Friday, January 31, 2014

Change Of Heart

I have lately started doing a thing that I once swore I wouldn't do- something that I hated. I'm pretty active on Twitter, but for all of my effort since I got very serious about it, I have struggled to attract a very sizable following. I suspect that a part of it is my antipathy towards chasing trends. Twitter is heavily composed of trends, and it happens to be a big way in which anyone gains a following beyond their own friends.

I never have much gone for writing tweets for trending hashtags, and I always hated seeing them from those who I follow. I always tolerated it, but I hated it. Finally, I had a conversation with a friend who had done it, and he talked about the practical gains in followers he'd made based on things like live-tweeting wrestling matches and doing this thing called Hashtag Wars from a show called "@Midnight". Several days a week, they post some combination of two things, and the goal is writing funny combinations of them both. A recent one was "Failed Sports Teams", so you write examples of what that would be.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Responder

You still learn things as long as you remain committed to the process. I've been doing improv for a few years, and there's a lot left to know. I have some natural obstacles to deal with, so maybe it's a longer road for me than for others. I know the fundamentals, but executing some things that go against my personality flaws is a real challenge. Becoming a better improviser will, necessarily, make me a better, happier and more successful person.

I picked up something in improv class a couple days ago that was interesting. I am an all or nothing person in some ways. I do well with things that I do every day. I struggle with things that I do not do that regularly. I suspect that it's an obsessive-compulsive thing. Sometimes that can work for you. I obsessively write for this blog to ensure that a post goes out every day. I write a minimum of seven tweets for every day, spacing them two hours apart from 10am to 10pm. That is set in stone.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sue For Peace

I sometimes have a way of making bold assertions that I can't really back up. I know I shouldn't step out onto uncertain ground, but I can't help myself. Where other people might admit their mistake and let everybody move on, I have my own way. I'm regrettably stubborn, and cling to my position like a mule in the face of universal hostility and unimpeachable facts. It's not an aspect of my personality that I'm proud of, but there it is.

Yesterday I critiqued Leonardo DiCaprio for seeming to play nothing but rich, tormented characters. In my mind were his turns in such films as "The Wolf Of Wall Street", "The Great Gatsby", and "The Aviator". My roommate pointed out a number of films in which he was not playing a rich or tortured character, including "Blood Diamond", "Shutter Island" and others. I masochistically helped him out by mentioning "Titanic" to further aggravate him.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On Chuck Norris

I touched on the merits of Chuck Norris' acting the other day, and I felt today that I should address the matter further. I had watched one of his movies, "Silent Rage", and concluded that he is the worst. I mean that even in the undemanding arena of 80s action movies, he's got to be the worst actor in the bunch. He emotes less in than contemporaries who were playing robots. It's really a hell of a thing to watch.

Norris doesn't do especially well in scenes where he's called on to be a tough guy but it gets very dicey when he has to act normal. You'd think he would shine in fight scenes, having been the world middleweight champion of karate, but those films of his that I've seen so far don't call on him to fight as often as they call on him to shoot. To be fair, I've only scene three of his movies so far, so I'll reserve judgment there.

Monday, January 27, 2014

On "Wig Wam Bam"

As I think I've said before, I get very obsessive about certain movies and songs. If one that really strikes my fancy comes along, I will play it over and over and over until I have completely slaked my thirst for it permanently. That's happened with movies like "Abraxas, Guardian Of The Universe" and songs like "Them Changes" by Buddy Miles. Eventually I develop an ordinary affection for them, but first it is white hot and then it is completely gone.

The latest song to join that pantheon is "Wig Wam Bam" by Sweet. I already knew some of their songs, such as the classic "Ballroom Blitz" and "Fox On The Run". I didn't know them incredibly well, and so when this particular song came on the radio while I was perusing VHS tapes at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, I didn't know what it was or who it was by. It occurred to me that there are iPhone apps that can ID a song like that, but I didn't have one, so I searched for it and was satisfied that I had found it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


My VHS collection continues to grow, as do my inroads into the world of record collecting. I have in recent days picked up seven tapes, and more records. I remain green where the latter are concerned. There are a number of things that leave me ill at ease, and i do hope to feel better with experience. I enjoy records, so I don't want to give any impression to the contrary, but there are some little things that presently mar the general experience.

