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|Thursday, December 1st, 2016|
|Beasts, Edge, Moana, Holiday, LGG, Birthday, Rower
Three movies, and the usual foolishness.
"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is the new movie set in the world of Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter in general, five of the books, five of the movies, and several of the characters in specific. But the world was not fundamentally robust, and was pushed beyond its design limits by the time the series ended. This movie exacerbates that. The characters are decent, and the performances are good, but the plot is weak and the pacing is pretty much awful. And then there is the fact that more large special effects shots were shoe-horned into the film than the plot would support. This is not an awful movie; we enjoyed it. But the Harry Potter franchise became what it was by virtue of froth and charm, both of which declined as the story grew darker. This movie slams into that conflict; it shuffles between a very dark main plot and animal based slapstick, and is kind of a mess.
"The Edge of Seventeen" is being marketed as a top tier teenage coming of age comedy. It isn't. The cast and performances are good, but the script is deeply flawed. Hailee Steinfeld is too pretty for her part as written, and her character is too damaged and hateful to function as the center of a movie of this type. We didn't actually dislike this movie, but we didn't like it all that much, either.
"Moana" is a lot of fun. It could be more. There are echoes of real mythological magic, but they never really materialize. The sailing footage almost breaks through the screen to become authentically exciting, but never quite gets there. All around, there is a heartbreaking lack of attention to detail that makes it clear that, while this movie is very pleasant, it could have been brilliant, but it isn't.
I visited my dad for the first time since his party on the 22nd; little has changed. He is still always himself, but he seems to be just half a tick slower every time I see him.
Thanksgiving dinner, after a double feature, consisted of roasting hot dogs over an open fire. Nothing against turkey, but I liked this meal at least as well, and it was a LOT less work.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving I dropped in on the 6th anniversary party at Lake Geneva Games, played a game of Marvel Comics Munchkin. Good times.
Tuesday was Dementia's birthday; we saw a movie, and then had Chinese food. (We lead such exciting lives.)
Yesterday I finished a VERY short story that I have been hacking at for a while; it is built around a bit of world building, and I finally managed to hang a plot onto it: http://unclehyena.livejournal.com/395228.html
Today, I was psyched to spend some time on the rowing machine, in the hope of logging five km every day in December. The rowing machine didn't cooperate; resistance on this machine is provided by a water tank, which developed a leak while I was rowing. A repair kit is on the way, but that five km goal is going to get difficult...
|Random bits from Facebook
Whenever a writer or speaker makes me feel like I am at a pep rally, I make sure that my wallet and keys are secure, and that I have a clear path to the nearest exit.
Language corner: We were watching Graham Norton, and the guests were blindly discussing the word, "overwhelm". For the record: "Whelm" means to swamp as with a wave; "overwhelm" started as a redundant perfect synonym and expanded, and "underwhelm" is a neologism that is intended to be the opposite of "overwhelm".
Good time at the Elkhorn Pizza Ranch game day this afternoon; played "A Feast for Odin" with Tom Wham and Laura Murin. It took about four hours. VERY complex game, but fun, and very good company.
On this point Asatru and Shinto are in full agreement: A good death is never a tragedy.
Watching the season premier of "The Librarians": time sliced. There is a key scene late in the show where the background music sounds a LOT like a rearranged version of Murray Gold's "Day of the Doctor" from Doctor Who. And then they cut in two bars of the bridge EXACTLY. Major geek out.
Chasing multimedia connections is too much fun. From "The Librarians" to "Day of the Doctor" to "Love Don't Roam" to "The Snake" to "Secret Agent Man" just that quickly.
Normal procedure for replacing a light switch: Power off the circuit, change the switch, power on the circuit. Procedure in my house: Build a circuit shorting gadget, short the circuit (because a fly-by-night electrician rewired the breaker box without labelling the breakers), replace the switch. Power on the circuit. Whole circuit still dead. Check all the other breakers, still dead. Power off circuit, re-install old switch, power on circuit, all is well. Power off circuit, remove old switch, compare switches using a continuity checker, re-install switch upside down AND switch two terminals, power on circuit, all is well. (Plus a couple of false starts due to transient brain death). The wiring in this house is WEIRD. Is it any wonder I HATE doing home repair?
Dredged from 2015: Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the first airing of "Doctor Who". Just sayin'.
Forty years ago - forty years ago on Thanksgiving - after the family meal was over, I went into Chicago, met up with my then-new friend Clueless Tom and his Weird Uncle Ed, and went to a retrospective of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" starring Sean Connery, at, I think, the Coral Theater. Good times.
Watching "The Princess Bride", and looking for Elwes' compensatory moves during the "Life is pain," sequence, knowing that he had broken the big toe of his right foot just before they started filming that day.
