I Don’t Often Get To Use the “Senile Ramblings” Tag

There is a moment in the life of any pet owner – forgive me, “animal companion” or whatever is popular and correct these days – when you realize your furry friend is not going to be with you much longer. This is not my first time to this dance. And yes, every time we lose one of our furry friends, I am emotionally devastated and swear off ownership forever and that lasts a few months.

Mavis the Pug Dog has been with us for a decade now. I look at photos of her from her first days with us,when we had first adopted her, and her mask and ears are dark black. They are now almost totally gray. She snuffles and snorts and hobbles through the house. Her skin allergies are worse than ever. She smells bad. She still loves sitting in my lap while I watch movies, hoping I will scratch her butt. I usually do.

Thinking about it, of course, makes me sad. Then I also watch her shuffling and grunting, and think, “Poor old thing.” Then I also wonder if the students at the community college where I work see me shuffling around and grunting, and if they think “Poor old thing.”

Unlikely. If I’m lucky.

I’m probably not that lucky.

It’s interesting: I’ve spent so much of my life writing and acting, and a key element of those two disciplines is observation. The changes in my body over the past decade, as youthful injuries starting taking their tolls, have been… interesting, I suppose. Whenever I meet up with old classmates, I am endlessly fascinated by what age has wrought, what it has changed, and also what it has not. The person inside remains basically unchanged. It’s the spacesuit that’s wearing out.

…Well, this got rather dark rather fast; all from that “poor old thing” anecdote that I thought was fairly amusing. I’m stopping short of saying stuff like “I know I don’t have all that much time left, and seeing where this country is goin’, I don’t much care, by jing!” and shaking my cane at all you young hooligans.

So I’ll shift gears and mention that Barnes and Noble is currently having their – annual? I just know it’s happened before, old age and memory, you know – 50% off Criterion DVD sale. I limited myself to two – which would net me free shipping – and therefore picked up the recently-released Kiss Me Deadly and a disc I had lusted after for most of that aforementioned decade: Gimme Shelter. I’m listening to its commentary track as I write this, directors Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwenn, and utility player Stanley Goldstein. That could be the reason for the cloud hanging over this entry. Gimme Shelter, though it didn’t intend to, documents the death of the 60s. They pretty much shambled around until around ’72 or ’73, but the fact Altamont didn’t play out like Woodstock was the rifle crack from the grassy knoll that put paid to a lot of idealism.

But imagine how much darker this would all be if I were listening to Kiss Me Deadly.

Ha, Maysles just mentioned that some people would say the 60s didn’t really end until the early 70s. I am vindicated.

Okay, movie’s over now. I suppose also seeing the Stones so freaking young didn’t help much, either. As either Goldstein or Maysles pointed out during the movie, you look at all those people in the audience and realize they’re 30 years older now – 40, actually, the disc came out in 2000 – and wonder.

Remind me to watch some uplifting movie this weekend. Lie to me, Hollywood. I’ll love you for it.

Solutions In Search of Problems

My brain’s been increasingly muddled of late, so this is probably going to be even less focused than usual. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, as I just checked my biorhythms and my intellectual curve is plummeting down toward the bottom of the graph. Yeah, I check my biorhythms.  Not religiously, but they do seem accurate when I do.

Through a series of happenstances, unrelated events, smoke and mirrors – you know, the usual – I have become the go-to guy for the audio at city meetings. I know my way around a sound board well enough, and apparently I work cheaply enough, so I am currently up to my waist in city-level bureaucracy and politics. Which is not where I thought I would spending my adult life.

There is an astounding amount of sturm und drang even at that level, and not where you’d think. The drama and conflict is all over at the School Board meetings, maaaaan. Problems addressed at the City Council often seem to go the route of beating the dead horse until it is liquefied and poured into bottles; the best example of this occurred a couple of nights ago, when, and the tail end of the City Engineer’s presentation, an old subject was brought up by a council member.

Can you see me waving?

This likely sticks with me because it is centered where I work: at a suburban branch of Houston Community College. I work in a nice building that houses the math and science departments. It has a large parking lot behind it for the students, a smaller lot in front for faculty and staff. Some student eschew the lot in back to park on the city street that runs alongside the complex to the west – it puts them a little closer to the building. Not significantly closer, just a little closer.

There have apparently been complaints about this from local businesses. This is kind of odd, as the city streets are generally wide enough to accommodate this sort of thing. I go down this road every day on my way to work; yes, there are cars down each side of the road, but there is still room for two lanes of traffic. Unlike in my neighborhood, which has rampant street parking, and if two cars are going opposite directions, one has to pull over and let the other pass. That isn’t the case on the street in question.

Then, I guess I’m not driving a big UPS truck or other similar large vehicle. I do see the local police out there occasionally, because some of the students are stupid enough to park in front of fire hydrants.

But the resurrection of this complaint prompted a half-hour digression while various solutions to this problem were brought up and most were shot down by the City Attorney, whom I am beginning to recognize as a bastion of sanity. There was a phrase I heard during an NPR story, “This is a solution in search of a problem,” and that covers the discussion in spades.

Eh. Then again, what do I care? I get paid by the hour.

The Solution In Search Of A Problem came from an NPR story on the recent Supreme Court decision to reject a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors. This decision has prompted a out-gushing of oh-the-horror this-is-the-end-of-civilization dogs-and-cats-living-together hysteria I am used to seeing from right-wing outlets but this time it was coming from liberals and even people whose opinions I normally respect. Besides the whole Freedom of Speech thing, the law should have been stuck down because it was a totally unnecessary piece of legislation. There is already a rating system for games, and retailers follow it. I have stood by and watched a Blockbuster clerk tell a clueless parent what the M rating meant on a Grand Theft Auto game, much to the chagrin of the disappointed child next to him.

This was an easy target, low-hanging fruit for a legislature to point to and say, Look, I’m protecting your children. Now shut up for a while. Rejection of the law does not mean that it is okay to sell or rent these games to minors; it means that there is already a regulatory system in place for that and it was not needful for the government to invest time and money in enforcing it.

That is likely the most conservative thing I am going to say all month.

I would, however, like to know how many people who are squealing about the law’s rejection are also loudly complaining that the gummint needs to stay the hell out of other things.

I got on Google+, and I am pleased to report that it is nice and quiet there. Then, I’ve put about seven people in circles. I like the ability to decide who I want to see posts from, and who will see my posts. The fact that I could put some of my Facebook friends into a “Right-wing Bigot” circle and allow them to blither freely into the aether without adding to my migraine is priceless. And the fact that I would wind up in a “Liberal Idiot” circle would be quite alright, as I would never know.

Whoops, make that eight people. Keith Allison of Teleport City just made the scene.

I actually wrote a review and made a post at Attack of the 50 Foot DVD this last weekend. Trying to make it at least a twice-monthly thing, my newfound fame as an audio operator allowing. Need to find the time this weekend to finally watch 13 Assassins.

In closing: an interesting experiment is unfolding across Twitter and Facebook – Karen Barley is an attempt to tell a horror story across social media. Her Tweets are collected at this website, which also has links to the Twitter and Facebook accounts. Interesting stuff, occasionally hitting the right low-budget creepy note.

The Crap of July

Well, the 4th of July Parade (held on the 3rd of July) was, as predicted, a dreadful ordeal. Setting up cameras in the heat, moving the camera back into the shade so the electronics wouldn’t cook, walking back and forth from the cameras to the air-conditioned control center. At one point when I checked, the heat index was 111 degrees. The nice thing about control being air-conditioned was having that place to retreat. The bad thing about it was it necessitated running a lot of cable. Cable we did not possess or even own, as it turned out. Could have been prevented by moving control out to the heat with the rest of us, but that wasn’t going to happen. By the time the Parade actually began, we had six out of seven cameras online, which was a minor fucking miracle. The Parade itself was rather underwhelming, but the fact that we managed to pull our part off carries with it a certain feeling of accomplishment.

I wasn’t needed for the actual 4th of July broadcast, which was very good, since when I got up Monday morning I couldn’t put any weight on my bum leg. So I spent most of the day with my leg up, searching out episodes of Mythbusters I had not yet seen on Netflix Instant. For America.

I knew it was going to be like that. I knew there was a fairly good chance that the 3rd would be the day that either crippled me permanently or outright killed me. (As I write this, it is the 6th. I was able to come to work without the cane, and I am not dead. I attribute this to my willingness to sit down as much as possible and let the enthusiastic younger employees do all the work) Therefore, I bullied all my compatriots into a Crapfest on July 2nd. I had no shows that weekend, a financial problem but not an emotional one, as I’m also pretty sure I might have murdered or at least maimed a few drunken audience members.

