Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jury Duty: And To Think I Could Have Spent the Day in a Kilt

I got cut from jury duty today. I don't know how it is where you live, but I always find it a bit grueling, kind of like a cattle call.

But I go in the interest of my civic duty, and you know, to avoid a bench warrant. I had a call to be an extra for a period film, so I had to turn that down for the privilege of being a part of the judicial process.

I'm not sure what the costume would have looked like, but I'm pretty sure it would've been a dress given that men didn't discover pants until like the 16th century, right?

A dress in 40-degree weather vs. cattle call.

OK, maybe I got the better end of the stick this time.

"Please know we all appreciate your showing up for service," they announced in court. "Don't go to the bathrooms or the vending machines while the judge is on the bench."

So I'm sitting there, working my way through the three-hundred-forties of The Historian, and they say well we need danged near everybody that showed up today so settle in.

My heart sank.

Then after a while they came back and said well good news, 78 people are going to get to go home.

So they call a pool of 22 and I'm not mentioned. Whew.

Then another 22.

Then a pool of 42. I'm not one of names 1-41.

Then they drag out the forty-second name, but it's not me. Yippiee!

But No. 42's not there.

I'm thinking - "Issue a bench warrant. There are some guys in uniform outside just waiting to go look for somebody."

But they just tell us stay put.

In The Historian the hero was taking particular interest in the name Ivireanu. The reason? It's a long story.

Finally they come back and announce: "The judge can live with 41."

Apparently generating another random name would have taken a court order or something.

Sometimes, I'm here to tell you, red tape is a good thing. Lunch time!

Friday, January 25, 2008

I'm a Luddite Again

I love my iPod in all its 5G glory, but I'm affeared the cult of Mac is sort of leaving me behind.

Christine and I went to prepaid cells about a year ago, reasoning we could actually spend far less money that way. I got a cool race car shaped phone out of the deal, but Alltel has been somewhat less customer friendly than Chad would lead you to believe.

"Well, you're just going to have to take it an Alltel store," I was told in one e-mail while trying to correct a problem with my voice mail.

In spite of that, generally that plan has served us well, but it's also made me a liar.

I always said I'd jump at the chance to meld my cell and my iPod. Until they melded cell phone and iPod. That was the closer for a lot of people in my office, generally younger folk who'd been getting by with Rios or whatever until then picked up iPhones.

Suddenly my 5G is the dinosaur, yet I'm not looking to upgrade. The iTouch-sized screen is attractive, but I'm told there's slightly less reliability or quality to its touch screen, and I don't want to go back to a $70 a month plan when I can get by on far less even if I text. My race car phone has a handy extra set of buttons for just that so you don't have to deal with the whole A now B now C business of three letters to a key. Chad did OK on that point.

Now I'm told the SidPod--you have to name them you know--won't support say a rental of 300. That would be kind of cool, eh. "Spartans, tonight we dine in hell," right on the ol' pod screen.

I'll survive, but I'm in the tech backwaters again.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Coat Weather

We've had cold weather in my neck of the woods, though not as cold as what Wayne is telling me they're getting in the Windy City.

I bought a new coat after Christmas. My serious coat, replacement for the car coat I've owned for years, no slave to fashion, I.

Generally I keep three coats. My old man loved jackets and I could wear his size, so I used to have lots of jackets. Christine, ever a fan of frugality and moderation, put an end to that.

So there's a light jacket, a leather jacket like I always wanted 'cause I used to see Neil Gaiman wear one at conventions (kidding) and a heavy jacket to wear when it's cold and rainy and thus not right for the leather jacket.

The new one is a nice, black wool from Nordstrom's. My navy-with-a-leather-collar coat's headed for Goodwill.

I'm not given to sentimentality over inanimate objects, but I think I'll miss it.

I bought it in a department store in San Antonio in the mid-nineties, no kidding. I wore it through winters while I was still a reporter then when I was a reference librarian/freelance writer and I've continued to wear it as it's been needed since I've been a gentleman ad man.

It got me through blustery nights in London and terrible weather in Dublin, cold days and nights in Chicago including deep dish pizza at one of Wayne's haunts.

Through chilly weather in Seattle and San Francisco.

I wore it on trips over to clean out my parents apartment after my dad died and my mom was no longer able to live alone.

It's just a thing, but seen me through a lot of cold.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Old Man's Ghost Story

I think I've mentioned here that what imagination I have came from my father. He always saw the largest rabbit, the biggest fish, was once given a lift by one public enemy or another--or perhaps a 1930s traveling salesman just trying to scratch out a living during the Depression, but if you were my dad you had to open your mind to possibilities.

At any rate, the old man could tell a tale or offer a writer's embellishment even though he never picked up pen.

Once upon a time, he had occasion to visit an old, deserted house, just a kid out of adventures. He never had a dime for a pulp magazine, read Tarzan and Dracula from the library and saw the occasional movie.

Slowly he turned
Half terrified, he crept into the old house, explored a few rooms and then came upon a tin lid, left behind perhaps when the previous owner vacated for better prospects.

Unwittingly he invented his own Frisbee, picking up the lid and sailing it through the house. It curved along through the air and disappeared into another room where he heard it hit the wall then thump to the floor.

He was past being scared then and was just looking around, but a second later the lid he'd clearly heard hit the floor came sailing back out of the other room.

He didn't wait to find out more. He let his feet do the thinking and beat a path back home.

What ifs
Now perhaps there was a hobo sequestered in that old house. Perhaps the lid didn't hit the floor but simply bounced back.

Or perhaps, the house's previous occupant was still there, not wanting to be disturbed by intruding boys in search of adventure. Ooooo WHEEEEEE oooo!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Early Writings

I was thinking the other day about my early writings. They're lost unless, well, there's one box in the attic I need to check.

But I can still remember vividly the moments of their birth. I must have been in kindergarten for a while because I knew how to make letters. I just didn't know how to read or spell.

It was probably the absence of reading ability that spurred my creativity. I had a Tarzan coloring book, you see. My old man was not a strong reader of pulps in his day, lacking the dimes required for their purchase, but he read Tarzan as a kid and Dracula and a host of other books for boys of the late twenties and early thirties.

From one of my aunts, I got the story that a lot of kids in the family were scrapping over the Stoker novel when news of its adaptation as a film reached rural Louisiana.

Drac probably got a mention early in my childhood, but Tarzan was probably deemed a little more appropriate and thus the count had to wait until I was a teen.

Lord Greystoke, however, was in the house very early on. The coloring book I remember, which I can't find online, must have been a tie-in with the TV series because the illustrations included Jai, Tarzan's sidekick on the show, who, correct me if I'm wrong was a carry over from Tarzan Goes to India, right? The kid who played Jai on TV was somebody else in the Mike Henry Tarzan movies, though.

Anyway, I couldn't read the captions in the coloring book so while I colored everything magenta, my favorite color, I imagined my own stories to go with the pictures.

Magenta only came in a larger box of crayons and of course it was the first to be used up, and it was hard to convince my old man I needed a new box since I had hardly touched sepia and burnt sienna and why was Tarzan diving into a magenta river anyway?

Er, silt?

Anyway, I imagined my own stories and when my mother came home from teaching school I asked her to spell words for me and, in magenta of course, I wrote my own Tarzan captions, retelling a new story to go with the pictures. I don't remember much about what happened or if I improved on the coloring book's story.

What one I can remember is a bit of dialog: "It's pretty far to the village." Tarzan to Jai as he looked down from a tree.

I never said they were complex captions, but those were good times, and I guess that was when I got the spark.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What's on the iPod - If I had a Boat by Lyle Lovett

I first took note of Lyle Lovett's music when "If I Had a Boat" was offered as a free download in the early days of free downloads. I think it was in a proprietary Liquid Library format or something.

Until then he was the guy who quoted from "Freaks" in "The Player" and married Julia Roberts for 15 minutes.

I was fortunate enough a while latter to attend a concert when he toured to promote his compilation "Cowboy Man." He did a stunning show and of course performed "If I Had a Boat," that's at once sweet, upbeat and rebellious.

I'll admit I've been in a bit of a first of the year funk the last few days. They really shouldn't schedule the first of the year right after Christmas. It means letdown is inevitable.

But I was driving along this morning and "If I Had a Boat" kicked up on the shuffle with it's suggestion of the fulfillment of childhood dreams and present day bliss. "If I had a boat," the lyrics note, "I'd go out on the ocean, and if I had a pony I'd ride it on my boat."

Ah, the sweet spirit of that thought. It's really, deep down an F you to every care and woe, it's Buffet to a slightly different tune, and it builds up to my favorite verse:

The Mystery Masked Man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
Someone who would do his dirty work for free.

But Tonto he was smarter.
He said "Kiss my ass, Kemo Sabe,
I've bought a boat and I'm headed out to sea."

How fabulous is that? I think I'll be humming it all day.

Friday, January 04, 2008

How I Spent Christmas Vacation

I guess EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER WANNA KNOW about Blade Runner is in the new boxed set.

I learned a lot of it, though I have a few featurettes yet to view.

Dangerous holidays
It took me a while to finish "Dangerous Days," the making-of documentary on the boxed edition of Blade Runner.

It's about 3 1/2 hours long, but it's a fascinating look into the creative processes that translated the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into the classic science fiction movie.

You go from the inception to the post-release and long-term phenomenon. Lots of outtakes and behind the scenes footage are included, even an interview with the artist who created the neon elements for the set.

The early portions of the documentary, detailing the first drafts and early story boards of a screenplay first called "Dangerous Days" are, to me, the most fascinating with both writers Hampton Fancher and David Peoples supplying insight.

The Results - Movies included
I watched the set's new director's cut, illustrating the results of the angst and hardship portrayed in the making-of. The new cut, while not drastically different from the earlier director's cut, fixes things I'd never noticed were broken. I've decided I do like the final cut and its more abrupt ending better than the theatrical release from 1982 with its voiceover and hopeful conclusion, though thankfully it's nice to have that version to review.

I didn't get to see the movie until the fall of '82 because Central Louisiana theaters didn't run the movie that summer. When I finally got to see it, the opening crawl was screwed up though eventually they got that fixed so that the immersion into the Blade Runner world was possible. I liked it then but wasn't blown away as some people were.

In retrospect it's possible to clear my earlier blindness and appreciate better just how good a film it is and how unique. It's real science fiction as it rarely makes it to the screen.

I'm glad I had a couple of days to relax with the boxed set with limited interruption.
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