"Crap! I wish I hadn't seen Ricky on the sidewalk."

"You will be fine for 31 minutes. You will be dead in 32 minutes."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bargain Bin

Dixie by Dorsey (B-196) Artwork by Jim Flora
I found this Jimmy Dorsey EP in a Goodwill store on Tuesday.  The Jim Flora artwork caught my eye and I immediately had to have it.  As it happens, both singles are in reasonable shape and it cost me less than a dollar.
My appreciation of Jim Flora goes back many years, but I'll save that story for another day.

On Trying to Be Funny in Front of Strangers

I'm doing a thing tonight, a reading with four other people and a woman who plays the accordion. 

It'll be quick, less than ten minutes, and the rehearsal went well but I'm still kind of agonizing over it.  I'm thrilled about participating, but I'm actually quite shy and I'll be happy when it's over.

The writing was no problem.  We're supposed to keep our performance to eight minutes (about 1500 words), so I made some cuts after rehearsal.  About a week ago, I started making subtle tweaks: a word here, a line there.  It's locked now, no more changes.  It's a little long, maybe thirty seconds.  If I do it right and the audience is into it, it won't matter. 

I have no idea what I'm going to wear.

Tolkien 'Bout a Revolution

Promotional button (2012)
I never read The Hobbit and I never read The Lord of the Rings.  There, I said it. 

In my experience, people who don't read a lot tend to make a lot of assumptions about people who do.  Same with movies.

I've worn glasses since seventh grade and worked in bookstores since college and yeah, I read a lot but I'm not interested in everything.  Nobody is.  Just because something is popular doesn't make it appealing.  "You like books, what did you think of Fifty Shades of Grey?"  Couldn't tell you.  Hunger Games?  I dunno. Harry Potter references are lost on me.

Do I consider myself a student of popular culture?  You bet.  Is it important to me that I know what's going on, that I know what people are chattering about?  Absolutely. 

But no, I don't read everything and I don't watch everything and the truth is, I don't even try.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Who Sez?

Okay, okay:  Homeland was already on my to-do list and I hate predictable award shows and it's quite possible that had Mad Men won again, Matthew Weiner would have said something insufferably smug. 

But is Homeland seriously better than Breaking Bad, which has never won a Best Drama emmy?  I mean, this was the year Gus Fring's face got blown off.  Whose face gets blown off in Homeland? 

And how come Cranston got blanked?  At least his is a streak I can get behind.

I'll watch you, Homeland.  I'll watch every episode of your first season and I'll decide for myself.  But somebody's face better get blown off, that's all I'm saying. 

Middle of the Row


I saw The Master on Saturday at 10 a.m., which meant I was in the theater with roughly fifty other people, most of them retirement age. 
I'm always a little nervous about seeing serious movies with an audience.  Young or old, they can all get on my nerves.  Oh sure, I can blot out the inappropriate laughter of punky teens whenever there's full-frontal nudity or the loud, bewildered comments of octogenarians who simply cannot follow a plot.  But I don't like having to do it. 
This audience was perfect.
I'll probably see the movie again in the next week or so and reserve most of my comments until then, but The Master was certainly satisfying in all the ways I expected, and it's clearly one of the year's best. 
One quick thought: Joaquin Phoenix has a peculiar way of standing throughout the film.  Each time I saw him standing there with his hands on his hips, I thought of Ed Grimley.  Or maybe Crispin Glover in Back to the Future. 
A little odd, but no big deal.

Friday, September 21, 2012

All Over But the Shouting

Is there a better director of hollering actors than Paul Thomas Anderson?

I'm seeing The Master this weekend and decided to go back to the well and rewatch There Will Be Blood.  I was not disappointed.  Daniel Day-Lewis is a howling loon.  Paul Dano is a bible-thumping pulpit screecher.  Both of them spend a good portion of the movie with their faces red from yelling.

Remember the scene in Punch-Drunk Love when Sandler is on the phone with Philip Seymour Hoffman and PSH is all ablaze, yelling at Sandler and telling him to shut up?

Shut up!  Shut the fuck up!  Shut up. Will you--shut up! Shut up! Shut shut shut shut shut up!  Shut up!  Now! 

Pure genius. 

I know The Master will have exquisite performances, extraordinary production values, and an outstanding soundtrack.  But mostly I'm buying a ticket to see someone lose their shit.

Go Ahead and Pull the Plug Already

This was not good, right?  I mean, not good at all.

After the one-two punch of Alias and Lost and the delicious eccentricity of Fringe, it seemed J. J. Abrams was dedicated to making shows I wanted to watch.  I'll give Undercovers a pass because it played like a Hart to Hart reboot and it had Ben Schwartz, but Alcatraz?  No thanks.  Person of Interest?  Not interested.  Bad Bad Robot!

The Revolution pilot was difficult to get through.  A real eye-roller.  Cringe-worthy.  I tried to channel my twelve-year-old self, but he would rather sniff glue out of a sock. 

Not even the presence of Giancarlo Esposito or the promise of Elizabeth Mitchell is likely to change my opinion on this one.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Guess the Movie #2

Good luck. 

Last week's answer was The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012). 

Middle of the Row

I have every intention of seeing The Master this week, but in the spirit of strict reporting, I did buy a ticket for Resident Evil: Retribution on Saturday.  We were celebrating a friend's birthday, and somewhere between the fish tacos and the beers and the Urban Cookies cupcakes, we slipped off to the local cinema. 

I cannot comment on the movie, because I slept through most of it. 

Lesson learned: I cannot drink a can of Old Chub (8% ABV) on an empty stomach as an appetizer.  Irresponsible, cannot be done.

Jean Theory

Is there a male equivalent of "mom" jeans?

I've been wearing the same damn brand of denim since high school.  Nothing fancy, Levi's 501 shrink-to-fit jeans.  Button fly.   We used to buy them at Miller's Outpost a couple of weeks before school started, and given my long, stubborn fashion history (black Hanes t-shirts, Chuck Taylors, jeans)it should come as no surprise that I've been repurchasing the same basic uniform for over three decades.

Until yesterday.

I don't know what the hell came over me, but I was in Old Navy and there was a sale and a coupon and I walked out with these things for $18 and change.  Jeans with a zipper?  Now I've seen everything.

Do I feel like a fraud?  You bet.  A cheap sonofabitch?  Uh-huh.  End of an era or just a momentary lapse in reason? 

It's too soon to tell.

I washed them, I wore them, I confessed my misgivings.  The people I was with last night couldn't care less. 

There is an inevitable invisibility that comes with age, that much I know, but I still want to recognize myself as I pass through life, undetected.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rubber Bumpers

I left work around 4:30 this afternoon and walked to the second floor of my parking structure.  As I headed down my row, I noticed a back bumper lying on the ground, no longer attached to a vehicle.
Some shmegegge must have driven by and hit the car. 
I dug my keys out of my pocket and started looking for my Honda. It took me a few seconds of walking back and forth to realize I was the poor sonofabitch with the damaged car.  My back bumper was unrecognizable down there by the back tires.  It looked like an unbuckled belt, or maybe a tie, carelessly loosened after a hard day at work.
A note had been left on my windshield, and the shmegegge turned out to be a very polite law student who was immediately forthcoming with his insurance information.
I called an office buddy and had him look at the bumper with me.  We got some duct tape and put the bumper back where it belonged.
I drove home slowly, avoiding the freeway, no longer critical of cars that appear to be held together by toothpaste and string.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Never Misfiled Anything.  Not Once.  Not One Time

By rights, this picture of Elizabeth Ashley should be a "Guess the Movie" entry:
Dr. Glaser (Elizabeth Ashley)
But it's obviously Vampire's Kiss (Robert Bierman, 1988).  The movie is pretty awful, but if you remember it at all you remember two things:  the moment where Nicolas Cage puts a live cockroach in his mouth, and Cage's hysterical tantrum over a misfiled publishing contract.

"W . . .X . . .Y . . .Z!!!"
"I never misfiled anything."

"Not once.  Not one time."

The truth is, there's a free HBO preview this weekend and I want to record the second season of Boardwalk Empire.  Time to clean out my DVR, which means adios to Vampire's Kiss, Electra Glide in Blue (skimmed, but mostly unwatched), the episode of Breaking the Magician's Code where I could have learned how to make a San Francisco cable car disappear, Scorsese's George Harrison doc (it didn't grab me like the Dylan), a random ep of Girls, and three hours of Restaurant: Impossible.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

45 RPM

"Light My Fire b/w The Crystal Ship"

The Doors (EK-45615-A), cover artist unknown

Do I remember where I bought this?  You bet.  It was a dumpy little thrift store in Gilbert, no longer in business, that I used to frequent once a month for nearly a decade.  I was mostly there for the books, but it was the records--the piles and piles of records carelessly thrown in a corner--that provided the most unusual rewards.
This Doors 45 is one of my favorite finds of all time.  I don't know the owner, but I understand the sheer enthusiasm for this song that prompted her to get out a ballpoint and some crayons and a litle masking tape and return the favor with this homemade sleeve.

The Doors (EK-45615-B), cover artist unknown

Or maybe the real artist was the owner's kid sibling, who accepted the responsibility when this record was handed down.  Some budding music critic, whose comments ("Very very good!" and "Very very nice!") still apply today.

