Another Arkansas Vacation Recapped

Yes, it’s been quieter than normal on MfBJN again as I completed another vacation to Arkansas–the last one was six years ago? What have I been doing all this time? Well, aside from buying books and reading them sometimes? My goodness. Six years is a long time, but it doesn’t seem that long ago.

I digress.

We had originally planned to go to Florida (again), but flights for the whole family ran about $3,000, so we looked for a vacation spot that was a short drive away, and we settled on the Wyndham resort at Fairfield Bay, Arkansas.
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Movie Report: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Book coverAt Rob K.’s recommendation, I watched this film. I am easily led, you see, so be careful with your comments, gentle reader, as they may spur me to action.

So, the plot: In an alternative reality, in 1939, an intrepid woman reporter, Polly (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) investigates the disappearance of several scientists. As she’s doing so, a number of giant robots attack the city to extract resources. The authorities call upon Sky Captain, played by Jude Law, who is the leader of a band of mercenary pilots. Sky Captain manages to save Polly and disable one of the robots, which he takes to his base in the mountains for his science-and-engineering genius, played by Giovanni Ribisi, to study. Sky Captain and Polly follow the trail of the missing scientists to a base in the Himalayas and then to an island lair where Dr. Totenkopf’s minions have been building a rocket to take select animals and people and robots to another planet to begin anew as man on earth is bad. Unfortunately, the rocket’s acceleration at about 100km above the earth’s surface will kill all life on the planet.

As mentioned in the previous post, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow features a lot of CGI animation–the film was one of the first to feature a completely green-screen backlot, where scenery behind the actors is completely penciled pixeled in. As Rob said, it has aged well, but that’s because the animation was supposed to look a bit like a comic book and not as real as they could make at the time. So it’s not a jarring anachronism.

An interesting film, an especial treat if you’re familiar with the comic books of the 1930s (such as Doc Savage) with their tropes.

Angelina Jolie appears in the film wearing an eyepatch which in the comic books of the 1930s would not disqualify one from being a pilot. Bai Ling also appears in this movie–it is the first film I’ve seen her in since posting her picture in 2017. I thought it might be the first film I’d seen with her, but I’ve seen The Crow and Red Corner, so this is not the case. I just didn’t know then to associate the name with the actress at the time.

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New Hashtag Needed

Why there’s a fake coyote on duty at Nathanael Greene Park in Springfield, Mo.:

Park administrators recently placed a coyote decoy on the peninsula in Lake Drummond. That’s the site of a new mosaic sundial.

They hope the decoy will keep Canada Geese from leaving droppings behind that could stain the newly poured concrete. Park workers say they weighed several factors when choosing which coyote to deploy.

* * * *

Park administrators ask you to do your part to keep the area free of geese by leaving the decoy alone.


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Movie Reports: Urban Action Cinema collection

Book coverI don’t know where I bought this collection, but it looks to be fifteen films from the Blaxploitation era of the 1970s. And, to be honest, they’re not the best of them–one bets you could sell Shaft, Across 110th Street, Foxy Brown, Superfly, and a handful of other films singly–heck, I bought Get Christie Love! on a dollar DVD close to twenty years ago. But, you know, as I got into them, I discovered that they’re not so much Blaxploitation films as films with black casts.

As I’m going to drop a couple lines on each of them, I will tuck them below the fold.

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We Know The Feeling

Cedar Sanderson is relearning the joys of kitten:

Gets dressed… extricates kitten from closet.
Feeds cats… extricates kitten from pantry.
Opens dishwasher… extricates kitten…
This is giving me fond memories of having toddlers.

Toast is not a bad kitten. She’s just curious, and energetic, and that’s fun to watch.

I mentioned that we found some kittens on our property last October, and I don’t know if I’ve updated you much since, but we know how Ms. S. feels.

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Brian J. Accidentally Celebrates Juneteenth

My beautiful wife asked me if I wanted to go to so-and-so’s play, which was presented last Friday at the art museum. Sure, I was excited to go. So-and-so was a local theatre teacher who ran a summer drama camp my boys attended, and it’s been a while since I’ve been to a play (it can’t really be five yearsseven years, can it? Well, with the lockdowns and lingering restrictions I guess that’s easy.).

Then I saw on the News-Leader Web site that the art museum was holding a Juneteenth event that night. Oh, I thought, and it turned out to be true. The local NAACP chapter was hosting the “play.” Oh, boy, I thought.

