Friday, February 20, 2009

The Claudes: Studio System Edition

I don't know much about the old Hollywood Studio System. All I learned about it is from Barton Fink and The Kid Stays in the Picture--bio pick about turtle neck enthusiast Robert Evans. I highly recommend both movies. They are waaaay better than the double dose of crap that Claude Endorsed this week.

Full Disclosure: I watched exactly 1 of these movies--The Magic Sword. I have an squidgy feeling about bashing this movie. It can't help being schlock from a bygone era. And the poor actors were probably forced into it somehow. But, there are still women appearing alongside Steven Seagal so who really knows.
This movie is bad in a way movies from 1962 are bad. The hair, she is large. The belly buttons, they are covered. The makeup, he is applied with a trowel. The stereotypes, they are abundant.

We open on a skull on a table an Endora like woman minces around with her princely monkey and wierdo Siamese twin...helper? Our magical lady is named Sybil. Her boy-child, apparently, isn't as focused on her and learning a trade like sorcery. She flits around her eeeevil abode and "magically" turns a candle on and off for the amusement of her monkey. This monkey spends the entire movie dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy and sitting in a throne. I think he fetches Sybil a drink once.

It seems that this young man is in looooove. We learned this through the two-voiced duclet tones of the Bon Tempi twins. I think they're faces were blue. Sure, go with that. Sybil ain't havin it and is pretty peeved that "a boy of twenty" isn't focused on other things.

Let's cut to the rogue in question. Meet George, played by this guy. He's gazing into the magic pond. "Magic pond," he moans, "show me my love." We are treated to some of those 1962 squiggle reflection visions. First to the throne room, where a belly dancer (complete with some very complicated sparkly belly cover to hide her navel) dances for the heavily made up king. "No, you dumb pond, try the pond," Our hero demands. Ah, there she is! Our princess is swimming in a moat, keeping her extremely complicated 1962 beauty-queen do dry.

She drys herself off and whines to her maidservant about not every getting to talk to a man or fall in love. Boo freaking hoo. [Aside: Also, the logical part of my brain wonders how George met our fine Princess Helene. He probably has been stalking her through his magic pond. What a creep.] So Helene shoos off her maidservant to get dressed on her own.

We then move to the throne room where poor, poor, slumming Basil Rathbone is shown to Helene's father the pancake king. He is seriously the color of baked goods, with a bad beard glued on for that extra-special fatherly look. Basil, here, is playing Lodac an eeevil sorcerer with a golden turban. He menacingly lifts his arms above his head, "I totally have taken your daughter as a complex revenge plot because your father killed my sister when she was only 18. Your kid's 18 now and haha she's going to be Dragon poop in 8 days (cause Ima totally feed her to my dragon in 7 days). Nobody will get through my totally predictable 7 curses one of which includes a monkey-ogre and some dry ice." I was impressed with his arm raising antics as Basil was 70 years old when they made this movie. Go Basil! Lodac then changes to a bird and disappears, the house lights then come back up.

"Nu-uh, I'm awesome and I will stop this," commands Sir Branton, the lame-o, "You're majesty, me and my will-be-important-later ring will get Helene Back!"

Meanwhile at Chez Sybil, George is mooning about over Helene because he watched the whole scene with Lodac in the stalker pond. Sybil doesn't want him to leave, but he needs to save her! George pretty much throws himself on the floor and pouts about it. "Tell me about love when your 420 years old," smugs Sybil. "20 years is pretty old if you are a mortal," pouts George.

All this leads to the basement where Sybil shows George all the awesome stuff he'll get on his 21st birthday! There's a white horse (in the basement, animal rights!). A Magic Sword and Armor! A suite of stereotypes--I mean knights. George manages to trick a 420 year old sorceress into a cave so he can get away to save his woooman. George is kind of single minded.

