And We Bid a Fond Adieu (Not a Fondue) to Cable TV

Cutting the Cord

After years of watching cable TV we’ve finally had enough and are preparing to join the ranks of the cord-cutters. I think it was the last price increase that sealed the deal. Wendy and I started looking at the channels we watch and when, and we realized that most of what we watch is just wallpaper. With the exception of a few shows, we watch mostly movies, many of them old classics. And of the shows we watch, we don’t have to see them when they air. Most of our stuff we watch days, weeks, or months after the fact.

So, I’m in the experimentation phase at the moment. Hooked up a small indoor high-def antenna to the TV in the kitchen, as we don’t really watch anything in there, anyway. And with the antenna, I get enough channels to have something on in the background when I’m paying bills or working a crossword puzzle. Plus, there’s a local radar channel, so the weather’s covered.

We have five TV’s in the house, most of which we don’t watch. The one in the exercise room (also the cat box room) we only use when we’re working out, so we only need a DVD player or VCR. There’s another cable connection we don’t need. Master bedroom? The only time we watch something in there is at night before I crash, as I go to bed before Wendy. So, an indoor antenna should be good enough, as long as I get MeTV.

Our main TV watching rooms are Wendy’s studio and downstairs in the Bat Cave. We’re testing out a Roku 2 box on Wendy’s TV and so far I think it’ll give us a lot of what we want. Gonna go with one downstairs, too. Looks like we can get plenty of free classic movies and old TV shows. Plus, as the few channels we watch with current shows post the most recent episodes to their web sites, we’ll have those, too. We probably won’t be able to watch them the night they air, but we don’t do that, anyway. I’m so far behind on Gotham and The Flash it’ll be weeks before I’m caught up. Fortunately, they’ve wrapped up their seasons, so I’ve got some breathing room.

At any rate, here in a month or so we should be saying adios to cable TV. The only thing we’ll need cable for will be the ‘net. I think the era of cable TV is nearing the end of its run.

‘til next time…Adios.

Posted in Future Technology, Random Meditations, Television | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Where Didja Come From, Coffin Joe?

Coffin Joe

There’s horror and there’s horror. Pretty obvious, right? Or not. When we get into this whole issue of genre, we see it’s anything but clear. I’ve been watching horror and science fiction films and TV shows for, let’s say, a very long time, and we at the Tates Creek Classic Horror Film Club have watched a batch of horror flicks over the last 6 or more years. One thing I’ve learned is that when you say horror, it can mean a lot of different things.

Okay, I’m rambling my way into the topic, but I’ll get there eventually.

One definition of a horror movie that I’ve read (or made up) before says that it produces a feeling of horror. So, let’s start fresh by heading to the ‘net for a quick definition. Merriam-Webster, the online version, says, among other things, that horror is defined by “a very strong feeling of fear, dread, and shock.” Hmm, they used the word ‘and’ in that sentence. Does that mean I have to feel all three emotions for a horror film to be truly classified as a horror film? If so, many horror movies would fail on that account.

We’ve watched horror films with classic monsters such as Frankenstein’s creature (although in some of the Frankenstein movies it’s not the creature who is the monster, it’s the doctor who made him), werewolves, mummies, ghosts, vampires, and zombies, and whereas they frightened audiences at one time, most of the times they no longer scare us. Unless a mood is created.

Last night we watched Brazil’s first horror movie, a low-budget shocker called At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul. With this film, we pushed into rougher waters than we’ve been in for a while. It’s edgy, a true horror film, but a little hard to watch for some folks. A lot of times, no matter the movie, our crew makes comments, sometimes humorous. Not this one. We were all stone quiet, totally involved. Though a bit disturbing, it was an excellent film.

Comparing it to other films we’ve seen in the past, it’s up there with Night of the Living Dead as far as true horror, or Island of Lost Souls as far as some real jaw-dropping horror moments. With Night, though, it’s flesh-munching zombies; Island it’s a mad doctor with his animal-to-human experiments. But one thing that Island shares with At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is the human monster side of things. A common thread I’ve seen with many horror films is the human element, the human monster, produces the most horrific, frightening, and unforgettable moments.