Dredged from 2015:
Thanksgiving day, 2004: Ernest Gary Gygax Jr., Edward A. Reno, Hiren Thakkar, and I had a REALLY slow day at work, and tried to play a complete game of Titan. When it collapsed down to Ernie and me (with Ernie out-powering me by something like three to one), I charged his biggest stack with a significantly inferior Titan stack, effectively committing suicide. Ernie was disappointed; he had really wanted to strangle me slowly (Well, honestly, he had just wanted the game to keep going, regardless, but that MEANT strangling me slowly.). Still, good times and never to come again circumstances.
Not sure why I am thinking about this today, but it remains one of the cleverest shout-outs ever filmed.
(Text lifted from IMDB; it may not be dead accurate.)
Capt. William "Buck" Rogers: Have we met before, Gordon?
Brigadier Gordon: I don't think so, Captain. We're from different times.
Capt. William "Buck" Rogers: Gordon, where did you learn to shoot like that?
Brigadier Gordon: I've been doing this since long before you were born, Captain.
Capt. William "Buck" Rogers: You think so?
Brigadier Gordon: Young man, I *know* so.
Within the show, Rogers had spent 500 years in suspended animation, and was much, much older than the 70 years that Gordon showed. Outside the show, Buster Crabbe had in fact been playing Flash Gordon before Gil Gerard, who played Rogers, had been born.
It was a lame show; I had a crush on Erin Gray, and the show regularly featured attractive women wrapped in Spandex, but what really kept me coming back was the occasional tidbit like the one above. (Another example: The following message once came up on the overhead in a starport scene: "Paging Christopher Pike. Will Captain Christopher Pike please report to Veterans Administration?")
Just found out that Jack S., with whom I have been playing poker since 2009, had a stroke yesterday. He had surgery last night, and is still in critical condition, but this is as good as the news can actually be at this point in the process. He's an authentically good guy.
Just saw the new Apple "Frankenstein's Monster's Christmas" ad. It's sweet. (Apple is still evil, though.) My comment: "He has his navigation lights installed backwards."
Dredged from 2015:
Stuff that oozes out of my cranial sewer:
Bob wandered into Adam's office with a broad grin on his face. "Have you perceived," he said with a grin, "The proboscis on the pretentious provisional provincial provost?"
Adam grimaced. "The interim US attorney for the state has a big nose and a bad attitude..."
Bob continued, "Plus pulchritudinous progeny with prominent prosthetics."
Adam glared at him. "And, apparently, an attractive daughter with fake tits. Get out of my office before I beat you to death with a chair."
Bob turned in the doorway and said, "Prudence without penitence paves my path," and then closed the door behind himself.
Adam closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then muttered, "Pest."
I am apparently incapable of writing a self-description that is not either flippant, self-deprecating, or both.
Example: Highly intelligent autodidact, currently working as an IT professional, and disturbingly unclear about what happened to the first half of his life.
And while I am at it, I just cut this from my Facebook intro, preserved here for archival purposes: I am certain that I will have an iron-clad alibi for the interval in question, if you will only give me a few minutes to fabricate one.
Just found this in my archives, where it has been lurking for about three years:
The idea of making morality FUN is absurd. Moral behavior begins when we decide that something or someone is more important to us than our own self interest, or, to put it another way, when we choose to define our happiness in a contra-survival way.
Morality that is based on fear of punishment is just cowardice, and not really morality at all.
Morality that is based on hope of reward is just greed, and not really morality at all.
True morality begins with a decision to walk the path of righteousness IN SPITE of the personal cost.
Because the path of righteousness is seldom if ever clearly marked, living a moral existence requires constant self awareness just to SEE the path.
Celebrating the anniversary of one of the most important events in my life, even though I was ignorant of it for nearly three decades. (It's Dementia's birthday.)
New fiction, that few seem inclined to read: http://unclehyena.livejournal.com/395228.html
Sensitive Language Interlude:
Consider the following two sentiments:
One: "I believe that the group of which I am a member is fundamentally superior to that other group of which I am not a member."
Two: "I actively dislike that entire group of which I am not a member."
Neither of these two things is admirable, but they are different things. Most significantly, the first will almost never lead the violence, while the second is VERY likely to lead to violence. In spite of this, the two ideas often go by the same name. If the division between the groups is racial, the term for both of them is "racism", and no effort is made to distinguish between them. If the division between the two groups is gender, and the speaker is male, the first is "chauvanism" and the second is "misogyny".
It has come to my attention that the WORD "chauvanism" is dying out, and "misogyny" is expanding to fill the gap. This is unfortunate, because the distinction is important (for matters of safety if nothing else), and whenever linguistic mutation leads to loss of information, we all lose.
