Trying Out: Oregon Trip (Week 17)

Week Seventeen- Driving to Oregon

I was born in Oregon, but raised in Washington.  Our family had a few reasons to visit Oregon, but I had not been there in over twenty years.  I had certainly never driven to Oregon.

 

DODGE[1]

20 years later it has acquired a few quirks, but it still runs.

I am not one who enjoys the road trip.  Technically I drove through Oregon once on my way to the Grand Canyon.  And that drive was brought on my three movies in one year poking at me.  Between Elizabethtown, Cars, and Little Miss Sunshine, I felt obliged to toss myself in my ’97 Dodge Neon and go for a spin.  That was eighty-thousand miles ago. 

I think I have watched too many car advertisements.  I have it drilled into my brain that once a car hits one hundred thousand miles, it is a rolling death trap.  My mind is like a Final Destination movie.  Pick a seemingly innocuous drive and I can tell you what could go wrong and how the whole thing could turn into a massive pile-up.  Twisted metal, broken glass, crying orphans; I could describe the whole scene of utter carnage.  Maybe I have watched too many car chase movies, but I have no problem dreaming up a small glitch that inevitably ends in disaster.

Driving a whopping four hundred miles fits into the “challenges me” category.  (Sad, I know.  Plenty of people drive that much in a week just commuting to work and back.)  Ol’ Blue has been good to me.  That car has never left me stranded.  It has broken down, sure; but I always had a way to get it to a shop and get home without too much fuss.  Ol’ Blue is reliable, darnit.

Besides returning to the city of my birth (three days after my birthday, naturally), I had a few folks I wanted to see.  In a retirement community down there are three people that I used to go to church with.  There is a married couple I consider family.  And then there is My Friend.

dickhcls[1]My Friend is one hundred and seven years old.  Trying to describe him sounds like a bad stand-up routine.  “He’s so old, the Social Security Department thinks he is trying to scam them.”  “He is so old, the Titanic had not even been built yet.”  “He’s so old, Mark Twain was still working on his autobiography at the time.”  They sound ridiculous, but all those statements are true.

More than out-living most folks, he is my example of what to aspire to.  For one thing, he was a longtime member of Toastmasters and is probably the best orator that I have had the pleasure of knowing.  Plus, as an elder of our church, I often looked to him for perspective and guidance.  He is hardly perfect, but he always teaches me life lessons.  When people started saying that he probably would not make it to his hundred and eighth birthday, I decided that I should make the trek.

The first hundred miles were the worst.  I left at five in the morning to beat traffic.  I had my stack of CDs, a reasonably full gas tank, and a few granola bars to munch on.  I had no actual reason to feel stressed.  Everyone was going the speed limit, the rain was reasonable, and nobody tried to re-enact scenes from the Ben Hur.

Still, if you want to see me stressed, put me behind the driver’s wheel for too long.  (If you want me to have a heart attack, put me in a car while it is snowing.  I am sure from the observer’s stance I would be hilarious to see.)  My fingers may not go white, but they certainly do clamp down on the steering wheel.  I tried to distract myself with music; I resorted to taking deep breaths.  I do not suffer panic attacks or anything to that degree.  I simply do not like it and am constantly tempted to turn around and go home.

If I had given up, I would not have been able to say good-bye to one of the people in the world that I admire most.  Besides, logically I knew that this drive was no big deal.  Worst case scenario; call a tow truck.

There really is not much to report.  Once I hit a hundred miles, I loosened up considerably.  Granted, there is still the lingering concern that one is driving seventy miles per hour in a compact car as a several ton vehicle drives by mere feet away from your vehicle.  That one unseen piece of debris can pop your tire and send your vehicle swerving suddenly and dangerously into the next lane.  Car go bye-bye.

Such unpredictable moments are why we do not hold our phones while driving.  They are why we keep both hands on the wheel.  We all know cars have the potential to be deathtraps.  So are plenty of things in life.  Are we going to let that stop us from doing what we should?

I arrived just when I thought I would.  No trauma, no dents, no fiery infernos.  The visit with the couple was quite pleasant.  She asked how things were going in church in let me peek into her quilting room.  He took me over to the communal wood shop and talked about his latest doctor’s appointment.  A nice visit was had.

As to My Friend?  If I had not believed he was on the way out before, I certainly did upon seeing him.  His cognitive skills were slow.  He recognized me, he was capable of speaking full sentences, but as I had been warned, he was quite worn out after ten minutes of conversation.  (A few years ago, he told me that he was awake about two hours a day.  I doubt he can maintain that these days.)

