From the category archives:

Reminiscent

Given the pop-culture gravitas of this film, there are hundreds of sites on which to find a Blade Runner 2049 synopsis, cast list or trailer. Google is your friend and I have lots of ground to cover. If you’re a fan of 1982’s both revered and oft-underestimated Blade Runner, however, this review is for you.

“Because you’ve never seen a miracle”sapper
Actually, Sapper, I think I just did. At a theater near Fenway Park, no less. To write an objective review about the unlikely and ridiculously far removed sequel to your favorite movie of all time, 3.5 decades later, is a fool’s errand on the brightest of dystopic Los Angeles days. While I’m quite sure he eventually got paid, Director Denis Villeneuve’s obvious labor of love has made it almost too easy for me to extoll the virtues (and maybe a disappointment or two) of Blade Runner 2049. Short version: This is a fantastic film, for which you do not need a deep knowledge of the original to enjoy. Get a sitter. Go see it. And now, for the long version…

“Memories. You’re talking about memories”
Walking out of Monday’s press screening in Boston, I was unprepared for the clipboard-toting PR person waiting for me outside. “What did you think?” she asked. “F*cking awesome!” with two physical thumbs up, was my unrehearsed and regrettable blurt. Not especially quotable, but she recorded it anyway while appearing happy and (maybe) just slightly relieved. That was my first review. Replying “Yes!” when asked today if I wanted to see it again this weekend was my second. What follows is my third. First, though, a nostalgic vignette to set the stage:

INTERIOR – VW BUG – NIGHT – Summer, 1982:  Somewhere in French-speaking Canada, a 9-year-old boy and his father pull in to a dimly lit, backwoods drive-in. The elder, who has previously refused to let his son read a weathered nightstand copy of Philip K. Dick’s source novel (because it’s too violent, David) hooks a speaker onto the red VW Bug’s half-rolled down driver’s side window and settles in for 164 minutes of the film his offspring will keep embarrassingly front of mind for the next 35 years. On the journey back to the summer cottage where absolutely nobody speaks French, and riding a recounted tide of rusty nails shoved through hands, eyeballs crushed by thumbs and women executed on the street for no reason apparent to the passerby – permission to read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” is begrudgingly given.

We will come back to Quebec later (spoiler).

joi-billboard“Everything you want to see…”
At two key points during the movie, Gosling’s “Officer K” encounters billboards which repeat revenue-inducing quips related to what consumers want to “see”, “hear” and “be”. They also look a lot like the beloved and advanced Amazon Echo back at his apartment. It’s deeper than that, I assure you, but here be no spoilers.

Right before the screening in Boston began, a studio PR rep had to read out a message from Denis V. himself. The respectful jist was, “It’s tough to review movies, and I get that, just please don’t ruin the film for everyone else. Zut alors!” While I’m paraphrasing, the lockdown and security surrounding key plot points, I was told, is like nothing anyone in the press corps have seen to date.

What is everything we want to see then? 2049 blows the Blade Runner world straight out – in all directions. Other than the legendary original opening sequence, with L.A.’s towers of fire spouting off whilst accompanied by Vangelis’ intoxicating first notes, and apart from an establishing shot of a Spinner landing or two, there’s precious little shown that isn’t closed-set-sound-stage claustrophobic. The sequel shows us oceans, and deserts, and snow – effectively bringing forward the larger world we’d all imagined as kids (or maybe that was just me). Regardless, it is simply gorgeous.

2049 also takes CGI to new levels, particularly apparent towards the end where insufferable long-time fans will see something that may simultaneously induce laughter, sobbing… and possibly sharting. Bring towelettes – you’ve been warned. It’s that heavy.

We also see that the technology in Blade Runner’s universe has evolved since the first film, not surprisingly, as 35 years have passed. Where Deckard once used commands like “stop”, “enhance” and “track right” to investigate Leon’s photographs – we now see the main replicant baddy, (not to be confused with Batty) “Luv”, using those same commands to direct artillery fire. Garbage trucks hover efficiently while sorting filth, smartphones now have a convenient Voight-Kampff app, the Runners get a crazy test called “Baseline” after every shift, Spinners can now dogfight… I should stop there.

luv-wright

“Everything you want to hear…”
A reviewer, whose name I struggle to recall, once referred to the soundtrack of 2008’s There Will be Blood as an “additional character in the film.” Throughout that monumental movie, the music never, ever, ends until the last second of the final credits. It was tailored to the story like nothing we’d ever seen before.

2049’s score is almost as equally engulfing and tailored. Hans Zimmer picked up the heavy task of scoring the film, in Vangelis’ brilliant Grecian shadow, after Johann Johannsson left the project. This left many clammy-handed BR devotees up in arms, but the result was worth the nerdy turmoil. Most noteworthy are the deep (very deep) notes used in transitional shots while Spinners are flying past. This happens a few times, and after the first instance I was immediately hoping there’d be another location change so I could feel that rush one more time.

The better news is, Vangelis’ original score is strategically woven in at key moments, and the final scene sees Zimmer’s work completely stripped away in favor of those hot, hot bars from 1982 many of us know so well. Like the hovering Spinner barking orders at Officer K, that unmistakable noise an old Tyrell Corp terminal makes while booting up, voiceovers recounting the mystery’s clues during flight time, heavy leather overcoats and whiskey – 2049’s soundscape glances over its shoulder several times to acknowledge its older sibling. There are more examples. Many more. But, you know… spoilers.

