Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pop Song of the Week: "Wild"

It would be nice to think that actress Reese Witherspoon named her most recent movie after this song but even if she did not, it is still a good song. Nay, it is a great song.

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Sandra Cisneros!

AKA Sandra Laura Cisneros.

Born December 20, 1954.

She is one of the most well-known Mexican-American writers still working today. There was a time when I was genuinely inspired by her even though I did not always agree with her political opinions. However, the older I get, the more I tend to concentrate on what I have in common with her and not what divides us.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Wild Wild West: "Night of the Assassin"

U.S. Secret Service agent James West rescues Mexican president Benito Juárez from an assassin who was dressed like a priest. Considering President Juárez's real-life attitude toward the Catholic Church, there's some dramatic irony there -- though whether it was intentional or not is something only the writers know.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Cuento de Mi Id

“The Girls of Winter”

It was half past twelve when the next girl came on stage, which proves that not all scary things happen at midnight. She was a skinny young thing, most likely jailbait, and it hardly seemed worth it for her to take her top off. She staggered about the stage for a while, waving her arms up and down as if they were drumsticks. I could clearly see her ribs beneath her skin and I almost felt sorry for her.

She was promptly booed off the stage -- no doubt as an act of mercy, I thought. She then grabbed her top and scurried off to the back room.

The next dancer was of more conventional proportions but she wore too much blue eye shadow. I quickly lost interest and returned to my drink. The club closed at two and I wasn't looking forward to navigating my way home with a hundred other drunks. However, it was fifteen below outside and I was in no hurry to brave the winter traffic. I came from Chicago myself so snow and ice don't scare me, but trying to dodge fifteen other drivers while trying to avoid a fishtail tends to take all the fun out of winter driving.

In fact, I almost totaled my car making it this far. Some wiseguy in a pickup truck was too stupid to drive at normal speed and made me put on the brakes when he cut in front of me on the highway. When you're driving on ice, that's the last thing you want to do. I managed to get out of it okay -- I always do -- but I must admit that I was really shook up there for a while.

Yeah, a long while.

The next dancer came on stage as I finished my beer. She was a black girl and she reminded me of a girl at the last club I was at. Very friendly that one had been. In fact, she even offered me drinks. Then she started putting her hand on my thigh and I realized that drinks were not the only thing she sold.

Outside, that old north wind must have been howling like a banshee. Perhaps if I put enough antifreeze in my system, I could make it as far as the parking lot, I thought as I ordered yet another beer. The waitress took her time bringing it as if she were being paid to bring it extra slow and I mentally subtracted a large portion of her tip while I was waiting.

In the meantime, I kept looking up at the stage and trying to not act bored but it was hard. After all, there was nothing in the club I couldn't see in a Playboy. And you're not allowed to touch the girls here, either. You're just allowed to get close enough to drop a bill in the old G-string and that's it. How dull.

The next girl on stage appeared to have needle marks on her arms. At least, I thought they were needle marks. Didn't make sense to me. I would have figured that most girls in her profession would be into skinpopping. If this was Canada, I could find out for sure, but they don't allow such places down here in the Bible Belt. Not at normal prices, anyway.

My beer finally arrived but for some reason, it tasted funny. I called the waitress over to order something in its place.

“Want any change?” the waitress asked me.

“What for?”

She gestured at the dancers.

“No, of course not.”

The waitress shrugged and went to fetch me my drink. It didn't taste much better than the last one. I began to think that I had been in the club too long.

I looked around again and saw that the club owners were out in force. Dressed in suits, they looked like members of the local country club but as they clapped along with the music, trying to drum up enthusiasm, they somehow reminded me of guest extras on Miami Vice and I was almost tempted to look for shoulder holsters.

My next drink tasted like it had a dead animal in it and I decided that was it. Time to go.

I threw a twenty down on the table and made my way to the door.

I looked back long enough to see that the girl on stage was now showing off her wrist scars and then I headed out to the parking lot.

