July 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Okay, that’s a lie; teenagers can stay awake past 11:00 and generally don’t have joints that hurt, so I in no way physically feel like a teen.
Two things happened today that made me briefly feel like a teenager again. And I’ll take it, because I honestly cannot remember the last time that happened.
Thing One: Ghostbusters
Tracy and I went to see the new Ghostbusters today. You know, the one with all the women that has been ruining fragile male childhoods around the world? Yeah, that one.
As soon as I got home, I posted this on Facebook:
We just had our childhoods ruined — NOT! The new Ghostbusters is amazing!
I was very skeptical going in, because I loved the first movie so much. To the point that I had every line memorized at one point. Tom Wagner can attest; for a long time, it was our regular Friday night viewing. It’s why our nickname for each other is Ray, actually.
But the new “reboot” isn’t just a tired retread with ladies instead of men; it’s a whole new thing. And it’s really good. Tracy said it felt like an alternate universe rather than a reboot. I agree.
So if you’ve been hesitant to see it, don’t hesitate any longer. It’s so much fun!
To unpack that a bit, for those who aren’t familiar with my history: Tom Wagner and I have been friends since high school, and we’re both old enough to have witnessed the birth of the Internet and, later, the World Wide Web. (No, they’re not the same thing.)
Not only that, but we were around to see both the birth and death of the VCR. My family didn’t have the money for such luxuries, but Tom’s owned a Betamax, and one of the movies they had was the original Ghostbusters. And yes, we really did watch it enough to have every. Single. Line memorized.
I still quote that movie at least once a week, it seems. (Want to feel old? Say “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass” to a group of Millennials. If they’re like my friends (yes, I have Millennial friends; try not to faint), they’ll stare at you blankly and one of them will ask, “What is that, like, Bro Caesar?”)
So when the reboot was announced, my first reaction was dismay. I didn’t want a reboot. I wanted a sequel. I wanted Winston Zeddemore, Ray Stantz, and Peter Venkman to hand the reins of the business to a new gang of ‘busters.
I didn’t give a crap that they were all ladies; I just wanted a proper sequel.
Wah wah, boo hoo.
Once the trailers started hitting the web, my heart sank a little more. It just didn’t look all that good. I decided I’d see it…eventually…probably on Netflix.
Two things changed my mind. The first was that so many friends whose opinions I trust on movies said they loved it. Loved it.
And the second was that a racist gamergate dickbro decided to whip up a torrent of hate aimed at Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the reboot. That link is a mild recap of what happened, but I had the nauseating displeasure to watch that vile shit as it happened. And it was pretty damned vile.
So because a leaking burlap sack of diseased testicles tried to beat down a woman just for appearing in a reboot of a movie so old they probably weren’t even sperm when it came out, I decided to see said movie in the theater. Do the opposite of what to those impotent knuckledraggers ultimately want, which is to drive people away from Ghostbusters.
Nevertheless, I went in nervous. I’ve been burned by reboots before; most notably, the horrible JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot. Don’t even get me started on that travesty. Ugh.
Hearing the original Ghostbusters theme in the opening of the movie was the first I-feel-like-a-teen-again moment. And then we were off and running, and I got lost in the fun of the thing and had an absolute blast.
Afterward, Tracy said she tried to match up the original characters to see who the female equivalent was, but quickly realized that they weren’t female versions of Egon, Ray, Peter, and Winston. They were new, unique characters, in a fresh story, with just enough callbacks to the original to enhance the fun but not dilute it.
I hope there’s a sequel, and I hope it’s a lot better than the original Ghostbusters 2. Either way, this time I’ll see it opening weekend. And we’ll own the new Ghostbusters on Blu-Ray when it comes out. It needs and deserves a place in our permanent collection, right next to the original.
So, nutshell: Don’t fear the reboot; it is a hell of a movie, and well worth seeing on the big screen.
Thing 2: Star Trek: Discovery
The second thing that made me feel like a youth again was opening up Warren Ellis’s “Orbital Operations” newsletter and finding a link to the brand new teaser for Star Trek Discovery.
Star Trek was an even bigger influence on me than Ghostbusters. I grew up watching endless reruns of the original series, and beamed up to nerd heaven when Star Trek: The Next Generation began airing. I even convinced my mom to make me a Next Gen uniform, which I still have but will never fit into again.
