Monday, March 31, 2008

Sick Is as Sick Does

Turns out it wasn't my imagination--I really was sick after all.

I felt progressively worse as the day went on Thursday, with chills, headache and body aches in unusual places (elbows? abdomen? the hell?), and by the time I got home from work I was pretty sure I wasn't going to work on Friday. Still, formalities must be observed, so I went to bed insanely early (around eight or so), forgoing a fresh episode of Ace of Cakes on the off chance that I might feel slightly better by daybreak.

No such luck. When I woke up Friday morning, well before the alarm, I felt worse than I had Thursday night (or, if not actually worse, then certainly not a bit better). I logged onto Polly Jean, my now-ancient lime-"flavored" iMac, and sent a broadcast email to pertinent coworkers, letting them know I wouldn't be in. Then I fed the cats, popped a couple Tylenol P.M.s and stumbled back to bed.

This turned out to be one of my best decisions in quite some time, for not only did I not feel any better the remainder of Friday, but I developed "complications"--the sort of "complications" that makes being within ten feet of a bathroom at all times a very, very good idea.

Since I was now tethered to La Casa del Terror, I did what I usually do when I'm illin'--I watched a zombie movie. Last time, it was Shaun of the Dead, a lovely tribute to George Romero's undead epics. This time, I went straight to the source: Romero's Dawn of the Dead, still a stinging social satire 30 years after it was given an X rating by the MPAA based solely on the amount of violence onscreen (which, admittedly, is an awful lot--the dead and living alike get blown up, chopped up, run over, shot, decapitated by helicopter blades, etc.). After watching a good-humored "making of" documentary, I resumed my self-induced coma.

Saturday? I did nothing. No. Really. Nothing. Didn't stare at Food Network or surf the 'Net or watch porn or play CDs. Just stayed in bed (my "complications" having subsided), only rising occasionally to eat or whiz (never at the same time--that would be unsanitary).

By Sunday, I was more or less back to myself--a bit of a sore throat and some leftover body aches, but pretty much whatever passes for normal. I still slept late, though, and went out to my favorite breakfast place and shocked them by ordering lunch: a bleu cheeseburger, thankfully not made from a preformed patty but an actual lump of beef thrown on a grill and cooked just right, with grilled onions draped over the peaks of cheese like ceremonial bunting.

After finishing my most satisfactory lunch, I stopped by Walgreens for some cat litter--thank goodness, no medicine needed to be picked up--and headed for home, pausing only to look at what someone had tossed into the alley: a bass guitar. The case was battered, with two of the three locks broken, and the guitar itself wasn't in the best shape either--it had only one string, was missing two of the other four string posts, and had a couple of dangling wires where its electronics should have been. It had a lovely laquered wood finish, though, and it was a Fender--I don't know (Bo) Diddly about guitars, but I know that's one of the best brands.

No, I don't play bass--hell, I still have an acoustic guitar I have never learned how to play--and I've got more than enough stuff in La Casa that I don't really need. Still, the bass was a handsome bit of hardware and was hardly beyond repair...

So, yes, I lugged it home. Yes, it's sitting in my dining room. No, I still don't know how to play it. But at least I felt well enough to go out for lunch, and if I hadn't, I wouldn't have the Fender bass. And damn, it looks good.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Blursday

When I woke up this morning--or, more accurately, when the alarm let me know that I could no longer just lie there and toss and turn and ignore the furbags on either side of me begging for their kibble while my mind raced and raced over territory best left untouched--I seriously contemplated calling in sick to work.

It wasn't that I felt ill. Far from it--since that bout of flu last month, my health has been just fine, even as the second wave of flu has caught people all around me, including some swept up in the last wave. (Of course, by saying "I feel fine," I've doomed myself; best stock up on Theraflu now.) It was more of a "It's gray and cold and supposed to snow and I really don't fucking well want to deal with it" thing.

Unfortunately, as is all too often the case, common sense prevailed (damn me for being a Taurus) and I got up, fed the Girlish Girls (which I would have done anyway, even if I'd decided to be "sick"), shaved and showered, dressed and primped.

Outside, the sky was gray. The air was cold. This was not exactly stoking my motivation. On my way to the train station, I ran across the remnants of the "Spring has sprung" chalk drawing I'd seen on the sidewalk the week before. It was badly faded now and barely legible. It looked how I felt.