Life in my household:
Hyena: OK, so a 3D printer is basically kinda-sorta a cake froster on the business end of a high precision 3D positioning robot, and a CNC milling machine is kinda-sorta a Dremel tool on the business end of a high precision 3d positioning robot, so this gadget is a high precision 3D positioning robot with interchangeable cake frosting and Dremel tool heads.
|Saturday, November 19th, 2016|
|Arrival and Oddments
Life being life, and one movie:
"Arrival" is, apparently, a deliberately boring movie with a great cast. I am certain that I can be entertained by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner reading the phone book at each other for two hours, and that just might have been more entertaining than this movie, which is pretentious, soporific, and kind of dumb. The film is based on a 1999 novella which uses the (mostly discredited) Sapir–Whorf hypothesis to address the concept of determinism, and deals with the fundamental conundrum of the topic by painting it pink and pretending it doesn't exist. (That is, it states that one can exercise one's free will in a deterministic universe by whole-heartedly accepting one's fate.)(Please note, my knowledge of the novella "Story of Your Life" is hearsay; I have not read it. But it is multiply confirmed hearsay.) The film builds on this dubious pedigree by adding a "human paranoia is evil" plot (which is a true statement, but boring) and a lot of dumb special effects. (We won't warn the major characters about the weird gravitic effects because they won't be as visually impressive for the audience if we describe them before they can see them.) In the end, this is EXACTLY the movie I feared it would be from seeing the trailers, and my hope of a pleasant surprise was thwarted. I don't regret seeing the film, because I think that some moderately intelligent discussion may come out of it. And there were two REALLY good scenes. (One of them involved the word "kangaroo", and the other involved a white board...)
In other news... Paperwork, home maintenance, and some BAD back trouble of mostly unknown origin that has mostly cleared up. Life goes on.
|Random bits from Facebook
From the Dredge. Yes, it really did take me 19 years to figure out how to make the fireplace work right.
From 2011: We have a fire in the fireplace that is neither pouring smoke back into the room, nor confined in a tiny cast iron chimney. Kind of cool. It has been a long time coming.
From the dredge. Six years later... It took about a year after I posted this to improve my game to the point where I no longer enjoyed playing, it was just work, and not very lucrative work at that. I stopped playing on line, and play a sort of deliberately mediocre game in face to face poker for the sake of camaradarie, and I still enjoy that.
From 2010: After five months and more than 2200 hands of Texas Hold'em, I have parlayed 1000 chips into 1.1 million. I begin to suspect that I might be halfway good, and man need to try investing a little bit of real money into the experiment.
Dredged from 2013: A word of thanks: Sometime this summer, my friend Robin Lea posted on FaceBook, apropos of nothing, "Why do we seem to live in the only reality without airships?" As a direct result of that post, last night I got up in front of a roomful of about 50 strangers here at TeslaCon and gave a lecture on The Physics of Airships. It went over much better than I had expected, and was in fact a great deal of fun.
Thanks, Robin, for starting that particular avalanche. I owe you.
Dredged from 2012: Geekery: A while ago Dementia found a pattern for a Mobius scarf, and after she had made it, I looked it over and said, It's nice, but not really a Mobius strip; it twists twice, and has two edges, and two faces. There followed a discussion of Mobius strips and Klein bottles, and how one might possibly knit a continuous strip with a single edge (conclusion: WAY too much work). She did some research, and investigated possibilities, and this evening she tossed a freshly completed circular scarf. I stretched it out on the floor: One edge, one surface. Mission completed.
Dredged from 2015: The first Hawker Hurricane flew for the first time eighty years ago today.
According to Sir Thomas Sopwith's obituary, he built the first 500 Hurricanes on spec, because the government was dragging its heels, and Sopwith knew the war was inevitable. When the air war came to England, the RAF had 700 modern fighters: 200 Spitfires, and Sopwith's 500 Hurricanes.
There are a lot of reasons to be romantic about the Hurricane, but that is the main one: They stand as proof that one man, in the right place at the right time, can change the history of the world.
I spent a fair amount of time walking around downtown Waukegan yesterday. Saw a LOT of political signs. Did not see the names "Trump" or "Clinton" ONCE. Read into that what you will; I have no clue.
We have chosen the greater evil.
We have validated the world's opinion of us as arrogant, loud, stupid, and rude.
May Fate and History be kind to us.
From the Dredge. Ah, those were the days...
From 2012: I kind of hate volunteering for straight time overtime when I have other plans. Someday I am going to catch my conscience napping and beat it to death with a tire iron...
Every time someone buys premium vodka, in any quantity, P.T. Barnum's ghost giggles.
We went out at about 7:15, drove to the lake, walked out to the light tower at the end of the Government Pier. Saw about a dozen people along the way. This moon over the endless water was pretty cool.
Signed on to Twitter for the first time in months. (I was bribed.) Why does this site exist? It's as if someone took all of the worst features of the Facebook interface, and then expended significant effort to make them even worse.
Dementia has been listening to a series of podcasts from a site called StoryWork. Today, the episode she listened to (which is a few years old) contained a discussion of the old dichotomy on the distinction between Fantasy and Science Fiction, and came up with the following statement, which, to my mind, after playing with the question for a VERY long time, pretty much ends the question.
"This is the key difference: Fantasy changes the rules of reality in order to engage you emotionally, and Science Fiction changes the rules of reality in order to engage you intellectually."
--Alastair Stephens, StoryWonk
Life in my household:
Hyena: There is a place for lyrical prose. I am increasingly suspicious that it is on a bonfire.
