It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Earl's Tidbits

All right, I don't mean those tidbits. Even if I were predisposed to photographing myself in that manner, I'd have to post those to the sadly neglected Land of Fando, and then, I'd still have to Photoshop out my face, lest the vicar mention me in one of his dynamic sermons on moral turpitude. Quite frankly, I'd deserve it.

No, this little post is just to keep those of you who thoroughly enjoy reading about my personal life informed, and for the rest of you (which means everyone besides Mrs. Fando) to point and laugh, regardless of just how rude that is. I do suppose it's better than pointing and laughing at one's "tidbits," though.

Earl's Golfing Miracle - For some strange reason, probably severe brain damage, I neglected to mention on the blog that during my most recent golfing excursion a few weeks ago, with Stew, my father, and a friend, who may wish to remain nameless, and thus unaffiliated as an accomplice to this madness and thus not subject to any legal ramifications... and where was I? Ah, yes! During my most recent golfing excursion, I found myself lying four, on a par five, still with 115 yards to the hole. You can probably guess what happened next, and if you guessed that I shanked the shot off of my kneecap and hobbled in for a 9, you'd be right about 85% of the time.

However, on this wonderfully blessed day, the 115 yard shot went straight into the hole.

I don't simply mean straight as in, "The ball left the face of my club (an 8-iron...no wimp jokes, please) and eventually found its way into the hole after ricocheting off of various rocks, bridges, trees, waterfowl, and at least one partner." No, I mean "straight" as in a direct line between my clubface and the hole. The ball was "on a rope" as we say here in the States (And I say it on a daily basis... just this morning I was saying to Mrs. Fando, those eggs are on a rope! I must admit, it wasn't the most efficient use of the phrase.) The ball travelled straight at the pin, hit the green, bounced once, and rolled right into the hole.

At this point, calm, cool collected bloke that I am, I immediately launched into an impression of Bill Murray in Caddyshack and shouted, "It's in da hole! It's in da hole!" ...but only in my dreams. Instead, my first reaction was to turn to my father and ask desperately, "Did that just go in the hole." My father, intensely studying his own shot of about 110 yards (lying in 2) responded, "Huh, I didn't see your ball."

I then turned to Stew and our mysterious friend, who were looking at me with perplexion.

"Did you see that shot? I think it may have gone into the hole!"

Both of them shrugged their shoulders the way people do with they not only have no idea what you're talking about, but also suspect you may be on drugs.

Nonetheless, I had the happy experience of walking up to the hole, with my putter in hand, just in case I'd gone mad, and finding the ball complacently sitting in the hole, nestled against the flagpole. I lifted it up in triumph, and then went and had a lie down in the fringe.

Stew later joked that I might have palmed a ball and pretended to pull it from the hole, but the things that saved him from a stray swing of my eight-iron were the fact that I am absolutely pathetic at parlour tricks (except the bit where you pretend to pull your finger off... I once startled a girl at school with that one. I'm pretty sure she heard me say "finger"), and also Stew saying later that at least I got to see my shot go into the hole, unlike a 124 yard holed shot he'd managed a few years before and still gets him teary-eyed when he speaks of it.

So, I saved par... the hard way. While it counts as the most marvelous golf shot I've ever hit, I don't recommend it as a strategic approach. Not only can't you not count on it with any sort of regularity, but the hyperventialtion afterwards is murder on your putting.

By the way, we're playing tomorrow. I hear the odds of my repeating the feat are currently the approximate distance to Pluto in millimeters to one. A tenner could bring instant riches.

(Update: No spectacular long range shots this time, but I did chip in from off the green on number 2...for bogey. It hurts. It really hurts.)

Buskin' Earl - This morning I did something that I have never done before, and before the smart-arses amongst our readers (and contributors) start making rude suggestions, I will point out that I am already a father, and bathe regularly.

No, instead today I became a busker.

A busker is not some kind of agricultural peon but is in fact a kind of bard, one who goes to a well-traveled place and perches on a wall or beside a sidewalk and plays an instrument of some kind, occasionally singing as well, and getting tips from passers-by. I had my Fender acoustic/electric guitar in hand and, unamplified, played and sang for about an hour at my local town square's Farmer's Market. For what it's worth, although I will say I picked a quiet time of morning, I did make a dollar and a quater American.

It's not about the money though. It's about the sheer nerve it takes to sit down in a well-travelled public place, the earlier comment about the quiet time of day notwithstanding, and pour one's heart and soul out in music, usually the work of some well-known popular entertainer who hasn't a hope of collecting royalties off of your rendition, even if someone could recognize the tune and words.

