Onward

First, welcome to the new subscribers I picked up during the last Hubrisween event. Sorry for the seeming silence – when we’re not doing Movie Challenges, we only update once a week around here. An A-Z challenge like Hubrisween takes a lot out of you, and although I didn’t end up hating movies (as I have in the past with such things), it was also spectacularly easy to just not watch any for a week or so.

Then I got two gut punches in a row. One is personal, and I won’t bore you with it. The other is that last night’s Election didn’t go the way I thought it should.

So I’m going to be personal and topical tonight. Click away if you must; I totally understand. I hope to be back to my usual light-hearted shilly-shally sooner rather than later. But that is not where I am right now.

I didn’t watch the News last night, I only checked in occasionally on Google and Twitter. The only way I could keep my heart from freezing or exploding or both was listening to the Mike Oldfield channel on Pandora and re-reading Philip Jose Farmer’s Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, perhaps the ne plus ultra of escapist literature. There was a lot of deep breathing involved.

I checked into social media early this morning to confirm my worst suspicions. I did what I had to do on Facebook and Twitter for work, and then – following the advice of one very important series of Tweets, I proceeded to close the tabs for Facebook and Twitter. I had quite enough despair and rage and confusion of my own, though the little I did read at least confirmed I was not alone.

Then I followed the directions in that Tweet series I mentioned.

I had checked my blood sugars as usual that morning, but I was too dazed to write the result in my log. Whatever they were, they’re weren’t extraordinary enough to register.

I forced myself to eat breakfast so I could take my meds. Might as well, my ACA health insurance is probably going away, followed soon, no doubt, by myself.

I showered and flossed and brushed my teeth and shaved.

I put on clean clothes. I went to work.

This was important. This was to confirm to myself that Normal is still possible, still exists. Other people showed up for work and classes. Life goes on.

I took my long walk, trying to get my weight and triglycerides down.

There are a lot of people wearing black on campus today.

One of the other things the series suggested was, if you have a creative bent, do it as you are able. I’m a writer, so here I am writing. There’s some fiction I’ve let lie ignored for too long, I should get back on that horse, unhampered and untempted by those two closed-down tabs in my browser. Maybe try again to learn how to use Scrivener.

One of the other Tweet series I read before shutting it down was by an African-American, pointing out that if we felt betrayed, dismayed and that our interests and voices and well-being had been ignored and, in fact, actively torpedoed by powers apparently beyond our control – well, welcome to the club.

And that’s it, isn’t it? We’re all in that club, the Club of the Other now, and we have to redouble our efforts to look out for one another. Normal will still be possible, but it seems like it will be a debased Normal, and – barring a Twilight Zone-style plot twist – we’re going to have to struggle for it even harder.

Dan Rather used to end his newscasts with the word, “Courage,” for which he was mocked and derided. But that’s what we need now, isn’t it? Because it seems, in this horrorshow of a year, luck has largely abandoned us.

Movies will resume soon. I hope.

The Case for Outlawing August

Sorry, folks. No movie pontificating this week, either. I just came off two weeks of wall-to-wall work, and entered this week with free evenings – well, Sunday through Thursday, anyway. Work reared its head Wednesday night, Monday and Tuesday was spent dealing with financial aid for my son’s imminent college career, then waiting for the results of a meeting involving my wife’s school… my imagined week of movie-watching went up up in smoke. I did get one movie in on Sunday, but you won’t hear about it until October.

I won’t watch a movie when I know it’s going to be interrupted. I prefer not to approach things in a piecemeal fashion. It’s just the way I am. I’ve been told I should just let the movie run in the background while I’m doing something else, and I am aghast. That’s not watching a movie. Movies aren’t wallpaper. Not to me, anyway.

This week on "Supposedly Uplifting Quotations That Are Actually Distressing As Hell"

This week on “Supposedly Uplifting Quotations That Are Actually Grim As Hell”

Looking at my calendar for the approaching month ain’t doing me any favors, either. There are end-of-fiscal-year budget meetings that must be televised, and I’m also taking up the slack for some departments that have run out of budget as September approaches. Lacking some credentials, I job in at a lower rate than others. Moving my son into college will, for some reason, take five days. I’m going to try to pretend that is a vacation, which would be nice, I haven’t had one in years.