“Everything you want to be…”
The humans in 2049 know their history. The replicants only hope they do. The conundrum of implanted memories is a major theme carried over from the original. Only now, Officer K has access to historical replicant POV recordings – dampening the disbelief required to connect the two flicks and still sleep at night. Callbacks to human history which the characters must be aware of are in no short supply. Baby Goose’s (Gosling, anyone?) cell phone links to a lovely 2049 version of an Amazon Alexa back at home, named “Joi”, and plays the opening strands of “Peter and the Wolf” each time it rings. Took me a while to place the tune, and after more time passes I’m sure I’ll appreciate the reference. Hasn’t occurred to me just yet (So… if Luv is the wolf, does that make Deckard and K the sheep? Are the resistance the larger flock? Are all of the sheep androids?) Enough. Joi is the love of K’s life, one lost manufactured soul protecting another, and her presence in the film provides what little insight we get into K’s character.

We all saw Sinatra’s hologram in the second trailer, and should also know by now that Deckard is hiding out in Las Vegas. A favorite scene of mine involves Baby Goose and Ford trading blows while the ghost of Deckard’s casino plays intermittent holograms of the strip’s past in the background. “You know what BR2 needs? More Liberace!” Another thoroughly enjoyable clue that the past is still present in this crazy world.

Also noticeable is a nod to Treasure Island, but far more fascinating are two (that I counted) subtle references to the story of Pinocchio. At one intimate point, Joi informs Officer K that, “A real boy needs a real name”. No accidental dialogue there, and I guess that makes Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace… Gepetto? Pinocchio allegories have been thrown around in BR forum threads for years, and now there’s a direct reference. Only instead of strings, replicants have a 4-year life span. Anyone?

“I want to see a negative before I provide you with a positive”
At the risk of otherwise coming off as a garden-variety fan boy, It must be said – I did take issue in one  respect. While Sylvia Hoek’s “Luv” is more menacing than I ever thought the actor was capable of – in the narrative she’s just an agent. A stooge driven only by Niander Wallace’s orders. She knows what she is, and couldn’t care less.

You’ll find yourself longing for the tortured warrior-poet, Roy Batty, regardless of whether or not you wanted him or Deckard to prevail on that rainy rooftop in 1982. If this movie needed anything, and that is an admitted stretch because it’s simply a sci-fi milestone, it would be “better-developed and scarier villains”.

I have just one more gripe, related to casting. Now, the lineup is almost impeccable: Olmos, Bautista, Wright, Baby Goose, Abdi, Hoeks, Leto, etc. My dismay is due to the underuse of one Mackenzie Davis. When charging through the crowd in that first trailer – she was terrifying. I’d hoped she’d turn out to be at least the equivalent of “Pris” from the original. Similar style, similar hair, similar foreboding sense of “would she date me?” Ultimately, she is almost tragically absent for the rest of the movie, bar one fleeting group shot and a virtual sex scene for the ages.

“Many is the night I dream of cheese”
It’s great fun to imagine that, while my 9-year old adolescent pea-brain was being rocked for all time by Ridley Scott in a shoddy Quebec drive-in, a 15-yr old Villeneuve may have been right close by. It’s a sizeable province, but let me have my moment. Maybe he was just one town over, equally as impressed, but with a destiny tied directly to Blade Runner’s unique and astounding universe.

The Godfather did it, as did Jaws and Aliens. Specifically, those franchises saw an eventual sequel which surpassed, or at least lived up to, the original. Blade Runner 2049 will likely be remembered as a sci-fi classic, and I could not be more relieved. In closing: Denis, nous sommes fiers de vous.

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I’ve been bestowed with the silver bracelets of law enforcement a few times (mostly) during my youth. I’ve lived a fairly respectable life. Never been nicked for anything particularly seedy or concerning. There was that one time in Charlestown, MA however, where a classic case of mistaken identity truly scared the pants off me and provided a glimpse of how the “other half” lives like I’ve never had before or since. This isn’t a cautionary tale quite simply because it could have happened to absolutely anybody currently reading this. Before time completely erases the details from my memory I think it bears repeating and I’ve been waiting for a long time to do so. We laugh about it now, but in short – for an hour and a half in 2010 I may have been Boston’s most wanted. The resulting tale I’m now able to tell is worth its weight in police-issued titanium. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

My sister and her husband have a nice little house on Green Street in the very heart of The Town. While rented now, I’d often come to visit while they lived there and even had my own little basement bedroom which according to neighbors was a speakeasy of some sort once upon a time. While a terrific and trendy place to live in modern times, Charlestown definitely has a colorful past to say the least, kid. During one such visit she and I had dinner with friends in Cambridge, came back to find a sweet parking spot right in front of her pad and then decided we wanted just one more glass of weeknight wine. Within seconds of walking out her front door to patronize a liquor store on Bunker Hill Street, things took a strange turn for the surreal which I will never forget.

Cuffed-n-Stuffed

After closing the front door behind me, I glanced down to where Green and Bunker Hill intersect and saw a Park Ranger car quickly slow down as the driver quite obviously began giving me the deep “once over”. Before you wonder what the heck a Park Ranger was doing in Charlestown, let me explain. The U.S.S. Constitution, one of the most treasured historical… treasures… in the country is docked in the Navy Yard less than a mile away. For context, on September 11th, 2001 I worked nearby and they evacuated the entire neighborhood fearing one of the Navy’s six original frigates may be the next target. The Rangers are “Old Ironsides“‘ personal police force, and their presence is nothing out of the ordinary.