Let’s look at some monster movies that are known for scaring the s**t out of us. Alien. The Exorcist. Jaws (yes, among other things, it’s a horror movie). The Mist. Cloverfield. All of these cross genres, but they all have a monster or monsters, whether it’s an alien beastie, demon, killer shark, or something we just can’t figure out. But there’s always that feeling of unreality. Plus an Us vs Them sense that no matter how bad things look, or how high the body count goes, we’ll finally get enough firepower, willpower, or just plain orneriness to squash the beasties.

But for real horror, human monsters are the scariest and most disturbing. Dr. Moreau as so creepily played by Charles Laughton in Island is much worse than any of his creations. He’s sadistic and cruel. The Fredric March version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is terrifying because he enters the realm of psychological horror. And last night’s bad guy from Brazil, Zé do Caixão, or as he is also known, Coffin Joe, takes us at full gallop into the brutally sadistic world of human horror. Is there a supernatural side to the film? Can’t tell you. But I can tell you that the character of Zé, played so unendearingly repulsive by writer/director/actor José Mojica Marins is one none of us will forget. An undertaker with a dark side, he’s as human as the rest of us, but then again, he’s also inhuman. And not in a supernatural sense. Wearing all black, with a cloak and top hat, he’s an undertaker who never seems to do any actual undertaking, although he’s always at the funeral, most of the time, for people he’s killed in the community.

Zé wants one thing above all else – a child. Problem is, he needs someone who’ll have a child with him, and that’s the difficult part because Zé is definitely not a nice guy. At all. He doesn’t like you, he’ll just stamp you out of existence. Why doesn’t anyone stop Zé? Well, pretty much the entire town is afraid of him, and the local gendarmes are ineffective or just don’t care, so Zé gets away with, yeah, you guessed it. Murder.

Zé is also a blasphemer and is condescending towards anyone of the Catholic faith, which is the whole town. This, and the fact that the character is sadistically brutal are the main reasons why the censorship boards in Brazil wouldn’t let Marins’s movie play everywhere. Still, according to what I’ve read, audiences loved it. The character of Zé became their Freddy Krueger, or Jason. Big difference is that he’s human, and that’s what makes this character so disturbing. Much more disturbing than, say, a werewolf or creature assembled from spare parts. Hand me my silver bullets and I’ll square off against the wolfman, but Zé? Nope.

Still, this is an important film to study. It’s another example of what can be accomplished with very little money. The studio was only 600 square feet. There were exterior shots, but they got more out of that 600 square feet of space than bigger studios. Great camerawork and over-the-top acting made the movie feel large. And you have to admire the crew’s determination. They got in trouble with local authorities when they chopped down some trees to create the film’s “forest”. Gotta hand it to them — it was a good-looking forest.

Zé is one of those bizarrely outlandish characters that we’ll always remember. But he wasn’t the only one. There was a Gypsy woman, Velha Bruxa, who taunted Zé throughout the movie, and she was just perfect. Great witch-like cackle. Played so effectively by Eucaris Moraes, she only acted in four movies that I could find.

That’s enough for now. More on Midnight later.

‘til next time…Adios.

Posted in Classic Horror Film Club, Movie Reviews, Random Meditations, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Having Trouble Holding the Pen in My Paws

Writing Cat

Writing with cats. I am often tempted to let our cats (either one or both of them) do my writing for me. Mostly out of curiosity. I’d like to see what I get.

We have two cats who allow us to live in our (their) house, and occasionally they let us sit at the computer or desk, or wherever, and write a few words before we are called for. This is actually a proven writing technique, as I shall demonstrate. And we are not the first to discover it. No, not at all. It was first discovered by William Shakespeare’s brother, Frank. I’ll bet you didn’t know about ol’ Bill’s brother, did you? Well, there’s an excellent reason for that, and I’m making it up, uh, looking it up right now. Frank loved cats, and my thoroughly incomprehensible research staff tells me that at one time he resided in a two-room home with 35 cats. Frank would get all of them fed somewhere around noon, having neglected his own breakfast, and by the time he returned to his writing desk, all his writing utensils had vanished, used as cat toys; his bottle of ink was spilled, and every piece of paper, no matter the size, had become cat beds, no matter the size of the cat.

Frank would try as best he could to reposition his felines, locate one writing implement and an unspilled, unopened bottle of ink (his favorite being Chinese ink brought to him by Marco Polo), and sit down to write, when he would have to interrupt a cat dispute, or open/close/open a door, until it would be supper time. The longest passage of writing that literary historians have discovered is the following passage: “I pay 50 gold coins if someone could help me with…” And that’s all we know about Frank Shakespeare.