I was a nervous wreck, even though I regularly play and sing in our church. This was different. These were strangers who had not reason to respond encouragingly, or to be nice, or to not throw large stones and half-full drinks and damage me and even worse, my lovely guitar.

So, I tried to keep things simple. I stayed away from the more elaborate chordings and nuances when I sang, and simply did those, most of them anyway, whilst playing instrumentals. I didn't even sing until about halfway through the hour.

All right, maybe singing is a bit of a reach. I did make sounds with my vocal chords that were vaguely in sync with the music. All right, maybe music is a bit of a reach, too.

Anyway, the funny thing was, as I was sitting there nervously performing the instrumentals, a local news cameraman was getting some filler shots of the Market. I kept my cool and picked away, hoping he would ignore me and resist the opportunity to get some goofball, strumming away like an air guitarist playing The Hallelujah Chorus on camera. Finally, he started to break down his equipment, and at that time I was feeling confident enough to try a song or two. So, I pulled out an old favourite, one by [redacted to avoid unnecessary expense in royalties] and began to gingerly feel my way through the song.

So, of course, the cameraman takes his camera and immediately heads over to me and sets up no more than 5 feet from my head. Fortunately, I had emptied my bladder before driving up to the square.

The nice thing was that a couple of people seemed to like the music, despite my forgetting the bridge of one song and having to find it on my chord sheet and restart the song 30 seconds later. Plus, there were lots of cute little munchkins who were fascinated with the sight of a grown man sitting in a corner playing and singing a song in the style of a strangled mongoose. Their expressions of fascination and consternation were quite adorable, especially the lad who dropped a quarter in my guitar case and received a sudden "Thank you" in the middle of a song.

It was a very nervy experience though, but I'm glad I did it and shall return again soon. It could have been more nerve-racking. There was one bloke who was walking around looking for a spot, carrying a tuba.

Still, there was a moment though... I was playing an original song (no snickering, Zimpter) and not singing the words, because the guitar bit was all my nervous system could handle, and suddenly I relaxed. As I played, I was actually able to look around and see the goings on about the square. I was able to notice and even smile at people as they passed by. I looked up into the clouds as I played and even noticed a flock of birds as they winged their way across the blue, all without once having to look back at my instrument.

I may have passed out. I'm not quite sure.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Great Moments in Star Trek History: The Movie Years

Well, we're less than one day away from one of the most significant artistic 40th anniversaries in recent memory. That's right, the American Conservatory Theatre in San Franscisco will be getting final rehearsals underway for their 40th Anniversary season. However, who cares about that pretentious artsy crap! Tomorrow, Star Trek, the Original Series will be 40 years old. That means that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are both at least 90.

In keeping with this momentous, if culturally insignificant event, please allow me to present the second part of my installment of Great Moments in Star Trek History - Part 2: The Movie Years! Yes, Bill, you're in almost every item!

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February 12, 1974 - Gene Roddenberry pitches the idea for a Star Trek film to Paramount executives. They quickly reject the idea until Roddenberry shows them the grosses from Star Trek television syndication. The executives then sign Roddenberry to a huge contract to develop the film, in which he is paid a "gazillion dollars" and gets ownership of the executives' wives and firstborn children.

April 27, 1974 - The plans for the Star Trek movie are cancelled when executives realize how much a gazillion dollars actually is, and that the return on their investment would thus be nil. Roddenberry threatens to sue for breach of promise, but is dissuaded by the fact that the legal fees his soliciters would charge would be 40% of the gazillion dollars, or the projected Gross National Product of the United States from 1776 until 2272 AD, which just so happens to be the date in which the actual first film was set. The parties settle for ownership of the firstborn children and use of the wives on weekends by Roddenberry.

November 20, 1977 - The film idea is brought back to life, after a process similar to the one depicted in Frankenstein. Robert Wise is hired to direct, on the basis of his complete disemboweling of The Magnificent Ambersons. Roddenberry reportedly comments that, "Anyone who would slash a Welles film, should be able to handle Shatner." The original cast, all working in dinner theatre except for Leonard Nimoy, who is hard at work on his 27th album, are signed for the film. Shatner successfully holds out for 3 weeks until his demands for a private trailer, a hot tub, and a realistic hairpiece are met. Shatner then beats Robert Wise to a pulp, just to show who's really boss and what a prat Roddenberry is.

