Weekend Movie Watching: Kung Fu Yoga

Book coverWith a name like this, you might expect a direct-to-video or cable schlockfest designed to cash in on one or more contemporary fads. Oh, but no. This is a big budget Chinese release from 2017 that stars Jackie Chan and is Chan’s highest grossing film in China according to Wikipedia.

The plot revolves around a lost treasure that some ancient treasure traveling from India to China that was lost. The movie starts with a very video-game looking historical battle sequence leading up to this event with two of the stars (including Chan) green screened onto some elephants and flying arrows. In the present day, a Chinese archeology professor played by Chan is approached by an Indian archeology professor who might have a clue to where this lost treasure is. Using Chinese technology, they follow the lead to a frozen lake where they’re ambushed by some Indian heavies who also want the treasure. One of the archeologist’s team, the son of a friend who has made clear he’s a treasure hunter, escapes with a piece of treasure; although the bad guys bury the good guys alive in an ice cave, the good guys escape, and although they recover the treasure “for the world” (it belongs in a museum!), they soon have to travel to Dubai to participate in an auction to recover the bit of treasure and participate in a car chase, including a bit where Chan is driving a car with an unrestrained lion in it as depicted on the cover. Then they have to go to India because this bit of treasure is a key to an ancient treasure.

The film was supposed to be a joint Indian-Chinese production, but the Indian component dropped out. And with any bit of Chinese culture or history starting in the middle of the twentieth century, one must view it with a gimlet eye and recognize that it’s Chinese propaganda (see also Hero). This one fosters a message of India and China as friends, which perhaps might have worked if their armies weren’t continuing to skirmish in disputed border regions. I might be unexperienced in international affairs, but friends typically have worked out their border disputes by now (c’mon, man, England and France aren’t friends–France has no friends). Regardless of how it might have worked on international audiences, it does portray the Chinese protagonists as altruistic and friendly and cooperative with outsiders. Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?

Yeah, the key having to be mounted on a scepter and have light shine on it is directly copied from Raiders of the Lost Ark–and the movie does mention Indiana Jones by name (“I love Indiana Jones!” says Chan at one point, and when the ladies are confronted by snakes in the marketplace, one says “I hate snakes!”).

The movie started playing with subtitles on, and as I read them, eventually I heard English, but I was too lazy to turn them off. Which is just as well–it turns out that when the Chinese characters are speaking together, they’re talking Mandarin, so the subtitles are required, but when the Indian characters talk to each other or with the Chinese characters, they all speak English. Which makes me wonder what was not translated or translated differently from the Mandarin for the English subtitles.

The film also conflates Buddhism and Hinduism a bit, as they talk about yoga, which is a Hindu tradition and the travel of Buddhism from India to China–and the ending has a large Buddha statue at a temple. Perhaps they’re not as separate as we think of them.

Jackie Chan is getting older, so the stunts and craziness from his older movies (and, presumably, the injuries) are muted. And its intentions are suspect. But it’s a fun little caper movie and not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

Also, it features Disha Patani as the fake Indian archeologist/actual Indian princess, and she has Dish right in her name.
Continue reading “Weekend Movie Watching: Kung Fu Yoga

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Missing Word

Whenever someone says, “Follow the science” or “I love science!”, bear in mind the omitted word:

Follow the [political] science.

Which is not really science. I try to explain to my boys that it’s science if you can replicate it in a lab through an experiment. Otherwise, it’s speculation. Which puts all sorts of “science” into the realm of “We’re guessing here,” which includes climate science, paleontology, a lot of astronomy, and social “sciences.”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Local University Catching Up With Marquette 30 Years Later

Evangel University seeks new mascot name, nominations due Monday.

The mascot name is/was the Crusaders. Which, in its original form does mean a Christian warrior headed to liberate the Holy lands from infidels. It’s non-religious meaning comes later, where everything is a crusade when it’s not the moral equivalent of war on something.

Contrast that with Warriors, which Marquette dropped in 1994. I wrote about it for the school newspaper in, what, 1992?

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

At Least No One Is Breaking Into Homes To Steal Low-Flow Shower Heads

Here at Nogglestead, we have had some recent run-ins with government-mandated ill efficiency and poor economy in the service of the all-important but apparently impotent Mother Gaia. I mean, aside from the light bulb lament that I post regularly here.

