Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Palm Springs Film Noir Festival

Several years have gone by since I've attended, but I finally got to the latest Palm Springs Film Noir Festival.  A great lineup this year, including several rarities, including "Larceny", with Shelly Winters doing a great femme fatale role.  On Mother's Day, how appropriate for film noir, we were presented with Richard Widmark's crazed role tying up a mother in her wheelchair and pushing her down the stairs...  oh, how the audience howled, moaned, and even laughed...  we noiristas are so jaded...   Check out "Kiss of Death".  And the famous wheelchair scene...

The weekend was appropriately summarized by this T-shirt (from "Hollow Triumph").


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Taco, Taco


Our new favorite eating place (actually it's been around for awhile)...  Absolutely delicious tacos (I recommend the Al Pastor), plus a few other Mexi eats as well.  Not an elaborate menu, they keep it simple, street taco style, add some condiments as you please.  A small place, often crowded, but outside seating as the weather warms, and well done take-out.  Prices are very reasonable.  And I kinda like their social sympathies...


Monday, April 9, 2018

Dynaco Lives!

Since the late 60's, I've always enjoyed Dynaco audio gear.  When I made a little money around 1965, I bought the now classic Stereo 70 amp and PAS-3 preamp kits, tube sound upgraded with Van Alstine mods in the 90's (more in another post).


Recently I completed upgrades on the 1970's Dynaco solid state components, a PAT-5 preamp (already at the BI-FET stage) and an older Stereo 120 amplifier I bought used for $20.  The upgrades came via Update My Dynaco, and they are extensive.  The PAT-5 involved a new power supply board and gold plated jack field.



The Stereo 120 was more involved.  Basically, the old amp was stripped internally and a new power supply and new amplifier modules installed.  The modules are based on the LM3886 chip amplifier, which seems quite popular with amp builders.  An LED power meter was added to the cover.



Of course, newly updated components require new speakers!  I've always wanted Wharfedale Diamond 225s, speakers that are very highly rated for sound quality and at a very reasonable price.  For source material, I've collected a number of 24/96 sound files, along with some CD quality test music I've always thought sounded great.  The files are loaded onto a iPod touch and fed via Lightning digital connection to an Oppo HA-2 DAC (under the iPod).  Then analog to the PAT-5.


I added my old FM-5 which continues to work just fine, although who listens to FM radio anymore(!?)   But, along with the Stereo 120 LED meter, I get some glowing and some flashing lights...  real cool!

Finally, the whole system sounds great!  I'm thoroughly enjoying listening to this combo, and get great pleasure from old audio component friends newly revived and performing so well.  Thanks to Dan Joffe at Update My Dynaco.


Flash!  Dan has just announced new line cards for the PAT-5...  just after I finished with the last mods!  Oh, well, at some point I'll want to fire up the old soldering iron...


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Book Review #27

I read a lot of books.  Once in awhile, a particular book stands out.  This happen to me with "Beauty is a Wound" by Eka Kurniawan, an Indonesian writer. 


This is one of those epic novels, several generations of a family, lots of characters coming and going, really weaving in and out of the narrative.  Mixed in is a history of Indonesia, as a Dutch colony, through the Japanese occupation, then the Communist revolts.  The story also contains elements of Indonesia myth, ghosts and religious figures. 

The writing style can be confusing, as the story jumps around in time, divergent elements of the story are introduced without any transition, characters seem to have no connection, but, in the end, everything makes sense.  There's a certain sadness about the story, but also hope in the end.

All in all, a wonderful book and highly recommended.  The translation to English seems excellent.  Read it.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Binge Watching Takes Over the World

There's a million series out there, on cable channels or streaming services, and I can't keep up.  Since many of them are oriented to younger generations, I don't feel bad missing them.  And I'm just not into the most popular fare, such as Game of Thrones.

But the ones I seek out and get the most pleasure from seem to be foreign, and you have to dig for them a little, and handle subtitles.  Such series seem deeper and more intense.  We can start with the four seasons of Braquo, probably the most intense cop show ever.  And you have to start from the very beginning of this French series.  I saw the first two series on DVDs from my local library.  The last two were found on Hulu.  Riveting...


Another French series that you'll binge all night long is The Bureau, a spy series involving the French secret services, the CIA, the KGB or whatever they are call these days, the Iranian secret service, the Iraqi secret service, ISIS, and several love affairs.  Lots of plot lines that intersect, often maddening to keep together, often puzzling, but ultimately resolving.  Amazon Prime Video if I remember correctly, four seasons so far...


Finally, a friend turned me on to a German series on Netflix, Babylon Berlin.  Two seasons of episodes rolled into one series depicting 1929 Berlin, a time of political intrigue and much naughtiness.  Trotskis vs Stalinists, Commies revolting in the streets, proto Nazi's plotting a takeover of the country.  Then there is the cabaret...  wild scenes, wild women, drunk men, sultry songs, jazzy music (the drummer is great!).  I've always been fascinated by this era between wars in what was a very bohemian culture in the city, amongst the poverty and unemployment.  The depiction of the city during this time is amazingly thorough.  Again, many subplots, and, unfortunately, very little is resolved at the end...  more Babylon Berlin!  An aside, some of the original music, at least lyrically, is by Brian Ferry, who also makes a stage appearance in Episode 10 (he also has a CD called The Jazz Age, his music reinterpreted in 20's and 30's style).   Well worth subtitle reading.



Well, those three should keep you up through the night.  Oh, and there's Serial, another French cop show which I haven't had time to get back to, but I love the main female character, so wonderful watching her choose her lovers...  

Now I need to catch my breath for a bit before plunging into another series.