The Night of the Hunter for Christmas

December 17, 2013

The Night of the hunter for Christmas

(I’ll try to keep the spoilers at a minimum.)

I know we all love Christmas movies so I thought I’d share an atypical Christmas favorite of mine. It’s not really a “Christmas movie” by the strictest definition as it is more an excellent movie that just happens to have one scene take place on Christmas morning. But that scene is pivotal to the film and why I enjoy watching it during the Christmas season (and while I don’t cry during movies I’ll admit to occasionally getting a little chocked up during that scene).

The movie is Night of the Hunter 1955 by Charles Laughton starring Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish (silent film’s greatest actress). It’s a story of good and evil, or more accurately love verse hate shown through the perspective of a young boy. The film’s images are incredibly beautiful and often hauntingly so; I love the strong German expressionism influence in this nourish horror. Coming from the child’s perspective, its story and themes are a life or death struggle between love and hate while its images are the stuff of dreams, fairy tales and lullabies. It’s often like watching a child’s dream.

But what makes this one of my favorite watches this time of year is what Lillian Gish’s performance and character do for the film. Before her Mother-Goose-like character enters the film it’s a desperate flee from never ceasing hatred and greed personified by Mitchum’s thoroughly creepy, false priest. The boy and his little sister are being pursued by Mitchum’s character as he tracks down money their father stole in a bank robbery. They are desperate and orphaned until they come into Gish’s loving care. Then it’s a false prophet verse true believer showdown over the possession of these children.

Gish’s performance is fantastic and radiant; it makes the film much more than just a thriller. Her strong, warm character finally provides the children a home they can depend on and they realize it together on that Christmas morning that makes this a wonderful Christmas season watch.

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Favorite reading assignments

December 8, 2013

Now that we’re though with a lifetime of schooling I thought it’d be nice to look back at what we’ve gained from it all and near the top is lots and lots of reading. Reading is the main chore of education–reading literature, poetry, history, science and math text books. But not all reading is a chore and I’ve enjoyed many of my reading assignments and the books, short stories or essays have remained important to me long after the assignments and quizzes were through.

When I suggested this topic of “favorite reading assignments” as a series to help revive our activity on this blog Alex joked, “Oh, that’s too personal,” and he’s right. Reading a book is a very personal experience which often goes unshared with other people. That’s what has me interested in hearing about others’ positive experiences with school reading assignments. We’ve all read hundreds of books for school and probably many of the same books. I’d like to hear which your favorites. (Also, I’m always on the look out for good book to read.)

So this doesn’t come off as prying and totally self-serving, I’ll share a few of my favorites.

Ray Bradbury

My love for Ray Bradbury’s science-fiction and short stories began with an English class’s “Final Paper” assignment. The teacher provided a list of topics and students took turns choosing their assignments. The assignment I chose was to read and compare Bradbury’s fictional nuclear apocalypse in “There Will Come Soft Rains” with the historical atomic destruction in John Hersey’s “Hiroshima.”

I have been history buff, especially World War II, since very young and John Hersey’s Hiroshima is what drew me to the assignment, but it was “There Will Come Soft Rains” that I enjoyed most.

I remember being captivated by Bradbury’s depiction of a future that was both fascinating and horrifically tragic. I remember being struck by Bradbury’s personification of the fully automated house and all its wares and machines because that is all there was left “living” in that future world; that the burnt shadows of the children lost. It made me painfully aware of the complete absence of human life; only a house is left, mimicking what used to be.

While Hersey’s Hiroshima was quite impactful “There Will Come Soft Rains” had a further reaching and longer lasting influence because it spurred my reading and loving so many more of Bradbury’s stories; a chain of experiences that will be forever with me.

After the assignment was completed I renewed The Martian Chronicles, the book containing “Soft Rains,” from the school library and read the rest of it. I was hooked on Bradbury from then on.

I still believe science-fiction doesn’t get any better that Bradbury in literature and The Twilight Zone in theater. (Read my earlier post “Science-fiction at its best.”)

Later, I chose R is for Rocket for a book report. I really enjoyed that read too. It contains many of my favorite Bradbury stories.

A few of my favorites from Bradbury are: “Ylla,” “The Earth Men,” “There Will Come Soft Rains,” “A Sound of Thunder,” “The Long Rain,” “The Exiles,” “The Strawberry Window,” “Frost and Fire,” and “The Time Machine” (check out my earlier post “The Time Machine Abandoned”).

