Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve Gone By

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, naturally we watched television out of New York City. This was back in the 70's, when there were only three networks (2, 4, and 7) and three independent channels (5, 9, and 11).

But what I remember most about New Year's Eve wasn't the ball dropping on television, but rather the movies that were played. I have no idea why, but channels 5 and 11 always played either Yellow Submarine or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I've decided to celebrate both my long-past youth and the holiday by watching both films this year on the eve of the new year. We had planned to have people over to celebrate, but bronchitis has swept through the house, and we'll have a small, cough-filled, family celebration this year.

With Chinese food. That's the other tradition. You always have Chinese food on New Year's Eve.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Songs with Twist Endings

It's always cool to listen to the lyrics of a song and discover that it's not at all what it seemed to be.

For most of the song, you are led to believe that "Marie" in the song is the singer's girlfriend, forced apart from him by her mother. It turns out it's his six-year-old daughter, separated from him by a divorce or separation.

99% of the song is Meatloaf bragging about how he had sex with a girl in a car. You don't find out until the very end that the whole thing is a lament, and he can't stand the girl, whom he had ended up marrying. "I'm praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you!"

It's that classic tale. Boy is supposed to meet his sweetheart, ends up waiting for her in the rain, wondering why she's stood him up. Then he realizes he's been waiting in the wrong place all along.

Guy offers to hire a girl as his driver, to show off how successful he is. Turns out, he doesn't even own a car. Yet.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy 50th, Star Trek

I was just a bit too young to remember watching Trek when it was in first-run on television (but I was alive then, and it's certainly possible that I was present while the TV was on), but I vividly remember watching it in reruns in New York City, on channel 11 right at dinner time on weeknights (sandwiched around The Odd Couple and Beat the Clock, at least for a time). I don't know what it was about that show that struck a chord with me, but something definitely did, and I tried to never miss an episode. My parents didn't think anything of it, and happily indulged my passion with Star Trek toys, model kits, and action figures (back then we had the big 8" action figures, with uniforms made of real material, not just molded plastic, and removable phasers, communicators, tricorders, etc.). I had almost every one of those things you could get (in some cases more than one, and I would put the uniforms on other figures to beef up my team of red shirts to go down to the planet and get vaporized). I remember getting up extra early to watch the Animated Series once I discovered it, and being bewildered when I couldn't find it any more.

I had the earliest of the books; one of the first book reports I remember doing was on "Spock Must Die!" The old James Blish adaptations of the original Trek scripts were favorites, and I devoured "making of" books like "The Trouble with Tribbles ("the book on how to write for TV," as the subtitle claimed), "The World of Star Trek," and "The Making of Star Trek." I got several copies of the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, and still have a rather large collection of 1st printings, for which I scour used bookstores when I have the opportunity. I have no idea if they're worth anything, but I like having them and other things, like the original Star Trek Maps, blueprints, and so forth.

In the aftermath of Star Wars, Trek became once more a hot property. Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, and with it a slew of new novelizations. From the awfulness that was anything by Diane Duane to the ultimate coolness that was the John Ford Klingons, it was a great time to be a Trek fan. (Trekkie? Trekker? I didn't, and don't to this day, consider one cooler or more derogatory than the other.) Wrath of Khan followed, and things were rolling. A few friends in high school shared my passion, but not to the same extent as me, and it wasn't until college that I actually met others who were into Trek as much as I was. My best friend Bob and I took in our first Trek convention together that year in Boston, and I was in hog heaven. Bob had even written his own Trek novel, set on a ship other than the Enterprise (which at the time was a novelty), and even had insignia made up for the ship (I still have one, Bob, if you're reading this).

Over the years my love of Trek never diminished, and gradually turned into full-blown fandom. Conventions, uniforms, Trek-related games, fan clubs (I performed a wedding at a Shore Leave convention in Maryland, dressed as a Mirror Universe chaplain; "Let us prey... upon those who are weaker than ourselves..."). In fact, it was while in a Star Trek fan club that I met my wife*, and to this day some of my closest friends stem from those grand days of friendship and fellowship, built around our mutual obsession. Sure, I'm a fan of most if not all science fiction that comes down the pike, and Star Wars holds a place dear in my heart, Dr. Who is mostly great, but to this day I'll watch Star Trek if it's on in any form; whether it be one of the series (yes, I even like Star Trek Voyager), the movies, or even a special on a channel like Biography. My wife and I spent a great few months having our "can't miss together time" around watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine on DVD from start to finish.

Trek's made a lasting impression on my life, and made me some of the best friends I've had. And I don't think it's any odder than being able to quote baseball statistics or spending hundreds of dollars on football tickets.

* The first year we were married, we both tried to get the other a print of "New Borg City" for Christmas. Trouble is, the store only had one, and we were both trying to do it behind the other's back! It was a hoot once we and the guys at the store all realized what was going on.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A bit of horror from my childhood

Back when I was a kid, I couldn't get enough of horror movies. We're talking like 1975 and earlier horror movies. So no Halloween, Friday the 13th, or anything like that. I was enthralled with the classics; Universal films like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Hammer films like Horror of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein, etc. And of course Tojo films like Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mothra, King Kong Escapes, and so forth (plus their rival studios' offerings like Gamera!).

And of course there were a lot of other movies in there as well. Science fiction back then was tossed into the horror movie mix with abandon, and vice versa. So include wonders like Planet of the Apes, Silent Running, those wonderful Ray Haryhausen movies, and Colossus: The Forbin Project into the mix.

Of course I was a huge Famous Monsters of Filmland fan, and had a thick stack of magazines in my room, most of which got quite worn over the years. But when I was about 8 years old or so, I got a pair of books about horror movies from a local bookstore, and they were my constant companions. I had completely forgotten the titles (and indeed one title still eludes my memory and my Google skills), but I recently found one on eBay; A Pictoral History of Horror Movies.

To say I had read this book repeatedly when I was just a youngin' is an understatement. These books were my constant companions. I read them and read them and read them, and viewed all the wonderful photos of movies I had seen - usually on Chiller Theater on channel 11 in New York, which showed all sorts of movies from the 30's onwards - and drilled them into my memory.

So when I found that one book, A Pictoral History of Horror Movies, it was like being transported back to 1975. I still remember every picture, every caption, and even a lot of the text. That was a simpler time in horror movie-dom; fewer serial killers (and the ones that were there were kitschy and flashy and usually played by Vincent Price) and more monsters. And I loved it. There's a certain classiness, and of course more than a little self-aware silliness, in there that modern horror movies (which seem to veer more and more into torture porn, body horror, and SHOCK, none of which I particularly like) simply lack.

Hell, I still love it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Tonight I will drink a toast to these brave adventurers, as I did last night for the crew of Apollo 1.