|FEBRUARY Part 1|
|Well, that was fun. Yesterday's radio show, that is. Lots of fun. I always think that Im going to go up, as they say in theater - lose ones place, become hideously self-conscious, and enter the death-spiral where you panic, freeze, and run out of the booth. Of course, that never happens. It happened once, in 1985, and Ive never forgotten it, damn the luck. But theres always that point in the first few moments where it just seems like such an unnatural thing to do - sit in this room and talk to no one and to everyone. Now that KSTP has established a Minnesota network, there are even more people listening than before, and if you think of them peering with suspicion at the radio, wondering what the hell this nattering idiot is doing, well, it can unman you in seconds. You have no choice: punch it, floor it, spin the wheels for a moment if you have to, but GO.
Ive done a few shows since I stepped away from the mike a while ago, but nothing felt as good as the show I did today. Not saying it was great radio, just that it felt comfortable. Felt fun. I was dealing with a new quirk of the format: we cant say the call letters. It is been bred into my bones to come in and go out with the call letters - but since the shows on a network, I had to ID the show, and let the affiliates drop in their call letters. And I had to get out five seconds before the top of the hour, not on the top. Small details, but I wanted to do them right. Its a point of pride to do the show like a pro.
My wife is back, and thats a relief. Last night was the last gasp of bachelorhood, and I spent it on the couch with a few movies Id seen before. Thats my idea of a good time: seeing movies Ive seen before. Very infantile, I know; very Teletubbies. Again! Again! But I hadnt seen 2001: A Space Odyssey in 20 years, and certainly hadnt seen it with a clear mind. It was . . . well, its not really a film one can love. You have the feeling that a much more interesting movie is going on right around the corner. Its very cold; the beginning seems a little silly, and the big light-show at the end is interminable. I dimly remember the buildup that preceded the film - one of the magazines I subscribed to as a kid had a big breathless piece about the astonishing scientific accuracy of the movie, the wonderful sets, the ingenious camera work . . . and then we got this block of ice, this big slab of frigid marble that didnt seem excited at all about these nifty spacecraft and gadgets. Which, of course, was the point.
It irritates me that were not as advanced in space as the film portrays - no moon base, no space station, no Jupiter probes. But at least when do accomplish those things, well have a better sense of interior design. Those chairs in the space station looked like they belonged in a Love, American Style episode.
Then I watched Titanic, which impressed me less the second time than the first. I wanted less of the adolescent love story, and more of the SHIP. The sinking sequence was as spectacular as I remembered - but my initial impression was confirmed. The key moments in the history of the night lacked punch; Cameron seemed to be deliberately underplaying them, because he had so much to give later on. But there should have been more drama in the collision sequence than the Rose-saves-Jack-from-a-Watery-Grave sequence, because more was at stake. In this film, however, there isnt anything more at stake than Rose and Jack, and while that gives the movie a focus, it weakens the impact of the greater story. Titanic isnt really about the Titanic at all. Add some tiresome PC anachronisms and the moustache-twirling You Must Pay the Rent! acting of the bad guys, AND a dishonorable treatment of both Captain Smith and ESPECIALLY Mr. Lightholler, and you have a film that frustrates Titanic aficionados as much as pleases them.
At least it had the drunken baker. It's not a Titanic movie without the drunken baker.
All Ive done for the last week is watch movies. Havent read anything - except for a great New Yorker article on David Hockneys theories on Renaissance painting. He thinks he knows why they came up with perspective, and how they got everything right: they had cheats. They used optical instruments that projected the images on the canvas. Hes probably right; the article has a mad thrill running through it, mostly because Hockneys completely obsessed with the idea. I intended to bring this up on the radio today, but like every other bit of show prep, it was thrown to the wind. Well, Ill save it for the next show.
Before I left the house today, I pawed through a box for some old unused show prep from the Diner days. Couldnt find it. Cant believe I threw it out. What will I talk about next time?
Honest to Bog, theres naught in the tank but fumes tonight; wispy vapors that can impel the Bleat on a few wheezy coughing paragraphs, but little more. I wrote and wrote and wrote yesterday and did the same today, and as much as I wish I had saved a bright golden nugget of insight for the Bleat, Im done. Empty, wrung dry, finis, factus est. I swear that the entire day has adhered to an iron-forged schedule, bereft of surprise or serendipitous deviancy from the norm. Same walk with the dog at the same time over the same territory, same lunch (tuna, lemon mayo, a banana that looked as if it had been in Rodney Kings back pocket, leathery raisins) same work (wrote half the column, scowled, ripped it up, wrote it again) same walk (downtown, into the skyways, mail bills at my favorite mail slot - its in the old First National Bank building, and the deposit drawers have a comforting heft) same rewrite of the column (banged it all out at the last minute, scowled, wondered if I was giving myself a pass, going easy, assuming it would do. I can NEVER assume it will do; it ALWAYS has to feel as though Im doing the best I can do. It can never be slack or lazy; I can never assume anyone will read it just because its there. It has to earn eyeballs anew, every single time.) Same drive home down Portland, listening to the same show talking about the same issue, with the same host and the same commercials. Same trip to the grocery store for the SAME - DAMN - ITEMS - bananas, coffee (same brand, same blend, same grind in the coffee machine) Frosty Paws dog treats, same desserts (Jello fat-free pudding sundaes; four chocolate, two caramel. Why? Why not three of each? I love the caramel. Why am I denied that third caramel sundae? Why?) Same trip through the alley to make a left onto my street to park in the same spot, and come in the door to the same greeting from the same dog -
A nice ordinary night in front of the computer:
Try to get on the net. Number is busy for 30 minutes. Play with dog. Get on net. Get knocked off by telemarketer. Decline offer for a credit card that offers secure Internet purchases; stifle desire to point out irony.
Install Quake 3. It hangs when I click on Single Player. Restart. Check memory; I have plenty. Trim all geegaws from system folder, just in case theres a funky conflict somewhere. (And I do not mean the KungFuFighting_dll file.) Reboot. Call up Q3. Click on single player. Load map. Computer hangs loading map. Reboot. Repeat. Reboot. Repeat. Take Q3 demo off hard drive.
Install demo of Star Wars pod racer. Regrettably, it works fine. Stifle surge of bile upon seeing animation of leaping Darth Mikey. Play it once. Remove from hard drive.
The actual camera direction is utterly lackluster; there are perhaps three shots in the entire film: looking through the windshield at the characters, looking through the side window at another car, and looking back at the car. For variety, a stationary shot of a car driving past. The acting is hit or miss - Dreyfuss is not as annoying as he would later become, Harrison Ford (from the scene I did see) gives a performance that explains his attraction to carpentry, since he obviously has a deep instinctive understanding of what it means to be wood; Ron Howard is as natural as ever, Potsie is - oh,wait, Potsies not in this one. Point is, the movie works because of the editing. Someone took fifty-eight miles of film and found the story. I dont know how much of that was Lucas, and how much was due to his collaborators efforts. Im not saying the editing was spectacular; it isnt. Its unobtrusive. But it saves the movie.
And 73 still seems like a few months ago; 62 seems like ancient times.