stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
In the justly beloved movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, there is a scene in which the naive new senator is entrapped by a group of cynical reporters, who dupe him into being photographed in easily-misinterpreted poses. When he learns of the deception, he races through the streets of Washington, tracking down and assaulting each of the reporters. The audience is clearly intended to understand, or even approve of, his actions - though, to be fair, he does wind up learning that he fell into a rookie's trap, and resolves to become a better senator.

Last night, Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, on being asked a question he did not want to answer, apparently assaulted a reporter, body-slamming him to the ground and then ordering him out of the room. (Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault.) Response from the left blogosphere has been furious; from the right has come tepid condemnation, or in some cases approval. Anecdotes are coming in that at least some Republican voters, entering the polling places for today's special election, still intend to vote for Gianforte despite last night's incident.

I find the attitude of these voters repellent, but, with Mr. Smith in mind, I guess I can understand it.
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
I am not, as yet, moved to comment on the early days of the new administration. Instead, further on my late vacation:

I rarely go to movies in the theater; by far most of my theater visits occur during the holidays - D and I see them together. This year, I nominated two movies and D one, which we saw on three successive days.

D's nominee was Rogue One. I thought it was a decent actioner, but it abruptly gained points with me when I realized how things were going to end - and I'm not talking about the very last scene.

My first choice was Arrival. I had not, and have not, read the short story it was based on (and I do, now, feel the need to buy a Chiang collection or two). I enjoyed it quite a bit, as an amateur linguist (the handling of the "kangaroo" story tickled me), but the kick in the gut that came when I realized what the scenes with the young girl were about - that made the movie for me. The political denouement seemed a bit weak to me, but the scene in which the protagonist made her choice, what to do with the knowledge she had gained, made for a strong ending.

My second choice was Moana, and I loved it. Among Disney movies, I'll put it about on a par with Mulan - maybe a bit higher, since the "comic relief" was considerably less annoying. The climax was a poor man's Patricia McKillip - not as boggling as some of PMcK's endings, but clearly of the same ilk. Good flick; I'll have to buy a copy.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
There is a movie entitled "Reuben, Reuben". There is also a movie entitled "Rachel, Rachel". Alas, they are not genderflipped versions of each other.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Over at, there's a wonderful review of the classic Young Frankenstein, in a memorial of the career of Gene Wilder. One of the commenters pointed out something I had never noticed before.

The tragedy of Frankenstein was the scientist's refusal to take responsibility for what he had done: rejecting his "child", causing the creature to become the monster we all remember. The creature was good-hearted, incredibly smart, and lonely; that it became a mass murderer can be laid at its creator's feet. In Young Frankenstein, Frederick gets it right. He approaches the creature (admittedly under duress and after several false starts) with love, and eventually makes it what the original monster should have been.

I never thought of that before. That film, incredibly enough, has just gone further up in my esteem.

(Oh, by the way, Mel Brooks wanted to cut the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene! Fortunately, Wilder talked him out of it. Good grief, Mel!)
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
I wish it were that easy to get him back. We've lost another great, in Gene Wilder. He was suffering from Alzheimer's, so I suppose it's a mercy....

"Young Frankenstein" remains on my list of the dozen or so funniest movies I've ever seen.


Jun. 3rd, 2016 03:05 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
My niece M is the youngest of my five niblings. She and I hadn't had much to do with one another until a couple of years ago, when chance gave us an opportunity for a longish conversation. Last year, at Christmastime, we got into a discussion of movies; she told me that she liked old-style black and white movies, and I offered to give her some recommendations. I finally had time to draw them up a couple of weeks ago, and sent her (in two installments) a list of twenty-five of my favorite movies from the thirties and forties. (I said "my favorites"; I'm not sure I was entirely accurate in that - there were several late deletions and replacements - but they're certainly among my favorites.) For whoever's interested, the list is under the cut, in chronological order.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
The Thin Man (1934)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Stage Door (1937)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Ninotchka (1939)
The Great Dictator (1940)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
His Girl Friday (1940)
Fantasia (1940)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Ball of Fire (1941)
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941)
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Casablanca (1942)
Double Indemnity (1944)
To Have and Have Not (1944)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Notorious (1946)
Key Largo (1948)
North by Northwest (1949)
White Heat (1949)
Adam's Rib (1949)
The alert might claim an excess of Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, and Cary Grant; I reject the very concept.

ETA: Apparently I can't distinguish the "cut" button from the "blockquote" button, if I'm not paying enough attention.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Donald Trump, replying to an insult from British PM Cameron: "Well, number one I'm not stupid, okay. I can tell you that, right now - just the opposite."

I am irresistibly reminded of Otto from "A Fish Called Wanda".

I will refrain from pointing out other similarities between the two vulgarians.

(And once again, the music is apropos.)


