gwalla: (ornament)
Because nobody demanded it, here's my Christmas playlist* on iTunes. Album titles are in italics, individual tracks are in artist - title format. Album tracks are not listed except for various artists compilations. Comments are in brackets:
  • Abney Park - Carol of the Bells
  • Béla Fleck & the Flecktones Jingle All the Way
  • Bob Rivers - Walkin' 'Round in Women's Underwear
  • Bob Rivers - Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire
  • The Bomboras - Lil' Drummer Boy
  • California Guitar Trio Christmas Album [The CGT are disciples of King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, playing surf-inspired guitar instrumental versions of mostly classical but some pop tunes]
  • Carla Bley Carla's Christmas Carols [Bley is an avant-garde jazz pianist and bandleader; this album is amazing]
  • Clockhammer - Here Comes Santa Claus
  • Commodore 64 - A Commodore Kind of Christmas [Christmas nerdcore rap]
  • Dale North, Mustin, Nate Cloud, The OneUps - Super Mario World Super Mario's Sleigh Ride OC ReMix
  • Danny Elfman - Scrooged: Main Titles - Show Time at IBC - Elliot Gives Blood - Walter Ablaze - Wild Cab Ride - Luncheonette - Asylum - Crematorium
  • Dave Brubeck A Dave Brubeck Christmas
  • Esquivel Merry Christmas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad [hi-fi lounge]
  • The Flaming Lips - Christmas at the Zoo
  • Joe Meek Vampires, Cowboys, Spacemen & Spooks

    • The Fabulous Flee-Rekkers - Green Jeans
    • Roger LaVern & The Microns - Reindeer Ride
    • Roger LaVern & The Microns - Christmas Stocking

  • John Fahey - Christmas Medley: O Tannenbaum/Angels We Have Heard On High/Jingle Bells
  • Joseph Spance - Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
  • Kick the Can Crew - Christmas Eve Rap [Japanese Christmas rapping!]
  • Los Straitjackets 'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets [Christmas surf guitar]
  • Loudon Wainwright III - Suddenly It's Christmas
  • Moon Duo - Silver Bells
  • Pac-Man The Pac-Man Christmas Album [yes, you read that right]
  • The Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)
  • Red Peters - Holy Shit, It's Christmas
  • Rev Run - Santa Baby (feat. Mase, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Salt 'N Pepa, Onyx, Keith Murray)
  • Smashing Pumpkins & Radiohead - If There Is A God (Acoustic Christmas '98)
  • Squirrel Nut Zippers Christmas Caravan
  • Stan Kenton - What Is A Santa Claus
  • Sufjan Stevens - Christmas In The Room
  • Sufjan Stevens - O Holy Night
  • Sufjan Stevens - That was the Worst Christmas Ever!
  • Sufjan Stevens - It's Christmas! Let's Be Glad
  • Sufjan Stevens - Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time
  • Sufjan Stevens - Get Behind Me, Santa
  • Sy Mann Switched On Santa! [Christmoog]
  • The Vandals - Christmas Time For My Penis
  • The Vandals - A Gun For Christmas
  • The Vandals - My First Christmas (As A Woman)
  • Various Artists The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four? )
  • Various Artists A Jazz Christmas )
  • Various Artists Thunderdome: The Xmas Edition )
  • Various Artists A Very Indie Xmas )
  • Vince Guaraldi Trio A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Wesley Willis - Kris Kringle Was a Car Thief [technically not a Christmas song at all, but c'mon]
  • Wonderful World of Joey - What Sweet Child O' Mine Is this?
  • Wooden Shjips - O Tannenbaum
  • Various Artists The Edge of Christmas )
  • Various Artists The Original Soul Christmas )
  • Various Artists We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! )

