Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Boo freakin' hoo

My Way News - Group sues to reinstate firearms ban
The lawsuit said members of the Brady Campaign will no longer visit national parks and refuges "out of fear for their personal safety from those who will now be permitted to carry loaded and concealed weapons in such areas."
You people just need to grow up.

It's big, mean old world. Calling 911 isn't going to do anything but alert the cops that you are now dead and they have a crime to solve. There are places, like national parks, where calling 911 won't even summon them to come clean up what's left of you after it's all over, because your cell phone won't work there. There won't be anyone to clean up the mess but the ants and the buzzards. Some of us are grown up enough to handle ourselves, and if you can't take it, just go to your room, sit in the dark and sulk. The rest of us don't want you around anyway.

And in any case, just STFU.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Judge Priest, 1934

Upon first glance at this collection, I had a pretty strong hunch that the vast majority of these movies would be silly old B-westerns that would be good for making fun of and perhaps provide some humorous(?) blog fodder. I also guessed that there would be a few hidden gems in the mix. This is one of those. All the more a gem because it doesn't fit my definition of a "western," and in my opinion doesn't really belong in this collection. But I'm glad it's there. It's not a movie I feel like poking fun at, therefore, I'm going to change my usual plan of totally "spoiling" a movie and try not to give away too much of the story, because this is one you should hunt down and watch.

Irvin S. Cobb wrote a lot of stories (around 70, I read somewhere while researching this) with the Judge Priest character. This movie is not based on any specific story (I don't think), but is based on the overall character that he created, and which was supposedly based on a real judge he knew while growing up in Kentucky.

The movie is set in 1890, in a small Kentucky town where Confederate sympathies were still strong, in a time when many Confederate veterans were still alive. Much of the movie is more like a series of interrelated skits, rather than a single story-line, but they all tie and build together to the final conclusion of the movie.

This movie is more notable, perhaps, for the actors involved than for the story itself. The star is, of course, Will Rogers, but he is so famous that I don't think I can say much about him.

However, I think most notable among all the players was Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, who played the character of Jeff Poindexter and who used the stage name Stepin Fetchit. I recommend simply reading the mini-bio provided at the link. In short, he was condemned early in his life for portraying black characters who were stereotypically lazy and ignorant, but later in life was praised for opening up the world of acting for other African-Americans. In this movie he plays someone who is about to be sentenced to six months hard labor for stealing a chicken--and is so lazy and unconcerned that he goes to sleep during his trial, but is basically rescued by Judge Priest (played by Will Rogers), and they become friends and fishin' buddies--or as near to friends as a Confederate veteran and an ex-slave can get in 1890 Kentucky. He appeared in 54 movies between 1925 and 1976, when he suffered a stroke that ended his acting career. He passed away in 1985.

Also notable is Hattie McDaniel, who sings in every scene she appears in. In this scene, she's singing about how happy she is to be doing the judge's laundry. The daughter of a freed slave, five years after appearing in this movie her part as Mammy in Gone with the Wind won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She was the first African-American to win an Academy Award. She also may have been the first African-American woman to sing on the radio, and was the first African-American to be buried in Los Angeles' Rosedale Cemetery.

Here she is again singing "My Old Kentucky Home" with the Brown sisters: Melba, Thelma and Vera. I had a hunch they were a real singing trio--and probably sisters--when I saw them in the movie. This is the only movie Melba and Thelma ever appeared in. Vera appeared in one other movie in 1941. I wonder if they ever made any records.

Gratuitous stunt pipe smoking. Rogers is obviously not really smoking this pipe.

Stunt pipe. Try holding a real pipe like that when you smoke it and see how hot your hand gets.

This is Frank Melton, who played the would-be suitor and town barber Flem Talley. Another character actor whose career spanned about 20 years, I mention him now only because, in the character of Flem Talley, he is responsible for the single most heinously obnoxious laugh I have ever heard in my life. Something like a combination of Roscoe P. Coltrane, Arnold Horshack, and the spasmodic cough of an asthmatic coyote.

They're pulling taffy. It was a taffy pull. First time I've ever seen an actual taffy pull portrayed anywhere.

More gratuitous stunt pipe smoking. In fact, I think it's the same pipe.

This is Burton Churchill, playing prosecuting attorney Horace Maydew. Yet another long-time character actor who plays it totally straight in this movie even though he managed to sneak in a couple of absolutely gut-busting punch lines. His character is so over-the-top bombastic that you have to see it to believe it. His orotund declamations bring a whole new dimension to the word "histrionics," and forced me to break out a thesaurus just so I could try and give you a tiny glimpse of his outlandish pomposity. During the trial of Jeff Poindexter, Jeff says "I once caught a catfish thiiiiis big," putting his hands about three feet apart. Maydew points at him like the hand of an avenging God and thunders, "Proof that he is a liarrrr!!!" I nearly rolled out of my chair.

