Rambling Onto the Moors

I am severely off-balance entering into this New Year. I appear to have officially joined the Middle-Age Club with my purchase of one of those pill organizers that you ladle each day’s pharmaceuticals into so you don’t get confused. It’s more laziness on my part than any actual fear that I’ll get confused; it’s simply easier to flip open one compartment every morning than five bottles. Not really helping is that the store only had two sizes of these organizers: a little too small and a LOT too big. I feel like I’m cracking open a Casio keyboard to get my pills.

I spent four and a half hours in a dental chair last Wednesday (the assistant was really surprised it took that long, too) with the result that the busted front tooth now has a clunky temporary tooth jammed into its space, while I wait for the crown to be manufactured. The temp actually looks pretty good, and I’m happy to be able to pronounce my sibilants and fricatives without special effort again, not to mention being able to manage the occasional slight smile. Let me tell you, that last two weeks of shows in December looking like I’d been through a bar fight (or months of meth addiction) was pretty nerve-wracking.

And hey, speaking of shows – I started rehearsals for Shadowlands last Tuesday night – yes, the night before the dental appointment, more concealing my deformity from folks – and it is very hard to express just how happy that makes me. I’ve been doing the Mystery Cafe shows for years, but working on an actual show in an actual theater which people will pay to see, during which there will be no clanking of silverware or people leaving in the middle of an act to get another beer… well. That’s heavenly. Going to wind up spending more than I earn on gas and tolls, but I don’t care. This is for my soul.

The drive there and back is providing me with time to catch up on podcasts. It means I will finally get through that five hour ‘cast on the death of the Roman Empire (jeez) and the like. Speaking of such things, my involvement with the Daily Grindhouse podcast continues, and I find I’m digging on doing research again. It’s pushing me into watching more movies, though not quite in line with my New Year’s resolution to watch more good movies. (The relatively high quality of Lethal Force notwithstanding) Having finally scored a bootleg of Kubrick’s first (and disowned) film, Fear and Desire, I finally own the man’s total output, and can embark on my personal project of watching them all in order. It’s shocking how many I have never seen, and the ones I have – well, that viewing was likely a decade ago. Or two. Maybe three.

Note I didn’t do anything so stupid as to resolve to watch nothing but good movies. I have a metric buttload of questionable DVDs I still have to watch. My sleep schedule as usual shot to hell on Saturday, I watched the Ian Richardson Hound of the Baskervilles (again, research) and found it to be a very credible version – in fact, it may be my second favorite after the Rathbone version. I find the Brett version rather lackluster, not even in the running. The Cushing/Hammer version is in third place. I’d love to see the two-parter the BBC did with Cushing; hell, I’d also love to see the four-part TV version with Tom Baker as the Great Detective. Not quite so interested in re-visiting the 1972 American TV version with Stewart Granger as Holmes, even with William Shatner playing Stapleton. I saw it on its first broadcast, rmember thinking it was okay, but just not British enough.

I should take time to mention that Ian Richardson was a wonderful Holmes; many qualities of his performance here were transferred into his Dr. Joseph Bell in Murder Rooms, which is likely the worst title ever for a TV series. The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes is only a little better. Bell is, of course, the fellow Arthur Conan Doyle based Holmes upon, and the four episodes of the series were based – one can only assume very loosely indeed – on the two men’s meeting and subsequent adventures. Well worth seeking out if you’re a Holmes fan.

The Richardson Hound is also worth a look, if only for the surprising breadth of its cast. Brian Blessed as the red herring Lyons, and Connie Booth as his abused wife; Denholm Elliott as Dr. Mortimer, Ronald Lacey as Lestrade, Elenor Bron as Mrs. Barrymore… those are just the ones this benighted Yank could easily pick out. Donald Churchill’s Watson is a bit too much in the bumbly Nigel Bruce vein for my liking, but that’s not his fault – it is a rock-solid Watson all the same.

