Sunday Double Feature Picture Show

So I finally got to see my pal Dave’s new house yesterday; they were more settled-in (as Dave put it, “I have a place for you to sit now.”) and we both had holes in our schedules. It also resulted in the following unfortunate sequencing of Tweets, when my live Tweet butted up against a queued Tumblr post:

As they say, LOL.

It’s a nice house. He’s put a lot of work into it, and intends to put some more. Dave is one of those handy people, a tinkerer. He’s the exact opposite of myself, who can’t put one piece of paper on top of another without disastrous results. Also, unlike his old apartment, he was able to attack the set-up of his home theater sound from a zero point, rather than piecemeal. Which was also fortuitous, as the room he was allowed for a makeshift man-cave was oddly shaped, and defied a traditional set-up.

After demoing the sound set-up with the battle of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers, we settled down to some serious martini-quaffing and movie-watching. Dave wished to further shake-down his system, so my choice (from a number of DVDs I keep leaving with him until I can badger him into watching them) was Shoot-Em-Up, which has my vote for possibly the Most Gleefully Stupid Movie Ever Made. Which is not to say it isn’t cool. It is intensely cool. But it also does not pretend to be anything it isn’t.

Afterwards, Dave was amazed I had not yet seen Tropic Thunder (I been busy. Sue me.), so we took care of that.

So I’m thinking that now I might not need to see The Expendables.

Duck and Cover

Oh, that Friday the 13th. It is a pistol.

At least thus far it’s been a gently mocking pistol. I’m already late, when my wife asks me how she does something on the Blackberry. Different model than I’m used to, different interface. I am rendered later. Not a big deal, it’s my short day, rendered shorter by some extra time put in yesterday.

Arrive at college. Second Summer session is over, parking lot is a vast emptiness. I head toward my favorite space. When, amazingly, a van is there. It stops. The driver ponders the situation. He shifts into reverse. He stops. In a parking lot which currently holds only one parked car, he is apparently spoiled for choice, and cannot decide. Never mind. My second favorite spot is wide open, and I slip into it. I look around. The indecisive van has apparently decided to head for more crowded climes, where the choices are much more limited.

I pick up my travel mug. I always bring a large mug of coffee from home, where I know it will be made to my taste, and not dependent on the whims of the faculty at large. The mug has become unaccountably slippery, and my floorboard is now the proud owner of half a cup of coffee, and I face short rations this morning.

Opening my email, I find a letter from a lady I interviewed about a local mental health initiative last Spring. I say “interviewed” but in this case it means she read from index cards, defying any of my attempts to just get her to talk into the camera. The final story is a triumph of stock photos and CG text, because I couldn’t dwell on her dead-eyed reading.

Well, she’s giving a talk at some gathering, and needs some changes in “the CD I developed for them”.  Currently working on the wording of the reply which explains the difference between news stories and informational programs developed by PR firms. I will try to avoid pointing out that the latter pays much more than the former, and therefore clients, as opposed to interviewees, get to ask for changes.

No, wait, I’ll just pass that off to my boss. That’s why she gets the big bucks.

Rodney Dangerfield used to have a bit in his stand-up: “This morning, I grabbed my briefcase, and the handle came off in my hand. I went to my front door, and the doorknob came off in my hand. I tell ya, I’m afraid to go to the bathroom!”

I have a haircut scheduled this afternoon. This oughtta be good.

Buttons Get Pushed

Yesterday, while not a terrible day, seemed determined to find out how many of my buttons it could push.

As my morning was winding down, I received a text message from my wife. Since that day a couple of months ago when I received a text that simply said “Come take me to the ER”, I’ve tended to have palpitations everytime I hear the Jetson’s doorbell, which is the signal for a wifely text. Yesterday’s text was only slightly different – this time, her sugars had crashed, she was unable to drive, and I needed to come pick her up and bring her home to rest.

So I leave work a little early and help her to the car, joking that a) when she stumbles, she must have a teenage urge to pull me down and make out, and b) it’s pretty sad when you’re relying on a cripple for support. We pick up lunch and head home. She has some cheese and an apple turnover, trying to get her sugars up, and finally goes to sleep.

I attempt to follow suit, as it is siesta time – see earlier post – and the doorbell rings after a meager five minutes of sleep.

I have gone on at length about how I am going to, in a fit of rage, some day pull down the doorbell and reduce it to its component atoms with a ballpeen hammer. Instead I limped downstairs, since my son had already answered the door, there was no possibility of pretending no one was home. Besides, I didn’t want them ringing the doorbell again and disturbing my wife.