All this extra work is necessary, of course, because July and August are not satisfied with merely trying to kill you in Texas, they also have to ruin you financially. I challenge any climate denier to live in Houston in the Summer on a part-timer’s salary. They will have as much success as those people who periodically try to eat healthy on food stamps. Unless they’re iguanas and would thrive in an unairconditioned apartment, then the bet’s off.

The “Dog Days” of Summer supposedly go from July 3- August 11, as Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the Sun. August is traditionally the Silly Season in the newspaper trade, when off-the-wall stories proliferate. Add to this one of the most bizarre Presidential campaigns in… well, ever. It’s out of either a well-written Stephen King novel or a poorly written comic book. Yet there is a surprisingly wide variety of Kool-Aid out there and an unbelievable number of people willingly drinking it. There are 10-15 things on my social media feeds that make me prematurely tired every morning, and trust me – I don’t need help to be tired.

I realize there’s no way to get rid of an entire month, but I really wish there was a way for us to just all go somewhere else and let the damn month just do its thing, and we can all come back in September, when things are a little cooler, sweep up the debris, and get back to trying to live our lives as anguish-free as possible. August is a horrible, ugly imposition on us all (My apologies to anyone who was born during this month, like my mother and my brother).

There’s a lot more I want to complain about, but who cares, really? Thanks for reading even this far. Next week begins the meeting schedule anew – I’ll have exactly one evening free next week – but who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to return to a bit of what is, for me, normal. I doubt it, but strange things happen in August. Hope to see you here with better, less bitter, results.

Return to Digitalland

I’ve seen some articles where the writer signs off from the Internet for a month or so, and it usually winds up that their lives are improved, as they interact more with the Real World, family friends, people in the street, and find that The Old Ways Were Best, and everyone should log off and take a walk. It’s like Walden for the New Millennium.

I just spent a month and a half without the Internet, and I am here to say this is bullshit.

no-internet-accessI used to have broadband through my local cable company; we parted ways somewhat acrimoniously years ago, and I went to DSL – after all, I was already paying for a phone line, this made sense. That worked out fine for a while, until the landline cut out. The DSL was still functioning, but our phones were dead. The technician who came out informed me it was our phone. I told him that seemed unlikely since I had tried three separate phones with the same result. I insisted he plug his own handset into the outlet, and got the same results I had with three increasingly expensive phones. Then he said he could rewire the connecting but wouldn’t, since he’d just have to do it all over again when I replaced the siding on my house. I could not get him to tell him how he knew I would suddenly get enough money to replace the siding in the near future.

His gift of prophecy was wrong, anyway. Yet I continued on. I attempted to go back to the cable company, but that ended in tears again, as I was getting no signal to their modem and yet they thought I should pay for this. Come to think of it, that was remarkably similar to my experience with the phone company.

LIES ALL LIES

LIES ALL LIES

The sad part is, maintaining the status quo was less work so I did that, rationalizing that I was at least getting stable service from my DSL. Then that service was sold to another company, and everything went to hell. Most of my revenue stream dried up, and I couldn’t afford the non-service I was getting anymore.

So. Back to the Cable Company. I got my self-installation kit. A nice young man came out and put some sort of filter on the existing cable outside. I hooked up the Wireless Gateway™ and watched nothing happen. Then I got stiffed on an appointment three days later (I do not yell at Customer Service Reps because I like to be different. I did, however, tell him what I thought of the technician blaming me for the missed appointment). Then, a week and two days after the Self-Installation Failure, a technician showed up and fixed the problem in about an hour. Therefore, I feel all better about the company.

Also, I never had to wait more than five minutes to talk to a CSR, which is nothing short of miraculous, in my estimation.

My son, however, has better hair than this.

My son, however, has better hair than this.

In this time, I only had access to the Internet at work and on my smartphone. My teenage son probably thought he was imprisoned in a Siberian gulag. My Facebook-addicted wife thought the same. I don’t want to talk about the data overage charges on the cell phones.