One, one of the boys recently broke the wand portion of a shower head. Remember when these came into all the rage in the latter decades of the 20th century? Now they’re pretty much de rigueur; all the shower heads come with the wand attachment. So I bought a new kit and installed it. Although I had heard of the new low-flow showerheads, I had not experienced them. When I did, I did not care for it; saving water by making it take longer to rinse yourself is definitely government economist thinking. After a week or so, I swapped the old shower head back in and just used the new wand, which has the strictures in place, but the main head still gets it done. Yeah, I know, the way you’re supposed to use the new low-flow showerheads is to use the showerhead and the wand at the same time all the time–it’s not lost on me that the wand mount is now atop the showerhead so you can use them almost like one showerhead which is still weaker than the old showerhead.

The second was another bit of plumbing work. My mother-in-law requested an upgrade to our hall bathroom–a taller commode that would make it easier for her to use. We hadn’t been in a rush with this–it has been a year of nobody going nowhere, after all–but the hall toilet recently came loose, so we figured we’d just have a plumber swap out the toilets instead of reseating the existing one and replacing the wax rings. So we have a new senior toilet which uses very little water and often does not fill the bowl with water. I have not placed a bucket in the hall bathtub to gather water from the bath toilet to assist, but if I have to plunge it a bunch, I will end up doing this.

On the other hand, I guess I should count my blessings that these rites in the service of the nature goddess do not require expensive heavy metals mined in countries without strict environment controls that make it easy for thieves to cause thousands of dollars of damage to American automobiles for a couple dollars of drug money (Metal prices make catalytic converter theft a problem of ‘epic proportions’ in Springfield).

After investigating 95 total instances of catalytic converter theft in Springfield between 2016 and 2019, there were 408 reports of catalytic converter thefts in the city in 2020.

And through the first four months of this year, there had already been 337 reports of thieves shimmying under vehicles to cut out and steal the catalytic converter.

The huge rise in catalytic converter thefts is not unique to Springfield. The New York Times reported earlier this year the nationwide problem has been spurred by a big increase in the price of precious metals that are found in catalytic converters, like palladium and rhodium.

The Times reported that the price of rhodium went from $640 an ounce five years ago to $21,900 an ounce earlier this year (roughly 12 times the price of gold).

On the plus side, the environmentalists got a cheap thrill forty-some years ago in leading us to this place. On the minus side, it’s never enough and it has little impact as the rest of the world industrializes with greater populations without the scruples we’ve drilled into generations of Americans through judicious spacing between passing the mandates and things just aren’t as good as they were in the old days.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Recent Reading Leads To Movie Viewing

As you know, gentle reader, I have spent some time this spring reading movie and television tie-in paperbacks (and a hardback). Which has led me to watch a couple of movies last week.

I watched Alien because I read the book, and I watched Young Guns because Heroes and Outlaws of the Old West featured a lot of participants in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico, which Young Guns dramatizes.

So, what did I think?

I had not seen Alien before. As I noted in the book report, I had read that some scenes in the book were missing. Which was true. The ship seemed bigger in the film than in the book, which made for creepy empty rooms for filming, but I have to wonder about how much metal and stuff would really go into the Nostromo, a tug pulling a large industrial complex. Or does the movie take place on the whole refinery? Perhaps I am asking too many questions. But these slasher movies in space are not my bag, so although I will keep my eye out for Aliens since I somehow missed picking it up when I bought the other three of the first four entries in this series, it might well take me years to get to them.

I had seen Young Guns before, but much closer to its release than today (thirty-three years later, old man). It’s rated R, but it’s an eighties R for violence and swearing, but the violence is not especially gory. Although it’s probably not indicative of how one would fare against gunshot wounds, as some people get shot a bunch and die cinematically whilst others, like Billy the Kid, get shot three times and ride away without any distress. I do like the way that Emilio Estevez (Emilio! Emilio!) played Billy the Kid as a manipulative psychopath, just enough so that you think maybe he’s not psycho, but, yeah, he’s probably psycho. The film is not historically accurate, but it’s probably better than any Western made in the 21st century.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Entertainment News/Reviews Make Me Question My Sanity

So I’m reading a New York Post review of Woman in the Window which looks like Rear Window but with a woman, and I guess it’s a front window, and I come across this:

Days later, she witnesses Jane being murdered across the street by her husband and frantically calls the cops. The man, Alistair (Gary Oldman) rushes over, but — presto change-o — he’s accompanied by an entirely different Jane (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and insists Anna is confused or making it up. The cops think she’s a loon, too.

