Monday, November 28, 2005


Very relaxing thanksgiving. It was the first time in years that we didn't have guests, so we didn't have to clean the house or anything. I made turkey by the Good Eats recipe, with the brining process and all, but other than that (and the souffle) I just went all-out lazy this year: canned gravy, stovetop stuffing (I don't seem to be able to make Nanny's cornbread dressing to the satisfaction of the family anyway), frozen peas and corn, instant mashed potatoes (to be honest, I always use instant mashed potatoes), pies from Marie Callender's. Thus, a much more relaxing thanksgiving.

After dinner we went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The challenge of being unable to commit an 800-page book to the screen seemed to really work in the film's favor, as the filmmakers seemed to have to sit down and say "OK, this is what the story is about" and make everything concentrate on that one thing (that being the onset of puberty for Harry and his friends), and freed them to make the best movie they could, rather than the most faithful adaptation they could. It also focuses some of the thematic elements of Rowling's text. I hadn't thought about the tournament as metaphor for the trials of puberty and passing into adulthood, but in the movie it becomes pretty hard to miss. Dumbledore's speach before the maze, his warning that it can change you, drives the point home, to say nothing of the obvious freudian symbolism of the dragons and the lake.

It seems that each director has brought the qualities the series needed at the time. Colombus was a competent hack capable of taking the first two books and transposing them to the screen in a way that wouldn't piss off the fanbase. Cuaron brought the story to life at the point where people might have lost interest in the series, but kept things close to the book. And now Newell has released the story from the grip of it's source material. As a fan of the books, I still think Azkaban is the best movie-as-supplement-to-the-book, but Goblet is the best movie-as-movie.

Also? Asian chicks with Irish accents. A whole new level of cuteness that I didn't even know existed. And seeing the Kong trailer on the big screen is Incredible.

Overheard at the theater: "I never sleep late. Unless I'm needed in Slumberland." Attention Random Dude at the Theater: Do not think I won't steal your joke!

Friday, I spent most of the day watching the Freaks and Geeks DVD that I picked up last week. This show is so good. I noticed several small walk-on roles from people in current WB shows: Wallace Fennell is on the opposing Mathlete team, and Logan (Rory's Logan, not Veronica's Logan) is the guy who beats up the freaks for spraypainting his car.

Saturday, I went to Brand Books, where there was a holiday sale going on. I bought a bunch of children's books to give as Christmas gifts, including several copies of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. Some of them were even annotated. Bobbie later pointed out that my friends' kids aren't really old enough to be reading Lewis Carroll. Jeez, how long are these kids gonna be reading picture books? Hurry up and grow already! Well, an annotated copy of Alice is something they can have on their bookshelf for the rest of their lives as a prize posession.

Saturday, I made turkey noodle soup from the legs, wings, thighbones, and some of the thigh meat from the turkey. Sunday I didn't make any dinner, so we could just finish off the leftovers. And there's STILL a shitload of turkey left!

I got a lot of reading done this weekend. It's so nice to have all this free time. I read Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint practically in one sitting (it's very short). It's a long conversation between two old friends in a Washington DC hotel room, one of whom is planning on assassinating Bush, the other trying to talk him out of it. I also started flipping through The Real Frank Zappa Book, which is one of those books that's fun to flip through now and then. Realy, just Zappa's stories about growing up in the 50's are hilarious. And I read a chapter of the Aleister Crowley biography that I started a long time ago but got bored with, and have been reading a chapter at a time here and there. And pretty much read the entire current Playboy, with the 50th anniversery of Lolita tribute. I think I'm going to read the Alice books now, since I have them sitting around anyway.

By Sunday, I had spent enough time relaxing that I didn't even mind cleaning the house in preperation for putting up the Christmas decorations. That may not seem like a big deal to people who don't know me, but if you realize how lazy I am, it's saying a lot.

Oh, and if you scroll down, you'll find a post about my favorite film noir, Nightmare Alley. For some reason, blogger chose to stick it down the page a bit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gobble Gobble Hey!