Honestly, it's a bother that some many people are into it. I don't need to be super cool with my interests. It's not a problem to me that other people are into records. I don't need them all to myself, but there are some practical considerations. For one thing, one must spend more money to obtain decent records. Good VHS tapes can be had for very little, but one must enter the midrange to get decent records, and the high end to get really good ones. That has been my experience so far. It may sound logical economically, and maybe it is, but I don't like it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Not My Forte

Trolling is an interesting thing to me. You're trying to trick someone into believing something inflammatory in the hopes that you can get a rise out of them. In a way that's unsupportable. It's unkind to manipulate people, although it's hard to escape the feeling that some people having it coming. I guess there are different levels of trolling. I wouldn't do it except at a low level. It would have to be something mild, and I wouldn't want to leave someone with the wrong idea for long.

I don't think I'm very good at trolling. When I try it on Facebook or on Twitter, it gets no reaction. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I think I may be trying to convince people of something where they wouldn't know the difference either way. I try to find something where I can tweak it until it's just a hair on the wrong side of believability, but maybe I have that calibrated improperly. I like to think that I can deliver it in a straight enough way that I'm not tipping my hand, but I must just be picking the wrong material.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Paper Or Paper

Somebody probably collects coasters. Even the paper ones at bars are probably something someone collects. I see that as being a less reasonable collection than mine of VHS tapes, but not everyone does, I'm sure. Maybe most people don't. Anyway, I have a few of them myself. They're really all I have for use as coasters, those paper bar mats. There are those and junk mail envelopes, which actually are very useful in the sense that they keep condensation off the table and have space for at least two glasses.

They all are decorated with beer brands. I link a lot of them promote Bud Lite. Bud Lite is pretty good, actually. They put out a lot of paper beer coasters, they make great commercials, and they're at the vanguard of beer can innovation. It's just that they make lousy beer. Maybe that's not fair. It's acceptable beer, provided you've had a shot at better beer before that. I certainly would not refuse a can of it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fast Reader

I have lately been reading an awful lot. For me that's really saying something. I've always got a book, but they usually take at least a couple weeks to get through. I tend to read only while traveling or before bed, which limits the rate at which I can read. It's also easy to get out of the habit of reading for a while, especially in the middle chapters of a book that is no longer excitingly new. I do still read a lot of books in a year.

As I said, though, I have lately been going through more books. Really I just mean in the last few days. I had been reading "The Onion Field". I had that rather tragic tome for about a month, in the middle of which I didn't get a lot of reading done. As is my wont, I started strong and finished strong. I often finish books in a late night tear as I realize how near I am to being finished. The promise of starting a new book is a powerful motivator.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


As much a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger as I am and as long as I have been one, there are a fair number of his films that I have not seen. Some are among his classics. I never saw "Twins". I missed a number of the movies he made after "Eraser", which was his last movie that I enjoyed without reservation. I also missed some of his earlier movies, including ones before "Conan The Barbarian", and a couple from after.

The two post-breakout, pre-decline action films of his that I had missed were "Red Heat" and "Raw Deal". I recently managed to catch them both. Red Heat I watched in the early hours of New Year's Day. I don't have great recall of it, being a bit inebriated at the time, but I enjoyed it well enough. Arnold is a Soviet cop who comes to America to find a criminal. Naturally he must team up with Jim Belushi. It's not too bad.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shirt Spite

I bought a shirt at Goodwill recently. Really I bought several, all of them pretty great, but one in particular seems remarkable. It especially made me glad I perused the menswear section on that day when I really just meant to buy some records. It was a brand-new shirt, as far as I could tell. Like one of the other shirts, it was new enough that it still had a sticker naming the inspector who approved it (and not by number, but by first and last name).

The shirt references something from the recently-concluded hit show "Breaking Bad". I watched the first few episodes of the first season and concluded that it was not for me. It subsequently became a huge phenomenon that all my friends love dearly. I'm left feeling left out and frustrated, which my friends know. I try not to bring it up, and I try not to say anything about the subject if it comes up anyway. That wouldn't help anything.

Monday, January 20, 2014


The matter of punctuality drives me insane. I'm prone to being late sometimes, I'll admit. Some of my most frantic, unglued moments have been ones in which I am late or at risk of being late. When one is running late and reliant on public transportation, the knowledge that one can do absolutely nothing but wait and hope for the best is not pleasant. Driving, one has the hope that comes from knowing an alternate route could conceivably speed things up. I don't have that hope generally.

Mostly I manage to avoid such incidents of lateness, whether it is for something critical like an audition or something unimportant like a casual get-together. It seldom seems that people appreciate the lengths to which I go, but the compulsion to be on time is very natural to me, so I guess I don't need to have my efforts validated by other people. It would be nice, but I take comfort in knowing that I have lived up to my own standards, or tried to.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Getting Soft

Of all the things that are supposed to make you happy in life, the most effective are often not very exciting. The exciting things are often a real crapshoot. Things ranging from consumer electronics to nights out drinking and partying can sound great, but even when they pay off their impact is limited. There are little things that make a steady impact, and not just a small one either. I find it hard to appreciate them properly, even as I extol them.

