Friday, February 29, 2008

You Know, It Figures...

Right after I post an entry listing all my reviews for that movie review site, it turns out that I'm not writing for them anymore.

I don't want to go into the details, really, so I'll just say this: There was a disagreement over a review I wrote, and it was my choice to end the relationship with them.

No, I'm not happy about it--I have damn few outlets for my writing (here and my personal journal and that's about it), so I don't like giving up one. But sometimes you have to walk away from something in order to walk toward something else. And the only way to find that something else is to start walking.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Movie Website Reviews

One of my regular readers asked me today whether or not there was a link to the reviews I've written for the review site I've been writing for over the past year. I'm pretty sure there isn't, since, as far as I know, the site doesn't have a "contributor" page to lump all of my eggs into one basket. I can, however, at least post a blog entry filled with links to all of my reviews for them thus far. So here it is.

Hard as Nails 12/14/07

Sand and Sorrow 12/4/07

The Mist 11/27/07

Playroom 10/30/07

Resident Evil: Extinction 9/30/07

Creatures from the Pink Lagoon 9/30/07

As You Like It 8/20/07

White Light/Black Rain 8/6/07

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 6/22/07

Pretty Cool Too 6/11/07

Towncraft 5/25/07

Red Mercury 5/1/07

The Trials of Darryl Hunt 4/12/07

Summer in Berlin 3/21/07

Winter of Our Discontent

If you grew up in Chicago in the '70s or '80s, as I did, you didn't take winter lightly or treat it with anything less than total respect. If you turned your back on it, tried to ignore it or showed any form of disrespect, the Chicago winter usually found a way to make you pay.

If you got off a bus and decided to walk the rest of the way to the mall rather than wait for the connecting bus, you'd discover, much to your discomfort, that it was a lot colder than you thought, making that eight blocks seem more like 20; the only reason you knew your feet were still attached to your body was to look down and hope that you still saw two slush-encrusted sneakers (not boots--mistake on top of mistake).

If you decided to go for a ride with your brother and his best friend out to the suburbs to see a movie on a bitterly cold day when the thermometer never even came close to kissing zero, the electrical system of your brother's Buick would short out before you could make it back within safe traveling distance; you would have to play navigator (making sure the Buick stayed in its proper lane) while your brother played pilot (driving the car as best he could) and his best friend co-pilot (wiping the frost off the interior of the windshield so your brother might have some slight idea of where the hell he was going).

If you charged down the sidewalk, anxious to get home after a long, frustrating day at work, your right foot will find a patch of black ice and pitch you forward, bouncing your left leg off that sidewalk and transforming your knee and shin into one long plank of pain.

The first two examples cited above took place back in the day. I really did walk all that way to the Brickyard, then an enclosed mall built on what had been, well, a brickyard; it has since been razed and transformed into an outdoor mall, which makes shopping in winter weather even more challenging. My feet hurt so bad once I was inside the comparatively warm confines of the mall that I was sure I had frostbite. In truth, it was just dumbass luck that I didn't.

I also really went for that ride with my brother and his best friend out to Norridge on what turned out to be the single coldest day in Chicago history; the low temperature reached 27 below zero, and that doesn't even take into account the wind chill on what my memory says was a breezy day.

The third example, though, happened last month. It had been reasonably warm that morning, with temperatures in the low 40s, but a strong cold front had moved through early in the afternoon and by evening, all of the puddles and wet spots had flash-frozen into glass-slick patches just waiting for some fool to trundle over--and, that evening, I was the fool in question.

It's been said that this is the worst winter Chicago has had in decades--more specifically, the worst since the winter of 1978-79, when we had wave after wave of snow, almost always followed by bone-brittling cold that prevented any proper melting. That winter also featured what has come to be known as the Blizzard of '79, when something past 20 inches of snow fell, driven by howling winds that sculpted drifts six feet high, hopelessly buried cars and, in one of the more interesting cases of collateral damages in the colorful history of Chicago politics, cost mayor Michael Bilandic, widely blamed for the city's incompetent snow removal, his job. (In one of the most subtle and brilliant political TV commercials ever, rival candidate Jane Byrne stood outside making her case for election while flurries gentle fell behind her. She won.) Schools closed for a week, and the only people able to get around town with any ease were the ones lucky enough to own snowmobiles or cross-country skis.

We haven't had any such snowstorm this winter. It's been more a matter of a few inches here, a few inches there. Never enough to shut everything down, but always enough to slow things down and make it more difficult, if not more outright painful, to get from point A to point B. And then there's the cold, with several days struggling to make it out of single digits--and failing.

The winter of 2007-08 doesn't seem as bad as the winters I lived through in my youth. Then again, memory magnifies everything. The good times seem so much better, the bad times so much worse.

This winter doesn't have to be as bad as the ones in my memory's eye, or even as bad as they actually were (which, really, was bad enough), though, for me to take it seriously--or, at least, more seriously than we've taken winters in recent years, when snow and cold hardly ever stretched to extremes.

Okay, winter. You have my attention and respect again. Now please excuse me--I'm about to go outside, and I need to strap on my Timberlands. (Never let it be said that I don't ever learn from experience.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cellular Disruption

I hate cell phones. Really, I do. I hate listening to people carrying on long, intimate, detailed discussions on them when I'm riding the train in to work in the morning or just walking down the street anywhere. I also hate nearly being run over by drivers yakking away instead of having both hands on the steering wheel and actually paying attention to where they're going. (Talking on a cell phone while driving is allegedly illegal in Chicago, yet I see literally dozens of violators every day. Why bother passing a law you have no intention of enforcing?)

I only got one, after years of resistance, because my friends wanted to be able to get ahold of me when they wanted to do stuff and because I wanted my mom or brother to be able to get ahold of me if anything happened to her. (She turns 70 this year, so it's not an unreasonable concern.)

So far, though? My cell phone has gone largely unused. Mom refuses to call me on it, instead leaving messages on my landline answering machine wondering where I am and why I'm not returning her calls. My friends use it occasionally, but we aren't spur-of-the-moment folks anymore--improvised plans are few and far between.

And now, for extra fun, my cell phone has decided to, at random and for no discernable reason, turn itself off. It's not a matter of charging it up--both times this has happened, the phone had been fully charged the night before, it takes days for it to run out of juice, and hooking it back up to the charger didn't turn it back on. It just...stopped.

This happened again Tuesday. Tuesday night, I left it hooked to the charger all night. Wednesday morning? Nothing. Left it home when I went to work. Came back home. Still dead. Hooked it back up to the charger. Nothing...until about 9:45, when it decided to wake up again. Again, no explanation.

This is more trouble than it's worth.

Monday, February 18, 2008


For the past two weeks, I've had the flu.

That sounds like an awfully long time to be sick, and it is. Usually, when I get sick, it's more of a "hit-and-run" affair: I'm down for 24 hours, 48 at the most, then I'm back up and in action.

Not so this time. This bug, which seems to have infected half the people I know (both in my workplace, a natural breeding environment for viruses of various forms, and in my circle of friends), is a tenacious thing that clings to the body, draining it of energy and filling that void with more mucus, sputum and phlegm than one would think a human body could possibly contain.

My head hurt. My chest hurt. My throat hurt. (That doctor who told me that, after having my tonsils out, I'd never have a sore throat again? I want to hurt.) And this was all before my right eye decided to weld itself shut. For someone who spends his days reading pages to make sure the words on them are spelled correctly, having one eye unavailable for duty is something of a drawback.

That first Sunday I was sick, I was supposed to hang out with Superbadfriend. But when after I left a message with Jessie, she called me back--and her voice was so hoarse that I didn't even recognize it until she said something to her kitty, Ernie. her throat was more messed up than mine.

I deteriorated as that day went on, and wound up taking that Monday off of work. Just as well--by that morning, my voice was gone, and every part of my body ached as if I'd just spent the weekend moving antique furniture to the seventh floor of an apartment building with a broken elevator. No matter what position I contorted my body into, I couldn't rest comfortably.

Then, nighttime came. And matters deteriorated even further.

In order to fully recover from the flu, it's nice to have warm soups, cold water and numerous medicines (whether prescribed by a physician or purchased at your corner drug emporium), but it's even better to have sleep--which is exactly what you can't have when, each and every time you try to recline for a bit of rest, you start coughing so hard that you suspect major internal organs will start flying scross your bedroom any moment. At the very least, you can't sleep more than an hour at a time before another eruption begins.

Foolishly, I went to work the next two days, took off that Thursday and went in again Friday, only to work overtime despite having the use of only one eye for much of that afternoon. That following weekend, I tried taking more aggressive action against the invader: I cancelled all plans and chose to stay in, my face unshaven, my hair (the longest it's been since high school) curling and sailing in all directions like a particularly manic Medusa. Just as well--as has happened a number of times this winter (the worst, they say, in some 30 years), the temperature dropped through the proverbial floor, leaving Sunday lingering in the low single digits.

Not that any of that mattered. Come Monday, I was still wheezing, still coughing, still expectorating to an epic degree and still sleeping no more than a couple of hours a night.

I was also dreaming. A lot, and vividly, no matter how short a time I was out cold. The dreams weren't scary or disturbing, just more intense and frequent than usual, and because of their unusual intensity, they contributed not one bit to my required rest.

This past weekend, I stayed in again, straying into the harsh elements only long enough to secure supplies for either me or the Girlish Girls. (I've said it many times before: I can starve, but Ms. Christopher and Olivia must be properly fed.) Again, my hair went wild. Again, the weather turned raw (this time with rare winter thunder). Again, I dreamed, but more frequently this time, because I actually slept for hours at a time.

And now? Now I'm tired. I'm hungry for something other than soup. My cough is only an occasional thing. And my dreams are welcome to take a well-deserved rest anytime they wish.

Winged Migration

Slowly but surely, I'm moving files over from my old site to this new, improved bloggity. It's gonna take a while, since I have to move seven years' worth of essays, poems, reviews and photos, but at least I have all of 2008 on here, along with the last few entries of 2007, most of 2001 (the first year of and a few bits in between. Eventually, it'll all be here, but I have to go through and edit a lot of the pieces, taking out bad links and uploading photos, which takes a while even at work. So, be patient. It'll all be here. Sometime soon. Maybe.

In the meantime, I'll try to be better about posting new content. And maybe more people will read this. I can only hope.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Best Laid Schemes

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

You don't need me to tell you that, though it is a rather admirable demonstration of one of my more discernable talents: The gift for stating the obvious. No, advertisors and various media outlets have been screeching at you about February 14 since Boxing Day, when the artificial pines and tinsel were removed from the seasonal aisle at your local pharmacy and replaced with heart-shaped boxes of dark chocolate and cardboard Cupids.

Valentine's Day and I are not on friendly terms. Never have been, really. Most years, I take the day off from work and hide out in La Casa del Terror. This year, I had a different idea: Go to work, serve my eight hours in the salt mines, go to Cardozo's afterward and get quietly but resolutely hammered. Not the healthiest alternative, I know, and certainly not the most optimistic. Still, it was something different, and I scheduled the day after off as a vacation day, thus allowing me to sleep away the inevitable hangover.

Sometimes, though, even such modest schemes can't fly far enough under the radar without being shot down.

I have the flu. Have had it for about a week and a half. Unpleasant thing. Coughing, sneezing and feeling generally miserable. And that's just during daylight hours. At night, merely breathing becomes an effort, making sleep a near-impossibility. Sleep for an hour, sit up and cough for two. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So, because I'm still sick and pumped full of Theraflu, I can't go drinking tomorrow night. Instead, I'll serve my time at the job, go home, sip chicken noodle soup and watch Ace of Cakes on Food Network.

I've had worse Valentine's Days. I've had--and will have--better ones, too.