Once at work, the mood remained. The sky was still gray, now aided by what looked like snow, but felt more like slush being dumped from the rooftops of downtown skyscrapers. The chill persisted. The news wasn't any warmer. Actor Richard Widmark had died at age 93. (I hate to say it, but he was one of those celebrities who, when his birthday rolled around, always made me say, "You mean he's still alive?") So had local radio legend Wally Phillips. So had the guy who created the Egg McMuffin. One of my best friends from high school sent word via email that her beloved kitty had passed away from kidney disease--not the first friend to deal with such a loss recently.

So the color of the sky and the bite in the air were fitting, I suppose, for a day close to the upcoming weekend, but not close enough and so full of sadness. Now it's mid-afternoon, the workday isn't moving as fast as it should (or as fast as I want it to), and I'm starting to feel oogy--headache, chills, creaky joints.

Uh oh. Maybe I talked myself into being sick after all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Long Not-So-Good Friday

Thursday was the Vernal Equinox--the official first day of spring.

I didn't do anything to celebrate the occasion, like balance an egg on its point (does anybody really do this?), dance naked (which a friend of mine does for the first day of each new season) or schedule a viewing of Equinox, a relatively obscure, zero-budget horror film that was shot by college students in California, yet had its premiere here in Chicago at the Loop Theater at State and Randolph. (The theater hadn't shown movies for ages, but survived until a couple of years, when it, along with the Walgreens and several smaller shops housed in the same building, were razed to make way for the big glass box that stands there now.)

The only thing I did to mark the occasion was leave comments on a few of my MySpace friends' pages wishing them a "Happy First Day of Spring!" or words to that effect. A number of them, in turn, left similar messages for me.

Of course, this being Chicago, there is usually a striking difference between what it says on the calendar and what's falling from the sky. Thus, on the second day of spring, our fair city (along with much of the upper half of Illinois and lower halves of Wisconsin and Michigan) found itself under a Winter Storm Warning, and I awoke to snow moving sideways past my living room windows. As I walked to work, I crossed a patch of sidewalk on which some artistic child had drawn in pastel shades the message "Spring has sprung" with flowers and stems surrounding it. Mother Nature, though, had other notions.

A Winter Storm Warning, despite its dire name, is not, by any means, a guarantee of snow. Snowstorms are tricky things that sometimes defy prediction--if a storm moves just slightly north or south of where forecasters think it's headed, the precipitation in a given area can be greatly diminished or increased. In this case, had the storm moved, say, 50 miles south, Chicago would have been buried under a foot of snow. As it was, towns north of here had that "honor," while totals varies wildly within the city itself--the North Side took the hardest hit with several inches of heavy, dense snow, while the South Side was barely touched.

Fortunately, it snowed hard enough long enough downtown and was coming down substantially harder and longer elsewhere, for my bosses to spread word that, once our work was wrapped up for the day, we could make a run for it. You don't have to tell me such things twice: Once I was done and made sure nobody else needed me in a support role, I was out the door.

Downtown streets were merely sloppy, with inches of slush accumulating around the curb of each corner, necessitating something along the lines of a ballerina leap across the grayish ponds. Back in my own neighborhood, though, conditions were less than ideal--side streets were unplowed, sidewalks were unshoveled, and the long, slow slog from the train station to La Casa del Terror was longer and slower than usual. Still, it could have been worse--areas within short driving distance had a foot of snow.

Come Saturday morning, the alley behind my building had become a fast-flowing river of ice and slush, and the snow was falling from the swaying boughs in splattering clumps. Welcome to Spring in Chicago.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Service with a Smile

We've all been victims of bad customer service, whether it's a lousy waiter, an indifferent cashier (my "Have a nice day!" is often greeted with a grunt, if anything at all) or an incompetent mechanic. So when I actually get good customer service, it stands out in my mind that much more.

Today, I needed to dash out to Walgreens on my lunch break for a couple of items: a box facial tissue and a roll of toilet paper. I needed the box of tissues because the supply in my place of employment seems to have evaporated. Even if it hadn't, though, the brand my company purchases is so cheap and rough that I'd do just as well wiping my nose with plywood, so the least expensive brand at Walgreens ("WOW! ONLY $1!" the box proudly proclaims) was a step up. And while my company had not run out of toilet paper (and never will, since the building management provides it, not our specific company), La Casa del Terror just about has--the roll in the bathroom is down to just enough to make me look at it and say aloud, "I'd better pick some up tomorrow," but not enough to make me actually remember to do so until that horrible moment when the last sheet is used up...and it's not enough to finish the job literally at hand.

Today, though, something clicked into place--the sight of a co-worker walking in with a Walgreens bag, maybe?--and I made the aforementioned dash.

I found the tissues easily enough, and this particular Walgreens, located in what used to be a Woolworth store (damn, I miss those), had four-packs of inexpensive but good-quality toilet paper (my neighborhood Walgreens stores often run out of these). I grabbed what I needed and beelined for the first avaible cashier who, much to my surprise and momentary annoyance, looked exasperated as I set down the four-pack of toilet paper. "The individual rolls are on sale for 39 cents each," she explained, grabbing my four-pack and moving as quickly as she could down the Paper Goods aisle, returning a few moments later with four individual rolls in her arms, her chin keeping them from toppling to the floor. She scanned one, multiplied that times four, and swiped the coupon in this week's ad (which I hadn't even bothered to look at). I thanked her more than once for her kindness and went on my way back out into the sunshine of the first day of spring (which is deceiving, considering that Chicago is under a Winter Storm Watch and is expecting 6-8 inches of snow by tomorrow evening).

This probably doesn't sound like a very big deal, but consider: Most cashiers would have let me buy the four-pack for twice the price of the sale item, rather than telling me that the individual rolls would cost me half as much. But this lady got my back, and that brightened my day. I'll take--and appreciate--whatever help I can get.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lack of Direction

I visit The Internet Movie Database often (at least once a day, but usually more than once) because I love movies and love learning about them--not just new and upcoming releases, but films released long before I was even a concept in either of my parents' heads.

Every day, IMDB has a poll. Sometimes, the polls, usually suggested by IMDB readers, are odd yet intriguing (example: "Which animated film deserves to be in IMDB's Top 250 Films of All Time?") because they make you think at least a little bit about your cinematic likes and dislikes. (In that particular poll, I chose The Nightmare Before Christmas--it didn't come in first, but was somewhere in the top five, which is cool.)

Today's poll question was very much to my liking: "Of's Top 25 Most Influential Directors of All Time, who really deserves the top spot?" Hmm. I hadn't seen's list, but I scanned it and found it hard to argue with any of their choices. Just about every one--from Alfred Hitchcock to Howard Hawks, Steven Spielberg to Jean Renoir, Orson Welles to Francois Truffaut--each colored the visions of the generations of directors that followed.

Such lists are subject to the quibbles or prejudices of the individual, and I, of course, had to apply mine, wish for other directors to be included. Like Frank Capra, a three-time Oscar winner whose socially conscious, emotionally sentimental style gave the word "Capraesque" to the cinematic and political lexicons. Or Quentin Tarantino, whose Pulp Fiction affected movies for the next decade (and not in a good way). Or Wes Anderson, whose distictive style made movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno (both recent Academy Award winners for Best Original Screenplay) possible.

But, hey, they didn't ask me--no reason for them to--so I looked over their choices and made my own for most influential: John Ford, the four-time winner of the Oscar for Best Director (more than any other individual in Academy history, I think) best known for his epic westerns starring John Wayne (Stagecoach, The Searchers and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, among others). I clicked the button, submitted my vote and waited to see how my opinion matched up with my fellow cinephiles.

Not very well, it turns out.

Both the IMDB users and the panel at selected Hitchcock as the most influential, and it's hard to argue with their choice--his control over nearly every aspect of his productions made each of his movies a personal statement as well as a popular entertainment. But whereas MovieMaker had Ford in fifth place (behind Hitchcock, D.W. Griffith, Welles and Jean-Luc Godard), IMDB voters ranked him 11th. That's not bad--he's still in the upper half of the survey--but it's ironic not only that directors he influenced, like Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa and Francis Ford Coppola, are all ranked above him, but that he won more Academy Awards for his work than all of the top 10 combined. (Some, like Hitchcock, Griffith, Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman received honorary Oscars, while others, like Welles, Charlie Chaplin and Stanley Kubrick, won in categories other than Best Director--that none of them won an Oscar outright for direction is head-rattlingly awful.)

Maybe I'm being too much of a film snob here. Maybe it's better to recognize that all such surveys are arbitrary and that no two voters would select the same 25 directors and let it go. But if I did that, I wouldn't ramble on about such things over here, now would I?

Monday, March 17, 2008

No News I Can Use

Saturday morning, I was eating brunch in my usual spot--I hadn't planned on going out for food, but after the previous evening of celebrating a co-worker's departure with many V&Ts, something more substantial than a bowl of oatmeal was necessary--when the TV behind the counter displayed some breaking news: An earthquake had been reported off the coast of Oregon registering 6.0 on the Richter Scale. I don't know much about earthquakes--we rarely get them here in Illinois, and when we do they're usually a 1 or a 2--but I do know that's kinda big. One of my MySpace/Blogger friends lives in the Portland area, and another MySpace friend is from there, so I was a touch concerned about everybody's welfare.

After I finished my skirt steak skillet--which, along with at least half a dozen cups of coffee, did an admirable job of muzzling my hangover--I did a bit of grocery shopping and stopped back at La Casa del Terror, assuming I'd be able to readily find news on cable to let me know whether or not the Northwest corner of our country had tumbled into the Pacific or not.

But what happens when you assume? That's right--ass, you, me.

I tried many of the news channels--MSNBC, CNBC, Headline News, CNN--only to find them taking up time with weekend programming. So if I wanted to protect my identity from a thief or find out about life in a maximum-security prison, I was in luck. What if I wanted to know about Portland possibly being flat as a pancake? Too bad.

The only cable news network running live coverage of any kind was Fox. They were not, however, covering Oregon (had I imagined that story?)--they were reporting on Atlanta, where a tornado had struck the downtown area and more threatening weather was on the way. This was also of concern to me--Mr. and Mrs. Fluffy live down there. Were they okay? The footage didn't look promising. But at least Fox was showing something. I may not like them much--their motto is "Fair and Balanced" when they're anything but--but at least they were covering the story. (Even CNN, which is based in Atlanta, didn't cover the story as extensively as Fox--CNN should be embarrassed.) I shot an email down to Mrs. Fluffy and waited.

The next day, she replied--the tornado had passed within a mile of their home, but they were fine. As for Oregon, it wasn't until this morning that I read that the state was still, in fact, part of the mainland--the earthquake, while substantial, had happened in the ocean, well offshore, and no substantial damage had been reported.

Good to know. Too bad most of the organizations charged with reporting the news couldn't inform me in anything approximating a timely manner. Or did I just have the misfortune of tuning in at the wrong time--like, when I actually needed information?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Horton Hears a What?!?

In discussing his beloved holiday special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the late animation legend Chuck Jones admitted that, in order to pad Dr. Seuss's story out to a half-hour running time on network television, he had to add plenty of "business"--comic bits, extra characters and action sequences to take a story that, even if read aloud slowly and with funny voices, only takes about ten minutes to tell.

Theodor Geisel himself must have agreed with this approach, as none of the TV specials produced from his work in his lifetime ran past the 30 minute mark, and a few actually presented two stories instead of just one, thus coming much closer to being animated extensions of his original works rather than rewrites/expansions of them.

But Geisel died in 1991, and his estate has let others take his work and stretch it like taffy--often past the breaking point.

I've only seen a few minutes of Ron Howard's big-screen adaptation of Grinch, mostly because a few minutes is all I can take before body-quaking convulsions compel me to change the channel. (What, you think I'd rent that thing?) None of what I've seen feels anything like geisel's work--it looks like all business, no Seuss. And don't even ask me about The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers--the previews alone were enough to trigger a gran mal.

So what, then, do you think my reaction was to seeing the poster for Horton Hears a Who! in my neighborhood theater? If you guessed "a rash, at the very least," then you know me pretty damn well.

An 86-minute adaptation of a 10-minute story doesn't sound remotely promising to me. Throw in the presence of Jim Carrey (even if it's just his voice), and you've got the closet thing to an iron-clad guarantee that I won't be going anywhere near it.

