Traveling Music, Maestro

I had really hoped to have something ready for you folks before I hit the road.

For the first time in years, instead of sitting around the house on Spring Break, moping about the unpaid vacation, I am going with my wife and son and niece to visit my sister-in-law in West Texas, where cell towers are rare and the Internet is just an ugly rumor.

I’ll have a laptop with me. I have much to share with you, and I’ll be writing without access to my usual channels of research, but I think that going old school – odd to think of writing in a text editor and then transferring it over to WordPress seems Old School – will be good for me.

I should also pack an extra pair of earbuds because modern forms of communication may be out, but there’s still TV, which means I will continue to be bedeviled by the current administration and reality TV, which are apparently much the same thing these days.

Christ only knows what the world will be like when I return from the wastelands late this week. It’s tempting to bring along my leathers and spikes in case everything’s all Fury Road when I get back, but I’m trying to pack light.

So party on, be excellent to each other, and if y’all would fix everything while I’m gone, I’d certainly appreciate it.

A Warning

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Every night through Halloween. A movie a night, A through Z. Five sites. Five doomed madmen who will, by the end of this month, never want to see a movie again. And you will be there.

Pay homage to our legacy of pain. Here is what will be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world tomorrow:

hubrisween-a2

Dormez bien, my fiends. There shall be no sleep for some time.

Please Help Me, I Am A Fanboy

Well, I think we all knew that, but I don’t think we ever knew exactly how deep that river ran.

We know about me and movies – though there are bigger movie fans out there. I haven’t mentioned comic books much since that one comment about preferring that I talk about movies (I’m quite the sensitive soul, I assure you), but then again, I just don’t read them as much as I used to. The constant mega-events and reboots just wore me down, and I’ve largely turned my back on them.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

And then the local comics shop that I visited perhaps once every three months opened up a shop much closer (the bastards) and now I’m an every-three-weeks-or-so guy. I don’t leave with many books. The titles I have hung onto are because of the writers more than anything. It’s the usual suspects – Kurt Busiek, Gail Simone and – especially – Warren Ellis. Well, there’s also The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but that’s mainly because for years nobody believed me there actually was such a character.

If we’re going to drill down into the fanboy thing, the author we have to concentrate on is Ellis, whose work I was turned onto in that selfsame comic shop so many years ago. If you’re a comics fan, you’re familiar with his work: Stormfront, The Authority and multiple Marvel titles (including the amazing NEXTwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.) in the superhero genre, and more wide-ranging genre work like Transmetropolitan, Global Frequency and Planetary. He branched out into prose novels and TV projects, but keeps returning to comics. The weekly Web serial FreakAngels has wrapped, but his current series, still being published in floppy form, are Trees, Injection (which is my current obsession) and a new James Bond series aiming to take the character back to his Ian Fleming roots.

injection3The thing about serialized storytelling (which is the state of modern comics – the one-off single issue stories have seemed to all but vanish, though Global Frequency showed Ellis can also work very well at that form) is that each chapter has to find a way to stand on its own, while still serving the greater story. FreakAngels was good at that, publishing its tale in six-page gouts. Lately, Ellis really has gotten this down to a science, as each issue – I almost called them episodes – leads up to a final image that is almost always satisfying, but still causes the reader to say “Nooooooo! I want more!” I once snottily said that every issue of Injection was too short, but each issue is so densely packed with imagery that it takes time to unpack. Ellis (and his artistic collaborators, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire) give us tiny glimpses at a vast tapestry of a story, and like FreakAngels before it, Injection is going to provide an even better experience when it is all of a piece.

(A few years ago I went back and re-read Neil Gaimin’s Sandman from stem to stern, and was delighted at the many pieces I had not picked up on a monthly basis, but now revealed themselves when considered as a whole.)

