Other Repeats in Brian J.’s Life

Yesterday I mentioned films I had seen more than once in the theater, and it got me thinking (but not right before bed) about other things I have seen more than once.

Plays

  • Table Manners, one of the three in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests. When I was at the university, the Milwaukee Rep played all three on a rotating basis (Table Manners one night, Round and Round the Garden the next, and Living Together the next, and repeat), so I decided I would go to each of them with a different girl. However, because I misread the schedule, I had to go see Table Manners a second time. I actually saw it a third time when the Chesterfield Community Theatre in St. Louis played it by itself.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I think I’ve seen this a couple of times, but I might be conflating the play with the symphony, both of which I’ve seen.

Musical Acts

  • Richard Marx (twice on the Repeat Offender tour: once in Milwaukee, once in St. Louis).
  • Poison
  • Warrant
  • Dar Williams
  • Ani DiFranco

The last two were under the influence of my beautiful wife, naturally.

The musician I’d like to see most again: Herb Alpert. The play I’d like to see most again: Sight Unseen.

First, They Came For Walmart

A year or so ago, the nation’s news media really glomped onto stories about Walmart as a crime attractor. For years before that, Walmart was wrecking the local economy.

I don’t know why that particular worm has turned to dollar stores.

I saw this story at Neo’s place: The war on the dollar stores:

This article is a few months old, but it just recently came to my attention and I read it because I love dollar stores, although the article is a typical anti-capitalist attack on them as somehow harming minorities in poor communities who don’t have easy access to other grocery stores.

Then I saw a story on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s Web site:

No link because it’s subscriber-only, and I’m not a subscriber.

So did the media beat Walmart? Or did Walmart up its advertising budget enough that it’s not a target?

You Can See That Again

So last night, as I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep, my mind continued to whirl in strange directions instead of calming down.

So I started trying to recall films that I saw in the theater more than once.

I suspect it’s because of an exchange I had with a sixteen year old in martial arts class earlier in the evening. We’re working on a self-defense against choking that involves binding the arms and pushing down on the attacker’s neck, and I told him he needed to stretch me out when defending, to straighten his arms, and that I didn’t mind because it made me taller. “I’ll look like E.T. by the end of the night. Hey, have you guys seen this really old movie, E.T.?” Alluding to the latest incarnation of Spider-Man (Remember, gentle reader, the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, gentle reader, debuted before my training partner was born). I think the young people enjoy it when I “get down” verbally, don’t you?

At any rate, I had E.T. on the brain, and I remembered I’d seen it twice in the theatres. Once with family friends, and once with a guy who dated my mother a couple of times and eventually opted for a woman on the next block in the housing projects–he and his kids and my sainted mother and her kids went to see it in the van that was eventually seen down Florist Avenue a lot.

So I started enumerating films I’ve seen twice in the theater.

  • E.T.

    I guess I told this story above.

  • Star Wars

    Although I did not see this in the theater in 1977, I saw it a couple of times on its re-release in the 1990s. In retrospect, I went to a lot of movies those days and could even see one a couple of times to make a statement.

  • The Empire Strikes Back

    When my sainted mother was in rehab, my father took my brother and I to see this in the theaters on a Sunday evening after we visited her. But we got there late and missed the entire Hoth section of the film, so I would not see that until I saw it on video. I saw this movie the second time when it was re-released in the 1990s, which means it’s the longest time between viewings in the theater (so far).

  • Return of the Jedi

    I would have to have seen this in the theater in its first run and also in the release. Wouldn’t I?

  • The Bodyguard

    This film came out when I was at college and was establishing my identity as a stoic. So this film really fell into my wheelhouse.

  • The Fugitive

    Ibid. I saw this film in the theater with my Milwaukee friends and with some of the college writing kids, including one of my college crushes, when the university showed in in the campus cinema. As we walked out, she whirled to me and said, “You like Gerard.” Well, yeah.

