Archive for June, 2011

My Left Foot, Hulu, Netflix, Cosmos, The Third Man and Red

My Left Foot is movie adaptation of Christy Brown‘s autobiography. The Irish author and painter only had control of that foot due to cerebral palsy. The movie came out in 1989, but I had not seen it. Hulu has it as a free streaming movie. I should not have missed it for so many years. The story is moving, and Brown’s perseverance and courage were remarkable. The movie tells the story well.

I fished around Hulu because Hulu Plus is now available for a few Android devices. I installed it on my Nexus One, and it works. Using Titanium Backup, I uploaded an installation apk file from my Nexus One to Dropbox. From there, I installed in on my blogged Nook Color. It works on it, too, although not very well.

Hulu Plus is a subscription application, however, with a price of $7.99 per month. It is not worth it. There are a few free selections. In my experience with them, the app plays too many advertisements, and it often does not resume playing the show after an ad. Hulu’s choice to distinguish between phones, tablets and traditional computers is bad. All the devices are performing the same task in fundamentally the same way. I do not see why one has so much more content available for free.

I have been streaming the first episode of Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos. I blogged about his Murmurs of the Earth several years back. I remember Cosmos came on television when I was a child. My viewing has been slow so far because I have been watching in bed, and I get too sleepy too soon. I only watched a little as a boy. I think it will be rewarding to watch it.

The Netflix app works on both my Nexus One and Nook Color using a standard Netflix subscription. I used the same Titanium Backup hack to install it on my Nook Color. It seems to offer much more for roughly the same price without as many advertisements and crashes. Unlike Hulu, Netflix makes fewer distinctions between streaming to computers versus phones or tablets. I only wish more of the Netflix library were available to stream.

I watched The Third Man on my Nexus One through Netflix. I chose the movie for a few reasons. This post on Hacker News led to this list showing which of the IMDb Top 250 are available streaming from Netflix. Additionally, the soundtrack with the zither theme is terrific. It is a film noir classic whose many twists left me bewildered. The low contrast was a bad choice for a smart phone screen. Such a great detective story is confusing by design, but some of my excessive amount came from not being able to distinguish light black from dark black on the small screen.

The IMDb Top 250 and Netflix list did have some errors. H and I also watched one Red instead of this much better Red because the link was wrong. The Red we watched is a story of man whose quest for justice after a hooligan murders his dog goes horribly awry. It should have been a good movie, but much of it was overwrought and/or did not make sense. I could not stop watching. The reasons were wanting to enjoy a story about a man and his dog and marveling at how bad it was. The Red we should have watched is a great movie I saw at the Rice Cinema paired with Blue in 1995. I have yet to watch White.

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Michael M. on June 29th 2011 in General, Movies

More summer music

I posted about some Louisiana music acts coming to Saint Louis. I found one more. Beau Soleil will play the Old Rock House on July 13. It should be good Cajun fun.

The Old Rock House has several other good ones coming up soon. Kaki King will play tomorrow June 27. It appears to be a make up show for the previously blogged one. I have to work.

Another great one that lands on a probable work night is Black Francis / Frank Black who will play Tuesday, July 19. I blogged about his Duck Room show years ago. Seeing the favorite Pixies reunion tour was great, and the solo shows are good, too. I hope somehow my call schedule works out.

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Michael M. on June 26th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Kinky and Big Smith

I realized that I never posted about  Kinky Friedman‘s concert at Off Broadway nearly two months ago after mentioning it. It was a great part of a whirlwind day. I slept in and checked Facebook to find one high school friend’s post about encountering another common friend in the coffee shop in his downtown office building. She happened to be killing time while visiting someone else. I had a good time catching up at Bridge and then Over/Under. H came out after work and got to meet one of my old friends.

Then H and I headed down to Off Broadway. The show was great even with its imperfections. He stumbled on a few songs, but the overall effect was hilarity. He has abundant biting satire for politicians past and contemporary with little held back. He also has some of the best jokes I know and would not repeat in writing. I would reflect for hours after the show and laugh some more.

This past Friday night, favorite Big Smith played the Old Rock House. Openers Brad and Auset Sarno played a good set of about an hour. The steel guitar was especially good. Mark Bilyeu joined them for a few at the end. Then Mark came back out with Big Smith, and they played their kind of raucous show. I have seen enough Big Smith that I do not need to hear their biggest songs, but they have a relationship with the audience of delivering the ones they have played hundreds of times. A new addition was “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Watch its classic music video on YouTube. It was one of those unexpected bluegrass/rock adaptations that works well. I got to visit with their road manager, another high school friend, as well as friends from work, blogged Ryan Spearman and the blogged Lulus. I am on nights for the great majority of June. Fridays are my nights off, and it was a good break.

Unfortunately, work made me miss a favorite. This weekend is the blogged Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, better known as Battle Ground. A good contingent from Saint Louis always goes, and many small groups must be playing late into the night right now. Other friends are camping locally and picking. They must be having a fine time, too. Maybe next year will work out better.

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Michael M. on June 26th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Louisiana summer in Missouri

I am a Mississippian, but I grew up near the border with Louisiana. I have a tiny bit of Louisiana ancestry, too. I keep my eye out for Louisianian cultral events here. Two good ones are coming up next month.

I mentioned the Lost Bayou Ramblers in this recent post. They will play at the Focal Point on Wednesday, July 6. I do not know yet whether my schedule will let me go. I wish it were not a midweek concert. It ought to be hopping nonetheless.

The twice blogged Rebirth Brass Band will have a three day stint here. The first show will be July 23 at Bandwagon Hall. I have never heard of it. It appears to be a bingo parlor. The Compton Heights Concert Band also plays there. Additionaly shows on July 24 and 25 also will feature both Rebirth and the Compton Heights Concert Band at Francis Park and Tower Grove Park, respectively. I have wanted to attend a Compton Heights concert for several years. Rebirth is extra incentive. With three available nights, I should finally make it.

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Michael M. on June 19th 2011 in General, Live, Music

The Help

H bought me The Help by Kathryn Stockett for Christmas last year. I read it as fast as my schedule allowed and truly enjoyed it. I remember one nice evening around New Year’s at Cafe Ventana, a place I visit too rarely. The fireplace was roaring, and the pages flew by. The characters are endearing or irritating as they should be, and the story has a few good twists of adventure and mystery.

Besides the story itself, the context was especially important to me. I grew up in a similar place and social situation, but I was born nearly 15 years after the book’s setting and about 6 years after the author. I lived one of those relationships between child and domestic worker. Many aspects of that world were gone in the short years between its time and mine. In one way, the book was a prod to imagine how different my world had been not long before I entered it. It also reminded me of things that should have changed by my time, but had not.

Criticism was levied at the book for its use of dialect. To my well-trained ear, it was right on. The complaints are off the mark. The language is right. Criticism of giving Skeeter, the young white woman, such a prominent role could carry more weight. In many respects, she was not fit to be the leader of the movement in the book. It made a good story, though, so I do not fault that choice. Of course, the title is perfect.

I await the movie with anticipation. Journey to Justice, the Clarion-Ledger blog of three times blogged Jerry Mitchell, has this post that embedded this trailer from YouTube. I think it will be a hard story to get right. It is too easy to make it sappy and to ignore its themes of justice. It also is too easy to make it a story about good people and bad people with the subtlety bulldozed. Regardless of the early reviews, I will do my best to watch it soon after its release.

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Michael M. on June 19th 2011 in General, Movies

Bicycles and robots

A while ago now, H and I made an outing to see Captured! by Robots at Fubar. I had missed the show several times in the past, and I was happy that my schedule finally aligned. The gimmick is that JBOT has been enslaved by the robots he created. My favorite robots were the Headless Hornsmen. There were funny jokes here and there throughout the performance. The music itself was mostly loud classic rock. Because I am old and tire easily, I did not make it through the whole concert. See the KDHX blog review for more details.

Another reason I did not make it through the whole show is the delay. An opening act had been scheduled, but someone they canceled too late to be replaced. We had shown up early, so there was a lot of time to kill. Fortunately, a preliminary events in the Tour de Grove series of bicycling races was happening in the neighborhood. It was fun to watch the races. It also was fun to see the Captured! by Robots fans watch the races. The bicycling and music club people had minimal overlap. Some of the bored music fans started heckling the cyclists. My favorite was “Get a horse!”

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Michael M. on June 19th 2011 in General, Live, Music

MCB and NOLA

H and I made a springtime trip down to my hometown. On the way down, we snooped around Ste. Genevieve. It still has evidence of its origins as a French colonial town, and I am glad I finally saw it. I would like to spend more time. By lunch time, we had made it to Sikeston. We stopped at Lambert’s Cafe. The food was good, but their aim was off. In H’s attempt to get a throwed roll, the man sitting behind her got hit in the face twice. We also stopped at the New Madrid Historical Museum in New Madrid, Missouri. It was a little harder to reach this time because some streets in town were closed to make way for big hoses to pump water back out of the town. There were two spots along I-55 in the Bootheel where tractors had their engines connected to pumps to keep the river from completely overtaking the highway.

On the first day home, we ate at the Dinner Bell. It is well known regionally for its big lazy susans. As a native of the town, I have eaten there only two times, this time and when I was about 5 and my grandmother visited. I had excellent fried chicken. We looked around town and visited the blogged McComb Railroad Museum. The visiting exhibit is gone, but there still are some neat displays in the permanent collection.

H and I spent several hours on the nature trail at Percy Quin State Park. She really wanted to see an alligator, but we did not find any. Last time I had gone was soon after Katrina, and the trail was still in disrepair. It is passable now, but I do not think it will be completely rebuit any time soon. Having it a little wild adds to the appeal in some respects.