This still almost did not happen; Dave called about 2pm to inform us that he had a clogged drain problem affecting his whole house. A Crapfest canceled by plumbing problems? My irony gland was throbbing. A quick visit by a plumber, though, and we were underway only an hour later than planned.

While we got settled down, food was set up and cooked, I trotted out my three disc This Is Tom Jones set, which was not crap by any means. Tom Jones is a hell of an entertainer and these selections from his 1969-1971 ABC variety series… well, here is a taste:

That is a bare minute and a half out of a set that lasts some fifteen minutes at least. The very first show has The Moody Blues, Mary Hopkins (“Those Were The Days”), Richard Pryor and Peter Sellers. One episode. We went on to episodes featuring The Who, and, as seen above, that luminous appearance by Little Richard. The eps always end with Jones in a concert setting, sweating and singing his heart out.

Well, it’s kind of hard to force yourself to sit through crap after that, so rather than ease us in, I went for the throw-the-patient-into-some-cold-water treatment, and an episode of Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos, of which there appears to be only five episodes anyway. Enough to run each afternoon for a week, and sell some action figures.

There is a real desire evident to make this the Chuck Norris equivalent of GI Joe; Chuck and his troops have far-ranging authority in his fight against an organization of super terrorists. There is a lot here to work with, and some day I should do a full review.

Food still not ready? Time for some Birdman!

Birdman is one of the lesser Hanna-Barbera superheroes, frankly (I still have no idea who this BIRMAD might be…). He got a complete season DVD set due to the Adult Swim Harvey Birdman Attorney At Law series, and since The Other Dave was a big fan, I brought it. We watched two Birdman stories and one of The Galaxy Trio shorts, and I remember nothing about them. Except Birdman constantly shouting “BIRRRRRRRRRRDMAN!” because he was very conscious of his branding.

Thank God, the fajitas are finally cooked, and now it is time for a movie. Dave was foiled when he discovered that Netflix had removed his choice, Jaws The Revenge, and instead trotted out Jack The Giant Killer. The musical version.

Jack was a fairly infamous attempt to imitate the success of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, right down to hiring its two leads, Kerwin Matthews and Torin Thatcher, and its director, Nathan Juran. Columbia threatened a lawsuit, and in an attempt to recoup their investment somehow, the producers had to change Jack into something 7th Voyage was not: a musical. But not by bringing back the actors and shooting additional footage, noooooo. There was already a leprechaun in a bottle (an ‘imp”, if you believe the script), who spoke in verse; that’s a natural for some music. But the rest…

It is best to simply let this version speak for itself, as it were. Jack is trying to sneak into the evil sorcerer’s castle to rescue the princess:

If anything, we thought this version of Jack needed even more musical numbers. It was very, very bizarre, easily the high point of the evening. Having created and uploaded that clip, I am becoming obsessed with the idea that seems to be Thurl Ravenscroft providing the basso side of that duet.

By now, Rick was positively vibrating to complete the Ginger Trilogy by watching Girls Are For Loving. I have a longer review of it here, but suffice to say: It ain’t no Abductors.

There is a lot more money invested in Girls, and perversely, the movie suffers for it. There is a general bid for respectability; Don Schain (or, as I prefer to think of him, Mr. Cheri Caffaro) really wants to do a Dr. No-style movie, but doesn’t have the chops. The sleazery is there, though not enough to salvage the flick for Ginger fans. Ginger is sluttier than ever – no, that’s not fair. Caffaro is playing a Liberated Woman, 1973-style, and that means being bewilderingly frank about engaging in the carnal act. Yeah, I still miss the 70s. You youngsters missed out on all the good stuff.

As alluded to earlier, Girls is not a very good movie. Not that this is a requirement for Crapfest, but it is largely bad by dint of being boring, which is bad for a Crapfest. Cheri sings in this one – she’s undercover as a lounge act – and sure enough, just as someone says, “I liked her better when she was taking off her clothes,” she switches to a strip-tease number. There is a Ginger movie struggling to get out, but it’s lost in an ill-defined plot by the anti-Ginger to get rich. Even the nudity seems to be somewhat toned down. This must have really frustrated the grindhouse patrons familiar with the Ginger brand.

Finished up with Five Fingers of Death, which Rick and I both claimed we had watched before, but Dave claimed we had not. Not that it matters – it’s a good flick, and I needed some winding down time to sober up for the drive home. Paul and the Other Dave had already wussed out. Wusses.

So I faced the grueling Next Day with something approaching some peace in my heart and a song on my lips. “A spectacle! A spectacle!”