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Monday, June 17, 2024

200 WEEKS

Today marks my 200th week on dialysis. Oh, joy...


Saturday, May 18, 2024

ON SEEING THE BEASTMASTER (1982) 42 YEARS LATER

Autographed photo of Marc Singer, aka Dar the Beastmaster. He was one of the nicest and mostpersonable of the many celebrities I met over the years. A solid dude.
 

Last night I watched THE BEAST MASTER (1982) for the first time since seeing it in the theater when it came out. Back in '82 I found it to be merely passable, with a hero who came across as a tad softer than testosterone-fueled beef slabs like Ah-nuld or Dolph Lundgren, and I found that a welcome change of pace. The story was a by-the-number sword 'n' sorcery yarn that offered little or nothing out of the ordinary, save for the protagonist's ability to communicate with and command animals, but it was a decent enough way to kill a needlessly overlong two hours. (The story could have been told more briskly if edited down to 90 minutes.)
 
Unlike most folks who know of this movie, I never watched it during its years of ubiquity on HBO — that cable network ran the film so often, its initials were snarkily referred to as "Hey, Beastmaster's On!" — and other platforms, but over the decades I discovered that it has a massive cult following among those who watched it over and over again starting from childhood. I was seventeen when it came out and I had already seen far superior sword 'n' sorcery flicks, plus a few really bad ones that I love for their hilarious cheapjack awfulness (I'm looking at you, SORCERESS), so for me experiencing that one time in the theater and not being all that impressed by it was all that I needed. Nonetheless, THE BEASTMASTER endured in the hearts and minds of its fans, and nine years later it spawned a sequel, BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME, which I saw on opening night during the dying days of Times Square's plethora of grindhouse movie theaters, and I recall enjoying that followup considerably more than the original. A made-for-TV third film, BEASTMASTER III: THE EYE OF BRAXUS, followed, and after that a syndicated series. Such is the power of post-theatrical cable-driven cult afterlife.
 
And now, after sitting through it again over forty years later, I still think THE BEASTMASTER is middling at best, but this time around I also noted that save for a few shots of exposed tiddies and a couple of scary moments, It's pretty much a barbarian movie for kids, which goes a long way in explaining why it's held with such fondness by those who grew up with it in the same way that I cherish ULTRAMAN. It's not bad, but kids are famously forgiving of a film's shortcomings if it's giving them a genre or concepts that they'd never previously encountered, so there you go.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

"HOKUTO SHINKEN WA MUTEKIDA!!!"

While sorting though my stacks, I unearthed a classic. 

Back in the period when I was buying untranslated tapes of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR from Tokyo Video as it was airing new episodes in Japan, I edited together a VHS tape of highlights from the show's second year — arguably when the show really began firing on all cylinders and earned its reputation — and that tape was screened countless times between my final year of college and when I left Connecticut to start working in the Marvel Bullpen. The usual suspects would gather in my college domicile or my mother's TV room in the basement, and we would watch the anime's post-apocalyptic kung fu mayhem splatter across the screen while we swilled adult beverages and smoked roughly a Borg cube's mass worth of kind buds. It was untranslated but we did not care, as it was colorful, lively, and completely out of its mind. A real revelation for American viewers at the time. If you were there for any of those screenings, please stand up and be counted and give a shout out in the comments section.

Anyway, at some point in the '90's I took that beloved tape to a Manhattan camera store that transferred VHS tapes to crude DVD's, and when I handed it to the clerk, he watched a little of it, asked "What the fuck is this?" and "I'm not duping anything illegal, am I?' I assured him that it fell into the vague parameters of the international "gray market," and he soon handed me a DVD transfer. The tape had by that point been through nearly a decade of serial of repeated viewings, so its race was pretty much run, and the new format would allow it to go out with cherished dignity. Then, sometime in the mid-2000's the entire TV series got a proper subtitled translation and was released to the US market in four big boxed sets, thus rendering the old VHS tapes superfluous (though the tapes off of the Japanese airwaves did contain tons of entertaining and baffling commercials). Nonetheless, this self-made highlight package shall always have a place of honor among my video distractions.

Monday, May 06, 2024

LATE NIGHT REALITY CHECK


Posted at 3:48am

Well, this week is getting off to an auspicious start.

Over the past ten days or so, my right big toe and its joint have been painful in a familiar arthritic/gout way, so I asked the center's doctor to prescribe me Colchisine to alleviate the pain. It brought the pain down by a good margin but it continued to be painful, so I assumed the Colchisine needed more time to really do its job.