Happy Turkey Day! Here's my recipe for Sweet Tater Souffle:

For the souffle:

3 cups baked yam
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molten butter
1 tbsp vanilla
some cinamon

For the topping:

1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molten butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup flour

First, bake the yams. They'll taste better than boiled. Then scoop them into a bowl and combine with the other souffle ingredients. Stir it up until well mixed, and pour it into a greased casserole dish (1 quart).

Next, combine the brown sugar and hot butter, then add the pecans, then slowly add the flour. Sprinkle it in clumps to cover the surface of the souffle. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.


Lobotomy! Lobotomy! (Actually, this is a really sad story)

Penn Gillette: This I Believe (I'm so glad that my job does not involve sorting through emails for NPR this week)

This is very interesting: basically, a conservative saying that it's time for Republicans to give up the fight against The New Deal, as it is ultimately a losing battle. Now, OK, this guy doesn't speak for the entire conservative movement, and I'm not even sure I agree with him, but what he's saying is pretty impressive because, like Penn's statement above, it goes so far against what we're used to hearing. Definitely worth the time it takes to listen.

RIP Link Wray. Anyone who can record an INSTRUMENTAL so nasty that it gets banned from the radio deserves a toast over your Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Danger: Diabolik (screen captures)

I wrote about this flick a while back, but here's some images from the DVD.

Diabolik's secret underground hideout. Note the secret underground collection of hot Italian sportscars. This scene seems to be filmed with some kind of fisheye lense. You can't tell until the camera moves, and the edges of the frame start to distort.

So many of the shots from this are perfect pieces of pop art.

The most famous scene. I can't believe this has never been ripped off for a hip hop video.

More groovy chicks:

More here.

Nightmare Alley

"How does someone get to be a geek? Are they born that way?"

My favorite film noir? Well, it's a tough choice, with A Touch of Evil, DOA and Kiss Me Deadly all strong contenders. And is White Heat a noir, or just a gangster movie? Anyway, the one that wins out is Nightmare Alley. It's not as edge-of-your-seat as DOA, and not quite as cinematic as A Touch of Evil (although just as sleazy), but the story wins for me. It's a dark trip through the world of carnies and con men. Of course, I love anything involving carnies, and this flick tops even Tod Browning's Freaks (or Browning's earlier The Unknown) for me. Tyrone Power stars, shedding his dashing leading man image (as this frame demonstrates):

Great performances from Joan Blondell

Coleen Gray

And Helen Walker, in deadly Femme Fatale mode (her character's name is Lilith):

This has been a pretty rare film until the DVD came out this year. It had never been released on video. Like many films, I first read about it in Danny Peary's Cult Films book. Truth be told, the book the movie is based on, by William Lindsay Grisham, is even better than the film. The book is incredibly bleak and savage, reminiscent of both Jim Thompson and Nathaniel West. Each chapter is named for a Major Arcana card in the tarot deck, and the imagery of the progression of the cards defines the story. The book is out of print (although, if you live in LA, the library has a copy). There are two monologues from the book that are quoted at length in the song "Car Radio Jerome" by Fred Lane and his Hitite Hotshots. The artist known as Spain also produced a graphic novel of the story recently.

Big Bear

That's me, standing above the clouds (which, by the way, are a bitch to drive through). Battery on the camera ran out, so this is the only real picture we got. Spent several relaxing days at 7,000 feet above sea level, eating at places with names like The Munching Bear, The Teddy Bear, and Senor Hog, and eating entirely too much freshly-made fudge. The Teddy Bear was actually very good. I found myself wishing we'd gotten up earlier to have breakfast there, but I did have a rockin' french dip. And I swear I overheard this bit of conversation at Senor Hog:

"It was just like in...what's the name of that movie?"
"The Elephant Man?"
"No, When Harry Met Sally."

