07/06/19: I get e-mails from Kino Lorber, a company that puts out lots of good films on DVD. I bought many, many silent classics over the years, but they also sell art films and some just plain odd films. While I don't buy as many DVDs as I used to, when I see something I'm interested in, I either look for in on Netflix or one of the local cable channels. I recently recorded a film called Duck, you Sucker! (also known as 'A Fistful of Dynamite') starring Rod Steiger and James Coburn. I'm not really a fan of spaghetti westerns, of which this is one, but I like James Coburn, and the plot looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try.
So today, Stephie and I sat down to watch it. Halfway through, I stopped the movie and told Stephie that I don't know why we're watching this, because Rod Steiger makes me think of John Belushi doing a joke accent on SNL, and James Coburn makes me want to put in a Flint film. Stephie got a big smile and said, "I was thinking the same thing!" So we stopped the movie and put on my DVD of Our Man Flint. I think we made the right choice. But every time the President called Lee J. Cobb's character, I thought my cell phone was ringing because I have the same ring tone on my cell.
06/25/19: My best buddy got married today! When Julie and Dan announced the wedding was on a Tuesday in Indiana, they assumed that not to many people would attend. (We were going to go, even before Dan asked me to be best man.) They had this great plan: a small ceremony in Dan's sister's back yard, then a party somewhere on the north side of the city for all of Julie's family and friends, then another party on the south side for all of Dan's family and friends. Little did they know that lots of their family and friends would make the trek out to La Porte for a beautiful Tuesday wedding! Congratulations, you two, and I hope you have a long and happy life together.
The picture here is the view from the back yard last evening. I don't know that I've ever seen a rainbow where you could see both ends touching the ground. I like to think it meant that good things were going to happen for the happy couple.
06/19/19: I got my first Chinese robo-call today. My desk phone rang, and when I answered it, I heard a recording of a woman speaking Chinese. I hit the speaker button on the phone so the guys in the office could hear. We all had a chuckle, then I hung up. A few minutes later my boss's phone rang, and it was the same recording. I heard that several other people in the office had the same experience.
We all thought it was kind of funny and mildly annoying, until I was talking to someone in another building who said that her department had the same bunch of calls. She told me that one of the women in her office speaks Chinese, so I asked her what the message was. It was a message claiming that the caller had kidnapped one of the recipient's family members and was demanding ransom. Even though it still was a scam, suddenly it wasn't so funny any more.
06/09/19: I went to the Printers Row Lit Fest today. I'd been a few times over the past couple of years as a vendor, but this time I was just browsing. I had met one of my fellow writers from the Goodreads Chicago Writers group and we had a nice chat about writing and trying to sell our writing, but after that I just wandered around.
I stopped by the Illinois Woman's Press Association, the group that I had rented table space from for previous shows, and chatted with the guy running the tent. I also stopped by the table of a few of the Tamale Hut regulars. But mostly, I just looked at books.
I didn't buy much, because as I browsed, I kept thinking about all the books I already have that I haven't read yet. I did, however, see one booth that had a long wall of non-fiction books for cheap, and I took the time to browse the shelves. One book practically jumped out at me. On its yellow spine was the title A Storm in Flanders. I pulled the book down and it was the story of Ypres during the first World War. Most of you already know that the current story I'm writing is set in 1925, and the main villain is a guy known as the Belgian. I haven't given much of his back story yet, but I hinted that he was shaped by his experience in Ypres during the war! I couldn't get to the checkout table fast enough! Now I just need to find time to read it.
I didn't buy anything else, but I did see the boxed set in the picture and it made me laugh. I've not read any of Philip K. Dick's work, but if I were interested, I can see starting with a boxed set that seems to be titled "Dick Dick Dick."
06/01/19: I was puttering around the house today when I noticed that the skies had darkened considerably from the morning, so I went out on the veranda to close the windows in case of rain. As I was doing this, it really started to come down, but it wasn't rain. It was hail. BIG hail. Large chunks of ice pelted the ground and anything that was outside. It was 80 degrees just an hour ago! Now tell me that we're not screwing up our climate.
05/24/19: Well, the old TV is finally gone. You may remember from this post about how our old Sony TV fell apart when we moved it to replace it with a flat-screen. I always vowed that I would not carry that thing out of the apartment, so after checking around, I called the 1-800-GotJunk people. I explained the situation and they said that they didn't care what condition the TV was in, that they would take it. I then spoke to the guy upstairs who helped me move the Sony in the first place, and he said that he had an old TV and monitor, so he would add it to the load and share the cost.
So this evening, two guys showed up with a truck to haul our stuff away. They explained their price structure, as well as the extra fees for taking anything with a CRT. They gave me the option of cancelling if I thought the price was too high, but I was committed, even though it wound up being more than I had planned to spend. We signed the papers, and I held the door for them as they carried it out.
When I was growing up, Dad always had a bunch of old appliances in the basement, in his work area that we referred to as Dad's dziura, which is Polish for "hole." He taught us early that we don't want to mess around with old TVs because of the picture tube. He said that the vacuum in the CRT would cause it to explode if it broke, sending shards of phosphor-covered glass everywhere. He even showed me once that to dispose of a TV safely, one should open the back, remove the coil from the back of the CRT, and snap off the tip of the glass tube. That would relieve the vacuum and make it safe to put in the alley for the garbage men to take. He even did it once to demonstrate. He used a pair of pliers to snap the glass tip off, and there was a loud whooshing sound as air rushed in to fill the vacuum. He then showed the round spot in the middle of the screen that had no phosphor on it, and he said that's how you can tell the vacuum was gone.
This lesson was going through my mind as the two guys lifted the furniture dolly that the TV was sitting on and carried it out to the truck. I thought maybe I should say something, but I figured these guys were professionals and might not like anyone telling them how to do their job. I followed them down the sidewalk, picking up the plastic shards that the TV was still shedding, and watched as they decided how to get the TV into the truck. They braced themselves, hoisted the dolly up, and just as it was at the level of the tailgate of the truck, the TV tipped forward and fell off the dolly, face down on the street! They jumped back, and I jumped further, expecting an explosion. But nothing happened. There was some nervous chuckling, and they just picked it up and tossed it in the truck.
Wikipedia says that "modern cathode-ray tubes used in televisions and computer displays have epoxy-bonded face-plates or other measures to prevent shattering." I'm guessing that's what saved us, but after the way the shell shattered when we tried to move it after all the years of use, I really didn't expect the tube to survive that drop.
05/19/19: I see a lot of odd things while I'm driving, but I can't always get my phone out to take a picture. Today, I did. I saw this dog butt on the road ahead of me when I was going to pick up some dinner at one of our local eateries. I actually went past the restaurant so I could get a snapshot of this odd sight, and so that I might figure out just what I was seeing. If you click on the picture, you'll see what I saw as the driver turned off the road I was on. I think it was some kind of a bulldog trailer, or maybe a big barbecue grill. Weird.
05/05/19: This won't mean much to most people, but it made me laugh so I had to take a picture. We were going to the LaGrange Theater to see the Shazam! movie that came out recently. The movie was great, but it also sticks in my craw a bit, because I (and many older comics fans) know the main character as Captain Marvel. That's the name that was used in the '40s when the character was first introduced, and that's the character that my Dad told us about when we first started reading comics and he described comics he liked when he was a kid. Unfortunately, Marvel Comics was able to usurp the name back in the '60s, so when DC brought back the character after a long hiatus, they couldn't use that name as a title of a comic. They called the new comic book Shazam! after the magic word Billy Batson uses to transform into his super-powered alter ego, and apparently now they've completely done away with the Captain Marvel name, calling the character Shazam, even though that means that he can't even say his own name!
But I digress. This year, DC finally got around to finishing the long-promised Shazam! movie, but they scheduled it for release around the same time as Marvel released its own Captain Marvel film. I haven't seen that one, nor do I have any interest, but I thought it was funny that the LaGrange theater was showing both Captain Marvel movies at the same time!
05/01/19: I had to update the program on multiple computers today, so I set them all up in a conference room. For some reason, I felt like Keith Emerson surrounded by his keyboards
04/15/19: I attended the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention this past weekend, and here's my haul. Despite what you might think from looking at the pile you see here, I was a little more discerning while shopping, because I realized that I've only read a fraction of the stuff I bought last year. I think the big prizes this year are the Best of Fredric Brown hardcover, the new Rocky Jordan collection, and the Sun-Koh reprint from Airship 27.
I've recently picked up two collections of Frederic Brown mystery stories, and I had been looking for this Best Of collection to read some of his science fiction stories. I've seen a series of articles on the Black Gate web site about a series of paperback collections published by Del Rey in the '70s and '80s. I've have a number of them (one, oddly, givent o me by my Uncle Tony back when I was a teenager) but I was specifically looking for the Brown one, and I found it as a Science Fiction Book Club hardcover for a great price.
The Rocky Jordan collection was exciting because I've been really getting into the radio program, which aired from 1948 to 1950. Rocky is an American who owns a bar in Cairo, and every week he gets involved in some sort of crime or mischief. The character is written and played like a hard-boiled detective, and it's a lot of fun to listen to. The series also has what I consider to be one of the best cop characters in police chief Sam Sabaaya, and his relationship with Rocky makes the series special to me. The book I bought is a collection of new stories with these characters and I'm looking forward to reading it.
The other prize is a book I've been seeking for some time. Sun-Koh was a German knock-off of Doc Savage, with stories written in the early Nazi 1930s. I'd read about this collection of new stories featuring the character, but I soon discovered that the book had a short print run back in 2010 and was totally unavailable. Fortunately, Airship 27 reprinted the volume last year and I was finally able to buy a copy.
The other prize was not for me, so it's not in the picture. Years ago I was sitting in the great room in Union Station, reading a Terry and the Pirates collection while waiting for my train. A uniformed policeman walked up and commented on the comic I was reading. He introduced himself as Jim Doherty, and at the time, he was writing the Crimestoppers' Textbook bit for the Sunday Dick Tracy newspaper strip. He also told me that he had written a novel and was trying to get it published. I made a note to look for that, partly because the main character had the same name as my best friend, but never saw it. At this years convention, I met Jim Doherty again, as he was there promoting his new book. I asked him about that first book, titled An Obscure Grave, and he said he had copies in his car. He ran out and got one, and I had him sign it to my friend. I'm going to give it to my pal next time I see him.
04/12/19: I spotted this little tableau while walking through Yorktown mall, during my visit to the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention across the lot at the Westin Lombard. Apologies for the reflection on the glass, but it was the best I could do and I wanted to share this.
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.
03/02/19: We've been members of Sam's Club for over 20 years, and many times I've been tempted to buy many things in quantities larger than I need. (I keep telling Stephie that one day, I'm going to buy that enormous box of tortilla chips and that gallon can of nacho cheese sauce.)
Today, I was stopped in my tracks by the display that you see pictures here. I'm guessing the pączki are not of the quality we used to get from the Polish bakery in my neighborhood when growing up, but pączki are pączki. I'll take the lot!
02/12/19: So it's 6:00 a.m. and I'm leaving for work on a cold Tuesday morning. There was a light dusting of snow overnight, and as I go to walk down the stairs, I notice these footprints going across one of the steps. The impressions above and below are from my boots, so you can get a sense of the size of each print.
We don't see much wildlife around here in February. I've seen the occasional bunny, but these are not bunny prints. Maybe a raccoon woke early from it's winter nap and was prowling around in search of a mid-winter snack? If not, what else?
02/02/19: Here's a silly picture. It's from the old Disney Quest indoor theme park that was in Chicago many years ago. The Wikipedia entry for this lists the years of operation as June, 1999 to September, 2001. I actually think we were there sometime in 1999, because I vaguely remember thinking that with all the virtual reality games in there, the place would go bonkers when the Y2K bug hit!
This was from a vending machine they had that you would stand in front of and pick from a selection of Disney-related backgrounds. I was obviously picking something else entirely. I had previously posted Chris and Ricky's pictures, and this completes the collection.
01/30/19: Once a month, I scan through the offerings from Netflix and Amazon Prime, to see if anything new has been added to either service that I'd like to see. I don't do much streaming from either, preferring to watch some of the hundreds of shows that I have recorded on my DVR or to watch the recent DVDs from Netflix DVD service. (I still have that because only a small fraction of the films in my DVD queue are available for streaming anywhere.)
Stephie sat down while I was doing this today and said she wanted to watch something. I was scanning the list when I spotted Iron Sky. "Have you heard about this?" I asked. "No," she replied. "What is it?" "It's a movie about Nazis on the moon. The trailer is bonkers!" We watched the trailer and she was sufficiently interested, so we watched. it.
Surprisingly, it was a pretty fun little movie. In some ways, it's just what you think it will be from the trailer: a low-budget movie with halfway-decent CG effects about Nazis, who have been living on the far side of the moon since the end of WWII coming back to try to conquer Earth, specifically the United States. What I didn't expect was some social commentary mixed in with the over-the-top action sequences, cardboard characters, and of course, Nazis. Not a great movie, but entertaining in a popcorn movie way.
And when it was over, I told Stephie that I read that the movie was actually crowd-sourced, with fans paying in advance to get it made. She thought that I said "kraut-sourced" and we had a good laugh about that.
01/20/19: I have a routine that every Sunday afternoon, I take a trip to my local Jewel grocery store. There, I pick up my supplies for the work week: lunchmeat, bread, half-and-half, snacks, and whatever else I need. I typically get some frozen veggies to supplement my sandwiches, and occasionally get a frozen dinner or two to break up the sandwich monotony.
I usually go for the Lean Cuisine because they're cheap and filling and reasonably healthy, at least as frozen food goes. I used to mix in a Healthy Choice every once in a while, but these days, they're rarely on sale. Today, I was browsing the cases and spotted what you see here: Banquet Salisbury Steak with Mashed Potatoes. We used to have Banquet-brand frozen food when we were kids, so I thought it might be a flashback to childhood. I opened the door and was about to take one, when I spotted the nutritional info in the lower left of the package. 700 calories doesn't seem too bad. 14g of Sat Fat made me pause. 2590mg of sodium made me take out my phone and snap a picture. How can they get away with giving you 113% of your recommended daily allotment of sodium in one package? I know frozen meals are high in sodium, but this is nuts!
After I took the picture, I wandered over to the Lean Cuisine section, and while I was deciding if I wanted anything, a woman walked up to the case where the Banquet items were. She opened the door, grabbed two Mega Meals, tossed them in to her cart, when walked away. I was half-tempted to ask her if she knew what was in there, but I figure it's none of my business.