Did a small home repair this afternoon using a Yankee egg-beater style hand drill that is older than I am. Kind of cool.
Unrelated, except chronologically: My lower back went south this afternoon. I was recently thinking I hadn't had any back trouble in a few years. I should know better than to do that...
Life in my household: Haphazardly trying to remember the civilian identities of Marvel characters, the following line came up: "Natasha Romanov is a redhead who dresses in black, and Wanda Maximov is a brunette who dresses in red."
It was funny at the time. We're tired.
From the Dredge. Shared mostly so that I can archive it, because it intrigues me, and I SHOULD have it archived, somewhere.
From 2015: Sanity optional interlude: I believe in reincarnation; it strikes me as the least philosophically unpleasant of the available options. It also gives me an explanation for some of the odd things that go on in my head. The case in point: Three stripe vertical flags have always bothered me for some reason, tricolors in particular. And apparently, I have this reaction strongest of all to the French Tricolor. I see that flag, and SOMETHING, in the depths of my cranial sewer, says, "Enemy." I do not have this reaction to ANY other flag.
I absolutely do not harbor any ill will toward France, or the French people, and I am every bit as horrified by recent events as I am capable of being horrified by any human behavior (but I am still me, and that implies certain things, remember). My heart truly goes out to the people of Paris, and of France, at this time.
But there is still a mad little voice inside of me that REALLY hates those Tricolors...
From Hyena's Dictionary:
Poetry: 1) A literary form in which structure is used to convey meaning or assist memory. 2) A word game in which the practitioner is challenged to convey meaning while adhering to a strict and often non-sensical structure.
Dredged from 2013: In the end, there is only one hard and fast rule of story telling: Know what you want to accomplish, and do that. If you fail meet your design parameters, it doesn't matter what rules you followed or how closely you followed them; if you do meet your goals, it does not matter one whit which rules you broke.
Just watched "Mockingbird Lane", the pilot for a 2012 re-launch of "The Munsters" that didn't get picked up. It's a shame; it was a lot of fun, though MUCH darker than the original series.
|Thursday, November 10th, 2016|
|Ridge, Strange, Inferno, Fire, Ninety, Bureaucracy
Movies, a party, and paperwork.
"Hacksaw Ridge" is a presentation of the story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist and conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor as a medic during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. It's bloody and manipulative and kind of awesome anyway.
"Doctor Strange" is surprisingly good, considering how fundamentally lame the central charcter is. Benedict Cumberbatch is responsible for a great deal of this, of course, but the whole cast is excellent.
"Inferno" is yet another Tom Hanks thriller based on a Dan Brown novel, and it has all of the usual elements: Tons of melodrama, lots of silly details, gorgeous European settings. This one is odd, though, because I wanted the bad guys to win. The "Evil Genius" actually had the moral high ground, and my experience of the film was colored by the knowledge that the real good guys were going to lose, because the writers didn't understand their own material.
I did a fire vigil for Samhain; I started a fire in the fireplace before the sun set on October 31, and kept it burning until the sun came back up on November 1. It turned into a 26 hour day, which is something I haven't done in a while. It was kind of fun. Not sure the meaning I was looking for came along.
My father turned 90 on November 1; we had a party for him on Sunday the 6th. Lots of distant relatives and old friends showed up; the last such gathering was my mother's funeral in 2010. My father seemed to have a good time, which was the point of the exercise.
I have started digging into the horrors of filing for unemployment, updating my resume, and looking for work. I am NOT enjoying it. Not even a little bit.
|Tuesday, November 8th, 2016|
I'm walking down the street; an attractive woman is walking toward me. Her face is slack, because that is what a face does when the brain is doing things like keeping the legs moving and thinking about what happens next. I would like to see her smile, because smiles light up the world. They just do.
Unlike an apparently significant percentage of my gender, however, I know that overtly asking for that smile is intrusive and will not be appreciated. I am smarter than that. I know that when the large, ugly man smiles, nods, and says, "Good afternoon," like, you know, a reasonably polite human being, there is a good chance I will get that smile, and some kind of mumbled response.
But I also know that if the large, ugly man smiles, nods, and then reaches down into the gravel at the bottom of his throat, and slides into, "Goood afternoon," in the manner of The Big Bopper or Tony the Tiger, he will get a grin, and maybe a giggle.
And the world will be an ever so slightly better place.
|Saturday, November 5th, 2016|
Dementia has been listening to a series of podcasts lately from a site called StoryWonk. They are about writing and being a writer, which is a bit odd, since when it comes to fiction, Dementia is purely a consumer. I hear large fragments from time to time.
One of the ideas that comes up regularly is the idea that every character is the hero of his or her own story. It's a pretty obvious statement, and seems like a good thing for a writer to keep in mind. Except... A recent spate of navel gazing has made it pretty clear that it isn't universally true, and I wonder how common those exceptions are. I am fairly confident that most people are the heroes of their own story, except...
