I Haven’t Got A Witty Title

I guess I should begin by apologizing for the long delay. It has been a bit of a ride lately. Not that anyone really reads this or waits around for it.

Since I last wrote a post I have become even busier. The store I work at has extended its hours. This means I have about 20 hours a week now rather than 12 or so. It’s not a really great job, but I get to read a lot of newspapers and magazines from around the world and I meet some interesting people.

The big thing, however, is that I also picked up two writing gigs. The first is for a national chain of dentists. I write copy and content for their websites and social media. I also edit and write doctor bios. It’s not the most glamorous job but it pays well. The biggest hassle with it is that I work with this person who has a habit of being really condescending. It’s pretty annoying.

Anyhow, after I started that gig, I got another contract from an ad agency. It’s a shorter thing, mostly project by project. It has fewer hours, but it is still money and it is with an agency so that foot in the door helps a bunch.

The biggest thing about these two things is that they are remote and in my field. For years I have wanted to work in marketing and content creation, and this is my opportunity. However, it is ironic that I waited until the back end of the pandemic to find some steady work.

In addition to these, I also am writing articles when I can for a few magazines and websites. So far I’ve done a theater review, a couple of opera reviews and I just finished writing about a woman who owns a pastry shop in East St. Louis.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis has moved their season outdoors. So far the weather has been terrific for the three shows I have seen. They have done a great job of spacing things out and keeping the shows running smoothly.

It is nice to have the arts back. In so many ways they are leading us out of all this. Sports are too, but that’s different. The arts provide mental stimulation, relaxation, and an opportunity to engage in new ideas, stories and experiences.

St. Louis is really lucky to have such a vibrant theater scene. One that works together and endeavors to make our community a better one. In addition to Opera theater and The Rep, there are so many other companies that are plotting their return to the stage. that is awesome!

I also have seen two films at the Hi-Pointe because everyone there is responsible and sane.

While so many great restaurants have left us in the last year or so, many terrific ones are still around. This is why I am trying to eat and shop local.

Running a restaurant is hard work. It is backbreaking and there is always a worry about money, customers, and competition. It’s a rather rough way to earn a living, so please eat locally and tip when you get a meal!

I am still catching up on TV. I did enjoy The Queen’s Gambit. The overall narrative and pacing were great and the sets and costumes were eye candy in their use of color and pattern schemes. The acting was also pretty darn good too. I also enjoyed how its length was just right. I wish more shows would follow the lead and only release the exact number of episodes needed to tell the story correctly. By not having extended fluff and tight plotlines, the drama was heightened, and thus, more enjoyable.

I am now starting on The NeversThe Expanse, and Resident Alien based on personal recommendations. We shall see how that turns out. If that was not enough, there are still a lot of movies that I want to see too.

Once again I got credentials for the Vienna Shorts film festival. There was some really terrific work in it this year. I particularly loved the animated shorts. Some were delightfully melancholy and some were just tripy and weird.

I also like Bella, a short set in Athens, Greece doing the 1980s. It had a lot of layers to it that made it especially interesting.

Here’s a bit on some books that have interested me lately……

Anthony Bourdain’s World Travel is out. Sadly, it is a reminder of what we’ve lost. He really was a great writer. I don’t think people gave him enough credit for that.

Released posthumously, World Travel features Bourdain profiling some of his favorite places to eat around the globe.

Split into short sections, each filled with wit and insight, the book does suffer a bit from feeling incomplete. Its a great read but you can tell there was supposed to be a lot more.

Continuing on the idea of chefs turned writers is Yes, Chef, an engrossing book from Marcus Samuellson.

Seen on PBS’ No Passport Required and as a guest judge on a bunch of cooking shows, Samuelsson, who runs Red Rooster Harlem, candidly talks about how began his career and worked his way up the ladder to achieve notoriety.

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, his unique story is told in a refreshingly candid manner. His passion for food and the people who make it is at the core of this warm and candid memoir.

For some unexplained reason, there are a few books on 1984 in bookstores right now. At least one of them looks at the year in sports, while another focuses on the year in American music.

However, for me personally, David Elliott’s 1984: British Pop’s Dividing Year is the definite read on that year.

Told in great detail, the book features an incredibly fascinating year in music. From post punk to synthpop and a rising scene of jazz-flavored artists, Elliott covers it all.

The year saw the rise of The Smiths, an increased presence of socially conscious cuts, and a fierce streak of rebellion that led to some incredible music from a wide range of artists.

As Elliott points out in his self-published work, the specter of nuclear war looming over Thatcher’s Britain helped the pop music rebel, enthrall, and create some incredible music. From MTV to Apartheid and Band-Aid, no stone I left unturned.

I saw some live virtual concerts from Madness and Midge Ure. They were each good in different ways.

The Madness gig was a lot of fun. They played most of their hits and had Roland Gift and Paul Weller turn up to guest sing a few songs.

They also used some skits to break things up a bit and keep things light. I have never sene them live and this was a great way to experience their energy and chaos.

Digging into his catalog as a soloist and member of Visage and Ultravox, Midge Ure’s concert was a career-spanning affair.

Four decades on his voice is still in top form. He did all the hits, Fade To Grey, Reap The Wild Wind, and Vienna along with fan favorites like Mr. X and New Europeans.

Presented more or less as a straightforward barrage of songs, Ure was relentless as he energetically guided his band through the show.

Midge Ure was one of the last shows here in town before last year’s lockdown. I was sick as a dog and could not go.

As things begin to open up let’s all get our bearings……

Yep, in case you missed it COVID is still a thing! Really, I swear! But seriously, the pandemic is still kind of an anxious thing for me. I am vaccinated but am still wearing a mask and being careful. I have mostly eaten outside at restaurants. Going inside to eat still seems weird. I know it may be silly to be cautious but after being inside for so long it just seems like baby steps may be the best way to go.

Despite all the positivity and cheerleading about things going back to normal, I prefer to ride this out a bit longer. This is largely due to the fact that there are still a lot of idiots and morons out there waiting to just be silly and goofy and frustrating in their resistance to facts and science.

And, because there are also people in high places eager to prove them wrong, I just think I am going to be cautiously optimistic until I see more data come in on how things play out with the longevity of the various vaccines and how they hold up against new strains, especially the Indian ones.

I should point out that I am not against getting the vaccine in any way. I think they work and I think they are effective. But, I also know I am likely going to need a booster shot sometime soon. With that in mind, I prefer to be pragmatic in my return to the world of ‘normalcy.’

Anyway, that’s pretty much a rundown of all the shenanigans going on here. Again, I apologize for being so tardy and incredibly dull this time around. Hopefully things won’t be as scattershot next time.

Stay safe.

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.