Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cyclotrode X

I discovered this old Republic serial on Youtube of the Crimson Ghost.  The Paramount Vault has posted a lot of their old movies and serials and such over there if interested.  I ran across a Jerry Lewis movie, a couple of westerns, the SF movie, Masters of the Universe (1987) and they plan to update things as time goes along.  So if interested you might check out their YT page.  Here is a link to the movie.  Paramount cleaned the movie up so it's a nice clear print.

 I ran into another neat movie or 6-part TV BBC series during Christmas that  I was unaware of and found it by chance.  What's interesting is that the series takes place during Christmas too.  It has Patrick Troughton in it, who played the second doctor in the Sci-Fi franchise Doctor Who.   It is called The Box of Delights from 1984.  It's based on the classic children's novel by John Masefield, the story follows the exploits of a young boy, Kay Harker, who finds himself drawn into a world of magic and danger when he encounters an old Punch and Judy man. There's magic in it, and the kids involved can shrink themselves down like the kids in Honey I Shrunk the Kids or Land of the Giants.  It has a few eerie scenes in it that are the type that would probably creep kids out and give them nightmares at least back in the day.  It has a similar low budget  or maybe even less that the Dr. Who series, but it was still pretty interesting to watch.   You can find all 6-parts on YT.  I'll post the first episode here, and you should be able to find the rest pretty easy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Non-spoilery The Expanse review

I ran across this non-spoiler review of the first four episodes to The Expanse if you happen to be interested in listening to it.  The four episode comes on tonight on the Syfy Channel.  You can watch some of the past episodes online as well on the Syfy Channel's site.  At any rate, here's the link.  As a disclaimer, I'll mention I have not listened to the non-spoilery review personally, so I'm taking that at face value.

I'll also include this podcast from ScriptPhD with The Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar.

Monday, December 28, 2015

2016 Movies

There have already been a few predictions about what movies in 2016 people are looking forward to watching.  I haven't seen everything from 2015 yet, but that's pretty typical for me.  I plan on seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens this week.  Plus I still want to see The Martian, Sicario, Spectre, The Revenant, Bridge of Spies, Creed, Inside Out, Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spotlight, The Hateful Eight, and a few others as time allows.  I've got Mr. Holmes starring Ian McKellen at home right now, which I'll watch shortly.

I watched the first Mission: Impossible (1996) movie last night.  I had not seen it since I saw it in the theaters back when it was released.  I didn't care for it too much back then, I thought it was okay, but actually when I watched it a second time last night I enjoyed it quite a bit more.  It's full of twist and turns, and then the finale with the bullet train sequence was just a blast.  It's funny how your perception changes, but  now I'm caught up with the Mission: Impossible franchise except for Rogue Nation, which I'm looking forward to watching pretty soon.  I didn't even mind Mission: Impossible 2 once you get past the mountain climbing opening, which was over-the-top and ridiculous.

So for me personally, looking forward to 2016, I'll be watching a lot of the films from 2015 that I haven't seen yet, but I can see the fun in the anticipation and why some people enjoy doing that.  The only thing I saw (and I haven't kept up with it honestly) is the new Tarzan trailer.

There have already been a few adaptations of the jungle lord from Disney's animated Tarzan to the live action film, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan: Lord of the Apes (1984).  I've seen both as well as others, and I've always been a fan of the Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O' Sullivan early versions of Tarzan, but none of them have faithfully followed the book.  Greystoke took it closer in that direction, but still fell short for me anyway.  It's been a while since I've watched that version, but I remember that was my reaction at the time.

There are a lot of action and comic-inspired movies slated to come out in 2016.  Quite frankly I don't mind that too much.  I know they are money makers for Hollywood, here in the states and abroad.  I don't know how excited I am for many of them however.  At times I feel the comic book-inspired adaptations are getting a bit worn for me, but then when I see one that's good and I have a fun experience, and think heck yeah.
 I am curious about the new Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  It just looks like a fun, popcorn blockbuster-type film.  It's by Zack Snyder, whom many fans and critics either like or hate.  He's done films like Watchman, 300, and Man of Steel, which a lot of people hated, but I sort of enjoyed.  Man of Steel is how I envision Superman, and was lightyears ahead of many of the past reboots for the alien superhero.  It sure beat Superman Returns, which for me was a borefest and miscast.

