Horrid Junes and True Legends

Life’s Rich Pageant has been rather more pageant-ly of late. Enough so that I became certain the month of June was cursed. Not Total Catastrophe-style cursed, but certainly here-let-me-fuck-with-you-some-more cursed.

We’ve already covered the Wife’s annual visit to the hospital. Four days after her return, the house’s AC cratered. At first it seemed to be an electrical problem. I found out my wife had continued to pay out money to a Home Warranty outfit that I considered to be on the level of a pyramid scheme, but she’d paid the money, so let’s use them. Received an e-mail detailing the contractor’s contact info, and was assured they would call me for an appointment in 24 hours. When they didn’t, I called them – it was now Friday afternoon. Was given an appointment the following Monday, because, sorry, they’re not open on weekends.

This seemed appropriate.

This seemed appropriate.

This was – naturally – during a period of 100 degrees + days in H-town. We elected to stay in a hotel for the weekend. Come Monday, the electrician came and told us that yeah, he would have assumed it was an electrical problem too, but it was actually something with the unit itself, and he would put in the call to the AC tech. When the 24 hour period had passed – once again – I call the AC guy myself, and was told the earliest he could get there was Thursday. By this time, we were staying with a neighbor.

He came, and it turned out to be something which – if I only knew a tiny bit more about AC technology, I could have remedied myself. But when he found out how long we had been without AC, he was shocked and refused to charge us anything. So guess whose business card is up on my refrigerator now?

The shows on the weekends have been the usual parades of petty annoyances. I hate drunks, I hate performing for drunks, and I hate performing for people who consider me the cheap version of 3D TV. Why the hell you shell out that much money to have a conversation is beyond me. The absolute nadir came when I found out a table full of drunks – who, of course, knew they were improving the show with their shouted bon mots – when I found out one of the drunkest and loudest was a pregnant woman. Pregnant, and rapidly approaching what my pal Dave refers to as “puke-ass drunk”. It is one of the few instances in my life where I found the phrase “Jesus wept” to be appropriate.

This week, there are no shows, which is good on every level but the financial. This Sunday is the 4th of July parade (held on the 3rd, yeah, I know), which is going to involve me hauling my porcine semi-crippled butt out to the parade site at Noon and spending the next seven hours, in the sun, setting up for a live broadcast of the blessed event. This will be the first time for a new “improved” parade route, and the scuttlebutt is there are markedly fewer participant registered for this year – but that only affects the actual run time, not the set-up time. I’m looking forward to at least a nine-hour day. Likely more.

So I guess it was important that I write this today in case I don’t survive.

An old friend who works at one of the bigger cinemas in Houston told me that Ip Man 2 actually played there for a week with absolutely no advertising or promotion of any kind, though he – Bruce Lee fanatic that he is – would have watched it had he known the subject matter. I find that sad, even if I do think the first Ip Man was better. But this also started nagging me on another matter. Ever since the trailer for Yuen Woo Ping’s movie True Legend showed up on the Apple movie trailers site, I had been looking forward to it:

…and I was beginning to fear that it had suffered the same fate.¬† So I rushed over to Amazon, found the DVD and ordered it. I received it at the very beginning of the AC debacle, and was surprised to learn that it was a Region 3 disc. That really shouldn’t have surprised me, since I didn’t recall any announcement of an R1 release, but there you have it. While sequestered at the hotel and the neighbors house, I was cut off from my region-free players.

So finally I did get to see it and… what a disappointment.

The narrative is pretty scattered, and really feels like three different movies. The first is the truly impressive opening, as our protagonist rescues a prince from barbarians. Huge fight scenes with lots of guys.

Then our hero retires from military life to concentrate on his wu shu. His adopted brother shows up to clean up some family business – Hero’s father killed brother’s parents for being evil practitioners of the Five Venom Fist, then Hero married the sister. Brother had mastered the Five Venom Fist, and sewn “dark gold armor” into his skin to make himself invulnerable. Hero is defeated, goes into hiding, and is taught superior fighting skills by “The God of Wu Shu”, who turns out to be a figment of his imagination.