The story really centers around the man in the witness stand, Bob Gillis, played by David Landau. He is another essentially unknown character actor with a ringing deep bass voice who didn't start acting until he was in his 50's, and then managed to pack 33 movies into the last four years of his life. Judge Priest was his last movie.

Henry B. Walthall plays Revered Ashby Brand, a Confederate veteran who knows the true identity of Bob Gillis, and takes the stand as a character witness to save Gillis from being wrongfully convicted. Walthall appeared in more than 300 movies between 1910 and 1936. I will not give away any more of the story, but the following picture is a hint.

Judge Priest is a movie that, in my opinion, could not be made today. Between the portrayal of blacks in the post-War of Rebellion era and the unapologetic depiction of Confederate veterans as honorable men who fought for what they believed was right, this movie could make those with more delicate politically correct sensibilities faint dead away. It is filled with Rogers' trademark understated and sometimes sideways humor. It will make you laugh, and if you still have any faith in the goodness of man and an idea of what real justice is, the end might give you pause to reflect soberly on the history of our nation.

Source: Western Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection
Runtime: 74 minutes
Amazon search: Judge Priest

Monday, December 29, 2008

Top 10 Evil Clown Stories of 2008

As listed by Loren Coleman at The Copycat Effect.

P.S.  I may have mentioned it before--I don't remember for sure--but I don't like clowns.

Quote of the Day

Seen at The Ultimate Answer to Kings.
The principal skill of a lawyer, it seems to me, is the ability to weave simple falsehoods out of complex truths.
I'm going to remember that one.

Blame it on the Scots

From the Telegraph:  Rap music originated in medieval Scottish pubs.
Professor Ferenc Szasz argued that so-called rap battles, where two or more performers trade elaborate insults, derive from the ancient Caledonian art of "flyting".

According to the theory, Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States, where it was adopted and developed by slaves, emerging many years later as rap.

Professor Szasz is convinced there is a clear link between this tradition for settling scores in Scotland and rap battles, which were famously portrayed in Eminem's 2002 movie 8 Mile.

He said: "The Scots have a lengthy tradition of flyting - intense verbal jousting, often laced with vulgarity, that is similar to the dozens that one finds among contemporary inner-city African-American youth.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Great art by M.S. Corley

Take a look at The Art of M.S. Corley. He uses a wide variety of styles and his work is really remarkable. A couple of examples:

Here is "Jonah," from Bible Stories.

And here is "Herbert West," from his Horrors of Literature series.

There are lots of other pictures there that I really like, such as the one of Carmilla, so prim and proper, except for that one little thing...

There are a couple of other Lovecraftian creatures, his own version of Smaug, and other literary characters and creations. Look through the archives and see if you can spot the reference to the old Dig-Dug arcade game.

Go to his site for much larger and high-res versions of his work. And as I usually say: check it out.

R.I.P. Global Warming, pt. 2

From the Telegraph: 2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved.
Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a "scientific consensus" in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world's most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that "consensus" which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.
A good read, and it reminds me of a very similar article that I linked to last year, and which proclaimed 2007 as "the year the global warming hoax died." Unfortunately the MSM is still flogging the dessicated remains of that horse. Many so-called "charitable" organizations that focus on the environment will not be willing to let it go easily, either, because they get a lot of money out of it. I was reminded of this by a blatantly false ad produced by WWF that I saw on TV yesterday, which made it look like the entire northern ice cap had been reduced to a few forlorn chunks of slush melting away into the ocean.

As much as I keep up with the news, I never heard anything about this Manhattan Declaration (yo MSM? FAIL). Here is a link about it.

via The Liberty Sphere

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Doing stuff

Today I've been trying to learn how to use Avidemux. They say it's not really made for beginners, and I think they're right. But after some hours of fiddling with it, I think I can safely say that I'm on the right track, and if I can sink a few more hours into it this coming week I should have a pretty good handle on it by next weekend. My next step is learning to how keep the audio synced with the video.

I really want to use it for only one thing: clipping the commercials out of certain programs and then re-saving them to DVD. My computer doesn't have a DVD burner, but it does have an S-video output which I have already used to make a few test recordings with my DVD recorder. Now that I have a better and I hope more permanent form of storage than videotapes, I am going to try and build a new collection of a certain kind of movie that I have been thinking about for several years.

I also have a couple of DVDs that I have not been able to play on my computer because it doesn't even recognize that there's a disc in the drive when I tried to play them, and today I hooked the old DVD player up to the new DVD recorder via S-video and audio patch cords and recorded them. I plan on writing up a post about one of them soon, now that I can take screen captures of it.

The weather was so nice today that we opened up all the windows and aired the place out. It was very refreshing. I hope we can do it again tomorrow.


