07 March 2007

Rediscovering The Action Movie...

Today's cinema has endless frames of computer-generated special effects, which, in some cases are not only breath-takingly ground-breaking, but a marvelous compliment to much of the story. Then there are those movies that DEPEND on S-F/X to carry the movie along.

How could you do a movie about the TITANIC without ...well, HAVING a "Titanic to sail" on once again? And how can you really part the Red Sea without SHOWING it? STAR WARS without special effects would be a pitiful shadow of itself, as would most ANY sci-fi related movie. Hell, I STILL get a bit of vertigo when that X-Wing fighter dives (us) into the Death Star trench (bigscreeen & surround is a MUST for this...trust me). And you just cannot do Lord Of The Rings without those fantastic special effects...no way! In Hollywood today, if we can dream it...we can generate it in some mainframe.

But if we look back, cinematic history has tons of REALLY good movies with exceptional S-F/X such as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Metropolis (1936-Fritz Lang) is STILL a benchmark movie even after all these years! And how often have we seen that chariot race from Ben Hur (and still want to see it again)? Then there are so many comedies from Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy with great sight gags...and these are ALL thanks to special effects (and the men that created them).

One movie stands out for me, though. I finally got to record it the other night on TCM (no commercials...love it), and if you haven't seen it, by all means, rent it, buy it or just give it a look-see.

It's called THE TRAIN, starring Burt Lancaster (who did ALL his OWN stunts, having worked in a circus in his pre-acting days...catch The Crimson Pirate and see what I mean) and Paul Scofield (A Man For All Seasons), made in 1964 (B&W unfortunately), filmed in France (when they really WERE our allies), and directed by John Frankenheimer (Black Sunday, Gran Prix, the original Manchurian Candidate, French Connection II, Seven Days In May, Seconds, Prophecy, along with many other movies and TV shows).

It's part WW2 adventure, part spy thriller, and part human condition. It's a study in obsession, patriotism, and just "how far" one will go for "their" cause, and how the views OF that cause can change seemingly overnight.

Now there is NO model work here...no CGI, and no miniatures. When a train gets trashed..it's a REAL FREAKING TRAIN (Gomez Addams would be in HEAVEN with this). You can't get more "action" than that, can you? And as we all know...you ONLY have ONE TAKE to "get it right" when using REAL stuff! Frankenheimer delivers the goods right on time in this instance!

It's a long movie (over 2 hours), but since the entire flick takes place over the course of less than 3 days, the script is pretty tight, and the acting mirrors that. The cast is relatively small to boot. You've only got a handful of speaking parts....it's really all about TWO people on opposite sides of the war, and what they each "have" to do to find victory. And it's not "victory" in the traditional sense. Each man's victory is defined in very differing terms.

Aside from those "guilty pleasure" movies like Spider-Man or X-Men, or even some B-movie from the 50s like *Earth vs the Flying Saucers (*Ray Harryhausen is a whole genre unto himself), I just find it amazing that even after all these years, I can go back, find a REAL good dramatic movie that draws me into it, and keeps me there until the final credits. That's not that easy to come across today, in spite of all the gadgetry and special effects we've come to RELY on (and in fact demand of today's cinema) every time we watch a new release.

I personally find it a welcome and pleasant diversion...pass the popcorn.

06 March 2007

On The Lighter Side...

A friend sent this along to one of our Y! groups, and I found it not only amusing, but apropos to our lives and times. Funny, it USED to be a lot more like this (all over) years ago...

Rules For The Rurals (doesn't matter which way the compass points)

1. Pull your saggy pants UP. You look like an IDIOT !
(or like you didn't quite finish that crap you were taking).

2. Turn your cap around right, your head ain't crooked.
(and you just can't be a catcher for a major ball club).

3. Let's get this straight; it's called a "DIRT road." I drive a pickup truck because I WANT to. No matter HOW damn slow you drive, you're ARE going to get dust on your Lexus.
Drive it or get out of the way.

4. They are called cows & hogs. That's why they SMELL LIKE CRAP to you.They smell like MONEY to us. Get over it. Don't like it? ODD number highways go North - South; EVEN number ones go East - West. Pick one.

5. So you have a $60,000 car. We're impressed. We have a $250,000 harvester that is driven ONLY 4 weeks a year!!!

6. So every person out here in the country waves. It's called BEING FRIENDLY.
Try to understand the concept.

7. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of doves or ducks are coming in, we WILL shoot it out of your hand. You better hope you don't have it up to your ear at the time.

8. Yeah, we eat catfish & crawfish in the south. You really want sushi & caviar?
It's available at the corner BAIT SHOP!

9. The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season. It's a religious holiday held the closest Saturday to the first of November.

10. We open doors for women. That is applied to all women, regardless of age, religion, or ethnicity. We call it being COURTEOUS and POLITE.
You might want to try THAT too.

11. No, there's no "vegetarian special" on the menu. Order steak. Or you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham & turkey.

12. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables, and breads. We use three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup! Oh, yeah.... We don't care what you folks in Cincinnati call that stuff you eat... IT AIN'T REAL CHILI!! Real chili never met a tomato!

13. You bring "coke" into my house, it better be brown, wet and served over ice. You bring "Mary Jane" into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.

14. College and High School Football is as important out here as the Lakers and the Knicks, and a damn sight better to watch.

15. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don't hit the water hazards -- it spooks the fish.

16. Colleges? We have them all over. We have State Universities,Universities, and Vo-techs. They come outta there with an education PLUS a love for God and country, and they still wave at everybody when they come for the holidays.

17. We have MORE folks in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. So do NOT mess with us. If you do, you WILL get whipped by the best.

So there 'ya go...all you need to know about being out in "The Country" and AWAY from urban antagonisms, should you ever decide to take a drive to nowhere on a nice Sunday.

It's not about "those" people from Deliverance.....it's about DECENT people, period...(but what the hell..bring the guitar anyway, just in case there's an impromptu jam session on someone's porch...LOL)!

05 March 2007

It Really IS All About *US*...Right?

Every day we seem to find more and more articles, newscasts, advertisements, and public service announcements about UNITY...or DIVERSITY...or INDIVIDUALITY.

It's UNITED WE STAND, but watch that crowd scatter when anyone invokes the *G* word (that would be GOD). We're all about BANDING TOGETHER, but where IS everyone when they're needed (like during Katrina)? Or how about those marketing gurus that tout our own "personal" INDIVIDUALITY...while selling us everything that does anything BUT allow us to be "different"? Most ALL cars look alike, most clothes are hard to tell apart, especially when they're sagging off some "fashion plate's" butt. And, by and large, everyone kind of looks like well, everyone ELSE. And I thought looking like that was reserved solely for Communist China? Let me state this more kindly...Lemmings are NOT individuals...they FOLLOW whoever is at the front of the "line" (and usually he has NO freaking idea where HE'S going either).

We're chided to be TOLERANT, but we can't tolerate those that feel (or act) "differently" than we do (they would be of the "diverse" persuasion). We're led to think that we "can all just get along" while all the time, we find out we're about as amicable as an open flame and hydrogen (in a confined space)! We might like GAYS, but we detest MUSLIMS...or perhaps it's the other way around. Maybe we like ONLY "gay Muslims" (because it's Tuesday)?

We are being made to think that an ILLEGAL ALIEN is just another manner of saying it the "PC" way.... MEXICAN IMMIGRANT. We're no longer BLIND, DEAF or DUMB...we're visually-impaired, acoustically-challenged, and verbally inhibited. Simple, huh? Our vocabulary becomes redefined almost daily...and to what end?

Over the past few decades, our "skin" has gotten way too THIN...we're bothered by trite things that schoolkids of MY era just laughed off as they got on with their lives. The LEAST trifling "slight", and it's off to the nearest team of lawyers, the ACLU, and Christ knows HOW many more groups that actually profit (quite well) from all this crap.

ONE atheist can take the school prayer from a graduation class of over SIX-HUNDRED students!
ONE person with some STUPID unfounded gripe can bring a huge chain of stores to it's knees with a few words uttered out of disgust in a heated moment. Now I'm all for "human rights", but where is this "serving the greater common good" thing at in these cases?

It doesn't take much for these uber-sensitives to make life hell for all of us, thanks to their incessantly bad behavior and tactics born of ever poorer judgement (with their all-too-thin skin replete with a lot of "lemmings" willing to listen). In this day and age, we're pulled in TOO many directions, all too often, and mostly for a lot of the wrong reasons. We need to get back on track with OURSELVES.

First off, we CAN be unified, and we CAN still be individuals, sharing common values... and we CAN be diverse...and yet be of ONE nation and mindset. But somewhere along this "Road to Utopia", we ran off the path, and into the drainage ditch of perdition...and never quite got the hell out. Instead of looking for alternate methods by which to extricate ourselves, we (instead) found it much easier to "give it the gun", and spin the hell out of the tires...all the while, digging ourselves in deeper.

If anything can be learned by this example, it would be that WE have to be grounded in whatever beliefs we hold true, and any beliefs that are ambiguous in nature ought to be questioned until we get the answers we seek. And we shouldn't just shrug our shoulders and walk away if the answers are not forthcoming in the next 30 seconds. We can be much more than we allow ourselves to be...all we have to do is stop letting OTHERS think for us, and start thinking for ourselves. That seems easy enough.

But like anything worth it's value, it takes time to fully employ and utilize what we learn. And by that I mean it takes a certain amount of WORK on our part to make it all happen. If we don't want to work at it, then we might as well turn up the radio as those tires keep spinning us deeper.
Or we could, if all else fails, simply abandon that "vehicle in the ditch", and WALK to where we NEED to get to. It only takes that first step.

Diversity...Unity...Individualism...call them what you will. They exist in each of us AND in the proper amount.

All we have to do is make THESE aspects work FOR us, instead of US working for THEM.

02 March 2007

Roll Over Beethoven...

Hip-Hop...a "negative" force in American society? So says at least FIFTY PERCENT of black Americans. And declining sales of (c)rap music would seem to bear this out.

Could it have been the "over-the-top" prancing about, reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit? Maybe it's all the coke-dealing anthems or the soft-core porn video? Or perhaps it was a combination of all the aforementioned? Whatever the case, sales are apparently falling as fast as gravity will allow. I for one couldn't be happier. Sale slipped 21% from 2005 to 2006, and for the FIRST time in 12 years, NO (c)rap album was among the TOP TEN sellers of the year (imagine that).

Studies have linked hip-hop to everything from teen drug use to increased sexual activity among young girls. It's small wonder this music(?) has been increasingly blamed for many of society's ills. Cripes, the NBA "All-Star" game mayhem last week was blamed on hip-hoppers. Jason Whitlock (a damn good columnist...take the time to read him) said: "the NBA commissioner ought to consider moving the event OUT of the country for the next few years in the hopes that young, hip-hop hoodlums would find another event to terrorize".
Wow...strong words (and so aptly stated).

Hip-Hoppers...TERRORISTS? Wow, and I've been saying that for YEARS with that thump-thumping emanating from gag-a-maggot paint jobbed, spinner-rimmed POS boomcars. Seems these people finally are catching up with ME...who'da thunk? Then again, I NEVER heard of ANYONE that listened to Mozart...or Haydn, or Brahms, and then go out and knock over a convienience store or two...have you? And when was the LAST time you were awakened at 3AM by some moron thumping BARRY MANILOW at 140 decibels? I can say with conviction that listening to TED NUGENT never, I repeat NEVER made me want to go out and "busta cap" for some street cred.

Black activist C. Delores Tucker had few allies when she started her crusde against hip-hop back in the '90s, and she was vilified within the (c)rap circles (not to be confused with CROP circles). People who dismissed her once are now admitting to the truth she spoke, as is chronicled in a book written by Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting called: "Pimp's Up, Ho's Down: Hip-Hop's Hold On Young Black Women". Same can be said for a book by John McWhorter: "Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music" (only he, like myself, was WAY ahead of the curve regarding (c)rap music..must be that Pennsy connection...lol).

Bill Cosby has been a staunch advocate against hip-hop for all these years, citing the negative influence on yiuth today....gee, 'ya think he's been onto something all this time too? Bryan Hunt, who made a documentary (which debuted on PBS this month) entitled: Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, addresses the criticisms of (c)rap, from the treatment of women to the glorification of the "gangsta" lifestyle. He wants (black) men to get a look at themselves.

Baltimore Sun critic Rashod D. Ollison said: "The music, dances and images in the videos are reminiscent of an era when pop culture reduced blacks to caricatures, lazy 'coons', grinning 'pickaninnies', and sexually super-charged 'bucks' ". Finally, we have the CRIMINAL aspect that has LONG been a apart of (c)rap music. In decades past, (c)rappers might have merely (c)rapped about drugs, gangs, violence and the like, but were not the embodiment of criminals themselves. Today, the MOST successful (c)rappers are those that have murdered more "foes" and rhyme about dealing drugs as non-chalantly as other (real) artists sing about love! "America loves violence and sex", says (c)rapper David Banner (not the HULK). He wishes America would just be "honest".