All that is the major portion of the movie, and that sounds like a typical kung fu plot. But it comes to a tragic end with about 25 minutes left to go… and then we enter the third movie.

You see, True Legend is supposedly the story of Beggar So, the guy who originated the Drunken Fist style of fighting. Where this ends up is So, now an alcoholic wreck dragging his son around China, is taught the drunken style by yet another figment of his imagination, just before he finds himself involved in a deadly competition with foreign fighters, more by accident than anything else.

But this is where I enter “Oh come on” territory. No, not when the God of Wu Shu is shown running over the tops of tall grass, holding a drunken monk at arm’s length like a cackling Olympic torch. That I willingly accept. It’s the big fight-for-our-honor-against-foreign-devils conclusion.

It seems that the last four major Chinese martial arts films that I have seen – Jet Li’s Fearless, Ip Man, Ip Man 2 and now True Legend – end with this conceit, and frankly I was kinda tired of it by the end of Ip Man 2. I’m beginning to wonder if this¬† is now a mandated part of Mainland China cinema. At least this one has multiple wrestlers, and the ring is surrounded by a pit filled with hungry tigers. Ha! Take that, Donnie Yen, you wuss!

As I said, disappointed. There are many parts of the movie that are great, but the overall structure is too disjointed in an effort to be epic. Michelle Yeoh is criminally wasted in a small role. Interesting to see David Carradine in a career-lapping role yelling “Kill that Chinaman!”. Jay Chou as the God of Wu Shu is outstanding; he is likely the only reason I will ever watch the Green Hornet movie.

Three Day Weekends Bah Phooey

Yeah, so much for trying to at least blog once a week, eh? Last week was especially contrary to that little initiative.

Let us start off the week with two School Board meetings, on Monday and Tuesday evening. These were promised to be short; but then, upon entering the building Monday, the first thing asked was, “Are you available Thursday evening?” Monday was welcoming the new Superintendent, and that was short. Tuesday was installing two newly re-elected trustees, and the election of a new President and Vice President. This was also supposed to be short, but an acrimonious closed session put it into overtime. Sadly, all the drama was after the closed session, during which the station went to a live broadcast of the Economic Development Committee, which was nowhere near as dramatic.

All, well, we broadcast the recorded meetings until there’s a new one, so the reading of prepared statements and openly aired bitterness still got its screen time.

Wednesday was my single night off, then, and even then, that was spoken for; the graduation for my wife’s school was that Saturday. My wife, for those who don’t know, runs a school for children with reading difficulties. It runs from K-12 and every one, at least one student graduates and goes ont o college, which is pretty amazing considering most of these kids were ready to drop out due to frustration. You can’t say the public schools have failed them out of malice or anything, it’s just that they do not have the resources to handle these students in the way they need to be taught. So that’s my wife’s job.

A standard feature of each of these graduation ceremonies has been a slide of the graduate, photos taken from baby pics through elementary up to the present, all accompanied by music. Usually “Let Them Be Little” by Billy Dean. What this means is every year my wife sidling up to me asking me to pleeeeeeeeeeease do the slide show (or, more accurately to “help her do the slide show” which translates to “pleeeeeeeeeeease do the slide show”), which means every year I ask her to find somebody else to do it and that somebody then flakes out and I wind up learning how to use Power Point yet again.

By Wednesday, I had finally gotten all the photos I was promised and had given up on the CD being found and actually fucking buying “Let Them Be Little” from Amazon MP3, which is going to screw up my recommendations for months. Oh, but wait, when I got my new computer, I declined to give Microsoft any more money and went with Open Office for all my office-type needs. Well, Open Office does also have a Power Point-type program called Impress that takes a little getting used to; I couldn’t figure out how to just have a solid black background, which I prefer for this sort of thing, but it did have a very nice blue notebook background that was appropriate. After a few hours, I had the photos all timed out properly, and exported it to a Power Point format. Yay, that’s done.

Except the next day I took it to work on a flash drive and tried it out, and… saw the first slide, heard no music, and then… nothing. This was the definition of Not Good.

Well, no, actually the definition of Not Good was the text I received from my wife an hour into the day, asking me to pick her up and take her to the Emergency Room.

My wife is a brittle diabetic, prone to wild fluctuations in her blood sugars. Well, that’s what she’s defined as now, before she was just a diabetic. She had been minding herself, doing everything she should have, but the swings were getting more extreme. When she got up, her fasting sugars were 58. When she called me at 10am, they were over 500.

So it was time for what is starting to look like an annual event: put Lisa in the hospital and try to stabilize her sugars. Ha ha, good luck with that.

So not only did I have a joint School Board/City Council meeting that night, but I was also trying to communicate to her staff (which had been reluctant to do anything for the graduation but were now in charge of it) where things were and how they needed to be done, deal with a wife who was freaking out because she wasn’t going to be there for her babies, and figure out how to fix the slide show.

I felt really, really bad about not being in the hospital with her, but there was stuff that needed to be done, and I wasn’t contributing anything other than holding down a chair. As I set up the mikes for the meeting that night, I kept reminding myself that she was with people who had the training and tools to help her, and I didn’t have either.

That meeting actually only ran ten minutes over, and I got home by 10pm, trying to fix the slide show and finally get to bed. Turns out you can’t have an MP3 sound file when you save an Impress slide show into Power Point format – it has to be a WAV file. So a quick conversion later, I finally have sound again. But now the timing is off. DAMN. After a couple of tweaks – and having to listen to that damned song over and over again, I finally get it to an acceptable level of sync. Not as perfect as it was before, but acceptable.

Friday morning – drop off the kid for his last day of school (yes, he’s dyslexic and goes to Mom’s school), along with a present for a departing teacher and a flash drive with the slide show on it. Go back in 20 minutes because they need Lisa’s keys. Go back in two more hours because it’s a short, and find out two guys from Church have come and troubleshot the whole projector/slideshow/ music thing. Bless you guys. Drop by the hospital,find out that my wife is now radioactive. They gave her a stress test, and shot her up with radioactive tracers. Then I go to get some rest because I have a show that night.

The graduation goes off with the usual number of hitches, not the least of which is the graduate’s mother arriving 45 minutes late. After prying my son from the post-graduation buffet (deviled ham sammiches, yummmmmm), it’s back to the hospital. Not much in way of news. Back home, sleep. Do the show Saturday.

On Sunday, they decide to send her home, as she could have irregular sugars at home just as well as at the hospital. Her heart, thyroid, gall bladder, all were in good shape. She has ulcers from taking so much ibuprofen for joint pain and leg/foot cramps, and two of her medications have an ingredient that retards her body’s ability to absorb potassium, hence the cramps. Life style changes have been called for, and a new goal: keeping the sugars to around 200.

So after waiting in her room for an hour and a half for a wheelchair to take her down (and Mary, her favorite nurse, finally grabbing a wheelchair and pushing her down to the lobby herself), I then spend another hour waiting on prescriptions. Monday I spend a couple of hours at a supermarket weaving in and around people piling their carts with bratwursts and steaks for the Memorial Day cookout that they somehow hadn’t gotten the meat for, yet.

So three day weekend, bah, phooey. There was no such thing.

And just to twist the knife: no, we still have no insurance. And generic Prevacid? $100 a bottle. As the song says, “It’s sick, the price of medicine.”

This week: nothing. No meetings, no punishing deadlines. Hell, I don’t even have shows this weekend. I have resorted to pinching myself just to make sure I’m still alive. There is a constant, nagging sensation that I’ve forgotten something, but two different calendars tell me otherwise.