Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Media Review: Wandering the Media Library

Edna Ferber's "Show Boat" [TCM]

Not to be confused with the remake staring Ava Gardner, this is the original based on the book by Edna Ferber.  A simplistic tale of love and redemption set inside a traveling song and dance show on a Mississippi river boat.  What is most striking is the music, more tunes than that remake, and the portrayal of the antebellum south.  By todays standards this is a very racist film and pretty politically incorrect.  The happy negros that toil for the white folks is pretty hard to watch.  The standouts are Paul Robson and Hattie McDaniel.  Paul being the only cast member to reprise his role in the remake. 

"I Walked 
With A Zombie" [TCM]

I wanted to see this film for two reasons.  The film was directed by Jacques Tourneur and the film was produced by Val Lewton.  Mr. Lewton was known for this bizarre and understated thrillers in the 1940s.  Think 'Twilight Zone' before Rod Serling.  Mr. Tourneur was the cinematographer on one of my all time favorites, "Out of the Past'.  So this should have been a good film.  It was really just odd.  Beautifully shot, but with little plot and it seemed to go nowhere.  Worth the watch just to see the creepy scenery and visuals. 

Passage to Marseille [TCM]

This was an eye-opener.  This is a propaganda film shot during WWII.  It is almost a sequel to the film 'Casablanca', with much of the same cast members.  Apparently, the idea in the mid 40s was to show sympathy and empathy for those nations that had been ravaged by the Axis powers.  In this case, as in Casablanca', it is the French and their struggle against the Nazis.   A fun film to watch but overly sappy on the political message. 

Crusades [VHS]

This is a four tape VHS set that I have been making my way through.  At first, it is a bit tongue and cheek showing how the Christians of central Europe really botched the idea of liberating the Holy Land and all the terrible blunders that they made.  However, in the latter part of the series, it shows the dynamics of how the Muslim and Christian world settled on each other and came to respect the status quo.  It is a must watch for anyone that has in interest in Middle East politics and history.  I learned quite a few things about Muslim history and reasons for the schism with the west. 

The Boondock Saints [BluRay]

Wow, this was interesting.  I really can't recommend this film from an entertainment standpoint, but as educational offering , it has some merit.  I had heard of this film before and know that it has a slight cult following (as can be attested to by the numerous sequels that have gone straight to video).  A VERY violent film with lots of gunfire.  However, it is beautifully shot, almost as though it was a ballet.  The storyline is interesting, with William DeFoe's gay detective deconstructing crime scenes after the fact and then the actual crime is seen in real time.  It is a fascinating juxta positioning of story line and style.  Interesting to watch, but always ending in a bloodbath.  Interesting premise, but the film falls flat at the end with no real conclusion. 

Viva Zapata! [Laserdisc]

Another interesting find.  The credits for this read like a whos who of Hollywood in the 1960s.  Elia Kazan directs, John Steinbeck writes it, Alex North does the music and Marlan Brando stars.  Unfortunately what you get is something akin to 'On The Waterfront' with sombreros.  Brando as an Hispanic is a stretch and the story is slow to get moving.  The ending, while predictable, draws you in because of the examples of political corruption and how it affects even the most dedicated freedom fighter.  

Monday, April 19, 2021

Meanwhile, In The Media Room...

Media Review: 


The pandemic and the rearranging of my media room has brought forth a large segment of my media out of the dusty shadows and into the viewing room. Here is a summary of my viewing habits (outside of Hulu and Netflix) over the winters pandemic. 


Hell Freezes Over (The Eagle Live) [Laserdisc] This is a great documentary that includes extensive interviews with the band members and many of their well-known songs. Professional musicians and the music is very good. Done before a captive live audience, it was pretty satisfying if this was the soundtrack to your youth in the 1970s.

Richard Thompson (Across a Crowded Room) [Laserdisc] I had never heard of this artist until I popped the Laserdisc in the player. This is one of the Pioneer music discs that were created to promote the format. He is very good. What I came away with was a small live performance that straddles the line between ‘Little Feat’ and ‘Stevie Ray Vaughn’. It was much better than I thought it would be. 