P.S.: Turner Classic Movies tonight is running a bunch of Harold Lloyd movies. Looks like it's most of the stuff from the new DVD set. Tomorrow night, Orson Welles' Othello followed by his weird documentary on art forgery, F for Fake, which is very great. Tuesday, after a ton of spy movies, They'll be showing the original King Kong, the documentary I'm King Kong on Kong director Meriam Cooper, and one of Cooper's pre-Kong films, Grass. And Marx Bros. movies all Wednesday morning.

What Religion Are The Religious Right?

I don't consider myself a Christian, but I was raised as one. In my Sunday school, we had to memorize the Ten Commandments, but we also had to memorize the Eight Beatitudes, and the 7 acts of mercy--you know, all that stuff about feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, visiting prisoners, and so on. These were things that Jesus actually said (at least according to the Bible). And it was an important foundation in my life for my morals and beliefs. To put it bluntly, there is no way I could have become anything BUT a liberal without rejecting wholesale the Christian values I was brought up with.

The religous right does not share these values. In fact, they don't seem to have ever encountered the actual teachings of Jesus. Just look at the Republican administration they support: today, they voted to gut $50 Billion from Medicaid, food stamps and subsidies for student loans in order to pay for a $60 Billion tax cut for the rich. They profess that allowing gay people to be married will cause the collapse of society, but they fight tooth and nail to preserve the right to torture people. This is the political philosophy they embrace: hate and violence is better than love, the rich and powerful are more deserving of help than the poor and powerless. The Religous Right may be religous, but they are not Christian. Judging from their actions, I would say that they are SATAN WORSHIPPERS.

I'm not even joking. The values that the religous right espouse are more in line with Satanism than Christianity. At the very least, they should start worshipping the Apostle Paul, since they seem to like his ideas much more than Jesus'.

OK, no more political rants. I promise all my posts next week will be about movies.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Trouble With Immortality

When one acquires an indefinite lifespan, it is necessary to assume identities throughout the years. In order to take full advantage of these identities, one should stick with them as long as possible. In order to avoid suspicion, then, it becomes necessary to appear to age within each identity. Oh, sure, you can always be the guy that everyone points to and remarks how good he looks for his age, and wonders how he can stay so active, but eventually, if you're running around like a 20 year old while people you've known for 40 years are entering nursing homes, people will start to talk. So one must appear to age. Makeup can help, but the main factor is a sort of pantomime acting, an attempt to mimic the accumulation of injuries, diseases and general deterioration of the body that accompanies old age. And this is where the problems start. Immortality being in large part an act of will, and therefore reflective of mental state, it is possible to lose that mental state through play-acting at old age. The routine of pretending to be sickly and frail makes one sickly and frail. Many have discovered the secret to immortality, only to lose it in this way.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Spittin' Wicked Randomness: Special Election Edition

We lead off today with The Greatest Story Ever Told.

This blog is now being fed to my college alumni website. I'm not sure what that means, but it probably means I'll be in trouble soon.

Today is the "special" (as in retarded) election. If you live in California, please vote. If nothing else, vote NO on prop 55, the anti-union bill. It's hilarious to me that they actually have the Orwellian nerve to call it the "Paycheck Protection" act. A union with political clout is the best paycheck protection, and it's completely dishonest to sell this bill as something that originated from union workers who don't want their dues to go to political campaigning (they can opt out anyway) rather than from the political enemies of the public employee unions.

Some of the ads for this election are incredibly entertaining. The other day, I saw one against prop 77 featuring Judge Wapner from The People's Court. It was so cheap, and the sound track was completely out of synch with the movements of his lips. I'm not sure why he would come out against prop 77. Maybe he's a retired judge and wants to be left alone. "If prop 77 passes, my fucking wife will insist on me being on the comittee. Please vote No on prop 77." Meanwhile, The Virgin Mary has endorsed prop 73:

I've actually changed my mind about Prop 74, the extension of Schoolteachers' probationary period (my wife helped talk me out of it). On the one hand, I do think it's reasonable to expect teachers to make some sacrifice to improve schools. After all, voters have voted in favor of every, single school bond that has been on the ballot since I've lived here. But if we're trying to attract the best and brightest to the field of public teaching, then telling them that they will have no sort of job security for the first 5 years of their employment seems pretty counter-productive. What really started me thinking, though, was an argument Bobbie heard from someone that they had been unable to get a teacher fired for showing R-rated movies to their class (which my niece's very good English teacher has done herself). That's when I realized that teachers will do their job much better when they are not afraid of being fired. Just ask Raif Esquith or John Taylor Gatto.

