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  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:25 am on March 14, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Batman, , , Bruce Wayne, , Commissioner, , , , Frank Miller, Gordon, , James Gordon, ,   

    Do The Batusi 

    You know, sometimes you are better off not knowing. Earlier I lamented the horrible batmobile in the latest Batman movie. That movie was could have been a lot of things instead of the steaming pile of drek that it became.

    It was supposed to be based on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and written by Darren Aranofsky. It would have been a low tech, real Batman, stripped of unrealistic gadgets but with a kick ass plot. Commissioner Gordon would still be a Lieutenant fighting against GCPD corruption. Bruce Wayne would actually hurt people with crude, but effective weapons like thermite.

    And only now I found out what the Batmobile would have been like…

    “I was never planning to direct Year One. I was more interested in
    writing a screenplay with Frank Miller on Batman. My pitch was always very realistic. I wasn’t interested in fantasy, I was interested in the psychology of a real man dressing in a disguise to pay out real vengeance. The batmobile was a souped up lincoln continental with a bus engine. It was technical and rusty and extremely violent. They would have never let us have violence.”

    Darren Aronofsky answers readers’ questions at moviehole.net.

    Perfect combination, isn’t it?

    What would have been even more interesting, is the way Aranofsky would portray Batman as a real person, frustrated and angry, probably more of a Marvin Heemeyer than the familiar cool and composed caped crusader.

    To this day I can’t confirm something that I seem to remember form an IMDB page. It seem to me that I’ve seen Steve Ballmer’s name as a possible cast member in that movie. It could have been somebody’s joke but, a better person to play a Batman villain I can’t imagine. But the way the things are going, they might be bringing the Batusi back.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:34 am on May 10, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Bandolier, Batman, Charles Babbage, , , , , , , , , Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, , , Mike Mingola, , Nazi mad scientist, , , , Robert Oppenheimer, , The Hidden Fortress   

    Victory Day 

    Time is slowly erasing the traumatic memory of the two world wars. That is to say that the people who fought in it are dying out, and the younger generations do not like to think of the horrors that the two great wars brought.

    When I was growing up, World War II did not seem very exciting to me, from the infantile militarism standpoint. Bootleg American movies, like Rambo and Star Wars seemed oh so much cooler. WWII killing machines seemed outdated and andand reminiscences of veterans who were invited into Soviet classrooms prior to every May 9th – boring.

    I did like the Polish movie serial about WWII, called “Four tankers and dog” (“Четыре танкиста и собака” in Russian and “Czterej pancerni i pies” in Polish). It was an awesome, awesome serial about a Polish tank’s crew in WWII. Recently I purchased it on DVD from a Russian movie store as a present for my childhood friend. We watched it a bit, and I’ve got to tell you, it held up amazingly well.

    Later, I realized that “Star Wars” technology was based on WWII, down to space battles mimicking real aerial dogfights. The rest of ideas Lucas lifted from Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. That was probably one of the reasons why the original 3 episodes were so much cooler then the new ones.

    WWII is all the rage these days. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an awesome WWII game. Mike Mingola brought back WWII chic in his Hellboy comics, Nazi mad scientist and all.

    I particularly like WWII-style superheroes, without overabundance of superpowers and in baggy costumes with many gear pockets and bandoliers. In Hellboy’s origin story, there’s a panel where a group of Allied soldiers poses for a picture with Hellboy and Liberty Torch, a wartime superhero, that appeals to me a lot. I also liked how in Batman: Year One Batman uses thermite as a weapon that he gets from his military-looking bandolier belt.

    For the firts time since Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace and Charles Babbage, computer programmers became active, this time being driven not by intellectual curiosity, but by a dire need to break Nazi codes. If not for the Polish scientists who created the first Enigma-breaking mechanical “bombes”, Alan Turing and the rest of the computer pioneers, me and my dad not only wouldn’t be computer programmers, but probably would not have been born.

    That reminded of an echo of WWII that I once encountered. I used to work as a doorman, porter and elevator operator in an Upper West Side residential building where Robert Oppenheimer was born. There was a very nice old man who lived alone in a huge pre-war apartment. Every year he asked one of the staff to help him set all the clocks in the apartment during the daylight savings switch. It remains one of the more memorable experiences for me from my employment there. I remember a huge apartment with many clocks. The old guy seemed to be very anxious to have all of them set, and all of them set correctly, asking me several times to check and doublecheck. Must have taken me half an hour to get them all. Once I set all the clocks he became very relieved.

    I guess the guy had a very special relationship with time. My boss told me he saw a number tattoo on the old man’s arm. That most likely means that he had a “user id” for an IBM punchcard machine in Auschwitz.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:56 pm on October 7, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Batman, Bell, Bell Ringers, , , Chanin Building, Charles Crane, , Constantin Saradjeff, Danilov Monastery, diplomat, Federal Highway Administration, Fung Wah, Fung Wah Bus Transportation, Greyhound, , , Jack Frost, , Lowell House, metal gate, , Mother Earth, Museum of Fine Arts, , , Prudential, Prudential Tower, , Soviet government, The Bells, the Mother Earth,   

    A Jaunt To Boston 

    I dread the question “how was your weekend” because I usually spend my weekends not going anywhere. But this time I have enough to do a whole “how I spent my weekend” post as my wife dragged me to Boston. She wanted to see Russian bells at the Lowell House in Harvard as well as break the loosely stay at home cycle that I am so prone to.

    We took a Fung Wah bus to Boston (“Licensed and permitted by Federal Highway Administration” and everything). Fung Wah is one of the companies that operates New York Chinatown to Boston Chinatown trips at cutthroat rates – about $15 each way. Somehow they took on Greyhound and seem to be winning – Greyhound was forced to bring its rates down from about $45 to $15. We took a Greyhound bus on the way back, and I’ve got to tell you that the Fung Wah experience was a bit better. They left on time, had little shopping bags to throw you garbage into, and most importantly did not play a stupid movie at full blast – I really did not need to have my mind raped by former Batman performing in 1998 Christmas horror flick Jack Frost. Next time I am taking Fung Wah again.

    We were driven around Boston by and old friend of mine, had dinner in an Indian restaurant and later drinks at the top of the Prudential Tower. Top of the Hub is located on the 52nd floor of the tower and has views to die for.

    I had some Old Potrero which (as I now know) was incorrectly billed as a Canadian whisky. Even though it’s made in San Francisco and not Canada according to Anchor Brewing website, it was very good and unlike any other whiskey or whisky that I ever had. I’ll have to get acquainted with real hoser stuff later.

    Our hotel room purchased with hard earned Mariott Points&tm; had this outstanding view of the controversially named Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge

    We visited the “Art Deco: 1910-1939” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. There were two pieces that I really liked – a metal gate that was used as a door to an executive suite in the Chanin Building and a pottery vase. I tried to imagine what a regular employee would feel seeing that gate, with a design of cogs and wheels, coin stacks and lightning bolts so wild that it looked electrified. The vase had a design of spirals that looked like Cthulhu tentacles, actually shining with evil glow. Overall, for $20 the exhibition was too short and not that interesting.

    The main purpose of our trip was a visit to the Lowell House Bells. As it turns out an amazing set of Russian bells from the Danilov Monastery was purchased from the Soviet government in 1920s by a diplomat and industrialist Charles Crane thus escaping smelting. Crane gave it as a gift to Harvard. The bells were installed and then tuned by Constantin Saradjeff, an eccentric Russian bell expert who reportedly had superhearing powers, being able to “identify by ear any one of 4,000 bells in Moscow”.

    Harvard students organized a Society of Russian Bell Ringers and for 50 years have been trying to learn to play the bells and learn their history, passing everything learned onto the next generation. They practice for 15 minutes every Sunday and invite everyone to visit the bell tower, listen to and even play the bells.

    There are 14 bells of small and medium size and two very big bells called “Sacred Oil” and “Pestilence, Famine and Despair”, which are played from a console that has pulls and pedals:

    And then there’s an absolutely giant 26,700 lb “Mother Earth” bell that is played by standing inside and moving its 700 lb clapper by hand. It takes a few sways to actually ring it once.

    I stood inside the bell when it was played, and it was an unforgettable experience. The reverberations would not stop for minutes. Some say that Russian bells have healing powers. I don’t know about that, but that ring of the Mother Earth bell must have had everything from infra to ultra sounds in it. My wife had a great time taking her turn playing the bells, and I kind of regret that I did not have the guts to try it. Next time I sure will, and advise that you do the same.

     
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