Hound has always held a special fascination for me, not only because of the supernatural elements, but also because of its position in the Holmes canon. Told as a flashback by Watson, it was written and published after Doyle had infamously killed Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls, and before he finally gave up and resurrected the character in The Adventure of the Empty House. Holmes is absent from the narrative for the entire second act, and I begin to wonder if this wasn’t Doyle slyly attempting to wean the public off the Great Detective. In any case, that give rise to one of my few complaints about the Rathbone Hound – Nigel Bruce’s Watson turns out to be pretty competent until Holmes shows back up, and even being in the same room with the sleuth, even is disguise, causes Watson’s IQ to drop by 80 points or so.

Hah. You see? It’s dangerous to get me onto the subject of Holmes. What’s that you say? What about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows? I didn’t mind it. I enjoyed the first Downey Holmes – it was more of a proper mystery. Shadows was an adventure movie with Holmes as a protagonist. I still greatly enjoy Jude Law’s Watson.

So yes, I don’t actual qualify myself as a Holmes fan – I’m a Watson fan. A good Watson can make me overlook a lacking Holmes, as is the case in the Asylum’s Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (truthfully one of their better mockbusters – but not, by any stretch, a good movie). A great Watson meshes with a great Holmes to create magic, as was the case with Edward Hardwicke and Jeremy Brett, James Mason and Christopher Plummer, Colin Blakely and Robert Stephens (Blakely was the first to show me how wonderful Watson could be), Law and Downey – and let us certainly not forget Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, who have been exhilarating.

"Oh, I SAY!"

I’m sorry Nigel, it wasn’t your fault – the producers wanted some reliable comic relief, and you obliged them, and obliged them well. You just weren’t my – sorry – cup of tea.

And good grief, my simply here’s where I am now has somehow turned into a thousand words on Sherlock Holmes.

It happens.

EDIT: How the hell did I forget Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine? Without A Clue is the shiznit if you’re a Watson man.

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.

Radio Silence (Maintain)

I follow @JaytheBigLug on Twitter. That was a happy accident, I saw his name cropping up repeatedly in a silly Trending Topic I was participating in, I liked his sense of humor, so I thought a Follow for a day or two was in order. I’ve never regretted that. Jay does the microblogging thing well, with humor and glimpses into workplace and life. The fact that our tastes in movies are similar also helps.

So when I see something like this:

I have to sigh and say, “Yeah…”

It’s no surprise to anyone that I haven’t liked where this country has been headed in the last decade. Though I can point at a couple of points where there has been a definite step or two forward, there has been a hell of a lot of shuffling back. Xenophobia and shrillness are at an all-time high, and there was never a shortage of those two things in the first place.

Truthfully, no matter what the results of today’s vote, I cannot foresee any possible future where these things will not get worse, either because the xenophobes and panic drones suddenly have power or because they were denied power.

So severing digital ties for a day and then peeking my head out of the bunker to see what remains after the fallout settles sounds best for my blood pressure. I just proved I can go offline for a month and not perish, a day should be fairly easy.

Besides, I have work to do. Still haven’t found an affordable/free HTML editor that fits my fairly proletarian/utilitarian needs (cripes, I can barely fit my head around style sheets. I miss the pragmatism of Adobe Pagemill), so I remain behind on a couple of website responsibilities.

So. I voted a week ago. I put my two cents in the political machine. I now need to focus down to the level of my life, where there’s stuff that needs doin’. The rest of you go on with yer hootin’s and hollerin’, I’ll be over here with my headphones on, swearing because I can’t change fonts. There’s some “hopey-changey” crack I could make there, but fuck it, I ain’t playing that game.

Mandatory Post Bitching About the Heat

All climate change deniers are quite welcome to hang around with me, my wheezing, near-apoplectic air conditioner, and my army of fans (the electric, air-blowing kind). The Heat Index finally fell below 100 degrees at 9:00PM last night, for God’s sake.

Which brings me to the subject of casual racism. Everything these days is tinged with racism or accusations of racism, and I almost miss the days of  casual racism, which seem almost innocent compared to the weaponized racism we’re subjected to daily.

No, the racist crap from my youth I’m dwelling on a lot lately concerns the Hispanic population of Texas. My grandfather – otherwise one of the kindest, most downright decent people I have ever known – hated them with a passion. He was free with the disparaging of other minorities, notably the blasted Hun, but he reserved special ire for those Messkins. (One day we’ll talk about when I fell in love with a Latina, who reciprocated. That was messy.)

You can say my grandfather was a product of his times. That doesn’t excuse it, but I’m also going to point out my only problem with it was that, even if given the chance, he wouldn’t have changed. It was simply the way he was, at that point. I can only speak for myself, in the final analysis, and this bullshit is something I struggle with internally every single goddamn day.  I’m not immune to the poison that gets hurled about every day, and right now I’ve got a build-up of over 50 years of garbage to deal with. I find myself thinking terrible, unworthy things. I am shocked, and slap those thoughts down, and wonder where the hell did that come from? But I know.

And I honestly think that every person, everyone who hasn’t gotten that Premium Divinity Upgrade, deals with it every day. Some are shocked and try to do better. Some simply accept it. Some seem to fucking glory in it.

Well. I managed to steer myself into some far-too-serious territory there.

The point I was aiming toward was, in my youth, one of the stereotypes that of the “lazy Messkin” was the guy taking a siesta, a mid-day nap. Never mind that my grandfather often took one, too. Them Messkins would crawl off and sleep at the drop of a hat, and would frequently drop their own hat. And it was one of them damned sombreros, too, I’ll bet.

Guess what? Like my grandfather, I nap too. Even when I worked in an office back in the 90s, I introduced my boss to the concept of a 15 minute nap after lunch, and it worked wonders for both of us. If there is an upside to my current impoverished part-time-only job, it’s that I get my nap in, with no problems.

And you know what the siesta was? It was finding a shady spot and sleeping through the hottest part of the day. That wasn’t laziness, that was sanity. That was sensible.

Of course, currently, it would be impossible for me to sleep through the entirety of the hottest part of the day. I can do some serious napping, but not six to twelve hours worth.

In Which Our Narrator Gets A Bit Morose

Made the 100 mile trip to visit my parents Sunday; I really need to do that much more often. The only real drawback is having to also haul our pet pug-dog along, because she is the second grandchild, and the poor thing gets so over-excited that she spends the entire 90 minute trip sounding like a mule having an asthma attack. No amount of cranking up the radio counters that.

Wonder of wonders, I did that rarity: actually talking at length to my father about something besides the weather and lawn care. I often wonder what the hell was up with me, how I enforced this emotional remove from my father, going way, way back. Is it a generational thing? I seemed to succumb to some sort of outside influence – looking back, I felt it was expected of me, which makes no goddamn sense whatsoever.

None.

I say generational because I recall all too clearly the Men’s Movement of the 90s. Remember, the drum circles, all that? Like a lot of the pop psych movements, there was a lot of nonsense associated with it. There was one thing about it that I found particularly powerful, however, and valuable: a sudden willingness to examine and analyze and think wait a minute…

One of the most important books for me was Why Men Are the Way They Are, by Warren Farrell. I found it in the Women’s Studies section of a bookstore, but it’s a book that also really, really needs to be read by men. There were far too many times I found myself reading a section and thinking, “Well, of course that’s the way it should be done…” followed almost immediately by a rueful, “No, no there really isn’t a good reason for that.” It was very eye-opening.

(I should also note that shortly thereafter I tried to read Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power, but I found it whiny and not terribly useful. But I bless him for the book I did find useful)

So that weird emotional remove – I still feel it. I work toward overcoming it with my father, I work toward overcoming it with my son. He is on the cusp of teenager-dom (shudder), and I wonder if that old reserve – which even though I know it to be there,  and to be wrong, still sits  with the apparent invulnerability of a black ice glacier – has already worked its harm.