Ranger Rick continued on his way as the obligatory “that’s odd” flashed through my mind and within half a minute I’d reached my destination just around the corner. I begrudgingly bought a bottle of oakey Chardonnay, as the sis hates Pinot Grigio, and stood waiting in line to cash out. The Ranger drove past again, in the opposite direction, and glared at me through the front window so there was now no mistake he’d turned around to have another gander at… me? Nah, can’t be. When he appeared a third time, after making another u-turn and then pulling over in front of the store, however, my paranoia was replaced by genuine curiosity. I’ve never held up an armored car, and fifteen minutes ago I was snarfing down tacos near Inman Square. The lady in line in front of me noticed him too and said something to the effect of “Dear Lord, what do they want to question me about now?“. I replied, “No, Ma’am. I think he’s here for me.” And as strange as it felt at the time – I meant it.

Park-RangerThe six-foot bespectacled Ranger walked into the store, never breaking eye contact with me, and requested I come speak to him outside. Being the slightly right-leaning and largely law-abiding citizen that I am, I quickly finished my transaction and obliged. Once out on the street he instructed me to stand against a wall underneath a streetlight and to put down the brown paper bag containing that bottle of wine I really didn’t want to drink in the first place. I was still more curious than frightened so assumed the position without having even asked him to explain his interest in little ol’ me. “Look straight ahead and don’t move.” were his next instructions and as I stiffened up to attention I noticed a proper Boston Police cruiser begin slowly passing in front of us. Slowly and deliberately. “Am I in some kind of… lineup?” I wondered. This may have been the exact moment I started to worry. Just a wee bit.

The cruiser passed us, pulled over to the side, and the front window rolled down. “This will be the end of it.” I assured myself. The cop leaned out, looked at the Ranger, and… nodded. Not in a “hey, how ya doin'” sort of way. In a “this is the dirtbag we’re looking for” sort of way. As you can imagine, I could no longer contain my curiosity/terror and spoke up. “Put your hands behind your back, Sir.” was the reply. “I’ll explain everything in the car.”

This was not my first experience with handcuffs (feel free to spike that volleyball in the comments if you must,) but it was my first time being linked up in the back of a Crown Vic which had the single, bench-like front seat pushed back so far I had to turn my head to the side to keep from breaking my nose. The Ranger got into the car, further jamming the vinyl into my orifices, and did me the favor of finally explaining the situation. “You’ve been identified as someone who tried to snatch a purse in the Navy Yard earlier tonight.” Despite the situation, never in my life have I fought so hard to hide a smile. I calmly explained that I’d been in the neighborhood for less than 10 minutes and for the first time since 8am that morning. I told him my sister lived 200 feet away where I was staying and could corroborate my account. I told him that I had the keys in my pocket to the black Charger almost within view around the corner which would have a hood warm to the touch. To my relief these reasonable and potentially time-saving facts seemed to give him pause for thought and he exited the car to go speak with the policeman who was still parked with my accusers nearby. “Now, this will be the end of it.” I assured myself again.

The Ranger rolled the back window down and instructed me to stare straight ahead. “Do not move!” he ordered, no doubt to ensure the identity of the plaintiffs – whom I would later learn were three twenty-something women stumbling home after a night of adult beverages at the almighty Warren Tavern. “You’re kidding, right?” I asked in a severely muffled tone resulting in him finally shifting the seat forward. I did as I was told, and my peripheral vision was then filled with the cruiser making another painfully slow pass in the interest of “getting their man”. Another long couple of minutes ticked by, the Ranger re-entered his vehicle (driver’s seat this time), and to my now heightened concern informed me I was indeed public enemy #1. After reiterating my innocence, and the multitude of ways in which he could easily confirm it himself in under three minutes, he informed me they were now certain of probable cause and that we’d be heading to the station. I decided the best thing I could say at this point would be absolutely nothing and shortly thereafter found myself handcuffed to a chair in a brightly lit room inside their station in the Navy Yard.

The Ranger I’d been dealing with walked into another room, closing the door behind him, and I was left with a new, much younger version to keep an eye on me. I jokingly described what had happened, how I even felt bad for wasting their time while the real culprit was probably out liberating someone else’s Prada, cracked wise a few more times and to my relief he actually smiled. “Look, we don’t actually like you for this.” His use of Columbo-esque TV-cop-procedural lingo put me at ease, slightly, and I realized they were taking their cues from the Boston cop who hadn’t even spoken to or looked at me. Ranger Rick walked back into the room, now holding a piece of paper, and turned on a video camera I hadn’t noticed sitting on a table nearby. He wheeled it over, pointed it directly at my face, and issued his next order: “Read this.”

He held the paper in front of me and I quickly committed the contents to memory for all time: “Hey. Give me your purse. Forget it. Nevermind.” These were the words the true snatcher had apparently strung together during his failed snatchery. I realized then that the pissed-up former Warren patrons must be in the next room, presumably watching a close-up of my face on the well-lit video feed. “Now, THIS will be the end of it!” I thought as I dug deep for my strongest Canadian accent and recited the potentially prosecuting prose. “Again.” Rick requested. Done – the only way it could have sounded more Canadian is if I’d added “Buddy” at the end. “Once more,” he added for what would hopefully be the third time charm. It was.

