How We Hurted Ourselves II

So. After the drawn-out dismal debauchery of Starcrash II, aka Escape from Galaxy 3, aka Dear Sweet Lord What Is This Crap, Rick decided it was finally time for him to experience Ginger. Dave left the room for a moment, and since we were unable to switch his coffee for Folger’s Crystals at that late hour, we instead switched his low-budget sleaze for Pink Lady & Jeff.

How best to preface this? Pink Lady & Jeff is one of those legendarily awful shows that is usually lumped in with stuff like Turn On (a half-hour Laugh-In clone that was canceled after one episode) and You’re In The Picture (a Jackie Gleason-hosted game show which also lasted one episode). The thing is, Pink Lady & Jeff ran for five complete episodes, out of the six it had shot. NBC kept this thing limping along for five weeks.

Pink Lady were Mie and Kei, a Japanese singing duo that were filling stadiums in their native land at the time. So bring them over for a fast six episodes probably sounded like a good gamble, if you ignore one fact: the girls did not speak English. And the producers – oh yes, Sid and Marty Krofft – decided that they would only sing in English, and say their lines phonetically in their “comedy” banter with so-star Jeff Altman.

Jeff Altman is the Antichrist of comedy. He is the only comedian I have ever seen bomb – and bomb miserably, even the crickets were silent – on The Tonight Show. And since the headliners spoke no English, their duties were minimized to lip-synching their earlier recorded English songs, dancing, and the occasional line during the sketches – and every single comedy sketch stars Jeff Altman. Altman was still doing Nixon jokes in 1980, which gives you some idea of the quality of the material on display here, and even the guest stars are drawn into the whirlpool of despair that is Pink Lady & Jeff.

A pre-Ernest Jim Varney is on the regular cast, always playing straight man to Altman, an appalling waste of talent second only to all the times I was not cast as Hamlet. I’ll be honest: I can only stand Pink Lady & Jeff in 20 minute doses. So I took pity on Dave – and myself – and put on Ginger. Here’s some of the very small amount they’ll let you put on YouTube:

(Allow me to intrude from the future. In the intervening years, someone has taken down the tame clip I originally posted, but now there’s a totally sleazy and extremely NSFW trailer. Go figure. Be wise about where you click this:)

Ginger is a rich girl who is – for reasons unknown to everyone with a smidgen of gray matter – recruited to take on a crime ring in some Jersey suburb. Well, the reason seems to be she volunteered, and everyone else the detective agency sent in got killed. Anyway, Ginger uses her powers of Applied Sluttiness  to break things up, and turns out to be a complete psychopath working through every trauma in her life. This includes committing murder twice, castrating some poor bastard, having lesbian sex and engaging in the Citizen Kane of catfight scenes. I did a full review, back in the day, if you’re interested. I haven’t broken the news yet that there are two sequels, but given that were enthusiastic in joining in with the thug Jimmy’s demands for “Hot. White ASS!!!!” I guess it was enjoyed.

It was, by now, 3AM, and we were all feeling the effect of accumulated crap weighing on our brains. So we agreed to meet again Sunday, and continue this pointless mangling of our formerly beautiful minds.

And you know what that means: more Pink Lady & Jeff.

How We Hurted Ourselves

So my pal Dave had always hosted the crapfests. Dave is an inveterate tinker; starting with a fairly primitive LCD projector we snagged from a failed business venture, he eventually worked his way up to better model, a nice big screen that unfurled from his ceiling, a nice sound system, a media computer platform – all on the cheap, all in an apartment. So when he and his wife finally bought a house, we expected… well, I have no real idea what we expected. But this time he had an opportunity to rig something from the ground up, instead of gradual layers.

So, with his wife out of the country for a week, we decided to break things in with the first crapfest in a while. Of course, there had to be a period while they settled into their new house. Dave is a handy guy, and was performing repairs while also setting up his system in a very oddly shaped room, employing SCIENCE! We were also out of practice in planning the damned things, apparently. Wires got crossed, schemes went awry, blah blah blah.

A goodly portion of our core group was involved in a production of Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma at Main Street Theater, and would be absent for most of the event. Reveling in his newfound freedom, Dave had decided it was to  be a Marathon of Mediocrity. My own personal scheduling woes dictated my attendance Friday and Sunday only; Paul interpreted that as Sunday only.

