Walking around Stern Grove in San Francisco

Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove is located in the Sunset District of San Francisco. It is located along Sloat Avenue between 19th and 34th Avenues.

The park was donated to the city in 1931 by Rosalie Meyer Stern and is named after her husband. Stern Grove is made up of three distinct areas: there is the Concert Meadow, the West Meadow, and Pine Lake Park. At 33 acres in size, it provides a wonderful place to take the dog or just go for a walk or picnic. The park is wheelchair accessible.

To get there:

From 19th Avenue, turn West on Sloat. Continue on a few blocks and turn right on Vale. Vale will take you to the gate and drive that leads to the parking lot.

The Concert meadow is where they hold the Stern Grove Festival. Since 1938 there have been free weekly concerts and performances in the amphitheater. It is the nation’s longest-running free, outdoor music festival.

Stern Grove
Amphitheater at Concert Meadow

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Midnight Movie Madness

Fido” – (93 minutes, USA 2006)

“What is it boy? Is Timmy in trouble?”

In these alternative 1950s, after the “zombie wars”, life resumed in America within fenced in communities managed and policed by a corporation named Zomcon (zombie containment is their motto). Hordes of ‘untamed’ zombies roam the zones outside the communities’ perimeter, while within, domesticated zombies wearing electronic shock-collars serve the living delivering milk, papers, mowing lawns and acting as household help, etc.

Neighborhood watch

In order to keep up with the neighbors, Helen Robinson (Carrie Ann Moss) buys a domesticated zombie helper (Billy Connolly), much to her neurotic husband’s (Dylan Baker) dismay. Bill Robinson has a serious phobia of zombies since childhood, when his dad and uncle tried to eat his brain.
Certainly a very sore subject around the dinner table.
Bill is distant with his son Timmy (Kesun Loder) and pretty sadistic towards the zombie helper, zapping him for the slightest reason, and repeatedly. Timmy decides to call the zombie Fido and the two become friends, inasmuch as you can with a Z-dude.

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No Jason? Wot’s it all aboot?!?

Friday the 13th: the series” – (Canada 1987-1990)

Those familiar with this series know it has bugger-all to do with the movie franchise. Nada. No Jason Vorhees here, eh?

In this series from Canada, made when cars were in their cubist period and hair was BIG, an old dude by the name of Lewis Vendredi (meaning Friday in French, geddit?) has second thoughts on the deal he made with Satan and gets his soul repossessed as a result. [Insert current political jokes here]

Watch ole’ Lewis (R.G. Armstrong) buying the farm:

His antiques shop is then inherited by his nephews Micki Foster (Louise Robey) and Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay). Soon after they take possession of the shop and try to decide what to do with it, they meet Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins), a man who used to do business with the dear departed uncle. Or is that deported to hell?!?

Can they trust this old dude (he’s well above 30 and into the occult)?

Can Micki keep her fiancé panting whilst deciding which conditioner is best?

Can Ryan decide whether channeling Andrew McCarthy is a good career move?
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Monday is Columbus Day

Hmmm… Since Monday’s a holiday (happy Columbus day everyone), no mail, no Netflix. No matter, I do have a film to review for Wednesday’s Midnight Movie Madness. Woof!

Meanwhile: the postman always shoots twice.


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Behold, a pale van

The horseman” – (96 minutes, Australia 2008)

Not to be confused with “the horsemen” (USA2009)

I’m really not a fan of revenge movies, I don’t particularly care for the “Dirty Harry” series, much less “Death Wish”. You can guess by extension, that the so-called “torture porn” movies are even less my thing as far as entertainment goes.
The Australian film “the horseman” seems on the surface to fit in neatly with at least the first two, but “horseman” is more of a Western for me.

Watch the trailer:

Strange? Maybe, but would you consider “the searchers” (John Ford, 1956) a revenge movie..?
The language of Westerns is spare, and plain. Surviving in the face of great odds and hardships, natural or otherwise, dictates humility and economy.

Some films have clever dialogue and good one liners. It is telling that the imdb page for “the horseman” has no ‘memorable quotes’, not one, and that is a really good thing. This isn’t Schwarzenegger or Tarantino territory.
I will not include spoilers in this review. The premise is that a man receives news of his daughter’s death under more than questionable circumstances. We understand from the first few minutes that she was a runaway, and had taken part in some cheap, semi-underground porno.
The man (Peter Marshall) wears a pest control uniform with his name, Christian, on it. Make what you will of the occupation or the name.
When Christian finds out about the porno film, he sets out to find the people who made it and kill them. The majority of reviews call this a revenge movie, and again, I don’t see this as Christian’s motivation. Rather, I see a man needing cleansing from the filth that reached him through his daughter.
He was done and ready to go home about mid-way through the film, there was no desire to keep on killing, especially after having bonded with a runaway (Caroline Marohasy) the age of his daughter, he’d done what needed doing.
The cinematography is stark, shadows are intense and light feels at times like a harsh glint. In fact, watching Christian’s face is like watching the planes and contours of a steel hammer. Reading his expressions is noting the imperfections in the metal, Marshall’s performance is minimalist and perfectly suited and nuanced.
His violence is purposeful, as opposed to the sadism demonstrated by another later in the film. And for realism, simply keep in mind a scene involving a handcuffs’ key, and later on, the way a man sounds after getting stabbed in the chest (no, not with the key).

There is nothing pleasant about “the horseman”, thankfully. It is however very well acted and suspenseful, a proper and very distinct descendant of “get Carter” (Mike Hodges, 1971) and should make first time director Steven Kastrissios someone to keep an eye on. The same certainly applies to the cast, Marshall in particular.

The horseman” gets 4 jellybeans.

4 beans


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The Hard Times of the Dust Bowl

Conquest, famine, death

This is a real life horror story which is dying along with those people who lived it. So many things about it are hard to fathom and I don’t just mean the sheer size of the disaster, nor its duration.
Life on the Plains during the Dust Bowl has never been depicted in films. Ask people and they’ll counter with “the grapes of wrath” which showed a family who had moved away from the disaster, to California. A tangential story.
On the Plains, some of those who stayed formed “the last man club” and vowed to wait it out. Die hards led by a bit of a blow hard named McCarty who turned out not to be last to leave.

A dust storm approaching Spearman. In: “Monthly Weather Review,” Volume 63, April 1935, p. 148. Image ID: wea01422, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection

Eight years of drought, of dust storms of epic proportions, record heat, of futile efforts to seal homes from dust so fine it got everywhere, in people’s food, skin, lungs, of days turned to such darkness you could not see further than a few feet and at worst, not even the hand if front of your face.
Birds flew away until they dropped from exhaustion and were covered up in billowing dust.
People who had survived through the Spanish flu had to wear masks again, this time to keep the dust out, which could not be stopped, slowly suffocating out there in the open.
The plains were becoming a tomb, impossible amounts of dirt lifted hundreds of feet up into the sky and swept across the land, burying everything, killing man and beast alike.
Plagues of locusts and swarms of jack rabbits left nothing behind.

Dust buried farms and equipment, killed livestock, and caused human death and misery during the height of the Dust Bowl years. In: “Monthly Weather Review,” June 1936, p.196. Image ID: wea01408, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection

Children dreamed of the rabbits’ screaming as they were culled on Sundays with sticks and rods.
Static electricity generated by the storms was powerful enough to knock men down if they shook hands. People got to wearing gloves, along with the masks. Cars drug chains tied to their rear bumper in order to ground the vehicles. In the spring of 1935, winds blew non-stop for 27 days. Near Amarillo, Texas, a crow’s nest was found, made entirely of pieces of barbed wire, the only material to be found by the bird. Some folks went mad. Some suffocated while others succumbed to dust pneumonia. There were murder-suicides.

Dallas, South Dakota Source: United States Department of Agriculture; Image Number: 00di0971

Towns put up signs warning those who’d left the Plains to keep moving on as they couldn’t take care of their own.
And yet, whatever lessons there were to learn were not, by and large. The three horsemen of the terrible thirties will ride again.

The above section was written by Lastech.  The section below was written by Rudha-an.

Credit for the first two pictures goes to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce and the collection can be found here by using the search function.  http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/index.html

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan tells the personal and sometimes painful stories of several people who survived the Dust Bowl.  This book puts a very human face on this ecological disaster.  It won the 2006 National Book Award for nonfiction.

This book gets 5 claws

Surviving the Dust Bowl is a part of the PBS series “American Experience”.  While not a great documentary, it makes a good companion piece to the Timothy Egan’s book above.  Several of the people interviewed were featured in the book.  Warning, there is footage of the rabbit culling that can be rather disturbing.

This documentary gets 3 beans.

3 beans

Last, but not least, we leave you with a song by Woody Guthrie.  Guthrie grew up in OK, and was living in the Texas panhandle when the storm that gave the Dust Bowl its name occurred.  It happened on April 14, 1935 and it was so huge that many people believed it was the end of the world.  It was known as Black Sunday.   Woody recorded this song for the Library of Congress. The real name of the song is “Dusty Ole Dust”.


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