Except...the reviews thus far have been, well, good. Not spectacular or terrific or "Oh my god, it's a classic!" But...good.

Is it case of lowered expectations? Example: When I saw Sam Raimi's The Gift years ago, I was impressed with Keanu Reeves's performance--until a friend who went with me asked if his performance was actually good, or if it was just better than I had expected it to be? I didn't know how to answer that one. So the question with Horton, then, is this: Is it actually good, or just good in comparison with Grinch and Cat in the Hat?

Somebody else will have to be brave enough to answer that question for me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dave Stevens

Yesterday, horror comic writer Steve Niles sent out a very sad bulletin on MySpace, reporting that writer/artist Dave Stevens had died on Monday.

Stevens is probably best known as the creator of The Rocketeer, the irregularly published 1980s comic book (set in the 1930s and very much an homage to that era's serials and pulp novels) that nonetheless garnered enough of a following to merit a big-budget motion picture adaptation, which tanked at the box office even though it was actually pretty good. Stevens also produced a lot of "good girl" art; many of his scantily clad ladies graced pinups and covers of books, magazines and comics over the years.

I'll always remember Stevens for his contribution to the revival of interest in '50s pinup queen Bettie Page. Stevens used Bettie face for the hero's girlfriend in The Rocketeer (though her figure was provided by Stevens' ex-wife, B-movie actress Brinke Stevens), thus fueling widespread interest in photos of the real Bettie--including interest from me.

There are now four pictures of Bettie hanging in La Casa del Terror's hallway, along with a small, as-yet-unpainted statue of Bettie sitting on a shelf in the living room. The artist of that sculpture? Dave Stevens.

Dave Stevens died of congestive heart failure after a long fight with leukemia. He was only 52 years old.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tickets, Please

There are, sometimes, advantages to be gained from being broke until payday--not many, I'll grant, but some.

When I have money, I spend it--on toys, on movies (either seeing them in the theater or buying them on DVD), dinner with friends. These are fun things. Necessary things, I would argue--not specifically toys or movies or dinner, but enjoyment. Life can't be all work and no play. That's a sure way to take a premature dirt nap.

When the rent check coincides with the credit card bills and various utility fees, however, pleasure must be taken in smaller, less money-centric ways. And since I had no cash this weekend and will be running on figurative fumes until Thursday, I chose to take pleasure in time well spent around La Casa del Terror.

What, you might ask, qualifies as "time well spent" to my sometimes cluttered mind? Surpisingly, it didn't involve much TV watching (though this was done in small amounts) or napping with the Girlish Girls curled up at my side (although this also happened for brief periods both days). Rather, it involved doing something reasonably productive, like cleaning house (and there's a lot of cleaning to be done, believe me), doing my taxes (I'll be getting a decent refund from my "friends" at the IRS, while the State of Illinois will, as usual, keep everything I gave them and take a little more, too) and rummaging around in my "closet" and storage containers in search of buried treasure.

It was this last activity that involved the most work, but also yielded the greatest rewards. Understand: My "closet" is actually my pantry, but since I moved in it has been jam-packed with stuff. Action figures. Clothing. Comic books. Unbuilt model kits. Flashlights. Fabric softener sheets. Stuff. Much of it is not, by any means, necessary to my existence, such as it is. Much of it should find its way to the Dumpster in the alley alongside my apartment building. Much of it is a waste of space.

Weeding the dumping ground down wasn't the point of Saturday's excursion, though. It was more an exploratory trek into mysterious territory in search of something specific--missing photographs and negatives. I'd been through my photo archive recently (and by "archive," I mean "milk crate filled beyond capacity with Wolf Camera boxes") and found that several sets of photos were missing, like my shoots of Marquette Park and the remnants of Riverview Park. I don't think I've ever thrown a single frame of film that I've shot, so I knew that those photos were buried somewhere in La Casa--it was just a matter of digging holes until I hit paydirt, and the pantry was the most logical (and most daunting) place to start.

I tunneled for about an hour, tossing aside varied aritfacts of life past--a bag of slacks that no longer fit; a Converse All-Star box full of decade-old mix tapes; a crate of Halloween decorations unused at last year's Movie Bash; a dozen or so baseball caps--before I hit what on this occasion passed for paydirt: One bag filled with photo envelopes, the other with what appeared to be miscellaneous papers.

The bag of photos solved some of my mysteries, if not all of them--most of the missing photos were there, and what wasn't there is likely still in a storage container or drawer somewhere else in the apartment (a project for another time). The other bag, though, yielded the more interesting find. At the bottom of the mixture of paid bills and instruction manuals for appliances that've long since stopped working was a sizable stack of tickets for various events.

The oldest ticket in the bunch dated back to 1994. It was for a Sunday afternoon baseball game between the White Sox and the Seattle Mariners--the last game played before the owners locked out the players's union and the whole 1994 season came to a screeching halt, taking the playoffs and the World Series with it. Many fans still blame Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf for leading the owners in their actions, especially since the Sox had a great team that year and an excellent chance to not only make the playoffs, but to quite possibly play in the first World Series in Chicago since 1959. (Some fans have forgiven Reinsdorf, if only because his Sox went to--and won--a World Series just over a decade later.)

There were also tickets for concerts, like the New Year's Eve show Cheap Trick played at the Double Door (my Christmas gift that year from Mrs. Fluffy and definitely my best New Year's Eve ever), the Damned at the House of Blues (also with Mrs. Fluffy) and Duran Duran (back when they had trouble finding a record company to release "Pop Trash," which was released a couple of years later) in that same venue. I don't go to concerts much anymore--my trip to see Gwen Stefani last year was my first concert in ages--but this stack of tickets was a reminder that not only have I seen some cool acts, but I should get out and see more (as money and time allow).

Mostly, though, there were tickets for movies. Some were for movies I obviously must have seen, but can't remember a thing about, like Human Traffic--I looked it up on IMDB and still can't remember a thing about it. Other tickets were for movies that I remember clearly, but wish I could forget, like Glitter, Crossroads and Exorcist: the Beginning. (After years of having denied even knowing of the existence of that latter title, here was the physical evidence of my weak deception.) Still other tickets were for movies shown at theaters that no longer exist, like the Esquire, McClurg Court and Burnham Plaza. We used to have so many movie theaters in this city. Now? I can count them on my fingers and toes without running out of digits.

More than anything, the stack of tickets reminded me of all the good times I'd had, regardless of my monetary circumstance--good movies and bad, seen alone or with friends; great bands heard up close and personal; street fairs full of food and sweat and steam and noise. Maybe this paricular weekend, I didn't even have enough in wallet to go to a cheap theater. But I had been able to go before, and would be able to go again.

Someday, I'm going to give all those tickets to an artist friend of mine and have that friend make a collage out of them--a road map of life as lived, and a signpost life yet to be. I'll need to have a large wall space reserved for that collage, though--that's a lot of tickets.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Should It Bother Me...

...that of all of the blogs that link back to me (not that there are that many, really, but still), only one has actually updated to my new URL, which means the rest are linking to a site which a) won't exist much longer, and b) doesn't even work unless it's page specific (home, movies, archives, etc.)?

Probably not. But it does anyway. I'm just like that.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Migration Continues

Slowly but surely, I'm moving more and more old files over from my old site to this one. It's a more interesting process than I thought it would be. I'm looking at some of these essays for the first time in years, and I honestly don't remember having written some of them, while there are others that I remember all too clearly and would rather forget.

Doesn't work like that, though. You don't get to pick and choose what your memory retains and what it doesn't. And if you could, what would you choose? Would you delete the bad experiences? Most people would at least be tempted. But wouldn't you then also lose the subsequent experiences that were affected by those bad experiences? The lessons learned? The mistakes not made? The bad times avoided?

Your experiences make you who you are. Editing them down isn't an option. So I'm still moving over stuff, the bad along with the good. Just because some of it makes me cringe or cry doesn't mean it'll affect you, the reader, whomever you are, the exact same way (And I truly wonder where my readers are coming from since I set up this bloggity--Flushing? Ottawa, Ontario? Fort Lauderdale? Seattle? I don't know anyone in any of these I?)

At least I'm writing new updates (like this one) more often than I did on the old site. There, I would post two, maybe three times a month. (This past January, when I posted one poem a day, was an exception.) Last month? I wrote nine updates. This week? Counting this one? Three.

