Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve...

Happy New Year to those of you who have already made it into 2010, and for those of you who are still on this side of midnight, Happy New Year's Eve, and I hope you have a fun but safe celebr ation.

Me? I'm staying home and hiding from all the madness. It's a tradition that I like just fine, thanks. I'll make dinner, watch some TV, maybe some DVDs, possibly watch the ball drop in New York when they televise that (if I think of it), and perhaps get some writing done. I've got a new internet project that I hope will go live within the next week or so, and I need to do some preparation for that.

I did have to share something I saw earlier today as I was on the bus on the way home after spending the day knitting with friends.

There was a guy standing on the median at one of the busiest intersections in town, one of the places where people usually stand with signs asking for work, for money or for something to eat.

None of that for this guy. His sign read, in big block letters: "WON'T LIE. NEED BEER."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I guess my worse nature came out, because I settled on laughing. But, you know...I think he at least deserves points for honesty.

Monday, December 21, 2009

That was just...amazing

Every once in awhile, you see and/or hear something that just has to be shared.

I'm watching "Spectacle", Elvis Costello's show on the Sundance Channel. It isn't a regular stop for me, but every once in awhile I tune in. And, boy am I glad I did this evening.

To open the show, Costello sang the most amazing version of "If I Only Had A Brain", (from "The Wizard of Oz), that I've ever heard. It was sweet, quiet, very much in the spirit of the movie, accompanied by just a guitar. There are almost no words for me to describe how lovely it was. So I won't even try.

But, if you get the chance to see a re-showing of the episode - it's the one on which his guest is Rufus Wainright - tune in early, it's the very first thing on the episode. I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I told you I recognized that rock...

It is amazing, some of the things you find when you channel-surf late at night.

Amazing, and occasionally frightening.

A couple of nights ago, I had just finished watching “Capote” (fabulous film, by the way…you should see it if you haven’t), and wasn’t quite ready to go to bed yet, so I started flipping through the channels, looking for something interesting.

I landed on a secondary cable version of one of our local TV stations, where there was a movie that looked oldish and like something that used to show up on Creature Features, which I loved when I was growing up. Because my father taught me from a young age to appreciate truly bad movies, I decided to watch for awhile.

It took a few minutes to find out that it was a little thing from 1966 called “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein”.

Yeah. I know. Still, with a line like, “You should have stayed in Europe and given pink pills to little old ladies”, I just couldn’t resist spending a little time with it.

But, it was getting late and I was getting cold, so I went to bed instead of watching to the end.

When I got up the next morning, however, I was still curious about the film. This was mostly because I thought I recognized the rocks I saw in several scenes. Well, not the exact rocks, but they looked like the rocks in the hills around where I grew up. That was in Southern California, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that I did know those rocks.

So, I clicked over to IMDb and looked the film up, half expecting that I had heard the title of the film wrong.

But there it was, so I checked the list of filming locations and, sure enough, the movie had been filmed at Corriganville, a movie ranch a few miles from where I grew up.

Discovering that piqued my interest further, and I did a little more research.

I found out that the movie had been made in 8 days (which is six days longer than Hollywood legend claims it took to make the original, Roger Corman-directed production of “Little Shop of Horrors”). Based on the general quality of the acting, among other things. I also discovered that the lab equipment in the film was the same equipment used in the original Frankenstein films, made years earlier by Universal. The equipment was also used later on, in “Young Frankenstein”. Which almost gives “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter” a little legitimacy. A little.

The acting was so bad…really stinky, in fact…I looked to see if any of the cast ever worked again.

Well, yes, as it turned out. The marshal was played by Jim Davis, who became better known for his portrayal of the Ewing family patriarch, Jock, in the prime-time soap opera “Dallas”. And the title role of Jesse James was played by John Lupton, a name that was familiar but that I couldn’t quite place.

Lupton, it turns out, might possibly have been in every TV series ever made. Well, maybe not every one, but the list of shows he did parts on was quite long. And before this movie, he had been in, among other productions, the 1953 version of “Julius Caesar”, the one in which Marlon Brando played Mark Antony and James Mason played Brutus. Lupton only had a small part in that, but he had been in it. One of the interesting things (to me) was that “Julius Caesar” was partly filmed at the Iversosn Ranch, another movie ranch that was at the other end of Santa Susana Pass Road from Corriganville.

