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Turned fifty today.  Some writer types might ramble on, but here’s just a few insights I’ve garnered over a half-century:

(Editor’s note: this does ramble on a bit.  But lucky readers who stick through it to the end will win two tickets to Walley World!)


Don’t buy things you don’t need.  And you don’t need most things.  Treat yourself once in awhile, but keep it reasonable, fer chrissake.  Collecting is okay, but don’t be a hoarder.  You’ve seen the TV shows.  Yeesh.

LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES.  The fire’s just as hot the second and third and fourth time you stick your hand in it, idiot.

Wear sunscreen. (Okay, I ripped that off):,0,4054576.column

Some people are mean, spiteful, or just plain cruel.  It’s a fact; deal with it.  They’re insecure, not worth your time, and karma’s a bitch.  Their asses will figuratively and quite possibly literally be kicked.

Ever seen the movie “They Live,” with Rowdy Roddy Piper?  Aliens are sending humans subliminal messages, and if you have special glasses, you can read the messages.  On all the paper money, the message is “This Is Your God.”  Don’t let that message sink in.  It’s just a movie.  A movie with a way-too-long fight scene, I might add.

Follow your heart, but use your head.

Be as creative as you can as often as you can.  There has to be SOME artist in you.  Tap that shit.

You may think you know the opposite sex, but you don’t really know the opposite sex.  That’s the cosmic joke.

Don’t let just one thing define you.  Don’t just be “that guy who’s a superfan of that team” or “that chick who idolizes Johnny Depp” or “the dude who could win any Star Trek trivia contest.”  Have a little depth, man.  You’re more than that.

Don’t drink and drive.  Really, if you’ve had more than a few drinks in couple of hours you shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a vehicle (especially if you’re a tiny wee person).  And DUIs are huge moneymakers for municipalities.  Don’t give in to The Man.

Help others when you can.  You’ll feel good about it.

Don’t be paranoid.  Just be cautiously suspicious.

If you don’t know how to cook, learn at least a few simple recipes.  Mad kitchen skillz are a good thing to possess.

I don’t care if you’re a theist or an atheist; don’t force your agenda on people.  It makes you look desperate.

Eat, drink, and be merry.  And make a joyful noise.  You’ll feel good about it.

Oh yeah: PLAY NICE.



I know more about myself than I’ve ever known, and I still amaze myself from time to time.

I know more about people’s desires, weaknesses, talents and fears than I’ve ever known, and people still amaze me from time to time.

Spiritually, I’m very in tune and at peace.


ADDITIONAL MATERIAL (Added at the last minute and at great expense)


10:30 p.m. on a Saturday


When you’re 10:  I’m sleepy, but I fought to stay up this late, so I must persevere.

When you’re 20:  Let the party begin!

When you’re 30:  The kids are asleep.   Wanna bang?

When you’re 40:  Who’s hosting SNL tonight?

When you’re 50:  zzzzzzzzzzzzzz




Hope everyone who read this far is psyched about going to Walley World!  And fellow geezers, look forward to your 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond.  It’s only gonna get better.


Cheers! *clinks glasses with everybody*

I haven’t added to the blog in awhile.  Usually that means I’m in a creative void (it happens), but sometimes it means I’m distracted by cool computer games.

I’ve been playing games since I first got a computer in 1994.  Lord only knows how many hours I’ve spent on them, but it’s probably millions.  Here are some of my favorites.  NOTE: I’m a sucker for a good strategy/sim/tycoon game.  And you’ll notice many of these are from the 90’s.



Futuristic version of the Warcraft games.  While I sunk a ton of time into Warcraft 2, Starcraft is one of the best real-time strategy (RTS) games I’ve ever played, with three different races and lots of cool units and upgrades.


Fairy Godmother Tycoon

I know, sounds like a kid’s game.  But it’s a very fun tycoon sim where you sell potions to town inhabitants with various weird ailments.  Funny fairytale references throughout.


Simcity 2000

Great city-building sim.  I learned a lot about city planning from this game.  No real objective, just build a metropolis — and you can send aliens to destroy your creation.