    *I should point out that I don't listen to this playlist straight through. Instead, I have smart playlists that select rotating sections of it to mix in with other stuff.
gwalla: (ornament)
Another quickie movie review! This is the latest by Aardman Animation, the people who brought you Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, though this one is CGI and not stop motion. Santa Claus is a hereditary position, passed down from father to son since the days of St. Nicholas himself. Everybody at the North Pole expects the current Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) to retire soon, especially the heir apparent, his overachieving son Steve (Hugh Laurie), who is already basically in charge of gift-giving operations and has organized it into an incredibly efficient system. Santa's other son Arthur (Jim McEvoy), on the other hand, has been relegated to a small office where he answers letters children have written to Santa. He's clumsy, a bit obtuse, and afraid of heights and speed, but good-hearted and upbeat. When it turns out after "Christmas Accomplished" has been declared that a child has been overlooked and her gift was never delivered, Steve attempts to sweep the news under the rug while insisting that it's too late to go back, and what does one child out of millions matter? Arthur, though, informs crotchety old Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), who pulls him along to deliver the package with the aid of his old sleigh and the reindeer ("Dasher and Dancer and...Bambi and John...and you and you and you and you") and, yes, save Christmas. But it's been a while since Grandsanta has delivered any gifts, and the old sleigh doesn't have the radar blocking and cloaking features of Steve's high-tech S-1 aircraft...

This movie is a ton of fun. It's a roller coaster ride featuring the trademark Aardman wackiness, with a bit of modern satirical edge without descending into cynicism. There's something fun to see in just about every frame, and no filler. Also, the 3D is well done and well utilized. Highly recommended.

The only downside, though, is that to get to the movie you have to sit through a video of Justin Bieber massacring "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (did that song really need the addition of the line "Shake it, shake it baby"?), which BTW I think marks the definitive end of the steampunk fad.

Trailers:
  • The Adventures of Tintin - Looks like it could be a lot of fun. The story seems to be mostly adapted from the two-parter The Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure (though the treasure in those was gold & jewels, while in this it's described as "something that could have changed the course of history") with some parts pulled in from The Crab with the Golden Claws (the story that introduces Captain Haddock). There's also a scene where Snowy must recover a ring of keys from a sleeping guard but is distracted by a sandwich, which I swear is from another story but I can't remember which. A (very cool) image of a ship crashing through sand dunes that turn into waves may be a replacement for the "uncorking" dream from Crab. There's also a scene with a dam and a rocket launcher that appears to be original, and a chase scene where Tintin crashes a motorcycle and goes flying only to use the front part as an improvised zip-line pulley on an overhead wire, a superhuman feat that he was never shown as capable of in the comics. Oddly, the Thompson twins don't appear at all in the trailer despite playing important roles in all of the stories this draws from, which makes me wonder if they've been excised.
  • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - This looks like a pile. Apparently a sequel to that dire 3D Journey to the Center of the Earth movie starring Brendan Fraser some years ago, this has a teenage boy and The Rock in search of the eponymous Mysterious Island of Verne's novel, which the boy believes his grandfather has found. To get there they hire a helicopter pilot played by Luis Guzman along with his cute teenage daughter, and of course they crash there. The island is a sort of lost world featuring dinosaurs, giant insects, and miniature pachyderms, all rendered in the fakest looking CG I've seen in years, and the boy's grandfather, played by Michael Caine, who must owe a lot of back taxes or something if he's taking parts in crap like this.
  • Pirates: Band of Misfits - The next Aardman stop-motion feature, with the voice of Hugh Grant as an incompetent pirate captain looking to win the Pirate of the Year award. Lots of madcap action and some great visual gags ("I'm here for your treasure!" "No treasure here, sir. This is a leper ship." *arm falls off* "See?" "Gah!"). Looking forward to this one.
gwalla: (ghost rider xmas)

The Anti-Claus Painted
by *Blairsculpture on deviantART
gwalla: (lon chaney)
So last night I saw a couple of movies at the Symphony: the silent "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with John Barrymore and Buster Keaton's short "The Haunted House", with live accompaniment on pipe organ, percussion, and effects. The crowd was a mix: some just dressed up, some dressed "period" for the silent films, and a bunch just dressed in silly Halloween costumes. The organist was a total ham who came on stage in a cape and vampire mask, and started things rolling with Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, which he credited with getting him interested in playing the organ (and called "a curse on organists everywhere"). He also announced the score: 4-0 Giants.

First up was the Keaton short, which was hilarious. Keaton plays a hapless bank clerk who, after a series of mishaps, finds himself framed by a crooked superior who is also head of a group of counterfeiters, and when on the run from the police takes refuge in a house that happens to be the counterfeiters' hideout, which they've rigged up to be "haunted" to scare people off. Meanwhile an incompetent opera company botches a performance of "Faust" and is chased off by the irate audience, only to take up residence, in costume, in the same house. In particular, the trick stairs running gag and the extended glue gag had me rolling. The wordplay in the title cards is fun too: "Wall Street: The palatial parking place of the Bear and the Bull--mostly the Bull."

After that, the feature film. When introducing the movie, the organist noted that Barrymore had played the role(s) live on Broadway, where his performances were such a big hit that they got the attention of the major film studios, and the film is essentially just the stage play with more and bigger sets. Since it was meant to be played live, Barrymore couldn't depend on special effects or elaborate makeup, and had to portray the transformation entirely through acting. He shows the whites of his eyes, looks down his nose, flares his nostrils, hunches his back, tenses his hands into claws, and assumes a lopsided sneer, and even without the long crusty fingernails and lumpy back of the head they give him in some scenes he looks like a completely different person. The only effects are a few fairly rudimentary dissolves. The camera also helps: as Jekyll, Barrymore is filmed mostly with his head turned fully to the side (his nickname was "The Profile" for a reason), while as Hyde he is shot mostly head-on.

There was an intermission in the middle of the film. I considered getting a shot at the lobby bar and then clutching my chest as in Jekyll's first transformation, but the line was too long to get a drink before they rang the bell. Before starting the second half, the organist announced that it was still 4-0, with two outs to go. Right before starting, they were interrupted by someone offstage, and the effects guy (who was using Buchla Lightning "wands" to trigger his sounds) relayed that the game was over and the Giants had won.

The film does not really follow the same structure as the original story. Since "Jekyll and Hyde" is such a well known trope now, it's easy to forget that in Stevenson's novella the connection between the two is a mystery that is revealed late as a shocking twist, and mostly follows the point of view of Jekyll's friend and lawyer Mr. Utterson. The film, on the other hand, mostly follows Jekyll, with Sir George's worldly temptations prompting Jekyll to find a way to separate out man's (and in particular his) evil impulses, and Hyde graduating from general douchebaggery (using and discarding the music hall dancer Gina), to callously injuring a child, to outright murder; Utterson is reduced to a minor character. Despite being melodramatic in a way not really seen anymore, the movie holds up very well.

Apparently back home there were a whole lot more trick-or-treaters than there had been in recent years. It was a great night for it, too: very clear and not too cold.

Altogether, a great Halloween.
gwalla: (ornament)
What I got this Christmas:

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Books:
  • The Metamorphoses of Tintin, or Tintin for Adults by Jean-Marie Apostolidès
  • Cocktail Boothby's American Bar-Tender by William T. "Cocktail" Boothby ("Endorsed by all Clubmen and Mixologists")

CDs
  • The Ventures - Walk Don't Run: The Best of The Ventures
  • Devin Townsend - Ziltoid the Omniscient
  • Vijay Iyer Trio - Historicity

and a Slinky.

Also, new suits in preparation for an upcoming job interview. Not shown because I'll be picking them up on Tuesday.

I got my dad several jazz CDs: The Man Who Cried Fire by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Guitar by McCoy Tyner (featuring Bela Fleck, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, John Scofield, and Derek Trucks), and a box set of Sonny Stitt (with booklet by Harvey Pekar). For my mom it was books: the Oxford Book of English Verse, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and Ursula Vernon's Irrational Fears.