The club was supposed to have valet parking but it seemed to be mostly reserved for the suits and the owners of late-model cars. I was neither, of course, and anyway, no one was on duty. So I made my way across the wind-swept parking lot by myself.

That's when I noticed that the parking lot was almost empty apart for a few scattered vehicles -- which was really unusual considered how crowded it had been inside the club. Where the hell did everybody park anyway? Surely they did not all arrive in those few cars like they were circus clowns or something? Or did the creeps who owned the club sell out to a chop shop?

I was thinking about going back inside when I suddenly saw a familiar vehicle. My old red Chevy was parked at the far left corner of the lot. As I walked closer toward it, I could see that it was not in great shape. In fact, it had a couple of dents in it that had not been there this morning. A couple of big dents in it. In fact, the whole left side of the car was caved in.

And that mess on the ice. It looked like blood. At least, some of it did. And the rest of it looked like...

Suddenly I was back on the highway. I was going 35 and my engine was starting to stall. The guy ahead of me was going 15, then dropped down to 0. I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting him, but a pickup got in front of me and in trying to avoid him, I found myself fishtailing on the highway. My brakes locked, the oil light came on, and I found myself heading toward the rear end of the same pickup that cut in front of me.

Then I blinked.

And found myself back in a mostly empty parking lot. The same lot I had been in before. I hurried back inside and didn't think twice when the girl at the door demanded another five bucks to enter the club. Instead I gladly paid it.

I went to the men's room to check myself out in the mirror but saw nothing wrong. But then I had seen nothing wrong before.

Then I went back out on the floor and picked myself an empty table to sit at. One that was near the stage. I ignored the other customers which was just as well since even in the half light of the club, they didn't look so good. But I wasn't paying to look at them so I didn't. Instead I stared ahead at the girls on stage until a waitress came up to me to take my order. This time I noticed a scar on her chest that was not quite covered by her uniform, but I said nothing about it. Instead I just ordered a beer.

No, I ordered three beers.

Then I turned to watch the dancer on stage try to pretend that she was not totally out of it. I didn't care if she was or if she wasn't. I was here to forget and that was what I intended to do.

In fact, it's almost one thirty and I'm still here. The drinks are starting to take effect now and I no longer notice the bad taste of the beers. I don't notice much of anything, in fact, except for the girls on stage. And I stopped trying to tell them apart a long time ago.

My wallet doesn't seem to be empty, and I could probably stay here all night if the club owners would let me. But I doubt they will. In fact, it seems like the club is going to end up closing soon.

That worries me. For as much as I try to pretend otherwise, I can't help wondering what will happen to me If I try to stay here past closing time. Or if there will even be a me here past closing time.

And yet I really do not want to go outside again. I really don't.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas and TV Songs of the Week: "The Snow Miser Song" and "The Heat Miser Song"

From the 1976 special The Year Without a Santa Claus, it is a song that dares not leave my memory for some reason even though I don't recall seeing this special during prime time. The Snow Miser was voiced by the late Dick Shawn -- an actor most famous for his role as Hitler in the 1969 comedy The Producers -- and the Heat Miser was voiced by George S. Irving -- best known to my generation for being the narrator of the Underdog cartoon series.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Imagine a girl in show business today wanting to settle down and raising a family. It's so refreshing, isn't it?
--Danny Kate, White Christmas (1954)

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TV Quote of the Week

Remember, Michael, the real happiness of Christmas is not found in what we get, but what we give.
--Cecil Kellaway, Bewitched, "A Vision of Sugar Plums"

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Iconos de Cine (Angels I)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It Was a Tangled Web That They Wove But It Was Woven in a Good Way

The first time I saw the 2010 movie Tangled, I was surprised how much actress Donna Murphy's "Mother Knows Best" number seemed to describe the dysfunctional love-hate relationship that one of my female friends had with her own mother. Like the main character of Tangled, the woman in question seemed to have a loving mother but only as long as she did what she was told. The minute the woman in question stopped obeying her mother's wishes, the woman's mother proved to be not so loving -- so much so that the woman spent most of her time in mortal fear of her mother's disapproval. (And bear in mind that this friend was a woman who was old enough to work at a local hospital.) While the woman's mother made a great show of showing people outside her family how friendly she could be, it seemed obvious by my friend's statements to me in private that her mother was not quite as friendly behind closed doors. If that was not bad enough, every time she and her mother had an argument, the friend would often be threatened with the possibility being thrown out of her mother's home -- a threat which usually made her back down really fast.

Fortunately, this movie's main character -- Rapunzel -- was not as intimidated as my friend but then she had the luxury of being a fictional character. Granted, we should be wary of reading our own issues into movies lest we see stuff that is not really there. But I never really expected to identify with Rapunzel as much as I did after I came across that number on YouTube -- and of course after that, I had to sample other songs from the same movie and then rent the video.

Mind you, I don't consider this flick to be a perfect movie. I could have done without the anachronistic chameleon that Rapunzel had for a pet or for that matter, Maximus the world's most dedicated guard horse. For that matter, I am not the world's biggest fan of singer Mandy Moore -- the person who voiced the character of Rapunzel -- though I must admit that I liked her very much in this movie. And yet when I consider how much I expected to hate this movie judging from an early description of it that I had read online... Well, suffice it to say that I rather be surprised by how good a movie is than by how bad it is.

Anyway, Tangled is a retelling of the classic story of Rapunzel, the long-haired princess who was trapped in a tower due to an old curse. Since this is a modern retelling, this Rapunzel was not content to sit around and wait to be rescued. Instead she chose to leave her tower voluntarily even though the woman she considered to be her mother firmly warned her against doing so. Along the way, she met up with a would-be thief who wished to hide out in her tower until his pursuers lost interest, only to end up interested in Rapunzel instead. This being a Disney film, there were countless misunderstandings for Rapunzel and her would-be boyfriend to wade through but there was also an inevitable happy ending.

Rapunzel eventually learned that yes, the world can be a scary place but despite what her would-be mother said, it could be beautiful as well. It was all a question of where you chose to look. And that is hardly the worst lesson one can receive nowadays.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Barbara Kent!

AKA Barbara Cloutman.*

Born December 16, 1907. Died October 13, 2011.

She was a Canadian-born, American-based actress who did her most famous work in the 1920s and 1930s. She played against actress Greta Garbo in the 1926 film Flesh and the Devil and she had a famous swim scene in the 1927 movie No Man's Law. Her last film was released in 1941, after which she retired from the movie business.

* Birth name.

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, George Santayana!

AKA Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás.

Born December 16, 1863. Died September 26, 1952.

He was a Spanish American philosopher and author who wrote in English and who had been raised and educated in the United States of America. He was best known for his famous quotation “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I actually made it through his most famous novel The Last Puritan and found it to be very interesting if not quite what I was expecting. It is a shame he did not write more such novels but I guess that was not to be.

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Comic Book Image of the Week

Wait! A teen-aged witch celebrates Christmas?

What would Cotton Mather say?

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Movie Song of the Week: "Food, Glorious Food"

From the 1968 musical Oliver!, I post a song that should have been on most people's minds this past month.

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Quote of the Week

Every gift which is given, even though is be small, is in reality great, if it is given with affection.

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Apparently Santa Wants Us to Buy Wine

From a photo I took last winter.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Kelley Armstrong!

Born December 14, 1968.

She is a Canadian writer who has been writing fantasy novels since 2001. She is most famous for the Women of the Otherworld series, a series of fantasy novels about supernatural characters who struggle to fit into human society. She has also written two crime novels and the Dark Powers series.

She is obviously one of my favorite contemporary writers and I have yet to write a novel by her in which I was totally disappointed. Then again, there is always a first time...

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