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Thursday, November 24, 2022

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2022

Some words of holiday advice:

1. You can survive your fucking annoying family. And if they piss you off too much, just remember that one day they will be dead.

2. Don't drink and drive, 'cause that shit's for amateurs and assholes. Stay at home to tie one on; why do you think Thanksgiving's an all-day festival of football, parades, movies, dog shows and marathons of classic TV reruns? It's a dazzling cathode ray cornucopia of stuff to keep the wasted off the streets and at home, puking, fucking and fighting right where they belong.

3. When seeing your old high school pals for what's probably the one time you'll see them all year, do not comment on how fat and/or old they look. That shit goes two ways, bunky...

4. If you must go to church during the holiday, make sure to go as hungover and reeking of booze as possible, that way next year they'll think twice before forcing you out of bed and into a place choked with incense and festooned with pictures of Jesus looking at your ass.

5. If your family gathering has a kiddie table, make sure to sit there and serve as a bad example to the next generation. Tell age-acceptable off-color jokes and stories. Teach the kids the lyrics to "The Diarrhea Song" (especially the version recorded by distaff punk/metal band Betty Blowtorch) and have them sing it loudly halfway through the meal. Introduce them to "pull my finger." In short, do your part to ensure your status as the fave older relative from the start; that way the kids won't feel so awkward in later years when they need somebody to take them to get an abortion or bail them out of jail without their parents being any the wiser. And believe me, they will pay back your "cool relative" kindness somewhere down the line.

6. Always, ALWAYS eat the turkey's tail. It's the perfect amount of dark meat, fat, and skin in one concentrated morsel and if slathered with the right amount of gravy it's a thing of joy forever (well, at least until it's digested and re-manifests itself as the next morning's enormous post-Turkey Day turd).

7. The true bombardment of Christmas-themed TV commercials commences right around Thanksgiving, so feel free to let loose with the Ribald Songbird action and desecrate the classic Yuletide tunes that have already been corrupted for TV adverts, only make them super dirty with usages of words like "cocksucker," "shit," and "pussy fart." Since you're gonna hear them a million times between now and the new year anyway, you may as well have some fun with them.

8. If you have to suffer through the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — the Thanksgiving moment I dread most — don't try to be an asshole and bring to your aging parents' attention the fact that it's nothing more than a saccharine, three-hour commercial. They like it for the marching bands, big-assed balloons, and celebs lip-synching, and do not give a fuck about it's true purpose, so let them have their fun. And you can always have something to look forward to, namely the hope that the guy playing Santa at the end of the show will either be drunk or have a visible hard-on.

9. If you're staying at your parents' house with a significant other, try to remain as silent as possible if having sex under your folks' roof. I don't know why, but the idea of their kids having sex, even us grownup kids, seriously fucks with the heads of our progenitors. Then again, maybe you should fuck like monkeys on crack while at home...Aah, what the hell? Make 'em remember how it's done! And if they bitch about it, remind them of all the times they nagged you for grandkids and ask them if they forgot where said grandkids come from. That'll shut the geezers up in no time.

10. If the friends and loved ones you miss most can't be there this year, think of them fondly and rest assured that they're probably every bit as miserable as you are.

And with that, Happy Thanksgiving, and may the pecans in grandma's cookies actually be pecans and not roaches. (She doesn't see that well anymore, you know.)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

DEALING WITH LOGISTICS AND THE ONGOING MENTAL STRAIN OF BEING IN THE PERPETUAL DIALYSIS CYCLE

During yesterday's treatment, I approached Linda (the dialysis center's transportation booker) about changing to another car service, as I am fed up with the serially poor showing of the one assigned to me by the center. Perpetual lateness both ways, double and triple pickups to save money, rude drivers or drivers who cannot communicate in English, a driver who had a newspaper in one hand while the other hand was on the wheel as he read the latest Russian news, and of course the "Liquor Man," a driver who's a blathering and delusional sex pervert, all add up to a lousy customer experience (you should see the service's Yelp reviews), with, to be fair, the Liquor Man at least being sincerely friendly. Linda told me to find out what my insurance covers and we could take it from there, so I called my insurance's transportation section. I'm shit out of luck because my insurance only provides a limited number of rides per year, exactly twelve to be precise, while I require six per week, so so much for that. I'm stuck with Masada car service and all of its many drawbacks.

