Friday, September 9, 2011

Bookmark Stew (Part 3)

As you should know by now, I've been tryin' to clean up a bunch of the items that have been filling up my bookmarks. Most of these are thing that I've got more to say about than will really fit in say, a Facebook status, but not really enough to warrant their own post here. So,instead y'all get what I'm calling Bookmark stew. And today it's all about movies and TV. Videos and other links that have caught my eye, and that hopefully you'll enjoy too. So check 'em out, and once you're done, let me know what you think.

ITEM! This looks like a good place to start: Amy Sedaris attempting to understand/explain The Internets. Part 1 is embedded below, or you can just click through to here to watch the whole thing.

Watch the full episode. See more Make Em Laugh.

Actually, this video makes the perfect accompaniment for this book, coming early next year, which will be an expansion of this article.

ITEM! Are you ever watching a TV show or movie and when you see a character do or say something and you think "Haven't I seen that 100 times before?" Well, yeah, you probably have. And TV Tropes is here to help you figure out just exactly where and when.With entries on everything from the Negative Space Wedgie to the Southern Fried Genius to Fridge Logic, this is one of those sites where you can lose a LOT of time before you know it.

ITEM! The Mercury Men is, in the words of Craig Engler, "a kick-ass new Web series made for under $10,000 in Pittsburgh with ray guns, evil aliens and even a brain in a jar. It's a modern homage to the black-and-white serials of the early 1900s featuring a (literally) mild mannered engineer who normally toils away at an office in obscurity until he stumbles on a plot by The Mercury Men to destroy Earth." It has been picked up by SyFy and can now be watched in its entirety here. The trailer is below.

ITEM! Panic Attack is a short film created by director Federico Alvarez. Actually, in my eyes it's not so much a short film as it is a scene showing what Alvarez can produce on a very limited budget, and for that it's quite successful. What makes it of particular interest to me personally is that Alvarez was apparently able to use it to convince Sam Raimi that he was the right guy to helm the upcoming remake of The Evil Dead, one of my all-time favorite horror flicks. Now personally, I don't see the connection between this video - full of giant robots and massive explosions - and an intimate little "spam in a cabin" slasher, but then since Raimi went from Evil Dead to Spider-Man, maybe he sees something of the reverse in Alvarez. Anyway, watch it for yourself, and see what you think.

ITEM! Below is part one of a very long and very interesting interview with famed animator Chuck Jones, the man responsible for some of the best Looney Tunes cartoons, including many many great Bugs Bunny / Daffy Duck features. Watch this part then click on through for the rest.

ITEM! From Bugs Bunny's animator, we go directly to the other man who could be considered just as, if not more, important in his success, the man who gave him (and so many other great characters) their voice,the great Mr. Mel Blanc, as he asks the question "Wanna Buy a Record?"

ITEM! If you're someone who likes reading about films as much as watching them, you should definitely check out the Bright Lights Film Journal. Once a print magazine, now completely online, BLFJ is chock full of articles that delve deep not only into mainstream films, but also those fringe/art house/cult movies that often receive very little press elsewhere, and it does it with a very unique editorial voice.

ITEM! Those of you who, like me, grew up during a certain period of time will remember the concept of the "horror host". When TV was local it seemed like every city had their own horror host who would, usually late on a Friday or Saturday night, present basically any movie they could get their hands on. They would also often begin the show and provide little skits and such during the commercial breaks. Think of it largely like Mystery Science Theater 3000 without the snark during the actual film. Of course now most of them are gone, but at least one horror host has found a new home on the internet - Count Gore De Vol! He still hosts a weekly web program and also has a terrific website with interviews, book reviews and other great features. Below is the first part of one of his recent shows, and the rest along with more info and a link to the website can be found here.

ITEM! If you've only seen the film version of the musical Hair, or if you've never seen it at all, then the stage version may come as quite a surprise. For those unfamiliar with it, Hair was definitely a product of its time, a celebration of the 1960's hippie counter-cultural revolution which gave us songs such as "[The Age of] Aquarius",  "Good Morning Starshine", and "Manchester England", along with, of course, the title song. Now, as you might well imagine, the show, with its profanity, its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, its loose treatment of sexuality, its depictions of inter-racial relationships, and its nude scene caused much comment and controversy whenever it was performed, and was especially not well received in the south of the time. Craig Leake has produced a fascinating film which documents one such production, Memphis Hair. Watch it below:

Memphis Hair from Django's Ghost on Vimeo.

