"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Check Where'd my Comment go?!!! to avoid losing it.
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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Would you indulge my curiosity, please?

Do some of you read my posts on RSS without visiting the blog?
(I think that's the purpose of RSS;  ain't it?. :-)

I ask because several times I've I had friends mention in their emails how much they enjoy my blog, but when I see no trace of their visits on my site-meter, I figure they're just being polite.

I may be misjudging them.

A blogger mentioned getting the entire post on RSS, and the site meter suggests that she only visited the blog itself so she could leave a comment there.

So, if that is what you normally do, would you let me know?

GOD!!! - What a tender and insecure soul am I (as I remarked to that blogger).

(I can just imagine some of the replies now...
  "Paul, we're in the 21st century now; you don't know about RSS?!!!"
  "Is your computer steam powered?!!!" 
  "Paul, I reckon you figure correctly."  :-)

Thanks.
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"Two is a ridiculous number and cannot exist."

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

It would seem that I write like Mario Puzo...

...at least, according to I Write Like

Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.

Any text in English will do: your latest blog post, journal entry, comment, chapter of your unfinished book, etc. For reliable results paste at least a few paragraphs (not tweets).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WANTED!!! -- For stealing these movies...

There are cases where a movie is absolutely loaded with top-notch talent, working at or near their peak, and a lower-level character actor or relative newcomer comes in and makes it his own.

I'm going to give you three examples; ALL of which are worth seeking out and renting.

First up, in our rogues gallery of thieves...
    Wilford Brimley as James J. Wells - Photo from MovieActors.com

Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Wilford Brimley.

A local prosecutor (played as a real weasel by Bob Balaban) is getting nowhere in his investigation of the disappearance of a union leader. He decides to put pressure on Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman), the son of a long-dead bootlegger and gang boss from Prohibition days.

Michael is straight, and has had nothing at all to do with his father's activities, but the prosecutor reasons that "He either knows something, or he can find out. We're going to make him want to find out."

To accomplish this, he leaks a false story, about an investigation of Michael, to reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field) to cast a shadow over him and compel him to cooperate.

As a result, some very private information about a close friend of Michael's is made public, with tragic results.

Michael learns of this prosecutor and decides to exact some justice by turning the wolves on each other, resulting in a major scandal that becomes front-page news.

This can be considered the flip side of All the President's Men (1975), and was written by former Detroit Free Press reporter Kurt Luedtke, about the unbridled power of the press to be able to destroy anyone with near impunity.

There's a wonderful scene in there, after the blow-up, when Megan's editor is doing damage control, telling her "Davidek filled me in.  We're not gonna retract anything, but we've got a lot of explaining to do.  Sarah's going to write the story, and we'll handle it the best way we can."

Sarah is a reporter that Megan has been mentoring, and when Megan looks around to her, Sarah raises her head and looks at her, and for a brief second you get the feeling that a shark has just noticed that you and it are in the same body of water.

All of the people in this movie are first-rate, but then Brimley shows up in the last twenty minutes of the movie and completely steals it.

"Well now. Let the record show that I'm James J. Wells, Assistant Attorney General for the Organized Crime Division of the United States Department of Justice."
    ...
This is the damnedest story you ever read.
    ...
Tell you what we're gonna do.  We're gonna sit right here and talk about it.

Now, if you get tired of talkin' here, Mr. Marshall Elving Patrick there will hand you one of them subpoenas he's got stuck in his pockets and we'll go downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury.

We'll talk all day, if you want.

But come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now.

One is that the United States Department of Justice will know what in the good Christ -- excuse me, Angie -- is going on around here.

And the other is I'm gonna have somebody's ass in my briefcase."


He's one of those guys who easily manages to be believable as whatever he's playing.  On his role in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), both Carpenter and Kurt Russell remark (in the DVD commentary) that he's "just the real deal; nothing phony about him at all". "He sure ain't selling oatmeal there!", one of them laughs when Brimley goes on a tear in that movie (In reference to the commercials he's been known for lately.)
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Next up, we have...
Dennis Farina as Ray Bones - Photo from Aveley.com

   Get Shorty (1995)
John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina

Miami loan shark "Chili" Palmer (John Travolta) goes to Hollywood to collect a gambling debt from a runner who has collected a large amount of money in an insurance scam. From a person who helped point the way to the runner, he also takes on collecting another debt from Hollywood producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman).

Being a movie-lover himself, Chili decides to use the money he will collect from the runner to invest in one of Harry's films, IF he can get yet another set of loan sharks off of Harry's back.  He offers to do so, being something of an expert in that field.

To make Harry's project feasible, he needs to get movie star Martin Weir (Danny DeVito) on board.

ALL of this is dependent on getting hold of the runner's money; making a career change possible from loan shark to movie producer (if that is a change).

Complicating things is the fact that Chili now has a new boss, Ray "Bones" Barboni (Dennis Farina), who is very old-school about collecting gambling debts and is just not the connoisseur of films that Chili is.  All he wants is his money, and he's totally ruthless about getting it.

