A totally bought off but, nonetheless, truthful post

Yesterday afternoon I went to see Michael Moore’s Sicko with my friend, Tracy.

I met Tracy and her husband, El Diablo, about 40 minutes before the movie started so we went to Farren’s for drinks beforehand.

The movie was actually pretty good. While there was certainly a lot of rhetoric involved, it is probably the most balanced Moore movie so far. If even any of what he says about our health care system is correct—much of it certainly is—then we have a pretty much completely broken, and morally bankrupt, system.

After the movie we met El Diablo over at The Blind Pig for drinks. Tracy’s friends, Tony & Susan and Kevin [I think those names are correct], some local Greens who were also at the movie, came along. Lots of good conversation and a small amount of alcohol later we all adjourned to Farren’s for dinner, more beer, and conversation.

I had a great time getting to know some new folks and discussing things of lots and of little consequence.

The reason this post is bought off is because Tracy and El Diablo have this crazy rule about paying when they invite you out. So—again—they paid for my beers, the movie, and dinner. Thanks, guys! But this silliness really needs to stop.

Unfortunately no decision to be made

Last weekend I heard that the 24th Annual Insect Fear Film Festival is tonight. I did not go the last 2 years because I was in no mood to go by myself, but I promised myself that I was going this year.

Then on Monday I got an email that my friend, Eva Hunter, and her band are playing in Bloomington tonight after a several month hiatus.

Damn! What to do? I’ve been torn all week.

Well, the weather has answered for me. Neither, is the answer. [Power just popped off and back on. Glad I have the stereo and computers on UPSs!]

It’s been precipitating all day—freezing rain and sleet. So with Ice Storm Warnings and Flood Watches in effect until midnight I’m not going anywhere; even “just” to campus.

I guess I ought to be happy that I don’t have to choose, but still, “Damn!”

A truly excellent review

I doubt that I’ll ever get to this level of excellence—in fact, my reviews probably shouldn’t even be called reviews—because I generally don’t put enough effort into writing reviews of movies or music. For me it is a sort of chicken-and-egg problem, I don’t do it because I’m no good because I haven’t done it much and thus get no better at it and thus don’t put much effort into it because I’m not good at it….

But as an excellent example of what I aspire to, please see this review of Wordplay by anna at eclectic librarian. It is a great depiction of the film in all of its angles, has a touch of the personal, discusses the DVD extras, and, well, I’m going to stop before I write a bad review of a good review.

Anna also writes good music reviews and she—originally unbeknownst to her— did an excellent job helping me buy some things from iTunes when I finally used a gift certificate I was given.

I have been very remiss on commenting on the songs I bought back in July 2006 and I mean to do that soon. For now, let me just say that the songs listed in that post, and in that order, constitute my Cataloging Music mix. They are every one excellent and make a most excellent mix (for me) to catalog serials to, amongst other things.

I guess the only thing “wrong” with anna’s review of Wordplay is that I have already seen it. And that is certainly nothing she had any control over.

So go read her review and then see the movie for yourself.

“Brava,” anna! Please keep up the great work.

Touch the Sound: a review

I just finished watching a movie that I have been looking for for over a year now. Touch the Sound is a documentary about Evelyn Glennie, a deaf percussionist. It is also so much more.

The cinematography is very good overall, and at times extraordinary. The audio is simply amazing! And I say that having one main speaker that has a trashed midrange driver. Luckily, the soundtrack choices included Dolby 5.1 and DTS. I always choose DTS if given the option. Once I get my speaker fixed I may have to listen (and watch) this film again.

Ms. Glennie lost her most of her hearing by the age of 11. She switched from piano to percussion so that she could better feel the music. Ms. Glennie’s views on sound, along with the amazing audio work and cinematography, will force one to reconsider the way they think of “the hearing,” much less hearing, in general.

It is also very international as it is filmed in Germany, Japan, Scotland, New York, and California.

Highly recommended! If you are in CU, it can be found at That’s Rentertainment in the New section (for now); not in documentaries.

Movies I watched in 2006

Unfortunately, most of my movie watching is no longer at the wonderful Normal Theater [How many of you have theaters in Wikipedia?]. We do have two “art” theaters here in Champaign, but they are not the same. They certainly aren’t non-profits, and the snacks are much more than a $1 each.

Most of my movie watching is now done at home. At least I have a better sound system than the local theaters.

I have no idea if this list is 100% complete. I do believe that it is close, but I think I may have missed one that I saw at the theater.

The list is divided into 3 groups: theater movies, borrowed movies from the ex, and those I rented from That’s Rentertainment. If there is link it is to a blog post where I wrote about, or at least mentioned, the movie. I may link to the WorldCat or IMDB records, especially for the more obscure ones, but that’s a lot of linking!

Anyway, here is the list of movies I watched in 2006:

Saw in the theater:

Syriana – 5 Jan with Em
Heart of Gold (Neil Young) – 14 Apr
Superman Returns – Harvest Moon Drive-in 7 Jul with “the kids”
Snakes on a Plane – 18 Aug with “the kids”
Little Miss Sunshine – 27 Aug with Tracy

Borrowed from Mary and Terry in the 1st half of July 2006:

Pitch Black (Roddick)
The Chronicles of Roddick
Dark Fury (Roddick animated)
The Italian Job – Michael Caine
The Bone Snatcher
Mercury Rising
Around the Fire
Donnie Darko

I talked about these movies in two posts.

Got a 40 movie Block from That’s Rentertainment on 1 Jan 06

1 Jan 06
Batman Begins
The Brown Bunny
Lords of Dogtown – skateboarding

3 Jan 06
Broken Flowers – Bill Murray / Jim Jarmusch

6 Jan 06
Winterschläfer (Winter Sleepers) – Tom Tykwer (Germany) imdb
Kick the Moon (Korea)

11 Jan 06
turtles can fly (Iran-Iraq) imdb Although heartbreaking at the end, this was an incredible movie.
23 Jan 06
Put the Camera on Me (doc) imdb Darren Stein’s home movies.
Up and Down (Czech) imdb

17 Mar 06
Kung Fu Hustle (China, Hong Kong) imdb Pure camp.
Look at Me (France)
Zelary (Czech) imdb Simply wonderful.

20 Mar 06
Layer Cake (Britain)
The Baxter
House of Flying Daggers

22 Mar 06
Sex and Lucia (Spain, France) – ranger recommendation
Off the Map

24 Mar 06
2046 (China, …)
Osama (Afghanistan, …) An extremely powerful movie.

4 May 06

The Hot Spot (Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Connelly)
The Constant Gardener

7 May 06
Breakfast on Pluto
Mad Hot Ballroom (doc)

10 May 06
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Story of the Weeping Camel (Mongolia)
Dark Blue World (Czech)

2 Jun 06
Weather Man

5 Jun 06
The Squid and the Whale

6 Jun 06
Mrs. Henderson Presents
The Education of Shelby Knox, et. al.

16 Jun 06
The Same River Twice
Missing In America

10 July 06
Brokeback Mountain
Walk the Line

2nd 40 movie block from That’s Rentertainment 17 Nov 06:

17 Nov 06
Steamboy (Japan) (anime) – “science” (steam tech) at the 1851 Great Exhibition/Crystal Palace
3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Kingdom of Heaven – 100 yrs after England took Jerusalem

These and many of the next several movies are mentioned here and talked about here.

20 Nov 06
Paradise Now (Palestinian) (via LibraryTavern 22 Apr 06)
Junebug (music by yo la tengo)
Napoleon Dynamite
Maria Full of Grace

22 Nov 06
Word Wars
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

3 Dec 06
X-Men 3: The Last Stand
Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies
Mr. Death

6 Dec 06
Mongolian Ping Pong (China) imdb Awesome movie!
3-Iron (Canada/S Korea)
Über Goober – documentary on role players and related geeks

9 Dec 06
Rock School (doc)
Under the Sun (Swedish) imdb Lovely movie!
Genghis Blues (Tuvan throat-singing) (doc) Good!

11 Dec 06
Kinky Boots (England) – based on a true story. Was pretty good.
The Cavern – stupid, not scary, with a completely gratuitous rape at the end.
Blossoms of Fire imdb documentary about the Juchitecas (supposed matriarchy of the Zapotec peoples) of Juchitán, Mexico. Was very interesting and colorful.
The Cockettes (doc) imdb I had been looking for this movie since January when I read The Riddle of Gender.

