Merry Christmas and Get the Hell Out of Here 2020!

I am now recovering from the holidays and a mindbogglingly intense few months. I am glad the year is ending, it needs to go like a bad throw rug. But I am a bit worried because each year since 2017 has gotten progressively worse for me.

Anyway, the year ends with mixed feelings of terror, anxiety, frustration, hope and melancholy. I am sure I am not alone. No one should spend their life alone, so if you have family you can stand or friends who substitute for family be thankful. Especially now. But most of all, just don’t be a terrible person.

Mentally, I am mostly okay but still anxious about assclowns who just don’t get it or refuse to acknowledge the obvious. It’s a challenging time to deal with the stupid and I don’t do it very well sometimes. But I am thankful that so many people I care about are safe and well. A few of my medical profession friends got the vaccine and that is terrific news since they have been knee deep in the waters and are emotionally spent.

I miss being able to travel but I don’t miss going out much. Streaming has replaced going to the movies and I am trying to read more. With winter here I won’t be able to sit on the back porch and read which is kind of a bummer. I hate the ice and the cold and the general malaise of winter. Add a pandemic to it and it’s a real party.

I am still on the short end of the work stick have & have spent the last few months working on some freelance stuff. I’ve learned not to expect any help from people I know who could offer work but don’t. Ironically, they are the same people who always ask me for free tickets to stuff. They are on the naughty list.

It is weird to be reviewing theater type stuff again. The Rep has been doing an online series called Cooking, Carols & Cocktails that features local musicians and chefs. Opera Theatre St. Louis is pressing their virtual season with a holiday concert. Both have been welcome distractions from the insanity of the world.

A few quick hits about Christmas

-That Mariah Carey song is the work of the Devil!

-Black Friday is dumb!

-There’s a pandemic and people are still out rushing around.

-The Misfit toys are cool & have been marginalized in recent years.

-Santa is a huge jerk in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

A few quick hits about New Year’s Eve/Day etc…

-There are better songs on War by U2 than New Year’s Day.

-Prosecute them all!

-Ryan Seacrest is still annoying.

-Please support St. Louis’ excellent local restaurants, bookstores, shops, record stores and businesses during this time. If you read this from other places then support local businesses wherever you are.

-When these places talk of being in dire straights they are not messing around. It is important to support those who have toiled to build a business from scratch!

Also, it it totally true when you get older New Year’s Eve is less of thing. I remember being at my Grandma’s house on New year’s Eve when I was a kid. we watched Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo and the ball drop in New York then we had ginger snaps and went to bed. She also told these great stories about childhood celebrations she had when she was younger.

I have some appliance news! It is not super exciting, but the lighting fixture in the kitchen had bulbs go out. There was a lot of blinking and waiting around for it to get brighter. So, alas, they have been replaced with shiny and new 4 ft LED lights. It is so much brighter. There is also a Rhoomba here now, so cleaning hardwood floors should be a bit easier!

Mank is streaming now and is also in some theaters if you are bold enough to go to those. Gary Oldman is terrific in it and if you love classic Hollywood this is right up your alley. Mank is all about the creation of Citizen Kane and the backlash it created.

It also explore the relationship between Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote the script. David Fincher filmed it in black and white to do it justice. Cinematically it is gorgeous. Yes there are some liberties taken with the story, but generally, it is a really good film about the making of a cinema classic.

It also is nice to see Herman J. Mankiewicz get some credit since Welles is often prominently in the spotlight with the creation of that film. Sadly, despite his creativity he was a terrible drunk which led to him dying young in 1953.

Some days you just need to do nothing and watch nonsense. I did this recently and revised The Coneheads. It was on the telly and I had not seen it in decades. I figured why not? Surprisingly its themes of home and immigration resonate today as does some of points on law enforcement.

I also forgot that literally everybody is in it; Sinbad, Chris Farley, David Spade, Adam Sandler and bunches of others. Even though it is pretty forgettable there are some fun moments in it.

