Friday, April 29, 2005

Going Down to Liverpool

The only reason to ever reference this Bangles song (other than it's a fairly catchy one) is to announce that I'm going down to Champaign to see The Ending. I've been busy with work and what-not, so I haven't updated yet this week. Perhaps I'll come back with a concert and CD review, as it's a CD-release party. Catch y'all on the flipside.

AIM: therbmcc71

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Let It Be

I was in the mood for a good cover today, so I went with the Joe Cocker version of the Beatles' "Let It Be," from the (rather appropriately titled, if a bit overly energetic) Joe Cocker! album. I mean, Joe Cocker is easily America's greatest cover-artist, because he brings this dimension of crawling out of the gutter with a bottle of three-dollar wine to his interpretation of every single song he does. And then there are those parts where you think that the guy's trying to belt it out so hard that his head is going to explode like Michael Ironside's at the end of Scanners.

Anyway, moving on from today's song, I don't think anyone's going to argue with this one:

I'm missing Desperate Housewives right now. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, since I've all but given up television, barring reruns of The West Wing on Bravo, the network which also had a surprisingly good countdown-show (a genre all to itself), The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Moments. They really plumbed the depths and came up with some really obscure stuff, which is always good in a show of that nature. I mean, you can market something like that toward the masses and give them Scream and Jeepers Creepers and Halloween: H20, but most of the great moments are classics that go back before today's MTV demographic. I mean, I'm willing to bet that nobody that I work with has seen Misery, and that's just sad. According to Bravo, the #1 moment went to Jaws, and I missed that part, but I imagine it probably had to do with the Kintner Boy, which brings me to one of the great and apocryphal stories of cinema history:

Jaws was being screened for a test audience down in Texas, and there's the scene where the little Kintner boy gets it in the yellow and red of his overturning raft and gushing fountain of blood, and this guy at the front of the theater gets out of his seat and starts walking up the aisle. And the whole production team is there, and Spielberg is like, "Oh, no, it's a walk-out." Then the guy gets about halfway up the theater and begins sprinting for the lobby, and Spielberg says, "Oh my god, it's a run-out!" Spielberg follows the guy into the lobby, where the dude has gone and vomited right outside the doors to the auditorium. After a minute or so, the guy comes out of the bathroom, walks past his own vomit and goes back down to his seat in the theater. That's when Spielberg knew they were going to be a big hit.
To horrify someone so badly that they vomit is an achievement unto itself. To keep the guy in the theater after doing so is truly something special.

AIM: therbmcc71

Saturday, April 23, 2005

In Between Days (Redux)

So hopefully the Blogger monster doesn't eat this one. Right now I'm watching Dark City, listening to the Roger Ebert commentary track, and it's terribly interesting, though it doesn't really help me to make any more sense of the movie than before. Dark City is a wonder of production design, but I'm fairly lost, otherwise. That's pretty much for lack of effort on my part. It probably doesn't help that I haven't seen Dark City since its theatrical release, and here I am watching Roger Ebert's commentary with no point of reference from the last six or seven years. It's a terribly interesting commentary, though, and I'm going to have to get Citizen Kane and Casablanca for his commentary, too.

Beyond that, Alex Proyas is really a very good director who spends ... I almost said too much time between movies, since I'd like to see him work more, but then again, the amount of production involved in Dark City and I, Robot really ends up being worthwhile. Oh, sure, everybody likes The Crow, but Proyas' other two theatrical releases are really pretty fucking great, if you haven't seen them. And, with regard to Dark City, most of William Hurt's work is usually pretty good (he was even almost convincing in Lost in Space).

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a Japanese anime that runs for twenty-six episodes, and ends in the span of about ten seconds. Sure, you know it's the last episode, but you get to the last one and you go, "What the fuck, is this the end?" and, in about the span of time it takes to ask the question, the show goes, "Sho nuff!" and it's over. And I went, "What the fuck!!!" Sure, it gets really existential at the end, which generally beats your standard Japanese giant-robo kind of thing, but at least Robotech had a satisfying ending, where the humans beat back the aliens, the guys got the girls, and they did this three times. Evangelion basically just sits there and goes, "You have just watched twenty-six of the best-written cartoons you will ever see in your entire life, and... it's over! Haha! Fooled you!!!" Maybe in a couple of days, I'll watch it again, and I'll be able to make heads or tails of it.

