Jan 22

‘They’re coming! They’re coming!’

Two years ago, plague.

Last year, plague. And locusts.

This year, plague. And also …

The birds, the noisy noisy birds. The messy, messy birds.

You should see the sidewalks. But it’s better if you don’t have to. And if it rained. Or someone rolled a high pressure washer outside.

Anyway, pretty day out there. But quite cold. This is a tradeoff I’m willing to accept.

Oh, and hey look! My new desk chair showed up Saturday. I put it together Saturday. The cats helped. And, right now, they’re taking turns checking out my stuff.

I’m assuming that it will prove comfortable, once the animals let me sit in the chair that I … just bought … for myself.

Which must mean it is time for cat pictures. Here’s Phoebe at rest.

And here she is, taking a nap. Yesterday, you see, was a serious sleep day.

And here’s Poseidon, wondering what I’ve done with his new chair.

He sat in it right there most of the day. After, that is, I assembled the chair, let him sit in it downstairs, spun him around a bunch, then carried the chair, and cat, upstairs. As soon as he got down, hours later, I put it in the office, and shut the door. He is very confused.

This weekend he has also discovered the joys of the space heater.

This is going to become a thing. We’re creating monsters.

As I typed this, Phoebe returned to the same position for another nap. Clearly I should be doing this at my desk and not in a recliner.

Monsters are what we are creating.

I had a nice punchy little ride yesterday, this is a part of Watopia, Zwift’s fictionalized world.

Which explains how I’m underwater there. Some of their environments are simulacrums of the real world. You can ride in a few villages of France. There’s a former world championship site in Virginia. You can ride in Central Park. You can also ride through the futuristic sky bridges of New York.

Or you ride around and up, and through, a volcano. Here’s my avatar coming down from the top of the volcano.

Of course there’d be a full moon and lava spewing. I often wonder, when I’m on this course, what it would be like if you had a different lunar phase as part of the reward. And how difficult to ride through the overwhelming presence of sulfur.

Your avatar rides, literally, on a road that goes through a volcano.

Which is a good metaphor for some people’s Mondays. Not mine. But Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday mornings? More meetings then you’d normally find on a volcano, though. Sometimes there is a sulfur smell, though, but, thankfully, minimal ash.

At least the birds stay in the trees.

Jul 21

Now playing

Ran a casual neighborhood 5K today, making two-days in a row of exercise. I wonder how many days it’ll be before I put together two more consecutive days of exercise.

(Update: It was a few, as it turns out.)

Here’s a little video clip of yesterday’s 25-mile bike ride. We’re only three miles in here, which is why I am keeping up with my lovely bride. Putting up mid-summer numbers and can’t hold her wheel. Must be the gears she is using. Surely it isn’t me.

When I tested the post a picture of The Yankee on a bike ride was in the rotating header, and this video was below. That’s a lot of fun.

Anyway, I’d make the whole site look like that, but then it’d just be a blog about her riding bikes. That’d be fun, too. But I also include random things like …

What do we think about this? I only remember that the first movie had something to do with a seasoning, and it was a mess, and there were giant worms. This movie has the spice, the drama and, maybe there are worms.

It seems overly dramatic, for a trailer. These are art forms of their own, of course. If trailers are art, then they have to evolve. (Go watch a trailer from any movie you liked from the 1980s, for example. Go watch the first Star Wars trailer.) And, sometimes, I suppose, they have to respond to external events.

Does a trailer of a long-anticipated, and presumably corrective, relaunch have to go over the top? Does it have to after the year we’ve had? Or are we just imagining that?

What’s left in the movie, after a trailer like that?

It’s probably a 16 hour movie. Which I would have thought was fine, but then I watched, over three sittings, the Zack Snyder Justice League cut. Here’s the official trailer for that.

Feels more like a comic book than a movie, doesn’t it? I’m not sure which is better for it.

