Thursday, October 30, 2008

Retox the Geek In Me

I'm getting in touch with my inner geek. I know he's there and wants to come out. We're making friends.

The other day while doing non-geeky, totally girly type dusting behind the computer, I noticed that my video card seemed to have two sockets to plug monitors into. One was full (obviously) but the other was suspiciously empty and, to my untutored eye, not normal. It turns out it's something called a DVI socket. I found this out by reading through the handy envelope of gumf Dell supplied with the machine when I bought it. "Plug the Monitor into the VGA or the DVI socket," it said, "But not both."

"But not both."

I hate being told not to do things.

It doesn't, I thought, say not to plug another monitor into the other socket...

Unfortunately I had nothing to hand to plug into it. There is another monitor sat on this desk (plugged into another computer - the two are networked) but it has a VGA plug.

Five minutes later via the mighty power of eBay, (peas be up on it) and after spending the price of a cup of non-frothy coffee, I was suddenly the proud owner of a VGA to DVI converterizer thingie - the existence of which I had been totally ignorant only a few minutes before.

It arrived today. Ten minutes after I had noticed the post had landed on the hall floor, and I had nipped upstairs with the wee Jiffy Bag, tweaked settings and rebooted, I was swapping and stretching documents across both monitors, giggling with happy delight. I am either a very sad man or very easily pleased.

Merriol thinks it's on the sad end of the spectrum. Holly on the other hand was impressed, but Daisy was delighted. She thought it was the greatest thing since sliced brioche and the two of us spent ages, sat at the desk, taking it in turns to resize text documents over both screens. One of those middle-aged geek / four year old child bonding moments that will live in the memory.

Unfortunately I have now got to work out some way of connecting the monitor to both computers without unplugging and re-plugging the thing every time anyone wants to use the other computer. It's ages since I had a data switch built into my set-up but my pile of cables, switches, adaptors, and What-exactly-IS-this-thing?s turns out not to have the required combination of bits.

I may have to lash out another cup of coffee (and maybe even a Danish Pastry) and buy more.

Der OctoberFilmFest
  1. Dr Doolittle
    - another 90 minutes of my life I want back - thanks kids! Best bit of this film was discovering, after the event, that it was directed by the woman who played officer Lucy Bates in Hill Street Blues. Yep, that good.
  2. X Men
    - what jolly nonsense! Not seen any of the X Men series before and this was unexpectedly better than I was... er... expecting... One of the better comic book movies.
  3. Killers From Space
    - A masterfully demented, fever dream of a movie directed by Billy Wilder's idiot brother.
  4. Alien Nation: Body and Soul
    - Meh Buddy-Cop SF TV movie.
  5. The Beast of Yucca Flats
    - I'm through the bottom! Finally after years of scraping around the bottom of the barrel of movie dross I've broken through and found out what's lurking underneath. This is a masterpiece, a real genuine masterpiece! Shot without sound (and presumably without a script) and then voiced over by the director reading a elliptical bursts of insane, portentous lines - very few of which seem to bear any relationship to the badly framed inaction on the screen (and even when they do they're just bewilderingly weird: "Boys from the city, not yet caught in the whirlwind of progress feed soda-pop to the thirsty pigs.") What does appear on screen is brilliantly encapsulated, far better than I ever could, by this on-line review:
    "We get a five-minute scenes in which a couple of people walk aimlessly and slowly through an ugly, featureless desert for mile after mile, just walking and walking, and we're lulled into a false sense of security...and then BAM! Just when you least expect it, all of the sudden they STOP WALKING AND KIND OF STAND THERE FOR A WHILE."
    That's it. That's the entire movie right there.

    How long y'all want me to stand here, mister Coleman?