16 Dec 06
Stick It – commentary on elite gymnastics; pretty good.
Bad Education (Spain)

19 Dec 06 — bought
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

19 Dec 06
goldfish memory (Ireland) [20 Dec] imdb Highly recommended.
Mind the Gap imdb Also highly recommended.

22 Dec 06 (8)
Touching the Void (snow/ice climbing documentary)
Imaginary Heroes imdb
Nobody Knows (Japan) imdb

24 Dec 06
Lady in the Water — video at Mary and Terry’s. Both Sara and I decided this movie was “interesting,” in the most negative and sarcastic connotation available to ‘interesting.’

26 Dec 06
King Kong
Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School imdb
Other Side of Sunday (Norway) imdb This was a very good film. It takes a hard look at repressive organized religion.

All in all, several great movies, quite a few good ones, even more decent ones, and a few bad ones.

Schlock! vs. The Atom and Eve

This evening I finished watching a movie I started last night, Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies (2001). Pretty interesting history of exploitation films and larger changes in American society. But on the DVD I rented—in the extras—is something even better:

The Atom and Eve.

By the Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Company, 1966.

Oh. My. Freakin’. God.

It’s a bit over 9 minutes long and is referred to in the notes as “simultaneously hilarious and horrifying, “The Atom and Eve” epitomizes the lethal and consumerist “straight” culture the exploiteers rebelled against.”

Holy crap. No kidding, Batman.

[Oops. Meant to say some more.] If you are (were) from New England, you would be more likely to have seen this consumerist sales pitch for nuclear power [back in the day, anyway]. It was the promo for Connecticut Yankee’s (a consortium of 11 power companies in all New England states) 1st reactor to be built at Haddam Neck, CT. Despite the calming allure of blue-clad Eve dancing around all the consumer goods, all the suits towards the end repetitively telling me they had checks and double-checks and that it was “all good” had me worrying again. But, damn, that floating coffee pot in that fully furnished modern kitchen was an awesome appliance. And God forbid, and Jimmy Carter forgive me, but Eve was looking pretty darn hot sliding up in that refrigerator. Ackk! Gah! Pure unadulterated evilness, it was. Decades of the best psychology could dream up and prove effective simply to market a way of life. A highly suspect way of life. And speaking of the nuclear…

I loved how this film [Schlock!] treats Duck and Cover as an exploitation film. The government has been hard at work at scaring the citizenry for a long time. At least all of my life.

The exploitation of fear is a very powerful tool.

An answer for Lynn (break update)

[Note: Feel free to read this post-T-day break update. It started as a response to Lynn’s comment on my Movies, movies, movies post and got way too long ….]

Hi Lynn, We should be asking ’bout your knee, methinks. Yes, the tooth is much better; thank you for asking. Only sort of half repaired, but no longer infected or in pain; two very valid and relevant [in the fullest LIS sense of that word 😉 ] points, and also ways of being.

Break was reasonably relaxing. But then it was mostly me. I spent a couple hours with some folks Sat. eve, but I think that was the extent of my ‘socializing’ over the “break.” I did got to work and run a few errands Mon-Wed, but then it was just me. That can be a blessing sometimes; at least it means no one else’s hangups and stressors become yours as they are wont to do at holidays. This time it was all to the good to be alone; me and myself got a couple things worked out I think, educationally.

How is your knee? And why was your break less relaxing (of which I am sorry to hear)? Did you go back to work?

Spellbound was good. You have to have something for spelling or 5th graders or an odd view of humanity that involves 5th graders in single elimination spelling, or something like that. There are few sports this exciting. Seriously, it was good. A couple of the kids are a bit too privileged and too clueless to recognize it, but then there’s the tiny little kid who should be on pure liquid Dexedrine (a lot like a certain very small 5th grader I once knew; one who lost the school-wide spelling bee and forever after knew who to spell ‘thoroughly.’ Oops!).

These kids certainly have issues with words. But this is an issue with words that I can more fully understand. To spell well, which is its own odd talent, requires the kids to know the meanings of the words, their etymology and to be able to recognize/use them in context (in a sentence). This is a skill, but it doesn’t make one intelligent, smart, etc. (spelling well, that is). We were talking about this today at lunch, also standardized testing (esp. GRE). They are such narrow intellectual specialties. And there are so many more of these narrow talents. Spelling competitions, in this manner, and all the various skills and knowledge needed to spell those words that you don’t know or have forgotten (for that is what this extra knowledge of words is really for; to help with the ones you don’t ‘know’ at the moment) seems pretty broadly (traditional) disciplinary and also culturally [in a Western-sense of ‘cultured’*].