We have it considerably easier with only two little tigers in our home. Some days we can bang out five, six, or seven nearly coherent sentences in rapid succession before we lose our laps, at which point we resort to one-handed typing, as the other hand must keep whichever cat that currently resides on our lap from falling off. I mean, you can’t let the cat fall off your lap, now, can you? So, what it teaches us is how to write fast. Bullet fast. It does also produce some interesting sentences at times, as with this example: “Black the night was as I crept and felt my way past the fog-enshrouded cemetery, and…hey! You guys get off the counter!”

Besides that, one definite advantage is that for those middle-of-the-night writing sessions, they have taught me how to see in the dark.

Perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

‘til next time…Adios.

Posted in Cats, Random Meditations, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I’ll Just Wear the Big Mac, Please

Mac Attack

You want fries with that?

Now you can get your Big Mac to go and wear it on the go. Seems that Ronald has found a new, wearable way to spread the word (in addition to the ketchup and mustard) about their products. At the moment, it’s just Big Macs you can purchase on a set of sheets or raincoats, but eventually the world’s most recognizable burgers should expand to other clothing items, and include a wider variety of Mickey D’s food items. As per usual, I have a few suggestions for them:

The Fry Hat. Who wouldn’t want a sporty super-sized version of fries in that trademarked red container sitting atop their noggin? A bunch of fries poking from the top and you’ll be the talk of the town.

The Turnover smartphone case. Yeppir, you’ll be lookin’ good in the gadgetry arena with a piping hot apple turnover case.

And what about a pair of Quarter Pounder slacks? What better way to show how much you support them Golden Arches than with Q-Pound Pants? Super-size ‘em and you have a Quarter Pounder per leg.

The Shake Jacket will keep you warm on those blustery days. Available colors are vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and pumpkin spice for those autumn days and nights. Some models will have specially-designed holders so you can carry the shake of your choice hands-free. Strategically-camouflaged straw is woven into the jacket so you can sip and go.

These are just a few ideas, which I’m sure will be out soon. Unfortunately, the new fashions are only available in Sweden currently. But I’m sure they’ll make their way world-wide soon.

Check out more info at:

http://m.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/mcdonald-launches-big-mac-fashion-lifestyle-collection-article-1.2163002

‘til next time…Adios.

Posted in Advertisements, Fast food, Random Meditations | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bail Out, Bail Out, He Doesn’t Have a Plan B!

Big Bird

Today is brought to us by the letter ‘B’, and since this blog is about media in all its forms, I thought I’d dive straight into letting ‘B’ be, in all its beauty. B is pronounced the same as be as in “Let it Be” by The Beatles, which is worthy to note that they are not the Beetles. B is also pronounced like bee, as in honeybee, and that makes me wonder when we went from honey bee to honeybee.

Now, a bee can scare me a little if they are the stinging variety, and once a bee has done its bee thing, you certainly know where it’s been. But there are the non-stinging bees, such as Sting, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, who was in a band and won three Brit Awards.

But back to B, because that is the basis of today’s post. I noticed that someone did a fine post on beverage, so I thought I’d write a little about beer, as it is a brew that has been around for a bit, and one of my favorites is Boddingtons.

Other bee-sounding words are names such as Bea, as in Aunt Bee (which was short for Beatrice – why they didn’t go with Bea I don’t know), or Bea Arthur (Maude), or Bea Benaderet from Petticoat Junction. Their Bea names are just like ‘bean’ as in Mr. Bean. Now, why ‘bee’ is pronounced like the letter ‘B’ or ‘b’, but when we add an ‘n’ to it as in ‘been’ it sounds like Ben as in Big Ben. However, if we put a ‘t’ on the end we get ‘beet’, which is just like ‘beat’ as in The Beatles.

B is versatile as it can be big or Big or REALLY BIG, but sometimes it can be flat as in B-flat, the eleventh semitone of the Western chromatic scale, of which wind ensembles may tune to using a tuba, not to be confused with a tuna because there’s a ‘b’ where the ‘n’ would’ve been if we’d been referring to a fish and not a horn.

B is also a superhero word, as in Batman, Black Canary, or Blue Beetle (not to be confused with The Beatles, even though they were once known as The Silver Beetles — colorful but not blue).