I did recently stumble upon a nifty little film from 1978 called The Silent Partner. Starring Elliott Gould as Miles Cullen, a nebbishy bank clerk who discovers his bank is going to be robbed by a man dressed as a mall Santa. Christopher Plummer stars opposite of him as Reikle, a seriously bad psychopath.

Seeing an opportunity to look after himself, Cullen skims a cool fifty grand from the bank’s till during the robbery. From here things get really interesting as Gould and Plummer have a battle of wits after Plummer discovers he’s been outwitted. Cullen’s life is compounded by his complex relationship with a coworker as well as the arrival of Elaine, a mysterious woman who he he en counters at his father’s funeral. From here the tension gets turned up to eleven as the walls close in on Cullen, forcing him to make some drastic decisions.

This movie totally caught me off guard. I had never even heard of it before, but apparently it has a massive cult following.

Each Christmas I make it a point to watch a few holiday movies that I have not seen before. This year I watched The Bishop’s Wife.

It was a rough movie to make. they had a few director changes. Grant was really picky about details on filming with the sets and dialogue. To add to all of that, Niven, was still grieving over the death of his wife. With all that going on it’s a Christmas miracle that it got made at all.

Niven plays a bishop who is so obsessed with building a new cathedral for his congregation (and a wealthy parishioner) that he completely blows off his wife.

Grant plays Dudley, an angel sent to make things right. Unfortunately, he is too good at his job and his handsome looks and kindness make him attractive to Julia (Loretta Young), the bishop’s wife. There relationship and the wrinkles it causes with Niven’s bishop form the tension of the film. There’s a lot of stuff in here about faith, duty and responsibility. It’s pretty sappy at times but the actor is stellar and the melodrama keeps you watching.

I took the advice of a friend and finally watched Auntie Mame. Despite some totally awkward racial stereotypes it is a real ball of fun.

It is interesting to see how much commentary there is on class, individualism, self worth, feminism, wealth and the importance of family. Despite the comic draperies, there’s a lot of pretty heavy stuff happening here.

The movie is whimsical and silly and funny all at once. Rosalind Russell is on fire throughout the entire thing and she really propels the movie. Everyone has an eccentric relative and her Mame pretty much sets the bar as a partying socialite who is suddenly thrust into raising her nephew. To do this requires a lot of personal growth, stubbornness and tenacity. I love how steely Mame is. She is a fighter who plays by her own rules and it is exhilarating to watch. I suspect that in 1958, when this came out, people may have freaked out.

I have finished Schitt’s Creek. The ending was pretty predictable but still managed to deliver in terms of fun. In a crap year it was such a great tonic for laughter. It also has an emotional gravitas to it the tis nice as well. I am sad to see it end because now I need to find a new comedy to watch.

There is still a lot of stuff to stream. I have made a list of all it since there is so much. I want to see Soul and I am excited about The Prom since I didn’t get to see it when I was in New York two years ago. There is a new season of Cobra Kai as well.

Because I am not going to movie theaters for awhile making a best of they year film list is kind of a nightmare. There are loads of things I am hearing via word of mouth. Things like The Sound of Metal, The Ammonite or the two thousand streaming movies Tom hanks has out right now. So, alas there is no best of film list this year.

That Left Turn At Albuquerque was one of my favorite fiction reads for the year. I read it very early in the year and its a real gem in terms of how the characters are fleshed out and the action unfolds.

Phillips doesn’t make warn and fuzzy characters which is refreshing. They have depth and texture and are very, very grey. If you like really good crime stories with helpings of art, lust and treachery, then this is a book for you. This is some seriously good old school noir.

I also liked Roddy Doyle’s Love. It is rich and frothy and he is a master at dialogue.

In addition to being a homage to pub culture it is a lovely story about friendship and love that tugs on our inner sense of regret. At a time when we can’t go out it’s nice to read a book about going to the pub and hanging out. The book also has Doyle’s rich characters too which are always intriguing.

The Neal Gaiman Reader is also solid. it is a really good collection of his work that fearers excerpts from his books as well as some short stories.