Here you have a cast of veteran talent doing their best work in ages, and ex-Chicago-cop turned actor Farina is mixing it up with them and totally holding his own.

He can be funny as Hell, and then scary as Hell, within a heartbeat, telling a surviving witness of a shootout (surviving only because he would be getting money that Ray wanted)...
"I was not here.
 I was never here.
 And if you say otherwise, I'll come back and throw you right through that window."

The thing about Farina is that he is so believable when he says something like that. I don't recall ever seeing him in a movie where I didn't totally believe the character he was playing; he has this authenticity about him.

He got started when director Michael Mann made his first feature movie, Thief (1981), using "retired" jewel thief John Santucci as a technical advisor.  For some of the police procedures, Santucci suggested to Mann that he bring on board Farina (who may have helped to "retire" him).

Farina wound up with a small part in the movie, as a gunman working for the chief bad guy, and apparently decided that this work beat Hell out of freezing his ass off in stakeouts, nourishing himself with cold pizza slices and lukewarm coffee.

Most people know of Hannibal Lector from Anthony Hopkins' portrayal in Silence of the Lambs, but he actually appeared five years earlier (played by Brian Cox) in Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986), the first film version of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon.

In it, Farina plays the character of Jack Crawford (played by Scott Glenn in Silence) and has a very nice moment when his underling has requested that an FBI fingerprint specialist check the bodies of a family that had been slaughtered, over the protests of the local examiner ("We've already checked and there's nothing!"). When he (in the presence of that examiner) gets a call from the specialist, telling him of recovering a partial thumbprint from the eye of one of the victims, he looks at the examiner for a second with a very quiet smile that almost seems to be saying, "This is what the grown-ups can do."

Finding Farina to be a natural actor, Mann cast him as Lt. Mike Torello in Crime Story , running for two seasons (1986-1988).  Since then, he's been in countless movies (never boring) and has yet another TV series in the works.  Stay tuned.
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And, finally (at least for this post)...
Karl Urban, as William Cooper - Photo from Newsarama.com

RED (2010)
Bruce Willis,     Mary Louise-Parker,     Morgan Freeman,     John Malkovich,
Hellen Mirren, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine (YES! You read that correctly. That
man is ninety years old now, and doing just fine), Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired CIA "black ops" operative (flagged RED -- Retired;  Extremely Dangerous) making his lonely way through the tedium of life on the shelf.

He's engaged in what amounts to a telephone romance with Sarah Ross (Mary Louise-Parker), a lady at the department responsible for his pension checks, using any excuse he can find just to be able to talk to her.

One night, his home is invaded by a team of professional assassins intent on taking him out.

After dealing with that, he realizes that he must have been under surveillance, his phone monitored, and that his calls to Sarah have probably put her in danger as well. He handles that problem in typical Frank Moses fashion; kidnapping her to get her out of the line-of-fire while he sorts out who is after him and why.

Figuring that he could use a little help with this, he calls on old colleagues Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman) -- now in a retirement home, and Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich; as crazy as ever, but this time his character is paranoid for very good reasons.)

They also enlist the help of Russian spy and former adversary Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox - "I haven't killed anybody in years!", he sighs sadly) and that of retired British SIS operative and sharpshooter Victoria (Helen Mirren - You have got to see that lady work a .50 caliber machine gun).

With the help of Marvin's files, they determine that Frank had been involved in the cleanup after a massacre in South America, brought on by a panicked young officer that was the son of a powerful Senator. Years later, that officer is running for a very high political office, and anyone knowing of his past has been marked for elimination.

That politician has a powerful friend, Alexander Dunning (Richard Dreyfuss), who had helped to spirit him away from the massacre. Dunning has the resources to hire the hit teams, and to manipulate a corrupt CIA officer, who tasks operative William Cooper (Karl Urban) with the job of eliminating Frank.

Cooper has been told that Frank is a traitor and a threat, but Cooper (sort of a modern day version of Frank) has this disturbing habit of thinking for himself, and is getting very leery about the particulars of this operation.

Unlike the previous two, Karl Urban is already becoming a major star. He's a (relative) newcomer compared to the rest of the cast, but just look at that cast.

Not one of them has to apologize for his/her work here, but whenever this Kiwi shows up you cannot take your eyes off of him. He's one of the most amazing imports from New Zealand since Russell Crowe.

Although he's been around longer than that, I think most of us first noticed him as Eomer, in the 2nd and 3rd installments of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was the assassin Kirill in The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and in Star Trek (2009) he played Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy as if he were channeling the late DeForest Kelly (who was the original McCoy).

In The Return of Mickey Rourke, I took a shot at defining what presence is in a movie actor. Urban is a terrific example; it's what makes him dominate whatever scenes he's in.  I doubt that he needs any selling by me;  he has the ability to do anything that Harrison Ford has ever done, and the potential of becoming an even bigger star.
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Well, so much for past and recent history.