The Boston cop opened the door, shook his head, then stepped back and closed it again as if the Rangers and I were door-to-door vacuum salesmen on a Sunday. In an instant my Thursday night adventure was over, and I’ve never felt a remotely comprable sense of relief. As I stood up and rubbed my exonerated wrists I could tell from the looks on their faces the Rangers genuinely felt terrible. I’m sure law enforcement of any kind is trained never to apologize for obvious reasons, but Rick did turn to his Padawn and say, “I think offering Mr. Pye a ride home is the least we can do.” The least indeed, Sir. The least indeed.

What then did I learn from this experience? It isn’t that I hate police (or Park Rangers). They were doing their job, they went by the book and let’s not forget that I was positively identified by three separate people – twice. My biggest takeaway is how easily anyone can be pulled off the street, cuffed and stuffed, and then dropped into the system on the word of… anyone. There are at least five documentaries on Netflix right now about people being imprisoned for decades due to mistaken identity. Another five about the pro-bono lawyer groups who donate their time to overturning those life-destroying cockups. There are fifteen times as many articles online about how eyewitness accounts are the last thing anyone should ever be convicted as a result of. It’s an everyday occurrence – and a terrifying one. Lots is already being done to improve said system, and my joining their ranks won’t change anything, so my advice then to everyone is, simply: watch your ass. And Columbo – it’s brilliant and also on Netflix.

columbo

If you’re still reading this opus of a post you’re a trooper. Hopefully you can forgive the length and chalk it up to me having not written regularly for half a decade. There’s a denouement, however, which I’d still like to add. When the Rangers pulled up in front of my sister’s house, there she was on the front stoop speaking frantically into her phone. In addition to the liquor store and a bodega which sells the largest selection of religious candles you’ve ever seen, there’s also a rather notorious housing project at Bunker Hill and Green. Undoubtedly she feared the worse – she’s my sister. I stepped out of the back seat and wondered why Ranger Rick was also exiting the vehicle. Surely he didn’t feel the need to explain the situation to my sis, or privately apologize to me? What he did, in fact, was a far greater gesture. He opened his trunk, passed me the paper bag containing my oakey Chardonnay and said with a smile, “Have a great rest of your evening“.

All was forgiven.

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Editor’s Note: I fully realize that posting email forwards on your blog is the height of laziness – but this is profound and I have to share.

bratty-teenage-girlA little over halfway through my 30s it’s only natural that nostalgia, mortality and violent curmudgeonliness are setting in – which is probably why I’m drawn to these thoughts on how not all “progress” is… actually any sort of progress. I’ve edited this for length and into a list format which also deep-sixes some religious content. And I removed several negative references to movies, cable TV and video games – because that’s just fucking crazy talk. Apologies to the original author, but if you’re that annoyed are you any different from the whiny, lazy and entitled gluttons your original work indirectly bemoans? Let’s get down to the reminiscing…

To Those of Us Born Before 1980

  • First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
  • We were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.
  • As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes. Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
  • We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.
  • We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight. Why? Because we were always outside playing!

      

“And This is What We Call Progress”–by Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes

  • We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were OK.
  • We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
  • We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth – and there were no lawsuits from those accidents..
  • We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.
  • Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment.
  • The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. In fact, they usually sided with the police.
  • These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors ever. The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
  • We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

What did you think? Seems thematically appropriate after my recent Chris Brown-related “what’s wrong with kids today?!” post [chases lost, crying infant off front lawn while wearing sandals with socks]. Should we wind the clock back on a few of these points? I look forward to your thoughts.

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che-guevara

I wrote a high school paper about the world-famous Ernesto “Che” Guevara and I remember being more than a little confused as to why he was revered by the left, particularly many actors and musicians of which I was a fan, as such a superhero. As I was a long-banged, Smiths-listening lefty by association (young, dumb and full of… Morrissey) I tended to side with my similarly spoon-fed friends and decided I dug the guy – although in my own defense I never, ever, owned one of those fucking Che shirts. Guevara was either a complete bastard or God’s gift simply depending on which book I was able to sign out of the CCHS library on a given day. The rift, split and division continues to this day, but as far as the influence of popular culture and Hollywood is concerned, el Commandante definitely has a leg up – which is both irresponsible and unfortunate. I’ll explain.

“Knowing what we know, why do we still celebrate him?” – Paul Berman

In the years since my compass has drifted, thankfully, farther to the right. That having been said, I was still excited to devote 4 hours of my life to watching Steven Soderbergh’s Che – and I did so, in one sitting, late Monday night. I certainly enjoyed the movie as entertainment. It felt authentic, gritty, was action-packed and engaging all the way through the Cuban revolution, his operations in the Congo (which are only briefly mentioned by another character and almost wholly omitted from the film) and to the final battles in the Bolivian jungle. To the uninitiated this film’s protagonist would definitely appear to be a revolutionary hero. The movie’s slant is in no way conflicted on this point.


Killer Chic: Hollywood’s Sick Love Affair With Che Guevara

From the above video: It’s something that baffles Cuban jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera. “Che hated artists, so how is it possible that artists still today support the image of Che Guevara?” Turns out the rebellious icon that emblazons countless T-shirts actually enforced aesthetic and political conformity.

