Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Never Change

My local drugstore has an automated checkout.  As soon as I pick the option to pay with cash, the computer voice says something like "insert coins first, and then bills."

First time I heard it, I wondered why the machine would care what order the money comes in.  But after thinking about it for a second, it's clear there's a reason.

Once you've paid the bill, the machine gives you change.  Now with a human cashier, if something costs, say, $5.33, you might hand over a ten dollar bill and then a quarter and a dime.  But that wouldn't work with a machine.

Once you put in the ten dollar bill, it recognizes you've paid, and won't take any more, but will give you change.  So the programmers decided we need to be told to put in whatever coins we might use first.

Should I admire the efficiency, or be offended for being thought so dumb I can't figure this out?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mooning The River

When you watch an old movie, you notice things that no one noticed when it was first released, due to how times have changed.

The most obvious difference in countless movies is how everyone smokes.  But recently, watching Breakfast At Tiffany's, something else struck me.  As you may recall, there's a scene where Buddy Ebsen follows George Peppard through Central Park.

Ebsen buys a Cracker Jack, tears off the lid and throws it away--right on the ground, no garbage can in sight.  Soon after, George Peppard picks out the prize, tears it open, and throws the paper on the ground without giving it a thought.

It was a time when tossing garbage anywhere was apparently not a big deal.  I'm not saying it doesn't happen any more, but people at least look for a garbage can first.  (Why worry about garbage?  There were so many cigarette butts on the ground who'd notice?)  The whole country must have looked like a movie theatre floor.

Not surprising, considering it was 1961, a decade before this:

Monday, June 26, 2017


Over the weekend I saw Weekend (1967).  I'd seen bits of it before, but never all the way through.

If you know anything about it, you know it's the film with the eight-minute tracking shot of a traffic jam.  It was, I believe, Jean-Luc Godard's last film as a leader of the "New Wave" before he denounced cinema as bourgeois and went off in even weirder directions.  Some call it a classic.

I responded to the film the same way I do to most of Godard's work in the 60s.  There is a plot of sorts, but since the people in it don't act like any people who have ever lived, it's impossible to care about them, or the story.  There are some fun moments, but overall, for all its violence and fiery rhetoric (a fair amount of the film consists of speeches filled with revolutionary claptrap), it doesn't add up to much.

Short excerpts of this stuff can be fun, but as a feature it gets tiresome pretty quickly.  I admit his stuff is so offbeat it can be memorable, but that doesn't mean its entertaining. As to being edifying, it isn't, but I wouldn't care if it were.

There are plenty who defend Godard.  They think the problem is others don't get him.  They're can think what they want.  I think he's the emperor's new clothes.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Get The Picture

I was watching a movie where the main guys got together and went over some blueprints to decide how they're going to break into a building.

What movie?  Does it matter?  We've seen this moment hundreds of time.

Which had me thinking--can you really get blueprints so easily?  There's never a scene where someone gets the blueprints, they just show up like they're no big deal*.

In fact, when it comes to buildings, I would guess they don't like to give out blueprints for the specific purpose of avoiding groups of people getting together and planning how to break in.

*One famous exception is Star Wars, where the whole plot was built around getting copies of blueprints to HQ, and it wasn't easy.  (And then a bunch of fanboys whined that it was too easy to figure out the Death Star's vulnerability.)

The Aristocrats

Isn't it Rodham?

Regardless, I tell ya, I could listen to it a million times and still find it just as satisfying.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Join The Club

Whatever happened to Glee? It used to be so big.  (I know, it got canceled.)

The show was mostly ridiculous, but some of the musical numbers were fun.  And with YouTube, you can cut straight to the good stuff.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Capital Idea

Fargo just ended its third season.  It had its problems, but it was still entertaining.

An important part of the plot was the villain, Varga, taking over a parking lot business as a front to borrow many millions of dollars, leaving it in ruins.

In an interview with the show's creator, Noah Hawley, The Hollywood Reporter asks about "the seasons' general dark tone about truth and unfettered Capitalism."

Here's a line from the A.V. Club's review of the finale: "I love [IRS agent] Larue Dollard's explanation to Gloria about how Varga's scheme was largely legal, apart from the fact that he didn't pay taxes."

Seems to me some people don't quite understand capitalism, unfettered or otherwise.

Capitalism does allow private parties to make contracts regarding what they do with their own property, and it's possible these contracts will advantage one party and disadvantage another.

However, this system doesn't work unless there is a neutral party to determine who is right when disputes arise. This is where a government, and its court system, enters the picture.

And within these systems, some contracts are no good from the start--those that were entered into due to fraud, intimidation and outright violence, for instance.  These are some of the methods Varga uses.  Maybe an IRS agent would be blind to this because he cares so much about the tax consequences, but Varga very openly broke numerous laws.

Some people love to compare capitalists and gangsters, but there is a difference, and it's not that hard to tell.

Venice's first female gondolier announces he's not female

Venice's first female gondolier announces he's transgender

The important thing here, obviously, is for this San Francisco newspaper to get its pronouns straight, so to speak. Don't people go to jail for that sort of thing in Britain?

Thursday, June 22, 2017


An documentary popped up out of nowhere on Showtime about Cary Grant.  This is really the sort of show you'd expect on TMC.  But any look at Cary Grant's life is appreciated.  I've always considered him the ultimate movie star, and someone who was in more than his share of Hollywood classics.

It's told mostly on chronological order, going over the familiar landmarks: his rough childhood in Bristol; coming to America as part of an acrobatic troupe; being on Broadway; getting into movies; early days as a somewhat stiff leading man; Virginia Cherrill; Sylvia Scarlet; finding out his mother is alive; The Awful Truth; Howard Hawks; Barbara Hutton; Alfred Hitchcock; Penny Serenade; None But The Lonely Heart; Betsy Drake and so on up till his final days.

But the show is different in that it attempts more than most to get into his inner life.  It has speculation from a number of film experts, but also includes excerpts from his unpublished autobiography.

Unfortunately, he wrote it around the time he was going through LSD therapy, and he keeps referencing its effects, and talks a lot about his feelings.  I'd rather hear (movie fan that I am) what it was like working with Hawks or Irene Dunne, or whatever was going on in his professional career through the years.

The doc also includes lots of rare footage, include film shot by Grant himself.  Unfortunately, there's also a lot of arty stuff, with images of seashores and the like which (even if shot by Cary--we don't know) don't tell you much.  And too much mood music, and well as lots of unidentified excerpts from his films that supposedly tell us something about his life.

If it doesn't nothing else but help introduce him to a new generation, it'll be a worthy effort.

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