I'm not. I haven't been for a long time. I was once, but somewhere along the line I became a little bit too self aware, and it just stopped, for the most part. I didn't notice at the time; I'm not THAT self aware. But looking back on the last several years of my life, I realize that the most meaningful things I have done is fight for a little bit more screen time in other people's stories.
The awareness is kind of liberating. (Also a little bit depressing, but that is a single snowflake in a blizzard.) There is a line in C.S. Lewis's "Perelandra" that has stayed with me since I first read it, more than 40 years ago. I think I get it now. "Love me, my brothers, for I am utterly superfluous." Exactly.
I'm not the hero; I'm an extra trolling for a speaking part. And it turns out that I am OK with that.
A coda of sorts: A dozen or so hours after I posted this, FaceBook dredged up a post from last year, reminding me that November 6 was the anniversary of the first flight of the first Hawker Hurricane, an event that (cryptic reference number one) changed the history of the world. This led me to what I will call a (cryptic reference number two) "Rose for Ecclesiastes" moment, and left me in tears. NOTHING is EVER simple... (Cryptic references will be decyphered on request.)
|Sunday, October 30th, 2016|
|This Church is Haunted
So... Last night I spent three or four hours in Burlington playing a game called, "This House is Haunted" at the local UU church. It's an interesting game, and we had a lot of fun. Many thanks to Nancy, who provided and moderated the game, and Alyssa, who demonstrated considerable grace under pressure and was pretty much single handedly responsible for defeating the Hordes of Hell.
There follows some serious game geekery that resulted from getting a good night's sleep while my sub-conscious did a game postmortem, and a bit of on-line research. If you are not interested in the game, you have been warned.
1) I have seen some discussion on order of play when multiple people are assigned to the same room. We played that all entered together, and then departed singly (if possible). Others have played that each player enters and leaves singly (again, if possible). I would like to see the actual rule. The publisher does not seem to have an FAQ.
2) When played among hard core gamers, the "scare the next person who enters to break the haunt" cards are nearly unresolvable. Players should probably be advised to live in a state of perpetual terror, so that if someone tries to scare them, they are scared.
3) I thought I heard someone say that each player can only draw one card per turn from the Charm Circle, but I have seen comments elsewhere that imply there is no such limit. Again, I would like to see the actual rule as it makes a significant difference (see below).
4) There is NO penalty for having Demon Marks in the Charm Circle until the end of the game; there is no advantage to having Seal Cards in the Charm Circle until the end of the game. Since breaking curses generally involves discarding random cards from the Charm Circle, the best policy is to have nothing but Demon Marks in the Charm Circle until late in the game. It's trickier with a one card draw limit, but otherwise, on the last turn, everyone can throw Seals into the circle and pick up Demon Marks; if everyone has a personal score of -4, and there are enough seals in the Circle, it's a win. (Of course, if the last leader is secretly possessed, and prevents people from drawing the relevant cards, things will go REALLY badly.)
|Friday, October 28th, 2016|
|Thursday, October 27th, 2016|
|Accountant, Ouija, Reacher
Three movies, and a few other odds and ends.
"The Accountant" is a first rate thriller. It even reality checks fairly well. We liked it a great deal.
"Ouija: Origin of Evil" is a decent if slightly inferior prequel to 2014's "Ouija." Once again, the Hasbro endorsement is more than a little amusing.
"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" is a first rate Tom Cruise action movie. Please note that "Tom Cruise Action Movie" is its own sub-genre, and is subject to its own set of rules. We enjoyed it. We also enjoyed making snide comments about the efforts to make Cruise look taller.
Along the way... Several days spent doing home repair to make sure the garage roof doesn't collapse this winter, still another trip south to visit my father, and the box in the breakfast nook is still a conundrum.
(Edited because I forgot to include the "Reacher" comments the first time around.)
|Random bits from Facebook
I just stumbled across the phrase, "learning curb", used without the least trace of irony, when "learning curve" was intended. I weep for my language...
Once upon a time, one of my mother's friends (who, like my mother, was a second generation Swedish-American) gave my mother a wicker goat (which is a Christmas tradition of sorts in Scandinavia). The friend was a bit confused about things, and told my mother it was a "Swedish Horse."
My brothers and I saw it, and asked, "What's with the goat?"
"It's not a goat; it's a Swedish Horse."
"Mom, it has HORNS and a BEARD. It's a GOAT."
"My friend said it was a horse, so it's a horse."
So for something like 30 years, the wicker goat sat on the sun porch, and was ever and always referred to as "The Swedish Horse". Loyalty and friendship absolutely trump reason, every time. That was my mother.
Forty or so (non-consecutive) man hours later, the emergency portion of the emergency home repair has been completed, and the garage roof will not collapse this winter. In honor of this, we have the following, which seems to want to be called, "The Quitter's Cadence." (Those with military experience will know why.)
I am stiff and I am sore; please don't make me do no more.
I'm in pain from toe to head; I just want to go to bed.
Steve Dillon died yesterday, at the age of 57. He was one of my favorite comics artists, an absolute master of using art to serve the story transparently. The world is diminished.