Pillows are a fine example. I've got a terrible pillow right now. I've gone with it for the last couple years, maybe. I thought it would be a good one, as it was at least in the mid-range of pillows at Target. I went for a firmer one, which maybe was my big mistake. It is definitely not intensely comfortable. Lately the cumulative effect of all those nights laying my head on it has been making itself known. I don't sleep well on it, nor do I rush to try sleeping most nights, with that being one contributing factor.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Yet Another Lesson

There are many things that you do poorly, get a lesson about, and then continue to do poorly. It sometimes takes many lessons, and sometimes no number of lessons is enough. I have struggled to learn about eating properly. There have been a lot of lessons that ought to have set me straight, stretching back plenty of years. The lessons keep getting more severe, which is the nature of these things.

When I was a teenager, I could eat anything. There was then no evidence of my vulnerability. Not long after that, there started to be foods that actually staggered me. More than once I ate something like a Jack In The Box meal, quickly feeling sick to my stomach afterwards. Why would I ever have done that a second time? The memory of faintly enjoying the food should never have been adequate to compensate for the nausea that always accompanied it.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Last night I got back to helping out with my friend's roller derby practice. Some time ago, I helped run the penalty box in a practice game and then a scrimmage. I found that interesting and challenging. I resolved to do more when I could, but my schedule mostly did not cooperate. This year things have changed, and I'm more free to join in the roller derby. I was to be a part of a real game last week, but my birthday interfered.

Last night though, the stars aligned and I went to practice. I assumed I would be there to build on the experience I'd gained with the penalty box. It was not to be. Instead, I was assigned the more important task of timing jams. The game consists of these jams, which can run up to two minutes long, but which can also be cut short for different reasons. I had been afraid to take on the job before, but there was no choice this time, as they don't bother with penalty box timers if there is a shortage of people.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Back At It For Audience New

For the first time in a long time, I gave a speech today in my Toastmasters club. I can't say how it went just yet, as I'm writing this in advance. Let's call this one of those "The Secret" things, and I'll say for now that it went very well. It's yet another of those ones where I finally got on the ball about it a day in advance when it finally began to feel real. It would feel rather strange if I were ever to give a speech that could really be said to have been prepared.

This speech comes from the beginner's manual, which I am going through for the second time. It reminds me how much I have yet to learn even in the area of the fundamentals. This particular speech concerns the use of visual aids, which I have always eschewed for fear of their ability to fail at the worst of times and to distract from the main thrust of a speech even at the best of times. I have high hopes that I will handle my visual aids well this time.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On "Angel 4"

When you collect VHS tapes as I do, you often run the risk of winding up with something rather different from what you expected in the store on the basis of the box cover. I think that having nothing to go on but that cover art is something I miss about the old days. It's hard now to not know anything about a movie, and there's no box cover. There's a picture of one maybe, but there's all this other information far more illuminating than the back of the box.

Take "Angel 4" as an example. I bought it on the strength of its absurd, lurid cover, and paid more than I ought to have. It depicted a woman with a starkly contrasting double life. By day, it claimed, she was a respectable businesswoman. by night she was a sleazy prostitute. The cover art missed no chance to hammer home the Madonna/whore thing, and I admit I was very taken with the shamelessness of that pitch. Of course I bought it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gift Of Patience

I recently received a typewriter for my birthday. I had expressed an interest in having one recently, eager as I was to adopt the tools of writing idols in hopes that I might be influenced in content. The typewriter is a "Generation 3000" manual typewriter, and seemingly a fine model for someone who's never really used one before, not that I know much about it all. I knew what a Smith Corona was, and beyond that I didn't really know anything.

A day or so after I got the thing home, I was anxious to try it out. I took it out of its bag, moved my laptop to set it on the desk, and got out some blank sheets of paper. I keenly felt my ignorance as I struggled to so much as load the paper into the machine. I managed after a fashion to get it in there and type a little, at which point I ascertained that the ribbon was perhaps a little past its prime. I resolved to buy a fresh one where and when I could.

Monday, January 13, 2014

More Albums

I've bought some more records for my player. I have nine altogether now. The big bookstore downtown which entertains as many amateur photographers as it does devotees of books. In fact they have considerably more than books. I have, as I think I may have said, often bought VHS tapes there, and now I turn to that bookstore for vinyl records. They have many more of those than they do my beloved tapes. Vinyl records are significantly more popular in general.

