Friday, January 20, 2017

You deserve a break today

First time in a while that I've seen a movie in the theaters. I went to see The Founder today. It's an interesting picture about Ray Kroc,who wasn't the founder of McDonalds restaurants, but did found "McDonalds" as a corporate behemoth. The first of the restaurants was built in San Bernardino by Mac and Dick McDonald, migrants from New Hampshire, who eventually hit on the idea of applying Henry Ford's industrial techniques to the making of burgers and fries. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Kroc screws them out of their part in the business while taking it national. Of course there's a little bit of huckster to them as well, and this quality might leave them more vulnerable than they would be to a more vicious - if alcoholic and unpromising - con man.

The cast is excellent, led by Michael Keaton as Kroc and Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonalds. Lynch might be best known - at least by me - as Marge Gunderson's husband Norm in Fargo. He's not the only Coen Brothers connection either. The music is done by their favorite composer, Carter Burwell. He earns gratitude for saving the audience from a soundtrack full of Mickey D's jingles, as thematically appropriate as they might have been.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nothing up my sleeve

Something I've learned recently. Overcoats are most often worn with suits, which I guess is part of the idea. So they're designed with the idea that you'll have other pockets. An overcoat might have only the two hip pockets, which aren't that deep and don't have anything covering them. That makes an overcoat a less than great place to carry, say, an extra pen you might need. You gotta come up with a different plan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Question on my part. Today I saw a flock of pigeons swoop down on the street when a kids was throwing peanuts - or some kind of bar food at any rate - on the sidewalk. In their midst were some smaller birds. They had brown plumage, curved beaks, and they sort of hopped while they were on the ground? Any idea what kind of birds these might have been?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movies on ridding yourself of troublesome priests

Last night I watched Becket, a historical epic from 1964. "Epic" in the realm of film usually implies "really long" and this one moderately qualifies. It's about two and a half hours. It holds up pretty well for that duration, though.

It's what you might call loosely based on the historical record. Thomas Becket is counselor to King Henry II (which he was) his friend and companion in drinking and whoring (hard to tell at this distance). He's also a representative of England's old Saxon guard in the Plantagenet court (quite false, as Becket was really a Norman.) Henry appoints Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, thinking he'll have his own man in the pulpit. Instead the duties of the Church cause Becket to define himself against his king, and their friendship ends.

The inciting incident, by the way, is a priest arrested for "debauching" a nobleman's young daughter, who then tries to escape and is killed by the nobleman's guards. Becket excommunicates the nobleman. This case comes off a little differently in contemporary times. Yes, it seems like an injustice was done to the priest, but the Catholic Church hasn't always had the best record of policing its own.

The two main performances are a fascinating study in contrasts. Peter O'Toole plays Henry, and does bring his blasé charm to the role at times. But Henry isn't a distinguished gentleman. He's a passionate friend and also a petty tyrant, one who's enslaved by his own immature whims. Between his hot-blooded rants and his Van Dyke beard, the character is almost Klingon. And yes, there are questions of what kind of love he has for Becket, the man who spurned him.

Becket is played by Richard Burton, moving through the scene at his own pace. Whatever debauchery he commits in his days as a sensualist takes place off-screen, seeming more theoretical than anything else. He's somewhat self-denying from the first. The change is more that he goes from enjoying the use of power in service to his king to seeking guidance from Heaven. It would be difficult to name another actor who got so much mileage from playing the quiet one, which is why he's perfect here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why you buggin'?

I'm in the middle of reading Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron. This came out in 1967, which may have been the height of the New Wave of science fiction. It's about the battle of wills between a rabble rousing talk show host and a corporation that sells the promise of immortality. As with a lot of stories written in the past about what to them was the future it's fun to compare it to how things really turned out.

Stuff that's sort of right:
* There's legalized and commercialized pot in the novel's setting. That's sort of a patchwork issue in the United States. A lot of people in the late sixties probably expected this to happen at a much faster rate than it actually has.

* Portable networked telephones that people take everywhere. The book also has vidphones, which sort of exists. Apps like Skype and FaceTime seem more popular in real life

Stuff that's mostly wrong:
* Jack Barron's show is called "Bug Jack Barron" and it's a call-in show where ordinary citizens call in with their grievances and Barron helps them take on the institutions that are oppressing them. Populist TV hasn't really played out like that.

* Mississippi is a nation within the nation, ruled by blacks. Ha ha, no. At least to the second part.

Of course it's not really a prediction form, it's a novel. So how does it stand up? Pretty well. Spinrad does the police in different voices, making sure various characters sound distinct from each other. Of course then we come to women, and I'm not sure it's actually good in that respect. There seems to be a lot of hysterical housewives, even if they're supposed to be something other than that.

Still, worth digging up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


One challenge in life is to perceive what other people are seeing, to understand how they might feel about something. Some people, I'm sure, are better at it than others. Me? I at least expect other people to feel something. As far as getting inside their heads I guess a lot. Some guesses are more accurate than others.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Who will bell..?

Marionettes Petting Cats Ver. 1 from Krista McGuigan on Vimeo.

If you're held up by strings, I'm pretty sure getting in a cat's face counts as living dangerously.

And yeah, I know, cat videos on the Internet, dime a dozen. Still I loved some of the expressions in this.