Sunday, October 17, 2021

Signs of the Times

 A few weeks back. Dozed off for a little over an hour, waking up late evening. A bit drowsy, but right off the bat noticed that it was a heck of a lot darker than usual. Pitch black actually... ? Hey, that's it - the nearby corner street light, which always provides a bit of "nite lite" window illumination, is out. Get up and hit the wall switch. Huh - ceiling light is out. Navigate a dark hallway. Another wall switch. Kitchen light is out, too. What time is it? Don't know, oven clock is out. Fridge ain't hummin'. Open the door. Feel around in the darkness and grab a bottled water. More shuffling about in the black. Glance out a back room window. Live up on a hill with a view across the north end of town. Looks like everyone's in the dark. Yep - power failure. Make our way back through the sanctum. Along the way grab a flashlight stashed on a hallway staircase for just such circumstance. Take a walk outside. A half light waning Gibbons Moon casting long dark shadows. It's still as a tomb. Not the slightest breeze. You could have heard the heavy breath of death's reaper thru all the quiet. Figured we'd at least hear a bit of automobile traffic along the near distant highway. And where is... anybody? Considering our usual bent for isolation, this is f*k'n great. Light up a stogie.

(Internet Image)

About ten minutes knockin' back the ambiance and it suddenly occurs to us - did we just sleep right on thru the biblical prophesied Rapture, portent to the dreaded apocalyptic end times!? "Hey - we were home! Was sleepin'!! Didn't hear ya' knockin'!!!. Calm before the storm? Aww - that's crazy thought. 

A car rolls by and it's back to reality. Didn't recognize the driver. Too dark. Some "hip hopper". Face obscured by that black hood and the darkness. Wow - that's a nice V-12 Cadillac wagon. Black on black it was. Popular for hearses back in the day. Surf rods, too. Long pause at the corner stop sign. Reverse lights come on. Hey - he's commin' back. Wouldn't mind checkin' out that ride.

Next door neighbor steps out onto the front porch. "What's goin' on?" Finally, a bit of humanity.

Power outage it is.

The driver shifts it back in gear and makes a right thru the sign, and down the hill.

None the less - a bit bizarre.

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Last responder

Broadened our thoughts, though. Next morning got back to work double-nailing and gluing the joints on that Ark we started piecing together month's back.

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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Gotta' Love September II

For us, start of annual trout season - 


A bit washed out, or light from heaven beyond? Considering that one interpretation of the word "tenkara" = "fishing from heaven", we'll accept the latter. It was yesterday.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Gotta' Love September...

 

(Internet Image)
... sure she's smilin' - upcoming old school drag racing at Keystone

Brilliant "cammed up" Van Halen drum intro here:

(Internet Video)

These guys are good - one more:

(Internet Video)

Encore:

(Internet Video)

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Stuck Between The Good Guys And The Bad Guys

 "Maybe there's only one revolution, since the beginning, the good guys versus the bad guys. Question is, who are the good guys?"

- Bill Dolworth /'The Professionals' (1966)

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NY State Attica Prison

Day time bill-paying job. Sometime around '89-'90 we were tasked with meeting the authorities at New York State's maximum security Attica Prison with regard to planned structural repair and renovation to an area of the main lockdown. We were cautioned ahead of our visit that our scheduled access could be delayed or possibly cancelled because of some current inmate discontent. In 1971, Attica Prison had been the scene of the "bloodiest prison riot in United States history" (aka: the Attica Massacre). Aftermath the riot had become highly controversial with the majority of the violence attributed to the tactics of the prison guards and law enforcement involved in quelling the uprising. The revolt in the first place was motivated by poor prison living conditions and treatment of inmates. We were actually pretty familiar with the riot, having used the uprising as subject to an assigned "current events" report back in high school.