Today's day off from dialysis was marked by taking care of some business via phone. I spent most of the morning on the phone with my insurance company, searching for nearby dental offices that take Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and I have it narrowed down to the dental facilities at NY Langone hospital. Unfortunately all I could get was their answering machine, but I persisted and eventually got through. With my initial questions answered, I now have to suss out when I can go in for a checkup. Probably not until sometime next month.

The rest of today was marked by some minor grocery shopping before I collapsed into light depression sleep. Being trapped in the cycle of dialysis has really been getting me down, as my life is controlled by my treatment schedule, with no deviations allowed, but better this than a slow death.

After the sleeping, I was given inspiration from a woman's account of meeting the god Shiva while on a mushroom trip. She said that her mushroom connection with Shiva allowed her to grasp that anything can be a prison if you allow yourself to be sucked into the negative realities, and that if she just let go maybe she could move forward in a way that she could be happy with. Her words have inspired me to try to strive to let go of the here and now of my situation and just ride through it. It's going to be difficult, but I must do it of simply go mad. Wish me luck.

Lastly, nurse/spirit of benevolence Shaunda has arranged for me to be in on next Friday's first shift so I can leave early for the weekend, as mom is postponing Thanksgiving until I am done with dialysis for the week. (Same for Christmas.) That means I will be up at 4am for a 5am pickup, with treatment starting at 6am. Oh, yay...

Saturday, November 12, 2022

CLERKS III (2022)

Art imitates life.

So, I finally got around to watching CLERKS III (2022), a film that makes it a score of 3 for 3 in the trilogy of CLERKS movies, by which I refer to the continuing streak of quality. The trilogy is now complete, after a sixteen-year gap between installments, and the characters still have not exceeded their sell-by date.

Writer/director/actor Kevin Smith mines his own experiences with having had a heart attack and funnels them to the screen through the eternally assholish Randall (the superb Jeff Anderson), who, upon surviving "the widowmaker," is hit with a creative epiphany that spurs him to write and direct the story of his and Dante's (Brian O'Halloran) experiences as video store and convenience store clerks. It's all an excuse to recreate the making of the first film, but what makes it sing are the emotional beats, of which there are plenty. CLERKS III delivers hear-rending (pun intended) gut punches while also depicting the heart attack ER experiences with 100% accuracy, and I say that with authority because I have been there. No lie, I teared-up several times during the the film, and I intend to watch it again.


The always welcome return of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith).

Hilariously profane (as expected) and genuinely touching, this brings the humble CLERKS story to a full-circle end, tying everything in the neatest of bows. RECOMMENDED, though you absolutely have to have seen the previous two installments, as it is loaded to the rafters with narrative callbacks featuring situations and characters from CLERKS and CLERKS II.


Poster for the theatrical release.

THE FUN CONTINUES

I just heard back from my gastroenterologist. He told me that my issues with serial hiccuping and vomiting appear to be severe acid reflux, and on a scale of 0 to 4 with 4 being the worst, my reflux is Level 4.

My esophagus is fine, but a feature of my stomach’s entrance is not functioning properly and is not allowing food to pass into my belly. Instead it backs up and is pushed out, and the hiccuping is part of that.

Consequently, I have to go in for a manometry test on Thursday, December 1st, and that will entail a camera being shoved down my throat for a look around in my stomach while I am awake. Not fun, but we’re getting closer to a solution.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

THE ONGOING FUN OF DIALYSIS AND ITS ATTENDENT CAR SERVICE TRIBULATIONS

Today was pretty much a shitshow across the board.

My car to dialysis is nearly an hour late. I called the dispatcher and they said it was a fuckup on the driver’s part. Another car was sent but no ETA could be given. I finally got picked up at 10:05, and the driver took different route “because traffic,” but we ended up stuck crawling on 3rd Avenue thanks to delivery truck gridlock. I didn't make it to the center until nearly 11, which meant that once I was prepped and the dialyzer was in action, my projected end time was for 2:40pm but it didn't end until nearly 3.

Along with my car being over an hour late for my morning pickup, the center was understaffed to a ridiculous degree. I have no idea why, but there were only four nurses to handle thirty patients, and I fell into the care of a visibly harried Tanya, as Shaunda was absent. She had several others to attend to before me, so my finish time would be close to 3pm. I endured the usual 3 hours and 49 minutes on the machine, and just before it was over I noticed goopy, coagulating blood on the mat below my fistula arm. 

I did not call for assistance as my treatment time was about four minutes from the end, but when she saw the blood, Tanya felt terrible. As she took care of it and cleaned me up, she admitted to half-assing my prep, having forgotten to apply the gauze wadding the goes over the band-aids that comer the needle entry points before binding ahead of the dialyzer starting up. She been so harried by running around from patient to patient, she simply forgot. I told her it was not big deal, but the poor sweetheart was beside herself.

Then, once released, I ended up in the downstair lobby and called the car service to inquire about when my ride home would arrive. I was told ten minutes, but when twenty had elapsed, I called again and was once more told ten minutes. The car ended up being forty minutes late, and I was positioned in the front passenger seat because I yet again got stuck with a triple pickup. Those are always awful, as they take forever because they always take the other passengers deep into Crown Heights of Flatlands and I am always the last to get dropped off, but also, especially when ludicrously late like today, the car ends up encountering the start of rush hour traffic, and god help us if we have to take the highways or any of the major avenues in my area. Needless to say, we were subjected to slow-moving congestion, a state made all the worse by the fact that one of the two passengers behind me was strongly redolent of stale urine.

After dropping off the other passengers in Crown Heights, the driver made his way to my neck of the woods, but the queue of cars waiting to take the exit for Park Slope's 3rd and 4th Avenues was about a half-mile long, so he instead opted to drive to industrial Gowanus and make his way to my area. I'm glad he did because while on the way we passed a building on some street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues called "The Vulcan," and its black entrance was decorated with what to the untrained eye looked like filigree decoration, but I, a geek, immediately recognized it as the Vulcan font from STAR TREK. I have no idea what it said, as I do not read Vulcan or any other fictional language, but now I intend to eventually swing back over there and photograph it so I can use a guide to translate it. It likely just reads "the Vulcan," but I am curious to have a concrete answer...

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

RIDIN' IN THE JESUSMOBILE

In the cab on the way back from this morning's esophageal barium test (to help determine the cause of my serial hiccuping and puking), the driver had the radio set to a Christian station that played some of the most treacly songs I have ever heard. We're talking stylistically arrested in the era of "You Light Up My Life," only the songs are recent.

The song that was playing when I entered the car went on and on about how "God is in the details" and no matter how horrible your life is, he never fails you. Then a deejay came on and said "Did you ever see something and just start talking to God?" He then went on at length about how he owes his mother for his ability to just spontaneously go on about God when faced with something horrific and/or distasteful. But then it was time for a commercial break, so he had to leave, but he promised to read us the letter he recently wrote to God about something he saw at Walmart. My ride home was brief, so I did not get to hear any of his missive. In the cab on the way back from this morning's esophageal barium test (to help determine the cause of my serial hiccuping and puking), the driver had the radio set to a Christian station that played some of the most treacly songs I have ever heard. We're talking stylistically arrested in the era of "You Light Up My Life," only the songs are recent.
 
The song that was playing when I entered the car went on and on about how "God is in the details" and no matter how horrible your life is, he never fails you. Then a deejay came on and said "Did you ever see something and just start talking to God?" He then went on at length about how he owes his mother for his ability to just spontaneously go on about God when faced with something horrific and/or distasteful. But then it was time for a commercial break, so he had to leave, but he promised to read us the letter he recently wrote to God about something he saw at Walmart. My ride home was brief, so I did not get to hear any of his missive. 
 