We had a leisurely drive down to New Orleans. I like how Hammond’s downtown has survived so well, so we drove through. I also wanted to show H how common drive through daiquiri stands are in Louisiana. Driving along the railroad tracks downtown, we spotted the Keith Davis’ Violin Shop. It is a largely one man artisan operation. We played an old fiddle or two.

We reached New Orleans in time for lunch at the Camellia Grill. I had a taste for an afternoon snowcone. We wandered for a while before finding Plum Street Snoball because the next block of Plum was closed for street construction. Being late May, a sequence of classes of small children were visiting on fun end of the year field trips. By that time, we encountered many a New Orleans visitors’ bane, the paucity of public restrooms. We ducked into PJ’s Coffee. Then we walked around the French Quarter and French Market. We stayed at the Hotel St. Marie. It was a good place recommended to me by my sister, and it was right in the heart of the Quarter. It is within a block of Bourbon Street, which is even nastier than I had recalled. Having drinks in the courtyard at Pat O’Briens was fun although the sun was blistering. We also walked down to Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.

The abundance of bicycles impressed me. It is a change from previous visits, but a fitting one. New Orleans is flat, and the pace is slow. Unlike some well known cycling cities filled with slick road bikes and hip single-speed models, nearly everybody seemed to be on junky bicycles, but they do just fine. The apparent aversion to fancier equipment probably speaks both to the casual and criminal threads of the city’s fabric.

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art has great events as Ogden After Hours. We saw that a Cajun band, the Vermilionaires, would play and decided to go. The band combines members of the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Les Freres Michot. They were great. Although old-time fiddling and Cajun fiddling are quite different, several tunes included melodies I play. In one interesting turn, a French Canadian asked them in French about the connections between Acadia and Acadiana. It reminded me about hearing  Nadine Landry talk about her time in Acadiana. The museum also had a Birney Imes photography exhibition. I have known about him since high school. My friend Brad Rhines reviewed it for the NOLA Defender.

We tried Mulates for supper. I was disappointed that time. It was fun, though, to see a class of junior high students dancing to the Cajun band. Inspired by having finished the first season of Treme, we headed to Frenchmen Street for more music. We caught a great set of traditional jazz from the New Orleans Moonshiners at the Spotted Cat. We capped the night with beignets in the wee hours, the tastiest time for them, at Cafe du Monde.

The next day, we pursued more fun. We took the Algiers ferry and spent a little while walking the levee. I never realized that it was free. We walked through Jax Brewery. It had thriving shops when I last went a couple of decades ago. It is growing desolate now. We managed to take streetcars along the Riverfront, on Canal and on St. Charles, making the Jazzy Pass worth it. We decided for lunch at Slice. Unfortunately, the location closer to us was closed. We walked a little more and had a fine lunch at the other one. A friend living in New Orleans got in touch, and we ended the day visiting with him and his wife, another old friend, at Molly’s.

On the trip back, H finally got to see an alligator somewhere around the Bonnet Carré Spillway. We stopped in Hammond for supper. I have been to Murphy’s quite a few times. I decided we should try Don’s Seafood. It was great. It allowed us to see another alligator, a taxidermy monster.

The next day, we rode over to Tylertown for Bluegrass on the Creek at the Southwest Events Center. The Southwest Events Center is mostly a rodeo arena, but it served the purpose. We were hoping to find some jammers. A few fellows practicing under a shade tree turned out to be Magnolia Drive rehearsing before their show. We started our own little jam and attracted only one fellow. By chance, he had bought his fiddle from Keith Davis. We heard that the night time would bring out more jammers, but we headed home for supper. We went just over the border into Louisiana to Skinney’s, once a haven for drinking and gambling in Mississippi’s stricter days.

Too soon, it was time to head back. I did get to catch up with an old friend at Broad Street Bakery for brunch on the trip. It was a long trip back, but we made it.

Overall, it was a great trip. I caught up with family and friends, some I had not seen in quite a while. I visited many old favorite spots and shared them with H for the first time. The vacation did not come a moment too soon, but its end did.

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Michael M. on June 18th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Local heroism

Local blog nextSTL had this post about WashU professor Bob Hansman. His adopted son Jovan has Faces in the Loop. I need to visit it.

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Michael M. on June 17th 2011 in General

Super 8

H and I caught Super 8 at the St. Louis Cinemas Moolah. I thought it was great. I was inspired after hearing a story on NPR. I think it was this one.

The movie is a hodgepodge of The Goonies, E.T.: The ExtraTerrestrial, Stand by Me and various other moves of that era. Those movies were favorites of my childhood, and I think it is great to see a revival. All carried an underlying message that children can be insightful, resourceful and adventurous. It is filled with archetypical motherless children, subterranean voyages and heroic journey elements with the children cast as the heroes.

I do not want to reveal too much because I knew very little about the plot when I walked into the theather, and I enjoyed the plot twists. I have not been to the movies much lately, but it must be one of the best ones of the summer.

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Michael M. on June 13th 2011 in General, Movies

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.