Immediately upon arrival our team of three was informed that inmate morale was at lower than the usual low. The majority of the population was staging a worker strike attributed to poor prison living conditions and treatment of inmates. The small number of inmate non-participants were being subject to harassment and beatings. Everyone had to be on the lookout for flying molotov cocktail-esque combination urine and feces concoctions. Subsequently, the entire lockdown was on lockdown. After about a half-hour conference amongst security, it was decided to go ahead and let us proceed. We were assigned two prison guards, each armed with shotgun and sidearm. Didn't appear to be the most competent.  We were screened for weapons, meaning we didn't get any ("f*k that" we each thought). 

We were led for probably ten minutes through narrow corridors separated by "KEEP LOCKED AT ALL TIME!" doors then down a dimly lit winding stairwell. Railings and landings secured by chain link fencing so no one could be pitched overboard. It's a bet that the need preceded the application. Another dimly lit corridor. Eventually we arrive at our destination, a basement level mechanical dungeon somewhere deep within the bowels of the prison. The dripping foundation walls purpose to our visit only adding to the dank ambiance.

About a half hour into our business and all of the sudden the insufficient pendant light fixtures flicker and dim then go dark for several suspenseful seconds, then back on. We're lookin' baffled at each other, then all glance double baffled over to the guards. They're lookin' back at us triple baffled. One guard (joking?) comments "Don't worry until you see us running"...!?. The other heads over to "Check upstairs" via a nearby wall intercom - which he finds doesn't work.

Considering that we're unarmed our only resort is Naked Kill*. Between the three of us we have at best a 3/4 drive long handle ratchet wrench, a 3/4 drive long handle breaker bar and a couple screw drivers - couple makeshift clubs and "shivs".

Don't know what our "security" was thinkin', but from then on out, if any real trouble would have broke out we knew where we were gonna' first get two shotguns, two sidearms and spare ammo.

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We really didn't wanna' meet any of these guys (unarmed)

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Small collection of confiscated prison "shanks" 

*Ref.: 'Shibumi' (Trevanian/1979) - Hoda Korosu (Naked Kill): A martial arts discipline that trains in the use of ordinary things as instruments of death. Brilliant novel by the same guy who wrote 'The Eiger Sanction'. Been a while, but do recall that the hero, assassin Nicholai Hel, cut one guys' throat with a credit card. Always thought that would make a good American Express commercial - "Don't leave home without it".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Saturday, August 14, 2021

A Broadsword and a Cross of Gold

A previous day of heavy showers and the Lower Yough is staging a solid Class IV. It's several decades before the first inflatable pink flamingo of recent mania thrashed the slots, drops and holes of the Upper Yough. There was still a bit of "here be dragons" mystique associated with paddling Youghiogheny River whitewater. Back then it was recommended "If the rivers running high, greater than 4ft OPG*(Class IV), head on up to the Middle Yough, Cassleman or Laurel Hill Creek (all Class II/III)". Nowadays, it's "If the rivers running low, less than 4ft OPG (Class III), head on up to the Upper Yough (Class IV/V). Better yet, just go to the Upper Yough. Gotta' love progress...

...we're too far left. F*k!! Missed the eddy turn. Now we're sideways, sweeping left, swiftly, directly toward the upstream face of infamous Dimple Rock. Innocent looking enough - it's set there for eons, a treacherous stone bulkhead to all things drifting river left. A submerged undercut can and has entrapped errant boaters, a few fatally. We couldn't have f*k'd up any less perfect. Port side of the raft slides up the pillow, starboard side drops below water level. A split second and we're swamped with a pounding three hundred gallons of river water. Full crew tossed starboard. The raft is levered into a momentary vertical pin on the rock face. The four of us are tossed ass over elbow into the drink. Textbook. Dimple Rock smiles.

