The Loneliness of the Long Distance Slummer

So I think I have reached the part of the pandemic where I am basically slumming it. I don’t want to go out and I wear pajamas as often a possible if I have nowhere to be. This is mainly because I am working part-time and basically looking for a gig in the spare time. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to pass time. There are books to read, movies to catch up on, a dazzling amount of new music to investigate and tons of great streaming TV. Then there are also word puzzles and online boardgames. If that is not enough and I still picking up freelance stuff here and there. In general, there isn’t all that much to go out for, unless it is work, the radio show or errands.

My slumming also includes doing remote work. I like that because I don’t have to catch other people’s germs or deal with annoying people in public. To be clear, when I say “slumming it,” I am not meaning to imply being lazy or nonproductive, I simply mean being a homebody. I know it is not really “slumming it” when you just want to read a good book and be left in peace. However, I think I am just fatigued with making much of an effort to do a lot of stuff with people around during a pandemic.

It’s not like I am giving up completely. I just know the limits of what is sane in an insane world. It is all about finding a comfort levels in a city of unmasked idiots. For me, it is best to avoid the misguided and stupid.

For example, I still enjoy walking and getting fresh air, but, I think it is kind of pointless to walk into a store and go shopping when you don’t have a specific need to be there. I also am a “get in and get out” person. No loitering or hanging around. Direct and t the point. Again, the worst part of all of this is that you can’t control other people’s tomfoolery.

While the Super Bowl is a big deal for millions of people, I find it all kind of annoying after a bit. For starters, everyone has to call it “the big game” or something like that because of copyrights. That is dumb. The commercials are usually fun, but this year seemed so different thanks to the ever-present pandemic. Although I like watching football and appreciate a good game, it has been my experience that the Super Bowl is always kind of a let down. Like New Years Eve. With that mindset, having lots of fans at Super Bowl XL was a dumb idea. The game was terrible. I hate Tom Brady.

Another dumb idea was watching Crocodile Dundee. I had never seen it and thought it would be a fun romp of escapism. Man was I wrong. It doesn’t hold up well as a fish out of water story and some of the jokes are terribly inappropriate. I didn’t see it when it came out because it did not seem funny. Turns out I was right. Plus, Paul Hogan just isn’t a great actor. He sets up the gags well but his timing is sometimes off.

Another relic of the late 1980s is Bright Lights, Big City. It is a 1988 film based on the book by Jay McInerney. I saw it when it came out and I remember that New Order recorded True Faith for the soundtrack. It stars Michael J. Fox, cast against character in an attempt to get him different roles, and an interest ensemble that includes Kiefer Sutherland stars as Tad, his smarmy friend and enabler. Phoebe Cates and Swoosie Kurtz are also in it, along with a cameo from Jason Robards.

Fox plays  Jamie Conway, a small-town kid who moves with his wife to New York City. Working at a magazine while his better half gets a modeling job, things begin to spiral out of control, leading for late night drinking binges, complete with lots of cocaine and poor decisions. The result of this is tragic as Jamie slides deeper into addiction, eventually blowing his job and crippling his life.

Fox isn’t terrible in a movie that somewhat accurately depicts the debauchery clubs and capitalist greed of ’80s New York. His slide into the abyss is believable and it is good to see him in a role that differs from the boy next door parts he had been taking prior to this. Like Less Than Zero, the film is a part of the decade’s films that were based on books that were dark and rebelled against the conventional. While it was compelling to read, it didn’t always transfer to film.

With the pandemic happening I am also trying to revisit films I love or have not seen in awhile. One of those is The Seven Samurai. I enjoy Kurosawa’s films but see them so infrequently that when I watch them again it is pretty terrific.

With The Seven Samurai, I like watching Toshiro Mifume and Takashi Shimura. They are both incredible here in a film that features an amazing ensemble. Kurosawa worked his actors to death but the results were simply incredible.

It is epic in every way and the performances are incredible. While it remains one of the most influential films of all time, it is still unknown to a lot of people which is very sad.

