Monday, December 31, 2018

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christopher Walken Lost Cartoon - He sings! He dances!

As a neophyte Walkenite (almost), I found this animation both entertaining and mysterious. This may well be a rotoscope, a technique by which a live subject can be traced or filled in (somehow) with animation. Rotoscoped Walken? Why not. I'm finding out more about him, and it's a weird enthusiasm because I am not entirely sure I like him. There is this tough-guy shark-eyed quality there, though who knows how much of that is the actor in him. His dancing can be inspired, but it's more often loose-shanked and spread-eagled and not always very graceful. His incredible spin in Pennies from Heaven is not quite matched anywhere else, and too often he does a cornball '70s shuffle with disco arm-rotations, as in the ludicrous alien-dances in Communion.

That said, he has a seductive side, eyes that almost seem to be kohl-rimmed like Valentino's, which usually indicates uncertain sexual orientation. No one ever says this of Walken, but how can you miss the arrows of intimacy firing out of his unsettling Nordic-looking gaze? Death-rays or love-rays or something-rays seem to emanate, with the sense he could pull you in if only he wanted to.

It's said Walken works too much, and I think it's true. He does not save himself, and in fact I sometimes think he will appear in any old crap because he doesn't know what else to do with himself. The "accent" - his odd way of speaking - can just about disappear, as when he narrated a quite good piece about his idol Gene Kelly for TCM, or just sproinggg out of control like a defective door-hinge, as in when he's improvising on the creatures in his back yard - the "grahndd-hahhg", the "yewje ruc-coons", the "hum-ming-baeds" (and if you slow down Walken's speech, as I have often done, you notice an odd precision of consonants, a very clear and almost crisp punctuation which is one of the things that makes his slice-and-dice style of speech so unique).

Then again. He's not ageing very well, and looks loose and jowly, as most heavy smokers do when they age (yes, he's one of those, I'm afraid). The very young Walken looks like a freakin' girl. I mean it! He couldn't help it, I guess, but he looks like somebody's jailhouse punk with those Clara bow bee-stung lips and the big, innocent eyes. Makes you wonder about him, it really does. He has one wife, that anybody knows about, one house, never goes out (except to look at the hum-ming-baeds), makes movies and makes movies and plans to keep on making movies until he dies.

So do I like him? Do I find him shocking when I dredge up yet another clip of him blowing somebody's face off? Does it get tiresome to see him interviewed one more time with all the same questions and all the same answers, safe, safe? And playing crappy old Grandpa shit? Like has nothing to do with it. I sort of fell in. It was fascination, I know.

Je t'ai rencontré simplement
Et tu n'as rien fait pour chercher à me plaire
Je t'aime pourtant
D'un amour ardent
Dont rien, je le sens, ne pourra me défaire.
Tu seras toujours mon amant
Et je crois en toi comme au bonheur suprême.
Je te fuis parfois, mais je reviens quand même
C'est plus fort que moi… je t'aime !

Lorsque je souffre, il me faut tes yeux
Profonds et joyeux
Afin que j'y meure,
Et j'ai besoin pour revivre, amour,
De t'avoir un jour
Moins qu'un jour, une heure,
De me bercer un peu dans tes bras
Quand mon cœur est las,
Quand parfois je pleure.
Ah ! crois-le bien, mon chéri, mon aimé, mon roi,
Je n'ai de bonheur qu'avec toi.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

. . . in a winter wonderland. . .

Alternative lifestyles: the gingerbread house revisited

Who says the roof has to be pointy? This one might be harder to construct than it looks, however. It has a certain house-of-cards look to it. But it's fine if you REALLY like graham crackers, and want to do it on the cheap.

A pizza house! Or pizza hut, or whatever you want to call it. But you'd have to eat it pretty quickly, as it wouldn't do well at room temperature.

I am not sure, but I think the roof is made of shredded wheat. It might have been more effective to use frosted Mini Wheats, but who am I to argue?

Milk carton house! You can even see the carton on the inside. How innovative - just pull the graham crackers off and eat them. 

I saw a car like this once, with all sorts of tchotchkes (?) on the outside. You could spend days picking the candy off this one and eating it before you got down to gingerbread. 

Pretzel-roofed house, with jellybean and gumdrop walls and marshmallows stuffed into the door. I think. The roof is topped with M & Ms.

Cookie house! Now this might really be good. Chocolate and pretzels and some sort of candy feature here. Gingerbread is crap anyway, like roofing tiles, so this is much more edible.

A low-lying graham cracker bungalow. Graham crackers being a solid, yet lightweight building material. Note the yard covered in coconut snow.