Tropico 3 & 4

Basically a city-building sim, but with a twist: you’re the dictator of a banana republic island.  Tropico 4 has slightly better graphics than 3, but they’re both great.  Grow and export food and products, get mines and logging industry going, quell rebel attacks, keep your inhabitants happy, and win elections to continue being El Presidente.  You can also issue insane megalomaniac edicts just for the hell of it.


All My Gods

Simple resource-gathering city-building game.  Clear land, explore ruins, grow food, and build structures to keep all the gods happy.


Chocolatier: Decadence by Design

Pretty basic graphics and gameplay, but a challenging and unique game.  Your goal is to take charge of an international chocolate company, and you traverse the globe to buy ingredients and manufacture chocolate bars, coffee, and other delicacies.  I like the arcade-style way you set your factory production.


Dungeon Keeper 2

A groovy variation of the resource-gathering/building game: you’re an evil master of a dungeon and control your minions.  Dig for gold and build rooms to attract monsters to protect your underground lair from the intruding good guys.


Master of Magic

A turn-based 4x game (expand, explore, exploit, exterminate) that’s very fun and relies heavily on building up magic spell-casting points.  Simple graphics, great gameplay.


Heroes of Might and Magic 3

I just recently discovered this and hoo-boy, is it a blast.  Turn-based strategy with a fantasy setting.  Build up fantastical troops and take over everything.  Fun fact: while I avoid using cheat codes, all cheat codes in this game are lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Grand Theft Auto III/GTA Vice City

This franchise is a money-making machine.  I haven’t played the newer ones, but these are great to play when you’re drunk and want to take out aggression by jacking and wrecking cars and running over people.


Duke Nukem 3D

I’m not really into first-person shooters, but I did enjoy Doom, and this game takes it a step further by cranking up the humor element.  How can you not love Duke looking in the mirror and saying, “Damn, I’m lookin’ good”?


Rollercoaster Tycoon 3

Easily one of my favorite tycoon games.   Build the perfect amusement part complete with thrill/kiddie/gentle rides, food and souvenir stands, and of course rollercoasters.   Hire entertainers and mechanics, and janitors to clean up the puke.  The coolest parts are designing your own coasters and getting to ride the rides.


Master of Orion 2

Another 4x game, set in space, where you take over the universe.  I’ve also played the original MOO and MOO3, but this is my favorite.


Command & Conquer, C&C Red Alert

Along with Warcraft, C&C revolutionized the RTS genre.   Play as either the good guys or the bad guys, with cool storylines throughout.  Build armies and go kick ass.  Online play chat spawned the old meme: “Im in ur base, killin ur doodz.”


Sid Meier’s Pirates!

This was originally on the NES way back when, but got updated for the PC about 10 years ago.  It’s hard to describe, and there’s kind of an objective, but mainly you sail around a map of the Caribbean and sink and plunder ships and towns.  There’s swashbuckling action, but you also have to excel at dancing if the town’s mayor’s daughter asks you to the ball.


Civilization IV

I haven’t played Civ V, but this is simply a fantastic turn-based 4x game with lots of cool features.  I’ve sunk a load of time into this.



A very old resource–gathering economic game.  A friend in college had this, and I must’ve driven him nuts with all my requests to play.


Plants vs. Zombies

I enjoy the occasional tower defense game, and this one not only has great gameplay, but also a great sense of humor.  You plop down aggressive plants to defend your house as the increasingly-tough zombies shamble into your yard uttering, “braaains.”



Old horse-racing sim.   You get to bet on races as well as claim and buy horses.  Pretty basic graphics, but a very fun game.


Total Annihilation

Another blow-em-up RTS game.  This is one of the best as far as sheer mayhem, explosions, and body count (or, in this case, robot count).


Theme Park

Came out way before Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, but still a fun amusement-park sim.  Followed by Theme Hospital, which isn’t nearly as fun.



One of the best hack n’ slash dungeon role-playing games.  Gather resources and artifacts, fight monsters, level up.  A recent incarnation is Torchlight, another addictive game.


X-Com: UFO Defense

God, what a frustratingly awesome game.  It came out in 1994, and I had to buy the strategy guide to get through it – and I think I beat it once.  The premise:  aliens are invading earth, and you’re in charge of eliminating/controlling them.  The turn-based battles can get depressing when 70% of your soldiers get whacked.  You win by building a ship that can travel to Mars, where you fight the big boss on his own turf.   But once you land on Mars, half your guys go berserk and start randomly shooting while still inside the ship, leaving you with just a few guys to do the big battle.  Still, a very complex game for the time, and always on web lists of “greatest PC games of all time.”