But tonight I could not sleep, so I got up, did some tidying around the apartment, and went outside to dump a bag of trash for morning pickup. When I came back inside I again readied for bed, and for some reason I gave my toe a once-over. The skin on its underside was swollen and it gave like a balloon when pinched between two fingers, and what at first looked to be dirt was in actuality the pad of the toe being dark from what appeared to be a large blood blister. (I had showered an hour earlier, so my feet were squeaky clean.) Upon close examination, it did indeed appear to be an infected blood blister, so my mind shifted into "taking care of medical business" calm mode, and I gathered the implements of pro-level care that I have here at home, items provided by my podiatrist for just such situations.

I cleaned the swollen area with alcohol and a surgical towel, then I hit the surface with Betadine solution (the brown fluid that's applied to sterilize skin ahead of surgery). I then opened a fresh Number 10 surgical blade, pinched a section of the stretched skin, and made the tiniest of nicks, barely a pin prick. Even that slight opening caused a thick, pressurized spurt of dark, thick, likely infected blood, which continued for a bit as I applied pressure all around the area, and along with the blood a semi-solid chunk of what looked to be infected material was expressed from the incision. Once that was cleaned away and the the toe fully drained, I opened the incision further, freeing the loose balloon-like section of skin and trimming it away to reveal healthy pink toe flesh beneath, swabbing it with sterilizing fluid the whole while. Once that area was opened up and no more blood/crud flowed, I did a bit more cosmetic trimming of dead skin, some of which was connected to a now-useless hardened callus, so in a few minutes the toe, though raw, was clean and healthy-looking, so I again applied Betadine, swabbed the area again with a surgical gauze square, and then applied a layer of medi-honey, as I had been instructed to do when battling the issues I'd had with the toe in previous months. Once the hoey was packed firmly into the raw area, I covered it with a gauze square and tightly wrapped the toe with a stretchable surgical bandage that tightly takes on the form of whatever it's wrapped around and holds the shape until whenever I change the dressing.

All of that took perhaps fifteen minutes for cleanliness and precision care. My podiatrist taught me well.

I get picked up for dialysis in around five hours, so I will now attempt a few hours of sleep. Once I arrive at the center I will call my podiatrist's office and see if he is available to see me later this afternoon, post-dialysis. His usual hours at the office near me are on Thursdays, but he's a resident at Presbyterian-Methodist, which is also close by, so I hope to catch him. If he's not available, I will hightail it to the urgent care, just nine blocks down 5th Avenue, between 7th and 8th Streets, and let them check me out and give me a professional cleaning and dressing. I will also request a prescription for a strong antibiotic and I will follow whatever care instructions they give me. After that, we shall see what transpires next.

I'm concerned about this because I would prefer not to lose my remaining big toe but, to my admittedly untrained eye, it looks like I spotted and dealt with the current issue before it got too far along and went out of hand. That said, I await the word of a qualified medical professional before I fully relax. But having already been through the amputation of one great toe, I am not fearful if it should come to that again. I certainly hope not, but I am ready to do whatever it takes to keep the remaining big piggy.

Very much in "medical taking care of business" mode right now, and I will maintain that state of mind and focus until I see a professional this afternoon. I hope to be attended to in a little less than 12 hours.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

A VAMPIRIC REVIERIE

 While watching a YouTube video on cartoonist Herb Trimpe, I began to nod off, so I closed my laptop and gave in to a cat nap. As I slept, I dreamed of what my mind was telling me was a scene from a vintage Hammer vampire film that was cut for being too sexually explicit.

In the dream, Peter Cushing, in his usual Van Helsing vampire hunter role, approached a bed upon which lay a beautiful female vampire, played by the lovely Veronica Carlson, whose considerable beauty was amplified by my subconscious imagination. The alluring revenant, clad in a pretty much see-through diaphanous gown, welcomed her hunter with beckoning arms and, though armed with mallet and sharp stake at the ready, he gave pause. Was he under her baleful hypnotic influence and being manipulated into misreading the situation, or was the undead vixen sincerely entreating him for something other than sustenance?

Van Helsing hesitated for another moment, then slowly put down the implements of the fanged predator's destruction. With great caution, he mounted the bed and knelt close to her, her thighs akimbo. Her cold hands caressed his face, and their touch did not repulse him. She pulled him close to her face, her eyes partially closed and a smile on her face that promised pleasures never before enjoyed by mortal man.

Tentatively, Van Helsing reached out for the gown's décolletage, beneath which the vampire's heaving bosom held him mesmerized. He clutched the gown an, losing himself momentarily, he tore the gown down to the fiend's nethers, eliciting a yelp of surprise from the immortal before him. He kissed her on the mouth, heedless of his neck's proximity to her pronounced canines, and she welcomed him, her tongue dead yet unabashedly piloted by her need.

