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Archive for the category “General”

It’s Still A Helluva A Town…

NYC - You're Big, You're Loud, You're Tough!

I was bored the other night and popped on that bastion of entertainment known as Netflix to find something to watch. Based on a recommendation from a message board I frequent I decided to check out a documentary titled American Swing. It is quite the interesting movie as it chronicles the rise and fall of Larry Levenson, the self-proffessed “King of Swing” and mastermind behind that ode to the decadence of the 1970s and early 1980s Plato’s Retreat. There are 2 explanations to what Plato’s Retreat was, the basic explanation and the explanation that the people who experienced going there can give you.

The basic explanation is this, Plato’s Retreat was a couples swing club located on the lower west side of Manhattan. What that means is, a club for heterosexual couples that catered to their more adventurous sides. Yes, there was a whole lot of sex going on at Plato’s Retreat but the movie also points out that there was more to it than that. Still, between the sex, the drugs, the pool and the buffet the crux of the movie focuses on the activities of its patrons and how they remember their time at the establishment. Many of these people are interviewed and they are in no way shy or afraid to tell you exactly what they did. A good chunk of them are local New York celebrities and pseudo-celebrities like Buck Henry, Al Goldstein, Jamie Gillis and Annie Sprinkle (whose own account recalls a couple engaging in incest, which creeps me out no end). One story told by a female regular at the club details goings-on in the “Matress Room”, which is exactly what it sounds like, a room full of mattresses with people getting it on. Well lo and behold this patron of the club goes home and is shocked to discover she can’t stop itching all over. Seems Plato’s Retreat had “Crab Fest” and not the kind you get at a Red Lobster.

In the end the movie really is about Larry Levenson and how his own hubris bit him in the ass. He made the same mistake that the owner’s of Studio 54 did by boasting about he couldn’t be touched by the Internal Revenue Service (Motto: We’ll have little bit of that too thank you). Boy did the IRS prove him wring on that one. The movie covers Levenson’s time in prison for tax evasion, his return to Plato’s Retreat and the club’s eventual shuttering by the New York Board of Health in 1985. All in all it is a pretty good little documentary but it makes me look back and wonder “Was that really Manhattan in the 70s?”.

I was only 5 years old when Plato’s Retreat opened its doors and 13 years old when Mayor Ed Koch had it shut in 1985. Of course I have no recollection of Plato’s Retreat since I was to young to have gone and, in all likeliness, even had I been old enough I probably would have been skeeved out by it. I have no problem with sex and one day I hope to enjoy it again but between arcs of sperm over the pool, the buffet and the crab infested mattress room, I don’t think Plato’s Retreat would be a place I’d want to visit even once, especially with my OCD.

My point is this, that the documentary makes it seem like everyone of adult age was having fun with Larry Levenson at Plato’s Retreat when this was anything but the case. That side of New York City was anathema to me growing up. Plato’s Retreat only entered my conciousness when it would be on the local news for geting raided by cops or health officials. I didn’t learn who Larry Levenson was until the late 1980s/early 1990s. My father finally broke down to my pleading and got cable TV for the family and I used cable TV to mainly watch professional wrestling. When I wasn’t watching wrestling though, I would sneek into the kitchen and every Monday and Friday at Midnight turn into Al Goldstein’s Midnight Blue. Let’s make this simple in order to explain what Midnight Blue was… Do you like porn? Do you like very crude humor and satire? Do you like a guy who will speak his mind continuously even if yout don’t really care about what his topic is?

Then Midnight Blue was the show for you. It had all these things and more thanks to its producer Al Goldstein, the dirtiest old man in all of New York. It was through Midnight Blue that I actually saw TV ads for Plato’s Retreat. Nothing like having your local swing club let you know when they are having a “Ladies Night”. Again, this was me getting exposed to the seemy underside of New York City. Of course it wasn’t soon after my discovery of Public Access shows that I was shipped off to Boarding School. Good thing too since I was considering venturing to Times Square at the tender age of 15.

You may only know the modern Times Square, the place where you can take your family to see The Lion King musical and maybe grab an overproced mediocre dinner afterwards. If you tried taking your family to Times Square back in the day i.e. the 70s or 80s, odds are you were selling your daughter or wife (maybe even both) as a prostitute and maybe trying to score some heroin for you and your son. Times Square was the LEAST family friendly place on earth. It was where Disney vacations went to die.

I lived a sheltered existence in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. Yorkville was a nice quiet strip of land, stretching from 72nd street and York Avenue to 96th Street and Lexington Avenue. It was mainly settled by Eastern and Western European immigrants, mainly German, Polish, Czechs and Hungarians. They took over that area and made it a thriving community of families and locally owned stores that catered to people that were looking for that feel of the “Old Country” yet stil was different to be called “American”. This corner of Manhattan thrived from the late 1800s until the turn of the 21st century. With the old families have dying out and their children having moved out of Yorkville, it allowed the Yuppie movement to s latelowly creep into the neighborhood between the late 1970s and mid 1990s. The former thriving family run business started dying out one by one.

The Best example I have of this gentrification of Yorkville is my favorite restaurant in all of New York City. Hell it was probably my favorite restaurant on the entire fucking planet. I speak of Mocca Hungarian Restaurant. This was a place I went to as a child with my family and every time I went I went home feeling full and content. It was always that feeling of “My parents took me here to show me they love me” becasue the food and atmosphere were that amazing. The restaurant, if I remember correctly from bits and pieces of conversations my mother and father had with me, was run by Hungarian Jews, who emigrated to the US after World War II. It is a safe bet to assume they spent many of those years during the war either living in fear for their lives or even in “The Camps”, especailly given the fact they were Jewish and being Jewish in Hungary during that period in time was a dangerous thing indeed.

Despite all that, the owners came to America and opened a small restaurant on 2nd avenue between 82nd and 83rd streets. For nearly 30 years I went to Mocca and dined on the finest meals I ever had. The portions were large, especially so given the low cost of what they charged per entree (between$7.99-$19.99 depending what section of the menu you ordered from). Even then if you wanted a full meal without great cost they a tremendous Prix-Fixe menu that got you an appetizer, entree and dessert all for under $15. That didn’t even invlude the bread and cucumber salad that came with every meal. N wonder my folks loved eating there with me and my sister. Eating out in NYC was pricey even back in the 70s and 80s so to take the family out to eat and spend $40-$60 on a full meal that actual seems like a meal and not a tiny speck of food on a large platter, really was something special.

Even after I left NYC my mind would always think of Mocca. I savored their weiner-schnitzel, adored there noodle soup and their stuffed peppers remain to this day the only stuffed peppers I actually like to eat. But of all those dishes the dishes they served over theyears, the one I alway came back to wa the Breaded Porkchops. I’ve never had pork chops so crispy, juicy and peppery all at once. Served with skillet potatoes and the vegetable of the day Mocca’s Breaded Pork Chops remain the food I want to eat in Heaven all the time. I dream of their crusty hot bread that you never needed put butter on because it was so tasty. I’ve had cucumber salad many times over the years but none of those can compare to the sweet and vinegar laced cucmber salad at Mocca.

I used to tell all my friends in Toledo “One day we are all going to New York and I’m taking you to Mocca. Then you’ll really have a great meal!”. It was quite a boast. A boast I really wanted to happen but sadly Mocca closed in 2004. Like the rest of Yorkville,it was a slice of a bygone era that modern New York City couldn’t afford to keep around due to NYC being a constantly evolving organism that does not tolerate the “Old World” any longer than it has to.

So what exactly did a now dead Hungarian Restaurant from my childhood have to do with Plato’s Retreat?

The point is I cherish every facet of growing up in New York City, from the innocence of a god meal with family, to the sleazy side dealing with pseudo-celecerity and sleazy sex. The New York of my childhood is a dead thing. The march of “progress” has driven out some of the things I love, while also cleaning out some things I probably could ahve done without. A part of me misses the “Old” Times Square but realizes that the “New” Times Square is better construct, even if all it does is simply gloss over the old dirt with a new coat of neon and paint. Do not be fooled, just becasue it was Disney cleaned up Times Square does not mean that what is there now ISN’T pornography. Its just a more sociable kind of pornography, a modern corporate pornography. It reminds me that as dirty and scummy as New York used to be, it was still where I grew up. A part of me longs for that more grimy and dirty New York., The “Real” New York. Then the man I am now shakes his head and chuckles. New York City will always be New York City. Nothing can ever change that.


BRAVE BLOG #100 or This Asshole is Still Writing This Crap?

Celebrate Now Cuz This Is It~!

