Saturday movie #9

The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man

After Indiana University’s disappointing loss to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament Friday night, I decided to watch a light-hearted movie from the 1930’s. So I chose “The Invisible Man.” It is a movie about a scientist who experimented upon himself, and while successful, drove himself mad. Cheery, don’t you think?

The movie starred Claude Rains in his first Hollywood movie. He had a large speaking part, but it was hard to tell if his facial expressions went along with the words. Gloria Stuart played the perpetually distraught fiancée, Flora. Henry Travers plays Flora’s un-mad scientist father, and William Harrigan is her unlucky suitor, Kemp.

There are many extras who play buffoonish police constables and villagers. All seem to have amazing faces. Una O’Connor plays the wife of the pub owner. John Carradine has a small, uncredited part as one of the villagers. Also, Walter Brennan had an uncredited part. To be honest, I didn’t recognize Brennan until I did a spot check in Wikipedia.

The movie was directed by James Whale, who is best known to me as the director of “Frankenstein,” which was made two years prior to “The Invisible Man.” He also directed “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Showboat,” and “The Man In The Iron Mask” among many others.

The story is loosely based on the book of the same name by H.G. Wells. I don’t know what Wells thought of the movie, but it is said that he generally thought his books would not translate well to film.

One last thing, when the movie started I was struck that the opening music was the same as in the Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe; the first of which was made seven years after “The Invisible Man.” . I love that music! Oh, and I like the moviea lot as well.

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A change of heart/mind

Waiting for spring
Waiting for spring

I know that spring is here, but it wasn’t when I took this picture a little over a week ago. The grass was starting to turn green, but the trees had not started to leaf then. They are now, so I hope my next post will have a more spring-like photo.

***

I’ve been in the mood lately to write something personal, something deep, something to make you think…but the sun came out today and all of those thoughts seemed to disappear. I still have a few notes jotted down, but I’ve forgotten the original context, so I’m not sure they make much sense. I know that I can’t write anything significant based on the notes. That won’t stop me from using them.

Here is one of my notes: The use of social media leads to a lack of empathy and true connection with people. I started to Tweet that, but… And that is the end of that note. I’m sure that when finished,  my Tweet would have been profound and re-tweeted around the world, but it is lost now. 

Anther note: Who is more deceitful? One who lies or one who hides behind layers of truth? I think that with some reworking I could probably turn that into a Chinese fortune cookie. I just need to boil it down a bit so that it would fit onto a small slip of paper. It is a matter of editing.

How about this one: I wish I could start over with work. In this case I know what brought on that note. One afternoon a few weeks ago I was taking my afternoon lie down, listening to a CD of long ago concert material from the Newport Folk Festival. My eyes were closed and I was imagining myself back when I first bought the album. I was in my late twenties or early thirties back then. The strange thing is that I wasn’t imagining myself working for the State, but rather, working in a low-paying dead-end job in a poster/music store. And I was happy. Make that HAPPY. That’s when I thought about wishing that I had gone in a different direction. I don’t plan on going back to that daydream because I’m pretty sure that thoughts about what my life would be like after the store inevitably went out of business would intrude and bring me down. I’ll just remember HAPPY.

Maybe the next time we have a few days of gloomy weather I’ll get back to writing deep stuff. Until then…

Saturday movie #8

Hour Of The Gun
Hour Of The Gun

I had hadn’t planned on watching “Hour Of The Gun” on Saturday. Because high school and college basketball is in the final tournament stage of the season, I had planned on watching “Hoosiers,” the best basketball film of all time. But, I first watched my Indiana Hoosiers beat Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, and I knew that “Hoosiers” would be anti-climactic. So I went with “Hour Of The Gun.”

There have been many movies concerning the battles between the Earp brothers, led by Wyatt, and the Clantons. The first that I remember seeing was “My Darling Clementine” starring Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp. There was also “Gunfight At The O.K. Corral,” “Tombstone,” and “Wyatt Earp.” There have been more, but those are the ones that I remember.

