Sunday, March 11, 2012

It’s Off to WordPress

I know you’ll all be disappointed in the bombshell I’m about to drop. (By “all” I mean my daughter and the guy who stumbled on the page while looking for a reliable mechanic. (By the way, he still owes me $72.50 for parts and labor, but I guess that will all come out in court.))  I’m moving this blog to  It saddens me greatly (I had to bookmark a new page) but at WordPress I can upload more of my own writings… something most people work avidly to avoid (partly because I’ve never really gotten the hang of using a comma correctly). Hopefully this won’t be the worst decision since someone decided to put carrots in green jello.  Hope to see you all there. (One person would be nice.)  I hope my departure does not bring financial ruin to Blogger and its parent company, Google, but I must do as I must do.  (OK, it might be time to sell off a little of your stock.) 


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Gus Klenke Garage?

A hundred years ago, in the nineteen sixties, I used to spend summers in Door County, Wisconsin.  It is perched rather tenuously at the tip of Wisconsin's thumb, and, from my chair, is still one of the prettiest places on earth.  Pine needles and cherry blossoms litter the peninsula and all is framed by a rock strewn shore line and blue waters. It's a wonderful place, at once rural while also being a retreat for Chicago's suburban oppressed.  It was one of those vacation destinations for the nouveau riche, or for that matter, just the riche.  It had a genteel air about it, with summer stock theater, artist colonies and antique dealers scattered throughout like raisins in a muffin. It wasn't all plastic and panache like Wisconsin Dells.  Stress did not reside there. It was a nice mix of adult and kid and, if your parents were like mine, a wonderful place to goof off.

Pause for forty years to roll by.

It wasn't too many summers ago that I finally returned to the "top-o-the-thumb" as some local ad man must have once coined.  It was one of those odd moments, surreal and idyllic, that one anticipates with the kind of ambivalence usually reserved for meeting old friends.  How could the modern world have screwed this place up?

It hadn't.  More than could be reasonably hoped for had gone untouched.   A few towns had boomed, but who can begrudge them that.  I don't know how many locals still bought their newspapers there.  Many that I spoke to on that trip were mid-life angst filled suburbanites doing their best Oliver Wendell Douglas routines.  And, I understand that.

But, of all the joys I rediscovered there that summer, the most surprising was the sight of an old, familiar roadside landmark, Gus Klenke Garage situated in downtown Ellison Bay.  In my youth I had assumed it to be a local eyesore:  an abandoned white clapboard building standing idly at the divergence of Route 42 and Garrett Bay Road.  My father had occasionally joked about its longevity.  Once, we even looked up Gus in the local phone book and, to our delight, there we found him, apparently possessing all the attributes any living soul might be party to.

Little did I realize that the citizenry of Ellison Bay would prove savvy enough to recognize a good thing when they had it.  Rather than the eyesore of my assumptions, the local population saw in Gus Klenke everything I had learned to associate with it:  Timelessness, perseverance, and that comforting eternal quality one feels when spotting a Peanuts cartoon in the paper or realizing the Cubs just won't go all the way this year.  It's nice to know that some things will outlive us.  Charles Shultz, I think, would agree.  So might Leo Durocher.  Hopefully the lovely people of Ellison Bay, Wisconsin do, too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens Review

For all who enjoyed Cameron's Avatar, this may fulfill your craving for a disappointing summer blockbuster with bad plot development. For the rest of us, take a trip to Dairy Queen. 

One goes to the theater wondering, "Does some team of screenwriters really have the audacity to take two classic genres, cowboy movies and sci-fi alien movies, and just squeeze them hard enough that they spastically commingle?" A movie titled "Cowboys and Aliens" makes you hope for one of two possibilities. It's either "tongue in cheek" clever, never taking itself too seriously like Independence Day, or so cleverly plotted that you leave the theater with your mouth agape.
Unfortunately, this is just what it advertises itself to be in the title, a (rather lame) alien invasion movie set needlessly in the late nineteenth century American west. Whoopee.

Now, if you remember Avatar, you know that just using cool effects and writing a movie with an interesting concept isn't enough. Anyone conscious during the first ten minutes of that film already guessed the balance of the plot and then spent the next two hours hoping it wouldn't come true. With C&A it's pretty much the same. 

The "first twenty" almost sucks you in. The movie opens with classic, gritty western confidence: The tough guy stranger (Daniel Craig)showing his chops as he blows away some bad dudes, then moseying into town to set the scene for his ultimate confrontation with evil. It's good, and the dialog well supports the premise. Yes, he sports some odd, high tech device on his left wrist, but that promises to lead to some intriguing twist. It doesn't. It turns out to be a reject from the last Ben Ten movie, or, more accurately, Buzz Lightyear's arm mounted death ray thingy. Hmmm...

And so it goes. The disappointments mount until you realize, yes, it really is about aliens coming to earth to mine for gold. (Just exactly why goes unexplained.) Yes, the dialog gets cheesier. Yes, all the characters find redemption. Yes, all the manufactured plot devices play their part. (I hate to tell you, the knife given by the mean old rancher to the young boy DOES come into play at the climax. Surprise!) Yes, the alien space ship comes complete with pointless mechanical gadgetry on its exterior providing the heroes a place to climb. Yes, the interior of the ship has all the large, ubiquitous air ducts for crawling through. The director even incorporated one of those classic shots where intense, blinding light from above overwhelms the camera while synthetic voiced "ooos" in the score chime in.  Oh, and the aliens are slimy, you know, with gooey, sticky stuff all over them.  (Why must all movie aliens be snot covered?)  It's pretty hackneyed.

I couldn't help but like Daniel Craig, though I wish this were another Bond film. Old Harrison Ford plays his standard curmudgeon character. Sadly, I found the little kid (always a sympathetic role) unlikable (but that's just me) and Olivia Wilde looks completely out of place. (Of course, -spoiler alert- she's actually a sympathetic alien from some other planet inexplicably trans-located to earth. (What?))

In summary: pretty lame.

Who Am I?

I'm that guy.  I'm the one driving around with my left turn signal on who never turns or changes lanes.  I'm the one who forgets to close the little gas door and most likely has a  32 oz. fountain drink on the roof.  I am the one holding up the line at Wal Mart picking exact change out of a little rubber egg shaped thing.  And, that's not all. 

I get just a little too close to you when carrying on a conversation.  I leave my cart in the space you want to park in.  I always ask you to repeat yourself two or three times even when I know what you said.  I inevitably ask about things you don't want to talk about in front of the wrong people and I'm too insensitive to get the hint.  I speak really loud during movies.  I often have coughing fits while standing in the buffet line. 

I don't know how to use my cell phone very well.  When you call and leave a message I never call back because I am incapable of figuring out how to use voice mail.  When I do call you, it's from "restricted" and then I start talking without identifying myself. 

I have an annoying laugh.  I speak with certainty about things I know nothing about.  I say things like, "I know you better than you know yourself," and really mean it.  I send out mass emails that aren't in any way funny and they contain a virus.

If you are standing by a pool, I might push you in.  If you are about to sit down, I might pull the chair out from under you.  If you need to be alone, I will knock on your door. 

I am THAT guy.