So, yeah. It was not a “play.” Nominally the story of a local slave who won her freedom by suing for it and a later attack on a home where she lived (the history is based on scant court records), instead of a courtroom drama or biographical play with human characters interacting, instead we got a chorus of about 8 actors (and actresses) lightly dramatizing and setting to music the bad things America has done to blacks (well, slaves and their descendants but rolled up into even African and Caribbean immigrants later) and a little side-order of what America has done to women and other racial minorities (glossing over how badly America treated other immigrant groups like the Irish and the Italians). They litanied events in history, lionized some figures who probably could do with less (St. George F., St. Michael B.), glossed over some history (the assassination of Malcolm X is presented in a second or two of stylized violence–left out, of course, it that he was killed by other Nation of Islam members who were black), and otherwise really only existed to convey The Message. Left out of the presentation: George Washington Carver, Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Susie King Taylor, Booker T. Washington, and many others. Basically, about anyone that could not be used to identify a grievance.

A shame, really, as the story of the slave who won her freedom would make for some compelling theatre as a play. This was not it. It was instead part of a program seeking recognition for the couple-of-incomplete-historical-records figure who only appears a couple of times in a dramatic presentation bearing her name. I am pretty sure they want her to be considered one of the city’s founders. They also seem eager to rename things named after the early residents of the city, including the major thoroughfares and whatnot. It’s been all the rage nationwide for a couple of years now, ainna?

The audience was mostly white people, as you can be expected. Afterwards, the actors had a question-and-answer period/struggle section (one “question” was an elderly former teacher who cried because she did not know the history of the Springfield lynching and wondered how why that single incident was not a centerpiece of education in Springfield). Others were about Springfield history: Were the “founding fathers” of the city who participated in the attack on the house were she lived after freedom punished enough by modern revisionists? Et cetera.

The actors were ill-equipped to handle local history questions, and the basic answer for why the audience members didn’t know was because the audience members lacked intellectual curiosity to learn on their own. Heck’s pecs, I’m only a recent resident of the area, but you know, gentle reader, I have delved into local history. I know that there were more white people hanged for perceived offenses and as a result of the Late Unpleasantness than black people. But, of course, historical perspective, researching for one’s self, and reading actual history harshes The Message.

So I was unimpressed.

I did note that the Art Museum had armed security guards present for the production. I have not been to the art museum recently (sadly) or to other functions at night at the art museum, but I wonder if this was common or if they thought someone might be restive at the production.

At any rate, it got me hungering for drama. It looks like Springfield Contemporary Theatre has lifted its vaccination requirements. What are they running?

Urinetown: The Musical. Well, maybe not.

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Good Book Hunting, ABC Books, Saturday, June 17, 2023

After finishing a morning of CPR training and certification, I headed north to ABC Books for a book signing conveniently scheduled for 1-3pm which gave me a chance to gorge on sushi and Chinese food beforehand. Which set the countdown timer to naptime, as I have conditioned myself to have a siesta shortly after lunch most days.

I bought four of the author’s books and the sole volume in the martial arts section (which the proprietrix said made her think of me when she priced it and put it on the shelf).

The titles are:

  • Into the Night and When the Cowbird Sings which are short story collections that the author described as The Twilight Zone meets O. Henry. I felt rather clever since I no longer confuse O. Henry with Saki.
  • Bank Notes Revisited which details the crime spree and imprisonment of the Boonie Hat bank robber, whom the author met in prison and married.
  • Inside the Death Fences, which details the author’s experience acting as a whistleblower on corruption in prisons.

I also got How To Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by Judah Friedlander. It appears to be wide ranging; I think when I flipped it open, I fell upon a recipe. Also, it has a lot of pictures in it which do not look to be related to martial arts strikes. So it’s probably more of a memoir than a how-to guide.

It sounds like Ms. E. has a number of book signings lined up through the fall and into winter, so I’d better start budgeting for the binges.

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Movie Report: The Longest Yard (2005)

Book coverThis is the Adam Sandler remake of the Burt Reynolds film from 1974. Sandler plays a former professional quarterback, in disrepute due to allegations of point-shaving, who breaks up with his girlfriend by stealing her car and leading the police on a chase. Sentenced to prison for his transgressions, the warden encourages–nay, encourages in italics which means demands that Crewe (Sandler) lead a prisoner team against the guards’ amateur league team.

