Saturday, March 30, 2019

One Week Later...

...and all is well in Vintage TV appears I should have been more confident in the folks at Blackie's TV Repair.

By their own admission they didn't exactly "repair" it...took the back off, removed the boards, cleaned them, checked for loose solder joints, put them back in, turned it on...and voila!  Functioning TV.  They let it run for 20+ hours then called me to come pick it up.

It's not outside the ream of possibility that the 35+ mile ride from my place to theirs in the back of my pickup truck - and here you'll have to forgive me for using a technical term - "jiggered" something - and by the time I dropped it off it was magically fixed.

Kinda reminds me of my dad smacking the side of our old black and white TV back in the day when it was acting up with the same desirable results.

Either way it's working now and our mid century modern living room has one of its stars back in place...
...I'm so happy...
To celebrate, Karen and I had dinner at the Irish pub here in Holland...
...Blue Moon...dee-lish...

I'd include the picture Karen took of me sipping a Guinness but unfortunately it looks too much like me and I don't want to spoil anyone's appetite.

We're enjoying these last few days of culinary freedom bc I've been informed we're going on a diet starting this coming Friday.

I admit I could stand to lose a svelte 225 pound figure would look better at, say, 210 or so...but I'm not looking forward to the process of shedding those 15 or 20 pounds at diet boot camp...
...hopefully there won't be guns involved...
Watched a couple of good flicks this past week...
...The Setup starring that almost-a-leading-man / character actor Robert Ryan (1909 - 1973).

At 6'4" with chiseled features, Ryan was a blue collar type, always working, and along the way was involved in some pretty good films.

He was also an experienced boxer, the heavyweight champion at Dartmouth College 4 years in a row when he attended in the late 1920's / early 1930's, so this was his kind of film.

In it he plays a washed up club fighter who loses far more often than he wins now.  Even so he labors on, looking for one last payday to help fund his modest dream - owning a cigar stand - for he and his long suffering wife, Julie.

Unfortunately, his dishonest manager has promised a local gangster Ryan will take a dive in this last fight against a promising up and comer.

The manager doesn't bother telling Ryan about the deal for two reasons: 1) he doesn't think it will be necessary; he's convinced Ryan will be knocked out early against his younger, more impressive opponent, and 2) he knows Ryan would never take a dive.
By now you've guessed the story line...Ryan digs deep, finds a spark of his former self and knocks out the younger heavyweight.

Of course there's hell to pay with the gangster, but this is 1949 and even though it's cinema chiaroscuro, there's still a happy ending.

I'll be honest - the boxing scenes are not impressive.

It must have been difficult for Ryan to bear.  His character was supposed to be a stumblebum, and to watch him staggering around the ring looking awkward and ungainly, when in fact he was a champion boxer...well, that had to be tough for him to endure.

Even so, this one is worth a look, if only to see Robert Ryan put in an honest day's work in front of the camera.

Continuing in the boxing / film noir category, I also cued up a good one from 1962:  Requiem For A Heavyweight, starring Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney and Julie Harris.

Written by Rod Serling, this was originally a teleplay that made its debut in 1956 on Playhouse 90.

The television version starred Volodymyr Palahniuk and Keenan Wynn.

What?  You've never heard of Volodymyr before?

Sure you have...better known as Jack Palance...
many years later as Curly in City Slickers...
The live television version from 1956 is definitely a worthy effort, but the theatrically released film got more attention.

In it Anthony Quinn plays a washed up heavyweight - Mountain Rivera - suffering from dementia caused by too many blows to the head.

The film opens with a famous scene in the ring, looking through Rivera's eyes, as he fights his last round against the young and powerful Cassius Clay...
...2 years before Clay would defeat Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title.

As in The Setup, this story involves a sleazy manager betting against his own fighter and getting into trouble with gangsters.

Maish Rennick - played by Gleason - laid down big money that Rivera wouldn't last 4 rounds with Clay, but Rivera soldiered on til the 7th round before he was knocked out.
The rest of the movie is all about Rivera trying to find his way in his new world without boxing, while his manager tries to save his own skin by convincing Rivera to get into the clownish and humiliating world of pro wrestling.
Unlike in The Setup, there's no happy ending here (Dave: take note).

A telling line early in the film signals where we're going when Maish says of boxing matches: "If there was head room they'd hold these things in the sewers."

If you're looking for an escape into sunshine and roses, move along now, nothing to see here.

On the other hand, if you want to see some great acting and feel some raw emotion for the fallen human condition, tune won't be disappointed.
As I look around me I see the weekend is once again trying to escape, so I needs must go capture the slippery creature before it gets away.

later, mcm fans...

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Did You Know...

Gavrilo Princip, Bosnian-Serb and member of The Black Hand
...a high school aged kid started World War 1?

Parents, do you know where your kids are?

Gavrilo, whose actual birth date was uncertain at the time of the events, was either 18 or 19.

His "what I did over summer vacation" paper was destined to be a block buster.

