Blog Update

Still cranking away on updating what I want to do with this. I’ve set getting Julia’s updated DonkeyGirl website and store and all that as a priority first, though; made some good progress on that this weekend, and hope to have it live sometime in the next week. It will need tweaking after that, but it will at least be functional. Then I can turn more attention back to my own stuff.

A Bummer Weekend

It’s been a sad place around here for the last 24 hours after getting news that a friend of the family, Mike Davis, bassist for Detroit rock legends MC5, has passed away. Details can be found here on Huffington Post, as well as other places.

Angela Davis, Mike’s wife (and MC5 manager), is one of Julia’s oldest friends, so Julia has known Mike for many years. She’s been pretty upset, and I was choked up listening to her speak to Angela on the phone yesterday. In the last few years I got to know Mike and Angela as well, and they are some of the friendliest, warmest people I’ve gotten to meet. I was just relaying a story that happened at the Davis house to a friend the other night, which Mike detailed in a blog post called, “Repairman Narrowly Escapes Satanic Cult.” While they lived in Oregon Julia and I were fortunate to visit them a couple times.

The impact on the music world by the MC5, particularly as it relates to the rock music I prefer, cannot be measured. They were giants. Mike will be missed. I’m very sorry for Angela and their boys. I’ll miss talking music and bass playing, remakes and amp settings with Mike.

Short Stories

Week seven in my short story reading challenge continued unabated. Here’s what I read the past seven days:

  1. Out the Window by Lawrence Block from The Night and the Music (ebook) (02/12/2012)
  2. Battle for the Laughing City by Richard Godwin from Thrillers, Killers n’ Chillers (Online) (02/12/2012)
  3. Still Life With Skulls by Charles Gramlich from In the Language of Scorpions (Borgo) (02/12/2012)
  4. God’s Dream by Charles Gramlich from Strange Worlds (Space Puppet) (02/13/2012)
  5. The Great Divide by Shann Ray from American Masculine (Graywolf) (02/14/2012)
  6. The Black Widow Club by Hilary Davidson from Needle: A Magazine of Noir (Spring 2010) (02/14/2012)
  7. People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water by Annie Proulx from Close Range (Scribner) (02/15/2012)
  8. Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened by Hal Niedzviecki from Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened (City Lights) (02/15/2012)
  9. Fort Apache by Alan Heathcock from Volt (Graywolf) (02/16/2012)
  10. Lazarus by Alan Heathcock from Volt (Graywolf) (02/16/2012)
  11. Love of Life by Jack London from The Great Adventure Stories of Jack London (Bantam) (02/16/2012)
  12. Schott’s Bridge by Donald Ray Pollock from Knockemstiff (Anchor Books) (02/17/2012)
  13. Nickels and Dimes by John A. Imani from Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! (Switchblade Press) (02/17/2012)
  14. The Lady & the Gimp by Paul D. Brazill from Pulp Ink (ebook) (02/18/2012)
  15. A Night at the Royale by Chris F. Holm from Pulp Ink (ebook) (02/18/2012)
  16. Clouds in a Bunker by David Cranmer from Pulp Ink (ebook) (02/18/2012)

American Falcon

The debut album is all mixed, and we mastered a couple songs to see how they sound. Sounds better than I ever would have expected. Artwork in process; this sucker should be out in March. I’m excited for people to (finally) get to hear it.

Pictures

Here are three pictures (first two shot via iPhone, the third via Photo Booth; all processed via Instagram) to close this out; one from a hike last weekend in the desert, this one from yesterday cross-country skiing the Montana/Idaho border. And one that shows the brutal battle for desktop space. These make me happy. Except the desktop one.

Super Snow Sunday

Spent the morning yesterday out putting in a few miles on snowshoes at the top of Lolo Pass. It was a gorgeous day, and the snow was perfect. There was also about twice as much of it as there was the last time we were there, just two weeks ago. I did a quick photo dump off both the camera and the cell phone, but didn’t do much to enhance them; I think they could be much better. They look cool in black and white as well, but color shows just how perfect a day it was.