Van Helsing took his time kissing his way down her body, savoring her scent and the the flavor of her sweat. Could a nosferatu sweat? The thought occupied the clinical portion of his mind for but a moment, then was gone.

When he was face to face with her most intimate of places, he stopped himself and gazed into her cleft, which was in a clear state of arousal and welcome. Throwing all caution to the wind, Van Helsing descended upon her, consumed with all-too-human lust as he venerated at her temple. There was no violence, no feasting on his blood, no killing. In that moment, Van Helsing knew he had betrayed his profession, but somehow he cared not one whit.

Later, as sunrise neared, Van Helsing observed the vampire, dozing as the revenant's cycle of sleep at the end of a night commenced, utterly sated but not upon her hunter's blood.

Van Helsing looked at her for what felt like a long time, as sunlight began to creep into the room falling just short of where his diabolical inamorata lay. Having made up his mind, Van Helsing closed the shutters on the room's window and latched them securely. With that gesture, he departed, conflicted by what had occurred.

As he made his way down the rocky path from the haunted chateau, he cast a look back and fought the urge to return and sit guard over the creature. But such dalliances were for others. This time he'd had the good fortune to connect with a being whose loneliness echoed his own, but he resolved never again to cross the line between his sacred calling and his primal needs.

Yeah, that was a good cat nap!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

OF HOT DOGS AND REVIVIFICATION

 One of the timeless cultural Meccas of New York City: Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs at Coney Island.

It's a day off from treatment, so if today's burgeoning spring weather is nice I may hop the subway down to Coney Island for some hot dogs at the legendary Nathan's.

I haven't been down there in years, since just before my tribulations with agonizing atopic dermatitis that rendered me looking like the title monster in THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON (1958), and I am way past due a round of their rightfully famous tube steaks. I can easily polish off three of them, but which version to get? I could happily go with plain franks topped with their brown mustard, or chili dogs (though in that department nothing bests the ones at Dairy King in Norwalk, CT), or even some topped with that signature cheese sauce. And before anyone mentions them, no, I will not partake of their beloved French fries. I know it's blasphemy, but I just don't like their fries and I cannot articulate why. Anyway, should be a fun jaunt.

These days a short journey to Sunset Park, Crown Heights, or Bay Ridge has counted as travel for me, my options being limited by my sparse energy and my body sorting itself after a previous day's dialysis rigors, so heading out to the turf of the Warriors might feel like running from Parth Galen to Isengard. That said, the weather is getting nicer and I have fallen victim to the complacence that comes with the colder seasons, so I need to get off of my exhausted tuchas and push myself to rebuild my stamina for walking around at length in the world outside of the dialysis center or my tiny apartment. I acknowledge that I have been quite depressed for the better part of the past 12 months and it's way past time that I truly butched up pushed my way through that all-consuming malaise of the mind and soul. I hide it well, but I have long felt utterly broken by my ongoing medical odyssey and it is quite exhausting, but enough is enough. Gotta get back in the saddle, or at least give it a damned good try. Life is worth living and I sometimes need to remind myself of that, and little missions like a journey down to Coney Island are a good way to bolster my mental fortitude.

Friday, April 19, 2024

BLOOD'S A ROVER (2018) by Harlan Ellison


I waited 43 years for Harlan Ellison's final story set in the post-apocalyptic America on his award-winning novella A BOY AND HIS DOG, prequel EGGSUCKER, and third installment, RUN, SPOT, RUN, and now that I have finally read BLOOD'S A ROVER, I have to say that in no way was it worth the wait. Since the book was published in two pricey versions, the expense of which renders it out of reach to most (I got mine for relatively cheap after years of waiting for it to come down considerably in price in eBay), I will tell you what happens in that final story.

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD

When last we saw our protagonists, in RUN, SPOT, RUN, 15-year-old human Vic, guilt-ridden over what he chose to do to save his telepathic dog Blood's life, loses his mind and wanders into a nest of giant mutant spiders. When the spiders wrap Vic in webbing for a future meal, Blood has no chance of fighting them off and saving Vic, so, realist that he is, the dog runs off and leaves Vic to be devoured, his heart broken over abandoning his best friend. BLOOD'S A ROVER opens with a female solo — the term for unaffiliated survivors in the post-apocalyptic landscape — named Spike meeting Blood, with whom she can communicate mind-to-mind, and the hungry dog offers to partner with her and teach her his wise survival lessons and strategies in exchange for food and companionship. Striking up a wary alliance, the pair encounters another solo who tells them of a legendary facility unearthed when the burying sands of WWIV subsided, a place of seemingly limited food and all manner of useful goods. A fabled place called... Walmart. Skeptical at first, Blood notes that everyone thought Atlantis was a myth until its ruins rose after the nuclear wars, so why not see if the random solo's tale of the fabled Walmart is true?

Blood and Spike head off in the direction indicated by the solo, and they soon find that Walmart does exist. The problem is that its existence is known to several camped-out packs of Rovers, vicious survivors who all want to claim the store's cornucopia for themselves, and they won't hesitate to kill anyone who tries to cross the no man's land between their encampments and the super-store. As Blood and Spike try to figure out how to get past the Rovers and help themselves to the store's bounty, another solo arrives behind them. It's Vic, who has somehow escaped ending up as tomorrow's spider shit, and he is none too pleased to find that he has spent the past two months looking for Blood and happening to find him staking out the Walmart. Vic and Spike hate each other on sight and Vic immediately tries to rape her, assuming "You're a chick. You musta been passed around." However, he swiftly finds out that Spike has survived on her own as a female in a world where women are mercilessly preyed upon and usually murdered after they have been "used," staying alive and maintaining her virginity by having a mean streak a mile wide, being a dab hand with weapons, and possessing savage hand-to-hand combat skills. She outclasses Vic by a wide margin, so after getting his ass handed to him by her in no uncertain terms, Vic, though hurt by what he sees as betrayal by Blood, agrees to play nice. The three team up and, acting on a plan of Blood's, plot how to obtain their mutual objective and get past the trigger-happy Roverpacks. And among the Roverpacks is one headed by the cruel, aging, flamboyant pedophile Fellini, whose hatred for Vic stems from encounters chronicled in previous stories.

All of that could be a workable idea, but rather than really flesh it out as a prose novella, Ellison instead crafted it as a screenplay for a TV series pilot. BLOOD'S A ROVER is that script, complete with standard script notes on shots and descriptions of characters and locations. It reads like a dumbed-down version of the previously seen setting, which makes sense as it would have initially been pitched for network television back when there were only three major networks, and while the familiar style of the snarky banter between the learned and erudite Blood and the impulsive and hormone-driven Vic is present, it comes off as little better than something one would see in a standard sitcom. Spike is not much of a character, though there was potential for her to be better developed as the series that never was progressed, but here she's just a survival gal with a pilfered laser rifle with a dying power source.

My biggest gripe about it how Vic just shows up with zero explanation of how he managed to break free of the giant spiders' web wrapping, escape, regain his shattered sanity, and track Blood. Harlan was a great writer, but the way the return of Vic was handled is incredibly sloppy. I don't know if the contract for the book stipulated Ellison having final edit or zero editorial oversight whatsoever, but that aspect and, if I'm being honest, the rest of the story were in sore need of perhaps one or two more drafts. I'm glad I finally got to read it, but BLOOD'S A ROVER is a majorly disappointing way to receive one final dose of Vic and Blood. And the story remains un-resolved, leaving things wide open for further adventures in a weekly TV format.

That said, at least the book is a nice edition (featuring a cover by the legendary Richard Corben) that includes the previous Vic and Blood stories, which vary in quality though all are solid. EGGSUCKER is an hilarious day-in-the-life yarn, and the award-winning novella, A BOY AND HIS DOG, is a bona fide classic, perhaps Ellison's biggest hit and most accessible work to the general readership, and it deserved the superb (and controversial) film adaptation it received in 1975, starring a young Don Johnson as Vic, and Tiger, late of THE BRADY BUNCH, as Blood, and voiced by Tim McIntyre. RUN, SPOT, RUN is the lesser of the original three, but still a good tale that leaves off with a hell of a cliffhanger. Too bad the wait of over four decades to find out what happened next was clearly naught but a cash grab from a great author who sadly phoned it in toward the end of his illustrious career.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

A COLLECTION GOAL ACHIEVED

After first hearing about its imminent publication some 43 years ago, I eagerly awaited the release of Harlan Ellison's BLOOD'S A ROVER, which would collect all of the existing post-apocalyptic stories of A Boy and His Dog, plus a screenplay that takes up where the last of the previous three tales left off. Well, it took until 2018 for the book to finally come out, perhaps due to Harlan holding out in hope of selling the script for a TV series or a movie, and when it finally came out it was issued as an expensive limited edition that I could not afford. Nonetheless, I diligently checked eBay for six years in hope of lucking into an affordable copy, and just last week my patience finally paid off. I snagged a library copy for considerably less than the book usually lists for — for a long while the average price for a copy was between $100-$150, and sometimes a lot higher — and it just arrived in today's mail.