(Courtesy of the Facebook Dredge, from 2012):
Most married people who are not actively complaining about their spouses will probably tell you that they have a pretty good marriage, regardless of what is actually true. So how do you make the point emphatically?
We've been married for 28 years.
We go out to the movies about 100 times a year.
We hold hands in the theater.
|Tuesday, October 25th, 2016|
|Friday, October 21st, 2016|
This is WAY more detail than I usually go into, but given the significant percentage of my friends list that, like me, has seen the 1975 movie MANY times, I thought it appropriate.
We watched "The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again" in almost real time last night; we started an hour late, which let us time slice out the commercials. Given the DEEP conceptual flaw at the center of the production, it was actually pretty good. I have now seen four versions of this story (1975 movie, live local theater, filmed London theater, and this) and this one is third best. (The London production was pretty bad.)
The good first:
The cast was generally good. Significantly, most of them (in particular the actors for Janet, Brad, and Columbia) were better singers than the 1975 cast. The staging was occasionally quite clever: Having part of "Dammit, Janet" set over a tombstone labelled "Mary Shelley"; using the "Castle Theater" to unify the Usherette's opening number with the rest of the story; having Rocky rise out of an ice bath labelled as a soda dispenser. They did all three verses of "Superheroes", and Tim Curry-- stroke damaged, heart-breakingly game Tim Curry-- SANG parts of the third verse, which just ripped my heart out.
Given the strength of the original score, the music was surprisingly bad. The arrangements for "Sweet Transvestite" and "I'm Going Home" were awful, and they managed to bungle the wedding march.
Reeve Carney was terrible as Riff Raff. He doesn't seem to know how to either smirk or leer, and instead just grins stupidly. And he couldn't handle the music (which is admittedly a brutal part).
Ben Vereen can act and sing, but didn't bother to do either of them in this production as Dr. Scott.
While some of the staging was clever, some of it was BAD: They did not, apparently, have a working elevator, so they did something stupid with a cherry picker for the opening of "Sweet Transvestite". They chose to eliminate Eddie's freezer, and had him enter and exit through a window, which set them up to ALMOST eliminate the later cannibalism joke, thus killing two scenes with one decision. And they eliminated the RKO radio tower, which impaired (but didn't quite cripple) the death scene.
For the most part, they stayed very close to the original script, but what changes they made were generally BAD. Most particularly, the lines in Brad's bedroom scene did NOT exactly mirror those in Janet's bedroom scene, killing another joke. The blocking in the bedroom scenes was AWFUL, which didn't help.
And now we come to the elephant in the room, which is the matter of Laverne Cox. She has a great voice, but her acting was impaired by the bizarre way in which she chose to deliver the lines, using a wildly inconsistent British accent coupled with a theatrical gay lisp. But the real problem with her performance was that she just didn't fit the part.
I will allow, for the sake of argument, that this story might work with a gender switched Frankie, IF Rocky is also gender switched, and Brad and Janet are significantly rewritten. But it is very much a package. The main character arcs are based on Janet's sexual repression, and Brad's latent homophobia. If Frankie is female, and the other characters are not changed, Janet's arc is diluted, and Brad's pretty much ceases to exist.
In 1975, when Tim Curry's disturbingly attractive, significantly androgenous Frankie sang "Sweet Transvestite", he was a man in women's clothing assaulting the sexual orientation of every straight male in the audience. In 2016, when Laverne Cox's legally and visibly female Frankie sings the same song, she is a woman in women's clothing, and who really cares?
Final assessment: Worth watching for historical purposes. Otherwise, just fast forward through everything where Tim Curry is not on the screen, and then watch "Superheroes" from start to finish. THAT is worth watching.
(Dementia adds: It was REALLY solid through "Science Fiction Double Feature", "Dammit, Janet", and "Light in the Darkness", got sort of lost during "The Time Warp", and DIED with "Sweet Transvestite.")
|Sunday, October 16th, 2016|
|Peregrine, Horizon, Katwe
Sixteen days since my last regular entry, but most of the odds and ends of life have been reported, anyway, so we have movies:
"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" is a pretty good YA targeted movie based on a very strange book of photography. It works well enough, and we enjoyed it a great deal.
"Deepwater Horizon" is, as far as I can tell, a fairly accurate dramatic presentation of the 2010 oil rig disaster. It is well done, and we enjoyed it.
"The Queen of Katwe" is a Triumph of the Underdog movie based on the real life rise of an international chess star from EXTREME poverty in Uganda. It is well done on all levels, and since these movies almost always work if you let them, and we never resist, we enjoyed it a great deal.
In other news, the 3D printer is still in its box in the breakfast nook. I will probably claim it. Probably.
|Random bits from Facebook
In August of 2013, when I was working 72 hours a week, I was working out on a rowing machine and managed, with some pride, to log 100 KM in the month. It occurred to me this morning that this month, I have done the same thing, sort of: 102 KM IN THE WATER, real boat, real oars. Rather a different experience.
