Monday, September 30, 2013

For The Children

In my ongoing effort to watch the VHS tapes I've bought over the last year or so, I watched the childrens' film "Dragonworld". It is from the same people who made "Prehysteria", a film which I managed to watch without writing a little review. In any event, Dragonworld held my interest tolerably well, although I found enough fault in in by the end. I will try very hard to be fair in my assessment of it.

A little boy from America is forced to live at his grandfather's castle in Scotland after the accidental death of his parents. The grandfather faces a steep tax bill which he is unable to pay.  A sleazy TV show guy stumbles upon the castle and the dragon, connecting the boy with an evil businessman. The boy, the TV show guy, the TV show guy's daughter and their chopper pilot realize the error of their ways and strive to defeat the evil businessman.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Near Unwatchable

The other night, I finally got to watching one of the more intimidating VHS tapes I've bought so far. It's called "Black Force" (and also is known as "Force Four"). Writing this just moments after the conclusion of the film, I'm sure of few things outside of the fact that the man and woman brandishing guns on the box are not in the film and in fact must have posed for the pictures on it years later. That's not the film's biggest problem.

The film's plot is not incredibly difficult to unravel. It begins with a man being attacked and robbed of a little African fetish doll. It's hideous-looking, but everyone wants it. A team of four investigative martial artists are hired to locate it and subsequently recover it from a gangster called "Z". They do some quick detective work on the streets (which is to say that we hear them asking questions while watching b-roll footage of the streets), and then recover the fetish, the money that was meant to be traded for the fetish, and some heroin no one mentions until the end.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


As I write this, I am a bit ill. I doubt whether it's anything serious, but it's been enough to slow me down over the last couple of days. A person could reasonably argue that my personality would benefit from the sort of ailment that would have me talking a good bit less, and such has been the case. Sickness is unquestionably one method of curing the more serious problem of over-exposure, which is one I'm sometimes prone to.

My means of treating a mild illness are crude and perhaps not overly effective. It does occur to me to obtain some kind of cold medicine, although I don't always follow through on that. I do usually go as far as buying and consuming chicken noodle soup, even buying the top-shelf brands if I suspect that what ails me is as serious as that. After all, there's nothing more important than your health, and if it's really at risk, three dollars is a fair price to spend, even if slightly more is not.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Another Unsolicited Review

I've been back on track watching my backlogged VHS tapes lately, and I can't help my share my opinions of each one as they come. I think that's not entirely unreasonable considering that the majority of them are obscure enough to not have been granted critical consideration even on the inclusive internet. I try to alternate the ones I'm really excited about with the ones I rather regret buying, not that either of those has a consistently better track record.

"PK And The Kid" is one of the ones I was not looking forward to. I bought it maybe because I was eager to buy something and there was nothing better. It had an interesting title and a peculiar case. Months later, I finally got to it, and I'll say at least that it held my attention. PK is a runaway teen portrayed by Molly Ringwald, who really had something there in the 80s. "The Kid" is Kid Kane, who I think is a trucker turned arm-wrestler. He is at his best when he is quiet, which I don't mean as a knock on his acting. Ringwald does a fair job herself, and could have used more dialogue.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy Surprise

A couple nights ago, when the time had come to sleep, I petulantly declined to do so. Instead, I carried on with the course of action I had planned in the event that I finished my writing goals at an early enough hour. That is to say that if I had finished writing by 11pm, I was going to watch one of my VHS tapes. I had a hell of a time finishing the comedy sketch I needed to write in order to keep pace for thirty sketches in September, and only ended up getting it done by 1am.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and watch a movie anyway. With a glass of bourbon and ice, I set to the task of watching the 1990 scifi film "Abraxas". Former pro wrestling star, Minnesota governor and actor Jesse "The Body" Ventura can claim few starring roles in his film career, but Abraxas is one of them. It follows a somewhat similar plot to films like "The Terminator", "Blade Runner" and "Trancers".

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The New Batch

My latest haul of VHS tapes has some promise. I am beginning to spend a bit more on them than I used to, as I've gotten more interested in acquiring more interesting titles as opposed to readily available ones (which are cheap and unremarkable, by and large). This set of tapes amounts to five at the cost of nearly eleven dollars. In the past eleven dollars might have yielded me eleven tapes, but it's still a fair price for movies that are mostly unproven entities.

