Tuesday, April 25, 2017

even the bunnies aren't safe

So it's come to this?


For United Airlines, when it rains it pours.

The recent dustup regarding United Airlines and their mistreatment of passengers seems new, but I remember when DaveCarroll took the airline on.

Honestly, I don't know what;'s involved in flying with a musical instrument. I've never done it, but I know others have. Duh. I suspect there's more to the story than Carroll shares. And he shouldn't have called out a United employee by name. She's just trying to do her job and make a living within a restrictive corporate structure.

And then the more recent stuff. Not letting the girls with leggings on the flight, having a paying passenger beaten and dragged off a flight. Bumping the hedge fund manager to economy. Kicking the engaged couple off the flight to their destination wedding.

Seems to me United's culpability is clear in some cases (the Vietnamese Doctor who got beaten up). But in other cases, I just don't see it. The legging girls were flying nonrevenue, and the dress code for such passengers is clear.

But at some point, I have to wonder if the hype has taken on a life beyond reality? Do these things really happen only on United? Or are we only hearing about each new case because it's fun to pile on?

Poor bunny.

Monday, April 24, 2017

a weekend of gardening

Coe Hall, where Bill Barash lives
Lots of gardening this weekend...

Saturday was the April LIDS meeting at Planting Fields Arboretum. The featured speaker was Bill Barsash, who has worked at (and lived at) Planting Fields for 45 years, as one of their horticulturists. Bill's presentation was wide-ranging and varied, but always interesting. He talked about the relationships between types of flowers, and shared lots of amusing anecdotes. In one of my favorites, he talked about taking dates back to Coe Hall -- the mansion in Planting Fields where he lived. "It's not much," he would say, "but it's home."

Also amusing, several of Barash's slides had UFOs and space aliens photoshopped in. Just for fun. Blair noted that what was really great about the presentation is that Barash had a way of making the topic interesting, so one learns material without realizing it.

LIDS members weeding the beds
Prior to the meeting, Blair and I, along with a dozen or so other LIDS members spent two hours weeding the daylily beds that LIDS maintains. I hate getting up early on a Saturday, and digging in the beds on a cold, wet, raw day isn't exactly fun. But it feels important to me to be part of the LIDS community -- and helping on projects like the daylily beds helps in a way that simply attending the meetings doesn't.

And, of course, the bonus -- We got some daylilies and a hydrangea from the compost heap. I have no idea what variety of daylily it is -- the color, form, size, could be anything. And, later at the meeting, Blair and I each won an asclepias seedling. To top it off, one of the other members was giving away Zinia seeds.

The upshot of that is that Blair and I spent a good part of Sunday planting in our own yard. The
ANd the day after, I'm back in the yard planting.
hydrangea, the daylilies, the asclepias. As well as a coleus, some tulips and some milkweed plants that we already had waiting for planting. The Zinia seeds will have to wait until the middle of May.

Friday, April 21, 2017

eyeball (cinema history class)


Session: Giallo-Rama, week 3
Movie: Eyeball  (1975)


An American tour group is trying to enjoy Barcelona. And they would be enjoying it if not for the fact that a mystery killer keeps murdering them. One at a time. By stabbing them in the eye. Hilarity ensues.

Class Reaction:
The reaction here was mixed. Joe and Dave rated this very highly, and had a grand old time with it. They found it to be a well-told story, and often great fun. Again, Dave called it early, figuring out who the murderer was before anyone else did. Joe said that he is now sold on giallos.

Sean, Scott, Ethan and I were less impressed. We enjoyed it, but found that it was missing...something. Maybe that was a result of our coming off two weeks of really great films. But even being unimpressed, none of us really thought this was a bad movie.

We were all kind of stunned by the crucial revelation by one character that she had lost her eye as a child, playing doctor with a friend. You know, if you lose an eye playing doctor, you're doing it wrong.

The ratings:
  • Joe: 9.8 / 10
  • Dave: 9.3 to 9.4 / 10
  • Sean 2 / 4
  • Scott: 7 / 10
  • Ethan: 7 /10
My Thoughts:
After Bay of Blood and Don't Torture a Duckling I had high -- probably impossibly high -- expectations. This just wasn't as interesting. That said, it was a decent slasher/murder mystery, and I realize that it did keep me guessing. So I can't really dismiss it. If it brought me in to that degree. There was plenty of misdirection, which I tend to like in these kinds of films.

