zerode – a sensibility


film, music, text, city, spectacle, pleasure

All the news that’s fit to spit

Some headlines from the rumpled paper I found on the chair at my table in the cafe this evening, this past Friday’s New York Times:

3 Kurds Slain in Paris, in Locked-Door Mystery

A Chainsaw-Free Mainstream

Visit by Google Chairman May Benefit North Korea

Man in Plastic Ball Dies on Russia Ski Slope

Monastery from Spain Ends up in California

Gun Enthusiast With Popular Online Videos is Shot to Death in Georgia

Sifting Sand To Rebuild Beaches After Storm

We live in a weird time on a weird planet.

Filed under: Stuff, , ,

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Chritstmas Tree

I’m dreaming of a media Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the music glows
and the  TV shows
holiday classics all day long…

And to help you find music and movies for the holidays, I’ve knocked together a few quick guides (which are listed to the right as well):

Christmas Shows and Movies on TV—When to Watch

Christmas Movies and TV on Amazon

Christmas Music on Amazon

(The two “Amazon” lists use affiliate links; any money generated will be donated to the less fortunate.)

I know I’ve left out some of your favorites.  Let me know in comments and I will add them as I am able.

Also, keep an eye out for two more lists: one on holiday reading; and A Pirate Christmas—with links to (ahem) alternative sources for many of the titles I feature in the other lists.

Filed under: Pop Culture, , , , ,

Nerdware mashup

May the force be ever in your favor…

Rebel Games t-shirt - a Hunger Games / Star Wars mashup

Shirt Punch.

Filed under: Nerdware, , , , , ,

Nerdware: In space, no one can wear your t-shirt

Sadly, gone from Shirt.Woot. Thanks to GeekTyrant for the pic.

Filed under: Nerdware, , , ,

The Strangeness that is Twitter: Clint Eastwood and the UK Riots

Hollywood director and movie star Clint Eastwood doesn’t seem to have a Twitter feed. Too bad: the pithy one-liners he’s known for in movies such as Dirty Harry seem well suited to the medium. “Go ahead—make my day.”

But there is a Clint Eastwood on Twitter. Actually more than one, but the first one that turns up if you do a search is @Eastwood_, with a handsome black&white photo and a locale of California. It’s actually the account for a fan website, as is fairly readily apparent if you follow the posted URL – But significantly, that URL isn’t giving much away, and clearly many Twitter users have been fooled into thinking this account belongs to the real Clint Eastwood. Many Twitter users:

Without ever posting a tweet, @Eastwood_ nonetheless managed to accrue 13,000 followers.

It says something about the meaninglessness of so much of Twitter—the lists of followers and following, the number of tweets, the desire for glimpses into celebrity lives, the willingness to be marketed to…

On the other side, speaking to the possibilities for meaningfulness in Twitter—and very much in the news this past week—the riots in the United Kingdom have also had a social media angle, with rioters and looters reportedly using social media networks—including Twitter—to call people to action.

One teenage has been charged with a crime for her use of Blackberry Messenger to encourage friends to join in the mayhem:

UK riots: teenager charged with BlackBerry incitement 

The 18-year-old, from Clacton, was accused of intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, Essex police said.

She allegedly sent a message on BBM on Monday Aug 8 encouraging friends in the seaside town to copy scenes of violence and looting that were spreading across England.

(via The Telegraph.)

In the face of this and similar reports coming out of the riots, the British Prime Minister is reportedly considering restrictions on Twitter and other social media services (UK riots: tougher powers could curb Twitter – Telegraph).

There’s a savage irony at work here, though. When Facebook, Twitter and other social media systems were being used during the upheavals in Egypt and Iran, they were hailed by Western politicians and newspapers as tools for democratic change:

To be clear: the visionary products created by Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Evan Williams at Twitter are foundation stones of what is becoming a regional revolution. (via Sharon Waxman: How Egypt’s Social Media Revolution Could Spread Across the Middle East.)

Now the shoe is on the other foot and it is pinching.

Taken together, @Eastwood_’s 13,000 followers and the use of Twitter for encouraging looting in London (or democracy in the Middle East) suggest both the power and some of the perils of this strange new form of communication.

