Friday, January 28, 2011

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This is the house I grew up in over in Longview, Tx. That's been over 50 years ago, and it has seen better days. It has passed through many people since then. It's on the south side of town as well, and a lot of the newer homes and growth in the city has gone to the north, so this neighborhood or area is now mostly black and hispanic. Still that area seem quaint to me, nostalgia I'm sure.

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I had a happy childhood, so I have mostly happy thoughts of that period. We had a neighborhood with a lot of other children around so we'd always be outside playing. There were two girls across the street that were me and my brothers closest friends, and then other boys up and down the street as well. I had one friend that lived down the street named Scott that got me into building model airplane and such. He eventually moved away to Jacksonville, Tx. A new family moved into his home, and the boy from that family was a very active type kid, so he fell in with the rest of us playing outside: tag, football, riding our bikes, and such. I seem to remember we'd also go around on Halloween in a small group sometimes.

The streets were not paved, but black top, and they'd come by nearly every summer and grade it up and add oil to renew it. I used to have fun sitting out there and watching the machines go up and down doing their work. It would smell like oil long after they'd gone, and your shoes or bare feet would get black all over them. There would be trucks that would come by too that sprayed for mosquitoes. The spray would fog out of the trucks in a huge cloud and we'd run behind them or just play out in the mist like idiots inhaling the DDT bug poison. There was also a creek down at the end of the block, and we'd go down there and goof around. We'd sometimes try and catch a crawdad or two. From the photo you can see there was a red porch, and we'd play around on it. We were playing some tag-like game one summer and I remember jumping off of it, and I fell back towards the porch hitting my head on the bricks, and I cracked my head open. I ran crying inside and my mom bathed me as I cried and the bathtub filled up red with blood as she did so. Then off to Dr. Parrish's office, and I got stitches in my head. I didn't like that at all.

There was LeTourneau University that was a good bike's ride further south of us. My Dad took some electrical courses there. He eventually became an electrician. They had a swimming pool that we'd ride our bikes to during the summer. I seemed to remember that it was also an army barracks or something--perhaps it was some sort of army reserves, and one summer we got our bikes inside the halls of it, and rode our bikes down through there. They were long hallways, with windows and wooden floors you could haul-ass down. I noted that it looked like apartments and such with beds in them as we went swooshing by. But being a kid, didn't think much beyond that until a couple of guys living there, came out into the hallway and yelled at us to get the hell out of there. Which of course we did, post-haste. They also had a canteen, that as I remember made the best french fries and cherry limes, that we'd buy sometimes after swimming.

I also remember the Arlyne Theater. They had a balcony in it and it had plush red carpeting going up it to the restrooms. It also had neat lighting and lamps and some sort of unusual painting on the walls to help convey mood. As you walked inside they had the refreshment area that smelled of fresh popcorn, and of course drinks and assorted candies. That was our first stop. Then on into the darkness for some out of this world adventure. I remember seeing The Alamo with John Wayne, Mysterious Island, Elvis Presley films, and The Blob (which gave me nightmares) there. They actually had ushers there that would shine a light into your eyes and tell you to keep quiet.

Nostalgia, so it goes. Such was my fifties upbringing and Leave It To Beaver life.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

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In sticking with movies and a Hollywood theme for a bit longer, I caught the new Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies last night on KERA. Roger Ebert isn't hosting the show himself due to health problems, but there are two host that seem to have the flavor of times past, and I guess that's about the best one could hope for. The new co-host for the first show were Ignatiy Vishnevetsky a 24 year old born in Russia that writes for Mubi.com. He had a lot of energy, and gave a thumbs up to all the movies that were reviewed, and Christy Lemire, the movie critic for the Associated Press who gave a thumbs down to all the movies reviewed in the first episode, and as she said, the negative one. Both offered a nice perspective and contrast. The movies they reviewed this week were: No Strings Attached, The Company Men, The Way Back,and The Green Hornet. Another critic, Kim Morgan, reviewed the classic movie, The Third Man, and Ebert wrote a review on the animated film, My Dog Tulip. It was read by director Werner Herzog as Ebert can't speak or is limited due to his health.