  • The Truman Show

    The most recent entry on this list is from the late 1990s. The place where I worked, my first IT / office job, often left movie passes for employees by the coffee pot, and I grabbed a couple for this. I went with a friend, and then I took my fiancée. The movie really creeped me out as paranoid fiction often does, and although I have it on video, I haven’t watched it in a while. Not only do I go infrequently to movies, but I rarely get to watch videos, either. Although playoff hockey has made me comfortable watching the television for hours at a time in the evening, so perhaps I’ll get more in during the summer.

I came up with as many as I composed this post as I did last night before falling asleep, which should probably be a lesson to me when falling asleep: Just go to sleep, you’re not thinking very well anyway.

So what else might have made this list? I’ve seen Blade Runner in a revival one-night-only showing. Only once?

Films most likely to join these in the future are also things I might see in revivals such as The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep or something. I don’t really see myself in the position where I watch a film multiple times in the theater again.

Gem Buried In The Article

The article itself is not funny: ‘Terrifying:’ Man shot and killed at MetroLink station after dispute on train.

But this bit is quite telling:

Metro President and CEO Taulby Roach, six months into the job, said on Wednesday afternoon that he was driving out to the shooting himself.

Note that he is not taking the Metrolink to the Metrolink train station. Ever wonder why he is not eating his own dog food and using his own product?

Maybe because it’s inconvenient or prone to crime?

Light rail is not having a good week. Earlier this week, some wilding youths attacked people at a light rail station in Minnesota.

On The Count of Monte Cristo

Book coverWell, it should come full circle: I finished the book last month after having read the comic book adaptation last year sometime, and I was going to run through Villages at Monte Crist again this weekend, so I sat down to watch the 2002 film again (the first time I’ve seen it since seeing it in the theatre in 2002).

Of course, since I just read the book, I had a keen awareness of how the book was compressed. As I mentioned in my review, the long novel really was like a trilogy, with the first part being the unjust arrest and confinement of Edmond Dantès, the middle part is the things that go on during his confinement amongst the other players along with the beginnings of his plots, and the third is the culmination of his plots and his thoughts of whether his revenge is right or not.

The film covers the first part of the book, abbreviated, along with the third, really abbreviated. You can contrast the liberties the film takes with the original storyline, which are many. Alright, it’s about fitting it into a film, so I can see that.

However: As a film, the second half, where the Count of Monte Cristo emerges, saves young Albert from the thieves and is introduced into Paris to seek his abbreviated revenge against Danglars, Villefort, and Fernand Mondego. Which he does with a single plot involving the theft of a shipment of gold.

Which is not like the book at all.

Of course, one cannot judge a two hour film adapted from a one thousand page novel. One should test how the movie hangs on its own.

It’s paced fast enough, and, again, I like the first part, but the last half moves too quickly, really, to have depth (although it has action).

Alterations to the novel’s plot in service of the film treatment are forgiven for the most part, as they tighten the plot for a shorter treatment.

So it’s good enough to watch again, which I probably will with my boys this summer.

Book Report: The Physics of Love by Carla Kirchner (2017)

Book coverI bought this book over the weekend, and as I just completed Keats’ “Hyperion”, I was looking for other poetry to clear my palate before jumping into Keats’ posthumously published poems (which, I think, includes a sequel to “Hyperion” but fortunately not other bonzers of dubious merit and readability).

I pretty much struck the jackpot with this book.

The poetry’s themes include things I can relate to: Children growing up, getting older, and whatnot. The lines are long and have a good mouthfeel, more of a spoken rhythm than a paper rhythm (as I explained when reporting on my my cousin-in-law’s book). I’ve even picked out a favorite piece in it, “Relativity”, which is about kids growing up, and I’ve thought I should try to capture similar sentiments in a poem of my own.

You know, I sometimes read something that makes me want to write more, and this collection definitely did. It’s fun to read, has some depth, and doesn’t take as long as a lot of Keats does.

Recommended. It’s on Amazon at less than the cover price. Unfortunately, it’s her only book so far.

Good Book Hunting, May 11 and 19 2019: ABC Books

Last Saturday, I had to run to ABC Books to get gift cards for the thank-yous that my boys reluctantly and almost illegibly write for their teachers and coaches. I bought 17 gift cards and smuggled a couple of purchases among them. As I have pretty much picked over the Martial Arts section, I moved into the Football section beside them and got a couple of Packers books to read when the hockey season is over.

This past Saturday (which for purposes of this post is not “last” Saturday), I went back because an author was in the house signing her books, and I like to support local authors.

At any rate, I got these:

They include:

  • The Physics of Love by Carla Kirchner, a chapbook by a local author.
  • I Remember Lombardi by Mike Towle.
  • Life After Favre by Phil Hanrahan, which is timely because some of us are thinking about life after Favre’s successor.
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby because suddenly everybody’s talking about mixed tapes as a 90s phenomenon, which I attribute to the film version of this book.
  • Yoga’s Devotional Light, Four Gates to Health: Eastern Ideas and Techniques for Vital Living, and Divine Fruit: Ecstatic Verse by Julian Lynn.

I joked on Saturday that I didn’t need any gift cards today because I had one left. However, on Sunday, I gave that one away.

Oh, curse the luck! I’ll have to go back to ABC Books again soon.

Book Report: How To Read a Play by Ronald Hayman (1977, 1986)

Book coverI’ve been reading some drama this year (Dinner with Friends, The Time of Your Life), so when I spotted this book on my to-read shelves, I picked it up. Because, hey, maybe I should learn how to read a play.

I didn’t agree with a lot of the material in the book; it takes kind of a producer- or director-first kind of perspective. Most of the book deals with the things you should infer outside the text–the layout of the stage, the stage directions, the silences and pauses, the things left unsaid. It says you have to really spend a lot of time thinking on these things to get the real experience of seeing the play live.

I don’t know if I buy that for a couple of reasons. Mostly because it throws out a lot about I’ve learned about writing plays. Back in the olden days when I was writing plays at the university (cough, cough The Courtship of Barbara Holt), we focused on minimizing the stage directions and stage layout so that theatres on a budget can stage it as they see fit. I was also told that the words in the play should present everything that the reader and viewer will need to know.

One example: He talks about having to imagine the stabbing of Claudius by Hamlet at the end of the play:

HAMLET
The point!–envenom’d too!
Then, venom, to thy work.

[Stabs KING CLAUDIUS]

The author here talks about how you should imagine this as an elaborate action on the stage; however, in my Shakespeare class at the university, the professor says that this kind of takes place as an afterthought and that the main point of the play was not the revenge but Hamlet working himself up to it.

You know what? With the limited stage direction, either interpretation is possible. A good play allows for that flexibility. It’s like a musical score that different symphonies will play according to their arrangements, instruments, and conductor.

So when I read a play, I read the words which are of paramount importance in the play. I imagine some of it as needed, but I don’t build little models of the play to see it.

Going to see a play, on the other hand, is a different experience, and you enjoy it differently. But trying to reproduce the live theatre experience while reading it in a book seems like a fool’s errand.

I get the sense that the author also favors written plays with more words in italics, kind of like The Time Of Your Life.

So I didn’t get much from the book aside from disagreement, and I’m not even sure it sharpens the way I think about writing plays or reading them. Ah, well.

Eydie vs. Keely: The Musical Smackdown

A poor unenlightened soul refuses to acknowledge the primacy of Eydie Gorme in all things musical, so I feel the need to offer a direct comparison.

We’ll take Keely Smith on her home turf, with “I Wish You Love”, the title track from her 1957 debut album.

Here is Eydie Gorme doing what she does best, which is everything:

As I had said to Friar, I’ve got another Keely Smith album (Be My Love) that hasn’t really stood out, and I think it’s because Keely sounds like a lot of other female big band vocalists I’ve heard, where the delivery is flat and a bit projected since there’s generally an orchestra behind them whereas Eydie is more pop/jazz influenced, where the notes are rounder and the presentation more intimate.

Your actual mileage may vary, but understand that no matter what scientific measurement you apply, Eydie Gorme is always the best. Because no matter what your subjective understanding of reality is at any given time, reality is as it is.

Book Report: Dead Line The Executioner #130 (1989)

Book coverThis is the 130th entry in the series, and I’ve apparently read 72 of them so far. So I have started to not so much compare them to literature but to each other. You probably have already seen that, gentle reader, but I guess I’ll need to re-remember and re-write it every time I read one of these (the last was Haitian Hit in April). Or maybe I only write this preface paragraph every once in a while, as I didn’t for the previous book.

At any rate, like Haitian Hit, I picked this book up after a piece of Serious Literature (then it was The Count of Monte Cristo; this time it was Jane Eyre).

The series has shifted from terrorism back to targeting organized crime, so Bolan is called upon to avenge the murder of an undercover narcotics agent who was looking into a smuggling ring using hijacked macguffins. The crime boss takes the wife and daughter of the murdered agent hostage to bargain with Bolan and the government. Officials want to negotiate, but Bolan does not, and so he finds him against elements in the government as well as the criminals.

So, yeah, it’s a lot like other Bolan novels, but it’s a creditable entry in the series. It was a quick enough read. It introduces a high-paid assassin, a tall black woman with shortly cropped hair which probably means that someone just watched A View To A Kill before plotting it. And she gets away at the end, so I’ll probably see her again after my next piece of Classical Literature.

A New Jazz Crush Has Entered The Arena

WSIE played Ashley Pezzotti’s version of “We’ve Only Just Begun”, and I was taken with it, so I bought her debut album of the same name.

I was a very low order number on her Web site.

Here she is singing her own composition “That Way”:

She’s already learned the secret to not losing head-to-head musical competitions with Eydie Gorme here on MfBJN: Write your own material.

So, how many times have you listened to that CD so far, Brian J.? you might ask. I shall simply say “More than once.”

Book Report: Blood Song by Michael Schmeltzer (2016)

Book coverWell, gentle reader, as you might know, my beautiful wife is is a poet of some reknown and publication credits. So I had resigned myself to being the second best poet in the family. However, as this collection of poetry comes from my cousin’s husband, I might only be the third-best. Until my children start expressing themselves in verse.

As you might expect, gentle reader, I cannot say anything bad about the book at risk of not getting invited to family reunions, although I actually haven’t been invited to a family reunion since 2007. Schmeltzer’s poetry is more modern than I prefer or write. I liked elements of it better than most things I read, but I read a lot of chapbooks of amateur origin (like this and this) when I’m not struggling through the long, long poems of British Romantic poets (I read this book as a break from Keats; currently, I only have “Hyperion” in his long poems left, but it’s harder to slog through it than “Endymion” for some reason). Schmeltzer’s modern sensibilities reminded me a bit of David St. John, but that’s because that’s the best of the modern stuff I’ve read recently.

At any rate, Schmeltzer covers some ground that’s topically in my wheelhouse: the death of parents, relationships, and whatnot. However, some of the poems are a bit obscure, a collection of images that sort of hint at something, that didn’t tie it up neatly. Which might have been part of the point, I suppose.

I might have put my finger on a dichotomy in two different types of poems and rhythms: the paper rhythm and the spoken rhythm. As you might know, gentle reader, my poetry is steeped in performance in open mics, so my lines tend to be longer. A lot of modern poetry, including some of Schmeltzer’s work, has shorter lines. I wonder if they’re written to be seen on paper instead of heard aloud. When I’ve heard Serious Poets reading these kinds of poems in the university, they pause ponderously after every image or phrase. I blame William Carlos Williams. It’s not how I like poetry–I like longer lines and better sustained rhythm, I guess. Which should mean I love Keats, right? Well, he and the other Romantics had an outsized influence on my early poetry, I rediscover when I go through it.

I’m not saying that Schmeltzer is particularly guilty of overly truncated lines and unneccesary enjambment; it’s just what I thought of as I was reading what he wrote and relating it to the other things I’ve read.

So I liked it better than most of what I read. And, if you need the ultimate endorsement, I read one of the poems to my beautiful wife, and she nodded with her chin low and her eyes rolling up as she said, “It’s good.” Which is a sign of true excellence in her estimation. So she’d probably give it five stars instead of four.

Lostification

Someone is unhappy with how Game of Thrones is turning out:

Where to begin with “The Bells,” an absolute disaster of an episode that exhibited every bad habit the series’ writers have ever had? They threw out their own rule book (suddenly the scorpions don’t work and Drogon can burn everything?) to pursue gross spectacle.

Character and substance were left by the wayside so that the plot could go where the writers wanted. The pace was rushed in the beginning, painfully lagging by the end. The script created plot devices and conflicts out of thin air (no really, when were the bells ever so important?), relished in violence and let a main character survive beyond any reasonable odds.

Yeah, kinda like they did with Lost. The show’s writers were making it all up as they went with no end in sight, and then when they had to wrap it up, they did so with a truncated season that didn’t answer most of the questions from the bulk of the series and instead created a new series of mysteries and questions in the last series, questions that viewers were not invested in, that they could wrap up.

Badly.

So you won’t have to wonder if I watch multi-season narratives like this. I don’t. Because they’ll botch it.

UPDATE: Ace agrees about Game of Thrones and also brings up Lost.

The High-School-Quality Handiwork of Brian J.

I’ve always wanted to be able to build things with wood. It runs in the family. Noggle and Son Remodelers was a going thing for a couple generations of Noggles and their sons, but it folded when I was a mere lad. My parents split before I reached an age where my father could teach me those practical woodworking skills, and all I got from my childhood years was building treehouses with scrap lumber and recycled nails.

But I’ve wanted those skills, but I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to learn them. I mean, I built an outdoor toybox for my boys. But fine furniture was out of my reach.

So I thought I would build a cart for storage in my garage. We have some built-in shelving with space underneath, and we’ve stored sporting equipment and Nerf guns in plastic bins, but I wanted something that would roll in and roll out and fill the space instead of sticking out and leaving some vertical height.

So I measured and bought some lumber. And put it off. Mostly because the lumber was more expensive than the scrap lumber I built treehouses with. Then I built the base of the cart, a floor with some wheels, and it sat in my garage for months like an oversized skateboard that took up space as part of the mess instead of helping alleviate the mess in the garage.

So last weekend, I apparently had forgotten the price of the lumber enough that I was no longer afraid to bollix it up. I got about to framing the cart, and I put the walls on it this weekend.

I worked mostly from plans in my head and with a jigsaw and circular saw for cutting instead of a table saw (I have one, but I don’t actually have a table for it). I over-engineered it a bit and put in more screws than absolutely necessary. And I miscalculated the width of it so that the walls of the sides are inside the framing instead of the outside, and the framing is an inch and a half more shallow than the base.

But the first is done.

And it fits where it’s supposed to fit.

It took four or five hours to finish it up, so probably six hours total. I am going to build another; I bought enough lumber for two. One for sporting equipment and one for Nerf guns. I’m not sure if I will paint them or not as I am going to want to hurry into getting my garage cleaned up.

But the next goal beyond these carts is building some record storage since the collection has far outstripped the overloaded bookshelves that I painted seven years ago.

You know why I haven’t done hat much practicing and acquiring this skill? Because I often don’t feel like I have the hours to dedicate to learning it with all the time I expend getting and spending and laying waste my powers and pretty much maintaining in the day to day. But it looks like I find plenty of time to blog about every little thing I do accomplish. So it’s a time management and prioritization problem.

We will see how long it takes for me to make that second cart.

I Know Where That Background Vocal Line Comes From

So I was doing the evening chores, and I found myself singing a bit of “Ew wah ew wah ew wah ew wah.”

Unlike when I found myself ruminating on the melody of Marty Balin’s “Hearts” in February, I knew where this came from.

Dwight Yoakum’s “Pocket of a Clown”.

Although I did have to search for it to make sure I wasn’t crazy (“Pocket of a Clown”? No way that’s a real song.).

I had Dwight Yoakum’s This Time album when it was fresh. It’s weird; I think of my college years as mostly steeped in pop music, but I listened to my share of country at the beginning of the 1990s as well.

Why it came up in my mind’s rotation, I have no idea. I am pleased, though, that the radio station that I can listen to while mowing the lawn has, after a couple of years, backed off of the all-bro-country format and returned to a mix of today and oldies. And by “oldies,” I mean things current when I was an adult.

I’ve Seen That Meme

Spotted on the Powerline blog Week in Pictures:

I think it was on March 16 as I was coming back from ABC Books. The carrier turned left onto Republic Road and passed me going the other way.

Of course, it might still be in town since VisionCon is this weekend.

I was toying with the idea of going, and that’s now greatly increased as I see that Jewel Staite will be there. Shiny.

What Goes Around Comes Around

My youngest son is having a birthday soon, and I wrapped his gifts today. A while ago, I bought a couple rolls of birthday wrapping paper, but apparently, I’ve run through them, and I had some green crafting paper and some old wallpaper that I use as wrapping paper because it’s thick and stiff, so it doesn’t wrinkle or tear. Also, it was like a buck at a garage sale a long time ago.

Apparently, I’ve been in this situation on May 9 before.

This year, though the green craft paper covered both gifts with no waste, so no wallpaper for the laddie this year.

But I’ll probably wrap gifts for his children in this wallpaper.

Is this your second post from Facebook memories you’ve done this week, Brian J.? you ask. Yes, I guess so. Some weeks I got nothing.

Book Report: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847, 1984)

Book coverThis book shall probably forever hold the Personal Record in my life for the longest time between re-reads at 33 years. I read this book as a freshman in high school and didn’t remember that much from it except the basic outline of a servant woman working and falling for a rich man with a crazy wife in the attic. Uh, spoiler alert.

So not long after I read The Count of Monte Cristo, I spotted this book on my shelf and decided to pick it up since it was a classic and shorter than the aforementioned The Count of Monte Cristo. Still, it took me two weeks to read the book, partially because my evenings have been pretty active in those two weeks with watching playoff hockey and the less occasional movie.

On re-read, I recognize and appreciate the three part structure of the book. The first part is Jane’s unhappy youth at her aunt’s place and the charity school she attends; the second her life as the governess at the said home with a said lunatic; and the third is her life after she’s fled from Mr. Rochester after discovering his secret at the altar when she was going to marry him.

You’ve got a bunch of hints that Jane has some wealth coming (she does), a little bit of resolution with her family line (her mother was from a moneyed family that disinherited her when she married a poor clergyman, and the moneyed family lost the money in a bad speculation), and whatnot. It’s one of those tangly Gothic romances, you know.

It does, however, offer a bunch of topics for school papers, though. You can explore Jane Eyre’s personality: Is she really strong? She yields a lot to circumstances and strong male figures. Is her endurance a strength? Is it weakness? One could talk about the proper ways women relate to men: Should they yield as Jane does? You could talk about the roles of class. You could write about how Jane can only really be with Rochester when he is humbled. I’m sure many could.

Me, I’m thinking that this book warped me at a young age as to how imperious and haughty one can be and still get the chicks. It didn’t work for me throughout school. But I eventually got a babe, so maybe not too much.

So it was interesting to read, shorter than The Count of Monte Cristo, and it makes me feel worthy of my English degree to have returned to it.

But I don’t think I’ll read it in another 33 years when I’m eighty. I’ll not be that far into the to-read shelves by then.

Wait a minute, Brian J., are you saying that you’ve re-read Me and My Little Brain as an adult? Well, gentle reader, I didn’t think you were paying attention. So this re-read of Jane Eyre is probably not my personal record, but I can pinpoint the time when I read it to give it an absolute number, so I went with it. Me and My Little Brain probably went almost forty years between readings. EVERYTHING YOU READ ON THIS SITE IS A LIE! Except the part about my beautiful wife being beautiful.

Everybody’s Doing It

Tam K., as do we all, responds in a Pavlovian fashion to the Daily Double sounder on Jeopardy!:

Personally, as someone who has traditionally yelled “BET IT ALL!” at the screen every time Double Jeopardy came up, I’m enthralled to run across a contestant with the chutzpah to do just that.

In my head, I can still hear my oldest son at two exclaiming that when he heard the Jeopardy! sounder in our house in Old Trees some decade ago.

I went looking through my new computer to see if I recorded it, or if I’ll just have to remember it as best I can. It looks like I’ll just have to savor the memory.

However, I did mention it on Facebook.

Nine years ago today. Exactly.