I've been watching a series on Netflix about great directors.  Last night I watched the segments on Barry Levinson, George Lucas, and Rob Reiner.  Reiner stated that if you'll choose the right cast, and you have the right script, your job is 90% done.  I can see that to a degree.  Have you ever seen a film that might have been a good idea, but was just miscast badly, and you wondered why the director or the executives chose to go with those actors?  Boy I have. The same holds true for the scripts and story.  Have you even seen a movie and thought: How did that get the green light?  So if the script is either written poorly or reedited wrongly, or directed badly, and the cast doesn't fit, you already have two strikes against you.

At any rate, I think Batman vs. Superman might be fun.  I expect the Steven Spielberg/Disney film The BFG will do well. It's an adaption of a Ronald Dahl book, about a giant.  I can't see it doing too badly.  Most of Spielberg's films are received well, as well as Disney.  If I were to put my money on it, I'd say it's a win, and since I do own some Disney stock I guess I do have some money on it.  Ditto for the ongoing Star Wars franchise and the anticipation for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  But there are also some films like Howard Lovecraft and the Hidden Kingdom, which might be interesting, a new Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Doctor Strange, yeah, this one is just seems a natural for the big screen, I hope they do it well, and it is scary and creepy,  Star Trek Beyond--woo hoo, I don't know why the rebooted Star Trek franchise have gotten such indifference, but I love them.  A new X-Men: Apocalypse film is in the works.  I hope it's great fun.  By and large I enjoy that franchise.  There's a new Kung Fu Panda 3 slated.  There really is just a bunch of fun movies coming out next year, and it already looks like it is going to be a great year for fans of films no matter where your interest lies.

Here's a discussion of it from the reviewers of Schmoesknow:

And here's a list of the upcoming films for 2016.

Happy Healthy New Year 2016. 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Jazz & Johnson

Here lately at the Ponderosa I've been in a jazz mood.  My taste in  music ranges broadly.  My main areas of interest lately are:  jazz, classical, rock (mostly progressive rock), and then anything else that tickles my fancy.  The other day I was looking at older family photos, and found a picture of my sister and me in a bedroom spinning tunes on a very old record player.  We were still both toddlers.  I've since put those pictures back up, but might drag it back down again just to post here or send it to my sister.  I'm not sure how old we were when that photo was taken, but I look around kindergarten age.  I'm pretty sure the records we were listening to were some sort of children records.  I still remember a few of them.  Some of them told odd stories, and others may have had short songs on them.  I seem to think some of them were taken from the old Uncle Remus stories about Tar-Baby and that sort of thing.  I just remember those stories being surreal or weird or whatever.   At any rate, somewhere along that age, I got the music bug. 

Here's a link I ran across of the NPR Top Ten jazz records for 2015.  They have included some links so that you can hear some of the albums selected as well, which always helps to decide whether or not you want to invest in them any further.  That Kamasi Washington was a pretty popular title this year.  It sort of sounds like progressive jazz and a bit fusion-y to me, but it's still sounds pretty nice.  The one by Mary Havorson, called Meltframe sounded pretty interesting as well.

Last night I stayed up too late binge watching three episodes of the new Syfy series, The Expanse.  It's too early to get a reading on it, other than to say, it's pretty good.  It's  slow unfolding in it's story and done similar in style of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica program of some years ago.  That show was pretty successful with fans, and I hope they can keep their storytelling compelling with The Expanse as well.  I can't say it's perfect as at least for me, there were a few eye roll moments, but the story is pretty involving, and I do like the character played by Thomas Jane (and others too). 