A quick dunking and now, caught in the flow, sweeping river right. Kicking and paddle jousting through a pinball field of shallow boulders. Scanning downstream. Where's the raft? Spin to look back upstream. Here comes brother Howie sweeping in for the recovery. How the f*k did he stay in that boat!? I latch on to a vice-grip right hand and am yanked over the tube and damn near clean out the other side of the boat. There's some adrenalin pumpin'. Howie's holding control so I grab a plastic jug bailer and begin scooping river by the gallon from the swamped craft. Sh*t - where's the backpack!? Must have forgot to tie it down last stop. F*k - that means there went the car keys!! Where's those other two guys. Spot Wild Bill riding it out river right. Don't worry about him for the moment. He's solid. Besides, he'll hike back up river two or three times to do it all again anyway - downing a cold Bud each in-between. 

Spot ten year old Strongman Matt several hundred feet ahead downstream. He's riding out a series of successive haystacks that at this water level I know is giving him a good dunking between brief gulps of air. We can't drown him. First time in the whitewater. His mom will never let me forget it. Howie and I put it in high gear. We don't reach 'em until the end of the run, regardless. All told a swim of around 550ft of swift water, small drops, shallow rocks, small to large waves. Paddle in hand, he flips the backpack up into the raft and climbs aboard - all smiles. Wild Bill seconds behind. All caught up.

"Where'd ya' find that?" 

"I had to really swim to catch up to it - another second and it would have been soaked and gone under. You didn't have it tied in. Hey Bill, you goin' back up?"

"Oh Yea!! Let me bump a beer first!"

Solid from day one.

 *OPG - Ohiopyle River Gage

Dimple Rock claims another

A young Matt and Howie - Lower Yough

Wild Bill, Howie and Randy - stormy day on the Lower Yough
Randy stylin' the latest in rainwear

Strongman Matt - some solid open boating - Lower Yough

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Now'days like to occasionally head out to the lake to paddle some laps on the SUP for exercise. It's 1.8 miles/lap. Try to at least get in two laps. Between 28 to 32 minutes per lap depending on mood and effort. Personal best is 22 minutes paddled once just to see how fast we could do it. Once is enough.

Last summer, Strongman Matt had just moved back east permanently from Vegas. The cancer which was wracking 'em pretty good in tow. He wanted to come along one afternoon, to come along.

"Bring another board". 

Stand Up Paddleboarding is a pretty low impact workout, but a workout none-the-less. We always dial it up to at least the "minimum maximum", operating in the red zone.

We're relaxin' in some beach chairs along shore. He'd paddled around with his dog, Koji, a bit. Keeping within vicinity. Physically he didn't appear to be in condition to do a whole lot more.

"Hey Matt - I'm gonna' do a lap around the lake. Takes about a half hour. I'll be back directly.

"Ok"

A little over twenty minutes and heading into the return home stretch, maybe a quarter mile distance, puts you back in site of our "spot". There's Koji, leashed to the bumper and layin' under the vehicle in the shade. There's Matt's empty chair. Where'd he go? Look about. He's not out on the lake...???...

Come drifting into shore. Still no Matt. Never look behind. No reason to. Look back, he's been following behind the whole time. I'd cranked it up a bit, too, to get back around quick since he was waitin'. It was an extra effort, to say the least.

He's cruising along, radio headphones, listening to tunes or whatever he had dialed in.


--------------------

Go big or go home

You'd arrive to visit and always try to come up with some words of hope and encouragement, which never came. Most times check out an old Eastwood film. Maybe a Formula 1 Race. No moanin', cryin', bitchin' or feeling sorry for himself. May complacently describe to ya' how he had to remove or replace a two foot long tube in himself while ya' set there squirmin' in your chair. Solid as ever. You'd leave questioning you own strength and faith, not quite sure of who is the most ill.

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(YouTube video)
Tull

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Duck Diving

Came across this image while recently wasting time prowling about on-line:

(Internet Image)
Big wave surfer and otherwise all-around waterman Kai Lenny 'Duck Diving' an SUP... !!!

That is all the more impressive to us after spending an early morning a few years back getting our ass totally handed to us numerous attempts while trying to paddle out into the beach breaks at California's Huntington Beach - we would have probably had better luck trying to paddle thru a collapsing brick wall. To our credit it was our first (and only ever) surfing experience - first time in the Pacific Ocean as well.

This is a typical surf break (later) that day - Strong Man Matt (foreground) paddling out - he did fine - had quite a bit of east coast surfing experience from a summer or two of working in Maryland's Ocean City. He had given us a pretty cool photo from the time of himself riding a wave with a pod of Dolphins breaking around him - searched high and low for it, but can't locate it. It'll turn up.

Matt a bit impressive. All the good rental boards were out so got stuck with these longboard-style boards with a wide blunt nose. Matt commented as well that they were a bit tough paddling out as they weren't as hydrodynamic as the shorter boards he was used to. Said they rode good once on a wave but were a bit thick and tough to edge. Never found out. Can say that they were light and didn't hurt (much) when they hit ya' on the head while getting rolled and washed back onto beach.

Viewing the afternoon beach and wave action from the Huntington Beach pier. For the time being the only way we personally were getting beyond those breaks with a surfboard was by jumping off the end of the pier (thought about it).

Here's an early morning (around 5am) image from the same spot of a guy with the right idea.

An image we like from a day later at Malibu's Surfrider Beach. Just there for the day hanging out. Didn't try catching any waves but those low, gently rolling barrels appeared a lot more forgiving.

Oh well, was't expecting much of a performance - been thru it all before with other physical endeavors we've since become somewhat of old hands at.

Hey - next life

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Happy 4th America

Go ahead...

(Internet Image)

... make his day

Saturday, June 5, 2021

What Not: Water Therapy/Fossils/Goin' Our Way/Mr. Moto

 "... you see, ya' can't please everyone,
so ya' got to please yourself..."

---------------

Occasionally ya' get the entire lake to yourself...


...we got it down to a knack

Always the local backwoods river trip...


...worth every bit of effort

We hobbled around nearly eight months, including all summer, last year nursing a fractured kneecap. Seems to be all better - still - between that and cookbook viruses we'll plan to step up our water therapy. 

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Muscle Girl Sarah has an eye for this stuff...

(MGS photo)

...aways sees the forest thru the trees

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For anyone interested, we're gonna' shut down the website this year - not gonna' bother with renewing the domain hosting and such. We began the site around 2006. At the time there was no YouTube, Vimeo and the like for presenting videos on the internet. We tasked a brilliant guy named Jeff Walter with figuring out a process and have been using Jeff's system up until about two years ago when Jeff retired. With the termination of 'Flash Player' last year the video content has subsequently been unavailable for on-line viewing access. We're forward thinkers around here and really don't care to rehash old work. Considering the archival content of much of the material we may upload selected shorts to YouTube in a private account and link 'em herein - our ongoing contribution to "duty and humanity". However, maybe/maybe not - we're a bit of control freaks and try to avoid being "subjects to the system" as much as possible (we've never had on-line accounts such as FaceBook and such, don't own a smart phone - an old flip-phone will do - have only ever sent probably three texts - don't read 'em either so don't bother - been in Walmart only ever less than ten times - been dealing with the same, solitary Japanese photo-buyer, the "mysterious Mr. Moto", for the past 25 years - he just recently retired, too).

Speakin' of which:

Good luck Mr. Moto - we'll be movin' on... I'm sure we'll be talkin'

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"If you gotta' play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta' luck
if memories were all I sing, I'd rather drive a truck..."

                                             - Garden Party (1972)/Rick Nelson

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Rock Monster vs Giant Crab/Das Antarktis Brute

 A few old school stop motion animation projects in the works. We shot this short clip for the purpose of becoming acquainted with some unfamiliar animation software, although, not the software we'll ultimately be using:

Test - 'Rock Monster vs Giant Crab' 

To save time and effort building test models, we picked up two figures on-line:

A "Rock Monster" and a "Giant Crab" to battle it out. Both pretty cool. The Rock Monster has articulating ball and socket shoulder joints, rotating waist and movable jaw. Too bad his hip and knee joints are fixed - we could have assigned 'em a role beyond "stand-in" duty. Still might - we like 'em a lot. The "giant" (swimming) crab is pretty much fully articulating - hinged at each crawling and swimming appendage joint and pincers. He's got star written all over 'em - we've already pegged 'em for a feature role. His OEM pinned plastic crawling appendage joints were a bit loose to hold a pose for animation so we retro-fitted 'em with a custom wire armature "endoskeleton" - we guess he now classifies as a "partially vertebrated invertebrate". We had yet to complete the re-fit so the armature wire is exposed in the above clip. Didn't mess with any studio lighting as well - photographed out back in the garage using ambient daylight. Was an overcast day with floating cloud cover - the reason for the shifting lighting and color. We could have corrected it all in post but f*k that too - we only had the one afternoon available.

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We constructed this main feature "Antarctic Cyclopean Ice Beast" over a period of a few weeks:

Probably 95% complete with minor finish and detail work awaiting. Un-happy with the look of his exposed "ice-pick" feet - we're gonna' extend the leg fur down another 4/5 length. Built 1:1 scale per sketched

Constructed a fully articulating metal ball and socket armature which was some fun. Added some 1/8" poly foam and self adhering wrap bandage for attaching the outer fur. The entire prop can be easily disassembled and the joints are all easily accessible for any needed re-tightening. A bit more model building in the works (e.g., Nazi Type VII C subs and Haunebu II saucers).

'Das Antarktis Brute' in its environment.

Pre-planning and development stages - a few months of work proceeding ahead.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Ugly Stick

 "... ya' got'a git someth'n shimmery and shiney fer that fish to go-at when yer ah fish'n!"

                                                                                                                    - Festus Haggen  

                                                      Festus just wrote the book on "fish'n"


An old original 'Shakespeare Ugly Stick' rod we've had since they 
began selling those things, with a just as old Daiwa spinning reel - we
were lookin' for a good backpacking rod at the time

Two Rapala minnows with 1/4oz and 1/8oz Dardevle lures

All we've ever needed for the Yough. We stick solely with hooking small steam natives with the Tenkara rod now'days, but spinning Rapala's and Dardevle's and bait casting the bottom will always be real fishing to us.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Las Vegas Monster

 We've always been a bit fascinated by stop motion photography. Saw the fantasy adventure 'Jack the Giant Killer' first run at the local movie house as a youngster. Six years old and was completely dazzled by the images of the on screen "giants" menacing our hero Jack. Had no idea of the talent nor cinematic process employed to bring the animated creatures to the screen. Could have been real for all we knew. Do recall that the images of the frightful banshees attacking Jack's ship (although not stop motion process) had us checking under the bed and looking in the closet before turning in for weeks thereafter. Mom was no help either, promptly reminding us to "go ahead - keep it up and I'm gonna' tell the banshees to get 'ya" each instance we'd piss 'er off. We'd settle right down.

(Internet Images)

We subsequently, and to this day, check out anything stop motion animation. Top of the list is all  Ray Harryhausen's efforts (obviously), down to anything with as little as a few seconds of stop motion in the storyline.

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Ray Harryhausen - the king

Once a bit older we attempted a bit of experimentation of our own. At the time there was zero information nor reference available to the stop motion process. There would be an occasional article in publications such as the "monster" magazines of the times. Problem was, those articles were written mostly for the fans of the genre with very little to no reference to the technical. We wanted to know what these guys ate for lunch. Our efforts went as far as shooting two test reels. Both Super 8mm film format. One reel of color and the other black & white. Both reversal film stock. We also shot one preliminary reel of live action test footage so we could evaluate single frame movement captured over an 18fps (frames per second) frame rate, to later visually sync the animation.

