Friday, November 30, 2007

Movies You May Want to Miss - TROG (1970)

Tuckers gave me some lovely housewarming gifts when I moved (and recently visited us here--so good to see him). One of the gifts was TROG, Joan Crawford's last film (1970). And it's a doozy. I'm sort of amazed it was put out on DVD at all, but there it is, another perplexing object to add to our universe.

Joan Crawford is completely out of her mind as "world-renowned anthropologist," Dr. Brockton. Clad entirely in Easter-egg pastels, she argues the case for studying TROG, a murderous half-man/half-ape Troglodyte, discovered in a cave in the English moors. It's hard for me to muster any admiration for Joan Crawford who was always such a phoney-baloney actress, albeit one with weird charisma. As mannered as she could possibly be, she did pull off a certain melodramatic charm very well in her prime (and again, in her come-back, Mildred Pierce). Just look at her:

Joan Crawford in her hey-day
Nice and, Yikes! That same creepy glamor infuses TROG, if you like over-the-hill alcoholic acting. I do. But I felt a little sorry for her too. It can't be good to be demented and an egomaniac.
I don't recommend that you watch this, but here are some stills that caught my attention. Even within the worst cinematic garbage, I find some nice compositions. It's always a shocking little pleasure. And now:

TROG trailer - more entertaining than the movie.

Classic glamor shot of Joan Crawford courtesy of The Best of Everything: A Joan Crawford Encyclopedia.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let's not get too wholesome

I don't want you to think this blog is going all family-oriented or mellow or anything. So here's Madonna during her "grunge" phase. ARRGH! Middle age isn't pretty. Middle age in pop culture is downright scary. And middle age in pop culture, trying to learn the guitar, looks like this:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Art, it's what's happening

Ben and I'm always happy to feature new and emerging artists, so here's Ben (from Jackson's Oakland play group) posing with his found-object sculpture, "The Native Americans." Ben's work is a prize-winner in the Re-Create Show at the Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA) in Oakland. The exhibit is up until December 16th--check it out! It's all made from discarded materials--timely and really fun; an excellent outing for kids and their adults. Place and time: 472 Water Street Gallery, Friday, 3-5pm, Saturday/Sunday, 10am-2pm.

Way to go, Ben (and his mom, Michelle).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Waste Connections McNeilus Side-Loader Action

Here's Jackson's Halloween costume for 2007. Last year he was a front-loader. He's thinking he might be a pumpkin next year, or another front-loader. Either way, I'm screwed. No, I mean--hooray! Let's celebrate our creativity! Check out that hydraulic lifting action: cardboard, masking and camera tape, all working together to lift Snickers, Baby Ruth and Kit Kat Bars into the hopper--the heaviest candy out there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Raise the Ranch!

There's an older suburb near my son's school and there you will find quite a few raised ranch houses. These are 50s/60s-era homes that have the stairs in the foyer. You walk up a flight to the living room when you enter the house. I love these houses. I can't say why. I think because they're obsolete and I love obsolete architecture. Also they were considered a bit "upscale" during their time, compared to the one-level ranch home, but now they're funky and clunky. I relate. Here's some photos of the neighborhood. I tried to find homes with very little updating or improvements. That's just the way I like it. (I'm having a camera issue regarding lack-of-focus lately. After 25 years, it might be time to take the old Canon AE-1 in for servicing).






Sunday, November 18, 2007

Harvey Milk Finally Gets a Bio-pic

One of my favorite heroes, San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk, will be featured in a new Gus Van Sant project, "Milk." The casting call in San Francisco drew 800 guys, trying out for the 70s-era film.
Harvey Milk: yes!
Gus Van Sant: Sounds good--yes!
800 guys in SF, dressed as 70s-era gay freedom fighters: Oh yes!
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk: Um, hmmm; not so sure about that.

Sean Penn is so self-serious at all times. I don't know--while the life of Harvey Milk ended tragically when he was assassinated by sociopathic SF supervisor Dan White, Harvey was a really funny guy. Sean Penn was really funny in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" 25 years ago. I hope we get a little light-heartedness in the bio, that's all I'm saying.

Why was Harvey one of my favorite heroes? Well, because he's a modern historical figure. I remember when he was elected supervisor in 1977 and I very much remember when he was shot and killed along with Mayor George Moscone. This depressed me no end, even though I was only 14 at the time. I just couldn't believe someone could sneak into City Hall and kill two public figures so easily, and then get away with it with less than an 8-year sentence for "voluntary manslaughter." This happened around the same time as the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, and these two events haunt me to this day. If you grew up in and around San Francisco then, you might know what I mean. This is some real senseless and horrific history, all broadcast on the 6 o'clock news for everyone to see.

Years later, I worked a bit with Rob Epstein (on a Sylvester bio-pic that never got off the ground), who directed "The Times of Harvey Milk," one of the best documentaries ever made, as far as I'm concerned; very moving portrait of the man and the time. Milk believed that if you're gay, you should live openly as gay. This was very brave stuff back then, and continues to be. He encouraged young people to come out and love themselves as they are, and that is why he is my hero and always will be. I hope Sean Penn can lose his constant pinch-face and do the man some justice. It's that tricky line between box-office success and historical integrity.

Photo of Harvey Milk from: Harvey Milk, Second Sight

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hello, it's me

I haven't been blogging because life took over for a couple of weeks. First of all, I took a short-story writing class and that kept me really busy. I learned more than I thought I would. Having read billions of short stories over the years, I thought I knew it all, but no, I never learned about the beginning, middle and end parts. I always wrote the beginning and sometimes the middle but rarely the end of my stories. And the ones I wrote many years ago were SUCKY! Say that like a theme song: SUCKY! Makes it more cheerful-sounding. So I wrote a short story. I'm still working on it, or at least I would be, but THEN after the class, I started painting Jackson's room.

Now, I know you're thinking, so you started painting your son's room. Well, that is true, but let me tell you about my son. He likes orange. He's particular about which shades of orange, of course, and orange is one of the harder colors of the spectrum to get right on the walls of a bedroom. So after many weeks of testing, we settled on two shades of orange: Mango Madness and Au Grautin. I'm an Au Grautin person myself. He's deeply in love with Mango Madness. That's fine. We worked out a compromise. Two walls of each and stripes on the other two. I've never painted stripes. It entails measuring, drawing straight lines and taping them down. It's not my thing. But I'm doing it and I'm applying my entire soul to the project to get those straight lines. It will either look like one of those design books: Fun-filled Kids' Rooms, or it will look like the inside of a cheeseball. I'm excited, either way

So anyway, big project. When it's done, my parents and relatives are all coming by for Thanksgiving Dinner at our house. See--life just gets more festive as you go along. Before you know it, it will be time for:

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Huge Nasty Smelly Mess

Look at this poor creature. Sherry took this shot yesterday near the Berkeley Marina. The title of this post are her words describing the San Francisco Bay after 58,0000 gallons of oil spilled into it when a cargo ship blammed into the Bay Bridge. The Bay is home to so many animals: sea lions, otters, and I don't know how many kinds of birds and fish. It's right alongside a whale migration route. Cripes.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Stranger Than...

Stranger Than ParadiseFilm still from Stranger Than Paradise, Jim Jarmusch's first feature. Though it came out in 1984, it officially ushered in the culture of "the 80s" for me; the deadpan irony, Screamin' Jay Hawkins' retro-cool sound, and the peculiar sensation that wherever you went in the U.S., it was all the same because that was your world-view, no matter how limited. More stills here from Nostalgia Party No. 2.

Sherry LaVars, girl photographer

My friend Sherry is a photo-journalist for the Contra Costa Times. She works for the AP sometimes too, like if some humpbacked whales happen to get lost in the Sacramento River (she's the one to call). She's got a big heart and I think it comes through in her portraits. There's connection there for sure. Sherry helped me move by coming over to our chaotic house a bunch of times and playing with bummed-out Jackson, bringing a truck-load of moving boxes (actual wardrobe boxes--she asked a guy on a moving truck if she could have them and he said, "sure!"), and adopting all my houseplants so I wouldn't have to throw them away. PLUS she made me laugh, and has done so for more than 20 years. Sher, you rock.
Sherry's caption: From a parade I shot in east county a while back in seering heat--hence the angels have water bottles.
My caption: When I see this photo, I miss the bay area. Guess I'll have to visit soon.
Sherry: I shot this at a senior center in Rodeo. It was totally fun because the people playing are so cool.
Sherry: From the beach in Alameda--looks like a bat.

Me again: This photo makes me officially sad now that a tanker has crashed into the Bay Bridge, spilling 58,000 gallons of oil into the bay. Beaches are closed, wildlife must be rescued. It's really depressing. Navigators of container ships: could you PLEASE not crash into large structures on your way to the Oakland Port? Is it too much to ask?