Welcome to our web site. For more information about Stephie's art, please also check out artbystephie.com. For Matt's writing projects, please go to storiesbymatt.net. Enjoy your visit here!
04/11/19: I've been listening lately to Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, and I've really been enjoying it. I was tempted to skip some of the episodes when I didn't know, or didn't care for, the guest, but it turns out that those have been some of my favorites. Some of the conversation is profane and low-brow, particularly from Gilbert, but the episodes are filled with great stories about the golden age of entertainment, and featuring people who were stars even before I was born.
One anecdote that I particularly liked was about Henry Fonda. I don't remember who the guest was, but he was acting in a play with Fonda, and they were talking about playing to the crowd, like if a friend was in the audience, they would think that they were performing especially for that person as a way of motivating the best possible performance. The guest on the show asked Fonda what he does if he doesn't know a single person in the house, and Fonda said that he just picks someone out of the audience at random and plays to them, without them even knowing that Fonda essentially dedicated his performance that night to them.
I mention this story because last night I went to the Tamale Hut for one of our regular reading nights. After the event was over, we were standing around chatting and I spoke to one of the women who read that night. She told me that she was kind of nervous to get up there and read, but as she was into her story, she saw me watching intently, and she thought, "Well, as long as that guy is paying attention and looking like he's enjoying the story, I'm okay." She said she relaxed after that, and her story was great, as well as the presentation. I felt honored to have been able to help put her at ease, even though I didn't realize I was doing it.
I also was thankful she didn't see me with my eyes closed, as I sometimes do when I'm really concentrating on the story being read. If she had seen that, she might have though, "I'm putting them to sleep!" and that wouldn't have been a good thing.
03/29/19: Canadian actor Shane Rimmer passed away today. Most of you won't recognize his name, and even fewer of you will recognize his face. But I'll bet a lot of you, especially if you're around my age, would recognize his voice. He did a lot of voice acting in his career, but the one part that he's most associated with is the years he voiced Scott Tracy on the iconic British TV series Thunderbirds.
I remember watching Thunderbirds when I was a kid. Well, trying to watch Thunderbirds. You see, the show was broadcast on channel 32. I had a TV in my bedroom, but it was a small black-and-white set that would only receive VHF channels, so it would not get channel 32, which was broadcast on the UHF frequency, and that was only available in our house on the color TV in the front room. (And you thought wanting to see a show that's only on another streaming service that you don't subscribe to was a new thing!) I wrote about the problems watching Thunderbirds in a post back in 2016. Scott Tracy was my favorite character on that show, probably because he was the eldest son in the family and so was I. His ship was the quickest, so he was usually first on the scene, and I dug the way he took charge and directed the rescue efforts of his brothers. Heck, I wanted to be Scott Tracy. So it's only natural that I would recognize his voice anywhere.
I can't remember the first time I actually saw Shane Rimmer as an actor in a movie, probably years ago in Dr. Strangelove. A quick look at IMDB or his Wikipedia page shows dozens of well-known movies that he was in. Rarely a star in these films, he seemed to have made a good career in playing parts like "Nancy's Father", "Seaman 1st Class", "Naval Transport Commander", "Controller #2", "Commentator", and a host of other roles, both credited and uncredited. I know I spotted him, more likely heard then spotted him, in the 2005 film Batman Begins. You can see and hear him in the control room during the runaway monorail scene. We were also surprised to see him in a small role in Enemy's Enemy a Swedish film in the Commander Hamilton series that we watched on the MHz channel. It's still so weird to me to see the voice that I associate with a puppet coming out of a human face. It's almost as strange as seeing Phil Harris in a movie or a TV show, speaking with the voice of Baloo the Bear from the 1967 Jungle Book cartoon.
I recently started listening to a podcast hosted by Gilbert Gottfried, in which they talk about character actors in films. They talk occasionally about actors that they wished they had a chance to interview, and after reading the obituary for Mr. Rimmer, and seeing his vast list of films he had been involved in, I'll bet he would have been an interesting interview for that show. At the very least, it would have been interesting to hear Gottfried and his pals interview Scott Tracy.
03/22/19: A few months ago, I saw an ad that this year's edition of the Experience Hendrix tour was coming to the Chicago Theater. This seems to be an annual event, in which a group of top-notch guitar players tour the US in celebration of the life and music of the late guitarist, Jimi Hendrix. I've long been a big fan of Hendrix, but have never been to one of these. The ad listed all the musicians that would be there, and I saw that one of the players will be Dweezil Zappa, the son of another of my favorites, Frank Zappa. I mentioned the concert to Stephie and she seemed excited to go, so I got tickets.
The concert was tonight and overall, it was fabulous. Our seats were in the upper balcony, which gave us a great view of the interior of the Chicago Theater, a pretty good view of the stage, albeit from above, and, it sounded great. Most of the show consisted of a stable rhythm section and a rotating series of guitarists and vocalists. It ended with Joe Satriani, dUg Pinnick (from King's X), and Kenny Aronoff as the type of power trio that Hendrix played in most of his career.
All the musicians were on the top of their game. We were there to see Dweezil, and he didn't disappoint. Stephie was really impressed by Dave Mustaine and while neither of us had heard of Doyle Bramhall II, we really liked his part in the show.
Really the only negative to the evening was when Zakk Wylde took the stage. I knew he played with Ozzy Osbourne, but knew nothing of his other work. He started out fine, but in the middle of a rousing rendition of "Rock Me Baby", he walked off the stage and into the audience, where he spent along time soloing. That's fine for the people on the main floor who might be arms-length away, but from the cheap seats where we were, we couldn't see him, so we spent the time watching what seemed to be an increasingly bored rhythm section on stage, waiting for Wylde to regain the stage. He finally reappeared, climbing up to the microphone, where he sang one verse and wandered back into the audience.
At this point, some people up where we were sitting started chatting among themselves. Some checked their phone, some got out of their seats, presumably to go to the bathroom or get more refreshments, all while the guitarist was somewhere in the crowd below us, wheedling on his instrument.
He finslly got back on stage, soloed some more, then finished the song. He then launched into "Little Wind", which is one of my favorite Hendrix tunes. He sang the first verse, then left the stage again. Someone near me shouted, "No! Stay on the stage!" but to no avail. Fortunately, since he was in the crowd, they turned some of the house lights up, so I spent my time gazing at the beauty that is the Chicago Theater.
Just as I started to lose interest, a spotlight appeared to our left and Wylde appeared in the balcony! He worked his way to the middle and twiddled on his guitar for a while before making his way back, down the stairs and back to the stage. This whole thing took forever, and really brought the evening to a standstill. (And if you think I'm exaggerating, check out this YouTube clip of him a couple of nights ago.) I can appreciate a guitar solo as much as the next guy, and I suppose guitar gymnastics are to be expected when top players get together to celebrate Hendrix. The fact that he was wired the whole time so someone had to follow him around to make sure that his guitar cord didn't get tangled was impressive work by the road crew, but to me this was excessive, considering all the fantastic musicians waiting in the wings.
The rest of the evening was much more interesting, including the rousing end set featuring the Satriani/Pinnick/Aronoff trio. (I found a version from two weeks ago which is embedded here if I did everything right.) If you get a chance to go see this show, I would recommend it. But if Zakk Wylde is on the bill and you're not on the main floor, you might want to bring something to read to pass the time.
03/13/19: Every once in a while, I get a stark reminder that I'm getting older. Sure, I can see it every time I look in the mirror and see the gray in my hair and in my beard, or when I try to do something physically that I used to be able to do but now struggle with. But something occasionally happens that reminds me that time is indeed flying.
I was at work today, trying to figure out the problems with some customers in our database, when I noticed that one customer had a last name very similar to a math teacher I had in high school. He was a favorite teacher of mine, and I hadn't thought much about him in the intervening years, so when I had a break at work, I thought I'd use the vast powers of the Internet that are available to all of us to see if I can find out anything about him, like is he still teaching or where he might be. I come to find out that he passed away a few months ago.
I suppose that it's not uncommon to find that an authority figure from my youth had passed away (it was forty years ago, after all) but I was surprised to discover that he was just five years older than me. We all knew he was young when he arrived at the school. In fact, one of my favorite memories of him was the time another teacher tried to give him a detention early in the school year for yelling at someone who was misbehaving in the lunch room. The other teacher hadn't met him yet, and he looked young enough to be one of the students. Turns out he was.
I read a few obits of him, and few comments from his more recent students about the impact he had on them as a teacher and a friend. It seems that he went on to teach at several schools in his career and touched many lives. I read about his passing and the family he left behind. I then went back to work, pondering my own mortality. I was happy that it seemed he had a good life, but a little sad that he was gone.
03/12/19: I was stopped at a light today and when I looked at the car ahead of me, I couldn't believe what I saw. I have to start by saying that I'm the type of person who doesn't like anything hanging from my rear-view mirror. On top of the swinging motion distracting me, it bugs me that it's in my field of vision, possibly obscuring a part of the road. Apparently the person ahead of me doesn't have that concern, because they had one of those smartphone holders suction-cupped to their windshield, to the left and below their mirror. I'd hate to be walking in front of this goofball as they tool down the street. It's got to be like having a blind spot almost directly in front of the driver! It might not be too bad when dealing with other cars, but what if there's a pedestrian crossing the street? I imagine they could be completely out if the driver's sight just when they're in front of the car.
03/07/19: Take a look at this! We invited my brothers over for dinner and Chris brought a box with him. He said that it was something that he bought me for my birthday, which is many months away. He planned to wait until then to give it to me, but he opened it to check that it was not damaged in transit and when he saw how cool it is, he didn't want to wait, so he brought it right over. Look at this thing. I can't believe it's hanging on my wall!
I assume that everyone recognizes this as the face in the moon in the classic Georges Méliès silent film A Trip to the Moon (or as the original title card read: Le Voyage dans la Lune). I can't remember when I first saw it, but I've loved this film ever since I was a kid. We had a Super8 version of it, and I would watch it over and over. I even went down to the Siskel Film Center when a version was showing with the original tinting. I don't know how Chris stumbled across this on the Web, but it came from an artist in Milwaukee who is on Etsy as PulpNovelties. He makes his items in batches, and they sell out fairly quick, so if you want one of these, you can check his site. Mine is prominently displayed on my wall, and I can't believe how cool it is. Click the picture to see a side view. It really is awesome.
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