Let me bore you further, as to why the Internet is more of a necessary utility to me than a luxury that can be cut out in lean times: as I said, projects I had worked on in the past had reached their conclusion, which also included the paychecks I was earning. I’m glad the economy and the job situation is good for the country currently, but I have to say the market for 59 year-old men with my particular skill set hasn’t widened appreciably. I’m still looking, and every now and then something will come across my LinkedIn desktop that ever-so-slightly sounds like me. I apply and send along my resume.

Just as the Internet drought had begun, I got an e-mail telling me I had gotten the job, and would be embarking on a two-week trial period to see if I fit in; the e-mail listed the job duties again, and what the prospective salary would be. This was all good; finally, a chance to use all these skills and knowledge, and the work seemed pretty exciting, too. The money was good enough to get me out of my current financial hole. I wrote back thanking them, but saying due to the timing, I was about to work the Independence Day weekend at my current job, and would be out-of-pocket for those three days.

I received an e-mail back that my first duty would be to book airline and hotel reservations for a casting director coming to Houston the week after, and a cashier’s check was being cut for me to cover that cost and my own expenses.

Pretty sure this is what the SOB looked like.

Pretty sure this is what the SOB looked like.

My heart sank as I read that e-mail. That was the oldest scam in the books. I had not even done a phone interview at that point, much less talked to anyone face-to-face at a supposedly local company, and they were still sending me a large check via FedEx?

This, I guess, was the Long Dark Tea Time of My Soul. I had spent several days thinking that everything was going to be all right, that things were looking up, hey, maybe there is something to this prayer business, you know? That all went away as I stared at that letter on my phone’s screen. Nothing was going to get better. And someone was actively trying to make it even worse.

My wife was spending the night at a friend’s house, who was recovering from surgery, so I had no shoulder to cry on. I had a Very Bad Half-Hour. I did send her a series of texts about how this had turned out. They probably read like a suicide note.

After the Half-Hour I allowed myself for the pity party, I started getting angry. Not only because I had been promised a better tomorrow, but because they thought I was stupid enough to fall for such a transparent ruse. I took stock – what did they know about me? What had I told them? Name, address, phone number, e-mail address – all things that can be found out fairly easily. No social security numbers or bank info, which would have been the next thing they hoped I was stupid enough to supply (I was supposed to text them a photo of the deposit slip, which I would have painted out the numbers on even if this had been legit).

No, wait, this is probably what he looked like.

No, wait, this is probably what he looked like. Or at least dressed like.

I did as much research as I could on my phone, but it was like I was blind in one eye and on crutches; things I was attempting to do were rendered extremely cumbersome. That Saturday I was going over to Rick’s to watch movies, and I brought a laptop and mooched off his wi-fi. Tracked down who had actually registered the Gmail account that was corresponding with me. Who had registered that “Under Construction” web site for what was supposed to be a long-established company. I reported my situation to LinkedIn. Never heard a thing from them.

I survived the Independence Day weekend (again). Then the FedEx package arrived, and I called the FBI.

The FBI Lady made sure I hadn’t compromised myself, then gave me a list of things to do. There is an online form for reporting stuff like this, which I did at my earliest access to Internet. I called the bank whose name was on the cashier’s check, and the lady there verified that it was a forgery, and told me they had been dealing with this particular operation for three months. No, they didn’t need the check for their files, but thank you.

I filled out the FBI form, probably supplying way too much information (I actually hit the character limit in a couple of fields). If I hadn’t been suspicious before, the fact that the return address on the FedEx envelope was from a healthcare company should have tipped me off. I fired off an e-mail to their corporate office that their account had been hacked.

No! No! This is what he looked like!

No! No! This is what he looked like!

Not everybody is a suspicious bastard like me. Not everybody read with interest about online scams in the early parts of this Digital Age. Too many people have probably fallen for this, or something like it. Did my efforts make this any more difficult for them? Probably not, but it didn’t help them.

Facing that crap without access to online tools made me feel truly alone. So I put my animosity with the cable company aside and said, this time I will make it work. Well, my part of that is pretty small, it was mainly thanks to a tech named Paul that made it work. I’m just getting used to the idea that when I see a movie clip being ballyhooed online I no longer have to say, “Yeah, I’ll have to check that out tomorrow at work.”