Lupton is also an August 23rd person, which means nothing to any of you. But my birthday is also August 23rd, so I get to add him to the list of people who share my birthday, something I’ve been putting together for a long time and is probably far more interesting to me than it should be.

And then there was Narda Onyx, who played Frankenstein’s daughter, Dr. Maria Frankenstein, who was looking to recreate her father’s experiments in the Old West. According to IMDb, this was her last film.

And so you see how easily amused I am, that I can write over 700 words about a B-movie (well, maybe a D-movie, when you get down to it) after actually taking the time to do research on it.

All because I recognized those rocks.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A little less "drama", a little more emphasis on the "docu", please...

So, I'm sitting here watching a so-called "docudrama" on History. It's called "Manson" and is, of course, about the murders of Sharon Tate and others by followers of Charles Manson.

It's a new take on the whole mess and includes an extensive interview with Linda Kasabian, the hippie girl who lived with Charlie and his "family" for all of a month, was taken along on both nights of carnage but never entered either house, then turned state's witness and was one of the main reasons (I think) that Charlie and the others were convicted.

I know the theory behind docudramas and all, that sometimes characters are composites and small details might be changed. But this is more like a documentary with re-creations of the events being examined. The re-creations are interspersed with interviews with some of the individuals involved, including not only Ms. Kasabian, but also prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and other surviors of Manson's group. Under these circumstances, I sort of expected that the filmmakers (the film is a joint UK/Canadian production) to be able to get the details correct.


Near the beginning of the film, a title is shown to indicate that the location being shown was the Spahn Ranch. Well, it had to be a re-creation of the ranch; the buildings at the actual location were burned in a brush fire in, I think, 1970 or so. But that doesn't mean that it's okay that the title identified the ranch and then gave it's location as "Benedict Canyon".

The Spahn Ranch was not in Benedict Canyon. Benedict Canyon is in the Santa Monica Mountains. Spahn was in Chatsworth, in the Santa Susana Mountains, a whole different location, miles north of Benedict Canyon. I know this to be so, because I lived not more than 8 miles or so from Spahn during the time the events portrayed in the film were happening. I passed by there on a fairly regular basis. I knew people who hung out there on occasion.

Which is, perhaps, why I'm just a little disappointed that the filmmakers couldn't manage to get such an easy-to-check detail correct.

Other than that, it's a fairly interesting film, even to someone who is farily familiar with the whole story. It really is notable that Linda Kasabian finally consented to tell her story, 40 years on. Apparently, she has been living under an assumed name and had only spoken for the record about her experience once or twice before, which is remarkable considering the enduring fascination Manson and his exploits seem to hold for so many people.

It's also interesting to read some of the reasons why prosecutor Bugliosi thinks the story still holds such interest, which he spoke about in an article for The Guardian at the time, in August, that the film was first shown on television in the UK. Click here to read that article.

It's raining, it's pouring...or, things to do inside on a rainy day

I've been stuck at home, mostly, for the past week by a combination of rainy, cold weather and a car that isn't working.

One would think that this would mean that I've gotten all those things done around the apartment that I've been putting off for so long.

One would be wrong.

Well, partly. I've gotten all the laundry done this week. All of it. And I've pretty much kept the dishes washed, rather than letting them accumulate until the sink is full, something I usually justify by thinking that it's a waste of water and energy to fill a sink with hot water just to wash a couple of plates, a frying pan, a cup or two, and a few pieces of silverware.

But I still haven't decorated for Christmas. And I still haven't found a place to store the ten books and one DVD I have out of the library right now, rather than just stacking them on the chaise in the living room (the stack looks kind of like the Leaning Tower of Pisa or something right now) in hopes that I will see them and get some of them read before they're due.

I haven't even really done much reading...and I'm kind of bitter about that, because I had one book due today that I returned while Pamela was running me around town on errands, which I hadn't finished reading.

I have done some knitting, which is a good thing, since some of it has to be done next week for the gift exchange Friday night at the yarn shop and some more of it has to be done for...well, that better be left unsaid, since I don't know who's reading this. (Insert evil smilie here.)