AS the car pulled up to my building, I thanked the driver, and she responded in a monotone that reminded me of the sound of someone who had been smoking bonghits of quality Indica. Oh, and I was shocked to note that the Christian station was WPLJ, perhaps THE rock station for the Tri-State Area during my youth.

Monday, October 31, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 31: THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

                                                               Taking care of business.

 "The  Satanic Shite of Dracula," more like..

All good things must come to an end, and this film was one of the undeniable harbingers that Hammer's era of glory was well and truly over. As with  the previous entry, gone are the atmospheric Gothic sets and fog-shrouded forests and cobblestone streets, instead swapped out for the modern (translation: cheaper)  England, and with that loss the soul of Hammer bit the  dust.

 

Dracula (Christopher Lee) commands the audience to pull his finger.

For his last turn as Hammer's Dracula, Christopher Lee is given a dire script in which an apparently suicidal Dracula presides over a Satanic cult while seeking to take out humanity via a  super-powerful version of the bubonic plague whipped up by a biochemical  engineer in his  thrall. Peter Cushing's Van Helsing is along for the ride, but at  this point its all a case of too little too late.

A rarity in one of these films: an Asian vampire of the European variety (as opposed to the Chinese jiāngshī, of hopping vampire)

THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA is as lifeless as its titular character and could easily be ignored altogether if not for its historical position as  Lee's final outing in the role that made him an international star. An ignoble fate for the count, but it is what it is.

When you are bereft of ideas, it's time to break out the tiddies.

And wwith that we close out this year's 31 DAYS OF HORROR essays. See you next year and HAPPY HALLOW\WEEN, o my fellow Cine-Miscreants!

Poster for the U.K. release.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 30: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

 

In a nutshell: Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) wants to give the enslaved Frankenstein's Monster Glenn Strange) a more advanced brain, while Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), aka the Wolf Man, seeks a cure for his curse. Those goals bring the monsters into the path of legendary comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and hijinx ensue.


I gotta be honest. I never much cared for the films of Abbott and Costello, seeing them mostly when they ran on WPIX Channel 11 on Sundays when I was a kid, and I only review it now because I have been repeatedly asked to do so for the past several years, so I'm just getting it over with. In fact, the only cinematic comedy performers who were already antiques by the time I discovered them that I genuinely enjoyed were the Marx Brothers and Danny Kaye, by they are not germane to this essay. A&C always came off to me as something my grandparents might find funny, but I always hated Abbott treating Costello in a manner that today is rightly considered bullying, plus Abbott's characters were always assholes, so what was there to like? Pairing two comedians whom I could not stand with monsters that I adored was a recipe for disaster, but in watching this film again I earnestly hoped that over four decades away from it would give me a fresh perspective.

Do ya see those hijinx?

Nope.

If anything, my resentment of the film has only deepened, as I found little funny about it, and seeing the classic Universal monsters, once legit figures of terror, reduced to laughingstocks was galling to this 57-year-old monster kid. Even with modern horror characters, it's always a sign of over-saturation and a character/franchise being played-out when a horror icon becomes used as a comedic McGuffin or as a punchline, and in the case of this movie, we get three of the all-time greats rendered into stoogery. 

 

The Wolf Man emerges from the bathroom. Just imagine the kind of savage dump a werewolf would take.

It broke my heart to see these former titans of the gothic macabre being depicted as bad sitcom guest stars, with the Wolfman somewhat maintaining his dignity. His crashing through the castle window in pursuit of Dracula, thus possibly ensuring both of their dooms, was tone of the few elements in the film that really felt like something out of a classic Universal monster movie. The rest was a farce that, if I am being honest, has not aged particularly well, but that is okay if you are into that sort of thing. 

