Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Essential Cinema - 12

Warm Nights On A Slow Moving Train

Wendy Hughes
Colin Friels
Norman Kaye
John Clayton
Rod Zuanic
Lewis Fitz-Gerald
Steve J. Spears
Grant Tilly
Peter Whitford

Bob Ellis

Bob Ellis
Denny Lawrence

Yuri Sokol

An Australian art teacher at a catholic girls school moonlights as a prostitute on a regular cross country train trip.

The secret lives of others. The things we have to do in order to make ends meet and the things we do for emotional love as well as physical love. The Woman (as she is known in the film, her name is never mentioned) has many motivations in this film, some monetary, some compassionate, some adventurous. The backdrop of a train rushing through the countryside with a mix of souls thrown together gives the sense of immediacy and living for the moment. Once they exit the train, all is forgotten and it is back to the reality of the world. However, in this film, the Woman eventually gives into temptation in hopes of finding the better life that has eluded her, against her better judgment.

Wendy Hughes plays the Woman and she is pretty captivating in the role. She lends a sense of pathos and subtle pain to the woman that makes the same trip over and over, touching on the lives of others for a brief moment in time. The viewer gets the sense that she doesn't enjoy what she is doing, but sacrifices have to be made in life. Her changing hairstyles are interesting and she becomes a different woman each time she rides the rails.

It is interesting how each encounter is a small relationship that is crafted by the Woman. She is almost more of a therapist to these men than a simple sex object. But the breakup at the end is usually painful because they don't want to let her go. The Woman knows how to spot and manipulate troubled men. Men in need of something more than sex. They have their momentary sexual thrill and the chance to have someone really listen to their problems and are then cast off by the Woman before any real emotional bond can develop.

Because of this, there is an air of tension and sadness in the main character since she knows that each tryst will end with rejection and emotional pain. After the courtship in the club car, there is always the whispered phrase in the passageway "I do this for money". Later, in the Woman's private cabin, when it is all over, the Woman's face goes blank as she utters the words, "You have to go." Despite all the trappings of intimacy, it is only a business.

A low budget film that is an intimate and soul searching drama. Well acted and simple in style. It relies on the screenplay and emotions of the characters to move the story forward. Basic film making as it should be. This is a human story that the viewer can relate to. There are some unpredictable moments at the end and you won't see them coming or know the whole story until the film is over. Overall an enjoyable film.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Essential Cinema - 11

Box-Car Bertha

Barbara Hershey
David Carradine
Barry Primus
Bernie Casey
John Carradine

Martin Scorsese

Joyce Hooper Corrington

John M. Stephens

A story of young friends during the great depression who ride the rails and push for organizing unions while robbing trains on the side.

An early work. Hemingway, Tolstoy and Tolkien didn't start out writing epics. They started out small and worked their way up. This is one of the small steps in the careers of several well known filmmakers and actors. The characters in this film are idealistic, innocent, reckless and fighting injustice.

I wanted to see this film just from reading the credits. Produced by Roger Corman and directed by Martin Scorsese (supposedly his second film), it stars a very young Babara Hershey and David Carradine. I was hoping for a glimpse of early genius and raw film making, which is pretty much what this is. Scorsese is not a great director here, but there are glimpses of technique that he will use later in his career. The script and the acting are somewhat lacking, but then again, this is not a film with a big budget.

The underlying theme is the ineptitude of the greedy vs. the cunning and craftiness of the down trodden. The basic good vs. evil story set in 1930s rural America. The film is shot on location with minimal set design and continuity. There are numerous errors regarding props that are out of the time period and historical inaccuracy. The film is typical of the counter-culture film making of the late 1970s, when young directors were trying to distance themselves form the big studios and find new forms of expression and story telling. The acting is passable, the lighting a bit harsh in places, downright dim in others. The editing is a bit choppy and often times makes the flow of the film seem erratic. The folly artistry is basic and the naked love scenes and crucifixion at the end of the film are somewhat gratuitous and aren't really necessary. As in many Scorsese films, there is a blood bath at the end. By today's standards, not a very good film but probably ground breaking for its time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Four Things

Tuesday, November 14, 2007
Divided by fours

I don't usually do these sort of things.....but I am just casting a line to see who nibbles.