What I also love about this one is that it is beautifully shot. Kurosawa was painstaking in his writing and editing and it shows. It also maintains its intensity throughout the entire film. Hailed as a massively influential film it still holds up really well.

I am so over this cold weather. While I do not mind it for a few days, a few weeks is a different thing altogether. Maybe it just seems longer because of the pandemic. I just know that I hate winter.

Slamdance 2021 is underway. Building on its reputation as a place for filmmakers to rebel in peace, the fest has a strong virtual component this year. Doing this allows the festival to do expand their inclusivity while offering a broad slate of films.

Running through February 25, 2021, Slamdance offers 25 features along with 107 shorts and episodics for the 27th edition of the festival. Programming also includes Unstoppable, a new showcase for creators with disabilities.

So far I have only seen a few short films but I intend to see a lot more stuff in the next week, including Isaac, a Soviet noir and No Trace,  a movie about a hard-living smuggler who guides a young woman and her child across the border to safety. They also have a track of animated short films that look interesting.

I finished Season One of The Flight Attendant. Going in I was not expecting much but it was actually pretty decent. Overall, it checked off all the boxes that a good thriller needs for television.

The basic premise surrounds a flight attendant named Cassie whose fling with a passenger in Bangkok sets of a spiraling chain of violence filed by poor choices. To make things worse, she literally has baggage. Added to this is her alcoholism which clouds her memory and often gets her into deep trouble.

I have never thought that Kaley Cuoco was a terrific actress and she may not be. But here, they the writers and directors play to her strengths in a way that she’s not as annoying as you may expect. They also surrounded her with an amazing ensemble cast, including Rosie Perez who is sublime as her bestie coworker.

Michelle Gomez chews up scenery and steals the entire thing. She alone is worth watching the series for. Ruthless but funny, Gomez’ take no prisoners attitude gives the show a great edge that really helps with the pacing.

Another weird thing about the show that I like is how it uses interior design. There isn’t a band house or apartment to be found. Everyone has big open spaces with modern design and lots of open space and natural light.

The last month has seen an uptick in new music. For starters there is The Third Chimpanzee, a new EP from Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. Filled with beeps and beats, its instrumental tracks shimmer with Detroit techno influences.

Diving beneath the textured layers of grooves is Howler a cinematic and dark track that accompanies another solid cut, the expansive Mandrill. Overall, the E.P. finds Gore returning to the long form electronic music he’s featured in recent collaborations with Vincent Clarke (as VCMG).

I have been enjoying Dry Cleaning a lot. They are from London via Bristol and have an album called New Long Leg dropping in April. I loved Scratchcard Lanyard, their single for last year.

Strong Feelings, their new single, picks off from where that track left off with some sludgy post-punk edginess. It snarls and sneers in all the right ways.

I am happy to have a new Mogwai record coming into the world. They just dropped “Ritchie Sacramento” ahead of their new album, As The Love Continues.

I love how sonically expansive their music is. Their tenth studio album sees them continuing their knack for crafting really textured songs that don’t meander or lose their heart. They are just a really good band.

I think doing any of the things people suggest you to do on HGTV requires some serious cash. Over the last few months I have found myself watching the channel more and more. I enjoy the design aspects of seeing a place get completely redone as something fresh.

Home renovation and rehabbing is a foreign world to me. Nonetheless, watching the pile of shows the network has is kind of a fun timesuck. It’s a nice way to get ideas for interior spaces, even if you have a budget. It also serves as a great distraction from the chaos on on the news.

Another fun thing is the sly ways that the Property Brothers handle irritating clients. However, in an industry that is all about money they also show a great deal of practicality and empathy, Plus the ‘competative brothers’ double act works pretty well.

Still, I can’t buy a house anytime soon so there is that….

Because of the weather it looks like I have some serious inside time in the next week. I am okay with that. I’ve been slumming it at home for almost a year now and there is a satisfaction to finishing projects, discovering new stuff and making all kinds of interesting meals. There is also booze!

