I Know It Was You, Fredo

“Hey, what’s with the food around here? A kid comes up to me in a white jacket, gives me a Ritz cracker, and uh, chopped liver, he says, ‘Canapes.’ I said, uh, ‘can of peas, my ass, that’s a Ritz cracker and chopped liver!’”

—- The Godfather Part 2

A week ago, Candy and I went to see the Godfather at The Alamo Drafthouse. This week is The Godfather Part II. Some people consider this to be a better movie than the first – it is one of those rare cases where the sequel is equal, if not superior to the original. Both won best picture Oscars – and every other accolade possible.

I was really looking forward to seeing it. Unlike Part 1 – which I saw in a theater in high school, I never saw the sequel on the big screen – I was in college by then and not able to get out to theaters because of time and money restraints. It would be years until I was able to see it on television – and it’s so long – it was impossible to carve out enough of a block to sit there uninterrupted. So I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the whole thing in one sitting – though I’ve watched it in bits more than once, all told.

It is hard to compare to the first movie. Even though it has the same people, more or less, it is structured quite differently. It covers a huge amount of time and space – much told through flashbacks – two separate stories, really. The whole Cuba deal is complicated – and has the aspect of international politics, big news stories, and revolution. In that section, and in the congressional hearings, it feels like the outside world has finally started to intrude on the Corleone empire… which I guess is the point.

So I do think the second is the more subtle, complex, and possibly better film, but it doesn’t have the epic personalities of the first.

John Cazale (who plays Fredo) passed away in 1978 and I saw a short doc about his short acting career. He was only in five feature films – but what a collection – Godfathers 1 and 2, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter. Five classic films. I think his performance of the tragic, flawed Fredo is a high point of the film.

Oh, and I didn’t realize that Harry Dean Stanton is in the film (a fairly small part). He is truly in every movie.

So, next week is the third. I’m excited because the Alamo is screening the re-edit of Godfather Part III – The Godfather Coda: The Death of Micheal Corleone. It is supposed to be a big improvement. We have our tickets… and the Alamo is such a great place to see a film.

Just don’t talk or text.

Secret Screening

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.”

― Richard P. Feynman

A terrible Blackberry photo of my folding Xootr Swift parked next to a Yuba cargo bike (set up to carry a whole family) outside the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Two different philosophies on urban bicycling.

Jesus! I almost completely forgot!

It was six forty today and I was puttering around the house doing six-forty PM sorts of things when I remembered that over a week ago I had bought a movie ticket for a seven o’clock movie tonight.

An email had arrived touting a “Secret Screening” at the Alamo Drafthouse Richardson. That is where, for a discount ticket of six bucks, you get to see a movie – probably a genre movie from decades past – but you don’t know what movie you are going to see until it starts. I know that sounds nuts – but it is the sort of thing I can’t resist. When I checked the seating – although it was almost two weeks out – there were only single seats left, the others had already sold out. So I bought a ticket and proceeded to forget about it until six forty tonight.

Luckily, the Alamo isn’t very far away (remember – that theater chain won’t let you in after the movie starts) and I through some pants on and jumped in my car. It has been eleven days since I retired and this is the first time I’ve been in my car (I have ridden with other folks) since I stopped working. All other trips have been by bike – and I would have ridden to the Alamo if I had remembered earlier. Luckily, it started right up and shook the summer dust off and made it to the theater with a few minutes to spare. I need to get over being a boomer and learn a decent, reliable system of reminders for my phone.

I ordered a Temptress and sad back to see what movie we were going to be treated to.

It was a film called Prime Cut from 1972. When the name was announced, I didn’t think I had seen it, but when the guy came out and started to talk about it I realized that I had seen it, when it was released, but had not thought about it for, maybe, forty years. Let’s see, in 1972 I was in Nicaragua, so I would have seen it a year later – so I saw it in 1973 – forty-nine years ago. I remembered little bits about it – it was set in Kansas City, my old stomping grounds – and although KC is actually in Missouri, the film takes place in rural Kansas – though it isn’t a very good representation (there is a scene with a combine – a very good scene – an homage to North by Northwest – but the combine does something that combines can’t do – and believe me, I used to drive one of the damn things).