(Have you people not figured out that you should never expect what our writer here promises to deliver? I mean forget getting stuff out on time; we’d be happy if he could keep it on topic. So instead of your “POW~!” Article, as promised, instead we hand you over to your usual nitwit who is going to pontificate on his own self-aggrandizement. We know this is the 100th entry for the much esteemed Brave Blog but come on people, 3 years and 100 posts? Kind of slim pickings isn’t it? We certainly think so. So without further ado let’s get Mr. Glory Hound out here to take his undeserved bows.)

I’m kind of amazed that I’ve reached 100 entries in this less than frequent endeavor. I’ve enjoyed writing what I write, make no mistake about it but there have been so many start and stops during the course of writing this blog I’m kind of amazed I even wrote 20 entries (Editor’s Note: We’re stunned he made past the first!). I can’t remember exactly why I even started writing Brave Blog in the first place. More than likely, I was probably bored or attempting to stave off my usual bouts with boredom. I know that I am pretty unpolished as a writer and there is not a damn thing I write that could be considered “Objective”. Honestly, I am not objective about a damn thing and I know it. I know what I like and I know what I think sucks ass and to me that is all that matters in the long run.

I mean it isn’t like people haven’t said a few things in the comments section here and there. I think there are some diehard R.A. Salvatore fans that want to cosplay themselves as Drizzt Do’urden so they can beat me to death with a Billy club. I have one person who told me that my review of Thor was off the mark because you can’t do old school Thor for the screen. This same friend then refused to see X-Men: First Class because the original X-Men weren’t featured at all. I’m not going to even talk about the hate I got for the little love letter to the French I wrote. There were a few vocal detractors on that one. Sure they missed the part where I didn’t deny being an Ugly American and thus felt my “disdain” for our Gallic brothers was more than justified, if not accepted. So to any of you Francophiles I offended with my thoughts on the French all I can say is, please grow a set and then come at me with your ill thought out attacks. Maybe my dislike of France would be otherwise if they could win a war on their own. I mean how can you be taken seriously after your country is invaded by hot air balloon?

Ok this is not going to be about France. This a joyous occasion as Brave Blog hits 100 installments. 100, oft times ill thought out ramblings on movies, comics, cooking and everything else under the sun. Early on I had asked for some minor critique from the writer of a blog I enjoy reading on a daily basis. He noted that I lacked focus in my writing and felt that Brave Blog also lacked focus as far its themes went. I dwelled on those words and came to the realization that my writing could be better but the theme of Brave Blog was not to have a theme. It is a free form thought process put into words. Hell I expanded on my creative process back in April if you recall. That is essence of how I write and thus the very soul of Brave Blog.

I will continue to talk about Japanese Trash Cinema, Comic Books, Anime and food. I will continue to see movies that relate to all the things previously mentioned and let you know if those movies are even worth a damn and more importantly worth your time and money (as a Jew, it being worth my money is what really matters). I will continue to say things in my own way about whatever topic pops in my pretty little head (Editor’s Note: The Writer is not that pretty). If I want to rattle off another 2000 words about why I have a grudge with the French then I will do so (Editor’s Note: We here at Brave Blog fully support this trashing of the French and wish The Writer would follow through). Hell I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the last 3 years and 100 installments. Nothing is really stopping me from doing so. Editor be damned! (Editor’s Note: OH NO HE DIDN’T!).

So the past of Brave Blog has been discussed. What do you as a reader have to look forward too?

Well there is still the matter of POW! Comics Presents The 7 Greatest Individual Comics Of All Time. From there I’ll let you know of what I really thought of Jason Moma’s turn as Conan The Barbarian. I’ve been reading most of Anthony Bourdain’s books on food and travel so I’ll have plenty to discuss on that front since Bourdain is someone I have a great deal of respect and hero worship for. I’ve been running a pretty fun Dungeons & Dragon campaign and I’ve been thinking maybe, just maybe, a monthly recap of the hijinks and insanity of that would be in high order. Before you know it will be Halloween and then Thanksgiving… or should I say THANKSGAMING! Yes the recap of the yearly tradition returns and already this year’s installment promises to be BIGGER and BADDER than ever. Hell this year I might just avoid all the Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now chicanery of the previous Thanksgaming article… or maybe not (Editor’s Note: YOU DEFINITELY WILL!).

So here is to the past 100 installments of Brave Blog. Amazingly it has not left me completely brain damaged. Now let’s see how much longer I can keep this Cyber version of the S.S. Minnow afloat before I wreck it upon a creative desert isle. Because seriously, if my creative process goes Gilligan on me then the rest of me will go totally mental and then the other castaways in this poorly thought Gilligan’s Island analogy are all going to end up eaten by head hunter… except for the Professor. The Professor is one smart motherfucker and he speaks fluent Head Hunter!

If This Represents My Creative Process, Then We're All Fucked!

Harry Potter & The Potential Ca$h Grab or What Exactly Is Pottermore?

Just WTF Is This Thing Anyway?

Oh look! It is another Harry Potter article. Thanks to J.K. Rowling I needed to discover just exactly what the hell this “Pottermore” thing is. Rowling’s initial video message made it seem like it was nothing more than just a chance to read the Harry Potter books only this time with FLASH Animation and some new written content. Of course every Potter fan out there is convinced there is more to it than that. I mean there has to be. Right? I mean Rowling has been way more respectful of her fans than other major franchise creators (Yeah, I’m looking right at your flannel shirt wearing ass George Lucas). But given the vagueness of the announcement, it is still isn’t clear what Pottermore is supposed to be or what purpose it will serve besides making Rowling just a little bit richer.

The registration process is quite a little pain in the ass unto itself. The fact that the registration is being conducted as a sort of treasure hunt/clue search is also kind of frustrating. The idea is that the registration will be opened to those who follow the clue given on July 31st – August 7th. Each day is a different clue and each clue corresponds with the book representing that day (i.e. Day 1 had a clue dealing with Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, Day 2 Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets and so on). Figuring out the clue gives one access to a “Magic Quill” that once located allows for early registration to the site. That is some straight out of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory shit right there. It just needs Gene Wilder shouting “I Said Good Day” at you to make it more so.Now, I was late to the party and didn’t get involved until day 4. All things considered the day 4 clue was pretty freaking easy since it relied on me knowing 1 Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire related question and then using very basic math to get to the Magic Quill.

I then followed the instructions of cutting and pasting the math result at the end of the given Pottermore/Magic Quill web address and began my registration. I gave my basic info and then was quickly informed that I was indeed “Magical”. I get the feeling anyone who is registering for the BETA will get this result, though it would be pretty humorous to hear online rants from Potter-Nerds the world over lamenting their own Muggle status. Man that would lead to some great Emo blog rants that would make me laugh harder than “Who’s On First?” I promise you.

With my personal info and “Magical” Status confirmed I was given 5 usernames to choose from. This might be the biggest gripe that most people have with the registration, since you cannot customize your username. Now for me, I don’t care that much. I mean sure using what I use for all my other log-ins would be easier but I actually get where the Pottermore people are coming from with this. It is purely a security thing; I mean why risk someone swiping your account if they know you use the same username for all your log-ins. What? So I use the same username for pretty much everything. It is just a matter of convenience. Stop staring at me admit, at least I change up my passwords.

So with my shiny new username all selected I submitted my registration. I was given the standard “sign-up for new thing legal spiel’ about receiving a verification email and to click the link in the email. I have to admit, I was mildly excited. Soon I would be deep into the Pottermore experience… in theory!

I waited 5 minutes and no email. Already my dear friend Breann was getting ridiculously giddy about it. Breann is a Potter Fan of the highest caliber. She seems to know every little detail about every character, be they major, minor or completely insignificant. Trying to watch the movies with her can be quite the chore as she squeals in delight at every true to the book moment that crops up. She also isn’t afraid to comment on her more salacious intents for the male members of the Weasley clan. When rumors started leaking about what Pottermore was going to be she refused to listen to any of it because she wanted to be surprised. She still hasn’t forgiven me because I texted her some rumors about it. It was her finding of the Day 4 clue that reminded me I was going to sign-up for this Pottermore thing in the first place. She got the clue figured, got herself registered and validated in what seemed like no time. Me? I was still waiting as I traded quips with Breann about whether or not she was, in fact, a hipster or not.

90 minutes later I got the verification email. Let me state this again 90 MINUTES LATER!

I opened the email, clicked on the link and now my Pottermore account was officially made active. Well, save for the past where I can’t actually use Pottermore itself yet. See J.K. Rowling and the people at Sony knew that if they announced a Harry Potter Online project that literally millions of people would flood the main website creating chaos for all. Instead they are using the Magic Quill thing as a means to control the people they let in so they don’t crash their own servers. 7 days to register and each day they hit a quota. 7 days and when they hit 1000000 registered users then they will shut down the early bird registration and start letting registered Pottermore users into the site, albeit in small groups, to fiddle with it before the October launch.

I am very interested to see what lies within Pottermore. I hope it really is something special and not just a “re-read the books but now with pretty pictures” dupe that some are saying it will be. Part of me still holds out that this is actually an MMO or at least very bare bones MMO set in the Potter Universe. Really, all I care about is that the Pottermore experience is a fun one and a well made one no matter what it ends up being. After all, J.K. Rowling has been very careful about what young Mr. Potter’s name gets put on. She knows that if it carries the Harry Potter name on it, then a certain amount of quality needs to be upheld. She has the magic touch, she knows it and more importantly she seems to be doing her best to not abuse it. Let’s hope that Pottermore holds up that tradition.

The Case For Humor or Amanda Palmer Brings The Funny

Amanda Palmer: Mistress of Comedy (Not Really)

So I was talking with my friend, the wild winsome Breann, the other night and I had found myself not actually having an idea what to write about. So when stumped I turn to Breann since she has a good mind that I enjoy picking from time to time. Forget her penchant for being the most quotable person I know for all the wrong reasons. So I found it interesting that Breann told me I should write about humor in a general sense. Of course she didn’t just come out and say “Oh my God James, you should totally write about humor!”. No she recommended I base today’s post on her recently updated Facebook status. This meant I had to go to her Facebook wall and look up what the hell she was talking about. What I got was a quote from someone named Amanda Palmer. Of course I had to know something about who I was going to quote so I used that wonderful system of tubes known as the Internet. Well it turns out I actually am familiar with Amanda Palmer as she was the singer for The Dresden Dolls. Strike one on Amanda Palmer. I’m not what you call The Dresden Dolls biggest fan. This is based solely on a former roommate of mine listening to The Dresden Dolls non-stop. I mean like every fucking waking moment of the day. Actually it is less of a strike against Palmer as much as it is against the former roommate. As for the quote Breann supplied me with by Ms. Palmer, I was genuinely impressed by it.

The Quote:
“When you cannot joke about the darkness of life, that’s when the darkness takes over.”

Actually a very apt statement. Basically it is analysis of Black Humor. It holds true to the old idiom that comedy is a direct result of others people’s suffering. It doesn’t matter if it is Black Humor or just a simple pratfall, Humor in general is us laughing at something happening to another. We laugh because it isn’t happening to us. Amanda Palmer is right, when you lose the ability to laugh at life then darkness takes over. It takes over in the form of melancholia and depression. I don’t care who you are, everyone has been depressed at some point in their lives. Anyone who claims otherwise is just plain lying. It is impossible to be content and happy all the time. Being content and happy takes a lot of work. There has to be those times when you don’t want to get out of bed, not because you’re sick or being in bed is so wonderful. Sometimes you don’t want to get out of bed and you don’t know why. Even worse are the times when you do know why you won’t get out of bed and you just stay there not wanting to face the world. Remember what Pagliacci taught us? The lesson that for every clown there is a man behind the make-up in pain. The pain Pagliacci provides from being a clown is what we laugh at but it is the pain Pagliacci suffers in life that we sympathize with the most because, in essence, we are all Pagliacci.

Groucho Marx: He Brought The Funny!

Humor is what we need as human beings to fight off the pain of life. We need it more than fantasy escapism, as sometimes a simple stupid joke will do more good than 2 hours in a Movie Theater. I have a simple motto in life, “I Bring The Funny”. I make it a point to always make the people in my life smile. I do this because they are my friends and I cannot bear to see them in pain. The problem is, there are times that I am in pain and my own sense of humor cannot save me. I went through that recently, dealing with some personal issues. I would still bring the funny for my friends, but I was having a very difficult time coping with my issues. It was difficult for those close to me to help because they were so close to my problems and they knew that the only way to help was to let me work through it on my own. I knew I had worked through my issues, for the most part, when I read a random quote by Groucho Marx. Now when I say I laughed, I mean I just began laughing uncontrollably. The Quote was “From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it”. The thing is, it was a Groucho quote I’ve heard before and always chuckled at. There was no reason that I should find it hysterical all of a sudden. I mean that just didn’t make sense. It then hit me like a fist “I’m better, I can function normally again”. Apparently, Groucho Marx is the best remedy for depression known to man. What? You disagree with me? Go watch Duck Soup or almost anything else by The Marx Brothers and try not to laugh.

Seriously though, it wasn’t a case of one turn of a sentence by Groucho that made me laugh. It was a case of I had let my melancholy undermine who I was. My natural state is to be wise-cracking. I am a born class clown. When I’m not talking or laughing, my friends become very worried about me. Sometimes it is unwarranted but most of the time isn’t. There was a time in about 2003, I was staying with a friend who had given me he use of her sofa. After being there for a few months I had suddenly found myself not talking or smiling or doing much of anything. My friend returned from her day at work and saw me sitting, not smiling. She looked at me and immediately asked “Why aren’t you smiling? What’s wrong?”. I told her nothing was wrong and that I was fine. This continued for 2 more days before I opened up to her. I don’t even remember what was wrong but when I am upset, it is the most obvious thing in th world apparently. All my friends pick-up on it. The ones who have known me longest know that it can take a little bit of time for me to get to a place mentally that I can either talk about my problem or deal with the problem myself. Some of my friends, that I haven’t known as long, can try to get me to talk but if I am not ready to talk about it then they end up very frustrated. God forbid they try to force me to cheer-up, that gets them straight up hostility and open resentment. But in the end what usually brings me out of a funk is something that makes me laugh.

So make no mistake, Ms. Amanda Palmer is right. When you cannot joke about the darkness of life, that’s when the darkness takes over. This is why we need the darker shades of humor. We need to be flip and sarcastic so we can actually expose the darker things in life and make them NOT dark anymore. Humor, even Dark Humor, is a metaphoric light that we use to chase the darkness away. All humor is good to an extent. The reaction to humor is really what is key though. Ideally you want people to laugh but that isn’t always the case. As long as a bad joke gets some kind of reaction, even a groan or someone facepalms or pinches the bridge of their nose in mock pain, then is humor imparted. I have told so many tasteless jokes over the years and everyone has a different reaction. A joke I may tell Cindi may not fly with Breann. A witticism rattled off to my buddy Zac may have cracked him up but might not go over with my buddy Bill. It all depends on the person in question. I promise you this though, at one time or another I’ve made each of my friends laugh either as a group or individually. I’ve taken the light of Humor and got rid of some of their darkness, even if it was for just a few fleeting seconds. It is like I said before “I Bring The Funny!”. Being able to laugh at another’s pain is something that we need to be able to do because if we didn’t then all of life would be pain and a life of nothing but pain is akin to the darkness Amanda Palmer is referencing. At least this how I interpret it. Watch, now I am going to get some angry letter from Amanda Palmer telling me to shut up because I’ve totally missed the point of what she was saying. Now the odds of this happening are pretty slim, one might even say minuscule but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Remember, “Probably Won’t” and “Definitely Won’t” are 2 entirely different animals.

To sum up, we need to laugh. All of us. We need laugh long an hard at things in order to remind us that, while life can be terribly serious it can also be quite ludicrous and utterly hilarious at times. Humor can sustain the soul and even replenish it. It is something we need on spiritual level to be complete. No one wants a life of constant pain, everyone needs the release of a good laugh to remind themselves that while life can suck there are those times when it doesn’t and you actually can enjoy it. I know it, you know it and make no mistake Amanda Palmer damn well knows it!

The New Adventure or I Am Returning To School!

The Path Is Long My Friends...

For the last few years I’ve really wondered what turn my life had taken. I kept jumping from job to job, never really being happy at what I was doing. This was not a recent development. This was basically a decade of being miserable with brief hints of happiness. I don’t tend to fall in the habits of drink and drug, I did my drinking in my twenties. I still engage in the social drink now and again and rarely go off on a bender. As far as drugs go, I’ve never been a fan. I didn’t try pot until I was in my thirties and it really never did anything for me. Since I didn’t rely on either of those to fall back on, I would end up going through bouts of depression. These last 2 months were rough on me, losing both my employment and being involved in a short romance that was more intense for me emotionally than the person I was seeing (though that isn’t a fair assessment of the situation for her). So I did something the other day that, if things work out, will shake up my life considerably and I am hopeful that it will be for the better.

On May 12th 2011 I filled out my financial aid application and made the determination to return to school.