We’ve Got A Long Way To Go & A Short Time To Get There

So I guess I should start by saying that Jerry Reed was probably the only good thing about the Smokey and the Bandit movies. Jackie Gleason was okay too, but he had to spout a lot of dirty language and cussing which bummed me out because it really went against his traditional comedy schtick.

I have no idea why I am writing about Smokey and the Bandit. I do know that the Bandit automobile is in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. It’s displayed there like a holy relic of a dead saint for America’s rednecks and probable racists.

This brings me to mention that at this point you probably can’t show The Dukes of Hazzard on TV anymore. Unless you digitally remove a certain flag from their car.

I am ok if no one sees it ever again. It is terrible. Although it did make buffoons out of country cops. But seriously, shouldn’t people find something better to do with their time than watch this? I mean it is really dumb and stupid. Every person on it makes poor decisions.

I did see Denver Pyle on an episode of Cannon a few works ago. It was the one where Cannon gets amnesia and wanders around clueless in the desert.

In better TV news....Dark is a German time travel series. It is pretty odd and weird but I think has some interesting elements to it.

I have made a list of streaming things to watch and I will eventually plow through all of it.

Weekends are pretty much nonexistent at this point. when I need something on for background TV I put on the Property Brothers. you learn a lot about fixing houses and they seem like ok people.

In appliance news it is mazing how much of a workout the dishwasher is getting. It seem like every few days it is running a full load. The same could be said for the washer and dryer. I am sure I am not alone in this. Also, The kitchen ceiling light is on the fritz. I am overjoyed at the idea of fixing it.

One thing that continues to bug me this week are the half assets that put on a mask but don’t cover their nose. Or worse yet, they wear a mask indoors but drop it down under their chin.

I hate to be crass but if you do not wear a mask it tells me that you are an uncaring and selfish human being. At this point there is no real reason to fight it. Besides, if this really is some kind of conspiracy I am fine with being duped into wearing a mask on my face for a few months. Really, it is not that big of a deal. Do you think the soldiers crossing the Delaware in the freezing cold thought wearing heavy boots was stupid? And those guys storming the beaches of Normandy didn’t complain about the heavy ass packs on their back-so shut the hell up bout freedom and being put out.

I went to a doctor appointment today. I had a temp check and they made sure I had a mask and all the seats were like 30 feet apart. I brought my own pen and they seemed relieved. The woman who checked me thanked me for being considerate. it is sad that they have to do that.

Had a huge thing with work. I got called back from furlough for the week of July 13th. The problem is that before that job called I had an opportunity to pick up a full week of work at my other job so I accepted that. So I told my boss at the furloughed place I could start on the 20th. After a long back and forth, which included telling me I was only gonna get scheduled 4-8 hours per week, I was told I had to report the week of the 13th or I could tender my resignation.

So I then I explained politely that I would not tender anything since they had been nonexistent for 4 months without a peep and now they just popped in and wanted me to be unprofessional and break commitments I made to another employer. I told them they would need to let me go, since this was on them. I also explained that they had 3 other employees they could easily give my fantastic 4 hours to for one week to accommodate me. Nope, not good enough. So I spent about half a day juggling and I am now going to my crap ass job for 4 hours a week. Still got Job B, which even though is a lower paying gig, is an environment without jerks and un-empathetic bots.

The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. The long and short of all of this, is that we, as employees, should be held hostage by the almighty dollar and I am really put off by the attitude displayed.

But enough of that!In the midst of all of this I am looking for new work and still trying to get some freelance hours from places as best as I can.

I have seen more retro-isa movies. I do not think I saw Twins in a theater when it came out in 1988. It was on and I watched it.

It is not particular awful but not great either. Danny DeVito is kind of funny in it and Arnold Schwarzenegger is basically himself in it. But it served its purpose of being a distraction form the world.

With the passing of Carl Reiner I decided to watch The Jerk. It is an uncomfortable movie to watch in today’s world. Steve Martin is terrific in it. It is a lovely work of satire that holds up kind of well. There are some really funny moments in the movie but I think it has some pacing issues. But, it remains an intelligent comedy that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks to make the jokes go over. Oh, and Bill Macy from Maude is in it.