Now this is interesting: pecan roof, pine nuts on the sides, and some sort of edible walkway - granola, maybe? The underlay seems to be cream cheese, but I don't know how the whole thing is put together/held up. I hope those green things aren't brussels sprouts.

TOTAL pretzel house! Or thin breadsticks? I see Chiclets in the windows, masses of jellybeans for the chimney. This is stolen (stollen?) from the Gingerbread Journal, but right now I don't give two hoots. It's Christmas, so lay off.

Matzoh house! Very small, but nice, and you could consume it in one sitting with a cup of tea.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Harold Lloyd, the Christmas fanatic

When I began to research Harold Lloyd to write my novel The Glass Character, there was almost nothing about him on the internet. The photos were tiny, grainy old black-and-white things, likely scanned out of books. Believe me when I say, there were hardly any books about Harold, let alone novels (and mine is the only one I know about, though the reading public doesn't even seem to know that). 

At any rate, this set of family photos is kind of nice. This one depicts, left to right, a grinning Harold, his devastatingly handsome son Harold Jr. (a. k.a. Duke, or as he was familiarly know, Dukie), and the lovely Mildred Davis. The three family cocker spaniels figure large in this, BUT - what about that Christmas tree? It looks nothing like the pregnant-looking, ornament-stuffed, legendary tree he became known for. But knowing Harold, he'd have trees all over the place, so this is likely not the main one.

This is more like it, though the tree is still in a state of evolution (you can actually see a bit of the branches). I don't know who the two people on the right are - family friends, likely. The little girl in Harold's lap is his granddaughter Suzanne, now the keeper of the Lloyd legend. 

Mildred looks lovely in this, as usual. Again, I wonder if this could be the main tree. The dogs are simply gorgeous.

Here we have the tree in all its bulging glory. The tall man in back is family friend and Lloyd bit player Roy Brooks, who's in my novel, with Dukie and Suzanne and Mom. 

If I am cracked down upon for daring to share these photos (which are reproduced many thousands of times on Pinterest, Twitter, and countless other pages), no one will be surprised. It is well-nigh impossible to find the provenance of internet images, though I have squeezed the Google and TinEye reverse image sites to no avail. It's my fate to be made an example of,  I guess, though I have to take consolation in loving Harold and being fascinated with him for all these years. He's the reason for the season.

And he belongs to everyone. Remember that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Elizabeth Holmes: BLINK!

BLOGGER'S NOTE. It was not so long ago that the media were drooling over this woman, who perpetrated one of the biggest and most protracted medical frauds in history. She was literally dealing in blood. I did not have to do too much to these gifs to reveal her extreme sociopathy - it's all there right before your eyes.

This was one of the more astonishing puff-pieces that the media spewed out, completely naive and unquestioning as the seductress eyeballed her way into untold riches (and power - need we say it?). It took nine years for the bottom to drop out, but drop out it did, to the great disappointment of everyone who longed for a "girl" to come along and succeed like Steve Jobs did (Steve Jobs being the only standard anyone cares about) - and not any girl, but a blonde, blue-eyed one who never seemed to blink. I have since found out that it's typical among cult leaders.


The Unusual Strategy That Made This Woman a Multibillionaire

Elizabeth Holmes's growth strategy flies in the face of conventional startup wisdom.

By Larry Kim CEO of MobileMonkey, Inc.@larrykim

In each generation, an elite few entrepreneurs skyrocket to almost unimaginable heights. Among that already select group, an even more exceptional group emerges: those whose business success affects society in such a way that they become forever ingrained in the public consciousness.

Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and now Mark Zuckerberg are a few examples of this top-tier, ultra-successful group. As self-made billionaires, they certainly experienced success, but they went on to become household names and forever cemented a place in history thanks to their innovation and ingenuity.

A young woman named Elizabeth Holmes is rapidly working her way toward this status.

Never heard of her? That's not surprising, and was actually by design.

Most entrepreneurs can't wait to get their startup in the news. You need customers to buy into your idea. You need the industry to take you seriously. You need investors to get on board and help you grow.

Looking back, Holmes was certainly a prodigy, though like many other billionaires, she dropped out of college to pursue her dream. In high school, she taught herself Mandarin and sold C compilers to Chinese universities. She went on to Stanford for chemical engineering, where she filed her first patent and traveled to Singapore to work on the SARS virus. Just ahead of her sophomore year, however, Holmes left Stanford behind and went after her dream of pioneering personalized medicine.

Her company, Theranos, was born of her desire to make the greatest change she could in the world, Holmes recently told the San Jose Mercury News.