    How do you pack: defecting Soviet scientists, Russian assassins, an atomic explosion, at least five on screen murders (one of which develops into an implied necrophiliac rape and may well have come from an entirely different movie it made so little sense), cops shooting at innocent fugitives from a light aeroplane, a car chase ending in a shoot out, daring feats of mountain climbing... etcetera into a 54 minute running time - and make it so boring!? It takes a tremendous talent to do that. Francis Coleman was that talent. He directed two other movies. They're now on the list. Oh God, I laughed and laughed. "Push a button; something happens".
  6. Thor and the Amazon Women
    - Italian musclemen movies - you gotta love them. This one was shot in winter - you can see the breath misting as they speak for many of the scenes - which must have been very uncomfortable for the actors poncing about in skimpy loincloths but at least the goose-pimples would have stopped them slipping off. Also contains lots of gladiatorixes necroerotically stabbing each other (and themselves) with sharp pointy things in "The Triangle of Death".
  7. Unearthly Stranger
    - rather effectively creepy little British SF movie with few characters, no special effects, lots of talk, some passable ideas, and some interesting camera work. All that and Warren Mitchell with a Scottish Accent.
  8. Red Zone Cuba
    - (MST3K) I have now watched 2/3rds of Francis Coleman's oeuvre in one week! (Medals! I want medals!)The Beast of Yucca Flats and this. He didn't get any better and he decided to act in this one as well. ('Act' here meaning to stand in front of the camera and light cigarettes.) His co-star was the producer. Dreadful.
  9. Space-Thing
    - Brilliant title for what turned out to be a 1968 soft-core porno flick. Though maybe it was a hard-core porno flick in 1968 - we saw pubes - twice! Amazingly enough it had a more coherent plot and better (looking) actors than either of the Coleman movies.

    I don't watch this stuffjust for the tits - honest!.

  10. Thunderpants
    - Funniest thing I've seen for ages that was meant to be. - Meant to be funny I mean.
  11. Oasis of the Zombies
    - dreadfully dull French movie which has 'English' students played by French actors dubbed by Americans getting eaten by Nazi Zombies somewhere in North Africa. Worse than it sounds.
  12. The Time Travelers
    - delightful little cheapo early sixties American SF quickie that almost worked. (If they had managed to loose the 'comic' it would have been a lot better.) Directed by Ib Melchior who also wrote the odd Journey to the Seventh Planet and the even odder Angry Red Planet.

    Today's gratuitous peachy bum shot.

  13. SST -Death Flight
    -(MST3K) 1970s made for TV disaster on a plane movie. Sometimes you have to wonder who wrote this shit. I mean really: disgruntled employee fills America's First Supersonic Jet Airliner's hydraulic system with 'corrosive' detergent (sic) which not only rots all the seals but then, when repairs are attempted, has managed to produce vast quantities of explosive fumes - which explode. Argh! No steering bits! Big hole in side of airyplane! Everyone does panic acting! Luckily the gallant crew (and Doug McClure) work out how to fly the plane without the steery bits - pitch is adjusted by getting the passengers to run up to the back of the plane when they want the nose to go up - and roll is produced by pumping the contents of one wing fuel tank to another. Hurray! Everyone is saved - all they have to do now is patch the drinking and toilet flushing water into the leaking hydraulic system... stop laughing at the back there - this is serious stuff! But what's that hospital like smell? Could it be the dangerous 'biological material' stored in formaldehyde (sic) loaded at the last minute and urgently on it's way to the Pasteur Institute in Paris has sprung a leak? Bugger me it has! Oh no! Everyone is being exposed to the deadly Senegal Flu! A dangerous new mutation of the virus with a death rate of 30% and an incubation period of less than just before the next commercial break! Oh, and there is no known cure. "'ello aeroplane of death, this is Paris air traffic control. Go away! We do not want you here - and we are turning off all the runway lights in case you try one of your sneaky American landings without asking things. By the way, everyone else don't want you neither... Go and crash in the Atlantic or somewhere. Nothing personal." Somehow 'London' is convinced to let the plane land. Just as the testosterone levels in the cockpit (fnaaaar!) couldn't get any higher, Doug suggests they fly to Senegal where the flu came from in the first place on the grounds that they might have the facilities to look after some rich Westerners. ("Look fellahs! Rich Westerners. Let's stop burying the thirty percent of our population that just died and look after them instead.) and not land in London where they might start a pandemic and kill lots of other Westerners. The passengers vote. To Senegal! They almost have just enough fuel... If only they can make it over this last... The plane crashes into a mountain just as Burgess Meredith is diverting bog flushing water into the flappy bits flapping system that meant they might have made it over the mountain. Crash! Everyone who hasn't died of Flu survives. Which is more than I did.
  14. Terror in the Midnight Sun
    - More 1950s, out of copyright, SF bilge. This time from Sweden. A 'meteorite' lands in Lapland. Scientist go to investigate. They ski around a lot (mostly in silhouette because it's hard to film people on vast snowfields with a very low sun. If you stand them facing the sun you see the camera's shadow on the ground. If you have them with their backs to the sun you end up with black blobs acting away on a white background - unless you have a shitload of really big lights - which these guys obviously didn't.) Reindeer are killed. An American girl is captured by a big shaggy something.