March 6, 1978 - Initial filming begins for Star Trek the Motion Picture. The first scene takes 20 hours and 472 takes to complete when William Shatner forgets his line, "Beam me up, Scotty!" and continually replaces it with humourous (and obscene) references to Majel Barrett Roddenberry's anatomy. Take number 255 is blown when James Doohan unsuccessfully tries to blow Shatner's head off with a bazooka and instead kills three extras in red uniforms. Their deaths are later recorded by the LAPD as "accidental, but predictable."

March 6, 1979 - Paramount hires Douglas Trumbull's effects company to redo the special effects for the film. The previous effects, in which the Starship Enterprise is depicted using a used pie plate and two matchsticks, frequently turn up in blooper reels at conventions, and several Roger Corman films.

December 25, 1979 - Star Trek the Motion Picture is released to great acclaim from unemployed dishwashers and real estate salespersons who like to walk around wearing fake pointed ears. Gene Shalit writes a review of the film that consists of a large picture of himself, yawning uncontrollably. Others note that the Klingons no longer look like villians from a Rudolph Valentino film and instead look as though they have all developed cases of forehead herpes.

April 9, 1980 - William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley are all nominated for Science Fiction Acting Awards. They lose to intense competition from Avery Schriber for his groundbreaking role as a ship captain and Doritos salesman in Galaxina. James Doohan unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate William Shatner with an anvil and a trampoline at the awards ceremony in Grand Rapids, but only succeeds in mussing Schreiber's moustache.

June 4, 1982 - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is released. William Shatner is infuriated when critics confirm that he was upstaged in all his scenes with Ricardo Montalban by Montalban's pectoral muscles. Kirstie Alley appears in the film as Lt. Saavik, but declines future appearances based on her devotion to Scientology, calling the film series, "too realistic." She also claims that the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard had commanded her to star in a really flaky NBC series.

June 1, 1984 - Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is released. Leonard Nimoy signed onto the film after being given the right to direct it and also getting Shatner's old hairpeices. Originally, the film was going to be called The Search for Saavik and would feature a 290 year old Tom Cruise, played by Abe Vigoda. The film does fairly well at the box office despite the fact that the "search for Spock" is relatively easy, given that they left his body on the Genesis planet. In a related story, the International Union of Astronomers declared in 2006 that Genesis was not a planet. When asked for reasons, they cited "boredom" and "alcohol." At the premiere of the film, James Doohan attempts to kill William Shatner with a sharpened loofta.

November 26, 1986 - Star Trek IV:The Voyage Home is released. The whales appearing in the film are nominated for Oscars, but the nominations are revoked when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences realizes that the whales only appeared so complexly human next to the unnatural performances of the rest of the cast. The exception is William Shatner, who appears in dual roles in this film, as both Captain James T. Kirk and also as a small chair in the hospital scenes. He received a Golden Globe nomination for the latter role.

June 9, 1989 - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is released, with William Shatner directing. Shatner explained that he sought a quiet, consistent use of mise-en-scene and integral style in the film, through steady, extended takes...which explains the repeated 60+ second close-ups of James T. Kirk. James Doohan attempts to run over Shatner with a Volvo at the advance screening, but is foiled when Shatner does a "T.J. Hooker" roll over the car and then shoots the tyres out with a .44 Magnum, shaped like a phaser.

December 6, 1991 - Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is released to immense fanfare from people who are tired of the whole damn thing. The working title of the film is The Last Paycheck. Christopher Plummer co-stars as a Klingon general who is trying to escape from the Nazis with his 8 children and wife, a former nun . The highlight of the film is where they sing "Goodbye, Farewell..." in the middle of a pitched battle between the Enterprise and a Klingon Bird of Prey with the ex-nun wife, played by Sally Field, flying in-between photon torpedos. Shatner later claimes to have "nailed her" during the premiere

November 18, 1994 - Star Trek VII is released to pretty much the sound of crickets and small Romulan birds. William Shatner bags one last paycheck and a famous death scene in which he loudly proclaims that he has always deeply loved Spock and sings "Everybody Pon Farr tonight!" to an old Wang Chung hit song. Kirk is killed by Captain Picard when he won't finish dying from mortal injuries received from trying to squeeze his ego into a shuttlecraft. The death scene lasts 45 minutes and includes two fistfights and a love scene with Marina Sirtis and Whoopi Goldberg, who both received danger pay (and penicillin) for their work. James Doohan almost succeeds in assassinating William Shatner with a tactical nuclear device, but after witnessing the extended death scene decides that a repeat would be too psychologically traumatic to witnesses and to Paramount grosses.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey! What a Bloomin' Shame.