I saw a Yahoo! news article today about an 8-year-old boy who was with his father.  They were out walking their dog, and found a bag with over $1,000 in it.  Guess what?  They returned the money and got a news story written about them.  The site comments were all positive and glowing and feel-good.

It seems like once a week or so I see a Good Samaritan news story, usually involving someone returning found money (this is a capitalist society, remember, so money is god).

My question: why is this news?

I understand that there’s a lot of misery in the world.  And 24-hour news channels reinforce that non-stop – gotta keep you scared, angry and paranoid, right?  So some bright spots here and there are welcome.

But news stories about minor instances of doing the right thing?  Are we that hard up for any good news?

Maybe it’s my small-town upbringing, or that I was instilled with Christian values, but these stories kind of annoy me.  Certainly not because the right thing was done, but because there’s this need to publicize the right thing.

A few years ago, I found a cash-filled wallet in my building’s parking lot.  I checked the driver’s license, made a couple of calls, and returned the wallet to a guy a few buildings down.  Did I get a reward?  No.  Did I ask for one?  Don’t be silly.

But you know what never came to mind?  “I’d better alert the press so I can let the world know I did what any decent human being would do.”

I guess my point is:  Everybody should be doing the right thing every day.  And that shouldn’t have to be national news.

And if you do the right thing and the press hounds you, just say, “Jesus loves you” and flip them off.

Why do the good ones never write back?


BABE… i guess your not getting any of my email huh? ive been tryign to email u so many times but this dam laptop is such a piece of garbage and keeps freezing.. anyways how u been?

In case u dont know who this is its ME Adriana.. we used to chat a bit on facebook and then I think u deleted me 😦 haha.. anyways guess what… I got 2 things to tell u.. both good news.. 1) im single now.. yup me and my bf broke up about 3 months ago… and 2) guess where im moving? RIGHT EFFING NEAR U.. lol… ur actually the only person im gonna know there.. well 3 cousins too but i cant chill with them lol..

I remember when we chatted u told me u thought i was cute and u wanted to chill so now we finally can HAHA! im kinda scared to move.. im hoping this email addy is still the one you use and u can chat with me ebfore i get there.. maybe even help me move my shit in…are u still on facebook? i cudnt find ui was soo confused…anyways im gonna need someone to show me the town and take me out so u better be around bebe…

we only chatted a couple times but i remember thinking to myself i wanted to get ot know u better when i was single..a nd i thoguth u were cute too but cudnt tell u cause i wasnt single lol…ok so more info about me.. well im 23.. virgo.. love the outdoors and love to socialize, go out for drinks, restaurants, movies etc.. travel.. i have a lil kitty named BOO and i luv her to death… uhhh oh im a super horny gurl too but every gurl is they just wont admit it. so ilove watching p0rn and all that.. love sex etc blah blah blah…who doesnt.. I really hope we get a chance to chat for a bit either online or on the fone before i get there enxt week.. i hope u remmeber me and still wanna chill and aren’t married yet lol.. OH YA also.. i need to find a job when i get there..

do u have any hookups or know anybody hiring? id LOVE to work in a bar or osmehting like that…really anythgin cause my current job is fun and all.. and technically i CUD keep doign it but i want a change.. I currently work from home and well thats cool but i need ot be out meeting people.. oh wait. i dont think i ever actually told u what I did? hmm shud i……???? ok WELLLL… and dont get all weirded out on me.. i work on a webcam chat community site and i get paid to chat with people and get naked HHAHA… BOMB right :)? I KNOW.. like I figure iim horny anyways why not get paid to chat with people and play
with myself heheh…anyways i hope u dont look down on that and NO THATS NOT WHY IM CONTACTING U RELAX URSELF lol… i actually need help once i move and i remembered u live there so im reaching out….like I said before this computer is a complete piece of CRAP and freezes NON STOP.. ive tried ot send this email to u maybe 3 times already and im hopign this time i can hit SEND before i run into trouble lol..