It was not missionaries, but my other least favorite visitor, a teenage waif selling overpriced services/magazine subscriptions door to door. First of all, given that I have difficulties sleeping, if you wake me up, it is best for your well-being if someone is dead, injured, or the house is on fire. None of these were the case. I told her she had awakened me. She seemed surprised, as apparently fat men wearing nothing but a T-shirt and boxers were apparently de rigeur in her world. No, I’m sorry, I am currently underemployed and not able to afford your wares, even if I were interested. I am going back to bed now, goodbye. No, it would not help if you spoke to the lady of the house, goodbye. No, you coming by later to speak to her would not help, did I mention goodbye? At this point she attempted to  bully her way into the house and I flipped on the Full Asshole Mode and finally got rid of her.

I feel terrible after switching on Full Asshole Mode, but the last time I attempted to gently inform a similar door to door type of the uselessness of continuing his spiel, he stood in my front yard and screamed curses at me for being such a selfish bastard. I complimented him on his sales technique and closed the door.

I get angry at myself for employing Full Asshole Mode, and I get angry at the person for making me employ Full Asshole Mode. I want a moat, but the damned Home Owners Association said no, and incidentally, you need a new mailbox and to paint your house.

Later – after managing a bit of fitful, rage-filled sleep, I drove my wife back to her school, where she had a Board meeting to attend. I got some groceries, including  much-needed Pug Dog Chow, and it was on the way home that the day received its coda: waiting at a red light a bird swooped in low over the line of waiting cars, and landed on my car’s antenna, which is one of those that extends on an angle above the driver’s side window. Well, that’s unusual, but sorta cool, I thought. And then the bird poop started running down my window.

The only proper response was laughter. Anything else would have been ridiculous or pathetic. So I laughed, and decided that maybe it was time to finally wash the car.

Let Him Do It Instead

Like anybody needs help getting depressed in the morning. Mike Sterling, whose blog I’ve been reading for years, has embarked on a new enterprise, Estate 4.1, “Celebrating Web 2.0 and the part it plays in allowing user comments to improve the online news experience.” In other words, Mike goes where angels fear to tread – the comments sections of the Yahoo news sites – and posts the cream of the stupidity he finds there.  With links to same.

If nothing else, he quashes any temptation I ever have to abjure my usual firm stance on avoiding poisonous pools of idiocy, and actually sneak a peek in there. A temptation which inevitably leads to the ruination of any sense of bonhomme I may have managed to build that particular day.

So here’s to you, Mr. Sterling. You may be doing this for your own amusement, but you are providing a genuine service to mankind, by doing a disservice to the unkind.

(“Real People of Genius” music fades)

Mandatory Post Bitching About the Heat

All climate change deniers are quite welcome to hang around with me, my wheezing, near-apoplectic air conditioner, and my army of fans (the electric, air-blowing kind). The Heat Index finally fell below 100 degrees at 9:00PM last night, for God’s sake.

Which brings me to the subject of casual racism. Everything these days is tinged with racism or accusations of racism, and I almost miss the days of  casual racism, which seem almost innocent compared to the weaponized racism we’re subjected to daily.

No, the racist crap from my youth I’m dwelling on a lot lately concerns the Hispanic population of Texas. My grandfather – otherwise one of the kindest, most downright decent people I have ever known – hated them with a passion. He was free with the disparaging of other minorities, notably the blasted Hun, but he reserved special ire for those Messkins. (One day we’ll talk about when I fell in love with a Latina, who reciprocated. That was messy.)

You can say my grandfather was a product of his times. That doesn’t excuse it, but I’m also going to point out my only problem with it was that, even if given the chance, he wouldn’t have changed. It was simply the way he was, at that point. I can only speak for myself, in the final analysis, and this bullshit is something I struggle with internally every single goddamn day.  I’m not immune to the poison that gets hurled about every day, and right now I’ve got a build-up of over 50 years of garbage to deal with. I find myself thinking terrible, unworthy things. I am shocked, and slap those thoughts down, and wonder where the hell did that come from? But I know.

And I honestly think that every person, everyone who hasn’t gotten that Premium Divinity Upgrade, deals with it every day. Some are shocked and try to do better. Some simply accept it. Some seem to fucking glory in it.

Well. I managed to steer myself into some far-too-serious territory there.

The point I was aiming toward was, in my youth, one of the stereotypes that of the “lazy Messkin” was the guy taking a siesta, a mid-day nap. Never mind that my grandfather often took one, too. Them Messkins would crawl off and sleep at the drop of a hat, and would frequently drop their own hat. And it was one of them damned sombreros, too, I’ll bet.

Guess what? Like my grandfather, I nap too. Even when I worked in an office back in the 90s, I introduced my boss to the concept of a 15 minute nap after lunch, and it worked wonders for both of us. If there is an upside to my current impoverished part-time-only job, it’s that I get my nap in, with no problems.

And you know what the siesta was? It was finding a shady spot and sleeping through the hottest part of the day. That wasn’t laziness, that was sanity. That was sensible.

Of course, currently, it would be impossible for me to sleep through the entirety of the hottest part of the day. I can do some serious napping, but not six to twelve hours worth.

In Which Our Narrator Gets A Bit Morose

Made the 100 mile trip to visit my parents Sunday; I really need to do that much more often. The only real drawback is having to also haul our pet pug-dog along, because she is the second grandchild, and the poor thing gets so over-excited that she spends the entire 90 minute trip sounding like a mule having an asthma attack. No amount of cranking up the radio counters that.

Wonder of wonders, I did that rarity: actually talking at length to my father about something besides the weather and lawn care. I often wonder what the hell was up with me, how I enforced this emotional remove from my father, going way, way back. Is it a generational thing? I seemed to succumb to some sort of outside influence – looking back, I felt it was expected of me, which makes no goddamn sense whatsoever.

None.

I say generational because I recall all too clearly the Men’s Movement of the 90s. Remember, the drum circles, all that? Like a lot of the pop psych movements, there was a lot of nonsense associated with it. There was one thing about it that I found particularly powerful, however, and valuable: a sudden willingness to examine and analyze and think wait a minute…

One of the most important books for me was Why Men Are the Way They Are, by Warren Farrell. I found it in the Women’s Studies section of a bookstore, but it’s a book that also really, really needs to be read by men. There were far too many times I found myself reading a section and thinking, “Well, of course that’s the way it should be done…” followed almost immediately by a rueful, “No, no there really isn’t a good reason for that.” It was very eye-opening.

(I should also note that shortly thereafter I tried to read Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power, but I found it whiny and not terribly useful. But I bless him for the book I did find useful)

So that weird emotional remove – I still feel it. I work toward overcoming it with my father, I work toward overcoming it with my son. He is on the cusp of teenager-dom (shudder), and I wonder if that old reserve – which even though I know it to be there,  and to be wrong, still sits  with the apparent invulnerability of a black ice glacier – has already worked its harm.

Being human is no damned fun at all. Being an aged pug-dog in the back seat of a car working yourself up to puking with excitement is probably a lot better. But then, considering that also means a lifetime of getting people to scratch your curly butt because all the generations of in-breeding has insured you can’t do it yourself – I guess I’ll take the incertitude and complications of life.

I like being able to scratch my butt.

Minor Triumphs and Pointless Bitching

Bit more mobile today. Only need the cane to get up and get moving. Things loosen up from there.

No show this weekend – grumble grumble – I kinda need that money for my trip to Dallas later this month.

Well, we’re still getting together to work some stuff. That will pay a little, though not as much as a full-fledged show.

Visiting my parents Sunday. It’s been way too long.

Saw Despicable Me yesterday. Very cute. Very sweet. I was actually impressed by some of the 3-D work.

Our Humble Narrator Prepares To Go To The Kitchen For A Nice Diet Coke

I have a brief shoot tomorrow morning. I’ll need that footage in the Fall, so the temptation to just sleep in must be fought.

It was less than two months ago I went to the Verizon store, having been give the impression that I was eligible for an upgrade to a Droid phone. I was told I wasn’t actually eligible until December. Last week we got a mailing that I was, once again, eligible. BAH.

SO. Have a good weekend. In the meantime: BAH.

When the Job Tries to Kill You

First bad sign: when you get up on the day of an outdoor shoot, and the first thing you see on Twitter is a Heat Advisory.

I had been asked by an old friend to run a camera on his latest industrial video project: a sort of Amazing Race clone, where the teams were made of summer interns at a local engineering firm. I was one of four cameraman, the oldest, with the most experience – feeling, I suppose, that I could at least be counted on to get establishing shots at the various locations.

Each cameraman was assigned to ride with a specific team. Of course, yours truly found himself with a team of enthusiastic go-getters more than half his age. Who took the “race” part seriously, were determined to win, and literally ran everywhere.

Good God.

There were four objectives. I managed to keep up with them on the first two, but they literally left me in the dust in downtown Houston, between the Metro rail and Minute Maid Park. I watched (and taped) the rapidly receding backs, and sadly decided there was just no way I could do this. Hell, when I was their age, before the auto wreck and sundry other accidents that hobbled me, I couldn’t have done that.

I finally caught up with them at the end – gladly accepting a ride from one of the officials. The organizers themselves were almost caught flat-footed several times, as they arrived mere minutes before the first crew – mine, usually – made the scene. They hadn’t expected anyone to actually run.

Also had to personally intervene in the final judgement. My team was going to get penalized for losing me, and I pointed out that I had told them, “Do not wait for me. You are not going to lose this because you got saddled with an old fart for a cameraman.” And they didn’t. In Batman terms, they were good soldiers.

So, in lieu of actually getting footage of the events, I got interviews with each of the team members about what happened, of course ending with the question, “So… tell the people at home why there’s no footage of you being awesome at the last challenges?

I’m in serious pain today. Likely will be tomorrow. But at least one of the things I can say is: I have been on the playing field at Reliant Stadium. That was pretty cool.

And next time I’m telling my friend he had better be budgeting for a Segway.

A Burst of Activity

Busy week. I wish weeks would run, oh, Monday – Saturday or something. Of course, the week starting on Monday, or even Sunday, is just a convenient organization construct foisted on us by any number of forces that need that sort of order for reasons both nefarious and beneficent. When you work in entertainment, that sort of thing goes out the window, and probably bounces a couple of times.

Last week, the week my wife was out of town at an education conference, was fairly placid – there were plenty of errands to be run, but I managed to spread them out over the week. The real work week began Saturday, with The Show, then Sunday with the impromptu class reunion, then Monday a private show for Dow Chemical. In one of those odd puzzles that defy logic, the show Saturday was thirty-some-odd people jammed in a small room, last night was half that in a larger room. Both enjoyed the show immensely, so no harm, no foul.

Today: Staff meeting, low impact.  Tomorrow: I run camera for a friend, you folks will likely not hear from me.  It’s some sort of Amazing Race-type thing, so I may die unceremoniously in the taping. Thursday: Team building! By which I mean we go to lunch and then a movie together. It’s a hard damn life, I tell you.

Well, mixed up in there I’m also generating story leads for the Fall and trying not to perish in the stinking heat. That makes for a full day.

(Image once again from Savage Chickens. They funny. Go read.)

Impromptu Reunions and the Glory Therein

I suppose I’m less interesting when I have nothing to complain about. Who wants to hear about things going well? It’s banks closings, massive ecological disasters, and unfunded and unsuccessful wars that get the page hits.

Sorry.

Well, this does start with a sadness: Art, one of my oldest friends – we were one of five sharing a legendary house in college days – had to come into town from LA because his mother, after a long, long struggle with Alzheimers, had a stroke that ended the struggle altogether. In town for only a short time, another of the housemates, Scott, through Herculean effort managed to get everybody from that era at the Sam Houston Drama Department – who was within driving distance – to gather Sunday afternoon for an impromptu support group and general gabfest.  By sheer coincidence, the fifth member of the household, who has also spent the last ten some-odd years in LA, was in town on business, and the fifth member made the three-hour trip from Nacogdoches.

To say that we were all older would be disingenuous. I left the womb of college to take the world of theater by storm nearly 30 years ago. Some of us hadn’t changed that much, some of us had. All were recognizable, all were healthy. The men, when they had hair, wore gray. The women did not, and I was informed by one of them that there was a reason for that.

Some of the folks I had lost touch with years before; some I had never been that close to, anyway. Most of them I had re-established contact with via Facebook (yes, I am one of the old farts that drove out the kids). Some I had lost touch with in spite of living in the same city. Most of us wondered why we didn’t do this more often, why it takes some tragedy to get us to come together.

The sad thing is, we always say that. Every time. Then we go off, get involved in our personal morasses, and never really consider it until somebody dies again.

Bob, the second guy from LA, had to leave early for a wedding. Luckily, he, Scott and I had lunch Friday and did our catching up then. Art, sadly had to leave not long after, to pick up his brother at the airport, before I got to play catch-up with him. That left the rest of us, a number that dwindled through the evening, as those that had driven from distant lands had to once more hit the road.

Steve, a friend for even longer than Art, and I had a quiet moment to engage in one of the conversations we had so often, about metaphysics and history, that was cut short too soon; I was reminded of my years-long crush on Diane; and I was reminded that Porter, the guy who drove all the way from Nacogdoches, is one of the few people that make me laugh loud and long and unashamedly.

As I said, I left college in ’81. Never got that degree, which is something that makes me sad. Too many youthful screw-ups, too many dreams, it was just easier to sever the ties and start over. I’ve started over several times since then. A few summers back, I visited the old digs, the college, the bars, the party house, and I was overcome by an unfathomable longing. I spent months examining that longing. Was it for simpler times, although while living through them, they seemed unbearably complex? Did I miss the dreams that seemed so in reach at the time? Did I miss the certainty of my own unflappable rightness, the obviousness of my genius?

I finally decided that my sadness was due to that lack of closure, of finishing out the program, of getting that all-important piece of paper which would have made certain aspects of my life easier. I just felt that it was a waste of all that time, all those years, all that youth.

But yesterday put paid to all that. I made those friends in those years, and I would not trade anything for those friends and the love felt for them and from them. My nose is rubbed daily in what seems to be the inherent stupidity and brute insensitivity of mankind. Every now and then I need – really, honestly, need – that reminder that there are, indeed, good people in the world, and I know a lot of them.