On the other hand (see previous post), a serious review about a serious movie: Valkyrie:
The tragedy was not that they tried to overthrow the Nazi regime and failed. The tragedy was that they waited so long to try. In one of the lines in the film that hit me like a fist, von Stauffenberg finally concludes, "I am a soldier. I serve my country. But THIS is not my country." Is this not the situation we find ourselves in today? The Gramscian revolutionists have pilfered the country that we used to be and substituted a twisted profanation that would be a joke were it not so tragically real. I look at what we have become and worse, what we are about to become under the tender mercies of the Obama administration, and like von Stauffenberg I must conclude that THIS is NOT MY country. Nor is it the country of the Founders, nor does it represent the hopes they had for their Republic.
He's right.

I think I will have to ignore my personal bias against Tom Cruise and watch this movie anyway.

The Spirit

Alexandra DuPont tells us all that we (probably) need to know about The Spirit:
At one point -- probably when Jackson was going on about runny eggs or Huevos Rancheros again, and shortly before Jackson declares someone "dead as 'Star Trek'" (???) -- Macht says, "Pardon me, but is there a point to all this? I'm getting old just listening to you." The urge to stand up and applaud was overwhelming. By the time Plaster Paris (Paz Vega) was dancing off into the snow in a belly-dancing outfit, carrying a couple of swords, I was thinking to myself, "This is the visualized inner life of a not-well man."
Another movie review that is very entertaining to read on its own, about a movie that probably should not have been made.

Not like this, anyway.

via The Club Above

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Man enough to know its value"

And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips, to have questioned her, that she might have opened them, to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes and never raised a blush, to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price; in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.

—from A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
This, I think, is a goal worthy to be achieved, a profound secret to be understood and applied to many aspects of life: "to have the lightest license of a child, and yet be man enough to know its value."

The best thing I got for Christmas

As far as material gifts go, the best thing I got was a swing-arm lamp. My Sanctum is litten like the back end of a cave, and the one light in the center of the ceiling does almost nothing if you need to actually be able to read something at the desk in the corner. I have thought over and over again, "man I really need to get a swing-arm lamp." And yesterday I got one. It's already installed and has been used at least once since this morning. Sweet. I have been using one of those battery-powered desk flashlights for extra light, but the swing-arm works much, much better.

Detroit's war on the south

Interesting comments by KarenDeCoster:
I've got news for all the non-thinking journalists who keep saying that "Detroit is collapsing." Detroit is not collapsing (whatever that means). Three automakers born of Detroit are no longer financially able to continue to operate their businesses. They are financially failed because they long ago sold their souls to union thugs who have run their businesses in the best interests of the UAW's very-highly paid executives and managers and their autoworker constituency. Boom times and credit bubbles (and recent bailouts) masked dead business models and insolvent companies. Now that the veneer of phony prosperity and excesses has been stripped off the economy, the naked auto companies are a frightening sight to behold - sort of like the Hollywood celebrity bikini/cellulite photos in the National Enquirer.

So now, Detroit automakers and unions seeks to use aggressive tactics against the others to maintain their current status. The automakers seek the theft and redistribution of other peoples' money in order to sustain their failed businesses. The UAW seeks to use legislative fiat to extend the power of their union and plant their gangs in the South. In the South, the market has spoken in one aspect - the unions are not wanted by the workers.
I should point out that the Toyota plant in San Antonio isn't doing so hot, either.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dickens' Works

"I've got something you should see when you get a chance." It was my grandmother on the phone. It was a few years after her heart attack, after she had moved to a managed care facility in another town. I didn't see her often anymore, and missed attending church and having Sunday lunch with her. But we still spoke often on the phone. She called me now and then for help with her crossword puzzles. I once answered the phone to hear her say, "I have a question for you. What's a 5-letter word for demon's blood?" "Ichor," I answered, "I-C-H-O-R." "I thought you'd probably know," she replied, laughing. Yes, she knew my strengths.

But eventually I made the trip to her apartment where she aimed me toward a large cardboard box. "We were having this big rummage sale," she said, "for the whole place." She waved her hand around to indicate the entire facility. "No one bought these, and they were gonna be thrown away. I took a look at them and thought you might be interested."

The books have no publication dates, as many old books don't. Published by Belford, Clarke & Company of Chicago and New York, each old book contains two or more stories by Charles Dickens. According to a label inside the front cover of each volume, they must have once resided in the waiting room of one W.M. Rogers, a doctor of dental surgery in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

There were also several similar volumes of works by George Eliot.

I don't know how these books managed to find their way from Shelbyville, Kentucky to Gonzales, Texas, but I do know how they narrowly escaped being lost in a dumpster. They now sit upon my shelves, and my recent re-read of Dickens' A Christmas Carol reminded me of them. I have never bothered myself with getting around to reading anything else of his, but I have started now. The covers are somewhat battered, but the binding remains intact and I think they will help me fill a void in my literary education.

My grandmother passed away several years ago, but she left me many things, a love of books being only one of them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three Ghosts

Do you watch Christmas movies? Or do you avoid them? I watch them, but only in December, and then not after the Day itself. One must place some limitations upon even good things.