This is a giant step for me. I have actually been living in the shadow of past failures for too long. My academic career after graduating from boarding School was a string of flame-outs. I flunked out of Drew University with a perfect 0.00 Grade Point Average. I had initially put blame on my failure there on my Boarding School for not preparing me for college with its strict daily routines and regimen. The truth was I should have adapted and risen to the challenge of college but was just to lazy. The structured environment of Boarding School wasn’t to blame, I was. In fact every school I attended since 1991 I failed out of because I was just too damned lazy and take on the workload necessary. In some cases I found something to distract me that I would zoom-in on. At Landmark College in Putney, Vermont I discovered the joys of video production. It was the one class I consistently showed-up for and did my work for. Sadly I got carried away with it and ignored my other classes. It was very odd, the obsessive need to be at the editing board to splice together clips for stuff only I would watch. This was the early 90s mind you, the advent of widespread PC/Mac home editing software was hardly widespread. These days your average 14 year old can splice together their own unique PSA or music video right from their laptop. I didn’t have that luxury. I would lay-down control track, lay down sound track and then splice footage. It would have been maddening if I hadn’t become so engrossed in it. It was the one thing class I was never lazy for.

Since 1994 my life has been spent in this haze. I’ve worked more jobs than any one man not yet 40 should. I’ve spent time homeless, vagrant and despondent. I am habitually bad with my finances and am usually scrapping by and what I do make when I’m working. I’ve known for years that my education is both my downfall yet eventual savior. But I kept putting it off. I kept telling myself that I lacked the discipline to return to school and succeed at it. I honestly believed that. Previous attempts proved what I am saying to be true. So what is different this time? How am I different than I was before?

The answer is I am no different. I am the same schlub just with a healthy dose of life experience. My habits really haven’t changed that much. I’m lazy and inconsistent no matter what task I undertake. I’m going back to school and the odds are not exactly in my favor. To say “Well this time I’m going to buckle down an work hard” is ridiculous because every time I say that I always find myself falling into old habits. What I need is to realize that I’ve got some very big weaknesses and try to adjust them so I am ready to continue on this path I’ve set myself on. I am not talking about changing the basis of who or what I am, I’m talking more along the lines of adapting to the situation I’ve put myself in so that I can cope with the workload, stress and environment of academics. I cannot go into this and let the lazy side of me be pre-dominant like it has been in the past. I cannot delude myself into believing that my habits as a student are any different now than they were when I left school last time in 1994.

What I have now is 17 years of laziness and procrastination to shake off. I’ve got so much mind plaque on my brain that it will take a high dosage of mental floss to shake it all off. I think the hardest part will be doing reading because I HAVE to as opposed to reading because I WANT to. I love to read, I devour most literature put in front of me and not just comic books. Large amounts of fiction I have devoured with my eyes. Fiction of all shapes and sizes. I’ve consumed whole biographies in a few hours. Books on history, cooking, and language have all been put in my greedy little hands and more often than not get completed promptly. But that was reading at my leisure, reading at my pace for my enjoyment. Reading because it is required of me is another animal. That takes the fun of reading and makes it work and I don’t want to work while I read, it can kill the sheer joy of reading for me. That isn’t to say all required reading that I’ve done was joyless. Actual literature of classical variety I can read for a class because all I have to do is shut my brain off for fiction to take me away. It is technical manuals and math and science books that drive me bat-shit crazy. That and Faust. Seriously, Faust was something I wrestled with in Boarding School. The rhyming made it damn near impossible for me to read and that was in English! I can’t even begin to imagine knowing German and trying to read that thing in its original German. I don’t even know German but if I did I’m sure I’d be cursing up a storm in it as I tried to not go insane thanks to Goethe.

But back on point…

The next great adventure in my life is about to begin. I’ve attempted this adventure before and ended up dashed on its rocks. I need focus, I need patience and I need my brain to be at its absolute peak. I have a stronger support system now then I ever did during my previous attempts at higher education. So many friends have told me how proud they are of me for finally going back. It is good to have people be proud of you, it means that they will actually be there for you and try to inspire you to greatness you didn’t know you were capable of. I don’t know if I can achieve greatness this time out. In the past I maintained my status quo by just getting by in life. Well I’m sick of that. Just getting by means I have short-changed myself at every opportunity given to me. Well I this time no more short-changing. This time no more self-sabotage. This time I am going to get through school. I am going to get my degree and see that the second-half of my life dwarfs the first half like the Sun dwarfs even the largest planet in the Solar System.

So here is to me, bring on the classes and the work. Bring on the studying and mental fatigue. I’ll take what “requirements” you need me to and not just complete them but ACE them and not look back. I’m saying good-bye to the lazy, unmotivated shiftless layabout I’ve been and advancing to being the motivated, driven student I should have been 17 years ago. I plan to come out of this wiser, dedicated and strong in mind and body. I’ve thrown a challenge down at my own feet and you bet your ass I am going to answer it and CONQUER IT!

Watch A Bad Movie With a Friend Redux or Breann Can Get Me To Watch Anything!

Why Do I Do This To Myself?

Whodini once posed a question that will best reflect this movie review. “Friends, how many of us have them?”. Why am I bringing this up? Because when my dear friend Breann helped me get over my bout of THE PLAGUE the other day, she put a movie into my possession along with the over the counter drugs and Orange Juice I required. You see, for months young Breann has been telling anyone who will listen about how she bought a DVD for $1. This fact would be a tad more impressive but I’m pretty sure she bought the movie at a Dollar Store (Yup she confirms this was indeed a Dollar Store purchase, something she takes way to much pride in). Anyway the movie in question was titled Zipperface. She recommended that I review this movie, in her ever so subtle way of saying “I thought maybe you could review this” and alas here we are. Now this goes against my “Watch a bad movie with a friend” philosophy but what the hell, how low-budget can this movie be?

So low-budget that it comes in a cardboard sleeve.

I knew I was in for something, I just wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Based on that cardboard sleeve I’d either laugh my ass off during this piece of cinema or sit there for its 90 minute running time bemoaning my fate with cries of “Why? Why did I agree to watch this”. The cardboard sleeve itself was very bare-bones. It had the title of the movie with a diagonal image of a zipper with a drop of blood eking out of it. I deduced one thing right away based on that image… this probably wasn’t a feel good comedy, at least not intentionally. The best part of the cardboard sleeve is that it proudly let’s the viewer know that they can watch the movie “in English and Espanol”. This made me chuckle a bit too much because what if someone purchasing this isn’t aware that Espanol is Spanish for… well… Spanish? The comedy of errors is an improv sketch just waiting to happen.

I waited a day to watch this thing, I felt some mental steeling was necessary if I was going to sit through this potential cinematic catastrophe. I first did some research. The movie is from 1992 so I was going to have deal with a little bit of culture flashback. The Internet Movie Database gave me the list of actors, none of whom I recognized. Is one of them really named Harold Cannon? That can’t be his real name for fuck’s sake! HARRY CANNON! Already we have one guy with a pseudo-porn name, can it get any worse than that? The IMDB also informed me that the movie, as of 2009, has been adopted into a comedy musical. I have no doubt, knowing Breann’s love of musical theater and her knowing my rather less than favorable view on musical theater, that she is more than likely trying to track down a performance of the musical to torment me with. Do you realize I haven’t even gotten to talking about this movie yet? The last 2 paragraphs are about the packaging of the DVD and the research I did to prepare for watching the movie! Does this give you any idea how much I’m looking to viewing this movie?

The movie itself, oh Jesus Christ… The Movie Itself!

You Wish Something This Cool Was In This Movie!

First let’s get my initial disappointment out of the way. With a title like Zipperface, I was expecting some horror movie featuring a deformed guy with some sort of a zipper for a face. I mean the title kind of implies that. Man tell me that isn’t some crazy concept that Full Moon would’ve done back in the 90s? Sounds like the perfect thing to make between Puppetmaster and Subspecies movies. Sadly, this isn’t what we get. There is no deformed weirdo with a zipper for a face. Instead what we get is a very sub-standard slasher flick. Even worse it is so obvious that the people that made this are trying to make a low-rent Jason Voorhees, I’m stunned they weren’t sued by Victor Miller for copyright infringement. Now no one is going to run out and say that the Friday The 13th movies are the best movies ever made but going in, you know what to expect. It’s not like people are going to show-up at Camp Crystal Lake expecting a 10 minute soliloquy from Jason Voorhees about how he is terribly misunderstood. So excuse the fuck out of me if I want to see some dude with a zipper for a face go on a killing spree, I’m only fucking human.

