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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hammer Time

September 24, 2014:  The letters have poured in—many of them postage due; others addressed to Current Resident—but the message has been clear: Blah-ugh! Readers (and see, I’m capitalizing you all now, out of respect and fear) have been wondering about my failure to file new and exciting entries for the past few days (and I believe there’s been about 215 of them ... days, I mean ...) …

Well, it hasn’t been for lack of trying, but I’ve found myself easily distracted by REAL work, familial conflicts & commitments and this new lava lamp I bought which I just can't seem to take my eyes off. In fact, I’ve started quite a few entries, but they’ve consistently failed to materialize because of a new spiritual practice I’m exploring called laziness. (It’s incredibly fulfilling, and I will write about it when I get round, perhaps in the latter 21st century.)

But as the groundswell has seemed to swell, and I had an hour to kill, I felt it might do this dilapidated forum service to actually keep it alive with a feeble injection of humor, wisdom, words and whining.

Just this week I made a brilliant purchase of an eight-movie Hammer Films Horror Pack on DVD. DVDs, as you know, are those little shiny round discs that people take out of the library to use as bases when they play pick-up softball games. What you probably didn’t know was that they can also be used to play magical classic films, such as Night Creatures and The Evil of Frankenstein.

My ever-growing allegiance to Hammer Films has been soundly augmented by this new collection, which I proudly put alongside my various Christopher Lee Dracula movies, the underrated Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, and of course the terribly sexy Vampire Lovers, which offers some of the most sensitive and titillating vampiric lesbianism one is likely to find in British cinema.

I’m yet to explore each selection in this lovely collection, but I can assure you it’s already proving to be a veritable cornucopia of English joy. I decided to watch The Phantom of the Opera first, as it had perhaps the lowest attraction for me compared to some others in the collection. (The Curse of the Werewolf, featuring Oliver Reed, is the one that I’ve long hoped to find, for I don’t remember ever seeing it, and so I’m saving that for last.) Much to my sincere surprise, however, I found this 1962 version of 'Phantom,' featuring the great Herbert Lom—whom most of you know as Inspector Clouseau’s twitching foil—an absolute delight. One of their delicious Technicolor Victorian-era pieces, it’s got all the elements—likable hero, sweet heroine and a most heinous bad guy played by the great Michael Gough, who you’ll also remember from Horror of Dracula.

My second foyer (and I hope I'm spelling that right) into this collection—Paranoiac—was equally as thrilling, even though it took a few more minutes for me to get into. Reed shows up here too and makes it clear why he’s one of the creepiest character actors in the tradition of, say, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Peter Lorre and perhaps Dame Judy Dench. Filmed in luscious early-sixties black and white, it’s both visually and narratively a treat.

And today I have popped in The Kiss of the Vampire and let me tell you, from the awesome opening scene, it’s awesome! While a fool might argue that it’s somewhat predictable—and really, what movie isn’t, except perhaps Darjeeling Limited—I challenge anyone to find a predictable ride that offers more in the way of a satisfying classic gothic soft horror trip. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Well, I could go on, as many of you know, but I think it’s better to get something completed and up rather than try and perfect it, or try to expand too long, or try too hard, or try at all, for that matter. So I hope you enjoyed this autumnal offering and will look forward to other offerings which I hope will come presently—among them a closer look at coffee shops and the conversations people hope to have there, as well as a unique examination of what might have happened if Hitler got into art school.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Assessing the Indians

To start, does PREFERRING a particular ethnic group make one a racist? It probably should, to be fair to everyone. In fact, wouldn’t it really be gross prejudice if it didn’t?!

Of course the bigger question rests with why someone who’s so seemingly sensitive to racism (meaning me) is always writing Blah-ugh! entries about race-related stuff. I mean, what the hell’s my problem anyway?!

That said, I really like Indians—the ones from India I mean. Mind you, I have nothing against the indigenous kind—which I believe is where that word comes from, and its original meaning probably sweeps across continents—but today I want to focus on those beautiful nan-eating people we know so well from late-night technical support calls.

I’m not sure what prompted my ruminations for this particular Blah-ugh!, but I’ve always held a fondness for these lovely folks and thought it might be best to examine it in depth. (I mean, maybe I’m deluding myself, and need to break out of my infatuation. And what better time to do it than Valentine’s Day? After all, what have the Indians—or any other national group, for that matter—done for me lately? Plus, as a rule, I’ve never been that fond of people who often go about barefoot, even in summer, because I find feet so remarkably ugly.)

And now I can see I’m already off on the wrong foot, if you’ll forgive the pun, because I’ve just stereotyped Indian people as being barefoot, and I’m sure many are wearing shoes as we speak—my doctor, for instance, and that nice man at the restaurant from whom I buy my malai kofta. Nevertheless, you’re probably going to misunderstand—as you always tend to—because you don’t feel as strongly about feet as I do. Perhaps they don’t taint your outlook as much as they do mine. Well, then consider yourself lucky, for you’re not faced with this constant weighing in of feet and how—like a fungus—they manage to grow over your perceptions of what’s really going on above the ankles.

That said, it speaks highly of my experience with those of Indian descent that I hold them in such high favor, despite their feet (although I could only watch Ravi Shankar play for so long before I’d have to ask him to put some shoes on). With rare exception, all of my dealings with them—be they professional, social or arbitrary—have left me making some mental note about how wonderful people of Indian descent are, and how, given the chance, I would even go so far as to visit their country (should I ever be motivated to leave my town, street, couch or burrow).

Yet while I love the people, I’m not entirely so sure I’m drawn to the culture—or those cows I keep hearing about. In truth—and I can only base this on some old National Geographic articles, a few movies and some related songs, like the Doors’ Indian Summer—I suspect it’s a terribly hot place and I really have limited use for hot weather. I also don’t like the idea of walking around in a nightgown, which I think is very common for the men in places like Bombay and Jabooti, (which I think is in India, but may actually be in Arkansas).

Ultimately we all know I’m deluding myself on some level, even if this is all true. You see, isn’t this really about me projecting my own schema—based solely on my weird perceptions and experiences of life—upon some group or other?! And why would it even have to be a group? Couldn’t it be a musical instrument, or a number, or just about anything that my damaged brain has chosen to hold as favorable for some arbitrary reason?! In all likelihood, some scant past memory—and aren’t all memories really past memories, after all?—is providing just enough positive neural stimulation to prompt rose-colored glasses over my already unfocused eyes.

Therefore, by inverse logic, isn’t this all racism at its worst?! (Cheez, how can you people read this racist Blah-ugh! and still sleep at night?!!) Wouldn’t a fair-minded, healthy , mature individual—which we could all probably agree I’m not—hold no pre-judged perspectives on anyone for something other than their present being (and maybe the kind of car they drive). Hell, if this were Star Trek universe, or maybe San Francisco, I wouldn’t even be conscious of anyone’s ethnicity to catalogue any differences, even if they were positive. (I’d also probably be making it with green women, although this remains more rare in San Francisco.)

I don’t know. Now I’ve forgotten why I started this whole thing—my Blah-ugh! I mean, and not even this particular essay. Perhaps I’m just trying to make a point and, once again, like the quantum mosquito that passes off into future dimensions, it has escaped me.

All I know is I can’t speak to issues about Pakistan or Bangladesh, because I don’t understand them, but I like Indian people, and especially love their food, even though it always gives me fervent diarrhea.

What higher praise could I offer any people?!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Know What You're Up To!

I awoke this morning completely unsure of anything. This, in and of itself, is not remarkable, but this time my suspicions centered on this brave new 1984 world and how it’s very possibly playing me for the fool I like to think I’m not, (but very well may be, if I’m correct, which actually, if I am, really makes me less of a fool, so you can see why I’m feeling a bit unsure).

You see, I’ve been starting to wonder if the “old friends” I’ve been in contact with through this so-called boon to man—(and gabby women especially)—called Facebook are really who they’re purporting to be. It suddenly occurred to me—in the shower, in fact, as these things are wont to do—that the people who have claimed their connections to me—and have been gingerly sending their familiar communications into my message hole—may very well not be the people they say they are.

How the hell am I supposed to know for sure?! Certainly, it appears they are who they seem to be, but my god, how hard could it be to pull the wool over my bluescreen star-struck eyes?! (Or how easy?!!)

Think about this. I haven’t seen—or certainly heard from—most of these people for a pure 20-year spell, and now suddenly I’m supposed to believe they’re back in my life, like swallows returned from Capistrano, or the shingles?

Let’s work this through logically. How hard would it be for someone to impersonate someone else on computer—someone I haven’t had contact with in all that time? They put up a tiny picture of some vague resemblance, post a reference to my hometown or school or favorite comic character, and they’re in! Some of these people look incredibly different, at least as far as I can best judge from the 4-millimeter-by-6-millimeter pictures. In some cases, it very well could be the same person’s picture, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same person. I mean I can only imagine how many photos have been taken of me when I was unaware—on the street, in the shower …

The more I’ve thought about it, my understandable suspicions have been enhanced by several 2+2 realizations. For starters, why are some of these people being so nice to me? That alone makes me suspicious. They have no reason to be, and I don’t remember some of them being all that nice before. Why this sudden change? I mean, wouldn’t it make sense that they were simply after something? (My rabbit fur hat comes to mind, but it could be anything!)

Who would do such a thing? That’s a good question and one we could contemplate at length. It’s no secret that the government has been very interested in me for years, both for my outspoken editorial writing and my singing voice. Don’t you think these people would like to put some apparati in place to keep tabs on me, to mine my mind for useful information about me and my surroundings, and obviously to impart an occasional subliminal message into my fragile skull, like Eat less foreign food!, or Stop wearing hats!

It’s ironic that we caution the kids about getting involved with Internet interlopers when we ourselves are, in all likelihood, falling victim to the same nefarious scams. I have every reason to believe there are numerous agencies at work here, faux friends, posing as people who seem to know me. It’s quite a disturbing picture, let me tell you.

During one recent contact with a person, I noticed I was asked a lot of questions—personal questions, like about how I was doing and that sort of thing. I mean, What the hell!

Along with government agencies, in all likelihood there are a spate of marketeers involved as well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that every time we turn around we’re being sent personal advertisements on the things that “coincidentally” link with our interests—pornography, for instance. And how often am I being asked these certain particulars by people who I haven’t been in touch with for decades? (“Hey, how ya doin’? So, what kind of psychosexual fetishes are you subscribing to these days?” And that from a friend of my mother’s!)

I just want to caution everyone that whoever you think you may have rekindled some old flame with, it’s probably all a calculated sham—both on their part and, ultimately, yours. Take my advice—find yourself a book club. At least you’ll know with whom you’re dealing and why, although I'd avoid Internet book clubs if possible.

As for those many people who’ve established computer links with me by way of these various electrical group settings—I’m on to you! Don’t expect me to fall for any more of your inquisitive deception.  It’s not going to work, so find yourself another patsy in my old high school almanac.

From now on I'm only responding to pencils!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Various Kinds of Crap ...

Once again I find myself being plied with questions on a constellation of topics—our broken education system, breast implants, snowstorms, the Super Bowl … Once again I find myself working diligently to balance prompt professional responsiveness with tending to the aggressive diarrhea I somehow managed to contract this afternoon …

I would guess that snow is on everyone’s mind this evening, or at least it’s on my mind, and since I’m an unapologetic narcissist, that basically means everyone's. When we start to speak of snow, I think it’s important not to confuse the different kinds. Contrary to many popular myths, snow is as varied as the DNA that pulses through the monkey house, and I’m not even talking about snowflakes, or monkeys that wears hats and make those expressive faces on TV shows. I’m just talking about regular monkeys here, so don’t try and confuse me.

Tonight’s snow was what’s known as white powder, which is somewhat different than wet snow and, of course, not to be confused with cocaine. White powder is good for skiers, although what’s good for skiers isn’t necessarily what’s good for me, because the last time I skied I lost my hat, which was in Colorado, and for all I know it's still there, doing no one any good.

Which brings me to the question of whether or not monkey’s ski—which I’m often asked—and I vehemently explain that few monkeys live in cold climates and, consequently, favor summer sports, like kayaking and outdoor grooming. While there are so-called winter monkeys—the ones who wear coats—most of them live in and around Russia and, therefore, are discouraged from skiing, which is considered a barbaric western sport and not particularly kulturney.

Which reminds me of a Steven Seagal movie I watched last night called Driven to Kill, which as you might imagine is about a man—a Russian man, in fact, you see, which is why I’m mentioning it, for I’m not as arbitrary as some of you might imagine—who is driven to kill. And kill he does—with a vengeance, if you’ll forgive the obvious glibby—a cavalcade of Russians and Americans alike, which I appreciated because it showed a kind of  wonderful post-Soviet equality. Steven does a rather good Russian accent, incidentally, except in several scenes where he forgets to, and once again I’m impressed with how he manages to master speaking the language outright for a fluid flow of great Communist dialogue in several conversations. (Yes, I understand that Communism fell, or folded, or did something it never intended to, but let’s face it—to those of us born in the Cold War era, much as we’ve come to love them and their kasha, those guys will always be Communists in our hearts.)

Which brings me to All in the Family, which is certainly one of the best television shows ever and one I’ve sorely neglected honoring in this here Blah-ugh! It’s a weird travesty to me, I must say, just how poorly the DVD collections were manufactured, considering what a landmark and brilliant work it was. They jam all the discs on one spoke in the box on top of each other, which sucks for those of us who treat our discs with respect, and they offer absolutely nothing in the way of extras, which sucks for those of us who want--and expect--extra out of life. Yet another example of man’s injustice to man, but I can’t get into all that now.

Nor can I properly expound on the many merits of All in the Family, which lampooned our weird world and culture and stuff throughout the 1970s even better than Mad magazine, and touched on just so many fascinatingly hysterical fodder topics, like Communists, families and the differences between snow colors. (Actually they never did address that, but you get the implication, I hope.)

Which brings me to Martin Luther King Day, which was yesterday, or as perhaps it’s more politically correct to say, Monday. (God knows I’ve offended enough people with my callous references—no need to add to the list!) Again, I have no time or energy to expound or expand—I’m struggling to tame this diarrhea, among other things—but it’s interesting to note the coming of Black History Month (which is February, or as the white man calls it “Feb-u-ary”) and this becomes a solemn time to look at everything and be all serious.

I, myself, often reflect on a great column I wrote years ago when I was doing my "Education Consumer" column (back when blogs were nonexistent and we called them "columns" or "crap that Jarret wrote). Anyway, I did a great piece on the month, wherein I interviewed some black civil rights leader woman who kept calling me Honey, and she explained—which I almost found a fascinating and logical concept myself, after having read the Malcolm X autobiography—that there shouldn’t be a special month for blacks because it highlights or implies that blacks are different and separate of mainstream America. See, now we can get into a whole serious discussion about this--during which time you could criticize me for using the word "black"--but I still have diarrhea, so it’s not going to happen. The point, really, is just that Monday was Martin Luther King Day and I didn’t have a thing to wear.

Which brings us to the Super Bowl, breast implants, the crippled education system and the Gong Show—all of which I hope to address very soon in one or several upcoming Blah-ughs!

Meanwhile, I want all of you to think warm thoughts and keep your mind on the snow while you’re driving, or on monkeys while you’re sitting at home grooming yourself. That’s about the most logical and heartfelt advice I can offer at this time, but that’s because I have diarrhea, so you can’t hold me responsible …

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On Global Warming ...

January 7, 2014:  Once again I’ve touched a nerve with my candor, concern and comedy. What the hell is it about me that makes people want to fight or leave the room or cast stones or cast shoes or polish shoes or wash their hands … ?!

People are demanding I make a definitive statement on Global Warming, so I thought I should hit the pause button on my Seagal movies—I just got four new ones from the library, incidentally, including Black Dawn, The Keeper, Into the Sun and Born to Raise Hell—and take time to explain myself (just like I did to the police when they caught me outside that woman’s window watching her make a soufflĂ©).

Based on the wealth of evidence that various parties have been presenting, it seems like there is ample data and so-called authoritative testimony to support any and each view if someone wants to have that view supported. This is what I find so discouraging about these discussions, because they take us down a pointless road. As much as we’d like to believe it, I really don’t think anyone’s opinion is ever going to be swayed one way or the other, excepting in those extremely rare cases where they’re more intelligent than I am, so all it serves to do in the end is escalate emotions. (Jack and Shannon are just one example, but there are others—Shannon and Jack, Jack & Shannon, Shannon & Jack, Jak & Shannun, Sh'nun & Yak …)

So what could I possibly add to any of this, except more stomach acid.

No, I’m thinking logically, as both Mr. Spock and myself are wont to do. I’m thinking about the details that dance on the periphery of this whole discussion, and that’s where I see something worth talking about.

For me—a simple, albeit extremely handsome man—it’s all about what I can do to address environmental issues at the grassroots level. One of my prickly peeves is people who pointlessly idle their cars for lengths of time, despite a state law that limits it to three minutes (and I believe even disallows it entirely outside of school buildings, which ironically is where so much idling takes place—and not just in the administrations).

It seems such a simple and obvious thing to me that the world—at least the town—is a better place when auto emissions are reduced. I mean, who could argue with that? Is anyone in favor of exhaust? Doesn’t it kill hundreds of suicides each year in their garages? Doesn’t it smell awful? Isn’t it just good old-fashioned pollution and shouldn’t we want less of it?

Is there anyone (excepting perhaps C. Montgomery Burns) who isn’t in favor of recycling? I mean, can’t we agree that if it’s possible to create a little less plastic, or use a little less paper, or re-use stuff over, that we’re helping the world at large? I mean, this is what we’re telling kids in nursery school. There must be a modicum of truth in it.

So I think for most of us, that’s all we need to know. It’s probably enough to know anyway. And while I appreciate and admire those who actively work at creating good changes (and I’m not saying what they are, folks!) at the larger levels, for most of us schlubs—even the incredibly handsome ones—it suffices that we perhaps do a bit more walking when we can, try to kill the car engine a bit more often, and try to be a little conscious when it comes to our consumption in its various forms.

(Once again, we return to consciousness and all the glitter it entails. Please refer to other Blah-ugh! posts, like this one … or don’t. What do I care what you do, as long as you shut that god-damned car engine off, you nit!)

Sometimes I wish I had more power to make a difference, but alas I find I’m just an impotent man (though a gaggle of very grateful women would vehemently disagree!) …

But there is that local opportunity to make things better, and since I have such a short attention span, and such an inability to take much of anything that seriously, at the very least I can … Well, you get the idea!

Okay, Seagal Time! Carry on …