ITEM! Another magazine for those who are looking for something beyond the usual hype about the latest blockbuster or who the latest recipient of the J-Lo-down is is Video Watchdog. Since 1985, editor and writer Tim Lucas has brought together an eclectic group of writers to put together what he has subtitled "The Perfectionists Guide to Fantastic Video". One of the things that makes V. W. worth reading each month is that while they are willing to cover whatever's new on home video, the writers are also given rein to write about what interests them. Also, all of the articles, whether long-form essays or short reviews are written with an eye not only to the movies themselves, but to their presentation. How do they actually look on DVD? Is the new blu-ray edition worth picking up or is it the same as what came before? What supplements are there? Have there been cuts other change made to the movie? That's where the "perfectionist" part of the subtitle comes in, and again, it serves to give the magazine its own unique voice.

ITEM! What is it exactly that makes a movie a cult film? Daniel Krone explores this topic in his short documentary A Cult Influence:

ITEM! For those of you who love going behind the scenes in movies to see how the special effects and creatures are created (or at least how they were done before everything was cgi and green screens), the series Movie Magic is the thing for you. Originally consisting of some 70 episodes, the series has apparently never had a proper release on video or DVD. Fortunately, the first 12 episodes have found their way to YouTube. The first one is embedded below, and the rest have been compiled on this page thanks to the good folks at /Film.

LAST ITEM! Ok, let's finish up with a truly ambitious project. Born of Hope is a 70+ minute independent film inspired by the Lord of the Rings and produced by Actors at Work Productions in the UK. According to the producers "This 70 minute original drama is set in the time before the War of the Ring and tells the story of the DĂșnedain, the Rangers of the North, before the return of the King. Inspired by only a couple of paragraphs written by Tolkien in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings we follow Arathorn and Gilraen, the parents of Aragorn, from their first meeting through a turbulent time in their people's history." It truly is quite good and is a wonderful example of what can be done with a small budget and a large imagination.

Alright, that's it for this go-round! Obviously, I'm always on the lookout for new and intriguing film/videos/documentaries/etc. that pop up on the web, so if you have any suggestions of new (or not-so-new) items that you want to share, please let me know about them in the comments section. Also, I'm curiouabout t you thought about these. any that you particularly liked or didn't like? Again, hit the comments to let me know.

Up next:  The bookmark cleanup continues with Food Links

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bookmark Stew (Part 2)

Continuing to try clear out the bookmark list...

ITEM! Ok, so let's start with a lighter one this time. Ohio, I really have to ask what's going on up there? First there was the guy who was arrested and charged with a felony for having sex with a picnic table a couple of years back, and now there's the guy accused of having sex with an inflatable pool raft. Which might not be so bad if he didn't already have four other public indecency charges including attempting to violate an inflatable pumpkin.

ITEM! There have been a number of different ides for ways to improve the economy and to "create jobs", and I really don't want to get into that whole debate, but one thing that really seems to me something of a no-brainer is for someone to come up with a truly well-planned and forward thinking outline for improving the country's infastructure and mass-transit systems, all the way from the top down. Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum proposes spending a trillion dollars on infrastructure, and it looks like the president is on board with infrastructure spending, stating in a recent speech on jobs and the transportation bill that  "if we’re honest, we also know that when it comes to our nation’s infrastructure – our roads, our railways, mass transit, airports – we shouldn’t just be playing patch-up or catch-up, we should be leading the world... it’s unacceptable when countries like China are building high-speed rail networks and gleaming new airports while more than a million construction workers who could be doing the same thing are unemployed right here in America... we’re going to have to have a serious conversation in this country about making real, lasting investments in our infrastructure -- from better ports to a smarter electric grid; from high-speed Internet to high-speed rail. And at a time when interest rates are low and workers are unemployed, the best time to make those investments is right now". Which is fine as far as it goes, but really doesn't go anywhere near far enough. One might think by now that this President would understand by now that talk is only good for so long and now is not the time to talk, but to act. Otherwise, he risks losing the chance to accomplish anything.

ITEM! Of course, what it's really going to take to get things accomplished is not more gamesmanship between Mr Obama and Mr. Boenher (really, have we come down to this kind of petty "he said/he said" BS?), but real people, constituents on both sides actually standing up and confronting those people who are supposed to be representing them instead of simply buying into the party line and the fearmongering, and then, when they try to go back to their carefully prepared charts and comments not letting go, and not getting distracted, but repeating the questions and trying to get them to give actual answers, as in this video:

ITEM! I mentioned above that the time for talk from this president is over, and there's a very specific reason for that. In my last post I mentioned "the seeming conflict between Barack Obama the Candidate and Barack Obama the President," and promised to go into that more this time. Fortunately, I don't have to, because Jesse Lava has done a fine job a summarizing (with extensive links) why so many of us who bought into Mr. Obama's promising campaign rhetoric are now feeling let down and betrayed by the man we actually got.

ITEM! Ok, let's move away from the politics for a bit, shall we? Ah, here's an interesting one from an unexpected corner: the comic strip character Popeye. Apparently one of the writer on the strip was fired in 1992 because of a series of strips that he submitted to the syndicate (which were never, by the way, actually published) that not only concerned an overheard conversation which led a character to think that Popeye was encouraging Olive to get an abortion, but has a priest utter the line "You fool!! ..Without Satan we're out of a job!!"

ITEM! Different cities become known for different things over the years. Nashville for its country music, Austin for its arts scene, Seattle for coffee and rain, and Pittsburgh for protractors. Yes, I said protractors. Y'know, like you had to get for math class that one year? Apparently they're popping up all over the city, super-glued to all kinds of surfaces, and no one seems to know how or why. This guy has even created a master list (with over 250 entries) and has lots of pics.

ITEM! Ok, let's begin this one with this bit of reporting. Yes, the initial story is a from back in June, but it also includes the latest information which has been updated since.

Alright, so we have a guy facing 75 years in jail for openly photographing the police doing their job in public. Then we have this ruling from a federal appeals court in a different case, affirming that "the First Amendment protects the right to videotape the activities of police officers in public." And that would seem like it would be the end of Mr. Allison's problems, right? Especially with the court saying things like "[A] citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment." and "Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting 'the free discussion of governmental affairs.'"and "[t]he terseness implicitly speaks to the fundamental and virtually self-evident nature of the First Amendment's protections in this area." All of which is great, except for the fact that this decision came down from a court in the first federal circuit, but Illinois, and therefore the Allison case, is in the 7th circuit. What this means in practical terms is that although the Glik case can be use as precedent in the Allison case it's not binding. This one could be going all the way to the supreme court, kids!

LAST ITEM! Finally today, I want to leave you with a recommendation for an incredibly fascinating site. Wonders and Marvels is the kind of always-intriguing spots on the internet that I could simply lose myself in for days. Basically, it's a collection of articles "for Curious Minds, who love History, its Odd Stories, and Good Reads." Recent articles include the discovery of Pompeii's human remains, midwifery in colonial America, the myth of Joseph Kennedy, bootlegger, and even What the Romans Used for Toilet Paper. Check it out!

Ok, that's it for today. But be sure to check back in a few days for a special Film and Video edition of Bookmark Stew!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bookmark Stew (Part 1)

Wow, has it really been that long since I've posted anything here? Yeah, I guess so. Well, as they say, life happens, and there's certainly been quite a bit of it happening here lately. But more on that later. Right now it's time to clean out a whole bunch of bookmarks. I've kind of gotten in the habit of posting these to my Facebook page (stop on by and let's be "friends"), but there's a whole bunch that I've just been holding off on, and it's time to catch up, I think, so here we go:

ITEM! Ok, let's start with an easy one here. There have been numerous reports of photographers being detained or harassed simply for the criminal act of taking pictures. As a matter of fact, the sets of pictures of various local eateries in my "And You Shall Know Them by What They Eat" posts actually resulted in a visit on my doorstep by two local Nashville detectives (who, i should note right now, were extremely polite and in no way harassing or intimidating) but that's another story for another time. Instead I'd like to call your attention to this article from the Long Beach (California) Post in which police chief Jim McDonnell confirms that "detaining photographers for taking pictures 'with no apparent esthetic value' is within Long Beach Police Department  policy", despite the fact that the officers are receiving no training nor even guidelines when it comes to what "esthetic value" they might be looking for or even what the term might mean. Apparently this falls under the LAPD's Special Order #11, which calls on officers to "accurately and appropriately gather, record and analyze information, of a criminal or non-criminal nature, that could indicate activity or intentions related to either foreign or domestic terrorism." In other words, photography equals terrorism, and anyone with a camera is to be considered guilty until proven innocent. Oh, and lest you think this is just one incident, or even limited to the US, all you need to do is click here, here, here, and here, just for starters.

ITEM! We all tend to think of ourselves as pretty media savvy nowadays, but I kinda think if that were really true, we might not be in quite the mess that we are right now. Anyway, Cracked (yeah, they're gonna show up more than once here) has a couple of articles, 6 Brainwashing Techniques They're Using On You Right Now and 6 Subtle Ways the News Media Disguises Bullshit as Fact that, despite the rather florid headlines take a good look at ways that media/advertising/political professionals use to try convince us all to vote/think their way. Well worth reading and keeping in mind as we head into the next big election cycle.