My problem with the film has nothing to do with acting, timeline, 85% Spanish dialogue, cinematography or any other technical or aesthetic aspect. It’s solid celluloid. I will never, however, recommend it to anyone under the age of 25 who’ve never read at least a couple of books/articles on the man, preferably one from each side of the aisle. If “Che” Parts 1 and 2 are the only point of reference for a young mind, which they will undoubtedly become once the DVDs are released later this year, you’d think the guy was a cross between Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and Davey Crockett.

peter-griffin-cheA large percentage of Cubans remember him as the “the butcher of La Cabaña” and he is considered by many others to be the genesis of continuing politically-charged brutality in the regions he directly influenced – and many that he did not. Fischer Price: My First Revolution, if you will. As Del Toro’s Che tells Lou Diamond Phillip’s character, “A coup without an army behind it never stands a chance“. Lou Diamond, fresh on the heels of his tour-de-force performance on the George Lopez Show, nods stoically. I have to be honest here though – I think there are 12-yr-old white girls in Northern Minnesota who know they have a better chance of spotting a Yeti than seeing a revolution without violence. Then they get to college and some unkempt 3rd-year activist convinces them otherwise, signs them up for a candlelit vigil during which he tries to finger her and then buys her a Che shirt the next morning as an apology. Does anyone else see the irony in that?

The leanings of Soderbergh and his Hollywood pals are no secret, but there’s “spin” and then there’s blatant omission. Stevey can argue that he does indeed show Che ordering executions. Two of his own troops who deserted, raped and then torched the house of peasants are shot during the first half of the film. (So what you’re saying is that many of his victims deserved to be blown away in jungle clearings. I get it now, and I still love you and your t-shirt, Johnny Depp!). He can also point out that during once scene, shortly before he is dispatched, one of the Bolivian soldiers remarks, “Guevera assasinated my Uncle”. As far as ticks in the “definitely not any kind of hero” column, those calculated, punch-pulling critical additions to the film are just the tip of the firing squad.

johnnydeppche1About a year ago I was at an Irish pub in Ottawa, Ontario and watched a group of about 30 twenty-somethings, obviously on some sort of bar crawl, stumble through the door all at once. To my dismay I noticed that they were all wearing identical neon-green t-shirts with the infamous Che visage boldly printed on the front. To prove a point to my companions, I told them I’d pay the tab for the entire night if just one of the misguided students pressed against our table like sardines could both a) identify and correctly pronounce the name of the man on their spiffy new shirt and b) tell me why they admired him. I made my point after speaking to about five of them and drank for free into the wee hours.

I’m no expert on the man, but I’ve definitely gone further out of my way over the last 20 years to be able to form an honest, objective opinion of his deserved legacy than the vast majority of my peers – a desire based in large on my early exposure to a book on the Cuban Revolution which my parents had in their house. I’ll shut up now. Spend the money you’re thinking of laying down for one of these incredibly inappropriate (you now know that Che vehemently disliked artists and musicians) t-shirt, dog tag or knit hat symbols of your progressiveness and spend it instead on a book like The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty – then see if you still feel the same way. That’s all I’m saying. Viva le Gordita !

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10 Reasons I am Officially Old

by Dave on January 7, 2009

in Reminiscent

Everyone must start to have moments like these in their mid-30s. These are mine. And it’s all true – every word.

  1. I asked for a nosehair trimmer for Christmas. I got a nosehair trimmer for Christmas. I love my nosehair trimmer.
  2. 80% of my gifts this year were sweaters (20% nosehair trimmers,) and I was perfectly ecstatic about that.
  3. I despise people who tailgate me. To the point of wanting to inflict grevious bodily harm. And I talk to them, in my rear view mirror. “Where’s the fucking fire?” The bastards.
  4. If I sleep later than 9am, even on the weekend, I hate myself for the rest of the day.
  5. I have a notebook full of lists with titles like “Outdoor To Dos” and “Tax Prep To Dos”. The only lists I used to maintain were of Goodfellas quotes.
  6. I recently purchased my first can of Metamucil. This, this was a tough one.
  7. In my filing cabinet, I have a folder labeled “Manuals”, full of nothing but manuals.
  8. I have a box in which I have started to save Christmas Cards and wedding invitations.
  9. The $3,000 I would have normally spent on booze in 2008 went to drywall, vapor barrier, paint, laminate flooring, a drop ceiling and a new propeller.
  10. A good portion of my free time is spent driving my Mother to and from the hospital, during which time we discuss little else but my To Do lists. “I’ll put it on my list, Ma. Yes, Ma.”

I’d be thrilled to hear about some of your own “Jesus, I’m disgustingly old” moments in the comments. Don’t be shy – we’re all going through it.

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I’m knocking the dust off a bunch of old home movies and first up is the 1997 family trip to Capetown. On the way there Janet and I had an 8 hour stopover in London. Lucky for us our good friend Katie was living there. Unlucky for us she was stuck in class most of the day…

This clip never gets off the Haunted Isle, but subsequent videos in the series will see us exploring Capetown, participating in drunken singalongs, visiting a crayfish factory, winery tours and much, much more. Stay tuned, you lucky people.