Jim Henson's birthday today. Let rejoice for what he gave us as we mourn for what might have been.
While watching recorded television, one of my cranial denizens handed me the plans to a booby trap more horrible than any I have previously encountered in fiction (or on the news). My brain is a truly horrible place.
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
-- Shel Silverstein, American poet, cartoonist and composer (1930-1999)
“The truth has never been of any real value to any human being - it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.”
-- Graham Greene, English novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and journalist, (1904-1991) (Thanks to Bob B. for pointing this one out.)
Went camping yesterday, for one night, for the first time since 2010. Was too lazy to mess with a tent, slept in the back of the van; it's bigger and more comforatable than the tent, anyway. Dented my skull slightly walking into a low beam in the shelter we were gathered in. Got next to no sleep due to sinus problems. Had a good time anyway, but am sick now. Lots of sleep tonight, hope things are better tomorrow. Thanks to Pete, Tom, and Mark for inviting a guy with no kids along on a father/son outing.
Today is the birthday or one Damon Runyon (1880 to 1946), in whose honor it has been suggested that we all effect a Brooklyn accent, avoid the use of contractions and the past tense, and generally obfusticate our conversationalism with hyperbolical sentence structure and hallucinatory vocabulism.
I had three goals for today: Get a boat in the water in October (which I have never done before); roll the logged mileage for Suchia up to more than twice what it was at the beginning of the year; add the stretch between Burlington and the Rochester dam to my Fox River travels. All three accomplisheds, though the third proved to be harder than I anticipated; the current is FIERCE in some of those sections. This was supposed to be my LAST canoe day of the season, except... I only needed about five miles, and got 11.3, and now I am only five miles away from having 100 for the year... AARGH!
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -- Arthur C. Clarke
"Any sufficiently obfuscated magic is indistringuishable from technology." -- Paul Haynie
(Dredged from 2010)
Marvelously arcane poker-speak:
Holding 9,000, I limped in for 20 with pocket aces. Someone went all in for 4000; I called, a third player called. Ten-high flop, Player 3 raised 2000; I called. Checked around on the Turn, third ace on the river. No flush, no pair on board, and MAYBE a Jack-high straight. I went all in, Player 3 folded, and I was holding 19,000. I left the table grinning.
5.2 miles at Sterling Lake this afternoon; 100.7 for the season, which is now officially over for me. I put the boat away, and actually wiped it down with a damp cloth. I have never done that before, but I have never officially called the season before; there has always been the hope of one more day. This year, I am just deciding that I won't steal any more time from my train wreck of a life to go boating. It's been a good year.
Stuff that gets said in my household:
The largest segment of the fiction market is romance, which is female oriented "happily ever after" fiction. The male oriented equivalent, which is a smaller but still large market (and includes things like Conan and Mack Bolan and the majority of Westerns), ends "sort of happily for the time being." Or, to put it another way, "The job is done, let's have a drink."
32 years ago tonight, I participated in an Intellivision Baseball tournament in my parent's basement with my brother Pete, and our friends Greg Case and Steve Marinich. It was also the last night I lived in that house...
On this day in 1864, John Tenniel presented Charles (Lewis Carroll) Dodgson with the first finished "Alice" illustration, which showed the White Rabbit scurrying away from Alice. On this day in 1893, Mr. Tenniel was knighted by Queen Victoria, the first illustrator to be so honored.
Life in Illinois:
Phone message: "Please vote for Senator Jailbird this November. He is due out on parole before the first of the year, and we have every expectation that he will be able to complete his next term without interruption."
A variation on a recurring theme, in a haiku:
Carries away fair maiden
Never seen again.
|Saturday, October 8th, 2016|
|Schrodinger's 3D Printer
There is a large box sitting on the table in the breakfast nook. It may contain a 3D printer. It may just contain a small amount of administrative hassle. I have 30 days to decide.
A few days ago, the Amazon "Deal of the Day" included the Robo 3D R1 Plus 3D printer. I have been interested in getting into 3D printing for a while now, so I looked over the specs, and did some general research, and learned that the Amazon deal was good, and the printer was pretty good, and if you bought and installed minor upgrade X, and printed out and installed minor upgrades Y and Z, you ended up with a really good printer at a really good price. But I still wasn't sure. It was really too much money for a toy, but a REALLY good price for an investment, and if it led to my acquiring/ reacquiring/polishing some marketable skills, it was a GOOD investment.
But there was the time pressure thing, and the deal was good enough to make me sweat... But the thing is returnable, if unopened, no questions asked, for 30 days. And of course at the moment, I am sick, and in no condition to make decisions.
In the meantime, there is a box on the table in the breakfast nook, and it contains a 3D printer if I decide that it does.
|Wednesday, October 5th, 2016|
|Friday, September 30th, 2016|
|Jones, Seven, Andrea, Porch
Seventeen days. Shame on me.
"Bridget Jones' Baby" is stupid beyond belief, but the cast is so engaging that the end result is pretty watchable anyway. We enjoyed it, in spite of the brain cells that committed suicide during the movie.
