November Spawned A Monster

Sitting down to write this I have been thinking about a lot of things. You know, besides that thing and the other thing. Stuff like, my damn phone was acting up until I got lint out of the charging port and why is the garbage disposal suddenly making noises that sound like crushing bones?

What all of this proves is that it is interesting to discover just how much the mundane of now can become a big deal with these “unprecedented times.” The combined anxiety of so many things right now accentuates everything and send folks into a dither.

With regard to the title of this post, it’s from a Morrissey song and seems appropriate. I remember those halcyon days when Morrissey was just weird and not a complete jerkface. So far, November has been a crappy month with lots of ugly people trying to do ugly things. Whatever happened to that Pope of Mope that was so odd and kooky that we bought all of his singles and 2000 best of compilations?

There’s the one thing that started parties in the streets and celebrations but I am reserving judgement until it is all over. So, with that in mind it is kind of a crappy month. Seriously, enough with storms, hurricanes, COVID and idiots who didn’t take civics class.

I am mostly holding up okay. Entropy seems to have permeated everything, causing frustration and insanity. I am really tired of people freaking out about masks and meeting in large groups and being stupid. It is all so frustrating.

But let us turn to other more interesting things……

The International Space Station is now 20 years old. It must have been cool to be around for those early space missions in the late 1960s where each trip to space was a real big event. It must have been a real thrill ride since the public had a pretty cool idea of what was happening with NASA and its missions. Now it is more of a curiosity for the public, unless you have an interest in science of space stuff.

Still, the fact that people of all kinds of nationalities and backgrounds have lived in space for two decades, in relative harmony, is kind of cool. It would be nice, in this time of division, if something like this was more widely celebrated.

The last week or so has seen some really great night sky viewing. The Full Moon on Halloween was pretty cool.

With the exception of a week or so, we’ve been pretty lucky in these parts to have mostly clear skies at night. It has allowed for some terrific autumnal evenings.

A quick note on Halloween. I got a rock and I hate Kandy Korn.

It is still to early to play Christmas music or put up a tree. However, if that gets someone through all of this emotionally I can’t really argue. This is a big step for me.

I also have no qualms with not doing large gatherings for the holidays. I wish everyone stayed the Hell home.

Maybe it was a pang from not being able to go to a movie theater or I was just nuts, but, I recently got a box of Milk Duds. That was a mistake. Sadly, they all glopped together in the box making it impossible to eat just one without chopping each piece up. That’s a lot of work for mediocre candy.

Nancy Noisemaker, the girl on the 2nd floor, still likes to talk loudly into her cell phone. But at least the loud bowling like sounds have stopped. She is really very nice, but for a person living on her own she sure makes a ton of noise.

One of the happy frustrations of the last few months is that there’s been some good television to watch. A lot of it is streaming stuff, but nonetheless, there is some great stuff out there.

I am far behind with what I want to see. It’s gotten so weird I’ve had to go old school and start making lists. My friend has been recommending a lot of Korean dramas and there is always a plethora of British stuff to watch as well. Then, there’s also PBS stuff and sports and great old shows too. It’s maddening to try and keep it all sorted.

The Crown is starting up again. Olivia Colman is a force of nature in anything. I am fascinated by how good the casting always is.

The last season of Schitt’s Creek has been a nice remedy for when I was sad. It runs the board on emotions and never fails to deliver on giving audiences some laughs when they need them.

Matt Lucas has been a breath of fresh air for The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake Off in the UK). I still think the original lineup for the show was the best but I am making do.

Lucas’ sense of humor works really well and his interaction with the bakers is a perfect blend of curiosity and sympathy. He has been a real hoot to watch.

The format makes it pretty watchable and the bakers always seem properly British in that they never loosen their reserve. But, the biggest problem I still have with the show is that Paul Hollywood just seems like a big jerk.

I found out he races cars. Of course he does, I am guessing that goes along with the chasing young girls part of his persona.

The Mandalorian is back. Despite some really subpar films, you can always count on some part of the Star Wars universe to come through and cheer you up in dark times. I am hoping Season 2 is just as awesome as Season 1.

It is early in Season 2, but so far we’ve I’ve been pretty happy with things. It’s cool to have the Tuscan Raiders back and Timothy Olyphant was great in the season opener. Boba Fett is maybe back, or its a clone. This makes me happy. I heard he is getting his own series. That is swell.

I finally saw The Go-Gos documentary. Overall, I thought it lived up to the hype. Each one of them has their own issues and problems. they each are kind go a mess. But musically, each of them brought something to the band that made it unique and fun and awesome.

