Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prized Possession

Friend from the time before time rendered this for me just after the iron core of this planet settled but before the oceans had yet condensed. So, pretty old. I love it. It has been in every place that I have lived.

My First Calculator

I have been hauling this perfectly functional calculator along since Junior High.

I guess it can go live next to the scanner (see earlier entry)

I love the faux leather:

Untermonken Origin

Former workplace had issues with boundaries and security.I think the picture captures the quizzical, frequently belligerent and sometimes frankly dangerous aspect of the intended audience. The absurdity is, of course, that the sign would have precisely zero effect on the u-monk and possibly annoy those to whom it is not so pointedly addressed. The preferred solution, never implemented, was a set of 'CAT FUD' signs.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Well, huh!

(Avoid the commentary on YouTube, as usual.)
It all makes some kind of strained sense right up until the guy in the red and white (right down to the microphone!) suit. Then it all went completely weird and room-spinny. I assume it is a gameshow, or possibly that the last part is something along the lines of "and another big hand for Nippon Dynamics' Lunch Crew Amateur Theatrics Club!"

Once Upon a Time in the West

Mortal woman's (Cardinale) train is sidetracked into last act of Ragnarok* and she witness the Twilight of the Gods. A terrifying Frost Giant (Fonda) destroys men at will even as he wrestles with Odin (Robards) and Thor (Bronson). Set pieces (80% of the running time) comprise a master class in directorial clarity.
*I submit that Morricone's guitar melody as heard in the scene behind the farmhouse is the exact sound of the Rainbow Bridge being shattered.


A face:

An alien plant and an alien:


Enthusiastic, reasonably faithful and hampered by imperfect, distracting effects. Gormenghast is a landscape of dreams (not very nice ones) and is delivered through words, words, words. To be rendered in images requires the utmost diligence and a very particular imagination. In this case diligence was undercut by insufficient effects budget. Their rendering of the castle didn't match mine in any particular, but no two Gormenghasts are bound to be similar. Casting, on the other hand, was good for the most part. The BBC's take on the characters was not inaccurate but it favored the middling ground of grotesquery. Steerpike is too unctuous, Flay insufficiently rigid, Nannie Slagg too big, Barquentine too clean (by far) and so on. The miniseries will be compared unfavorably and unjustly to Peter Jackson's Tolkien movies.
The extras explained something that mystified me. There is a white rook featured in Gormenghast, a bird I believed to be entirely notional. As it turned out, an albino rook was found. I feel quite dim for not thinking of albinism but instead, "impossible." The other extras are good, especially the unusually articulate and to-the-point cast interviews. Compare and contrast the commentary from the LotR movies which are wall-to-wall giggle-fests from the principals.
The music, generally very fine and appropriate, was also unlike anything I would associate with Gormenghast. But certainly good on its own terms.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Fall of the Roman Empire

This movie flopped in 1964 because it is dull. The production values are sumptuous, and although there are several islands of fine acting separated by wide gulfs of unessential matter, the result is a brightly colored bore. Dimitri Tiomkin's score has no particular focus (just like the movie) and when it does show up, it is too obvious by far. Early on there is a weird smash cut between a scene of Stephen Boyd and Christopher Plummer drinking, and a scene of Plummer barking commands at a serving girl; it has the effect of a missing reel. As to that drinking scene, all I can say is that sometimes an uncorked bota is just an uncorked bota even if Stephen Boyd is doing the uncorking.

Better Roman or best friend?

Friday, April 25, 2008

RIP Bebe Barron

Bebe and Louis Barron composed the score and effects tracks for Forbidden Planet. The NYT has a nice obituary.
It mentions how the music and effects are not readily distinguishable which adds a lot to the movie's portrayal of alieness. I think they may have missed out on some dramatic possibilities through their technique, but it is hard to argue with success.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Illegitimate love-child of Fifth Element and Polar Express, raised on a diet of Heavy Metal, inherits only their recessive genes and fails to thrive. Generates 667 milliwhuts (m?), calibrated for Eurobabble. Charlotte Rampling provides sole anchor to relevance, which is saying something.

So many influences, so few poll choices

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Really Old Drawing

I drew this while in high school.
There's a little bit more to be scanned. And yes, it is drawn on a length of paper towel from a men's room. It's held up pretty well, so I guess there isn't much acid in it.