Heart of Darkness

One of my favorite books is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Hearts of Darkness was another book report. In my ninth grade English class we were given a list of authors to read from. I remembered my dad telling me about Conrad and how he was a Polish adventurer turned English author so I read Heart of Darkness. (It was The Secret Agent and Almayer’s Folly that my dad had read, and I later read those too.)

I liked the idea of reading an adventure story written by a true adventurer. Once I began reading it I loved the story-telling narration provided by the double frame structure. It’s the story of a man telling a story he heard and is still struggling to understand. (These elements are shared by another favorite Moby-Dick, which I am grateful to have never had as a class assignment.)

The fascinating language, dark themes, imagery and mystery make it a complete package in a short, if not easy, read.

I read it the second time in 12th grade when it was a class reading assignment which delighted me.  I was disappointed to learn none of my classmates enjoyed it as much as I, and our time spent on it was limited. “The horror! The horror!”

(Another repeated reading of the book inspired this earlier post.)

Crime and Punishment

I enjoyed this 11th grade class reading assignment for many of the same reasons I liked Heart of Darkness. Fyodor Dostoyevshy’s Crime and Punishment plows into the depths of inner turmoil experienced by the main character’s dirty dealings and shady ethics. This crime novel is more a character study than a mystery. We read through all the thoughts, rationalizations, regrets and self-torture the main character goes through leading up to, during and following his committing a violent and senseless murder.


Camaro thoughts

November 28, 2011

Very often friends and family who know I own and drive a project 1967 Camaro question me about how the project’s going asking: what have I done lately, what will I do next, when will it be painted, and what will it be like when it’s finished.  I like talking cars so I always enjoy conversing what I’ve done and what I image it being but I also think I’d be fun to show what I’d like it to be rather than just relying on my verbal descriptions. If you’re interested I hope you enjoy the following. I will not be done for many years but it’s fun to bench build.

You can go many different ways and use various styles when building up a classic car. I like most things classic so I want my Camaro to look and feel very much like the 1960s from which it came. It doesn’t have to be strictly original but I’d like to keep my modifications mild and hidden. I’ll use a bit more freedom with modifications that were common to the era and period correct for gearheads of the day.

The main reason for this post is to show some colors.  It’s easier to show colors than to describe them, and color makes up a large part of how people image a car.

For a long time I was pretty set on fathom green as the color I’d paint the Camaro. It’s actually a 1969 color but I like it’s deep, dark look.  Although it’s not strictly original for my ‘67 it would still look period correct.

1969 fathom green

1969 fathom green with white hockey stick stripe

Recently, I’ve become interested in a couple other colors:  ’67 Tahoe turquoise

and ’68 Corvette bronze.  Originally I did not consider any reds or blues because I see so many other red and blue Camaros on the roads and at the shows. Also, I’m more interested in using something other than the same few colors used on the cars made today. The auto industry used a much wider color palate in the 60’s, and I wanted to take advantage of that with my ‘60s muscle. That is largely the reason I like the bronze.

Tahoe turquoise in sun with redline tires

Tahoe turquoise with black vinyl top and white bumblebee stripe

Tahoe turquoise as I would have it with black vinyl top and white bumblebee

1968 Corvette bronze in sun with redlines

Regardless of which of the above colors I ultimately choose I plan on using a white bumblebee stripe across the front.  Not only do I love the contrast of a dark color with white but the bumblebee is fairly unique to Camaros and very 1960s.

Nantucket blue with white bumblebee and correct 1967 grill and round parking lights. My Camaro currently has the grill and rectangular parking lights of the 1968 Camaro. I prefer these round lights.

Also, I’d like to install a black vinyl top (except if I use the bronze).  I like the two-tone styling it provides, and I like the contrast the textured vinyl has against the glossy finish of the paint. And, again, it’s fairly unique to ‘60s style.

1969 fathom green with black vinyl top

As I mentioned before, I like a good dark and light contrast.  So I plan on matching the deluxe parchment interior to the dark exterior.  This white interior is another reason for the previously mentioned white bumblebee stripe.  I think it’d be a nice way to draw the interior and exterior together as the white stripe highlights the white interior while looking in from outside the car.

Parchment interior with deluxe steering wheel I’d also use

Up to this point most of the work my dad and I have done to the car has been on the engine, and I have the engine looking just about how I’d like to keep it. It’s a Corvette 327 and it has that original Chevy small-block appearance. It has the beautiful, finned Corvette valve covers so it is clear it’s not the original engine, but a Corvette 327 swap would have been a modification done by original Camaro owners who wanted a little more horsepower.  I still have some changes I’d like to make to the engine but they are changes that would affect the appearance very little (such as upgrading to aftermarket roller rocker arms).

How a muscle car sounds is also incredibly important.  It’s one of the main characteristics that make driving classic cars a much more visceral and full sensory experience. Much more than just a way to get from A to B. I’d like to have my Camaro sounding similar to the following two cars. Both are ‘60s small-blocks fitted with headers, chambered exhaust and the famous Duntov 30-30 cam used on the race-breed Corvettes and Z/28s.  The cam provides the chop while the headers and chambered exhaust provide the throaty volume.

As for the wheels I’d like to use Pontiac Rallys like those I have on now (but in better condition). I have also considered American Racing Torq Thrusts which also provide a good ‘60s-modified look. I think I’ll keep using BFGoodrich Radial T/As because they’re a good and comfortable daily driver tire and I like the raised white lettering. I like redline tires but I don’t think I’d use them on a daily driver.

What do you guys think? Any ideas? What color do you like best?


BEARDS

November 1, 2011

There is a tradition that is celebrated by men everywhere (?) and especially APU this time of year. It is a time in which men put down the razor in an act of defiance and let their facial hair grow. No Shave November is an APU classic, though I’ve seen it observed outside of our alma mater.

I’ve been a beard-wearer for the better part of 5 years. I have grown to hate the look of my face without a beard. The beard is a very important part of who I am. It has seen a few slight variations throughout it’s tenure on my face. I used to let it grow and only trim it every few weeks. I used to never trim the edges.  Then I grew it out. Now I mostly keep it at one length, trimming it every few days, and shaving around the edges to keep it clean. I have grown somewhat of an attachment to my beard. While I love my beard, I still find this incredibly fascinating, tragic, and ABSOLUTELY FREAKING HILARIOUS.

I first read about this story in Newsweek, then on the front page of CNN.com. There is speculation of a secretive amish cult that has broken off from an amish community in Ohio. This cult has been terrorizing the men of the amish community by breaking into their homes, pinning them down, and cutting off their beards. I understand that the beard is a strong symbol in the amish world and that losing it would be a tragedy. The only comparison I can think of is a woman losing her long hair, a symbol of womanhood. However, I still think “Amish Beard-Cutting Attacks Uncover Suspected Cult” is one of the funniest headlines I’ve read in a long time.

Even though I’ve had a beard for quite some time and am very proud of it, I don’t think I’ll ever come close to something as wonderful as this.


All Out War

October 31, 2011

The other day, after we were discussing reviving The Porch, I decided to start by first rereading some of the original posts to look back at what was on our minds and going on in our lives. It was interesting to read back through the time we have known each other—reading through the ideas we’ve shared, the stories we’ve told and the events we’ve experienced together. Remember the one man dance party and how it caused the driver/dancer to abandon, in dance, a moving car full of roommates.

It was also interesting to see how time has developed some of our stories: the post discussing Farve’s first retirement as though it would be his last, the post congratulating Jameson and Blaze’s engagement, and the post anxiously awaiting the Camaro’s arrival.  Also, Hatfield Buick was saved from government take over. Things change, and yet Bob Dylan, now at 70, still shows no signs of slowing.

One revisited post that got me particularly excited was the post which anticipated the coming of a new horsepower war among the American auto makers.  We are now in the heated midst of that once anticipated horsepower war.  The Camaro now roams the streets battling Mustangs on the weekends.

I remember the month the Camaro was arriving at local dealerships.  The front rows of the local Ford dealerships, which have mostly recently been filled with small economy cars and family sedans (gas prices were up), were now packed with mobilizing Mustangs. There was a battle of the V-6s when the Camaro first came out. The Camaro was introduced with a base 304hp V-6 outdoing Ford’s dated 210hp V-6.  Ford designed a completely new and very exciting V-6 for the Mustang getting 305hp.  It was at this time that Chevy revealed that their V-6 really gets 312hp–always did, they just underrated it.

