Thursday, January 08, 2015

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, Volume 9

Well, that corridor from Thanksgiving to Christmas is a big old heaping bunch of bullshit.  Doing my damnedest to get my writing project back on track, and though I was able to spit out 800 words tonight, it felt mechanical, and my feeling afterward was that it was just no damn good.

I also lagged behind on this part of my project.

I'm still ridiculously behind where I am viewing (I'm nearly up to the H's), but I did spend a good bit of December re-watching Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Elf and March of the Wooden Soldiers.

Anyway.  Just a few thoughts on flicks I own.

Cold Mountain    (2003, D: Anthony Minghella)

I think I own this owing to my love of the Charles Frazier book, which is up there among my favorites.  The movie itself is not bad.  It's actually pretty good.  But the book is poetry.  And while I initially hated Renee Zellweger's Ruby Thewes, it's actually the performance I enjoyed most this time around.

It made me miss Philip Seymour Hoffman, too.  I don't know why I like him so much as Veasey, but I do....

The Conspirator    (2010, D: Robert Redford)

I just like this flick.  I'm not going to tell you it's a great flick.  In fact, it's a bit of a galumphing mess.  I watched it originally because the husband of one of my workers is big into the re-enactment scene, and got to go be part of the filming.  I ended up liking the flick enough to pick it up in a $5 bin, he said, trying not to damn with faint praise....

Contact    (1997, D: Robert Zemeckis)

I love this movie.  Every time I watch it, I like it a little more.  It's a story of faith.  Religious fervor isn't limited to the religious.  Somehow, after seeing the flick a dozen times, I found myself laughing at the irony of Ellie's fate at the end, the lone recipient of a message from a higher power, with no scientific means of proving her statements.  Previously, I'd found it sad for Ellie.  Don't know why it hit me different this time....

Contagion    (2011, D: Steven Soderbergh)

Another movie that is something of a mess, yet it works on the frightening level I need it to.  This flick makes me want to rethink a career working with the public.  Makes me wonder, if and when such an event takes place, whether I'd be one of the first exposed to a virus.

Crazy Heart     (2009, D: Scott Cooper)

Beautiful flick.  One of Jeff Bridges's finest roles.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is great, but the real miracle of this flick is making it so that I don't pass out when I roll my eyes every time Colin Farrell speaks.  He is actually believable in this.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What I read in 2014

Read a good bit in 2014.  My resolution a couple years back was to read (or listen) to an average of a book a week.  I think I finished around 48 in 2013.  Got to 51 in 2014.  A couple of factors played into this...around June I decided to re-read The Stand, while listening to A Dance with Dragons.  Each of those took me about a month.  Then, December became a clusterfuck during the freight train rumble from Thanksgiving to Christmas (I've been thumbing through both Kip Thorne's book about the Science of Interstellar and Cherie Priest's Fiddlehead all month).

Anyway, a month-by-month breakdown of what I read this year:


Outer Dark, by Cormac McCarthy (Dark and Beautiful.  Like a poem about a nightmare).
A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin  (started in 2013, but finished in January)
The Alchemy of Stone, by Ekaterina Sedia
Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny, by Garrison Keillor
This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper  (still need to see the flick...)


He Drank, and Saw the Spider, by Alex Bledsoe   (good one, from Alex....)
Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank   (one of those I'd always meant to read....Twilight Zone-y)
Horns, by Joe Hill
Ted Williams: Biography of an American Hero, by Leigh Montville


Story of Civilization, part I:  Our Oriental Heritage, by Will Durant
Beyond Bartman, Curses & Goats: 105 reasons it's been 105 years, by Chris Neitzel
True Grit, by Charles Portis   (a re-read, but a great one)
Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy
Blackout, by Connie Willis


Crooked Little Vein, by Warren Ellis
I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like, by Todd Snider
Ganymede, by Cherie Priest
30 Tickets to Paradise, by Cody Kaufman
Sacre Blue, by Christopher Moore  (made me find a new appreciation for Moore)


Union 1812, by A.J. Languth
Trail of Tears, by John Ehle  (the one that got me into my family history research, this year)
Serpent of Venice, by Christopher Moore
Under the Bright Lights, by Daniel Woodrell


A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin
The Stand, by Stephen King


Flight, by Sherman Alexie
Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss


Marvel Comics: the Untold Story, by Sean Howe
Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King
The Man Who Killed Richard III, by Susan Fern  (And I may have Kingslayer in my blood)
The Smoke at Dawn, by Jeff Shaara


Jam, by Yahtzee Croshaw  (maybe the most pleasant surprise of 2014)
Dixieland Delight, by Clay Travis
Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest
Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier
Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey


Flood, by Andrew Vachss
Supergods, by Grant Morrison
Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi
South of the Pumphouse, by Les Claypool


Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer  (A great recommendation by Teresa)
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Graham
Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry
A Load of Hooey, by Bob Odenkirk
Nos4a2, by Joe Hill   (a re-read, because I upset Shyam when I let her read it...)


Kiln People, by David Brin  (my buddy Steve recommended this one...was awesome!)
In the Woods, by Tana French
The Science of Interstellar, by Kip Thorne
Fiddlehead, by Cherie Priest

A quick note.

There were a couple aborted reads in I won't go back to, and another I will.

I tried, for the second time, Bill Bryson's At Home.  I've liked Bryson in the past, but this one just kept alternating between boring and snotty.  I don't think I'll try it again.