ITEM! On the lighter side, here's one from the entertainment world: /Film's list of The Best Movies of 2010 That You Probably Haven't Heard Of. Of course, part of the reason you may not have heard of them is that some, like the first one listed, the widely acclaimed Senna are just now getting a US release, while others simply got overshadowed by hyper-budgeted "Blockbusters".

ITEM! Speaking of movies you probably haven't heard of, I cannot beg you enough to watch the documentary Cry of the Snow Lion. It's a look at the country of Tibet, it's people, and what has been done to them. I have to admit that before watching this, although I was somewhat aware of the China/Tibet conflict, I really was largely unaware of the real roots/extent of what has been going on there. Afterwards, well, ok, I admit that the film definitely wears its bias on its sleeve, but it has definitely caused me to try to find out more, to take a harder look at the three-way relationship between the US, Tibet, and China, and to look at some things (such as our international trade polices) in a new way. In order to make viewing the documentary easier, I'm embedding a playlist which should go straight from one part to the other, or you can watch the first part by clicking here.

ITEM! Following up on the last item, as I noted, watching Cry of the Snow Lion has really made me pay more attention to and rethink the way that I look at the three-way relationship between the US, Tibet, and China, especially as the latter nation becomes more and more important in the workings of the US economy and our trade becomes more and more intertwined. So when I read articles with headlines like China blames monks for Tibetan unrest or Tibetan monk dies in self-immolation protest, group says, I really have to wonder about and feel for the desperation of these people.

ITEM! And this will be the last dealing with The US, China, and Tibet, I promise, but it seemed worth its own item because it also relates to another issue that's been on my mind a lot of late, and that's the seeming conflict between Barack Obama the Candidate and Barack Obama the President. Now, I'm not going to go too deeply into this one at the moment (I'll save that for another time), but it does make me wonder how much the conflict we are seeing play out is actually the inevitable payoff when idealism meets political reality. I mean it's all very well and good for the President to meet with the Dalai Lama and for the White House to issue a statement saying “The president reiterated his strong support for the preservation of the unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions of Tibet and the Tibetan people throughout the world... He underscored the importance of the protection of human rights of Tibetans in China.” But when the next article I read states that China has issued a statement saying in part "We demand the U.S. side to seriously consider China's stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces that seek 'Tibet independence'," and then I read that "Obama stressed the U.S. policy that 'Tibet is a part of the People's Republic of China and the United States does not support independence for Tibet,' the White House said," well, it does emphasize the difference between how the man may feel and how he has chosen to act as President. Of course, the fact that China is the US's number one creditor and currently holds more than $1 trillion worth of US treasury bonds which it could call due at any moment might have something to do with it all.

ITEM! Ok, let's go back to a couple of lighter things to end on today, shall we? First off, how about a check back in with our friends over at Cracked for a look at 6 Things You Won't Believe Animals Do Just Like Us. Or maybe you'd prefer 4 Recent Films That Are Accidentally Sequels to 80s Movies (though actually I'd say Super8 is more of a sequel to E.T. than Cloverfield is, but the article may have been written before that one came out). Or maybe you're more in the mood for 6 Beloved Characters That Had Undiagnosed Mental Illnesses. Or 6 Reasons The Guy Who's Fixing Your Computer Hates You. Or, if you're in a really contentious mood how about 5 Rock Radio Classics That Actually Suck?

ITEM! Ok, I gave ya a really depressing doc to watch earlier so I'll try to make it up to ya with this: The first of Mr. Plinkett's Star Wars reviews. If you've never seen these before, all I can tell ya is pop some popcorn, get comfy, and prepare for a review that's almost as epic as the film itself.

LAST ITEM! Yeah, I know this one has been kind of all over the spectrum, but like I said at the first, I'm just tryin' to clear out some bookmarks that've been hanging about for awhile. And with any luck, you'll be seeing parts 2 and 3 before long. But for now I'll leave you with this: a picture of a lemur eating a watermelon.

Friday, September 3, 2010

And You Shall Know Them By What They Eat (part 2)

I'm not going to add a whole lot to what I said in the introduction to part one of this little photoblog (which can be found here) except to say that even for me this has been an eye-opening experience. When I started out on this little journey I knew that even in this small area there was quite a large concentration of restaurants and markets serving all different types of foods and peoples, but I really didn't know quite how many there were. Again I'm reminded how easy it is to pass through an area every day and be so caught up in other things that you don't really see all of the place that are passing by. Even with all of the pictures in these two posts they ae not completely comprehensive, and I know there are some places that I have left out, either by choice, because I couldn't get a good picture, or simply because I missed it. Please feel free to let me know about any of your favorite places or any great (or even not-so-great) eating/shopping experiences you've had in the area in the comments section.