It’s a mob movie set in the wheat fields, a ton of violence and nudity, completely politically incorrect, a movie that could never be made today. It was of its time – a true genre film but with a strange, dark sense of humor. A lot of black comedy in the film.

One thing unusual for a movie of this type is that all three main characters are played by actors that won academy awards (four in total). The anti-hero is played by Lee Marvin, the bad guy by Gene Hackman, and Sissy Spacek – in her first speaking movie roll (four years before Carrie).

The crowd was into it – it’s the kind of people that will pack a theater to see a movie when they don’t know what it will be. They laughed at the anachronisms and sick humor and cheered the ending and again after the credits.

So I guess I had better check the calendar and buy tickets for next month’s Secret Screening. They teased us and said that since it was the 90th Secret Screening it would be a film from the 90’s – not much of a clue.

Love and Thunder

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

The family on the balcony at the Alamo in the Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Lee texted us on Friday – he and some friends were going to see the newest MCU film, Thor’s Love and Thunder at the Alamo in Lakewood and had two extra tickets. I’m sort of Marvel Superhero’d out – but it was a family thing so I said I’d go and was looking forward to it.

Candy and I drove down there and waited (not for very long, they were on time) and was reminded why – as a family – we will not see movies anywhere other that the Alamo chain of theaters. Lee had the tickets on his phone, so we were waiting in the lobby. This was an early showing – so the place was deserted. A single man walked up to the lobby guardian and asked him, “My family is in watching Maverick and I couldn’t make it on time – can I go in?” The guardian checked, saw it had been 20 minutes and said, “Sorry, I can’t let you in this late.” The Alamo has two rules that make going to the movies tolerable.

  • No text, phone use, or talking during the movie (they will throw you out).
  • No getting into the movie after it starts.

The man looked disappointed as he left. I asked the guardian if this happens a lot. “I’m afraid it does. If the movie in only a couple minutes in, I’ll go ahead and say it’s OK – but the film started more than twenty minutes ago.”

The last time I went to a movie not at an Alamo Drafthouse (so long ago, I don’t remember where, when, or what) a bunch of people came in ten minutes after the movie started, stood around in the aisles, talking loudly about what seats (the place was pretty full) they wanted to take and asking people to move to open up spaces so they could sit together.

Never again.

I hadn’t been to the Lake Highlands Alamo before – it’s really nice. They have powered, reclining seats… so comfy. Also, if you go to an Alamo – get there early – they do a great job of putting together little bits of film to get you in the mood. One thing they showed was a Thor Cartoon from the 60’s – I remember seeing that very one when I was a sprout.

So, all this was cool and all – but how was the movie? Uhh, it was Meh. I actually likes Thor Ragnarok – the humor brought by Taika Waititi was a breath of fresh air in the increasingly predictable MCU. I love his style of injecting humor into dead-serious situations (especially Jojo Rabbit). But here is all felt forced and overdone. Not an unentertaining time – but nothing special.

Also, I’m still suffering from withdrawn from Everything Everywhere all at Once (I’m still haunted by my thoughts riding my bike three miles home in the dark after that movie). That was a life-changing film and it isn’t fair to compare any other cinematic experience to that… but it is what it is.

Thor Love and Thunder did put a bit of a bug in my bonnet on the more overblown aspects of the MCU – thinking about the universe and all. Then, later on in the day, I decided, for some reason, to watch Eternals streaming at home.

It was awful.

The movie is about a group of superhuman androids that live, basically forever, protecting humankind from destruction (at least they think they are). There are fascinating concepts – like a superhero that can control minds ending up as a Jim Jones-like cult leader in the Amazon – someone that spends eternity stuck in a pre-pubescent girl’s body, destined never to grow up (her fellow Eternals treat her like a little kid even though she is thousands of years old), – there is a moral quandary between duty and kindness – all these amazing aspects – yet the movie is horribly boring. All the fascinating stuffins are ignored for silly action scenes and interminable stretches of all the Eternals standing around talking about nothing. Why did I bother?

