A Silent Movie Primer

From The White Shadow.

Last week, news channels announced that one of Alfred Hitchcock’s long-lost silent films, The White Shadow, had been found. Only about half of the full print exists, but it is nonetheless the earliest Hitchcock work that currently exists, and you can watch it right here on the web.

Alfred Hitchock is only one amazing director that his/her start in the silent era of filmmaking. The silent era is an amazing period of film, where the language of visual, in-motion storytelling was still being created out of nothing, and where all stories had to be told on the strength of their image. Directors who were forged in that era often went on to create sound films that birthed the golden age of filmmaking.

Some of these silent era experiments in film either did not work or do not age well; some silent filmmaking is difficult to endure even for an intrepid film nerd. However, there are a great many silent films that are fascinating, even 90 or 100 years later.

After a couple conversations I had last week about Hitchcock’s very early work, I realized that even some film fans I know aren’t very familiar with silent moviemaking. Thus, I figured it might be nice to assemble a Silent Film Primer: a list of silent films that could pique the interest of casual film fans.

Please keep in mind that the list below is not a “best of” list. It should not be judged by what it omits (“You forgot my favorite one!”). It is merely meant to be a list that highlights particularly nifty silent films that I believe would be fun for people who aren’t already familiar with very early filmmaking.

Let’s go! Continue Reading →

It’s Black Friday. You probably need a Sonic Screwdriver.

At Omegacon last weekend, I was introduced to the Sonic Screwdriver.

This, my friends, is a Sonic Screwdriver.

The center is Blue Curacao. Outside is a mix of orange H2Oh! and clementine vodka. The disposable dual chamber shot glass is something you can now buy in glorious bulk stacks for the price of a couple bucks. (I love living in the future.)

Sonic Screwdrivers are tasty and pretty. I credit Nick and Molly Glover for introducing them to me in great volumes.

A Tale of Holiday Cooking

Bathroom Graffiti: How to Cook an Egg

How to cook an egg, according to bathroom graffiti at Babette in Minneapolis.

My maternal grandmother was an interesting woman. Most of her decisions fell into one of two categories: badass and downright strange. In days when many grandmothers were still of the traditional sort that baked cookies and stuff, grandma was a businesswoman, a do-it-yourselfer, and a bit on the wild side. She’s the person who taught me how to use power tools. She would take me on massive, endurance-testing road trips when I was a child, just her and me, where we’d start in Minneapolis one day and be in Sacramento two days later. I don’t think I ever saw her wear a dress, because I think she just preferred to be forever ready for anything. She could alsobake a mean batch of cookies.

She had a strange streak, though. Sometimes, she did some very odd things. I recall one family vacation where we asked grandma to watch the house and our dog; we returned home to find that the front door of our house had been painted fire-engine red, and that our dog (a collie) had been shaved. I’m sure those decisions made sense in her head somehow.

In that vein, I have an enduring holiday memory of grandma. It involves liver pâté.

As I recall, my mom and my grandma were hosting a holiday party, sometime in the early 1980s. Grandma had just gotten one of those new-fangled food processors, and she decided she’d use it to make liver pâté for the party.

Well, during the course of the pate processing, grandma managed to get a wooden spoon stuck in the works. Chunks of spoon were now part of the pâté.

There are two choices that most people would make at this juncture:

  1. Make new pâté.
  2. Remove the chunks and continue making pâté.

Grandma, being grandma, turned to option 3: grind up the spoon and serve the pâté.

I remember being a little kid at that party full of adults, and seeing mom discover that the pâté was more… fibrous than usual. I remember watching her carefully and secretly warn everyone in the room that they probably shouldn’t eat the pâté.

I have many memories of delicious holiday meals that I’ve had with my family, but I think my favorite memories are like that one. Anyone can make tasty food, but only my grandma would deliberately add a spoon to our diets.

This holiday, let us all embrace what is unique in all the people we care for. Let’s revel in the mistakes and the oddities, for none of us are perfect, and thank goodness for that. Cheers!

Photos from Lakes Harriet & Calhoun

Lake HarrietBack in October, I spent a lovely autumn afternoon walking around Lake Harriet with my friend, Jen Scott. I managed to snap some photos along the way. It was one of those perfect, crisp autumn days, perfect for wandering slowly and chatting.

After that and I started driving home, I noticed that the sun was setting rather nicely over Lake Calhoun. So I got photos of that, too.

Enjoy a few snaps as we travel into winter:

New Geek Life: The Melissa and Mike Show

Once again, Paul and Richard have been reminded that they should not let Mike and me do the show by ourselves. As the show notes and title suggest, it’s hard to say that we went off the rails, as there were probably no rails to begin with. Anyway, please enjoy the shambling oddity of Episode 174!