Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Propagating Illiteracy with the Public Fund

So today I make my pilgrimage to the Big-City Public Metropolitan Library. Always an exhilarating event, as it is the only multi-floor public library in a seventy mile radius. Always exhilarating, that is, until I get up the check-out desk.

You see, no matter what I ever do, every time I am there they are managing to lose my card data. Somehow, I am always erased from the computers. Generally, I end up bribing someone to re-enter me.

So, today it goes just as always. No such account, yada yada yada. “Don’t worry, sir, just slide me a Jackson and everything will be fine.” What can I do? Only this time, I spend a whole lot of time in run-around even after they take my money, and I’m told I can’t take my books away for another two weeks.

Now, it is quite a drive indeed for me to get to the Big-City Public Metropolitan Library, and in addition to having to make this drive several more times, it is insinuated that I must make some sort of a personal visit to my state representative to have my card activated.

So, we get into a little strong-arm stuff, and finally I am being told that I can take two books away with me today, and come back for the rest in a month. See, thing is, I do not wanna go away with two books when I have come here to pick up such magnificent gems as I have pining away over for so long a time to read.

But, in the end, having paid out twenty in bribe and a fortune more in parking meter change (their real objective all the time), I walk out with everything, excepting the disk of “Foyle’s War Series 2.”
(I have already seen “Foyle’s War” Series 1 and 3, but have not seen all of 2.)
Why, a fellow asks, do I leave without my “Foyle’s War Series 2”? Seems, somehow, it gets erased from the computer some time back.

[Incidentally, one of the several books I make off with in the above-mentioned endeavor is a collection of short stories by one Damon Runyon. Any discernible similarities between his dialectical pursuits and the style of this post, ain’t purely coincidental, bub.]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Empathy and Masculinity

This be one of the great mysteries of maleness: What to do when need of comfort arises.

Seriously, when another guy is going through a rough time (say… member of the family undergoing meningitis scare), what does one say and do toward that individual?

[Gently shaking his hand] “How is everything? Are you all right? We’re praying for you. Yes. If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to call. Want a casserole or two?

O.K, clearly that’s wrong. It’s fine for the chicas, but us male specimens are above that. Or, more accurately, get the heck embarrassed out of us by it.
So, how about a more macho alternative…

[Raising fist in air in lieu of handshake] “’Sup.”

I mean, it’s perfect, right? No awkwardness, just good ol’ masculine camaraderie! A pleasant, understated way of saying, “Here for you, fella.”
Well, yes and no. It’s all implied—which seems like a good thing… but might not always be. The fact that it’s, well, identical to the universal guy greet used at all other times might cause some confusion.
“Is he being coolly understated and giving me the space I need while letting me know that, though as men we would never dare speak it aloud, I’m cared about? Or does the dumbbell just have no clue what’s going on in my life?” he asks himself.

I think you can see the dilemma.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Vertical Food Chain

In the past I have occasionally posted a ‘nice’ picture or two. Not today.

In this still it is difficult to tell who’s winning. Actually, at points in real life it was hard to tell. But the real subject of this photograph is the wasp, who is dragging up the wall a small-to-mid-size rabid wolf spider it has killed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

“Who’s scruffy-lookin’?”

I am not what David Letterman calls a “Star Wars Trekkie.”
In my mind, the original film had about enough story to sustain thirty or forty minutes of play… Episode VI lacks any recommendation whatsoever… and the prequels accomplished only one good thing: the construction of potent Jedi in the form of Qui-Gon Jinn and an Obi-Wan who actually does something besides die.

But I am neither a Star Wars anti-fanatic.
As hinted at above, in the “new trilogy” I can genuinely enjoy Liam Neeson’s flashing lightsabre and keen tongue, not to mention the mute efficiency of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi assisting, feeding droids to his blade.
In both time frames I can appreciate good droid design: R2-D2, the Droidekas, etc.

And as for story, I say Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back makes darn good cinema. Come the Tuesday of 12 September, with the two-disc release of each of the original films in its original form, I will be buying it (V, that is).

“Star Wars Trekkies” across the country are celebrating the announcement of this untampered-with presentation, particularly after the trilogy box-set release a year before.