Well, Dave...looks like you JUST MIGHT get your wish! America IS (finally) speaking out....
...And I might be able to get some sleep in the near future....a "win-win" all around, I'd say!

01 March 2007

That "Special " Kind Of Stupid....

I found this wonderfully ironic and poetically justifiable.

A Fort Wayne man (where ELSE would you find 'em?) was charged with public intoxication when he dropped a "glass" bottle of VODKA (try plastic, moron) in the Charles "Bud" Meeks Justice Center, where he was to attend a court hearing Tuesday.
Funny, but a bottle of VODKA isn't in MY "top ten" things to bring to a courthouse.
Ronald H. Miller (yet another example of society's ills), of the 4500 block of South Hanna (my area of the city's human cesspool), had been at the justice center for a PROBATION REVOCATION hearing for a January conviction for PUBLIC NUDITY (maybe having a frigging JOB would keep those damn pants zipped, eh?) where we received jail time (obviously not ENOUGH jail time) and probation (don'cha just LOVE "re-entry" courts?). He was being held over in lieu of $750 bail. Cripes, all he has to post is a mere $75 bucks....whatta crock of $hit!

A warrant was issued from traffic and misdemeanor court when he failed to show up for a hearing, according to court records ("Well, I WOULD have showed up, but I was busy getting drunk AND getting arrested AGAIN").

Now after I got done wiping up the coffee I spewed from my nostrils while laughing my ass off over this, I started to wonder WTF this guy is doing among other (normal) people, and why he's not left to rot on some deserted island off the coast of Borneo.

I mean, it's not like we don't have ENOUGH human flotsam (of every ethnicity) around here already...we DO. I could show you scads of digicam photos of people drinking on the streets, smoking blunts out in the open during the day, people tossing cans, bottles and half-eaten food from car windows, and a plethora of generally obnoxious behavior from those in this area. And yet I don't see a damn thing being done to curb this type of behavior.

I would have to state that since the MAJORITY of people around here are BLACK, it only follows that the MAJORITY of people acting stupid would be...(all together now, people)....BLACK (there 'ya go). Now to ME, this doesn't smack of any "progress" towards betterment of oneself, OR of one's race...wonder why that is? "We so po, all we gots ta do allday is sit 'round n drink n sho ma ballz at people". Yeah, that sends the old flag up the pole so we can ALL salute it (no pun intended)...sure. Got money for that damn BOOZE, though don'cha? Get off yer sexually-offensive ass and do SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE!

Would it KILL these people to take some PRIDE in their part of town?
I guess it would.
Would it hurt to NOT dump that bottle on a lawn, but either wait until you get home, or just just not drink it on the damn street?
I suppose it DOES hurt these people. They must have a $hitload of "pain" to quell, it would seem (I could help, but laws prevent me).

Amazing how the ones that always cry "foul" are the ones doing the most harm, isn't it? I wonder what the NAACP has to say about this? Must be OK to have YOUR people living in this manner, right? Now there's progress for you. It would seem to me that they set their race BACK about 200 years EVERY SINGLE TIME they toss something from their hands, or thumb their nose at the law. And the sad part is that this is the MINORITY of the race that are causing the vast MAJORITY of problems.

Now I can't say if Mr. Miller is either Black, White, Purple, or Plaid, but what I can deduce from his actions is that pint bottles of ANY liquor are the ones of choice in OUR neighborhoods (along with the trusty 40oz)...you see it daily. A guy on a bicycle, riding along, stops in the middle of the street, pulls out a small paper bag, unscrews the top from the bottle inside, downs it in a gulp, then recaps and DISCARDS the bag (with a nice overhead toss) onto some neighbor's lawn (or mine), and rides into the sunset....typical. Well, that and he's a flasher (and yes Virginia, they DO come in all colors as well).

At least the police must have got a bit of a giggle when he dropped the bottle and it shattered all over the floor....I can hear the officer going, "Oops...what is THAT? Keep the cuffs OUT, Bill...we're gonna need 'em AGAIN".

Well, one thing's for sure...as long as society thinks (mistakenly) that people like Mr. Miller have as much "right" to operate in the manner they do (under the radar most of the time), things won't be changing much.

This could be an argument for "No Child Left Behind", but that would be a lie. He made a conscious decision (or maybe he was sort of UNconscious) and CHOSE to be stupid....that "special" kind of stupid that NO "spec-ed" class could possible help.

Here's to YOU, Mr. Miller...I raise my glass of Cutty Sark to you...(idiot)!