For one fine summer day in 1914 he trekked to Sarajevo (and you thought that was just the name of a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas song) for the sole purpose of assassinating the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife.

Even though the Archduke was lightly regarded back in Austria-Hungary - his uncle, Emperor Francis Joseph I, didn't even bother attending the funeral - his murder initiated a chain of events that, a little over a month later, culminated in the start of World War 1.

Austria-Hungary was tired of the agitation from those uppity Serbs and Bosnians of the Balkans.  Who were they to want to be free and independent nations?

Since politicians can never let a good tragedy go to waste, the Austria-Hungary power structure decided to use the assassination of Ferdinand as an excuse to attack and subdue the Balkan nations once and for all.

So they cleared this with their ally, Germany, who gave them the go ahead.

But the Balkan nations put out a distress call to their ally, Russia, who agreed to come to their defense.

France in turn had an alliance with Russia, and agreed to help them when Germany saber rattled in response to Russia's offer of aid for the Balkans.

To add some much needed clarity to the confusing alliances among the European nations involved in the coming melee, I've included a helpful diagram:
By August of 1914 Europe was plunged into war, and all because young Gavrilo was a very naughty boy one day in June.

Because he was under 20 years of age, Gavrilo could not be sentenced to death, and so he received a prison term of 20 years.

Fittingly I suppose, he died in prison in July of 1918, just a few months before the merciful end of the war he helped start 4 years earlier.
Saw this today:

Even so, when the sun shone it was almost warm today, so I got out in the back yard and swatted a few whiffle golf balls with my hickories... the brown grass and the leafless trees surrounding me, it was ugly, but by the end of my practice time I'd actually hit a few decent shots.

Hoping for some links time by April...
Watched a classic from 1932 this weekend... ensemble movie with many of the big names of cinema at the time...Garbo, Barrymore, Crawford, Beery...

...and known of course for one of Garbo's most memorable lines...
The film is not necessarily great art, but it is interesting to see the evolution of early movies just a few years after the transition from the silents to "talkies".

And of course it's filled with beautiful art deco sets amidst the luxury of an expensive hotel in Berlin, Germany.

A "must see" to round out your cinematic education.

Also gave "Mary Poppins Returns" a look this weekend...
...and if  you enjoyed the original Mary Poppins and/or the recent "Saving Mr. Banks" prequel, you'll definitely like this well done sequel.

It is a tip o' the hat in every respect to the 1964 film, bathed in familiarity with the characters, locations, scenes...and even includes a small but significant role reprisal for the apparently ageless Dick Van Dyke...but all of them are given unique twists to make them sui generis.

Rarely is it wise to try and fill the over sized shoes of a legend, but Emily Blunt is in every way a worthy successor to Julie Andrews' Mary.

And though they deliver clever "the same, but different" repeats of virtually every significant scene from the original, they are to be heartily commended for NOT making the common mistake of using cgi bullguano to "blow away" the special effects of the 1964 version.

Besides being bad manners, that type of technical one upmanship would have been a tacit admission of failure...a "we can't do it any better than Julie and Dick did way back when, so instead we had to rely on computers do it for us" moment.

To their credit they delivered real musical numbers that evoke the memories and feelings of the first while retaining their own voice and dancing solidly on their own two feet.

This one is two thumbs up, a visual and nostalgic treat.
Dropped my 1959 GE Slimline TV that's been retrofitted with a modern TV tube off at Blackie's this weekend.
...yeah, with a name like that we'll see how this goes...but nobody else would even look at it...amazing how quickly we discard the past.

Hoping between them and Justin they can tag team a repair for some reasonable amount of money.

In the meantime I've moved my Predicta Groove Tube TV into the living room...'s a quality set and has that mid century modern vibe going on...nice picture and sound.

The stand it's sitting on is definitely not mcm, but it's temporary and the TV is cool.
A bit of a gloomy Sunday weather-wise, a real shock for March in Michigan.

Better days ahead I hope...

later, mcm fans...

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old... must see this film by Peter is stunning.

Not really a documentary - though it draws upon film, photos and written words from the era - it's more of a tribute and memorial to the soldiers who fought for England during WWI and it tells their wonderful, terrible story.

The title comes from a poem penned by Laurence Binyon:

For The Fallen
by Laurence Binyon,
21 September, 1914
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Words fail me, which doesn't happen often.

See this film.
By way of contrast to the brave men who gave their all in defense of their country, we have the snowflake generation and their complaints about how stressful life is.
on our left, a real man...on the right, pajama boy...
More than half believe life is more stressful now than ever before, and more than a third believe their lives are more stressful than everyone else's (aka "the wonder of me" syndrome).

Their top 10 stressors?  Read them and weep for the future of humanity:

1. Losing wallet or credit card
2. Arguing with partner
3. Commute or traffic delays
4. Losing phone
5. Arriving late to work
6. Slow WiFi
7. Phone battery dying
8. Forgetting passwords
9. Credit card fraud
10. Forgetting phone charger

It appears the search for intelligent life among certain groups has indeed been a dismal failure.  Off they go to hunt for legendary pokemons!

Happy Spring, by the way...March 20th this year...don't know about you but I've had enough of Ol' Man Winter...
...and I'm oh so ready for Spring...
...and all the outdoor delights that implies...

...can't wait...but looks like even though it's officially Spring, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature...
...yep, that's snow, snap...
Still casting about for my next writing project... far sans inspiration...wandering in a creative desert at the moment.  I need to be writing...
later, mcm fans...

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hate To Admit It...

...but I discovered an exception to my rule...that most modern era Oscar winning movies are crap.

I once saw a comic strip that perfectly illustrated my showed a condemned building that used to be a movie theater and one person asks "What happened?"

The other person replies, "They only showed Oscar winners".

And that my friend is too often the case...but in 2011 they definitely got it right.

I'm late to the party, but I just watched the 2011 Oscar winner for Best Picture: The Artist...
...a French film that is absolutely stunning.  It has vaulted into the top 5 of my all time favorite's just that good IMHO.

Warning: it is actually a silent movie filmed completely in black and white, and I know there are some people who won't be able to get by that.

But I'm a silent movie aficionado and appreciate the genius inherent in effectively communicating complex emotions without the use of the spoken word.

To be able to emote love and pathos, hatred and disdain sans dialogue requires real skill...y'know, acting.
the great Garbo and Gilbert
True, many silent movies relied on overacting and mugging for the camera, but the great ones of that era - Fairbanks, Valentino, Gilbert, Garbo, Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Bow - understood how to peel the onion with a sultry look, a subtle gesture, a passionate glare, a bold thrust.

And now we must add two names to that list of the best silent movie actors and actresses of all time: Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.

Dujardin did win the Oscar for Best Actor; Bejo should have won for Best Actress.
The above scene alone was enough to place her in the category of the greats.  That's her arm in the coat sleeve around her waist, by the way.  You have to see that scene to believe's amazing.

The story line is simple and takes place over a 5 year period: silent movie superstar George Valentin meets newcomer and movie extra Peppy Miller.
Unrequited love begins.

By 1929 the stock market crashes and silent movies are on the way out; with them goes George Valentin.

By 1931 the Depression has blanketed the nation and talkies are here to stay; their new darling is Peppy Miller.

Can a down and out former silent movie star and a top of her game talkie movie goddess find love and happiness?

You gotta watch it to find out...and to hear the only two words spoken by famed silent movie star George Valentin.
Because it is a black and white, silent movie, it won't be for everyone...but if you can put yourself back in 1927 to 1932, embrace the era and open yourself to the culture and technology of that time, you will enjoy a brilliant and classic cinematic treat.

C'mon, expand your filmic horizons...

You're not chicken, are ya?

I dare ya.  No, I ding-dang-diggety-double-dog dare ya!
A late breaking news bulletin from the IT Disaster Division:
...we actually did successfully upgrade this past weekend and are now happily thriving on a shiny new computer system:
same two guys, 10 years later...
Our goal, naturally, is to keep pushing forward until we reach Computing Nirvana:
...but we know we have to take things one step at a time.

In all seriousness, we did finally leap onto the latest and greatest this past weekend and of course it was a team effort with many people involved, all of whom had to work too many hours to make it happen.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not give a shout out to our Team Leader, Dave Roderick...
Dave is a consummate professional with many years experience, and he led the charge from beginning to end.

Smart, focused, detail oriented with great organizational skills, we could not have achieved the success we did without his guidance and leadership.

Thank you, Dave!

If it's ok with your highness, can we finally have a weekend that does not involve panic and coronary occlusions?
I see our friends at Google are celebrating the birth of the internet.

I needs must conclude therefore they are honoring the life and times of that self-proclaimed technology pioneer, Al Gore...
...that's Al himself on his brick phone, just before the moment of truth when he gave the word to his elves in foo-foo land to throw the switch...
...and invent the internet!
Unfortunately Al caught them on their martini break, and it was actually some time later before they were finally able to get it cranked up.

But never fear, Big Al did eventually get it all invented and stuff and the rest as they say is make believe history.

Some other well known inventions for which Al takes credit are the Nobel Prize and the Oscar.

In fact, as the creator of both those he saw fit to award himself one of each...the Nobel Prize for Fictional Achievements...

...and the Oscar for Fantasy Documentaries...
...way to go, Al!

Haven't heard a whole lot from Al since he missed his prediction for the end of the world...
...but he did sell his TV station for millions of greenbacks to that like minded bastion of truth and integrity, Al Jazeera...maybe because they have the same first name?

If nothing else, he's a patriot.  A very, very rich patriot.
And that dear readers concludes our broadcast day here at The Atomic Monster Cafe Studios...please stand by while I play a funky rendition of Taps on my kazoo... which point we turn on the Giganta-Fans and blow everyone out of the studios and off our property.
Hey, we're busy pursuing excellence; we don't have time to wait around for dawdlers.

later, mcm fans...

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