“Hour Of The Gun” is unlike most of these movies in that it begins with the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and moves forward from there. I particularly like this movie for the actors who played Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, James Garner and Jason Robards. It seems to me that they brought a feeling of true friendship to the film. They would criticize each other, but at the end, despite their differences, they were there for each other. The other films that I mentioned also had memorable Earp/Holliday duos: Henry Fonda and Victor Mature, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, and of course Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid. If Garner and Robards was the most satisfying duo for me, Costner and Quaid was the least. That’s just my opinion.

None of the movies is completely historically accurate, though “Hour Of The Gun” comes close in many respects. Dramatic license is always issued in movies that are based in fact. If you watch it, I think that you’ll like it.

I’ll get around to watching “Hoosiers” some other time.

2-2-1 (two people – two places – one time)

Today’s post is different than anything that has been published here before. I am taking the opportunity to collaborate with my dear Internet friend Anju, from This Labrynth I Roam! We have been corresponding for quite some time now, electronically as well as by snail mail. Anju is currently living and working in Bangkok, Thailand and I’m here in Lafayette, Indiana. We often share photos that we’ve taken. That is how this blog post came about.

Recently I sent her a picture of a white barn in a bare field. She said that she thought it was beautiful. To me it seemed a far cry from the lovely pictures she sends to me of the colorful places she visits in and around Bangkok. Then it struck me that if each of us took a picture at the same time, and then wrote about the time and place, it would show the contrast between our lives and environments. We could merge them into 0ne blog post that we would both publish. This post is the result…well, kind of. 

Due to a number of factors, we missed taking the pictures at exactly the same time. Blame me for over (or under) thinking the situation. I let little things like the fact that Anju works and that I don’t; we live 12 hours apart except it is now 11 hours because Daylight Savings Time kicked in after our planning; and I was enthralled by the NCAA tournament and was watching basketball most of the day and night. Still, we tried, and I love Anju’s part of this post.

If you like this idea and decide to do something similar, please let us know so that we can see the result. If you would like to collaborate with one of us, let us know and perhaps we can work out the details.

***

Going in to be stuck
Going in to be stuck

I admit that this isn’t the most exciting or interesting picture that I’ve ever used in Classical Gasbag, but it was the one available when I was supposed to be taking a picture at the same time as Anju…I think. I was going in to have some blood drawn and to pee in a jar so that new lab work could be done prior to my doctor’s appointment next week. Sometimes you take what you get.

I have to do this once every three months, except I’ll do it again between my June and September quarterly visits. I’ll have different blood work done for a different doctor in August. I really look forward to those annual events when they do, as they call it, a rainbow draw, because the vials for the blood are color coded for different tests. On those days I feel like I’m leaving a donation.

Today wasn’t such a big deal. I spent some time in the waiting area, observing the other people. There was one man who looked so nervous that I thought he might bolt before his name was called. But he manned up. There was a couple who surprised me when they went back for their labs together. What was that about? Soon they emerged and left the building together. There was another couple who were so busy talking that they didn’t hear the woman’s name called.

Then it was my turn. The frazzled young woman (she appeared to be around twenty years old) who was taking my blood spent a little time mentioning how nice the weather was. Then she went on to say that the snowbirds were returning from Florida with their winter tans and smiles. She aspired to become one when she grew older. Then she was finished with me and I left.

I was surprised that she hadn’t asked me to pee for them, but I wasn’t going to argue even though I had prepped for that test by drinking a bottle of water earlier. One tries to think ahead. As I walked to the parking lot I passed the couple who had done their labs together. They were reentering the facility. What was that about? Did one of them forget to bleed? Oh well; not my problem.

I stopped at the grocery to pick up a few things. By the time I was back in the car, that bottle of water was kicking in. I quickly calculated the route home that would involve the fewest traffic lights. One tries to think ahead.

And now, Anju’s picture and post:

The Monitor Lizard Canal
Lunch at the Chid Lom CanalI am used to cheap, fresh, hot meals available just outside your door on street stalls or little ‘hotels’, as we call them in India. Thailand ups the game to levels I have not seen in any where else on the world. They have street stalls for yummy Thai food but also stalls for freshly squeezed juices, for all sorts of exotic fruits, for cold Thai milk tea that is the only respite for the hottest weather in 59 years, for home-made cookies and for expertly mixed cocktails.
One of my favourite spots to have a sit down lunch that doesn’t break the bank is this canal. I have no idea what it’s called and so, obviously, I took the liberty of calling it the Godzilla canal. Sometimes when the weather is good, you have pairs of huge (and if I say huge, they are huge!) monitor lizards that come out to lounge on the canal walls. These are special moments to me and my excitement is dismissed quickly by local Thais to whom this is a daily sight. Just watching the mini-godzillas take in the afternoon sun makes me realise how often we screw up our own priorities as humans.
Lunch is always a feast – a big cup of rice with Thai-styled meat and veggies is only 86 cents. If you prefer noodles instead, they have all sorts of mind-blowing varieties. My favourite is the glass noodles – thin, see through and sucks in all the flavour from the veggies and meat. A 16oz glass of milk tea with ice costs about 60 cents and 200 grams of fresh fruit costs about the same. My favourite currently is the mini pineapple I’ve only seen here.
Despite the heat, it’s such a treat to be able to go out everyday for a nice lunch. We move from an airconditioned homes to an airconditioned train and straight into a 16 degree (Celsius) office. Apart from getting our dose of sun, it’s a rare glimpse into Thai culture that is often in the sidelines when you’re living the city life!

Saturday movie #7

Good Night, And Good Luck.
Good Night, And Good Luck.

Cindy and I went to see “Good Night, And Good Luck.” when it came out in 2005. At the time I thought that it was just an historical drama about the communist witch hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950’s, and the reaction of Edward R. Murrow of CBS news. It does a fine job on that level, focusing on a few incidents in a troubled time. But that is just the surface.

When I watched the movie on Saturday, I was struck again about how much the movie is something of a cautionary tale about the relationships between politics, the news media, and entertainment. In some respects the movie seems more enlightening and relevent today than it did ten years ago.

Many of my favorite actors are in the cast. George Clooney plays Fred Friendly, who was Murrow’s friend and co-producer of “See It Now”. Clooney also co-wrote and directed the movie.

David Straithairn plays Edward R. Murrow. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal. I had seen Straithairn in many roles in many movies but never caught his name until this movie. My second favorite role of his was as Erwin in “Sneakers.”

Pre-Iron Man Robert Downey, Jr. plays Joseph Wershba; Jeff Daniels plays Sig Mickelson; and Frank Langella (post Dracula and pre-Nixon) plays William Paley.

There are a lot of other familiar faces in the cast; and other historic figures, such as Senator McCarthy appear in archive footage. The movie is in black and white. Everything seems true to the time it is portraying. I am surprised that no one developed lung cancer from all of the cigarette smoking that goes on in the film.

There is one more reason I recommend this movie, and that is the music. Dianne Reeves and a small jazz combo did the sound track for the movie, and appear in a number of scenes. The soundtrack won a Grammy in 2006 for Best Jazz Vocal Album. If you don’t want to see the movie, at least listen to the music.

Saturday movie #6

A Fish Called Wanda
A Fish Called Wanda

It has taken a few days, but I’m finally getting around to writing about the movie I watched on Saturday. It was one of my favorite comedies “A Fish Called Wanda.” You might have thought, based on past writings, that I don’t watch comedies; but I do. I’m just very  particular about what I think is funny. “A Fish Called Wanda ” is very funny!

The story was conceived by John Cleese, who also worked on the screenplay with director Charles Crichton. Most people in the U.S., including me, became aware of Cleese as a member of Monty Python. I also remember hearing recordings of an earlier radio program he had been on, “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again.” In “A Fish Called Wanda,” Cleese plays barrister Archie Leach. You probably know that Archibald “Archie” Leach was Cary Grant’s birth name.