The Only Funny Memorable Thing from Class This Week:
It wasn't even written by me, but I came up with the variation listed by the second bullet, which shows why a single word can take a funny situation and drive it to be considerably funnier. Case in point, where one of the other guys wrote the initial situation:
  • His: A man sits on a stranger's lap on a crowded L-train.
  • Mine: A man sits on a stranger's lap on an empty L-train.
Grosse Pointe Blank is one of those really horrifically bad DVD-transfers that I'd say really deserves a special edition, if not for the fact that it doesn't necessitate a commentary track or anything along those lines, because the movie's just light and fluffy, and it's all there in front of you. But the video isn't anamorphic, and the stereo track (yes, stereo is as good as it gets) contains a lot of hiss at the high end, which just annoyed the hell out of me. Of course, maybe part of that was the fact that I had an open microphone channel on my computer, but it's still fairly awful. Great film, horrible DVD treatment. At least it was only ten bucks or so.

... Yeah, I got nothin', so I'm going to go.

AIM: therbmcc71

Friday, April 22, 2005

In Between Days

I had this whole post written up about how I was watching Grosse Pointe Blank, and the few funny things from my Tuesday night class, and how Evangelion ended very suddenly, but then Blogger ate it, due to "scheduled maintenance" that they had no intention of telling me about beforehand. So I'm just going to have to write that up later, because now I'm going to fall asleep watching Election, though I'm tempted to watch Dark City. Either way, I have to be at work in six and a half hours, so I'm going to lie on my bed and watch something.

AIM: therbmcc71

Friday, April 15, 2005

America, Fuck Yeah!

Yes, today's subject title is doubling as a link to a 6.8 megabyte Flash video. Best music video ever... barring maybe Billy Idol's "Cradle of Love" and Aerosmith's "Rag Doll." Actually, I'm sure that there are better videos, but I just can't think of them right now. "Smack My Bitch Up" is a phenomenal video, so maybe this one's not quite that good. But it's still a great six megs.

Anyway, I sign up for next term's class next week, and I'm not sure whether or not I should do it, since I'm not sure that I'm really funny. I don't get the laughs from the other people in class that they get from the rest of the class. I'm not sure if that's because my stuff's too highbrow or what, but I think it might be, since I didn't get any real feedback from the class with the reading of my opening act for Hamlet II: Weekend at Hamlet's. Or, maybe it's just the fact that I'm not very personable, which might affect their interpretations of my work.

So it's not enough that I don't get any laughter, which makes me think that they don't find me funny, possibly because they don't get the jokes. Better than half of the work that I put together during class doesn't even measure up to my standard of funny. So, it's bad enough when the rest of the world doesn't think you're funny. When you don't think you're funny, you've got problems, and maybe should re-think being at a comedy school.

In-Class Writing
Prompt: Write the sequel to a fairy tale. You have seven minutes.

It wasn't long after Snow White left the Seven Dwarfs that she found how very charming her prince wasn't. After only a few months, the two were arguing to the point where neither wished he had awakened her from her drug-induced coma. To complicate things further, Snow White was beginning to suspect her man was fucking around on her when she discovered a glass slipper in the pocket of his overcoat.

That fucking bitch, Snow White said to herself. If she didn't have that carriage and those goddamn mice... Snow White vowed revenge. She would smash the glass slipper over that skank's head and stick her with it like a broken beer bottle.

While the prince was away, she went back to the dwarfs and hatched a plan with Doc, who was actually an evil genius when he wasn't mining diamonds with the boys. They sent Dopey out on a recon mission, silent as a ninja. When he returned, his flapping ears were a sure sign that Snow White's beliefs were founded, or that Dopey had gotten laid, probably the former.

With that, the dwarfs were sent out on their mission to capture the prince, except for Sleepy and Sneezy, who were in rehab for their valium and cocaine addictions, respectively. When the prince was captured, Doc had to keep Grumpy from cutting off the prince's offending member, while Happy didn't give a shit either way, he was so fucking baked.

AIM: therbmcc71

Friday, April 08, 2005

Y-O-D-A, Yoda

My friend's live-in grandmother, Yoda, passed away on Wednesday night around 7:30. If you've ever wondered where the Shoebox greeting-card company got that old, cranky lady, you'd have only needed to walk around the corner from my house, and there was Yoda, hunched over in her chair, reading TV Guide with a magnifying glass that could melt ants under an incandescent lamp. Over the past decade or so, Yoda's had her last rites read to her probably a dozen times, and I've gone to see her in the hospital more times than I've been to see my own grandmother in her nursing home. That said, I think that we were all ready for Yoda to go, but we didn't know it was going to happen this week.

The doctor said when she was admitted that Yoda's emphysema was so bad that he'd never seen blood gases as bad as hers were, that it was about a hundred percent carbon-dioxide. Given that, he had no idea how she'd made it this long. They ended up coding her twice before she finally went off to the undiscovered country, probably finally seeing her husband who died some fifteen, twenty years ago.

So why do I keep referring to her as Yoda? As though it wasn't obvious, she was about eight-hundred years old, terribly wise, and would whip the shit out of you with a lightsaber if she was given half a chance. I always like to think that the real Yoda, in his little Dagobah shack, liked to watch a great deal of Lifetime and had a penchant for Technicolor musicals.

It's just strange, now, walking upstairs at the house, seeing Yoda's chair -which, no doubt, gave her that Richard III look- and not see her in it. It's not three days later yet, and the house is getting to the point where it's actually clean, which it hasn't been in several years. This also brings with it various changes, such as my friend Scott and his brother having to cook for themselves from now on (they are also incapable of doing laundry) and Scott will have to go out to get his hair cut, rather than having Yoda's stylist do it. I'm going to miss those long chats with Yoda, where I couldn't hear a damn thing she had to say, but nodded along and occasionally threw out a, "Yeah, totally."

Anyway. That's that. I'm going to go eat Twinkies now, because the couple of pounds of Chinese food I ate earlier just didn't do the job. By the way, I amended the links on the right side to add links for Small Shiny Things and its/their (whatever) singer Kevin's new blog to the Now Reading list, which really needs amending, given that Petrol quit posting a long time ago. Furthermore, notes of condolence can be directed to the nearest wall, given that I like to be reminded of death as seldom as humanly possible.

AIM: therbmcc71

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Authority Song

April Fools Day, by and large, passed me by without any fooling, given that I didn't wake up until about three in the afternoon for a short shift at work. Following a fantastically boring night in the Tarzhay Photo Lab, also known as The Pen, I changed into more appropriate clothes and set out for Plainfield to see the official opening gig for Small Shiny Things, which is three-quarters of the old Five Year Jacket, which gives you some idea of how much credence I give to the current Five Year Jacket, in which everything that was old is new again, like the Ford Mustang, but using the mid-Eighties body style and a four-cylinder engine.

I hate Kevin Trudo, and I don't say that often enough. He makes it all look so damn easy, and I spent most of my early Five Year Jacket shows watching his hands to see if I could pick up someof his guitar skills through osmosis or convection or something. Over the course of a show, I would inevitably get drunk enough to think, yes, I think I got that, and then go home to my guitar that's desperately in need of some work and, lo and behold, nothing. And that's when I'm sober; drunk, I'm totally clueless, half a beat behind even when playing rhythm on songs that only have three chords and require little coordination. But Kevin just does it: Plays guitar, sings, actually remembers the words to songs -which is a skill that always eludes me- and I hate him for it. Yes, my sin of the day is Envy.

I walk into O'Sullivan's on Route 30, and the band -Kevin on guitar or mandolin; Ron Donovan on guitar; and Jay Olazcek on an upright bass, his picking fingers wrapped in enough medical tape to suffice an entire football team- is on their second set. I get a beer and hang out with former classmate and auxiliary guitarist Chris Bauler, and the band begins playing "Drivin' My Life Away." I turn to Bauler and say, "Eddie Fucking Rabbitt?"

I'm not certain what Eddie Rabbitt means to Bauler, but to me it's representative of two things: Endless cross-country trips with my family in either a station wagon or a Volkswagen Rabbit, and the fact that Eddie Rabbitt represents the last time country music was good, back when all of the songs were about either being a cowboy or driving your big rig. It strikes a huge contrast against today's country music, which is full of overly sentimental drek, pro-establishment songs of "let's kick their ass" ultrapatriotism, and whatever the fuck "Who's Your Daddy" qualifies as. How is it that in twenty years we've gone from "I Love A Rainy Night" to "Who's Your Daddy," a phrase that is only at home in porno and as the subject title of an episode of The Maury Povich Show.