I was over at his blog reading his best documentaries of 2010. There's also his picks for animation films there as well, along with some foreign films, etc. So if curious about any of that you might want to check it out. Like I said in my last post, I respect and enjoy what Ebert reviews, not that I always agree with him, and by and large he'll always recommend something I've not heard of that interest me. And I think that one of the best things about criticism, shedding light on unknown work.

It's been pretty cold still, but I got out for a walk yesterday after attending a few chores. But I got out a bit late, almost too late, for a walk. It was cold and the sun was just about set, so I had to hoof it pretty well to keep my body heat up, but my nose ran all the way (sorry, pun intended), so I gotta do this earlier. Besides sunshine is good for you too.

When I got back in, I made some supper, and re-watched the film, The Wild Bunch. I still have the same reaction to it: It's just not one of my favorite westerns. It's worth watching though, and an influential western, it's just not one of my personal favorites of all time or top ten or twenty or whatever. If it's one of your favorites I don't have a problem with it, but for me, it's badly or clumsy acted in places, it's too brightly lit, and it's too uneven of a film for my taste. Plus at times it has the feel for that time period yet at other times, due to the lighting, cinematography or the costumes, it just looks like actors walking around in a Hollywood lot somewhere, in other words takes me out of the film or jarring at times. Also I prefer westerns with a bit more mood to them. Plus with the Wild Bunch, there are no real heroes or few good guys, and I like that aspect in westerns say the way other more traditional westerns might be.

I understand that Peckinpah was trying to expose the western myth in a new light, say the way the Clint Eastwood film, Unforgiven did. I find Unforgiven to be better handled though. Peckinpah's Wild Bunch was also addressing symbolically the flight of the Wild Bunch not only from their ex-partner, Robert Ryan & his ragtag posse, but also the oncoming 20th Century with its automobiles, airplanes, and so forth. It's also a film that addresses the Vietnam war and the violence of that era. I will say there are parts of The Wild Bunch where I can see attention to detail, and the visceral action scenes are exciting and crafted well. Paul Schrader said, "No one has mastered the art of multi-camera multi-speed editing like Peckinpah, even today" and I can see that in those action sequences. That craft is pretty obvious in the opening bank hold-up and the finale of the film as well. So I can say, it's certainly worth a watch, maybe it might become one of your favorite westerns.

I re-watched it as one poster on a movie forum I frequent was going on and on about how I enjoyed No Country For No Men (a movie, he didn't like), and how I didn't care for The Wild Bunch (a movie he evidently loves). What can I say, we all just don't like the same things. People are different. I won't even use the politically correct phrase, we can agree to disagree. Why can't we just disagree on something, and respect the other person's taste or viewpoint without stomping off in disgust or cussing and throwing a temper tantrum? It's called civility, at times I think the world needs more of it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

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From listening to people talk at times, they tend to dislike critics, but at the same time, they feel like they can do their job just as well or better. Maybe it's some sort of jealousy thing, I'm jealous of their job too. Who wouldn't want to watch movies or listen to albums for a living and get paid for it? Yeah, give me that extra large Milk Duds, and the five gallon tub of popcorn, I'm on the clock. From my last posting, I've already mentioned how some people on Netflix think that can review films or music or whatever, but fall short of the mark. Below are a couple of critics that I tend to respect, not that I always agree with them all of the time. I don't know that one critic will agree with your own personal taste. For me personally, that doesn't bother me. I see criticism as being a way to examine things, filtering something through a different person's perspective. Maybe they'll see something that you don't see, perhaps they'll bring your attention to some detail of a director, or comment upon some other aspect of film making. That's why those year end Top Ten list of movies, albums, and so forth can be so varied. Plus it's a way to filter out some of the dreck, and there's an awful lot of that out there too. The thing is to find someone who has your opinion or taste in things.

I think my favorite critic is Roger Ebert. I first found him along with his friend Gene Siskel, when they had their review forum, At The Movies on PBS some years back. I used to love watching that sometimes just planning my Saturdays around the airing or at least taping it for later. Since Siskel's death, and Roger Ebert's health problems, they've tried to continue with the program to varied degrees of success. I'd still try and watch it, but it never matched the original Siskel/Ebert episodes. I think some of this is that even though some of the reviewer might be interested in film (and sometimes I wonder), but the chemistry just isn't there. Even so, I wish someone would revive something like this, as I just like watching a forum on the discussion of film.