I also really liked seeing the old footage of them when they started out. There is a lot to process but the big takeaway is that Gina Shock is probably the most ground of them all. She has a great laugh too.

Basically, the band got worn out after they became popular and it really accelerated a breakup. Plus there was a to of blow and craziness. Despite this though, it was cool to hear about their chart success and their tours with Madness, The Police and The Specials.

Overall, I would say the film is something that their fans will love as well as anyone who loves ’80s music or is interested in the music business. It’s a very realistic and compelling view about life in rock music.

I have not watched Barnaby Jones or Cannon lately but I love me some Columbo. It is still great. Each of these shows are great in their own way. Cannon has that wavy side hair that needs to be trimmed, Jones is just a guy who you guess smells like a good aftershave and Columbo is a frumpy mess covering a very perceptive mind.

I have been taking advantage of streaming stuff as much as possible. Lately there has been some great live theater to watch from a wide range of sources.

I have enjoyed the The Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard III. It resonates emotionally and maintains all of its momentum from start to finish.

Presented in an audio format, it does not lose any of the performance’s emotion. It is riveting, well acted and nothing short of amazing.

Playbill presented an encore of the Goodman Theatre’s 1999 production of Death of a Salesman. Starring an unstoppable Brian Dennehy, it eventually went on to Broadway and won four Tony awards. It that was not enough, it also nabbed a slew of Drama Desk awards for acting and directing.

Just as intense now as it was when it got a Pulitzer Prize in 1949, it remains the quintessential American drama. I saw it live in 1999 and was mesmerized by it. Seeing it all these years later that feeling remains unchanged as the production delivers some potent rage, raw angst and tension. Dennehy is a force of nature.

Every year around halloween I watch Ed Wood again. It remains one of my favorite Tim Burton films and I love the ensemble and the soundtrack and the way it looks.

Beneath the schlock and goofiness however, there is great tragedy and sadness with Bela Lugosi. This is because Martin Landau completely inhabits the role and takes over the film. While Johnny Depp is quirky and odd and somewhat affable despite his finer jerk qualities, he simply is outmatched by Landau. Bill Murray is terrifically sublime as well. It is one of his more under appreciated performances.

I love the wacky stupidity of it. I love how it is creepy and spooky while still having no problems at all with mirroring Wood’s own ineptitude. Burton also did a great job of giving some heart to a rogues’ gallery of oddballs, charlatans and misfits. The result is a fun film made by a wonderful ensemble.

With science under such ferocious attack I feel compelled to read more science books. The problem is, I am not a brainiac in these areas but am fairly inquisitive. Sadly, my Catholic education did give me a broad understanding of several concepts and theories which means that I have an appreciation for science and a desire to learn more about it, even though I am not really proficient in any one area.

Usually, I get into some archaeology books that I can dovetail into my love for history and nonfiction. I also love astronomy but the math gets me all the time. Nonetheless, I love reading about it.

Everyone should have a physicist friend to ask questions to. It is so helpful in understanding what is going on.

I read a review of The End of Everything and am pretty curious to check it out. It seems like it won’t overwhelm me too much.

I may also try my hand at the new Brian Greene book, Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe. I have seen Greene on PBS and the way he breaks things down is pretty terrific. His books also don’t lose me with lots of smarty pants fiddle faddle.

At a time when everyone is looking for finite numbers and final counts, reading a book that explores infinite possibilities is a welcome sight.

As my city slogs along through a weak economy it is important to support as many of our local restaurants, stores, venues and independent businesses as we can. Most of these are run by really nice, hardworking people who have built something out of their sweat and passion. They deserve your love.

Please buy local and give back to your city. I would not preach about it if I didn’t know so many chefs, bartenders, booksellers, stage crews and business owners who were up late at night trying to plan their next steps.

I wrote about the plight of local bookstores for Sophisticated Living. But don’t just take my word for it, go out and read the blogs, social media and press releases of local entrepreneurs and then see for yourself.

As 2020 winds down I am determined to make it work on my own terms. I will probably fail, but I am determined to get some more reading in and make a dent in all the pop culture I am waiting to consume. From a practical standpoint, I am hoping to make cabbage in a cornfield and find some decent work where I am not an underling getting barked at by a burned out boss whose spirit has been nibbled away by an aching resentment of almost everything.

If that dense;t work then there’s always Vonnegut and Vicodin.

Plants, Kant & Automobiles

Wow things are really crazy right now!

But you already know that. While I am all for social change I am really tired of hearing “the new normal,” “this period of change” or any of the buzzy phrases they use now. It is if the labeling and the naming of movements, pandemics and social attitudes has to be explained with a short, cool and catchy sentence. This is probably because we have no attention span and the average person cannot, or will not dig deeper into something without some glossy cover. After all, what is going on now, all of it, is a remarkable moment and I am not sure you can really label it until after all the dust has settled.

It is June and the indoor plants are not dead. Hap (short for Huge Ass Plant) is still growing and I will need to clip some branches soon. There are no flowers or perennials yet but I did just get some potting soil last week so movement on that is forthwith.

Sadly most of that will go to fill the massive indentation left by a car that backed into the yard and left deep tire track impression behind. These are perfect for collecting water during storms and are generally kind of hoosier-y. they also are great homes for mosquitoes. So once those tracks are filled in, plant fun will be in full effect.

I have been reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Not to be enlightened per se, but mainly to help me make sense of the madness we are living in. Immanuel Kant’s philosophy can be neatly sliced into two halves, his theoretical philosophy, which is based on a rational understanding of nature and his more digestible practical philosophy which comprises his beliefs on ethics and political philosophy. touching on the concept of personal freedom, his ideas resonate a little louder now.

So the world is up and running again. Kind of. I have noticed more cars on the street and more traffic as people get back to doing whatever it is they think they need to do. Me, I am still sitting out most activities that involve crowds or people who are too selfish to social distance.

The increase in automobile traffic is kind of a sign, I guess, that people are getting back to some of the things they did before. many begrudgingly. For me, I just can’t be bothered to eat inside a restaurant or go to the mall or go bowling. I am only doing super essential stuff, and then only going to places where I know they will adhere to recommended policies of safety and health etc.

I am still greatly perturbed at the number of assclowns that simply don’t get it. It is not that hard to wear a mask or be socially distant. it also is a terribly nice thing to do as an empathetic human being. It is just like high school; a few stupid knuckleheads are gonna ruin it for everyone. Wear a damn mask people! For crying out loud!

Over the last few weeks I have seen a lot of short films. I love short films because they allow the filmmaker to be really creative in compact amount of time. Shorts also allow for some interesting experimentation. The reason for all my viewing was that I got press credentials for Vienna Shorts 2020.

I don’t recall applying for them but an email showed up one day with my access code information and a press kit so I figured I would give it a go. Normally, the fest is held from May 28th to June 2 in Vienna. But this year the entire thing was moved online.

Featuring over 280 short films from around the world there was a lot of interesting stuff. I wrote a more in-depth review for needcoffee.com and will post that later.

If Marvin the Paranoid Android made a short film about bees and insect life you would get In the Company of Insects. A gloriously grumpy short that tackles themes of grief and environmentalism with an apocalyptic vibe about how mankind is toast if the bees are gone. It is an emotionally dense film. It was my favorite short of the festival.

Cinema St. Louis participated in another Film Festival Day. this time the featured film was called Life In Synchro, a documentary about synchronized skating.

Although it is not yet an Olympic sport, the sport is massively popular. It was really interesting hearing the stories of of skaters past and present and hows their experiences doing synchronized skating changed their lives.

With no new sports happening ESPN has been running some documentary stuff with their 30 For 30 brand. The first of these endeavors was The Last Dance, a ten part series on Michael Jordan and the Bulls teams he played on. Focusing on the 1998 team, it really was much more interesting than I expected it to be. Jordan clearly called the shots with the doc and made sure he came out in a positive light.

However, interviews with other players, teammates and sports analysts paint an interesting portrait of Jordan who at times, comes off as an egomaniac. I was surprised how engaging this was.

My suspicions that MJ was kind of a jerk were pretty much confirmed. But, having said that, the series lays it out there in explaining how he got to be this way. I also was interested in the motivation for his ‘win at all costs’ competitiveness. Jordan may not be the most complex character study, but he remains fascinating in how he succeeded on the court, how he has made a brand of himself and his candidness in talking about his former teammates and Bulls management.

ESPN also profiled Lance Armstrong. Lance was only 2 episodes, as opposed to the 10 for The Last Dance but it certainly did not disappoint. Armston clearly believes his own narrative and he’s made A LOT of mistakes along the way. Hearing him explain his reasoning and, in some cases, own up to things is pretty interesting.

He is a complete tool, make no mistake about that, but this doc really did dig deep into the world of professional cycling and it was riveting. In terms of documentary storytelling this was pretty compelling.

I went into it not expecting much. I knew he was a jerk and an egomaniac who stepped over a lot of people on his path to fame, but I had no idea he was this intense and this insane in telling his own narrative. To be fair, most of the cyclists interviews came off as jerks too.

The is no major league baseball. This makes me sad. I have been watching the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) on ESPN as a replacement. It is pretty strange. They have cheerleaders and flamboyant bat flips and, since there are no fans at games, stuffed animals sitting in the stands. They also piped in audience sounds so the players feel more at home. The baseball itself is pretty good.

One of the odd things about being stuck inside for so long is that you end up watching some strange TV that you otherwise would not. This will be a thing soon for everyone since the networks and streaming channels are soon going to run out of fresh programming. Since I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff streaming and the general ickiness of network TV I have been watching some reruns. Mostly the old detective shows of the 1970s. They had a grit to them and they loved having ensemble guest stars, which allowed things to be fresh each week/

One of the shows I really have grown to like is Barnaby Jones. it eschews good looks and cheap gimmicks in favor of real stories and plots that are not recycled from week to week. Having St. Louis’ own Buddy Ebsen in it doesn’t hurt either. As a detective he does not play around. he is kind of sneaky too which is kind of cool.

Season Two of Dead to Me was just as odd and crazy as the first one. It is one of those programs where overtime you think you have an angle sorted out a new twist is thrown your way.

It is very well written and it has terrific pacing. This season also featured some terrific music in it as well so I am guessing their licensing department is all over finding music that works into the tapestry of the show.

In addition to finishing some freelance work and working on my online classes, I have gotten some time this month to watch more movies! As much as I love short film, I do miss the energy of going to an actual theater.

Despite all of that I most likely will pass on going to see a film in a theater for awhile. I was never a big fan of multiplexes to being with. the confessions are too pricy, the seats are not comfortable and people don’t really care about the movies. This is why I try to support the STL’s art house theaters. They are each pretty well stocked with interesting films and staff who at least knows something about movies.

This is why I am hoping that the films I am looking forward to seeing will stream at the same time they are in megaplexes. Also, is it bad that AMC may go under? They kind of suck.

It was a decision that required lot of thought but I think I hate Grease more than Dirty Dancing. they both are terrible is you ask me, but if I had to pick one. I also hate Top Gun. It is stupid.

Early this morning I watched Zombieland: Double Tap. I simply didn’t;t get around to seeing in it the theaters. I thought the first one was pretty clever and was hoping this one could be fun.

It really was. However, the big mistake I made was watching it during a pandemic. That was kind of a downer.

Having said that, it was a silly bit of distracting fun. Woody Harrelson loves to chew up scenery and I think he is one of those weird actors who can do drama and comedy well.

Overall, if you want a silly distraction and want to just let out some tension this is a fun watch.

Friday and Saturday evenings are the big movie watching nights for me. I had wanted to see Blinded By the Light for some time now and I finally found time to get to it about two weeks ago.

It is one of those fun British films with a great musical score, social messages and plenty of drama mixed with humor. Set in 1987, it is all about The Boss. Javed is a Pakistani. living in Luton whose life is filled with an overbearing father, racism and an English economy where many are on the dole. His way out is his writing, mostly poetry, which gives him a real opportunity to get out. After a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen his life changes in so many ways. The best thing about the movie is that it has its own spirit and energy to it.

In kinda sorta appliance news. There are new blinds in the kitchen. The old ones lasted thirteen years. Also, the AC was being wonky so a guy came to sort it out and discovered it was running at only 30%. He went into the basement and checked some wiring and found ‘3 or 4’ other things that needed to be fixed. He fixed all of it which is terrific since I do not want to be muggy inside in the humid STL summers.

Despite my lackluster excitement about reopening it is great to see so many people in town rallying to support local businesses. I also am excited by all the cool things our arts organizations are doing in lieu of having a regular season of live programming.

The coming days have some interview transcriptions in store for me as well as a few articles, some decluttering and probably more drinking lemonade on my back porch.

The Sound & the Blurry

So, somehow at a time when nothing has been going on, I have been too busy to actually update this thing. Everything has been a big blur.

Days move into days and are suddenly weekends. A few minutes online suddenly becomes hours and going out has turned into a big pain in the ass. The worst part is that I still feel there is not enough time to get things done and it is kind of a bummer.

Despite being furloughed and having only my PT job, I have been insanely busy. for starters I had three freelance projects to work on. The latter was a beast with a client that gave me a two word outline and orders to ‘go.’ Don’t get me wrong the income has been sorely needed.

I hate the getting ready to go out followed by the coming in from going out. it takes so long and is such an annoying process. But this is the new normal.

So, when I have gone out it has been brief. I have been to Whisk on Cherokee a few times to pick up the amazing scones and popsicles they have been making. The strawberry hibiscus one is incredible. I want to support local business and they have never steered me astray.