She has spent the last 11 years developing a revolutionary blood-testing technology to run diagnostic tests with a single drop of blood, drawn by a painless fingerprick. Imagine completely accessible diagnostic testing available across the country, capable of running hundreds of tests with a tiny amount of blood--and at a fraction of the current cost.

It will fundamentally change health care, in America and around the world.

Blood testing hasn't evolved since the 1960s and Holmes saw a unique way to shake up the industry, while doing social good.

But she kept it quiet.

Contrary to the strategy of the vast majority of startups, Holmes hasn't been shouting her idea from the rooftops. There's no PR team behind the curtain orchestrating speaking engagements and media coverage. In fact, until Holmes landed on Forbes's "40 Under 40" list and the cover of Fortune magazine this year, she was virtually unknown.

(Holmes was featured in's "30 Under 30" list in 2006 but still managed to stay unusually under the radar.)

Holmes had a vision so significant, she didn't want her competitors to catch on until she had the creation of an entirely new market--consumer health technology--well under way.

And her competitors are huge; think Quest, LabCorp, and other well-established players in the $70 billion U.S. blood-testing industry. Yet instead of coming out of the gates with barrels blazing, Holmes quietly worked away at her startup for a decade before beginning to increase her public presence. In that time, she built a business that now has about 500 employees and counts Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, and venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson among its investors.

In the age of selfies, YouTube stars, and "breaking the Internet," isn't it refreshing to discover a young entrepreneur focused more on her business and doing social good than on her public persona? At just 30 years old and as 50% owner of her $9 billion company, Holmes only now seems to be making a concerted effort to come into the limelight.

It's an unusual growth strategy, to work away diligently, largely out of the public eye, but it's one that has served Elizabeth Holmes, the world's youngest self-made female billionaire, incredibly well.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Very strange winter Blingee

I did not make this truly amazing Blingee-style animation, but I'm glad somebody did. 

Best Scene in "It's a Wonderful Life"

I won't tell you about the movie, because if you haven't seen it this won't make sense anyway. It's right after Uncle Billy loses the $8000.00 (which is about $20,000.00 in today's dollars), and George Bailey finds out about it and thrashes the living daylights out of his poor, feeble-minded uncle. The thing is, we've never seen any semblance of a squirrel in the movie up to now. All we've seen is a raven. Maybe it would look too macabre if a raven jumped up on his shoulder? Poor Uncle Billy.

Crazy Christmas cat!

My current favorite Christmas cat gif. He makes a brief appearance in my gif montage, which may or may not be working.  I made it from a dozen different gifs of all sizes and shapes, and my Blogger doesn't like that. But this guy is truly memorable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Every day is Christmas: Harold Lloyd's Christmas tree

Harold Lloyd was a Christmas fanatic. He was a fanatic about a lot of things, including painting, handball, microscopy, the Shriners, and beautiful women with no tops on. But let's stick to the Christmas tree for now.

When he was a boy, growing up dirt-poor in Nebraska, they probably had something - you'd have to be pretty impoverished not to be able to cut something down in the woods, drag it home and decorate it with some paper garlands and strings of popcorn.

But once he was in the chips, Christmas took on a whole new meaning.

I sometimes get a mental image of Harold rolling around in dollar bills and throwing them up in the air, not because he was greedy (though he was apparently a lousy tipper), but because it was fun to have money at last.

Never again would the family have to skip out in the night to avoid paying rent that they didn't have.

As you can see here, some of these ornaments were absolutely huge. Most were handmade European things that remind me of Faberge eggs. Over the years he amassed an incredible 10,000 ornaments (hard to believe, but this is Harold Lloyd, folks, and he never did things by halves), most of which were kept in a vault somewhere in his huge estate, Greenacres.

It took weeks for him to decorate this thing, which was constructed from three gigantic fir trees lashed together. Then one year when he was about to dis-assemble it, he decided, ah, hell, isn't it really Christmas all year long? So the tree stayed up.

This pose with a red-jacketed Harold is obviously an earlier incarnation because you can still see parts of the tree. It doesn't have that bulged-out/pregnant/I-think-I'm-going-to-explode look it took on in later years.

In fact, this tree looks really nice to me. Has a nice shape, a nice sparkle, and TONS of ornaments already. But Harold never knew when to stop.

The little girl in the red pajamas is Harold's granddaughter, Suzanne, now keeper of the Lloyd legend. Due to family circumstances, Harold was like a father to her, and it must've been fun to have a grandfather like that, even if he was hard to keep up with. This surely must have been taken in the middle of the decorating frenzy, given the appearance of the tree in the first photo.