The Rainmaker

Clever play translated directly to film doesn't lose much as a play but makes for a bit of a trial as a movie. Performances are extremely quirky. Lancaster is completely out of the traces, Earl Holliman repeats his bumpkin performance from Forbidden Planet, Cameron Prud'homme's interesting vocal performance careens from comedic to bathic in the same speech, and Katherine Hepburn overwhelms her poor part like a tsunami. All this is given a pretty luxe studio treatment, including a busy, dialed-up score by Alex North. The result is pleasantly sincere and unchallenging, if not annoyingly obvious. Good use of this movie is as an example of how a movie isn't a play.

Toa Maiden No More

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Border Patrol Pushing the Boundaries

The Border Patrol is pushing the boundaries of common sense. These two articles from the Seattle Times limn troubling, if not perfectly Fascist, sentiments from the government spokespeople involved:
Friday Harbor ferry trip turns into uncomfortable experience with U.S. Customs
Border Patrol "spot checks" on ferries provoke outrage in San Juan Islands
The galling aspect is that the searches are being done in spite of rulings against them. I seriously doubt that their logic ("We're not forcing them to submit to searches, we're just depriving them of their liberty for a little while.") is going to impress the next judge who hears this.
What a waste of time and effort. The silver lining is that the problem is so obvious – demanding travel papers between US cities is not permitted – and the offense so egregious that there can be little doubt of the eventual outcome. It would be handy if our representatives in Washington had sufficient clout to effect a change sooner than later. It's not fair that the folks in the San Juan should suffer while the slow outrage of the republic is ponderously wheeled about back in the direction of Constitutionality.

Liberty or Death

Monday, April 21, 2008

Playmat for "Temple Escape" LEGO set

Click for a larger version. I have colored it digitally because the original is very low contrast. It was loads of fun to make!

Which LEGO Indiana Jones set best captures the feel of its respective scene?

The Atomium! "World's most astonishing buiding!"

The Ato-o-o-o-mium!
Good news, everyone! The Atomium is open again!
World's 'most astonishing building' turns 50
The Atomium!

CanoScan LiDE 25

With a name like that, you think it would be more deadly than James Bond's briefcase, but it is merely a scanner — a budget scanner — that runs completely off USB power. Here is the first result:

Now my iTunes can have covers of my obscure soundtracks. Watch this space for a backlog of amusing doodles and double-plus nifty kids' drawings.

The Shadow's Score

iTunes' random play dealt out Jerry Goldsmith's 'Main Title' from The Shadow and I was forcibly reminded how sharp the disconnect between the quality of his music and the associated movies could be. The Shadow has its points, but the overall effect is well-intentioned but mediocre. The score, however, belongs to a movie that would have launched a billion-dollar, block-busting, decades-spanning, studio-financing, star-making juggernaut that would have eclipsed all other entertainment. That's what I hear in it, anyway. That it is attached to the 95 lb weakling that is The Shadow is a testament to Goldsmith's imagination. And all this filtered through a re-recording by Joel McNeely with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. This is due for an expanded release.

The First Man Into Space

I was totally sucked in by the cover art by the Criterion Collection but in spite of having the usual low-budget woes, this was really fun. The monster is really icky. If the production had allowed for any kind of decent lighting, photography, etc, it would also have been scary. Body count is pretty high, especially among female innocent bystanders. This really is more of a Twilight Zone episode than a feature. Ridiculous attempt to prolong "mystery" of the identity of the monster leads to most of the groans although everybody keeps an admirably straight face, not that there aren't some thespian quality control problems. The artwork on the re-issue is the best part, but purely on account of extreme awesomeness.

P.S. If I had seen this movie as a kid, my Major Matt Mason toys would have suffered.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

In Search of the Castaways

Giddy, almost frantic fantasy adventure with stunning Peter Ellenshaw matte paintings. Maurice Chevalier is amusing even when he is singing. Hayley Mills teen romance is kept at arm's length which was a relief, I am sure, to the eight year olds who are the likely audience.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nancy Drew

Adorable obsessive-compulsive polymath foils murderer's decades-old plot to steal inheritance. Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland deserves an Oscar for occupying the vanishingly small territory wedged between being not overly distracting, reasonably attractive, internally consistent and believable.

The Man from the Alamo

Glenn Ford plays hard-headed Texan who did not die at the Alamo. Other Texans who also did not die at the Alamo do their level best to lynch him but are foiled repeatedly. Eventually Glenn's friends (although how anybody could work up a single BTU of warm feeling for such a mopey lug is beyond me) convince the mob that he is trying to save their lives. Victor Jory plays an excellent heavy.