The other was David Mitchell's Bone Clocks, which just wasn't striking me right.  I think I might go read a couple others of his before I go back to this one.....

Friday, December 12, 2014

Things Better than Chicken Wings to Yell About

I got yelled at about chicken wings today.

It's a long story that I can't really write about because I've agreed not to as a condition of employment.  Meet me out behind the Dairy Queen next Tuesday night, and while we pick through the Dumpster Leavins, I'll tell you the tale in all its hilarious glory in person.

Anyway.  If you find yourself yelling about chicken wings (a food sold by damn near every restaurant in town, as well as every other grocery store, by the way), you really just need to realize that you're the asshole.  Chicken wings are a stupid thing to yell about.   I have taken the time to make short (and by no means exhaustive) list of things better to yell about than chicken wings:

  • War
  • Pestilence
  • Famine
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Agism
  • Deism
  • Atheism
  • Christmas
  • Christmas Music
  • Christmas Decorations
  • The complete lack of Kwanzaa decorations at my store.
  • The complete lack of WWE Royal Rumble memorabilia at my store.
  • Monkeys stealing your shit
  • Monkees stealing your shit (especially that fuckwit Peter Tork).
  • That thing where one nostril is clear, but the other congested
  • The fact that Jon Lester, if he averages 115 pitches a game, over 32 starts, if you break it down by pitches, will make what I make after 7 pitches next year.
  • Bears in the house.
  • Wolves in the house..
  • Pigs in the house.
  • Birds in the house
  • Bats in the house
  • Bugs in the house
  • When somebody doesn't replace the toilet paper in the rest room.
  • When the elastic on the boxers wears out, and they slink down inside your pants, held in place only by the pants crotch
  • People who don't use their turn signal
  • People who take forever to turn right off of a road
  • People who don't utilize the shoulder in such occasions.
  • The fact that Dwyane Wade spells his name that way
  • The fact that Guacamole Doritos will never come back.
  • Some people are pushing for the DH in the National League
  • Hats
  • Bats
  • Cats
  • Brats (the sobbing children, and whatnot)
  • Brats (the sausage)
  • The fact that I can't get Chicken Korma delivered to my house.
  • Couples who share facebook accounts
  • Husbands who post on their wife's Facebook account.
  • Bear in your house
  • Bear in your car
  • Bear in your shower
  • Bear under the sink
  • Bear in the commode
  • Toilet Snakes
  • Ebola
  • Legionnaires Disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Leprosy
  • Lepropepsi
  • The fact that King Kong Bundy isn't in the WWE Hall of Fame
  • The fact that Koko B. Ware is.
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Mike Tyson
  • Milton Bradley
  • Pete Rose
  • My damnable crush on the Wendy's girl
  • The mere suggestion that Seth Rogen should play me in a movie
  • the University of Alabama
  • Blueberry Frosted Mini Wheats (I was actually yelled at about these, too)
Yelled at.  

I'm not exaggerating.

Who yells at a stranger about cereal?  Or wings?
Who does that?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving week

Warming up the brain, warming up the fingers.  I have a funeral to write about in the project.

It's Thanksgiving week.  Busiest week of the year in ye olde grocery biz.  Surprised that I ended up with the Sunday before off, except that I'll be working Turkey Day itself.

Lot's of shit up on the Facespace and all that about people arguing whether stores should be open on Thanksgiving, and all that.

My short answer?  If it were mine to open and close, I would not open.  That said, I am not terribly up in arms about being the manager on duty that day.  The fact that my family will be eating our Thanksgiving dinner on another day does have something to do with that answer, however.

Can I answer a couple of quick responses to complaints about working holidays?

1.)  People are paid more for their holiday work.  (Mine aren't.  Nor am I.  That's a company decision.  I'm interested to hear if competitors are paying more for holidays, but I'm betting they're not).

2.)  People need those hours.  (Maybe, but those on my full time staff who aren't working the holiday are getting their full allotment of hours.  Funny how that works.   The part timers who work for me usually end up getting more hours, too.  Sometimes to cover for the folks who live far away, and are attending school in my town)

Only tangentially related:  reading a book called Kiln People, by David Brin.  Elisson gave me a copy at the last Hysterics at Eric's get together in October.  I'm about 20% through right now, but I will say there was a bit about people having to swear fealty to a company, and I had to stop reading to laugh, and then feel a little bad about my place in the fiefdom.

I dunno.  At the end of the day, I've accepted that my store will be open.  It's only a half day for us, so there's some small victory in that.  Is it a necessary day?  No.  Not really.  I honestly think that if everybody closed up, maybe the largest part of society would learn to get their shit together and buy by Wednesday, and those that can't would learn to do without.  But, we're open, so come on in an shop.

However, don't say: I'm sorry that you have to work on Thanksgiving.

Because it stings.  And because I don't think you are.  At least, that apology always rings hollow.  I'd rather not hear it.

I'm not going to call you an asshole, because we all forget stuff.  But, if you and everybody else who shopped on Thanksgiving could remember Cranberry Sauce or Brown and Serve rolls, my ass wouldn't have to be there.

Anyway.  I'm going in today at 2.  From 2 pm today, until 3 pm Thursday, a 73 hour span, I'll pull four shifts.  I'll put in somewhere between 40 and 45 hours during that time, not counting the hour or so I spend commuting each day.