And I've mostly got the laptop set up for work stuff after the desktop went belly up the other night. That's been a real pain in the arse to never realize how much you rely on those bookmarks to get you to heavily-used sites.

There are so many things I could be doing...writing projects, cleaning. Baking something just to run the oven to get the place to warm up a little. But right now, all I really want to do is go take a nap.

Or, maybe, sit here and play with PlayDoh. No really. I was out Christmas shopping a couple of weeks ago (before the car broke), and Pamela found a package of 10 mini-cans of PlayDoh for $3.50. She handed the package to me, which meant that it had to go into the basket, since I love PlayDoh more than almost any toy I ever had growing up. Not quite as much as I loved my little red demolition derby car that would break into four pieces when I wound it up and aimed it at a wall, just to be put back together and demolished again, but that's another story for another time.

Maybe that's it. Maybe these rainy days remind me of when I was young, and I didn't have all these "things that have to be done" and I could just sit and watch the rain fall, or veg out in front of the TV, or play jacks on the linoleum floor in the entry hall, or go read a book until I fell asleep.

Man, what I wouldn't give for jacks and a ball, and a nice smooth linoleum floor so I could play a game of jacks or two right now.

Of course, with my arthritis, I'd have a seriously difficult time getting back up off the floor when I was done. But what the heck. It'd be worth it for a good game of jacks, I think.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Giving "Billions and Billions" A Whole New Meaning...

I want you to click here. Just do it. It's safe for work.

Okay, now that you're that amazing or is that amazing?

That photo is a result of several exposures totaling 48 hours late this past summer, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and some of the galaxies shown are 13 billion light years away (in case you've forgotten your astronomy, 1 light year = around 6 trillion miles). Basically, that means when you look at that photo, you are looking 13 billion years into the past. That, all by itself, is mind-boggling, as far as I'm concerned.

But that's not all.

Each of the bits of light in that photo is a separate galaxy, not just one star, like most of what we can see when we go out and look up into the night sky.

What? You don't do that? Well, you should. It's pretty.

Anyway. Each one of those galaxies is made up of billions of stars. Take the Milky Way, for example. Our galaxy contains somewhere around 200 billion stars. Multiply an approximation of that by each galaxy in that photo, and you've got a lot of stars. A lot of planets, too, probably.

Which is interesting to think about, I think. Imagine all the possibilities presented by that many stars, that many planets, that many...places.

Well, who knows what has happened in the intervening 13 billion years. All those stars might be nothing but cinders now, and their planets with them. Still, I don't know how anyone can look at a photo like that and not have the words, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." occur to them for at least a little while.

Yeah. We might be the only intelligent life in the universe (and I sometimes have doubts about us, even). But we might not, too. And if we are not...what might have happened out there, over all that time and in all that space?

We'll never know, of course.

But it's a lot of fun to think about.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Getting on with it...

This is me, moving on with my life.

Today is a year since my mother died. In some ways, it seems like forever. In other ways, it seems like it was just yesterday.

And, the oddest thing: I woke up this morning at just about the exact time I got the call last year that she was gone. I missed her. But, somehow it was okay. It was as if the universe was finally giving me permission to move on. Or, maybe, it was just me giving myself permission to do so.

I’ve actually been feeling this way for the past couple of weeks, after going through a period of a few weeks when I felt about as bad, emotionally, as I did right after she passed. I felt vulnerable, needy, as if I couldn’t do anything right. But then, astonishingly quickly, almost overnight it seemed, that feeling of sadness lifted.

It isn’t that I suddenly don’t miss her, because I do. But I’m losing that feeling that I should be doing something for her, or not doing things that she might not have liked or approved of. There were flashes of that in the past year, but just flashes.

I would have liked to do more today to memorialize Mother, but I couldn’t figure out the right way to do that. And so, I just moved on. I went shopping with my best friend. We took toys to the Toys for Tots drive and went out to lunch. Then I came home and took a nap. And now I’m thinking about the writing I want to do, as well as wondering what I’m going to do about my car, which has decided to be cranky and which I really can’t afford to get looked at now.

And it felt right to do those things.

And it feels right that I’m watching some Doctor Who episodes while I’m writing this and trying to decide what to have for dinner.