And then I’m reading about The highs — and astonishing lows — of Angelina Jolie’s film career, I get to the bit on The Changeling:

This Clint Eastwood-directed period picture was Jolie’s last decent movie (I refuse to count “Kung Fu Panda”). She got an Oscar nod for it, and it’s no wonder — she pulled out all the stops. Playing a mother who believes her son has been switched out with a different boy — and who the police think is a loon — she’s sent to a sanatorium and given dramatic electroshock therapy. If wrongful electrocution doesn’t get you an Academy Award nomination, what will?

And I thought, wait a minute, did I already read that just a minute ago? Is it a glitch in the Matrix? Or is the Internet trying to convince me that the cops think she is a loon–who is this she?

Gentle reader, I was pleased when I returned to the first article to discover that Johnny Oleksinski just so happened to recycle the cops think she’s a loon bit in stories with similar plot/twists.

Because I was half believing that it was evidence that I was a loon.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Spotted My Neighborhood In The British Tabloids

Okay, not exactly my neighborhood, but my region in the Daily Star:

It’s to this “story:” Owls are psychic aliens behind UFO abductions and spooky events, bizarre book says.

The caption in the article reads:

A driver was miraculously uninjured after spotting an owl on a mountain highway and crashing, says the book

It’s not clear whether this story takes place in the Ozarks, but the picture does. I was on Highway 13 today; it enters Springfield from the south as Massey/Campbell Road coming up from Kimberling City, jogs over on the James River Freeway and then runs north out of town on Kansas Expressway. When I drive to Kansas City I take Highway 13 up to Clinton and then jog was on 7.

No telling if the story from the book takes place down here or if that’s just the owl on a highway sign they found on the Internet.

It’s not like I’m going to buy the book to find out.

(This is the second time this spring that my neighborhood, roughly, has made it on the Internet; the first was this meme.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Cocoon by David Saperstein (1985)

Book coverIn continuing with my movie tie-in book reading of this year, I picked up this book which has been haunting my to-read shelves for thirteen years and two homes. I remember the film well–it was on Showtime in my youthful trailer park days, and as you might remember, gentle reader, when a movie was on Showtime between 1985 and 1988, I saw it a bunch. So I remember the film passably well, especially Steve Guttenberg shouting, “If this is foreplay, I’m a dead man!” which of course would have stuck with a fifteen year old who probably learned about foreplay from the American Heritage Dictionary. Remember Steve Guttenberg? In the late 1980s, he was in every other movie (actually, it was only nine major movies in four years, so it was only every other non-action film).

But I digress.

The book has a different story arc than the movie: A charter boat fisherman takes an assignment for what he quickly learns are aliens (I mean, on page 15, they reveal themselves as aliens). They’re looking to recover almost a thousand (not ten like the movie) of their fellow Antareans that have been submerged in coccoons off the coast of Florida after the sinking of Atlantis. They’ve bought an incomplete senior condo project and turned one of the buildings into a processing center for reviving the dormant aliens. Four seniors from the complete building on the property discover the processing room and mistake it for a health club, so they try the equipment and find that it rejuvenates them. When the Antareans find that the salt water has damaged the cocoons, they’re left without an army–until they decide to recruit seniors from Earth.

So it’s quite different from the movie, which is a simplified version of the novel with subplots removed. I wondered if the book had come first followed by the simplified movie, but according to this article from 2019, it sounds like it went from story-for-movie to movie to novel:

Finding a way to get my story out to an audience did not come easily. I heard 51 “noes” before a “yes.” Among the rejections were many who deigned to read a few pages and said things like, “This is a wrinkle story,” and “Old people don’t go to the movies.”

It took five years to get a movie made, with a script by established screenwriter Tom Benedek and direction by Ron Howard, in 1985. The positive reactions to the story said to me that I got most of it right. The movie won two Oscars, and critics called it “feel-good” and “uplifting.” My novel was published after the movie. Cocoon was a New York Times best seller and became a brand of sorts, and I went on to a new writing career.

So perhaps the novel tracks more on what Saperstein had in mind; although he provided the story and later wrote the novel, he did not write the screenplay. He does work in a bunch of back story for the characters, including talking about what the seniors and their wives did before retiring to Florida. He even drops a couple of paragraphs describing a helicopter pilot into the middle of the narrative. So it gets some of its novel length with these back stories which are naturally not in a movie.

It was a pretty good read, though, even with its changed story line.

Brian J., did you flag anything in this fun little novel? you might ask. Of course I did! Not that I remember what. Let’s see if I can remember why I marked passages in the book.