Rickie Lee Jones Live at the Wiltern Theatre [Laserdisc] If you don’t know Ricki, she was popular back in the 70s and 80s. She comes off as more of a younger ingĂ©nue Joni Mitchell. She is cute and talented, with a blues-y type of laid back style that suits the intimate venue in which it was filmed.

Thelma and Louise [Laserdisc] Watched this because Sue and had never seen it. It had been a long time since I last saw it and this viewing was pretty sweet, since the Laserdisc has AC3 surround sound and the music was much better than I recalled. A classic film with a very young Brad Pitt. 


The Crusades [VHS] This is a thrift store find that is a series of four videotapes. A documentary about the Christian Crusades as told by Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame). It is tongue and cheek with interesting special effects and story lines. Overall though, it shows the lunacy of governments and movements that are based on religion. If you use a deity as authority, then you can’t be held accountable for your atrocities. 

Band of Brothers [VHS] I have several copies of this, one on DVD and this one on VHS. If you haven’t seen it before, this is possibly the best dramatic reconstruction of the Great War in Europe ever put on film. There are many fine points that are easily missed during the first viewing, so it is worth a second look, its that good. The series touches on many important life lessons, not just from combat, but also from the interactions of various people with various personalities under stressful situations. 


The Magnificent Ambersons [Turner Classic Movies] If you study film, you understand how important Orson Wells “Citizen Kane’ was to the world of cinema. This is Wells' second film after Citizen Kane which I had never seen it. The film was done with most of the same cast as Citizen Kane.  However, I found the film disappointing. It has the same tone and camera work as Kane, but the story line is muddled and makes little sense. The acting also appears a bit stiff. It has Wells handwriting all over it, but I was more confused at the end than in the beginning. 

Chaplin Serials [VHS] Everything in media sprang from Silent Cinema. You want to see the earliest Tik-Tok? Just watch Charlie Chaplin. This is really dated material, produced by Mack Sennett, with the first appearance of the Keystone Cops. It is simplistic and while supposedly comedies, there are also a lot of social issues thrown in that were prominent at the time. 


Carnival of Souls [Turner Classic Movies] A low budget horror film that is more fun to watch because of the scenery and cinematography. Shot in and around Salt Lake City and the Seattle area, it is filmed in black & white and is haunting because of the odd camera work and the creepy organ music soundtrack.   Low budget film making at its best. 


Sunday, November 22, 2020

On Repeat: Hollywood Beauties (Part 1)

Going through my media collection and hitting the repeat function so the film play continually all day long.  Here are some thoughts on lesser known works in the public domain.

Lady of Burlesque: An interesting 'who done it' and an enlightening look at the past and what passed for entertainment.  Basically the equivalent of an "R" rated film in the 1930s, where a fledgling Hollywood was using up older vaudeville acts to put on film.  Racy for its day, it seems cute now.

A Strange Woman: Strange indeed.  A psychopathic narcissistic woman wrecks havoc on the small town in Maine where she grew up.  More of a morality tale of how women were NOT supposed to act.  The viewer has a hard time believing that any woman could look as good as Heddy Lamar does in 18th century New England.

Sundown:  White men in Africa, selling guns to the natives.  Overly stylized with religious and political undertones.  Again, Gene Tierney looks totally glamorous and out of place in this romanticized romp through the dark continent.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Hypocrisy Store


I went to Hobby Lobby this afternoon with my wife. I don’t often go here, but they do have some interesting things from time to time that give me some creative ideas. However, I try not to shop here because I dont agree with the religious beliefs of its owners.

If you are one of the lucky few that have not been to Hobby Lobby, it is a Christian based chain of craft stores. There are bibles of all shapes and sizes at the checkout counters right next to all those candy bars and trinkets for the kids. 

The owners refused to offer employees any family planning coverage (read abortion) on their employee healthcare policy based on religious grounds. They took this argument all the way to the supreme court, and won their case.  Fair enough, that is their right.

They are not open on Sundays, stating on their corporate website that they believe that employees should be spending time with family and going to church on the sabbath. Fair enough, it is their store. 

However, since this is an outlet that leans toward the conservative side of politics, I am assuming that there may be some connection with the current administration, since both are claiming the mantle of the Evangelical right. 

