Thursday, February 15, 2007

Christmas in February

Christmas paydirt -- in February

For Christmas, I received several gift cards to Best Buy and Barnes & Noble. Those seem to work pretty well; I'm perpetually maintaining a running list of cd's, dvd's, books, etc that I'd like to own. I've found that it's just easier to ask for gift cards instead of for specific items; this avoids confusion ("I hope that was the right one?") and just makes things easier for the person giving the gift. The only drawback is, it requires a little extra work on my part (having to get on line, or worse yet -- go to an actual store!) to redeem my cards. Well, last week I did a little shopping at Best Buy; I picked up a few dvd's I've been wanting: SNL's Best of Adam Sandler and Best of Chris Farley -- $9.99 each but I'd rate their comedic value at damn near priceless! Unfortunately, Best Buy didn't stock several of the other titles I was looking for. So I got on the Barnes & Noble website and found what I wanted. Yesterday, the mother lode arrived...

Christmas pay dirt, baby!

Included in my selections were four dvd's I've had my eye on for a while -- three movies and one documentary. First up are two essential "Texas" titles: 1) "Paris, Texas", the story of a man trying to put his life back together after a tragic and turbulent marriage, starring Harry Dean Stanton; and 2) "The Last Picture Show", the story of a small west Texas town in the 1950s, starring Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepard. Dig that classic country soundtrack!

Next on the list is "The Station Agent", starring Peter Dinklage as a dwarf who inherits a railroad depot in a small New Jersey town. He moves into the station, hoping for quiet and solitude, but finds neither. The railroad scenes are well-photographed and present an interesting contrast in operations between dynamic city railroading (NJT commuters) and bucolic, backwoods shortlines. And the hilarious scene of the railfan "movie night" in the hobby shop is probably worth the price of the movie, in and of itself! The story itself would be both sad and heartwarming in any setting, but the railroad ambience seems entirely appropriate, reinforcing the "big-small" theme. It's definitely worth checking out if you haven't seen it.

Paris, Texas; Heroes of World Class

The documentary I ordered was something I just stumbled across during a Google search: "Heroes of World Class". Now, if I don't strike you as being much of a fan of professional wrestling, you obviously didn't know me when I was in 6th and 7th grade (1983-84-85) Not only does this title cover the approximate time frame of my interest in wrestling; it also covers the same circuit that we saw on tv in San Angelo! Of course, we did get the WWF back then on the USA Network, and occasional broadcasts from the deep south on TBS, but it was Dallas' KTVT (at the time an independent station, which our cable company in San Angelo carried), and the Abilene NBC affiliate, which both broadcast the World Class circuit from north Texas venues like the Dallas Sportatorium and Fort Worth's Will Rogers Coliseum. That's where I was introduced to names like "IceMan" King Parsons, Chris Adams, "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin (and attendants "Sunshine" and "Precious", Skandar Akbar, the Missing Link, the Super Destroyers, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Bruiser Brody, the Freebirds, and of course the legendary Von Erich family. Every Saturday afternoon and Saturday night in San Angelo, I was glued to the tv when these shows aired. Not only that; I would act out wrestling scenes whenever I wasn't watching it on tv. I made some wrestling rings out of old pizza boxes -- with Crayola crayons for posts and kite string for ropes -- and pressed my GI Joe (the small ones) and Fisher-Price action figures into service. It kept me entertained for MONTHS! Back then, wrestling was probably the only thing I was interested in as much as trains.

Mom and Dad even took me out to the San Angelo coliseum a couple of different times when wrestling came to town; seeing Kevin Von Erich in person may well have been the highlight of my 7th grade year! I gradually lost interest in wrestling after our cable company dropped KTVT from our channel lineup, and I couldn't watch the Dallas circuit nearly as much. That was probably God's way of saying, "time to move on". But remind me to tell you sometime about the time during college when a few friends and I went down to the Sportatorium for a night of squared-circle mayhem and extremely cheap beer!

Anyway, it should suffice to say that I can barely resist the temptation to cut this blog entry a little short and commence with my first screening RIGHT NOW. Between "Heroes of World Class", and those other thee movies, I'll definitely have a reason to look forward to coming home from work at night for the ntext week or so!

My Barnes & Noble order also included a few cd's... U2's "the Joshua Tree", the quintessential U2 album which heretofore has somehow eluded my collection; "Enough Rope" by rockin' alt-country artist Chris Knight; and Hank Thompson's "All-time Greatest Hits" featuring country classics like "Squaws along the Yukon" and "Six-Pack to Go".

Thanks to Mom, sister-in-law Kim, and cousin Charlie and his family for the B&N gift cards; they were well-spent and much appreicated.

that song stuck in my head

It happens to most of us; some song will get stuck running incessantly through our heads... sometimes it'll be one we haven't even heard for years; other times it'll be something we heard yesterday or the day before. Last week, my involuntary song of choice was the aforementioned "Squaws along the Yukon" by Hank Thompson. But for the past day or two, I've been hearing "Lazy Eye" by Silversun Pickups. I woke up real early one day last week and couldn't fall back asleep, so I turned on the tv and stumbled across the video to this song on MTV (an actual music video on MTV, who would've thought? I guess that's what they air between 4 and 6 am).

Anyway, I was immediately intrigued not just by the video, but by their sound. Both the video and the song reminded me of just about everything I remember about the alternative music and club scene in Dallas back in the early '90s. The band is on stage in a crowded club (curiously devoid of the trademark haze of cigarette smoke -- maybe this is some bizarre utopian vision of Dallas nightclubs after a hypothetical third term under Mayor Laura Miller?) and a guy and a girl in the crowd are looking at each other, occasionally making eye contact. At the end of the song, they meet in the street outside the club. That's pretty much it for the video. The song sounds like something by Dinosaur Jr. or Sunny Day Real Estate -- fast tempo bass, catchy little melodic guitar riffs building to a crescendo of distortion and reverb and guitar noise, with vocals that sound like Billy Corgan. I swear to God, this song sounds like it could have been recorded in 1992 and put in a time machine destined for 2007! I've listened to samples of a few of the Silversun Pickups' other songs, which I didn't really get into, but I made sure to get my hands on a copy of "Lazy Eye" right away. It puts a vast majority of the contemporary "alternative" scene to shame.

still winter

It has been another week of cloudy skies, and temperatures in the 30s and low 40s. The forecasters have been threatening snow, but all I saw yesterday were just a few flakes. I really miss the kind of winter we had last year, with lots of sunny days and highs in the 60s and 70s. I guess it will be spring soon enough...

north Texas winter scene - the jogging path in Keller

Southbound coal train at Roanoke, caked with snow from someplace up north...
Feb. 14, 2007

np: "Heroes of World Class" dvd (I couldn't wait!)


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