The main setup of the story is a mystery surrounding a woman that gets killed in the initial opening story.  From there we learn that there are three separate worlds:  Earth, a Mars colony, and native miners or Belters.  The story is pretty dense, and it already has quite a large cast, but they do a good job of isolating the story lines so it's pretty easy to keep up with.  It's one of those series where you could probably watch again just to pick up things you might have missed on the first viewing.  That said, however,  there were a few things I had questions about or at least wondered why they were handled the way they were. 

There was one part in one of the episodes where a rat shows up on the top of a console, which maybe I didn't catch where or what the rat was about, but it didn't make sense to me.  Maybe it was a pet rat? Why was a rat there? Also I'll admit I don't know a lot about space or space travel, creating artificial gravity, and that sort of thing, so I don't know if some of the special effects are done just for style and action or of they have any real world/hard SF basis, but I did wonder some about the way the space shuttle craft rotated around and around--granted it happened in battle, but also as it traveled in space. So maybe that was to create an artificial gravity.  Who knows?  But I would have been one sick puppy if I had been in that tin can rotating in that fashion.  Maybe you wouldn't notice that sort of stuff in space, again, who knows?   There was another scene where the crew aboard the smaller shuttle are repairing it after a battle, and one of the guys looses a wrench that he's going to use for the repairs, and it goes flying off into space, which looked kind of cool, but wouldn't space explorers have some sort of tethers to prevent that because apparently this ain't their first rodeo in space? Just sayin'...   At any rate, it's pretty good, if you like that sort of thing.  I hope they can at least keep the momentum going. 

I read earlier today where SF writer, George Clayton Johnson died.  He wrote the very first episode of the Star Trek episode, The Man Trap, and many of the stories to the Twilight Zone series.  I believe he also co-wrote Logan's Run, with William F. Nolan, among many other stories and scripts. 

Here's a five hour interview with him if you wish to explore some of that.  You can split it up into shorter bite-sized parts, but it's something I want to listen to as well.  Here's a link.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

1978 Flashback

I ran across this broadcast of Siskel and Ebert's old TV show where they are predicting the Oscars for 1978.  Spoiler: The Deer Hunter won best picture.

I feel a little nostalgic in missing their program and for the quality and diversity of films back then too.  You'll note that most of the films covered are fairly serious films, no blockbuster, super hero action type films.  I don't necessarily have anything against those film, I go see them too.  But it does seem we have an over abundance of them.  I realize too that money fuels the box office, and mostly young people are purchasing those tickets (or their parents).  

Whenever Siskel and Ebert was showing each week I'd either try and tape it on VHS or watch it whenever possible.  I kept up with both gentlemen until both died.  I wish someone on PBS or one of the cable networks would bring back something akin to that program.  It's not like it would be all that expensive to produce.  I realize a lot of that has filtered its way over to  Youtube, and I watch some of them.  But most of those reviews are not mature in their tone or approach, in fact most of them are down right immature and adolescent.  I'd tried to find some older reviewer that might talk a bit about older films, but so far I haven't any. 

At any rate, if you are curious about what did win back in 1978, here are the Oscar winners for that year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Matter, Anti-Matter

Best of Enemies from that rather drab movie poster above may not seem like the most interesting film to watch in this day of blockbusters, over-the-top car crashes, prequels, sequels and the like.  Also due to our current environment of politics it may be the last thing many might want to watch.  I certainly enjoy escapism for that very reason as well.  But after so many super hero and action films, I was wanting something of more substance, and despite the poster or cover art, I found the documentary to be pretty engaging on many levels.   Both men have died since the movie's release, but it still seems current and vital due to the contrarian, polemic nature of politics today.  The movie opens with Gore Vidal taking us on a tour of his bathroom to share a few memories (odd I know).  He has pictures on the wall that he talks about and mentions Buckley, whom by this point has died, then mentions their debate showing disdain, so I guess their relationship as far as he's concerned is still at odds and a bit sour still in his mind.