 

A brilliant visual gag and easily the funniest moment in the entire film. If you seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

However, the honest bottom line is that I am simply not the audience for this film that most others hail as a classic, a classic that I say has not aged well. I'm just glad this was made before the Creature fro the Black Lagoon made his debut, otherwise he too would have been dragged down with his forebears. I recommend this for Universal Monsters completists only. 

Poster for the theatrical release.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 -Day 29: THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962)

                                                                   Flower power...NOT. 

A cosmic event in the form of a meteor shower lights up the sky around the world, much to the initial delight of the billions of people who watch it proceed. 

 

"There's beauty up above/That you'd better NOT take notice of..."

Unfortunately, what no one could have predicted was those who watched being permanently struck blind by the spectacle. Consequently, most of the world's population stumbles about blind, with only a handful of lucky people who were either asleep during the event or otherwise prevented from using their eyes. Simultaneous to this catastrophe, previously harmless extraterrestrial plants of the order Triffidus Celestus, commonly referred to as Triffids and found in abundance all over the planet, uprot themselves, having gained the power of mobility, and in no time mindless hordes of the damned things are traipsing all over the place. The Triffids, mindless but legion, wield a deadly poisonous stinger at the end of a whip-like tongue, and their favorite food is man. With most of humanity blind and helpless, the nations of the world find themselves suddenly transformed into a banquet for carnivorous alien plant life that stalks prey not by sight but sound, and the narrative follows the tribulations of a handful of survivors amid the most bizarre of an apocalypse. 

                                                        The face (?) and sting of a Triffid. 

Our main protagonist is Bill Masen (Howard Keel), a merchant naval officer who underwent eye surgery, just before the meteors began to fall, so his bandaged eyes miss the once in a lifetime show, leaving him one of the handful of sighted people in all of England. 

 

After removing his bandages, he is horrified to see the state of the world, but he sets of in hope of finding other sighted individuals. He soon encounters Susan, a pre-teen girl who also has her sight, and he rescues her from being forcibly hauled off by some blind rando who likely seeks to enslave her as his personal human service dog (and possibly worse, if you get my drift). Masen and Susan form an unlikely pair but they are that that the other has, so their relationship becomes one of surrogate father-daughter survivors as they wander Triffid-infested Europe, facing many unspeakable horrors in the form of the killer plants and the utter collapse of human civilization. 

There's also  a B-plot involving a married pair of scientists (Kieron Moore and Janette Scott) wwho are doing research at a remote lighthouse.

Bickering boffins.

Their marriage has clearly seen better days, as the two constantly and viciously bicker while the husband salves his issues with drink. They are suddenly forced to cut their petty bullshit and band together to survive when they find themselves at Ground Zero for a Triffid incursion. Having defeated one of the plants, they set about figuring out how to wipe them out en masse, but they soon find out the hard way that Triffids can regenerate...

Based on the superb 1951 novel by John Wyndham — who also authored the equally excellent THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS (1957), which was adapted into the classic VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960) — THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is technically a science-fiction film, but one of those that straddles the thin line between sci-fi and horror territory, though I consider it to be flat-out horror. It depicts what is basically the end of the world, giving us several set pieces in which utterly bleak hopelessness reigns supreme. As if the man-eating plants and blindness were not bad enough, we get a planeload of passengers who are blinded...as well as the pilots (zero points for guessing how that turns out), 

 

international communications mostly being dead, and, particularly awful, a French chateau that was serving as a safe haven for the blind until it is taken over by escaped convicts who all have their sight. They immediately grab the female occupants and commence a drunken orgy with rape heavily implied. It's bad enough to be sexually assaulted, but to have it happen when blind and defenseless is just... (SHUDDER

 Forced to dance with convicts before the screaming starts...

Fortunately (?) an army of Triffids arrives and soon overruns the place as our heroes escape, taking sighted French lady Christine (Nicole Maurey), along for good measure, thus completing a ragtag family unit of sorts.