I bought two albums by Linda Rondstadt. I like her work, but the only albums of hers that I really have any interest in are those in which she records songs written by Warren Zevon, whose own versions I tend to prefer anyway. That's not to impugn Rondstadt. She has a lovely voice, and I have no doubt that I will enjoy the albums. I just wish they would have had some of Zevon's own albums. I'll get some yet. Anyway, I have "Living In The USA" and "Hasten Down The Wind".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Birthday Bedlam

As I guessed early Friday, the impact of my birthday festivities that night left me rather incapacitated for the duration of the following day. I have heard how it pays off to mix in glasses of water with all the alcohol one drinks in the course of an evening, but that is a lesson that I have yet to learn. I was advised after the fact by a friend that on one's birthday, such precautions are not to be taken in any case. I was glad to be vindicated.

Dinner was good. It followed a fit of anxiety as the burden of logistical planning began to overwhelm me, and I feel that every birthday ought to contain both a freak-out and friends good enough to help you through it. Dinner was pushed back, but things otherwise proceeded apace. The restaurant, which as I think I said yesterday excels at bacon and which I first visited a few years ago for the party of a friend, was good.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pointless Lament

I would like to tell you how things went last night for my big birthday night, but I anticipated in advance that I would be in no shape to write something right now. In all probability, I am hastily trying to recover in time for my plans for this evening. Maybe tomorrow I'll talk about last night, which would push any account of tonight to two days from now. Anyway, let's not sully this time with take of schedules and maybes. Let's "live in the now".

It gets harder to see my friends all the time. This is something I may have written something about before, but it's an ongoing thing. Some friends are constantly busy with performances. The only way to see them, and this is not so new, is is to be there for their performance either as a spectator or as a fellow performer. It is a powerful career motivator to know that you must stay busy working on your "craft" or else not see your friends. The alternative is to spend all your discretionary income on their shows.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Throw It Together

If you're a devoted reader, that's an extremely pleasant surprise, but more importantly, it means that you would be aware today's post went out late. I hope I didn't spoil anyone's day with that. I am a touch scattered, this being my birthday week. I did mention that yesterday, so I'll quickly summarize by saying that birthdays have grown increasingly tough and planning any kind of celebration is almost beyond my ability entirely.

I finally got on the ball yesterday, selecting a reasonable restaurant to start the evening off with. I had been there a few years before and remembered liking it. They make a big deal of their "Crack Bacon", which I do remember as being good. I got the BLT on that occasion. Maybe the weather will be nice enough that we can sit outside. That ought to burn those of you who live in cold weather regions (if there is anyone reading this who lives in such places).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Yet Another

It's my birthday today, and since I'm writing this in advance, I can only hope that I'm coping with it well. As in most years, I have dawdled about planning anything. The time when I should be thinking about it is the Christmas season, and I'm just treading water during that time. I just begin to think about it for real after the new year, and every day finds me briefly trying to think of something to do and then quickly giving up.

I finally have a faint plan, although as is fashionable, I have pushed it to the nearest available weekend night. There is a burlesque show I'd like to see, and so I'm hoping to do that on Friday. It should be a pretty good time, and most of my friends are of the sort to enjoy that. Some are not, which I can respect. It's just as well to pick something that will put some people off, because as much as I want everyone's attention, I react poorly when I have it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Collection

I'm awfully happy to have gotten a new turntable for Christmas. It arrived a couple days ago, and I was taken back to the days when I had my Sega Genesis and no games, because I had this turntable and no records. I contented myself with frantically worrying over whether it would play properly or not (which shows I've matured: as a boy, I pretended to play video games with my Genesis). I was resolved, of course, to get some records as soon as possible.

Yesterday I went to a local thrift store and bought a few. Anything would have been OK, but I was hopeful that I would find some music I actually would enjoy. Happily, it worked out that way. The record I've enjoyed the most so far is "Running On Empty" by Jackson Browne. I like his music, and that album has the two songs of his that I know very well at all. I only wish that Warren Zevon was in the mix.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


When I was younger, it was hard to relate to some of the things my parents said. A particular thing that was hard to believe was how terrible meetings were for my father. That may sound incredible, but I had a hard time believing that meetings would be as consistently unpleasant and useless as he often made them out to me. A day spent in meetings was a day wasted, as he would tell it. They were just objectively bad things.

Somehow I had a hard time believing that. I could imagine the meetings not being fun. After all, they were a workplace duty, and I understood that work was something that was often not fun. If the meeting was part of something recreational, then surely it held the potential of being fun. You could have a meeting to decide what ice cream flavors to stock the home refrigerator with, for example. That's a bad example.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Name Game

Improv team names are both important and unimportant. Having done improv for a few years in what I think can rightly be regarded as one of the hotbeds thereof in this world, I like to think I know something about what makes a good name. I've been thinking about it lately because one of my teams has been working on a new name to account for the fact that we are a very differently constituted team from the one that picked the name we'd been going with: "Mrs. Belvedere".

That's an important thing, that the name mean something for the people it represents. It should make you happy to say it in a show or to people in conversation. I had only ever been OK with the name, myself. When our composition changed, it no longer adequately spoke for the team any more than it ever had for me, and the motivation increased to do something about it. For that reason we had a little get together to pick a new name.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Double Fault

The easiest thing to do is to take your time and getting something right the first time. This is especially so when no one is expecting you to do anything. You're acting on nothing but your own impatience. This happens to me often. It's an overreaction to the fear that I won't do the thing at all. I'm susceptible to paralysis by analysis, and so the grapes can die on the vine while I try to get them just right. Sometimes I run them out there prematurely.

Sometimes, against all odds, the thing I hurry out actually is in good shape, but it's really the exception. What happens more often is that I see some unacceptable mistake (which is perhaps unacceptable only in my mind), and I have to fix it. The trouble is that I am now so flustered that I feel I must rush out a correction. This has the effect of introducing a flaw even worse than was there already into the thing I'm doing.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Evolution Of Collection

I am reaching a different level in my collection of VHS tapes. I'm having a hard time remember exactly how I got going. When I bought the first tapes I have now, it was not unusual to buy them. They were still fairly current technology. When I got going more recently, I think I bought the VCR and then started looking for tapes, I found it slow going, not really knowing then where to look outside of the nearest thrift stores. I was not particular in what I bought.

I started doing better at finding places that had good ones, and it soon got to where I was buying at least a few more tapes than I could manage to watch. Some of my friends knew I was buying tapes, but I didn't have so many, and I wasn't making a big deal of it to anyone. They might say to me how they'd seen a tape they thought I might like, or they might give me a tape, but that was the extent of it. My collection was a modest one.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Final Analysis

I think it's time to wrap it up with "Tango & Cash".  After fifteen posts, I have pretty exhaustively covered every scene, character and aspect of the plot that I have very much enthusiasm for, probably spoiling the movie for those who haven't seen it any number of times. It has been nice to know what I was going to write about for this long (giving me some appreciation for the sort of more focused blog that I always meant to eventually transition to once I figured out what I wanted to write about. It has, of course, been some five years at this point).

I hope that I have sparked some interest in the film. It honestly, truly is a personal favorite of mine, however often I let slip my feelings about parts of it that leave anything to be desired. It's a kind of film that is not made much anymore. It's an A-list action movie with no pretensions towards being anything more than a delivery mechanism for spectacular stunts and quips. It does that very well, really. If I haven't made you feel those feelings even a little, I don't think I've done as well as somebody else could have.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Revisionist Film History

Something I wondered about "Tango & Cash" today is what would have happened if they had gone to the minimum security prison they were supposed to instead of the nightmarish facility they are sent to. As many times as I've watched the movie, it's hard for me to understand how you could not just railroad the two cops, but also see to it that they go to a prison that is not the one they are supposed to under the publicly disseminated terms of a plea deal.

Whether I get it or not, that's what happens. Being sent to a dangerous prison is a more dramatic development and heightens the urgency of getting out, clearing their names and busting the villain Perret, and I might well wonder what would have been if they had not been framed at all or if there was no Perret, but I do still wonder what might have been if they wound up in the minimum security prison they were supposed to.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Warden Off A Hangover

Since it was very nice to ring in the new year with some dear friends, I'd like to look at another friend character in "Tango & Cash". It's Gabe Cash's former commanding officer Matt. As of the film's inception, he is an assistant warden at the horrific prison where Cash and Tango have been sent to ultimately be murdered. Although they have some pretty bad luck in this movie, it is fortunate that they go somewhere that a friend is in authority.

In any event, Matt gets involved once Tango and Cash are nearly killed. Presumably he knew they were arriving, or at least that they had arrived. Then again, it's known to us that the prison is heavily corrupt, and somehow Matt is the lone virtuous member of the whole operation. Everyone else is not just corrupt, but murderously so, and our friendly assistant warden cannot by himself offer any kind of protection or easily spirit them out of the prison.