Ellis is a writer intensely interested in futurism, and he lived his life pretty openly in the digital realm, back in the days when most of us were piddling around with an AOL account. Mailing lists, Twitter, Instagram, he was there, finding the possibilities, experiencing and recording a vast new world. He’s slowed down on that as responsibilities multiply (especially to his own health – take care of yourself, dammit! We need you!), but he still has a weekly newsletter I look forward to each Sunday.

Squad Goals

Squad Goals

Now if all that wasn’t fanboy enough for you, Ellis also updates us about his work habits, what he takes with him on his travels for work purposes. And every now and then he will sing the praises of something that works really well for him and suddenly I have to have that thing because Warren Ellis uses it and thinks it’s cool.

20160218_113154Before I go any further, let me introduce you to this =>

I am the guy pushing 60 who’s still wearing cargo pants. The reason why is the right thigh pocket always has this kit in it. It’s an idea I saw on a Boing Boing post once, about a designer who always carried a pouch like this that had everything he might need on a typical day. Markers, measuring tape, small flashlight, the like. I thought, that is absolutely something I should do. Immediately went over to Amazon and bought the very same zipper pouch, the Maxpedition Micro Pocket Organizer. What you see poking out of the mesh pocket is one of Ellis’ gewgaws, the Nightcore Tube flashlight, which is rechargeable and insanely bright. The only drawback is also its strength: it is small, and once I lent it to my son, who immediately lost it. I lost no time in ordering its replacement, it is so handy. There’s also a lens cleaning cloth and a Swiss-Tech flat multi-tool, which is fairly useless but it was a gift from my flashlight-losing son. It’s meant to be carried in a wallet, but I already have too much crap in my wallet.

And in case you were wondering, this is the interior:

2016-02-18 12.56.25From left-to-right: 4-in-1 screwdriver, pencil, Leatherman 831207 multi-tool, 4-inch adjustable wrench, marker, Streamlight LED flashlight, and a clasp knife from my collection (which means at any given time I’m carrying three knives. Come at me, bro.) In the back pockets are yet another lens cloth and some braided paracord. I do like being prepared. The wrench and paracord are the only items I’ve never had cause to use. Yet.

Big deal, you’re thinking, you’ve found a kit that works for you, and it has a thing one of your favorite writers once said was cool. Yeah, you’re some fanboy.

We haven’t gotten to the Pebble yet.

SteelI was one of those people who wasn’t interested in the idea of a smartwatch. They seemed like expensive toys, way out of the reach of my pocketbook, like a sports car or a curved TV set. I had stopped even wearing a watch, because I had a smartphone and I’m almost always in the presence of one computer or another with a clock in the corner.

Then Ellis waxes rhapsodical about his Pebble Steel. Not once, but twice. And suddenly, ridiculously, I feverishly desired a Pebble. My life would simply be hellishly incomplete without one.

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you approach the story – the original version of the Pebble, only slightly removed from a successful Kickstarter campaign – is pretty affordable, especially if you buy it used. I thought $35 was a fair price to find out if it was actually as good as Ellis said, and I could actually afford that.

Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

The screen is not very bright – it’s a grayscale LCD e-paper display. It has an accelerometer so if you flick your wrist, a backlight comes on for a few seconds, so it’s usable in dark environments. It has various downloadable apps and watchfaces. It vibrates whenever you get a call, text message, or alert from any number of smartphone apps you choose.

Ellis likes it because it allows him to judge if he should engage immediately with an alert or if it is something he can deal with later without physically checking his phone. He claims it’s improved his phone’s battery life by one-half or more. And the Pebble itself, with that e-paper display, can go five days without a charge. It’s also waterproof, which starts getting into the realm of James Bond shit, unless you also have to wash dishes and it’s kind of refreshing to not have to take the expensive gizmo off when you do so. I even wore it into the shower once, just to prove I could. But that felt so freaky I never did it again.

After just a couple of days, I was sold on the damned thing. It turns out that pulling out your phone and turning it on just to see the time is actually a lot of wasted motion. It also appealed to me that I could see the weather and temperature outside if I chose the right watchface (that sort of functionality quickly supplanted the geeky novelty of the one that duplicated the Star Trek LCARS display). Yeah, yeah, I could just look outside but the Day Job is inside a server farm and I might as well be in Hitler’s bunker for all the windows I have access to.