Guess The Movie #1


Answer next week.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

C'est Chabon

So, I'm supposed to be reading this:

And I'm about fifty pages in (out of 468), but this is on:

Cowboys at Giants (9.5.12)

And the truth is, I've got a 1500 word monologue to polish by Friday.  So instead of reading the Chabon or watching a football game I have no real interest in, I work on the monologue while watching this:

Chopped (9.4.12)

Which feels like the right thing to do.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011)

I meant to watch this with Beth before she left for North Carolina, but the time got away from us.

We actually meant to watch it in the theater, but I guess 2011 got away from us.

I finally saw half of it Saturday night and finished it this evening.  Then I watched it again with commentary from writer-director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon.
"There is a storm coming . . ."


" . . . like NOTHING you have ever seen."

"And not a one of you is prepared for it."

The whole cast is outstanding, but Shannon is off-the-fuckin'-hook.
Powerful, disturbing, and challenging. 

The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942)

I wrote some posts today, a full year after I swore I'd start posting something.  And while I did, The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942) played in the background.

I won't pretend Sturges' work hasn't aged at all, or that his character names aren't ridiculous, or that all the gags still work.

But the guy had something undeniable, and an amazing four-year run (1940-44).

Toto (Sig Arno)
The Wienie King (Robert Dudley)


Long Players

On paper, I kinda dicked around this weekend, but only on paper.

I finished a book review (Nick Hornby's fourth collection of Believer columns, More Baths Less Talking) and I had every intention of working my way through Michael Chabon's new novel, Telegraph Avenue.  I'll get to it when I get to it, which means later today or first thing tomorrow.  I had lunch with my son on Sunday, then ran an errand for my daughter.  I did this in a hot car with no air.

What I did on Saturday was browse for records, which is exactly what I needed to do.   

Remember last Sunday, when I picked up this swell record by the Liverpool Five?  I spotted their name and noticed the cover of
"(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and figured it was worth my time and trade credit.

But it's their cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Sister Love" (recorded by The Impressions) that I cannot get out of my head and ears.

 I also picked up this Everly Brothers' collection from Cadence Records.  I usually throw on a record while I'm making dinner or cleaning up afterwards.  

This copy was especially clean, and I have no complaints other than the fact that some of my favorite Everly tunes were recorded for Warner Bros.

Last week was a particularly good haul, but I did well this weekend, too.

My first stop brought this Hollies album (in mono, no less).  I have several Hollies collections on cd, but this is exactly the sort of thing I look for in the vinyl bins.
Same story with the Everly Brothers.

I've heard their music a million times, now I want the vinyl.  And not the $20 vinyl reissues, that's too fancypants for me.  I want a nice used copy with liner notes for $3.

I have a great and longstanding appreciation of The Rutles.  This 12" single was in the dollar bin, an act of aggression that cannot and should not stand.  Not so long as I have a dollar, anyway.  It's on yellow vinyl and has the craziest scratch I've ever seen.

Crazier, still?  It played through perfectly without a pop.  Needless to say, I must be in love.

I clearly don't know everything, that's how much I know.  I'm a terrific fan of Clint Mansell's soundtrack work for Darren Aronofsky, but I'm going to come clean and admit I've never owned any music by his old band, Pop Will Eat Itself.

Box Frenzy, their debut album, was $4.  I mulled it over, refiled the record under "Misc. P", and swung by the next day to purchase it.  I'm still digesting Side One.

I made one final stop on Saturday.  This was a place I'd been to before, an antique shop where I purchased an old record console.  Before I left, I noticed a backroom piled high with records.  I went back on Saturday and quickly discovered the record room has no air-conditioning.  Well, what do you know?  A cheap sonofabitch, just like me.

I browsed for as long as I could, but there was an annoying fan blowing dust and hot air in my face as I went through the bins.

I pulled Jackie Wilson's Lonely Teardrops right off the display wall, but this copy of A Date With The Everly Brothers took considerably more digging.  Neither record had a price tag, but I noticed all the records were supposedly 30% off.  Most of the records were marked $2.99 - $5.99, so I wasn't terribly concerned.  After I'd endured all I could, I went up to the register and handed the cashier my records.  She agreed the records were not priced, and let me have them for $1.50 each. Plus the discount.
I went home and put on Side Two of A Date With The Everly Brothers while I made a call. I was waiting patiently for "Cathy's Clown," but could not get past the melancholy harmonies of "Love Hurts."
Goddamn it, Phil and Don. Love hurts.


Breaking (Out) Bad

Okay, so that happened last night.  And I know I have to wait a whole year to see what happens next, and no, I'm not happy about it but I'm okay with it.  I get it.  I understand.

Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can.

But can someone please explain why I am so hung up on the amount of makeup under Laura Fraser's right eye?  It's all I could look at while this scene between Lydia and Walt unfolded.

And if you pause your DVR and stand in front of your television, it looks like this:

Vince Gilligan is a control freak, yes?  Which is one of the reasons we love Breaking Bad so much, no? 

If it's nothing, I have a year to get over it.  But if it's something, I called it first.

C is for Collecting

A couple of times a year, a friend and I head east and scout for  books.  It's only a day trip, less than twelve hours from start to finish.  We start early, loading up the truck with a dozen or more boxes we've saved for the occasion. We never spend cash.  Cash is for people who don't know how to trade trash for treasure. 

I shouldn't say trash.  They're perfectly good, these books we're trading, every last one.  Later printings, quality paperbacks, reading copies. Nothing wrong with the books or the stories in them.  They're just not first editions, which is what we're after.  I have a garage filled with books to trade, and a house filled with books for keeping.

Our last trip was in May, and it went pretty much like it always does.  We hit the first store and unloaded half our boxes.  While the employees computed the value of our trade, we shopped.  My friend found something right off, some old French novels on a special display.  I really don't give a shit about Gide, so I started browsing.

How we do it:  I start at one end of the alphabet and he starts at another and we usually meet up around Cormac McCarthy.  That's not true, actually.  I scan a little faster than he does, so we usually meet up around Lawrence, or maybe Ken Kesey.

Once we meet in the middle, we compare the contents of each other's baskets. His was full, mine was not. We've been doing this for ten years without fighting or bad feelings.  We're interested in a lot of the same things, but not always at the same time.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Once, in Chicago, we switched sides after completing our inital half of the alphabet and I found a first edition of Mario Vargas Llosa's The Time of the Hero. Vargas Llosa had just won the Nobel Prize and the book was published by Grove, a press we both collect.  No gloating, no "look what you missed." Just, "hey, nice find" and "isn't this a nice bookstore?"

As it happened, he found something he wanted: a later printing of Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms.  I had seen it during my tour of the alphabet, but disregarded because it was an ex-library copy. Even so, neither of us had a copy or had ever seen a copy for sale, and there we were, in Chicago, with per diem money we'd set aside to buy books and records.  For once, we were there to spend cash.  There's never any trade credit when you're on the road, and besides, it's good to support local bookstores.  He bought the Capote and some Henry Miller books from behind the counter and I bought some vintage paperbacks to go along with the $8 Vargas Llosa.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My half of the alphabet had yielded nothing, and even though his basket was mostly filled with things I had no interest in, I was a little jealous of one book, an American first of The Plague in a handsome jacket.  Camus is a French writer I guess I do give a shit about. 

In the early days of our scouting trips, we were very arbitrary about who took what part of the alphabet.  Given our similar taste in books, who bought what was more about opportunity than skill.  But in the last few years, we've fallen into a routine at the stores we visit.  Had I been standing in front of the Camus, I would've bought it.  He got there first.  C'est la vie.

We each collected a few hundred dollars in credit and headed to our next location.  We unloaded a few more boxes, and began browsing.

And just like that, my luck changed.

There it was, sitting on the shelf.  A perfectly nice copy of Truman Capote's  Other Voices, Other Rooms. I hadn't seen a copy since Chicago, almost two years earlier.

I have a ritual when I find a book like this.  First, I check for the price.  Intact, $2.75. 

Then, I check for a previous owner's signature.  Perfectly clean.

At this point, it's time to confirm the edition.  Surely this was a later printing?

Nope, stated first printing.

I already know I want it, that  I will walk out of the store with it.  But how much are they asking for it, and how hard did they press with the lead pencil when they recorded the number?

$5.  A measly five bucks.

I feel giddy inside.  Giddy because this is a lovely copy of the Capote book.  Giddy because someone has written the price
with a light hand, easily erased.  Giddy because I get a 20% discount and the $4 I do pay will be taken off my store credit. 

But that's not all.  Inside the book, someone has tucked two publicity pictures of Capote, along with a Michiko Kakutani review of Gerald Clarke's Capote biography from 1988.  The clipping has not discolored the book in any way.

Is it worth $400?  $500?  Something like that.  I didn't buy it to resell it, I bought it because I'm a collector and this is what collectors do.  Take a big stack of Stephen King books or a box of Penguin classics and see what you can trade for them.

I got something else that day, a special edition of Twilight signed by Stephenie Meyer that had been badly overpriced at $250.  But the way the price was written in the book, it looked like $2.50.  Again, I'm not here to resell or make a profit.  I try to turn less interesting books into blue chip books. 

I brought the Meyer book up to the register, stuck it in the middle of the stack.  If I'd been charged $250, I would've happily put it back.  No harm, no foul, no skin off my beak. 

The cashier looked at the price, the book, and then the price again.  She started to say something and I shrugged and said, "yeah, I know," and then she charged me $2.50, less my 20% discount.

In all, it was a very good day.