And do look for some follow up to these posts in the coming weeks. If there's one thing doing these photo essays has made me determined to do, it's to get out and explore this neighborhood more. To meet more of the people involved in these shops and eateries, to find out more about the names and faces behind some of these signs and doors and windows, to try their food and to get to know them. And as I do, I'll be sure to share those experiences here with you.

Ok, let's get on with the pictures, shall we?

And, of course, once you've managed to visit all of those places, there may be one more place in the area you may need to check out:
Seriously, though, it's been a lot of fun for me to take a new look at my own neighborhood, and I encourage you, no matter where you might live, to slow down, take a look around and try to see what's new and different in your own neighborhood. Who knows what kind of new things you might find that you just pass by everyday. And maybe if we all took the time to do that a little bit more, we might find in our differences things that can also help to bring us together.

Like sharing a good meal...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And You Shall Know Them By What They Eat (part 1)

In my post on East Nashville a couple of days ago, I described the various waves of immigrants moving into Nashville as resulting in it becoming sort of a "mixed salad of a city" where the differing nationalities have, rather than developing their own separate neighborhoods, wound up integrating into the general population, both assimilating into the groups already there, and at the same time managing to hold onto many of the traditions and customs of their native lands resulting in an incredible diversity of peoples in a very small area. One of the parts of town where I think this diversity is most easily seen is actually the area that I live in, the area known variously as Woodbine, Flatrock, and Berry Hill. (Ok, true natives will correctly point out that each of these actually originally designated separate areas, but for today's purpose just go with me.)

Now some wags have dismissively characterized this area as "Little Mexico" because the first real wave of immigrants to move in were Hispanic, but to do so truly dismisses and overlooks the truly diverse neighborhood this area has become. Within an area of just a few square miles you have peoples descended from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Mexico, various African countries, various Asian countries, and many many others. Truly this area has become the "melting pot" that all of America is supposed to be. And, as I noted on Monday, it hasn't always been easy, incorporating peoples from all of these diverse backgrounds, figuring out ways to live together and respect both our sameness as people and our differences, but for the most part I have to say that the process seems to have happened with a minimum of real incident. Now for those of you living in places like New York, this type of integration may not seem all that remarkable, but what you have to keep in mind is that we're talking about a southern town that less than fifty years ago decided to close (and in some cases fill with concrete) its city pools rather than be forced to allow blacks to swim with the white folk.

Anyway, one of the results of all of this immigration and integration is the diversity of restaurants and markets that have not only opened up, but seem to thrive in this area. After all, if there is anything that a person moving to a new place can bring with them to help themselves feel more at home it is the food of their native land. And at the same time, if they have to rely purely on their fellow immigrants to stay in business, then they are going to have a hard time of it. That's why for today's post I decided to take just a small area of Nashville, the area I've been talking about, and take a look at all the different eateries, restaurants, markets and even a few bars that can be found within just a few miles of each other.

Ok, so here's the basic set-up: I decided to use as my starting point the intersection at the bottom of this hill:

Locals, I'm sure, will recognize this as the intersection of Nolensville Rd and Thompson Lane. I chose this intersection partly because it's a good central point in the area radiating out pretty much in a basic north-south east-west pattern and partly because it allowed me to set some pretty basic endpoint demarcations for my travels. From there I decided to head in each direction and just see what culinary prospects awaited, taking pictures all along the way. Fairly arbitrarily I decided to set myself a limit of three miles in any given direction, and actually except for heading south on Nolensville, it really was two or less. Now for the most part I skipped the McDonald's/Burger King/Hardees type fast food places, (though I did include some of the larger chain eateries such as Logan's and Papa John's because after all they, too, are part of the food landscape) simply because they are everywhere and including them all would have meant expanding this even further.

So what did I find? Well, let's just say that I wound up with so many pictures that, as noted in the title, this actually became part one of two. What you'll see below (and in part two, which I'll post in a day or two) are not all of the pictures that I took, but I think they'll give you a pretty good idea of both the culinary and cultural diversity that has brought so much to this city that I grew up in and that I continue to love. And maybe they'll help those who think of nothing more than country music and rednecks when they think of Nashville to realize that we have become so much more.

Ok, on with the pictures. I'm not going to do much narration with these because I think they pretty well speak for themselves. Enjoy!

(Oh, and just click on any picture to embiggen it!)

Ok, that's it for today. I'll be back in a couple of days with part two. Right now, though, I think it's time to go figure out what to have for dinner. Hmm... too bad there's not a good restaurant around...

Update: click here for part two.