The film concerns itself with the 1968 debates that were held on ABC at the time, first in Florida and then the venue moved to Chicago.  A little history and groundwork is laid at the beginning of the film for younger audiences that didn't live through that era.  That's a good thing as it gives some footing as to how things were back then and also how differently things were viewed then as far as the media.  Now we have cable TV with twenty-four hour networks and computers, but back then TV (with just three major networks), newspapers, and magazines were about it.  From my own experience, my family never bought many magazines, I think, viewing them as a bit of an extravagance (financially).  Plus both my parents worked and had little time to read.  I think that was pretty true for most middle class households at the time. 

Back then as I said there were three channels on TV: ABC, NBC, and CBS, and ratings had ABC in last place.  So to boost ratings, ABC decided to have these political debates from two of the most respected intellectuals of the times.   William F. Buckley, Jr. was founder of the National Review,  a conservative magazine, and who also hosted Firing Line.  Gore Vidal was a high profile and prolific author.  He was a gay man and had just written the popular novel, Myra Breckinridge, which was also made into a movie.  The networks back then were all pretty neutral as far as politics was concerned.  Advertising was one of the reasons--you didn't want to do anything to upset advertisers and have them pull their ads and advertising dollars, which kept your station on the air.

Both Buckley and Vidal some years earlier had dabbled in politics, but had lost whatever positions they were running for, and had gone back to writing and their own professions.  However, both men shared political aspirations.  I'm pretty sure they knew of each other, but I don't think they had much to do with each other until these debates.

The documentary has archival footage of the debates and news clips from the time.  I forget how many debates were aired, but when the first one took place in Florida at the Republican convention, Vidal had prepared himself for it and was ready to upend Buckley.  It also seemed that the documentary didn't show the debates in their entity (though I could be wrong).  They seemed short and edited.  Perhaps this was done to keep the film moving quickly and from being too dry or boring.  It works to the film's benefit too. 

In between each debate a little historical data is introduced to set the stage for the time and climate.  The late 60's was a big time for change not only politically, but culturally.  Vietnam was a hot issue then, and there were racial issues, many public figures had been assassinated.  As Bob Dylan sang, the times were a changin'.  It was a turbulent time, however, not all that different from today.  Both men though no matter what side you were on were intellectuals and able to spar with each other quite well.  One of the things the film pointed out was that most people are anti-intellectual.  I find that amusing and yet alarming and think it still holds true for today.  Sad to say, I don't think we've improved much over the years.  If anything, I think we've stepped back.  Everything is neatly packaged and controlled.  Neither the right or left get to debate much.  Everything is quick sound bytes, smear or fear tactics, and personal insults.  I guess the more we change, we stay the same, but I found the documentary engaging and well worth recommending.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Friday Rant

So anyway, I was out last Friday.  I was on a mission to find a cardboard box so that I could box up some Christmas gifts and ship to my sister and her family that lives in Colorado.  My first stop was at a health food store down the street.  They generally have a bunch of boxes for the public that buy items there.   They are generally small though, but I thought maybe they might have something I could use.  They didn't  have anything I could use, however, so I decided to run down to Office Depot.  The last place I wanted to go on my quest was at some place like The UPS Store, which is where I'll go to ship the package, but the last time I bought a box there they wanted something like fifteen bucks for a silly box.  I'll also preface this rant in saying I've been having ear problems lately along with allergy problems, so I've not been in the best of moods lately, but I make due.

So I leave the health food store, drive up to the exit.  It's a bad area with traffic as there's an intersection there, which exits onto the loop, and to make matters worse,  I wanted to get in the outside lane (all the way across all the traffic and turn right).  So I had to wait for the traffic going east through the traffic lights, and also for the traffic going west as well to clear before exiting.