One show that I miss these days, but which I saw several times when I was young, is the half-hour animated version of A Christmas Carol. Do you remember it? I think it is one of the best versions of that story, in spite of its abbreviated length. I haven't seen it in many years, but I remember being impressed at the art work as a kid.

A Christmas Carol is my favorite seasonal tale. I first read the original story in about fifth grade when I purchased a paperback version of it from Scholastic Book Club; a volume which I still possess. I will seek out and watch almost any iteration of the tale that I can find. Even stupid versions; even sitcom versions.

Perhaps the best parody of it that I have seen is Blackadder's Christmas Carol, which I managed to record to DVD last night. In this version, Blackadder begins as the kind-hearted, generous soul that Scrooge became, and after a ghostly visitation decides that he has been played for a sap all his life and becomes decidedly miserly and ungenerous.

I haven't decided on a favorite movie version. The 1938 version with Alistair Sim is considered the definitive, but I don't think it's my favorite. I caught the version with George C. Scott again last night, and I thought it was better this time than the last time I saw it several years ago. George C. Scott is one of those actors who I have trouble seeing as anything other than George C. Scott. To me, he seems not to be his character, but is simply himself playing a character. The best actors make us forget who they really are, and for a short time we can pretend to believe that they are really the characters they are portraying. Last night he did seem to be more Scrooge than Scott. I suppose this is only a quirk of my own personality and perception, and not Scott's fault at all.

But if I were forced to choose right now, I think I would say that my current favorite is the version with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, a version I sadly did not see this year, though I looked for it. Bill Murray's Scrooged is also very good, but I didn't see it this year, either. I did catch an older musical version on DVD, though I haven't watched it yet. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe I'll make an exception this year and watch it the day after. I'm not a big fan of musicals.

This is a story that will undoubtedly continue to be used for untold Christmases yet to come, and I have to say that there is one actor who has not portrayed Scrooge, but who I would love to see as the character: Christopher Walken. Can you imagine Christopher Walken as Scrooge? I can. Although, I think I would place the story in modern-day America, probably New York City. And let's go ahead and make it PG-13. I believe it would work.

I don't know why I'm so fascinated with this story, except that I think that sometimes I could really benefit from a ghostly visitation or two, myself.

Globes of Fire

Some 7,000 jumbo-sized snow globes were recalled by Hallmark Cards Inc. because the holiday decorations can act as a magnifying glass when exposed to sunlight and ignite nearby combustible materials, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Tuesday.

The snowman-shaped snow globes were sold in October and November at Hallmark Gold Crown stores nationwide for about $100 each.

The consumer agency said Hallmark has received two reports of the snow globes igniting nearby materials but no injuries have been reported.

Consumers who bought the snowglobes, which measure 11 by 12 by 17 inches (28 by 30 by 43cm), should immediately remove them from exposure to sunlight and return to a Hallmark Gold Crown store for a full refund.
I would say "what do you need a 17-inch, $100 snow globe for?" but I realize that kind of question could come back to haunt me.  So instead I'll just say that I wish had $100 to waste on a 17-inch tall snowman snow globe so I could try to start a fire with it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's royal. That's why.

From the Telegraph:  Purple squirrel baffles experts.
Teachers and pupils at Meoncross School in Stubbington, Hants, were amazed when they saw the creature through the window during a lesson.

Since the squirrel, now nicknamed Pete, was first seen, it has become a regular fixture at the school but no one has been able to say whether the animal has fallen into purple paint, had a run-in with some purple dye, or whether there is another explanation.

Dr Mike Edwards, an English teacher, said: "I was sitting in my classroom and looked out the window and saw it sitting on the fence. I had to do a double take.

"Since then it's been a bit of a regular at the school - everyone's seen it.

"We thought it might have been paint or something but then when you look at it up close, it's an all over coat, not in patches like you'd expect if it had been near some paint.

"Its fur actually looks purple all the way through. It's an absolute mystery."
Photo at the link.

Related:  In Australia there are purple wallabies.

"Hunting season's only open once a year"

An excellent seasonal Wondermark today.

And here is a list of Wondermarks of Christmas Past.

Just in case you don't read it already.

"Held in deep odium by all civilized peoples"

There has recently been some buzz about The New Yorker publishing (for the first time ever! did we mention that? EVER!!!) a previously unpublished essay by Mark Twain titled "The Privilege of the Grave." This essay is actually only one of 24 such previously unpublished essays that are going to be published in the upcoming book Who is Mark Twain? The official release date is April 1, 2009, with books going on sale on April 21, 2009. You can read all about the book at Who is Mark Twain, and read a flash e-galley here. A quote from the aforementioned essay:
It's occupant has one privilege which is not exercised by any living person: free speech. The living man is not really without this privilege—strictly speaking—but as he possesses it merely as an empty formality, and knows better than to make use of it, it cannot be seriously regarded as an actual possession. As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden in both form and in fact; free speech is granted in form but forbidden in fact. By common estimate both are crimes, and are held in deep odium by all civilized peoples. Murder is sometimes punished—free speech always—when committed. Which is seldom...
Pretty cool photo they had on their index page, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Guns in Europe