The film is not without its flaws — such as the shonky Triffid puppets, but their craptasticness kind of works in their favor and lends them an undefined, otherworldly look and feel — but I have found it a compelling watch since first seeing it during a weekend afternoon screening on Secaucus, New Jersey's WWOR Channel 9, in the days before my mom got us cable. I must have watched it something like ten times, always mulling over the sheer terror of such an apocalyptic event and how human society would simply go straight down the bowl were such a thing to actually happen. That said, the film has been very hard to find on home video in a decent print, often turning up in washed-out transfers, so keep your eyes open for cable movie channels possibly airing it. It's a classic that is absolutely worth your time, and it will likely scare the shit out of the kiddies.

Poster for the U.K. release.

Poster for the U.S. release.

Friday, October 28, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 28: THE WWOLF MAN (1941)

NOTE: Alas, due to the torturous realities of my apparently endles cycle of dialysis/recovery/repeat getting to me and bringing on a period of depression, I have been unable to concentrate on this year's round of essays as intended. Thus, I have t cheat again with a rerun of an older entry, but at least it's a solid one, arguably the Ground Zero of the werewolf movie as we now know it. Please forgive and bear with me as I soldier back to to normalcy. I promise that the last three of this year's entries will be original essays.

— The Management

"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and autumn moon is bright." Poor Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) finds this out in no uncertain terms.

There are very few horror films that could be considered as perfect in every way and 1941's THE WOLF MAN can be counted among them. Though the classic Universal horror entries that preceded it are seminal works that defined the genre for a couple of decades, all of them — with the notable exceptions of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and WEREWOLF OF LONDON (both from1935) — bore the earmarks of cinema that was only just finding its way after the advent of sound and the demise of the silent era. They tended to possess the feel of stage plays, often featured exaggerated/over-the-top acting and melodrama common to the era, and also suffered from issues of slow pacing (or at least slow when compared to what we're used to from the 1940's onward). THE WOLF MAN benefits from coming a decade after DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN in that it's a more modern and sophisticated piece. Though lacking that dark fairytale quality that flavored its antecedents, THE WOLF MAN more than makes up for that with moody atmosphere to spare, a pervasive air of impending dread, and a terrific and grownup script by Curt Siodmak that brings the audience characters whose actions and motivations are quite realistic, especially when seen within a horror movie context. 

I won't go into the full details  but all one needs to know is that THE WOLF MAN tells the story of a hapless innocent, Lawrence "Larry" Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), who becomes afflicted with the homicidal curse of lycanthropy and how that condition inevitably leads to his tragic destruction. Siodmak's much-imitated script set in stone many of the werewolf tropes that we now consider the very DNA of the sub-genre, elements such as:
  • A protagonist that we cannot help but like and genuinely care about
  • Ye olde superstitions and pagan magic colliding head-on with disbelief wrought by modern science and psychology
  • Doomed romance
  • The involvement of wise/creepy gypsies (Yeah, I know that "gypsy" is now considered an ethnic slur, but I use it here rather than "Romani" because most folks who know the stock type in stories of this nature may be unfamiliar with the accurate ethnic/cultural designation)
  • Charms to ward off the curse that serve little or no purpose
  • Ill omens that all point to werewolf-related awfulness
  • Silver being the surefire way to kill a werewolf
  • All of the "modern" characters firmly believing that the afflicted's claims of being cursed with werwolfism are indicators of grievous mental illness
  • The protagonist's tragedy being compounded by his death inevitably being facilitated by a loved one

Larry stalks the moors.

THE WOLF MAN is arguably the most influential werewolf film ever made and its impact continues to reverberate some seventy-four years after its debut. Though Jack Pierce's pioneering makeup effects have long since been eclipsed by superior techniques in prosthetic effects, animatronics, and digital wizardry, it says a lot that THE WOLF MAN would still be an effective film if the wolfed-out version of Larry had been achieved with naught but some glued-on barbershop floor sweepings and creative lighting today. The film's true strength lies in its script and soul, so if you have not yet experienced this Rosetta Stone of lycanthropic pop cultural lore, I strongly urge you to see it for yourself as soon as possible. In its sequels, Larry proved to be immortal and THE WOLF MAN itself also endures.

Poster from the original theatrical release.