My time without the ‘Net wasn’t all bad – I read many books (Hey, it turns out that John Scalzi guy is actually pretty good!), but I also played a lot of solitaire. I created a busywork project that I may now never finish… because it was busywork, but at least it didn’t require net access.

My enforced absence from the Information Highway proved to me one thing, and that is I rely heavily on it for research, Whether it’s the proper spelling of concomitant or what exactly was the deal with the Dick Tracy villain “Oodles”, I grew used to having that at my fingertips (yes, I own a dictionary. Yes, shut up). The crisis with the fake job and constantly having to figure out work-arounds for the websites I manage delineated my need for access in very stark detail.

happyThis Election season may yet cause me to forsake Facebook or edit it to hell and back, but that’s another issue entirely (I am told that living in an echo chamber would be a bad thing). Not being able to be flabbergasted by my fellow humans’ idiocy on it – that’s a problem. I use Facebook and Twitter for business purposes, not simply for excuses to be pissed off.

So yes, modern-day Thoreaus, more power to you and your neo-Luddite ways. Enjoy your non-digital lives. Of course, you’ll never know that I’m wishing you well, because I’m embracing my 64-bit existence.

Now if you’ll excuse me, a buttload of movie trailers just dropped. Holy guacamole, they now play without buffering or stuttering.

It’s like witchcraft.

I’ll Be Back

29266688if I live.

This weekend… Ha! Weekends! What the hell are they? This weekend was just the prelude. Friday morning I was pressed into news anchor duty at our weekly newscast; the usual anchor was down with a kidney stone and a stomach virus. We’re shorthanded as it is, so I got to put on makeup, a tie, and be presentable.  The results were acceptable, if not stellar.

Then, Friday night, a traveling show, a very special kind of hell, this time involving mys on and my wife, who was subbing for an absent actor. It was an evening full of hurry up and wait, and then oh my god get set up, get set up now, followed by more hurry up and wait, then doing the show, then hurrying up and waiting to tear down our stuff and pack it away. The room was apparently chosen for it’s extreme distance from the freight elevator.

Next night: regular show. Then, Sunday morning, can you please read at the 8:30 service, it will be super easy! Except for the getting up after only a few hours of sleep!

All this prelude. Prelude, to a week where the occasional fart is going to have to be carefully scheduled. Regular work, Monday through Friday, except for Wednesday, when I come in later to tape a lecture. Monday Night, School Board meeting. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights? Shows, all of them. Well, at least I get Wednesday night off.

“Listen, could you do the evening service on Ash Wednesday? It will be super-easy….”

Writer’s meeting Thursday afternoon. Can’t miss this one, I missed last week’s due to being in the middle of a State Park shooting a story. I said I’d have another script finished by tomorrow, then found out I don’t have the desired script template.

Like I said, if I live, I’ll be back.

The Horror Movie Empire Debacle

I guess it’s time to address my small part in the Horror Movie Empire debacle. By which I mean you can add me to the number of people apparently ripped off by the online vendor. Even so, I’m going to say “ripped off” is a term I use reluctantly. I can be more confident and truthful in saying I’ve been let down by them, because I still harbor a ragged hope that I’ll get my goods, though finding my mailbox devoid of any such thing day by day diminishes that hope bit by bit.

If you’re lucky enough to have avoided this mess, or the blog posts or the forum threads: Horror Movie Empire, back in December of 2011, ran a rather extraordinary sale on Blue Underground DVDs and Blu-Rays: ten bucks for Blus, seven for DVDs. I ordered six in all, and I wasn’t the only one: HME said they hadn’t expected such a big response, which was, I suppose, the first sign of trouble.

I had dealt with HME before. I rolled the dice on their “Blu-Ray grab bag” and got Dead-Alive, which I didn’t own on Blu, so, hey, score (the fact that I could have gotten it cheaper from Amazon than the grab bag price is irrelevant. Caveat emptor is going to get more and more relevant as this thing goes on). The delivery time was a bit slow, but I had been warned about that.

So. I put in my order on that sale. At that price, I was picking up mainly discs I likely would not have normally, for the purposes of shoring up my education on various film genres, by which I mean a couple of respected horror movies I hadn’t liked when first released, and felt the need to revisit in my older, theoretically wiser state. One movie that I knew was coming up for a Daily Grindhouse podcast. The only movie that was actually on my “must have” list was the Blu-Ray of Zombie, which has gotten high praise.

