Film Diary: January

With January nearly over, I thought I’d post my progress on the Mad Movie Challenge (to log 365 movies viewed this year). To be brief, it’s going well. I’ve already seen 37 films, which gives me a 6 movie buffer with 2 nights left in the first month of the Challenge. So yay! I’m working hard at sitting on the couch!

I’ve listed the movies below for the curious. They range all over in tone, genre, decade, and (oh yes) quality. Masterpieces like the British war comedy The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp share the list with inept films like the ecological horror Contamination .7. Some were so bad they were truly great like Escape from L.A. but many were just indefensibly awful (I’m looking at you Sharknado). Old favorites made up a minor portion of the list (the three Star Trek films and Truck Turner, which all have Nichelle Nichols in major roles) with most being new to me. Some were pleasant surprises (Gremlins 2: The New Batch was unexpectedly fun), and some were even worse than feared (Female Vampire, which is meandering and plotless even for Jess Franco).

I have no regrets. I got to see ancient forces destroy Nazis and Humphrey Bogart command a tank. Peter Cushing killed both Dracula and a mummy. Horror comics came to life and strangers died in an elevator. Ghosts and trees walked. A blind swordsman and a female sushi platter took out mobs. Christopher Lee was very naughty. And that’s only about a third of what I saw.

I’d pace myself, but I’m having too much fun!

Beau Geste (1939)
Bloodfist (1989)
Catacombs (1988)
Cellar Dweller (1988)
Contamination .7 (1993)
Creature (1985)
Devil (2010)
Escape from L.A. (1996)
Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (1970)
Europa Report (2013)
Female Vampire (1973)
The Final (2010)
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)
Horror of Dracula (1958)
House Hunting (2013)
The Keep (1983)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
The Mummy (1959)
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Planet Earth (1974)
Proteus (1995)
Ragewar (1984)
Sahara (1943)
Sharknado (2013)
Shrooms (2007)
Skyfall (2012)
Spiders (2013)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Stolen (2009)
Sushi Girl (2012)
The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962)
Truck Turner (1974)


A Commanding Problem

Last night I was working from home, overseeing one end of a data migration. I run a screen share application on my laptop to operate my work computer, and it works out fairly well despite the occasional delay in screen refreshing.

That is, it worked well enough until everything went higgledy-piggledy after the export and I had to react quickly.

As I typed commands into my bash shell, the Mac search pop-up kept intruding. After much cursing and forceful typing, I worked out that my work computer was under the belief that whenever I hit the space bar I was also pressing the command key — a combo that triggers the global search box.

Reckoning that there was something goofy about the shared screen session, I disconnected and started up a new session.

Still with the searching.

More cursing and smashing of keys.

I discovered that hitting the space bar twice in rapid succession managed to trick the computer into producing a single space before popping up the infernal search. Progress, of a sort.

I fired off a few commands, typing space-space-esc (the escape dismissed the pop-up) between words. Then I waited anxiously for word that things were back under control. Eventually that came, and I disconnected from my computer and went to bed.

This morning I came in to work and saw that my screen was still active. It should have gone into sleep mode shortly after I had disconnected. I approached and saw that my chair had been pushed in, and one arm was resting on… the command key!

The cleaning staff had pushed my chair out of the way to get to my trash can. A high-tech problem caused by a low-tech solution.

Tonight, before I left, I set my trash can out in the open. Just in case.

Mad Movie Challenge

I track movies I watch in Letterboxd. At the start of this year, I received a notification that stats for the year were available. After taking in the site wide stats (most watched director, most liked movie, etc.) I noticed that I had logged 308 films in 2013. That includes repeat viewings but leaves out the movies I forgot to log or that I couldn’t find in the site database.

Still, 308. That’s nearly a movie a day. Actually it’s about 84% of a movie per day.

My second thought was “No wonder I’m fat.”

But my first thought stuck with me, and that was that I could do better than that. I could average a movie for every day!

Thus was born The Project. You could call it the Mad Movie Challenge, the Fatty’s Film Folly, or the What the Hell is Wrong with You. The goal is simple: 365 movies logged to Letterboxd this year.

I’m off to a strong start, with 18 movies so far. There’s a long way to go, but I feel good about it. I can do this. I can achieve something completely pointless.

Then I should probably take a walk or something.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Listen to Cold War Recordings

A few weeks ago I picked up a collection of music called “Atomic Platters”, which contains 4 CDs packed with tracks from the height of the Cold War. Primarily from the 1950s (though ranging from the 40s to the 60s), these tracks are often explicit reactions to the threats of nuclear devastation.