I guess what I’m trying to say is that spelling well (at least at the national level) requires a fairly broad base of knowledge. It is also a base that then ties well back into all of recorded knowledge (and much not recorded), allowing one to find and make interesting connections across languages, domains, disciplines, times, and places.

Vastly different than knowing words for Scrabble.

* Folks, I am not claiming that this [Western culture] is the only way of knowing, nor that it is the best. It is neither. Thus, while I feel that this form of ‘word issues’ has educational value for bringing so much into the speller’s world, it also excludes much from the world.

I guess I ought to quit babbling, but I’m enjoying myself. And, in case of you forgot Lynn, the movie was good.

[And, Lynn, feel free to respond via other means if you prefer. ;)]

Movies, movies, movies

I have been watching a couple movies during this break. Maybe I could be doing more productive things, but my mind also needs a break, time to do some leisurely processing in the background. So movies it is.

I have mentioned some of them already, but would like to flesh them out with wsome mini-reviews.

Friday, I watched Steamboy. It was OK, but ambivalent on “science” in the end. [Should rightly be applied science and, thus, technology, though. The movie referred to it as “science.”] Set mostly in England, and particularly London during the Great Exhibition of 1851—Crystal Palace and all—steam was king and “science” was ascendant. Science was portrayed as the means of helping humanity or as a highly dangerous way to make more powerful and efficient weapons of war to be sold to the highest bidders. The latter way was winning. Motives in the movie were rarely this simplistic, but this simplistic dichotomy was nonetheless explicitly set up for the”purpose” of science. It was an entertaining movie, well done in many ways; I just feel cheated by its vague and simplistic stand on one of the supreme (and complex) moral issues of all of human history.

Sunday, I watched The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. This was a good, but odd movie. I’m not sure what I felt about this movie; may have to watch it again some day. It is very complex morally. In the end, it is hard to embrace any of the characters. In this sense, it is a vastly human movie. I do not necessarily require “clean and tidy” movies, but this one seemed to be pushing at the edges of “clean and tidy” for me. But then life is rarely clean and tidy, either.

Kingdom of Heaven was watched over Sunday and Monday. While a visually lush movie (Ridley Scott), this just did not resonate much with me. There is a fair amount of character development, and almost everyone learns some hard lessons, but they do little for the characters or the film, in the end. I did find the premise interesting, and it’s a timely topic. I just wanted more. Maybe it was supposed to be representative of the time and not judge that time morally, but we need nuanced discussion and views in these matters today and not simply lush, big budget, films that have no real statement to make. Yes, it seems I am expecting too much of mass entertainment.

Monday I watched Adaptation. I really don’t know what to say about this one. Not really very good, nor recommended.

I watched Paradise Now on Tuesday. My comments are at the LibraryTavern post that caused me to put it on my list, assuming Liz approves my comment. Recommended, but (for me) lacking.

Word Wars (Scrabble) is a pretty good documentary, but knowing words just as objects and combinations of specific numbers of letters on lists is a seriously bad “word issue” to have, IMHO. I’ve enjoyed some Scrabble in my day, but that is a wrong reason (and way) to know words. It seems to me that that would be (is) a good use of computing technology; we humans ought to know words in the sense that computers cannot. The people in this movie are all characters, full of real quirks, predilections, and motives. I watched this Wednesday.

After Word Wars, I watched Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I had already seen this but wanted some mindless entertainment for one of my movie slots where I wasn’t prepared to really concentrate. Not really a good movie at all, but it has its moments. Really, read the books, or any other format in which you prefer some version of the story.

Yesterday, I watched Junebug, Sirens, and Napoleon Dynamite. I feel that all of these were oversold to me, but in vastly different ways. They weren’t bad movies, and for what I paid were worth it, but … I got nothing else either.

Still to watch:

Maria Full of Grace. I need to watch this today so I can return it before 9 PM.

Spellbound (1999 National Spelling Bee). More folks with word issues. I have until tomorrow for this one.