Well, crap.

Well, crap.

The one fly in the ointment was that the e-paper display could get famously buggy, and I’d have to switch back and forth between watchface and an app to clear it out, sometimes several times. Well, I thought, that’s what you get for buying a used one. So I saved up my birthday and Christmas gift cards and ordered a new version of the one my hero wore, the Pebble Steel. The original Pebble felt and kind of looked like that first digital watch I bought back in the late 70s, all black plastic and rubberized watchband.

Here’s the thing, though: like I said, the e-paper display was notorious for its instability. The first Steel I got wouldn’t even charge (and the charger is a different configuration between various generations of the device, so I couldn’t even determine if it was the cable or the Steel itself). The replacement charged up, but the display was even worse than my original Pebble. After trying various remedies found on Pebble’s forums, I finally went straight to them, and they very kindly sent me a new Pebble Time, which was their current iteration. They also offered to send me another Steel if I preferred, but when you’re offered a First Class Upgrade, you take it.

The Time has a color e-paper display, and though the body is still plastic, it looks classier. There’s yet another charger, but this time the port is positioned to also accept something called smartstraps, which I think is putting me back in the expensive toy category. The Time already does everything I want it to, and more.

Pebble is my co-pilot. All you other co-pilots, out of the boat.

Pebble is my co-pilot. All you other co-pilots, out of the boat.

A major major advantage is that I mute my phone whenever I am shooting video, or performing in a show. I don’t always remember to turn it back on. I might have missed calls from my wife or my mother if it weren’t for the Time alerting me (I also take unseemly delight in looking at a phone number on the watch and pressing a button to sent it straight to Voice Mail). Sometimes I can’t respond to my phone’s reminder for me to take my evening meds, and I wound up forgetting to take them entirely. The Time allows me to set another alarm for every day to remind me to take my damned old man pills. The accelerometer tracks my steps in a day, so I can try to take more. I’m never going to worry about leaving my phone somewhere again because the Time buzzes whenever I pass out of Bluetooth range. It has a countdown timer and a stopwatch, both things I used to haul out my phone to access.

So yes, Warren Ellis was right about that one, too. It’s a terrific tool. I just hope the next time he finds something wonderful and useful, it’s back in the ten buck range again.

injection-3---review-142716We now return you to your regularly scheduled incoherent ramblings about cinema.

POSTSCRIPT: Judging from his Twitter feed, Richard Kadrey is now wearing a Pebble. I was doomed to this course of action in any case.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Do I have to?

Well, people were asking me 15 minutes after I had seen it what I thought, so yeah, I guess I have to. The response given to these people was, “It didn’t suck,” and it doesn’t. But I like to let a movie percolate for a day or so before I trust my opinion.

It didn’t suck.

There’s a lot of static on the Interwebs complaining about the *ahem* lack of originality in certain aspects of the story. The question here, I think, is have you been paying attention over the last ten years or so? The current marketplace does not reward originality. It often actively punishes it. Therefore, carbon paper is the preferred method of moviemaking. I’m not really surprised that The Force Awakens relies on “the same, just bigger” for its action setpieces. There is a memo somewhere mandating this, I’m sure.

By concentrating on rhyming instances, though, you are missing the very strength of this new chapter: an abundance of heart, and the very, very welcome return of humor to this universe. The new characters are strong and deserving of our attention. The return of – literally – older characters helps that medicine go down just fine, thank you, and provides more than a little resonance with our own youth.

maxresdefaultI was 20 years old when the first Star Wars came out. I stood in line for hours on its second day of release, thankfully in the air conditioning of the lower level of Houston’s Galleria. 38 years later, here I am again, standing in line. There are some parts of our dystopian future that do not suck; I had bought my ticket in advance and was only waiting for the doors to open. Fifteen minutes instead of hours.

So I am deeply aware of the magic that happened that day at the beginning of Summer 1977. I know, I know, you wanted that feeling back. You wanted to leave the theater feeling the same way your younger self did, dazzled and intoxicated by the possibilities of cinema bent to a compelling story.

To engage in more acquisition from an earlier property, you can’t go home again.

Star Wars (I still refuse to call it A New Hope) hit like a thermal detonator because there was nothing else like it in a comparatively parched movie landscape. As Jessica Ritchey brilliantly reminds us over at rogerebert.com, Fox’s big moneymaker for the season was supposed to be The Other Side of Midnight. There had been pulpy science-fiction before, but it was almost inevitably a low-budget affair. Good special effects were only to be found in the rarified field of Thoughtful Science Fiction – 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running. This… this was Flash Gordon with a budget. And it was fun.

You want to know why you left The Force Awakens disappointed? It’s because practically every movie and TV show made since, science-fiction and otherwise, has been Star Wars. Be it an attempt to reach Peak Special Effects or yet another rehash of The Hero’s Journey, they’ve been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle. Of course you don’t feel it’s original. It’s been cannibalized and recycled multiple times in the last four decades.

In 1977, there was nothing like Star Wars. In 2015, everything is Star Wars.

So you feel let down. Fine, that’s your right. I was too, a bit. But let’s not go tearing down quite so vociferously what other people – especially kids, kids of color, little girls – are enjoying and building future dreams upon. We had our trilogy. Let them have theirs.

Because I’m going to bet that, if you loosen up a little bit, to allow yourself to have just a little fun, they’re not going to mind you coming along for the ride, at all.

The Week of Doom

Warning: mindless jabbering and sullen bitching this time.

FRIDAY MORNING:

The worst of the week is, I think, over. What’s left is two days of shows that my body does not want to do. Last night was the local Candidate Debates. I usually manage to pawn off the heavier lifting and loading on younger and stronger backs, but attrition has been so heavy this year that I am the younger and stronger back (lies, all lies). So loading in, loading out (both in heavy rain) and an evening spent at a camera have resulted in not only my recent back pains intensifying, but the bad leg waking up and my good leg telling it to shut the hell up, it has a hangover.

Balwing BusinessmanSo my current life’s goal is to somehow engineer my professional life such that I can actually have weekends again. This requires long, hard looks at what I’m doing for a living. The major problem with my jobs – I work and pay taxes on four of them (because, remember, I am a moocher and a taker) – is that none of them are full-time; I have managed to juggle them for some time now, and this week was one of those instances where everything intersected and suddenly everybody needed me. I skipped out on the memorial service of an acquaintance because I desperately needed that evening to rest and heal.

And really, I’m tired of being envious and somewhat angry every time somebody posts a “Yay, it’s the weekend!” message or graphic. On one level, that is the choice I made when I decided to become an actor. On a deeper level, I am tired of acting for drunks and assholes. Would I feel better about this if I were doing – and here’s a label I hate, but like all labels, it has its uses – “legitimate” theater? Possibly. It’s nice to have an audience that, you know, actually wants to be there to listen.

Realize that this is exhaustion, pain and bitterness talking. I will be at my shows this weekend, and as usual, hit my marks and give it my all and eat ibuprofen like it was candy afterwards. Exhaustion and pain from once again humping equipment, bitterness from the economic necessity of doing same.

Let’s leave that for now and go to something that’s less rancorous, something that intrigues me: I own a Kindle, but I still pay lip service to physical books. It is a toss-up as what is going to collapse and kill me first in my home office: the stacks of movies or the stacks of books (Books are in the lead in that betting pool, adjust your wagers accordingly).

platypusA couple of months back, on my moribund Tumblr site, I reposted the cover of Arthur Byron Cover’s The Playpus of Doom, because it’s a fun title to contemplate and a good read besides, which has gone out of print. Some discussion of the book and its author followed. I discovered that there was no Kindle edition of Platypus, and the vintage paperbacks were outrageously expensive. But there was a Kindle version of his first book, Autumn Angels, which I loved, and paperbacks of its sequel, An East Wind Coming, were dirt cheap. I remember being somewhat disappointed in it, but at that price, sure, why not revisit it? So I received my yellowing package and flipped it open and oy.