So I was rather amused and shocked, that as I walked through the store waiting for my wife to finish her shopping, every item I picked up to examine proclaimed it was ‘Made in China’. I mean, EVERYTHING (90% of the merchandise) was made in China. Cute signs that read “Home Sweet Home”, “God Bless This Mess”, cups, mugs, plates, door knobs, all made in China. The cherry on top of all this were those Bibles at checkout...all PRINTED in China. 

So here is a store that claims to preach and practice good Christian values, where most of their profit is made from the sale of merchandise that comes halfway across the world, from a godless communist country. 

So when the current occupant of the White House claims that all our problems and health risks are from China, they are basically saying that Hobby Lobby needs to be put out of business. Because, I can assure you, there aren’t enough Americans that demand a minimum wage of $14/hour who are willing to make all these knick-knacks for the same price as the Chinese. 

It isn’t Hobby Lobby, it is the China Outlet Store. When it comes to politics and religion, you have to remember to follow the money.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Not The World I Want....

So, I took my car in for a recall this past week.   No big deal, it was a software update for the transmission.  Took about an hour.  To kill some time I walked down the street to Home Depot and the Sierra Vista Mall. 

I assumed that the mall would be deserted, due to the pandemic.  The Sears and Dillard's anchor stores have gone out of business and only a Best Buy and the Cinemas are keeping it open.  A sign on the window indicated that the hours of operation were 11am to 5pm on weekdays.  It was around 9:30am when I arrived.

I brought my camera along to take some pictures of what I assumed would be a stark and empty post pandemic landscape.  The mall had not opened yet, so there was no one around, or so I assumed.  As I meandered around the mall heading toward Home Depot I was approached by two gentlemen who asked what I was doing. 

The heavy set gentlemen was apparently the property manager of the mall, his companion was an armed and uniformed security officer. They questioned what I was doing, and then told me that taking pictures of the buildings was not allowed.  I was a bit stunned.  I apologized for 'breaking their rules' and headed off the property, although there were no signs or warnings indicating that what I was doing was improper or illegal. 


As I walked out of the parking lot, I started to chuckle at the whole experience.  From my work experience in social work and insurance, I understood their logic.  I could have been an attorney taking pictures of a slip and fall claim location, or a city employee documenting zoning code violations.  With that mindset you would want to minimize your risk.  However....this is a public space.  A space that would be open to the public within the hour. 

What they were not considering, was that I could put a GoPro camera in my hat and take all the pictures I wanted, or I could wait until they opened in an hour and walk into the (deserted) food court and snap-away.  Never mind the fact that I might have been a paying customer waiting to attend the cinema, who was chased off by badass security dude and his henchmen.   

This is the world I find myself in.  One where distrust and control are paramount and interactions are always suspect.  I don't know if their limited mindset could have fathomed my walking across the street and using a telephoto lens, or god forbid I had a drone in my car that could fly over the buildings.  Fear rules now-a-days and everyone is suspicious of everyone else.  Hardly the society that my parents envisioned or the one in which I want to live. 


Friday, August 14, 2020

Things Old Guys Do - The Catio


The wife and I are pet people.  We have always had dogs and cats.  They are our kids and we tend to spoil them from time to time.  

One of the things that Sue has always wanted was an outdoor enclosure for our cats so that they could go 'outside' but still be safe from all the nasty things that come after cats.  Sue nagged me for one of these until I finally gave in and said 'fine'.  You find a contractor and have one built. 

Sue went through four different contractors, all of whom never got back to her with an estimate. Most of the 'handymen' in town sort of saw a crazy lady that wanted to build a cat-condo.  So, in the end, I realized that if I was ever going to shut Sue up about this project, I would have to build it myself.  I agreed with the condition that I would have full creative control and budget authority.  This really irked Sue, but at this point, I held all the cards.

The project took about four months to complete and had to meet several parameters which included; it had to be free standing (the Catio does not touch the house), it had to conform to the design and look of the 115 year old house, it had to be accessible for cleaning, and it had to be off the ground due to weather / water and vermin (bugs and skunks).

The end result is a three tiered enclosure that is primarily made of metal with a wooden facade.  Almost all of the wood was re-purposed from other projects that we had around the houses.  The Catio was incorporated into the spiral staircase that I build which replaced the rotted stairway that came with the house.