For city council, I'm voting for Nick Pacheco. He did the job for 4 years, during wich potholes got filled and streets got cleaned and Eagle Rock developed nicely. LA Weekly's endorsement of Jose Huizar seems rather bizzarre. It's one thing to take a leap of faith that an untested politician is going to follow through on his campaign promises, it's another thing entirely to assume he's going to do shit he hasn't even talked about.

Read this. I think this is one of the most clear expressions of why I am a liberal.

Nice interview with Sarah Silverman here, whose new concert film Jesus Is Magic opens on Friday. Also, The Comedians of Comedy, a concert/documentary film featuring Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Zach Galifianakis and Maria Bamford, will be at the Egyptian next Wednesday. Along with The Aristocrats, this is looking like a great year for standup at the movies.

Thanksgiving weekend, the Egyptian will be showing Jaques Tati's Playtime 7 times. Believe me when I say this film is deserving of being shown 7 times. Earlier this year, I went to see it as an afterthought (scheduling conflicts prevented me from seeing Sam Fuller's 40 Guns at the Aero earlier the same day), and was blown away. Sheer genius, probably one of my all-time top 10 films. Playtime will also show at The Aero, along with The Big Day (which I've never seen) and M. Hulot's Holiday (which is also genius).

I probably won't update the rest of the week, as Bobbie and I are going on a short vacation to Big Bear.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)

My feelings towars this new Batman film have been rather schizoid. As it was developing in production, I was very excited about it. Every new announcement about the writer, director, cast (I'd probably pick Christian Bale to play Batman over every actor in Hollywood history, possibly excepting a young Orson Welles) and general direction of the story thrilled me. Then, when it finally arrived, I found myself not caring at all. I think, after the Star Wars prequels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Kill Bill, the Spider-Man films, and whatever else you want to add on to that list, I was just tired of films that I was required to be excited about. At any rate, I didn't see it in the theater, and finally caught it on DVD a few days ago.

I like the film. I'm not going far out on a limb to say that it's the best Batman film to date. I know it has it's fans, but I cannot stand Tim Burton's original 1988 Batman film. I like Batman Returns, but more as a Tim Burton film than as a Batman film. The two Schumacher films are both awful. I like the Adam West version, but that hardly counts as a "real" Batman film.

One of the things I like about this one is that, as with Batman Returns, there seems to be some thought put into the selection of villains, and what those villains mean to the hero. There's a great thematic unity to this film, and it's reflected in the images of bats and scarecrows that show up in various forms throughout. Many ideas from the comic are tightened up here, such as Bruce feeling responsible for his parent's death because he was frightened by a performance of Die Fleidermaus.* And it's a fantastically good looking film.

Bobbie was asking me about what is and isn't taken from the comic, and of course the whole story of Bruce being initiated into The League of Shadows in China is invented for the movie. "I'm sure the comic book geeks hate that," she remarked, but I found myself at a loss to explain why they don't--why this whole new backstory for Bruce Wayne is greeted so warmly, compared to, say, Peter Parker's Cronenberg-y web glands replacing the mechanical webshooters (which was a huge controversy all through the production of Spider-Man). I said, at the time, that it was maybe because it didn't actually contradict any thing in the comics, but mostly because geeks were just so happy to get the kind of Batman movie they always wanted (dark, gritty, violent, taking itself seriously, with a complex plot and scary villains). But now that I think about it, the answer is probably simpler--this is simply the story that fans would have written themselves. It's like official fanfiction. What pimply-faced comic reader wouldn't want Bruce Wayne to have been trained by a secret society of ninjas templar? It's super cool! The more I think about it, Batman Begins probably appeals more directly to the teenage, male, comic book geek than any of the other recent superhero films.

