Kitchen Sink Drama

So I have been meaning to update this sooner but things have been crazy. I have been been putting in more hours at the university bookstore job and it has been weird since the kids are now back and even though we are only letting 10 in at a time they don’t always pay attention to the rules of social distancing. They are wearing masks though which is a plus. We still don’t have plexiglass at the registers. I am all over corporate about it but I think they are oblivious. My coworkers are trying to be socially distant and most of the kids are as well, but there are still a few knuckleheads out there.

I also have been knee deep in radio stuff. Juxtaposition turned 25 and I had planned a 5 hour show only to have management put the kibosh on that a little more than 48 hours ahead time even though they had two plus weeks notice. Anyway, it is fine, I am just spreading some of the live sessions out over a few weeks instead. Still, I had gone through a lot of archival sessions and interviews and planned a lot which ate up time and delayed getting back to this. However, the point of all of this is that I had a ton of time invested in that which detracted from updating the blog.

This brings us to now. Pretty exciting.

Let’s talk about appliances!

So early, early last Saturday morning I noticed the kitchen sink was filling up with water. It smelled like sulphur and the water was gross. I put on gloves to see if there was a clog in the garbage disposal. There wasn’t so I ran the disposal to see if that helped. It only made more water come up. After cleaning out a few buckets of water and drying up everything I put the stopper over the drain, cleaned up and went to bed. In the morning the water was back, rising past the stopper. It got a bit worse as the morning went on so I had to get more buckets of water out of the sink. it was gross!

I needed up calling maintenance and after a bit of back of forth about getting a person to fix things it was discovered that the cause of all of this was the girl on the second floor dumped more than half a bag of rice in her kitchen sink which clogged everything up. I was hoping that it was not a broken pipe. that would have been a mess. I also was quite happy that no one had to come into the apartment.

This brings me to the point that getting any kind of maintenance help right now is a messy drama. It adds a ton of intense stress as well. Especially, since a lot of people involved in that particular line of work don’t believe in social distancing or necessarily masks.

So, if all of that was not enough the washing machine decided it didn’t want to be polite and operate properly. It stopped working. Luckily, I was able to hang dry a lot of cloths until a guy came to fix that last Monday. In this case the service was prompt and pleasant.

With COVID everyone in learning about new gizmos and gadgets. For me, the month has been filled with learning about MERV filers and circulating fans, this month it is other stuff like ventilation and dry hydrogen.

I picked up a 59s UV-C LED Sterilizer box. it is great for sterling things like pens, my phone, keys, he charging chord, masks, credit cards and everything else that can fit inside of it. It takes about three minutes to use and runs silent.

It has a very abrupt Asian voice that says “sterilizing’ when you start and “sterilizing over” when it is done. In fact, everything about the product is direct and to the point. So far it has been a nice thing to have around in that I don’t need to wash every little thing when I get home.

In other appliance news Deep Thought has arrived. That is the name given to the new air purifier that is lovingly cleaning the air around me (I hope). It reminded me of the TV version of the character from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, hence the name.

Since I get allergies and want to improve air circulation I thought this could be handy with keeping any of this stuff and any other nasty stuff from blowing around the apartment.

While it does not speak it does know how to circulate in a room. I hope it does not go HAL 9000 on me.

I have spent a lot of time during the pandemic watching movies. Some are ones I have not seen in awhile, some are new and some are ones I just wanted to take a chance on.

One film I saw was It All Came True, a Humphrey Bogart flick from 1940. When I broke my foot in 2010 I was laid up for several weeks at home. During that time I made an effort to see as many of Bogie’s films as I could. To date, I have seen nearly all of them including this one which I rewatched since it is not shown very often.

Although it is not one of his best. It is not terrible either. He plays a gangster named Chips Maguire who is hunkered down in a boarding house after killing an unsavory character named Monks.

Ann Sheridan co-stars as Sarah Jane, a showgirl resident of the house who just happens to recognize Chips but keeps his true identity secret.