Just a few weeks ago someone over at Mental Floss compiled the list of the best 25 movie trailers of all time. This is how you know it’s an art. There’s a notion of subjectivity there, but it’s inescapable to think that the movie itself, viewed either before the trailer or after, doesn’t have some influence on such things.

Go on over there and see what’s number one. But! Before you do, toss out three names. What do you think you’ll see as number one. Pick a strong one, pick a thoughtful one. Pick a cliched one.

Were you right? I bet you were.

Still haven’t seen that movie.

Tomorrow, we’re going to wrap this week up in tidy fashion. Things will look nice and fresh when you come back. So come back!

And bring me your best movie trailer ideas, too.

Dec 19

May the mamma mia be with you, neighbor

Got it a little present last night at the hardware store. We needed parts, and this was one of the next things I was going to acquire anyway.

It was this or a router. And I think I’ll use a Kreg jig kit more often. Because, having spent more than a few minutes on Pinterest, I have come to realize that the entire DIY industry is entirely a front to prop up sales of Kreg products. But now I can make pocket joinery and there’s a custom drawer build in my future. (When I finish another pre-existing project or two.)

This morning I repaired two panels of my folks’ fence that were felled in Monday’s storm. It seems as if this fence has been there a while. It was, in fact, in the yard when they bought the place. And it seems that if a determined wind blows through the neighborhood one or more of the brackets holding one or more of the panels is going to fail. So they are replacing the thing bit by plastic bit, basically.

These two will, hopefully, be some of the last repairs required on this fence before they replace the whole thing. We’re down to spare part repairs, otherwise. As with anything, you get better at it over time. That first panel, on the left, took a long while. The second one went much faster because I knew what I was doing. Not, necessarily that I knew how to do it right, mind you.

Still, I’m not going to become a fence installer when I grow up.

We went to the movies this evening. While I was out wrapping up the day’s run the women in my life decided we should see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s a fine movie, but you should definitely read the article first.

While we’re standing in line at the concessions stand — where you buy tickets now because box offices are for oldz, and movie theaters are full of cost efficiency consultants these days — we saw this. Two of the three kids working working behind the counter were fussing with one, and off to the side I saw the price. Someone said something snarky. Probably it was me. The Yankee, always ready for a joke, gave me the I-have-a-reply look and her line let me say “Of course I’m not going to buy one because I’m a grownup.”

The guy in front of us looked back over his shoulder and smiled: Ha! Good one! And then he bought one.

He also asked them to not fill it with popcorn and his drink.

I bet he could have purchased the same thing at Bed Bath & Beyond for half the price. (It’s in the Beyond section, if you were wondering.)

We visited a downtown Italian restaurant for dinner this evening. We’ve been there before, and it hasn’t let us down yet. You’d think, Italian? In small town Alabama? Yes, my friend, but this is Florence.

An Italian immigrant named Ferdinand Sannoner, of Livorno, surveyed all of this land 200 years ago and he named it after Florence, which is just 50-some miles from his hometown. Part of his payment was in land. He died and is buried in Memphis, where his grave sat unmarked for almost 120 years. Today his old property, here, is home to the public library, and a very short walk away is the restaurant where we had dinner. Maybe he’d like that. Maybe he’d like the food. Who can say what a man born in 18th century Italy who lived in the 19th century American southeast would like today.

He’d probably think this was cool, though:

Well, once you explained who Hemingway was. Elvis? Transcends time. That’s the only way we can keep the artful graffiti honest. The restaurant was established in 1996.

I wonder what was there before that. Someone break out the ouji board. Let’s ask Sannoner.

Oct 19

Just add music

Tonight was the annual Halloween concert at IU Auditorium. We watched the legendary Dennis James play a score to the 1925 classic The Lost World, an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story.

The organ at the auditorium dates to 1889 and is a legend itself: 4,543 pipes, 109 stops and has been playing on campus since 1948. It was built for the Chicago fair, at a cost of $65,000. The Internet tells me that would be almost $2 million today. It came to IU after a restoration in Boston in 1944. The largest pipe is 32 feet, it takes two people to move the organ on station, and has more than 100 miles of electric wiring. Also, it sounds darned impressive.

