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August 2017

cop car (john watts, 2015)

Robin wasn't feeling well, so I found the one channel that is in English on the TV (Paramount). One bad movie after another. I watched Cop Car with her. Kevin Bacon is a bad cop, Shea Whigham is a bad guy, and there are two young boys who are goofing around and take the titular cop car on a joy ride. The beginning, when the boys are having fun, is lightly entertaining, but once Kevin Bacon turns up, the tone fluctuates uneasily between fun and more serious matters. Since I'm writing this on my phone, and since the movie was nothing special, I'll keep this short. 6/10. 

and now we're in nerja

WiFi is touch and go, so these posts will come erratically. We're both under the weather today... Well, Robin has a cold, for sure.

We've eaten dinner at one of our favorite places, and even managed to approximate Spaniard norms... We didn't go out to eat until 8:30 or so. And we made the first of many trips for ice cream cones. We've also hit the mini-mart across the street two times in less than 24 hours.

Meanwhile, here is the view from where I am typing this:


And the ice cream parlor:


life in ronda

I have written a lot more during previous trips to Spain. There are two basic reasons why I'm writing less this time. The main reason is that I didn't bring a laptop on this trip, so any writing I do is done on my phone, which is not the easiest way to compose. For certain, I would write something about Grant Hart but that will have to wait. The other reason is that, having read through posts from earlier vacations, I realize I've told these stories before. That's what I get for always returning to the same places every holiday.

But there are a couple of variants so far in Ronda. I've written in the past about the Andalusian tendency to slur their way past the last syllables of words. We may have a new record in this regard, from a man who pronounced "de nada" as "naaa" (closest I can get). 

Our host in Ronda, José María, has actually let slip one or two entire sentences in English. One interesting note is that he says when Robin speaks English, he can't understand a word she says... too American. We don't know why this doesn't apply to me, although I try to stick to Spanish in our conversations. 

But mostly it's more of the same, exemplified by today's schedule (I'm writing this on Friday). We got up and stepped into the garden for breakfast around 11:00. We talked for some time with a man from Holland. Eventually Robin decided she was hungry, so we had lunch where we had just eaten breakfast. By the time we finished, it was past 2:00, which means siesta time. So now we're back in our room. We haven't left the Jardin de la Muralla yet today. And since José María has invited us for paella this evening, we may never leave this place until tomorrow when we will go to Nerja.

We are a thrill a minute.



creature feature saturday

The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958). Long ago (the 70s?), we saw comedian Bobby Slayton open in a club for two different rock acts. The shows were close enough that Bobby's sets mostly contained the same material. One quickie joke was to open his jacket, revealing a big plastic fly on the inside, at which point, he would squeak, "Help me help me" and close the jacket. He was referring, of course, to this, the original Fly movie. Vincent Price tells a story about the filming of the iconic "Help me, help me" scene. "[E]very time that little voice [of the fly] would say ‘Help me! Help me!’ we would just scream with laughter. It was terrible. It took us about 20 takes to finally get it." The thing is, no matter how much humor can be extracted from the sound of a tiny fly with a man's head begging "help me!" as it is caught in a spider's web while the spider closes in for a meal, everyone who sees The Fly remembers that scene, not just as a joke, but as something truly unsettling. Well, everyone perhaps except David Hedison, who played the man/fly: "[P]eople do an imitation of it all the time: 'Help me!' They had me in the net, and they pasted me white. In the dailies, when I saw that scene it was horrific — the sound of a man who’s gonna be eaten by a spider — I mean, it’s terrible! But they chose to go with that effect — heighten my voice to make it sound like a chipmunk or something — which to me made no sense at all." It takes a special movie to still have a hold on viewers 60 years after it was made, especially when that movie is of the B-variety. There are things that lift The Fly a bit above the competition. Vincent Price helps a lot. Actually, all of the cast are good, consistently treating the material with a straightforward honesty that belies the outrageous plot. While you're watching, it's easy to ignore the multiple implausibilities. Toss in the color Cinemascope picture, and the stereo sound, and The Fly looks and sounds more expensive than the average cheapie. And, for folks who need trivia with their creature features, the script was the first effort by James Clavell, who went on to co-write The Great Escape and to write several novels, including Shogun. 7/10.


first photos

A few photos from the beginning of our trip. Apologies... I am writing this on my phone. 

There was plenty of room on our flight to London.


Our room in London was tiny.


There was more room at Jardin de la Muralla.


The bread at breakfast was plentiful.