The Cimarron Kid

Conformity on parade. Charisma-sink Audie Murphy plays stand-up kid who runs with the wrong crowd. Luckily, the benevolent state allows him sufficient opportunity to pay for his thought crime over and over. Could be called "George Orwell's 1884." The production is not luxurious but pleasantly sturdy. It is a Budd Boetticher movie, after all.

There are a couple of lines delivered by Frank Silvera where there was an uncanny vocal resemblance to Temuera Morrison.

The Adventures of Marco Polo

If you can believe Gary Cooper as a 13th century Venetian, you will have no difficulty seeing Basil Rathbone as a Saracen. Even more fanciful casting is Sigrid Gurie ("The Norwegian Garbo!") as a Chinese princess. Throw away the distractions of completely wrong history and it is completely enjoyable fantasy. Map montage fun: find Yrac!

Jiffy Pop == Alien Egg

I don't know how this has escaped my attention for so long. The perfect accompaniment to a viewing of Alien is Jiffy Pop!

Friday, April 18, 2008

For the luvva Pete, it's snowing!

That's a record.

Machine Intelligence Not Much of a Threat


What anomalous data entry resulted in this egregious silliness?
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Learn something new every day: Ryugyong Hotel

I had no idea this ludicrous structure existed although if someone had asked me the likely location of such a thing, North Korea would have been in my top ten (somewhere below Las Vegas but above Salt Lake City and next to Somewhere-istan.) What a thing!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Toa Maiden No More


A few words of explanation for the obscurer parts. The middle section with the parted out interrogation machine was planned to include a maelstrom of spinning parts, a la the original Mata Nui game with reference to Makuta. Consequent to the maelstrom, the yellow gear was sent spinning to hit Vezon in the head but this action is unclear. There are a couple of unamended beauty shots of the new form that slow down the action. After she boots Scout in the head, she is meant to be letting out a long-suppressed cry of frustration mixed with patently homicidal glee. She ends up merely "milking the giant cow." After moving the bad guys, she spends some time either pointing her finger at them or summoning cosmic energies of lashing ferocity.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It Came From Outer Space Trailer

Amusing trailer for It Came From Outer Space

It Came From Outer Space

It's actually pretty good! I'd only seen the patently lame alien puppet and assumed that it was typical of the production. That was a mistake. I will keep a look out for the 3-D version.

Winchester '73

Winchester '73 stands at the fulcrum of the golden and silver ages of Hollywood. Simple chase plot is used to hang Western tropes out to dry in the winds of change. Infamous Rock Hudson performance isn't that bad although the putty nose is a bit much.

War & Peace (1956)

Pretty dreadful in spite of star-laden cast list. Henry Fonda seems utterly unable to muster a drachma of enthusiasm. Some bit players give it a go but the whole effect is underwhelming although the retreat from Moscow has some harrowing bits. Herbert Lom is good in the role of Napoleon.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Unknown

aka Alonzo the Armless. Utterly lurid. Never a dull moment and plenty of surprises. Check out the painted backdrops and scenery which do not detract at all.

The Naked Spur

Jimmy Stewart is tortured soul with a troubled past (again!) who is dramatically but not mortally or even too troublingly shot (again!) while he works through his issues. This time the working-out is especially fatal to others but he feels pretty bad about it. Music spans the gamut from bombastic (you can just about hear it shouting, "Naked Spur!") to cloying (Beautiful Dreamer, for crissakes!) And, um ... Janet Leigh crazy hot.

The Last Frontier

Victor Mature plays his illiterate back-of-the-backwoods trapper as a 19th century Enkidu (distinct from a Noble Savage, mind you) with the US Cavalry standing in for Gilgamesh. Nobody plays being bitterly betrayed better than the Bod. What is it with Anthony Mann and elderly sidekicks? Being avuncular in his movies is a death sentence.

The Far Country

Disenfranchised (Jimmy Stewart) runs afoul of (John Mcintire). Complications include undependable (Walter Brennan) and feuding ( Ruth Roman and Corinne Calvet). Supporting cast is a smorgasbord of character actors.

The Fantastic Four

Not half as bad as I had expected it to be. Mr. Fantastic's effects, although the best to date, are still implausible looking. Not that it was any different in the comic. Ioan Gruffudd is not quite Ivy League enough to be Reed Richards although the Torch and the Thing were perfectly fine. But what to say of the fourth FF? FFS, that's what. Jessica Alba has a lot of vim, but vim will not carry the scene. Dr. Doom was watered down in the effort to make him relevant to the concerns of today or some such chicanery but he failed his super-villain entrance exam. "Your armor must be this cool to be admitted to the super-villain lounge."