Dinner was our traditional Christmas spread: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, stuffed mushrooms, and creamed spinach garnished with hard-boiled egg yolks and toast stars. This year mom supplemented the usual menu with homemade dinner rolls. Dessert was a trifle made with custard, pound cake, sherry, sour cherry jam, and Cherry Heering.

I hope you all had a merry Christmas!
gwalla: (wreath)
Thanksgiving is over, so the Christmas season has semi-officially begun. Time to break out the Christmas avatars and the Pac-Man Christmas Album!
gwalla: (Default)
I'm pretty proud of how they turned out this year. The one on the left is my dad's, and the one on the right is mine. Dad was working around several bite marks made by (we think) squirrels, while the mouth of mine started with a gouge I made accidentally when I was gutting it. Mine was going to be a triclops, but the middle eye wasn't centered enough and I decided I liked the lopsided face more.

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There were a lot more trick-or-treaters coming by this year than there have been in recent years, which was nice.

I finished off the night watching the MST3k of the classic crapfest Robot Monster, a movie so cheap that they couldn't afford a robot costume, so they used a borrowed gorilla suit with a helmet instead. Season One of MST3k was...odd. Not a big fan of Josh Weinstein. Larry, the second mad scientist, wasn't that funny (replacing him with TV's Frank was a good move, because the boss/lackey dynamic had more comedic potential) and I prefer Kevin Murphy's sarcastic, slightly fabulous version of Tom Servo to Weinstein's deadpan one. They were still definitely working out the kinks: they wasted pretty much the entire opening credits sequence to the Commando Cody episodes that preceded the film proper with unfunny variations on "not another one" and "wow, this is bad", and in general there weren't really enough quips. The show really hit its stride in Season Two; two of my all-time favorites are from that season (First Spaceship on Venus "Secretly, we've replaced their planet with Folger's Crystals" and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster "Kabob, and Ka-Steve!").
gwalla: (halloween)
gwalla: (Default)
gwalla: (ornament)
Every pop musician eventually does a Christmas tune.

Even...well...

gwalla: (wreath)
gwalla: (wryyyyyyyyy!)
Learn amazing facts about America's first and greatest President!

gwalla: (psychedelic banana)
Hoppy new beer, everybody!

Nice Rose Parade this year. The Lucasfilm float was particularly amusing.
gwalla: (wreath)
This year's haul:
  • Joe Satriani's "Is There Love In Space" album
  • A classical CD including a piece by Yardumian, who is awesome
  • The Best American Comics 2006, edited by Harvey Pekar
  • The Spirit Archives vol 1
  • Supreme: The Story of the Year trade paperback, which collects the first part of Alan Moore's run on Image Comics' Superman pastiche, turning him from a "grim badass '90s hardcore" Superman-as-insufferable-asshole to a kind of paean to the silliness and unseriousness of the Silver Age Superman.
  • Fearless and The Big Lebowski on DVD
  • A framed poster I've wanted for years, a book cover titled "An Introduction to Error Analysis: The Study of Uncertainties in Physical Measurements". The illustration is a black-and-white photo of an old steam locomotive having crashed out of the second story of a building, with the engine nose-down on the pavement outside.
  • and of course a bunch of chocolates, candies, and little knick-knacks in my stocking
I got my dad a bottle of Old Potrero rye whiskey (there's a funny story about that I probably should have posted last week when it happened, but eh). Didn't realize it was the rye when I got it, since I knew he liked the whisky, but it turns out he likes rye and hasn't had any in a while, so it was a hit all the same. For my mom I got a portable DVD player (actually, my dad is the one who bought it, since I don't have a Costco card, but I'm paying him back). She's happy with it too and can't wait to try it out. I feel like I did all right with my gift-giving this year.

We had our traditional Christmas dinner. We started off with shrimp cocktails, then the main course was rare roast beef, yorkshire pudding (made with the beef fat), stuffed mushrooms, and creamed spinach decorated with grated egg yolk and toast stars. For dessert we had trifle. This year's was made with sherry, cherry brandy, and morello cherry jelly and candied cherries from Fortnum & Mason, obtained on my mom's last trip to England.