Were all paperbacks like this? Cramped type crowded onto the page? I couldn’t read this.

So I guess that e-readers have spoiled me for my beloved paperbacks. Or maybe it was just this book from this publisher, but memory tells me this is not the case. It’s that my progressive bifocals and tired eyes need a less populated, cleaner page to enjoy the printed (ha!) page as I once did. I also bought two larger trade paperbacks of Ellis Peter Cadfael novels and Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, which I also need to revisit, and they are more comfortable to read.

Almost all my recent reading has been on the Kindle – saving a few dollars, and not adding to the teetering piles of bound paper that will someday crush me. I miss not being able to look up and see the titles with the easy familiarity of physical friendship, but as I get older and the type seems to get smaller, I’m glad that technology has given me a way to continue to do something that I love – even as I try to find ways to allow myself the time to do that.

SATURDAY:

There is the other side to that love of new technology, and it was brought home Friday night when I came home – once again, in heavy rain – to a dark house in a dark neighborhood, something I hadn’t experienced since the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Used candles and flashlight that night, and I could, at least, read my Kindle Fire. As long as the battery held out.

LivingWithoutElectricityMy wife’s phone was dead, mine was halfway there – but I had charged both it and the Kindle before I left for the show. My scripts are all on the Kindle (and yes, I do read over my script before every show). Sleep was fitful that night. The next morning my wife and I went looking for a restaurant with power (luckily plentiful) and she used the car charger to get her phone back up to a minimal level.  After eighteen hours, the power came back on and I gratefully grabbed a couple of hours of very deep sleep in a cooler house before I had to rise and get ready for another show.

God, I’ll be glad when this week will be over and I’ll be able to grouse and complain about other peoples’ work and not my own. You probably will be, too.

LATER SATURDAY NIGHT:

UPDATE: It’s over. I’m too tired and sore to go to sleep. Crap.

Oh, yes, speaking of which: that Crapfest I was looking forward to? Postponed. Host Dave got a paying gig. I identify. I just finished off a bunch of those. And just as well, that probably would have been enough to finish me off.

I’m turning this off and going to bed now.

The Summertime Blues

It had been a week since I watched a movie. That’s a long time for me, and it’s a sign of a serious funk. So sorry, folks who come here for acerbic remarks or amateur musings on classic films, all I have to talk about this week is me, so you might not find this interesting at all. I don’t blame you. See you next week.

Then like a lot of things I put up here, that was an untruth. Yesterday – Father’s Day – I actually found myself doing something I NEVER do, which is turn on the TV and flip through the channels. We long ago determined cable was an unfunded mandate, and said goodbye to it with few regrets (mainly Turner Classic Movies and Mythbusters). Lo and behold, a couple of those newfangled digital channels coughed up stuff I would actually watch, even with commercial interruptions – one being David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, which is still superb (and unavailable on domestic blu-ray, grumble gripe bitch complain), and the Danish kaiju flick, Reptilicus, which has somehow gotten even worse. (All you Godzilla 2014 haters go watch this, then get back to me on how bad the modern flick is)

I’ve been put on a mild anti-depressant to help with my sleep problems, which it has, to a degree. I’m not sure if my current tendency toward rumination and self-examination is due to being a bit more rested or a bit less depressed. Anxiety levels are about the same, because little pills do nothing about stressors.

A major cause for pondering was Father’s Day. I’m lucky, my parents are still alive, so I can call the old codger and we can kill some cell phone minutes not talking to each other. But I’m no spring chicken myself, and notes from my mother telling me they’ve paid for their funerals and recently went to see their headstones have my head in a really weird place. Really weird.