Outside the Law

Lon Chaney does double duty in crime drama. There is not nearly enough Lon as 'Blackie' and way too much time spent on the sentimental middle. Exciting finale.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Plot makes the absolute most of a room with two doors. A little light on the horror as most of the characters pretty much keep their wits about them while Jekyll debases himself.


The bad guy is surprisingly bad. The good guy is startlingly good. The patsy is maddening. What a mook! Clever hooks throughout.

Call of Cthulhu

No-budget realization of snippets of HP Lovecraft lore is pretty good. More an artifact than an actual entertainment, it is for HPL fans only. The foreground miniatures and digital work are pretty good. Staging it as a silent was a stroke of near genius. The extras are amusing.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Old Neighborhood Cat

It seems like this cat has been around forever. He is distinctive because he can't quite sit up straight. When he looks at something for a while, he starts to lean over.
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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Charlton Heston RIP

Charlton Heston has died. Happily for me I can separate his acting from his annoying politics. If I had to choose a favorite performance, I would be torn between Ben Hur and Planet of the Apes. Or maybe The Ten Commandments and Soylent Green.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Toa Maiden is Interrogated

For those who have not been following along, the Toa Maiden always seems to get in dutch with the most recent iteration of Bionicle. She combines characteristics of Emma Peel and Gilligan. There's often an argument, accusations, misunderstandings, incriminations, mutations, sometimes tears and then ROBOT MONSTER FIGHTING ACTION. In this instance, the mint-chocolate fellow is known as Scout; he and the Toa Maiden have been at odds for a while. The one dressed as Death is known as Vezon and has one of the more complicated back stories in the Bionicle universe, which is wall-to-wall complicated back story. Suffice to say it doesn't bear on the current action.
From 20080404_exom...

My newest favorite thing in the world


A deck of cards with descriptions and instructions for knots. Thanks, M!
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Mobile Ministry of Truth Effectualizer


While disassembling most of my Bionicle toys (see Bionicle├Ąpocalypse, below) I cobbled this Rumsfeldic nightmare from parts of Makuta, Sidorak, Voporak, Muaka and Tarakava.

Sentimentality or Superstion?

Discovery News : Discovery Channel: "Some of the author's (Jules Verne -ed) original notes were packed aboard the spacecraft to commemorate its maiden voyage, along with a copy of 'From the Earth to the Moon' and its sequel, 'Around the Moon.'"

Why was this done? I can't comment on Verne's likely attitude toward such wasteful frippery but I am pretty sure that Ned Land would have a nautical expression or two ready to hand. So congrats to the ESA for a workable remote control craft that can replace a ship and its crew (cue your favorite quote from the The Ultimate Computer), but a fish-slap for the dope that approved the cargo. You can't breathe a book in space!

Light Switch Plate


Fun outing to bisque-painting salon resulted in this colorful item.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

LEGO Bionicle Kardas Dragon Without Limbs Makes For a Passable A L I E N Chestburster


The Kardas Dragon is a whopping huge Bionicle set made from combining three other sets, but the gag is that those three sets themselves are of the "titan" variety meaning that they are about twice the size of a typical Bionicle set. So it's big. There were a few minor changes to make it more chestburstery: removed limbs (legs, arms, wings), shortened the neck (the chestburster is notably hunched) and added the adorable little claws. Chest bursting fun the whole family can enjoy!

By the way, I just received the new, complete A L I E N soundtrack. While it is not revelatory, thre is a lot of neato new material. The notes go into the convoluted history of the soundtrack's editing which makes Ridley Scott out to be a major PITA, as well as having Ben Burtt-esque attitudes toward music in movies. Which is to say fiddly and klutzy at the same time. A Kitchen-Aid blender has no place in the editing suite. Just saying.

Looking at the archives, I see that I have not mentioned that my original Alien CD was bronzed due to a notorious manufacturing defect. For a while, it was possible to mail one's defective CDs to an address in the UK and some nice fellow would dig out a copy (I imagined a dusty cardboard box under some clerk's desk) and mail it to you. I doubt that is still going on. I never took advantage of it because all* my CDs still play. In the case of Alien, it is of course, moot.

*except The Ten Commandments which has the more conventional laser rot. It is OOP, to boot.
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Coffee in a press pot or alien landscape?

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