At the Lodge
Some skiers just heading out
Obligatory trees against the sky shot
Julia makes her way up the hill

We met a couple coming down as we were heading out. They were excited by the view from the top, and the quality of the snow there. It was like piles of exquisite little crystals, all shattered into heaps that glittered in the sunlight. I tried to capture it on the camera, but didn’t really succeed. Still, the next couple images give you a little bit of an idea.

Snow crystals
More snow crystals

Finally, here are three shots filtered through Instagram.

Across the meadow
Intrepid Adventurers
Top o’ the World

 

The pictures don’t really do it justice — it was just a fantastic outing. We may go up in the evening this weekend and do a moonlight hike. Hope we can pull it off. . . .

 

 

 

Photo Finish Friday

The Ansel Adams Meets Easy Rider Edition.

 

This is a self portrait of yours truly from August of 2007 (damn, that’s almost five years ago!). It’s from Yosemite National Park. I was on a work trip in the Sierras and wrapped up early. Since I was so close to Yosemite and I had never been before, I took a vacation day to go check it out. It is as magnificent as it seems — impossible to describe, really. It’s good to be reminded that, for all my longing to see other places around the world, there is a lot of stuff right here in the USA that can put me on my knees.

I was reminded of it because the following video came across my Google reader today, courtesy of one of one of my favorite feeds, Vagabondish. Fire this sucker up and watch it in full screen. I literally found myself brought nearly to tears watching it, especially the night scenes with the stars and galaxies passing overhead.

 

 

 

 

The J.O.T. Film Festival, Day Four

Monday night was supposed to be Coens Night at the JOTFF. Things started off with a bang.

True Grit

Damn, I love this movie; liked it even more the second time around than I did when I saw it in the theater. Makes me realize just how much I really don’t like the original John Wayne version. Love the book though, which reminds me — need to read more Charles Portis.

Things to note:

  • The take Jeff Bridges has on Rooster Cogburn crushes Wayne’s take. Crushes it.
  • People gripe about Bridges’s garbled lines. I think it fits the character perfectly.
  • Matt Damon is perfect as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Does Damon ever not deliver (no, I’m not going to test the answer to my own question by seeing We Bought a Zoo)?
  • Same goes for Josh Brolin. He almost saved that P.O.S. Jonah Hex movie (which would have been awesome if I’d been in charge).
  • Despite all I’ve said about the excellence of the veterans in the cast, young Hailee Steinfeld pretty much steals the show. What an outstanding job.
  • Love the cinematography too. The locations they used in Texas and New Mexico are gorgeous.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the world needs more new Westerns. What a great movie.

 

When it was over, I fired up Netflix, eager to watch Fargo. They don’t have it streaming. My disappointment was huge. So I thought I’d watch Blood Simple. They don’t have that one either! I was enraged. Thought about making a run to the video store, which would have necessitated putting some pants on. I looked at the clock and decided I’d just call it a night and read a goddamn book. When I talked to her over the phone as I was making this decision, Julia said I should watch Miller’s Crossing. Which would have been the smart thing to do. But I can’t have Julia making suggestions on what films should run during the J.O.T. Film Festival. Sometimes a man needs to take stand. Show “true grit” and all that.

 

Next up: X Night.

 

 

The J.O.T. Film Festival, Day Three

Sunday night I changed things up a little bit, firing up Netflix streaming to go with one movie I’d seen before and one I’d had on my queue for some time. All in all, it was another excellent evening of viewing.

Winter’s Bone

Julia and I saw this one when it hit the theater and really liked it. I’d been meaning to see it again, because the theater we saw it in, The Wilma, here in Missoula, can be problematic. I love the vibe of the place, and it is probably my favorite one in town to go to (there are two other theaters, both Carmike chain theaters), but certain movies can be hard to fully experience. If a film has quiet dialogue, or characters with accents, the acoustics of the room combined with a questionable sound system renders much of it a muddy mess in my rock-battered earholes. For this reason we haven’t yet seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy because we expect to be stymied by the audio. Which is a drag, because I really want to see that movie. As for Winter’s Bone, much of the initial viewing was compromised by not really hearing what was going on in many spots. I wanted another shot at it to absorb it all over again, and catch what I’d missed.

I read the book and loved it before seeing the movie. The movie, while slightly different from the book, still holds to the story close enough that the spirit of the novel is more than maintained (thankfully, a previous screenplay for the movie, as noted by Woodrell in an interview I read somewhere, had drastic changes with an ongoing plan to turn Ree Dolly, the main character, into some kind of franchise character as an amateur sleuth; which would have sucked). Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly is fantastic, and John Hawkes (one of my favorite actors, I remember him best as Sol Star in Deadwood) as Teardrop is also excellent. Watching it again reminded me that it was one of my favorites films the year it came out.

This kind of “rural noir” as it’s called can be hit and miss for me. I’ve read a fair amount of it lately as part of my Short Story a Day thing I’ve been doing, from authors like Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, Frank Bill, etc. Seems to be a big thing right now. At its best, where Woodrell often (but not always) delivers, it is compelling. Often, though, it seems to be little more than sex, drugs, guns and violence porn, and I don’t care for it. Some of it, as I read, makes me wonder what a guy like the late, great Joe Bageant would think of it. When it slips into the realm of being gratuitous I find myself turned off.

Winter’s Bone, for all its grim setting and darkness, doesn’t go there. It’s a tight story, and Ree is one of the best female characters I’ve seen in a long time. Book or movie, you can’t miss. I offer my highest recommendations for both. Its success makes me hope filmmakers are sniffing around other writers delivering the top shelf material in this genre. I could totally see Bonnie Jo Campbell‘s work on the big screen, no doubt about it.

American Grindhouse

This movie is a documentary about the history of exploitation films, starting way back in the 50s and taking us through genres with names like Nudie Cuties, Roughies, Blaxploitation, Film Noir, and on into pornography. And it isn’t just about the movies themselves, but the “Grindhouse” theaters (particularly the collection of them on 42nd street in New York City) that would show them, running films of questionable content 24 hours a day, and the culture that grew up around them. It was interesting and I learned quite a bit — the interview subjects were entertaining, whether they were film scholars or the actual directors and actors working on the early films. The old trailers and posters of course were fantastic. It’s a fairly short movie, and it really only scratches the surface as it jumps from one subject to the next, but it’s worth watching if you have any interest at all in learning about a slice of film history that may be more important in contributing to the success of movies of today, mainstream or otherwise, than you realize. I liked it.

Next up: A Night with the Coens

 

The J.O.T. Film Festival, Day Two

BATMAN Night

Last night’s viewing festivities consisted of the firing up for the first time of the blu-ray copies of Christopher Nolan‘s two Batman flicks, Batman Begins followed by The Dark Knight. I hadn’t watched either movie in some time, though lately, with Sid on a big Batman kick, I’ve read three or four graphic novels. Even watched the recent animated DVD, Batman: Year One based on the graphic novel of the same name.. Batman has been one of my favorite characters since I was just a kid, and I’m with the crowd that thanks Nolan for rescuing the movie franchise after its crash and burn in the wake of the four movies that came out in the 90s. With a third installment, The Dark Knight Rises, said to be Nolan’s final one, coming out this summer, watching these flicks served as a great warm-up for stoking my eagerness for it to hit the screen.

What these movies did most is prove that superhero movies can be more than just campy nonsense. Both films are almost as much cop dramas as they are action flicks. Christian Bale makes an excellent Batman; he’s even better as Bruce Wayne. Michael Caine? Gary freakin’ Oldman? Hell, the cast is excellent across the board (even the “leading lady” change between movies doesn’t bother me much). Gotham City itself is a great character. And Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight — outstanding. I also love the soundtracks. They both run a little long (maybe too long — the final acts of both drag a bit) but I didn’t get bored.

I wasn’t a fan of Nolan’s most recent non-Batman movie, Inception, but I’ll forever be a fan just for setting a high bar for comic book movies via these Batman flicks. Some people bitch about how many comic characters are showing up in theaters. As long as they’re good, I say keep ’em coming.

 

 

The J.O.T. Film Festival, Day One

Yesterday morning I delivered Julia to the airport for a trip to Tucson, where she will be for a week visiting family. The stars weren’t properly aligned for me to accompany her, so that means that while the rest of us are here shoveling out and keeping the wolves at bay after the big Snowpocalypse 2012, she’s soaking up rays and probably dashing naked through the desert. Whatever.