    Oh Wait - I'm Supposed To Be Terrifying?
    Oh Wait - I'm Supposed To Be Terrifying?

    She screams a lot. She meets three black garbed Aliens who say nothing. She screams a lot. A flaming torch wielding mob (on skis) corner The Thing and set it on fire. She stops screaming and falls sobbing into arms of ineffectual hero. The aliens leave in their spaceship - still without having said anything. The End (in Swedish).
  15. Hail the Conquering Hero
    - Preston Sturges.
  16. The Muppet Movie
    - Never seen it before and not as good as I was expecting - but thenThe Muppetsnever are. They're always better in the memory. I remember the TV show as being hilarious, required watching at the time, but when I actually watch an episode now (I have them all on tape) I'm always let down.
  17. At The Earth's Core
    - second Doug McClure movie of the week. In this one he's an intrepid Victorian explorer who, with professor Peter Cushing, accidentally discovers a Savage Land in the centre of the earth where hypnotic Pterodactyls enslave photogenic noble savages who just happen to speak English. Not a lot of plot but lots of fighting. See Doug fight. Fight Doug fight. Doug fights a dinosaur. Doug fights another dinosaur. Doug fights a fire breathing dinosaur. Doug fights humans. Doug fights 'Hoojah the Sly One'. Doug fights 'Jubal the Ugly One'. Doug gets 'Dia the Big Knockers' all to himself. Doug unite tribes. Tribes kill hypnodactyls. Tribes happy. Doug goes home. The end.

    You are getting sleepy... sleepy...
    I'm not hypnotising you, I'm boring you.

    The film does contain one line of sheer unadulterated moment of genius when the dottery Peter Cushing - having the time of his life hamming it up - stares a six foot rubber hypnodactyl in the face and defiantly says:
    "You can't Mesmerise me - I'm British!"
  18. Doppelgänger (aka Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun)
    - I really enjoyed this. Probably the best thing Jerry Anderson ever did - I know we're starting from a low place here but trust me on this one. Not great, but not bad, not bad at all.
  19. Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers: To Live and Die in Starlight Babylon 5: The Lost Tales - Voices in the Dark
    - two made for TV (or in the latter case straight to DVD) pointless, overly-punctuatedly titled (TWO colons?), and crappily disappointing additions to the glory that was Babylon 5 (may it finally rest in pieces. You blew it up, JMS! Get over it!).
  20. The BFG
    - the kids liked it.
  21. Strictly Ballroom
    - I have a theory that really good movies should make you come out from them moving differently. You should come away from a film responding physically to the world in a way you weren't when you went in. You should come out of an Indiana Jones Errol Flynn type adventure movie with a kind of daring-do swagger, Jackie Chan movie convinced you can jump up the side of a building and then leap onto a passing bus - I come out of Strictly Ballroom dancing.
  22. The War in Space
    - After a week off from the crap SF I returned with a bang. You might not remember this, but in 1988 Earth was attacked by green-skinned aliens from their base on Venus. They would have destroyed the world if not for a valiant crew of Japanese Hero types (and a token Westerner) who saved the day by zooming around the Solar System in their super flying submarine underground drilling spaceship thingie, throwing a lot of switches in lovingly detailed close up, and blowing up just about everything in sight - including the planet Venus. Wham! Gone. Oh, and the only female member of the crew managed to get herself captured by a horny Wookiee with a big axe and a leather fetish. God I love this stuff..

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm upstairs in the office. Downstairs there is the sudden scampering of urgent feet heading into the bathroom. A few moments later I hear:


I ignore it.


I'm good at this. I ignore it again.


I give in.


"I'm doing the horriblest poo ever! Get the air freshener..."


Friday, October 24, 2008

God! I hate learning new things. Every time I do it I get convinced I have finally gone stupid.

For the last couple of nights I have been wrestling with the record player, the software that slices whatever you play on it into handy track-sized WAV bits, the software that lets me chop off stretches of silence and wipe out the worst of the pops and crackles - and then converts the WAV bits into MP3 bits, and the software that converts those MP3 bits into smaller mp3 bits without loosing too much of the full glory of the stereophonic pap I'm trying to copy. All of these pieces of the chain have a braziilion and three options to choose from (none of which I understand). The results of the process of semi randomised trial and error and a whole evening's swearing and not seeing the blindingly obvious when it is staring me in the face can be enjoyed (if that is the right word) here:

I hope it will be a lot easier next time. I hope I actually learned something.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Cracked it! Thanks to Gil's recommendation of Rip Vinyl on yesterday's post I seem to have managed to make my first listenable to copies of LP tracks. Took me most of the night after getting Holly asleep after one of her too-tired overly-operatic, "Nobody Loves me!", prototeenager moments and watching a pretty dire Babylon 5 spin-off movie which (you'd have though I would have learned by now) I had been looking forward to with nerdy fanboy glee ever since Len and Sue bought it for me for my birthday.

To bed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Let me introduce you to the latest piece of semi-obsolete equipment to hang off our computers here at JunkMonkey mansions:

In addition to all the other gubbins cluttering up the desk we now have a record player! A real honest to god record player, one of those things that makes big round bits of black vinyl spin round at various speeds and give up their juicy secrets*.   So, soon, when I have worked out how to record something I play on it into an MP3 without it sounding like it is being hummed through dented kazoos by drunken meercats - sound engineering being something that is a total mystery to me - I shall bore the world with snippets from my vast collection of crap records (if only to justify their continued presence in this house to my best beloved).

Be Afraid.

*This one does 78s too. My only regret is it doesn't wind up. Somehow I would find it deeply satisfying pandering to my inner steampunk by having some clockwork attached to my loose end of the World Wide Web - Steamcyberpunk?

Friday, October 03, 2008

It's that time of the month again. Every dreadful movie I have watched this month but with fewer stills of girl's bums than last month. Sorry about that - for listing the movies I mean and the lack of pictures of peachy buttocks to make it more bearable.

  1. Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold (1984)
    - I bought this movie thinking it was something else. I can't remember what the something else might have been now but it wasn't this unholy mixture of slapstick and Spaghetti Western sadism. It's long, it's boring, and hasn't a spark of originality about it.
    I have no idea who the producers thought the target audience for this movie might be but the pitch must have been a doozy:
    "It's a Spaghetti Western Comedy - only, and here's the twist, we have a woman hero and make it look like an old time Saturday morning children's serial to cash in on the Indiana Jones market! How can we loose?"
    Three big targets to hit - and they missed all three. The comedy is feeble - are we really supposed to find the fact that the generalissimo is a teensy bit camp funny? The serial framing device is so clumsily and laboriously done that any humour in it evaporates before it gets going. The whole point about the Saturday serials was that there was a cliffhanger at the end of each episode*, a point that seems to have been totally missed by the writers. The only one of their targets they came close to hitting was the parody/homage of the Spaghetti Western genre - but as that was a genre that was always shamelessly happy about sending itself up it's a very easy target to hit. Give anyone a week in Almeria with a few unshaven actors and they could have come up with this stuff.

    *Apart from the last one naturally.
  2. Fiend Without A Face
    - In a rural part of Canada populated by people with weirdly variable accents, something is sucking the brains out of the locals who live round an experimental Atomic-Powered US Air Force Radar base - the variable accents came about because this film is a British pot boiler made in Walton on Thames by a poverty row studio who couldn't afford many real actors - though they did manage to scrape together enough money to hire one Jeep and one American car as props thus creating about as convincing an evocation of Canada as sticking a red telephone box in the middle of Times Square and captioning it 'Piccadilly Circus' would convince anyone that New York could double for London. It turns out that what has been sucking the locals brains was a species of 'Mental Vampire' unwittingly bought into being by a crazed old coot professor and the only way to stop them is to blow up the control room (sic) of the military's, already out of control, nuclear power plant. Just goes to show Britain could make grade-A Z movies too.

    All The Way To Eleven
    It goes all the way to Eleven
  3. Cars
    - The kids loved it but it bored the pants off me. What was the point? Toy Story, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles - just about all the Pixar movies I have seen - have a sustained internal logic that springs from the world they are set in. The Monsters need to gather scream energy in Monsters Inc. and the reversal of that - in the child who escapes into their world is toxic to them - and all that follows from that is delightfully worked out, Buzz Lightyear's realisation that he is indeed a toy, and can't fly is one of the great tragic moments of modern cinema. In Cars we get the tired old story about finding out that what Really Matters In Life is not necessarily what you think it is, dolloped out with animated cars as protagonists. Apart from a few puns and substitutions - tractor tipping instead of cow tipping was the best - nothing much happens that couldn't have happened in a straight movie. The Toy Story movies could only happen in the Toy Story Universe - it made sense to spend all that time and effort to animate it and make it believable. Cars could have happened anywhere - so why bother?
  4. The World The Flesh and The Devil
    - loosely based on the The Purple Cloud by P M Shiel, this is one of those films that may well have lost some of its shock value over the years but is still interesting (the ending implies that the last woman in the world isn't going to choose between the two men who have been fighting over her but will in fact sleep with both of them.


    What would have been even more shocking to audiences in 1959 is the fact that one of the men is black. I doubt if this was shown in many cinemas in Alabama when it was released.) It's a great film on all sorts of levels. The shock value may have dissipated with the years but the issues it deals with haven't.
  5. The Missionary
    - slight but amusing.
  6. I Married a Monster From Outer Space
    - I have long considered this to be one of the greatest movie titles ever. I've never seen it before and it turns out to be a stupendously dull movie which sent me to sleep three times in one viewing (two of them simultaneously).
  7. Ikarie XB1
    - a 1963 Czech SF movie, previously watched in a chopped down American version known as Voyage To The End of The Universe. Another of the many movies which has resonances with, and reckoned by many to have been an influence on, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - though, if you play this futile game long enough it soon becomes possible to prove that Kubrick didn't have a single creative thought during whole of the making of 2001, an absurd notion - which doesn't stop everyone playing it. Ikarie XB1 has more claim than most contenders, ending as it does with the crew of Earth's first interstellar craft looking hopefully toward the future as abstract patterns flow before their eyes and the image of newborn baby fills the screen. (The American version, for some baffling reason, cut the baby and added aerial shots of New York, thus implying the crew were aliens come to Earth). Curiously compelling with some odd choreography in a shipboard party sequence - this is a big spaceship, one of the crew has a baby grand piano in his cabin. And I want the soundtrack.
  8. Jason and the Argonauts
    - I loved this as a kid and took every opportunity to watch it that I could get - which were few and far between in the pre VHS, DVD days of my youth. I remember the sequence with the 'Clashing Rocks' holding a special horrible fascination for me. I'm glad I shared it with my kids tonight, they said they enjoyed it but it doesn't half look like ropey old tosh to my jaded adult eyes. Ah well, another memory that should have been left undisturbed.
  9. The Notorious Bettie Page
    - fun little bio-pic of the fifties Pin-up girl. I wasn't entirely convinced by the need for the colour sections.
  10. Six Degrees of Separation
    - for a movie that hardly stops talking for a minute and rarely leaves the homes of rich urbanites holding glasses of dry white wine, this is hell of an exciting film. Far more so than any number of explosion and stunt ridden bits trash because, unlike most explosion and stunt ridden trash, I had no idea who the good guys were (if there were any) and what was going to happen next - this despite me having seen it at least twice before.
  11. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl
    I think I've finally ODd on Robert Rodriguez's kid's - sorry, 'family' films recently. My kids with their normal hyper-uncriticality loved it.
  12. Cry-Baby
    - The Pope of Trash, John Water's rockabilly musical. I love it to bits; how can you not love a movie that has lines like:"You're rehabilitated. Here's three and a half dollars and a clean pair of underpants."?
  13. Cosmic Princess
    - Do I count this as a film? It's a TV movie made from splicing together two episodes of that great unintentional comedy hit Space:1999. Why not? It's not as if I'm going to be watching anything more like real film tonight. Favourite lines:
    Hero (Puzzling out why the Moon has just vanished in a overly sustained crappy visual effect): "There's only one answer: they've gone through a Space Warp. They could be billions of miles away."
    Sidekick: "...and we have fuel for less than a million."
    I can't even start to list all the reasons that those lines are so stupid but the implication that spaceships just stop when they run out of fuel had me hooting with laughter - but then I am the sort of twerp that finds that sort of thing endlessly amusing.
  14. The Fairy King of Ar
    - Presumably short for 'The Fairy King of Argh, Who Wrote This Shit!'. I would guess one of the dreadful things about being an actor is that you can't ever take your name off your work. Directors can hide behind pseudonyms, producers can blame the director, and everyone else can throw up their hands and blame everyone else for letting them down. The actors however are stuck there up there, on screen for all the world to see, unable to hide from the awfulness that surrounds them. And this movie is awful.
    Most of the blame lies with the direction - not that there appears to have been any, and a script that may well have been, judging from what arrives on the screen, little more than a rough outline, semi-improvised by the actors as they were shooting. The whole thing looks like it was shot in single, unrehearsed takes with no one having bothered to tell the cast and the few background artists what was going on or what they were supposed to be doing.
    In short it looks like an amateur production and I can't begin to guess at the behind the scenes events that left reliably professional jobbing actors like Corbin Bernsen*, Glynis Barber, and Malcolm McDowell so helplessly adrift; I occasionally work with youth drama groups and have seen more conviction from bored High School kids than is on display here. Still, I guess the principals all got a nice holiday in South Africa out of it (a bizarre location choice for a film set on the Isle of Man). I don't suppose anyone involved in this turd will be including any part of it in their show reels.
    Having said all that my hyper-imaginative, six year old, fairy loving daughter was hooked throughout and genuinely terrified during the 'climactic' trapped-in-the-mine sequence, and even my four year old got 'the message'.

    *Bernsen also has to suffer the indignity of most incredibly underwritten, non-specific terminal disease in the history of movies since the Production Code of the thirties prevented anyone from mentioning the clap.
  15. The Fatal Flying Guillotines
    - 1977 Kung-Fu nonsense in which everyone kicks the bejeesus out of each other upon sight for no apparent reason to the sound of hyperactive Foley artists having fits in a junk yard. I'm used to movies trying to unsettle or dislocate the audience in the opening moments but this movie had a new (to me) trick: an on-screen written prologue simultaneously read aloud on the soundtrack - almost. The back story they were trying to get over was the same but the words coming out the voice-actor's mouth weren't the same as what was up there for us to read. Very disturbing. Like trying to pat your head while rubbing your tummy anticlockwise. Mind you the sequence where an ancient Shoalin Monk disables our fit young hero by giving him a double nipple twist was almost worth the pain of the rest of it.
  16. Fugitive Alien
    - (MST3K) My first 'episodes of a Japanese TV show edited together to make a movie' movie for a while. Absence has not made my heart grow fonder. Though I will say one thing for the genre: they're very easy to fall asleep to. Visual sleeping pills. I suspect it's because they are so incoherent and disjointed; they jump from scene to scene in a way that defies any other sort of logic other than that which happens in dreams, that they somehow trick my body into thinking it's already asleep.


You're safe from this nonsense for another four weeks. More bums next time. I promise.

(note to self: Watch more movies with semi-naked women in.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Holly, when her mouth is not full of food (and quite often then) can talk for Scotland. She never stops. There's a constant stream of questions, news, 'jokes', ideas and opinions spilling out of her.
Tonight at tea she was unusually quite for a few minutes.
"If you had more legs," she eventually said after some thought, " - you'd have more bottoms."

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Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

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