Category Archives: Floppies

Weblogs of Note 2

When it comes down to it, I don’t leave much time for reading weblogs anymore. Blame Facebook and Twitter (where I follow my fave bloggers anyhow), but a weblog has to be something truly special nowadays to catch my eye. The experience of running a weblog and finding topics to write about makes me appreciate even more when someone else does it well. Like, f’rinstance, these three:

  • Dear Old Hollywood is the handiwork of Los Angeles resident and classic movie fan Robby Cress. This is a very nostalgic weblog to this reader, not just for the films and stars he writes about (obviously) but for our love of L.A. and the luster it holds even today. A former studio page, Cress covers a variety of Old Hollywood topics with enthusiasm and a friendly vibe (hallmarks of many a great blog). Most impressive are his posts examining various filming locations of flicks both legendary and obscure around the L.A. area. Astonishing legwork in action!
  • The Obscurity Factor is a relatively new enterprise from Ben Sander, the New York-based performer better known as domestic doyenne Brini Maxwell. The weblog chronicles Ben’s celluloid discoveries, rated on an “Obscurity Factor” scale of 1 (easy to find but unsung amongst the general public) to 10 (a filmic hen’s tooth). Many of the films covered are studio-backed dramas and comedies of the ’60s-’80s lost in the shuffle of passing time, territory very similar to what I’m doing on my weekly Flick Clique posts. I’ve found a lot of stuff to watch on Netflix and such via Ben’s posts, and urge others to check it out as well.
  • The Second Disc is a fantastic music reissues weblog curated by two diehard fans, Mike Duquette and Joe Marchese. For those of us whose consumption of Classic Pop albums also encompass finding as many b-sides, remixes and outtakes related to said album, this place is a goldmine (it’s also somewhat disillusioning, since in a roundabout way it reveals how routinely the major labels neglect their own back catalogs). My favorite parts are the Reissue Theory posts delving into what could be included on deluxe reissues of various beloved albums. Earlier this week, stuck in the waiting process of jury duty, I spent hours delving into those Reissue Theory archived posts — they’re delightful.

P.S. I wasn’t picked for jury duty.

Forest for the Trees

This drawing was made while looking out the window at my parents’ cabin in Northern Arizona, using Autodesk SketchbookPro for the iPad. It’s a fun program to use; they just need to make it easier to save files while you’re working on them. I’ve had a couple of times (including on this drawing) where the drawing was almost finished, then somehow I got out of SketchbookPro and all the latest work was never saved. I also have an annoying habit of getting into the section where you can rotate or move the drawing, then it ends up getting saved that way. Cool program, needs some fine tuning.

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Ten Years a Scrubbling Fool

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A milestone: this week marks the tenth anniversary that I’ve been doing this weblog. It’s hard to believe a whole decade has passed since setting up a Blogger account so I could have a more dynamic element on my little site — complete with impenetrable web address containing a tilde (the scrubbles.net domain name would come a few months later). Although as of summer 2000 I had already been doing a monthly music review site (coded by hand!), this new venture opened up a completely new world. Before, the web felt one dimensional; after, it was a veritable lovefest of sharing, discussing, giving and receiving. All these years later, it still astonishes me that anyone would be interested in my ramblings on whatever crappy movie/book/album comes my way.

So, here’s to ten years of the bl*g! To celebrate, here are some links to other bloggers’ tenth birthday posts:

Related: Eight Years of Scrubbles.net (highlights reel); Seven Years of Unpigeonholable Tomfoolery (a look at the Scrubbles logos from 2000-07).

Living with the iPad

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About a month ago, Christopher came to me with a surprise announcement: he was ordering a new Apple iPad. He was thinking about getting something similar to replace our old Dell laptop computer as a simple internet connection for us while going on long trips. As the Apple person in the family, I was delighted with this development — it certainly was going to get more use from me than that crappy Dell.

Now, I’m no early adopter when it comes to new technology, but the iPad really epitomizes what I’d want from a techno-gadget. When the iPhone first came out, I thought “this would be nice without the phone.” Then Apple released the iPod Touch, and I thought “this would be great if it was bigger, so you could read e-books and browse the internet.” Voilà, the iPad! The first generation iPad isn’t perfect; it’s still a bit bulky and the screen could use a few more square inches. However, even after a few weeks I can tell it will be a useful part of our household. We’ve already had a few times while watching a movie when C. will whip out the thing to check on an actor in the Internet Movie Database, a move that would have been not worth the extra work using the laptop.

The first thing I noticed on the iPad is how intuitive the interface is. You move around with the brush of a finger, like on the iPhone but more natural. Typing is accomplished with a small pop-up keyboard. Sure, typing with one hand takes getting used to, but I was able to adapt to it startlingly fast.

The first thing we did was to synched it up to my Mac’s iTunes. I downloaded several free apps, including some news feeds from NPR, the BBC and USA Today. While one could access all three via Safari, I kind of enjoy having them in their own uncluttered state. Browsing on Safari is nice, but the type is a bit too small and I had more than one instance of accidentally tapping the wrong link. As for the controversial lack of Flash, I’ve barely noticed it. Strangely enough, the best app I’ve seen has been MultiPong, a beautifully rendered simple pong game. Speaking of simplicity, there’s also a virtual koi pond app that Christopher immediately gravitated to. I bought SketchBook Pro, which packs an impressive array of features into a measly $7.99 app. At this point I’m just fooling around with it, somewhat frustrated at how I keep accidentally using my fingers to resize my sketches (hmm).

