What Else Are Blogs For?

So this is kinda bizarre. Sitting in my living room, tapping out this entry on my wife’s netbook, which is logged into my home’s wifi. It’s a cute little thing with a foreshortened keyboard – the last and only time I bought a laptop I got one with a full keyboard, making it so huge it could hardly be called a notebook or a laptop. I called it the Necronomicon, which amused me and puzzled everyone else.

So I should feel all cool and 21st century. The only thing needed to complete the picture would be doing this in Starbucks with a clove cigarette in one hand. And wearing a beret. It’s cool enough for a beret out there. Instead I feel like I’m typing this on a Fisher-Price toy.

To be sure, lacking my usual desktop brain, I’ve been sneaking a few moments at work to update the blog (sssh!), but my work schedule is messed up this week, and that’s all my fault.

In the course of a semester, I have to do a certain number of stories centered on the college,  a responsibility shared among the reporters. This can get tough on a community college campus, especially one in a suburban setting, but I had my ace in the hole, a presentation that took place last Spring, but it was a former instructor on a second career, and fairly evergreen.

To digress (but not really), the man is Dr. Richard Taylor, who was diagnosed seven years ago with dementia, likely Alzheimer’s.  He works hard to keep his cognition up, and has become an Alzheimer’s advocate, writing a book called Alzheimer’s from the Inside Out and speaking on the disease’s effect and helping unaffected people understand how best to interact with sufferers.

It was a very good presentation, and he gave me an excellent interview afterward.  And I finally needed to use that footage this week.

When I go on location, I check out equipment from a pool. I’ve learned the hard way to make the “check out” part of that equation literal, but I had not apparently learned it when I recorded Dr. Taylor. Generally, under such circumstances, I use a shotgun mike with pretty good results. But apparently, whoever had the camera before me had switched the audio inputs to the camera’s internal mike, which are, to put it mildly, inferior.

To put it more diplomatically, less discriminating. The audio was marred by a horrific buzzing, most likely from the fluorescent lights, and picked up every door slam from students arriving late like a gunshot, every unzipping of a backpack, every shuffle in a seat. But mainly it was that buzz.

Now, mind you: this was on the same campus where I work, where I have my own workstation. It would have been the work of a minute to grab headphones from my computer to check the audio. Two minutes to check out a wireless mike setup so I could piggyback on the frequency of the mike being used by the Central campus TV guy.

But yeah, hubris. i knew what I was doing. And it would come back to haunt me.

Our station manager is an audio wizard, but was out with bronchitis, and only came back yesterday. It still took him an hour to get the buzz down to an acceptable level, using some software tools that were so complex I hadn’t dared try them,even with 25 levels of “undo” at my beck and call. After the lengthy Wednesday staff meeting, I still have voiceover, B-roll, graphics and a music bed to lay down.

I still have two remotes to shoot this week, and my extra time put in yesterday weighs against those, and the fact that I floor manage the news stand-ups this week. I can’t go beyond my allotted 19.5 hours, or they might have to start thinking about giving me benefits.

I shouldn’t be so churlish as to complain. I have work, a lot of people don’t. Bills are getting paid, if barely. There’s food in the refrigerator. Then again, I also contemplate I am here unable to replace a necessary tool, with some health problems that need to be looked at, and a wife driving a 20-year-old car. So fuck it. I’m gonna complain.

What else are blogs for?

Tired Old Rhythms

For a skeptical kind of guy, I seem to put a lot of stock in biorhythms. I guess this because I do see a correlation between the squiggly lines and my day-to-day. I don’t check them every day, but on a day unlike today – when elm trees are releasing their own special brand of nerve gas in an attempt to kill me – on a normal day when by all indications I should feel great I still feel like a building has fallen on me, if I check the rhythms – why, yes, lookie there, my physical curve has cratered.

And then there’s this week, when I feel stupid and surly. It’s not the inevitable disintegration of old age, my intellectual curve is scraping barnacles off the bottom of the chart. Oh, yeah, this was a good time to do some subbing. It’s remarkable I didn’t leave my stone axe in somebody’s head. I still might, new negative numbers need to be invented to communicate how bleary and muddled my thoughts are now. New disciplines of math, even.

I collected my pay from the sub gig and bought the hard drive enclosure I mentioned yesterday, as I need access to some of the files that resided on my now-motherboard-less old computer. The capricious nature of fate is also much in evidence as there are no fewer than three DVDs out this week that I desire. The remaining money I should have socked away for the new computer, but noooo, I had to buy one of those DVDs. Well, and some groceries, which sort of goes without saying.

And I took the path of least resistance and got Iron Man 2, which was at least available everywhere, even corner fruit stands. I also spotted Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, but I must have the deluxe edition of any disc I buy. I demand the behind-the-scenes, oh-look-at-this-graphic-render extras. When given basic discs as a gift, I die a little inside, knowing I will always pine for whatever documentaries reside on the extra disc of that special edition that got away. Whenever I get the single disc DC animated movies, I always wind up haunted used disc racks for years, eventually picking up the deluxe editions. I might as well cut down the wait by getting what I really wanted in the first place.

Recriminations set in almost immediately. Iron Man 2 is going to be in the pre-viewed rack in a month or so. Ah, but not the two-disc version, I betcha. And that’s if my local Blockbuster is still around.

One of the hardest things to give up in my new save-for-the-new-compy drive was my Amazon Prime account, which I also call The Great Enabler. Getting free handling and two-day shipping was liberating. Being able to pay just the quoted price on a product page unlimbered my acquisition urge like nothing else. The last couple of years, it’s taken something extraordinary – a Criterion sale here, a liquidation sale there – to get me to order from anywhere else but Amazon. That was damned cagey strategy there, but I truly feel that I got my money’s worth out of that annual fee – but the annual fee needed to go elsewhere this year.

Of course, the only place I’m likely to find the two-disc version of Apocalypse or my other dream date, the VCI release of Dark Night of the Scarecrow (that rarity, a made-for-TV horror movie that was actually scary ) is Amazon. Once I get compy squared away, I need to re-up the Amazon Prime thing. It seems I’ve gotten too old to enjoy the hunt at retails stores, as I once did.

Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday

I work in a server farm. The temperature in here is usually kept at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, year round, and sometimes in the middle of Summer I find myself putting on a sweater. Once I was moved into an office adjacent to the farm, instead of actually in it, I thought that would stop, but no, my workstation is now under an air conditioning vent.

I’m not complaining. As one acquaintance put it, I like it “Elvis cold”. One would then, perforce, ask what the hell I’m doing living in Houston, with its hideous swamp summers that are only getting worse. Offhand, the answer involves equal amounts of stupidity and poverty, but another big factor is the woman I love living and working here.

All of which is beside the point I was intending to make. According to my phone, it is 57 degrees outside, with impossibly light humidity, at nearly 11 o’clock in the morning. We get, at a liberal estimate, ten days like this a year, and I find myself treacherously yearning to experience it. Instead of sitting at my windowless workstation, thinking of putting on my sweater.

Not helping is the fact it’s my week to do a college-centric story, and nothing of note is going on here; I’m pulling my ace in the hole, based largely on a presentation in the Spring, and I’m finding out just how hard the acoustics in the place bagged me. I’ll get four usable minutes out of it, but it’s gonna be hard.

Best of all, I do not sub today. If the fates are kind, I will never be subbing again. I got enough frustration and repressed anger in the four days I did to last me for some time. There certain occupations I am simply not cut out for, and teaching at any level below college is one of them. Scratch that, don’t even consider me for college.

Anyway. My goal to stay positive took a real beating in the last week. Hell, the ghost of Bruce Lee came over and trounced it soundly. Time to get back on the horse, but I have a ton of negativity to purge first. Meditation would be good, but there’s no time; I have a private show tonight.

Maybe some shopping. I’m pulling the hard drive from the fried computer (well, not tonight – likely tomorrow) and putting it in an enclosure so I can hopefully get the files I need off it – I still have some website responsibilities that are weighing heavily on me. So perhaps strolling around the man-mall will help me recharge a bit.

Non-Digital Life Continues

Life continues without my digital IV drip; I knew it would, you knew it would, the question was only what form it would take.

Today marks my last day of subbing at my wife’s school. Friday night should have been marked by heavy drinking, yet it was not. I kept working my way through the extras on the Starcrash DVD, and dozing off in my easy chair. Caroline Munro has a very soothing voice.

Saturday, was, well, a typical Saturday for me. Which means getting all the rest I could and doing a show Saturday night. One difference was dropping by the library to pick up the next six volumes of Koike & Gojima’s Path of the Assassin, which they were holding for me. I had finished the first of these volumes by the show’s end.

Even after tearing down the sound system and packing away the curtains, adrenalin still pumps after a show, and I’m rarely in bed before 2am on show nights, frequently later. Having finally exhausted Starcrash, I was going to return to Galaxy of Terror to see if my memories of it seeming largely improvised still rang true. But then I discovered that I could watch that first episode of Hawaii Five-O I had missed and everyone was being so positive about… on my phone. I do a lot on the Droid, almost to the exclusion of using it as an actual telephone. But I had never done that. YouTube videos and such, yes, but never an actual extended entertainment video.

So I had to do it at least once, right?

I’ll likely do it again, too, though watching a movie – something that meant to be projected big – does not appeal to me. I was also hooked into my house’s wi-fi and had the phone plugged in, so I don’t know how that would have impacted my battery (significantly, I’m thinking), so I’m not looking at doing it in the wild much, either.

Oh, what about the show, you might ask? I enjoyed it well enough to check out another episode. A couple of terrific stunts, to be sure. Rather slight on the story side. But enjoyable.

As mentioned, this is hopefully my last day of subbing at my wife’s school. I am going to get religion long enough to praise whatever gods are responsible for an end to this suffering. And for my pay earned, which puts me a little closer to a new computer.

Life Without a Computer

As near as I can tell, that title has a good chance of being a Summer replacement sitcom.

Of course, I am not totally without access to a computer, or I wouldn’t be tapping this out now. I keep up with my e-mail and Twitter via my Droid phone, use my wife’s netbook for more important things, like catching up on my day’s webcomics. It has been pointed out that I can reclaim the laptop I refurbished and gave to my son, but I’m not quite to that point yet. Even if Dave does shout, “Ground him! You know he’s done something wrong! Ground him!

I found myself faced with the prospect of, you know, actually watching TV last night, as my wife was off performing in her show and my son was feverishly playing online games, probably certain that I would appear in his doorway at any moment to reclaim my property.

Well, I didn’t watch TV, nyah nyah, except for a few minutes of CSI while I was folding laundry (still amazed that criminalists engage in raids on criminal strongholds. Truly they are the backbone of law enforcement, at least in Las Vegas). I’m still going through the many extras on that Starcrash DVD – though I’ve no idea how I’m going to format and post a review – finished up the last of the volumes of Path of the Assassin I have in my possession. Even started reading that copy of Marvel Essential Wolverine I picked up long ago. I wasn’t expecting to like it that much, but… dammit, Marvel, it’s not fair to ring in Chris Claremont and John Buscema on me.

The most surprising thing – and this has happened every time I find myself in these straits – is the odd feeling of isolation. It’s not unlike those times I visited my sister-in-law, way out in the country where cell phones don’t function and the Internet was still science-fiction. That’s silly, of course; nothing has really changed except for my constant connection to a digital flow. I’m not automatically checking Tumblr or Twitter for updates every few minutes. I’m pretty much dependent on myself for my entertainment.

You’d think there’d be some lesson in self-sufficiency here, or some hook for the feel-good movie of the year. But there’s not; I’ve lost one of my tools, and I’m finding out all over again just how much I used that tool.

In other news: Two of my four days in sub hell have passed. I have murdered no children yet. Operative word being yet.

Codes and Catches

So my aging computer is having a few difficulties. I do what any right-thinking computer user does in such circumstances: I reboot the computer and hope this clears out the goblins that are causing my troubles.

The major problem with that strategy this time is this apparently opens the gates to the Uruk-Hai of computer problems, as the boot screens only go so far before I am confronted with a string of error codes I have not seen in my – what? – 25 years or so of playing shadetree mechanic to these things?

I make a preliminary search on the codes using my smartphone and what I come up with is I am dealing with a BIOS problem, possibly the battery running that sector of my outboard brain finally died. After an extended shutdown recently, I did notice that the internal clock was running several hours slow, but there was little I could do past correcting it and getting on with my work.

The current computer is about five years old, and I had plans to replace it soon, waiting mainly for a big work project, the funding for which has gotten held up by bureaucracy (much to the ire of the client). Of course, the question of exactly how I’m going to do this work without one of my major tools is a bit troublesome. I need the pay to buy the new computer, but I need the new computer to get the pay. As ever, that Catch-22 remains the best Catch we’ve got.

So for a while, I guess I’ve got the extra leisure time I had wanted. Time to read, time to watch a movie or two. Or Three.


More Listing, More Horrors, More Busy

Yay for horrible hump days:

1) That sinus infection I thought was gone? Nope.

2) Therefore, very little sleep last night.

3) I will be subbing at my wife’s school this afternoon. Though only for a couple of hours. I guess they figure I can’t murder the entire class in that short a time.

4) They underestimate me.

5) Have to finish the Hot Sauce festival story today, then spend the rest of the week trying to find something of interest in a small community college campus. I’m required to do such a story every three weeks.

6) Staff meeting. Not painful, but I’m nervous about getting the story done in the time allotted, and then choking down some lunch & running to the school.

7) Do not pack the claymores Do not pack the claymores Do not pack the claymores

List of Horrors

1) Nothing like waking up and discovering some idiot has exploited a security flaw in Twitter and rendered their web interface unusable.

2) Time to check out that Hootsuite people keep talking about.

3) The wireless mike I used on the Saturday shoot was futzing out intermittently, making this a bitch to edit.

4) Not trusting that newfangled crap again.

5) My wife wants me to sub for one of her teachers afternoons this week.

6) The reason I didn’t go into education is They won’t allow you to shoot one of the kids the first day to show the others you mean business.

7) I had my regular breakfast and I’m still hungry.

8) No way this ends well.

Of Hot Sauce & Horrorshows

Saturday was predictably full, often my busiest day of the week anyway. Spent the morning covering the Houston Hot Sauce Festival, which is a fun thing, if you’re into hot sauce. I likes me some fire, but some of the vendors out there are just plain freakin’ sadists. I did a more or less straight story on it last year (well, a large part of it was setting my camera outside a likely booth and shooting people’s reactions to one of the more pernicious concoctions). This year, I wanted to find a new angle, and talked one of the younger turks at the station who was interested in the Fest anyway to play Man vs Food while I followed. He was apprehensive at first, but started having fun with it. I’m going to have trouble trimming this down to under five minutes, that’s how much good stuff I got.

Not bad, considering we had to duck rain every so often. The storm clouds are a constant presence on the footage, but that didn’t stop people from attending. Which is good, as the Festival’s beneficiary, The Snowdrop Foundation, is a worthy charity. No, the weather really let loose on the second day, Sunday, when I went back to get some secondary footage I had missed on Saturday.

My only major disappointment was that the Chili Piper’s red pepper bagpipe was apparently just for show.

Then came Saturday’s show. We’re down one actress, which means some reassigning of lines, no big deal. Then the sound guy begs off a half hour before call. Then we arrive to find our room still set up for whatever business motivation class that afternoon. All for our biggest audience in weeks. Oh, the magic of live theater.

Then I get up early Sunday to perform at our church’s 8:30 service. Then the cold I’ve been putting off for days hits me upside the head while I go Fine, get it over with, I’ve have hell of editing to do in the next two days. I take to bed. The nightmares were incredible.

So here I am, boring you while my footage digitizes. That was my weekend, How are things in your town?

How We Hurted Ourselves III

After a day of attempting to recover from Friday’s debauchery – a day which included a show of my own and the realization that I wasn’t really hungry until 4PM – We casually drifted together again at Dave’s. The rest of the sausages and pork tenderloin were cooked, as Dave remembered something he had realized Friday night: Rick had never seen Mortal Kombat.

Well, now I guess you don’t need to see the movie. Rick’s screams were remarkably similar to those produced during GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

I think Paul W.S. Anderson get s a raw deal, personally. If I made lists, I wouldn’t be putting his movies in the Top Ten, but they always entertain me, and frankly, that’s all I ask of a movie: enlightenment or edification would be nice, certainly, but I’m largely there to forget my cares for a while. And Mortal Kombat is a not-so-guilty pleasure; Anderson was asked to make a movie out of a video game that is pretty much different flavors of punching and kicking and pulling out spines, and little else. Mortal Kombat is pretty much what would happen if a bunch of kids got together and decided to play Mortal Kombat even though they didn’t have any consoles. You know, play-acting, like I did with my friends when we played WWII decades before Castle Wolfenstein was invented. Rules for the tournament that comprise the movie are improvised on the spot, as required by the plot – which is also improvised on the spot.

So Mortal Kombat is essentially a spiritual companion to GI Joe: a big-budget, loud, but essentially empty visualization of an adolescent/childish pursuit. Prime material for this sort of gathering.

In retaliation Rick insisted on more Pink Lady & Jeff. Did I mention Paul finally made it tot he fest? Paul finally made it to the fest. He was in time for me to hit my 20 minute limit on Jeff Altman, and for Dave to start his next shot across our bows. He admitted that he had never seen it, then hit play, fading back to relish what he hoped would be our cries of dismay and agony.

Oh yeah, the only time Nancy and Ronnie actually made a movie together. Unlike what you may have been told, Hellcats of the Navy isn’t a bad movie. It’s not a particularly good one, but it’s no Dondi. Ronnie plays a WWII sub commander who makes a tough call and leaves a man behind during a mission. As luck would have it, the luckless sap was dating Ronnie’s ex-girlfriend (Nancy) which makes his demise suspicious, to say the least. So he spends the rest of the movie trying to regain the respect of his second, Arthur Franz (as usual, playing a non-commissioned dick), disobeying orders to win the war, blah blah blah. Paul and I were actually enjoying it, but it does get very talky and long-winded in the second act, and Dave actually asked for the return of Pink Lady & Jeff. Yes, he regretted that.

Our actor contingent finally made the scene after their Sunday matinée, and lucky, lucky them, they were there for the return of Mie and Kei and (shudder) Jeff. I had been asked to put on the episode guest-starring Jerry Lewis (double shudder), but I screwed up under the tender ministrations of Dr. Vodka and instead put on the un-aired sixth episode, which featured Sid Caesar, Red Buttons (both on their second eps) and for music, Bobby Vinton and Roy Orbison. Oh, and Byron Allen. This was C-list heaven.

There was a hypnotic awfulness about the show that held people spellbound, and we actually got through the entire episode. Paul had started out lobbying for a “70s TV Night”, which he quickly reneged upon, especially after the Bobby Vinton Medley of His Hits. The casual racist humor which runs through the series absolutely blossoms during a sketch in which Sid Caesar plays Pink Lady’s father, complete with gibberish Japanese. One wonders what the girls thought of this, though they handle it like pros. Frankly, after only a week of this crap, they were probably just trying to make it through their six eps and get back to their sold-out stadiums.

This was really bewildering to those of us – well, only Dave and I, perhaps – who liked Caesar and knew he was funny:

The other amazing thing is, that, I believe alone of all the featured hot musical guests, Roy Orbison is actually onstage with Pink Lady. Most of the others – Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Blondie – will give you a blank stare if you ask them about the time they appeared on Pink Lady & Jeff. It usually came down to Mie and Kei struggling through “An naow – Cheepu Trikka!” aaaaaand we cut to a video. Which wasn’t too bad, except that you usually saw the same thing on The Midnight Special a week or two earlier.

After watching this episode, many bitter tears and recriminations – and Rick whining “But what about the Jerry Lewis episode?”, it was decided to spend the rest of the night playing Beatles Rock Band, moving eventually to Rock Band 2 and Dave’s neighbors asking him to turn that crap down. I eventually get talked into picking up the bass guitar for a few songs (though only on the Beatles and only on easy – the playlist on Rock Band 2 is a litany of “who?”s from me)(weirdly, I think i would have done better on DJ Hero, but I’m probably fooling myself), and that’s how the evening wound down. Alan actually outlasted me for stick-around-itude when I leave around 1:30.

I’m going to be shooting at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival tomorrow, so I took Monday off, allowing myself a bit of a sleep-in. Next time, of course, we won’t be pretending that we’re younger and able to pull off such feats as this; Mrs. Dave will be back, with a concurrent return to reason, I presume. I am also going to enjoy pointing out for some time that there was a marked lack of R-rated naughty flicks during this golden opportunity. Ronnie Reagan indeed!

And there’s still that Jerry Lewis episode of Pink Lady & Jeff, just waiting out there in the dark, like Jason at Camp Crystal Lake.