Continue reading “Book Report: Cocoon by David Saperstein (1985)”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Brian J.’s Goody-Two-Shoes Life, Revealed

Some social engineering data-gathering meme on Facebook asks:

C’mon, man. Even when I had a Mustang with the five liter engine and twice as much horsepower as my preceding vehicles combined, it was at the end of its lifespan and all systems were suspect. Also, its speedometer topped at 85. Also also, I am a fraidy cat.

So the first and only thing I’ve gone over 120mph in is an airplane.

I could not tell my friends on Facebook because 1) They’re not really friends; they’re people I briefly interacted in real life with decades ago, and 2) I’m not providing any written content for Facebook these days; I am saving it all up for you, gentle reader. Which explains why I brought this up even though it does not portray me in a flattering light. Because I’m keeping it as real as it gets on the Internet.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

You Never Forget Your First

Apparently, Facebook thinks I need fake friend.

C’mon, man, let’s just call that what it is: an Americanized version of a Japanese dating simulator.

Jeez, I would hate to see a Signal ad that describes how Facebook sees me.

But I came not to dunk or snark on replicants, or at least the replicants our 2021 can produce since all the smart kids for the last twenty-five or thirty years have gone into data collection and manipulation instead of robotics and bio-engineering so that we’ve got a cut-rate Blade Runner future where instead of flying cars and moving billboards that are forty stories tall, we’ve got Facebook feeds and perhaps soon-to-be mandatory electric vehicles that can go dozens of miles on a single charge. I didn’t come to make snarky comments on the misbegotten world of the 21st century, but this is a blog, gentle reader, and I have been a curmudgeon since I was thirteen or fourteen years old.

Where was I? Oh, yes—

This would not be my first AI friend, gentle reader. And, no, it was not a Japanese dating simulator. Nor Bradley, the character in my purloined copy of Little Computer People.

The first would have been Eliza. Picture below the fold. Continue reading “You Never Forget Your First”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Journey through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek (2003)

Book coverI regret having read this book.

When I bought it this weekend, I thought it was a collection of grandmother poetry based on the name Mattie. Short for Matilda. Oh, but no. Mattie is short for Matthew.

The poems are not very good, but Mattie is, at the time of publication, 13 years old.

And that would be that, but I came across a poem that he wrote when his older brother died. Each of the poems is dated, and when I got to the bottom of the poem, I did the math. He purportedly wrote this poem when he was four years old. Which is when I looked a little deeper and found the cult of Mattie. Continue reading “Book Report: Journey through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek (2003)”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

From The 1977 Newsweek Swimsuit Issue

I mentioned my Newsweek project before; I’m collecting old Newsweek magazines and am looking through them for a particular article. I have found some interesting articles which do the same thing that catching up on months-old newspapers do–I realize, again, that’s there’s nothing new under the sun. Especially from 1977, where fears of inflation are swirling around a new president who, it turns out, is pretty weak on international affairs (not that news magazine especially speculated on this yet).

However, I discovered that the March 21, 1977 was the swimsuit issue.

I mean, it doesn’t say that on the cover; it talks about Islamic terrorism after an incident where Islamic terrorists seized hostages in Washington, D.C. Don’t remember it? Why is that?

At any rate, the issue contains a full color spread on swimsuits for the season, ostensibly a fashion story, but, c’mon, man, we know it’s to show off comely ladies in swimsuits. Newsweek is a mostly black and white magazine at this time; the only things you tend to see in color are advertisements, such as this page of a multi-page spread talking about the current Ford line-up.

The good news is that, unlike the 1977 Ford lineup and pretty much everything else designed in the 1970s, the swimsuits are pretty timeless.

Continue reading “From The 1977 Newsweek Swimsuit Issue”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Just In Time For Mother’s Day

So I expanded the Friends folder in my email archives because I was looking for Wombat-Socho’s email address since I’m on the Rule 5 post train these days, and I saw an indicator that I had an unread email from my mother.

An unread email from my sainted mother? I thought. Since we talked often and saw each other at least once a week, we did not email each other often; most of the emails in the folder include photos to help me build up my library after I had a hard drive crash about that time. So I clicked in to see what it was. Perhaps a forward that I’d not opened yet?

Oh, but no.

I just somehow dropped something else in the folder.

I read through all the emails; they were sometimes one line missives with attached photographs. Which I am likely to see in the slideshow that’s the screensaver on one of my computers, so I didn’t have to dig into the attachments.

Ah, I do miss her.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: The Great Optimist by Leigh Mitchell Hodges (2003)

Book coverI bought this book in December at ABC Books because it was inexpensive, and as it was filed with the poetry, I thought it was an old collection of poems. As it stands, though, it is a collection of essays or newspaper columns–apparently, the author was a columnist in Philadelphia back when a lot of the people mentioned in Heroes and Outlaws of the Old West, the lawmen anyway, were still alive.

So we have ten short essays–I would put them at 600 words, tops, and it’s only 35 pages total. The column/essays are:

  • “The Great Optimist”, a column about Christmas and how Jesus was the Great Optimist. I wondered as I started it whether I was in for a dozen sermons, but no; although the author is Christian, he’s a columnist and not a pastor.
  • “A Darkened Cage” about how a little darkness teaches a songbird to sing. You know what it’s a metaphor for; it reminded me of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou’s autobiography I was assigned in freshman English. The same metaphor, anyway.
  • “A Spring Song”, which talks about the optimism of spring and mirrors a poem that I’ve put down the first lines of somewhere.
  • “Making the Most”, which is about making the most of your talents (of course).
  • “The Flag”, a patriotic piece whose sentiments we might look askew at today, as it says all Americans can rally around it, which is not the 21st century reality, ainna?
  • “Ma Brither”, which recounts this story:

    Ian MacLaren tells somewhere a sweet story of his native Scotland–what while sauntering along a country lane one hot afternoon, he met a bonnie wee lass, all humped up and red, puffing with the weight of the chubby laddie she was carrying.
    “Isn’t he too heavy for you?” asked the dominic.
    “He’s not hivvy, sir,” came the reply, with a smile of loving pride; “he’s ma brither.”

    I tried to track down the source of this story; although Hodges attributes it to Ian Maclaren (pen name of John Watson), apparently it appears in The parables of Jesus, an 1884 book by James Wells. So it was already an established trope by 1903.

  • “Failure”, about how failure leads to success, which is a strangely contemporary message delivered to you by all your software that breaks easily.
  • “The Grasshopper”, about finding beauty in everyday things.

    Notable because:

    One Wednesday afternoon back in the baby days of the last century, three poets who were friends met together, as was their custom. Before parting, each agreed to write a sonnet on “The Grasshopper,” and to read it the following Wednesday. How would you like to have been there when John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Leigh Hunt–for they were the friends–read each his fourteen lines!

    The poems are from 1816. So the poems were newer to Hodges than Hodges book is to our day.

  • “My Friend,” about real friends. Shades of the first essay in that Montaigne book I have not finished yet.
  • “Thanksgiving,” which is about the holiday and gratitude. Which go together!

So the book kind of follows the year from Christmas to the next Thanksgiving.

The essays are nice, but I probably won’t remember much from the book except that it was old and that I read it. Which is what this post is for, ultimately, gentle reader–to remind me of what this book was actually about.

Also, as a side note, I have read three of the six books I bought at ABC Books that day and I have started the fourth (the English novel Pamela which I will undoubtedly mention over and over as the serious book that I am reading whilst posting book reports on smaller books I have read during the span, much like the recently completed David Copperfield. Dare I make this a twee goal for 2021, to complete all six of these books, kind of like I made it a goal in 2019 to read all of the books that I bought at Calvin’s Books that May? The collection of Paul Dunbar might be daunting, though–although it is only the beginning of May.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Missing From The Book Sales

I spotted this on Facebook:

And my first response was owned? Past tense?

Whereas I do have a bunch of specialty encyclopedia sets, like The Book of Popular Science, The Complete Handyman Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia, the Time-Life Old West series (okay, the last is a stretch), I don’t actually have a set of general interest encyclopedia like the World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, or Funk and Wagnalls.

So, suddenly, of course I want one.

The World Book was the Internet of my day before the Internet. I remember spending at least one Saturday afternoon with my brother, reading all the Greek and Roman mythology articles hypolinked with See and See Also references. Now, of course, you can do the same thing with Wikipedia.

I don’t remember seeing a collection encyclopedias at a book sale in recent years–but of course, I have not actively looked for them, so they might have just escaped my notice.

But we are coming to the right number of decades from their heyday and popularity that they’ve already been cleaned out of homes with no children or grandchildren to use them.

Also, I would imagine book sales are loath to touch them as I cannot imagine that anyone would buy them in this day and age. However, I’m hopeful to stumble across a set at a church sale somewhere along the line. Because now that I know they’re gone, I miss them.

Kind of like how you don’t see old computers in garage sales any more. Thirty years after that old Commodore was put in the basement or the closet, it’s already gone into a garage sale or garbage can by now–or into the hands of collectors or dealers. You don’t even see old computers and whatnot in antique malls.

Ah, how things slip away, and we don’t even see them go.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories