September 16th, 2004

pointy teeth

"First catch your buffalo."

The Ba Yei -- the water people -- live with the crocodile, and because they are more careful than other tribes their casualty list is not high. When a particularly big crocodile becomes an intolerable burden they have a curious way of dealing with him. They cut a buffalo hide into one long continuous spiral strip. ("First catch your buffalo.") This strip is about one-and-a-half inches broad and perhaps sixty feet long. To one end they tie a couple of pounds of spoiled meat, and leave it in the water's edge. If the plan works the croc swallows the meat and eight or ten feet of the hide strip, but he cannot get the rest of it down. He cannot bite the strip off because his teeth are not arranged that way, and he cannot close his gullet because the strip holds it open. Thus when he submerges he drowns. As with all best laid plans, this one does not always work, but the Ba Yei feel it is worth a try, assuming that they can organize that buffalo, which is no minor operation.

-- Col. Jeff Cooper, in To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth.

cass groovy

Movie Recommendations

A Song is Born. 1948, starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. Kaye stars as one of nine professors who have shut themselves up in a house for nine years to wite the definitive multi-volume history of music -- only to discover, through a chance encounter with the outside world, that they've missed the jazz revolution. They draft an army of jazz musicians to update their work; Mayo stars as a jazz-singing gangster's moll who winds up in the middle of the proceedings. It's a remake of the classic Ball of Fire, but stands quite well on its own -- and stars an army of jazz greats, including Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet, Mel Powell, Tommy Dorsey, and (as one of the professors!) Benny Goodman.

Forgotten Silver, possibly Peter Jackson's best film. Sweet, sly, brilliant mockumentary about Colin MacKenzie, an unknown and entirely fictitious New Zealand filmmaker who invented the feature film, the talkie, color footage, and (my favorite) the tracking shot.

The Wizard of Speed and Time. Animator Mike Jittlov worked for Disney in the seventies and had hellacious experiences, including wrangles with an evil producer who refused to pay for Mike's work. So Mike made a modest feature film about it, playing himself. The film's producer played the evil producer in the movie -- and in real life; the climax came when he sold the video rights to several fly-by-night distributors simultaneously, inextricably tangling the rights and ensuring that nobody would ever see a dime. Jittlov refers to the product as the Nostradamus of motion pictures -- but it's a fun, cheery movie with great music and hand-animated special effects.