"The Magnificent Seven" is a worthy remake. It is not without problems, but it is still wonderful. The old saw was that the US western frontier was the perfect setting for movies, and this movie seems to validate the argument.
Got up to Lake Andrea on the 26th, finally. Only did one lap of the lake due to wind, but it would have been a shame to let the season end without running Andrea at least once; I still regard it as my home lake.
Spent all summer trying to figure out how to fix the leak in the porch floor/ garage roof, finally figured out a mode of attack, and found out that things had gotten much worse in the meantime. Did some emergency repair, still working a long term solution. Grrr.
|Friday, September 23rd, 2016|
|Frankenstein, Place, Dog, Michigan, Violin, Chainsaw, Crossroads, Sloop,
September 4 (Courtesy of the Facebook Dredge, from 2015):
Continuing the recent venting about the intellectual bankruptcy of literary academia, and the difference between "literary" and "popular" fiction, we have the following.
Hyena: Name a novel that was actually written during the Regency.
Dementia (who has a degree in literature): The Regency wasn't very long...
Hyena: I guarantee you know one. In fact, pretty much everyone in America knows one.
Hyena: It was written by a woman...
Dementia: <> Oh. That.
Yeah, that. 197 years later, never out of print, known by pretty much everyone. The literati occasionally try to claim it, but it has always been popular fiction, and it always will be, probably until civilization collapses if the last two centuries are any indication. Not that there isn't plenty in the book for the literati to play with, but that isn't what has kept it in print. Not too shabby for a ghost story written by the least talented writer at the party...
September 7 (Courtesy of the Facebook Dredge, from 2015):
(Inspired by a story about a Benedictine monk whose tendency to hide out on top of a wind turbine he maintained was discovered by a photo drone.)
Once I had a secret place
Where I could go to be alone;
Then some jerk got in my face
With a stupid flying drone.
Now it's posted on the internet,
As far from secret as a place can get.
But still, with all the drones around
My place is fifteen stories off the ground.
September 12 (Courtesy of the Facebook Dredge, from 2015):
I haven't seen the dog today;
I haven't heard him howl;
But I know he's not too far away,
'Cause I sure can hear him growl.
Did a brief foray through Waukegan Harbor, and just sort of tagged Lake Michigan proper. There was a 600 foot long ore carrier (M/V Sam Laurer our of Wilmington, DE) leaving the Gypsum dock, so I skirted the Yacht Club and THEN rowed out the channel, past the breakwater, and decided that today was not a good day to die. BIG lake, SMALL boat. Still, I did it.
I found myself alone with a mothballed, mine for the taking violin. I had never attempted to play any bowed or fretless instrument before. I tuned it to itself, plucked out some tolerable scales, and managed to bow one clear note on each string, in spite of more than half of the strands on the bow being broken. Watch this space.
September 18 (Courtesy of the Facebook Dredge, from 2013):
Back in September of 2002, I got stupid with a chainsaw, and tore up my right thumb. It healed nicely, but I still have the scars. Yesterday, for no apparent reason, the old injury started to throb. Eleven years to the days since it happened. Weird as all get out, but I have gotten used to that. Now I just want it to stop.
Dementia's ability to fake sincerity is wonderful and terrifying.
We had just finished watching the first episode of a new TV series.
Dementia (who owns the remote): OK to erase this?
Hyena: Technically, we should burn it and bury the ashes at a crossroads at midnight, but I guess erasing it is the best we can do.
(For the record: "The Good Place.")
September 22 (Courtesy of the Facebook Dredge, from 2014):
Dementia has tried to learn to play the guitar a few times over the years, but like many of us, lacks the necessary manual dexterity. Recently she has acquired a baritone ukulele, essentially a half-sized guitar with only the four highest pitched strings. She has been practicing it diligently, and making good progress. Last night as I was brushing my teeth she played through a long and melodic series of chords smoothly. When I had finished, I complimented her, and asked her what the song was.
"I don't really know the melody well enough to hear it," she said. "It's 'Sloop John B.'"
I smiled. "Strum the first chord." She did, I listended, found the note, and started to sing. She was working off a words and chords chart, and had no trouble following through the verse and chorus. When we had finished, I said, "That... WORKED." I smiled broadly.
"Yeah," she said with an equally broad smile. "That did."
One takes one's triumphs where one finds them...
|12 Miles on the Chain O' Lakes
Once again, linking to Facebook to make photo transfer easier: https://www.facebook.com/paul.haynie/posts/10157538658240512?notif_t=like¬if_id=1474681275440865
The Chain O' Lakes includes 15 different lakes along the Fox River; the Fox actually flows through three of them; the others are connected by canals and, in one case, questionable nomenclature. (Fox Lake and Nippersink Lakes are the same thing, hydrographically.) This trip took me from Grass Lake through Lake Marie, Bluff Lake, Spring Lake, Petite Lake, Fox Lake, Nippersink Lake, and back to Grass Lake again.