For more…

Filed under: Interweb, , , , , ,

Upcoming Ray Harryhausen Movies on TCM (Aug-Oct 2011) – Mighty Joe Young and More

Last year, TCM featured a nice run of films by the great master of stop-motion animation spectacle, Ray Harryhausen, and I wrote a bit about him and the movies at that time. Over the next three months, beginning this Thursday (August 11, 2011) TCM is going to be showing some of his best—and some of his worst—films:

Aug 11: MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)
Sep 6: THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)
Sep 10: CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)—the original, not the recent lousy remake

Fittingly, the first of these movies, Mighty Joe Young (1949), is Harryhausen’s first feature film. In some ways, it can be seen—even dismissed—as little more than a retread of King Kong. It was written by Merian C. Cooper and Ruth Rose and directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack—all of whom had been key figures in the creation of King Kong. And it featured Kong‘s stop-motion animator, Willis O’Brien, as supervisor of special effects. Much of the actual effects work on Mighty Joe Young, though, was actually done by the 29-year-old Harryhausen, working under Willis, the man who had inspired his career with that pioneering—and still to me riveting—animation work in King Kong.

Mighty Joe Young was made to cash in on the continuing box office pull of Kong, which had been enormously successful on its original release in 1933 and continued to bring in money through theatrical reissues in 1938, 1942, and 1946. Despite Kong‘s continued popularity, though, Mighty Joe Young was not a box office success. It was, however, a technical and critical success: its special effects won an Oscar, a prize that Kong was denied, and those effects have been highly influential and much praised in the years since. It’s not a great film. The difference between it and Kong is palpable—there’s nothing in it to compare with the scene of Fay Wray being taught how to scream, to cite just one example. But in those award-winning special effects it is a great beginning to one of the great careers in animation and special effects.

(It was remade by Disney in 1998 with Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron, but the original’s performances and screenplay are weak enough that I don’t automatically hate and reject this remake as I do so many, and I recall enjoying it when it came out. It would be interesting to watch the original and remake back to back and compare. Both are available from Netflix, though not for streaming; you can stream the 1998 remake on YouTube, in tiny bite-sized pieces.)

After Mighty Joe Young, perhaps in part because of its poor performance at the box office, Harryhausen didn’t do any effects work for a few years, working instead as a producer, a role he continued to occupy throughout his career. His next film as a visual effects artist was The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)—the second film showing in this run—in which a nuclear test in the Arctic thaws out a giant dinosaur-like creature that then makes its way to New York and goes on a rampage in the streets of Manhattan (New York and Tokyo–the most monster-stomped cities in the world).

Beast is a significant film for a number of reasons—most of which should be fairly apparent even in that short description. It was the first of the giant mutant monster movies—setting the stage for Godzilla, the original of which came out the following year, and all his brethren. It is also a prime example of the subgenre of science fiction and monster movies that was so prominent, and culturally significant, during the 1950s—films having to do with anxiety over nuclear weapons and research, and more generally with the awesome perils in the promise of science that WWII had brought to the fore.

Beast was followed in the 1950s by such other mutant monster menace films as Them! and, obviously, Godzilla/Gojira (both 1954), Tarantula (1955), and The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), in which an Army officer is horribly injured by radiation from a bomb test, but recovers, only to turn into… a rampaging giant. (New York is given a break—he stomps Las Vegas, a city much more deserving of wholesale destruction.)

Beast is also significant as the film in which Harryhausen first used the technique of splitting the background and foreground of live action footage into two separate pieces of film, to allow for better integration of the animated material into the live action, greatly heightening the realism:

The background would be used as a miniature rear-screen with his models animated in front of it, rephotographed with an animation-capable camera to combine those two elements together, the foreground element matted out to leave a black space. Then the film was rewound, and everything except the foreground element matted out so that the foreground element would now photograph in the previously blacked out area. This created the effect that the animated model was “sandwiched” in between the two live action elements, right into the final live action scene. Many shots were embellished with additional elements painted on glass, also sandwiched in between the rear screen and camera, as O’Brien had done on his films. (via Wikipedia.)

Since this run of Harryhausen films starts with his first two feature films, it might seem fitting if it were to end with his last, Clash of the Titans (1981). Fortunately, Clash, which is not a great film, is buried in the middle of the bunch. Harryhausen is perhaps most remembered for—and these days most often seen through—his fantasy films, especially the Sinbad movies, the best of which, Golden Voyage, shows October 8. But this block of Harryhausen films ends with two from the other side of his career, the side that he kicked off with his second film and that dominated during the 1950s: science fiction.

In Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), a misunderstanding results in US forces at a space exploration base firing on visiting aliens. Predictably, war ensues. 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) is the more interesting movie. On its return from an expedition to Venus, a US spaceship crashes into the Mediterranean. It was carrying the egg of a Venusian creature, the Ymir, which soon hatches and—you can guess it—grows to great size and eventually goes on a rampage.

Once again, rarely, the site for the rampage isn’t Tokyo or New York. It’s Rome that gets stomped here, and the final scene with the Ymir on the Colosseum is memorable. The film has a lot of similarities to King Kong. Scientists bring the creature back to civilization, and it doesn’t seem innately violent, but rather is driven to go on its rampage by frightening or threatening encounters with humans. (If you recall, Kong breaks loose after being startled by too many camera flashbulbs.) In the end, it falls dead from a famous architectural monument, just as Kong did, and one of the scientists stands over its body, reflecting sadly on why things came to this end.

There is a very good documentary on Ray Harryhausen and his work, The Harryhausen Chronicles, narrated by Leonard Nimoy. It’s available on DVD from Netflix.

For more…

Filed under: Movies, , , , ,

Captain America – the Man, the Myth, the Movie… the Site Experience

I’ve managed to avoid learning pretty much anything about the new Captain America movie. The recent crop of comic book superhero movies have been so bad that it just seems safer to stay well away.  And that wasn’t one of the comics I read as a kid, though more recently I kind of got into it. But I can’t help but know that the movie opens at the end of the week – there’s a big poster on the bus shelter outside my house.

And given the state of the country, we could probably use a hero dedicated to the “battle for liberty,” the American way, and the common Joe (and Jane). Of course all of these are highly disputed concepts, and I have no doubt that as with God, each side – every side – thinks Captain American would fight for them. This wasn’t always the case. When I was a kid, Captain America looked pretty much like a tool of the imperialistic war-mongering aggressors. But a lot has changed since then:

(I think he’s referring to the Koch Brothers there…)

Somehow, though, I don’t think it is this Captain America we’ll be seeing at the movie theaters on Friday. From what I have seen of the movie, it looks like they stick pretty much to the WWII side of things – the last war we can all agree to feel good about, and safely distant from failed nation-building overseas and a crippling national unemployment rate and healthcare crisis at home.

Maybe I’ll watch Larry Crowne instead. Crowne (Tom Hanks) seems to me like a more relevant hero for the current moment. Instead of taking drugs to remake himself and then going to fight overseas, Crowne goes back to school, to community college – where Julia Roberts falls in love with him.  I am predicting a surge in community college enrollments in the Fall – all middle-age unemployed men.

You can check out the Captain America trailer on the Official Movie Site.  I particularly like the link on the landing page to  “Enter the Site Experience.” Not the site, apparently, but the “site experience.” Maybe this is like all the cover bands that bill themselves as the This or That Experience. It won’t be the actual site, just a pleasing and nostalgic re-enactment of the site.  That might be better than the real thing.

For more…

Filed under: Pop Culture, , ,

The Red Vic Movie House is Closing

Red Vic Movie House in San Francisco to close.
The already endangered repertory movie scene in San Francisco is taking yet another hit.

Later this month, 31 years to the day after it became an instant landmark in the Haight-Ashbury, the Red Vic Movie House will close. (via

On July 25, the Red Vic will show its last movie, bringing to an end a wonderful 30 year run as one of the funnest and funkiest rep movie houses in the land.

All of our friends love to watch movies. So in 1980, a group of us decided to collectively run our own cinema. Hence, the Red Vic Movie House. For almost 10 years, Red Vic’s first home was at the corner of Haight and Belvedere Streets. Here, we introduced our now legendary couches to offer our patrons a funky, yet comfy, place to watch their favorite films.

It’s the end of an era in more ways than one. The Red Vic is one of the last independent neighborhood cinemas in San Francisco. And it is one of the last rep cinemas in the Bay Area – one of the last real movie theaters showing old movies. When it closes, in less than two weeks, there will only be a couple of places left to see classic films as they were meant to be seen – on the big(ish) screen, rather than on DVD and flat screen. And there will be one less place to see films other than big chain multiplexes in malls.

Among its many contributions to film culture in the Bay Area, the Red Vic gave us couches instead of individual seats, long before the lounge-style seating in deluxe theaters. In the original Red Vic, these were literally couches – mostly cast-offs and second hand items scrounged as cheap seating. And there was the popcorn – with real butter, of course, and nutritional yeast as an added topping. If you’ve never tried nutritional yeast on your popcorn, do it now – it’s brilliant.  With a glass of unfiltered apple cider, it made a really tasty and healthy movie treat.  They also had great coffee and brownies. All in all, the best snack food I’ve had at a movie theater.

And to remind you to bus your own damn dishes, they had one of the funniest cinema shorts since the UC’s “no smoking” message with John Waters, featuring one of the Red Vic staffers getting dragged under one of those couches by the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The last three movies showing at the Red Vic are Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, showing Sunday and Monday; one of the greatest rock concert films ever, The Last Waltz, on Tuesday and Wednesday; and lastly Harold and Maude, playing Friday through Monday.

Harold and Maude is an interesting choice for final film. It’s been a cult favorite at rep cinemas in the Bay Area for pretty much as long as I’ve been going to movies. I remember seeing it for the first time at Berkeley’s UC Theater in the late 70s and it was already a cult thing then, only a few year after its release. But I guess if I’d been scheduling things, I’d have been to tempted to go with another cult film, Marat/Sade. This used to sell out pretty regularly at Red Vic, and people would even come in costume – it was one of those “only in San Francisco” experiences. Well, actually everything about the Red Vic was a bit that way.

I’ll see you there tomorrow, and Tuesday and again for Harold and Maude. I’ll be the sad one with the big, big bowl of popcorn with nutritional yeast.

Filed under: Movies, San Francisco, , , , ,

Songs of the Season: All I Want for Christmas is You

Olivia Olson, “All I Want for Christmas is You” – from Love Actually (2003)

A modern classic?

Perhaps – I don’t know. It doesn’t feel that Christmasy to me. It takes more than references to the holiday and some jingling bells to make a real Christmas song. For me there are two main kinds of Christmas songs: those that capture the magic and mystery of the solstice, of the darkness and the lights, of the cold and the firelight and hearth- and heart- warming of foods, fire, family and friends; and those that are associated with the holiday through long-standing traditions.

The latter include all those songs we heard as children, including the ones from holiday movies and TV specials – songs like “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the ones in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The former can be found in some of the better of the Windham Hill collections, among other places.

Since “All I Want for Christmas is You” featured prominently in that feel-good holiday film Love Actually (and in its promotional campaign), perhaps it has or will have that same quality for people in their teens and twenties. Will they feel about it in twenty years the same way my friends and I feel about “Linus and Lucy”? Perhaps… I kind of hope not – it just seems too pop and too commercial. And you could never sing it while caroling… But like “Winter Wonderland” and some of the other peppier, poppier holiday songs, it’s fine to get you in the mood for shopping, skating, wassailing.

The song was written and originally recorded by Mariah Carey and released by her as a single in 1994.

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , , ,

Song of the Day: Manhã de Carnaval – from the movie, Black Orpheus

One of my favorite movies, Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus (1959), was shown in the wee small hours of this morning on TCM (as I wrote in my more or less regular round up of TCM’s weekly schedule, yesterday). So the film and its marvelous soundtrack have been in my mind – and my headphones – for the past day. The whole soundtrack is wonderful, but one track has always stood out:

Joao Gilberto, “Manhã de Carnaval” (“Morning of Carnival”) – from the soundtrack to the film Black Orpheus (1959)

As I wrote yesterday, Black Orpheus relocates the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice – the story of the beautiful singer who descends into the underworld to rescue his love – from ancient Greece to Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. The movie won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award and Golden Globe for best foreign film.

Most of the music in the film was composed by the now-famous Brazilian musician Antônio Carlos Jobim. This song, however, was written by Luiz Bonfá, and it became something of a hit. The famous San Francisco coffee shop, Caffe Trieste, had this song on their jukebox for many, many years and it was a favorite of the poets and others who frequented the place – including me.

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , , ,

Björk’s single from the Moomins film

Björk‘s song for the Moomins film, “The Comet Song” – about which I wrote earlier – has been released through the iTunes store. The film, Moomins and the Comet Chase, was released August 6 in Finland.

Filed under: Music, ,

Summer Movies in a Parallel Dimension

There seems to be a new toy in the house, but it isn’t in Andy’s bedroom. Buzz and Woody set out to investigate and make friends.  They almost catch up with the new toy in the living room one evening before finally making contact in mom’s bedroom. Buzz panics, thinking the new toy is either a robot spy or a tachyon missile, while Woody is sure the toy is meant for him, some sort of bucking bronco machine.  But mom’s new vibrator has plans of her own…

Coming this summer to theatres in a parallel dimension: Sex Toy Story


Filed under: Humor,



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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh—and hello to Jason Isaacs.

Upcoming Bay Area Films of Interest

  • Monty Python at the Castro February 19, 2020
  • Jacquot February 22, 2020 at 3:00 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Open City February 22, 2020 at 5:30 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Notorious February 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Amarcord March 21, 2020 at 7:30 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Fellini Satyricon March 22, 2020 at 7:00 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Fellini’s Casanova March 27, 2020 at 7:00 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Amarcord - with David Thomson April 1, 2020 at 3:10 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Nights of Cabiria May 1, 2020 at 5:30 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
  • Nights of Cabiria May 7, 2020 at 7:00 pm – 5:06 am BAMPFA Please note that event details are subject to change, and that if an end time is not listed it is because BAMPFA does not know exactly how long the event will run. Please view the event page for additional and up-to-date information:
The 400 Blows


is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.



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