Friday, February 27, 2015

Yes, We Have Snow!

Weather reports are saying we were blessed with five inches. Drifts are even deeper. and flurries are still coming and going. Mari and Porche were suffering from severe cabin fever, so I had no choice but to bundle up and brave the cold, camera in hand. Or stuffed into the front of my jacket for protection until a photo op presented itself. So let me share with you what our world looks like right now.
This is the Wyoming cactus bed. No doubt they feel right at home under all this.
My work bench is under the shed, but that didn’t stop the snow from covering it.
As I was taking these shots, it was 10 degrees with wind chill that made it feel like –1 degree. It has actually warmed up now to 14 degrees and wind chill of just 2 degrees! I can’t imagine what it must feel like in places like North Dakota whose snow puts ours to shame. The sun is not out, but it is so bright out there right now that if I took another picture, the whiteness would overexpose the picture. The reflection off all that white is so much that it is not pleasant to look at it. Where did I leave my sunglasses?
Snow is snow, and yet every year I take more snow pictures. Because just like every snow flake is supposed to be unique, every snow fall creates a new world to save in pictures. And I always seem to be up to the task.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kingsman; The Secret Service = James Bond on Steroids

I treated myself to a movie the other night and decided on Kingsman; The Secret Service, and I have to admit, was thoroughly entertained despite the f-word being thrown about with wild abandon and stylized brawling and killing the order of the day. But the f-word got so lost in British accents that it was sort of lost in the shuffle and the battles were so choreographed and smartly fought that the effect really was an homage to 007. I make no apology-it really was fun, and I walked out with a smile on my face.

I didn’t know going in that the movie is based on a Marvel comic of the same name. I learned that when I checked out a couple of movie reviews to see if anyone else agreed with me that the movie was fun and entertaining, which they did, and I also found out that the Bond allusions were there by design. Those playful references also set the tone of the movie and are responsible for making the action so entertaining. The main players are all British and very formal with their dress and manners like 007, there is no Q tutoring Eggsy, the 007 counterpart, on his new gadgets, but gadgets are plentiful and Colin Firth fills in for M, more or less, as Harry Hart who sees potential in Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton, and grooms him to be a spy. World-class villains are a Bond staple, and Samuel L. Jackson becomes Richard Valentine, a concerned American millionaire with a tech-heavy diabolical scheme to save the world from global warming and too many carbon footprints. He is a fun villain, too, with a few quirks of his own; he also serves a surprising meal to Harry Hart as the plot thickens. Bond villains always seem to have an interesting second-in-command, and here that sidekick is Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella, outfitted with two prosthetic legs that she uses as extremely efficient weapons, an Odd Job without the hat. Michael Caine, whom I always enjoy,  plays a critical role in this story, as do a batch of puppies, but I will let you discover their roles for yourself.

The sets are high-tech and lavish, the gadgets are plentiful: bullet-proof umbrellas, surprise hand grenades, hidden poisons, all kinds of computer programs, trick eye glasses, to name a few. Drinks are mixed to specifications, typical funny one-liners are sprinkled throughout, one or two of them ending with surprise responses, and Eggsy gets the girl, just like James always does, but perhaps a bit more graphically than seen in the Bond movies. And while that is one part I could have done without, I can’t fault the whole movie for that one lack of discretion.

And I still left with a smile on my face! This well-made spy thriller has much more humor and clever plot in it than many of the movies coming out now. It is a movie you don’t have to take seriously,don’t have to laugh at really crude and unfunny jokes, don’t have to critique the theme or plot, don’t have to cry over anyone’s death, and don’t have to figure out characters’ motives to enjoy 

But don’t take the kids.

You’ll have a good time, even if you go by yourself and don’t buy popcorn. I did.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Grammys Meet The Emperor’s New Clothes

I can’t remember the last time I watched the Grammys. When rap took over, and even before that, really, I lost interest in music that sounded less and less like actual music, the performers didn’t dress for the occasion, and the choreography consisted of grabbing a crotch and spastic finger and arm gyrations. I probably wouldn’t have watched it this year except for the fact that I had just watched Saturday Night Live and had to endure a performance, and I use the term loosely, by a group called Sia. Really? This is music? I decided that since I am so out of touch with what kids today have been convinced is artistic and creative and the fact that I wouldn’t know Beyonce from Nicki Minaj if I heard one of them on the radio, and since I don’t like people who censor books without reading them first-you have to know what you are talking about, right?-I decided it was time to practice what I preach and see what it takes to win awards these days. Which didn’t take much in way too many cases.

Now, don’t panic; I’m not going to dissect the entire extended extravaganza, but I taped it so I could watch it later with the advantage of fast forward. Ha. I know. That’s cheating. But here we go.

Initial reactions: not as bad as I thought it would be; not much rap to fast forward through;I even liked some of the new stuff; overblown production numbers as expected; older traditional singers gave the more rousing and appreciated performances; too many numbers appeared to be badly lip-synched; Katy Perry just screams; Kanye West is an egomaniacal no-talent asshole.

I really enjoyed Lady Gaga singing real music with Tony Bennett, AC/DC rocking the house, even liked Sam Smith’s song, but I did find Beyonce way over-rated. I did pretty well until they gave the stage to Sia with this Chandelier business. Performance art, maybe; music, I don’t think so. If there was any music, it was overshadowed by lyrics I couldn’t understand and the ridiculous flailing about by Kristin Wiig and some other girl while Sia stood with her back to the audience, immobile. I’ll admit it; I’m old, and I just don’t get it. But then I don’t think there is anything to get. In today’s music scene, it seems to me that the competition to be famous is so great that many would-be musicians have moved from talent to the absurd to get noticed and the public has been overcome with the same pretentiousness and false knowledge of talent, are so overcome with a need to appear savvy and in the know, that they behave like the crowd watching the Emperor as he strutted about in his invisible clothes, fawning over something that wasn’t there rather than admit there is nothing there, no clothes, and in the case of some of today’s music, no talent.

Which is not to say we should take ourselves too seriously. The musicians and singers who attend the Grammys do have a good time with it, and that’s not a bad thing. Pharrell and his silly shorts, Madonna and her tasteless Red Carpet attire with her bottom flapping about, Rhianna’s cotton candy dress, which, the longer I looked at, the easier it was to accept; they were all enjoying their moments. I will say they don’t seem to take themselves quite as seriously as Oscar-goers, and they seem to enjoy all the music throughout the night.

All art, be it music, painting, dance, literature, whatever, is going to be appreciated differently by people based on their individual taste and styles, as well as their time in history. Artistic styles do change with the times. But underneath it all, if there is no real talent, no true creativity involved, then there is no art. And for me right now, there is a dearth of musical talent from which to choose.

So I will try to listen to some of the new stuff and give it a chance. But give me something to work with other than arrogant rap and pointless dioramas thought up for a video. I prefer not to walk around in invisible clothes pretending to see something of value when nothing is there.