It always strikes me that the great geniuses of the world are little boys who never grow up. They retain that mental flexibility and ability to dream and actualize those dreams without adult restraints. They also retain temperament and a degree of childishness, which Harold did. He had a hairtrigger temper by all accounts -  I learned that from Kevin Brownlow's superb documentary Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius, a major source of information for my research, and it was Harold's brother-in-law who said it. So I'm not just making up stories. He really did have flaws. I say this because I sometimes wonder if I somehow inadvertently pissed off someone in the Lloyd family by portraying him as less than perfect in my book. At any rate, the silence from them has been deafening. But as I've said before, Kevin Brownlow has been wonderful to me, so maybe I'd better be happy with that.

It's still possible to buy some of those 10,000 ornaments today. In fact, they're listed on eBay right now, eight ornaments for $2500.00 USD.  That's uh, three hundred and. . . that's lotsa money per ornament. Eight would be about enough for my tree.

POST-POST POST: As you well know, Wikipedia is my Bible, especially when I don't feel like plodding through a dozen web sites for information which may or may not be right. It's a sad and poignant story, what happened to Harold's estate after he died in 1971. The upkeep on the gargantuan place was basically unworkable. The huge lot had to be subdivided and sold off in parcels in the '70s, but the house still sits on top of the hill in Benedict Canyon, somewhat updated from its falling-down days. It's nice to know it's still there and being looked after.

Several movies were shot at Greenacres in the '70s, including a Lylah Clare-ish, Sunset Boulevard-esque, cheesy TV movie called Death at Love House with Robert Wagner in it (Harold's close friend), but the video clips I could find were so Godawful I could not include them here. I couldn't even make a decent 3-second gif.

History after Lloyd's death

Plans for preservation and a museum

Christmas tree in 1974

Lloyd left his Benedict Canyon estate to the "benefit of the public at large" with instructions that it be used "as an educational facility and museum for research into the history of the motion picture in the United States." For a few years the home was open to public tours, but financial and legal obstacles prevented the estate from creating the motion picture museum that Lloyd had intended. Among other things, neighboring homeowners in the wealthy community were opposed to the creation of a museum hosting parties and attracting busloads of tourists.

In October 1972, the Los Angeles Times visited the property and noted that it had "the feel of Sunset Boulevard," bringing to mind the line spoken by the young writer when he first visits Norma Desmond's home: "It was the kind of place that crazy movie people built in the crazy 20s." The house appeared to visitors in the 1970s to be frozen in time at 1929. One writer noted that nothing had been moved or replaced, changed, or modernized, from the books in the library to the appliances in the kitchen and the fixtures in the bathrooms. 

Noted columnist Jack Smith visited the estate in 1973 and wrote that "time stood still", as Lloyd's clothes still hung in his closet, and the master bedroom and living room "looked like a set for a movie of the 1930s." A Renaissance tapestry presented to Lloyd as a housewarming gift by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks was still hanging in the hallway.

The house also had Lloyd's permanent Christmas tree loaded with ornaments at the end of a long sitting room. Jack Smith described the tree as follows:

"At the end of the room, dominating it like some great Athena in a Greek temple, stood the most fantastic Christmas tree I had ever seen. It reached the ceiling, a great, bulbous mass of colored glass baubles, some of them as big as pumpkins, clustered together like gaudy jewels in some monstrous piece of costume jewelry."

POST-POST: I just thought of something else. As usual! Somewhere, I know not where, I read in my research that there was a TV special called Citizen Lloyd which aired shortly after Harold's death. There was scant information about this, but I can't help but see the title as an allusion to Citizen Kane and Xanadu, the great echoing mausoleum inhabited by Charles Foster Kane. Parallels have also been drawn to Sunset Boulevard with its algae-choked swimming pool and demented German manservant with the duelling scar. 

Though Harold never employed Eric von Stroheim to look after the place, there is an eerieness to all this. Perhaps it's Stroheim's ghost that haunts Greenacres. I know Annette Lloyd got to tour the place at some point, and I never will, though Death at Love House gave me a rather macabre glimpse of it. It is, indeed, frozen in time, the furniture threadbare, the swimming pools brimming with scum.

A few years from now, I have a feeling "someone" will make a movie about Harold Lloyd, and it will have all my ideas in it. There are enough copies of The Glass Character circulating, all of which seemed to fall into the Grand Canyon without an echo. 

But I wonder what happened to that TV special, if someone still has a tape of it moldering in their basement and will some day decide to put it on YouTube.

Stranger things have happened. But not much.