Monthly Archives: October 2015

Friday Evening Videos: “Crazy in the Night” (Fright Flicks Edition)

I’ve posted the official video for “Crazy in the Night” before, but if you’ll forgive a little repetition, I just stumbled across a really terrific variation put together by YouTuber CM Wournell, which lays Kim Carnes’ 1985 hymn to paranoia over imagery from some of the classic horror films of the 1980s. Wournell has an impressive talent for matching the right scene with the right lyric or emotional note, and I really enjoyed the hell out of this.

Hope y’all like it too… Happy Halloween!

(Incidentally, I’m ashamed to confess that I can’t identify all of the movies referenced in the video; if anybody watching this can, I’d love to see a list… )


I Dreamed of Projectors…

projector_platterI dreamed last night I was back in my old movie-theater projectionist job. One of them, anyhow, but maybe somehow both* of them simultaneously; you know how dreams are. The machines hadn’t been tended in a very long time — of course not, I haven’t worked in a theater in 22 years! — and they were caked with grease and that red powdery stuff you were supposed to wipe out of the film gate after every screening. I can’t remember what that was… some kind of lubricant on the film itself, I think.

In any event, I dreamed I was cleaning projectors and threading film, spinning platters and feeling the deep, white-noise thrumming of the motors in the soles of my feet and the pit of my stomach. I was on a schedule, of course. I had to get the movie started on time. But I was totally relaxed about it, riding the wave and letting muscle memory do all the work. I was in my element. And it felt really good to be back in that time and place. I was happy.

Now, I’m not one to read too much into dreams. I don’t think they have much meaning in and of themselves, and I find lengthy analyses of their symbolism both tedious and silly. (Sorry, I just don’t believe that a talking chicken represents that time I was teased by a girl in third grade, or whatever.) But I can’t deny that dreams definitely produce genuine emotional impact, or that those feelings sometimes linger in various ways long after you wake up. I’ve been thinking about this dream all day, remembering the physical sensations of contentedly working in the dark with obsolete media. And I’ve been wondering what exactly happened to me yesterday that might have shaken loose those old memories…

*I actually worked for two different theaters, under vastly different conditions, back in the day. So for my dream booth to somehow be both booths at the same time was… interesting. But hey. Dreams.


Friday Evening Videos: “Shambala”

This week’s musical selection was inspired by the sad news that Cory Wells, one of the founding members of the classic rock group Three Dog Night, passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday. He was 74.

Three Dog Night came together in 1967 and went on to score an astonishing twenty-one top-40 hits in the US over the next six years, with three of those songs — “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Joy to the World,” and “Black and White” — reaching the number-one slot. Interestingly, each of those number-one records featured a different one of the band’s three vocalists on lead: the aforementioned Wells on “Mama,” Danny Hutton on “Black and White,” and Chuck Negron anchoring “Joy.” The band broke up in 1976, but reformed in the early ’80s and has been recording and touring more or less continuously (with some variations in personnel) ever since.

“Shambala,” again featuring the late Mr. Wells on lead vocals, was a number-three hit for Three Dog Night, peaking in the summer of 1973. I was just a wee lad then, which is probably why this song always conjures associations with my very early childhood: the smell of freshly cut alfalfa, the flavor of Fanta Red Creme Soda, and sundogs arcing across the curved windshield of my mom’s ’56 Ford pickup truck. (Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” and “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” by Mac Davis stir up the same memories, which I suppose tells you a lot about my mom’s musical tastes at the time.) Whether it’s those idyllic, harvest-gold memories or just the upbeat sound of the group’s signature electric organ, this is one of a handful of songs that have an inscrutable ability to always make me feel better, no matter the circumstances.

Music videos weren’t a thing in Three Dog Night’s heyday, of course, but I did locate this, a clip from the band’s 1975 appearance on the PBS program Soundstage. It’s good stuff to head into the weekend with, I think…


The Future Is Now…


Did you feel that? A kind of a tremor, as if some cosmic tumbler clicked into place? Or maybe it was a thunderclap of air being displaced by an object that wasn’t there a moment ago. Whatever it was, it brought with it a definite sense of… arrival. As if the world has finally caught up to something…

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you obviously didn’t spend any time on social media today, because it seemed to be the only thing on everybody’s minds. You see, today — October 21, 2015 — is the future date to which Marty McFly and Doc Brown time-travel from the year 1985 in the Back to the Future movies. The Internet being what it is, this was reason enough for today to become a sort of de facto online holiday. The memes and jokes were inescapable on Facebook, as was the complaining about how our actual 2015 doesn’t much resemble the one depicted in Back to the Future II, which was released in 1989. (I would argue that 2015 actually does have much in common with the fictional one. No, we don’t have hoverboards or flying cars, but our society is consumed with nostalgia, modern cars are pretty funny looking, and we are all eagerly awaiting the next high-numbered sequel in an old film series from the 1970s…)

Naturally, commercial entities were eager to hop onto the event’s coattails. Pepsi rolled out a limited edition “Pepsi Perfect” collector’s bottle like the one seen in BTTF II, complete with a retro-futuristic commercial that’s pretty entertaining. Nike announced it was coming out with self-lacing sneakers like the ones Marty sports in the movie, and made certain that Michael J. Fox got the first pair. (I have to confess, the video of him trying them on made me a little teary-eyed, as his Parkinson’s Disease is obviously advancing; it’s so damn sad what’s happening to him.) Toyota introduced its Mirai automobile, powered by a futuristic hydrogen fuel cell, with a long-form video featuring Fox and his co-star Christopher Lloyd, as well as some familiar-looking locations. Marvel Comics unveiled a cover design for an issue of its Deadpool & Cable title that mimics the familiar Back to the Future poster art. And there was a sweetly sentimental spot with Lloyd delivering a “message from Doc Brown,” which of course ends in a commercial pitch for a new BluRay collection of the trilogy.

Even the White House got into the spirit by declaring today “Back to the Future Day” and hosting a series of discussions on futurism and related topics.

Closer to home, Salt Lake’s arthouse cinema, the Tower Theater, held a marathon screening of the trilogy (complete with a Delorean out front!), and my own corporate overlords ran the movies on the big flatscreens in a couple of our conference rooms. Too bad I had too much work to do.

You know, the funny thing about all this is that I was working at a movie theater when Back to the Future II came out, and I remember it doing fairly well at the box office, but it was hardly a tremendous phenomenon. And even the original film, as big a hit as it was — and it was huge back in the day — never struck me as being, well, that big a deal. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. I had the poster on my bedroom wall, the soundtrack in my Walkman, and a Marty McFly-style denim jacket. And it’s a movie that has remained reliably and pleasantly watchable over the years. But if you’d have told me back in 1985 that three decades hence we would be making such a big fuss about a date we briefly glimpse on an LED readout in an old movie… well, I never imagined there would be a bigger uproar over a reboot of Ghostbusters than friggin’ Star Trek, either, so what do I know?

Some people have been kind of churlish about Back to the Future Day, posting that it wasn’t a very good movie anyway and they’re sick of hearing about hoverboards, etc. etc. I can see that. But personally I found today’s silliness a refreshing break from the usual hostility and political sniping… for one day, we were all posting about something other than gun control, abortion, and Donald Trump.

There’s only one thing that bothers me. Now that this momentous date has finally passed and we are most assuredly living in the unwritten future… what now?



The Final Trailer

If you haven’t seen it already on any of the six million other websites that are linking to it:

Honestly, I’m still not sure what I think, even after watching this three times in a row. The music is nice, if a bit elegiac (we’re going to lose someone we care about in this one, I’ll bet you). JJ Abrams seems to have exercised some self-control with his irritating lens flare schtick, so there’s that at least. It was great to see the old Falcon cutting through hyperspace again. And it’s interesting to hear Han Solo of all people solemnly acknowledging the reality of that hokey ancient religion. But the final line…

“The Force… it’s calling to you… just let it in.”

Is it just me, or does that sound like a meta-message aimed directly at the skeptical fanboys? And if so, is it an invitation spoken from a position of confidence or does it betray some opening-night jitters? Are the filmmakers saying “Come back to the galaxy far, far away, guys, you won’t be sorry,” or are they begging us to remove the chips from our shoulders before we enter the theaters? I guess we’ll find out in a few short weeks…


Another American’s Observations about the UK

A couple people have sent this to me today, so I thought I’d do my part and pass it along in turn: It’s a list of observations about England made by an American named Scott Waters following his fourth trip to that country. He posted the list on his Facebook page just under two weeks ago, and it’s since gone viral; supposedly it’s been shared over 50,000 times.

England is not the same as Scotland, of course — something the Scots are very quick to point out! — but both countries are part of the United Kingdom and have had an intermingled culture for centuries, which means that I noted many of these same points during my recent adventure north of Hadrian’s Wall:

  • Almost everyone is very polite.
  • The food is generally outstanding.
    [Ed. note: Proper fish and chips!]
  • There are no guns.
  • There are too many narrow stairs.
  • Everything is just a little bit different.
  • The pubs close too early.
  • The reason they drive on the left is because all their cars are built backwards.
  • Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms.
  • You’d better like peas, potatoes and sausage.
  • Refrigerators and washing machines are very small.
  • Everything is generally older, smaller and shorter.
  • People don’t seem to be afraid of their neighbors or the government.
  • Their paper money makes sense, the coins don’t.
    [Ed. note: This isn’t entirely true. The coins make sense, it’s just that the 5p coin is the size of an American dime, while the 10p coin is the size of a nickel, so it’s confusing to Americans who are trying to sort change without looking at it…]
  • Everyone has a washing machine but driers are rare.
    [Ed. note: I thought it was rather charming to see actual clotheslines again…]
  • Hot and cold water faucets. Remember them?
  • Pants are called “trousers”, underwear are “pants” and sweaters are “jumpers”.
  • The bathroom light is a string hanging from the ceiling.
  • “Fanny” is a naughty word, as is “shag”.
  • All the signs are well designed with beautiful typography and written in full sentences with proper grammar.
  • There’s no dress code.
  • Doors close by themselves, but they don’t always open.
  • They eat with their forks upside down.
    [Ed. note: Okay. I didn’t notice this one.]
  • The English are as crazy about their gardens as Americans are about cars.
  • They don’t seem to use facecloths or napkins or maybe they’re just less messy than we are.
  • The wall outlets all have switches, some don’t do anything.
  • There are hardly any cops or police cars.
  • 5,000 year ago, someone arranged a lot of rocks all over, but no one is sure why.
  • When you do see police they seem to be in male & female pairs and often smiling.
  • Black people are just people: they didn’t quite do slavery here.
  • Everything comes with chips, which are French Fries. You put vinegar on them.
  • Cookies are “biscuits” and potato chips are “crisps”.
  • HP sauce is better than catsup.
  • Obama is considered a hero, Bush is considered an idiot.
  • After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food.
  • The water controls in showers need detailed instructions.
  • They can boil anything.
  • Folks don’t always lock their bikes.
  • It’s not unusual to see people dressed different and speaking different languages.
  • Your electronic devices will work fine with just a plug adapter.
  • Nearly everyone is better educated than we are.
  • If someone buys you a drink you must do the same.
  • There are no guns.
  • Look right, walk left. Again; look right, walk left. You’re welcome.
  • Avoid British wine and French beer.
  • It’s not that hard to eat with the fork in your left hand with a little practice. If you don’t, everyone knows you’re an American.
    [Ed. note: Fortunately, I’m left-handed, so I was already doing that anyhow!]
  • Many of the roads are the size of our sidewalks.
    [Ed. note: This is true! And terrifying… ]
  • There’s no AC.
  • Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper.
  • Gas is “petrol”, it costs about $6 a gallon and is sold by the liter.
  • If you speed on a motorway, you get a ticket. Period. Always.
  • You don’t have to tip, really!
  • Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall really are different countries.
  • Only 14% of Americans have a passport, almost everyone in the UK does.
  • You pay the price marked on products because the taxes (VAT) are built in.
  • Walking is the national pastime.
  • Their TV looks and sounds much better than ours.
  • They took the street signs down during WWII, but haven’t put them all back up yet.
  • Everyone enjoys a good joke.
  • There are no guns.
  • Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere.
  • There are no window screens.
  • You can get on a bus and end up in Paris.
    [Ed. note: Well, maybe eventually… it’d be a long ride from the Highlands, though… ]
  • Everyone knows more about our history than we do.
  • Radio is still a big deal. The BBC is quite good.
  • The newspapers can be awful.
  • Everything costs the same but our money is worth less so you have to add 50% to the price to figure what you’re paying.
  • Beer comes in large, completely filled, actual pint glasses and the closer the brewery the better the beer.
  • Butter and eggs aren’t refrigerated.
  • The beer isn’t warm, each style is served at the proper temperature.
  • Cider (alcoholic) is quite good.
  • Excess cider consumption can be very painful.
  • The universal greeting is “Cheers” (pronounced “cheeahz” unless you are from Cornwall, in which case it’s “chairz”).
  • The money is easy to understand: 1-2-5-10-20-50 pence, £1-£2 coins and £5-£10, etc bills. There are no quarters.
  • Their cash makes ours look like Monopoly money.
  • Cars don’t have bumper stickers.
  • Many doorknobs, buildings and tools are older than America.
  • By law, there are no crappy, old cars.
  • When the sign says something was built in 456, they didn’t lose the “1”.
  • Cake is pudding, ice cream is pudding, anything served for desert is pudding, even pudding.
  • BBC 4 is NPR.
  • Everything closes by 1800 (6pm).
  • Very few people smoke, those who do often roll their own.
  • You’re defined by your accent.
  • No one in Cornwall knows what the hell a Cornish Game Hen is.
    [Ed. note: I’ll take Scott’s word for this. It didn’t come up in Scotland.]
  • Football is a religion, religion is a sport.
  • Europeans dress better than the British, we dress worse.
  • The trains work: a three minute delay is regrettable.
  • Drinks don’t come with ice.
  • There are far fewer fat English people.
  • There are a lot of healthy old folks around participating in life instead of hiding at home watching TV.
  • If you’re over 60, you get free TV and bus and rail passes.
  • They don’t use Bose anything anywhere.
  • Displaying your political or religious affiliation is considered very bad taste.
  • Every pub has a pet drunk.
  • Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it.
  • Cake is one of the major food groups.
  • Their coffee is mediocre but the tea is wonderful.
  • There are still no guns.
  • Towel warmers!
    [Ed. note: These are very nice, as are toast racks.]
  • Cheers!

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?

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