Well, that tracks with the original (which I have not seen). The bulk of the film deals with Crewe gathering up a team out of the prisoners, including having to earn the respect of the other racial groups, and then playing the big football game.

It was an amusing film, not the top of Sandler’s work, obviously. It includes Chris Rock, Nelly, and Burt Reynolds as a long-time inmate who agrees to coach. And, of course, we’ve got Rob Schneider saying, “You can do it!” Which is what Sandleristas like to see.

Amusing, not world-shattering or world-changing, but maybe world-encouraging.

The cover indicates many markdowns in price: Presumably full-ish price somewhere, $7.99 at Vintage Stock, marked down at Vintage Stock to $3.99, and a buck at an antique mall. Which says something about how people have felt about keeping it in their film libraries. Rest assured, little DVD, that you have a forever home. At least until my estate sale. Which is not this year, I hope.

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Movie Report: Superbad (2007)

Book coverI picked this film up earlier this month after having watched Knocked Up late last month to see what I thought about other Jud Apatow movies.

This film stars Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as high school friends (well, mostly Cera and Hill’s characters are–they keep the geeky other guy around because he has a fake ID and can score alcohol). They’re coming to the end of their senior year in high school and will have to go to different colleges–the first time they’ll have been separated since they were really young. They get invited to a party thrown by their attractive classmate (Emma Stone), so they plot to get alcohol, lower their inhibitions, and have sex with their crushes. Their plan goes awry when Fogell, the one with the fake ID, witnesses a liquor store robbery and is befriended by two fun-loving cops played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen. Meanwhile, the other pair infiltrates a biker party to make off with some booze. Hijinks ensue, they make it to the party….

And although they could, they do not have drunken sex with their crushes.

So the film does have a bit of a mature, maybe even conservative cast as the kids learn that alcohol and sex are not really the ultimate ends of life. Which is nice.

However, the film is a little more crass and overt with a lot of the swearing and drinking that differentiate it from the youth party-centric movies of my youth (such as Weird Science which I saw over and over back in the day as it was on Showtime). And I got to thinking about how much of the youth party culture is fictional. I mean, I did not go to a lot of parties in high school (and only a handful in college). My boys haven’t seen it so far. I don’t think my wife was into it. But I do recollect that my West County girlfriend of the middle 1990s talked about her experience in high school, how on a Saturday night they would pile into cars and start following cars they recognized, eventually having a long train of cars because someone was going to a party, and all the rest would follow. Perhaps, then, the party-culture depicted in the films are more of an upper class thing, or perhaps I and my progeny are just oddballs who have been left out of it, probably to the better.

Oh, and shortly after watching this, I saw a headline in a British tab “‘I drew todgers as young Jonah Hill on Superbad – it earned me a fortune’. An interesting story about how small roles can lead to income years down the line. But hardly a fortune.

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They Want Me To Ackshully

For some reason, Facebook thinks I’m a real hockey fan. I assume I clicked on hockey-related news somewhere along the line. I probably cross-posted the Jordan Binnington print. And my cousin’s husband is a big hockey fan, and Facebook thinks we’re great friends.

So I get a lot of posts about hockey and hockey memes. Like this one.

Brent Gretzky did play in the NHL. For the Tampa Bay Lightning. This picture depicts Brett Hull (#16) and Wayne Gretzky during his very brief time (one spring) with the St. Louis Blues between his stints with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers.

Hall of Famer Brett Hull, it should be noted, had more than 4 points.

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Movie Report: The Cary Grant Collection VHS

Book coverGentle reader, over Memorial Day weekend (that long ago, sadly–I am far behind on my movie reports and not so much my book reports), I watched this single videocassette with three Cary Grant films which I bought in April. I’d had memories of the three-VHS set that I bought in 2008–and when I tried to watch it shortly thereafter, I encountered a problem with one of the videocassettes not tracking well at all, so I left it in my unwatched video cabinet for the last fifteen years.

So I was a little surprised that I had already seen the two first two movies. I bought Charade on a separate videocassette and watched it in 2015 (almost closer to 2008 than now). I’m not sure when I would have seen Penny Serenade unless either that videocassette of the 3-pack worked or I also bought and watched it independently in the interim. But I had never heard of the third film, Amazing Adventure also known as The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss.

They go in reverse chronological order: Charade is from 1963, the height of Grant’s older charmer era. The Penny Serenade comes from 1941, and Amazing Adventure is a British film from 1936 in a trimmed American release in 1937.

