Thursday, February 23, 2006

DeNutted or Nothing From Nothing Leaves...

Let's just say au revoir...
I've had an okay week; got a C-T scan of my head, my sinus doctor tells me I have polyps in my nose and he needs to go in there to clean 'em out (I scheduled it for mid-April), he's got me on allergy shots and got in an extra day of work this week covering for my bud Randy at the station. Oh, and Becky got her bonus, so it's time to book that Vegas flight. The bummer of the week: my main message board, Nothingland, is shutting down on the 28th.

I know that it's not earth-shattering, but before you stick your nose (or whatever appendage you use) in the air and tell me to Get A Life, lemme 'splain. As much as I like DVD Verdict, it was #2 on my list. Nothingland (formerly known as Nutkinland) has been my 'net "homebase" for going on 5 years. It's the first site I checked (after email) and the last one at night. I made many friends, got in interesting discussions and laughed along with a great community. So this is something of a tribute to that place that kept me informed, entertained and amused for quite a while.

It started as an offshoot of the EN World board by a guy named Christopher, also known as Squirrel Nutkin. He and others wanted a board where they could talk RPG's and other things without such a heavy-handed admin presence. Thus, Nutkinland was born. I came to it through an offhand comment on another gaming board. A lot of folks warned me not to go: "oh don't go to Nutkinland! They're nasty to people over there!" But curiosity got the better of me. What I found is a community who were adults engaging in interesting conversations about all sorts of things and did not Suffer Fools Gladly (Yours Truly excepted - actually, a small group excepted; seems if you were good at making folks laugh, it went a long way in making it there). Nutkinland/Nothingland went a long way towards thickening my Internet skin.

And it was pretty much self-policing; the admins knew it, and only stepped in when they absolutely had to. Remarkable place. Then this happened.

A few days ago, it was offline, with a message saying that don't worry, no one's banned, we'll be back soon. They did come back up a day or two later with bad news: seems that some idiot got hold of some of the Chief Admin's private information. He didn't go into detail, but there were threats of loss of the board (and his employment) so he decided to pull the plug.

We all commiserated and got angry. A lot of the members went out and started other boards. Some will just fade away into the ether. I put a nicely-worded goodbye post, said I'll be lurking around just to see how it comes down and left. To show you the kind of community we had, there are now no less than five boards started in the last two days for folks to go to.

So this is my salut to Squirrel Nutkin And Margo Shreck (the founders), Thomas Heretic (the current, and last, Chief Admin), all other admins and the great community I was proud to be a part of. Hope to see you all again elsewhere.

And to the little jerk who was responsible for the downfall of this site: you better not let anyone know you were responsible. That's a warning, not a threat. I'm not going to do anything because I don't like to stand in line...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Smokestack's Grindhouse: The Manifesto

Nope, no Eberts here, nothin' to see...
Hokay, despite coming down with a cold (it's going through work), I'm gonna outline how this feature works.

Here's the premise: every so often I'll pick a current (or not so current) film or video I haven't seen. I'll give you all the info I can glean from (mostly net) sources. Then I'll give you my opinion on it. That ought to get you going on deciding whether it's worth it to plunk down that admission, rental fee or put it in the rental queue. Occasionally I'll throw in a changeup: a film/video I have seen, just to keep it interesting (I'll let you know upfront).

Now it's my opinion that no criticism is unbiased so here's my preferences/opinions I filter these flicks through:

  1. I feel movies/videos should, first and foremost, entertain. I know that's casting a wide net, but my tastes are eclectic so I hope to hit with you more often than miss.
  2. A corollary to that is that I may recommend what I think is a terrible film as long as it fills the criteria of #1, as we all know that stuff like Plan Nine is terrible in an entertaining way.
  3. My favorite genres are Animation* (Looney Tunes, Disney, some current stuff), Comedy (everything from Laurel and Hardy to The Three Stooges to Preston Sturges), Classic Horror, Film Noir, Good Drama No Matter When It Was Made with a chaser of Westerns and Fantasy. Indie and cult films I take on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Speaking of comedy, while I love slapstick and screwball-type comedies, I am also a fan of what someone at DVD Verdict termed Tonal Comedy. So, yes, I like and "get" stuff like Napoleon Dynamite and Wes Anderson's stuff. I also realize this type of comedy is an acquired taste so Your Mileage May Vary.
  5. On the opposite end, I really don't care for the Formula Romantic Comedy and what has been referred to as "chick flicks." No, my testosterone is fine, thank you, they just don't do anything for me (I have also been proven wrong).
  6. To swing wildly, I also have no use for Lethal Weapon-type Arnie/Stallone/Willis macho fests. I will make an exception on occasion (Chow Yun-Fat, I'm looking at you) but on the whole, they all look alike to me. I will also steer clear of splatter-fests and paranoia/political thrillers.
There are exceptions to these, but that's pretty much my state of mind when I examine a film. My main requirement is: how does this film immerse me in it and let me forget myself in the film for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Format:
Here's how I'm gonna break it down:
Title - Self explanatory. It'll be in the header
Subtitle - Something that sums up the film in as few words as possible. If I'm lucky, it may even be funny.
Plot Summary - Once again, in as few words as possible.
The Studio Sez - Anything I get off the Official Site, press releases, etc.
The Critics Sez - Again, self-explanatory. I'll try to get quotes from the Heavy Hitters (Ebert, Maltin, etc.) and any other interesting and appropriate.
Smokestack Sez - What I think.
Here's hopin' it'll help you decide whether to fork over the long green.
*Pardon me, Art Form. My apologies to Brad Bird (yeah, like he ever reads this thing).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Doofus Doubles Down

Bring on the bats
It's now, oh, four weeks before the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas and I'm nervous. This will be, for me, the closest thing to a convention for me this year BUT...

