK citizenship!
The British are constantly lowering their standards . . . (That's the kind of things guys say. We call it rough affection. Most others call it being jerks.)Garbo at USC
I pleased for him. It was important to him and he managed to hang in their with it while it was difficult.
The rest of the day is getting that little football fix from National Letter of Intent Signing Day or NLOISD, I guess.
There's something interesting about kids making their life decisions.
Of course I want USC to get nothing but five star recruits (I have a sick feeling about kids getting rated like that) who all pan out make academic All-American teams, get their degrees and have fabulous NFL careers.
Nearly forgot. I stopped using the Google Search Box app. It drove me crazy. The worst issue was that it wuld bog down my computer periodically as it did a full rescan of the hard drive. There's an update today so I've turned off the much loved Quicksilver and am trying it afresh. So far the only complaint was that the update forgets all the preferences you took so much time setting up. So you have to do it all over from scratch.
Odd thing that.

February 3, 2009

There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship
Saint Thomas Aquinas

Radiant by Richard Mohler
Click images for desktop size: "Radiant" by Richard Mohler
Sometimes it seems that when I was a real rude, self centered jerk prone to lashing out randomly and often unprovoked, it seems like I had more friends. Or at least I knew a lot of people who'dZombie Flesh Eaters loan me money without blinking . . .
Did these people value me? I have no idea. How can you know what people think of you? Even when I was a jerk I knew better than to value people by the amount of money they'd loan me.
I guess than the question is; "did I value them?" At least enough to repay all the loans, not out of pride but because it was what you did and I often figured that they needed it as badly as I did.
I wasn't above repaying them conversely to the difficulty they gave Green Lantern
Click images for desktop size: "Green Lantern" by DC Comics
me in borrowing it. Meaning the people who loaned it to me the easiest got repaid first. Usually it seemed they were the people who could least afford to loan me money at all.
I guess I valued them. A handful of them I still consider friends to this day.
I wasn't always borrowing money, just once to scrape of the 20% house down payment - $35,000. There's a number I won't ever forget. Then banks wouldn't even consider a mortgage unless you had at least 20% down.
Then, in LA, I knew people who were excited about getting rear ended. A lot of homes got sold, financed by whiplash, (I often wondered if the lawyers got 33% of the home too. That didn't mean that I wasn't a touch jealous of their mixed fortune. I'd have traded pain for a home and not to be looking at a mountain of debt.)
So I guess I just had more friends back then. When I began to be changed by the world I guess I Red Nude
Click images for desktop size: "Red Nude" by Unknown
stopped seeing people as replaceable commodities. I began to value them, to care.
I'm not smart enough to know if my friends now are "better" than my friends from back then. I don't really know if more people hate me now then hated me then. I just know I'm happy now, then I seemed to only have desperate drive punctuated with moments of happiness that made the mad quest for money and recognition seem almost worth it.
I'm thinking too much about this stuff because the bank turned down the car loan. This is surprising. My friend has had a business relationship with them since she was twenty - car loans, two mortgages, even personal loans, all repaid with no issues, even the current mortgage.
It seems there was a credit card that involved a huge dispute. Then since September nothing from them. The assumption was that it was settled. Now it looks like what they did was write off a REC balance and reported it as bad debt. Seems pretty corporate vindictive. The amount written off was something that would have been paid if they'd given her/us the chance.
I don't know. Maybe its just the current economy and banks looking for excuses to not make loans. Who knows?
Thinking about it I only ever had one banker as a friend. I called him "John the Dork". I liked him. He made me laugh sometimes. He was remarkable awkward in any social situation but frank enough to turn it from being embarrassing.
I've always hated banks. So much that this barely surprises me.
It hurts my friend though and that makes me very angry. Not with her but with banks.
One solution is to refinance the house. I've no idea if there is enough equity in the house to get the money for the car or if its worth all the trouble.
I feel a bit guilty because I don't drive anymore (eyes). I like my friend working from home. I like her being around at least 95% of the time. So I feel guilt because I don't mind her not having a car. Stupid heart of mine.
I feel ready to trek to the grocery store, even get one of those little shopping cats that you see people you feel sorry for trundling home loaded down with their groceries.
I worry about the extreme expense of renting cars. I'm slightly relieved that her company (a non-profit) is paying for the rental car for her trip out of town that started today.
Red Sunset by LawnElf
Click images for desktop size: "Red Sunset" by LawnElf
I'm sad as she was so happy with the car she found. It fir her and seemed as perfect for her as a used car could be. The crazy cool car lot has been remarkably chilled. She called them yesterday and told the salesman that she was having trouble with the bank. The salesman said no problem. He'd hold the car through today and if the problem continued he'd hold it longer. No request for a deposit. No pressure.
The lot had a sign up that said something about them being Christian and how they believed all their transactions were watched over by Christ. Cynically I thought it was just Right Wing propaganda. I guess I was wrong. Some people are sincere in their beliefs.
While we were at the car lot there was a bit of drama. A customer had taken a car out onto an unplowed road and rolled it into a ditch. The oner was out and there was a serious discussion as to what the manager should do: Call the police; give the customer a lecture; just get the car and forgetBride of Frankenstein about it; make them pay for repairs.
I was surprised that they gave each option equal weight. Our salesman said, after I told him I'd been eavesdropping, that the owner always believed in giving people "grace".
I hope we can do business with these guys.
I don't know.
I only know my friend is upset and I'm a bit of a loss as to what I can do to make it all better. Being helpless is not a good way to feel. I think it eats her up more than it does me and that makes it hurt worse for me.

The car situation is so overwhelming that it took the joy out of something I'd normally be pretty happy about. Its small. I managed to trade for the five Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott westerns. They are all nothing less than excellent with two of them "The Tall T" and "Ride Lonesome" being two of the best westerns ever made.
Now they seem more like a distraction than a great find. I've watched them all for years on VHS tapes recorded from TV and lousy rips from those tapes.
Even something like this doesn't cheer me up.
My puppy is sitting close to me. She wants me to be happy.

February 2, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Arizona Cardinals 23

Ginevra de Benci by Da Vinci
Click images for desktop size: "Ginvera de Benci" by Leonardo Da Vinci
And wasn't that one of the cruddiest Superbowls ever.
Definitely in the top 5. If it weren't for the final 10 minutes it would have been number 2. TenWeekend Murders minutes isn't a game.
The grand finale of the season was partially ruined by nightmarish bad officiating. When one team uses two challenges to get two horrific calls over turned you do have reason to question the ref's impartiality.
Still the most jaw dropping calls were the non-ejections of two Steelers. Their dirty play was disgraceful, a bad example to kids. Virtual Girl
Click image: "Virtual GIrl" by Wallpaper Collection
The worst was allowing James Harrison to remain in the game. Driving his fist into a player who was down on his knees is terrible but then to hit the guy in the throat while he's staggering to get up deserves the most powerful punishment.
James Harrison has worked hard to play this game. He had a magnificent season. For me it will be forever tainted by his twisted and dangerous antics.
The Cardinals' play calling was absurd. I still can't figure out what they were thinking of. Their most successful drive was off the no huddle and exploiting the brilliant play of Larry Fitzgerald, Bolden and Breaston. Then they forgot about it.
When all they had to do was stop the Steelers for two minutes they went into a weak prevent instead of maintaining the inspired play that got them the lead. The coaching got them to the Superbowl but the coaching cost them the championship.
Rockwell Poncho by Paul Gilligan
Click images for desktop size: "Poncho Rockwell" by Paul Gilligan
I managed to miss Bruce Springsteen . . .
Now comes that fallow part of the year. They'll be the Football Combine in a couple of weeks. There's enough Trojans invited to make that mildly interesting. I'll be curious about Clay Matthews and Mark Sanchez.
I'm one of those who think that Mark made a mistake in entering the draft early. I honestly think that a senior year could have seen him as at least a Heisman finalist. It would have let him learn to control his emotions and set him up for a solid NFL career.
As it is now I think he'll get the signing bonus he craves but will either set on the bench for two years, which would not be a bad thing, or get thrown to the lions too soon and end up shuffling around as a back up until he gets a fair chance somewhere down the line.Wicked Wicked
I still hope for the best for him. He is a fine young man.
Then there'll be the draft in April which is always lightly amusing. I wonder if USC can beat last years record for first round picks.
There's baseball season and there's spring ball and then a dearth until August.
Nice cycle of life. I don't think I would want to change it.

Today I plan to watch a movie, "Outlander". Its about a spaceship that crashes on Earth during the Iron Age and mixes the Space Man up with some Vikings who have to work together to kill a space monster.
There's this sci-fi writer, David Drake, who wrote a book with a near identical idea. Except in his book there was no space man, only the space monster. The monster was a baboon like creature, slightly larger than man sized and incredibly viscous.
The monster lands in ancient Rome and is hunted by Gladiators!! Drake is too prolific (I can't even remember the title of this book) to be great but he has written a couple of great books. This one and "Redliners".
What made this one great was the history of Ancient Rome he threw in not only for atmosphere but to advance the plot.
The gladiators aren't horrified by the creature, but like the mice in the Sufi legends seek only the most expedient professional means of killing it. Their vengeance and anger has no place in their plans to destroy something bigger and stronger than they are. They move like Gladiators, with no fear but only the need to finish the task.
Dogs
Click images for desktop size: "Dogs" by Unknown
Great book, I wish I could remember the title . . .

I was hoping that we'd hear about the car loan by now. The loan officer doesn't seem to be in. So we have to be patient.
I hate being patient sometimes. There should be no problems at all but with the economy the way it is now I trust banks even less, which is something I thought would be impossible.
My friend needs that car.
I need for her to have what she needs.
The dogs could care less.

February 1, 2009

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal
George F. Will

Now You See Him
Click images for desktop size: "Now You See Him" by NFL Films
My friend got her new car yesterday. Not really, not yet but all is nearly finished.
The car lot was pretty interesting. The lot itself was just about a quarter mile long and it had fourThe Stuff rows of cars jammed side by side. Just a huge amount of cars.
Their system is that you inspect a car and then go to the main office where you give the the number of the car you want. They give you the key, copy your driver's license and that's about it. You drive the car as long as you want and then take out the next one you're Zathara
Click images for desktop size: "Zathara" by DC Comics
interested in.
RAH! No sales pressure at all. There's was a windy snow storm yesterday and the place was still packed! One of the cars we were interested in was sold wile we were there! We drove about 90 minutes to get there based on a recommendation and was very glad for the experience.
We checked out 6 cars. All makes, all models there for easy comparison. Aside from the thirty mile an hour winds and blinding snow it was a great experience.
After you pick the car you want you have to sit down with a salesman . . . that was painless too. The only thing that was tried to sell to us was a warranty. Its a good warranty but hyper-expensive. A thousand bucks for 2 years! Since its also like 90 minutes away I didn't see much value to it but Ninety Degrees by A Brito
Click images for desktop size: "Ninety Degrees" by A Brito
did think my friend should get the 6 month warranty to get into spring.
My friend went to the bank Friday evening. Did all the loan stuff. The guy said there should be no problem but it was too late to get the final approval. If he doesn't see a problem I'd ho[e that means there won't be any problems.
My friend was totally chuffed but a little bit dismayed that her favorite car was also the cheapest car we looked at! She felt even better that a local dealership had the identical car with 20 thousand fewer miles for FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS MORE!
The way this place works is that they get the car in and just set it in the lot. When the car is purchased they throw it into the shop, detail it, tune it new tires and do any work they find. You get to say any problems you saw. Like I pointed out some light staining on the rear seats and felt reallyThe Unholy Four anal for doing so, but so what.
Then in a week to 10 days you go and pick the car up. Seems odd at first but also seems incredibly fair.
Since my eyes got to bad to drive its been a long time since I got to shop for a car. It was fun, especially doing it this way. I was tired but not in the usual weary way that car salesmen usually inflict.
On the way home we stopped at Taco Bell to celebrate. She had gluten free bean tacos (yeah, they make them) and I had a bean burrito, meximelt and a chicken taco.
When we got home we continued to celebrate - she took a nap and I shoveled snow. Since I keep the yard so well shoveled out it only took me about a half hour to shovel the two inches of snow that fell. As soon as I finished it started to snow again!
My friend's nap was cut short. My puppy was sleeping with her and my puppy likes to cuddle, except she so big and so strong that her cuddling has the usual effect of pushing you off the bed!
So we watched the Chinese movie "Ip Man". Ip is best remembered today as the guy who first taught Bruce Lee.
The film was very good. Donnie Yen is still amazing. His hand speed is staggering.
The first two thirds of the movie are supposed to be pretty accurate. They had the two legendary episodes in Ip's life that I knew about: Ip fighting a swordsman armed with a feather duster and his famous fight with ten Japanese karate experts where he thrashed them all without ever being touched.
Marvelous recreations better than I had imagined from just reading about them. Like the final third Gothic
Click images for desktop size: "Gothic Alien" by Unknown
of the film which is a weird amalgamation of fantasy and fact, if that wasn't the way it really was this is the way it should have been.
Good stuff and a good movie to finish a celebratory day to.

