Another One… and Another and Another and Another…

[Ed. note: I wrote this post a couple months ago following the last mass shooting that made national headlines, but I ultimately chickened out of publishing it, basically because I have friends who own guns and who have a very different perspective on them than I do, and I didn’t want to risk an argument with them. I still don’t want to argue with them, or with anybody else, for that matter. But today’s news of yet another incident, this time on a college campus in Oregon, has stirred up the same sickening mixture of anger, helplessness, and resignation all over again, so this time I am going to publish it. For all the good it will do. I don’t expect to change any minds or actually accomplish anything with my words. And I certainly don’t want to pick a fight! I just have to say something. Because it’s what I do.

One last thing: There’s cussing ahead. Beware if that bothers you.]

Admit it: You can’t even keep them straight anymore, can you? We were just talking about Charleston, weren’t we? Or was it Chattanooga? Oh yes, that’s right… today it’s Lafayette. A movie theater (What, again? We’ve already done that one!) in Lafeyette, Louisiana… three dead, including the shooter, and nine wounded. Not that the details matter much, in the broad sense of our discussion here; it’s the same old story we’ve heard before. It’s so familiar, in fact, that it’s what we old-timers would call a “broken record.”  (Ask your parents, kids.) And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of hearing this particular ditty.

I don’t have any idea why mass shootings seem to be happening so often these days, and I don’t have any practical idea how to stop them, not in light of (a) how many guns are already out there in America, and (b) how many Americans are flatly opposed to even considering doing anything about (a). But goddamn it, how many more times does this need to happen — how many more innocent people have to die in pools of their own blood for no crime other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, just trying to live their lives — before we take a deep breath as a society and say, “Enough“? Before we seriously reconsider this self-destructive love affair with gun ownership and realize that the crazy-hot chick who’s been leading us around by the baby-maker is really just… kinda crazy? Honestly, I thought Sandy Hook would’ve been the breaking point, but if a bunch of little kids getting blown away isn’t sufficient to make people sit up and do something, I don’t know what the hell will be.

I feel queasy writing this and I haven’t even decided yet if I’ll actually post it, because I fear alienating my gun-owning friends who are likely to read it. But goddamn it, I’m through being sad about these events; now I’m angry that this keeps happening, and I’m furious that we, as a nation, won’t seriously talk about what to do about it… yes, I am talking about gun control and making a serious effort to reduce the number of guns on our streets and I’m maybe even talking about amending the Constitution, if that’s what it takes to change this insane mess we’re living with.

I simply cannot imagine that this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind… or that they’d have long tolerated it. So what’s wrong with us that we do put up with it?

Comments disabled on this one.



In a few days, I’ll be 46 years old. Once, not so very long ago, that age seemed as far-off and science-fictiony to me as 1999, 2001, or even, yes, 2015. And yet… here it is.

Long-time readers know that I don’t especially enjoy my birthdays. I used to, when I was younger. Like everyone else, I suppose, because hey, who doesn’t like cake and ice cream and presents when they’re a kid, right? Unfortunately, though, somewhere along the line, birthdays stopped seeming like achievements unlocked and started feeling like grim ticks of an ebony clock that can’t be rewound. I’ve dreaded them since at least my mid-30s. Maybe earlier.

It isn’t aging per se that bothers me, as people often assume when I start brooding about this. You won’t find me standing in the bathroom mirror, counting wrinkles and gray hairs. (On the contrary, I’d be delighted to have gray, silver, or even white hair, so long as I had a full head of it. I really hate being bald.) No, what gets to me isn’t the accumulation of years so much as what I’ve done — or more accurately, not done — with them.

I’ve blogged about this before, of course, approaching the problem from different angles, trying to find the clearest way of articulating a feeling that’s probably very common, but isn’t so easy to express. At least, it’s not so easy for me. The sad truth is that my adult life sat on the launch pad for a lot longer than it should have, and even now I have days when it feels like I still haven’t cleared the tower. And the real bitch of it is that I’ve got nobody to blame for it but myself. While my friends were establishing themselves in the world and charging toward the landmarks that our society uses to gauge success, I…  dithered. Wracked with indecision, insecurity, and probably a walloping good case of undiagnosed depression, I told myself I had plenty of time. I realized too late that that wasn’t true… that not only had I reached middle age without doing the ordinary things — marriage, babies, a mortgage — I hadn’t gotten around to any of the other things I wanted to do either. And despite what we tell ourselves these days about 50 being the new 30, opportunities not taken oftentimes really are lost for good.

(It probably doesn’t help that my birthday falls right on the cusp of the changing seasons, when the kids are headed back to school and the quality of the air and the sunlight is changing as Indian summer fades into autumn. It’s hard to avoid that sense of time running out when the Halloween decorations are starting to appear even though you’re still wearing shorts and driving with the top down in the afternoons.)

But you know, something interesting happened with my birthday last year. I didn’t blog about it at the time — no surprise, considering how rarely I manage to blog about anything substantive any more — but my 45th birthday was actually kind of… pleasant. I took the day off from work — the whole week, actually — and I got some excellent presents and I had a nice steak dinner with my parents and Anne. I had 170 people publicly wish me “happy birthday” on my Facebook timeline, and I also received a number of personal messages as well, all of which were very much appreciated. I even got a couple of old-fashioned cards in the mail.

More importantly, though, I (mostly) managed to avoid the smothering depression that usually afflicts me around this time of the year. As I reflected on my latest voyage around the sun, I had to admit — difficult as it was! — that I’d had a pretty good year. I’d maintained the healthier weight and lifestyle I was forced into back in 2012; I’d observed my nine-year anniversary at a job I originally figured wouldn’t last six months; I’d attended no less than four big nerd conventions right here in my own hometown, meeting a lot of childhood heroes in the process; and I’d even managed to lay to rest a couple of ghosts that had haunted my memories for far too long. (You’ll forgive me if I don’t elaborate on that last point; even with my exhibitionist tendencies, there are a few things I prefer to keep inside my own head.) So yeah, not too bad a year, nothing to feel especially depressed about.

And now this birthday coming up, Number 46, looks to be even better, because I intend to celebrate it in The World’s End pub in Edinburgh, Scotland. Because birthdays are always like the end of the world. Get it?

Yes, it’s true, this whole entry has (mostly) been a really roundabout way of announcing that Anne and I are setting off on an adventure. We’ve talked about going to Scotland for years, she inspired by her all-time favorites novels, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, and me because I’ve been a fan of the cult movie Highlander and its spin-off television series since I was in college. And of course, one of the things I’ve always most wanted to do with my life is travel. See the world, explore new places (new to me, at least), shake off the dust of this small town… all that George Bailey stuff. Not so very long ago, I was feeling a genuine sense of despair because I was increasingly certain that it just wasn’t going to happen, that my only two previous international trips (to England and Germany) were the only ones I was ever going to get. I know that’s more than a lot of people manage, but the thought that I’d already filled my dance card without realizing it, that my dream of being a world traveler was just over, was unbearable to me. At some point in the past year, though, Anne and I looked at each other and said, “We need to either quit talking about going to Scotland, or actually go to Scotland.” And so here we are actually going. And for a change, I’m not facing the approach of my birthday with regret and sadness. Because I’m doing one of those things I’ve long wanted to do. I’m crossing an item off the bucket list. And good lord, it is a good feeling…





Friday Evening Videos: “Somebody’s Crying”

Okay, this will probably be more like “Early Saturday Morning Videos” by the time I get it written and posted, but hey, I’ve had one of those weeks…

I was vaguely aware of Chris Isaak’s breakthrough hit “Wicked Game” back in college — I remember thinking of him as “that guy who sounds like Roy Orbison” — but I didn’t really discover him until after I was out of school and trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life. It was a good time for his music, which tends to be a bit downbeat, to really resonate for me, and I spun his CDs a lot for a couple of years. In point of fact, he does sound a lot like Orbison, and a bit like Elvis, too, and even sometimes like Johnny Cash, and while he can and does perform plenty of uptempo rockers, his real specialty is dreamy, melancholy songs  that are best played at two in the morning. But Chris Isaak’s music isn’t the sitting-in-the-bar-at-two-in-the-morning kind of stuff; rather, it makes you think of driving through the desert in the wee hours, with the windows down and a fragrant breeze pouring over you, and a full moon riding over your shoulder and painting the landscape silver.

I still like Chris Isaak, and earlier this week, Anne and I, along with our friends Geoff and Anastasia, saw him live for the second time. On both occasions, I found myself wondering why this guy never made a bigger splash. He’s not unknown, of course, but he’s should’ve been huge. He’s a talented musician and singer, a romantic crooner with a face that’s matinee-idol handsome, and he’s funny as hell, too. His live shows include nearly as much humorous banter — nearly all of it at his own expense — as music. I can only surmise that his deliberately retro sensibilities were too hard to categorize and market back when he was starting out. He loves the early rock era, the music that came out of Memphis’ legendary Sun recording studio in particular, and much of his own stuff is modeled after those old classics. He sprinkles many of them into his live sets, too, great old songs like Great Balls of Fire,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Only the Lonely.” And that’s not all: he and his band present themselves in a very old-fashioned manner, dressing in suits with a cowboyish flair and slicking their hair into pompadours. Personally, I love all that stuff, but I can see how it might have been hard to sell that in the era of grunge and boy bands and hip-hop.

Perhaps I underestimate Chris’ appeal, though. The Sandy Amphitheater, where he and his band the Silvertones performed Wednesday night, seemed to be a sell-out, and he’s a regular on the Salt Lake-area music scene. Anne and I tried to catch one of his shows for years before finally making it to one in 2013. Now I think we’ll probably go every chance we get. He is a consummate entertainer, and you definitely feel like you’re getting your money’s worth from one of his shows.

He always does “Wicked Game” in his concerts, of course, but the one I wait for, my favorite Chris Isaak song, was released a few years after “Game.” One of three singles from his 1995 album Forever Blue, it only reached number 45 on the charts, but that was high enough to be his second biggest hit, and it also earned Chris a Grammy nomination. (It lost to Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels.”) It’s sad, but it’s catchy, and it always takes me back to those yearning, questing years of my mid-twenties. Here’s “Somebody’s Crying.” Enjoy, have a good weekend, and good night!


The Tornado

Sixteen years ago, I was working in a job that turned out to be the start of my career in the editorial arts. Of course, I didn’t know that’s what was going to happen at the time. Back then, it was just another job. An incremental improvement over the previous one, better paying and a little more in line with my actual skills and interests, but still not anything to get excited about.

The company was situated in a modest, thoroughly anonymous two-story brick building a few blocks east of Salt Lake’s downtown core. I used to go out walking during my lunch breaks, and fantasize about buying one of the rundown Victorian houses that dotted the neighborhood and restoring it to its old glory. I remember trying to imagine what it would be like to live a more urban lifestyle than I enjoyed on the Bennion Compound at the other end of my commute.

However, for some reason, I didn’t leave the office on the afternoon of August 11, 1999. Maybe I had a pile of work to finish that day, or maybe I just plain didn’t feel like walking — I wasn’t nearly as conscientious about it when I was younger, because I didn’t yet need to be. The office had no windows, and there was no social media back then to flash trending news to everyone on Earth in a nanosecond, so I had no way of knowing anything was amiss outdoors. At some point, though, I became aware of a hub-bub in the office; a number of my coworkers were chattering excitedly about something. I caught the word “tornado” and immediately stood up to look over my cube wall like a prairie dog scanning for danger.

I couldn’t believe I’d heard correctly. After all, Utah isn’t known for trailer-park-devouring funnel clouds or little girls being whisked away to Technicolor fairy lands. Nevertheless, someone was saying a tornado had ripped its way through downtown a short while earlier, and they weren’t joking. A transistor radio was quickly located in somebody’s desk — remember, the Internet was still primarily comprised of GeoCities sites and Napster, so we weren’t going to get any real-time information there — and we soon had confirmation.

At first it was kind of fun and exciting to think about, in the way that any big, out-of-the-ordinary event can be. A tornado in Salt Lake City! Wowsers! And we were here to see it, or at least to hear about it and tell our future kids about it!

But then the grim details started coming in… damage to the Delta Center sports arena, and the tents comprising the Outdoor Retailers’ Show, the biggest annual convention this city hosted before Salt Lake Comic Con came along; old-growth trees in Memory Grove, a sheltered park at the mouth of City Creek Canyon and one of my favorite places in the whole valley, torn from the ground like weeds; homes in the adjoining Avenues neighborhood stripped of their shingles. Rumors that someone had been killed. Suddenly the idea of an urban tornado wasn’t so nifty anymore. And oh, by the way, did anyone know where Cristina was?

Cristina, my boss, the woman who’d given me a chance even though my resume didn’t really warrant it and whom I considered a friend, had left to meet her husband for lunch just before the tornado took shape. Nobody knew where she’d been meeting him, only that it was somewhere in the downtown area. Maybe somewhere along the path of the killer windstorm.

We tried to get back to work, but I don’t think anybody’s heart was in it. Mine certainly wasn’t. I recall the rest of that afternoon dragging past very slowly, and a sick, knotted feeling in my belly. That eased up after Cristina finally checked in several hours later. She was unharmed, but her car was a mess; it’d been parked on the street right across from the Delta Center, and it had been thoroughly sandblasted. Even though the tornado didn’t come anywhere near the neighborhood of my office, I found myself feeling like I’d dodged a bullet by not going for my walk that day.

The Salt Lake Tornado isn’t something I think about very often. All the damaged buildings were repaired within weeks of the event, and the replanted trees in Memory Grove have grown to maturity over the past decade and a half. It’s hard now to even remember what it looked like before. But for some reason this sixteenth anniversary seemed to get a lot more attention than in years past. Or perhaps I just happened to take notice of it this time around. In any event, I thought I’d pass along this commemorative video that ran on one of our local news broadcasts for anyone who might be interested. The tone strikes me as a little too “ah, shucks, folks” for the subject matter, but that’s to be expected from the reporter who narrates it, Craig Wirth. (Craig is a longtime fixture in Salt Lake television, a feature-story reporter who does warm ‘n’ fuzzy nostalgia pieces in his occasional “Wirth Watching” segments, kind of like Salt Lake’s version of Charles Kuralt.) Tone aside, though, it is a nice overview of what went down that August day so long ago…




Review: Drums of Autumn

Drums of Autumn
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After taking a little break from the Outlander-verse, I’ve jumped back in with the fourth book of the series, which I believe is the longest one yet (and that’s saying something with these massive tomes!) Drums picks up a few months after the events of Voyager, the previous volume, with our time-crossed lovers Jamie and Claire, along with Jamie’s nephew Ian and adopted son Fergus, trying to start a new life for themselves in the colony of North Carolina in the years just prior to the American Revolution. They will face many dangers in this new world, including bears, Indians, disease, scheming family members, the ugly institution of slavery, a murderer, and even a ghost, but it is a chance encounter with a pirate named Stephen Bonnet that will have the greatest impact on their future… and that of their daughter, Brianna, who they think is safe and sound up in the 20th century, but has learned something terrible enough to convince her to risk traveling through time herself… for the sake of her mother and the father she’s never met…

By this point, the series has left its bodice-ripping origins far behind — Drums doesn’t even have much sex in it, compared to the earlier books — and settled into something resembling a cross between a cliffhanger serial and a soap opera. Basically, it’s “one damn thing after another” in a historical setting, and the book strongly reminded me of Michael Mann’s 1992 film version of Last of the Mohicans with its epic sweep and romanticized depiction of 18th century America. As ever, I am deeply impressed with the sense of authenticity and verisimilitude Gabaldon brings to her writing. The settings and the mundane details of life in this period are absolutely convincing, and the characters themselves live and breathe and are as real in my mind as my own relatives. Gabaldon even allows her hero Jamie to be somewhat unlikable for a good portion of the book, and even the dastardly Stephen Bonnet, in the end, reveals an unexpected depth.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a series of books with such a strong female perspective. I don’t mean simply “the female gaze” that objectifies and admires the beauty of Jamie and the other male characters in the way that we’re accustomed to lingering over female beauty, although that’s definitely a noticeable motif in these stories. Rather, I’m talking about the way Gabaldon revels in the earthy, visceral, sometimes unsettling, often mysterious, but always very human flesh-and-blood reality of women’s bodies and women’s lives. I’ve read books by women authors, of course, and about female protagonists, but can’t recall any before that go into the places that Gabaldon deftly journeys. And I have to say, as a man, I wasn’t at all alienated by that perspective, as one might expect; rather, I’m fascinated and at times moved by it. Without making too much out of it, I think these books are giving me a better understanding of what it is to be a woman, and that’s exciting and makes for really damn good reading.

Unfortunately, though, Drums does have a couple of problems. For one thing, it’s difficult to really describe the plot of this one because, frankly, it doesn’t have much of one. Things happen, a lot of things, and the story moves forward, but there’s no clear throughline as in the previous books. It really is just one damn thing after another, and it’s more the reader’s affection for the characters and the world that keep you reading than a tight story. That‘s where I’m getting the soap opera feeling I mentioned.

In addition, Gabaldon allows some of her vivid characters to vanish from the action for long periods. Poor Fergus and his wife Marsali are especially ill treated by Drums; their appearances here are little more than cameos. Of course, Gabaldon’s cast has become sufficiently large that this is probably unavoidable, and one could make the argument that it’s true to life, especially under the primitive conditions of the 1760s when you wouldn’t have frequent contact with friends and relations. But as a modern-day reader who likes these people, it is… frustrating.

Ultimately, though, the story belongs to Jamie and Claire, and it is at its most interesting when the action is centered on them. By the end of Drums, some thirty years have passed since we first met them, and it is to Gabaldon’s great credit that she’s managed to let them age without losing whatever it was that made them seem real and compelling in the first place. Whatever else one may say about this series, it feels like a record of actual lives, and that’s a rare and commendable thing for a writer to have accomplished.

View all my reviews


Friday Evening Videos: “You Belong to Me”

We dig Bryan Adams around this place. Not as much as we dig Rick Springfield, of course, but Adams is pretty dang cool in his own right. I’ve seen him live three times: back in 1985 when he first hit it big with his Reckless album, then again in ’92 for the “Waking Up the World” tour, and most recently on an acoustic tour that became an excellent live collection called Bare Bones (I can’t remember what year that was, though — guess I’m getting old!). And of course his ode to nostalgia, “Summer of ’69” is a personal favorite that I’ve featured on this blog before.

Although Adams is best known for work he did 20 or 30 years ago, he, like my main man Rick, has been writing and recording new material more or less continuously since his heyday. He just recently announced that a new album called Get Up will be hitting the streets in October, and he’s already released the first single from it, “You Belong to Me.” It’s a fun little number with an old-fashioned rock-a-billy jangle that reminds me of some of George Harrison’s later work. (Which makes sense, since it was produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne, who also worked on Harrison’s Cloud Nine and the Travelin’ Wilburys project.)

Anyhow, I think this selection is just perfect for listening to with the car windows down as you head home from work on a late-summer Friday night. And the video is pretty sexy, too, although you probably shouldn’t look at that while you’re driving…  Enjoy!


Nailed It

I’ve never liked Donald Trump. From the moment this guy hit my radar back in the 1980s, I thought he was a loudmouthed jerk who single-handedly refuted the “greed is good” motto of the day. I hate his tacky gold-colored skyscrapers and his self-aggrandizing habit of putting his own name on everything he owns in fifty-foot-high letters. I hate his stupid television game show. And I hate his swaggering, mean-spirited, condescending dismissal-by-schoolyard-insult of anyone who isn’t either (a) Donald Trump, or (b) a butt-licking sycophant who sings the praises of Donald Trump. The fact that his presidential run is polling so well among a certain demographic is both mystifying to me and also, frankly, kind of terrifying.

Those poll numbers lend the following — supposedly an actual dictionary entry — something of sour-grapes flavor, but it’s too on-target not to pass along anyhow:

Actually, this seemed a lot funnier when I first spotted it over at Kevin Drum’s blog.


A Day in My Life

I mentioned in the previous post that the past few days at work have been a little… intense. And by “intense” I of course mean “unrelenting,” “all-consuming,” “utterly draining,” “mind-numbing,” and “soul-crushing.”

Now, I like my job, something I feel compelled to state for the record every time I give public voice to a complaint. (I also feel compelled to voice those complaints in the first place; I have a lot of compulsions, it seems.) No, really, I do like the job. Most of the time. But these hectic patches take a lot out of me, physically and mentally. The way I’m wired, I can hear the despair-wolves howling in the distance on the best of days. When I start feeling like I have so much to do that I can’t take the time to breathe, those buggers come right up on the front porch and threaten to batter down the door with their racket. The only thing that makes these busy periods bearable for me is the understanding that they’re temporary.

But Bennion, you might be saying, what have you got to complain about? You work in advertising. Isn’t that all booze and broads and oversized cars, like in Mad Men?

Well, yeah, sure it’s like that… for the creative directors. That’s not what I do, though. What I do is a lot more… or maybe it’s a lot less… um…  well, here, perhaps a little illustration will give you a better idea. Ladies and gentlemen, the immortal Charlie Chaplin:

Yep, that’s my recent days in a nutshell, only my widgets are made of paper and the bolts I’m twisting are covered in red ink.

Incidentally, you may be wondering what jackass added sound effects and voices to a silent movie. That would have been Chaplin himself; this clip is from his film Modern Times, which was released in 1936, well after the advent of synchronized sound in movies. Modern Times was in fact conceived as Chaplin’s first talkie, but he realized at some point that his signature character, The Tramp, worked best as a universal Everyman if you never heard his voice. Sound effects and even some voices (but not The Tramp’s) were fine, but overall, the movie was made the way he’d always made them… and its brilliant and still very much relevant today.


A Little Reassurance

I recently finished reading Andy Weir‘s The Martian for a second time. Well, to be more precise, I finished it reading it aloud to my lovely Anne, who’d been listening to me rave about how good it is for weeks and finally asked me to read it to her as a bedtime story. (She just had PRK eye surgery, you see, and couldn’t read very well herself for the first little while, and… oh, hell, it’s a thing we do sometimes, okay? I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars to her last year… maybe one of these days, I’ll even do one that has nothing to do with Mars!)

Anyhow, the book is still effective even knowing what’s going to happen, and my thoughts on it remain mostly unchanged from my first experience with it. It’s a fantastic survival story and a real page-turner, populated by characters you genuinely like and care about, and I’m certain the movie version is going to kick all kinds of ass, too. But I realized on this go-round that there’s a broad steak of humanism flowing beneath all the surface-level technology and science and adventure, and I think that’s probably a big factor in why I like this novel so much. This is a book that likes people. There’s one passage in particular, from the very end (literally, it’s on the last page), that I found deeply moving and continue to think about even now, weeks after I last closed the cover. It’s especially been on my mind the past few days.

Last week wasn’t one of my better ones. I’ve entered another of those periodic cycles at work when it feels like I’m being ground into a very fine powder between two large, slow-moving stone wheels. One of those cycles when the workflow never slackens and my day ends up being nothing but proofreading and commuting. And then Friday morning, I found myself having one of those debates over minutiae that nobody seems to care about but me, debates that always end with me using words like “asinine” and making the Sideshow Bob mumblety-growl. (In other words, these are debates I lose, due to having very little actual authority in the scheme of things.) And if all that wasn’t bad enough, the Internet last week was thoroughly depressing as well. I came home Friday night feeling about as hollowed out and used up and fed up as I think anybody could. Between getting mowed down at work and the media’s obsession with that obnoxious blowhard Donald fracking Trump and his deliberately inflammatory bullshit statements, I was about ready to walk off into the woods and just forget the whole damn thing we laughingly call civilization because we’ve obviously hit peak asshole and there’s no where to go from here except into the recycle bin.

But then I remembered that passage from The Martian… and I’ll be darned if it didn’t actually lift my spirits. Because I believe those words, or at least I want to. And maybe that’s enough to hold a civilization — or even an individual —  together… that desire to believe in something good.

I can’t imagine anyone not knowing how this book ends, how it has to end, but just in case anyone is concerned about spoilers, I’m going to post the passage I’m discussing below the fold:


TV Title Sequences: High Tide

My childhood guitar hero Rick Springfield (a.k.a. “my main man”) has been a busy guy lately. His memoir Late, Late at Night and his debut novel Magnificent Vibrations were both well reviewed and commercially successful; his collection of acoustic recordings, Stripped Down, was released in February and was pretty awesome; he’s also got an album of new material due later this year; and he’s currently on tour with two other classic acts of the 1980s, Loverboy and The Romantics, which I imagine would be an absolute blast of a concert. (Sadly, they’re not coming anywhere near Salt Lake City; well, they’re playing Vegas, which isn’t that far away, but the stars aren’t going to line up for me to go to this one.) And, oh yeah, if you haven’t heard, he’s co-starring alongside somebody named Meryl Streep in a new movie that opened last weekend. I saw it Saturday night and thought it was great; hopefully, I’ll find some time in the next couple days to write a review.

Ricki and the Flash is Rick’s first feature-film appearance since his somewhat, ahem, notorious 1984 big-screen debut, Hard to Hold, a movie I personally maintain doesn’t suck nearly as much as you’ve probably heard, but certainly isn’t anybody’s idea of a career highlight. (If nothing else, the film had a great soundtrack, which gave Rick two more hit singles for his discography. And of course there was that brief nude scene that’s provided him with years of between-song banter for his live concert appearances…) But while three decades have passed since we last saw him in a cinema, you can’t accuse him of being camera-shy during that time. During the ’90s, he starred in a string of TV movies, including the pilot for what became (with a different actor in the lead) the cult favorite vampire-cop series Forever Knight; he’s reprised his signature role of Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital several times; he’s taken a cue from William Shatner and appeared as a warped version of himself in the David Duchovny vehicle Californication; he did a funny and nicely self-deprecating episode of the sitcom Hot in Cleveland; and just recently he earned good reviews for his work on season two of True Detective (evidently, Rick’s work was the best thing about this season).

And then there was the series High Tide

What’s that? You’ve never heard of High Tide? Well, to be honest, neither had I until I ran across a mention of it a few days ago in a pre-Ricki and the Flash interview focusing on Rick’s acting work. I haven’t been able to find out too much about it, either, only that it ran for three seasons between 1994 and 1997; it was filmed on location in New Zealand; and it was about two surf-bum brothers who pay the bills with occasional private-investigator gigs. I’m assuming the series was syndicated, since this opening credit sequence from the first season looks like a blend of Baywatch and Lorenzo Lamas’ Renegade, with all the bikini babes, bright colors, awkward fight choreography, and eyepoppingly tacky clothes that entails:

Looks pretty awful, I know… but I have to confess, I kind of miss this sort of thing. The mid-90s syndicated actioners were crap, but they were reliably entertaining crap, and I used to watch a lot of them. Looking back at them now, they have a simplicity and, yes, even a sort of naive innocence that is sorely lacking in today’s grim-n-gritty pop cultural landscape. And they also prove a theory of mine, which is that decades aren’t as strictly compartmentalized as we tend to want to imagine them. The early ’80s looked a heckuva lot like the ’70s, for instance. And while this series may have been made in the ’90s, “two surf-bum brothers who work as PIs” is about as 1980s a premise as I’ve ever heard!

Needless to say, this series does not exist on officially sanctioned DVDs, but I think I’m going to do some poking around and see if I can find it somewhere. Because, awful or not, I really want to watch this… I have a feeling it’ll make me feel either young again or really damn old.

God help me.