I hope you all had merry Christmases or equivalents as well!
gwalla: (wryyyyyyyyy!)
So I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival today in San Francisco. Despite the off-an-on rain, Japantown was packed with people. Caught some of the iaido demonstration, but it wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped (no tameshi-giri?), and that coupled with the rain drove me inside. Over in the Miyako Hotel I saw a little bit of a koto performance. The young girl playing the koto was definitely not the best I've heard—this was clearly a sort of student recital—but decent and didn't let the occasional mistake throw her off. And anyway, it made it feel more like a community event than something staged for tourists. I checked out the origami room (some fun stuff, including an origami Godzilla-menacing-Tokyo, a Starship Enterprise, and some cool abstracts as well as more traditional fare) and the paper dolls exhibition.

I was a little on the late side to one of the tea ceremony demonstrations. Not so late that I missed any of the actual demonstration, but enough that I got kind of a lousy seat and couldn't see much. Not that there's really a whole lot to see if you don't know the significance of all of the things they do. Still, it was interesting to watch, and the guy MCing did explain some of what the two women were doing. They only did the final segment, the serving of "thin tea"; a full tea ceremony, which includes a small meal, sake drinking (the host shares a cup of sake with each guest—as the MC said, "one should be careful not to invite too many people!"), thick tea, and finally thin tea, takes about four hours! After the demonstraton was over, anyone who wanted to could sit at a table on one side of the room and be served a bowl of thin tea and a Japanese sweet. I tried it, and it was delicious. Tea ceremony tea is made by mixing ground green tea leaves with hot water, rather than steeping. Thin tea is just a more dilute mixture than thick tea, but both are much thicker than, say, genmai-cha. The MC, who was a student of the hostess performing the demonstration, did a Q&A with the audience. Somebody asked about water, and he said that the sites famous for their tea water in Japan are not springs, but places along rivers. He said that it seems water is prized not for its mineral content but for a lack of minerals. Well, I thought it was interesting anyway. On the way out, I saw the tail end of the wu shu demonstration (yeah yeah, wu shu is Chinese, but the group has a place in Japantown so they get a pass as part of the community).

Of course, I had to hit the food stands. Like the last time I went, the food concessions were all fundraisers. I got a teriyaki burger from the senior services group, which wasn't great (teriyaki sauce and mayo is just overdoing it on the glop, frankly) but wasn't terrible. There was a stand selling cold beer and hot sake again this year, and I got a cup of the latter. Mmmm, sake. Passed on the Zen temple's takoyaki. I've tried them before and they're just kinda bland with a sour-ish fishy sauce. Not my bag. The stand selling those little pancake thingies stuffed with bean paste was there again, and I got a couple. It was right next to the booze stand, and they announced last call while I was in line, so as soon as I got my beanie cakes I hopped over and got another cup of sake for half price. Mmmm, sake. Got back up to the peace plaza just in time to see the end of the S.F. Nipponto Society's sword demonstration. They actually did some tameshi-giri!

Browsed around the shops for a bit, and ended up buying a Domo-kun t-shirt and a couple of books from Kinokuniya. I also got tickets for the big taiko festival next Saturday. At the CDs-and-other-stuff store I got my spine mangled by a massage chair before taking off for home. I think I'll be back next Sunday—that's when they have the big parade (and the cosplay parade). Plus there'll be a kendo demonstration, which I'd like to see, because I'm always up for some swordplay. So if anyone in the area wants to meet up, the offer still stands.

Easter dinner was a delicious leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and carrots, and steamed asparagus. Dessert was spice cake with a honey-caramel glaze, and strawberry-rhubarb fool.

Life is good.
gwalla: (irresistible)
I would just like to remind the ladies in the audience that I am still available.
gwalla: (evil mickey)
I hope you all have a happy V.D.!

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Evil Valentine by Kevin Church of BeaucoupKevin. More here.

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Garth

December 2011

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