One of the tapes, "Death Wish 4: The Crackdown", I have seen. It's one of the lesser entries in the series, but it basically delivers. Another Charles Bronson film, "Messenger Of Death", I hope lives up to that minimal standard. I'm fairly confident. Those Cannon films were all about the same, and I have a few of their Bronson films already. "Kinjite" was not so bad, and "Assassination was not great, but I gave it a pass anyway.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

No, Thanks

On Sunday the Emmys were held, and if I know anything about it I have my aggressively live-tweeting friends to be thankful for. If they were content to live in the moment, I'm sure I'd be ignorant of the whole thing now. Certainly I was content to be ignorant of it. There aren't very many shows that I have made any effort to watch with regularity. This has really always been the case, with the exception of the stretch of time during which I had cable and a DVR.

Not only did people issue a real-time comment on every single thing that drew their attention (instead of, I assume, speaking to the friends at least some of them must have been watching the broadcast with), they did so almost invariably with a negative slant. I find it rather puzzling that someone would dislike a show so much and, instead of turning it off, just growing angrier and angrier. I guess I don't get people.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Couple Reviews

I hadn't watched any of my VHS tapes in a little while (and truth be told, I have neglected movies entirely outside of criticizing horror movies), so I resolved to watch a couple recently with the intention of getting caught up on my backlog of tapes. There are some twenty or thirty of them waiting on me, and of course during the same time I was watching the two I'm about to describe, I also bought five more.

The first was "Speed Zone". Made in the late 80's it was meant originally to be a third Cannon Ball Run film, and indeed the race in the film retains that name, but only Jamie Farr's very sensitive Arab character returns (and briefly at that). Really I have no complaints on this one. It was lots of fun to watch, and they even did a passable job of granting enough oxygen for every character's game to breath. It's a bit dated in some respects, but it was a blast to watch some of the best comic actors do their thing.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Half-Baked Hand-Wringing

I find myself once again brooding over the nature of the jokes people make online. They say in comedy that you should always punch up, which is another way of saying that you should only make jokes at the expense of people who can take it because they're bigger than you. You're not supposed to make jokes at people who are smaller than you. That's mean, and I hate mean jokes. I've made more than I'm proud of, but I know they're wrong.

I guess people can disagree about what makes someone adequately bigger than you. It's mainly all right to make fun of the president, because the buck stops there, as Truman said. It's not all right to make fun of poor little orphans forced out of their home by a fire. Is there an unclear middle ground? I suppose there is, and if those are judgement calls, then it makes me question the judgment of most people who write jokes online, professionally or otherwise.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

And Now The Rest

I realized yesterday that I have written four separate posts about "Friday the 13th Part Four" in the last week, all of them sharply critical of one point or another. I confess that's both more thought than most people would put into the film and more negative than most people who are not "Moral Majority" types would ever give. Believe it or not, I'm a big fan of the Friday the 13th films, even including part four, which is superior to some subsequent entries.

What do I like about the film? It's got some passable performances. I like the elder sister. The male hitch hiker is able enough. I even like both Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman, who are both bad for the film but only because of their characters and not their performances. Given a different story, I might have lauded the presence of both. One or two other characters were pretty memorable as well, and it's too bad there wasn't more room in the film for them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Quick Break

Yesterday was an interesting day for me. I seem to have hardly anything else anymore. On this day, it was a bit up and down. I started off with a typically enjoyable Toastmasters meeting. It dipped a bit after that, as I was caught up in the frustration of struggling to get my writing done. I was in a genuinely foul and frazzled mood by the early evening, at which time I was planning to attend a variety show at a local nightclub. I reasoned that afterward I'd be tired, but perhaps in a better mood for writing anyway.

A friend and I headed over there, meeting up with a third friend before settling in for the show. They have live music, pole dancing, burlesque, and comedy, all of which I enjoy a great deal. The show was great, but it turned out to have more in store for me than I guessed. I did know that if I dressed well, there was a chance of getting extra attention. As it turned out, I was drafted into the best-dressed contest, ultimately triumphing in a dance-off. That got me a $50 dollar gift certificate to someplace that sounds subversive.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Little Engine That Probably Couldn't Have In Real Life

I'm still dealing with "Friday the 13th Part Four". I mentioned how the character of Tommy Jarvis is a problem. Today I'll try to explain why. Tommy Jarvis is actually a major running character in the franchise, first appearing in Part Four and then returning in Part Five and Part Six (each time to be played by a new actor). In this first film, he's played by the precocious Corey Feldman, whose acting ability and personal life I have no reason to fault here.

Little Tommy Jarvis is the youngest child of a single mother, He has an older sister, and they all live in an extremely remote lakeside cabin. Tommy is innately talented and knowledgeable about virtually everything that comes up during the film. He is evidently as good as Hollywood specialists at rendering things like photo-realistic masks and puppets (this of course comes up at a critical time), and he is also seemingly an extremely competent auto mechanic.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More Friday

I guess I can't stop with Friday the 13th Part Four. I issued a massive critique of the script's curiously expansive cast of characters, and a smaller one on the way in which they half-ass the perverted coroner who is about the first to die. There are a lot of things wrong with the film of course, and there's another little thing that doesn't make much sense at all. It's not the absurdly gifted at everything character of Tommy Jarvis, though I could (and maybe will) write half a dozen posts complaining about that.

Another early moment in the film sees the party contingent heading to the lake for skinny-dipping. They are walking down the road on foot, probably because if they had driven their car over it would have prevented the encounter they have with two beautiful twin women on bicycles (and doesn't a thing like that happen all the time? One can't help but wonder if they managed to squeeze a Doublemint Gum commercial shoot in in addition to their minor responsibilities to the film).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chemical Writefare

Friday was a busy day for me. It came on the heels of a fairly busy Thursday, all of which I have yet to tell, but here's something from Friday. I had an ambitious schedule for the day. I knew I had an improv performance in the evening, and then there were the things I hoped to do on either side of that. One was the screening of those Friday the 13th films, and I already got into that. The early side of the day was at least as interesting.

I got up at 9am, which is my standard time when there is nothing special going on in the morning and I am not coming off a late night. I spent the next two or three hours catching up on my reading (in particular, the daily emails I had piled up from Politico). I then got serious about what I knew I had to do. I mentioned once before that I am again doing a sketch writing challenge for September. I am writing thirty comedy sketches in thirty days.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Friday Critique

A couple days ago, I issued a lengthy critique of the script of "Friday the 13th Part Four". Maybe that was a needless thing reflective of nothing more than misdirected obsessiveness, but I felt compelled to say something. As I said then, there is more wrong with the film than what I said, but that was the one thing that could do the most to improve the film if they did nothing else. They could do a few more things if they got ambitious, though.

One of the numerous smaller things that could be changed was the coroner who appears early in the film when Jason's allegedly dead body is brought in following the events of the previous film. Of course, I did say they should cut his character entirely, but it's not bad to provide a little color at that stage in the former of an oddball coroner so long as they don't lavish a ton of time on him. If you keep him, I know what to do.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Trial With A Smile

I said Thursday was a busy day, and so it was. Looking back, I don't know how much of it was really all that interesting to me, let alone to anyone else. Still, if one means to offer up a slice of life, there's only one pie to choose from, right? I had an audition on Thursday, I think I mentioned. That was how I happened to be around the library to see the telescopes which I wrote about on Friday. In fact, I went in the library twice, before and after the audition.

I had been at my Toastmasters meeting when a notice came in for an audition later the same day. This was the second time that happened to me, and I'm terribly thankful that there were no logistical problems that could have kept me from making either one. This time was about as perfect as it could be. It was a nice, easy audition in a very easy to get to location. The whole thing was nice, but I'm great at finding reasons to be anxious.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Breaking It Down, Breaking Down

As I write this, I am contemplating a day every bit as busy and interesting as the one that preceded it, which was a day I promised would spawn multiple posts. Those posts may well be coming, but first I can only share a story from today (by which I mean Friday). About the last thing that happened Friday was a screening of "Friday the 13th Part Four" on sixteen millimeter film. It was pretty cool, but in a way it was a mixed experience.

I enjoyed as always watching a basically fun movie with good friends, but I found myself unable to excuse the weak script from which the film was made. I will do my best to summarize it concisely. Though seemingly dead, Jason Voorhees is alive and at it again. He kills people at the hospital morgue and escapes, making his way back to Crystal Lake. There, he finds a group of six teenagers partying at a cabin. Next door to the cabin is the Jarvis family residence. Also in the mix are a pair of beautiful twin women whose presence is not explained and a hitchhiker out to avenge a sister killed in the preceding film.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Seeing Far

Yesterday was an eventful day. I don't know that I'll get to all of it, but there is enough I'm sure I want to describe that it won't all come today. The thing that's on my mind presently is something that happened outside the library in Hollywood. I had just come out after finding myself a DVD. There's more that precedes this and more that follows it, but this is what it's going to be today. There were telescopes.

Some kindly organization of what I assume to be volunteers was there with a pair of home-made telescopes. It was a peculiar thing, having two telescopes set up in the middle of Hollywood before the sun had even set, but they were pointed at the moon, which was visible and quite vividly captured by the instruments. Having time to kill, I spent nearly an hour there chatting with the volunteers and periodically have a fresh glimpse into the eyepieces.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Say Again

There was this guy I crossed paths with on the way to the library. I'd realized I had to return a DVD, and so I dressed in some unclean clothes to hurry over there and hurry home. I barely put in contacts instead of wearing my woefully outdated glasses or going without entirely. I was halfway there when I saw this guy. Just ahead of me was this woman and her overactive son. He seemed to look at her, then I thought he addressed a statement to me.

I thought he asked me the time, and so I reached to my pocket for my phone. Before I could get it out, he said something more that made me wonder if he was speaking to me at all, let alone asking the time. It sounded first like he said "Do you have the time?" Then he said something that seemed to include the word "Tampa". Admittedly, I don't have every single word he uttered straight, so maybe it's a fools errand trying.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Home Court

I remain a homebody in many respects, as much as I have made strides in becoming a more social person. I am always overriding my natural tendencies, not changing them. One area that remains problematic is sleeping arrangements. It is a terrible struggle for me to sleep under any conditions if I am not at home in my own bed. Whether the conditions are better or worse, it's a problem that things are different.

I don't have the best bed. It's old and not too big. My pillows are worse than that. My room is finally getting to be decently appointed, but it's hardly fantastic. What's important about those things mostly is familiarity and security. I know where things are. I know how they work. I'm alone in there, whereas I seem more often than not to be sharing a room if not a bed (if a bed is even what I have to sleep on, and it seldom is).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Don Quixote

Yesterday was not a very happy message, I have to admit. I believe in being positive, but that's just not always there. Being genuine is as important as being positive, and it may be more so. Today is not going to be any better than yesterday, but I really hope tomorrow is. Anyway, my mind is on something that happened at the start of the weekend. I'd had a little bourbon, and that was almost certainly a contributing factor to what follows here.

I was online admiring some of the finds on a Facebook group dedicated to the collecting of VHS specifically in the horror genre. Not everybody is completely faithful to those parameters, and so someone posted a picture of a vinyl record they found at a Goodwill. The guy explained that it was priced at 25 dollars, but that he peeled off the price sticker and managed to pay only a dollar. I was offended.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Weep

Some people are very dumb. Obviously dumb people, which is to say the people whose appearance and manner of speaking spell out how dumb they are, are not the ones we have to worry about. Like the cartoonish racists of movies like "The Help", the cartoonish idiots are not the ones who represent the worst of the problem. It's the ones that seem smart but are dumb at the core who we have to worry about.

A fine litmus test can be found in the form of satirical news articles. I remember when I first discovered there was such a thing as "The Onion". The Onion is a fake newspaper and website filled with articles that tell falsehoods in order to shed light on some kind of truth. That's what comedy does, in a way. It helps to unearth truth, or to neutralize what is painful in life. It does that with things that are, on the surface, lies.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Buzz Kill

The details coming out these days about what the American government is doing are very troubling. Any article with NSA in the headline is sure to ruin my day. It's very unsettling to think of the invasive things that they and other agencies are doing to us, purportedly to protect us from those who would do us harm, but harming us considerably in order to do it. At best, it's like undergoing especially harsh chemotherapy to rid us of a cancer. They propose to very nearly destroy our freedom in order to save it.

As unpleasant as that is, the means by which we've learned much of this makes me very uncomfortable. Men like Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning (whose name and gender change I must confess I have yet to internalize) and Julian Assange have taken it upon themselves to release very sensitive information on the grounds that the government is doing bad things in secret and should be exposed. I don't know.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Great Tape

I have lately been watching a particular movie over and over. I do that. Recently there was Stalag 17, and before that there have been movies like Tango & Cash, Executive Suite (William Holden again), Death Proof, Starship Troopers and more. Presently it's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that great film of 1990 that was such a personal favorite of everyone I knew when I was a kid. I grew up, you understand, while the Turtles craze was at its height.

I've been watching the movie on VHS. There's really no other way to do it. More recent formats may offer superior resolution and the theatrical aspect ratio, but they lack something critical. It's something whose inclusion I would today decry vehemently. It's the ads. The videotape had an ad at the beginning and another at the end, and they are practically as significant as the film itself, the first one especially being so.

Friday, September 6, 2013

One That Died

I was going to say something about the joke I had in that local news sketch show, but I never got to it. Here it is. For the fourth week in five, a joke of mine was picked to be part of the Weekend Update-style portion of this sketch show. I invited a friend to come see it, which I shouldn't have done. It's one joke that takes ten seconds to say out of a one hour show, so it can't help but disappoint even if it's a hit, and this wasn't.

I hadn't thought it was my best joke, but I wrote it and submitted it, so I stand behind it. I shouldn't have submitted it if I didn't want it in there. The joke concerned the fire up by Yosemite. It went like this: "The Yosemite wildfire has threatened the drinking water supply of San Francisco. Thankfully for residents, the bong water supply remains secure". You see how I made humorous reference to the free-spirited, drug-abusing reputation of the city?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Justice For All

I saw something that first angered me and then pleased me very much yesterday. It was on the subway, as you might reasonably guess, and it came right after something that just plain made me angry. The trains were running on a less frequent schedule yesterday evening, and I had no warning. I even checked the Twitter feed to see, and it said nothing of the kind, so I wound up being late to meet someone for an improv show we were doing.

It was with the anger of being late and the anxiousness of going on stage soon that I took in something awfully annoying. There was this guy on a bicycle coming off the same train as me, and that doesn't bother me. I have a bike, I like riding it and I am fine with the good bike riders. This guy, however, thought it was a good idea to ride his bike through the station. After ascending to the second level from the platform, he was riding his bike the very short distance to the escalator which led to the street level.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Original

I dug out my copy of "Run Lola Run" yesterday. I hadn't watched it in forever, and it was the first DVD I ever bought. That being the case, I watched it endlessly. I didn't even have that many VHS tapes at the time (not as many as I have now, certainly), and there weren't a lot of options for home video entertainment at the time. The internet didn't have much of it at the time, and so I watched Run Lola Run.

I watched it until I knew by heart the film as well as the commentary track with Franka Potente and Tom Tykwer, the star and director. I guess I haven't watched it since then because there was no need. I'd gotten my fill. It got to the point very quickly where I needed another DVD, any DVD. There had developed already the mainstream big-time releases as well as the cut-rate ones that mainly offered films in the public domain.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Last year at this time, I had been working seriously on writing comedy sketches for a little while. I had not produced any, or if I had it was a couple. I was managing to write two or three sketches a week, counting both new sketches as well as new drafts of sketches I'd written before. I became aware of a thing some other writers were doing called "National Sketch Writing Month". You write thirty sketches during the month of September.

I decided to get into it. You can write longer sketches, but short ones called "blackout sketches" also count. I don't much like doing those, I suppose because it feels like I'm cutting corners. It feels like I'm not really writing a sketch. Every time I sit down to write what is in my mind a sketch, I aim to hit three pages, and if it insists on being a page or two longer, I let it, but I won't let it be under three typically. I think almost all of my sketches in September of last year were about three.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Tea Totaler

I bought a different kind of tea recently, plunging deeper into something that I never thought I'd be into at all. I had long resisted tea, fearing what seemed to be a far greater minimum investment of equipment. For while though, I didn't have so much as a tea kettle. I now have one of those, which costed a few dollars. There are a few other things I could get, but I doubt whether they would do much to enhance the experience.

This new tea is stronger than the other one. That tea, called Throat Coat, is an herbal tea meant to help sore throats and such. That's why I bought it. I would make two cups of tea out of every bag, the second cup being much weaker. I just drank it as it was, without any milk or sugar. That is the traditional British way of taking tea, I gather. There's more to it besides that, but the milk and sugar are very important. I learned that from "The Great Escape".

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New Noise

As I write this, it is rather late. To be precise, it is 1:15 in the morning on the weekend, which some may judge to not be very late. Certainly it can feel less than late, but it feels late enough to me, as I've had a full day. I got up at 8 o'clock this morning to ensure I would be able to watch a football game, and I never had much of a chance to rest.

Some people are having a party over by the barbecue area, which is on the third floor just as my apartment is. They're rather noisy, which is a relative novelty still. For the first year or so that I was in the building, noisy gatherings there (or even within apartments) were rather discouraged. We were always made to believe some other tenant had complained, but the complaints stopped with subsequent building managers.