Then I sat back to wait, remembering his fabled slowness. And wait. And wait. We’re now looking at 100 days of waiting. My order number was in the 2100’s. I have seen complaints numbering in the 3300’s. That’s… what? At least a thousand orders after my own? That’s a lot of people and a lot of money.

As bit of (I guess) commiseration, I have a saved Twitter search using HME’s twitter handle. I check it daily to see the questions, the demands, the vitriol. All of which goes without reply (much like my e-emails).

I’m not placing a link for the site here. It’s significant – but no real help – that a Google search will net you their dismal rating on the Better Business Bureau site. It also has a page by Noel Mellor of FilmRant under the similar URL of horror-movie-empire.com which he hopes will eventually supplant HME’s top search status, with the title heading “Horror Movie Empire – A COMPLETE RIP OFF”. Mellor’s page allows people to sound off about their experience. The last posting to the site is a week old at this point, is titled “A New Hope” and contains actual correspondence from the frustratingly silent owner/operator of HME. Will Noel get his discs? Will I? I guess we’ll see.

If nothing else, I’ve been aware for some time that the universe is a well-oiled machine designed to humiliate me. As this is the case, I am hoping that by finally putting my complaints into print, I will find a package in my mailbox this afternoon, causing me to write a wordy retraction.

Yep, that’s me. Still naive after all these years.

EDIT: So what’s on the front page of HME’s site today? (and a tip of the hat to Geoff Hunt for pointing it out):

YET ANOTHER EDIT: In all fairness, I must report that by the end of 2012, I had received each and every disc I ordered. It took nearly a year, but it finally happened. Now let us put this all behind us, and never click on that site again.

Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

Let’s start with stuff written Friday:

As you may have noticed, I am now the owner of the elusive “drfreex.com” domain. Surely wealth and fame are just around the corner now.

Sorry, I just convulsed myself with laughter. I’m better now.

Having taken the more than slightly egotistic plunge of buying my own name – or at least the faintly ridiculous nom de guerre I devised one sleepless night in the 90s – I find myself thinking I should be doing more with this blog. what the living hell that should be is beyond my monkey brain.

I really admire people who update their blogs daily. I tried that once and the results were pulse-poundingly banal. In fact, I think all I did was bitch about my job at the time. It may have made me feel a little better to vent, but I can’t imagine that’s the sort of thing that builds up an ardent readership. I like my current job a lot better, and I think it’s been quite some time since I’ve used the “Seething Impotent Rage” category.

I’m still filled with Seething Impotent Rage, mind you now, but it is about the usual things, as in a fuckton of stupidity being paraded through the much-derided mainstream media disguised as leadership. That ain’t gonna change soon, and I am considering moving into a cave – with a really long extension cord – until, say, next December. In a whole lot of ways, I wish the panic-crows are right and the world ends in December. The people who want to run my life (and their apparently endless hordes of willing cannon fodder) are not giving me a whole lot of hope for the future.

But thinking like that makes my head hurt.

Well, now that I’ve already punched the Seething Impotent Rage button, let me continue with this vintage glass of White Whine: what the hell is this weekend that everybody is talking about? They sound really nice. I wish I could have one.

Just to illustrate what I mean: tomorrow – Saturday – I will get up and travel to the 1940 Air Terminal Museum for their Chopper Day event. “Chopper” as in helicopters and motorcycles. I seem to have become the go-to guy for motorcycle stories here. All this really does is make me miss my motorcycle-ridin’ days. However, the weather report calls for rain, rain and more rain, so we’ll see how successful this story will be.

That evening, I have a show. I almost always have a show on Saturday. Having a shoot on Saturday morning also means I have a chance of being extra-gimpy for that night’s show. This is also the last Saturday night for Shadowlands.

Sunday, I have been given a break, and won’t be performing at the early church service. The possibility of sleeping in a bit leads into the Sunday matinée of Shadowlands – the final performance – and then we get to spend the evening striking the set. Since I shouldn’t be trusted with dangerous tools, I will likely be carrying cast-off set elements to the dumpster, loudly declaiming that I’m certainly glad I went to college so I could avoid manual labor.