But I digress. The upright bass is amplified, but all the rest (vocals, guitars) is being routed through what is probably the hottest microphone I've ever heard, picking up the mandolin, guitar, and vocals, and routing it all through a terribly nifty piece of hardware which functions both as amplifier and speaker system. Whereas setup and takedown each used to be an hour-long chore, I'm told this takes all of about five minutes. I suppose I'll miss the Sovtek amp, Jay's bass stack, and Ron's Telecaster, but this is the price of progress.

Is it progress? Or is this a Back To The Egg kind of thing? Stripping everything down to the boys, a handful of stringed instruments, and the songs, the show plays like more of a good time than the twice-weekly shows of the last couple of years. There's no more Beatles medley, no more drum solo, no more Chumbawumba, none of which I particularly miss. But at the same time, there's no "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" surreptitiously inserted into the "Sweet Jane" guitar solo, making the uninitiated members of the audience question their own sobriety.

Given the venue, its patrons, and the approximately sixteen square feet (4' by 4') of real estate for the band to set up shop in, the new bluegrass vibe fits the establishment and -more importantly- the audience digs it. The band has a good time, the audience has a good time, is there really more to it than that? Probably not, and yet it seems to be the simple answer to a simple equation that's been eluding those involved until now.

So I need better bootlegging equipment. (Is it really bootlegging if it's sanctioned by the band?) The last two times I did this, I taped Five Year Jacket using a Canon MiniDV camcorder with mixed results due to acoustic issues of the two venues. Note to self: Don't record a loud band in a room the size of the Denny's A.M. smoking section. Fat Daddy'z, the bizarre biker bar in Seneca, worked out extremely well, though I still had to re-balance the stereo separation and had some equalization issues (and I still want to re-work that recording for the third time) to contend with, but in the end the results were good enough to earn most of the bootleg a number of permanent slots on my iPod. The camcorder idea, which is probably more of a viable option than ever, given the current setup and sound output, should still work quite well because it's digital from beginning to end, going through FireWire rather than an analog and back-to-digital conversion. The file sizes initially end up pretty huge, but I'd been looking for a reason to get a 120 GB hard drive. */end technical crap

At one point during the night, the band plays "Sweet Georgia Brown," also known as the Harlem Globetrotters Theme, and it works, which would have shocked me had it been playing when I walked in, given that the last time I saw these guys they were a rock band. Instead, I chuckle to myself as I light my cigarette, hating Kevin Trudo as he plays the vocal/whistle part on his mandolin. And then there's A-Ha's "Take On Me" which just works. I don't know why or how, but that Eighties new-wave song seems to translate quite well to the new vibe.

It's not until the drive home that I realize how fundamentally different the band is, summing it up in three words: No broken strings. Here, everything old is new again, like the 2005 Mustang with the classic Sixties body style and an engine under the hood that isn't being pushed to its limit, but, damn, it's still nice to just cruise down the road next to it.

Tonight's In-Class Work
Prompt: Write a scene between two people, using only set directions. I have to wonder what drugs they put in the meatball sub I had for dinner.

Bob and Jane are having a beautiful moonlit stroll on the beach. Jane kicks water at Bob. Bob kicks water at Jane. They embrace and fall to the sand From Here to Eternity style, the waves crashing against them. Bob, on bottom, looks over and sees a crab crawling toward him, so he rolls over with Jane. She sees the crab crawling toward her and looks to scream, but can't, given her severe case of laryngitis. She knees Bob in the crotch, precluding him from speaking in anything but a voice only dogs can hear, and Jane gets out from under him. She then kicks sand in his face and Charles Atlas makes his appearance. Exit Charles Atlas. Bob staggers to his feet in the manner that only a man who's recently been kicked in the crotch can, and shambles half-blind toward Jane. She backs away as he slowly walks toward her, his arms forward like Frankenstein. Jane looks around, still backing away. Just then, a group of rogue zombie-hunters from Pittsburgh drive by in their pickup truck. They spot Jane in distress, mortified by this stumbling corpse that appears to have just risen from its sandy grave.

And then time ran out. I'm sure you can imagine what bloodshed came afterward, and give yourself a point if you got the Charles Atlas reference.

AIM: therbmcc71