Today's the Superbowl. The end of football for another year.
Once again the Superbowl is in a fair weather city. I always sort of wish the game were played in a driving snowstorm, an ice bowl, a real pit where the intensity would have to build and it could become a savage contest of men and nature.
While I don't think this game will be as bad as the Steelers-Seahawks debacle I don't expect a very good game.
The Steelers have all the tools to stage a massive blowout. If Heinz Ward is 80% or better it will be a long turgid day for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals just don't match up well. Their offense is too quick strike to wear the Steelers down. I expect Larry Fitzgerald to exploit an overly aggressive Troy Polamanu and avoid the shut out but Tombs of the Blind Dead that's about it.
There is an X Factor. Kurt Warner. He's been here before and knows he will probably never get here again.
He's won strong and lost to Tom Brady is Brady's first start and the beginning of his legend. He could rise up angry and dismantle the dream but it seems to miraculous.
Even though the Cardinals have been bigger underdog's than this in every single one of their playoff games. No one thought they could handle Carolina and felt certain that the Eagles would trounce them easily.
There's a pretty good chance the game will go to the back ups. Rothlisberger still holds the ball too long. His astonishing effectiveness on third and long this season justifies it but it makes him vulnerable.
Warner will have a hard time surviving the blitz. When it gets down to back-up QB's Matt Linehart World Wide
Click images for desktop size: "World Wide" by Unknown
still comes up short against Steeler back up Byron Leftwich.
It maybe herd like but I see the Steelers covering the spread in almost every scenario. That doesn't please me at all.
The half time show. A good reason to hate Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Their nipple ring fiasco ensures that we will never see decent bands at the Superbowl. A strong performance by Tom Petty last year just proves to those old dinosaurs in the NFL (and I've met too many of the old untrustworthy bastards) that this is the ticket.
Bruce Springsteen . . . does anyone care? Springsteen's cred with me drops even lower, that he'd do such a gig smells like sell out.Under Age
He couldn't possible be as bad as Paul McCartney (the Superbowl and an aged Beatle??) and no one could be horrifying as the Rolling Stones but this should be an incredibly dreary show. I wonder if he opens or closes with Reagan's fave tune, "Born in the USA".

Before that we still have some errands to run while we have the rented car.
My friend will be gone for 3 days next week. Need FOOD for ME!
Its been so long that I've been able to drive I'm used to having to walk a few miles in bad conditions to feed myself, but there's no sense in being macho all the time.