I do not always like books like these because they often play out like a greatest hits collection or a money grab. However, here the material is so imaginative and rich that it is perfect. Even though I have read most of the 52 pieces collected, it is still a great read in that it is well organized and flows well.

I am a big fan of Gaiman so the odds going in were that I would like it. But I was impressed by the selections featured. there were some I had forgotten and the rediscovery was terrific.

I really love The Reds Pinks & Purples. Glenn Donaldson’s newish project is poptastically exquisite. His latest album, You Might Be Happy Someday is one of my favorite records of 2020. It has lush melodies and catchy lyrics.

There is some melancholy too, but, taken as a whole the album is an uplifting experience that needs to be heard. The mixture of lyrics and music is seamless and the results are wonderful.

One of the things I did love about 2020 was that there was so much good music out. There was a lot. I also love how bands did streaming concerts to make connections with their fans. I watched really good streamed shows from OMD, Hot Chip, Fontaine’s D.C. and Cigarette After Sex.

While all of these were amazing, nothing beat Nick Cave’s Idiot Prayer. It was simply stunning in every way.

Alone at a piano Cave channels his pain through his art, giving us 22 really amazing tracks. I loved Girl In Amber, Galleon Ship, The Mercy Seat and Into My Arms. Also available as a video, this is worth your time. It is really incredible.

I hate putting faith on hope and thinking the road ahead is gonna be better and all that jazz. I am a pragmatist. However, this year so so awful and terrible that even I want there to be some progress in tackling important social issues and moving back to normal in 2021. But, until it happens I will continue to be worried and aggravated by the stupid, selfish and insipid. The one takeaway from 2020 is that it showed how America is a place that needs a ton of work. I fear that calls for unity and togetherness are just going to be unanswered, It’s sad but it’s true.

For now, I just want to get through the coming year in one piece and in better shape than the tattered mess of the present. I want people to be kind and decent and vaccinated. I want art to thrive and people to be treated fairly and with dignity. I want less poor decisions and more opportunity.

Although I want to play more great music on the radio and absorb loads of cool movies, graphic novels books and stuff, I’d like the world to be filled with compassion and caring. More money would be nice too. I know that it is terribly capitalistic, but seriously who doesn’t want a cushion right now.

2020 totally sucked. It was worse than 1848, 1914 or 1939 all rolled into one. So much ion the pain could have bene avoided and people were stupid, shallow and callous. Good riddance. Please let 2021 be better.

Time I spent some time alone….

It is totally weird to me that with everything going on I somehow have lost track of time. Before all of this I was always busy and had stuff to do and time commitments stuffed to the gills.

Now, with everything coming to an slow crawl I still have little time to do the stuff I want. I make lists, I set things out, I set goals. where the hell has time gone?

I am somewhat proud of myself for the beginnings of a massive declutter in the back room. I have gotten rid of some unused tings but also found some crazy forgotten memories.

I think I need to get a new photo album and fill it. Probably works better than shelves, drawers and random boxes.

I got laid off from my job at Webster University. It was completely expected. My boss said we all get to come back when this is over, but by then the place will look like an unearth archaeological site and the first few days of work will suck ass. Not that everyday there doesn’t drag in some way. I do like working on a university campus, even though the kids are stupid and irritating and have absolutely the worst taste in music, generally.

I went into the art building one day and no one there had cool haircuts. Sad. Back in my day all of us at KCFV radio folks in junior college used to make a trip over to the art building during the first few days of the semester to see what was shaking. I was not sure why any of the others didn’t figure it out. We played cool music, they were cool looking and interesting and both sides were outcasts, misfits and creatives in a way. And. seem to remember they all had really cool long coats.

The best part was wearing all black was like a secret handshake or a sly nod. Sort of like ‘yeah we get it.’

But now, the kids have a lot going on and they are savvy and smart so I should cut them a break. My generation lived through Third Eye blind, Paula Abdul and Collective soul, there’s is living through fascism and a pandemic. So I should lay off.