Personally, I like the changes as much as anyone. The serious tone is a great asset, but it's so serious in the early part of the film that it begins to be a detriment when it suddenly becomes a pulpy superhero movie about an hour in. I could list several other complaints, including lapses in logic, out-of-place one-liners, and a thematic thread about justice vs. revenge that seems to be abandoned before the end (unless it's intended to be picked up later in the series), but the film generates so much good will for me that it's easy to overlook these things. I even like Katie Holmes' character. She makes sense in this world, where it's not enough to have a guy in a mask going around kicking people's butts, along with one honest cop--you need an honest DA. I like that someone even bothered to think that out.

*I'm guessing that it was Die Fleidermaus. My knowledge of Die Fleidermaus consists of knowing the fact that there is an opera called Die Fleidermaus, and it has something to do with bats, and there was a character in The Tic cartoon named after it. In fact, that's my knowledge of opera in general.

Sun Ra - I'm Gonna Unmask The Batman (mp3)
Lacy Gibson - I Am Gonna Unmask The Batman (mp3)

These are from the collection Sun Ra: The Singles, which collects all the singles released on Sun's label Saturn Records. Many of them are Sun Ra's weird space-jazz workouts (the extensive liner notes are occasionally hilarious, as they ponder the question of what the fuck Sun Ra was thinking in releasing this stuff on singles), but there's also quite a few recordings from the 50's of The Arkestra backing up doo-wop and rhythm & blues singers.

Yochannan - Muck Muck (mp3)
Yochannan - Hot Skillet Mama (mp3)

This was a single released in 1957. When I heard "Hot Skillet Mama" on WUOG, I was sure it was Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and I was shocked when the DJ attributed it to Sun Ra. As the liner notes point out, The vocal style...seems inspired by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Yochannan, of course, always claimed that Hawkins stole his act from him. What's most interesting about these two recordings is that, while Yochannan is clearly singing rock-n-roll, the Arkestra is not playing like a rock-n-roll band (creating a rough, noisy rhythm that you can dance to), but like a jazz band, reacting flexibly to what the singer is doing, and creating onamonapoetic sound effects.

PS - Image courtesy of Superdickery.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


This is so great. The New Yorker looking at Scooter's weird novel "The Apprentice":

Other sex scenes are less conventional. Where his Republican predecessors can seem embarrassingly awkward—the written equivalent of trying to cop a feel while pinning on a corsage—Libby is unabashed:

At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.

And, finally:

He asked if they should fuck the deer.

The answer, reader, is yes.

This sheds some light on why it is Republicans always say that gay marriage leads to hot man/bear lovin'. Seriously, how fucking typical of these conservatives who claim to be the "moral majority" and then go home and write FUCKING BEAR PORN.

Other fun things:

Marijuana now legal in Denver! (well, not entirely, but a nice gesture anyway)

Beastie Boys concert film coming! (love that poster)

Professor Salt's advice for getting the best BBQ in LA: Look for bullet-proof glass.

Second-hand music pimping: Jason in Japan directs me toward DJ Food's "Raiding the 20th Century" mega-mix. Jason in America directs me to the spazz-punk of Lightning Bolt! And Dave in Milwaukee has a new band, The Engine Room, with some very strong songs in the, I dunno, REM/Replacements mode, maybe? Good stuff, anyway.

Ian Masters' radio shows Background Briefing and Live from the Left Coast are always great listens (and available as podcasts from his sight). He's got an interview with Noam Chomsky up this week that's especially good listening.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Pics

If the blog seems a little dead lately, it's because I've been insanely busy at work, and Halloween preperations have eaten up most of my free time over the last week. Here's a picture of me in costume:

This one of me, Bobbie and our friend Derek, features my full on costume of "A Luchadore on his day off."And here's one of Willow, in her costume:
A couple nice pictures of Hallween decorations. I might post some of my Jack O'Lanterns later.