Fellow Python alum, Michael Palin, plays animal lover Ken Pile who suffers through most of the picture. I love it that he is able to yell “Revenge!” near the end of the movie.

Kevin Kline plays Otto. It seems to me that Kline refuses to be typecast in the roles that he chooses. Otto reads philosophy to prove that he is intelligent. Ah, if only that was all it took. One regret that I have in life is that Kline and I attended Indiana University at the same time, but I never met him. Of course, if we had been in the same degree program…but we had different goals in life.

That brings us to Jamie Lee Curtis. She plays Wanda Gershwitz in this funny caper movie. Every man in the movie wants her to be his love interest, and she plays it for all she is worth. I have to admit that while she is an attractive woman ( the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh after all), I never saw her as a sex symbol…until this film. It was like she could throw a switch and turn on the sex appeal. It amazed me!

So, as always, I’m not giving spoilers, or very much information about the actual picture. I encourage you to watch “A Fish Called Wanda” either for the first time, or as revisiting an old friend.

2016 Reading Challenge Update #1

The reading that I set for myself this year requires me to read twenty books in various categories. Here is my challenge: An author you have never read before, Biography or autobiography, A book recommended by a friend, Romance novel or Western, Mystery, Historical subject, Science fiction or fantasy, A book started but given up on, Graphic novel, A book published in each decade I’ve been alive 1940’s – 1950’s – 1960’s – 1970’s – 1980’s – 1990’s – 2000’s – 2010’s, A book of short stories or essays, Part of a series of books, and to round it out A book of any kind. I’ll be bringing you updates as the year goes on. In fact, this is the first update.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The first book that I read was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig. The book was first published in the 1970’s, though I first read it in the early 1980’s. I had planned on reading it last year for the challenge, but ran out of time before I could get to it, so I started the year with it. The book was a best seller when it was published. It feels as if each time I read the book I understand a little more about what Pirsig is saying about Quality, but I do get bogged down in some sections. Having said that, I must admit that the term that best describes my feelings when reading the book is “comfortable.” Pirsig might say that “comfortable” is an intellectual construct of Quality. But I may have misinterpreted that section of the book. I recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t mind working at their reading.

The Last Kind Words Saloon
The Last Kind Words Saloon

To the other extreme, my second book this year was Larry McMurtry’s The Last Kind Words Saloon. I chose to read a western rather than a romance novel this year. I had planned on picking up something by Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour, but after wandering the aisles of Barnes and Noble without finding anything, I turned to Larry McMurtry. McMurtry is an excellent writer, and I’ve enjoyed some of his other books. This book, however, seemed like it was put out just to trade on his other excellent work. The story was just too short to please me. I mean, I read the entire book in one day. I’ve spent more time on graphic novels.

 

Conspirator: Lenin in Exile
Conspirator: Lenin in Exile

I seemed to slow down in my reading when I came to the third book this year, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile by Helen Rappaport. This fills the Biography part of my challenge. I realized a few years ago that almost everything that I had read about Lenin and Stalin was in the context of spy thrillers. This year I decided to finally rectify that situation by reading a biography of at least one of them. I’m not sure why my reading speed slowed down with this book, because it is quite interesting. Perhaps next year I’ll find a biography of Stalin to read.

 

 

Jupiter's Legacy, Book 1
Jupiter’s Legacy, Book 1

After reading non-fiction I decided to go to something that I could get through quicker, so I chose a graphic novel to read. I chose Jupiter’s Legacy, Book 1 by Mark Millar and Frank Quitley, for the obvious reason that the art intrigued me. At first look indicated to me that Quitley’s art had been strongly influenced by Jean Giraud (Moebius) and perhaps also by Frank Miller. The story (the first five comics in a series) by Millar reminded me of Watchmen by Alan Moore. Truth be told, I enjoyed Millar’s story more. I may actually look for Book 2 so that I can read more of the story.

I feel like I’ve already fallen behind on my challenge, so I’m going to get cracking on the next book…after I work on my Stamp Collection for a bit.