The last thing I want to say is this:  Don't be a dick this week.  Everybody's having Thanksgiving.  Not just you.  Don't yell.  Don't get mad if the store is out of an odd item--last year I believe it was French's Fried Onions.  That odd it turkey bags, water chestnuts or French's Fried Onions won't fix the screwed up relationship you have with your family.  If Uncle Gus is mad because there aren't water chestnuts in the stuffing, then water chestnuts aren't the problem, Uncle Gus is.

Which sounds to me like you might need to disappear Uncle Gus.

Who the fuck likes water chestnuts?

It's like chewing on refrigerated testicles.

It's gross.

So.  Don't yell at grocery store workers, and get rid of Uncle Gus.  That Zero is a drain on the economy anyway.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, Volume 8

Warming my fingers up again.  I'm roughly 30,000 words into my project.  I'm keeping a little better pace with my nanowrimo goals than I'd thought I would, but I'm still about 10,000 words off that pace.  November's just a little too difficult for it.  The workdays creep up to 12 hour days.  I tell myself it's just an excuse, but way has to be given for reality.  I do manage to write, even if it's just a couple hundred words.

Day off today.  I'd like to put 2000 on the page today.

Anyway.  Just a finger warm up

Close Encounters of the Third Kind    (1977, D: Steven Spielberg)

At the end of the day, when I think of Spielberg's well-put-together flicks, I keep wandering back to this one.  Beautifully shot.  Fantastic, but in a way that it doesn't depart from reality.  And I love that the antagonistic forces are antagonists not because they're "bad guys," but are simply coming at the alien problem from a different viewpoint.  In a movie perhaps more rooted in science than any of Spielberg's other flicks, I like very much that faith in your fellow man is just as much a theme as any in the flick.

Cloud Atlas     (2012, D: The Wachowskis & Tom Twyker)

I love this movie.  I know it's flawed to the point of distraction with the prosthetics.  At times, trying to decide which actor is portraying whom can be distracting.  Still.  I consider this a beautiful achievement, and a good adaptation of a great novel.  I don't cry at movies much, and this is one of the very few that made me tear up that didn't involve a dog dying.

Club Dread     (2004, D: Jay Chandrasekhar)

I think I mentioned it with Beerfest, that Super Troopers is a home run.  This one is a solid triple, as a follow up from Broken Lizard.  It makes me smile.  Bill Paxton and MC Gainey end up having the best lines of the flick, especially:  You just shat in the one apple pie that knows how to shit back.

Any movie that manages to use shat as a verb will be alright in my book.  Forever.

Cobb    (1994, D: Ron Shelton)

Tommy Lee Jones revels in the role of Ty Cobb.  And that's why I've kept the movie.  I don't know why hearing Tommy Lee Jones say "Napoleon Lajoie" so much, but I do.  On the whole, though, the flick's an uneven mess.  I really, really disliked the whole hallucination scene at the Hall of Fame banquet, and the scene in Las Vegas with Cobb paying the girl for her silence is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, and maybe sad.  I couldn't help laughing, for some reason.  Maybe that's a point, too.  Is it assholish to say that there's too much of Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, a cartoon lacking all subtlety, just like Jones's performance as Cobb.

I admit that my own conflicted feelings about Cobb come into play here.  My tendency from pro wrestling to root for the heel made me enjoy reading about the man.  Further reading has soured that feeling toward him, though.  Cobb was a shitheel.  As much as this movie wants to point out a horrible upbringing as reason for that, I still can't get behind the man.  And i will admit toward Tommy Lee's performance....there just might not have been a lot of subtlety to Cobb, either....

Maybe I'll sit and watch

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, volume 7

It worked as a finger warmup yesterday, though I'd probably not write another 1700 word post.

Christmas Vacation  (1989, D: Jeremiah S. Chechik)

Still works.  The strongest of the vacation flicks, to my mind.  Vacation is dark and hilarious, and European is not without its charms.  But of the first three?  This one's the best put together, with building in a nice madcap crescendo to a kablooey end.

I'll end up watching this one again, along with A Christmas Story, here over the next 5 1/2 weeks.  A couple years ago, I put A Christmas Story on repeat for about a month, and last year it was this one....

Clerks    (1994, D: Kevin Smith)

I'd mentioned that I'd be interested to see Kevin Smith revisit Chasing Amy, now that several years have passed, to see what his thoughts on that relationship were.  I'd been thinking about what I said about the movie, and I think Naive is probably the best descriptor, though it hit me that for how old we all were at the time (and Smith and I are in similar concentric circles of both age and bullshit), it worked.

I say all that to say this:  Clerks still works for me.  I need to remind myself to watch it every now and again.  I feel a little too much Dante in my character, here lately.  Hence, the writing.  Shit or get off the pot....

Clerks 2    (2006, D: Kevin Smith)

I'd kinda wandered the line on this flick, for a long time.  I liked it, but I couldn't decide whether it was because I was a minor Smith loyalist, or if there was something that holds up beyond that.  I'm not above admitting I'll like something somebody does, even if it's crap.

I watched this late in the summer (Christ...that's how fucking far behind I am with this bit).  Right as a buddy of mine was leaving our jobplace to move.  He's a friend, and it was good to have him there.

It didn't hit me until this viewing that this wasn't Dante's movie.  Yeah, Dante's got a couple big scenes, but at the end of the day, this is Randall's movie.  Don't know why I never really put that together until this movie, but Randall's working through some shit, and Jeff Anderson as Randall does a fine job putting that directionless man in your 30's feel up onto the big screen...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, Volume 6

Warming my fingers up.  Writing project is going well.  Got nearly 17000 words in, which might or might not be a lot, but it's longest I've written on one project in about four years.  Feeling good.  Managing to stay away from TV and social media (more success, I'll admit, with the former, than the latter).  I'm off a couple days in a row.  My last day off, I did 4100 words.  My goal for the next couple of days is 5500 words.  November's tough...Thanksgiving and whatnot.  Still, I want to continue to give this one an honest try.

Anyway, like I said, I'm just warming my fingers up.  Coffee and toast have been procured.  Just want to write a few words about my continuing project, which has me up to the F's now, with my writing somewhere around the C's....

Cabin Fever  (2002, D: Eli Roth)

I'm not as high on this one as I used to be.  I still like it, as a dark-as-hell comedy.  The "Pancakes" bit still mesmerizes me.  I don't know.  It's not that I don't have the stomach for gore and grossout, except that sometimes, I don't, I guess.  I don't get grossed out by it, except for the sheer quantity of it.  It's like that old Kael line about Rain Man being Dustin Hoffman humping one note on the piano.  That's a lot of the way I end up feeling about this movie.  It has a lot to offer, and it just didn't hold up for me this time.  It had been four or five years since I'd sat to watch.  It may end up being culled, the next time I make a run to Mckay's.

Caddyshack   (1980, D: Harold Ramis)

This has been one of the great turnaround movies for me.  I used to not see the appeal.  There were funny gags...the Baby Ruth in the swimming pool is still great.  But for whatever reason, it never hit the nail on the head for me.  Wandered across this one in a $3 bin at the drugstore one night, and took another chance.

It still doesn't completely get it right, but I like it.  Chevy Chase's performance still drives me nuts...I've never researched it, but the Chevy Chase/Bill Murray scene in Carl Spackler's domicile feels like nails on a chalkboard, and it makes me feel like that scene was written with somebody else in mind.  Aykroyd?  Belushi?  I can't say...I just know that Chase's scenes in with anybody but Ted Knight don't work for me.  Still--you're a tremendous slouch--those two are great together.  I can't say what the turnaround for me has been.  Maybe it's realizing that the characterizations for people in the comic setup are strong, and truer to life than I'd realized.  Maybe Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield are cartoons, but they're believable cartoons within the framework.  I'm not going to call Caddyshack the greatest comedy, or the greatest sports movie like others want to claim it.  I did enjoy it.

Captain America    (2011, D: Joe Johnston)

Another turnaround flick for me.  I didn't see this one in the theater--the Captain America character never did much for me.  I got it from Netflix when it came out, and watched it at home one night, probably after a particularly pissy day at work.  I'm thinking that, because I did not care for the movie.  Not a bit.

At the behest of a couple other folks who loved it, I watched again, cognizant of my own ability to poorly judge a movie given a bad frame of mind when I watched.

I was crazy wrong.  In the time since, of the round 1 Marvel movies, this ranks right up there with Iron Man, and I might even think a little better of it in the long run.

A small thing I've noted.  I hadn't seen Captain America on the big screen, prior to 2012, when they did a Marvel movie marathon leading up to The Avengers.  Captain America is a weird one, in that it plays better on the small screen, than the big screen.  I don't know why, but I have a theory around Rogers' personality, and Evans' understated performance....

Little things I love:  the CGI for pre-super-soldier Steve Rogers is great.  Hayley Atwell is absolutely fantastic as Agent Carter, and it pleases me to no end to know that ABC is doing an Agents of SHIELD/Agent Carter mini with her.  And Tommy Lee Jones is Tommy Lee Jones.  Which is fine by me.  I love Tommy Lee Jones.

Captain America: the Winter Soldier    (2014, D: Anthony & Joe Russo)

As much as I loathed the first Cap flick the first time I saw it (wrongly, may I add again), I loved this one.  Ended up going to see this one a couple times in the theater.  While the first flick was on the strength of the ensemble, I put this one more squarely on Evans.  The more I see this Cap character, the more I like his straight-forward, non conflicted view of himself.  There is a sadness there for being a man out of his time, but he refuses to be defined by that.  I especially like the notebook of things he's supposed to be catching up on.  I especially like when actual mental conflict does come into play for his character (Stark sowing the seeds of doubt for SHIELD in Avengers, when Cap realizes the Winter Soldier is Bucky...)  Evans plays those moments perfectly.

I hope that the folks will one day think a Black Widow movie would be strong enough to hold an audience.  Avengers is a fun, fun flick, and there's not much I have to gripe about, except I don't feel Whedon didn't get solid contact on the Black Widow character.  He got it mostly right, and maybe there's an idea there I'm wrong about.  Personally, of all the Phase 1 characters, I think hers is still the most mercenary.  I kept waiting, in this, one, for her to end up pulling an Ultimate Marvel move, and betraying Cap (like she did Iron Man, in the Ultimate comics line).

Cedar Rapids   (2011, D: Miguel Arteta)

I love this movie.  LOVE.  An oddly Altman feel, for atmosphere, if not dialogue.  I love the creation of a microcosm, in this insurance game get together.  I like the Big Fish, the Small Fish, the folks learning and playing their parts in this entirely created society.

This movie, by the way, makes me wish I had a window into Step Brothers/Cedar Rapids/Dr. Steve Brule John C. Reilly's Universe, that I could look into all the time.

There is a logic to silly.  I wish I could explain it better than using that phrase there.  There is a logic to silly, that a truly silly user can follow.  To the outsider, it looks like random jumps with no sense to them.  There is a flow, and a logic that can often be seen after the fact.  Some of the best silly is like a detective story, when you get to an end, and you suddenly realize where the curveballs were.  John C. Reilly is good at silly.

I really dig Ed Helms, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock, Jr, and John C. Reilly as a quartet.  I would like those four to make more movies together.

Chasing Amy   (1997, D: Kevin Smith)

I'm all about the Kevin Smith.  I know this is one of his most celebrated flicks.  It just doesn't hold up for me.  It'll survive any culls I make, just because I dig Kevin Smith's work.  It just doesn't work well for me.  On the performance level. On the writing level.  On the humor level.  On the level of truth.

Not that it's dishonest.

It's that it's inexperienced.  Naive?

I dunno.

I'd be willing to hear thoughts on this one.

I'd especially be interested to sit down and talk to Kevin Smith about his thoughts on it, 17 or 18 years later.

Chinatown    (1974, D: Roman Polanski)

I first saw this one sitting in an Intro to Motion Pictures class way back at MTSU.  I was mesmerized then, and still am.  Had to put this one on the Big TV to watch.  Great flick.  I don't have anything to add, except that when Noah Cross mispronounces Jake Gittes's name, I smile every time, since the very same professor who taught that class made a point of mispronouncing my last name ever class I took from him, not for the same reasons, mostly because he and I had a good chat about it after watching the flick....which makes me think I should get back in touch with Dr. Badger, and see what he's up to...)

A Christmas Story   (1983, D: Bob Clark)

Can we talk about Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon for a second?  And how they perfectly play the cartoon versions of Ralphie's memory of his father and mother?  How I have no doubt that in a real world version, they would be roughly 2/3 to 3/4 as loud, as grandiose in some parts, but 25% louder in others?  How somehow, they are vaudeville versions of Ralphie's parents, without being too Vaudeville about it?  Again.  There's a subtlety to being silly.  Clark, at the very least gets it enough to move Dillon and McGavin in that direction, if they don't get it themselves.  However, I suspect that they do, on some level or another.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ten Bird Roast

A hummingbird (deboned, of course) stuffed into a robin stuffed into a pigeon stuffed into a pheasant stuffed into a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey stuffed into a goose stuffed into an emu stuffed into an ostrich.  With cornbread and sausage stuffing.  Serves 120.  Or 1, for 120 meals, providing you have a large enough freezer for the leftovers.

Next:  a recipe for Ten Bird Roast chili....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

They Grow Up So Fast.

Where do the time go?

Twelve years?

I've been doing this blogamathing for nearly a third of my life.  Well, not continuously.  That would be rather a lot.  It's existed for nearly a third of my life.

It's growing into a man.

It's asked me for a Playstation 4 for Christmas.  I can't really afford that.  I've got some markdown Halloween Gingerbread houses that I was going to give it.  You think that would suffice?

It won't be long before my blogamathing is older than the people who work for me.

It won't be long before it gets a driver's license.  Which will be awesome.  Sitting up late at night, wondering if my blog is behind the wheel of a pickup truck running pedestrians down in Gatlinburg.

Won't be long.

Graduates high school.

Goes to college.

Drops out of school after knocking up a gypsy.

Falls victim to some gypsy curse.

And dies, shot to death by Idaho State Police, raving something about Famouser Potatoes while wielding a katana and a pillowcase filled with softballs.

Won't be long.

They grow up so fast....

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Tommy's Top 10 Stephen King Books....

I'm procrastinating.

I should be writing on my NaNoWriMo.  I'm about 5500 words in right now, which puts me about 2500 words behind!  There was a turn and burn shift in there, and an off today tomorrow, so I think I'll be back on track by tomorrow morning.

Anyway, I'm giving my brain a break, after seeing this:  Rolling Stone's readers poll Top 10 Stephen King books.  Not a bad list, though the books that deal with other worlds than these seem to get a short end of the stick.

A couple quick thoughts.  There have been turds.  Highest among them?  Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, Cell and From a Buick 8.

Just missing my top ten?  Eyes of the Dragon, Drawing of the Three, Full Dark, No Stars, Different Seasons and Pet Sematary.  I will also note that I enjoyed Mr. Mercedes very much earlier this year, but want a little space before I include it this high on the list.

I also didn't include Danse Macabre (which is fun, and worth a read for the movie buff aspect of it), On Writing (a good project) and Faithful (which is a great love letter to his baseball fandom....).  I enjoyed each, but they don't resonate with me the same way his fiction does.

Here are mine:

10.    Black House  (with Peter Straub)

The Talisman would be a hard one to follow up, but this one was a tremendously fun read.  I wonder why neither this nor the Talisman is on the list, and I wonder if it being part of a collaborative effort with Straub is why it's not featured on the list.  I was introduce to Straub's work (which I enjoy) through The Talisman.  I still feel more King in both books than I do Straub, though there's a bit more Straub in this one than Talisman.  I'll also say that part of why I think Doctor Sleep didn't sit all the way right with me is that we'd traveled something of a similar path with Jack Sawyer as we were with Danny Torrance...

9.  11/22/63

Huge.  Just fun, especially for the Time Travel nerd in me.  Especially dark, and a little sad.  I like that.

8.  Dark Tower III: the Waste Lands

This is the one, for me, where the Dark Tower series hits high gear.  Gunslinger and Drawing of the Three are both good, but this one I read in a couple of sittings....

7.  Under the Dome

I hated this book the first time I tried to read it.  Listened to the audio version as a commute listen early last year, and was amazed by its scope, and its willingness to spread the heroism among the characters more than any of his book, perhaps since the Stand, maybe since It.  I like that this one manages to be huge, yet feel claustrophobic.

6.  The Long Walk

Just a horrific book.  Hopeless.  Great downer ending.  And all that fucking exercise?  Fuck that noise!  No Bachman Books on the top 10?  Blasphemy!

5.  The Shining

The first Stephen King book I read, and one of the best.  I read this one in eighth grade, after an English teacher told another kid that it was going to be over his head--something, though probably true, still seems like an unnecessarily cruel thing to say to a kid.  He let me borrow it.  I borrowed it on a Friday, and returned it to him Monday.  He didn't believe that I'd read it.  It's one where I've disagreed with King's assessment of Jack Torrance as a man devoured by his own demons.  While I don't subscribe to the manic Jack Nicholson version from the Kubrick flick, I still think Jack Torrance is a douche who ends up bringing the world down on himself.  (I will say that one of the successes of Doctor Sleep is I have softened my stance on Jack...there's story there that has me accepting the man a bit more).

4.  It.

I don't want to de-value this one.  It's absolutely a great book.  And in many ways, the few times King has written about kids, it feels very much like he's trying to channel the energy from It.  (And coming short, generally).

3.  The Talisman

Jack Sawyer and Wolf.  Great, great buddy story.  I've been meaning to go back and re-read this one.  It's been 10 years.

2.  Wizard and Glass

Shyam doesn't care for the Dark Tower books, in part because she had such a hard time relating to Roland. Some day, I hope to have her read this one.  Roland is a tragic character, much of it through his own making.  And most of his own making is in the interest of keeping tragedies like the death of Susan Delgado at bay.

1.  The Stand

Huge.  It might be the one book I've read the most times in my life.  Read it earlier this year.  It brings me out of a funk.  Maybe there's a dark joy in everybody dying.  I like to think that it's King finding optimism in his absolute bleakest story.

(Afterthought....I initially included Full Dark, No Stars in this list, because it's King at his Twilight Zoney best.  I enjoyed the shit out of the experience, but have to admit that while many enjoyed A Good Marriage, I thought it a stinker, enough to bring down the other 3 superlative books...much the same way Sun Dog kills Four Past Midnight, and Apt Pupil hurts Different Seasons.....)

Sunday, November 02, 2014

In which he quietly says his unpopular opinion into a darkened room

(A stilted disclaimer, in the interest of half-assed disclosure of personal leanings:  I enjoy Tennessee football, and I have a rooting interest, but I have a hard time calling myself a fan, mostly because I don't putting myself in their company*)

So, the University of Tennessee's football team had a big comeback win to beat South Carolina in overtime last night, 45-42.

And from the celebration on the news, on Twitter and on Ye Olde Facebooke feed, you'd think Tennessee just upended the best team in the nation.

Just want to say this:  South Carolina is and was, for all of Steve Spurrier's bluster, a mediocre team at best.  Going into the game, they're another four-loss, bottom-third of the SEC squad who happened to play their best game of the year the previous week in a loss against Auburn.

I don't know where the excitement comes from.  It was a good game (what little I saw, since I was out watching hockey last night).  But cool your jets.  It was one mediocre team coming back to beat another mediocre team in overtime.

I get it, Tennessee fans.  You fucked up with your bandwagon leanings.  You got all riled up about "Fat Phil Fulmer" and you got your gift horse and then it started shitting all over the house and eating the table cloth and now here you are three coaches later having lost almost as many games in the years since Phil left as you did in his entire coaching career at Tennessee.  I know!  It's exciting!  You still have a dream of holding on to that Tennessee will win out and end up with a winning record and get play at a meaningless bowl game somewhere around December 28!

Let me rock back on my heels, being careful not to topple off my moral high ground:  I think the past six years have been just comeuppance.  As a Cubs fan, I was laughing when the "Fire Phil" rhetoric started flying all those years ago.  The Cubs haven't won shit in 106 years.   When the Fire Phil rhetoric started, you weren't too far beyond half a decade from a National Championship.  And yeah, there had been rough years, but there were still quality seasons in there, too.

Anyway,  all that is not to say you don't have things to be excited about.  I think Butch has the program running in the right direction.  Especially on the defensive side of the ball.  Lots of talent.  It's young, and I think you'll really start seeing the benefits of that next year, especially when that O-line has some time to get more muscle on it.

But for now?  Be quiet.  Be classy.  Enjoy your win, by all means.  Just remember that going bananas for an overtime win against South Carolina (even one coached by Steve Spurrier**...and I can't help but wonder if beating that prick doesn't have something to do with the excitement, and if so, more power to you), just shows that you're a little desperate.

Act like you've been there.

Better days are coming.

But for now?  An upset at South Carolina?  Act like you've been there.  And quit throwing things like "Biggest win since Fulmer Left" or "Most important win in ten years" out there.  Stop.  STAHP.

*Most Tennessee fans are spoiled ignoramuses who want so badly to root a winner, and don't understand what it takes to become one.  I don't listen to a lot of people's thoughts on Tennessee football.  Anytime I hear people bashing or singing praises, I'd like to stop the conversation, and ask a simple football question, like:  Can you tell me what the nickel defense is?  Or what Running the option means?  I'm confident that a full on 40% of fans in Neyland Stadium on any given football Saturday could not, and that's only the tip of the iceberg of my problem with Tennessee football fans...

**And yeah.  Spurrier's a prick.  I'm right there with you on that one.  I enjoy seeing him take a shitkicking just like any other right-minded individual would....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Night Family History Thoughts

So, Saturday nights are for family history, right?  You guys sit at home, drink spiked apple cider and wander through the labyrinth that is your family tree?  Right.  Me, too!

So, my paternal grandmother's parents were a roadblock.  I knew their names, but not much else.  There's evidence that her father, John Wyatt, was the son of another John Wyatt who served in the Civil War in a unit from Indiana, but there's not much online I can find to confirm that, at this point.

I feel confident enough with a couple sources that my great grandmother's maiden name was Stewart, which would attach her to a whole line of folks stretching back to Jolly Ol' England all the way back to a gentleman named Thomas Askew.

Askew.  That fits me.

On a couple levels, actually.

Turns out Askew is derived from the name Ayscough and Ainscough. 

Which is where Acuff comes from, as well.

So.   I got Acuffs/Ayscoughs/Askews on a couple branches of the family tree, which came back together when Earl Acuff married Ethel Wyatt way back some time between 1930 and 1935....

Don't know why I've been playing so hard with the family history, lately.  But it's interesting, especially seeing family on different sides of conflicts...i.e. Union vs. Confederacy....or even different sides of rebellions against England's Crown....

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quick Fanboy thoughts on the string of DCU movies

So, this little piece has gotten shoved around the interweb the past day or so.  Again, Warner and DC are doing little toward making me think this won't be a clusterfuck of epic proportions.
Giving some thought to the success of the Marvel flicks, as DC does nothing to make me think it won't be a pigpile. I feel like the 3 stars of Marvel's phase 1, up to and including Avengers, have to be Robert Downey Jr., for being a charismatic and believable (within the framework) superhero, Tom Hiddleston (and the writing crew of Thor, and later, Avengers) for bringing an understandable, even likeable villain to the table, and Clark Gregg, who as Agent Coulson brings an every-man (an ultra-competent every-man, but an every-man nonetheless).

I am hopeful Warner and DC find a written thread and a string of performances strong enough to make their Universe work. Henry Cavill wasn't bad as Superman (I've not considered his mopey Superman to be a fault in anything but direction), but he wasn't as strong as Downey as Iron Man, or Evans as Captain America. Affleck's Batman is a concern, but despite my "meh" feelings on his performances, I do believe he understands storytelling and the strength of source material that I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
I look at that list, and I find concern with Jason Momoa in an Aquaman movie. I'm not saying it can't or won't work. I'm saying that 8 years ago, if you'd said "Iron Man" movie to me, I'd also have been "meh." But, I had enough faith in Favreau and Downey that I didn't think it was going to be a train wreck going in. I'm not as familiar with Momoa as I was Downey, though I was a bigger fan than most of Conan the Barbarian a couple years back. Still, there wasn't a lot in Conan, or as Khal Drogo, to make me think he would be interesting enough to carry a whole movie.  I liked Conan because he wasn't insulting as Conan, and I felt that movie was closer to the feel of Robert Howard's stories I read back in sixth grade than any other adaptation to that point.  That said?  We're not ankle deep in sequels to that flick, so the general public didn't apparently show their love in the form of dollars paid.
That's where I'm afraid DC's making their mistake. Is he going to get enough attention in Batman v. Superman, or Justice League, to make most go see an Aquaman movie? This whole thing feels top heavy, I guess. I'm not saying Batman or Superman need an origin movie. I am saying that some characters do. I don't want to bank on Zack Snyder being able to do the characters credit with 5-30 minutes of shared screentime.
And I guess that that's the turd in the punchbowl for me. Snyder's take on Man of Steel is my biggest concern, considering he's already concocted a lumbering monstrosity that ran counter to a couple of the most important aspects of the Superman character. And he's the one driving this Justice League tank. He wore out any gravitas he might have earned with 300 and Watchmen with Superman and Zod brawling through Metropolis.

One last thing I'll mention about the Marvel flicks of phase 2.  That string of things tying things together from phase 1 hasn't been as apparent to me for Iron man 3, Thor: Dark World, Captain American Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.  But, each of those movies was strong, with Winter Soldier and Guardians being home runs.  Tangential thought?  I think the biggest swing and miss of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point was completely under-utilizing Chris Eccleston in Thor: Dark World.  That man is an awesome actor, and a great fit to the Thor Universe, yet all the have him do is walk around and growl?  That one felt like they worked hard to inflate the role of Hiddleston's Loki.  I'm not complaining about more Loki, except that I wish it hadn't come at the expense of Eccleston.
Just a fanboy thought, or two. And I guess that's the last thing I'll want to say. I am a fanboy. Warner and DC don't really need to worry about getting my money, probably for any of these flicks. I'll likely see all of them in the theater. What might be more telling is if I pay to see them again--Guardians of the Galaxy, I've ended up seeing three times...and that's not something I've done for a movie in recent least since Dark Knight.