 The first Fanta Limón. 


The first jamón.


the deuce

I said before I even saw the pilot that The Deuce was already my favorite show. This was based on the involvement of David Simon. When you have a serious attachment to someone's work, you'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Ronald D. Moore convinced me with Battlestar Galactica that he was someone to watch. I watched Caprica for its short run. I watched the first season of Helix, although Moore's involvement turned out to be minimal. Finally, Moore had another success with Outlander, which begins its third season tonight. The period between Galactica and Outlander was not very fruitful for fans of Moore, but now we've been rewarded with two excellent series.

So, given that David Simon was the creator of my #1 show, The Wire, and has been a driving force behind The Corner, Generation Kill, Treme, and Show Me a Hero, I'm going to cut Simon a lot of slack with The Deuce.

The pilot got my attention, to be sure. Like most pilots, it is clearly just the beginning of the world building, which is one reason it helps if you're already inclined to go with what the creator is offering. (The Wire was nearly incomprehensible at first.) I knew I liked it, I could see potential, critics were raving, and I was a happy fellow.

But then a friend, whose critical acumen I respect, ripped the pilot to shreds, calling it awful. I don't want to go overboard ... this was a four-sentence Facebook post, and thus lacked a detailed analysis. But it made me question my own response to the show.

So I watched it again, looking for the things my friend had noted. Mostly, he complained about the stereotypical presentation of 1971 New York City: heart-of-gold whores, dumb whores, harmless johns, menacing black pimps.

And, watching a second time, I saw some of this ... I missed out on the prostitute with a heart of gold, but most of the other stuff does indeed turn up. But I trust Simon. He said, "We’re interested in what it means when profit is the primary metric for what we call society. In that sense, this story is intended as neither prurient nor puritan. It’s about a product, and those human beings who created, sold, profited from and suffered with that product." I think this can co-exist with the elements my friend described, although I admit it's going to be a fine line, and time may prove me wrong.

For now, there are a number of interesting characters, not all of them nice. I didn't get to New York City until 1982, but the representation of 1971 NYC seems legit to me. Your tolerance for James Franco will be put to the test, as he plays identical twins who come off as variants of Charlie and Johnny Boy in Mean Streets. Franco is excellent as the Charlie-Twin, while the Johnny Boy-Twin is annoying (admittedly, he is supposed to be). The talent behind the camera is also solid, especially Michelle MacLaren, who has directed episodes of many shows I like, including recent favorites like The Leftovers and Westworld.

I can't guarantee that you'll love The Deuce. My friend is a good example. But I'd give it a try, based on Simon's track record, if nothing else.


music friday: crosby, stills, and nash

On this date in 1984, I saw Crosby, Stills, and Nash at Candlestick Park, after a Giants game.

They weren't touring behind any particular album. Their most recent studio album, Daylight Again, had done well, but it was two years old. A year later came Allies, a mostly-live hodgepodge that didn't sell and has been out of print for decades. David Crosby was at one of the low points in his life: drugs, prison, general awfulness. You can get a feel for the kind of tour this must have been by looking at some of the venues. Just in the next couple of weeks after Candlestick, they played at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre, and something called the Sierra Sun Festival in Grass Valley, California.

I don't remember what songs they sang. I can tell you about the game, if only because that's something I can look up on The Giants won, 4-0, and Dusty Baker hit a pinch-hit, 3-run homer. The crowd was just under 20,000. The Giants were dreadful that year ... they had the worst record in all of baseball. It was also the first year I had season tickets.

I stuck around because, well, why not? I had seen CSNY ten years earlier, and had seen Y six years earlier. Since Y was missing from the Candlestick show, I didn't have a lot of interest. Still, there was a time when I played that first CSN album quite often. (Trivia note: the only time I can remember singing harmony on stage was for "Helplessly Hoping".)

The truth is, if I were to post some of their greatest hits, I'd offer Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds and the Hollies. Beyond the nostalgia value, I don't know what I'd include from the CSN(Y) grouping. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" ... "Helpless" ... "Love Work Out" from C&N. I'm sure they did "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" at Candlestick. I know they didn't do "Helpless" because Y wasn't there. And far as I can tell, they didn't perform "Love Work Out" on that tour, if they ever did.

I also can't find any 1984 CSN on YouTube. So I'm left with these. First, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" at Woodstock:

And "Love Work Out", with guitars by Crosby, Danny Kortchmar, and David Lindley:

Finally, so Y doesn't feel left out, from the concert we saw: