The Calm Before The Storm

I’ve been steering away from the usual kind of blog content I was so-very-good-at for years, and have more or less let my radio show take over my online presence as of late. But that’s not to say that a lot of stuff hasn’t been going on ’round the old homestead, and in fact there have been many blog-worthy things happening. I’ll try to keep it as concise as I know how to be:

1.) Movies: The new Star Trek movie was awesome; J.J. Abrams perfectly captured the geek, the humor, the ships-fighting-in-space, and the all around corn that was at the core of the Trek franchise, while jettisoning a lot of the techno-exposition & clunky stories that have been a problem since the beginning. The big disappointment this summer: Green Lantern: First Flight. How, exactly, a direct-to-DVD movie of a space-cop comic book character failed to entertain this aging, jaded fan is beyond me. Perhaps casting Michael Madsen as Kilowog, or John Larroquette as Tomar Re, was money spent that could have been used to improve the weak (and non-canonical) story. But who am I to nit-pick when it’s Green Lantern? I’ll probably watch it a few more times anyway, as that’s the kind of guy I am, and more to the point, I now own it.

2.) TV: Blew through all 12 episodes of The Middleman fairly quickly, which is a bummer because now I’ve seen it all. For those of you who like the clever dialog of Buffy and the sense of humor when Lost gets funny, this is for you. Essentially a satire of comic book-like adventure stories, it uses a bit of The Avengers formula, and references every wonderful thing imaginable in it’s very short run. My major complaint: it was aired originally on ABC Family, who’s influence is all over the final product. Still, very funny, and has been a nice reprieve from my on-going Doctor Who marathon, which is finally into the Patrick Troughton years (which are, admittedly, better than the William Hartnel episodes).

3.) Comics: As I’m entirely broke, I’m working through some stuff that I’ve had lying around, but haven’t had a chance to get to: Vols II & III of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all the Prelude To Blackest Night issues I bought before I went broke, and a bunch of odds and ends that slipped through the cracks. The best thing in that batch: the latest collection of work by Jason contains a story, “Low Moon,” which apes the western motifs where chess games take the place of shoot outs. It’s probably one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a comic since Frank by Jim Woodring. (With the possible exception of the incredible Ganges #1 by Keven Huizenga, which I also just finished.)

4.) The House: Every room, from top to bottom, is clean. I finally gave away the two carcasses of non-functional bicycles that I had inherited, caught up on all my laundry, and did an intensive deep clean of the Kitchen. The “front” and “side” yard are finally whipped into shape, and 3/4s of the back yard is weeded, trimmed, raked, and finally is a place you could spend some time and enjoy it. It would still be in my best interest to pare down my personal belongings by about half of what I currently have stored in never-to-be-opened-again boxes, but having already thrown out a third of the things I had stored like that BEFORE, I’m not in any real hurry to purge any larger chunks of my past (at least, not yet). My records and CDs, after quite a long bout of being in complete chaos, are almost entirely in alphabetically order. (Minus three crates of records, which I may or many not even keep. I’m still undecided, and may try to sell them in an upcoming Garage Sale we’re organizing. TBA.)

5.) Radio: I have the rest of the shows for 2009 planned and ready, and have archived all my existing previous shows on a grip of DVDs that are easily accessible if need be. I’ve been volunteering and helping out a lot at KPSU over the summer, and of course, any new radio appearances will be announced here if you miss them.

6.) Writing: Finished one ‘zine, and am about 2/3s of the way through finishing a second, this one with a CD of music accompanying it. Sort of hit a bit of a block with finishing that one, but I’m hoping that I can finish it in a month, which should be more than enough time to get “unblocked,” or as I’ve said in the past, inspired.

7.) School: I’m fully registered for my regular classes, and have prepared as much as I can this far ahead of the actually term beginning. I have written a rough-draft version of my Syllabus for the courses I’m teaching, which I can’t finish until I meet up with my faculty partner, who doesn’t get back from his vacation until September 25th. I threw out a bunch of old school documents that I will never want to look at / read again, and filed the rest. I still need to find a gym / workout class that is compatible with my teaching schedule, though, but as that is for me and not my degree, I’m willing to give it a few more days. I have my academic planner (this time using Google Calendar) programmed out until June of 2010, or, at least, the stuff I know about.

8.) Personal: Cut my hair, spent some time crying over stupid bullshit, have spent a fair amount of time with my family, and acclimated myself to the new living situation with varied (but positive) results. Finally crested the “Six Months Without A Date” mark, which was a bit of a setback, but aside from that bump, am doing well enough. Entirely quit drinking (now at the 8 month mark), but have yet to make a major dent in smoking (lots of false starts, though). Still, I cook nearly all my own food now, have gotten pretty good at making bread, and have learned to fill the hours with plenty of things to keep my mind off of being single. In spite of everything, I have exactly enough money to get by until my job starts, provided I don’t want to eat three times every day, and provided I don’t mind my phone and internet occasionally not working. (Besides, the Library is for free computers, and free phones exist all over PSU and at the radio station.)

All in all, I’ve had a very productive summer, despite spending most of it alone, at home, working in some capacity. I’m one of those personalities that does not feel content unless I’ve been “productive,” and big breaks like Summer and Winter tend to drive me a little batty. The difficulty in being a student is that your whole life gets rearranged around the notion of deadlines, as you can use them not only to motivate you, but to tick off the things that you should be doing to make it to your next goal. (They’re like milepost markers on the Highway of School.) So, when those deadlines go away, or don’t affect you for another two or three months, it’s like suddenly slowing down from 120 MPH to a leisurely 25 MPH in the space of a few blocks. You either crash and burn, or you stop suddenly, and suffer from emotional whiplash. I go through this every time I get a break, and have yet to really figure out the best way to mediate it.

Anyway, there has been a lot going on, but ironically, I have made less and less time to write about it. I imagine when the pace picks up again in 29 days, you’ll be able to tell that something changed, as I’ll be writing about it every six hours.

Until then…

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Wilhelm Weirdness

Here’s a little something that I found last night that is exactly up my ally: The Wilhelm Scream sound effect, and it’s history.

My friend Steve sent me the DVD for The Middleman, a short lived TV show on ABC Family that is to Comic Book Fiction what Buffy is to Vampire Fiction. The primary creator and writer is Javier Grillo-Marxuach, with more nerd credentials than I thought possible. (Not only does he write comics, but he was one of the writer’s and producers for the first two seasons of Lost. As I hadn’t heard of The Middleman before (how, exactly, I missed it is a mystery to me), I turned to the above-linked Wikipedia entry for more information, one of the first things I noticed was the short sentence, “Every episode used the Wilhelm scream in some way.” I couldn’t let a quick reference like that go un-Googled, so within a few minutes I had the whole story sorted out.

The short version: In 1951, a Warner Brothers movie called Distant Drums used a set of recorded screams that became popular among sound effects editors. As the years wore on, the scream became an in-joke among those editors, who would go out of their way to sneak it into films in any way they could. It is claimed that the effect appears in over 140 films. Sooner or later, film nerds began to catch on: George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, and Joe Dante were some of the first people to revive it’s usage, and the tradition has been picked up by Tim Burton, Quinten Tarentino, and Peter Jackson. As more and more film nerds become hip to the effect, it becomes used even more often, only perpetuating it as a sound chiché. It’s only fair, then, that when something as pure-geek as The Middleman starts being produced, you’d have to pull out all the stops and put it in every episode. At least Javier is following in a good TV tradition too: Wilhelm has screamed in Maverick, The X-Files, Angel, The Family Guy, and in commercials for both Dell and Comcast.

(I can only imagine that this kind of obscure referencing could have only contributed to ABC Family just scratching their heads before giving up and canceling something this idiosyncratic. Perhaps that’s why it is so appealing.)

For those of you not exactly sure if you can place the effect in film, some kind person has created a great YouTube video that collects some of the best useages of Wilhelm in an easy-to-digest 3 1/2 minute form. If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then really, what will?

Things I Love

In an effort to pull myself out of my funk, and to try to embrace some positive things for a change (rather than complaining until I’m blue in the face about nearly everything), I’ve decided to make a list of things I love. So often, I think, this gets lost in the shuffle of trying to look cool in a town that is often predicated on exactly that. Being cool is one thing; being willing to admit to the things that make you happy, and proudly wearing them as a badge of honor, is even cooler if you ask me. Let’s begin:

01.) My Family
02.) My Friends
03.) School
04.) Radio
05.) The Public Library
06.) Records
07.) Comics
08.) Writing
09.) Making A Mix Of Music For Someone
10.) Shared Physical Intimacy
11.) Fresh Fruit
12.) Watching Something Fun With A Friend
13.) Shopping For Food I Like To Eat
14.) Ginger Ale
15.) Hanging Out In The Kitchen, Making Food & Listening To Records With Someone
16.) When I Have A Date
17.) Genuine Compliments About My Creative Output
18.) Having My Bills Paid, And Having Money Left Over
19.) Loud Rock ‘n’ Roll Shows
20.) Knowing That You’re Hearing Something For The First Time
21.) Invitations To An Event
22.) Finally Understanding Something Complex
23.) Getting Packages Or Letters In The Mail
24.) Seeing Pretty Girls
25.) Knowing That I’m Trying To Be A Better Person