For the uninitiated, I will explain: Mr. George Lucas did not just tamper with his prior creations once. Oh no. I confess to having seen his revamped-for-theaters version of the first trilogy, which (aside from an overabundance of sickly orange CGI) wasn’t so terrible. Sure, Greedo shoots first, but whatever (I don’t care about Episode IV, remember?).
Then came the DVD release, which had been altered to a much greater extent. Most grievous of all was the alteration of lightsabres to match those in Episode III: The Abomination. Originally, you see, a lightsabre (with it’s “blade of pure energy”) was shown as a bright white shaft surrounded by a hazy, pulsating, and colorful corona. Quite beautiful, actually—particularly in dark blue. But in the most recent movie (the one where Darth Vader is no longer a steely villain who can wipe out hordes of his enemy, but instead a simpering loudmouthed idiot) the lightsabres are a flat, pointed stick of pure color.
And so to achieve a kind of retroactive continuity, Mr. Lucas had the pointy, boring lightsabres digitally replace the original in every frame of the DVDs. (Strange that he cares so much about visual continuity but ignores real continuity it in the storyline of the final release.)

All right, so I prefer the shaft-and-corona version personally. A lot of people do. (If you can’t tell by now, while I am not a “Star Wars Trekkie,” many friends are.) But Lucas went a step beyond removing that. Oh yes. One glance at Darth Vader’s blade of fury and I am sure you will be won entirely over to my side.
You see, originally Darth Vader’s sabre was a fearsome red thing, representative of the evil for which it was so well used. (In the first film, they skimped on it’s design due to time constraints on their laborious process of rotoscoping in the sabre over the prop used, and Vader’s sabre was a bit odd-looking. But in the next two, when budget allowed for the time to do so, every frame was given the proper white shaft and red corona.)
But look now at the DVD release. See for yourself in the grand duels from V and VI. Not only is Vader’s instrument of death a pointed travesty of a lightsabre, it is pink. That’s right! No more cool, villainous red, let’s make Vader more accessible to the audience. Let’s arm him with something from a little girl’s tea party. Maybe it’ll help him reconnect with his long-lost daughter Leia if he kills people with pinkness.
I mean, come on! PINK?!?

So, yeah, stick with the original. Let us together throw off the shackles of revisionist filmmaking and its wussy villains! Arise, people of Earth. Arise!
Oh yeah, and do it by the end of the year, ‘cause New Years Eve the original cuts will be taken off the market.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some Grade-A Court Martial Material

Last week this hit shelves: The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition DVD collection.

I discovered Phil Silvers overseas two years ago on the BBC. It came on two days one week and three days the next, in a time slot that could vary by as much as three hours. No matter, that half-hour was worth scouring the listings to find.

And the show was a true thirty minutes, no the twenty-plus-commercials we are accustomed to today. The show was begun in 1955 when time slots were sold in whole to a program’s sponsor. The result is that after two-thirds (or even less) of an episode have gone by, the viewer is afraid that it’s over. Aiding the impression is the same kind of half-resolution at that moment that is today favored to actually end a sit-com. But fear not! A whole other act awaits! Which is truly a happy occasion, as it is hard to say goodbye to Mr. Silvers.

The show itself comprises the misadventures of Phil Silvers as Sergeant Ernest Bilko, a conniving genius with some lazy habits. He also happens to be the post’s best and most prolific gambler, though with a very well-tuned (if reluctant) code of fair-play.
While the storylines can focus on just about any brilliant plot cooked up by the schemer (and Bilko’s plans do tend toward a creativity beyond his imitators on later series), they tend to center around the poker table. Frequently they take on a sort of point and counter-point plot against Bilko’s rival cardsharps, as the villains are not above cheating green recruits out of their paychecks and Ernie feels called of duty to help those under his command.

If you’ve read to this point, my admiration for the show is clear. I must be over-joyed to see it available on DVD, right? Kinda.
I’m not actually planning to buy the set, which is made up of about 18 episodes culled from the entire four-year run of 144 shows. I personally would prefer a season-by-season release, particularly as the show—though hardly a serial—maintains an episode-to-episode continuity seldom attempted since.
Oh well, at least the 50th Anniversary celebratory distribution stands a chance of introducing this current generation to Sgt. Bilko—and not the version played by Steve Martin.