Such a waste of time.

I’d rather watch the Alamo Drafthouse PSAs.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

“Every Rejection, Every Disappointment Has Led You Here To This Moment”

— Alpha Waymond, Everything Everywhere All at Once

My bicycle locked up in front of The Alamo Drafthouse theater in Richardson, Texas. They have the coolest bike racks.

Partly out of desire… but mostly out of necessity (we are down to one working car) I have been riding the five mile commute to my work on my bike every day. The mornings are OK – except I have to get up twenty minutes before dawn so I’m riding before it gets too hot – the rising sun slowly burning away the morning fog. The afternoon commute is already too hot, though – here in Texas it’s already in the mid to high nineties most days.

There was a movie I’ve been wanting to see – Everything Everywhere All at Once. It was showing at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Richardson at 6:15. My commute is five miles, it’s three or so miles to the theater, and four and a half home from there. Easy riding – except for the heavy rush hour traffic around downtown Richardson and coming off Highway 75. So I sneaked out of work a few minutes early and rode up to the Alamo.

It was hot and I was sweating like a stuck pig. A bit embarrassing, but I arrived a bit early so I bought a cold beer (Lakewood Temptress on tap) and sat in a dark booth in the back of the cool bar until the movie was announced… I was able to cool and dry off enough to at least be almost presentable.

The movie is getting a lot of hype —- and it deserves every bit of it… and more. It is not a perfect film – it is way too ambitious for that – and when the filmmakers have a chance to go for it… the do that and more.

I can’t really explain the plot. It’s the story of a middle aged Chinese woman named Evelyn (played by the incredibly talented Michelle Yeoh) and her immigrant family (with a very American lesbian daughter) that lives in a tiny apartment over their failing laundromat. They are straining with family drama and friction and are about to undergo an IRS audit. At that point Evelyn discovers that there is an infinite multiverse made up of all the different realities that each person has created with every decision they make. Not only that, but there is an evil creature named Jobu Tupaki that is jumping through the multiverse, destroying everything. Jobu makes Thanos look like a piker. Evelyn, this failing version of Evelyn, this worst of all possible Evelyns, is the only person that can stop this.

She is torn between saving all the universes and trying to complete her IRS audit. Things get strange after that.

This is not a sufficient explanation of the plot or an adequate description of what the movie feels like – those things are impossible. You have to see it to believe it.

Boiled down – it’s the eternal struggle between the googly eye and the everything bagel (really). You have to see it to understand.

Just see it.

I want to see it again. It is so complex, layered, with so many references and symbols – one viewing is not enough (maybe a hundred wouldn’t be enough). Plus, it is a movie with a heart – a giant beating, sometimes bloody heart. It’s really funny too.

Oh, see it in a theater. I can’t imagine watching it for the first time at home, alone.

It was dark when the movie was over, but I have good lights, the traffic had died down, and my ride home was uneventful (and maybe a little fun).

I slept like a stone – dreaming of people with hot dog fingers and sentient stones.

Anal Vice

Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
—-Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos

Back a few months, with Mother’s Day approaching, I was struggling with figuring out what to do.

I checked the Alamo Drafthouse app on my phone and discovered they were having a Mother’s Day brunch along with a showing of “The Sound of Music.” I remembered that Candy had said once, years ago, that this was one of her favorite musicals. It seemed a little pricey (at first) but I went ahead and bought three tickets. Nick would be up from Houston to visit and that would be a nice mother’s day.

I told Candy (couldn’t really keep it a surprise) and she was worried about Nick.
“I don’t think he’ll like the movie,” she said.

She reminded of one time, years ago, when She, Lee, and I were watching The Sound of Music on TV and Nick walked through the living room.

“What are you watching? What kind of sick stuff is this? What are they singing about? Anal Vice?” he said.

The song, of course, was not “Anal Vice,” but “Edelweiss.”

Alamo Drafthouse is the only movie theater chain we will frequent. The food (and drafts) are good, I love the bits they show before the films, but the real attraction are their policies. One, if they catch you talking or using your phone during the film, they throw you out. Two, and the big one for me, is they do not allow anyone to arrive late. It drives me nuts how, at a regular movie theater, people keep streaming in, searching for their seat, twenty minutes after the show starts. Assigned seats and these policies are the only way to make movie-going worthwhile.

I texted Nick to ask if it was OK for him to see The Sound of Music.

“Y’all paint me as some uncultured brute,” he replied. So he was good to go.

As it turned out, the thing was fantastic. It had seemed pricey at first – but the food was amazing and way more than worth the cost all by itself. The staff came out before the film and explained how hard they had worked on the menu (Austrian themed) and hoped we enjoyed ourselves. The film was sold out and the logistics of getting four courses of food (and wine) out to all those seats in the dark, during a film was incredible.

One good thing is that the film had an intermission and that was when they brought out the main course (Schnitzel, poached eggs, asparagus, tomato) so we could eat that with the house lights up a little. Of course, the movie was fantastic. Your forget how much these classic films were designed to be seen in a theater, on a big screen, and not on a television. Really enjoyable.

So, I’m going to keep an eye on the Alamo Drafthouse to see when they will do something like this again. A close eye – this one sold out in hours. It’s a really special special treat.

Just don’t forget to turn your phone off.

What I learned this week, May 14, 2017

After 500 years, Leonardo da Vinci’s music machine is brought to life

Rather than plucking the strings, as a harpsichord would, this instrument, called the viola organista, lowers the strings onto spinning wheels which are wrapped in horse hair. This acts as a bow would on a violin. The resulting sound gives the impression of a group of string instruments. The project took Zubrzycki 3 years and 5,000 hours to complete.


The Harlan Ellison Show

The star of the long-running Harlan Ellison show is 82 now. A stroke two years ago slowed him down somewhat, though not nearly enough to stop him from working. What his admirers fear above all is the loss of his voice—sometimes annoying, sometimes sappy, always funny, always insistent, and always arresting. As George Edgar Slusser puts it, “In its ubiquity and insistence, this voice becomes both guardian and guarantor of the stories, projecting a sense that here is not dead but living discourse—words spoken and re-spoken that are worthy of being guided through the years, mediated to other human beings, and reassessed in terms of their relevance again and again.”

It is this voice—Harlan Ellison’s voice—that deserves preservation for generations of readers, of writers, of 12 year olds who dream of other worlds.


What if We Discovered an Alien Civilization Less Advanced Than Our Own?

Fourth, what would we do if we really found rock-solid evidence of a pre-industrial civilization on a planet around another star? We couldn’t communicate with them by any currently known method. Unless physicists make some kind of wildly unanticipated new discovery, there is no practical way that humans could travel there, either. Potentially we could send miniature interstellar probes to examine the planet and learn more about its inhabitants. A project called Breakthrough Starshot is exploring the kind of technology needed to do something like that. Such probes would be so small and speedy that the aliens there would have no idea they were being watched


Oysters, Despite What You’ve Heard, Are Always in Season

The life cycle of a particular species, the temperature and quality of the water in which an oyster grows, and how the mollusk is handled after leaving that water all can affect its health and taste — and your health.

“Essentially if you buy oysters that are grown in healthy waters and they’re handled properly, then there’s no problem with eating them any time of the year,” said Donald Meritt, an aquaculturist at the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.


Saudi Arabia Whines US Has Too Much Control Over World’s Oil

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has asked the U.S. to stop producing so much oil, according to a report Thursday.

OPEC’s report blames the U.S. in particular because hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has greatly increased American oil production. The new production has led a lengthy period of very low oil prices. OPEC claims raising global oil prices will “require the collective efforts of all oil producers” and should be done “not only for the benefit of the individual countries, but also for the general prosperity of the world economy.”


6 Reasons You Should Watch Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Before Season Three Premieres


How Alamo Drafthouse Is Changing the Moviegoing Experience

 


I have had a crush on the actress Natalie Dormer, ever since The Tudors. I saw this short “The Brunchers” on ShortsTV and really enjoyed it – even if it isn’t anything more than a bit of fluff. I was glad to find it was available to watch on Netflix.

You’re welcome.

Prickly Pear

“Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
—-T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

Prickly Pear in bloom The Alamo San Antonio, Texas

Prickly Pear in bloom
The Alamo
San Antonio, Texas

What I learned this week, November 21, 2014

10 DALLAS SECRETS YOU DIDN’T KNOW EXISTED

I actually knew about all but three of these, but an interesting list anyway.

Grave of Clyde Barrow and his brother, Buck.

Grave of Clyde Barrow and his brother, Buck.


When I was nothing more than a sprout (or in this case, an offshoot) and lived in the Canal Zone, I was fascinated by the bananas that grew everywhere. Although everyone grew a little tired of eating them all the time, it was really cool to watch them grow and develop – and to realize that there are many types of bananas – most superior to the Cavendish that we buy in our supermarkets.

But now, disaster. Something else to worry about.

Has The End Of The Banana Arrived?

Did you know that all bananas are slightly radioactive?


I stayed up too late last night to watch most of what is one of the best movies ever made.

I’ve always found this to be one of the most frightening scenes in any movie. Starting with Lundegaard hoplessly struggling with the list of VIN numbers and then having Marge figure out that something is very wrong – you see the end of a person’s life right here. It’s awful – even if it’s somebody as reprehesible as Lundegaard. Ya, Darn tootin’.

An oh ya, this scene. I actually Googled Normandale Community College (seems like a nice enough place) after I watched it. It must be a short path from Juco to turning tricks in a snow-bound truck stop. Go Bears.


The 60 Best Action Movies on Netflix

If you were to ask me (But why would you do something like that?) I would tell you I’m not a particular fan of action movies. However, looking at this list, I’ve seen all but about five of them. The others I liked (mostly) – so maybe I should try and finish it off.

If we do see all of them, or if we want more (I’ve been thinking I should write in first person plural more often) there there is always this:

The 101 Best Movies Streaming on Netflix 2014


29 Clever License Plates That Slipped Past The DMV


The start of the Denton Katy trail off of Swisher Road, in Lake Dallas.

The start of the Denton Katy trail off of Swisher Road, in Lake Dallas.

If you build bike paths, cyclists will come

The new bridge from the Santa Fe trail into The Lot

The new bridge from the Santa Fe trail into The Lot


Check out plans for the taproom with skyline views at Dallas’ Alamo Drafthouse

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Richardson’s first brewery, Four Bullets, bets on opening before end of 2014


How Long To Nap For The Biggest Brain Benefits


Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

When Wins Aren’t Wins; When Sharing is Renting

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Magazine Street, New Orleans


Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Klyde Warren Park,
Dallas, Texas

Texas, 3 Ways

I ate lunch at a splashy new dining spot at the edge of Klyde Warren, Lark on the Park, and chatted with the owner, the longtime Dallas restaurateur Shannon Wynne. When he commented, “Dallas has matured more in the last five years than in the past 25,” I asked him why this was. He guffawed in reply, “Well, it certainly can’t be the locals.” He added that the city had benefited greatly from new blood, and that they in turn had emboldened establishment Dallasites to reconsider the city’s possibilities.

While Mr. Wynne talked, I looked over his shoulder at the restaurant’s walls, which were covered with intricate chalk drawings that rotate quarterly: one by a local tattoo artist, another by a medical illustrator, a third depicting the University of Texas at Dallas’s top-ranked chess team. Meanwhile, outside, dozens of residents were tossing Frisbees, or ice skating. It occurred to me that while Dallas has always exhibited the capacity to surprise others, it had now succeeded in surprising itself.

Abby Magill, of Home By Hovercraft Klyde Warren Park Dallas, Texas

Abby Magill, of
Home By Hovercraft
Klyde Warren Park
Dallas, Texas

Milk Crate Bike in the reading area in Klyde Warren Park.

Milk Crate Bike in the reading area in Klyde Warren Park.