I’m cautiously excited about the new series. For one thing, it’s being run by Bryan Fuller, who makes amazing TV; Pushing Daisies deserved a much longer life than it got, and his aborted reboot of The Munsters looked fantastic. For another thing, Fuller has said the new show will take place in the Prime Timeline, and not the Abramsverse.
Even though Fuller is the showrunner, however, Alex “I wrote the crappy Abramsverse films” Kurtzman is an executive producer for Star Trek: Discovery. (Which I just realized will be abbreviated ST:D, making the haters’ jobs even easier.)
So those things give me pause. But then I watched the new teaser, and I felt that old teen excitement again. Check it out here.
Warren Ellis says the design of the ship comes from an old Ralph McQuarrie design that was considered but ultimately not used for the original series. But when I look at it, and listen to the clanging undertones of the music, the first thing I thought of was that it looks like a mix of Federation and Klingon technology. It has the saucer of a Federation ship, but all the angles in the body of a Klingon warbird.
Whatever is going on there, I’m in. I can’t wait to get ST:D in January 2017. (See? The jokes are just too easy.)
Until then, go see Ghostbusters. It’s ghastly fun!
July 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Most people have a Memory Lane they can stroll down in the quiet, reflective moments, or when they’re out for drinks with old friends.
I do not have that, for the most part. My Memory Lane is blocked off by concrete dividers and signs warning ROAD CLOSED and BRIDGE OUT and THERE ARE MONSTERS IN THE MISTS OF TIME.
There are reasons my memory is so full of holes. To say I was unhealthy in high school is to say the Grand Canyon’s a nice little hole in the ground. I had a digestive disorder combined with a terrible doctor who, when I didn’t respond to the sulfa drugs and steroids, just kept increasing the dosage. Ever seen a 98-pound rage monster? If you went to high school with me, you did.
Either the massive steroid load or the malnourishment or the combination left me with a mostly blank, gray space where my high school and even college years should be. Bridge out, road closed.
If I ignore the signs and scrabble over the barricades, what I find is a crumbling alleyway that’s more pothole than lane. The gutters remain overflowing with bad memories, because the awful and embarrassing things I did (or that were done to me) stick like dogshit on my shoe.
But every now and then, I find a cobblestone still intact. I found one this morning, driving to work. Just a fragment, really, but a good one.
At some point in high school, we did the musical Camelot. I can’t recall if it was my sophomore or junior year, but I—at 98 pounds, mind you—thought it would be a good idea to try out for the role of Lancelot. I didn’t get it, of course, but I did land in the chorus. We had actual heavy steel swords and I got to stage fight with one. But I also had to wear a dance belt and leotards.
If there’s any justice in the world, all photos of me in that costume have been destroyed.
Rehearsals often ran late, and my folks asked me if someone in the cast could give me a ride home afterward. I didn’t really know anyone in the cast, but there was a guy who knew my little brother, and we’d become sorta friends, so I asked him and he said it was no problem.
I can’t remember his name or what kind of car he had. I think his name was also David, and I think he drove one of those terrible mid-70s Mustangs, and it may have once been white but by then was mostly dirt and rust. Maybe-David was tall and had dark hair. All the men in the cast had to grow a beard (if they could; I could not, much to my chagrin), and maybe-David’s was kind of wispy. I think he played guitar.
What I do remember—the cobblestone fragment that popped up this morning—is that one night, as he was driving, he steered with his knee while he cupped both hands around the end of a cigarette to light it. I’d never seen anyone do that before, and I thought it was just about the coolest thing ever.
Hey, I led a sheltered life, and I was easily impressed.
I don’t remember anything else about maybe-David, but he was one of the few people outside my small circle of friends who was nice to me, and he could drive with his knee.
Why he came to mind on my drive to work, I have no idea. But I hope he’s out there, still as cool as I remember him.
July 16, 2016 § Leave a comment
It’s been a weird week. Which is saying something for 2016, the year that seems to have chosen for its motto, “All Is Always Awful.”
I’ve been out of sorts. And by out of sorts, I mean fucking angry. I felt like if I opened this blog and started typing, it would all come vomitting up.
I don’t want that. There are enough angry voices shouting into the void, and so far, it hasn’t accomplished much.