To make things worse, Zipperface is a slasher flick with BDSM as one of its lesser story hooks and even then the movie is just so painfully dull. If this got released today it would be PG-13 at best. I mean a guy in a leather suit and gimp mask goes around killing hookers? Who cares! One of the reasons the psycho-slasher genre works is because there is a motivation for the anti-hero, at least initially. Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees are out for revenge plain and simple. They go to some serious fucked-up extremes but deep down revenge is the core of it all. You want to know how ineffectual Zipperface is as a slasher villain? He makes his first kill by accident. No revenge, no real reason why he kills. He just got his whip around a hookers neck and snapped it. That is just fucking pathetic. He didn’t mean to kill anyone but once he does then his penchant for violence is unleashed. Penchant for violence with a machete no less, the favored weapon of Jason Voorhees.

Another gripe I had were the victims. The victims are all just prostitutes that were hired by Zipperface for BDSM role-play and shit got out of hand way to fast (to put it mildly). Zipperface isn’t going after anyone that has wronged him. Since his first kill was accidental, he is just cleaning up his own mess and very poorly at that. He is a desperate person covering up his crime and not a true psycho-killer of the cinema that we all kind of love. Zipperface going after plain old hookers just doesn’t cut it for me. The worst part is the hookers he is going after are just not proactive enough. They are timid and week. I like my hookers tough and at least capable of handling a shiv. The only thing that the hookers in this movie do is knee him in the balls. Repeatedly! See, that’s another reason he is an emasculated slasher. You want your slasher to be kind of unstoppable and not let something like being kneed in the huevos stop him. Could it be that Zipperface is some sort of social criticism of slasher films in general? Is it, in fact, a parody of a slasher film? It is entirely possible that is the case and perhaps, if this movie weren’t hampered by being so cheap, such a parody might have been decent but alas we have this end result of a film.

This film is also a victim of presenting the viewer with too many Red Herrings. No less than 4 characters are presented as the Red Herring during the course of a barely 90 minute film. That means for every 22.5 minutes of screen time one more character introduced could be Zipperface. There is also the overabundance of Red Herring clues for each of the Red Herring characters. The “Sledgehammer of Plot” is used in large, liberal doses in this movie. Then it goes a step further by presenting a non-contender for the revelation of Zipperface’s identity. The execution is so ham-fisted and clumsy that when the movie finally has its big moment, you simply don’t care what Zipperface’s motivations are or who he actually is. In fact his motivations are so weak that you’ll be stunned he killed anyone on purpose at all.

Acting So Bad You Want The Protagonist Dead!

The film suffers a lot for its lack of a protagonist you want root for. One problem is the female lead being so unlikable. I ended up hating the female lead, not because she isn’t a potentially well written character but because the actress playing her is so awful. The character of Lisa Ryan is supposed to be a passionate cop who was made Detective, yet she shows no real insight nor passion for her work. It would be one thing if she were being played as a sort of female Sherlock Holmes, an emotionally detached observer who can pick-up on the slightest clue but trust me that isn’t the case with Lisa Ryan. No Lisa Ryan approaches police work with the same determination one would approach to hanging laundry. Hell she doesn’t even dress like a sensible Police Detective, her wardrobe makes her look more like a New Hampshire Real Estate Agent. There is no way she would ever rundown a perp in that skirt and don’t even get me started on her neckerchief. Did I mention she is kind of a slut? Of course she falls for one of her suspects in the Zipperface case, of course she sleeps with him within 24 hours of meeting him but she is so dull and the suspect so skeezy that they make for the most un-erotic on-screen couple in the history of cinema. Hell their “Sex Scene” is the most G-Rated sex scene I’ve ever viewed simply for the fact that to call it a “Sex Scene” is a horrible joke (1-4 seconds of screen time maybe? Not even a side-boob shot).

I think the only actor that showed any sort of ability at acting was the character of Harry Shine played by David Clover. Harry Shine is a likable police detective teamed up with Donna Adams’ Lisa Ryan. He is one of maybe 3 actors in this little exercise in cinema that doesn’t seem to be blankly reading off of cue cards. Clover makes Harry Shine look like a good mentor or father figure for the new young Detective Ryan but Detective Ryan is so emotionless and bland that any wisdom he could offer wouldn’t matter. This movie would’ve been far more entertaining with Harry Shine as the protagonist since Shine has that worn-out mid-80s early-90s cop look about him. Hell, between Lisa Ryan sleeping with her suspects and Shine’s old partner being kind of a misogynistic screw-up, Harry Shine is the lone competent Police Officer in this whole movie. Hell I’d watch a series of cheap Harry Shine detective movies or even better, a weekly Harry Shine TV show.

I guess in the end the crime of this movie is that its just not good. It might be worth a “Bad Movie Night” with friends just so you can all sit around and tear it apart bit by awful bit. I really should have waited to watch this thing with Breann, so she could revel in its horror, at least then I could listen to her revel how bad it was. She is unafraid to sit there and say what comes in her head while watching a bad movie. Hell one day I will regale Brave Blog with the of “How Breann Didn’t Believe Beastmaster Was A Real Movie!”. But for now there is Zipperface. There is Zipperface and I’m kind of pissed off about it. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie and come away angry simply for the movie being awful. See this is what I was talking about a few days ago. Bad movies NEED to be watched with friends because, if nothing else, watching that with friends will help you carry the burden of watching a horrible, horrible movie.

So I will start as I began, by quoting Whodini “Friends, how many of us have them? Friends, one we can depend on”. For bad movies, you need to depend on your friends because no one should have to bear the burden of watching bad movies by themselves. Because there is pain and then there is PAIN and Zipperface is a whole shitload of the latter, no matter how much I wish it was the former. The whole ordeal would have been much less painful if I had watched it with a friend. Well, at least a friend cared enough to lend it to me to make me feel better and I guess that is the real point of it all.


Sickness or How I Beat The 24 Hour Plague!

Man's Best Friend?

Hey I didn’t write anything yesterday. There is a reason for it that I am about to explain. It all started on Wednesday night. Around 11PM I felt this scratchiness in the back of my throat and immediately I knew I was coming down with something. Now I hate being sick, it is the absolute worst. This isn’t to imply that anyone LIKES getting sick, unless that is your particular fetish (really? do such people exist?). Now, generally speaking, I don’t get sick that often. I run a perpetually over-productive nose but I always attributed that to just being Jewish. Seriously, I blow my nose way to often. So this scratchiness in my throat just wouldn’t do at all. I’ve had bouts with your average childhood diseases. You know the ones that every kid gets like chickenpox, tonsillitis and malaria. What you never contracted malaria? Remember kids, mosquitoes are the enemy. Still, I tend to be somewhat healthy most of the time. I also believe that the perfect remedy for all sickness is chicken soup. Yes, I know it is quite the stereotype for a Jew to recommend chicken soup but I’ve yet to see it not work. I prefer mine with garlic and a dash of hot sauce, perfect for clearing up clogged nasal passages.

The scratchiness in my throat was mild at first. Nothing to be openly alarmed about, I just figured a good-night’s sleep would do the trick and I’d be fine. I shuffled off to bed around 3AM and had a fitful sleep. I maybe got anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour of sleep once every 90 minutes. I initially woke-up at 7:45AM, the scratchiness had developed into a full blown sore throat and now I was really clogged up in my nose. Add to that a headache and general achyness all over my body and there was no doubt I was sick. I hauled my ass out of bed, went to the bathroom and did my business. I then trudged back to my room and proceeded to pass-out for 2 more hours. At 9:45AM I managed to drag my carcass to the shower. Usually a hot shower is the cure for most morning ailments, I figured at the least, the steam from the shower would clear up my horrendously clogged nose. I soaked in that shower for a good 20 minutes, just letting that hot water loosen up my achy body and letting that all so wonderful steam do its magic on my airways.

I stepped out of the shower and was instantly shivering. I never shiver after a shower. This wasn’t me being slightly ill, this was me being full-on sick. I grabbed my towel and dried off and then went to my room to get dressed. Usually after getting dressed my first order of business is to check my email and correspondence. This a process that usually takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. I was shivering so bad that all I did was clear-out my email before stumbling to the Sofa of Perpetual Comfort. Now the sofa alone was not going to cut the mustard since I was still shivering. I reached for the nearest blanket and kept myself bundled. I ran over my symptoms in my clogged little head. Achy, nose clogged, headache and sore throat were my symptoms which meant there was only one logical explanation as to what was happening to me. I was dying. Now I’m no doctor, but I hadn’t felt this miserable since I was at least in my 20s or thereabouts. I curled up in my blanket on the sofa and turned on the TV. Do you have any idea what is on TV at 10:15AM on a weekday? Fuck all is what! There is nothing worthwhile on Television during the day in the middle of the week. Thank God for my DVR!

Back in February I had recorded the entire 3rd series of Being Human off of BBC America. I had watched the first 3 episodes but hadn’t gotten around to watching the rest. Well now was as good a time as any to get caught up. I made it through 1 episode before completely passing out. I blinked myself awake around 2PM with my stomach growling at me. I hadn’t had anything to eat since about 8PM the previous night. I made myself a bowl of cereal and put tea in the kettle to boil. On top of being Jewish and believing in the curative power of chicken soup, I was also raised by my mother who just happened to be British and thus taught me the restorative powers of a good cup of tea. My usual tea of preference is Earl Grey, it is strong and flavorful and can usually ease the sorest of sore throats. As my luck would have it, there was no Earl Grey in the house so I settled for some Peppermint Tea instead. Now brewing tea is an art, do not let anyone tell you differently. I do not understand the point of filling a kettle with water and then setting the burner to High Heat. Yes you get tea out of that method but all the nuance of flavor for the tea is lost. No, I BREW my tea. I fill my kettle with water and use 2 tea bags. I then slow brew it over medium heat so the flavor of the tea is gradually released into the water. It takes more time to prepare but the flavor you get from the tea is tremendous.

So now with tea and cereal in hand I returned to the living room and returned to watching Being Human. I also hopped online for a bit and checked emails and chatted briefly with some friends. 3 hours, 2 cups of tea and 1 bowl of cereal later and I was not feeling any better. All I had besides home curatives was a bottle of Advil and that wasn’t going to be much help. I shot a quick text off to Breann asking if she could do me a favor. I knew she was at work and wouldn’t be able to reply for awhile. At 5:26PM I shot a text to my friend Cindi and let her know that I was, in fact, dying. Cindi assured me that I wasn’t dying and that I should just have a bowl of soup and lie down. She also pointed out to me that whenever she is sick I give her the EXACT same advice. Needless to say I wasn’t very happy with Cindi for doubting my claims of oncoming death. I crawled under my blanket on the sofa again and passed out until 8:30PM. I had decided that I was NOT going to doze off again for the rest of the evening until I actually would go to bed in my own room.

I sat up, still under the blanket, and watched some Television. At 8:46PM I started coughing violently. I felt something in the back of my throat come loose so I ran to the bathroom and hocked up the nastiest green and red batch of phlegm I’ve ever seen. It is never good when a Jew coughs up Christmas colors. The catch here though was that right after that bit of nastiness was expelled from my system, my sore throat had miraculously vanished. Apparently I was on the mend. I was also feeling a tad peckish so I went to the kitchen and decided to heat up some French fries in the oven. In the past, it never mattered how sick I was, I could always still eat and finish what was put in front of me. Well once the fries were out of the oven and on my plate I ate maybe 1/4 of what I prepared and couldn’t eat another bite. This just further proved how sick I was because if I can’t eat then there is something seriously wrong with me. I continued watching the Television and conversing with Cindi via text. At 10PM I called Breann but got no response. 3 minutes later Breann returned my call and I asked her for the favor of some Orange Juice. Given that Breann is the kindest, gentlest soul in the known Universe (save from those times when she will haul off and smack me for no good reason) she not only agreed to bring me some OJ but also said she would bring me BOTH DayQuil and NyQuil.

Things were looking better. I deduced it had been about 24 hours since I had contracted this plague and more importantly, I had upgraded my status from “Dying” to “Not Dying As Much”. Breann showed up at my door around 11:15PM with the Orange Juice and over the counter goodies I required. I promised her that I would bake a big batch of Peanut butter/Chocolate chip cookies at my earliest possible convenience just for her. Of course that made her very happy since my cooking usually makes her smile (not to pat myself on the back or anything but I am a good cook and halfway decent baker). It was the least I could do for her since she went out of her way to help me and all. Breann departed and I went back to the living room. I hopped online for a few minutes and then crawled under the blanket on the sofa again. I was still getting the chills but my shivering would come and go. I watched a few episodes of Family Guy and then found myself slowly drifting off to sleep again. So with that I trudged off to my room and went to sleep. I woke up this morning at 10AM feeling much better. I poured myself a glass of Orange Juice and followed that with a DayQuil chaser.

So there you have it, the reason I didn’t write anything yesterday. So far today has been fine. I can breather freely, have no phlegm build-up and there is nary an ache in body that wasn’t there from before I had fallen ill. 24 hours of illness is the absolute pits because it hits so extremely hard and fast. Compare that with the flu which is drawn out and has its peaks and valleys. A 24 hour bug is designed to hit you hard and fast and royally fuck you up. I’m playing it safe today though, as along with the DayQuil and OJ I’m also drinking my tea and noshing lightly on rye toast. I’m not sure what my stomach can handle today but I’m pretty sure the worst of it is past. I got many “Feel Better” wishes from my friends and I want to thank you all for the well wishes. It is good to know that when I am dying, people care. As for the present, it is good to know that I am not dying… FOR NOW~!

The Maelstrom In My Head or WHEE! I Can Write Again!

My Mind? Yeah It's Kinda Like This

So if you bothered to read what I wrote yesterday and then decided to go back further and read previous entries of Brave Blog, you’ll notice that there is a huge gap between yesterday and the entry previous to it. Before “Ass-Biting & A Night At The Opera (of the Genetic Sort)” went up, my last post was in September of 2010. That is just about 4 weeks shy of 7 months with nothing new written. Now I’ve stopped writing before and it isn’t uncommon for a blog to suddenly stop with new posts because maintain a blog and having the ideas behind remain fresh is hard work. The writing end of things was giving me trouble. My problem was writer’s block. I really couldn’t think of anything to write that wasn’t already commented on elsewhere and shared my exact view. I tried spinning off “POW!!” into its own separate blog and got through about 2 installments and then my dissatisfaction with what I was reading put a stop to an independent “POW!!”. Then there is the issue of sitting down to write and thinking you have a great idea. Then as you write, you start to not like what you put down. I mean sure most of what I write are movie reviews and pop culture commentary but it is mostly ramblings disguised as somewhat coherent thought.

Which brings me to this, my thought process. When I was at Boarding School I wrote a slightly competent poem and the instructor asked me what my process was for writing. I just kind of shrugged and replied “Well my mind is like a swirling maelstrom of chaos and I just kind of pull out the ideas I want to use”. This troubled the instructor for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. Maybe he was used to the idea of form and structure so much that a teenager writing something by plucking out chaos bothered him. Either way that’s when people started using the term “ADD” around me. After getting analyzed at home, I was put on a dosage of Ritalin. I was not a fan. Ritalin made The Maelstrom go away and thus little things about me slowly changed. I was quieter and more melancholy, yet nothing as far as my schoolwork or grades changed at all. Since I was self-medicating I simply opted to stop taking the Ritalin. Within a few days I was more active mentally and back to being my usual self which was a marvelous thing. After a week, The Maelstrom was back and I was plucking ideas from chaos again.

My writer’s block has nothing to do with there being no Maelstrom for me to grab ideas from sadly. The Maelstrom thrives on the chaos in my head to make connections that I otherwise wouldn’t normally make through regular trial and error. My writer’s block is what happens when too many ideas from The Maelstrom come out at once and the thoughts from my brain to written word get cluttered with too many ideas. Go through any of my old entries and you’ll see me catching myself in the middle of a tangent. If you think that’s bad you should see how bad it gets for the stuff I haven’t posted here or anywhere else. Those works become tangents run completely a muck and unable to get back on topic for what I’m writing about. I will have written for hours with material that I’ll be in mid-sentence or paragraph of and then suddenly find myself saying “This is horrible, what is this shit?”.

I wish I had a valve on The Maelstrom that I could turn on in my mind to slowly let the ideas I need leak out for when I write. Sadly I don’t and when The Maelstrom lets loose with too much, too fast then what I try to write becomes dreck. If what I write comes out as dreck then I am not excited about it and if I am not excited about then I know it isn’t funny. That is really the point of what I write. No matter the topic, I want the reader to at least crack a smile. I have no time for seriousness in my writing. I’m not the New York Times for fuck’s sake! I’m some schmuck with a blog!

So let me tell you what got me to write again.

When I left the theater after REPO: The Genetic Opera shadowcast, suddenly sentences about how I felt about the show I had just watched began forming in my mind. More importantly the sentences were stringing together and not going out of control on tangents. Bit by bit, I began constructing in my head on the way home. I was doing this while talking with Katrina, my friend who I saw REPO with. I was carrying on a conversation but still writing in my head. My inside voice was crackling with words about what to say. I should have started writing once I got home. I knew if I didn’t start writing there was a strong chance the feeling I was experiencing would be gone by morning. Sadly, Katrina was crashing on my sofa and the computer is right in the living room. I pride myself on being a good host so the writing would wait since I wasn’t going to keep Katrina up all night with me typing away like a madman. I went to bed but my excitement level was too high, I ended up getting little sleep and woke-up achy and cranky. Now it was Sunday and while cranky I still had some of that energy from the night before. I knew the opening, I knew who I had to mention and bring up specifically in how it related to the topic. It was all popping like corn kernels in hot oil. But there were obstacles to actually writing it.

First there was Katrina. She was crashing at my place until she went home on Sunday. Now I’m sure if I had said “I’ve got the urge to write, I need to get this shit down” her reaction probably would’ve been “write it you idiot!”. But I am bound by a need to be a good host to those staying in my home so I couldn’t ignore her to write. Second, even if she told me it was OK, I had other friends coming over later in the afternoon for gaming. My friends started arriving, I had spent most of the day catching up with what was on my DVR. We ended up gaming until midnight and then hanging out until about 2 in the morning. I went to bed still writing in my head, I was on to the flow of what was there. Which mental paragraph went where in the word processor of my mind. The energy in me was flowing and The Maelstrom wasn’t overwhelming with the ideas that were flowing out of it. What I had mentally I liked, I liked it a lot but I had to get it down.

I woke up Monday morning, Katrina had already taken off leaving a nice “Thank You” note behind. I checked my email, got my morning routine out of the way (toilet, shower & dress) and then started writing. Everything that went onto the computer was everything I had mentally typed up in my head. But then I was adding to it. The Maelstrom wasn’t flooding my mind though, this was just a natural progression of what I had already written and more importantly it enhanced what I had already written. I wrote from about 9:30am until about noon. Now if you have read anything on Brave Blog before then you should know I rarely proofread my material and my editing is damn atrocious. Sometimes I’m typing so fast that I’m completely unaware of my own spelling mistakes. I didn’t want that for this idea that morphed into an article. I cared way to much about it to not properly proofread, spell-check and edit it. From there it was off to cut and paste it, followed by adding the links to photos and websites that are littered in the highlighted words when published online. I don’t remember the time it actually went online but soon after it did I was chatting with my friend Squee, who is actually in the REPO cast. She mentioned somethings I missed in my editing as far as punctuation and flow. I went back and to correct those things and then the unexpected happened.

Re-reading what I had led to me re-editing certain parts and adding entirely new parts of certain paragraphs. The second version went up and I showed it Zac, one of my dearest friends and also a REPO cast member. Throughout the day I was doing little fixes to the article, always thinking I could say just a little bit more or tweak one line. It wasn’t until Cindi (Oh c’mon people! re-read the article) read it and told me to stop “fixing it, its perfect as is” that I took a step away from the writing of the article. I let my brain cool off and slowly The Maelstrom in my mind stopped lobbing ideas at me. It was around 4pm when it dawned on me that I had actually written something I liked. I had written something where my humor came through and I got my thoughts out on things that were relevant to the article. I actually wrote something I felt 100% positive having written.

I later half-jokingly told the people I pimped the article to that the shadowcast of REPO: The Genetic Opera cured my writer’s block. It’s only half-joking because if I hadn’t gone to see it that night I never would have had something to write about that inspired me. This turn of events must make my friend Cindi smile from ear to ear because she had told me I needed to come see the show for 2 years. I fought her every step of the way and now the damn show gets me to write something and more importantly something I’m happy with.

Now the question is, where do I go from here?

I started writing a few things earlier in the day. One was terrible and got scrapped. A few might develop if I let let The Maelstrom have a crack at them but I’m not to sure. There was 1 that The Maelstrom took hold of and went to town with. I’m not surprised since a chunk of it is about him and The Maelstrom is an egotistical bastard once he gets going.

So in the end the important thing is that I’m writing again and it feels pretty damn great. I’m sure something will catch my attention and make me comment on it. Most importantly, I think I have The Maelstrom under control for now. I’ll let him creep out of my brain and feed me some thoughts now and then but he has to realize that I’m the Boss and he works for me. Or is it a symbiotic relationship? I better figure it out quick because I sense a tangent coming on…

Ass-Bitings & A Night At The Opera (i.e. of the Genetic Sort)

Brave Blog Versus The Shadowcast

I like to think I’m a man of my word, especially when said word is given to a friend. Sometimes that word bites me in the ass. So this tale is one of those figurative ass-bitings that actually turned out OK. Allow me to explain. Over the years I have acquired more than a few friends with the artistic leaning, specifically in theater arts. I am a fan of the theater though not a dabbler in its mysteries. If you want to come laugh at the fat Jewish guy stutter then just put me on stage sometime and watch me wilt. This being said I have a deep respect for all actors and actresses. I cannot do what they do, my own self-conscious neuroses make a bad fit for such an endeavor as acting even as a casual dabbler.

So how does this tie into my figurative ass-biting moment?

One of my dearest friends, Cindi, is the director of a local stage endeavor, a “Shadowcast” of REPO: The Genetic Opera. Let’s first tackle the matter of defining Shadowcastfor those unfamiliar. Basically, take a movie of your liking and get a group of people. These people then pantomime the movie on-stage while the movie plays behind them. It’s not quite a play and its not quite mime (I think we can all be grateful for it not being mime). Along the way there might be some touches or flares added to the stage portion and of course there may be some unplanned mishaps along the way. The most famous shadowcast is probably The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a movie I am absolutely not a fan of and I have not liked the shadowcasts I’ve seen of it, a total of which is a staggering 3 times, probably even less. So when my friend made me promise that I would go see her cast’s performance of REPO “one day”, it was a promise I had to keep.

Now let me make these matters even worse for myself. I have a few friends in this cast and another one of them, Breann, she of the sunny smile, was very excited that she was going to be performing as a member the cast for the next peformance. So when she excitedly told me her “good news” I let out a sigh and uttered the words “Well now I have to go see this thing”. Breann assured me that she wasn’t going to make me go nor was I obligated to attend. Well, I actually was obligated to attend a performance already thanks to Cindi but my plan was to string that promise along until I was so utterly senile that I could watch the performance and then quickly forget it, thus fulfilling my obligation without having to do harm to my poor brain, since that would already be mush from my own dotage. That plan was down the drain because Breann is one of those people I just cannot say no to. Her version of “You don’t have to come” is sincere but it is almost too sincere. Sincere to the point where you have to breakdown and show up (trust me this makes sense if you know the girl). So now it was 2 people that I gave my word to and to make matters worse I was now obligated to attend the next show on April 30th 2011. There was no backing out, I gave my word.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you what REPO: The Genetic Opera is about. If you haven’t seen the movie you at least have access to the internet (I mean c’mon dumbass, this is a blog! DUH!) and can find out for yourself, I mean fuck, Wikipedia is there for a reason people. The thing is, I had already seen the movie for REPO and honestly, didn’t like it that much. Ask any friend of mine and they will tell you, I’m super picky about my movies, even my bad movies. As a rule I generally do not like musicals. There are a few exceptions to this but I’m not going to list them here, though I can tell you that one of them deals with duping the Nazis and anything that involves duping the Nazis does my Jewish heart proud. I find needing to throw music and dance numbers into a narrative of a stage show means the writers are trying to dazzle the viewer to make them forget that their basic story is actually pretty fucking weak. Ironically this is not how I feel about opera. I love good opera and the difference between a musical and opera is that the entire narrative for opera is in song thus one element compliments the other and that isn’t always the case with musicals, in fact it rarely is. Now when you whip out something like a Rock Opera, which REPO definitely IS, then you are blurring the lines between musical and opera a bit too much. Hell most modern musicals come very close to being Rock Opera anyway, almost dangerously so. Now I know that there are many who disagree with my view on this and that’s fine but that’s my view and has been for a long time, so the odds of that view changing are quite slim.

So where was I?

Oh, I went to the shadowcast for REPO: The Genetic Opera. I went with my friend Katrina. We have vastly different opinions about this movie. Needless to say, she is a fan of musicals, so that right there puts us at odds. Now the shadowcast for this cast was a big deal this time out because it marked the 2nd anniversary for this production or as they call it “REPrOduction” (you have no idea how dirty I feel for typing that word and I use words like “cromulent”, “embiggen” and sometimes “lognostics”). Now the Toledo Production of REPO isn’t the only shadowcast of this movie out there. Apparently this movie is spawning more and more productions across the country like some Jim Jones inspired cult. I can’t sit there and lie and say the movie itself does not have a hardcore and devoted fanbase. What’s more, the creators of the movie support the shadowcast movement and even sent congratulations to the Toledo cast on their 2nd Anniversary. That was pretty classy and it shows the creators truly appreciate the support people give their film and that the love between the fans and creators is a 2-way street.

I have to be honest, I was dreading this experience. I mean I straight out expected the shadowcast to be amateurish, distracting and “Oh my god I have to look away, its so fucking awful!” bad. I mean, I really don’t like the movie so the odds were stacked against this production from the outset. I was going into this with low expectations, so low that I was sure I wouldn’t be able to look Cindi or Breann (or any of the other people I know who were involved) in the eye when the inevitable questions of “So?” or “did you like it” would eventually arise. I sat through the whole thing, only getting up to use the bathroom once (I had held in a wicked piss from 5 minutes in until maybe 2 minutes before “At The Opera Tonight” so give me some fucking credit will you?). I sat through it all and I came away… charmed!

The performers in the shadowcast enhanced my second viewing of this movie. There were some original touches added here and there and enough sly humor injected into what they were doing that I found myself laughing quite a bit. There was a mishap involving a certain cast member’s pants, that actually wasn’t planned from what I was told, but it was pulled off so well that I never would have guessed it was a gaffe. Most importantly, you could tell that a lot of hard work and love went into what was being done and that is what added to the fun of the show. People who are passionate about what they are doing always add to the entertainment value of anything. I came away smiling. Hell it has made me almost forgive Cindi for all the times she has held-up my Saturday night gaming group for her rehearsals. Could this cast be so damn charming that they’ve charmed away my skepticism and curmudgeonly view on the movie itself?

Well no, I mean it is still a movie I do not like. It isn’t Cemetery Man bad or Beastmaster bad. I can’t slam the production of the movie itself because it has some pretty good production values and an amazing (and a little bit surprising) cast. Honestly, I cannot say a bad thing about anything with Paul Sorvino… well maybe Dick Tracy. The movie does nothing for me. But man the cast for the REPrOduction (still feel dirty) made this movie watchable, something I could never say about the movie on its own. I had a genuine smile leaving the theater and really walked out with a new respect for what Cindi and the cast put into their production. So keeping my word bites me in the ass but in this case I do not mind the figurative bite at all. In fact I rather enjoyed it. I got away with not having to do any of the audience participation (sorry, this little black duck didn’t “Testify” and you can’t make me) but still came away from it all with a better appreciation and respect for the cast and crew of this particular shadowcast. Hell I might even go to the next performance… MIGHT~!

So let me wrap this up with a GIANT “Thank You” to Cindi, Breann, Zac, Squee, Krystal and the rest of the cast of REPrOduction, The Official Toledo Shadowcast of REPO: The Genetic Opera. I only know a few of you but everyone deserves huge credit for the good time I had. I might be a tad less cynical about this thing you do and really, to make me less cynical about anything is no mean feat at all.


No, no you ain’t gonna get me to say it, at least not yet… but hope does spring eternal!

An Open Letter To Barack Hussein Obama, President Of The United States Of America

So Not Where You Think This Is Going...

Dear Mr. President,

Look you’re a busy guy. I accept that. I mean you’ve got this whole “Universal Healthcare” thing going on and you’ve got the rest of that agenda you’re trying to push through Congress and all but I’ve got something I need to discuss with you. You need to flex some of that political muscle you’ve got as President of the United States to get the common people a poet laureate we can identify with. Now don’t get me wrong, The Library of Congress has done a bang up job of selecting the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry but is to much to ask for someone that can rhyme well?

Seriously Mr. President, Kay Ryan is great and all but we need a Poet Laureate for the common man. A Poet Laureate that we all grew up reading since we were tykes. Dammit Mr. President, you need to select an American icon whose craftsmanship as a writer is unmatched and, more importantly, equally as well loved. You need someone who has contributed to the American Mythology so to speak. Mr. President, I think you know who the person I speak of is and you should be ashamed for not recommending them for the post sooner!

Stan Lee should be The Poet Laureate of the United States.

Hell Mr. President, you’re an ex-comic book nerd, you should be more than familiar with Smilin’ Stan’s work. I mean honestly, nothing screams “Common Man” more than the guy who gave us such modern American classics as “This Man, This Monster” and “Brother Take My Hand“? Even better is that he is an American icon and I bet you more than 90% of Americans born after 1960 know who the hell he is. I mean no disrespect to Kay Ryan Mr. President. I even bothered to read 2 of her poems before drafting this letter, but Stan has been consistently writing since the 1940s. Hell he even served his country as a “playwright” and only 9 other men in the United States Army have held that title so, let’s face it, he is in pretty elite company right?

Kay Ryan - Current Poet Laureate Of The United States

Now before you start asking the question of “Well who are the other 8 Army Playwrights?”, I’m going to cut you off. It doesn’t matter who the other 8 Army Playwrights were because one of the “Immortal 9” is Stan Lee. Stan Lee, the man who has helped millions of people learn to read more than any parent is willing to admit or give credit to. I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing on this damn blog, beseeching The President Of The United States to make Stan Lee, Poet Laureate of The United States if I had not picked up a comic book featuring characters that Mr. Lee helped to create. Comic books made me want to learn to rad, Stan Lee created characters for comic books ergo Stan Lee amde want to learn to read. It is simple and easy to figure out and you don’t need a flow chart.

Let me put it another Mr. President… When you were a kid, didn’t reading a comic book fire your imagination? Didn’t it make you believe anything i possible in this crazy world and not all of it is bad? That is reason why Stan Lee NEEDS to be our Poet Laureate. He adds fires our imaginations and makes believe in the impossible. I mean when you think about it, isn’t that part of what led to this country in the first place? Making the impossible… possible?

Look Mr. President, I know Spider-Man and The Hulk aren’t real, that The Fantastic Four, as cool as they are, are works of fiction. I’m not stupid. But everyone character I just named? Stan Lee helped bring them to life!

Let us look at this from another perspective shall we?

Go to Wikipedia Mr. President. I’m sure the American people will cut you some slack for surfing the web at work. Now, look at the list of United States Poet Laureates. Now, ask yourself this question out loud “What percentage of the American public actually knows who these people are?”. I bet the answer is less than 10%. The majority of the people who do know are most likely English Professors/English Lit/American Lit students. Now, compare that to how many Americans know who Stan Lee is. Not only will the big brained American/English Lit types know who he is but they would be hard pressed to say he hasn’t had a significant impact on American Culture as a whole, if not the world culture as well.

We have to narrow a view of what poetry is and the truly ironic thing is, poetry is such a broad form of writing. That which Stan Lee has written, not all of it is great, most of it is good. That means at his worst he is mediocre. But come on Mr. President, you know as well as I do that when he is on, Stan Lee is one of the grandest storytellers to ever walk these United States. His work spans decades, he has written for more genres than you can imagine and he has been a man that has broken boundaries to speak against that which is taboo. Racism? He tackled that. Drug Abuse? He wrote about that and broke barriers in the comics industry while doing it. Stan Lee IS America! He is American as it gets!

Stan Lee - Totally Should Be Poet Laureate Of The United States!

Hell Mr. President, even if you can’t get Healthcare passed Congress, I bet if you matched up the Hill right now and told the House and Senate “I’m making Stan Lee Poet Laureate of The United States” you’d get one of 2 reactions. The first reaction would be every Senators and House Rep shrugging their shoulders and saying “Yeah we can get behind that”. Now that is a pretty great response right? I mean what politician in his right mind is going to get up in front of the President of The United States and say “Stan Lee? Poet Laureate? FUCK YOU!”. Sure someone called you a liar during your little speech on Healthcare. Do you really think Joe Wilson hates Stan Lee too?

I mean what are the odds that he hates you and Stan Lee?

I’d say pretty fucking slim!

The second response is the one, that while unlikely, would be totally balls out awesome Mr. President. The second response sees all of Congress give you a standing ovation for making Stan Lee Poet Laureate. Both Democrats and Republicans would swarm you and you lift upon their muscular politican shoulders and start chanting “FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!”. Really, either response is pretty great. In one scenario you make an announcement that everyone, with the possible exception of Joe Wilson, can pretty much agree on and the second even Rush Limbaugh ends up voting for you in 2012. Either way, Stan Lee ends up Poet Laureate of The United States and we all win.

You want to be a winner don’t you sir?

Then make Stan Lee Poet Laureate Of The United States!

The only people you’ll be pissing off are people who read DC!

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