But what do you know, I work at a State institution, so President’s Day is an actual holiday for me. There will perforce be a Very Special Crapfest, with other actors with a day off. True, not being salaried, I’ll be making up those hours with longer days the rest of the week, but at least that ends up with …another weekend that I get to work through. Crap.

And so, by starting off with an explanation of the type of blog post I hate, I have managed to create a blog post of the type I hate. Guess I needed more irony in my diet.

EARLY MORNING SUNDAY UPDATE: I decided to sit on this one for a bit, not sure if the Impotent Seething Rage was unseemly or not. I guess we now know the final decision on that.

whitewhine.com - because you're not depressed enough yet.

Yes, Chopper Day was rained out. But the website said “Rain or shine”, so I decided to go to the museum and see what their Plan B might be. Plan B apparently involves standing around and looking at anyone who walks in the door as if they were insane. As I Tweeted, Oh, well, maybe I can find a nice bake sale to cover, somewhere.

Still exhausted when I finished last night’s show. I think one of my oldest friends was at the show last night, but we missed each other somehow. I am nagged by the thought that I should have tried harder, should have swept through the theater at least one more time, but my exhaustion, the 40 minute drive home, and my increasingly insistent cough won that argument. I may have gotten a halfway decent night’s sleep last night. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention.

Fairly early Sunday, as I type this addendum. I’m likely going back to bed, having eaten my oatmeal and morning pills (protip: don’t get old). This week is going to be a chore, and I need all the rest I can get.

Hey! I said that about last week!

Grumble Grumble Coffee Grumble

What a lovely bunch of small irritations this morning.

I guess I have, if not an addictive personality, a tendency toward fickle obsession, to employ an oxymoron. The latest obsession has been a Tumblr site. I got an account because gee, everybody else seemed to have one. It got me out of a jam when I couldn’t embed a video here (and I find WordPress superior in every other way, so… what the hell?), I posted a few more pictures, a few more videos… and then it struck me.

Another of my petite fixations over the years has been movie posters. Well, any sort of pictorial movie promotion. Somewhere there’s a Cub Scout scrapbook which is full of nothing but movie ads clipped from newspapers. I recall I was really excited about The Dunwich Horror, young madcap that I was.  But int he digital age, this has led to my downloading scans of movie posters from various sources, and there they sat on my hard drive, occasionally glanced at when I was looking for something to illustrate my reviews, back when I wrote movie reviews.

Hey, I could throw a few up on this Tumblr thing!

And so it began. A few became quite a few, and quickly the rationale behind the whole thing. I discovered there is a limit to how many pictures you can post in a day. Then I discovered that it’s possible simply queue up posts and have them self-publish at regular intervals. I’ve been upping 20 posters a day with my snarky-ass comments, or the occasional compliment or complaint when my ass is not feeling particularly snarky. 10 in the morning, 10 in the evening. When I have time, I’ll queue up the entire day’s worth.

Clicking on “archive” at the bottom of every page yields a landscape of crap movie posters that I want for computer desktop wallpaper. Hell, wallpaper for my office.

Lat night, though, started up the dreaded “Maintenance” pages. They continued into this morning, off and on, as I attempted to set up the morning queue, in a maddeningly inconsistent manner. Probably the worst thing about this Tumblr obsession is it makes me late for work, which is not really that big a deal. If I clock in a half-hour late, I just stay a half-hour later. But I like the schedule, I like consistency. I could have just said, oh, I’ll just queue up more this evening, but nooooo, surely it will work this time, oh it did, now I can queue up some more BAH.

Otherwise:

I work at an Institution of Somewhat Higher Learning. I should not be fighting down the urge to tell the HR department that there is no such word as “inputted”.

At least I haven’t seen or heard anyone using “orientated” in at least, oh, 36 hours or so.

So I guess my attempt to purge negativity from my life has borne some fruit. Stuff like this would send me into a deep sullen depression, previously. Now I just sigh and get on with my life.

Well, there is this whole Prop 8 and “Ground Zero Mosque” crap, but that is stupidity on a somewhat grander scale than I can effect without nuclear weapons, so I’m not going to dwell on them right now. My nukes are in the shop, being tuned up.