As for me, I’m going to take the opportunity to indulge myself in some movies I want to see that she wouldn’t be interested in. I have to say that she’s generally pretty game; she goes to plenty of movies that hit my radar that she would probably never choose to see on her own. I like to think I do likewise on her behalf, but I also know that when I’m out of town she’s likely to watch stuff I’d never allow myself to be talked into. Beverly Hills Chihuahua, for example. Many of the movies I’ll watch she’s seen, in fact. She just isn’t a re-watcher, and I am. Big time. So while she’s gone, I’m going to do some catching up. I’ve done this exercise before; I call it the Julia’s Outta Town Film Festival. She’s been gone about 30 hours or so, and I have two under my belt already. These are classy films that just opened this week. I might have been able to coerce her to one of them, but certainly not both.

Haywire

I’d been eager for this film when I first heard about it. It’s the acting debut of MMA superstar Gina Carano, at least in a leading role. I’d seen her once before in the movie Blood and Bone, a criminally under-appreciated action flick. With a good cast, I was hoping to see a kick-ass action movie with a woman delivering the beatdowns. At least a woman who doesn’t look like she is going to blow away in the first stiff wind (:cough: Angelina Jolie :cough:). Carano certainly looks the part, and she’s the real deal when it comes to fighting. My biggest concern is that she would overtake the magnificent Zoe Bell as my #1 “woman who could probably kick my ass” crush. So Friday night I braved the snow rodeo that is my street and headed to the theater to check it out.

The Verdict:

I liked it. It didn’t blow me away quite like I hoped it would, but I still had a good time watching it. Carano does a pretty good job, especially in the action scenes. She looks the part better than any other female action movie star I’ve seen. Her acting is hit and miss, but that was to be expected. The pacing of the movie is a little herky jerky too. It’s billed as an ACTION flick, but it is trying more to be a thriller-type movie with action. Think the difference between something like the Bourne movies and The Expendables. One thing I did like about it is they didn’t overdo the lingering shots of Carano’s body; it’s not particularly over-sexed. There’s a little, but it isn’t obvious, nor is it distracting. Considering what they had to work with if they chose to, that’s kind of surprising.

 

There isn’t a bunch of slow motion fight bullshit going on either, which I appreciated. I blame The Matrix for starting that trend, and I hate it. I think some people might have had a hard time following it at times, but I didn’t. The supporting cast do their thing. Michael Douglas is great, and it’s always good to see Antonio Banderas and Bill Pullman. Happy to see that jack-in-the-ass Michael Fastbender get his too.

A solid effort, I’d rate it around a B-, but gets a boost on the curve up to a B. I’m hoping it does well enough to get a sequel or two. It was theater time well spent.

Oh, and Gina? There’s definitely a place for you in my heart. But Zoe’s still my girl.

Underworld Awakening

I love the Underworld movies. And this one has Kate Beckinsale back in the leading role, and Kate is something special . . . and not just because mentioning her here generates all the hits to my blog from people searching “Kate Beckinsale Naked” or “Kate Beckinsale Sexy Esquire Shoot” either. So, while I don’t have any naked shots of her, here’s the Esquire one, just to get that out of the way, right?

Click to make it bigger. The picture, that is.

The Verdict

Caught the early matinee of this one at the big new theater in Missoula, in 3D, and it was a blast. I don’t care that it’s getting shredded by critics. I don’t care that some of the CGI isn’t so great. It’s a movie with an absolutely gorgeous woman not much younger than me striding around in form-fitting leather kicking all kinds of ass. And she’s even a mom in this one. Ultimately, though, it’s a freakin’ monster movie, for crying out loud. I LOVE monster movies! I have to confess that, going in, I was a little nervous, which is why I probably liked it as much as I did. This is the kind of thing that huge buckets of popcorn, ginormous screens, and loud auditorium speakers were made for. Even the 3D was cool. It’s getting an A, and that’s without Kate appealing to me with creative ways to bump her grade up (though I’m wide open to that kind of thing, Kate, just so you know. . . . ).

Next up: Batman Night