Truthfully, he looked more like a puppet than one pulling the strings.  His frame seemed to be sucked into the seat of his chair.  His head and arms leaned forward, his feet were planted on the chair, but the rest of him appeared to be receding from the world.  His one hundred and seven year-old frame was withdrawing from life, and I would not be shocked if the rest of him exited in the near future.

I had hoped against reason that he might instill one last iota of wisdom.  I hung to this man’s words in the past.  I wanted him to have one last nugget to impart to me.  (It would make for a better story.)

I did not get one.  I got to shake his hand, got to hug him, and I got to say good bye.  That is a lot more than many can say about their loved ones.  Maybe he still has something he is saving up that he can share and I will hear word of mouth.

Regardless, I did not take a picture off him.  The picture here is from five years ago.  This is how I remember him.  Personally, I would not want my image of deterioration preserved.  I would like people to see me how I had been all the years prior.  It is not just the last visit of My Friend that I cherish, but all the decades that I knew him before.

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The drive back was as one would expect.  I crossed the Columbia one more time.  I did my best to stay out of truckers’ way.  I tried to keep my long legs comfortable while they were confined to one position.  And yes, because it cannot be avoided, I hit Seattle traffic.  Around rush hour.

Ah well.  Nine hours of somewhat uncomfortable driving to spend four hours with some of the finest people I know?  I feel it was more than worth the effort.  Going “home” again was the right way to celebrate my birthday.  (However I was delighted to get home-home to my cat and couch.  Stretch out, you poor legs.)

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In Defense of Mighty Morphin’ Plot Holes

As evidenced previously, I spend a fair amount of time watching television; perhaps too much.  Thus it should come as no surprise that I spent the weekend watching Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season One- Volume One.  (That alone was thirty episodes.  Imagine if I had watched Volume Two as well.)  Yes, I know the movie is already out.  But my library only has one copy.

While watching, numerous questions entered my brain.  I am sure there are places that might have answered these questions for me, but I thought I would try to answer these all by myself.

My Mighty Morphin’ Power Questions

You are in a park.  Putties are attacking.  Why not go straight to being “Powered Up”?

-From a television standpoint, it is a budget-saving device.  You cannot pay for giant robot fights for the entire episode.  Gotta start small.  But more importantly here, I offer that there are plot reasons.  Hence, “do not escalate”  being one of the three rules.

For one thing, your Rangers need to keep their skills honed.  Keep an eye on them, sure.  You have the ability to teleport them out of danger (which you do.  A lot), so a few cuts and scrapes are acceptable.  Gotta keep your troops lean and scrappy.

Also, we all know that power corrupts.  You hand a kid a loaded gun and shove him out the door, someone is going to get hurt.  However, if you force them to work their way up to a power set?  Tell them they cannot use a machine unless they absolutely need to?  Then they will respect that power more.  (We see how terribly things can go when Green Ranger goes on a path of destruction, imagine six of those.)  If you earn a power or a weapon, you wield it with greater wisdom.

What’s up with Zordon?  And Rita?  Summoning teenagers with attitude?  Surrounding yourselves with incompetent sidekicks?  Toying with children from your lofty perches?

A simple answer: Dementia.

Look, we know they have both been around for over ten thousand years.  That is how long Rita had been trapped.  (And in a “space dumpster”.  Really broke out the engineering textbooks, did we writers?)  We can reason that they waged combat long before that.  It takes time to get your head projected onto a screen from a faraway land and recruit minions to play with clay and all that.

You think their mental capacities have not deteriorated a tiny bit in all those years?  Nobody said they were immortal.  I think they may be powerful leaders, but they surely have some damage in their craniums, not matter how big and floaty they can be.

What’s with Rita’s attire?  The hair?  The Madonna-like bra?  Wearing the same outfit every single day?

See previous answer.  The lady needs help.  She can’t even talk in synch with her lip movements.  Poor thing.

Exactly how powerful are Rita and Zordon?  Where are the Zords coming from?  Why will not Rita send down seventeen monsters and end those Rangers once and for all?

My theory is that both Rita and Zordon, despite their many flaws, are aware that power is finite.  Zordon may be trying to postpone entropy, what with all the energy that the two sides are burning through.  (You think handling a short-circuiting robot and a gang of teenagers is hard work, try being responsible for the heat-death of the universe.)

