Thursday, August 31, 2017

Down the aisle

So, fairly big Labor Day weekend coming up in that I'll be attending the wedding of a good friend. He is or will be the first person of whom I can say I saw him get married twice. Should be a pretty festive occasion as the happy couple are getting married at an outdoor music festival. Which is, like, right up there with a miniature golf course?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Radio, radio

I have to admit that, even though it's happening in my backyard, it's only within the past couple of weeks I learned the sale of WBRU was even a possibility. Now it's actually happened.

The first effect I'll feel is that I've changed the tuning on my clock radio, since I'd been waking up to 'BRU for the foreseeable past. It's on a classical station for now. In the future, who knows?

In a way the Brown student community was foolish to let the station go. While it's easy to conceive a time in the future when a good digital-only stream has as much influence or more than a terrestrial radio station, I don't think that time is quite here yet. Then again the level of actual student involvement seems to have been pretty low for a while.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

That's life

The Friar and the Pea - The Life and Legacy of Gregor Mendel from Eric Power on Vimeo.

A lot of neat colors and textures in this animated look at the "father of genetics." A pioneering scientist who remains important, even as some miss the point of his work, or insist on finding implications that aren't really in it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Don't thINK so

I've come to admit to myself that I don't really "get" tattoos. Not that I think they always look horrible, and in the past I may have even thought to get one myself. The impulse passed. It's more that I don't see the appeal of getting one, then another, and then a bunch more. As a hobby, it costs you money. And going in to get inked, you're not doing anything or experiencing anything. They're just there from then on.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


I'm reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch now. I can safely say that I'm enjoying it. The setting is some unconfirmed date in the 21st century, but it's got a more old fashioned feel. Despite reference to video games (mostly fictional) and texting it has a hint of the Interbellum. That was true of Tartt's first novel, The Secret History as well, but she's grown into it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The moon is a night shift worker that sometimes gets restless during the day

The eclipse was perceptible where I live, if not as dramatic as some places. It might have been a little darker than usual for the time of day, but it was hard to tell how much of that was clouds.

Still, it's kind of a neat effect. Some young folks at work had built a viewer, basically a cardboard box with an aperture cut into it and some more paper. So I saw a reflection of the eclipse anyway. As for staring directly at the sun, I'll just go back to doing that tomorrow.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The darkest Bogie

Last night I watched Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place. It's the kind of movie that I will probably wind up watching more than once, and writing about at length. (And getting paid for it? Would be nice, but not the main thing.) I'll keep it short here, but it's safe to call it one of the highlights of the first wave of film noir pictures after the war.

It's also a movie from the last leg of Humphrey Bogart's film career. It's a fascinating and revealing use of his talent. He plays a screenwriter wrongfully accused of killing a coat check girl he brought home so she could summarize a book he's supposed to adapt and doesn't want to read. There's some indication he's thought about seducing her as well but her naive personality kills it for him. While it's obvious from the start that he's innocent of this particular crime, there's also the sense that he's, if not a full-blown psychopath, at least a highly troubled and dangerous man. He killed when he was in uniform, and it's never completely gotten out of his system.

As an actor Bogart was full of tics and pauses that worked their way into a kind of charm. The charm isn't gone in this film, but you can never trust it. Even when he's riding high he's only seconds away from being swallowed by his demons. In a Lonely Place is a high wire act for him much as White Heat was for James Cagney.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Playing defense

Probably it will be a while before I see Netflix's The Defenders, so I'm not about to judge its execution. But conceptually it seems to be a waste of the title.

Some background. The Defenders are Marvel's other super team. Well, the other collection of previously existing superheroes, after the Avengers, since both the X-Men and Fantastic Four started with all new characters. But while they seemed to be destined for also-ran status, the Defenders found their own niche as Marvel's quirky, nocturnal team. Credit must go to the writers who handled them in the seventies, notably Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber.

Doctor Strange, not really the Avengers type, has been the team leader of the Defenders for much of their existence. Other members include:
* Valkyrie, an honest-to-Nibelungenlied Valkyrie who oddly enough fights crime in New York
* Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan, an occultist with demonic powers and crazy horn hair
* Hellcat, star of a fifties teen romance comic refashioned into a feline themed crimefighter

By contrast the TV series group is made up of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist. Netflix, I guess, wanted to get the full use out of the characters they were already licensed to use. But collectively they would seem to promise a tackle-punch-kick "gritty" action series, while a real Defenders adaptation would go more interesting places.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Situs inversus.  That's what it's called when your vital organs are on the opposite side from the average person.

Today I heard a woman say that one of her relatives had this, although she didn't use the Looney Tunes-y Latin name. At first I thought she meant the cousin was born with vital organs on the outside, a condition that exists and which I think is still pretty much a death sentence. Situs inversus, by comparison, is just a way to keep ER doctors on their toes.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

In fairness...

I think it should be pointed out that Annie isn't just angry, but also articulate. Might be hard for her parents to credit her for that, though.

(Fetching animation by John Korty.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

No eyes in team

Just watched Attack the Block, about eyeless attack dogs from space(?) invading a council estate residential block. It's a good action comedy with the emphasis on "action."

And it's not much more than 90 minutes. Not that brevity is a universal must with movies, but it's almost exactly right for this material. It basically knows that it's a B-movie and moves fast to do its job. If it were a Hollywood movie I imagine it would be a good 40 minutes longer because anything with a theatrical release and a greater-than-Troma budget needs to feel important.

Although we might see Jack Black in the Nick Frost role, so it wouldn't be all bad.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The nature of things

Can't let another summer go by without playing some Beach Boys, and this might be my favorite song of theirs. Neck and neck with "God Only Knows" at least. It has a lot of the Brian Wilson hallmarks, but in a slightly spooky format. The lyrics are sort of like what Gerard Manley Hopkins might come up with if he wrote R&B love songs.

Monday, August 7, 2017

All comes out in the wash

Commemorating the fact that I'm at that point in the fortnight where I need to do some laundry. Hopefully none of the staff at the laundromat bear this kind of hostility towards me. Frankly I just don't get it. Is it one of those New York things? You need to have a couple of unprovoked knifings to your name just to belong?

Although I was at the library today. The guy was very rude. I said, "I'd like a card." He says, "You have to prove you're a citizen of New York." So I stabbed him.~Emo Phillips

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Something real

Last year (I think) I saw a movie called Rubber. Directed by a French musician named Quentin Dupieux, it was an ultra low budget but brainy monster movie parody about a tire that gains sentience and goes on a killing spree. Working in California with American actors, Dupieux retained his Frenchness as much as Alex Cox made an English punk movie with Repo Man.

This gave me fairly high hopes for one of his follow-ups, Reality. The film follows a few different strands. A French cameraman on an American cooking show wants to make a movie - which sounds terrible - but can only get it produced if he finds the perfect groan of pain. The host of the cooking show (Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder) suffers from an unexplained sudden rash. A little girl named Reality finds a videotape in the guts of a pig her father killed in the wild. These storylines impact each other over a few levels of, yes, reality.

My hopes weren't really met. Rubber worked like gangbusters because it had a set of genre conventions to play up and deconstruct, which Dupieux did by essentially going for the most slacker option whenever possible. Reality is obviously a surreal art movie from the start, which gives Dupieux more freedom than maybe he knows what to do with. That's not to say it doesn't have its moments. There were a few times when I laughed out loud, and the weirdness is sometimes fetching. But the energy dissipates after a while.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hearing the call

The guy's not wrong about the call being a very peaceful sound. If you're in tune with it at least. It's often amazing to see the kinds of big sounds relatively small animals can make.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Got those blues

Woke up headachey and vaguely sick this morning. 'Twas my own fault. Last night with dinner I had bread and butter. Liked the bread, with a nice firm crust. When I spread butter on it, I saw a few blue spots. Turning the bread over there was nothing on the back. I convinced myself the spots must just be pores in the bread. Only when I got that unpleasantly woody taste from that part of the bread did I know what I'd just done.

Felt better after coffee and a muffin. Lesson learned.