An interesting article from J.D. Tuccille: Those peaceful Europeans own more guns than you think:
Well, European countries certainly have lower -- often, much lower -- murder rates than the U.S., but we tend to exaggerate their disarmed status. That's because most mainstream media comparisons of gun ownership dwell on official figures. How many guns Americans legally own vs. how many Germans legally own. That makes sense to American eyes, because most guns here are perfectly legal. That's exactly what gets gun control advocates so hot and bothered when they start crunching numbers. They want guns further restricted and made less common.

But less common isn't always what you get. Those official gun ownership numbers actually compare apples and oranges. That's because Europeans own an awful lot of guns outside the law. As of 2003, according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, 'Contrary to widely-accepted national myths, public gun ownership is commonplace in most European states.' The survey adds, 'public officials readily admit that unlicensed owners and unregistered guns greatly outnumber legal ones.'

Wayne Fincher case update announces:
On Friday, 19 December 2008, a Writ of Certiorari was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of U.S. v. Hollis Wayne Fincher.
Follow the links for details.

Via The War On Guns, from whence comes this comment:
At the very least, Wayne's case has exposed the raw, ugly truth of where we are really at.
And the rawest, ugliest truth is that many of those who should be supporting Fincher are gleefully willing to toss him to the wolves to show how "law abiding" they are.

Blue Steel, 1934

Another movie title that is pretty much nonsensical, because steel didn't play much of a part in this movie, blue or otherwise. Main theme: hero has secret identity, is thought to be outlaw. Sub-theme: dying town is sitting on top of gold mine, only bad guy knows about it.

There are some things about this movie that make me put it into the "yes, you should watch it" category. If only for this.

A surreal and utterly bizarre opening scene has these two newlyweds coming into the inn on a dark and stormy night. "So, you're newlyweds?" the innkeeper asks. Above is the couple's reaction. I can't discover the name of the woman who played the bride. The groom is George Nash, who was in 29 movies between 1914 and 1934, including Hollywood's first talkie version of Oliver Twist in 1933. Blue Steel was his last movie, and he died ten years later.

"You'll be wanting the bridal suite?" They seem shocked at the innkeeper's inference. But of course they do want it, because it's the "best room in the house." As they began to climb the stairs to their room, the innkeeper cautions them, "Don't make too much noise, the fellow next to you has to wake up at five o'clock." A few minutes later, the groom comes back down stairs.

Groom: "I can't find it."

Innkeeper: "You can't?"


"Well, what ever have you lost?"

"I ain't lost nothin'."

"Well, what in the world is it that you can't find?"

"Well, it's uh...huh huh huh..."

And the innkeeper walks him back up the stairs to his room, speaking reassuringly yet unintelligibly all the while. I think the weirdness of this simply put it over the heads of the National Board of Review. If they had had any idea of the innuendos being churned out in these few minutes they would have FAILed this movie in a heartbeat. I had to rewind this and watch it several times. It's like Robert Bradbury (the director) was channeling a David Lynch Twin Peaks dream sequence through time. Yes, watch the movie only for this. But now on to the main body of the movie. Oh yeah, this little scene had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the movie.

We get to see George Hayes take a decided turn toward the Gabby. Yes, I think I can safely say that in this movie his essential Gabbiness begins to shine through, and his manner of speech takes several steps toward authentic frontier gibberish. He plays Sheriff Jake Withers, who thinks our hero is a famous criminal called "The Polka Dot Bandit" but befriends him anyway because they both keep getting beset by the real bad guys. Speaking of which...

Zoinks! It's the ghost of Slippery Morgan! Actually it's another veteran character actor named Earl Dwire, who was in 157 movies between 1921 and 1940 (the year he died), but he sometimes played a good guy. In this movie, he has another henchman role. In thise scene he is looking quietly suspicious because he's the bad guy surrounded by a bunch of townsfolk who are trying to figure out who the bad guys are.

On the left is Eleanor Hunt, who played Betty Mason, the beautifully doe-eyed but annoyingly feckless damsel in distress. On the right is her father Dan Mason, a.k.a. The Guy Who Gets Shot (seriously, he should be wearing a red shirt) played by another actor we've seen before, Lafe McKee.

A good shot here of George Hayes and John Wayne. Gabby isn't talking here. He simply continues to placidly chaw his 'baccy even while threatened at gunpoint. He chaws throughout the whole movie. I guess they decided pipe smoking wasn't Gabby enough.

I like this shot because we see three long-time character actors all together. At the left is Edward Peil, Sr. (398 movies between 1913 and 1951) playing main bad buy Malgrove, Earl Dwire center rear, and legendary stuntman and sometime actor Yakima Canutt playing Danti, the Polka Dot Bandit on the right. Canutt once again plays the leader of the outlaw gang, or perhaps I should say the head henchman. He gets his nickname because he wears a polka dot bandanna to cover his face when he commits crimes.