Is there anything at all worth a damn currently (Wed, 27 Apr 2001 2011) showing?

I highly recommend The Lincoln Lawyer (2011 - So named for the Lincoln Town Car within which he sometimes does business). In it, Matthew McConaughey has decided to try acting again (instead of merely showing up as he has done in all too many of his later films), giving us the guy who was so damned good in Lone Star (1996) and Frailty (2001).

It's still on a few screens now. and might (or might not) be there the coming week.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of all the reasons to FIRE "The One"...

... the Birth Certificate crap ain't one of them.

It is a trap, and Donald Trump seems Hell-bent on walking right into it.

AJStrata  has just posted the last word on this, My Final Post On Birther Madness.

The "money" quote (emphasis mine)...

The point about Obama’s citizenship has been and will always be about who his mother was, not where she was. She is an undisputed American. Therefore her children are natural born Americans (location has nothing to do with it, just ask any American born in international waters, international air space or in foreign countries). Obama is an American because of his mother – end of story.

And, as I see nothing to add, end of post.
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Rebuttal...

My previous post, Oh, Great!!! :(, concerned an article on Yahoo that suggested that my latest obsession (blogging) was greatly increasing my risk of a heart attack (because of too much sitting).

I contend that the increased risk comes from actually reading some of the stuff one discovers when surfing the web.

Let me offer a beneficial side effect to my obsession.

Oh, Great!!! :(

Now that I have a new obsession in life (for 18 months now), I'm informed that it's probably killing me.

Shouldn't be that big a surprise. Isn't it an immutable law of the universe that if you like it, it's bad for you?

"My name is Boyd Crowder...

You can come after me if you want, but it will be the last thing you ever do. I promise you that."

Walton Goggins, as Boyd Crowder
(Photo by Robert Zuckerman, from Los Angeles Times, March 2010)

(Updated at end - now on Tuesday nights, instead of Wednesday)

Thusly does one of the most interesting characters, in the absolute best TV show currently on the air (Justified , Wednesday nights on the FX channel introduce himself to one of a bunch of miscreants who, after being relieved of excess cash, threatens, "We will find you, a**hole!"

During that intro, he was holding a revolver instead of that Bible, but his delivery was very quiet and soft, which somehow made it even more menacing.

The show is actually supposed to be about this guy...
Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens
(Photo from Eonline.com )

... Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, reassigned from Miami back to rural Kentucky (from whence he came, hoping he had left it forever), after a "justified" shooting of the lieutenant of a Miami drug kingpin.

First thing he runs into is his old friend/rival/whatever Boyd, who's often been rather casual about which side of the law he was on (he had an earlier hobby of using smuggled in RPG's to bust armored trucks).

Boyd is still what he is, a very multi-layered character, of whom it's difficult to believe that he was originally meant to be killed off in the very first episode.

But, Walton Goggins was so amazing with what he was doing with the character of Boyd, that that idea was quickly scuttled, and he will most likely endure as long as the series (which has already been renewed for a third season).

Is Goggins' Boyd Crowder up to the level of Ian McShane's Al Swearengen (Olyphant's nemesis on his previous hit series, Deadwood )? Well, no -- but who the Hell could be? That dude was Shakespearean.

But Goggins will get there someday. He reminds me of a young Bruce Dern, with the same crazy edge to him, making his characters seem capable of almost anything.

Seemingly doing nothing special at all, he manages to come across as dangerous as a rattlesnake, giving off a vibe of, "Son, you do not want to mess with me!" (as I said of actor John Hawkes in another post).

Somewhere near the top, I described Justified  as the absolute best TV series currently on the air.  I'm saying that again.

If it's not on your "must see" list, put it there!

Olyphant and Goggins are just the icing on a very wonderful cake. There are numerous other fine actors and characters in this series, and if you don't get hooked, well I'm going to wonder, "What's WRONG with you?!!!"

Update - Tuesday 31 Jan 2012 - The opening 3rd season episode "The Gunfighter" was broadcast Tuesday, the 17th at 10e/9c on the FX Channel. Tuesday will be its regular night this season.

That episode was a doozy.

Some fascinating  new characters.  Ava demonstrating that you do not want to mess with her any more than you would with Boyd ...
   Arlo: "You didn't have to do that".
    Ava: "Of course I did.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have done it."

After dealing with a particular problem almost as neatly as The Joker's "Disappearing Pencil" trick in "The Dark Knight" ...
   Raylan: "Sorry about your tablecloth."

This opener suggests that the third season will be every bit as good as the first two.  If you don't become a regular watcher, well;  your loss.  I tried.

Update - 1840 CST, Friday, 04 Jan 2013 - The fourth season begins Tuesday night, 08 Jan 2013, on the FX Channel. What more needs saying?
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Friday, April 01, 2011

Well, THAT was interesting...

On Wednesday, 30 Mar 2011, about 09:35 AM, my soul-killing part-time job as a grocery cashier was enlivened by an armed robbery at the Wells Fargo branch within the store, about 40 feet away from me.

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