I also have been watching a few short films on Mubi. I especially enjoyed 1 Dimension which is a gorgeous short film that uses silhouette animation to tell an ancient Chinese parable.

It is directed by Lü Yue, who has made something visually fantastic and aesthetically simple.

I have been listening to Container by The Wants a lot. I think it is their first full album. They have this cool sound that is part Gang of Four, part Interpol with smidgens of LCD Soundsystem thrown in the mix.

There is a minimalist awesomeness to them They are raw and don’t over the produce the hell out of everything. So what you get is an uncompromising sound that is crunchy and robustly great. Here is the link to learn more: https://thewantsnyc.bandcamp.com.

I also really like Beat Poetry For the Survivalist, the new record from Luke Haines and Peter Buck.

In addition to solo work Haines was in The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder. Buck was in R.E.M. and The Minus 5 and loads of other things. The entire record is really catchy and the songs are well written. It is a terrific collaboration.

I have started Remain In Love, the new memoir from Christ Frantz of Talking Heads/tom Tom Club.

It is a very heartfelt memoir and he is a natural storyteller. It is a very personal read and it is not heavy handed in dishing out dirt on other musicians or people he knows. His reflection on his time in Talking Heads is interesting too. Perhaps the most fun though is hearing about his romance with Tina Weymouth. It is nice to have some positivity in the world right now and his relationship with Weymouth is both heartwarming and creatively fascinating.

I also am reading Post Punk Then And Now, a collection of stories, interviews and essays about post punk art, music, architecture, film and literature. It also has a cool section on zine culture and how fanzines really helped shape later artistic movements in music, film and the visual arts.

It is edited by Gavin Butt, Kodwo Eshun and Mark Fisher with some terrific insights from Lydia Lunch, Sue Clayon and others. Told in small chunks, these interviews help form a collective narrative of various post punk aesthetics and how they are all tied together.

I bought this book a few years back while at the Tate Modern in London. It was sitting on an endocarp with no pomp or flashy merchandising. I was thrilled to find it because it was relatively cheap and it was something that interested me. I had not thought of post punk in terms of architecture or even film before so that part was fascinating, The book does a great job of taking all of these separate pieces and pulling them together into a tapestry that really provides a nice overview of that era.

As a side note, The Tate Modern bookstore has loads of great stuff in it, but most of it is way too expensive. The V&A Museum bookstore has more diverse stock and is a bit more reasonable in pricing. The bookstore at the British Museum is also good, but it is always packed and there’s a lot of touristy stuff. I did like the relative austerity of the national Gallery museum shop which pretty much stuck to the basics and didn’t give you a sensory overload.

Meanwhile back at home…..

The St. Louis Art Museum is open. I am going to go this week, right when they first open and see the works I really want to see and then get the hell out of there before the crowds come. I hope it is smartly laid out and safe. They are requiring masks and social distancing, I would like to go and see a few works I have discovered from their collection since my last visit.

Piet Mondrian: Composition of Red and White: Nom 1/Composition No. 4 with red and blue.

I have a short list of things t see in about 90 minutes but it is all based on what the ass clowns are doing. Still, it will be great to get out.

As much as I want to support our local restaurants I am cooking a lot at home. I am still ordering curbside and takeout and have no interest in eating indoors yet. not with this spike. It is not as much because of the restaurants as the other people there. Most employees and folks working in restaurants get it, I just fear the idiots who do not.

Since I am not going out, I am cooking more. I finally found a place that sells decent olives. This is important since I am doing a lot of Greek/Mediterranean cooking at home. Lots of Gyros and schwarma etc…

I also found a vindaloo paste I like so I can do some proper Indian food. I have a tandoori one as well but have not used it yet.

It is interesting how great fresh fruit tastes right now. I have had some seriously good pineapple in recent weeks.

Stay home, wear a mask if you go out and be kind!