Though I have read the first three stories many, many times over the past four decades, even getting my copy of the the book containing the original novella signed by Harlan himself, I will approach this complete edition as though I had never read any of the Vic and Blood yarns, so my first reading of the final story, the screenplay "Blood's A Rover," will be that much sweeter. The third story, "Run, Spot, Run," ends on a particularly bleak cliffhanger, and I have waited 43 years to discover what becomes of Blood, the brilliant telepathic dog, now that he's on his own. I just hope the screenplay is worth the wait.


Thursday, March 28, 2024

CHICKEN WITH A SIDE ORDER OF BLEAKNESS


                                                       The site of this afternoon's incident.

An unfortunate aspect of the fast food restaurants in Sunset Park is that many of them are used as convenient shelter where the local homeless/junkies/hardcore alcoholics go to sleep it off or beg. Nearly every time I’ve dined in one, I have either been accosted for money or found myself seated next to some poor bastard who’s fighting a losing battle with consciousness and gravity. 

Today I went to Texas Chicken and Burgers (aka Tex's) for lunch and ended up catty-cornered to a Latin guy who was clearly passed out, and he was slowly oozing off of his seat. 

 

I took his picture to provide an example for my ongoing NYC life document, but not ten seconds after I snapped the pic, he fell face first to the floor with a heavy thud. 

 

There were only two other customers present and only one other witness, and I was the first to make it to the counter to alert the staff. Unfortunately the staff mostly doesn’t speak English (the only English that most of them know is what’s on the menu), so I had to coax out staffers using gestures. Two of them came out and immediately got what was going on, so they called for emergency assistance and then carried on like nothing had happened, probably because this kind of thing is a common occurrence during their average work day. Meanwhile, the guy just lay there on the floor and the other patrons simply ignored him. 

After about ten minutes an ambulance arrived and out stepped two bored-looking EMTs, an Asian woman and a Latino man. While the woman took notes, the man attempted to rouse the guy who was passed out on the floor. Speaking to him in Spanish and rolling him over twice did nothing, so the male EMT asked me if the guy was drunk or high. I told him he had been doing the classic junkie nod-and-lean, so I’d bet good money that he was smacked-out. With that information in mind, the EMT lightly slapped the guy around while continuing to address him in Spanish. The guy slowly roused and was groggily helped to his feet, where he wobbled and nearly fell on top of me. Once more or less steady on his feet, the guy was asked a series of simple questions before he was determined to be okay, and once cleared the staff ushered him outside and back into the streets of Sunset Park.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

A FORMER DOMICILE

As seen on the convoluted route home from dialysis on Friday: 50 Ocean Parkway, the building where Glenn Greenberg and I shared an apartment between 1995 and 1997. I pass it on the highway every morning and can see it, but it's always too far away to photograph. This was taken from inside the Masada car as we passed by it. I was the only person of color in the building and maybe even the neighborhood, and I often got the suspicious side-eye from the locals.

Worst of all were the Russians who lived in the building. One day when I was coming home loaded down with groceries, I waited for the lobby's elevator, and when it opened a Russian woman and her daughter stepped out. The mother's eyes went wide when she saw me, she covered her child's eyes as she hastily herded her out into the lobby. All the while she dressed me down in Russian, which I could not understand. Upon making it into out apartment, as I put the groceries away I told Glenn of what had occurred. Suddenly, our doorbell rang and Glenn went to answer it. He called to me and said "It's for you" with a note of confusion in his voice. I went to the door and it was the Russian woman, only this time she had brought several people whom I assume were several members of her family. She pointed at me and again let fly with a torrent of Russian, and from the context I gathered that she was a neighbor on our floor and that she was pointing out both me and where I lived for the benefit of her kinfolk. It was a stretch to think that she had some sort of magical Russian negro-detecting sense, because she did not follow me in the elevator, so I guess she must have previously observed me coming and going through her apartment's peephole. Anyway, I never saw her again, which was no loss whatsoever.

I wonder what the neighborhood is like now. It was the kind of neighborhood where everything closed by 9pm, even the local conveniences stores/bodegas, so there was pretty much nothing to do there after the sun went down And from the look of it, I think the old video rental place is long gone, which leads me to wonder what became of its owner. He was a stereotypically flaming older guy who attempted to cruise me whenever I was in there. Good VHS rental place, though. It had a lot of hard-to-find out-of-print items, and it. was where I first saw and fell in love with SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975).