We had no idea how to construct a posable miniature figure. We used a toy army action figure of the time as our prop. The figure had articulating neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, waist and knee joints. We heated and melted 'em a bit and smoothed out the molded features. We then jazzed 'em up a bit, painting a solid blue. We widened the eyes by melting with a heated metal punch, filled 'em with a dab of model glue then painted 'em yellow with black eyeballs. After adding two black devil horns on his head and two black wire frame and cardboard bat wings fastened to his back, we had a decent representation of a 'Harpy' creature a la 'Jason and the Argonauts'.

After anxiously waiting a bit over a week to get our footage back from processing (no instant gratification in those days), we found the results to be pretty acceptable. We shot maybe four minutes of footage - around two minutes of each format (B/W and color). Maybe thirty seconds of actual flying Harpy 
animation, each. We had our Harpy flutter down (maybe six inches), land in a squatting position on the roof of a metal yellow toy taxi (that we found lying on a sidewalk), look left/right (articulating at neck and torso), then fly off again. The scale of the taxi matched the figure exactly. Worked well to give a sense of scale to the shot. We glued some magnets to the soles of the Harpy's feet for stability. He was also fastened to a metal wire rod for aerial maneuver. A second sequence had 'em stand and swing around a scale prop sword to match the live action footage we shot earlier. One of two things we learned was that the wings could have been moved a "beat" faster to give a better representation of flight. The second was that regular movement (swinging the sword about) worked better when we halved the distance of movement (B/W reel) between frame rate of live action and animation which achieved a smoother, fluid and not jerky movement. The B/W footage looked a lot more realistic than the color - both were lit low key. We do have to admit that even our amateur effort looked better than a few of the hideous, cheapskate double-exposure effects witnessed in several low budget Hollywood productions of the era.

Wish we still had those two rolls of film. Unfortunately, they were pitched out long ago (along with everything else) during the "great attic purge".

(YouTube video)
A bit of the Harpy sequence from 'Jason and the Argonauts'

The old Bolex 5120 Super 8MM - the single frame exposure capability with (cable) remote control made this a pretty good camera for achieving some low budget animation. Macro focus function. In camera fade in/out. The only drawback was the limited printing capabilities with the Super 8mm reversal film stocks. We would had moved on to 16mm had we proceeded further.

Here's an example no-budget miniature set we currently whipped up. Wire armature figures (we ran low on wire for the bigger guy) - two guys being menaced by a rattlesnake

There were only a handful of guys doing this stuff professionally. Most notably Willis O' Brien (original "King Kong'), Jim Danforth ('Jack the Giant Killer') and the master, Ray Harryhausen (anything he touched). Always working under tight budgets. Often in a small studio fashioned in the back yard garage. We recently came across this short YouTube video compiled from personal test footage animated by a guy named Pete Petersen, a "grip turned animator", who worked throughout the '40's and '50's. Totally unknown to us until now:

(YouTube video)
Wow - some great stuff. You can't get any smoother than that. Great miniature set. Superbly lit. We feel that black & white photography lends itself very well to animation - especially when masking in live action. Our personal preference to color photography every time. That is some excellent work. Even more impressive when you learn that Petersen suffered from multiple sclerosis at this stage of his life and was unable to stand continuous, being forced to work from a seated position.

(YouTube video)
Here's the 'Las Vegas Monster' sequence from the previous clip edited with some contemporary sound effects - nice work 'Cosmorico'

(YouTube video)
Brilliant stuff here. Those are actual '40's  era "strong men" 'ta boot. Gotta' like the catcalls from the gals in the audience. Joe's right up there with 'Clint' and 'The Duke' in our book.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Songs From The Wood...

... makes us feel much better...

A springlike final day to what is appearing to be a short backwoods ski season... hope not... great day with lots of sun and long shadows to set the mood. Unfortunately, leading to this past week's warm up...

... great long climb - say around 700ft rise...

... saddleback cruiser...

... wildlife meadow...

... fun cruisers and steeps on the get-back...  

All could not be lost. We recall once or twice in the (long) past schussing about on Easter Sunday. We'll be making lots of sacrifice and offering to the snow spirits until then...

... here's a tune for start...