Many, many moons ago, the Phoenicians made the letter ‘b’ and it was called beth, their alphabet’s second letter. Because it was second, it always tried harder, wanting to be ‘a’ or ‘A’, but never quite got there, so it decided it was good enough, which is why a grade of ‘B’ is called good. Some people think of ‘B’ as not so good as in B-movies (also known as low-budget), but I and some of my friends happen to like movies that are called ‘B’ because they are more fun than the A-listers. The A-listers try too hard sometimes and don’t have as much fun, which is why I’m sort of a B kind of a guy.

There’s also a Plan B, which is a backup plan, a good plan to have in case you’re A-plan goes belly-up. Always have a Plan B, which I didn’t really have when I started this post, having no clear idea where I would go with it or how to bail, so I’ll just say ‘bye.

‘til next time…Adios.

Posted in Beer, Music, Random Meditations, Television, Word Origin, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Can’t Write Yet, I Have to Read How to Write First

writers-block

We here at Multimedia Meditations Central have decided it’s time to thin out the herd that is the collection of writing books we’ve accumulated over the years. Many are good, but there are duplicates, and duplicates of duplicates. How many rhyming dictionaries is too many, comprehensive or non? And all those books on writing novels? I can’t even make it all the way through one of them. They’re good, I suppose, but they all pretty much read like, well, books on how to write novels. Plus, none of them come with a magic wand for me to wave and make the words appear.

This is not to say the books are bad or poorly written. Not at all. But, and now here’s the shocker, I’ve learned after years and years (and years) of writing a little of this, a little of that, that nothing beats finally sitting down, teeth and fingers gritted, and applying pencil, pen, or electrons to a writing surface, non-electronic or otherwise.
Several of the books I don’t even know where or when I got them or why. I look at the covers and they’re cryptic as code.

Then there are the ones that, yes indeedy, I know exactly why we bought them. We wanted to be rich and famous authors with book contracts and movie deals and fans writing to us wondering why we killed off their favorite characters. Books like “Writing for Dollars”, a short publication titled “101 Ways to Make Money Writing”, “Writers at Work”, and “Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel”.

These are all fine books, but in my case I’ve learned that, unless I’m looking for something specific, they are distractions. I can read and absorb all this excellent marketing advice but it’s still not writing. Writing is writing. It’s something I need to remind myself of every day. In fact, there are, at least for me, a bazillion ways to not write, and only one sure way to write.

Over the years we’ve amassed writing books on getting to the writer within the writer, getting to the child within the writer, writing for play, writing for bucks, setting schedules, writing freely, writing what I know, writing what I don’t know, grammar tips and tricks, dictionaries on cliches, rhymes, idioms, mystical creatures, magical locales, baby names from various decades, word origins, acronyms, and abbreviations. And let’s not forget the various thesauri.

So, it’s time to pluck, prune, and otherwise weed out. For nothing is quite as effective a writing method as just doing what I’m doing right here.

‘til next time…Adios.

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BackDraft

Rough draft

I was hesitant at first about getting back in to edits on my rough (and hopefully becoming less rough) draft, so I snuck up on it. Sometimes you just have to outfox yourself. And, I have to admit, it smacks of procrastination a little.

Okay, so here’s what I’m doing. I’m starting from the beginning with my most recent draft (keep in mind that it’s been almost three months since I worked on any of it — yeah, I know.), and comparing with the draft right before that one, sweeping through and deleting the old stuff in the previous draft. That way I become reacquainted with my story again, and have a sense of accomplishment as I trash the version prior. Plus, I get those golden little aha! moments when I go, “Hey, no, he wouldn’t say anything like that!”

Sure, it’s cheating, but it’s getting me back in the game. And, what’s nice, I’m getting back into my world and my characters’ skins, wearing them like that old familiar jacket that’s hung in your closet for the last 15 or so years. A word jacket.

Well, now, you may ask what I’m doing writing this blog when I should be working on edits. An excellent question. I just needed to let the fingers run for a few minutes before I get back to the creepy-slow editing process.

In the lessons learned department, I now know not to quit working on a rough draft to go galavanting off to write a magazine article. Nope. Too hard getting back to where I was, so once on the rough drafting train, I have to stay on it until done.

‘til next time…Adios.

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