The Grudge (2004)

I rewatched this one tonight. (I saw it for the first time circa 2005, shortly after the movie was released.)

The Grudge brings together two of my longtime interests: Japan and horror films.

This is a fun movie. Not anything that is going to leave you pondering the world in a new way for days, or awake for many nights with the lights on. The Grudge relies on atmospherics, jump scares, and classic Japanese ghost story tropes. The characters are the  stock  types you expect in a movie of this kind.

That said, there are a few genuinely creepy moments. If you wake up at night and suspect that there is something under the covers with you in your bed, you’re officially advised not to look. What you see may be more than you can handle.

View The Grudge on Amazon

‘Tartuffe’ by Molière (Richard Wilbur translation)

If you are in the mood for some 17th-century French drama (and why wouldn’t you be?), then you can’t go wrong with Tartuffe, by Molière.

And you don’t even have to read French. This translation by the American poet Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) is excellent, and quite probably an improvement on the original French version.

I’ve written about Richard Wilbur before on this site. His poems are probably the best examples of American poetry written during the twentieth century. Wilbur brings all of his skill to bear in his translation of Tartuffe.

‘The Brady Bunch’ house gets renovated

And now for some lighter fare, from the 1970s:

How ‘A Very Brady Renovation’ turned a house into a TV home

Yes, I am of that generation for whom The Brady Bunch was a constant after-school fixture. And I know I’m not alone (though not all of us will admit to it online).

Although I was technically alive during the series’ original run, from 1969 to 1974, I was too young to have watched any of the episodes when they first aired. I watched The Brady Bunch during its rerun heyday in the late 1970s.

And I watched the heck out of The Brady Bunch for a few years there. I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but I still recall the plot lines, and major sections of dialogue, from many episodes.

But what about that perennial question...Marcia or Jan? (And yes, nine- and ten year-old boys, circa 1977, did heatedly debate that matter on playgrounds throughout America.)

That is an impossible choice. They were both pretty “groovy”, if you were a prepubescent boy just starting to notice the opposite sex, sometime during the Jimmy Carter era.

‘Color Out of Space’- the movie

First Color Out of Space Photo from Nic Cage’s H.P. Lovecraft Film

I’ve read this H.P. Lovecraft story several times over the past 30 years.

It isn’t a bad story…but some of the dialogue sure is:

“It come from that stone . . . it growed down thar . . . it got everything livin’ . . . it fed itself on ’em, mind and body . . . Thad an’ Mernie, Zenas an’ Nabby . . . Nahum was the last . . . they all drunk the water . . . it got strong on ’em . . . it come from beyond, whar things ain’t like they be here . . . now it’s goin’ home. . . .”

Lovecraft excelled at story concept and description. His principal weaknesses were characterization and dialogue.

Hobbits beat Jedi

Lord of the Rings Trumps Star Wars in New Online Poll

I am not surprised. The Star Wars franchise has grown stale in recent years (as in–the last 20 years). 

As I’ve written before, I remember watching the first Star Wars ever, at the cinema with my dad in the summer of ’77.

I was nine. My dad was twenty years younger than I am today.

The first three movies–Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi–were true originals. Absolutely amazing, in that time and place.

But they should have stopped in 1983, with the last of those three original films. Everything they’ve done since then has detracted from the power of what was done in the 1970s and 1980s.

Return of the Jedi, 1983

George RR Martin, writers, and time

George RR Martin: ‘Game of Thrones finishing is freeing, I’m at my own pace

Professionally, Martin is at the height of his success. But he’s also a septuagenarian writer who has a tendency to take on long, ambitious projects.

One thing about writing: There is a never enough time to get everything done.

Ergo, writers of any age have to become adept at time management.

Walmart vs. Amazon

And some encouraging numbers for Walmart.

I love Amazon, both as an independent publisher, and as a customer of the retail giant.

But monopoly is generally a negative phenomenon, whether we’re talking about oil companies, search engines, or online retailers.

I only wish that Barnes & Noble would give Amazon a run for its money too, specifically in the online book market. But that doesn’t seem likely under the new management there.

Rush retrospective

45 years ago, ‘unknown band’ Rush played Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena

I haven’t been a Rush fan for 45 years–not quite. (I was only 6 years old in 1974.) But I’ve easily been a Rush fan for 35 years–since the early 1980s.

Although Rush is now retired, I still enjoy the band’s music. 

From the ‘Moving Pictures’ album (1981)

The end of YouTube comments?

Comments: a thing of the past at YouTube?

Look for more changes to come…especially if advertising revenue is on the line

The big story on YouTube of late is the gradual phasing out of comments. (Listen to the video embedded above.) YouTube has been trying to ween both viewers and creators off the comments system. 

Not everyone is happy about this. Creators who depend on Adsense revenue often like comments because comments increase page views (and thereby, Adsense revenues.)

Many others enjoy the voyeuristic diversion of sifting through the profane cesspools that YouTube comments have become.  So YouTube comments, as toxic as they are, do have a certain following. 

But are comments truly useful? And are they truly representative of the viewers?

The 1/9/90 rule

Maybe not. Statistics show only about ten percent of viewers/readers comment on online content, and one percent will tend to dominate the comment sections for any site/article/video. This is called the 1/9/90  rule.

From a participation standpoint, then, comments exist for ten percent of the audience some of the time, and one percent of the audience most of the time. 

YouTube’s comment problems

Comments, moreover, have become an acute problem for YouTube. A few months ago, YouTube abruptly and unilaterally disabled comments on a large swath of videos featuring children.

Why were videos with children targeted?

Pedophiles were aggregating in the comment sections of family channel videos that included kids. They were making the kinds of comments that you might expect. (No–I’m not going to cite examples; use your imagination.)

This is obviously horrible. But even before that, “Don’t read the comments” has long been a catchphrase (and a piece of good advice) on the Internet.

YouTube has had difficulty in recent years retaining advertisers, who have demanded that the site be cleaned up. Profane, sexually explicit, and hate-filled comment sections have been a big part of YouTube’s image problem with corporate advertisers.

So why not just get rid of comments altogether? someone at YouTube has apparently asked. 

Whether or not this change will be fully implemented remains to be seen. YouTube seems to be opting for a gradual approach. In some markets, comments are now invisible and disabled by default, so that viewers and creatives have to proactively enable/activate them. 

Look for more changes to come…especially if advertising revenue is on the line. 

‘The Girl on the Train’: the movie

Not as good as the book…

Well, I finally got around to watching this one, and I must say I was underwhelmed. 

I enjoyed the Paula Hawkins novel–even though there were times when I wanted to box the main character’s ears. (I have little tolerance for drunks.)

The movie, however, dwelled too much on the alcoholic self-absorption of ‘Rachel’. The directors should have emphasized the action more.

My advice: read the novel, skip the film version.

Crocodiles in Ohio?

Welcome to Ohio!

No, this isn’t a plot from one of my stories, but an actual news report: 

A 7-foot crocodile was swimming in an Ohio creek as elementary school kids played in the water

This occurred in West Alexandria, about 1.5 hours from my front door by car. (I haven’t been to West Alexandria, but I have been to nearby Eaton.)

Thankfully, no one was hurt. 

The article notes that crocodiles are “not native to Ohio”. Indeed. That is one of the payoffs of the sometimes bitter winters here. 

Tumblr sells for pennies on the dollar after adult content ban

Verizon Sells Tumblr for 98% Discount After Banning Adult Content

No, this isn’t a free speech/censorship piece. How much skin should be allowed on social media platforms is a worthwhile topic…but a topic for another day.

Apparently Tumblr had become a haven for escorts, sugar babies, sex workers, and other purveyors of X-rated entertainment.

Then after Tumblr banned the sex, management was shocked to discover that no one cared about Tumblr.

I briefly dabbled with Tumblr two years ago, before discovering that I had almost no use for it.

Tumblr is a sort of microblogging site, more flexible than Twitter, but not nearly as robust as WordPress, or even Google Blogger.

The site is neither fish nor fowl, really; and it’s difficult to see why anyone would have a use for it…once you take out the sex.

Apparently, both the old and the new owners of Tumblr agreed. Hence the fire sale of the platform at 2% of its former value–prior to the porn ban.

The future of Barnes & Noble

Some of you have been asking my opinion regarding new Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt’s plan for the struggling book retailer.

Daunt plans to make B&N stores stripped-down versions of what they currently are. The model here is the airport bookstore on one hand, the local, neighborhood bookstore on the other.

In other words, small bookstores that carry about the same inventory as the book section of the nearest Walmart, Costco, or Kroger.

So why do you even need a bookstore, if Walmart already stocks about the same number of books? 

Daunt is British, and this might be a viable strategy for the British retail market, which is decades behind that of the United States.

It isn’t a winning strategy for the US, where Amazon dominates by virtue of its wide selection, low prices, and economies of scale.

Daunt clearly has no plan to compete with Amazon. He plans to compete with…small neighborhood bookstores that have already gone out of business in most of the U.S.

Forgive me if I’m underwhelmed.