I’ve also explored e-books a little bit with Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle app. First off, I think it’s totally cool that Amazon even has a Kindle iPad app. With it, you can see books in color and set the type at a comfortable size, even having pages displayed in brown on sepia (my favorite). I downloaded a cheap copy of Treasure Island with nice color illustrations by N.C. Wyeth; hopefully it’s a sign of things to come that more illustrated ebooks will come along. Although I haven’t explored Apple’s reader, I can already tell that the Kindle has an edge for being able to bookmark pages (if iBooks have bookmarks, I haven’t seen it (note: iBooks does have a bookmark, I now see)). One enormous downside of both is that the type is completely forced justified and not ragged right like in most paper books (remember those?). The font choices aren’t too thrilling, either. Hopefully future updates will remedy that.

Perhaps the most ringing endorsement I have for the iPad is that writing about it here makes me want to fire the thing up and explore more — off I go!

My First Modem

I recently came across a true artifact of its time while cleaning out the garage. This Hayes Accura 1140 modem was purchased after I moved into my first apartment in 1994. Armed with it, a Macintosh IIci, and a new America Online membership, I was ready to blaze the Information Superhighway — at 56K per second! Listen, I even had my place equipped with a separate phone line to enable websurfing and talking on the phone simultaneously (considering my pathetic social life at the time, not really necessary). I’m also not afraid to admit that the AOL membership was mostly used to find dates and look at porn. This was back when it took 15-20 minutes to download one photo, mind you. Thank our lucky stars that the internet has grown up since then, and so have I.

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Dig this early AOL commercial from 1995. “A friend of mine told me ‘Try America Online.’ I said ‘Why? I’ve got a computer.’” That line always seemed so bizarre to me, even back then. What, were they selling to complete idiots?

Weekly Mishmash: April 11-17

Cradle Will Rock (1999). Tim Robbins’ chaotic yet timely film chronicles the staging of the most notorious play produced by the WPA in the 1930s, Marc Blitzstein’s union-friendly musical Cradle Will Rock. We saw this in the theater when it was originally released and it still holds up. It’s interesting to revisit it during this quasi-Depression time and note how familiar the anti-socialist hysteria portrayed here is. I don’t think this is a perfect film; it’s too wide-ranging in scope and Robbins succumbs all too often to the “keep the camera moving” bug that also afflicted Stephen Fry when he did Bright Young Things. Some scenes are excellently staged and acted, while others are done in an offhand, parodic manner which makes me wonder how historically accurate everything is. Among the huge cast, the only true villains are Bill Murray’s cracked vaudevillian and the uppity case worker played by Joan Cusack. Generally I liked the cast, except perhaps Susan Sarandon hamming it up as a flamboyant Italian diplomat. My favorite was Cherry Jones as Hallie Flanagan, the headstrong manager of the WPA’s theatre division. She completely rocks, and has a beautiful speaking voice to boot (I kept thinking she’d be so much better than Oprah at narrating the nature documentary series Life).
Hollywood and Vine (1945). Another offering in our “cheapie public domain comedies of yore” series! Hollywood and Vine was another cruddy yet genial and fast-paced production from P.R.C. In it, aspiring actress Wanda McKay meets screenwriter James Ellison on her way to Hollywood. She brushes the amorous gent off, but eventually relents when the two end up rooming in the same apartment complex. The pair also become parents to a talented mutt (Daisy, best known as the family pup from the Blondie movies) who becomes a canine movie star. Yep, this movie doesn’t make a lick of sense, and the best celebrity cameo they could come up with was the fake Russian prince who ran Hollywood eatery Romanoff’s. McKay and Ellison are both unbelievably bland actors with zero screen presence, but at least we have the reliable Franklin Pangborn on hand as a soda jerk. Typical of this film’s flights of fancy is the scene where Ellison persuades McKay’s character from dismissive to “I’m giving it all up to marry you and have lotsa babies” in thirty seconds flat.
poster_winnethepoohThe Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977). I know I must have seen this movie when it originally came out, but even so this compilation of the first three Disney Winnie the Pooh shorts is so awash in lyrical, pastel-colored charm that one can’t help but feel a nostalgic pang with it. These films date from 1966-74, the last gasp of classic old guard Disney animation. The stories are silly, leisurely paced and Disneyfied to a fault, but I love the way they incorporated the A. A. Milne book itself into the action, such as when a rush of water washes the words off the page. This DVD included a bonus Pooh short from 1983, which was as plodding and charmless as the trio in this film were magical. It just goes to prove that when they had it, they really had it.
Michael Clayton (2007). I had to chuckle when I read the Netflix reviews on this complaining that it was too talky and boring. Fact is, this was an excellent legal thriller with an absorbing story played by a cast at the top of their game (including Tilda Swinton, somewhat Jodie Fosterish as a dangerously ambitious careerist). The hard to please Christopher actually ranks this and Departures as the two best movies we’ve seen this year.
game_wordjongWord Jong Party. We’re not huge gamers around here, unless you count the pre-Facebook edition of Scrabble. We do, however, enjoy some of the less threatening stuff on the Wii — such as the farming sim Harvest Moon: Tree Of Tranquility. In that game, the most harmful thing you can do is piss somebody off by gifting them with a stinky hunk of algae fished out of the ocean. Lately we’ve been enjoying Word Jong Party, which is basically maj-jongg played with lettered tiles. You advance through the game by making words, the longer the better. Completely harmless and fun, and a bit easy for us Scrabble vets, but the graphics are cute and each day brings a brand new puzzle to enjoy.