Charade finds an ex-pat American (Audrey Hepburn) planning to divorce her husband. But returning from holiday, she finds her Paris apartment bare and her husband has been murdered leaving the country. A helpful American, played by Cary Grant, lends support. Several old squad mates (including James Coburn and George Kennedy) of her husband’s show up looking for stolen war loot that they presume she has. A helpful American agent, played by Walter Matthau, tells her to look for the money and turn it over to him. And she learns that Mister Joshua (Grant’s character, not Gary Busey’s) is working with the squad mates. Maybe.

It has twists and turns, set pieces and a lot of early 60s Paris, including some scenes on the Seine filmed in the same locations as scenes from Frantic two decades later. And a happy ending between the older Grant and the younger Hepburn–whose age difference is a bit of a running joke through the film, as Grant is 59 and Hepburn is 33 in the film. To be honest, although she was the original manic pixie girlfriend archetype (well, original to those of us of a certain age who did not get into silent films until later), Hepburn really doesn’t do that much for me.

I have the soundtrack by Henry Mancini on LP, and although I have seen the film once before as I mentioned, I am more familiar with the music as I play the record more often than I’ve watched the movie.

Penny Serenade tells the story of a couple, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, who marry when Grant’s journalist gets posted to Japan. They enjoy life in pre-World War II Japan (the film came out in April 1941, months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor), living a bit beyond their means, when the wife becomes pregnant. During the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, though, she loses the baby and through cinemagic cannot have another. When they return to the states, he buys a newspaper in California and with the help of Applejack, a friend from New York, they try to make a go of it. The core of the movie is their adoption of a little infant girl with the comic movements of their first time with a baby, challenges in bathing the baby, and so on. Applejack comes from a large family, and in addition to being able to diagnose and correct printing presses with a whack, he can show them how to handle a baby. As she grows, they enjoy moments with her, including her participation in a Christmas program.

The story is told in flashback as the wife spins various records triggering these memories–it turns out that after the Christmas program sometime, the child took sick and died suddenly–this is revealed in a handwritten letter to the woman at the adoption organization, and important points should not be rendered in handwriting, Hollywood, as when viewed eighty years later a cheap, copyright-free transfer to a videocassette watched 35 years later, viewers will not be able to read the letter blurring upward on the screen. At any rate, the wife is leaving the husband who has become depressed and detached, but as Applejack readies to take her to the station, the woman at the adoption agency calls with another child for adoption, and the couple reconciles as the credits roll.

The ending of it was rather tacked-on, but I guess that was the whole reason for the frame story and perhaps the promotion of the records featured. But it ultimately was unsatisfying. Grant got one of his Academy Award nominations for the role, but I am not so sold on it.

Amazing Adventure finds Cary Grant playing a well-to-do bachelor who is challenged to live life as a commoner for a year without touching his money. He meets a young commoner, played by Mary Brian, and falls in love, holds a number of jobs, and learns some life lessons. It was not a particularly compelling film, but I’ve seen it now.

Now that I am getting into the older Cary Grant stage of my life, I should perhaps re-channel my inner Cary Grant. I have been dressing in jeans and t-shirts a pile lately (but collared shirts when leaving the house) because I’ve not been going many places these days. Perhaps I should spring for a couple more dress slacks and get back to dressing dapper even in my own home. Because that’s how men, at least men in the cinema in the first half of the last century, did it.

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Movie Report: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Book coverI bought this film at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale in April, but the real trigger to watching it comes from having later bought Lanie Kazan’s record. And she plays Nia Vardalos’s mother in the film–third billed after Nia Vardalos and John Corbett, that guy from Northern Exposure who was briefly the It-Guy for (over-)educated hunks at the turn of the century, so of course I picked it up right away. Not because of John Corbett, although I would have felt more like him seven or eight years earlier when I was the over-educated one with the mullet.

I did not see this film in the theatre, but I saw this film with…. Originally, I thought it might be before my beautiful wife, but the timing is not right. Unlike Get Shorty, this film clearly came out (and by clearly, I mean by checking its date) after we were together married. Apparently, she had seen it with the ladies at work (back in the day when we went to work and not to our separate home offices–oh, so long ago), and she then wanted to watch it with me. And we did.