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Give me Back my Mills Hall Sweatshirt!

by Dave on February 7, 2008

in Reminiscent

When I first got back from England in 1999, I dated a girl I went to high school with for a little while. One night while visiting her apartment I left my Mills Hall sweatshirt in her room (hey now,) and we stopped hanging out in the biblical sense a few days later. Eventually realizing where my prized shirt had gone, I called her up and asked if I could come get it. No times ever worked for her, or she’d tell me how much she loved it and could she keep it, etc. etc. I saw her many times over the next 7 years and every time I’d ask about the shirt. “Are you still going on about that shirt? I love it!” But I never would let up – it meant a lot to me.

mills-hall-sweatshirt

Here is the only picture I have of me wearing it. Mills Hall in the early 90s was the only all-male dorm at the University of Guelph and we were a very proud and misbehaved bunch. I met one of my very best friends while living there, and I still keep in touch with loads of the old crew. Last week I was asked to be in one of their wedding parties this summer. It’s an ongoing bond and the closest thing to a good fraternity (and there were several fraternities at the school) that Guelph had going for it. Long story short, we all had those sweatshirts, the dorm is now co-ed without any sort of culture like we brought to it and if you’ve since lost it – that’s it. It’s gone.

I ran into the young lady in question at a wedding over the summer and said hello to her quickly. A few days later she emailed me to ask why I’d given her such a dirty look. I told her I didn’t remember giving her one, and certainly didn’t mean to and that I was sorry. She wrote back: “You’re still mad about that stupid sweatshirt, aren’t you?” I told her I wasn’t mad, but that I wished I still had it and that I’d pursued it a lot harder before she got married and threw it away. “I wore it last week” she replied.

It took her several months, but when I got home from Florida Sunday night I had a missed parcel slip at the door and I immediately wondered if she’d actually, finally sent me the sweatshirt back. I just returned from the post office, looked at the return to sender address and began doing a little jig in my front hallway. It’s in perfect condition and I’m wearing it as I type. I am ecstatic, I’m going to forward this post to all my old Mills buddies and to she who knows who she is – THANK YOU!

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Rare Archival Silliness

by Dave on February 6, 2008

in Heartwarming,Reminiscent

I don’t have a Wadio in me tonight, but I’ve gone and done a little something that will allow you to procrastinate at least equally as long. Have a look at the main navigation tabs at the tip top of the page and you’ll see a new one – “Archives“. If you’ve been with me for a while I have made available literally all of the content from the many incarnations this site has gone through over the years. Have a gander and a giggle, talk amongst yourselves and I’ll get back to invoicing.

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Appetizer: What was the last game you purchased?
Janet and I bought my Dad a Nintendo DS a year ago so he could play memory and brain exercise games, of which there are quite a few. After he showed little interest in the thing, and my Mom started commandeering it for a crossword game, I decided to see what else was available. Since then I have picked up hockey, football, best of Konami and golf games and some of them are quite fun. I also recently learned about a project which allows you to download and play free, pirated ROMS for the thing – which I may or may not do (insert Terrence Maddox wink here). Last week in Walmart I found a game entitled My French Tutor which I scooped up and played with on the plane to Florida. It’s surprisingly good, great for individual word memorization if nothing else and if you follow the last link you’ll find an objective and in-depth review that will have you dropping croissant crumbs all over the tiny screen in no time. Or something.

Soup: Name something in which you don’t believe.
It’s a toss up between Santa and Superman at the moment. Although I really want the new Blade Runner 5 Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition, so I should tread carefully. This Amazon description sounds like the coolest DVD box set thingy in human history:

“In celebration of Blade Runner‘s 25th anniversary, director Ridley Scott has gone back into post production to create the long-awaited definitive new version. Blade Runner: The Final Cut, spectacularly restored and remastered from original elements and scanned at 4K resolution, will contain never-before-seen added/extended scenes, added lines, new and improved special effects, director and filmmaker commentary, an all-new 5.1 Dolby® Digital audio track and more. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah are among some 80 stars, filmmakers and others who participate in the extensive bonus features. Among the bonus material highlights is Dangerous Days, a brand new, three-and-a-half-hour documentary by award-winning DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika, with an extensive look into every aspect of the film: its literary genesis, its challenging production and its controversial legacy. The definitive documentary to accompany the definitive film version.

The Ultimate Collector’s Edition will be presented in a unique 5-disc digi-package with handle which is a stylish version of Rick Deckard’s own briefcase. In addition, each briefcase will be individually numbered and in limited supply. Included is a lenticular motion film clip from the original feature, miniature origami unicorn figurine, miniature replica spinner car, and collector’s photographs, as well as a signed personal letter from Sir Ridley Scott”

Salad: If you could choose a celebrity to be your boss, who would you pick?
He’s sort of like marmite or anchovies in that you either love him or you hate him – but I think the world of Gordon Ramsey. It’s not so much his cooking canon and repertoire, that’s not really up for debate. It’s the no-nonsense, brutal tough love approach to seriously effective business advice that he brings to flailing restaurants in the “Kitchen Nightmares” series. If you know him only from screaming at French kitchen porters or a fat guy named Dewberry from the English and American versions of Hell’s Kitchen – then you’re probably right in assuming he’s an arrogant, narcicisstic prick. If you’ve seen the amazing way in which he can completely transform and save a business on Nightmares – from staff motivation to getting owner’s heads out of the clouds to wedding favors to deep cleanings to simplifying the menu to even decorating the bloody dining room – he is incredibly saavy, genuine and brilliant. “Do you know that, big boy?” On one episode of the English series two (I have been watching Ramsey’s shows for almost a decade), I was thrilled to see him take one of the owners to The Fat Duck in Bray. The restaurant has gone on to international acclaim and celebrity chef status for the owner, Heston Blumenthal, but it started as a little out of the way place which just happens to be located beside the pub I worked at for two years in the late 90s. Heston even bought the Hinds Head a couple of years ago and I have written about him before. The original Hinds Head website was the first site I ever built back in 1998, and my then girlfriend and I were one of the first people to eat at the Duck which was voted Restaurant of the Year in 2001 by Michelin – and if you know anything about the international restaurant game – that’s like winning best director, actor and film oscars for the same flick. Anyway, I pick Gordon Ramsey. “Have I gone soft in the fucking head, or summink?” No, just the midsection.

Main Course: What was a lesson you had to learn the hard way?
Don’t watch my father’s dirty movies when he goes for a motorcycle ride. Because the motorcycle might start making a funny noise forcing him to come home 4 hours early as a result. I remember that day, and look at him now, and it’s a complete mindfuck.

Dessert: Describe your idea of the perfect relaxation room.
One which features walls made of opium and contains furniture fashioned from Macadamia nuts. There’s a TV playing one of those fish tank DVDs and some sunglasses which double as x-ray specs. The only noise is generated by the subtle grunts coming from the Swedish Women’s Volleyball Team as they repeatedly touch their toes in front of me. Every hour on the hour they break to make me a very large sandwich. This is going nowhere, fast. Good luck with your last minute Christmas gift getting and all that good stuff.

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Four years and a thousand entries ago, I started this blog – knowing full well I probably wouldn’t maintain it but that it would be a learning experience relevant to my line of work. Who knew? I recently added a “On this date three years ago” feature in the sidebar in the hopes of getting a few eyeballs on some of the Pye in the Face canon. But I don’t think that’s really enough – especially where search engines are concerned. So I’m going to take time out now and then to draw attention to past posts I think are pretty cool and that you very likely missed.

Three years ago the thoroughly unique and enjoyable Tough Crowd was canceled by Comedy Central – much to my chagrin. I wrote a bunch of posts on the subject that I know were passed around and read by people involved with the show – including Jim Norton, Laurie Kilmartin, Patrick from Cringe Humor and probably even Colin Quinn himself. If you want to learn why I liked the show so very much, follow some of the Tough Crowd related links you see in this paragraph. That’s the whole point. This is how we play the reminiscelets game. My good friend Brukakke and I drove to New York to see the last Tough Crowd episode taping and even made it onto the show via an audience shot that you can see below. We met a lot of the guys and it was good closure for us. We were probably the equivalent of Tough Crowd superfans.

Tough Crowd Last Episode

Another article I read over recently and got a chuckle out of was in response to a blog entry by Moby right after the 2004 election. Moby was so distraught that George Bush had been re-elected that he was asking Canadians if it was alright if he moved up there. I was only too happy to give him an answer. You won’t often see me talk about politics on PITF, or draw attention to when I’ve done it in the past, so enjoy it while you can.

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There’s a Facebook group for my high school town, and someone added a “You Know You’re From Concord When…” thread a while ago. Obviously, the group is predominantly much-younger people, but I was curious and added my own point to the thread. You know you’re from Concord When: “Being told to meet your friends at ‘Eden’, ‘Boonyards’ or ‘Mayflower’ makes perfect sense to you.

Someone from the class of 2004 emailed me today and asked me to elaborate, so I did. This email is extended a couple paragraphs for the sake of the blog and reprinted with express written permission from… myself.

All three were nicknames we had for secluded outdoor places around Concord where we used to “par-tay”. Eden was along the river and accessible from behind the strip mall just off Lowell road near the center where Stop n Shop used to be. I worked there for a summer until they found out I was Canadian and didn’t have my greencard yet. It’s still a grocery store but has a different name now. There was a narrow path that wound through the underbrush for a bit and came out on a nice public lawn on the riverside with a decent amount of tree cover overhead. You could also walk down to it from the bridge down Lowell road a bit.

Anyway, Eden was a huge cop magnet and we only used it as a last resort when nobody’s parents were out of town. My friend got arrested one night, fully cuffed and stuffed, for peeing on the fire after the po-po told us to put it out. “I don’t care how you do it, but put that fucking fire out!” Well, my pal got a night in the docks and an embarassing Concord Journal Police Log entry for his efforts. The worst part is, the Journal listed the charge as “indecent exposure”, with his real name and age. That could have meant a million different things, and I’m sure his grandparents enjoyed reading it over Sunday breakfast while envisioning him running through a local preschool with his pants around his ankles.

Boonyards was a field that accessible by an overgrown dirt road just over the Bedford town line on Bedford Street that extended out from the Concord center rotary. Technically it’s located on Hanscom airforce base which we learned the hard way one night when soldiers with M16s on jeeps showed up to break up our bonfire. I was off in the dark fiddling with a British exchange student and made an easy escape.

Mayflower was in West Concord technically, and you had to go through the back of Thoreau hills to get to it. I don’t think the police ever found it during my CCHS career, but we accidentally rolled a full keg down into someone’s backyard one enchanted evening. That attracted a lot of attention and I don’t think I ever returned.

Glad I could impart some history on my wee descendants. Concord was a strange place in the early 90’s era. When I got to college in 1992, it bored me to tears. I’ve had this conversation with dozens of my friends who had the same freshman year blues. We’d wonder why people in our dorm got so excited over a lame frat keg party, and the rest of the kids on our floor wouldn’t believe our high school stories. The classes of 89 and 91 especially – we’d already fucking done it all. We kept Mr. Kryple and Ms. DiCicco on antacids – that’s for sure. The outdoor spots were backups, and the tip of the iceberg. Good times.

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Turn Out The Lights.

by Dave on July 24, 2007

in Canadiana,Reminiscent

The house that I sit inside as I write this long overdue post is the one and only geographical constant I’ve had in my life. My Grandmother bought it shortly before I was born in 1973, and I’ve been wandering these halls for 33 years straight. We sold it recently, and are out of here lock, stock and barrel on July 31st. It finally sank in today when I met the new owners and overheard some of their renovation plans – and I suppose I’m sad this evening. Finally.

The last 5 years or so, as my Grandmother’s health and mind have deteriorated, the house has been more of a headache than anything anyone wants to be remotely nostalgic about. I watched the new owner’s children run around in the backyard today, and get excited about the dark ravine I used to know like the back of my hand. I looked out the patio doors at the run down pool that we’ve spent hundreds of dollars keeping functional this summer and can almost see one of my parent’s late night parties that used to take place this time of year – 20 years ago. I’m not going to get out of here at the end of this week without at least a little tug at the heartstrings.

There’s my Grandfather helping me put together my Death Star during Christmas 1977. I can almost picture my beloved Planet of the Apes playhouse down where it stood in the basement. The obligatory driveway hand prints from 1987 are eroded but discernible. Last night I slept in the room I lived in for the summer of 1996 when I was at University and washing windows in the next town over.

The dining room table which used to be the epicenter of the house is now quiet, and will be moved to my new apartment come the fall. 10 minutes ago my father decided he didn’t want the Grandfather clock and that’ll go to me too. Janet’s got dibs on the old kitchen table. Life will go on, obviously, but a more crystal-clear end to an era you’ll never find – and I’ll have a sniffle if I want to.

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Searching For Peter Grumme.

by Dave on June 13, 2007

in Reminiscent

Once upon a time, if you wanted to find someone you’d lost touch with, you’d hire a private detective. In 2007, the first answer my friends and I came up with for this same task was: “Start a FaceBook Group!” That having been said, where the hell is Peter Grumme – a.k.a. Gummer?

Many people who visit this site won’t have any clue, or give a sweet frickin’ tweet, who Gummer is. Simply put, he’s a diamond geezer whom a lot of people would like to get back in touch with. In the age of FaceBook, and it’s fervent Canadian following, not being able to locate him is extremely frustrating.

I’m writing about this today because there are currently next to no hits in Google for Pete’s name. If he, or someone he knows, performs a related query anytime soon they’ll undoubtedly find this post, the FB group and then – salvation. Come home, little shaggy lamb.

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Ring A Ding Ding, Baby.

by Dave on April 13, 2007

in Reminiscent

Back in 2003 I was in the grips of a pretty severe Rat Pack fascination. Anyone who has ever been to my apartment can attest to that. Dino, Joey, Peter, Sammy and Frank still look down at you from every wall. At the time I worked as an editor and was responsible for writing up user-submitted IT bloopers into longer, readable articles. I always tried to inject a little humor into the proceedings, and I got a little carried away at times. Here is my favorite, which I stumbled upon today while looking for old copywriting examples to show to potential clients.

Discretion, and a love of breathing without a respirator, prevents us from mentioning the name of this fine establishment. But when our Clyde’s contract was cancelled the following day, you can bet he didn’t hang around to catch any shows. Better to miss Goulet at the Trump Marina — than to wake up at the bottom of one.

It’s way over the top in terms of what that site was used to, but my boss liked it, threw it up, and it’s still there four years later. Made me laugh today, see what you think.

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Out Like Buster Douglas.

by Dave on March 23, 2007

in Reminiscent

Spoke to me Mam today about plans for selling G-ma’s house and getting on with our respective lives. So there are no nasty surprises for any of my peeps, real or imagined, I will be among the faithful Boston departed as of May 1st. I’ve been living in the North End for a little over 7 years, and I will always have a soft spot for this neighborhood and this city. But baby, I gots to go.

It’s very bittersweet – not so much the fact that I am leaving Boston and moving to Toronto, but the reasons behind why I feel I have to. That having been said, I am tremendously excited to buy a car, buy my own place, spend time with my family – immediate and extended, and the fact remains that I have a tremendous group of friends up there from my very early high school (pre-1988) and University of Guelph days. It’s not like I’m shipping out to the Falklands.

While we’re sorta on the subject, the timing of Facebook’s very recent explosion into the Canadian market could not be better timed. Everyday I get friend requests from people I haven’t talked to in 10 years. We have a group for the house I lived in at Uni, one for my old dorm Mills Hall and the network keeps growing and growing. It’s all very, very serendipitous.

Before I lose consciousness from masturbating with maple syrup in anticipation, I should point out that my current employer, while allowing me to work remotely in the wilds of the North as much as I need too during this tricky time, also wants me back in Boston a few times a quarter – so I’ll still be seeing everyone in Beantown on the regular. No biggie, for the best.

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