Circling back to “work,” I still have my PT job at a magazine/convenience store. I got a nifty note on letterhead yesterday telling me I was ‘essential’ so if I am stopped a can show my papers. It is a double edged sword, I generally like the regulars I meet but they need to stay the hell home.

In better news, I did get a technical writing project and I am going to knuckle under and start on that today. It’s for a dental client so there’s a lot of dry research ahead of me.

I got curbside Indian food last night. Lamb Krahi, Aloo Gobi & garlic naan. There are leftovers! I live near an international grocery store which is nice and with most of the college hoodlums away it is bearable. Despite this, I set up from grocery delivery from a few places and I am looking at getting some other options.

One of my friends made an apple pie and left it on the back porch. It was seriously the best pie ever. Ever.

I am cooking more which is nice. Lots of Simple stuff. I have my grandmother’s recipe box from the ’50s and I am gonna start doing some of this. She meticulously typed each recipe on an index card. it is very beautiful and poetic. She shared my birthday.

I have had little time to watch TV but there’s a ton of ‘movies I have been wanting to get to’ in there. So we shall see.

Top Chef would be more interesting if the other chefs had to eat the loser each week. Also watching Jeopardy! Trying to avoid the news.

I know Scott Phillips form the bookstore I used to work at and the coffee shop I went to before all of this. He write books that I don not want to categorize but will call crime fiction. But they are not like Columbo or James Patterson. They have really gritty people in them doing weird and odd things. Bad things.

This is his new book. I started to read it. it has art forgery in it an dis very compelling. I love the way his books flow and pace. If you want t pass the time with a great read check this out.

Concord Press is a nifty publishing house that gives away free books. They are giving away some now in fact. Yesterday I got Rut, a sort of historical fiction story (also by Scott Phillips) and Zig Zag a short story collection from Madison Smart Bell who has written 12 books, none of which I have read.

I like short story anthologies and thought this would be good.

In appliance news I worry that then the coin operate washer and dryer are full we won’t be able to use them. I called the company that handles this but they were morons.

My hands are beat to hell from hand gel and soaps. Been moisturizing but now I have hands like my mom had late it life. She loved it when we put nice smelling aloe on her hands.

I haven’t dove into the puzzles yet or my book of word searches yet. I have found out a nice bench I like where I can sit alone if I want and read. Mostly though I am chilling on my porch and watching and listening to birds.

Another thing I am trying to do is take short walks. I enjoy the quiet but again am annoyed to see people outside screwing around. Stay home!

It is opening day for MLB. I am sad.

So I host a radio show on KDHX. I decided this week, even though media is also ‘essential,’ to do it remotely or with prerecords for the next few weeks. I miss the getting out and rush I get doing it live. However, being in a small room with the potential for lots of germs was not ideal.

They are providing gloves and hand wipes but it is still a small place and microphones as pretty crappy in that they keep germs around. So I aired on the side of caution.

I find that Grinding Halt by The Cure has become my song of the week. If you are bored (and who isn’t?) you can see it on their Hyde Park Concert from 2018 which is on HBO right now.

Sorry are from London. They are gonna be a big deal. Their new album 925 is on Domino Records. It is pretty tasty.

Kenny Rogers has passed away. Growing up I heard this music everywhere. The Gambler films were a big deal. It played all the time. He also had a string of hits that were catchy and less hoosier than some of the other crap that folks were listening to.

I will say that he was very distinguished looking as he aged and then he got a terrible face lift. Dude. Dude.

I often played Ruby late at night during my live DJ sets when all the kids were drunk. Let’s not talk about Six Pack.

But seriously he had string of hits that few artists in any genre can get. I don’t think people today realize that he was a seriously big deal. He crossed over from music to films and books at a time when it was not done often.

So the plan for today so far is to mop the floors, declutter do some technical writing. Plus some TV stuff to clear out the DVR maybe. I probably will hold off on the leftover Indian in favor or a pork chop and ramen noodles. I drank an Emergency C already so I may have tea later. I also have some oranges and grapes. The day includes no plans for drinking a funky cold medina.