4 jobs I've had:
Pizza Delivery
Insurance Claims Adjuster
State Government Investigator
State Government Computer Specialist

4 movies I love to watch over and over:
American Beauty
8 1/2 (Fellini)
Lord Of The Rings

4 places I have lived:
Rapid City, South Dakota
Honolulu, Hawaii
Lompoc, California
Phoenix, Arizona

4 TV shows I enjoy watching:
Dancing With The Stars
The Amazing Race
American Idol

4 places I have been:
San Simion
Burning man

4 websites I visit daily:
The Superficial

4 favorite foods:
Fettuccine Alfredo
Hamburger Helper
Pesto Sausage Pasta

4 places I would rather be:
The Redwood Forest
Any Empty Highway in my Lotus
Atop Any Mountain
In My Garage

4 blogs I'm tagging:
The First 4 people that read this know who you are!!!

Should you decide to accept this mission, please leave me a comment so that I may come and admire your work.

That is all.
Have a day.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I Made It This Far...

My Fingers Hurt

After looking back at all the blogs I have posted, this seems like a logical stopping point to reflect on where I have been and where I am going. Life is an evolutionary thing and we often don't realize that what we are doing will take us in directions we never envisioned.

About 15 years ago, I started writing my autobiography. At the time I thought that it would be a good idea to write down who I was and what I had experienced, just in case some archivist came looking for me after I was dead and buried. Something to tell folks that I was here and the things I learned along the way before I returned to ashes and dust. The project never went very far, but it was a start. (actually, I still have to get back to the early years and fill some things in).

Then, about 10 years ago, while suffering through a bad marriage and an even worse divorce, I started keeping a journal. This was more therapy than anything else, so that I wouldn't lose my mind. Writing out my thoughts and doing a lot of hiking during that time kept me from going insane. I still have all those journals. They are in three binders, in the garage, all type written on various machines and computers. I didn't think about it at the time, but they were the ongoing autobiography of my life. When I am in a nursing home someday, I am sure they will make interesting reading.

With a drop in my stress levels, I slacked off writing in the journals. But as the stress of marriage faded the stress of work and society started to creep in. I was beginning to have a hard time dealing with the idiots and hypocrisy of modern urban live. After a while it got so bad that I felt that I needed an outlet. Right about that time, I discovered BlogSpot. This was around 2003, and blogging was just starting out. It wasn't the big thing it is today. I opened up an account and starting writing a few things, but didn't really know what to say. Mostly I just ranted. It was good for me, but no one else really found it interesting. I didn't do much with my blog for the first year or so.

Then in 2005, I started looking for a more creative outlet to express things to my friends and took a different tack in my blogs. Instead of ranting and complaining all the time, I started trying to relate observations and concerns with the experiences that almost everyone has in their lives. This was a bit of a breakthrough, because it was my first attempt to write something as it relates to the reader and not just to myself.

This also coincided with my move to a new home with my future wife. This home was closer to my office and allowed me to walk to work instead of drive. Walking to work gave me the opportunity to ponder things a lot more and be stressed less from commuting. This helped me to remember a lot of things that eventually found their way into my writings. I also started doing some photo essays that began to appear in my blogs.

Right around this time I started looking for more feedback and discussion regarding some of the things I was writing. While a lot of friends read what I posted, few ever responded. I signed up for an account on MySpace and started mirroring my blogs there. MySpace offered a great forum for folks to talk and discuss things, but the ineptitude of the site, not to mention it's juvenile layout and constant spam eventually forced me to leave. I learned a lot from some of the great writers and poets on there, but I assumed there had to be a better way to write and communicate without all the bells, whistles and distractions of MySpace.

That assumption proved correct when I started delving into options offered by Google, specifically iGoogle and the Google Reader, which allows the user to collect RSS feeds of specific blogs and news pages on the Internet. If any of you don't know what RSS feeds are, you should. They are the new way to get specific content that you are interested in delivered to you, without having to go looking for it. I have set the Google Reader up and I am still tweaking it a bit, but it appears promising. I have subscribed to about 20 blogs from writers all over the globe and read them daily (if I have time). Hopefully they will read mine. Time will tell, it is a community and I have just changed addresses, so it might take a while to settle in.

In summary, I never realized that starting that autobiography would end up with a blog that is read by people all over the world, or that I would ever write some of the things that I have posted. Technology and life have a funny way of mixing things together in ways we never imagined. I always assumed that the Internet would bring about a form of global consciousness where we could all relate our experiences and understand each other more. Endless porn sites, ebay and spam have dimmed those hopes a bit, but the light is still there.

In case you want to catch up and read some of the more insightful works that I have posted, here are the links to them. It is sort of Bruce's Top Ten. When I go back and read them, I am amazed. I never thought I could have written these works when I was starting out that autobiography. I guess I have grown up a bit, but I am not old yet.

Days of Future / Past


The American Journey (A Photo Essay)

Dead Butterfly

Fading To Black

Running Home In The Dark

Permanent Ink


Phoenix Ashes

The Burning Man Blog

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Welcome To My World.....

Mass - "Transit"?

One of the things I keep telling folks (including myself) is that life has to suck sometimes. If it didn't, we couldn't appreciate the good days. I can't imagine a life where everything is happiness, and sweetness and warm fuzzy puppy dogs. We all have to get scrapped and break things and lose money. Life is a balancing act, it isn't supposed to be on a silver platter. However, sometimes life just sucks a bit more than it has to. Once in a while, karma just really piles up and then opens the flood gates. After looking back at last weekend, I am expecting things to be blissfully boring this coming weekend, or possibly even warm and fuzzy.

Last weekend, I had to drive down to Tucson, Arizona to attend a conference that my office was putting on. It was the third conference this year and thankfully the last. Since the weather had cooled down, I thought I would treat myself and drive the good car down to Tucson. The good car is a 1991 Lotus Esprit. It is my mid-life crisis vehicle that rarely sees the light of day. It is impractical for anything but going really fast on a freeway. Heading to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk is not this car's forte. Like I tell most folks, it is more of a hobby than transportation. It needs a lot of attention to keep it running.

I left my house at 12:30pm and headed south. I got about 10 miles before noticing that the water temperature gauge had pegged into the red zone. I pulled off the freeway into a parking lot, turned off the car and as I was exiting, I heard a hose break and more steam than a Chinese laundry came out of the back of a car. There is nothing worse than having Volkswagens and Toyotas driving by you as your 170mph exotic sports car spews geysers of steam on the side of the road. The day wasn't starting out very well.

I was left with the prospect of calling the Lotus Dealer and seeing if I could have it towed in which would have shot my entire day trip to Tucson or trying to limp the car back home and taking the regular work vehicle. In retrospect, I should have had it towed. The infrastructure here in Phoenix, Arizona is saturated. Which means that it can't handle the number of vehicles that drive on the roadways. Often times trips of less than 5 miles can take well over an hour. Something that I was reminded of as I tried to limp the car back to our house. It was only about 10 miles to our house, but it took me almost two and a half hours to get the Lotus back to our driveway.

On the way back, I was forced to stop about ever 3 miles to let the car cool down, in hopes that I wouldn't warp the engine block. The second time I pulled off on a side street I found myself parked between a strip bar (known as a Gentleman's club here) and a Pep-Boys Auto store. As I stood by the car, letting the engine bay air out, a rather scruffy looking fellow exited the bar and walked past my car. He was twitching and looked nervous, which was indicative of someone high on methamphetamine, which is pretty common here. Phoenix is the Meth capital of the southwest. He crossed the street and entered Pep-Boys. I thought nothing of it, until I saw him run out of Pep-Boys 3 minutes later with a case of new wrenches tucked under his arm. He was quickly followed by three Pep-Boys employees in hot pursuit. He ran down the alley behind the strip bar with Manny, Moe and Jack in hot pursuit. About a minute later the 'boys' walked out of the alley with the tools in hand. The would-be thief obviously chucked them in the alley and kept on running. No doubt dashing his dreams of hocking them for more meth-money. I had enough excitement on this street corner and the Lotus was cooler, so I hoped back in to drive another 4 miles at 5 mph in traffic.

After exchanging the car at my house, I left for the conference once again, at 3:30pm in the afternoon. I might just make it by 5pm if I was lucky. I wasn't.

The already saturated freeways were loading up with rush hour traffic. It took me about 20 minutes to get back to the location where the Lotus had steam cleaned the pavement. It took me another 45 minutes to go the next 4 miles. Seems that the police had pulled over a semi-truck for some infraction on the Freeway. The end result is everyone has to slow down, get out of their car, take a picture and then proceed. Unfortunately for me there were about 3,000 of these people in front of me. We call this rubber-necking here. It took me 45 minutes to go 4 miles (that is 5mph on a freeway for almost an hour with a posted speed limit of 65mph). As soon I reached the police incident, I was able to accelerate to 70mph+ with no problem. I think this pretty much defines rat-race.

So I pulled into Tucson at around 6:30pm (6 hours after I left, and 110s mile later). I arrived at the resort where the conference was happening and found that my reservation had not been confirmed by my office, so they didn't have a room reserved. I had to purchase one with my own money and hope I could get reimbursed. At this point, I could not wait for the day to end.

After a short nights sleep (beds feel funny without my wife in them), I attended the remainder of the conference on Saturday. While taking a break with the rest of staff at one of the registration tables I was turned into camp counselor.

In the adjacent meeting hall to our event was the Southern Arizona Osteopatihic Medicine convention. I don't know how many speakers or exhibits they had going on, but the one room I peeked into was basically a Drug-Mart Superstore, with pharmaceutical representative handing out free drug samples like candy. All the participants had huge shopping bags full of drug samples and literature. They also had a much nicer buffet than we did. Now I know where all the drug money for prescriptions is going.

When the Osteopaths finally started to close up shop (or ran out of samples) their crowd started to disperse . As they did, an older man with two full bags of drugs walked by our table, eyed some of our literature, and then came up to me and started asking questions........lots of questions.

Seems he felt that he had been screwed by the lawyers, courts and ex-wife in his divorce and wanted to unload on me about the injustice of the legal system and what he could do to coerce his ex-wife into giving him more visitation with his ping-pong balls....errrr...I mean children. After listening to him drone on for about 10 minutes, I finally got to explain that we were a conference on "Foster Care" (children dependent to the State) and not on "Family Law"....children ripped apart in divorce court. He moaned and groaned for another 5 minutes and then walked away. I turned to my co-worker and politely asked if someone had written "Freak Magnet" on my forehead with a Sharpie.

For some reason this happens to me a lot. I must look like I am an authority on most subjects or have a really kind face that says "talk to me!". I don't know which one it is, but I want to get rid of both.

Needless to say, it was not a good weekend. I got home without incident (no traffic jams) and when Sunday rolled around, the wife and I went out and traded in two old vehicles for one semi-new vehicle. Buying a new car took about 4 and a half hours, which probably isn't bad, but isn't my favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Now I am basking in the new car smell of the truck that is parked in our driveway and debating on the best way to have the Lotus towed into the dealer, where it will stay for about 3 months if past experience is any indication.

This coming weekend has to be has to be, I tell you....It has to be....right?