ANYWAYS.. heres the deal….every month natalie (my boss) gives each of us 3 VIP codes to give out to whoever we want.. so with this code u can lgoin to watch me at work for free and dont have to pay like everyone else… the only way i can give u one of the codes (so we can chat) is if you absolutey DO NOT give it out to anyone else and u ONLY USE IT FOR URSELF… i only get 3 a month and she gets pissed if more than 3 people use them so DONT SHARE IT MISTER… i figured u cud always email me back instead but my email account doesnt even let me login half the time.. so the bets palce ot chat me is my chat room…

if theres anyone else logged in when u sign in ill boot them out.. but remember DONT SHARE THIS PASSWORD PLEASE BABE IM BEGGING U.. I TRUST U… im online most of the day now to try and save money for my move.. also since im in such a huge debt already form my student loan 😦 I really thingk we need to chat before i get there and make sure u evern remember me hahha.. anyways ive rambled on and on now and ur probably soooo annnoyed with me so ill stop now.. im gonna go start work.. i really hope u come chat me. it wud make my day and releive a lot of my stress about the move… REALLY i mean that….anyways once i see u in insdie ill shoot u myc ell number and u can gimme yours.. if u don’t wanna come chat i understand but its really the only palce to find me now days.. if u email me abck ill probably get it once i get there after my internet is setup so about 2-3 weeks fomr now.. but im hoping to see u in my chat room.. rmemeber its 100% free with this code im gonna give u.. just DONT GIVE IT OUT OR ILL KICK U IN THE BALLS INSTEAD OF LICK U IN THE BALLS WHEN IS EE U hahahahha…k babe im out for now… chat ya soon.. kisses xoxo Adriana





Hi Adriana!  I’ve been good.  The gout’s acting up a bit, but I get by.

I remember you on Facebook.  We chatted for about an hour, discussing thematic elements in To Kill A Mockingbird.  That was great.  Where are you moving near me?  Is it by the creepy abandoned mine shaft?  Or the haunted car wash?  Yes, I’m still on Facebook, and I’d like to help you move your shit in, but it’s against my religion.

You’re a Virgo, an earth sign, and I’m an Aquarius, an air sign.  Together we could whip up a wicked dust storm and blind all mankind.

Your cat Boo sounds like the perfect match for my cat, Frank Zappa.

Sure, I could get you a high-paying job at any of the local upscale bars.  Just let me know.

And hey, maybe I LIKE getting kicked in the balls 😉





Sorry, we were unable to deliver your message to the following address.

Two musicians, a drummer and a guitar player, are onstage, each equipped with his instrument.  They’re wearing extreme punk garb and have British accents.  A plainly-dressed guitarist enters.


Nick:  Hey, guys, I’m Nick.  I’m here for the audition.

Guitar player (GP):   Nick.  That’s a wanker name.

Drummer (D):  Yeah.  You a wanker, Nick?

Nick:  Whoa, no.

D:  He looks like a poseur, don’t he?

GP:  Yeah.  You a poseur, Nick?

Nick:  I’m just here to audition.  Is this a country band?  The ad said country.

GP:  Do we look like bumpkins, Nick?

D:  Yeah. Do we look like bumpkins?

Nick:  Look, if this isn’t a country band and you’re just going to be insulting, I’m leaving.  (He starts to go.)

GP:  Hang on, mate.  You seem a bit agitated.

D:  Yeah.  Pissed off at the world.

Nick:  Well, you’re starting to get on my nerves.

GP:  Good.  We want you nice and riled.

D:  Raging against everything.

Nick:  I don’t get it.

GP:  You see, Nick, we ARE a country band.  With a…


They snarl and hiss at Nick.

Nick:  You mean like cowpunk?

GP:  Cowpunk. (He spits on the floor)

D:  Don’t be a git, Nick.

Nick:  Look, I don’t know what this is all about, but I’m here, so let’s just jam, okay?  You know “Your Cheatin’ Heart”?

GP and D:  Sure.

They launch into a twangy version of the song.  GP and D are headbanging, jumping around, etc.  Nick just sighs and rolls his eyes.



I suppose most people ponder what happens after we shuffle off this mortal coil, or if anything happens at all.

Here’s how I hope things go down:

Imagine you’ve had one of those days.  You’re completely exhausted, and it’s bedtime.  You get into your bedtime clothes then get into your even more comfortable bed.  You lie on your back and close your eyes.  It’s completely quiet and the room temperature is just right.  You are at complete peace and in a complete state of relaxation.

For me, there is a brief period where I’m not quite asleep and not quite awake.  I’m guessing it lasts 15 to 20 seconds.  In that period, right before I fall asleep, I can’t feel my body.  I’m detached, disembodied, just my consciousness.  And it’s quiet; not the usual music or comedy bits or “brilliant” ideas. I’m just there, in the darkness.

And it feels fantastic.

That’s what I’m hoping.  I continue to exist in that very state.  And while I don’t think there’s a heaven or hell, I hope that at least TRYING to be a decent person will make my existence pleasurable.  Unlimited holodeck would be nice.


And if I’m wrong and it’s excruciating torment…well-played, universe.  *golf clap*

In 1999, one of my favorite punk bands, NOFX, released an EP titled “The Decline.”  There’s only one song – eighteen minutes and twenty seconds – also titled “The Decline.”

I’ve posted about the profound nature of punk lyrics before, but this one is pure angst-ridden society-ripping poetry.  And the musicianship is great, too – you never get bored in the eighteen minutes.





Where are all the stupid people from?
And how’d they get to be so dumb?
Bred on purple mountain range
Feed amber waves of grains
To lesser human beings, zero feelings

Blame it on
Human nature, man’s destiny (man’s destiny)
Blame it on the greediocracy (greediocracy)
Fear of God
The fear of change
The fear of truth

Add the Bill of Rights, subtract the wrongs
There’s no answers
Memorize and sing star-spangled songs
When the questions
Aren’t ever asked
Is anybody learning from the past?
We’re living in united stagnation

Father, what have I done?
I took that .22
A gift to me from you
To bed with me each night
Kept it clean
Polished it well
Cherished every cartridge, every shell

Down by the creek, under brush, under dirt
There’s a carcass of my second kill
Down by the park, under stone, under pine
There’s a carcass of my brother William
Brother, where have you gone to?
I swear, I never thought I could
I see so many times
They told me to shoot straight
Don’t pull the trigger, squeeze
That will insure a kill
A kill is what you want
A kill is why we breed

The Christians love their guns
The church and NRA
Pray for their salvations
Prey on the lower faiths

The story book’s been read
And every line believed
Curriculum’s been set
Logic is a threat
Reason searched and seized

Jerry spent some time in Michigan
A twenty-year vacation, after all he had a dime
A dime is worth a lot more in Detroit
A dime in California, a twenty dollar fine

Jerry only stayed a couple months
It’s hard to enjoy yourself while bleeding out the ass
Asphyxiation is simple and fast
It beats seventeen fun years of being someone’s bitch

Don’t think (Stay)
Drink your wine (Home)
Watch the fire burn (Be)
His problems not mine (Safe)
Just be that model citizen

I wish I had a schilling
(For each senseless killing)
For every senseless killing
I’d buy a government
America’s for sale
And you can get a good deal on it
(A good deal on it)
And make a healthy profit
Or maybe, tear it apart
Start with assumption
That a million people are smart
Smarter than one

Serotonin’s gone
She gave up, drifted away
Sara fled, thought process gone
She left her answering machine on
The greeting left spoken sincere
Messages no one will ever hear

Ten thousand messages a day
A million more transmissions lay
Victims of the laissez faire
Ten thousand voices, a hundred guns
A hundred decibels turns to one
One bullet, one empty head
Now with Serotonin gone

The man who used to speak
Performs a cute routine
Feel a little patronized
Don’t feel bad
They found a way inside your head
And you feel a bit misled
It’s not that they don’t care, yeah

The television’s put a thought inside your head
Like a Barry Manilow jingle
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
A symphonic blank stare, yeah
It doesn’t make you care (make you care)
Not designed to make you care (make you care)
They’re betting you won’t care (you won’t…)

Place a wager on your greed
A wager on your pride
Why try to beat them when a million others tried?