At any rate, here's some reviewers that are also worth reading or noting:

Roger Ebert

David Edelstein

Manny Farber

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

radio

Sitting here watching a bit of tube, trying to organize my thoughts (fat chance), and just mellowing out after drinking a bit of wine, that my brother gave me for Christmas. I ran by the store tonight after getting a haircut, and picked up a few things. I'm planning on making beef stew tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes. Unfortunately our Albertsons store out here is closing down. I like Albertsons. That leaves us with Walmart and Brookshires. The Brookshires is closest to me, but I only use them for mostly necessity shopping as they are pretty darn high, price- wise. They started out in this area, so they are sort of regaled as some sort of founding fathers around here, but I'll be damn if they aren't quite a bit higher on most of their items. So I'll have to do most of my shopping I guess at Walmart. Tsk.

Sunday, I got caught up in loafing around the house too long. I went out for a walk, as we've had buckets of rain and cold, and once it cleared off I went a bit stir crazy, and went out for a walk. I thought I'd come home later and watch the Sunday night Masterpiece Theater on PBS, which is generally pretty good. The current one is called Downton Abbey, and has sort of a large cast and is about class struggles and so forth in England. It's pretty interesting. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/index.html

After that or during, I got hungry and it had started to rain and get foggy again. So I thought man, a sandwich would be good about now. Thing is, my Swiss cheese had gotten all moldy, and really I needed more meat. So I thought I'll just go to Subway. I headed east and went over to the nearest Subway in the fog and rain, and I'll be damn if they weren't closed at 9pm. That's gotta be the earliest I've ever heard of a Subway closing. So I went west this time towards the loop, and bingo, they were closed too. I guess it comes from living in a small town, rolling up the sidewalks and all after 8pm. Only junkies, ne'er-do-wells or winos are out at that ungodly hour on a Sunday no less. Good company, I'll grant you, but I just wanted a sandwich. No luck, I headed for the Taco Bell. Hooray for them.

Anyway, here's some jazz podcast if you enjoy that sort of thing. I've downloaded the Halloween one, as it starts out with a Herbie Hancock song, and I'll have to check out the rest of it, and some of the other podcast they offer. They might be a neat thing to listen to while I walk. Tomorrow, I'll get up and try the beef stew, see how that goes.

http://www.podbean.com/podcast-detail?pid=48578

Sunday, January 16, 2011

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First we got snow, but not like they did up north. Recently we've had three or so days of rain. It's all good, particularly if you don't care to go outdoors. Maybe this is why they have all these trees down here. Hum, could be. I watched the SF movie called Splice the other night. I found it entertaining. I don't care to read reviews of films much beforehand as a lot of people think to review a film, you tell all of the plot. I don't care to have all of the plot, that's why I watch the movie. I've always respected critics to some degree, Roger Ebert, for instance. People used to give him a lot of flack, I don't know if there's still animosity towards him or his reviews. Doesn't really matter to me. I tend to find things that work for me, and wear blinders for the naysayers. At any rate, I think most people think they can write good reviews and such, but after being on Netflix for a couple of years, I can tell you, it takes more skill than just writing two brief sentences like: It sucked, I wished I'm couda get back that 128 minutes. Another thing I might add, it's called a spell checker for a reason. Now I don't think all things should have to be spell checked or proofread, but out of two to three sentences, I don't think it's too hard.

At any rate, Splice wasn't groundbreaking. It was a pretty good SF film that offered up a speculative idea about gene splicing, creating life in the lab, and then having the experiment go awry. A lot of SF has done that before, but it was also well executed, I was entertained, so it was a good evening of entertainment. I read one review that stated it's a good movie, except for the huge plot hole. I'll have to investigate that criticism a bit further. After all it is a science fiction, one in which these two people create a new organism. So you have to suspend reality somewhat going into it. I think some people wanted more a monster/horror movie, which it had a bit of that, but it wasn't like Alien or Species. At any rate, if you enjoy SF, you might find it entertaining too. I've certainly seen a lot worse.

On Saturdays I've also started watching a BBC program called Doc Martin. It's a quirky series about a small town doctor, and the people that inhabit that city. Like most series some episodes are better than others. There's recurring characters, and a schoolteacher that he sort of fancies, but they've yet to get together. Doc is perceived as being a bit cranky, and a bit antisocial. But I think that's a bit of the shows charm. It's already into it's fourth season, so I've plenty to look forward too.

I've also been watching the HBO series called The Pacific. It's a war series that details several marines during the Pacific theater. Some are sent to Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and so forth. One of the marines early on in the series wins the medal of honor and is sent back to the states and used for propaganda, recruitment, and given the red carpet. While other marines take decidedly different paths in the war. It too has been interesting, and certainly echoes some of the horrors of war, the bravery, and also just some of the perplexity.

I've also been in a Neil Young mood. I've been a fan of his for many years and have bought many of his albums. I think the first one I picked up by him was the After The Gold Rush album, followed quickly by his Heart of Gold album, due to the hit song on the radio (back then). Lately I've been listening to his American Stars and Bars album along with Comes A Time. Two well made and crafted albums. If you enjoy folk, country, or rock music with well written lyrics, you can hardly go wrong in picking up any of these albums.

Other than that, and just doing a bit of reading, I've stayed pretty mellow. That's not exactly something to jump and cheer about, but I take life as it comes.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

radio

I love music. I can't imagine being without it for very long. Perhaps part of that might be that since I'm single it helps break up the silence, but it also makes doing chores a little bit better, it's fun to listen to podcast or radio when you walk or exercise, makes car travel so much better, and is just a huge emotional boost for me. If I had to choose only one type of media, over books, movies, TV, or whatever, it might have to be music, hard though that may be. I'd certainly miss the other ones. At any rate I thought I'd post some more podcast you can listen too. They're all of various topics with a variety of musicians, so no matter your taste check it out. There's a best of the year 2010 show, one from Halloween, and several others that look pretty cool.

Check them out here: http://www.soundopinions.org/

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2011, What some call a new year, I call a cake walk.

2010, came and went without much fanfare. I got moved around summer from west to east Texas pretty well. It's been an adjustment, but one I'm dealing well with, and enjoying. I guess as the Cheryl Crow song goes, a change will do you good. Over the Christmas holidays my brother came down, I cooked, and we just visited and watched some football and a few movies.

I thought it was a pretty weak year for film, but did enjoy a few of them like: Who Is Harry Nilsson (and why are they talkin' about him), Winter's Bone, The Pacific series which is made by the same folks that made Band of Brothers and is about WWII too, Terribly Happy, How To Train Your Dragon, and a few others, along with a few TV series like Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, the BBC Sherlock Holmes series, the BBC series Doc Martin, and The Walking Dead. Of course, PBS is my default mainstay channel, as I like stuff like Antique Roadshow, Independent Lens, This Old House, American Masters, and so forth. There are a lot of movies I haven't seen yet, but I know I'll enjoy like: True Grit, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, Inception, and so forth, but I don't go to theaters anymore with the advent of Netflix. Maybe that sounds anti-social, but the last time I actually went to a movie, which I believe was Avatar 3D (and that was an enjoyable enough experience), but sometimes I can't make that claim, what with cell phones going off, kids making racket, teenagers, talkers, etc. Yeah, I'm a grouch.

There was plenty of good music, and a few comics too which were great as always. I thought the new Eric Clapton album suited his age, yet still was a well made album of blues, and a variety of songs. Massive Attack's Heligoland took me by surprise, and I still really enjoy listening to it. It's sort of a trip-top, progressive layer album, so you have to listen to it many times so that some of the layers reveal itself. And I can pretty much get by listening to classical in the morning.

Comic-wise or book-wise, I didn't pick up much, but I did pick up some things, most of what I've already written about in the blog. But otherwise, I'm doing okay, now that I've gotten moved and mostly settled, etc. I've even gotten back on a walking routine, but I'm still not habitual about it.

Here's a cool little Rambo parody, titled Rambo 3.5. It's done by the same guys that did the critically spotlighted book, Afrodisaiac, which I haven't read, but looks like it might be a fun read.

http://jimrugg.com/rambo35.html

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