Friday, June 29, 2007

Vacation time at the Bastard Ranch...

My brain needs cigarettes. Hold on a moment. Ah, much better. Well, for ten days I'm on vacation from my job of making small arms ammunition. I work for a company that not only does that, but also ICBM'S (government contracts) and rockets for NASA. However, as stated, I'm just a worker bee that makes primers for machine guns and heavy artillery. Some of you may ask, 'how does that work on your conscience, Cameron?' Answer: see the first line of this post.

Anyway, here at the Bastard Ranch, we love down time. And seeing as how I'm behind on movie watching (The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth, Jeeves and Wooster, any number of my Wong Kar Wai films, etc...) and reading (I regret missing the Once Upon a Time Challenge hosted by friend and Avenger of Wrong Doings by blogger idiots, Carl), so it's time to catch up. I just finished Moorcock's Hawkmoon and I'm looking at these guys to read next...

Jim Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson
Poul Anderson
Haruki Murakami
Neil Gaiman

and of course Michael Moorcock.

I'm leaning towards the Gaiman and Murakami, as I have already read a book each from both Thompson's this year and a good deal of Moorcock's Eternal Champion series. Although, I do have that novel he wrote called Mother London, the predecessor of a book I tried to read and couldn't get to called King of the City. And then there is Anderson, whose Ensign Flandry series looks priceless. I love humor. I'll get to all of these by the end of the year because, I'm trying to read forty books this year. I know, forty is nothing to all of you, but I'm gaining back my old reading habits when I used to read ninety in a year. So please, have patience with this black soul.

Well, its past lunch time and I need to eat. So, until next time people. Keep those streets safe where you live.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Des Moines, an introduction

I killed my mother the day I was born. For approximately forty-five seconds, she was dead. Not long, I know, but how many of us can say that? That we experienced death for a short time. I'm starting with this story, because it's important you know how I came into the world. And while my personal experience with the cold black is limited, my birth town is all to familiar with it.

First a cast of characters...


Dad, Dell Robinson

Joseph, brother

Grandpa Robinson

Grandma Robinson

Curtis Clyce, best friend

April Kibbe, first girlfriend

Butch, Mom's first boyfriend

Erskin, or One-Thirty, Mom's second boyfriend

E.J., Erskin's cousin and drug dealer

Nathan, E.J.'s son

Rico, gang leader

Lefty, Rico's right hand man

The Arab, rich drug dealer looking for young girls in the ghetto

Aunt Pudding, occasional savior

Aunt Necie, occasional savior

And other various family members and friends, who are too numerous to name, but the ones listed above are of note. Which you will discover how in other posts. There is no way to tell this story in one massive volume, so I'm breaking it up. I'll write about Des Moines when I'm feeling nostalgic or when I encounter a situation that reminds of a lesson I learned in the real town without pity. I should note right now that my memory fades about some experiences, while other are crystal clear. I don't know why that is, but it is the truth.

Des Moines has been described as a country town. Not big enough to be a city, but large enough not to be called a village. I always thought of it as a city, but I was a child and didn't know what an actual city was. Now I know what it is. It's a beast that chews people between its teeth before it swallows you whole. Body and soul. And once it has, you're tainted. It stays with you for the rest of your life, living in your blood as a cancer that will eventually make you unrecognizeable to those lucky enough to have never lived in Des Moines.

It's a violent town. I remember so clearly going to bed every night with the sound of gunfire in the night, echoing throughout the neighborhoods. Falling asleep before you heard the sirens because the shots were never enough to worry or startle you. Hell, it became so common place that by the time I moved to Missouri, I had a hard time falling asleep without it. It was unnervering to realize that much later. Joe and I would turn in our beds and rest our heads on our pillows and go to dreamland, not realizing the significance of what was happening outside. That would come later, and sooner than I would have liked.

The first place I remember living was Roach Ridge. This wasn't its actual name, but it had so many roaches that that was what everyone called it. Even to this day. To Mom and Dad's credit nothing bad happened to us there. Unless, you count Dad's infidelity and me pushing my brother's bassinet down the stairs. Yes, he was in it at the time and I've been told that it was an accident (Joe has never believed this and uses it as an excuse for the trouble he has caused). It wasn't until we moved to 1819 21st street, that the real story began.

The beatings, killings, drugs, fighting matches masquerading as family reunions, the street's you couldn't cross because of rival gangs and their shoot-outs in broad daylight (we lived on 21st and E.J. lived on 23rd), and let's not forget the home made psychological scars. The town had it all.

The next time I write about Des Moines, I'll tell you more of my first house, the neighborhood we lived in, the people I met and ran from, and perhaps, even a good memory or two.



P.S. It only gets worse from here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Review: Ocean's Thirteen

I'll try and be as fair and objective as possible with this, but I am a huge Soderbergh fan. With the exception of Kafka, I've loved every one of his films. Now, after blowing my so-called "objectivity", on with the review.

Most people didn't like Ocean's Twelve and thought it was a nearly overindulgent piece of fluff by a filmmaker who, hadn't made too many missteps. While I agree it wasn't as good as the first(there were problems with it), it still entertained. It did feel though, that there should have been a little less slight-of-hand plot points.

Thankfully, Clooney and Soderbergh admitted this and set out to correct the mistake. Thirteen is simple and to the point. Reuben (Elliot Gould) has entered into a partnership with business shark, Willie Bank (Al Pacino). They have teamed up to create a brand new hotel/casino in Las Vegas that will rake in the dough. Everyone, including Ocean, has warned Reuben that Bank will cut him out the deal once he gets what he wants from him. Reuben, whose ego and legacy building blind him, defends Bank and goes through with the deal. Promptly, Bank gets what he wants and cuts Reuben out. Reuben, in distress, has a heart attack and the whole gang comes running. Our boys knowing what happened; decide payback is the only option to revive Reuben, now catatonic in his bed.

Without giving anything else away, the payback is great. Although this time we don't get to see every clever, painstaking detail of the gang's plan. We come in when the plan is already in place, but the boys have hit a couple of snags and call in outside help (Eddie Izzard/Roman Nagal and Andy Garcia/Terry Benedict) to finish the job. The entire gang returns with the exception of Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose absences' are explained by Danny...

'This isn't their fight.'

It isn't and there are not missed. That being said, you would figure that would mean more screen time for the rest of the gang, but it doesn't. Don Cheadle and Qin both get maybe a scene and a half. Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck, and Eddie Jemison all get at least two scenes, but it left you wanting to see more of them (especially Affleck, his scenes are great in relation to the smooth running of the plan). Disappointing most of all is the misuse of Ellen Barkin. She's such a great actor that it was shameful she was just being used as something pretty to look at (and yeah, she still looks gorgeous). Most of the screen time is given to Ocean (Clooney), Rusty (Pitt), Linas (Damon), and of course Pacino; who really wasn't as scary as the trailer made him out to be.

Despite all of that, it was a laugh out loud, clever piece of entertainment that made me feel like I was one of the boys again and I was in on the joke. Last movie, didn't do that. And that's probably because, Soderbergh was on his game for this one. You can watch the movie and feel that he knows how to place his characters in relation to the pop culture necessity of the plot. And he stayed away from flashy camera angles and lavish scenery (as much as one can in Vegas) that turned the audience off in the second movie. And the banter between all of them, PRICELESS. Clooney and Pitt are finishing each others sentences and there are a few scenes which are just flat-out funny with them. You never would have thought that two A-list stars could co-exist and make you believe they were the best of friends, but these two make you believe it.

All of this and we get the best piece of in-the-boys-club advice/rule/code I have ever heard. I'm not going to tell you what it is, but it is so cool and its said twice in the movie, that you will not miss it. So what are you waiting for? Go see it.