...we also have to move around that time, my daughter-in-law will be giving birth and not one, but BOTH step-sons moved back in (when we move only one will be with us). On top of that, Becky has to go to Long Beach for software training about 2 weeks after I get back. I, for one, have NO idea how this is all going to get done. If I live past March, it'll be a miracle.

However it is Vegas. Not only that, I'll be there with my peers so it looks like I'll be getting both types of gaming in. As a bonus, my bud, Chief Editor of the book we're publishing and Illustrator Supreme Andy Hopp will be there and we can swap art critiques (something I sorely need). The problem is that, as I've mentioned before, I haven't been to Vegas since1976-77. I'm expected to be bombarded with stuff to do when I get there since The Strip changed so much. To that end I'm trying to go online to check out what's to do while I'm there.

One thing I know I'm gonna do is sing. To me, karaoke in Vegas should be a blast. I can haul out all my old Sinatra/Martin/Bobby Darin tunes and belt away. It'll be great.

Oh, if you're gonna be in Vegas for the GAMA Trade Show (or just around Vegas at that time), look me up. I'll be staying at the Riviera. Ask for Glen Hallstrom. If you're at the trade show, I'll be working at the 3AM Games booth.

On the health front, I have an appointment with my cardiologist next week to talk about running the dye in me to See What's What heart-wise. Plus I start my allergy shots Monday and Tuesday I get a C-T Scan of my head to see how bad it is in my sinuses. More nasal fun.

I actually sat down and watched a Chick Flick last night and it wasn't bad. The kids rented Just Like Heaven and Becky threw it in the machine for a spin. Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo were good, the story wasn't dumbed-down and kept my attention. Plus Jon Heder was in it.

Okay, I've pretty much got it figured out, so next entry will be about how Smokestack's Grindhouse will work. Since I post roughly every week, I'll alternate the Grindhouse with a regular entry.

Got a rough weekend comin' up but I hope to post it sometime before Monday. For now, as a Parrotthead-In-Training, I'm retreating to Margartiaville for a while and make my Vegas plans. I need it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Playing To The Haircuts

Y'know, I really don't wanna know how he gets
that duck to quack
Seems like this is one of those throwaway week review-type of blog entries. Goes down easy. Great taste-less filling. So be it. We all need some fluff now and then (not that the topics get heavy around here).

One question I had when I saw that Mohammed cartoon was: that's Mohammed? I thought it was either a caricature of Bin Laden or some generic terrorist. Now I haven't followed this one too closely but, unless someone at the newspaper came out and said it was Mohammed (or the picture was labeled as such), how did the Muslims know it was their prophet, since (according to them), no one has ever depicted Mohammed? I mean, if didn't recognize it as such, how did they? Far as anyone knew, it coulda just been Joe Terrorist in the paper. Ah, the mysteries of the Muslim mind...
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I found out last Wednesday that the Program Director of my station (aka My Boss) has resigned, effective in two weeks. He's to be replaced by an "AM Coordinator" who takes care of all the administration stuff, leaving the programming and day-to-day production in the hands of ken, our News Director. Never seen a radio station run like that before. I'm hoping the coodinator job will be filled by my lead Sandy, since she's pretty much doing that now.
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Okay, why the duck? Well, that's a still from a new DVD my best friend Bruce gave me (thanks buddy) as a late Christmas present. It's a documentary called Vaudeville. It's part of the American Masters PBS series. It's narrated by Ben Vereen and it traces the history of vaudeville from it's origins as an import from the British pantos to it's eventual demise and the influences it had on entertainment. It covers all the aspects from the acts to the producers to child acts to race issues with a lot of clips of performers of the time and great interviews of former vaudeville performers. It's one of the best documentaries I've seen and I highly recommend it. So much so that here's the Amazon link. If you like show business, it's a must.
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Coming Soon Department: I'll soon be starting a weekly movie review here called Smokestack's Grindhouse. Here's the twist: I'll be reviewing films I haven't seen but am thinking about seeing based on advertisements, websites, reviews, word-of-mouth, etc. I'm basically gonna be in the same boat as the regular guy or gal who is trying to decide what to go see. Whether I see 'em or not is not important (although I will report on the ones I do see, either on video or theaters), the important thing is helping you to make up your mind about the films in question. That and encouraging folks to See More Movies. Haven't decided on what day or the format, but it'll be here soon.
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Okay, time to go. Gage's little friend is here now and I gotta wrap this up before the lil' rug monkeys drive me bats. Toodle-oo 'til next time.