Saturday, March 28, 2020

COVID-19 Quarantine...

...week 2, and the natives are getting restless...

Heard a friend say they're spending too much time at El Kitchenata during this shelter in place order.

We always dream of warmer climes this time of year anyway, but even more so now for obvious reasons.

And since I stumbled across an ukulele (Hawaiian pronunciation: oo-kelele) left here by Karen's youngest when she moved out, guess what I'm doing in my free time?

who doesn't love a Hare playing ukulele?
Yes, I know...depending on your age the word "ukulele" conjures images of comic vaudeville performers, or maybe Tiny Tim on Laugh-In tip toeing through the tulips...

But it also brings to mind tropical breezes and relaxing times...

The ukulele is a tiny but fun apparatus for the non-musical among us to take a crack at melody making...and yes, I count myself in that number.

However, don't sell it short...there are some truly fine musicians who've mastered this surprising little instrument...

Under The Boardwalk

That's Aldrine Guerrero from kickin' it island style like you've never heard before.

For my part, I'm working on Christmas carols since I figure it will take me that long to actually master a few.

Mele Kalikamaka is the thing to say on a bright, Hawaiian Christmas day...
love the sandman with santa hat and scarf

What are you doing during this time to eradicate ennui and battle boredom?

Had a minor (read: embarrassingly obvious) insight recently while going through hearing tests (yes, I do need hearing aids)...

La doctora and I were discussing situations in which hearing is problematic for me, and I mentioned I rarely go to movie theaters since without subtitles I miss much of what's really happening on the screen.

"I suppose," says I in a flash of inspiration, "that's at least part of the reason I truly enjoy watching old silent's mostly visual and whatever dialogue there is I get to read on intertitles."

Well, duh...of course I knew that but I'd never actually verbalized it quite so succinctly before.

Yes, I'm a history fan and it's always fun to find some little bit of modern movie magic that was done first by the masters in the silent era (I'll share one here a little later)...

...but bottom line it's exhausting, trying to figure out what people are saying while missing every third or fourth word.

But when I watch a silent movie...

...I can just sit back, relax and enjoy.

How nice.

And I did so again this last week.

What follows are a couple more gems from the 1920's.

First up:

This is a delightful little rom-com starring (you'll never guess) Clara Bow from 1927.

After this movie she became known as "The IT Girl"...and what was "IT" in the 1920s?

Pretty much the same as it is've either got "IT" or you don't...if you do, the world is your play thing; if you don't, well, welcome to my world.

In this movie, Clara Bow definitely has it...she's adorable and determined to get her man...and guess what?

Before the credits roll she does.

This one won't change your life but it will help you smile as Clara works her magic and captures the heart of her man.

The second one I watched has now vaulted up into my top 5 favorite movies of all time...

...Sherlock Junior starring the incomparable Buster Keaton.

This is absolutely one of the cleverest little films I've ever seen.  Only 45 minutes long, it is jam packed with amazing stunts performed by Keaton, all in real time and all very dangerous.
Keaton swinging on a railroad crossing bar into the backseat of a moving car

What this man would do to get a laugh is awe inspiring...a little crazy, but very impressive.

The story is simple...he's a film projectionist at a local theater but dreams of being a detective.

He's also sweet on a girl, but he's got some unscrupulous competition.

And his competitor steals the pocket watch of the girl's father, then pawns it for $4.00 to buy her a gift.

Our hero decides it's time to put on his detective hat and solve the crime of the stolen watch.

Unfortunately he has to work at the theater, running the film projector...but while he's there he falls asleep and dreams...
BK's dream-self stepping out of his slumbering body leaning against the projector

... about solving the crime.

This is where the movie gets truly creative.

Keaton dreamed up a special effect that was copied by Woody Allen to great critical acclaim 60 years later in his movie "Purple Rose Of Cairo".

What was this special effect from 1924 that garnered such praise from the critics when copied in 1985?

Buster Keaton's "dream-self" jumps into the movie he is projecting on the silver screen...
there he is jumping into the movie...

...and then promptly gets thrown out by one of the movie characters...
...and there he is getting tossed out of the movie

Never fear; in his dream he climbs right back into the movie and proceeds to become a world famous detective called to solve a pearl theft...

...and along the way has many hilarious sight gag misadventures.

Of course in the end he wakes up back in the projection room, but he also gets the girl and all is well.

Do yourself a favor and watch this comedy classic from 1924.

If you don't find it absolutely hilarious, please check yourself into the Hospital For The Terminally Humorless and request a funny bone transplant.

It's your only hope.

There's so much more I have to say to you, but I know mere mortals can only withstand so much abuse before they succumb, and so I defer to your desperate pleas for mercy.

Even so, I leave  you with some sights seen 'round the ol' homestead recently...
it stated snowing one night last week...

...and kept on snowing until the morning.

the waiting room at my recent ear how things have changed

Mr. Turkey struttin' his stuff...for no one, apparently

Your mother called and said don't forget to wash your hands.

Don't roll your eyes at me... what your mother says!

later, mcm fans...

* Crass Commercialism Corner *

In the "so convenient you can't stand it" department, you can purchase my books here and on!

Get your paperback books here:

Get your ebooks here:

Friday, March 13, 2020

Not Just Another...

...pretty you recognize him?

You think you do...gotta be The Joker who first made his appearance as Batman's arch-nemesis in 1940, right?

Not quite...this is another one of those "guess who did it first?" things...and the answer to that is Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent film, "The Man Who Laughs"...

...based on the novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1869.

Disfigured as a child, he grows up to be an unwilling clown with all the emotional angst that implies.

But fear not; in the end he finds true love - a departure from the Hugo novel, but in keeping with the silent movie melodrama theme of the times.

Appreciation for Veidt's performance has grown through the decades and is now seen as masterful.

Indeed, he communicates a world of pathos with his eyes in this film.

Gwynplaine - Veidt's character - was a good hearted soul...but that smile!

Can't blame Bob Kane for finding inspiration in Veidt's appearance when coming up with The Joker.

I love history, don't you?

Another pretty face in the crowd you may have seen...

...and a closer look...can you guess who it is?

If you said it's me, before I've had my first cup of coffee, you're close...

...but it's actually the great Lon Chaney wearing makeup of his own creation as The Phantom of The Opera (1925).

This one, based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux published in 1910, also has a happy ending...

...well, not for him...he ends up drowned in the river Seine...but Christine (the surprised looking lass behind the phantom) and her beau Raoul marry and honeymoon in Viroflay, France.

C'est bien!

A brilliant silent movie that made Louise Brooks a towering star...

...Pandora's Box from 1928, a German impressionist film.

Here's the German title:

Unlike the first two films, this does not have a happy ending, which makes perfect sense.

Germany in the 1920's was not a happy place...defeated in WWI, staggering under massive war reparation debt and crippled by hyperinflation, theirs was a nation in crisis.

During the dark days of the Weimar Republic, German arts on all levels tended to reflect that.

So in a sense, this film was the perfect vehicle for the talented but flawed Louise Brooks.

She was a tortured soul who had met with some success in Hollywood, but eventually fled the west coast for Europe.

There she found international fame, though it was short lived.

The quintessential flapper and known as "the girl in the black helmet" for her trademark dark bob haircut, she was an incredibly talented actress with a penchant for shooting herself in the foot.

By the early 1930's she'd been blacklisted and spiraled downward into poverty and alcoholism.

Her films were rediscovered in the 1950's and she enjoyed a temporary resurgence in popularity if not prosperity.

Unfortunately, like her doomed character in Pandora's Box, hers was not a happy ending.

Her art, however, lives on, and you should see this film to experience it.

Perhaps most compelling this week was the Swedish classic from 1921... Victor Sjostrom.

The title translates to "The Phantom Carriage"...
...and it's a morality tale as so many of these early movies were.

Unlike today's movie industry which is openly at war with Christianity, early filmmakers often explored humanity's relationship to God, and this one does so wonderfully well.

The basic story concerns a legend that whoever dies apart from God at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve must spend the next year serving at Death's behest as the Grim Reaper...
...traveling about, collecting lost souls as they depart from this life and enter the next.

The "in camera" special effects - no cgi bs here - are impressive for that era, as they had to rewind the exposed film and then hand crank it at exactly the same speed as they did before to layer the ghostly 2nd images on top of the original scenes.'s really quite effective and you will easily believe the spirits of the departed are rising from their earthly bodies.

This was a hundred years ago, folks...a reminder genius is present in every age, it's just expressed differently, within the framework of the culture and technology of the day.


And inspirational as well, judging from how many filmmakers in later generations copied these masters from the early years.

Ever see The Shining by Stanley Kubrick?

If so you remember a crazed Jack Nicholson chopping his way through a wooden door to get at his terrified wife and children.

You know who did it first?

Victor Sjostrom in's the side by side comparison of basically the same scene...silent film version on the left, Kubrick's version on the right:

In spite of the silent movie actor's eerie similarity to an enraged "Mike the My Pillow guy", imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, 60 years later.

Do yourself a favor and enjoy the original genius of some of these early Masters and marvel how there is in fact nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

COVID-19 continues to dominate the news, with panic and overreaction being the response du jour.

Since the world as we know it is obviously coming to a rapid end, might as well share a few memes...

commemorative jewelry to remember 2020

On a slightly more upbeat note, spring is busy working on making its grand entrance...

...and I've been able to swing my hickories in my backyard a few times over the past week...

And keeping with the golf motif... that's a tempting offer, and the best part is you don't look ridiculous at all outside in your boxers.

A sunrise on my way to work this week...


Here's a beautiful mid century modern ashtray I found on ebay last week...


And proving miracles do still happen, here's the box - clearly marked "fragile"... which it arrived after being carefully routed through the package smashing department... doubt due to it being clearly marked "fragile".


And that, my friends, brings us to the end of another rousin' edition of the Atomic Monster Cafe.

We trust you enjoyed a tasty meal of intelligent discourse with a nourishing side of conversational savories, served with a demitasse of intellectual espresso and a tall refreshing glass of emotional comfort.

If not, what the heck were you doing?

Staring at your phone the whole time again?

As Jed Clampett used to opine, pit-i-ful...jes' pitiful...

later, mcm fans...

* Crass Commercialism Corner *

In the "so convenient you can't stand it" department, you can purchase my books here and on!

Get your paperback books here:

Get your ebooks here: