Steelers Thoughts #20 (11/25/21): Wish You were(n’t) here

Pittsburgh Steelers single-game tickets went on sale some time back in May – I refuse to research the exact date, but it was, at any rate, a different time/world – right around the time Americans everywhere were predictably overreacting to the news that widespread vaccine distribution was primed to deliver unto us something approaching normalcy after well over a year of communal plague. We now know how that all played out. Only a little over half of eligible Americans took said vaccine while the remaining late-adopters couched their decisions in terms of personal freedom over public health and safety. Having prioritized my own faith in science and common sense over my knowledge of contrarian human nature, I sat, dumbfounded, and bore witless witness. Whichever side of the fence you reside, the intervening months have surely brought their challenges, so I won’t belabor shopworn arguments any further (except perhaps in an aside).* My own overreaction manifested in perhaps the only way possible for an inveterate concert freak who’d barely left the house in fifteen months. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #20 (11/25/21): Wish You were(n’t) here”

Movie review: “Halloween Kills” (2021)

“Let him burn! Let him burn!”

Anyone using “Evil Dies Tonight” as a trigger for the Halloween Kills drinking game will either end their evening in a coma or the local morgue. This has been a public service message…

How quickly we forget the unassuming, self-contained majesty of John Carpenter’s Halloween – its brutal simplicity; its penetrating suspense; its authenticity of time, place, and, especially, tone; its utter lack of fat – even, it seems, in the ostensible act of paying it homage. Filmmakers of all skill levels, including Carpenter himself (off and on), have for decades chased the horror classic like a Holy Grail, as if its singular qualities could somehow be bottled and reproduced, let alone quantified. Continue reading “Movie review: “Halloween Kills” (2021)”

Movie review: “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)

“I’ll cut you in on the $82,000 sale I just made!”

“Bruce and Harriet Nyborg? You want to see the memos? They’re nuts. They used to call in every week when I was with Webb and we were selling Arizona. Did you see how they were living? How can you delude yourself?”

“I got their check!”

“Yeah? Well, forget it. Frame it. It’s worthless.”

“The check is no good?”

“Yeah. If you want to wait around, I’ll pull the memo. I’m busy right now.”

“Wait a minute! The check is no good? They’re crazy?”

“You want to call the bank, Shelley? I called them. I called them four months ago when we first got the lead. The people are insane…they just like talking to salesmen.”

A salesman is, in practice if not by strict definition, an unwelcome stranger, a wraithlike apparition that materializes at inopportune moments in our lives to proffer offers we should refuse, then stubbornly loiters at front of both mind and eyeline until, by virtue of charm, pitch, and/or dogged tenacity, they wear our defenses to ribbons or finally slink away coated in disdain. The three weeks I spent as a telemarketer after graduating college 118 years ago began in confusion, ended in the closest thing I’ve had to a nervous breakdown, and instilled in me an understanding, however necessarily limited, of the inherent desperation that fuels and informs the salesman’s mindset. Continue reading “Movie review: “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)”

The Wrestling Gods watch on with Amusement, Incredulity, Popcorn

Long term prognostication in the arena of professional wrestling is the ultimate fool’s errand, not least because of the speed, shock, and sense of thudding finality with which change tends to happen on the ground. I grew up on WWF Tuesday Night Titans and WCW Saturday Night throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s, and came of age as a fan during the legendary pre-millennium “Monday Night Wars” period where those two ancient rivals battered each other senseless for our entertainment before the former finally emerged, enemy scalps and pink slips in hand, as the industry’s de facto kingpin. It was, of course, a time of unprecedented turmoil and animus within the industry, well-documented and much-mythologized, with high profile talent defections and dramatic debuts across enemy lines a regular occurrence and the emergence and strategic deployment of game-changing personalities that made Monday nights into appointment viewing well beyond football. Continue reading “The Wrestling Gods watch on with Amusement, Incredulity, Popcorn”

The Excesses of Whiplash Normalcy

Overcorrection is a peculiarly human characteristic. As a strategy, or at least a physiological response, it is baked into our DNA, and, however technically unintentional it almost always is, a predictable hallmark of most all human endeavor. When a rotted tree falls across a stream in the woods and crushes a tragically mislaid beaver dam, aggrieved beavers don’t generally arise en masse and launch a comprehensive deforestation campaign to retaliate. No, they simply rebuild. Moreover, the notion that response to a given stimulus need not be measured or proportional to be effective seems to me not just inherently human reasoning but also strangely American. Certainly, we’ll be testing that theory to its breaking point in the coming weeks Continue reading “The Excesses of Whiplash Normalcy”

Movie review: “Flash Gordon” (1980)

“Who are you?”

“Flash Gordon! Quarterback, New York Jets!”

“Dale Arden…Your Highness. Live and let live…that’s my motto!”

“My name is Hans Zarkov. I kidnapped them both here to save our planet, Earth.”

(To Ming) “An obscure body in the S-K system; the satellite that has provided you so much amusement…recently.”

Arguably the quintessential cult movie of the 1980s, the Dino De Laurentiis production of Flash Gordon arrived already fully enveloped in, if not choked by, the shadow of the original Star Wars – a strange irony considering the rich back story and surpassing influence of both that property and its namesake hero. Legend tells that George Lucas only authored his sprawling sci-fi epic/epoch in response to being denied the rights to first adapt the story of Flash, gridiron hero turned intergalactic adventurer of Sunday comic and Saturday morning serial fame. In terms of both what was omitted and committed, we thus have one of the most consequential turns in film history. Continue reading “Movie review: “Flash Gordon” (1980)”

Mixinformation #1 (5/9/21): AgainstZapZepRollTayTesting+…

Yet another attempt at launching a recurring DAE series, “Mixinformation” gathers for comment and inevitable digression eleven songs plucked on shuffle from the gargantuan greater playlist that provided the strange and lively partial soundtrack to my most recent road trip from the flats of Central Ohio to the hills of East Tennessee. Some 5,000 songs can’t fill or fit comfortably into any journey of just under 400 miles, of course, but that’s kind of the point. Music at its best challenges and comforts us in equal measure, makes the open road less lonely, more romantic, easier to eagerly embrace. Its companionship is invaluable, its worth incalculable. What follows is but chapter one in a serialized love letter of sorts…

Continue reading “Mixinformation #1 (5/9/21): AgainstZapZepRollTayTesting+…”

Armchair quarterbacking the “Temptation Island 3” homestretch

Prolonged pandemic living has doubtless unleashed a litany of subtle, insidious changes to our collective brain chemistry. I await the scientific journal data once this 118-year collective pause/home invasion of our national psyche is definitively behind us. I’ve noticed some personal differences manifesting both significant and miniscule, and sitting alone in ye olde bunker lo these many months has allowed me to catalog them with some clarity. My general mistrust of large crowds, for example, of which I will eventually need to be broken like a horse being taught to carry a rider, is offset somewhat by the curious realization that I have over the last year almost completely forsaken serialized television in strong favor of watching movies, and this at a time when conventional wisdom insists I should be most susceptible to and appreciative of streaming’s unquestionable charms. Continue reading “Armchair quarterbacking the “Temptation Island 3” homestretch”

Movie review: “Possessor” (2020)

“I want to show you some photographs we retained from your work on the Holly Bergman job. (slide changes, filling the projection screen with indistinct red) Why stab Elio Mazza? You were provided with a pistol.”

“Well, maybe it just seemed more in character.”

“Whose character?”

The young woman regards herself in the hotel room mirror dispassionately, as if she and her reflection have only ever met in passing. Her movements are halting and deliberate, almost timid, as she touches her head, hair vacuum-sealed into tight cornrows. She seems to await an outside signal imperceptible to all but her. Some indeterminate time and drastic self-care later, she now looks markedly different – hair straightened to shoulder length, wardrobe smart but not attention-seeking – though no differently. Finally, she stirs, and leaves, businesslike if still somewhat detached, and descends a staircase before merging into the flow of humanity that is metriculating towards a conference room. She picks a large man engaged in jovial conversation out of the anonymous throng and moves with purpose through the crowd, snatching a kitchen knife off a catering table in passing. Continue reading “Movie review: “Possessor” (2020)”

The Limits of Reduced Capacity

In the fall of 1999, I traveled from my East Tennessee home base to visit friends and see a concert in Columbus, Ohio, the third and final such journey I would make before moving in earnest in the handful of days between Christmas and Y2K. Nothing I encountered during any of those various excursions to the biggest city I’d yet visited gave me trepidation about making the arrangement permanent. Indeed, my first memory of Columbus was proclaiming,  “welcome home” under my breath as I gazed out at the runway from a taxiing plane’s porthole window that July. I was sheltered, but I was growing. My good friend and former singer had moved with his fiance back to her ancestral home roughly a year earlier and was now excited to welcome a potential new roommate, partner in crime, and adjunct financial investor for their forthcoming wedding. I was near breathless in anticipation, now thiiiiiiiis close to definitive escape from the South’s gravitational pull and a new lease on life. Continue reading “The Limits of Reduced Capacity”