We are the whore
Intellectually spayed
We are the queer
Dysfunctionally raised

One more pill to kill the pain
One more pill to kill the pain
One more pill to kill the pain
Living through conformity

One more prayer to keep me safe
One more prayer to keep us warm
One more prayer to keep us safe
There’s gonna be a better place

Lost the battle, lost the war
Lost the things worth living for
Lost the will to win the fight
One more pill to kill the pain

Na na na na na
La na na na na
Na na na na na
Na na na na na

The going get tough, the tough get debt
Don’t pay attention, pay the rent
Next of kins pay for your sins
A little faith should keep us safe

Save us
The human, existence
Is failing, resistance
Essential, the future
Written off, the odds are
Astronomically against us
Only moron and genius
Would fight a losing battle
Against the super ego
When giving in is so damn comforting

And so we go, on with our lives
We know the truth, but prefer lies
Lies are simple, simple is bliss
Why go against tradition when we can
Admit defeat, live in decline
Be the victim of our own design
The status quo, built on suspect
Why would anyone stick out their neck?

Fellow members of
Club “We’ve Got Ours”
I’d like to introduce you to our host
He’s got his, and I’ve got mine
Meet the decline

During a recent discussion of music, my friend mentioned that his 15-year-old daughter never owned an album.  She’s an avid music lover, but has only ever purchased individual songs via download.

That struck me as sad, because when I was 15, pretty much all I had – or wanted — was albums.

I remember my first one:  ELO’s A New World Record.  It was 1976; I was 12.  All I had to play it on was a crappy little portable turntable from the 50’s (it would take another summer or so to cut enough lawns to save up for a better stereo).

I soon got Boston’s first album.  Then some Aerosmith, Queen, Sweet, Foghat, Ted Nugent.  I quickly realized that LPs sounded far better than 8-tracks and cassettes (duh).

I lived in Carlyle, IL, at the time.  We were in a subdivision about a mile out of town.  Every time I’d get $10 or so saved up, I’d ride my bike into town to the little record shop/electronics store.  They didn’t have a great selection, but I loved perusing, and eventually picking out the album I wanted most.

Once I got into high school and started making better money working summers in the fields, I bought as many as I could afford.  Punk rock had hit it big, so there were many cool bands to discover.

I also liked the artwork, and to me, that’s the biggest loss in the mass conversion to digital formats.  You could hold the LP in your hands and gaze at some awesome art (I’ve actually bought albums strictly because of the cover).  Often, there were extensive liner notes with cool artist info.  And sometimes they’d slip a magazine or poster or some promo gimmick in there.

And how did you hear or hear about new music to decide what you wanted to buy?  1. Radio, and your station selection was limited.  2.  TV, if you happened to see a live performance or rare music video (this was before MTV).  3.  Magazines.  4.  Friends.  There was no iTunes, Pandora, Grooveshark, etc.  You were on your own.  If you were lucky, your friends liked cool music.

Anyway, I know LPs still have some popularity.  I haven’t owned a turntable in many years, and recently had to sell a few of my albums, but still have 50 or so with which I couldn’t part.  They bring back warm fuzzies of a music-obsessed youth.


Here’s a couple of my favorites framed in my living room.



I can watch a movie about pretty much anything, as long as it holds my interest.  But I especially like well-done documentaries; I think because of the way they capture real life and real drama.  Here are some favorites that come to mind (I have a soft spot for films about crazy artistic types):


Roger & Me (1989, D: Michael Moore)

Moore’s generally the guy you think of when you think of documentaries.  He’s done many good ones, but this is my favorite (and his first).  I like how the movie takes a very depressing subject matter (thousands laid off in Flint, MI, due to General Motors closing plants) and makes it incredibly entertaining.  Pat Boone and Bob Eubanks are great.


Crumb (1994, D: Terry Zwigoff)

One of those voyeuristic-type films that you feel you really shouldn’t be watching.  Profiles famed cartoonist/artist Robert Crumb and the few weeks before he and his family move from the states to France.  Crumb himself is beyond weird, but he’s nothing compared to his two brothers.  Great stuff.


American Movie (1999, D: Chris Smith)

Chronicles Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt, who’s the very definition of “minimal talent, tremendous passion.”  You don’t know whether to laugh at or cry for the guy, but you’ll certainly laugh at his assistant/friend, Mike Schank.  Watch as Mark and Mike try to make Mark’s “big” horror movie, “Northwestern.”


Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991, D: Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola)

Now here’s a movie about a director under incredible stress.  It’s about Francis Ford Coppola’s ordeal filming “Apocalpyse Now.”  Numerous budget and shooting setbacks, including Brando wasting days discussing his character while cast and crew sit idly by on the expensive sets.


The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005, D: Jeff Feuerzeig)

Daniel Johnston was an influential songwriter on the early Austin, TX, rock scene – his songs have been covered by many popular bands.  He’s also bipolar and prone to really irrational behavior.  Great tribute to a musician whose mental problems kept him from being a big star.


I Am Comic (2010, D: Jordan Brady)

Yeah, this is on here because I love stand-up (and used to do it).  Partly follows popular 80’s comedian Rich Shyder as he tries to make a comeback and partly gleans insights from veteran comics.  Funny and insightful look at successful and sort-of-successful working comedians.


Grizzly Man (2005, D: Werner Herzog)

No doubt about it: Timothy Treadwell was one crazy mofo.  While in his 20’s, he decided to ditch his privileged upbringing and hang out in the wilderness with huge grizzly bears.  The film shows how he gradually gets more obsessed and unhinged.  Spoiler alert: things do not end well for him and his girlfriend.


My Best Fiend (1999, D: Werner Herzog)

Acclaimed director Herzog’s film about his ordeals working with explosive and unpredictable actor Klaus Kinski.  You never know when Kinski’s going to start screaming or get violent – yet Herzog truly respects his talents.


The King of Kong (2007, D: Seth Gordon)

Who’d think a movie about breaking the Donkey Kong world record high score could be so fun?  A clear-cut hero and villain and real drama and tension…and a lot of laughs.


Capturing the Friedmans (2003, D: Andrew Jarecki)

Creepy stuff here.  The director profiles Arnold Friedman and his son, Jesse, who were convicted of child sexual abuse after several boys accused them of molestation during computer classes in the Friedman’s home.  Lots of different takes on the situation so you’re not really sure what actually happened.


Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008, D: Sacha Gervasi)

I’ve heard this described as “The real-life Spinal Tap,” and that’s pretty true.  In the 80’s, Canadian metal band Anvil was rockin’ the stage with the likes of Metallica and Bon Jovi.  But nobody – including the many famous metal artists interviewed – has any idea why they didn’t achieve fame.  The movie follows the hapless band through a botched tour as they strive to play one more big gig.


Woodstock (1970, D: Michael Wadleigh)

One of the greatest concert films of all time.  It just doesn’t capture the phenomenal music made on a farm in Bethel, NY, over 3 days in August 1969; it captures the whole experience.  Great performers, hippies, and disgruntled townsfolk.


For The Bible Tells Me So (2007, D: Daniel G. Karslake)

Eye-opening examination of how fundamentalist Christians use The Bible to justify rabid homophobia.  Scary, informative, and interesting, with some great interviews with religious parents of homosexual children.


This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006, D: Kirby Dick)

Very interesting, especially to film enthusiasts.  Explains the machinations of Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which assigns ratings to movies.  Investigates how the ratings board members are not a terribly educated bunch, and how some are in the pocket of the studios.  FUN FACT: The film initially got an NC-17 rating.


American Dream (1990, D: Barbara Kopple, Cathy Caplan, Tom Haneke, Lawrence Silk)

Intense story of the union strike at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota in the mid-80’s.  Lots of drama, politics and tension – even brother pitted against brother – as the strike drags on and people start losing everything they have.


Best Worst Movie (2009, D: Michael Stephenson)

Michael Stephenson, child actor in 1990’s Troll 2, directs a very fun film about the people behind what many consider to be the worst movie ever – you guessed it – Troll 2.  It’s now a cult classic and has a fairly large following.  Dentist George Handy, the dad in the film, is hilarious as he enjoys his small bit of “fame.”

NOTE: I really enjoy this film, but could only get through about 10 minutes of Troll 2.  Yeesh, it’s terrible.


Shut Up & Sing (2006, D: Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck)

About the Dixie Chicks and how they persevered through the nation’s negative reaction to Natalie Maines’ 2003 onstage comments about then-president Bush.  Makes you appreciate the tenacity of artists as well as the stupidity of a lot of Americans.


Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (2011, Matthew Bate)

In the early 80’s, two young men from Wisconsin decided to move to San Francisco.  They wound up as neighbors to two very angry, drunk and vocal men – Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman.  The young men taped the loud drunken arguments and shared them with friends; the result was a San Fran underground artistic explosion, including comics, CDs, and a stage play based on the conversations.  The film chronicles the two now-middle-aged men as they tell their story and try to track down acquaintances of the now-deceased neighbors.

In mid-1998, I started working at the toy company Tiger Electronics, a recently-added subsidiary of Hasbro.

Of all the places I’ve worked, it was definitely the most fun.  Radio-controlled cars would zip around the office, and folks would stop by my cube, give me a handheld game, and say “play with this for a while and tell me what you think.”  They also had kick-ass Christmas parties, their company summer picnics included tons of toys and games for the kids, and, each year, they’d load everyone up on a bus to attend a Cubs game.  Pretty sweet, eh?

I was hired as an assistant to a VP, but she immediately recognized I could do much more than her travel arrangements and expense reports.  Before long, I was writing press releases, trade show scripts, instruction manuals, and catalog copy.  I was also supervising online contests and answering consumer e-mail.

As soon as I started, the big buzz around the office was the new product: Furby.  If you don’t remember, Furby is an electronic “animal,” for lack of a better word (the name is short for ‘furball”), about the size of a softball.  It’s a furry interactive toy that moves its mouth, eyes and ears, and speaks in a made-up-but-understandable language called “Furbish.”

The big selling point was that the toy could “learn.”  The more you played with it, the more its speech would advance it would get more “intuitive.”  I have one of the originals and I still can’t decide if it’s amazing or creepy.

Furby was to be the company’s big Christmas-gift-buying cash cow.  And it was it ever.  Tiger saturated Nickelodeon and pretty much any other kid’s programming station or time slot with incessant and very convincing advertising.  And company reps were on a variety of TV talk and news shows.

The really bad part: demand was WAY WAY WAY higher than supply.  You couldn’t find them on the shelves anywhere.  I heard stories of people waiting for delivery trucks in the back of stores and trying to buy them there directly.

I was in charge of answering consumer e-mail.  They had an AOL account.  For the life of me, I have no idea why a major corporation would use outdated AOL and not have its own address, but whatever.

Once the Furby frenzy hit, about early November or so, the amount of e-mails was insane.  Everyone was asking where to find them.  I had a cut n’ paste response of all the stores who had it on order, which took care of most of it.

AOL’s inbox only held 500 messages, and I could rip through about 350 a day.  Each morning the damn thing would be full again, and the process would start over.  I finally had to go to my boss and say, “I’m like Lucy in the candy factory here.  I really need some help.”

In addition to e-mails, people would call and ask about its availability, and the receptionist was instructed to route the calls to about 12 lower-level employees (Tiger only had about 70 employees total).

Until about mid-December, the calls wouldn’t stop.  I’d get a call, the receptionist would say, “Furby call,” and I’d field it and read the list of stores.  I’d hang up, and immediately I’d get the same thing.  It was almost impossible to get any other work done.

Talking to the masses on the phone was more depressing than the e-mails.  I swear, I never heard so many sob stories from folks whose kid would wither and die if he/she didn’t get a Furby for Christmas.  And there sure were a lot of sick kids perishing in the hospital at that point in time whose only ray of hope was a Furby.

And gals, not to knock your gender, but it was 98% mothers doing the whining and begging and sobbing.  Guys who would call up would have a “yeah, thanks for nothing, have a nice day” attitude.

But we all got through it.  We each even got to pick an original from one of the first batches.  Mine’s a black one and is probably worth, like, two dollars or so now.


EPILOGUE: A few years later, I was laid off with several other people.  The explanation was that profits had plummeted and times were tough.  The usual “bye bye” speech.

Well, duh.  You have a brilliant product that’s in super-high demand and makes mega-millions, and no product even close to that to follow up for the next few marketing cycles.  Of COURSE profits are down.

Too bad people weren’t so interested in the later-released Halloween Furby, Valentine’s Day Furby, and Transvestite Furby.  Okay, I made that last one up.  They never took my suggestions.