As an aside, Ethan disagreed with my perspective. If he finds himself guessing at who the killer is, he finds that to be a bad sign. I guess he feels that if he's truly being sucked into the drama he's just letting it unfold.

Anyway, I was amused that the Minister in the American tour group looked a lot like Barry Goldwater.

I gave this a 7 out of 10.

Eyeball passes the Bechdel Test.

Before the movie, Keith showed us trailers for three other giallos:
  • Lizard in a Woman's Skin
  • Death Stalks on High Heels
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Also, Sean was back, having missed the prior session, where we watched Don't Torture a Duckling. Missing the class experience, he hunted it down and watched it on his own (and then with friends) so he could comment to us. He agreed that it was a great film, and rated it a perfect ten. Oh, and Joe revised his rating of Duckling from 9.8 to 9.95. In so doing, he coined the phrase, "Hot Duck Breath," which I think would make an excellent band name.

Monday, April 17, 2017

some day i'll read this...

I just noticed a book on my shelf that's been teasing me since I got it.

The Land of Painted Caves, the sixth (and last) in Jean Auel's "Earth's Children" series has been sitting in one place almost since I got it. Unread.

I really want to read it. Scratch that. I don't want to read it. I want to have read it. To know what happens and how the story ends without actually going to the bother of reading it. Reading a novel is not something that should be a burden. And, to my thinking, if you're in a novel and find you don't enjoy it, then put it down There are other novels out there.

But I've read the other five books in the series, and I just have to know how things turn out for Ayla and Jondalar. And their daughter, Jonayla. Yes, Jonayla. Oy.

The first book, The Clan of the Cave Bear, was very good. Great, even. It's a stone age fish-out-of-water story, set in Europe when the human family tree had more than one living branch. A little girl, a member of the branch that would produce today's modern humans is orphaned and taken in by a band of cavepeople whose branch would die out. Their ways are different than hers, but it's more than just a difference of custom.There are fundamental biological differences that make it difficult for her to acculturate. It was quite  the page turner -- very compelling. It was also made into a movie starring Daryl Hannah, which sucked. The trailer is below.

The sequel, The Valley of Horses, followed Ayla after leaving the tribe that raised her. And it introduces a love interest, Jondalar, who would be with her for the rest of the series. It was also a good novel, but nowhere near as good as the original. The Mammoth Hunters was still enjoyable, but was, in some ways, a prehistoric version of Beverly Hills 90210.

Those were the three novels that were out when I first got interested in the series, sometime around the time I finished college. I picked up the fourth book, The Plains of Passage, as soon as it came out in 1991. By this point, the downward trend (qualitywise) was well-established and seemingly irreversible. But, as I noted to people who would discuss it with me, I had to know what happens. There were, generally speaking, two things that annoyed me about the series. The first was the way Ayla had become some kind of super human wonderwoman. As the story tells it, she's responsible for millenia of human advancement -- in weapons technology, in domestication of animals, in medicine. It gets kind of boring after a while. And then there's Jondalar, her man. He's not quite the genius she is, but he's sure close. And he's the perfect lover. Just right for Ayla the Goddess. My other problem was that each book was longer than the previous one. That wouldn't be a problem if the books had progressively more story to tell. But they don't. They just have more and more of what my grandfather called the "berry-picking passages" -- stretches of exposition describing the flora and fauna, and the prehistoric cooking and construction techniques. Auel had done a lot of research, and made sure it didn't go to waste.

In 2003, Auel released The Shelters of Stone. And I bought it and read it as soon as it came out. But the downward trend had continued, and it was little more than a soap opera with the berry-picking passages. The Land of Painted Caves came out in 2011. I didn't rush out to buy it. I decided I'd wait until I could borrow it from the library. Given my relationship with media at the time, that was definitely a bad sign. I never did get it from the library. It was always out from my local branch, and I never wanted it enough to put in a reservation. Eventually I bought a copy at a thrift store for like $1.50. I may have overpaid. At any rate, I read the beginning. It was some hunting scene, which was interesting enough. But then came the long boring crap following group dynamics and long descriptions of prehistoric technology. At some point I put the book down for the night, and never picked it back up.

I still want to get to the end. Just to know what happens, and to be able to have that closure. But I just don't want to bother...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

a night in joe's wheelhouse

Blair, Ethan and I spent Saturday night at Joe's (from the cinema history class). In the few years that we've been attending the class, we've turned into a chummy group, and Joe wanted to extend his hospitality to us. And share with us some of the entertainment that he loves -- a sample of what he calls his wheelhouse.

So Keith, Dave and I, along with wives (and Ethan) came over for dinner and some video entertainment.

Joe didn't just entertain. He prepared a presentation of three television episodes (and one cinematic cartoon. The episodes were each from an iconic 1960's TV show, and each was a particularly 1960s-ish episode. But I can let Joe's words explain, since he graciously emailed me his prepared remarks, and gave me permission to share them.
Welcome to our house… and my Wheelhouse! 
Now, we leave the dining room behind, and enter a world of surfing, psychedelic lights, and go-go dancing – in other words that wonderful and decidedly unique period known as the mid-1960s, also known as my Wheelhouse!  This is the type of presentation that I could never do at Keith’s because it would not fit the rules – but everyone knows that the sixties were about breaking the rules!  In the mid-sixties, TV got really weird.  A journey that brought us from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER to BATMAN and beyond!  That weirdness, and that TV, formed the basis for my Wheelhouse.  Virtually every popular fantasy show (save maybe STAR TREK) got weirder and weirder as the period advanced.  And, the weirder it got, the more I loved it!  I’m pleased to share three prime examples of iconic sixties TV series (…ending with one short  theatrical cartoon) that exhibit that weirdness with you tonight.  But, not just “ordinary weird”, mind you, but SIXTIES-SPECIFIC WEIRD… meaning that these particular artifacts of my Wheelhouse could NOT have been produced at any other time in entertainment history.  The particular series for tonight, BATMAN, LOST IN SPACE, and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.  have – to one extent or another – transcended the sixties to be reimagined in later times.  I don’t think I can count the number of ways this has applied to BATMAN – in comics, live action, and animation.  LOST IN SPACE had a successful feature film in 1998 – knocking “Titanic” off of Box Office first place in its debut week – had a pilot made for the WB Network, just as that network imploded, and, for better or worse, will be a Netflix series in 2018-2019.  THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.  also had a recent feature film, proving that you CAN take these series out of the sixties – but perhaps the very best of them still remain there.  I promised SURFING, and here it is in BATMAN’s “Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under!” Aired November 16, 1967 on ABC TV.  By this time, BATMAN was airing only once a week – so this is only one part, Batgirl had been added, and the outrageous sixties weirdness ante had been upped to its most delightfully absurd, vs. the earliest episodes which, though campy, hewed closer to the 1950s and 1960s BATMAN comic books.  With some even being direct adaptations of those older comics.  Caesar Romero is clearly having great fun playing the Joker.  Gordon and O’Hara are cluelessly priceless in this! And we get to see Yvonne Craig in a bathing suit! So, sit back and take a deep breath of that great sixties atmosphere!  To the Bat Poles! 

We then viewed "Surf's Up! Joker's Under," a beach-set episode of Batman  that featured a climactic surfing battle between Batman and the Joker.

Joe then moved on to the next part of the program.
LOST IN SPACE began as a ‘50s film-inspired black-and-white struggle for survival in the hostile environment of an unknown planet – for the first family sent by the United States to colonize deep space – in 1997, no less! But, when it transitioned to color, it went all-in on the wonderful sixties weirdness we know it for today – led unapologetically by Jonathan Harris, as original saboteur and later comedic cowardly villain Doctor Zachary Smith and his Robot foil.   Running opposite BATMAN for three seasons, most likely influenced such a direction.   I promised psychedelic lights, and go-go dancing, and here it is in space-spades with “The Promised Planet”!  Aired January 24, 1968 (My 13th birthday!) on CBS.  Oh, ever have a song or piece of music stuck in your head?  Well, get ready to experience that again…  
And on came a truly bizarre episode of Lost In Space. Aliens are taking over Penny's and Will's minds, forcing them to dance whenever go-go music is played. And it's played often. This is the episode that Joe referred to as "Space-a-delic."