Yes, I'm patting myself on the ass for this. Somebody has to. And I deserve it, dammit.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hack. Wheeze. Repeat as necessary.

It was about a month ago that I came down with the flu. Sickest I've been in years. Chills. Fever. Aches in every part of my body. (Yes. Every.) Nasal and Chest congestion. Eye irritation.

And a cough. A constant, hacking, wheezing, body-shaking cough. Sometimes, this cough was actually useful, shaking loose the congestion in both my head and chest and making me feel momentarily like I wasn't chained to the bottom of the deep end of the swimming pool. More often than not, though, it just added to my misery, making my throat raw (especially first thing in the morning), making my ribs ache like I'd just gone ten rounds with Ali, and keeping me awake most of the night when rest was the only thing that would help me beat this thing.

It took a couple of weeks and lots and lots of Theraflu, but I finally got to the point where most of my body felt normal (well, as normal as I ever feel), the body aches went away and I could sleep more than an hour at a stretch.

Except, of course, for the cough.

It's not as bad as it was, nor as constant. It doesn't keep me up at night and doesn't double me over during the day. It's worst first thing in the morning and right before bed, popping up only occasionally throughout the hour in between.

But it's still here.

I'm told by friends who've had the same flu that the cough is the last symptom to leave, that it lingers for weeks like a houseguest who just can't take a hint. It doesn't require cough drop after cough drop like it did for so many days. It doesn't keep me from doing whatever I want to do anymore, like going to movies or dinner.

But. It's. Still. Here.

And I'd like it to go away. Now.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Not That Boleyn Girl, the Other One!

Last year, I saw 26 movies on the big screen--not sure whether that's a record for me or not, but it was certainly the most in the five years since I started writing down the movies I see as I see them.

I had hoped to exceed that number this year by trying to average three movies a month, or 36 for the year. That plan took a major hit, when I had the flu for the majority of February and couldn't comfortably sit in a theater or even eat popcorn, which can make me cough when my throat is fine, much less when it's raw from hacking.

This weekend, though, the quest got back on track with two movies: The Other Boleyn Girl and Diary of the Dead.

Boleyn is a historial drama about the smokin' love life of Henry the VIII (Eric Bana) with the Boleyn sisters, Mary (Scarlett Johanssen) and Anne (Natalie Portman)--damn, it must be good to be king.

It's a fun movie to watch as spectacle and soap opera, with goreous costumes and a strong, multilevel performance from Portman, who goes from strong-willed girl to manipulative woman to doomed queen with equal conviction. As history, it's pretty much rubbish, as VB explained when she, JB and Dee went to Tank for sushi (yes, I'm eating sushi now--pick your jaws up off the floor, people) after the movie.

There was also a good bit of narrative shorthand used--the marriage to Anne, the split from the Catholic Church and the establishment of the Church of England all happen in space of two or three minutes (VB tells me that all took fabout ive years in reality)--and large crowds that are often heard, but rarely seen. Still, it's a great-looking movie, it moves briskly and it brings the pretty for men and women alike--throw in good dinner with good friends and dessert after at Taste of Heaven...what more could a boy want?

Well, a boy could want groceries for his nearly empty fridge, and Jessie helped with that by taking me to Trader Joe's Sunday morning. It's always so much easier to load up when a friend with a car helps out, so I'm pretty well set with a variety of tasty foods for the next three weeks. After I ate my freshly purchased pizza bagel for breakfast, I headed down to Pipers Alley for George Romero's latest zombie flick, Diary of the Dead.

This is pretty much a reboot for the series, taking it back to its lower-budget roots while at the same time winking at Romero's own cinematic past (it starts starts with students making a horror film when news of the dead rising breaks) and rendering social commentary, this time on the information age, media censorship/manipulation and the overreliance on technology. Unfortunately, Romero doesn't make his points with any subtlety, often delivering it via voiceover by one of the main characters. There are still some nice scares and, if you're into such things, serious quality kills involving scythes, arrows and difibrulator paddles.

It's odd, though, that the Blair Witch approach to horror films has come back into vogue in such a big way lately, with both this film and Cloverfield employing handheld camera techniques to give played-out subgenres (giant monsters and flesh-eating ghouls, respectively) a fresh, more immediate look.