Having grown up in the final, fatalistic stages of the Cold War (the 70s and 80s, for those just realizing how old I am), these songs and PSAs gave me nostalgia dissonance. On the one hand, I identify strongly with the persistent threat of atomic annihilation. Hell, popular media made it seem inevitable.

But all of these tracks were recorded (and most forgotten) long before my birth. The references, the musical styles — so much is unfamiliar to me. The one track that feels like part of my youth is “We Will All Go Together (When We Go)” by the great Tom Lehrer. My friends and I “discovered” the wry songster in high school, so his music is as integral to my makeup as that of Dead Kennedys, Oingo Boingo, or the many British Invasion bands my brother introduced me to.

As I listened to the set, driving to and from work, I noticed trends in themes, messages, and references. Being unable to simply enjoy anything, I decided to do a breakdown of all of this data. Being a lazy bastard, I did it from memory.

Here then is my woefully unscientific analysis of my impression of a bunch of audio tracks packaged by others using undisclosed methodologies. As they say on the psychic ads, “for entertainment purposes only.”

(There is a vague connection between order and occurrence. The higher an entry is, the more often I recall it coming up. So, “Religion” was the most frequent topic, with “You’d better pray” popping up more often than “God’s Nuclear Wrath”. In my recollection, at least…)

  1. Religion
    1. You’d better pray
      1. For your soul, because we’re all going to die
      2. For God to prevent nuclear holocaust
    2. God’s nuclear wrath
      1. Will be visited on the Communists
        1. In Russia
        2. On Stalin/Brezhnev
        3. Everywhere
      2. Will kill us all
        1. Judgement Day
        2. Flood of fire
      3. C. Atheism = Communism
  2. Romance
    1. Metaphors
      1. You are a bomb
      2. Our love is a bomb
      3. She is a bomb
      4. I am a bomb
      5. Love spins like a satellite
    2. We’ll die together
    3. I love you even though you’re radioactive/mutated
    4. I was duped by a sexy communist
    5. I’m sending you to Russia
  3. Humor
    1. Gallows
      1. We’re all going to die
    2. Communism
      1. Communists enjoy our freedoms while visiting
      2. Communists kill each other
      3. Stalin is a punk
    3. Uranium mining
      1. I/They haven’t found anything
  4. Sincere*
    1. Public Service Announcements
      1. Know the CONELRAD stations
      2. Stock food
      3. Prepare/locate shelter
    2. U!S!A!
      1. Communists don’t know our freedoms
      2. Communists seek to destroy
      3. We must defend our way of life
      4. Protesting helps the Communists
    3. Public figures
      1. Pro
        1. Senator McCarthy
        2. President Eisenhower
        3. General MacArthur
        4. Francis Gary Powers (U2 pilot shot down over Russia)
      2. Con
        1. Joseph Stalin
        2. Nikita Khrushchev
        3. Leonid Brezhnev
        4. Senator McCarthy
        5. President Truman
        6. President Kennedy
  5. Outliers
    1. Dancing
      1. Dance names with Cold War references
        1. Uranium
        2. Atomic, Atom Bomb, A-Bomb, etc.
        3. Sputnik
      2. Behind the Iron Curtain
      3. While the bombs fall
    2. War
      1. Korea must be crushed
      2. Washington needs to be invaded
    3. Equality
      1. We need equal rights to unite against communists
    4. Love Thine Enemy
      1. Calm down, Russia. We used to be friends.
    5. Instructional Song
      1. Duck and Cover

*The majority of the religious songs are sincere, but since religion is the predominant theme they were given their own top-level category. The Sincere category represents everything else once the religious songs are pulled out.

Clean Slates are Pretty, But I Need to Set Down These Full Plates

The first blog post of the year is like a yard of fresh snow. It’s filled with wonderful possibilities, but you know you’re just going to wreck it like you always do.

I suppose I could have put that more optimistically…

I’m not feeling optimistic. I’m feeling defeated. Work is not going well, it’s been a non-specific mammal’s age since I worked on the story I meant to submit last year, and Wyeth keeps dropping stink logs on the bathroom floor.

On the positive side of things, I have been writing.

There’s a comic I want to write, but I haven’t figured out exactly how I want to handle it. It’s been rattling around in my brain for a while, and I’d grown frustrated with the lack of progress. Finally I decided to just start writing.

Every day this year so far I’ve worked on it — a little dialog, some interior thought, some light descriptions. I may not use any of it, but it’s helping me to gel my thoughts about characters and plot. Most importantly, it’s putting tracks on the snow. And once the pristine vista is wrecked, I might as well get to work.