Saturday, February 25, 2023

Giant Steps Explained

I enjoy listening to John Coltrane's piece "Giant Steps" but as I am not a musician or someone who understands much musical theory my eyes would always glaze over when musically talented people tried to explain to me exactly why the work was challenging. So I ran across this explanation and for a few brief moments I think I barely understood some of the basic concepts being discussed. Or not. Either way I liked this video. I liked learning how math, music, and physics are all linked. And I like John Coltrane's music.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Movie Reviews: The First Power

The First Power
directed by Robert Resnikoff

Hollywood created a number of eighties and nineties movies that shared the theme of a bloodthirsty killer being caught and executed before coming back from the dead, possessing other people, and continuing to murder folks. 

Often the obsessed hero detective who was the person who tracked the murderer down in the first place had some strange link with the supernatural murderer. Now, left grasping at straws, the detective must struggle with reality. Maybe he really did arrest and help convict the wrong man. Maybe the detective is hearing strange things or having nightmares. Maybe the detective's wife or brother suddenly is speaking in languages they don't know.

Maybe the detective's over the top sexy but profoundly strange new girlfriend knows more than she's telling him. Maybe there's a cult of killers. Maybe the detective himself is the killer. These movies can vary widely in quality. There was Deliver Us From Evil, Shocker, The Horror Show, Virtuosity, and Fallen (the last two both starred Denzel Washington and were at the higher end of the quality spectrum).

Friday, February 17, 2023

Racist Ukrainians

I don't eat meat. I never ate pork. I have never liked eggs. Can't stand them. I find eggs' texture, look, and taste disgusting, along with their very concept. Eating chicken ova? Yuck. No thanks. However, if I were starving I wouldn't be so picky.

If some Good Samaritan offered me a hot plate of ham sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs, I would graciously accept the food. I wouldn't throw it back at the Good Samaritan as if the food were raw sewage. It wouldn't be my preference but it would keep me alive. That's important.

One would think that Ukrainian refugees, running for their collective lives from their war torn country, would be happy to be allowed into another nation to live. One would think they'd be wise enough to keep minor complaints to themselves. One would be wrong. Apparently some Ukrainians really hate Black people and Asian people--and aren't shy about making this known.

Flaco The Owl

As more and more animal habitats are destroyed or compromised by human presence or activity there may be an increased need for zoos, sanctuaries, or wildlife parks/reserves where animals can be allowed to thrive. Of course sometimes animals escape captivity and do just fine, showing perhaps they never should have been in captivity in the first place. One Flaco the Owl made a recent jailbreak--flew the coop so to speak--and has so far avoided the nets and traps put out for him.

Halley Barton was at a dinner party with friends on Saturday night when someone in the group shared the news that the Eurasian eagle-owl Flaco had coughed up a pellet of animal matter — rat fur and bones — in Central Park.

“It’s really exciting to see him learning how to catch his own rats,” said Ms. Barton, a health care case manager who was at the park around 1 p.m. Monday for her first look at the black-and-orange bird of prey. She had followed his activities online before then.

After Flaco flew off on Feb. 2 — his mesh enclosure had been vandalized — zoo officials, bird watchers and everyday people worried that he might not know how to fend for himself. He had never done so in his 13-year life. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Movie Reviews: The Family

The Family
directed by Luc Besson

How many serious gangster movies have you seen or least are aware of starring Robert DeNiro? Probably quite a few, right? Now how many gangster movies have you seen that feature a fish out of water gangster who is the often clueless focal point of the resulting comedy? More than a few, yes? Well The Family combined those two genres with mixed results. The Family is black comedy. The director invites laughs at serious but absurd situations. 

YMMV on this, given the subject matter and settings. The movie shows that even people who aren't so nice still face the same life challenges as us all. 

They get irritated at their spouse for not capping the toothpaste. They have sibling rivalries. They fume at repair men who are late, don't complete the job, or who try to cheat them. They pick up skills and knowledge from their parents' careers and life examples. And when things get tough families stick together against outside threats.

Movie Reviews: After.Life

directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo

Depending on your mood you might believe that this is an intelligent art film with a powerful message. Or you might think that it's a pretentious horror film that thinks it's smarter than it really is and uses tropes and cliches you've seen a million times before--including plenty of female star nudity-- to no great avail.

As referenced in HBO's Boardwalk Empire death will happen to us all eventually. But we don't know what it's like until we experience it. And once we do we can't tell anyone what it's like. All we know is that it's final. 

So it's important to live life to the fullest, to give and receive love while we're here, to live each day as if it is our last, because one day we'll be correct. That's this film's underlying message. However it's wrapped in a horror movie packaging, that as mentioned, feels old and dull. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Movie Reviews: Danger Signal

Danger Signal
directed by Robert Florey

This short movie doesn't reach the level of a true film noir though it certainly looks like it thanks to the fantastic cinematography by James Wong Howe, a rarity in early Hollywood, a Chinese-American cinematographer. Howe's work, along with some of the acting, gives the film a gravitas that unfortunately falls apart at the ending or when you closely examine it. 

But since the movie moves fast it's entertaining enough I guess. In the sitcom Seinfeld there was an episode where the title character wanted to stop dating one roommate and switch to dating the other. His solution was to propose a threesome in the hopes that his current girlfriend would be disgusted and dump him while the other lady might be intrigued enough to become his new girlfriend. 

His plans fell through when both women expressed interest. Danger Signal was made in 1945 so it lacks lurid sex, but it does have a man, a far more dangerous man than the hapless Seinfeld character, who wishes to switch from one roommate (here the women are sisters) to the other. We already know that this man Ronnie Mason (a perfectly cast Zachary Scott) is no good because we see him leaving his murder victim, after stealing her wedding ring and some cash and placing a fake suicide note where the authorities are sure to find it.