Not Real Life

Have you ever noticed that no one ever says ouch in action movies? They get attacked and immediately respond in kind. I’m not so quick on the uptake. If someone hit me, I’d be shocked. I’d say ow. Only then would I beat the living crap out of them.

Another thing is that combative females often have long hair, but no one ever grabs that hair to yank them to the ground. I mean, seriously, in real life, no one plays that fair. If you really want a more level playing field, ladies, then get a freakin’ haircut.

A major pet peeve of mine is movies where cars successfully jump opening drawbridges. As a bridgetender, I can assure you that when people attempt this, it never, ever, ever ends well. If you value your car, your life, and your reputation as an intelligent human being, you won’t try this, at home or anywhere else.

And how is it possible, Hollywood, to throw so many punches without revealing how badly this damages the puncher’s hand? Hands are poorly constructed for impact. Giving people the impression that not only can you knock out someone with one punch, but that you’ll be able to walk away and play the piano afterward is irresponsible at best.

Another unrealistic trope is that you can plunge through a plate glass window and emerge without a single cut. Come on, now. We all know better than that.

The characters in movies seem to be superhuman. They can get shot and carry on. That doesn’t happen. Getting shot freakin’ hurts. After you’re shot, you just aren’t going to be in the mood to do much of anything, I promise. You’re going to say, “Yeah, I’m done.”

And, for what it’s worth, most women can’t run very far in 5 inch heels. I can’t even walk in them. Most conversations in bars are done at a shout. Most dumpsters are full of sharp objects. Doors are not easy to kick in. Most apartments in big metropolitan areas are extremely small. Dorm rooms are even smaller. It’s not easy to make a car explode. It’s pretty much impossible to hold someone’s hand while they dangle off the side of a skyscraper and then actually pull them back up onto a roof.

Come on, script writers. You can do better than this. I just had to get that off my chest.

Thanks. I feel cleansed.

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Future Shorts

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a delightful video called Dog Years. It’s less than 4 minutes long, and I highly recommend it. It also has a second part which is even better than the first one. Even if you don’t like dogs, you’ll be charmed by these little videos. They dramatize what is quite likely the typical pet’s thought process.

I noticed that these videos were put out by an organization called Future Shorts, and I decided to further investigate. It seems that they’ve been around since 2004, and they’re a platform for short videos. They often host Future Shorts nights all over the world, where people can watch a collection of them. They call it a pop up festival, and it sounds like great fun.

Uh oh. Their Youtube channel alone is going to keep me busy for days. They have everything from documentaries to animation to romance, and every one I’ve seen so far is very well done.

I’m already in my jammies. Now all I need is the popcorn, and I can settle in for a nice binge watch. If you don’t hear from me for a while, send pizza.

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The Cinema and Brew

Sometimes nostalgia hits me like a freight train. I hadn’t thought of this place in decades, but suddenly today this little chestnut popped into my head: The Cinema and Brew in Apopka, Florida.

It was a dingy little place, tucked into the corner of a strip mall. Nothing to shout about, really. One screen. Chairs with ragged upholstery surrounding sticky tables. A counter where you could order pizza, beer, popcorn, candy, and soda.

Not the best neighborhood. Someone I distantly knew was stabbed on the sidewalk out front once. God, though, I loved that place.

The minute I turned 16 and could drive at night, I was there every single week. If I remember correctly, it only cost a dollar to get in. The manager would get really irritated with those of us who couldn’t afford to buy food. That was his only chance for profit. But since I was quiet and never caused trouble, I never got kicked out, as many of my male friends did.

The movies were often really bad. Cheech and Chong. The Porky’s franchise. Most of the time I didn’t even bother to see what was playing until I got there. Because the whole point was being there.

It was a place to run into friends. It was also the place to hope for romance. I got my first kiss there. I also got my first unwanted kiss there. He had pizza breath and really awful body odor, and he took me by surprise. I made it quite clear that it would be a really bad idea to ever try that again. Hopefully he’s not aiming for a future in the Supreme Court.