The problem with the world today is that there are too many people posting “thinkpieces” (an odiously Orwellian word) ranting about the problem with the world today. And then saying things like, “We need to ban/legalize/elect/leave X to solve the problem.”
X seldom marks the spot.
The thing is, complex and multifaceted problems require complex, multifaceted solutions. And complex, multifaceted solutions aren’t found by individuals screaming angrily into the void.
Complex, multifaceted solutions are found by rational people discussing the matter, looking at the facts, and taking carefully thought-out action.
Angry shouting en masse has its place, don’t get me wrong. It’s great for drawing attention to a problem. But once the spotlight has pinned the problem in its glare, we need reasoned debate to find a fix.
If I had to pick one thing to point at and say, That’s the problem with the world today, it’s the fact that there is no reasoned debate anymore. At least, not on the level that can solve problems. The governments and political parties of the world are too disfunctional to do anything more than block each other’s progress.
Looking at the recent changes in the UK and the election year circus in the US, I’m not betting anything will change soon.
Talk about a complex, multifaceted problem.
So I could join the angry choir fanning the inferno with every thinkpiece, or I could just … do my best to chill. Help solve the problems of the world with what little agency I have, and try not to make things worse.
Chances are, we’re all going down in flames. Might as well take that ride smiling.
July 12, 2016 § 3 Comments
My sleep schedule last night looked something like this:
10:00 PM: Go to bed. Read.
11:00 PM: Go to sleep.
3:00 AM: Wake up to cat’s plaintive meow outside bedroom door. Get up. Pee. Ignore cat. Get back in bed.
3:02-4:00 AM: Lay in bed, wondering if slight tightness in chest is a heart attack. Check pulse in neck. Does that seem faint? Relocate fingers and check again. No, seems okay. Plus, no shooting pain in left arm. Except for that slight ache near that bruise But that’s just the bruise, right? Maybe not. Maybe it’s the beginning of the shooting pain.
3:40 AM: Get up, take two aspirin. Make peace with life lived. Didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to do, and didn’t even get one novel published, but fine. Whatever. Bring it, Death.
4:00-5:00 AM: Still alive. Maybe this isn’t a heart attack, but an anxiety/panic attack? Mentally review all the things I have to be stressed about. Long list, but nothing super huge on it. Okay, maybe losing my job. Wait, was that why Larry asked what I do? I mean, we’ve worked together for over six years, on several projects, but maybe that’s why he asked. Mentally review savings, begin to regret the big expenses made recently. Is it too late to cancel the landscaping contract? Probably.
5:00-5:57 AM: Wait, how much caffeine did I have yesterday? Three cups of coffee in the morning—no, four. Two sodas. Another coffee after lunch. Iced tea when I got home. Maybe this isn’t an anxiety attack. Vow to cut back on the caffeine, especially after dinner. Think about getting up to write, or possibly read. Nah, might wake up Tracy. Stare at ceiling. Feel dumb. Get up 13 minutes before alarm clock, because why not.
I’m going to need a lot of coffee to get through today. Wait …
July 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
Two years ago, the emerald ash borer killed a massive ash tree in my back yard. I had it taken down by arborists, but had them leave the logs behind because ash is a good, long-burning hardwood.
I finally got around to splitting it yesterday. My brother Greg came down from Indiana, borrowed my brother Steve’s gas-powered log splitter, and we got to work.
We started at 10:00 AM. We finished at 6:00.
To say the work was grueling would be an understatement. Phase One involved moving the massive logs the arborists left behind from the back yard to the driveway, where the splitter was located. We had my tractor and a light-duty cart, but a few of the lowest segments of trunk we had to team lift, and the last one—as big around as a cafe table—Greg had to chainsaw into segments. And even those were heavy.
Phase Two was to cut down another dead tree—a much smaller maple that had died and become infested with carpenter ants. Phase Two was actually the easiest phase. Neither of us got crushed, and there wasn’t any property damage.
Phase Three involved the actual splitting of the ash and maple logs. This was the longest phase. Greg worked the splitter while I supplied the logs to be split and stacked the split wood.
Phase Three was the worst phase.
Our process: lift/roll log to within reach of splitter operator (Greg); split log with splitter; pick up split wood and add to stack. Or, put another way, lift/roll heavy thing; wait; bend at waist, pick up slightly less heavy things, carry, stack. Repeat.
Phase Three started around 3:00, after a break for lunch. So that’s three hours and change (because we didn’t quit right at 6:00) of lifting and bending and walking. After the four hours of lifting and hauling the un-split logs.
You know what sinew is? It’s the thing you never felt hurt before but is now on fire after seven hours of bending and hauling.
I am muscle-wrecked. I literally have bruises on top of bruises; a small dark purple circle on top of a bigger, greenish blotch on my left forearm. My skin is log-rashed in places. I have blisters on my toes (never buy cheap hiking boots).
After a brief rest and some work-site cleanup, we climbed into Greg’s truck and took the splitter back to Steve’s, and while there, trimmed long, heavy branches from some downed trees and stacked them so Steve could get his grass cut.
Then it was home for showers, beers, and steaks—the latter of which I grilled over a small bed of hickory charcoal at 200 degrees F. Not my usual method of grilling steak, but damn if those weren’t the best steaks I’ve ever made. So good, I don’t even mind patting myself on the back.
So that was yesterday. Today I spent an hour or two in the pool, just floating in the sun, listening to the muscle and bone and sinew heal. And drinking beer.
I’m hoping by tomorrow I can move without my face twisting into a malformed death mask.
It’s good to have goals.
(Ha ha, no, this isn’t all of it, oh god.)
July 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
All issues of bOING bOING, The World’s Greatest Neurozine, are now online. This means that you can read my first (and only) published magazine article!
A little background: I was obsessed with the promise of nanotechnology in the 90s. I thought K. Eric Drexler was a techno-prophet who would lead us to the Promised Land of nanosalvation.
I can’t remember how I glommed onto bOING bOING, or even what made me write and submit the article. But my weird little article on nanotech fashion got reprinted in Carla Sinclair’s Net Chick: The Smart-Girl Guide to the Wired World, and just last year I found out it had been referenced in a book called Full Metal Apache.
Also, Carla Sinclair appeared in Playboy shortly after the article was first published, so I kinda knew a Playboy model. 1990’s me thought that was pretty cool. (Actually, I still think it’s pretty cool, but since I never actually met her, it’s probably not.)
If you want to read the article as it first appeared, though, now’s your chance. Click and be underwhelmed!
July 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
I have a Venezuelan food problem: I literally can’t get enough of it, to the point where I actually dreamed about it last night.
By Venezuelan food, what I really mean is Empanadas Aqui, a food truck housed in a bright green short bus. Imagine an ice cream truck for adults that sells hot, delicious, highly-addictive food. (If they ever start driving through my neighborhood, playing tinny Venezuelan tunes over a loudspeaker to lure me out of the house, I’ll weigh 300 pounds within a week. And I really want them to do that.)
They lured me in with their Bad Girl empanada: shredded chicken; roasted red, yellow, orange, and poblano peppers; sautéed onions; cheddar and jack cheeses; and spices, all tucked inside a pocket of corn dough and deep fried. Top it with spicy red sauce for an extra kick, and devour.
Once they had me hooked, they reeled in my wife with the Carne Mechada—a crispy, baked flour shell overflowing with shredded steak simmered in their own blend of seasonings, plus onions, sweet red peppers, and leeks.
Tracy still gets the Carne Mechada as her go-to, but I like to try whatever is new on the menu. Dadni and Brett, the couple who run the truck (and now know us by name), are always coming up with some delicious new addition. They’ve expanded the menu beyond empanadas to arepas, tostones, yucas fritas, and even a dessert empanada called the Emporeo: crushed Oreo cookies with cream cheese and chocolate sauce, baked inside a flaky flour shell.
I’ve never had one bite of anything I’ve tried from them that I regretted.
The curse of the food truck, however, is that when you wake up from a dream so vivid you can still taste of the black beans and queso blanco, it will inevitably be nowhere near your side of town. Looking at their schedule, they won’t even be close to me until July 22.
Which is why I said I literally can’t get enough of it; I’m lucky if I can get a fix once a month. Yes, there are other places that sell empanadas now, and I’ve tried them, but they don’t come close to the magic of Empanadas Aqui.
If you’re in Cincinnati, stalk them and enjoy their tasty Venezuelan cuisine. Then join me at my weekly meeting for empanada addicts.