Despite a dubious reputation, Chips is basically a nice guy underneath it all. Monks was a real jerk and had it coming, so in the film world, he had it coming.

In the meantime, the affable boarding house owners, Nora Taylor and Maggie Ryan are about to lose everything because of their back tax debts. Down on their luck, Nora and Maggie get a break when Chips decides they could solve their cash problems by turning their stodgy boarding house into a fancy NYC nightclub. As a bonus Sarah Jane could sing there and be discovered.

Like many pictures of that time there is lots of double dealing, frame ups, wisecracking and backstabbing. It also has some pretty schmaltzy stuff in it as well. However, It All Came True is interesting to watch because we see Bogart in a raw phase of his career, eager to break out of gangster roles and develop more rounded characters. As the story unfolds Bogart tries his darnedest to make Chips more than a thug as he smoothes out the edges to make a more developed character for audiences.

There also was a slew of George Raft movies on TCM this month. Background to Danger is a 1943 spy thriller with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Raoul Walsh directed it and some of the script was edited and tightened up by William Faulkner.

The film is set in Turkey and revolves dastardly plot by a group of Nazis (led by Greenstreet) who are trying to turn the neutral country into an Axis power. Raft is an American who is sucked into the action by Russian agents who are fighting to keep Turkey neutral.

It is an entertaining little wartime film with Raft again filling in as a Bogart light character in his performance. However, as in all of his movies, he talks tough, is no nonsense and gets right down to it. The supporting cast is terrific and Greenstreet is gleefully diabolical as a Nazi.

Manpower is another Raft movie, this one with Edward G Robinson from 1941. In it both men play power line workers who become entangled with Marlene Dietrich. The biggest takeaway from it is that being a power line worker is not a fun job. Walsh also directed him in this one which is notorious because Robinson and Raft got in a fight on set which made filming problematic. Also, Raft turned down The Maltese Falcon to make this film.

Raft, who didn’t always make the best life choices, was also famous for hanging out with gangsters and turning down a number of now infamous parts in High Sierra, All Though The Night and allegedly, Casablanca. Sadly, the Scarface star also had a reputation for not being all that warm and fuzzy. Offstage he was often difficult for studios, directors and castmates to work with and his taste in friends put him on the outs in Hollywood.

In Escape Route (titled I’ll Get You in the USA) he is wrapped up in Cold War espionage in London after Russian conduct Western scientists. It it not a particularly thrilling picture nor is it exceptional.

However it is interesting to see that Raft has done zero to hone his craft and improve his technique. he basically is playing the same character he played decades earlier.

Do not watch Brazil in dystopian times. It will frighten you! I watched the Criterion edition a few weeks ago and while I did enjoy seeing the film again it was kind of disturbing in the context of present times.

I have been listening to Grandaddy a bit these days. I never stopped liking them but somehow I just lost touch with them. Although, I have heard the Jason Lytle solo records.

Although it is 20 years old, The Software Slump is still wonderfully majestic. I love how it mixes melancholy and melody perfectly. It does;t bother me that some of the songs are long because they have a real pulse to them and are constructed with narrative in mind. I am not sure how they did it but the band evoked a real mood in their music, warm and sad at once,. it is fascinating.

Smell The Magic, the first album from L7, has been reissued by Sub Pop Records. It is a loud and angry record that still sound fresh today. When I saw them at Lollapalooza 1992 I was backstage waiting to interview a band when they were walking by. They had already played and I mentioned I enjoyed their set. They clearly had been partying. this became obvious when while I was talking to a label rep, Demetra Plakas bit me in the neck. it was hilarious but also weird.

Anyway, I am glad their debut is been remastered. I think it got lost in the shuffle after their success on commercial alternative radio. It really is a solid debut and I hope more people discover them now.

Labor Day was pretty uneventful. The biggest thing was I had to run a few errands and noticed all of the little monsters from Washington University are back. None of them are social distancing. they are in gaggles going on blissfully unaware of the world around them. It is pretty annoying!

I also went to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It was peaceful and serene. The English garden there is terrific and they had a lot of new flowers blooming which was nice. I am glad I went, it was good to get some air.

Today I am hoping to get some chill time in with a book before heading off to work.

Because I fear I am babbling on endlessly, I am gonna call it a post. My next post will probably have some more book stuff and movie things in it. I have been seeing a ton of movies lately.

Missouri Goddamn

So the state has reopened. While I have seen lots of good-minded people wearing masks and social distancing, I have still seen a bunch of folks gripping onto that Missouri stubbornness and resolute ‘don’t tell me what to do’ attitude. It is infuriating.

Believe me, I want to support my local music venues and restaurants and small businesses as much as possible, but I cannot see myself eating in restaurant or going to a concert any time soon. Having said that, I do try and buy things from indie businesses and local restaurants when I can.

Overall, I have faith in most of the people who run these types of places. It’s the idiots I cannot control I worry about. The willfully stupid, blissfully ignorant and completely useless members of society who refuse to wear masks, believe that it is all the flu or simply are just to lazy to adjust their lifestyle to help other people. The selfishness, callousness and rudeness of people really bums me out. After all, how hard is it to be respectful, kind and decent?

And another thing……I hate the humidity. I know this is lost in the shuffle a bit because we are in a pandemic, but man has it been muggy this week. It has made me take earlier walks, which still result in that Missouri feeling of walking into a sweatbox. Generally, the days have started off mild and nice and then after you have been lulled out of the house, the humidity pops around to say hello again. I know it is the weather we are supposed to be having, but I thought with the planet being cooler because of fewer emissions we might catch a break. Phooey!

In appliance news there still is no new fan but one is on order. There is also a nifty new kitchen table and chairs coming since the old one has crapped out after 12 or so years. In other exciting appliance relate news, the AC was fixed. It was making an odd screeching sound when it turned on. the guy came to look at it and found a bunch of the wiring meant it was operating only t 30%. I also need a new cassette player. Weird for 2020. New headphones are coming too, the old ones are fading.

If you need any type of small to moderate sized appliance or furniture the is the time to by because everyone needs the business and stuff is way, way, way on sale!

Vera Lynn died at the age on 103 on June 18th. Her passing marks the end of an age in that she was the last living musical performer from the 1940s. her death means all we have left now is second hand accounts, oral histories and recordings.

Known for entertaining troops in North Africa, Asia and at home during WW2, Lynn was the voice that British troops needed to hear.

As London was being shelled she would venture into Tube stations packed with people escaping the inferno above, and sing to them. How badass is that?

Used by both Stanley Kubrick and Pink Floyd, We’ll Meet Again is one of the definitive songs of the 1940s. In terms of musical relevancy We’ll Meet Again is just as important of a wartime record as White Christmas. Lynn’s As Time Goes By, The White Cliffs of Dover and When You Wish Upon A Star are also terrific. her catalog of hit record is pretty incredible.

To further break it down, she had a musical career that lasted over 70 years. Her compilation album, 100 has charted again, making her the oldest person to post a top 40 album in Britain.

It is interesting that We’ll Meet Again has become a go to song for wedding, funerals, reunions and get togethers. It also remains a song of resilience and hope. That I think is her biggest legacy; she was an artist who made incredible recordings with terrific orchestrations that made listeners forget the world outside.

Her records instilled this beguiling sense of ‘everything is going to be okay’ in those who heard them. And that, at the end of everything, is not a bad legacy to hang your hat on.

I was also bummed that Ian Holm died. He was one of my favorite actors, mainly because he was good and also because he was in literally, everything.

He was terrific in Alien, Brazil, Chariots of Fire, The Fifth Element, Ratatouille, Time Bandits and the mess that was A Life Less Ordinary. Although he is best known for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings films, he also was a fine Shakespearean actor. Holm is one of those actors whose notoriety lies more in his collective body of fine work than his name alone.

I would love to work just one day where some old codger who is not wearing a mask doesn’t lumber into the store like Frankenstein scuttling around in the dark. Just once.

I also want to see the kids get off their asses and think about somebody else for a change and wear a damn mask. Those little bastards are practically carriers at this point.

None of this is going to get any easier if we just pretend it isn’t happening. I for one don’t want to die because some other imbecile is not taking precautions or being careful.

One of the great things about wearing a mask is that people cannot see me mutter things about them. This is good because I end up calling most of them “idiots” or “morons” because of their blind ignorance and stupidity.

I cannot yell at everyone but being stupid but man it would feel good if I could. Most of us decent people would really feel better if we could let off some steam by screaming at the stupid. Alas though, we would also be hoarse.

Also, if you are not covering your nose and mouth you are not really wearing a mask. What you are doing is looking like a complete tool who isn’t even smart enough to figure out how to wear a mask correctly.

I went and got tested this past weekend. It was a mostly painless experience. I didn’t get the headaches or pain that some folks have talked about. But I did get a bloody nose.

I have been reading about music again. I have enjoyed Neil Taylor’s C86 & All That. It is pretty dense and has loads of information about bands and labels of the mid 1980s.

C86 is a min genre of sorts. It is indie music that centers around a cassette compilation released by NME in 1986, featuring new bands (The Mighty Lemon Drops, Primal Scream, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Age of Chance etc..) licensed from British independent record labels of the time.

A lot of it is murky, grimy, fuzzy and jangly. Many of the bands toiled in obscurity before flaming out or hand a short run. In most cases they still have a rapid fanbase today.

I have loved this stuff since high school so this book has been a terrific find. Painstakingly researched, informative, funny and nostalgic it is a pretty thorough history of the genre.

There is a lot to digest. From Alan McGee’s Creation Records to other Indies like Rough Trade, there’s a lot of intrigue and shenanigans to discover. Plus, Taylor shines a new light on many of these forgotten bands who are long overdue for recognition.

Fans of literature, whiskey, pub culture and conversation will enjoy Love by Roddy Doyle.

I have not ready Doyle in awhile but after hearing him on NPR I decided I needed to check this out. It is about two old friends who get together for some drinks. From there things get interesting as secrets are learned and discoveries are made.

Another book I am anxious to plunge into is Lincoln On The Verge.

The book covers Lincoln during his historic 1861 train journey from Springfield, Illinois to Washington D.C. where he will be sworn in as President.

He had a lot on his mind then. The nation was on the precipice of civil war, people doubted his ability to lead and he had his family and cabinet to contend with.

With so much of the world thrown into bedlam and also because I wanted to watch something that would help me escape all of that I started to rewatch Ken Burns Natural Parks: America’s Best Idea. Although I have seen it before it has been terrific to see again. It has is pretty incredible. I mean who doesn’t want to look at amazing nature?

In addition to the history aspect of it, it really is incredible how much geologically cool stuff there is in the USA. I really would like to see Yellowstone, although for the life of me I am not sure how you plan a trip like that.

In the School of Mindless entertainment department….. I watched the first wo Bill & Ted films. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is still a lot of fun to watch. It was stupid and clever at the same time. There also was some terrific casting going on with this movie too. It didn’t really misfire.

Sadly Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was still putrid. It meanders and plods along and has none of the charm of this first movie. I really hope the new film in the series is a return to form.

I also rewatched Waiting for Guffman again.

My oh my is it still funny. Everyone in it is hysterical. Christopher Guest’s Corky is simply the best. Eugene Levy and Fred Willard are also great. Watching Willard be politically incorrect is hilarious and his perfect deadpan delivery is hysterical.

I love everything about this movie!

Knowing several actors and having reviewed theater myself I can personally speak to the fact that there is a lot of truth in this mockumentary. Christopher Guest really had his pulse on community theater in small town America here. Decades after its release it remains a really funny movie.