James, meanwhile, is a graduate of IU. He started this particular gig when he was a college student, as a joke and an excuse to get to play the organ. Now he’s a world-renowned performer. He’s played everywhere and touched anything with keys worth operating. He comes back each fall, for 51 years now, to play a Halloween show. And the spirits are looking in.

He told us how music worked in cinema before they put sound to film. It’s a fascinating process, one we’ve all forgotten to think or ask about. Turns out most movies just sent a basic system of sound cues and the resident organist would fill in the spaces based on their interpretation and their own personal libraries. James reeled off a bunch of the music we’d hear in his performance, but I was too lost in trying to imagine how any movie would have as many personalities as it would performers to jot many of the titles down.

The Bat Signal!

The movie was state of the art stop-motion animation. You can find the full film, and various different edits, on YouTube, but it’s just not the same as being there feeling the music coming from everywhere around you.

By the way, this was the first movie to be shown as an in-flight movie. (Which was dangerous in a lot of ways in 1925.) And it was lost for about 80 years, James said, because an order came down from the movie company to destroy the prints, and so most of them were burned. The copy you can enjoy today was held by a private collector and “discovered” in 2003. I’m sure there’s a good story, there. Anyway, the movie!

So no one in England, Jolly Old, believes this one professor who says he’s found dinosaurs living in contemporary Brazil. It’s always the jungle, you see. And so he creates a team to go bring back proof, and find the missing member of his original team. So we follow the adventures of this intrepid bunch — including a famous big game hunter, a young journalist, the daughter of the missing man and a few others — into the Amazon. They find the dinosaurs and a whole lot more. And the dinosaurs are some pretty impressive work, giving the state of the film-making art of the time.

Watterson R. Rothacker, whose name you see on the title card, was the owner of one of the early film processing laboratories. The Industrial Motion Picture Company opened in 1909 and Rothacker and his partners made industrial films that were used for advertising companies, and produced newsreel footage. From what I’ve read, he was keenly interested in using film to educate the masses. Our man was running one of the largest laboratories in silent film on a strip of land in North Chicago where Northwestern is today. By 1914 IMP could put seven cameras in the field at once. And then came The Lost World, which was apparently the firm’s biggest popular project. First National Pictures, which brought you this lovely movie, would ultimately fall under Warner Brother’s control.

And it turns out, in addition to our musical accompaniment being a world-class professional, he is a total ham.

The show was great. It’s one part organ concert, which was our purpose for being there — my step-father loves the pipe organ and this was the first opportunity he’s had to enjoy the old Roosevelt machine — and one part classic theater. During the intermission we all agreed that it was easy to forget the one and concentrate on the other. The film was a lovely 1920s romp. I found myself suspending disbelief about the idea of dinosaurs, but not about the geography required to have a volcano on top of a mesa. And how the volcano is only a bit part, meant to showcase some action. There were plot holes, is what I’m saying. But there was good action! It’s a romp for kids, and we all felt like kids again seeing it. No one moreso, perhaps, than James. I shot this from the hip, but isn’t it interesting how the mask is the part that comes into focus …

Tis the season for spooky things.

Sep 19

I’ve seen this one! (Star Trek edition)

I went to the movies this weekend:

And I wrote about it here. Some excerpts:

I know I saw Wrath of Khan in theaters, but unless I saw it in a re-release I was six-years-old. And while I saw all the subsequent movies, even the lesser ones, in the theater, and I’ve seen The Motion Picture several times, I’d never seen this on the big screen:

While The Motion Picture is still a slogging sort of rough cut of a film, it has its place and it was worth seeing. There’s a group, Fathom Events putting nostalgic movies in the big theaters on slow days. So there’s often a throwback on Tuesdays and Sundays. This was the first I’ve heard of it, but I’ll be back for other select other films in the future. There was even a little mini-documentary before the movie — probably something produced to run before a DVD or some banquet event. Though this is a problem: