Alexander Film Works

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The Nuances of The Tentpole

In Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 28, 2012 at 8:34 pm

This past Tuesday, Paramount and Marvel/Disney released The Avengers on DVD and Blu-Ray™.  We got it the first day… which we had not intended to do… because of a local supermarket’s advertised special.  We bought the DVD… because we don’t do Blu-Ray™.

Now I can get behind the concept of saving special features for the pricier release, but the dearth of additional things on the DVD release is disheartening.  If it would have necessitated an extra DVD for the extended features, I would have paid the additional cost.

But I didn’t have the chance to.

Be that as it may, that subject is not the main reason for this post…

In the debate between seeing a movie in a theater as opposed to at home, there are advantages and disadvantages to both alternatives… In a theater, the picture is bigger than even a bleeding-edge HDTV monitor, the sound is balanced to the theater space itself, and the volume can be set as high as necessary to get the full “surround-sound” effect… Disadvantages of the theater space is the lag between a funny line and the laugh that follows it can wipe out the reaction immediately after, especially with a really subtle follow-up.

Let us examine the follow-up in The Avengers to the confrontation between Loki and The Hulk… after the manhandling of Loki by Hulk, and Hulk walks off grumbling “Puny god,” the theater exploded in laughter.

The laughter drowned out the subtle “capper”… as the camera holds on Loki, laying there, having been smashed like a limp dishrag by Hulk, Loki quietly whimpers in pain.

Unobtrusive… underplayed… totally missed by the audience laughing uproariously at the big joke before it.  But when you hear the capper, the whimpering, it adds another layer to the mosaic.

You can get one level of experience at the theater… and an additional layer, more dimensions of experience, with the home viewing option.

I feel that the two synergistic, complementary levels, provide an additive experience.

But, then again, that’s just me…

They Don’t Know Jack…

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

The leader of Hezbollah has been crying that the United States should pass laws to quash the piece of trash video that some hack Coptic Christian made, making fun of the prophet Muhammad, calling him a womanizer and a pedophile.

This shows an absolute lack of knowledge of the American way of doing things.  The government has absolutely no input as to who can make a film, or write a book, or post to the Internet… they also have no jurisdiction over the Internet, except as to the violation of copyright.

The people in the Middle East who assume (a mistake) that nothing can be made or publicized without the consent of the government do not understand democracy or free speech.  They have NOTHING to say about it, unless it violates a law of the United States.  And no law can be passed by Congress that criminalizes something retroactively; this is the “ex post facto” clause.

These people seem to think that we operate under the same sort of restrictions as their authoritarian governments that disappeared in the dawning of the “Arab Spring”. They are completely surprised and disbelieving that we could live in such anarchy; they don’t seem to realize that we not only expect it, we glory in it.  The unrestricted nature of our creative society, the pride in the lack of controls, is a uniquely American thing… something we tend to take for granted, but is unique in the world.

We are free to speak as we will… we can disrespect officials of our own government, heads of religions, blaspheme against our own god, other people’s gods, or what those who profess atheism hold sacred.  We can ridicule our own beliefs, other people’s beliefs, or anything else that strikes our fancy.

We can tell the leader of Hezbollah to go take a long walk off a short pier… we can tell the people of Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, and the other places having a cow to take a flying leap at a rolling donut.  Our government has no control over creative people… thank Ghu, Foo, Roscoe, and whoever else.

I am just sick and tired of it.

A Blast From The Past

In Think About It on September 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm

The following post was found in an archived CD, coming from a previous effort, a science fiction fanzine called scopus:3007.  Megan, my lovely and talented wife, found it, and suggested I post it on my blog.

Who am I to refuse her?

So, what follows, is from 2001… enjoy, I hope.

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION…

Or, The Further Adventures of Michigan Bouchard And The Raiders of the Eastern Worldcon

 

PART THE FIRST:

WHAT LIES BEFORE…

Whether we were even going to go to Philadelphia for the Millennium Philcon was in doubt before the last week of August.  My uncle, who was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a father, died on the 24th of July.  Then, on Megan and my eighteenth anniversary, 21 August, my mother had a heart attack, and needed to have three pacemakers installed in three days.

The first pacemaker was a temporary one, what they call a transvenous pacemaker, the lead being inserted up to the heart from a vein in the leg.  The second was supposed to be a permanent one, but because it was installed in her upper left chest, and she’s left handed, she pulled out one of the leads.  They had to go in the next day and rewire it, and immobilize her left arm for a time.

We had, by that point, resigned ourselves that we weren’t going to be able to go.  Then, my mother told us that we weren’t to let her stand in our way of going, and the arrangements were made to take care of our cats while we were gone.

Since it was now just a day or so before we had intended to drive, and we didn’t have the time to finish packing in order to do it, Megan started searching the net for comparison fares for train and air.

Orbitz.com presented her with a bargain airfare, which we took advantage of, and we got set to leave at 6:45 AM on Thursday, the 30th of August.  Because of where we live in relation to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, that would mean we had to get up about 4:00 AM.

Urgh.

Our traveling companion, Bill, came over Wednesday night and spent the night; we thought we had everything set for the departure.

The thing is, I should have remembered that nothing goes exactly as planned for us.  Megan and I forget this at our own peril.

 

PART THE SECOND:

INTO THE AIR, JUNIOR BIRDMEN…

Oh-dark-hundred came far too quickly, as it has a tendency to do.  Megan and I got maybe two hours of sleep, having stayed up to make sure we’d finished packing.

We hadn’t.

The last-minute crap took up some of the time we’d planned to use to drive to the airport, and we finished packing the car and us somewhat behind schedule.  The drive to Metro Airport wasn’t that bad for five o’clock in the morning; we made pretty good time.

Because we didn’t have time to stop at an off-airport parking company as we’d thought to, I dropped Megan and Bill off at the Delta curbside check-in with most of the luggage and the mobies, and I went to park the car.  Because time was beginning to get short, I went into the Long-Term Parking Deck.  I then tried to find a place to park.

The place I finally found made B.F.E. look close by; the deck shuttle came up, and I made it back to the terminal just slightly ahead of time.

I still had to get through security.  I kept setting off the metal detector; it turns out, after taking off almost everything else, that my new pewter belt buckle had been setting off the detector.  To top it off, while I was stuck in security, the final boarding call page with my name came through.

Of course, the gate our plane was at was at the far end of the concourse; I had no wheelchair, and my mobie had gone with Megan and Bill.  I was running down the concourse, which I am not supposed to do; when I got to the gate, the Delta gate agent said the plane door had already been closed.  She took pity on me, though, and carded us both into the jetway; she ran ahead to get the ramp agent to see if they could get me onto the plane before it detached.  I was running behind her as best I could, my knee feeling like it was about to fall off, and my decidedly out-of-shape lungs complaining to beat the band.

The ramp agent had managed to get the flight attendants to open the door just before the plane was going to pull away; I stumbled in after the last minute, with less than no time to spare.

The flight to Cincinnati was uneventful after that.  I was mostly recovered by the time we landed.

We had an almost three-hour layover in Cincinnati, which included changing planes.  We ate, and waited for our plane.  The flight from Cincinnati to Philadelphia was routine, for the most part, except that Megan was “working the plane”, as she has a tendency to do.

Megan’s mother raised her and her siblings to do what we call “working the room”; striking up conversations with other people, making their acquaintance, and promoting whatever she wants to promote.  I’ve seen her mother “working the room” at almost every large function we’ve been to with her, and Megan has learned well.

Megan was wire wrapping a cameo on the flight to Philadelphia, and got to talking with an older lady across the aisle… it turns out this lady was the head of the Cincinnati Arts Council, going to a jazz festival in New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia.  This proved to be a lucky contact, as will be seen later.

Our mobies were brought up to the gate when we arrived.  Delta had treated us extremely well, and we would definitely fly them again.  We then went to get our checked luggage, and went to the ground transportation desk to call the accessible van company we’d made reservations with from home.

To our surprise, they backed out on us once Megan called from the airport.  They had assured her that they had accessible vans that could handle the mobies when she called from Detroit, but said “We don’t do that” once we’d arrived.

Megan then called several other transportation companies, including the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (otherwise known as SEPTA) for their ParaTransit service.  ParaTransit told Megan that the only way we could use them was if we were Philadelphia residents, registered with them (which would take something like two months), and with at least a day’s advance notice.

Needless to say, this was not what we wanted to hear.  Megan informed the company that, since they accepted Federal funding, they were required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide transportation, and they refused once more.

The lady at the ground transportation counter suggested, under rigorous questioning by Megan, that we take the train in to downtown.  There being no other viable alternative, we did so.

We hooked up with Johnny Carruthers, regular columnist for FOSFAX, at the airport, and he most graciously helped us get on the train.  The train crew was most helpful and accommodating, and we disembarked from the train at the Market East Station downtown.  We were told that the station was only about two blocks from the hotel; it was more like six or seven.  Megan and I, along with Bill and Johnny, lugged our baggage from the station to the Hilton Garden Inn, where Johnny was staying, and we redistributed the load and proceeded to our hotel, the Hawthorn Suites.

It turns out there was another screwup; the hotel had rented out the room we reserved, and was going to give us a room that was totally unsuitable for our needs.  The concierge went to see what could be done, and we ended up in the Presidential Suite, a large, airy corner room with better facilities than we’d reserved, for the same price.

This wasn’t a bad thing at all.

We settled in, and Bill and I went over to the Convention Center to pick up our badges.  I talked to the people in charge of the Art Show, and they agreed to let us set up the following morning, since the entire series of events getting in from the airport had just about wiped us out.  Bill and I found where the Con Suite was, and I got something of an idea where the Fanzine Lounge was in the Marriott.  We found out another reason why we were glad we didn’t stay at the Marriott; the corridors there were barely wide enough for one mobie to pass through at a time, let alone two going in opposite (or the same) directions.

The hotel had a complimentary buffet Monday through Thursday evenings, so we ate dinner at the hotel, and then began to unpack and arrange things.

The remainder of Thursday was spent getting things ready to bring over, and crashing in the hotel room.  I had brought my one laptop computer and portable printer, to try to make sure the Art Show forms were typed in before we came over; we found that the ribbon for my portable printer was dead, and the office supply store we were referred to was closed by that time.

 PART THE THIRD:

(UN)CONVENTIONAL BUSINESS

Friday morning, we ate breakfast at the complimentary hotel breakfast buffet, and then went to set up the Art Show.  Because we’d prepared much of it the night before, we were able to get it done relatively quickly.  The Art Show forms I couldn’t print out the night before were printed for us by the hotel, and we were able to get things done.

After that, we wandered around the con independently for a while; I went to the Fanzine Lounge, and saw several people we knew, and schmoozed.  I spent some time  talking with several faneds.

In the afternoon, we went wheeling out to see the Liberty Bell and the Old State House, now known as Independence Hall.  We ate a Philly cheese steak at a little joint down on Market Street, near the river, except Megan had one without the cheese.  We then wheeled down to Penn’s Landing and saw the Delaware River.  Because Bill was tired from the walk down, we took the bus back to the Convention Center area.  The bus system has vehicles equipped with lifts to get chairs and scooters on board, and it was relatively easy.  Friday night we crashed early.

Saturday morning, the three of us frequented different parts of the convention, until the afternoon, when we got ready to go to the Masquerade that night.  During the afternoon, we pre-supported Boston (we’d already pre-supported Charlotte earlier), and voted for Site Selection.  Due to some sort of screwup with the Masquerade Director, Megan was not able to register to be in the Masquerade; she finished her costume with her mini sewing machine we’d brought along, and wore it to the Masquerade.

We left after the last entry, but before the judging was done.  Megan and I went back to the room, while Bill hit a party or two.

Sunday, Megan and I converted our memberships for Boston, started paying for ConJosé on their installment plan, and hit the Masquerade wrap-up meeting.  I spent some time in the fanzine lounge, hit a program item or two, and we then got ready to go see the Hugo Awards.  Megan left after the fan awards, and I stuck it out till the end.  When I came out, I found Megan, who had been in the Costumers Suite, and we went back to the room.

Pierre and Sandy Pettinger, who are running the masquerade at ConJosé next year, had been wheedling us to come to San José, guaranteeing Megan a slot in next year’s masquerade.  They finally wore us down.  We’re now committed to San José, Toronto, and Boston.  (If we’re not committed, then we should be.)

Monday, the final day of the con, I did our laundry in the morning.  We’d figured that coming home with clean laundry was a better idea, as compared to having to wash our laundry first thing at home.  We spent time in the Art Show checking out what hadn’t sold, and then we were in the Dealers Room until it closed.  We bought some stuff, and then went back to the room.  The hotel dinner buffet was on, so the three of us ate there; we went to bed relatively early, after packing everything up.

 PART THE FOURTH:

 YOU BETTER FREE YOUR MIND INSTEAD…

Tuesday, our day of return, dawned bright and clear, and we started trying to make arrangements to get ourselves and our stuff back to the airport in time for our flight home.

We had ourselves, the hotel staff, and several other people working on trying to get some sort of accessible transportation.  The Mayor’s office couldn’t help; ParaTransit, and SEPTA as a whole, are Pennsylvania state agencies, not answerable to the City of Philadelphia.  None of the private transportation companies that we or our helpers called were equipped to handle mobility carts.  It was looking like Plan B (sending Bill and our luggage in a taxi, and Megan and I taking the train) was going to be in effect.

At almost the last minute, a solution was found; an accessible van was sent out from a company called Metro, and loaded us, our stuff, and the mobies on board, getting us to the airport with sufficient time.to catch our flight home on Delta.

But before we left Philadelphia, Megan ended up speaking to the attorney who had been suing SEPTA in Federal Court for violations of the ADA, and filed a complaint with him.  The judge’s verdict had been front-page news in the Philadelphia newspapers for a couple of days.  I personally suspect that the assistance of this attorney was a major reason we got the accessible van.

It turns out that our flight out of Philadelphia was delayed for three hours; the plane wouldn’t even be in until almost 3:30.  We bided our time, Megan working the room again, with the arts council lady from Cincinnati on the same return flight as we were.  Megan also was chatting up another lady, who turned out to own a boutique in Florida.  This lady bought a piece that Megan had been working on, and was interested in having Megan and her partners, Sue and Gail, produce jewelry that this woman would buy, then sell in her boutique.

Because the first leg of our flight was late, we missed our connection in Cincinnati, and got booked on a later flight.  Our plane landed at Detroit Metro, we claimed our luggage, and I went to get the shuttle bus to the long-term parking deck to get our car.

Remember how we didn’t have enough time to go to an off-airport lot?  The long-term parking deck cost us $72.00.

Ouch.  And then some.

I got the minivan back to where Megan and Bill were waiting, and several buttheads were starting to bitch at us because I was parking at a handicap ramp to load us up.  We have a valid handicap parking sticker, two mobility carts, and these people are trying to raise a stink because we’re inconveniencing them.

We knew we were back home in Detroit when the yammerheads started in.

The freeways were as bad as ever on our way home, and Bill’s wife (and Megan’s partner), Sue, met us at our house to pick him up.  When we got in the house, Ada Jane, our psychokitty, made a flying leap from the floor into Megan’s arms.  She missed us that much, it seems.

And so ended another adventure, as the Worldcon sank slowly into the eastern sky.  Next year in San José, it looks like… oh, my.

Vaccinated With A Gramophone Needle…

In Just Because... on September 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I don’t really understand why it is that certain obsolete phrases stick with me in the back of my mind, somewhere, only to spring forth and totally confuse someone who is both younger than me and less knowledgeable of particular arcane bits of information that only an obsessive, savant-like, isolated geek/nerd would know… like the title of this installment, for example.

It was used, back in the day, to designate someone who was a virtually nonstop talker, much like a Gramophone record.  (Gramophone, like Victrola, was the trademarked brand name of one particular type of record player.)  As Gramophones faded into obscurity, the phrase became “vaccinated with a phonograph needle”.

This is still obscure to anyone born after 1980, since CD players don’t have needles… and digital music players don’t either.

One of the first phonographs I owned had four speeds on it:  78 rpm, 45 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm, and 16 rpm; 16 was used primarily for audiobooks for blind and disabled people, as I recall.

Be that as it may, obscure and arcane sayings spring forth from my brain like Athena from the brow of Zeus (an arcane bit of mythology).  Some more examples:

  • Squeezing a nickel till the buffalo hollers
  • Alternatively, squeezing a nickel till the Indian hollers
  • Busy as a one-armed paperhanger
  • As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs

The “Indian Head” nickel coin debuted in 1913, and was phased out in 1938, when it was replacecd by the Jefferson nickel, with the portrait of Jefferson on the face and of Monticello, his home, on the reverse.  “Squeezing the nickel”  was a rough equivalent of “pinching a penny”, connoting thrift/cheapness/miserliness.

A “one-armed paperhanger” was an interesting concept… It was difficult, at best, to properly hang wallpaper with two good arms, so the thought of someone doing it with one arm was something that boggled the mind.

The cat quote is better understood if you know, or remember, or discover that rocking chairs used to have long wooden rockers that extended in front of and behind the chair, affording a wonderful opportunity to have one of these rockers go over something behind it with little or no opportunity to stop.

This also ties into someone being “off their rocker”, but that’s something I’ll leave to another time.

Aloha!  (A very useful Hawaiian word, meaning both “hello” and “goodbye”.)

Al B.

A Shot In The Dark…

In Film and Related, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Let’s begin at the (putative) beginning…

Since getting out of university this past May, I have been trying to motivate myself to write something I think is worth shooting, and shoot something I think is worth showing.

As you may infer from the previous statement, those attempts have proven to be less than fruitful.  It’s been four months, and I’m not happy about this.

I have images of wonderful scenes flitting through my consciousness, but they aren’t really amenable to being knit together into a coherent whole.  I have characters developing in the “stewpot” on my mental “back burner”, but no situations they’re suitable for.  And I have situations that would fuel a gripping, suspenseful movie, but no characters other than one-and-a-half-dimensional placeholders to work with.

‘Tis a puzzlement, to be sure.

Did my time at university sap my creative “juice”?  Did being forced to write their way render me unable to write my way?  Or is there another explanation I’m just not seeing?

Stay tuned… the adventure continues.

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