I pull up to wait and in less than a minute, some yahoo pulls up behind me, and starts honking.  I first thought maybe it was someone else in traffic honking, but I'm watching the traffic flow, and it still persist.  I look in my rear view mirror thinking, well, maybe it's someone I know, and they want to wave or whatever.   But that's not the case,  there's some guy in a pickup truck wearing overalls and a bad haircut, and he continues to honk.  So by now, I'm thinking, what is this idiot honking at?  How would he know where I want to go, and his annoying honking is distracting, and could cause an accident by rattling someone into pulling out into traffic (like me or someone else even less experienced with driving).

Okay as a disclaimer, I did not have my blinker on to turn west, that may have helped, but still I found his moronic behavior totally baffling.   I don't know maybe he was just released from an insane asylum and had not adjusted to the world on the outside.   That's a possibility.  I glance again I guess to see if I can see drool coming down the corners of his mouth, but no, he just looks like the ordinary stupid redneck types that are way to prolific in Texas.  And the guy is still honking...  The traffic is still heavy and I can't get out. 

I'll have to admit I thought about getting out of my car and asking him what he was honking at, and also ask if he knew where I was going.  But decided against that.  With our dumbass governor, Greg Abbott's passing of the new concealed handgun laws in Texas, this clown would be the type to want to use it by shooting someone and then, of course, driving off.  (I expect things of this nature to happen in the future, and I don't want to be on the receiving end of it.)

So I get a break with the traffic, and exit, and I'm on my way to find a box, but I have to admit the incident has haunted me all weekend.  Perhaps, and what I suspect, he's just some redneck fuck, too stupid to realize what a nuisance he is to the public.  Perhaps in the future he'll keep doing this offensive, stupid stunt and some other redneck fuck will get tired of it and shoot him in the face.  That would be his best hope in life.  It would be merciful.  If you were that stupid wouldn't you want someone to take you out?  Boy I sure would.  Drive defensively, please!

Friday, December 04, 2015


Ruins is the newest graphic novel by Peter Kuper, a New York City writer and artist that has created many comics, but is still fairly unknown to the mainstream.  Whenever I see that he has published a new work, it makes my world a little bit brighter.  His works are mostly fiction, but sometimes based on real events and things that have happened in his life.   So I guess you could say many of this works are sort of autobiographical, slice-of-life, alternative, and observational.   He has also done adaptations of Franz Kafka’s work like The Metamorphosis.  The last thing I read by him was Stop Forgetting to Remember, which I enjoyed greatly (and might be the best place to start if interested in his work), but I’ve also read a number of his other works. 

Ruins is a work of fiction, though many aspects of it were inspired by real events that he, his wife, and daughter experienced during their two years spent living in Mexico.  There are a couple of storylines that crisscross throughout the book.  One of them is the actual story of a couple going to Oaxaca, Mexico  so that the wife can work on a book, and so the guy can work practice his art and drawing bugs (that area is known to flourish with it number of  bugs, insects, and animal species).
There’s another story that intersects the book and that’s the migration of the monarch butterflies as they fly from Canada to Mexico--a 2,000 to 3,000 mile trip.  A remarkable aspect of their life cycle is that while most generations only live 3 or 4 weeks, the generation that makes this arduous migration can live up to 9 months.   Also of note, their population has been diminishing due to their habitats disappearing.  You can read more about that at:

Another part of his book concerns itself with the politics that was going on at the time concerning a teacher’s strike.  They had just gotten a new governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, and many of the locals didn’t like him and were striking in protest.  In 2006, Ortiz ordered the police to attack the striking teachers in the early hours of June 14th.   Over the next several months, police clashed with the strikers, and a number of union members were either wounded or killed.  The strike became an international incident on October 27th when U.S. journalist Brad Will was killed by undercover police. 

All in all I enjoyed reading Kuper’s newest effort.  If I had a criticism it seems at times his male protagonist was a little too cranky, or self-obsessed.  The American journalist seemed a little bit too cartoony or oddly drawn, but it could be a fairly accurate caricature of him too.  But a few minor quibbles didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book.   Peter also injects many things to ponder about as well, and I think the upshot message of the book is no matter how violent the government actions have gone and how destructive humans can be, life still persist and it can be pretty awesome.