Here is an excellent close up of Yakima Canutt, and an unusually sharp screen cap this turned out to be.

And now, to set up the next picture: Carruthers (Wayne) is fighting a henchman. Another henchman climbs on the roof of a barn and tries to cut a rope that is holding this hay bale so it will fall on Carruthers. Sheriff Withers (Hayes) shoots the henchman off the roof. Carruthers runs off to do something else. Malgrove and an unnamed henchman walk up to plot further evil machinations.

"It's the things we least expect that usually happen," says Malgrove. This, and the newlywed scene, are really the only comical parts of this movie. Unlike many such movies, there are no humorously clumsy sidekicks or bumbling henchman to provide comic relief.

"Tell me briefly what's happened," says Carruthers. They should have this scene in every movie! It helps a lot to have the damsel in distress fill in all the plot holes in a quick 30-second recap of everything that's supposedly happened so far.

"Stand back, I'm gonna hack the window open with an axe. Because, uh...the door is right around the corner and...uh...there's a henchman about 8 feet away and he'll...Awww, heck. Bradbury said to use an axe, so just stand back!"

Right around in here somewhere, at about the 40 minute point, there's a fight scene between Carruthers and a henchman. You can hear a rooster constantly crowing in the distance and then a car accelerating.

And then we have yet another strange scene. Betty flees on her horse, Carruthers follow on his horse, and Withers follows them with a wagon. Betty's horse gets shot from under her, she hits the ground and falls flat like this.

So Carruthers leaps off his horse onto the team that's pulling the wagon.

Like this.

So they can drive the team directly over the top of Betty, who seems to have flipped around so her feet are now pointing the other direction for some reason, and he can scoop her up...

And bodily hurl her onto his horse so she can ride away. It seems quite a complicated way to go about picking up the damsel, but I guess the stuntmen have to do something.

This is what I've come to think of as the standard "You're what?!" scene (note Gabby's expression). Carruthers has just said something like, "Betty doesn't know it yet, but she's coming with me to Sacramento so we can get married. P.S. I'm the U.S. Marshall--I think I forgot to mention that."

And so forth.

This movie has some really beautiful scenic footage. That is, I suppose it was quite breathtaking, even in black & white, on the big screen in 1934, but it doesn't translate too well to modern sensibilities, and there's no way I could give you any idea what it's like with these small pictures on a computer screen.

So yeah, this movie is worth watching. One, for the newlywed scene; and two, because it was one of the earliest appearances of His Gabbiness before he actually started using the name "Gabby."

Source: Western Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection
Runtime: 54 minutes
Amazon Search: Blue Steel

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reloading bleg

Can anyone recommend a book on reloading for the total newbie?

I have a mentor who is giving me some equipment and is going to teach me how to use it, but I'd like to get a book to start studying and also so I'll have all the critical information arranged in a book in an orderly fashion.

Let the revels begin...

Right about this time, on a Sunday morning five years ago, I made my first post to this blog. I didn't choose the Winter Solstice intentionally, but it does seem to be a good day for beginnings.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Maila Nurmi

She passed away on December 10 January 10, but she still lives on in cyberspace.

Thanks to


When reading critiques is probably more entertaining than watching the movie.

A movie that, like “The Sixth Sense,” depends entirely upon the payoff for its impact, “Seven Pounds” is an endlessly sentimental fable about sacrifice and redemption that aims only at the heart at the expense of the head. Intricately constructed so as to infuriate anyone predominantly guided by rationality and intellect, this reteaming of star Will Smith and director Gabriele Muccino after their surprisingly effective “The Pursuit of Happyness” is off-putting for its manifest manipulations, as well as its pretentiousness and self-importance.
New York Times:
Frankly, though, I don’t see how any review could really spoil what may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made. I would tell you to go out and see it for yourself, but you might take that as a recommendation rather than a plea for corroboration. Did I really see what I thought I saw?
Ultimate spoiler at New York Magazine. I don't think I'll be wasting any time on this one. I don't, usually, when it comes to his movies anyway.

P.S. At what point during Sixth Sense did you figure out what the twist was? I got it when he threw that rock through that window and then managed to dash away without being seen. My thought process was: Wait a minute--that's poltergeist behavior. Oh...I see.

Calling bull****

James opines on a topic that frequently fills me with rage, and every time I see such a commercial, I loudly and annoyingly call bull**** on it with detailed explanations.  I not only agree with James, I would go even further.  Those commercials are without a doubt responsible for getting people robbed, hurt, or killed.  Are they held liable when someone with the system gets robbed or murdered?  I'd sure like to know, because regardless of what the law is, those companies are responsible because they willfully promote ignorance and helplessness.