We next see our intrepid, toolish hero in the throne room. He will save the princess, he shouts at the pancake king! Oh, but Sir Branton, the conniving butthead whose symbol is a star on his tunic, ain't having it. George can do nothing but introduce his fleet of steroknights. There's the French one, the German one, The Italian one, The Spanish one, The Scottish one, and The Irish one. For some reason the Irish one gets the most lines after the french one. His Irish accent is so bad, like Kevin Costner does an accent bad. I always forget how un-pc the world used to be. Sir Branton sees the plus side of a bunch of sacrificial lambs and they embark. Pancake King throws his daughter in as a prize for who gets her back! Progressive!

Can we talk about the costumes for a minute? Good. There are a lot of tights in this movie. All the dudes have color coordinate shields and tights. The symbols on the tunic are equally bad, they're just the 20th century flags of the stereotypes country. Except for Branton's star and Georges Lancelot-style cross. We were very clearly in the pointy bra stage of our country's undergarment history.

Back to the action!

Princess Helene is stuck in Lodac's castle. She has to watch some blond princesses get eaten by dragon. There's a scene where she's menaced by some little people. (I felt uncomfortable during that scene because I'm sure the Director's notes were something like, "Paint some dwarfs green, Have them laugh and open and close their hand's at Helene.") There are two types of Lodac's servants, the blue mimes and the coneheads. They are both poorly executed, and they eat little elves they keep in cages.

This review is a bit long. so I'll sum it up for you, mostly since I fell asleep during watching and only saw snippets. The saviors ride up to the castle. George defeats every threat by riding in circles really fast (it confuses the threat!). Frenchy is seduced by a Frere Jacque singing troll because the French are such cads. In his defense, the troll looked pretty at first. Also, she was played by Vampira! Cool! Sir Branton is in League with Lodac, sort of. There's some ring involved.

They all arrive at the castle. Even Sybil is there after getting herself out of the cave and a refreshing fog-drink delivered by Little Lord Monkey. George and Helene face-mash that = kissing in 1962. Sir Branton gives Lodac his ring but then get's taxidermed to the wall! Lodac tortures George, but George is saved by the little escaped Elf people. His sword has lost his magic (Viagra commercial!) because Sybil doesn't remember the chant. What could possibly rhyme with Black? (hint: attack)

They tie Helene up, the dragon comes out of it's pond. George kills it. I cannot in good conscious make fun of this dragon. I saw Ed Wood, I know what pre-CGI effects look like. I do like, however, the effects masters back in the day compensated for fakeness with glitter. Sybil steals Lodac's ring. The end! Happiness abounds!

FYI, at one point Sir Branton runs away from a fight and the Dirty Fisherman says, "Did they just have the French one run away? They totally did! (laughs) Stupid French." I then smacked him for all my french brethren.

Holy Crap! They had this movie on MST3K! I have to get that! (If I have to explain MST3K to you, well, sorry.)

I will not be reviewing The Sword of Lancelot. no. Look foward to Merlin and Legend, though.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tempura icky

We love fried food. I can do without chocolate, sweets, candy, cookies, sugar cereal, ice cream, caramel or cake but I would rather die than to live without onion rings. Sadly, our burg has pretty sorry onion ring prospects. Late in the winter we usually get a hankering for Margie's huge, fantastic onion rings. They are an artery clogging piece of heaven on a plate. If you are ever in California, driving 101 and see one, go. You won't be disappointed.

Honestly, a person could dip toenail clippings in batter, deep fry it and I would eat it.

Since we are intrepid Alaskan Pioneers (hahaha), we tried to make tempura. The prep for tempura is an exercise best paired with a beer. You don't want too many beers because the prep is chopping things. It's best not to cut off your fingers--but I bet they would be delicious fried. We fried: sweet potato, yellow squash, broccoli, daikon radish, carrot, clams, and of course onions. It took about a hour to prep all the veggies and dry the clams.

The batter was mixed, the oil was heated to 375 degrees (holy crap that is a hot, spattery mess). The secret to tempura is cold batter, hot oil, and having a professional do it. Mine turned out a bit anemic, but edible.

Except for the broccoli. It was sooo grossssss. It sort of sank in the wok of oil (it was too heavy for the batter to make it float) and got burned. I took a bite. I spit it out. I really only tolerate broccoli, I can never make myself actually like it. But this was double plus ungood.