So this was Nia Vardalos’s big shot. She wrote it, and she stars as Toula, an ugly duckling daughter of a Greek restaurant owner in Chicago who wants more than to be the dutiful daughter all her life. So she–with the help of her mother, played by Lanie Kazan as I mentioned, gets her father to allow her (Toula) to attend college to learn computers. She does and gets some work with a cousin’s travel agency. Along the way, she meets Ian (John Corbett), an English professor who is the only child of WASPy white-bread parents. They fall in love, and the cultures clash as she has a big, boisterous family compared with his mother and father as sole representatives of his family.

The humor comes from that culture clash as they prepare to wed with their (mostly hers) family’s help. She pokes fun at Greek heritage, and Ian’s parents, well, they’re stereotypes (archetypes?) of the sort who name their child Ian.

But, you know what? As a pretty white-bread whitey who grew up in the ghetto and in the trailer park instead of any side that could be called “upper,” I’m not offended because:

  • I can laugh at myself and those who look like me.
  • There’s no money for me in faking outrage.

At any rate, a pleasant and amusing way to spend a couple of hours.

Apparently, it proved lucrative for Nia Vardalos. She had a hit film that spawned a franchise (a couple of sequels over the decades including one that’s forthcoming) and a television show based on the movie. She’s also had a career with television appearances and small movie roles over the years, but she did not replicate the success of this film into leading role success in the cinema.

I would draw a parallel to my own creative career, gentle reader, but you’re here on this blog, and this blog is pretty much it.

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Movie Report: The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)

Book coverI kind of remember the Pink Panther movies from my younger years. I’d like to say that I saw one of them at the drive-in with my parents. We went a couple of times when I was younger, sometimes my parents, my brother, and I, and at least once with my mother and her friend the country singer and her two boys. Enough to think we went all the time, kind of like how a handful of Christmases and holidays from my very younger years set the pattern. But going to the drive-in in the late 1970s was already trending toward an anachronism. I’ve thought about taking my boys down to Aurora for the drive-in there (and mentioned it to my beautiful wife while talking about this film, triggering Facebook ads for that very drive-in). But I am sure my boys would find the experience underwhelming. I also think that I saw parts of a Pink Panther film when we later at the home of the country singer, her husband the wedding singer, and their two boys, either on a sleepover or in the interim month between exiting the projects and decamping for Missouri at the end of the school year–I remember the bit about Inspector Clouseau’s butler attacking him. I also remember that Inspector Clouseau was a bit of a, what, trope? when I was younger. You’d say someone was a Clouseau who was stating the obvious or was making a bad deduction. And look at his attire on the cover: He was the inspiration for Inspector Gadget, ainna?

At any rate, with the title The Return of the Pink Panther, I thought it would be the sequel to the first film. But, no: This is the fourth in the original series of 11 films (with two 21st century rebooted movies starring Steve Martin instead of Peter Sellers). It came out in 1975, eleven years after the first. So I have no idea of whether I’ve seen bits of this film before–probably what was showing in the drive-in or on HBO at the time would have been later entries in the series.

So: Someone has stolen The Pink Panther, a large diamond with a flaw in it that looks like a leaping pink panther (not like the Owen Corning pitch cartoon character–the cartoon character originated in the titles for the film series) is stolen (again), and Clouseau is tasked with investigating (over the wishes of his commander, who has finally succeeded in getting Clouseau off of the force). His old nemesis The Phantom (Christopher Plummer) is suspected of the crime, but he did not do it–so he sets out also to find out who did. A number of humorous set pieces later (my oldest passed through while I was watching it and guffawed at a bit), and Clouseau is there when the culprit is revealed: the Phantom’s lover, who did it to spice up the retired Phantom’s life.

Uh, retroactive spoiler alert, but it is a 48-year-old movie that isn’t about the whodunit it but the cartoonish comic pieces, like when Clouseau enters the suspect’s hotel room and destroys it with a vacuum cleaner.

I don’t know that I have seen any of the other films or reboots in the wild, but I might pick them up in the future if they’re a buck or so (as this was when I bought it in April).

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“Do You Ever Sit Out Here With Your Coffee In The Morning?” he asked.

My brother and his fiancé came over from Poplar Bluff this weekend, and he asked me this question as he stood on my back deck looking at the pasture and the stable in the distance (half of Whitaker’s Folly is again on the market, this time for $725,000 for essentially a really nice stable and no house–it will again be years, likely, until it sells).

Do I sit on the deck and watch the orange light turn to white in the mornings? No.

I’ve been working from home for 18 of the last 19 years, gentle reader, so I don’t really have a morning routine that includes getting ready for work and which might entail the actions before crossing the first threshold of the daily hero’s journey. I get out of bed, I go to the bathroom, I drink the cold cup of coffee I make the night before, I start another cup, and I am at work.

I mean, my morning routine has sometimes included actually making breakfast, getting boys ready for school, or taking the boys to school. The mornings have been busy, not the time to savor the coming day like some actor in a coffee commercial

Not an actor in a coffee commercial, but similar

In my defense, I do sit out on my deck or patio at times at the close of day or as night falls (although not so much this year as mosquitos are terrible this year–I feel like I’m back in Wisconsin or in the North Woods of Michigan this spring and early summer).

But probably not often enough.

I later texted my brother after he’d returned home and asked if he sat on his deck in the mornings.

Sometimes, he replied.

Perhaps that’s the best we can hope for.

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Old Man Things Brian J. Is Trying To Purge From His Behavior (II)

I have started getting irritated that inexpensive Rubbermaid and even less expensive garbage cans and laundry baskets are breaking down.

We have had the same garbage cans for years–my beautiful wife has said that the main kitchen garbage can precedes our wedding. It has broken around the top edge from repeating grabbings at the lip to replace the garbage bag or to make it more accessible–let me do the math–several thousand times in five or six different kitchens. Some years ago, when the top first cracked, I wrapped duct tape around the top several times, but the duct tape has broken down by now.

We’ve also got a set of inexpensive laundry baskets where the handles are separate plastic parts from the body of the basket, but the handles are breaking off because apparently we’re grabbing the laundry baskets by the handles instead of the more solid corners of the single-forgedmolded piece of plastic that forms the body (and the corners and lip of the basket are far stronger than the lip of the garbage cans.

I know, they’re basically disposable things designed to last for but a couple of years and not be family heirloom quality (what these days are heirloom quality except seeds?). Now that I am getting to that late youth where I measure “just” and “recently” in decades, I realize just how short of a lifespan these things have.

And as this is a blog, where twee observations lead to profound discoveries, I suppose I could make this a metaphor for the brief lifespan of man, but maybe I will do that later. Like the later where I replace these broken household items.

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Movie Report: Bedazzled (2000)

Book coverI saw this film in the theater, without Mike as I just mentioned, although in this case “just” is three years ago as befits my work-from-home-addled memory.

In it, Brendan Fraser plays an obnoxious dweeb customer tech support worker at a tech company in San Francisco who tries too hard to relate to his co-workers and earns their disdain and mockery for his efforts. On an uninvited outing to a bar where his co-workers have gathered without him, he runs into a co-worker upon whom he has a crush but who dismisses his clumsy attempts at conversation. When he says he’d do anything to be with her, the Devil, played by Elizabeth Hurley, hears him and offers him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. He reluctantly accepts, and the bulk of the movie depicts the situations where he wishes to be rich, to be erudite, to be strong and athletic, and so on, and how the Devil thwarts him. He wants to be rich and married to Alison (his crush), and he ends up as a drug lord whose wife despises him (the scenes in the trailer of this piece prompted my call to Mike in el español), or a giant dumb athlete with a small, erm, you know, Johnson, and so on. Amusing and even funny at times (can I say that as a snoorky blogger, wherein I blend snooty and snarky into the portmanteau).

The film also has Gabriel Casseus as “Elliot’s Cellmate” but a stand-in for an angel or God. I’d remembered this role as played by Don Cheedle, but no. And at the time of my original viewing, I thought It’s that guy from… but looking at his IMDB entry, I can’t think of what it would have been. I saw him in Blackhawk Down and Black Dog) not an actual movie review, but a posting of when I bought the film which I watched shortly thereafter).

Theologically, the film gets a little muddy on the Devil/God thing, showing them at the end playing chess when Brendan Fraser’s character walks by with his ultimate earthly reward (a relationship with a pretty girl), and the Devil tries to cheat after pointing out the lovebirds and drawing the cellmate’s attention away. It does not mention Jesus, et cetera, but if you need to, you can kind of, sort of, recast it a bit as the book of Job, but not really. Although I’m not sure how one should recast the book of Job anyway.

But enough about theology. What of Elizabeth Hurley?
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Old Man Things Brian J. Is Trying To Purge From His Behavior (I)

You know, a current line of Progressive insurance commercials feature a therapist/coach who is trying to help people from becoming their parents, and some of that has resonated with me. As I am entering middle age late youth, I’ve started looking into my behavior to see what repetitive things I do that are only interesting to myself but which I do over and over again.

Like commenting on the price of gas when I pass gas stations.

And it’s not just a matter of muttering about how high gas prices are relative to when I was young.

Oh, no. It is/was commenting on the variance in gas prices from station to station. In the Springfield area, it’s not uncommon to see a thirty-cents-a-gallon or sometimes more swing between gas stations on the east side of Springfield (well, on Glenstone Avenue, which is east of here but I am unsure whether natives consider that east) and stations in southwest Missouri. Republic’s gas prices tend to be a dime or more less than southwest Springfield as well, and sometimes you will see a dime swing between Conoco/Rapid Roberts and Phillips 66/Fast ‘n’ Friendly just blocks away.

So for a while (probably years), I pointed this out to passengers in the car. Of course, nobody else seemed as, what, not incensed, not enthusiastic, maybe interested, as I was in the phenomenon.

So I’ve decided to let it go and to focus on not bringing this up every car ride.

My renewed youth: in progress.

In other news, my oldest, who has been driving for almost a year, has use of a family vehicle, and now has the responsibility of fueling it with the proceeds of his first job, came home and talked about the price difference between the Battlefield gas stations. Well, the Conoco and the White Oak. None of us even consider the Battlefield Eagle Stop, located on the corner of two county highways and with highway prices to match. But he did point out the disparity in gas prices.

Someone is clearly turning into his parents.

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Movie Report: Get Shorty (1995)

Book coverAh, gentle reader, this film provided a bit of mental relief for me in the real world. When I proposed watching this film, my beautiful wife said to me, “We saw that in the theater.” To which I responded that I had never seen the movie. Given that the film came out two years before we met, we did not see it in the theater. I was pleased to see that she, too, pencils me into some of her memories from that brief interlude between childhood and marriage. I myself have on several occasions said something like, “Remember when we…” only to discover she was not a part of the we I was thinking of. I thought perhaps I alone was muddy on that brief interlude between summer 1994 and early 1997, the interregnum between college and being a couple, which were very busy and whose memories I sometimes retcon my wife into.

At any rate, this film is based on an Elmore Leonard book. A small time loan shark, Chili (played by John Travolta) has a run-in with a henchman of a major Miami player (the henchman played by Dennis Farina) and humiliates the henchman but cannot be retailiated against because of his powerful boss. Chili goes looking for someone who has run out on a debt and whose $10,000 skimming has blossomed with an insurance settlement for a plane crash that the drycleaner/welsher (played by David Paymer, hello, hello–did I see Crazy People with my wife or before?). Chili goes to Vegas, braces the drycleaner, and is asked by the Las Vegas mob to collect on a debt from a horror movie producer, Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). When Chili breaks into the house where Zimm is staying, he tells Zimm about the adventure he’s on, pitching it as a movie, and Zimm is interested–if Chili can help get the rights to a screenplay held by the writer’s widow (Bette Midler).

Oh, yes, it gets complicated. But it has a movie-within-a-movie that a medieval drama enthusiast would enjoy. It’s chock full of stars, and it has clever twists that you would expect from an Elmore Leonard book-turned-movie (see also Out of Sight and Jackie Brown, neither of which I’ve actually reported on… yet). I said to my wife after having seen the film that it’s a shame that they don’t make movies from Elmore Leonard books any more, but they’re still making them. Get Shorty had its sequel Be Cool and a television series; 3:10 to Yuma had a remake; Justified was based on a series of books by Leonard, and it’s getting a revival.

Probably a better question, with a worse answer, is why we don’t make writers like Elmore Leonard any more. Or why Hollywood would not adapt their works if we did.

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Q: How can you tell Brian J. complained aloud last night that he’s a bit bogged down in The Story of Civilization‘s section of Our Oriental Heritage that covers India, especially that is coverage of philosophy/art/music section’s dry and merely enumerative nature?

A: Today, Brian J. starts getting Facebook “suggested posts” on India and its history:

On the other hand, I did just post a brief nugget on India’s history a couple days ago. So maybe Facebook is just reading the blog.

Even if you are paranoid, they might be trying to sell you something.

Also, point of order: Why Bonjour? Maybe on account of the French and Indian Wars or something.

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