It was also a place to go to get away from my dysfunctional home life and fantasize about being rescued. One time I was there by myself, and a really good looking guy came up to me and said, “Is this seat taken?” My heart was pounding. I said no. So he took it. Away. To another table.

Another time, a friend was supposed to meet me there, and she was running late. Finally I gave up on her entirely. So I’m sitting in the pitch black, watching the movie, and during a quiet scene, she screeches my name. It made everyone jump.

“Jeez. Over here,” I said. Everyone laughed. We all sort of felt like we were hanging out in a big living room in a low rent neighborhood.

I had forgotten how desperate I was back then. Desperate for love and friendship and acceptance. Desperate to get out of my circumstances. Desperately poor.

Still, a tiny part of me wishes I were going to the Cinema and Brew tonight, for old time’s sake. But like so many other things from my past, for better or for worse, it’s long gone.

Preview

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Blockbuster Nostalgia

You young folks have no idea what you’re missing. A trip to Blockbuster Video was always exciting. You’d walk down the aisles of VHS tapes with your date, and the night felt rife with possibilities. You’d lightheartedly argue about which genre you would choose. Action? Science Fiction? Comedy? Romance? Such choices could mean the difference between relationship failures and successes.

Then, once you’d decided on your genre, you’d have maybe a hundred videos to choose from. Wow! Such variety! First to be eliminated were the ones one of you had already seen and weren’t willing to see again. Then you’d pick up boxes and read the backs, hoping for one that would appeal to you both. Sometimes you’d come away with 3 or 4. And then you’d spot the new releases and grab one of those instead. (“Quick, before someone else grabs it!”) New releases were highly sought after. It was fun to be on society’s cutting edge.

When you’d go to the counter to rent your choices, you’d be faced with polite signs that said, “Be kind. Please rewind.” And you’d have to run the gauntlet of microwave popcorn and raisinettes. Then you’d be told when your selections would be due back.

I get it. In the age of Netflix, this all seems like a monumental hassle. But it was a novelty, back then. An entertainment adventure. It was a thing. It really was.

I even applied for a job there, once. You had to provide your own light blue oxford shirt, khaki pants, and brown shoes and belt. And after you filled out your application, you had to take this really weird personality test, full of yes or no statements. The only question I remember is, “I love the Three Stooges. Yes/No.” I wasn’t hired, so maybe I got that one wrong. But I will forever wonder what that answer was supposed to indicate about me.

I also, at one time, seriously considered getting a job at Blockbuster corporate headquarters in Mexico City. Finally, I’d actually be using my college degree in Spanish. But no. I can’t remember if I didn’t follow through or if I didn’t get hired.

Either way, it’s a good thing, because back then there were 9,000 stores worldwide, and Blockbuster seemed like a winning star on which to hook one’s wagon. Now, the very last Blockbuster is in Bend, Oregon.

So you’ll probably never know what you were missing, young’un. Yours is a cold, lonely, digital world.

Now, let me tell you about phone booths…

Blockbuster

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Teen Confidence

I was in the DVD section of the library the other day and I heard two teenagers talking. The girl was saying to the boy in an authoritative tone, “No, you can’t check out that movie. It has too much gratuitous violence.” The boy, who was obviously trying to make an impression, said, “You’re right. I hate that.” And then after a long pause he asked, “What if the guy in the movie is a hero, and he’s being violent to save someone?” The girl said, “No, that’s still gratuitous.” Clearly that was her new vocabulary word and she planned to use it to full advantage to get the poor boy to check out some chick flicks.

Finally, he pulled a couple DVDs off the shelf and said, “How about these?” She let out a long-suffering sigh and said, “I’m still looking. Go and stand over there, and when I’m ready I’ll look at your movies and let you know.” He scuttled off.

Such self-assurance. Such arrogance. Only teenagers and really bad bosses can get away with talking to people like that. I kind of had to chuckle to myself. That girl is going to have a really hard road ahead of her. She’s going to have to learn that her way isn’t the only way. She’ll discover that as she gets older, men are not going to put up with that sort of treatment. Someday she’ll realize that she isn’t always going to be right.