Being human is no damned fun at all. Being an aged pug-dog in the back seat of a car working yourself up to puking with excitement is probably a lot better. But then, considering that also means a lifetime of getting people to scratch your curly butt because all the generations of in-breeding has insured you can’t do it yourself – I guess I’ll take the incertitude and complications of life.

I like being able to scratch my butt.

Geekboys REPRESENT!

I await the premiere of the Watchmen movie with trepidation. First, I didn’t care for 300, and I loved Frank Miller’s original almost as much as I love the Moore/Gibbons Watchmen. Then again, I found much to like in Zack Snyder’s version of Dawn of the Dead

Then, it seems (if the innernets can be believed) Snyder fought to keep the parallel comic story of The Black Freighter in the movie – though God knows how. It has apparently been cut, and will surface in the inevitable deluxe DVD version, released six months after the initial bare-bones release. Not that I’m a bitter consumer, or anything.

Then, it is apparently common knowledge that the ending of the story has been changed. On the one hand, I can hope to be surprised by this new ending. On the other hand, how can a new ending hope to match the punch-in-the-gut impact of the original? On the mutant other, third hand, I will be glad that I will not be subjected to endless misspelled tirades on those same innernets that Watchmen totally ripped off the first season of Heroes, dude. Bad enough we’re going to be getting enough of what the webcomic The Rack so insightfully predicts.

The viral video campaign has begun, and though it’s about as tepid as the fake news segments for The Dark Knight, it still shows promise:

As usual, I reserve judgment until I see it with my own myopic peepers. But hell, I’m the guy who had nice things to say about Robocop II.

Redemption

Last night, The Boy chose Jason and the Argonauts. Maybe I’ll keep him.

Also, I will not be letting him see this trailer.

Ups and Downs of the Day

First of all – it seems that Columbia has bought the movie rights to Isaac Asmov’s Foundation stories, and the director tapped is Roland Emmerich.

To wash the taste of that out of your mouth… well, this worked for me, anyway:

As one of the three people who read this blog, you likely know about the recent issue of Amazing Spider-Man (#583, to be exact), in which President Elect (at the time) Obama makes an appearance. Blogger J. Caleb Mozzocco over at Newsarama posts in his Linkarama section:

“I swear to God this is the most often a black man has appeared on the cover of a superhero comic since they canceled Power Man & Iron Fist back in the 80s”: The Stranger’s Paul Constant on you-know-what, in a piece entitled “Everybody Knows Obama First Appeared in ROM Spaceknight #53.” I’d go double-check that in my copy of Essential ROM Spaceknight Vol. 3, but it doesn’t exist because there is no justice in the world.

Well, it made me laugh,

How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

Okay, that’s who I forgot, in my listing of the genre-related recently dead: Ray Dennis Steckler. Sorry, sir.

Now…

My son, apparently tired of his former diet of non-stop Cartoon Network series and painfully unfunny Disney Network tween sitcoms, has taken to raiding my DVD collection for entertainment, since I finally alphabetized the damn things.

First of all, forget black and white. I ran into this a lot at B-Fest. Apparently the modern young mind cannot operate in grayscale. There’s a hook to a cautionary sci-fi tale in there somewhere…

After the obvious stuff, like my animation discs, and all five seasons of Babylon 5 (I did warn him about Season 5, but you know kids: all 6 feet tall and bulletproof), it’s a little harder for him to find stuff that I’ll let him watch at his age level. He’s ten, but functioning at a teen level on most things except the hormones. (Yeah, I’m looking forward to that, he said in a monotone.)

I have an entire shelf devoted to Sherlock Holmes books and movies, so he decided it was time to watch one of those. We sat and watched the first of the Granada Series starring Jeremy Brett, “A Scandal in Bohemia”. At the end of the episode, his only response was a sigh and “That was long,” At an hour. Guess we won’t be watching more of those.

Then, today, he decided he had to watch the Halle Berry Catwoman. response after viewing: “Is there a sequel?”

How have I not disinherited this changeling yet?