See. Barf. Would you eat that? That's what I thought. (Doesn't the Dirty Fisherman have excellent chopstick technique?)

The clams were a bit...chewy but otherwise fine if you chewed twice and swallowed them whole.

I think next time I'll just do onions. Or just fry the batter. We don't fry often because it makes a helluva mess and sometimes sets off the smoke alarm. That %$@# smoke alarm.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


We have so much junk in our yard. A list:

two (2) boats, we're pretty sure both float
three (3) outboard motors--only 1 runs
A ford pickup for yarding cedar logs
12 or so Alaska Yellow Cedar logs waiting to be milled
Tarp covered in sawdust
burn pile
burn barrel
Some pallets (not for burning)
a stack of pink insulating foam
rusty metal and copper pipe ("saved" from the dump)
old gutters also saved from the dump

We are classy.

I hike loudly

My dirty fisherman, not so much. And it annoys him when I am loud. A lot.

See, he hikes to hunt/kill deer, this means staying quiet and unseen.

Me, I hike for work in areas with extremely high density of brown bears. I am loud so I don't surprise a bear. I sing, crunch branches, smack things, talk, and generally make a total dork of myself. The lumberjack song is a favorite of mine. It's a safety thing. I want to alert any critter in the area that I am a people, not a deer or other bear. So far, so good going on 6 years.

When we hike together, he's always in front so I only see the back of him. That picture is a slice of my life. (He always picks the bushiest line to "maintain elevation."

Sometimes we stop and I crouch down for half an hour while he blows this fawn call. I don't know how describe it other than tortured rubber band yodeling. I try not to move, swiveling my head around is, apparently, too much movement. I'll tug his pants when I get too cold and stiff from sitting. Hiking is more comfortable than sitting for me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

sunny am

sunny am, originally uploaded by Chez Foss.

It rained 4.97 inches from Friday through Saturday. That's nearly 5 inches in about 36 hours. Phoenix, AZ averages 7 inches of precipitation per year. It was also 35 degrees. So:, 35 degrees, pouring down rain, winter. That's a recipe for the worst moods possible in the harpy-fisherman household. Sunday it improved. It snowed. Yesterday, it snowed in beautiful fat Southeast Alaska flakes and accumulated about a foot. This morning it was sunny-ish.

When a person doesn't see the sun for a length of time, that person mildews both physically and emotionally. You can actually feel your brain fold in on itself and it makes you want to live under a bridge and harass schoolchildren. It makes you a grumpy troll. The combination of heavy overcast and short days create moods so foul you start to actually empathize with Creb.

I saw the sun on my walk into work today. I closed my eyes looked right at the sun. I rolled up my sleeves, unzipped my jacket, and took off my hat to maximize the amount of skin was showing (It's like 28 degrees out). All the creatures who thrive on darkness, damp, and grumpiness were flushed from my mind. It's like that terrible movie Pitch Black, except my in my head and there isn't a Vin Diesel. It may not last (sucker holes are pretty common around here).

That Beatles song "Here comes the Sun" is a perfect song. The slow, gentle, ethereal movement exactly matches the way you forget about 5 inches of rain in less than 2 days or the fact that your 2WD truck is worthless in 1/2 inch of snow.

It was so pretty, I had to take a picture. A sunny day is worth remembering in February.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Claudes: Clan of the Cave Bear.

My experience with Daryl Hannah: Splash and Roxanne. I think I watched Splash 25 times as a kid, and Roxanne 20 times. I enjoyed them both. nothing, though, prepared me for the cinematic masterpiece that was Clan of the Cave Bear. I knew it would be good, it had Claude's seal of awesome on the back.

I know that Clan of the Cave Bear was a book before the movie. I didn't read it. I'm sure much of the silliness that was in the movie was also in the book (the names, for example) but it doesn't take away from the glorious stupidity that made us watch this. Twice.

We open on a prehistoric scene with two pretty blond people, young Ayla (Daryl Hannah's character) and her mom. The earth opens up, as it was prone to doing in those times, and swallows Ayla's mom. Poor Ayla has nothing to do but crawl into a cave and get swiped by a "Cave Lion." Bleeding, and passed out she is found by a group of neanderthals. The medicine woman named Iza (her mate is Broud, the story teller and sprirt animal bestower) adopts her, because her spirit animal (ravens) were making noise. Much crankiness from the leader's son, Creb, ensues. Creb is a jerkface this whole film. They decide to keep Ayla because she has strong magic/medicine/spirit thanks to the cave lion wounds on her thigh and because she found a cave for them to all hole up in. FYI, Ayla is a Cro-magnon, not a neanderthal.

These neanderthals, well versed in the "old ways" of matted hair and cave dwelling, communicate in pigeon and chest thumps. Some character's' names : Broud, Brun, Goov, Grod, Zoug, Eep, Op, Ook, Ah-ah.

Also, you are awesome if you figured out the Jetsons joke up there.

Anyhoodle, Ayla grows into Daryl Hannah. A lady, let's call her Ook, tells Iza that Ayla will never have a mate because she is so ugly. Hilarious! See, that's funny because of the cognitive dissonance--Daryl Hannah in 1984 was not ugly. AND, Daryl manages to maintain a luscious, shiny, waist-length do while everyone else's hair is matted into a spiky, brown halo around their strong foreheads. Ugly indeed!

Well, Creb has grown up too. His dad's the leader so he thinks he'll be the leader too. He has none of his father's kindness. If it were really 1984 he would be played by James Spader.

One day, all the mens are out trying to whack a stump with some rocks from a bola. Creb is really bad at it. (HAHAHA Creb suuuucks HAHAHA.) Because Creb is petulent, he get's frustrated, throws the Bola down, and stomps off to kick a saber-tooth puppy or something. All the neanderdudes follow him. Guess what! Ayla was watching from behind a tree the whole time and she totally rocks at the bola! It must have something to do with her bigger brain.

There are lots of scenes of hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Killin' game, pickin' berries, fishin', etc. Iza is the midwife/herbalist so we are treated to some neanderbirth and herb gathering. Iza is learning Ayla the healing arts. The cave scenes are pretty much about Creb ordering Ayla around while all the other neanderfolk accept it. Oh, neanderwimmins can't touch hunting gear. That's important. It's forbidden, according to the "old ways", for a woman to use tools.

Life is tough for Ayla: she's ugly, she doesn't have a spirit animal, Creb is a booger, she has no mate and therefore no neanderkid, and she has to hide her bola mad skillz from the clan. One day she's out digging roots or whatever and Creb sees her. He, um, has his way with her. We are treated to a few scenes of this, one is in the cave with the whole clan awatchin. Fun! Ayla eventually gets pregnat and has a little matted- haired moppet. At some point Ayla get's the spirit animal of the cave lion. Creb hates it because that's a man's sprit animal, not for the woman he clearly adores/despises.

Uh-oh, one day the clan is out hunting or subsisting and one of the kids gets dragged off by a wolf. It's clearly a bad wolf because it's black with eeeevil yellow eyes. Ayla hauls out her bola and saves the kid! Woo--oh, wait that was really a bad thing because women can't touch stuff like that. The clan decides to shun her for "3 periods of the moon" or some other celestial time period. Ayla is forced to crawl into her own cave with her baby in winter.

Because it's a predictable, crap plot, Ayla survives and rejoins her clan just in time for the big gathering of all the cave bear clans! They're going to choose their new leader (Creb totally thinks it's him). Iza gives Ayla some medicine bowl and then dies. At the big meeting Ayla meets another blue-eyed person. That's important for like 3 seconds because he dies later (spoiler!) The break-out sessions for this meet up include: the storyteller/medicine man group (Broud goes), the young hunters (Creb and blue-eyed guy), and medicine/apothecary women with Ayla in attendance. They all get painted up like the movie poster, drink some sort of neanderbooze, and reel around a fire. The goal was tittilating savage rites, but the effect was drunken summer camp. Ayla has a vision where here cave lion walks away from a cave bear. Deep, I wonder what it means?

The next day is the big day. All the neander-up-n-comers must fight a bear with sticks to see who the new leader is. They all provoke a bear and start stabbing it with twigs. Blue-eyed guy dies, other folks get mauled, Creb wins. Boo.

After returning to their cave, Ayla's neanderkin accept Creb as their leader. They also accept her kid as one of their own. Creb want's Ayla to sleep in his area, a proposal that would set my heart a patter, claiming her as his own. Ayla finally sprouts a spine and says no. She's leaving. There's a big world out there for her. Creb hits her. His neanderdad chastizes him for hitting one of his people. "That's not what a good leader does, jackass" Neanderdad grunts and slaps.

Ayla leaves. Taking only her bola and her shiny blond locks.

I wish there was a sequal.

shovel love

Please don't read this entry if:
  • You hire people to do your shoveling
  • Dirt = yuck to you
  • You are not a huge nerd
Otherwise welcome to The Muskeg Harpy's review of field-capable shovels.

I love to dig. I like the way the blade pierces into the soil. I like stomping on the top to drive the blade in. I like how my shoulders feel when they are turning over a furrow. Digging is the best part of gardening to me. I have worn the points off of all of our round point spades at our house. I may actually buy a new shovel this year. Those shovels I use at home are decidedly different from those I use at work.

I dig for a living. That's what I do, literally. My whole summer is hiking and digging holes with my trusty Razorback D-handled Sharpshooter. Packability is incredibly important in a place where the weather is more often than not awful and you have to carry a rifle everywhere you go.

This is sometimes called a Tile Spade or a Drain Spade. The model I prefer has a 16" blade and hardwood handle. I've tried the fiberglass models, but they are heavier than wood and don't really last. Plus, wood gets a nice patina as it ages. It weighs in at about 6 or 7 pounds. The 16" length is a perfect diagnostic length for determining wetland or upland soils. Their main drawback is in sandy, dry soils. Luckily those only exists in Yakutat. For that area I like a good roundpoint, so I generally go with something like this:Something like this lets you dig large, open soil pits. It's also a bit shorter than a tile spade. I don't like it because it takes longer to dig a soil pit than with the tile spade. It will work in a pinch but I wouldn't pick one out from a catalog.

The last shovel in my arsenal is a beast called the Montana Sharpshooter. This thing weighs in at a hefty 12 pounds and is made of solid steel. It's designed for busting through Montana Sod or something.
This shovel is an awful beast of a shovel. I was forced to use one after I broke my lighter (better) wood handled one in Colorado. I had a divot in my shoulder from carrying that dumb thing around. It's also pretty narrow so it takes a long time to poke a satisfactory pit in the ground. I guess it'll put hair on your chest if nothing else.

I, of course, have several smaller shovels at my disposal. I also carry a huge serrated knife for digging. That's a lesson for another day.


I love my crock pot. When we got married I think we got like 3 for gifts. I thought they were the dumbest things in creation. Why would I need a crock pot? I can make everything on the stove by my ownself. I felt, snottily, that I was better than a crock pot, that people who used crock pots were lazy hamburger-helper lamecakes.

I was wrong. Let me list the reasons:

1. Dirty fisherman hunts now (remind me to write about our different hiking philosophies) so we have a lots of deer. Deer is somewhat gamey and works well when cooked in a wet heat.
2. Beans are cheap. Our house is bleeding us dry so we save where we can.
3. I get quite yelly at 5:30 when I get home from work and the DF says, "so, what's for dinner."
4. I like chipotles.

If you integrate all of these, you get a crock pot! Yay! I've only used it a few times but I really like how a cheap/tough cut of meat becomes perfectly shredded and tasty. Also, one batch lasts a few dinners and lunches so I can focus more on my knitting and whatnot.

I feel better now. I always feel like convience cooking is for pansies. I'm not a pansy in the kitchen.