I was really tempted to pull her aside and say, “Honey, you’ll be a lot better off when you sacrifice just a little bit of that confidence for some kindness. And if you allow for the fact that sometimes you’re wrong, an open mind will come flooding forth, and you’ll be grateful for it. And the older you get, the fewer people are going to have a crush on you, so you might want to consider appreciating it when it comes your way.”

I almost said those things, but why bother? She isn’t going to get it. Not for a few years, anyway.

[Image credit: welovedates.com]
[Image credit: welovedates.com]

Musical Torture

I’m glowing. There are stars in my eyes. I’m humming under my breath, and I’ve got a silly, satisfied grin on my face.

I just watched On A Clear Day You Can See Forever on DVD, starring Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand. God, how I hate musicals. I’m so easily caught up in the fantasy.

Because I was practically fed musicals along with my mother’s milk, on some unrealistic layer of this onion that is me, I actually believe that it’s possible that someday some man will be so passionate about me that he’ll burst into song. I believe that I’m thin, and I wear elaborate, color-coordinated outfits that flow as I move, and hats not only are back in style, but they actually fit my head.

Musicals make me believe that I’m young and beautiful and charming and that one of these days while I’m at work here on the drawbridge, Yves Montand is going to float down the canal on a yacht that’s overflowing with flowers, and he’ll be singing his proposal to me, and we’ll float away together, happily ever after, financially secure in our low carb bliss. Oh, and I’ll actually be able to dance.

Yeah, musicals are like cocaine. I’ll be high from this hit for the rest of the day, probably. But the high never lasts. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and look in the mirror and the see reality of my grey hair and my double chin surrounded by the seemingly vast expanse of my man-less house.

Reality ought to be fine, and a lot of the time it is, actually. But it will always come with a slight bitter aftertaste that makes me feel like this feast of life isn’t quite as satisfying as it’s supposed to be.

Musicals are evil.

Ooh! I haven’t seen My Fair Lady in a while! Maybe I’ll watch that next.

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Obsolete Plot Twists

I was watching an old suspense movie the other day for lack of anything more appealing to do, and I had to laugh because this story would never work in the modern era. This woman was trapped inside her house and a creepy stalker guy was trying to break in. She rushes to the phone to call for help, only to find it dead. “He’s cut the phone lines!” High drama. Much tension. If you’re in an era without cell phones.

It must be a lot more difficult for writers to come up with a viable plot these days. For example, it’s harder to turn a story on a secret in an age where no one seems to keep them anymore. It’s harder to shock a small town with a scandal when we no longer find anything scandalous. And conspiracy theories are a lot harder to pull off in the age of camera phones, surveillance videos, satellite imagery, and twitter.

I saw the movie Summertime recently, in which Katherine Hepburn, “an aging spinster” (Their description, not mine. She was my age when she played the part.) goes off to Venice on holiday and has a steamy romance, much of which you don’t see because they cut away for, I swear to God, fireworks. But the whole premise of this movie is that this highly repressed woman has to go to Europe to let her hair down. It is a lovely romantic story, but it probably will never be remade because nowadays she wouldn’t go to Venice, she’d just go to Match.com. That’s hardly exciting.

I think future generations are missing out on quite a bit. Gone are the days when we will see people being threatened by impatient thugs as they make a call from a phone booth, or cub reporters click clacking away on typewriters, or operators listening in on your conversations (theoretically).

It kind of makes you wonder what’s coming. I’m waiting for the first movie that employs a 3D printer.

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Caught up in Captioning

Most bridgetenders watch at least a dozen movies a week at work. There isn’t much else to do. On any given week I’ll watch anything from Fellini’s “Amarcord” to “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”. (Tell me I’m not well-rounded. I dare you.) And when you have to drown out the roar of traffic and the crackle of the marine radio (not every call is for us, after all), you get into the habit of turning on the captions of the movies in question, so as not to miss anything.

I never really thought about the person who actually creates the captioning for those movies until I became one of them myself. I now have a side job as a captioner.  Oh, I haven’t hit the big time yet. I do cartoons, not feature films. But still.