May. 14th, 2016 10:28 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
Madeleine Lebeau, the last surviving cast member of Casablanca, has died. Hers was a minor but memorable role, as Rick's ex-girlfriend; the moment when the camera focuses on her, during the singing of the Marseillaise, is the point where I always lose it - she's turned away from the German officer she was flirting with, singing and crying, and at the last it is she who calls out "Vive la France!"

Rest in peace, Ms. Lebeau.

(I think I'll watch that movie tomorrow evening.)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I called the Chef Shoppe this morning, and the grinder I wanted was neither in stock nor on order. I decided three weeks was long enough to wait, and instead resorted to the Great River, ordering a Capresso Infinity burr grinder, model 560. It'll be a while before it comes, of course. And while I was there...

I ordered a couple of DVDs: Frozen, which I'd been meaning to buy since the day I saw it, and Predestination, which I'm going to be evaluating as a possible Hugo nominee. (The Martian and The Force Awakens are already on my list, and I also have a DVD of Fury Road which I haven't gotten around to watching, but will soon.)

And speaking of Hugos, I grabbed Kindle versions of several novels which have been mooted as possibilities: Ancillary Mercy (of course), Seveneves, The Dark Forest, The Fifth Season, and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I also picked up 1635: A Parcel of Rogues and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, the last of which may or may not be eligible for the Hugo this year. (There's considerable debate over whether the public release of the e-ARC counts as publication. If yes, then this year; if not, then next.) I'm also considering The Affinities, which I've already read, for the Hugo.

Should keep me busy on the reading and viewing front.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
This short video is freaking hilarious. Take a look.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
This is pretty cute: reimaginings of actors from the golden age of Hollywood, as DC and Marvel superheroes. I particularly like the Batman/Catwoman, Supes/Lex/Lois, and Dr. Strange/Clea posters. (The Power Girl poster is kind of an obvious choice....)

Sadly, some of the actors' names are misspelled.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
As of this morning, I've seen four of the five nominees in this category (i.e., movies), and I don't expect to be able to see the fifth. Without further ado, my rankings:

#4: The Lego Movie. OK, it was fun, and there were some nice Easter eggs in it, but it really wasn't substantial enough to merit a Hugo, in my judgment.

#3: The Winter Soldier. I'm trying to catch up on all of the recent spate of Marvel (non-X-Man) movies; I saw The Dark World this morning too. I haven't seen the first Captain America movie, except in bits and snatches, but this one stood pretty well on its own. I was partly spoiled, in that I knew who the Winter Soldier was (from non-cinematic discussions), but I still rate this as a solid actioner. Some of the fight scenes were a bit confusing, I'm afraid, and I never did succeed in identifying one of the good-guy characters - the other dark-haired SHIELD agent who switched sides and freed Steve, Sam, and Natasha. At any rate, a solid actioner, but really not much more than that.

#2: Interstellar. It was pretty downbeat during most of the scenes on Earth at the beginning, but believably so - it could have served as a reasonable prequel to The Nitrogen Fix, to mention a classic of hard SF - and the later part tried a little too hard for a 2001ish flavor. I enjoyed it, but there was a bit too much technobabble for a film with Kip Thorne as an adviser. Not quite good enough for the top rank.

#1: I've got to go with Guardians of the Galaxy. Just a fun romp; like most everyone, I particularly enjoyed Rocket and Groot. Starlord grew on me over the course of the movie, too. Drax and Gamora, being characters I more-or-less knew already, offered no surprises, but also no major disappointments - though I still don't buy Gamora in a short skirt, as in one of the late scenes!

Feel free to comment on the movies or on my choices. (Do not feel free to discuss Puppies, of any ilk.)
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
This is something I've wondered about for quite a while.

One very common figure in USAn popular culture is the One Who Is Right, when nearly everyone else is wrong. The Scientist Who Knows: Jor-El, warning Krypton of impending doom, to no avail. The Experienced One: Ellen Ripley, warning against returning to the Alien world. The Moral Strongman: Will Kane, ready to stand alone against the Miller gang. Often - at least in drama - the One Who Is Right remains alone, pulling out some semblance of victory single-handed. Sometimes - more often in comedy - the One manages to persuade the masses at the last instant, as in Miracle on 34th Street or Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

Individualism has long been a key ideal, in the USA, and I think that, by and large, it's a good thing. But it also provides psychological support for those whose views are rejected because they are wrong, or foolish, or dangerous. ("They laugh at me, just as they laughed at Columbus!" "They also laughed at Mortimer Snerd, you know.")

I don't know enough about popular culture in other countries. Is this kind of figure as prevalent elsewhere?


Jan. 9th, 2015 02:15 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
There really isn't a whole lot to say about my California trip. There was the big family get-together on the 20th - a feast, the lighting of the Advent wreath, and the drawing of gift cards (I got one for Olive Garden). There were several smaller gatherings: Christmas Eve with E and her husband, an early birthday dinner at C's, a less-early birthday dinner with E and her husband at Islands, and an actual on-the-day birthday meal at IHOP with my brother. D and I went to several movies - "Interstellar" (decently entertaining, and not too much technobabble); "Into the Woods" (modestly interesting until the sharp left turn at the beginning of Act II, which moved it from "interesting" to "powerful"); and "Night at the Museum 3" (amusing, and melancholy in the closing scenes, as "Teddy Roosevelt" - Robin Williams - said goodbye to the museum guard). I did make one trip to B&N, but didn't buy much - two cookbooks (another slow cooker book, and The Ultimate Soup Bible), a book on Spartacus's rebellion, another Patricia Briggs novel, and an anthology of urban fantasy shorts, by, among others, Butcher, Briggs, Beagle, and Crowley.

I raced through a series of books on Kindle, bringing my total for the year to 80, my lowest total in several years. Notable among these last few were Roald Amundsen's account of his expedition to the South Pole (surprisingly entertaining), a set of papers by Alfred Russell Wallace on natural selection, some classics I'd never read (Peter Pan, Treasure Island, The Island of Dr. Moreau), Elizabeth Gaskell's charming Cranford, and Walter Jon Williams' The Praxis - I'll definitely continue reading that series. I also finished the Palliser novels and reread The Stars My Destination.

My research on polygons progressed a little, more in the way of noticing new avenues of exploration than in new results. I do know quite a bit more about hexagons than I did when I left for break.

Oh, and I found out that the ear trouble I've been having wasn't an infection after all; a good professional-level lavage in both ears was all that was necessary. (TMI?) At any rate, I have full hearing in both ears again - a great relief.

And Monday it's back to work....

Bad Week

Aug. 12th, 2014 07:50 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Hard on the heels of Robin Williams' death, we've lost another one: Lauren Bacall has died.

I don't know that you'd call her a great actress, but she put in some great performances: "To Have and Have Not", "The Big Sleep", and "Key Largo" are among my not-so-guilty pleasures. I'd rate the first of them highest; she played a more, ah, active role in that story than in the other two, IMO.

Good night, Betty Joan. Say "Hi" to Bogie for us.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
This is an entertaining article; I especially like the phone conversation between George Lucas and Leigh Brackett, about a quarter of the way down.


May. 20th, 2014 10:38 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I'm an old-timer WRT comics; when I hear the phrase "Guardians of the Galaxy", I think of Vance Astro, Nikki, Charlie-27, Yondu, Starhawk, and... wossname, the crystal guy. On hearing the name applied to the newer team - several of whose members didn't exist when I quit reading comics, and the other two having died - I was pretty skeptical.

Still, I've seen both of the trailers that have been released, and the film looks like it might be fun. I'll have to think about this. (I mean, really. A talking raccoon? An ent? Drax, who was created to fight Thanos but missed out on the big showdown, then moped around uselessly until his own daughter killed him? (Granted, he was aiming to kill her, but she kinda deserved it....) Gamora, whose spirit should still be trapped in the Soul Gem with Adam and Pip? And... who the hell is this Starlord?)


Apr. 7th, 2014 07:45 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
538 has posted an interesting study on films and the Bechdel test, including what fraction make it and how well they do at the box office. The answers are a bit surprising.

(The Bechdel test is a simple one: is there a scene in which two named female characters have a conversation about something other than the male characters? It's only a first-cut approximation of gender balance, as the article points out, but it's easy to apply and there's plenty of data available.)
stoutfellow: (Winter)
Looking at my archives, I see that I haven't said much about my trip to California. So....

I'm not going to say much more about Dad. We arranged for him to have a military funeral - three-gun volley, bugler playing "Taps", flag ceremony, the whole schmear - and his ashes are interred, with a few other items, in a wall-niche at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. That was what he wanted.

:pause for brief tears:

I did pay a visit to Barnes & Noble, as usual. I didn't buy much; even without the $25 gift certificate I got for Christmas, I spent less than $100. I bought a few bits of fiction - Hiaasen, Bradbury, Steven Erikson, Naomi Novik - plus the cookbook I mentioned a while ago and Empires of the Silk Road, a book on Central Asian history someone recommended to me. Haven't gotten around to reading any of them yet.

D and I did get out to one movie, "Frozen". I was pretty pleased with it; I particularly liked the fact that, though there was a villain, he wasn't the central problem - that was Elsa's need to come to terms with her power. (If anything, he helped catalyze the resolution.) Like almost everyone who's seen it, I was most impressed by Elsa's big "Let It Go" number. Brought tears, it did.

I can't say it was a good vacation, but it had its moments.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
While searching for something else, I ran across this bit, from A Man for All Seasons.

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.
Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?
Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.

Words to live by, for those of us in the profession.


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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