Zordon himself says that the Rangers are “calling upon the power of the dinosaurs”.  Now, the amount of dinosaurs is finite.  They are not making anymore.  He is so desperate; he trudges out mastodons and sabre tooth tigers and pretends that they are reptiles.  (Plus, he figures that teenagers given a giant robot are not going to pay much attention to these matters.  And he is right.)  He supplements the power of the dinosaurs (Fossil fuels?  Is Zordon an oil baron?) with solar energy.  If Zords were cars, the battery would be the power of the dinosaurs, and the gas that keeps it going would be the solar energy (hence that whole eclipse crisis).

On top of that, Zordon has to heal the earth every time one of the Zords is used.  You cannot keep volcanoes going all the time.  Gotta lock up those glaciers and heal those lava pits.  That probably uses up a store of power all by itself.

(As to how the Zords can get from across the globe to Angel City?  Portals.  He can teleport teenagers, so it is likely that he does the same for Zords.  He probably has a portal from each of their “homes” that ends at the same place.  The portal exit is where we see the Zords stampede from.  Saves on travel time and coordinates the Zords for those impatient teenagers.

(Have you seen a hormonal, anxious, attitude-filled teenager parallel park?  Now picture that with a giant T-Rex.  And lava.  No way is Zordon entrusting that to Jason.  Nuh-uh.)

Which is why Zordon made them earn Titanus.  If he is going to use up what little dinosaur power he has, then those kids had better earn it.  It is one more reason why the Rangers should not escalate the battle.  Zordon has his eye on the long-game and knows he can only power the dinosaur Zords for so long.  Why do you think the other shows switched to vehicles and space themes?  Zord had it all figured out.

Rita also has limits to her power.  It takes energy to create a monster out of a piece of clay.  It also costs energy to blow up a creature to the size she needs to be truly destructive.  If she creates a warrior that is somewhat competent on the battlefield, like Goldar or Scorpina, then that is energy she does not have to use to create them again.  Keep them around and use what power she would have spent making them, and use that to make them giants.  But there are not many reliable monsters.  (Largely her part, she creates quickly and shabbily.  Failure inevitably follows.)

She does not have the energy or strength to create tons of monsters and increase their mass exponentially.  The most she can handle is one new monster and two pre-made creatures.  Blow them up to giant size and she is pretty much out of juice.  (Which is why with Goldar and Scorpina, she may resort to pithy, low-energy items like mirrors or spinning wheels.)

Where are the Rangers sitting when they form Megazord/ Megazord Battlemode/ Dragonzord Battlemode/ Ultrazord?

Let’s break it down one by one.

Megazord- tank mode.  We see all five rangers sitting in a row with a window.  The window looks like the eye line of a Zord.  But to be tactically logical, it has to be positioned at waist level or higher.  (Neck to head would be the smartest area.  Things attack from above.)  So that means in this configuration, only the Mastodon or T-Rex are viable options.  But whenever they cut to the view, we clearly see a red and black outline.  The Mastodon does not match all the criteria.  The T-Rex comes across as “maybe” working.

Except.  The Pterodactyl is not part of Megazord.  Only when Megazord Battlemode is called upon does the bird join, flying itself onto the chest as some sort of shielding.  But you see Pink Ranger in there the whole time.  What gives?

(Also, the Mastodon’s head wondrously disappears in the transformation.  The head is supposed be a shield that works in conjunction with the Power Sword.  So why do they never use it?  You guys take enough hits, why not use that shield?  That’s what it’s there for!  It’s right on the toy!  But no, they probably leave it discarded on the ground and expect Alpha 5 to clean up after them.  Teenagers; they want you to clean up the earth with their petitions, but they won’t even clean up their own messes.  The battlefield is not your bedroom, youngsters!)

Dragonzord Battlemode has another curious seating question.  In theory, only Blue Ranger, Black Ranger, and Yellow Ranger are seated in that Zord.  (The ultimate insult:  Green Ranger, whose Dragonzord is the key component to battlemode, does not get to sit inside.  He only gets to sit in Ultrazord.  Stay outside, Greenie!)  And yet, in some shots, we see all five of the core rangers inside the window of Dragonzord Battlemode, even though it is made up only three core rangers.  What are Pink and Red doing in there?  Especially Pink.  C’mon.  She’s a shield, man!