Now, Camaro has remained mostly unchanged since introduction, and Mustang has gained the upper hand in the top performance V-8 battle with the impressive update of the Shelby GT500 and the revival of the aggressively beautiful Boss 302.  The GT500 originally had 540hp but in 2011 Chevy announced the much rumored Z28 would actually be a supercharged ZL1 with an estimated 550hp. So, Shelby bumped output to 550hp. Chevy then announced the ZL1 will be ready early 2012 and it was dyno tested at 580hp; surprise! It appears Chevy will soon gain the upper hand in dramatic fashion. What an exciting time to live in—it’s beginning to rival the horsepower wars of the sixties, as anticipated in the previously mentioned post.

I should also mention the Cadillac V-Series which has been battling overseas villains and is really pushing luxury performance to places few other makers are willing to venture.  Take the CTS-V wagon for example: it’s a supercharged V-8 station wagon with 556hp and a six-speed manual! It’s a station wagon with all the comforts of a Cadillac (you could throw a couple tubas in the back), and it goes 0-60 in 4 seconds! And it looks good doing it. Speaking of drop dead gorgeous, have you seen the CTS-V Coupe? It also gets 556hp, but it does 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.

And the Corvette ZR1 remains king.

Also, when I revisited My Top Black and Whites I made some changes as I have since become a big Lillian Gish fan and a couple of her movies are now favorites of mine.

The Michelin Man knows what's up.


The Second Coming

October 29, 2011

When we initially started this blog, we started it as a place to hold discussions and talk about life. The idea was to share things that were happening in our lives (people, experiences, art) and if anyone wanted to peek over our shoulders, they were welcome to. The problem was, we all lived together.

This blog had great potential, but the problem was that we were all living under the same roof. It would have been silly to save discussions for the blog instead of just talking in person. So most of our discussions and sharing of stories happened in person. But now, some time has passed, and we are all in very different places than when this blog started.

Jameson is off and happily married. And he is notoriously bad at replying on facebook. Hector is back in Redlands (the Deadlands) and guest authoring on other, more respected blogs.  Alex is pursuing his music career and involved in a fight club. Ask him about it. (And he came to my gig last night WITH A GIRL) Layne is working a big kid job (you suits!). And I’m sitting on the couch in our old apartment all by myself, for I have been abandoned by my blood brothers (okay, was I the only one who took our blood oath seriously? I plan on dying in the apartment, you bastards).

My point is, we’re all spread out now, none of us live together anymore. That era has ended. And what a blast it was. Now is the perfect time to restart the blog and get discussion going. So get posting.


A few great car commercials

March 16, 2011

Recently there have been some great car commercials on television and I wanted to look back at some of my favorites listed here. I am not  interested in clever sales pitches, stunning visuals or feasts of strength (so common in truck and luxury car commercials). I am more interested in how the soul of the car is portrayed and in the relationships and experiences people have with their cars. (It also helps to be about an exciting car.)

I love the physical comedy/silent film style acting in this ad made great with the STAR WARS theme.

Just a fun commercial with a beautiful car.  Also, RIP Crown Victoria.

Possibly my favorite. This one brought me to my feet the first time I saw it.  It’s in homage to the Steve McQueen film Bullitt, probably the greatest car chase movie.  The 1968 Mustang GT McQueen used to chase two hitmen in a  1968 Charger R/T 440 to their fiery death was the inspiration for the Mustang’s new design. A special Bullitt Edition was later offered. McQueen’s image was taken from the movie chase which can be seen here.

And this is when the V-Series was just getting started. Check out the CTS-V coupe.

Another great. This Corvette commercial was pulled from television for its “dangerous” portrayal of children driving irresponsibly.  I believe that’s what makes it great. Children dream of driving passionate cars. (And always manuals- children don’t pretend to drive an automatic.)  This ad is so true to  the ideal driver-car relationship. Ford later made a similar ad with adult drivers- it was much less.

A car’s life flashes before its windshield and its the lives of its owners.

What ever happened to style? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. There was a time when style was just about everything in automotive design. I love the shots of the Chrysler Building which was designed using the automotive Art Deco style of the times.