It has been weird to see Cherokee street deserted and without any signs of life. Surreal actually. The Loop has bene mostly quiet. When I take my walks it is on a vacant lot or around the block a few times. It has been interesting to notice the amount of idiots outside who are not social distancing.

It has been amazing to see how many people just don’t care. I mean it is not that hard to keep away from other people. I think the hardest thing is remaining composed in the presence of the stupid who just don’t get it or have no desire to not be selfish.

This also goes for people shopping. Get what you need and get out people. don’t dawdle or linger or be annoying. This is not the time to browse or wander aimlessly.

In appliance news…..The tv remote crapped out. I had an older model that worked but I ordered a new one. It got here pretty fast, which surprised me. The food processor decided to call it a day so there is now a nifty new a Cuisinart (purchased with Target gift cards) in its stead.

I have been taking some online classes. The ones I have taken with the MoMA have been very interesting. It is nice to explore learning right now.

There is one on the history of photography that I have enjoyed. The MoMA has a Dorothea Lange exhibition right now that is virtual but will be going live again when they reopen.

I also want to see the Basquiat show that is in Boston. it looks amazing!

It looks amazing. They are still doing some interesting stuff with it, even though it has technically closed.

I saw Little Richard play at Chuck Berry’s 70th birthday party at The Pageant in October of 2001. From the time he walked on stage to the end of is set he was utterly mesmerizing.

His hips were obviously in bad shape but the voice was immaculate. It was one of those voices that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Seeing him live underscored that he was the consummate showman.

He had so many amazing records. I know he has a slew of great singles, but I really am partial to Rip It Up. It is raw and tough and amazing.

Seeing him live it was easy to understand why his impact on both Bowie and Prince was so profound. I know people talk about Elvis a lot as the King of rock and everything, but really, the crown should go to Little Richard. He was a revolutionary.

I was also bummed to hear about the passing of Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk. I love Kraftwerk.

He was responsible for some really influential music and his legacy is also pretty profound. I was looking forward to seeing Kraftwerk at The Pageant this summer but I think that is not happening.

In a related note Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD) streamed an archived concert from their last tour.

Billed as “Live From Your Sofa” it was a really good show and a welcome relief from the tedium of the world.

I also watched some recorded concert sets from Dinosaur Jr. and Warpaint that were really amazing.

The Magnetic Fields have a new album of super short songs. They are quirky and odd and lovely all at once.

But don’t let the brevity fool you. Quickies is a terrific set of tunes. I have really enjoyed hearing their short little bursts of pop awesomeness.

The new X album Alphabetland is the best record of the year.

It is a burst of much needed punk rock attitude. I ti s a 30 minute bombast of adrenaline. I interviewed John Doe last week and he was really cool and nice and genuine.

One of the ways I am escaping right now is by sitting on my porch. There are so many birds out and it is nice to hear them. I am also taking walks which has been nice, except when there are idiots.

I still think it is too soon to reopen.

I have been watching The Last Dance on ESPN. While I am not the biggest basketball fan I appreciated Michael Jordan as a player. Having said that, my interest has been from more of a documentary film perspective. As a documentary it does everything it is supposed to do. The best thing is you do not need to be a fan of the NBA to enjoy it.

Sadly, Michael Jordan is the big jerk I suspected he was. I know being that famous would have a profound affect on someone, but he acted like an entitled baby a lot and was kind of a bully. Still, the 10 part series is compelling TV.

I am glad Dead To Me is back. It is such delicious fun.

The character dynamics are really interesting and has a great blend of hilarity, sadness and humor. Like most good dramas its main characters make poor decisions all the time.

I am curious to see where this goes moving forward.

On the other side of life, I cannot recommend Schitt’s Creek enough. It is hilarious and shows that sitcoms can be funny in the right hands. Especially if those making it are fearless and connected to the human psyche.

It is pretty inexplicable but I have been watch the late night reruns of Cannon and Barnaby Jones. I want to start by saying that Cannon needs to trim his sideburns. Those things have a life of their own. I love how Frank Cannon doesn’t take any crap and is kind of a curmudgeon. He also rocked that old school car phone.

As for Barnaby Jones there is something soothing about watching Buddy Ebsen do his thing. He is very sneaky and devious but in a very understated way. He also was catching people who have made some poor decisions.

I love how Quinn Martin Productions had a deal with Cadillac and LTD to use big cars. Every show had big cars in it.

Well that is a fade out for this one. In future days I will endeavor to do this more and not get behind.

Stay inside, be safe and get of my damn lawn!