Hearing that Dave now had a back porch on which to operate his grill, Rick went nuts – or to use his terminology, “batshit” – and hauled in enough meat to feed a small army – or, really, just the three of us to bursting. Not to mention his housewarming gift to Dave of a case of Mexican Cokes, the types with actual sugar instead of high fructose corn crap. Dave spent the next fifteen minutes hugging the case and doing his imitation of Daffy Duck in that Ali Baba cartoon.

Okay, bit of a trip to get to the reference there, but as with all things Daffy, totally worth it.

My first selection was to be the final fight scene of the Thai action movie Chocolate, but again, wires got crossed, and there was a lot of going in and out to tend the charcoal in the grill anyway. Somehow, everyone managed to be in the room during the fight scenes, which are amazing. Particularly that last one, conducted across four floors’ worth of exterior ledges and an elevated train trestle. Just stunning stuff.

As the food was finally prepared, Dave decided he really needed to have a movie that went boom to work out his sound system. He’d already done this for me a few weeks prior with an impromptu double feature of Shoot-Em-Up and Tropic Thunder, but Rick had not yet experienced this. Being who we are, we also had to torment Rick, and so we put in GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Dave was the only one who  hadn’t seen it. I had been lucky enough to see it with a 12 year-old. Rick had seen it alone, and hated it. Having it be ten times louder did not change his opinion. The screams were incredible.

Dave’s final verdict: “I didn’t hate it.” Rick’s: “Why? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY??!!”. Dave also pointed out that, unrealistic as the action scenes were, they were also how they would have played out on the bedroom floor with the action figures.

Having applied some painkilling drugs to ourselves in the form of Dr. Vodka, Dave decided it was time to unleash his choice for the evening. He made us hide our eyes while he loaded it. And what unfurls before our eyes but something that claims to be Starcrash II. The veracity of this claim is immediately put in doubt when we note that title is not in the same font as the rest of the credits. In fact, it appears to have been literally made with a Dyna-Tape Label Maker.

I wish I was joking about that.

The movie’s major claim to that name is the fact that they seem to have bought all the spaceship FX from the actual Starcrash and are determined to use it all. The plot is about a princess named  Belle Star who is escaping some bad guy whose name I’ve totally forgotten because I named him Disco Beard.

Eventually I give up and poke around the IMDb on my smartphone and determine that what we are watching is actually something called Escape from Galaxy 3. Belle Star and the Fake Marjoe escape Disco Beard and are supposed to search the universe for something to defeat the bad guy… I think… because  they stop on some primitive out-of-the-way planet to effect repairs on their ship. Of course that planet happens to be Earth. I was fearful they were going to land here in the year 1980, just ahead of the Cylons, but no, there’s been an atomic war and everyone’s back to tribalism and wearing Greco-Roman disco clothes.

This is also the Cinemax planet, as BellStar and the Fake Marjoe learn how to make love on this planet. We slowly find out they’re immortal and don’t know about things like sex, drinking or eating. They also develop superpowers, without warning,  at convenient times. Disco Beard is defeated by such powers in less than a second – though this seems to have something to do with the fact that BellStar and Fake Marjoe now know how to make the Beast With Two Backs. Cripes, I don’t know. They go back to Planet Cinemax, to live out their now-mortal lives. Which, considering that the natives alternated between loving them and wanting to burn them at the stake, probably won’t be too long.

My major contribution is pointing out that every time BellStar and the Fake Marjoe exit their craft, they are shown walking down the trail leading from it – that’s across the entire screen one and a half times – in real time. And they do it a lot. That probably added five minutes to the total running time.

And that’s a thousand words. I’ll inflict more of our adventures into awfulness on you tomorrow. And trust me – we haven’t hit the low point yet.

Beat the deadline

Yes, I did. By a day. But you know who pays for that? You. Because I used up my blogging time on work.

Isn’t that horrible? How dare I earn money instead of amusing you?

(Finally got the tangled skein of where to send my mortgage check untangled, since we got transferred to another company. Took so long I had to pay the twenty bucks for overnight delivery. Ergo, I’m a bit obsessed with money right now.)

Hopefully the unfairness will ease up tomorrow, and I’ll finally tell you about my weekend, and the crap therein.

Blerg, no.

Recovering from another hectic weekend, but at least I had some input into what I was doing. My sinus infection seems to finally be in retreat, possibly slain by the most alcohol I have had in a 72 hour period in months.

Or maybe it was all that Pink Lady & Jeff.  More details tomorrow.

Robby had a chance to save all mankind, but blew it.

It’s our old nemesis, the douchebag

So Rev Jones, master of a less-than-50 member church that is looking increasingly cult-like, will apparently not be burning Korans tomorrow as endlessly promised, though in a clarification shortly after that announcement, stated that the event has merely been “postponed”, not “canceled”, thereby maintaining his douchebag status.

There have actually been a couple good things to come out of this Olympic-grade stupidity: A) People all across the political spectrum were, for once, saying the same thing, and it was a right thing, ie., “You’re s stupid Nazi scumbag for doing this”, and B) watching the Westboro Baptist Church sulk that they were burning Korans years ago, where does this guy get off stealing their act.

I was going to post this today in any case, a brief surcease in the level of douchbaggery does not diminish its message one whit, and it still needs to be said:

Now, more than ever, we need the goddamn Batman.

I’ve got two crapfests coming up this weekend. I’ll be live-tweeting them, as usual, and we’ll talk about them next week. Judging from my page stats, you kids seem to like hearing about them.

Hello, new robot overlords

The leisurely Summer schedule is definitely shot to hell, as I start jumping through hoops to shoot, edit and produce a story on a weekly basis instead of a monthly one. Chances are I’ll be getting less verbose here.

Then again, not every story is going to need the tender loving care of this initial one – I hope! – which is causing me to scour my public domain discs for footage of old sci-fi robots, then trim those scenes out and convert them to a form that Final Cut Pro won’t choke on.

So I’m off to concentrate on that, and dream of the extended crapfest my friends and I have planned for this weekend.

In the meantime, say hello to my leetle friends:

Old friends in unusual places

The shoot yesterday went as well as could be expected, with the weather attempting to kill me both on the way there and especially when trying to get back to home base. Not being proud, I pulled into a parking lot and waited for the worst of the watery onslaught to pass.

The Robots exhibit takes its name and most of its displays from the animated movie of the same name. It’s geared toward kids, and that’s cool. Some nice models of the characters, fromt he reference maquettes to life-size mockups. Some interactive displays, lots of noisy video monitors (can’t wait to check the audio on my interview) but what really struck me, when I walked into the hall, was this:

It’s hard to miss Gort. He’s about seven feet tall. You see him all the time in one of your favorite movies, but you don’t truly recognize how massive he is until you run into him in the wild.

These were unarticulated statues, no movement, lights or anything. But boy howdy, was that a pleasant surprise.

How to get a hangover without drinking

I need a damn long weekend to recover from my long weekend.

Saturday – supposed to be off, but received a call that a couple of groups wanted a show. Thank God. I needed the money after handing my entire paycheck over to the Power Company for August’s feeble attempt to keep my house livable.

Sunday – get up, go immediately to brunch, take wife to theater. Cool my heels for an hour to see if I can get into the sold-out preview for her show, George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma at Main Street Theater. Have a latte, get a couple of Marvel Essentials at Half-Price Book’s 20% off Labor Day Sale. Attend show. Shaw is talky as hell, but always interesting. Very good cast kept the show – which was heavily cut for time and still weighs in at nearly three hours – moving at a good clip. It didn’t feel like three hours until I stood up at the end.

Afterwards, walk to nearby Italian restaurant to celebrate the fact that our friend Joel, who starred in the show, has joined the Half-Century Club. Excellent food, way too expensive. But by ordering off a special menu, a portion of our bill did go to the local food bank, so I’m concentrating on that, the food, and the great company.

Yesterday? I have no idea what happened to yesterday. I did break the Summer vacation I took on 50 Foot DVD, and will hopefully manage to keep it going on a bi-weekly basis. Most of my crew on City of Heroes was also in Doctor’s Dilemma, so that was our first chance to crack skulls together in a while. There went the evening. There was also a trip to the grocery store somewhere in there.

Now I sit in my office, preparing to shoot an interview at the Museum of Natural Science. The outer bands of tropical storm Ermine produced thunderstorms all night, keeping me awake. We’re under a tornado watch until 1:00pm. I’m not sure this interview will even happen today, but I need to be prepared.

And look forward to the next long time off. I swear to God I won’t waste that one with activity.

Tremors in my Force

Koike and Kojima’s Path of the Assassin is just as good as I’d hoped it would be. I’m taking it slowly, as I only have the first two books, and won’t be able to hit the library to get more until next Tuesday, at the earliest. Utilizing the system’s on line catalog, I see where I can get up to volume 6, but the others are either on hold or “under review”. Until about vol. 12 of 15, when they open up again. Stuff of this quality is worth waiting for.

Disturbing thingie of the day, yesterday: friend of mine from way back int heater days posted photos on Facebook of a show we did back in 1984, a dismal production of Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw. It simply wasn’t any good, universally savaged, I was complete shit, blah blah blah. One of the photos though, gave me pause, thinking Who the heck is that? And then the realization: Holy crap, that’s me!

Yep. Quarter of a century ago. I had been on a diet which worked pretty well, but the most important part of the puzzle was that my day job involved eight hours of physical labor a day in a two-story warehouse with no elevator or air conditioning. In short, I was down to probably my best weight ever, about 130-140 pounds. My head looks huge.

I also had an astounding amount of hair.

There’s not much in the plans for this weekend. I won’t get to see the previews for my wife’s shows; Sunday is sold out and, although I wasn’t going to have a show Saturday, a group called in asking if one was possible, so now I do have work Saturday, thank the Lord. I paid the August electric bill last night, producing a sound in my bank account not unlike the formation of a black hole.

Oh, wait, there was another disturbing thing:  while scanning the local news sites for story leads, I found one about a reported incident of masturbation at a local movie theater. The story only indicates that this took place in “theater #17”, but not what movie was playing there. Pulling up the theater’s schedule, I had many comical possibilities, like Nanny McPhee or Toy Story 3, but after that? I guess the best possibilities are Eat Pray Love, or Salt? Then you get into the really disturbing possibilities, like Piranha or The Expendables.

At least, for the sake of my sanity, Machete hadn’t opened yet.

Library trip

So I’m dropping by the library to check in books, and not coincidentally pick up a book I had requested several months ago, but that someone had apparently returned. It’s the first volume of E.C. Segar’s Popeye – yeah, I’m reading them out of order, but that’s how they were presented to me. As I’ve mentioned before, these things are huge without necessarily being massive. 14.5 inches by 10.5 inches. A tad ungainly, but that format shows off the strips well.

While I’m there, I might as well see if there’s anything else I’d like to sample (not that I don’t already have a ton of stuff of my own to read at home, you understand, but a library presents such a buffet of possibilities…). This particular branch has the Bloom County omnibuses, but I’ve already got the Popeye book, which is a pretty dense reading experience. I check to see if the manga section has anymore Osamu Tezuka I haven’t already read, and then I light upon something I’d meant to check out for a while – Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kajima’s Path of the Assassin. Having finished up reading Lone Wolf & Cub years ago, I was glad to learn that these two had other series out, and Dark Horse was translating them into English. Of course, like their Lone Wolf collections, these were small – 6 by 4.

So I exited the library carrying one really big book and two tiny ones. I appreciate contrasts like that.

I’m going to be a total gaijin here and say that wrapping my head around the now-standard way that American editions of manga is bothersome. Japanese books are read from right-to-left, and the books are arranged similarly. Opening an American edition is the traditional Western fashion greets you with a page that says “Stop! This is the back of the book!” Doubtless there was a lot of additional, costly man-hours involved in reversing the artwork for a Western layout, so the American editions now preserve the original layout, and simply slug in the English translations.

I’m willing to bet this also prevents any adulteration of original artist intentions that would result from simply reversing the art’s image. I’m no artist myself, and when more knowledgeable people talk about black masses on the page and the elements of a page drawing the reader’s eye to a focal point I go Wowwwwwww and Fancy that! It’s invisible to me, but I can feel and appreciate their effect.

One of the Tezuka books I had checked out, explaining the Japanese layout of the book, exclaimed, “Trying new things makes you smarter! Try it and see!” and I find myself adapting easily enough to the right-to-left, but the multi-tasking – there’s a small part of my attention that is devoted to constantly reminding me to read right-to-left – is also a little distancing, and I’m not feeling as connected to the manga as I do to other comics read in the traditional way.  I can only look at that as a personal failing, and work to correct it.