The beauty of this work is that I can do as much or as little of it as I want, from the privacy of my own, uh…home, of course. The downside is that one is paid by the job, not by the hour, and I think I’ve gotten as good at it as I will ever be, which means I’m averaging about $2.65 an hour. Peanuts, yes, but mighty convenient peanuts, and I have to say it’s a lot of fun. If it weren’t so much fun, I probably wouldn’t bother.

I’ve done a couple of really strange cartoons from countries with such cultural differences that I couldn’t really grasp their appeal, but I have settled on one series that is a modern British version of The Magic Roundabout, and it’s delightful. I’ll be sad when I’ve run out of episodes.

And what is happening is magical, indeed. Since I have to concentrate to do the captioning, I feel as though I’m right in there with the characters, almost as if I’m part of the family. I’ve gotten to know each personality, and can anticipate how they’ll think and react. That helps me figure out what they’re about to say. Being able to practically finish their sentences has increased my captioning speed a great deal.

And I love the idea that I’m actually helping people. Somewhere out there, someone is improving their reading or English skills, or someone who is hearing impaired will read my captions and it will allow them to enjoy the show in question as much as the rest of his or her friends and family.

I want to make sure they get the full experience. I take it very seriously. I want to emphasize the right words using italics. I want to break sentences in logical places, taking into account the way the words are flowing from the speaker’s lips. I want my sound effects to really give you a sense of the sounds. I want the captions to pop up at just the right moment and remain on the screen for a sufficient length of time to be comfortably read.

One thing’s for certain. I’ll never look at captioning in the same way again. Now I’ll always think of the person who did it, and how they’re trying to make a living in a very creative way. I’ll appreciate it when they take pride in their work, and sometimes I’ll say to myself, for example, “I would have dealt with that sound differently.”

It’s kind of an art form, when you think about it.

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What I’d Love to Say to Tom Cruise

Ah, Tom Cruise. Known for your acting, of course, but also the poster child for Scientology and crazy, couch-jumping hyper-romanticism. I’ve followed your career closely over the years.

We had a moment, you and I. I happened to be in Las Vegas when you were filming Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman. To be honest, I was looking for Dustin. You aren’t really my type. So I wasn’t in Cruise-control, so to speak, when I was standing in front of one of the casinos, camera in hand, waiting for the valet to bring my car.

Just at that moment, an SUV drove up and the parking attendant said, “Here comes the Cruiser.” I’m thinking, “Toyota Land Cruiser. Who cares?” So when you stepped out, I drew a complete blank. You also had a blonde on either arm and I wonder what your wife would have thought about that. You walked past, and I turned to watch you go. You looked back and stopped for a second. You’d have let me take your picture. But I just stood there slack jawed, so you continued on. And that was that.

What a putz I can be sometimes. Ah well. And, God, but you’re short.  But it has made me focus on you slightly more than the average actor. Actors rarely pierce my thought bubble for more than a second or two. But I’ve had whole conversations with you in my mind.

If we were ever trapped on an elevator, for example, I’d tell you that you have an amazing talent, and you should own that. Scientology is not why you are successful. In fact, it has taken much more from you than it has given you. Not only has it taken a boat load of money from you, but also an obscene amount of your precious time, your sense of free will, and untold numbers of personal relationships.

Yes, they’re adept at massaging your ego, but Scientologists don’t truly care about you. In fact, the higher up they are, the more they laugh behind your back, and the lower down they are, the more they resent you for the shiny, squeaky clean image you portray of this cult which does nothing but chew people up, take their money, and spit them out the other end. And frankly, everyone who isn’t into Scientology laughs at you, too, for being so duped for so long.

You can come off as arrogant or at best extremely self-assured, but the very reason you got sucked in to this cult is that you have no confidence at all, deep down. That makes me worry for you, because Scientology is dying, and it has been for a long time. Sooner or later this pyramid that you find yourself standing atop is going to crumble, and then where will you be? What will you do?

When that day comes, and it will, I hope you will be able to hang on to the fact that your talent is yours, not theirs. You’ll have to learn how to live in the real world for the first time in your adult life, and that will be terrifying. Sadly they’ve brainwashed you into thinking that seeking help from the mental health realm is bad, and Xenu won’t be around to hold your hand. But at least you’ve got your talent, and that’s a solid foundation on which to build. So take heart.

Unfortunately, even without Scientology, you’ve got fame to contend with, and that means you’ll never know for sure if anyone around you is sincere. That’s my definition of hell. Maybe you’ll luck out and find yourself trapped in an elevator someday with someone who’s willing to give you honest advice.  Even so, I wouldn’t want your life, Tom Cruise, whether you finally free yourself of that parasitic cult or not.

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Messed up by Tommy

The other day I was at the public library perusing the DVDs, and came across the movie Tommy. This unexpected encounter produced a visceral reaction in me. I hadn’t thought about this film in decades, and yet it still made me sick to my stomach. “This is madness,” I thought. “How can you still be affected by this stupid movie? You have got to get past this.”

I picked up the DVD and just stared at it. I was transported back to the spring of 1975. I was 10 years old and school was out. I was home alone and bored silly. I called my mom at work. I disguised my voice so that she wouldn’t get in trouble by getting a personal call. I actually thought that would work.

Anyway, when she got on the line I asked if I could go to the movies. She said there was no money in the house. I told her I had counted out 99 pennies from my piggy bank and this would be the matinee. I just wouldn’t get popcorn. She reluctantly said okay. I had already checked the newspaper, and the next show was going to be in 20 minutes, so I poured my pennies into a handkerchief and ran down the street. Half way there I dropped the handkerchief and the coins rolled in all directions. I began to panic that I’d miss the beginning of the movie, but I managed to gather all the pennies and make it there on time.

I sat in the back row just as the lights went down. I knew nothing about the movie Tommy. I just knew it was what was playing. I wish that I could take back what I experienced that afternoon. All these years I assumed that the reason I was allowed in to this movie was that it was before the rating system was implemented, but in fact I discovered when doing the research for this blog entry that ratings began in 1968, and Tommy was rated PG. I shouldn’t have been there. They shouldn’t have let me in. But somehow there I was. Maybe it was because I got there at the very last second, all out of breath, with my sweaty wad of pennies, and the teenage ticket person just didn’t have the heart to say no. Who knows.

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Mostly I remember being confused by the movie, but the next concrete image in my mind is of Tommy being put into a suit of armor that was embedded with syringes full of drugs, and when the suit of armor opened back up, he was a skeleton with snakes crawling through him. I began to cry, and was basically paralyzed through the rest of the movie as my senses experienced assault after assault. Tommy being tortured by his cousin. Drowned in a bathtub. Burned with an iron. When the movie let out, I remember running all the way home, hysterical. It had never occurred to me up to this point that people could actually enjoy abusing others. It was a life lesson I was not yet prepared to learn. Oddly enough, I can’t remember if I told my mother, and if I did, I can’t remember her reaction.

Back to the present day, I realized I had been standing in the library and staring at this DVD for an unnatural amount of time, feeling sick. “Could it really have been that bad?” I thought. Well, only one way to find out. So, in the interest of healing old wounds, I checked the movie out.

Watching this movie as an adult, I felt myself getting increasingly angry for the 10 year old me. I should never have seen those images at that stage in my life. I’m surprised I didn’t remember more. The sexually abusing uncle, the creepy child wedding, the biker gang battle, the mother getting her head bashed in. Good God, why was this rated PG, and even at PG, why wasn’t it enforced?

This time, what brought tears to my eyes was the little boy singing, “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.” That could have been the 10 year old me, singing in the back of my head, for decades. I wish I could give little me a big hug.

I know a lot of people consider Tommy to be a classic. There were certainly a lot of really big names in the cast. But frankly, once I got past all the layers of emotion from 1975, in 2013 at age 48, other than finding Roger Daltrey to be a hottie, I generally found this flick to be rather boring and self-indulgent.

Most of all, I realized that this movie has been like a little syringe of acid in my life. I needed to metabolize it, take the bad trip and get it out of my system. Whew. I’m glad that’s over with. Never again.