As you know, I’m a father myself. That wasn’t something I had really planned for, but my wife, Lisa, having been an excellent, involved teacher and therefore second mother to a lot of children, wanted nothing more than a child of her own, so that had to become one of my priorities, and if I can claim nothing else in my life, I at least did that right. It was a long trip, full of tears and loss, but we finally produced a son, and now we get to worry how he’s going to get to college.

But. That wasn’t what I was pondering. I took stock of the people I hang with, and the number of fathers there is shockingly low. What is shocking about that, though, is the fact that I now regard fatherhood as the default, rather than the extraordinary circumstance. There is nothing profound or life-changing in that realization, as the very fact of fatherhood itself is profound and life-changing enough.

Of course my son has hit his teens, and they’re not as terrible as I had anticipated (and that’s the sort of  statement that will surely come back to haunt me); I guess I’m fairly lucky. He usually only comes out of his pit of a room to ask if dinner is ready yet, then returns to his Xbox. I’d be the same way, except I’m usually the one cooking dinner. I do have my own pit of a room, after all.

I guess I may be in the throes of a slow-motion mid-life crisis, one that crops up every few years like a persistent case of acne. As we all know (because I bitch about it constantly), I work three and often four part-time jobs. Weekends are a foreign concept to me, but then, I was trained as an actor, and for them there is no such thing, anyway.

I’ve been involved with one of those murder mystery dinner theaters for years. I’m going to be saying those lines during my funeral. The money is pretty good, I shouldn’t complain. But there is physical labor involved: loading and unloading the van because it’s a gypsy outfit and we can’t leave any of our stuff up longer than a couple of days. The characters are all human cartoons, and sometimes that gets pretty physical, to the detriment of my bad knee, my asthma and general decrepitude. A lot of the audience have no idea whatsoever what is involved in live theater (and this is loosely categorized as live theater, I guess), have no idea how to behave, and Jesus H. Christ, I hate trying to perform for drunks.

So here we have one of the classic symptoms of what led up to those famous Post Office shootings – remember them? Before they spread out into the community at large? Bad working conditions were coupled with a dependency on the job they hated – the salary, the benefits. I’m not going to go on a murderous rampage, but good God, I’m so tired of it. But the “day job” barely takes care of the utilities – the weekend shows pay for groceries and gas.

Somebody out there is thinking that I should be thankful for what I’ve got. I am. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be reaching for more, for something better.

So tonight I’m going to do something I haven’t done in years. I’m going to an audition at my old theater.

Things have improved since I left for the better financial rewards of dinner theater.  The pay is much better – in fact, it would be almost commensurate with what I’m earning, although the work is spread over several days instead of just two. But there is the bonus of A) portraying an actual human being for a change, and B) doing it for an audience that actually wants to be there, where I’m not perceived as standing in the way of the salad service, or actively attempting to corrupt the frail sensibilities of churchfolk.

This is going to introduce more conflict into my life, if I’m cast. Finding people to replace me at one of the nighttime jobs. A shuffling of cast at the dinner theater. My son won’t be able to work the dinner theater, either, which he does for spending money.

But that might be the sort of thing to shake me out my current doldrums. And then I can complain about not having any time to watch movies, a return to business as usual.

Chapter 9: Some Blithering

I’m in the bizarre, unenviable position of having too much to do, yet not being able to do any of it. I’m waiting on too many phone calls or e-mails to be returned, I have a teleconference coming up in two hours, which would be an okay space to pop in a movie but I’d feel like I was cramming it into that space, like a book slapped on top of other books on a shelf just to get it out of the way. That’s a bulky, cumbersome analogy, but I’m also operating on short sleep rations, so that’s all I’ve got.

So I might as well just ramble on here.

netflixageddon0413At the end of the year there was another “streamageddon” panic when a bunch of movies got cleared off Netflix Instant. Cooler heads attempted to prevail, some pointing out that licensing arrangements usually began or ended at the, yes, beginning or end of the month, and we seem to go through this at least twice a year when a bunch of licenses expire. A lot of the movies come back, some don’t.