The lamp post was left over from when we lived in Phoenix.  It was purchased for our home in Encanto/Palmcroft and never used.  Eight years later it was finally taken out of the box and placed on the corner of the porch. It is wired with the original knob and tube porcelain fixtures that were still on the outside of the house. 

The cats access the catio through a tunnel that leads from the enclosed sun-porch off the master bedroom, under a bench and onto the catio itself.  At the end of the catio is an enclosed area were the litter boxes are placed and can be accessed from the outside (no more indoor litter boxes). 

The cats are still figuring it out, but most have realized that there are a lot more birds to watch from the catio perches than through the windows in the house.  I have yet to show Sue what the bill is for the labor involved.  It won't be cheap.  Did I mention that we spoil our pets?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Poindexter's Swan Song

Hey!   Howdy!

Thanks for taking the time to find me.  My name is Poindexter and I was a member of the Johnson Pack for 10 years.  Talk about a life!  Whew, it was wild and crazy and fun!  

Let me tell you a little about myself since you went to all the trouble to get here. 

I don't recall much of my first days.  I remember getting lost and being alone in Phoenix, Arizona one night in a strip mall parking lot.  I sort of assumed that was the end.  Life had been good up to that point, but I was still just a puppy, so I didn't really know much.  

On that  dark night with cars whizzing by I first caught a glimpse of the pack leaders.  They saw me huddled in a doorway, looked at me, and started having an intense conversation.  I didn't know what they were going to do, but they were huge.  Finally, the big one, who I will call HIM (apparently the pack leader), reached down, put out his hand and scooped me up.  I was so tired and weak that anyplace would have been better than that parking lot.  

HIM and HER carried me to a huge truck and drove away.  I was just hoping that they wouldn't hurt me.  I was clueless.  Looking back, it was the BEST day of my life. 

They brought me to the pack den where I was surprised to find out that they had other pack members as well.  THREE of them and one was HUGE.   I had never seen another dog that big.  They kept calling her 'Dane' and 'Chella'. 

The leaders let me sleep in their bed with them that night.  There were other small creatures there as well, not dogs, but small animals that purred.  I curled up and went to sleep.  It was the first quiet place I had known in days.  

I later found out that HER had stated that if I barked to much, they wouldn't accept me into the pack.  I am glad I kept my mouth shut that night.  

So started my life with the Johnson Pack.  Many others came and went.  Some stayed for a few days, others are still there.  It was always a busy a pack den and there was always something to do. 

I can't recall all the pack-mates I had; Bacchus, Max, Chella, Thunder, Lightning, Peanut, Moxy, Ava, Henry, Iris and those were just the dogs.  I didn't interact with the non-pack purring crowd much.  They were sort of aloof. 

It took a few days to learn the pack routine and pecking order.  We all got along pretty well most of the time. I quickly learned that Chella was my buddy, since nobody messed with her.  I also learned where to go and not to go and what not to do.  Teething on power cords was one of things not do.  120 volts going through a small dog is not fun!

The pack initially lived in a park where all of us would run and frolic each morning and we would wrestle on the living room floor each night. 

Then there were trips to other pack dens, huge forests, the beach (ow the smells) and long car rides. One of the perks of being the smallest dog was 'Lap Time'.  I always got the front seat, while the rest of the pack had to sit in back....SWEET!. 

After a few years, we moved far south to the mountains.  Different smells and different trees and plants.  There was always something new and different in the Johnson Pack.   And I gotta tell ya, the FOOD was excellent.  I don't how other dogs survive on what they get.  But HER made the best food twice a day.  Needless to say, I was never really a 'thin' dog. 

This lasted for almost 10 human years.  I was pushing 70 dog years at the end.  It was a wild ride.  One that I am so glad I got to go on and I hope you all get a similar chance.  My time with the Johnson Pack taught me a few things: 

  • Don't loose hope, it is usually darkest before the dawn.
  • Size really does not matter, its the size of your heart that matters. 
  • Big dogs aren't as tough as they look 
  • Big dogs get big bones, little dogs get the passenger seat and the bed
  • If it is a good pack, they will NEVER leave you behind. 
  • ....and don't chew on power cords. 

Hope you all have a wonderful life!  I know I did.  Good Luck!

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