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, Volume 5

Still ongoing.  I think this has been going since around Memorial Day.  I am currently maybe 25 % through the second shelf.  Need to get my ass in gear blogging, though.

The Blair Witch Project   (1999, D: Myrick/Sanchez)

I never saw this one on the Big Screen, and in a weird way, I'm glad.  There are occasionally movies that deserve to be watched in a dark room on a smallish screen.  This is one.

I don't know if I'm an apologist, or a defender, or a booster.  I like this flick.  I've liked it from the get-go.  Hits many of the right notes for me.  Lost in the woods.  The claustrophobic feeling of being in a tent, when there's something you can't see outside the tent.  Abandoned structures out in the woods.  A lot of this flick feels like it could have been filmed on the ridge across the field from my folks' house.

Still?  There's a leap of faith for found footage movies, and this one's not any different.  At some point, self-preservation, fatigue and battery life have to come into play.  You're too scared, tired or pissed off to keep filming.

This was the first time in a while that I'd watch this one, and was kind of expecting to want to toss it.  I liked it.  There are other found footage features that end up doing it better, but the tidal wave that accompanied this one in 1999 is still fun to me....

Blazing Saddles     (1974, D: Brooks)

What's not to love with Blazing Saddles.  I was in high school the first time I watched this, after somebody had to explain the reference "Mongo only pawn in game of life."  It's one of those flicks that just speaks right to the silly part of my makeup.  As soon as I saw it, it shot up to the top of my favorite movies list.

I tend not to watch it often, just to preserve some of the magic.  It's been a while since I'd sat down with this one.  Harvey Korman doesn't get enough credit.  I once purposely tanked a question at a quiz bowl tournament just so we could do the Hedy/Hedley LaMarr joke with Charlie Steinhice....

Blues Brothers     (1980, D: Landis)

Just a great schmozz of a movie.  A white boy's R&B love letter.  I love that this flick could take place in the same universe as South Pacific or Annie, in that people break into song and choreographed dance numbers at the drop of a hat.

Is it out of line to note that Aretha Franklin always seems like she'd be a hell of a fun lady to hang out with.  Smart, down to Earth with a good sense of humor?

My roommate in college and I argued about whether Jake's girlfriend was Carrie Fisher or Ronald Reagan's daughter Nancy Davis.

Bonnie and Clyde    (1967, D: Penn)

As opposed to Aretha Franklin, doesn't Estelle Parsons specialize in playing people you want to jump through your screen to beat with a shoe?  I spent this viewing just gritting my teeth along with Bonnie every time Blanche talked.

It's weird how, every time I watch this, Warren Beatty as Clyde, just gets younger and younger...

This movie contains Dub Taylor Movie Shelf Appearance #3

Braveheart    (1995, D: Gibson)

Mel may be a lunatic, but he makes a hell of a fun flick.  I would like Mel and Kevin Costner to make competing movies about the same event and Mel's, he would be man against the antagonistic Costner (and the world).  Kevin would likewise be a man against the world, facing Gibson.

This movie contains Brendan Gleeson Movie Shelf Appearance #4

Brazil    (1985, D: Gilliam)

I had to take this one out of the Getting Ready for Work TV and go put it on the Big TV out in the living room.  This one deserve and annual-or-so sit and view.  Oddly Pretty.  Funny, and a little scary.  Might end up being Gilliam's technical and artful best.  He's not just some Python making human cartoons, here.

Bridge on the River Kwai    (1957, D: Lean)

What a pretty, pretty flick.  Honor.  Duty.   Which is more and more impotant.  I'm kind of sad that I watched this one in increments, because it's another one that deserves a watch on a big screen.  Beautifully shot.  Lots of conflict between guys who are all pretty much fighting the same internal fight with themselves, all while fighting with each other.

Brother Bear      (2003, D: Blaise/Walker)

I tried watching this one straight, and couldn't make it through.  Weak, weak outing from Disney, that's only saved by backup performances, and in this case, a backup commentary track.  If you have the means, I highly recommend watching this one with Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis providing commentary as their characters, Rutt and Tuke, who are themselves, cleaned up versions of Bob and Doug McKenzie.  Big Props to Disney for including that on their disc.  I'd never have even considered watching the movie, were it not for Buddy at Videoculture, back in the day....

Bubba Ho-Tep   (2002, D: Coscarelli)

Bruce Campbell and Joe R. Lansdale are a near perfect pairing.  One of my favorite actors in a work based on one of my favorite writers.  And it doesn't disappoint.  Bruce Campbell is a walking cartoon with a heart of gold.  Favorite bit?  Finding the scars behind the ear....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A good vacation?

You know, even with 4 days to go, I'm going to go ahead and declare this The Best Vacation of 2014.

Got to see a lot of friends last weekend.  A Great Hysterics.

Got to take in some Nashville Predators hockey.  First game of theirs I've attended in five or six years.

And tonight?  I got to watch the Cardinals get eliminated from the NLCS.

Not that I have any great love for the Giants.  But, I'm in much of a mind that my favorite team is The Cubs, and whoever's playing the Cardinals.

Ah.  That was fun.