The third part of the presentation was  an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. featuring a go-go dancing gorilla. I couldn't find a clip or trailer for this on Youtube (sorry), so Joe's introduction will have to suffice.
It’s hard to imagine today how HUGE THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was in its time (1964-1968).  There were images of the stars, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, EVERYWHERE, and parodies of the name “U.N.C.L.E.” were irresistible in all media.  Inspired by the James Bond / 1960s Spy Craze, Robert Vaughn’s “Napoleon Solo” was the James Bond of the small screen.  But, U.N.C.L.E. was hardly immune to the trend of wonderful sixties weirdness – as most of you saw at Keith’s in 2015, when I showed THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. “The Mother Muffin Affair” featuring Boris Karloff.  I already delivered on my promise of go-go dancing, but here’s more – and, just for Keith, a GORILLA thrown in to boot!  It’s “The My Friend the Gorilla Affair”. Aired December 16, 1966 on NBC.  Anyone remember the prehistoric jungle girl played by Vitina Marcus in Irwin Allen’s “The Lost World” and its repurposing as an episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, from my presentation of 2016?  Well, you’ll find her here – as (Guess what?) a jungle girl!  …And, believe it or not, she was born in Brooklyn!   Marc will also find old friend Percy Rodrigues - unforgettable as the Commodore in the STAR TREK “Court Martial”, which also featured “The Maltese Falcon’s” Eilsha Cook, Jr.

And, finally, Joe closed with a Roland and Rattfink cartoon, "Hurts and Flowers."  
It wouldn’t be one of my presentations without a cartoon… So, finally, we have a very unique theatrical cartoon that, just like our other features tonight, could not have been made at any other time than in the sixties.   I never heard of ROLAND AND RATTFINK until this year.  But, because it was a Kino Lorber DVD release (as was “Bay of Blood” and so many other great DVDs and Blu-rays), and was originally produced by DePatie/Freleng who created The Pink Panther and was the last studio to make theatrical cartoons (into the seventies) I gave it a try and was not disappointed.  From 1969, here is the totally sixties cartoon “Hurts and Flowers”! 
I was tempted to insist that we go around the room and discuss our impressions (the way we do in class), but it was past midnight, and I didn;t want to be the one to make everyone lose even more sleep...

It was great to share the evening with the guys from the class (or, at least, some of them) and their wives. I especially enjoyed watching this silliness with Blair -- we don't watch enough video entertainment together -- and hear her laughing out loud to the bestworst of it. She noted that she had never been much for Lost in Space as a kid. She would watch it when there was nothing else on that was worth watching. And even then she'd be ashamed. I kind of understand that. As a big Star Trek fan, I kind of thought of LiS as a third rate imitation. Yes, I know that it came first -- I'm just talking about how I perceived it.

I hadn't seen any of what Joe showed us (except for clips of Batman's surfing contest), so this was a big treat. And I wouldn't have ever seen any of it if I had been left to my own devices.

It's also good to be slowly getting to know some of the guys from the class in a new way.

Joe gave us a great night.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

kittyplayz with photoz

It's really interesting to see what's happening as the family gets more involved with Stack-Up.

Sharon is kind of interested in the charity. But she's more of a back-room type. I'm not sure where it will go, but for now she's been photoshopping Stack-Up shirts onto Youtubers and others. I think it started with Markiplier. The idea was to show him a photoshopped image to see if maybe he'd pose for a real photo in a real Stack-Up shirt. Here are, in order, Vincent Price, Matt Shea and Markiplier:

It started because Markiplier is apparently big on supporting charities. I don't know about Matt Shea. We'll see. I'm pretty sure Vincent Price doesn't do much posing these days...

cooking with the minor-gamer

Fresh off the success of our Passover Seders (for which he cooked brisket, prime rib and chateaubriand), Ethan is planning to experiment with duck l'orange. Last night we were out at the supermarket picking up orange marmalade and oranges. From the liquor store we got Grand Marnier. Tomorrow we're getting up bright and early to get duck breast at the farmers' market. He's annoyed at me that I won't try it. But I'm, uh, funny, about foods.

At any rate, Ethan is thinking about starting a cooking channel on Youtube. He has put together, provisionally, a list of items he intends to cook for the show. The list he sent me is as follows:
  • Red wine braised brisket                                                             
  • orange duck
  • chateaubriand
  • mustard glazed prime rib
  • rack of lamb
  • leg of lamb
  • new york strip roast
  • new york strip steak
  • ribeye steak
  • sirloin steak
  • sirloin roast
  • chocolate mousse
  • chicken soup
  • tenderloin steak
  • lamb chops
  • lamb loin chops
  • salmon
  • salmon steak
  • tuna steak
  • floundor
  • flank steak
  • porterhouse steak
  • Picanha Roast
  • veal schnitzel
  • Bavette
  • Denver
  • Tri-Tip
  • London Broil
  • Shortribs
  • Chuck Roast
The boy sure likes meat.