The Law of Church and State in America available online

When the Rev. Dean M. Kelley died in 1997, he had completed 20 years of work on his manuscript and found a publisher. However, editing was still in progress at the publisher and as time went on the task of updating developments in church-state law for the book became monumental. The project was canceled.

"The opportunity for online publication rescued a masterpiece from oblivion," write the members of the manuscript committee, who brought Kelley's work to its present form. Lenore Hervey, Kelley's only child and the copyright holder, agreed to provide the work freely for online use. The First Amendment Center agreed to make the work available on its site. The book’s chapters are posted as PDFs.

Kelley’s book covers a range of topics including autonomy of religious bodies, evangelism and fundraising, religious influence on public policy, religion and schools, and the defense of religious practices.

"As the long-time director of civil and religious liberty at the National Council of Churches of Christ, the Rev. Dean Kelley was one of the most effective advocates for religious freedom of his era," says Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center. "This monumental work on the law of church and state reflects both his deep knowledge of the issues and his extraordinary ability to provide a lively, informed account of case law central to understanding the relationship between religion and government in America."
The First Amendment Center has made the book available online in pdf format. You may find it at The Law of Church and State in America.

It's a pipe

The Chokwe peoples occupy the broad expanse of open savanna in present-day Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Chokwe chiefs became increasingly involved in trade with Europeans who sought rubber, wax, and ivory as well as African slaves for their colonies in the New World. Slaves were often exchanged for firearms, and these were employed in raids on neighboring peoples that produced more captives to sell to European traders. Local leaders who prospered from this exchange frequently commissioned prestige items from local artisans to indicate their wealth and power. This tobacco pipe is one such item that demonstrates the degree to which warfare, the slave trade, and elite arts were intertwined at this time. The pipe itself was the prerogative of individuals who could afford expensive imported tobacco, generally by trading slaves, while the rifle refers to the means by which such slaves were acquired.
Read the whole article here.

via Olivier at My Pipes Community


I think I finished fixing the blogroll(s). I don't think I missed anything, but if you're linking to me and I don't have a link to you, let me know.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The serial killer database

A professor of psychology has begun compiling a serial killer database:
Radford University psychology professor Mike Aamodt has spent years compiling a list of serial killers, and, after subtracting competent hitmen and bloodthirsty pirates, he reckons there have been at least 1,900 since the beginning of the 14th century.


Aamodt said he is only now beginning to analyze the information his students have gathered and hopes to one day make the database publicly available. But already, he said, certain stereotypes are crumbling beneath the weight of the data.

For instance, think serial killers are super-intelligent schemers along the lines of the fictional Hannibal Lecter? Think again: The median IQ is 102, or about average. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was an exception, with an IQ once measured at 165. In general, according to Aamodt's data, the smartest serial killers are the ones who use bombs: Their median IQ is 126.

Buy into the conventional wisdom that serial killers are usually white males in their midto late-20s? They're not: Only 18 percent fit that profile. (The FBI released a report this month debunking the stereotype; the report also noted that the racial diversification of U.S. serial killers generally mirrors the national population.)
Interesting. I hope he follows through and makes it publicly accessible.

via Dead Silence

A day in the life

First of all, this is funny. Christmas card humor that made me LOL. Out loud.

I've been working on revising the blogroll. I'm going back to using the script from Bloglines, but I had to get things rearranged over there before I dumped the old Blogrolling script, which I'm still using at the moment. Who'd a thunk I could get tired working on a blogroll? I'm still not finished, but I had to take a pipe break, and do some blog reading before I hit the hay.

Today was somewhat trying. I was attacked by a pack of four loose street dogs on Carousel today. One was only along for the ride, and wasn't worth remembering. Another that looked like some kind of husky/chow mix mostly just wanted to bark, but there was a big red boxer and another big black & silver mutt that looked like some kind of German shepherd mix that wanted pieces of me. The black & silver one ran past as fast as he could, and snapped at me as he flew past. The boxer stood his ground for a minute until he realized that if I got close enough I was going to do my best to hurt him (the meter hook makes a good weapon), and then he ran.

Then the black & silver one came back for another pass. Man, it was like that dog was just dropping out of the sky on top of me. But on the second time I almost got him penned up against a fence and went at him. He panicked and scrambled over the fence, then ran through someone's yard and jumped their back fence into the alley. I saw them again once, but they were only lurking in the alley and didn't come out at me again.

So that's the kind of excitement I have sometimes. I was only walking the street, not going into anyone's yards. These dogs were running loose. If it had been a small child or a perhaps more feeble elderly person instead of me, it could have been very bad.