Link that to something I see at least once a day on Twitter: “What? Why isn’t (Caddyshack/1941/insert name of movie) on Netflix?”

Then tell me again how physical media is dying.

Well, I’m going to admit that you have a point there, at least, but I think it’s largely because certain people want it to die, not because of any need or essential evolution of entertainment.

Up to roughly a hundred years ago, if you wanted to hear Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, you had to go to a concert hall where it was being performed. If you didn’t live within easy traveling distance of one, or they were playing Mozart that evening, well, tough. No glorious Ludwig Van for you. The invention of the gramophone mitigated that somewhat, though admittedly the scratchy wax cylinder was a poor substitute for a symphony orchestra in the same room as the listener. New technology would work toward closing that gap in experience and quality.

Then again, sometimes you don't want any Ludwig Van.

Then again, sometimes you don’t want any Ludwig Van.

I was struck at one point last year by a critic talking about seeing The Seventh Seal at an art house in the late 50s, then having to wait years for the opportunity to see it a second time. To a modern film buff, that sort of experience is almost unthinkable. My copy of Seventh Seal is not ten feet from my desk. I can watch it again any time I want.

Yet, this is the same experience one gets from streaming media services. Am I somehow to believe this is better?

Ooooh dear.

Ooooh dear.

Netflix cannot provide access to every movie everyone might like to see at any imaginable point at any time; that is simply impossible, so they of necessity attempt to maintain the most commercially viable mix they can. I’ve seen my fair share of odd, non-commercial movies on Netflix, so I can’t complain too loudly – but it still can’t beat a large collection curated by myself, for myself.

Where streaming does beat that, I will admit, is in the realm of clutter. I sit here typing this, surrounded by stacks of books and movies. If they ever, like in some EC comic book or episode of Twilight Zone decided to turn on me, I’m doomed, hopelessly outnumbered. The huge stacks of Marvel Essentials and DC Showcase Presents have already tried to end me twice. This, however, is the choice I made: movies I want to watch, books I want to read. There is some point I am going to require a viewing of Evil Roy Slade, some point where discovering the exact issue of Teen Titans the Mad Mod first appeared will be paramount. This is how I shape my world, and move about in it.

kindle-largeThe general move toward streaming and that intellectual construct they call “The Cloud” is a move toward licensing content rather than selling it. I have somewhere around twenty books on my Kindle, and Amazon has proven they can rescind my access to any of these books at any time. I didn’t buy them, I only rented them, apparently. There is no such muddiness of ownership with a physical book. I have exchanged money for an item, which I can now deal with as I see fit; I can keep it, resell it, give it away, use it to level out an uneven table, or – heaven forbid – burn it.

Physical media is not, I think, truly going away, at least not in my lifetime. I’ve been hearing the death knell tolled for DVDs for quite some time, and the only real evidence I’ve seen there is the vanishing of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores. But that’s been the death of a mode of business, not the medium – they could not keep up with the one-two blow of streaming and Redbox kiosks, which offer, once more, convenience at the cost of choice.

If you’re a film buff, if you’re a collector, the realm of physical media is still quite robust. The last year or two has seen enormous growth in boutique labels catering to those markets. Warner Archive and its highly successful Made on Demand discs of vault movies, largely ignored in any realm except Turner Classic Movies (until they launched their own streaming service). Outfits like Vinegar Syndrome, Grindhouse Releasing, Code Red, Severin, Scream Factory and old friends like Blue Underground and Synapse, all producing niche product of outstanding quality.

So basically: streaming has a place on my buffet, but until A) their inventories truly proliferate, and B) I no longer have to pay an arm and a leg for broadband internet so I can enjoy such services at the same consistent level of quality as physical media – it’s going to stay at that subsidiary steam table with the egg rolls and the fried bread, while I’m concentrate on the entrees of the main table.

Dammit, now I want Chinese food.