Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Eyes! He’s After My Eyes!

Good lord, has it really been two weeks since my last entry? Sorry, kids. I didn’t mean to vanish without notice like that. To explain, The Girlfriend and I have both been under the weather since the weekend of the 16th. And when I say “under the weather,” I mean “down in a two-mile-deep bomb shelter with a Cat-5 hurricane stalled above it, slowly grinding away the very crust of the earth.” Seriously, I can’t remember ever having a head cold lay me out the way this one has. I normally have a fairly strong constitution, or so I like to believe, but while Anne has remained relatively functional, I’ve been helpless in the face of this shit. At its peak, I spent two days on the couch in my bathrobe, weak as a kitten and drifting in and out of a fitful sleep. A few days ago, I ruefully joked — and it was one of those jokes with a grim kernel of truth at its not-very-funny heart — that I have in fact picked up a case of Captain Trips, the implacably deadly weaponized flu virus from Stephen King’s novel The Stand (his scariest work, in my opinion; I don’t do “outbreak” stories anymore, because they’re all too plausible in my mind).

It started pretty innocuously as a sore throat and a raspy voice, which I chalked up to Salt Lake’s annual winter temperature inversion, when a mass of cold air traps car exhaust, fireplace smoke, and all the other atmospheric filth you can think of near the valley floor for weeks at a stretch. Soon I had a cough too, which I again attributed to the inversion-caused “crud layer.” But then came the runny nose, the nasal congestion, the weepy (and then gooey, and then crusty) eyes, the sinus pressure — I had a day where I felt like Rocky Balboa had given me a solid right cross, the entire left side of my face ached so badly — and the stuffed-up ears, all of these rotating in and out of prominence. Just as I started to feel like I was making headway, a new symptom would pop up and smack me back to the couch. And underpinning all of it was a mind-deadening fatigue that quashed any ambition to do, well, anything. I suppose my kitty boys have enjoyed the constant company, at least.

Speaking of the kitty boys, on the second or third night after this thing really got a hold on me, I awoke to see one of them, Jack-Cat, sitting in the open doorway to my bedroom. Well, to be more accurate, I saw his silhouette sitting there. Unlike his shaggier, Creamsicle-colored brothers, Jack is sleek and black, a classic Halloween-style cat, so it was easy to identify him in the dark. I don’t know if I was feverish or if it was just the hour of night when the lack of good sleep finally gets to you, but in the instant of spotting him there, only a few feet away, his face ominously invisible in the shadows, I knew, just knew, that he was waiting for me to die. And once I’d rattled off my last breath, my normally sweet-natured little black buddy was going to eat me. Starting with my eyeballs. My tender, juicy eyeballs, round and bulging, primed to pop in Jack’s fangy little mouth like giant grapes…

Silly, right? Of course, it’s silly. But that was a bad night regardless.

I think I’m finally making headway on this stuff. My left ear is still intermittently stuffy, and I have a nagging cough. But my nose is free again, and I’m starting to regain interest in doing things that I used to do in the Before Time. And Jack-Cat hasn’t made any suspicious moves whatsoever. But still… I’m keeping a close watch on him. You never can tell…


For Sale: Vintage Spaceplane, Slightly Used

This past Sunday, December 11, a ceremony was held in New York City in which representatives from NASA officially transferred the title of ownership for the space shuttle Enterprise to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. While the thought of suit-and-tie-wearing administrator-types delivering speeches and signing documents is not particularly inspiring, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that a spaceship of all things has a title, like any other jalopy that backyard mechanics might trade amongst themselves. I immediately remembered all the old cars my father has bought and sold over the years, and one thing in my brain led to another, and… well…here’s something silly that I just dashed off:

FOR SALE: 1976 space shuttle orbiter, rare prototype model, very low mileage (only driven on local errands to the troposphere and back). U.S.-built. All-original interior with factory air and working 8-track. Paint is good (kept in garage for past 26 years). Tires were new when it was parked. Engines need work. Would make a great conversation piece! Best offer. Call 555-5555, ask for Buzz.

Yeah, sometimes I worry about my brain…


Bonus Video: “Je Suis Rick Springfield”

The previous video reminded me of something a couple friends turned me onto a while back, which I’ve been meaning to post but just haven’t gotten around to. It’s another live performance, this time by a musician named Johnathan Coulton. I’m not at all familiar with him — I gather he’s an indie artist with a pretty sizable cult following — but the song is catchy and seems to have benign intentions, i.e., Coulton doesn’t sound like he’s being cruel toward my main man despite the (apparently) humorous nature of the lyrics. It’s hard to tell for sure since it’s sung in French and I don’t know French, but… well, I’ll let Johnathan himself explain what it’s about:

One thing I particularly appreciate about this (and which I assume is deliberate) is how much it sounds like… a Rick Springfield song! No, really, the guitar tone here is very similar to Rick’s own audio signature, the same sound you hear on “Jessie’s Girl,” among many others. I like that sound, obviously, and I liked it so much in this song that I was fully prepared to purchase one of those new-fangled download thingies until I learned the album recording is somewhat different. Maybe Coulton will release another version with that deep, early-80s thrum that I love so much. In the meantime, enjoy this one as we roll on past midnight, chasing after the early morning hours…


Friday Evening Videos: “It’s Always Something”

Between working in an understaffed office populated by inconsiderate ignoramuses and presided over by a hard-headed old skinflint, and a bad case of a medical condition called “positional vertigo,” The Girlfriend has been suffering through a truly craptacular week. So I’m going to dedicate this week’s music video to her, in the hopes that it will provide a little comfort. Or at least make her smile for a second.

“It’s Always Something” is a 1999 song by our mutual main man that gradually over the years has become one of my all-time favorites of his. Yes, it’s right up there with “Jessie’s Girl” in my book, believe it or not. I find a lot of meaning and resonance in this tune, and also a genuine sense of optimism that I often have trouble generating on my own. Just like Rick Springfield himself I would guess, based on what I’ve learned about him in the past 12 months. It’s a great song, in my humble opinion, one that in a more just universe would’ve been a tremendous hit. As it is, though, I didn’t even hear it until a couple of years after it came out. C’est la vie, I guess, and certainly right in line with the song’s own ironic narrative.

This isn’t a music video per se; it’s a live performance clip from a concert Rick gave earlier this year, so unfortunately you get the shaky-cam effect and the sound is kind of dodgy in places. But it’s the best clip I could find, and Anne knows the lyrics anyhow…

If any of the Loyal Readers out there don’t know the lyrics and can’t decipher them from the video (and also give a damn), you can find them in an earlier entry I wrote about this song…


Because I Tend to Obsess over Things

Here’s another look at what’s happening with Discovery‘s replica engine nozzles. (I guess it’s not really correct to keep calling them replicas, considering they’re authentic spaceflown hardware, but NASA’s own Kennedy Space Center Twitter feed  — from whence I snagged this photo, incidentally — refers to them as replica shuttle main engines, or RSMEs, so there you go, straight from the astronaut’s mouth. Or something.)

Anyhow, I thought I’d share this shot because (a) it shows all three nozzles now back in place, and (b) it’s a little easier to discern what you’re looking at than in the one I posted yesterday. And also because I just like posting pics of space shuttles. Deal. Soon they’ll be in their respective museums and you won’t have to see any more of this stuff for a while, at least not until I get out to them and take my own photos…


Putting Discovery Back Together

This is going to sound kind of silly, but something that’s really been troubling me about the three surviving spaceflown shuttles being taxidermied for museum display is the thought of their mighty main engines ripped out and replaced by wood or fiberglass replicas. It’s not rational, I know. The shuttles are just big butterflies pinned to a board at this point, dead things that will never soar again, so what does it matter if their guts are missing? I don’t have a good answer for that question, to be honest. It just feels wrong to me. When I go see them in future years — and I do intend to make pilgrimages to each of them once they’ve arrived in their new, earthbound homes — I want to know that what I’m seeing is whole, that these are the actual machines that stoked the dreams of a generation of nerds like myself. Not mock-ups, not empty shells… that they could, in theory at least, be revived someday and sent up again. It’s a matter of authenticity, I guess. It’s the difference between seeing the well-intentioned King Tut’s tomb exhibit that used to be at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, and visiting the real thing in Egypt. The Vegas version looked pretty realistic, and certainly gave you a better idea of what the discovery of the tomb must’ve been like than a description in a book, but when you came right down to it, the walls were just painted stucco over sheet-rock, and somehow you could sense that. I think phony fiberglass engines stuck on the back of the orbiters would evoke a similar feeling… that somehow you were being cheated.

It turns out, however, I’ve been wrong in my assumption that these replicas would be complete fakes. According to the article from which I grabbed the fascinating image above, what’s going back into the engine sockets on Discovery, and eventually Endeavour and Atlantis as well, are real rocket nozzles that flew in space as part of earlier-generation engine packages. They’re not complete engines — compare what you can see in that image above to the one I posted a while back, and you’ll immediately notice that the big knob of plumbing that normally sits above the nozzle is missing — but at least they’re authentic space hardware. They’ve been up there. They’ve earned the right to be attached to my beloved orbiters.

I highly recommend you follow that link. There’s a whole mess of photos over there showing this nozzle and its re-installation into Discovery. The glimpses of men crawling around inside her aft end make me happy. They remind me of backyard mechanics like my dad wriggling underneath a lovingly restored hot rod…


Sometimes Living in the Future Ain’t So Bad

As far as I’m concerned, few things in this life are as satisfying as a good cheeseburger. Now, your definition of “good” may (and probably does) vary from mine. My personal ideal is the simple, old-fashioned, Jimmy Buffett-style burger: a juicy, medium-well-done patty on a buttery toasted bun; cheddar or American cheese; a big leaf of lettuce (none of this finely chopped McRoughage crap); a ripe, flavorful tomato; onion (sliced into rings or at least crescents; again, none of the teeny-tiny shard things you get at many fast-fooderies); the holy trifecta of condiments, i.e., mayo-ketchup-mustard; a pickle spear on the side along with a heap of crispy krinkle-cut fries; and all of it washed down with an icy Coke (or my more recent obsession, iced tea) or a good beer… and no, I’d probably better not go off on a tangent about what constitutes “good” beer, because that’s a whole other blog entry. But however you like your burgers, I’ll bet it’s never occurred to you that it wasn’t really possible to enjoy one until relatively recently in human history. It certainly hadn’t occurred to me.

But there’s a cat named Waldo Jaquith who has considered the problem, and his findings are… provocative:

A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors–in all likelihood, a couple of dozen–and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.

Just something to think about the next time you’re feeling (as I frequently do) like that whole Industrial Revolution might not have been the best idea. I mean, who really cares if Five Guys is superior to In-N-Out, or if you (like me) prefer a local mom-and-pop cafe burger (when I can find them)… at least we have the option of arguing over such things! Seriously, this is an issue that irreparably skews that whole “which time period would you like to live in?” question for me.

And now, it’s off to dinner… three guesses what I’m in the mood to eat…


Welcome to Bennion’s Black-and-White Old-Tymey Movie Theatre!

Good evening… come on in. Why don’t you get yourself some popcorn and a Coke from our stunning black-on-silver art-deco refreshment stand? (Be nice to the charming and vivacious young lady manning the counter; you’ll find her attitude very different from the sullen mouth-breathers at the multiplex. She actually likes her job.) Yes, I know our modestly sized bags of corn look puny compared to those MegaTubs you’re accustomed to getting at the other places, but trust me: this is all you need.

Feel free to peruse the vintage one-sheets lining the walls of our lobby. Beautiful, aren’t they? Every one a genuine work of art, individually designed to uniquely showcase the films in question, painted by skilled craftsmen who’ve never heard of Photoshop.

Ah, here we are at the usher’s podium. We called it the chopper back in my day. But of course that means nothing to you, does it? Here, let me take your ticket. That little slip of inch-wide red cardstock there. What’s that? You wonder why it doesn’t tell you which film you’re seeing? But why would you… oh, I see why you’re confused. This ticket says only “Admit One,” without all the other extraneous information that’s printed on other movie tickets nowadays. But we don’t need all that nonsense here at the Black-and-White; you see, we have only the one screen. Now, go on into the auditorium and find a seat… watch your step, please, it’s a bit darker than what you’re probably used to. Slip into one of our low-back red-velvet seats. No, I’m sorry, they don’t rock, but you should find them comfortable enough. I have made one concession to your modern sensibilities: you’ll find the cupholder right there in front of you. There you are.

I hope you’ll use the last few minutes before the movie starts to relax or to converse quietly with your date. We have no pre-show reel to distract you with mindless advertising; this space is supposed to be isolated from the outside world, a bit of escapism even before the movie begins. Isn’t the hushed atmosphere so much nicer than all the blather that usually surrounds us? Please, don’t do that. You won’t be able to text or surf the web, not in my establishment. And no calls in or out, either, not while we’re here in the auditorium. Mobile phones don’t work here, not even the clock function, so you may as well put it back in your pocket and forget all about it for a couple hours. In a moment, there will be nothing trying to grab your attention except the film itself…. and here we go. The big waterfall curtain rises, the lights go down.

Tonight’s feature at Bennion’s Black-and-White Old-Tymey Movie Theatre is… Charlie Chan in Panama! A little bit of pre-war intrigue involving sabotage, a deadly plague, poisoned cigarettes, and the US Navy, all set against the exotic backdrop of the Panama Canal! SEE…  a beautiful refugee countess hiding out as a nightclub singer! SEE… the suave Latino club owner who has a secret identity! SEE… the author of countless “blood-and-thunder” adventure novels, drawn into a real-life web of danger!

Okay, I’ll drop the silly patter. Sorry. I was just having a bit of fun remembering/imagining the way movie-going used to be back when there was still some glamour to it. The truth is, Black-and-White Theatre tonight consisted of me sitting on the couch in my bathrobe in front of my hi-def TV, spinning a DVD of a flick from 1940 that I doubt anyone reading this has even heard of. A far cry from the fabled movie palaces of old… or even those far more modest neighborhood movie-houses that used to lure people inside during the hot summers with promises of air conditioning and all-day programs for a dime. They’re all gone now, the palaces and the small houses, all exterminated by the rise of the multiplex. But I love the movies that would’ve run at those places. Black-and-white is not inferior, kids! And just because something is old doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have the power to entertain…