Did some Christmas shopping today when my wife called and said she hadn't really gotten a "big gift" for the kids yet. Our family usually has one "big gift" for each kid, and a few small ones. I used some of the money I've been saving up for my new radio, the purchase of which will have to be postponed for a while. I think I'm going to order a couple pounds of bulk pipe tobacco with that cash stash, too. Anyway, got a pretty cool Hot Wheels stunt set for my son and a small karaoke machine for my daughter. Now I need to snoop around and see where I can find some CD-G's. Also found a DVD of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl. This is my son's favorite movie. There is something kind of weird and mysterious about it, I must admit. And since my daughter recently professed that she likes Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I picked up one of their CDs for her. It's very tempting to pop it open and rip that sucker right now, but I guess I'll have to wait until she opens it.

And finally, I would like to take this opportunity to recommend the Amazon Jazz Sampler. This one is good enough to pay for, and you can download it for free. It has a couple of tracks that are definitely country-tinged, which is very unusual (for jazz) and very nice.

And I do mean significantly

From the Civil Liberties Examiner: Galveston police haven't apologized for beating 12-year-old girl.
It was a little before 8 at night when the breaker went out at Emily Milburn's home in Galveston. She was busy preparing her children for school the next day, so she asked her 12-year-old daughter, Dymond, to pop outside and turn the switch back on.

As Dymond headed toward the breaker, a blue van drove up and three men jumped out rushing toward her. One of them grabbed her saying, "You're a prostitute. You're coming with me."

Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started screaming, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." One of the men covered her mouth. Two of the men beat her about the face and throat.
Here's a simple statement of fact: If I heard my daughter screaming for me and saw something like that happening, I would have killed them all or died trying.

These worthless sub-human pieces of sh*t masquerading as peace officers should be treated just like any other worthless sub-human piece of sh*t who would kidnap and beat a little girl. Insert your favorite punishment here, but if it's anything less than throwing them in the big house and making sure their fellow inmates know they once were cops, you aren't paying attention.

Note I said "anything less than." It would be significantly worse for them if it were up to me.

Attack of the Killer Redbird

Just as I got home today, the instant I parked, my truck was attacked by this ferocious beast.

Here he is sitting on my window.

And it wasn't one of those "attacking his own reflection" things, because he also had a go at the hood of my truck.

In other news...

Deep Throat has died.

No, not that one.

This one.

Not that they aren't cool, mind you

From the Daily Mail:
We are told that driving alone in our cars is a waste of our dwindling fuel supplies.

But scientists now claim they have developed a way to use the movement of cars along a street to generate electricity.

And, to prove it, they will be opening the world's first road of its kind next month.

The scientists in Israel say that cars travelling along a mile length of asphalt could generate more than 640 kilowatts - enough power to run 12 small cars.
An Israeli company is building an experimental 100-meter stretch of roadway that will generate electricity via the piezoelectric effect.

I've always thought this effect could be exploited much more than it has been, and probably produce something much more practical than shoes with flashing lights.


PowerOfBabel has some sad news for Star Trek fans.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Why is it so important—what others have done? Why does it become sacred by the mere fact of not being your own? Why is anyone and everyone right—so long as it's not yourself? Why does the number of those others take the place of truth? Why is truth made a mere matter of arithmetic—and only of addition at that? Why is everything twisted out of all sense to fit everything else? There must be some reason. I don't know. I've never known it. I'd like to understand.

—from The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Experts, shmexperts

I wish I was an expert, so I could be quoted making a statement like this:
Watches were not around at the time of the Ming Dynasty and Switzerland did not even exist as a country, an expert pointed out.
Another article about The Watch Out of Time.

I like the third comment: "Someone's winding you up."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Seek not approval

A political emergency brings out the corn-pone opinion in fine force in its two chief varieties--the pocketbook variety, which has its origin in self-interest, and the bigger variety, the sentimental variety--the one which can't bear to be outside the pale; can't bear to be in disfavor; can't endure the averted face and the cold shoulder; wants to stand well with his friends, wants to be smiled upon, wants to be welcome, wants to hear the precious words, "He's on the right track!" Uttered, perhaps by an ass, but still an ass of high degree, an ass whose approval is gold and diamonds to a smaller ass, and confers glory and honor and happiness, and membership in the herd. For these gauds many a man will dump his lifelong principles into the street, and his conscience along with them. We have seen it happen. In some millions of instances.

Men think they think upon great political questions, and they do; but they think with their party, not independently; they read its literature, but not that of the other side; they arrive at convictions, but they are drawn from a partial view of the matter in hand and are of no particular value. They swarm with their party, they feel with their party, they are happy in their party's approval; and where the party leads they will follow, whether for right and honor, or through blood and dirt and a mush of mutilated morals.

--from Corn-Pone Opinions, Mark Twain, 1901

I think I knew #10...

Oddee has 12 Most Bizarre Yearbook Photos and Portraits. The example that I included here is probably the least bizarre of them all, but it's the one that made me laugh the hardest. I bet this guy provided an endless source of satire in his high school. Oh man, the expression on his face is just priceless.

This isn't the only one that falls into the "taking yourself way too seriously" category, but I love that expression. Brace yourself for photo #2.

Combine #8 and #12 and you'd have The Karate Kid!