I am also bummed out, gutted even, over Steve Irwin's untimely death. Many a time have I seen him pick up one or even two deadly snakes, wrestle a croc, and uncomfortably adjust his khakis in an episode of The Crocodile Hunter, with nary a scratch. The bloke lived large and lived well. Yes, he took plenty of risks, and there was that time when he was carrying his child in the croc pen (obviously, Steve wasn't cut out for babysitting)... but that was far and away the exception. Most of the time Steve was mad in the sense that a kid in a toy shop goes mad.

My favourite episode is one where he is visiting a part of Virginia (if memory serves) and observing, then picking up a Timber rattlesnake off of a large rock. Suddenly, the rattling noise doubles in intensity and Steve freezes. "Oy!" or something to that effect, says Steve. Another Timber Rattlesnake is coiled up on the ground, right between Steve's legs, as if from a Madonna video. With nerves of steel (and bollocks to boot, no doubt) Steve gingerly places the first snake down and carefully moves out of range of the second snake, using a straddling motion that Elvis would have been proud of, only in slow motion.

"Whew! Crikey, that was a close one!" exclaimed Steve.

If only the same could have been said of yesterday's events.

He was a one of a kind. Good on ya, Steverino! You will be missed, mate.

Crocodile Hunter R.I.P

Sorry again for the dearth of posts but I think we're just all bummed out about the passing of Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter or that loony fellow who puts his head in the mouth of crocodiles (although I don't think he actually ever did that). He was a good bloke and a charming guy and we mourn his loss and pray for his wife and two children. God Bless mate.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Zombie Deliverance

OK - First thing's first. Peter Graves is so a zombie. I happened to know from my last vist to the palatial Miller Mansion that Stew's copy of Who's Who Among American Flesh-Eating Zombies is the 2005 expurgated version, which is completely missing the sections F through K. Not only is Peter Graves not there, but also omitted are Dennis Farina, Tippi Hedren, Michael Ironside, Derek Jacobi, and Lance Kerwin. The full 2006 un-expurgated version includes a full two page special insert on Peter Graves, written by Peter Graves, with the title, "How I Peter Graves, Became a Flesh-Eating Zombie; Tonight on Biography."

Second, the ticks were not nearly as bad as I thought they would be, and I have relatively few scars as a result.

Third, we did have a very unusual experience. As regular readers of this blog know, I am a practising guitarist, and always take my guitar on any road trips. We just happened to stop at a little country shop this weekend, whilst taking a break from our sojourn into the backwoods. Whilst waiting, I pulled out the guitar and began to pick a few notes. To my surprise, my tentative plucking was echoed by a plaintive banjo in the near distance. I played a few more notes and the repeat came back on the banjo again. Finally, I began to play in earnest and looked up to find what seemed to be the strange bald boy from Deliverance playing along with me.

Fortunately, it was only political consultant James Carville, who along with wife Mary Matalin and their kids, was enjoying the same weekend wilderness. James and I finished the duet with a flourish and then he introduced me to Mary. They then digressed into a furious arguement when I asked them if either of them liked Busch beer.

I was relieved of course to discover that this "dueling banjos" experience was not the ominous portent of any strange hillbilly encounter. Although, whilst arguing with Mary, James did exclaim that he was going to "Go get it on with Ned Beatty!" apparently this was only a rhetorical device in the arguement.

As for the woods, we saw many deer, chipmunks, and birds. We hiked up the rocky mountainside, me with a large walking stick (not the insect, though the Littlest Fando saw at least one), my child with a camera, and my father-in-law with a 40 caliber Smith and Wesson with a Glock action trigger, similar to the Glocks seen in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou. It was in case we ran into bears, he explained, which made me feel much less paranoid. It was nice to know though that if Peter Graves showed up to eat our living flesh, that my father-in-law had a fair chance to take him out. Also, for just a moment, my father-in-law had something in common with Bill Murray, which was quite strange.

The "cabin" itself was hardly the stuff of roughing it, as it was fully electric, with satellite television, two baths, and a complete kitchen. I never did get to play a match of darts on the porch. Still, to be so close to nature! Well, it made me want to go in and watch Star Trek on G4. It was the episode about the planet that took up Nazism, where Kirk and Spock go about dressed as Gestapo. Gripping stuff.

Footnote: I've always noticed that during the scene where Kirk, Spock and their local allies pretend to be a camera crew filming the local heroine, that Shatner holds the camera just inches from the face of the actress he is "filming;" so close that she can't possibly be in focus. There's something deeply psychologically revealing about that. Mainly, that Shatner was trying to demostrate to the Trek camera crew that they should take a similar approach to his close-ups.

I can see now that I've completely lost the thread of this post...