One of the reasons I like it so much is the cast. As an ensemble every character is memorable. Even characters on the periphery are delightfully fun. There also is a great David Cross cameo in it.

Party Girl is long overdue for a DVD reissue. It may not be Criterion worthy but it still is a lot of fun. The movie follows a girl named Mary who parties hard at the NYC clubs at night and then struggles during the day to find a career. She eventually settles into a job at the New York Public Library.

As someone who went clubbing in New York in the ’90s and also worked in libraries the movie resonates with me on two fronts. It is seriously over the top in places and it features a soundtrack filled with club cuts I had forgotten about.

Although it was released in 1995, it reminds me of movies like The Last Days of Disco in that it features a cast of down and outs looking for salvation in clubs filled with loads of shallow people.

Me, I kept to myself and went for the music, but man I can identify with a lot of characters in this movie. I also love how it glorifies the dewey decimal system. I am telling you the DDS is the best way to rivage your way around a library. Learning it all helps you hone your organizational skills.

It was made in 19 days with a cheap 150k budget. Despite that it still has a huge cult following. I love how it captures the vacuous spirit of that time while remaining nostalgic. The fashion in it is also wonderfully kitsch.

I only went to The Roxy a few times, it was always way too crowded, but I went enough to really get the vibe the movie was going for. A lot of really annoying people went to The Roxy. I was glad I didn’t have to wait in line there.

I had insomnia a few nights ago and watched Demolition Man, a terrible slice of testosterone driven dystopia from 1993 starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Rob Schneider, Denis Leary and Jesse Ventura. Christ it is terrible.

Also in it are Bob Gunton who was the warden in The Shawshank Redemption and Nigel Hawthorne from Yes Prime Minister, The Madness of King George and loads of other things. You have to wonder what Hawthorne was thinking beyond a money grab.

In addition to having loads of random explosions, a loose plot and generally bad acting, it has a kind of camp silliness that makes it impossible to not watch. I know I saw it when it was released but I do not remember neither liking or loving it. I do know that I really wanted it to be so much more.

Seriously, I have been watching a lot of movies.

I finally got around to watching The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. It is a great film that captures the spirit of the time. Richard Burton is in it and spends a lot of time brooding and looking glum. Maybe he really was cold. But this was a great movie about spies and how they think, react and freak out when under pressure.

I also saw Just Mercy which was really good but terribly intense. The acting in it was amazing and it was a good. But I am just not sure I was mentally in a headspace for it. Having said that, it is a film that people should see because its message is very, very important. Michael B. Jordan is an amazing actor and he is going to win an Oscar some day.

I have a lot of silent pictures on deck to watch. The Man With The Movie Camera was released in 1929 and features a day in the life in citizens in Kiev, Odessa, Moscow and Kharkov.

It is designed to highlight a futurist city where modernism is in full swing. Set in the morning and running through the evening, there is no dialogue, just imagery, cut and edited in quick edits.

Director Dziga Vertov did some pioneering work here with motion and multiple exposure. As a result, there are some really interesting edits in it and the pacing never really calms down. It is very busy. It is also considered an achievement in Surrealist film.

Imagine my shock when I saw that PBS was running the INXS concert film Live Baby Live. This 1991 concert film was recorded at Wembley Stadium and has been remastered in 4k. I was a little surprised to see it on since they mostly show different types of programs in evening pledge drive hours.

I had not seen it. I stopped really caring about INXS after What You Need and their ascent into mainstream success. They always came off a big jerks in interviews and I hear that assumption is not off the mark. Still, they had some live charisma on this tour, even though the material was mostly from later albums.

Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers is a terrific album. it just dropped this week but it already has the pedigree of a best album of 2020 contender. The songs are lyrically tight and well constructed. She obviously has a great ear for melody as well. Kyoto and Moon Song are great and I love how she wails like a banshee on I Know the End.

Well that is enough drivel for now. Be nice, be kind, wear a mask and hang in there.