Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle

Last night I went home and mowed the back yard since it was beginning to look a bit like a jungle. Well, that and my father might be coming over within the next week - I have a small leak in my roof that needs his attention - and the last thing I want/need is a lecture about proper yard care. He's already going to rip into me for my overgrown garden, but whatever. I can deal with that.

And so, apparently, can my neighbors.

I didn't get to the front, since it's dark now at 5:45. Do you know how difficult it is to mow in a straight line when you can't see anything? No? Must be me.

I really should mow my yard more often.

I saw Running with Scissors last night, too. Here's the weird thing with that film: Acting wise, it was excellent. Annette Bening and especially Jill Clayburgh were fantastic. But the movie was terribly conceived. It was set in the 70's, and the director (Ryan Murphy, creator of Nip/Tuck) relied too heavily on tacky fashions and set decorations to tell his story. It didn't work for me, which was a shame because I liked the book. The film is tanking, so it won't be around for long.

However, the movie did take me back to when I was a wee lad, riding in the back of my parent's Pinto. Nearly every song in that film brought back some Pinto memories. Examples: 10cc's "The Things We Do For Love"; Al Stewart's "The Year of the Cat"; "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann; "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John. I half expected to be blown up if someone accidentally rear-ended us.

Happy Halloween. The people behind the counter at Fazoli's today were dressed as a druid and a hippie. You haven't lived until a druid serves you some lasagna.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Machines Are Taking Over

No update yesterday, but that was because I was in Hillsboro performing the two final shows of I Owe It All To Agatha Christie.

Annie, Chyrise and Samantha came to see it last night and all of them enjoyed it. Maybe I was wrong to dismiss it as a bad show. There was a lot of backstage drama with this one and I think that might have tinted my opinion of how it played for audiences. People seemed to enjoy it, so maybe I'm a moron. Or maybe I hate posing for Polaroids in the middle of a performance.

Anyway, it's over. I'm sure I'll be back in Hillsboro eventually, but I'm taking a break from there for now. How long of a break? I have no idea.

Last night, after the show, Annie and I went to Kroger in Crawfordsville because, well, it was Kroger. While she was checking out, I noticed a machine that rented DVDs to customers for $1.99. "Wow," I thought, "this is cool. I've never seen one of these before."

And then it hit me: I have been replaced by a machine. I worked at the Noblesville Kroger from 1992-1996 in the video department. And now Kroger is using a machine to rent videos. I've been rendered obsolete.

I have to admit, the machine has it better than I did. Not only does it not have to pay pointless union dues, but it doesn't have to deal with the bitter chainsmokers in the breakroom. Damn you, machines!!!!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mr. Johnson

I'm seriously considering auditioning for The Full Monty at the American Cabaret Theatre in a few weeks. I love the movie and I've heard the stage version is a lot of fun, but there's the stripping thing I have to consider. From what I understand, the actors do get naked, but the lights go out right before you see anything. I have a friend who's seen the show and says that only the first few rows might catch a glimpse of nudity and, if they do, it's not much. Besides, this being Indiana, I'm sure everyone won't be totally naked. We probably have laws about that sort of thing.

I wonder if the bit about Flashdance is in the stage version, where the characters watch that movie for inspiration but get distracted by her bad welding skills. That was one of my favorite scenes in the film.

I need to mull it over some more, but I might go for it. What the hell, you know?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S

Just got back from seeing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Murat. The show was great, much better than I expected it to be. It's basically the story of a spelling bee, with adult actors playing the kids in the competition. Each kid has his or her own unique way of spelling: One seems to spit out correct spellings as if possessed, one spells words out with his foot, etc. The actors all played their parts perfectly, and each scored some major laughs.

Well, all except the poor Asian girl. The actor playing her was great, but the role was terribly underwritten. When it came time for her big turning point, her moment to shine, another character - Jesus - stole her comedic thunder. It seemed odd, because the other characters all had deeply written backgrounds, but the Asian kid had nothing but than the usual "spends all her time studying" cliches that you would normally associate with a character of that kind.

My only other complaint was that the show seemed to run out of steam about thirty minutes before it ended. A song appeared that slowed the show to a crawl and, while it was beautifully written and performed, seemed not to fit with the rest of the play. Also, and this is going to sound odd, but the show suffered because its first half was so funny. The audience - myself included - was so tired from laughing that we just couldn't sustain the momentum to remain interested. (This could also be because the show didn't have an intermission, which gave us all no chance to take a break and recharge.) It wasn't like the show was terrible from that point forward; it's just that we were worn out.

They added a lot of local flavor and jokes to the show, such as one character arriving to the bee by taking an Indy-Go bus, another referencing Julia Carson, and another saying that Dan Quayle was disqualified from the bee long ago thanks to his unfortunate misspelling of the word "potato". The best, though, was that they pulled a few people from the audience to be participants in the bee, one of whom was WISH-TV's very own Debbie Knox. She was game and, at one point, seemed to throw the entire cast for a loop by spelling a word correctly that she was supposed to spell wrong. We figured it was a built-in gag for this to happen - the word was so hard none of us knew if she got it right or wrong - but the cast reacted as if it was unplanned. Funny stuff.

I believe the show runs through this weekend. If you're free and are looking for something to do, I would strongly encourage you to see it. I'd see it again, if I weren't going to be in Hillsboro fending off Agatha Christie.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reception Immediately Following

A matinee performance today of Agatha Christie. I was shocked - shocked! - that the majority of the audience was comprised of elderly people.

Oh, yeah, the audience is always comprised of elderly people.

At the end of every show I have to stand in a receiving line and shake everyone's hand as they're leaving. As the audience pays their respects they say things to me like, "Great job!" or "Loved the show!" or "You're so talented!" I can tell that many of them are just grasping for something to say to relieve the awkwardness of the receiving line. Because, let's face it, those things aren't much fun to be in or be walking through.

When I did Fiddler at Myers, the receiving line was interesting. First of all, instead of four cast members there were seventeen of us, and when we all lined up we nearly snaked out the door. It was a hell of a gauntlet for our audiences to run. Since I had just played the bad guy ten minutes before the show ended, hardly anyone would look me in the eye. Mostly they would politely shake my hand while directing their attention elsewhere. Some would mumble something to me like, "yeah, whatever, good" or "show was nice". I hardly ever got complete sentences, let alone a compliment. But when I did, they were doozies. One guy asked me to explain what "Maveltov" meant. Another looked at me, pointed at the guy playing Tevye, and said, "I liked you, but I liked him better." And another one was fascinated with my hat and wanted to wear it.

Wait, that last one was my father.

There are two guys in Agatha Christie, me and a fellow named Jason. Because of the intricacies of the plot, we are required to share one costume, part of which involves a ski mask. Today, Jason was sick. Like "I feel like I'm going to throw up between scenes" sick. And let me say again that we have to share a ski mask. Thankfully, I found a can of raspberry-scented Lysol disinfectant so I could spray the hell out of it before I put it on. Which is how I found myself running around onstage today reeking of raspberries. But if it keeps me from getting ill, I don't mind.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Triple Points For Adultery

I was at Best Buy yesterday and saw that there's now a home video game version of Desperate Housewives.

Desperate Housewives.

The video game.

What the hell is going on? What do you do, cheat on your spouse and get bonus points? Kill someone and go to prison to gain an extra life? See how long you can keep your son chained in the basement like some kind of Goonies refugee?

Granted, I've never seen an episode of Desperate Housewives, so maybe I just don't get it. Maybe it fits the home gaming format like a glove. I don't know. But more than likely it's just a pointless waste of money. Not unlike all those games-based-on-movies that I used to play when I was a kid.

Although to this day I still think the video game version of Popeye kicks some major ass.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Don't Go Chasing Water Fountains

I'm working in the Tech Center right now. There's a new addition to the door of the room: A big sign that screams "THIS IS A QUIET AREA! TURN OFF OR SILENCE YOUR CELL PHONES NOW!" I think it's kind of funny that a sign promoting silence is basically the loudest thing I've ever seen.

The room is right next to the public water fountains, and in 7 1/2 years I still haven't figured it out: Why do kids love the water fountain? Every time I'm working in here I see kids run to the water fountain like they've just found a pot of gold. They're usually screaming when they do it, too, which means they're breaking the rule of the big new sign. The kids are all usually very small. I guess when they hit that awkward water fountain stage - you know, too big for the small fountain, too small for the big one - they move on to Pepsi and, sadly, coffee. (When I was a kid coffee was looked at as something only older, wiser people drank. Like my grandmother, she drank coffee. Still does. Of course, she didn't put a bunch of crap in it like the kids do now, turning their treat into the most addictive candy ever. Can coffee still be considered coffee when it has cinnamon and raspberry shit in it?) I think the whole kids-are-drinking-too-much-soda debate that's been brewing (like coffee!) for the past decade could easily be solved if the drinking fountain people would develop a medium-sized fountain. Perhaps then the excitement of a drink of water would never leave a child.

And let's say you've never used a computer before. Let's say you're in your eighties and hard of hearing. And let's say you've recently begun taking some medication that you're curious about. Would you a) talk to your doctor, or b) head to your local library and ask the guy working in the Tech Room to do all your research for you? If you're the guy who was in here earlier, you would choose option (b).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Vandals Took The Handles

I watched a Bob Dylan documentary from the sixties tonight called Don't Look Back. It chronicled Dylan's 1965 trek throughout England and was basically a fly-on-the-wall look at that tour. In other words, it was nothing but a bunch of footage of Dylan hanging around hotel rooms and limousines. There wasn't much of a narrative, and, consequently, it wasn't very interesting. If you want a more complete look at this period of Dylan's life, look at Martin Scorsese's 2005 film No Direction Home. It goes into more detail about the man and his music and covers roughly the same time frame. It also features some hilarious interviews with Joan Baez. Who knew she could bring the funny?

I really like Dylan's work, specifically his '60s electric stuff. I know that many consider that idea blasphemous, but give me "Subterranean Homesick Blues" any day over "The Times They Are A-Changin'". And how can you go wrong with "The Ballad of a Thin Man"? You can't, that's how.

I used to hate Bob Dylan. Hate. His music literally gave me a headache. When I was a kid and my mother would play her Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits LP, within about thirty minutes I had to pop a Tylenol. (The same thing happened whenever she or my father would play that damn Gerry Rafferty album, but that was due more to overexposure. Thanks to them to this day I can still recite all the words to "Baker Street".) Some time about five years ago, though, my body gained some red blood cells to fight my Bob Dylan migraines, because I really began to dig the man's work. I bought all his necessary albums - Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revistied, Bringing It All Back Home, Love and Theft - and loved them all.

"But I hate his voice!" That's the main complaint you hear when people bitch about Dylan. Yeah, he's no Pavarotti, but give me Bob Dylan's nasal (and honest) whine any day of the week over, say, Axyl Rose's nasal (and obnoxious) one. There's a certain screw-you quality to Dylan's vocals, like he knows they're not that great but he's going to sing anyway just to spite you. I like that.

You either "get" Dylan or you don't. And I've found that with my generation, it's a light bulb moment. One day, you hate the man. The next, you own all his records. I know of at least a few people my age who have gone through that.

Of course, this leads to Dylan Disease, where you start to buy discs by bands that once worked with him (like The Band, who are phenomenal as well) or are similar in style. Which explains why I have a Donovan disc in my collection. Hey, shut up, "Season of the Witch" is a great song!

Bad Hair Day

Another performance, another pain in my ass...

OWNER: "Wear the bald cap."

ME: "But the bald cap doesn't fit."

OWNER: "But I want you to wear it."

ME: "It doesn't cover my real hair! It's obvious that it's fake."

OWNER: "That makes it funny."

ME: "Does it? If I were in the audience and saw someone wearing a bald cap that didn't cover their hair, it would take me out of the show. All I would do is stare at the ill-fitting bald cap."

OWNER: "I want you to wear the bald cap."

ME: "What about the quick change I have at the end of Act II? I have about fifteen seconds to throw on a trenchcoat, a pair of gloves, and a ski mask. How am I supposed to put a bald cap on and make sure it looks alright in that amount of time?"

OWNER: "I want you to wear the bald cap."

ME: "Whatever. I'll do it, but I want to go on record right now that I'm not happy about it."

OWNER: "Okay."

Three more shows. Three more shows...

Oh, and for the record, I did not have time to put on the gloves before my cue. Maybe if I had had some rehearsal time with the bald cap I could have made it work. What's that? Rehearsal time? According to this theatre, rehearsal time is for amateurs!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Holiday Road

I came close - very close - to taking the day off work today so I could drive to a suburb of Cleveland. I'm not losing my mind or anything. I just wanted to see Lindsey Buckingham in concert.

See, he's one of my favorite musicians. His music, especially the songs he recorded with Fleetwood Mac, amazes me every time I hear it. His song "The Ledge" has been stuck in my head since 1997. (It was recently joined by The Pixies' "Subbacultcha", which forced its way into my head earlier this year and has yet to leave as well. My head is an interesting place.)

"Holiday Road," a Buckingham contribution to the National Lampoon's Vacation soundtrack, is one of my all-time favorite songs. It (and its equally cool cousin "Dancin' Across The U.S.A.") was released only on the Vacation soundtrack. Unfortunately, that 1983 album went out of print faster than you can say "pointless soundtrack". Around 1985 I made it my mission to find that album - this was obviously long before downloading songs was common - and made sure to always check the soundtrack section of a record store for it whenever I was in one. I finally found it, kind of. A friend of mine who knew of my quest just so happened to be at a random truck stop in the middle of the night while on a college trip. And what do you think he found in the discount cassette bin for $5? You got it. I have since upgraded the song to CD, thanks to a career overview promotional disc Buckingham released around the time his solo CD Out of the Cradle came out. (You gotta love eBay.) "Holiday Road" has yet to receive an official release.

Unfortunately, for as much as I love Buckingham and his work, an equal part of me can't stand him. He has a tendency to smother his music with studio trickery, using a lot of strange sounds and effects. While it sometimes works, more often than not all you do is walk away remembering, say, that weird synthesizer part on "Peacekeeper". He also tends to whisper his lyrics instead of sing them, which is odd because he has a nice strong singing voice. (Which is present when he sings live.) His new album, Under the Skin, does get under your skin, but not in a good way. The disc is buried under an avalanche of tricks that ultimately kills the final product. Yeah, there are enough good songs on it to warrant a recommendation, but there is also enough crap for me to not be offended if you only wanted to download certain tracks.

He's also an odd guy. I think he wears rouge on his cheeks. He definitely wears button-down shirts but never buttons the top half. His hair is odd. He's been saying the same thing in interviews and concerts since 1975. And nearly every song he's ever written is about Stevie Nicks.

But, you know, I'm willing to overlook the man's flaws. He's such a phenomenal guitar player and producer that I really don't care if he doesn't button his shirts like a normal human being does. So what if he seems a bit autistic? He's the man who gave me "Go Your Own Way". And "Monday Morning". And "Someone's Gotta Change Your Mind". And "Trouble". And "Go Insane". And "Tusk". And "Big Love". And on and on.

Still, would it have killed him to add Indianapolis to his tour itenerary? Seriously, Lindsey, I would have been first in line when tickets went on sale.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ciao, Bella

My alarm went off this morning at 5:30. I hit Snooze. I woke up at 6:27.

Guess that whole go-to-the-gym-before-work idea isn't going to work out.

Last night I watched Roman Holiday and was utterly charmed by it. I've never understood why everyone frothed at the mouth whenever the name "Audrey Hepburn" was mentioned, but, by watching that film, I can understand why. She was luminous. Sadly, I only know Hepburn from two other performances: Breakfast at Tiffany's, which was the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for me, and Always, which is probably Steven Spielberg's worst film. (Common opinion says 1941 is his worst film, but I strongly disagree with that. But that's a topic for another blog post.)

The movie was saved by Gregory Peck's performance as the journalist who falls for her. Oh, sure, Hepburn was cute and played her part perfectly, but it was Peck who anchored the movie and set it in reality. That probably has as much to do with talent as it does with the script: Hepburn was a novice when she filmed Roman Holiday and Peck was an experienced actor looking for something light after a string of heavy-handed roles. And I loved the ending, which you would never see in a modern Hollywood romance but worked for this film. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

There was a trailer on the DVD for Sunset Boulevard, which is one of my favorite movies of all-time. What's that? You haven't seen it yet? Shame on you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wake Up Time

I've decided to try something new: I'm going to go to the gym before work. As I've gotten older, I've found that I would rather spend my time post-library doing something - anything - besides walking to nowhere on a treadmill for 45 minutes. So I came up with this grand scheme of waking up before everyone else in the state and heading to Lifetime Fitness. I did a test run - well, a test walk - this morning and all went well. I'm not even that tired, although it does feel like it's a lot later than it actually is.

I give it a week before I decide sleep is more important.

And don't worry, this isn't turning into the "Marcus Goes to the Gym Blog." Believe me, there's not much more I can write about that place. Well, that's interesting, anyway.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Running To Stand Still

I wanted to use one of my favorite elliptical machines tonight at the gym. It's called a Crosstrainer and it basically simulates a running motion, keeping my heart rate up and burning a lot of calories in the process.

There are three rows of Crosstrainers at the gym. The middle row, the one with the best view of the 700 televisions, is the one I normally use. The last row is where all good Crosstrainers go to die. These are the ones on their last legs, the ones that have been used and abused for the past six years since the gym opened. And the first row? The first row stands about five inches from the windows overlooking the pool. How they're even able to be used without putting your feet through glass is beyond me.

Tonight, when I needed a Crosstrainer, the middle row was filled. Fine, I thought, I'll just use one of the sad pathetic Crosstrainers in the back row. Only one was available, so I hopped on. I believe that Crosstrainer was on life support, because it didn't have much time left before it expired. I was on it for less than two minutes before I gave up, mainly because it was wheezing. Unfortunately, the only free Crosstrainer was one in the front row. In the end I'm glad I used it, since working out on a row #1 Crosstrainer is like working out on a brand new machine. It was calibrated right, I could read the entire LED display, and the heartbeat monitors on the handles weren't broken. It would have been great, except for the constant fear I had of breaking the windows that were mere inches in front of me. Plus I was forced to watch a synchronized swimming class for thirty minutes, which was not as entertaining as the news. Ah, the joys of the gym.

And then I went home and made dinner. Gotta love Bagel Bites.