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fucking dickheads

McCain Miami Rally, Getting Ugly Down Here

After the rally, we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that's what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.

The event maybe lasted a minute, two at the most, before police competently managed to hustle the two away from the scene and out of the danger zone....

"People were screaming 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'" Sorando said when we caught up with him. "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."

Asked what had precipitated the event, "We were just chanting 'Obama!' and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy."


what are you waiting for?

I rarely have an original thought, and what follows is something several people have said lately. But I guess it's my turn.

I have a question for all of those "undecided" voters out there:

What the fuck are you waiting for?

Seriously, if you can't tell the difference between Obama and McCain by now, your brain is fried. Well, that's not entirely true ... it's possible you have given the matter a lot of thought and really do believe there's no difference between the two so you're going to vote for Ralph Nader again. But you aren't the people I'm asking about. I'm asking about the people who are going to vote for the Democrat or the Republican, but THEY DON'T YET KNOW WHICH ONE!

Here's a hint for you undecideds: stay home next Tuesday, because you're idiots.


bye bye closet

This is so different looking that I can't even figure out how to show it here. But I'll try. This is taken from inside the old computer room/new sewing room. The door to the left is the one that goes into the kitchen ... off to the right, outside of the picture, is the bathroom door. Before today, there was a wall behind that post in the middle ... before last week, there was a closet. Looking in the background, you can see the door from the living room onto the stairs into the basement. When everything is done, the wall you see on the right will be gone, and the bathroom will extend to the wall on the opposite side of the stairs, and up to that post in the middle.

bye bye closet

This picture is taken from the opposite side ... I'm standing in the living room doorway looking back towards the computer/sewing room. You can see the basement in this picture.

bye bye closet 3

One last picture. This is taken from the computer/sewing room. I'm standing just next to the door into the kitchen. The wall to the right held various boxes and knick-knacks for the last 20 years or so ... it's going to be removed to make more room for the bathroom. That's the door to the living room on the other side, and, of course, the stairs into the basement.

bye bye closet 4


mad men season two finale

The Shield is about the inner city, and it's about police, and it's about the corrupt but fascinating cop at its center. It is a great show. But no one would suggest that it covers as much ground as, say, The Wire, which was about all of the above and much, much more. If The Shield tells the story of Vic Mackey, The Wire told the story of Baltimore.

Battlestar Galactica is an erratic, even more ambitious attempt at Wire-like coverage. It is about religion, it is about the respective roles of government and military, it is about individual identity, it is about what makes us human, it is a gripping science-fiction saga, it is an action series, it is a character study. It is not equally good at all of these things; sometimes an entire episode will go by that isn't much good at anything. But the people making the show have great visions, and for the most part they do a great job of matching those visions to what we eventually see on the screen.

Mad Men is, on its surface, a pretty simple, if intriguing, show. It purports to recreate the early sixties via obsessive set design and attention to the details of the daily lives of its characters, particularly as relates to gender issues. It is not a series where much happens ... people who tuned in after the big pre-season hype were likely surprised, even disappointed, to find out that it's talky and character-oriented. It's central character, Don Draper/Dick Whitman, is very much the strong silent type of pop culture tradition.

Yet, like a magic trick where the magician's patter and the pretty girl with long legs distract the audience from the legerdemain, Mad Men has as much going on as any of the above-mentioned shows. Behind the neat sets and period recreations lies a show full of insight and much, much more.

Mad Men is about Manhattan. It's about a fascinating but troubled anti-hero. It is about religion. It is about individual identity, about what makes us who we are. It is about the role of advertising in our lives. It is a character study. It is a recreation of an important period in American history. It is about gender roles. It is about sex. It is about America itself.

It is about all of these things. Most important, it is great at what it does. The writing is first-rate ... the acting is not just excellent, but varied without clashing, so that different characters are played in different styles by different actors who nonetheless mesh beautifully.

Because of the many things that it does, because of the elegance with which it does those many things, because of the excellence of the writing and acting and directing and design, because of the breadth of its ambitions ... because of all of these things, Mad Men is, at this moment, the best series on television.

There are people who dread the moment when I say that about a show. They fear I am going to go on and on about it. They will tire of my raves, they will wish I shut up. As they did when The Wire concluded its run, they will breathe a sigh of relief when the show finally ends. For those people, the fact that last night was the season finale is a blessing, because they know I won't jabber away about "the best show on television" for a year or so.

So consider this my own season-ending missive. There are now two seasons of Mad Men. One of them is already on Blu-ray/DVD ... the second will surely follow. Rent them from Netflix, get caught up ... this is the one show you don't want to miss. And, like The Wire, no one is actually watching it.


what i watched last week

The Visitor. Already out on Blu-ray ... when an indie movie like this makes Blu-ray only months after its in-theater release, you know the format is here to stay. 8/10.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Tarantino is one of our greatest writers of film dialogue ... he's like Joe Mankiewicz drunk on pop culture. And in his absorption of film history, he's the Peter Bogdanovich of his generation. Like Bogdanovich, though, he is not Howard Hawks. He sure loves Uma Thurman, though. I have to watch Jackie Brown again ... I have a feeling that's his masterpiece. 8/10.

The Abominable Snowman. Early B&W Hammer offering that is obscure but has a decent reputation. It doesn't suck, but it's kinda boring, despite clearly high intentions. The real classic from writer Nigel Kneale is Quatermass and the Pit. 6/10.


1968: more october 26 tv

Once again with a tip of the cap to Blog Wilkins for hunting this stuff down.

Looking over the TV listings for October 26, 1968, Bay Area version, I see, besides the channels I spoke of earlier and some others that didn't come in at our house, two other UHF channels, 20 and 44. So we had a bit more TV than my last post may have suggested. The rest of this post is pure nostalgia and thus, pure crap, but here goes.

When Channel 40 began broadcasting with that Boston Blackie movie, ABC was showing the Notre Dame-Michigan State football game (the Irish were ranked 5th in the country, but State won, 21-17). Later, ABC's Wide World of Sports had stock-car racing and table tennis. In those days, you could have a popular sports show with events that had occurred days or even months earlier ... hardcore fans might know the results, but the casual viewer would tune in to the National 500 Stock-Car Championship, taped eight days earlier, without knowing who won (in this case, Charlie Glotzbach).

Some of the shows are tagged "COLOR" ... not every show was in color in those days, so those tags were important.

That afternoon, Channel 3 showed the Japanese sci-fi movie Attack from Space, which I watched many times as a kid. The plot is described as "Spies from the planet Sapphire force a Japanese scientist to aid them in their plans for invading earth." This was one of the infamous "Starman" movies, straight-to-TV American edits of Japanese films.

Channel 11 from San Jose showed the immortal TV series Spotlight on Speed. Immortal at our house, at least ... the show was created by my uncle, and starred my aunt (my dad's sister) as "Miss Speedway."

Channel 40 ran episodes of an odd series called Silents Please. This series would take silent movies and edit them to fit a 30-minute time slot. This wasn't easy ... the first movie on the Ch.40 run was Old San Francisco, which in its original form ran 88 minutes.

Finally, it's worth noting, as Patrick Ellis did in an earlier comment, that most stations went off the air during the early morning hours (although UHF channels soon came up with the all-night movie format for insomniacs). Patrick mentioned the national anthem being played before signoff ... there was also an odd show, I think it ran fifteen minutes, that was shown before the national anthem on some channel. It was called Ebbtide, and it consisted of poetry read on a voiceover while the picture showed waves crashing on rocks with a lovely lady in a flesh-colored bathing suit posing for the camera. The lady's name was "Lorelei" ... she was my aunt, the same one who played "Miss Speedway."


1968: october 26

Thanks to the entertaining Blog Wilkins (the title will mean something to Bay Area baby boomers), I can tell you a lot more about the schedule on Channel 40 than I could have a day ago. Why does this matter? Because 40 years ago today, Channel 40, a UHF station out of Sacramento, went on the air. My memory could certainly be wrong, but as best as I can recall, Channel 40 was the first UHF station to actually show interesting stuff in our neck of the woods. Young readers might well wonder what the hell a UHF station is ... just imagine one of those gazillion cable channels no one watches, only the picture is fuzzy and you need a separate pair of rabbit ears to make it come in at all.

When I was growing up, we had more television stations to watch than most people, because Antioch was situated between San Francisco and Sacramento. The SF channels were harder to get ... we had an antenna on the roof for those, with a dial inside the house that changed the direction of the antenna to point either to the City or to Sacramento. Each of those two cities had a network outlet, which at that time meant ABC, CBS, NBC, and NET (not yet PBS). Oakland had Channel 2 ... channels were called by their numbers in those days ... Channel 2 was independent. Channels 2-13 were VHF ... don't ask me, but they're the channels every TV got, and in Antioch, 2 was indie, 3 was NBC Sacramento, 4 NBC SF, 5 CBS SF, 6 NET Sac, 7 ABC SF, 9 NET SF, 10 CBS Sac, and 13 ABC Sac. That's all you got to watch. No cable, no satellite, no Internet, just those channels.

Channel 40 was on the UHF part of the dial ... later there was 44 and 20 and 36, but 40's the one that began it all in our house. (There was some dinky channel in Concord or something like that which showed Grade-Z stuff, but it's long forgotten.)

So, what did Channel 40 show on October 26, 1968? Thanking Blog Wilkins again, the first thing to appear on Channel 40 was the movie Meet Boston Blackie. Blog will be adding more details about 10-26-68 later in the week, but in the meantime, over those first two years, among the staples of Channel 40 were kids shows, rassling, and Bob Wilkins. Wilkins showed old horror movies late on Saturday nights, and was a cult favorite who also worked out of Channel 2 in Oakland. Rassling was even more interesting in this regard. Both Channel 40 and Channel 2 showed pro wrestling from the same federation, run by Roy Shires. Since Sacramento and Oakland/San Francisco were considered separate television markets, Shires didn't worry about keeping the story lines the same, so sometimes you'd have one guy as champ on Channel 2 and a different guy as champ on Channel 40. Ah, the joys of living in Antioch, able to watch it all.

This is not a nostalgic plea for the good old days when you only had 4 or 5 programs to choose from. But post-boomers may not realize just what television culture was like in those times. They were times when adding a local, hard-to-get UHF channel that showed old movies and pro rassling was exciting, because it increased your options by a large percentage.

Here's a bit of Wilkins from the mid-70s: