Monday, April 25, 2005

Do the Kung Fu Hustle

Not a big fan of the Kung Fu genre and I’ve never seen a Stephen Chow film before, but I have to say I found this to be wholly entertaining.

It is terribly over the top, complete with a roadrunner/cyote-eske foot chase (think spinning legs and dust clouds). They use CGI animation affects that are really really bad, but that may have been intentional. I’ve been told by Kung Fu movie aficionados, that the budget for this film was almost three times more than what is normally spent, which may account for the silly animation.

There is a very blatant commentary on Americans and their tendency to invade and attempt to control small (or not so small) countries. The first scene shows a gang leader dressed in cowboy boots and hat getting killed by a rival gang carrying axes and dawning Abe Lincoln hats. The only Caucasians in the film are either the gang members or in another scene “boy scouts” guarding a foreboding jail.

These gangs ultimately try and take over an impoverished community that turns out to have several Masters hidden among them, who successfully fend them off until the big guns….or musical instruments are brought in. This pent-ultimate fight scene is starts off rather beautiful and eerie, but ultimately turns to be very silly.
This movie misses the mark just slightly, but I would highly recommend it, especially if you are trying to turn someone on to the Hong Kong film. I’ld take this film over “House of Fucking Kill Me Already Dagger” any day of the week.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The First Designated Driver?

Private: Maybe you can steer me home tonight? (Suggesting that he was planning to maybe get drunk...)

Sgt. Stryker: Alright Charlie! Charge!

From: The Sands of Iwo Jima

I find it amazing how much I admire John Wayne in my old age. I watched a few minutes of this movie last night. He walks such a fine line between being tough as shoe leather, and a downright pussy, it's just hard to imagine anyone else like him... When I watched him in The Quiet Man a few weeks ago, there was one scene where all he did was utter the line Well, alright then!, but he did it with such enthusiasm, it was like no man ever in the history of mankind had ever quite been so enthusiastic...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Read any good books lately?

A couple days ago a friend of mine asked me that question, and I was stumped. I knew that I had read several books lately, but I couldn't remember any that struck me as worth recomending. In fact, I had a hard time even remembering the titles of any of the books I read in last month or so. But today I am happy to report that I have read a good book. It's not a book anyone else is likely to read, nor is it a recent publication, but still. Margaret Walsh's slim 1982 volume *The Rise of the Midwestern Meat Packing Industry* is a model of detailed scholarship combined with clear and concise writing. In under 100 pages of text (plus c. 80 pages of appendix and notes) the author deftly chronicles the technological, economic and environmental forces shaping the development of midwestern meat packing. Is--or was--the book full of startling revelations, turning upside-down the world of meat packing scholarship? Frankly, I don't know. But it is so meticulously documented with statistics and tables, yet so easy to read, that it deserves to be honored. If only the book extended past the 1870s.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Single Malt Scotch

Sorry for the lack of posts lately--I've not been watching movies or reading any books worth noting. I have, however, been drinking scotch. Over the course of the past year, that is, at a rate of about a glass every other evening or so. My scotch consumption has in no way been *concentrated*, shall we say, and is not to blame for any incapacitation, keeping me from, for example, watching movies or reading good books. But anyway (now that perhaps I hath protested too much), I thought I'd write something about some scotches I like, and some I don't. I've not made a systematic survey. My choices are governed by the spotty selection at local PA state liquor stores (damn Quakers!). If anyone has other suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

My favorite scotch thus far is Balvenie Founder's Reserve (10 yrs old). It has a lot of smokey flavor but is still fairly light and without a harsh finish. It's also a fairly good value, costing about $35. It's better, I think, than some of the more expensive (and still very good) Balvenie products--the Double Wood (12 yr) has a more complex mix of flavors, but they're all crowded up in front and the finish is rather harsh; the Single Barrel (15 yr) is too heavy and too expensive. All the Balvenie products are worth trying, though.

Another good and fairly cheap scotch is McClelland's Highland (5 yr). A nice strong flavor that combines woody and peaty tastes. The Highland Park (12 yr) is also very nice and reasonably priced.

Laphroaig (10 yr) is a little pricey--around $50--and has a very odd flavor. I didn't like it at first. It has a very slick, vapory, sort of mediciney flavor. But I developed a real affinity for it for some reason. The flavor was so distinctive, there was something almost addictive about it. It began to remind me of the smell of ocean air--salt water, seaweed, and tide pools, with a hint of marine diesel. Don't ask me how to pronounce it ("laf-royg"?), but I think it's a good scotch.

A couple scotches I will avoid from now on are Macallan (12 yr) and Glenfiddich (12 yr). The Macallan is heavy and syrupy with a dull charcoal taste. I got the Glenfiddich because it was all that the store had available at the time--as a general rule, I avoid products that are heavily advertised, and you can hardly open a magazine without seeing a Glenfiddich ad. It was exceedingly thin in flavor, easily overwhelmed by even a single ice cube.

A few other scotches did not make a strong impression one way or another. The Glenmorangie (10 yr) was okay; the Macallan Cask Strength not good enough to justify the price. Aberlour (10 yr) is well-priced, but not among my favorites.