And then there is Ultrazord.  The outer skin of Dragonzord gets draped over Megazord Battle Mode like some black bear skin, trying to keep the core Zords warm in the winter.  Added bonus: Two heads, one on top of the other.  And, because walking is just too hard, Titanus comes along and rolls them along.  (What if they have to fight on rocky terrain?  Why is the ground always smooth when Titanus appears?)  To me, the whole thing looks anti-climactic.  Why have this massive honk of metal just stand there, while blobs of energy shoot forth.  No arms flailing?  No legs kicking?  Nope, this big mass of Zords rolls along, like a tourist taking a sidewalk tour on a Segway.  Sigh.  But through all this?  Green Ranger somehow gets to take a seat behind Red Ranger in the window.  Finally!  A seat at the big boys (and two girls) table!

So, in all of this, where is the window located?  It cannot be in the T-Rex’s head, because when the Megazord enters Battle Mode, the chest opens up, and the T-Rex head folds down into the chest, revealing the more shogun-like head.  The Rangers would all be staring at their feat for the epic battles if this were the case.

So maybe they are in the Battle Mode/ shogun head the whole time?  Still, the color and physical layout do not match.  There are no triangles in that head, and that window is made up of nothing but triangles.  Plus, are you trying to tell me that the entire time they are in Megazord/ Tank Mode, they are staring out the window, and then through T-Rex’s head, and out T-Rex’s window?  A: It would kill their peripheral vision.  B:  That’s a lot of construction to stare through.  Even if T-Rex’s head was hollow.

My theories-  A: It is all a mental construct so that they can function.  These guys are teenagers.  The experience might be too much for their not-fully developed brains to handle.  So Zordon pops them into a pocket dimension, and creates the illusion that they are in the Zords the whole time.  To keep them fully immersed and help their reaction time, their neural connections are kept strong enough that they feel pain and jostling whenever their Zords are injured.  I call this, the Pacific Rim explanation.

B:  They are deep within the core of T-Rex.  The windows?  Those are really their monitors.  In the same way that Tony Stark uses see through glass as his monitors/ touch screens, they are kept deep inside the T-Rex and it only looks like they are seeing through windows.  (Kimberly just operates her Zord from T-Rex even before she is needed for Battle Mode.  She gets lonely.  Plus, as will be repeated, her Zord is useless.) The Iron Man explanation would explain how they can take all those hits and why their reaction time is, well, not the finest.

Why is Dragzonzord Battlemode’s belly hollow?  Dragonzord has all this mass, then he hollows himself to make room for the three other Zords, but nothing occupies the space in his chest?  ‘sup wid dat?

I am going to guess that Dragonzord has an energy reactor there.  And he needs a pocket of cushioning to keep it from getting jostled too much.  (Contrary to what Spider-Man 2 tells us, if there were a perpetual energy/ sun-machine, it would be turned off if it were bumped too much.  You don’t really need to drown the thing, Doc.)  That’s why the Zord’s arms do not fully move.  If you notice, it takes after the T-Rex.  The forearms move just fine.  But you never really see it move from the shoulder to elbow.  And it has that circle of blinking lights to take most of the hits.  So in its default configuration, it has the chest area covered.  The space that seems hollow is simply see-through gel and air that absorb the hits so that the reactor is undamaged.

Zordon has the ability to teleport.  He used it in the Pilot and has used it quite often.  Why does he sometimes say, “Get to __” instead of sending them each time?  And what’s with Tommy and his watch?

Again, Zordon wants his Rangers to keep in shape.  Would you ride a bus for two miles, or would you walk it?  If he thinks the location is close enough, then he might encourage a little activity to keep them in tip-top shape.  He can teleport them whenever he chooses.  Also: dementia.

As to Tommy’s watch, I maintain that Billy had to whip one up quick.  They were just fighting Tommy five minutes ago and Billy gives him a signal watch?  No, the people-pleaser wanted the noob to feel included.  So he cobbled one together quickly.

Part one of the problem is that we all know that Green Ranger is the most powerful and the best fighter.  For that reason, Zordon keeps him held back; keeping the core five in shape.  Combine that with a second-rate watch creation?  Voila: Tommy will never be first on the scene.  (And of course, he is too macho to ask for help when his signal watch will not cooperate.  Typical male, amiright?  He would much rather spend all his time flirting with Kimberly and going to his karate lesson.)

In the episode, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, Kimberly zings Bulk and Skull by calling them, “Bionic bean brains”.  Huh?  What does that even mean?  Who writes this stuff?

It was the ‘90’s.

“Morpinomenal”?  “Morph’tastic?”  Those aren’t words!

IT was the ‘90’s.  Plus, they cranked out dozens of these shows in a year.  Think soap opera shooting schedule.  Except less romance, less episodes, more explosions.  Although there was probably the same number of, “You won’t get away this!” and “Curse you!” declarations.

Why does Red Ranger start every line with, “Alright!” or, when he is mad, “Man!”?

See previous answer.  Red Ranger does not have a lot of depth to him.  (Shrug)

Rita claims that the entire reason why she sends monsters down is to draw out the Power Rangers.  Yet, in most episodes, we see her dedicating countless hours to watching every move that they make.  Does she need to “draw them out” if she knows where they are?  Why not crush them in their sleep or threaten their parents?

The short answer is dementia.  However, if we are going to get creative, I want to believe that Zordon made a deal with Rita.  “If you promise to only attack them on the battlefield, then I will give you a Zord.”  It would explain how Rita pulled a Dragonzord out of nowhere when that is clearly not her style.  Zordon would see it as a way to keep his Rangers safe in their downtime, while knowing that he could rehabilitate the Zord back to his side once he defeated her rogue Ranger.  A crazy plan?  Sure.  But they are both nutso.

Why doesn’t Tommy get a seat inside his own Zord?  Doesn’t his standing on top of a building make him a target for sniper attacks?  Wouldn’t he fall to his death if he slipped off Dragonzord’s head?

Rita is not smart enough to engage snipers.  She knows spells and monsters, not tactical brilliance.  (C’mon.  Watch one episode.  You’ll see.)  Tommy also believes that he and his Zord have a special bond.  You know, like The Iron Giant.  They are so in synch that he does not need to sit in his Zord, he can be far away and still be at its side.  As to the foolish standing on the Zord’s head?   Really?  He is a teenager.  He is showing off.  For Kimberly, probably.  Boys.

Okay, but why is his dagger also… a flute.  Seriously?  The other Rangers have daggers that double as blasters.  Green Ranger gets a flute?

First off, Green Ranger is one bad mother.  Green Ranger is so bad, Rock Monsters break their hands punching him.  Green Ranger is so bad, hard liquor drinks him.  Green Ranger is so bad, when he buys a shirt, the sleeves fall off out of sheer terror.  (That’s why all the tanktops.  The only shirts that keep their sleeves are the ones that have feinted.)  So Green Ranger does not need a silly blaster.  He is the Green Ranger, sucker.  Also, he has that gold shield around his chest.  While his Ranger buddies are taking it easy, pushing buttons to control their Zords in a forth of a second, Green Ranger would rather take four seconds to blare out a note.  He is so bad, he does not need to hurry.

Also, toys.  Go find a Dragonzord.  I seem to remember it making noises and sounds.  Hence the flute, the notes, and the blinking red lights.  Titanus?  There is not need for Titanus.  At all.  Unless you are selling toys.)

Aren’t the other Rangers really just using Dragonzord for his Power Staff?  In two of the last episodes, it seemed like all they needed was the drill-tipped weapon to poke a hole in the monster?

You, unlike Tommy, have caught on.  Sometimes you make friends with your neighbor just so you do not have to buy your own weed-whacker or post-digger.

Alternatively, Red Ranger could learn that the Power Sword has a sharp, pointy end at the top.  It is more than just a broadsword!  Stop slapping them and stab the monsters!  Sigh.  Boys.

Why does every Ranger have to say exactly one line when they enter their Zord or before they take a big action as a team?

Because everyone wants to feel included.  If everyone takes part in saying: “We’re gonna show you, Rita!”  “You can’t mess with us!”  “We’re gonna defeat you!”  “And kick you off of Earth!”  “And out of the universe!”, then you feel like a team.  If just one or two Rangers said it, man.  That would be awkward.  They would come across as complete fools.  Better if all five share the responsibility.

Why does Kimberly have to have a skirt on her uniform?  Trini is a girl and her suit looks the same as everybody else’s.

Kimberly likes to be girly.  She wears dresses in daily routine.  (Happily, she wears something under them for days when she has to kick Putties on a playground.)  Zordon probably threw it out there to keep her happy.  She is, after all, the one most likely to say, “I dunno guys…” and complain that the helmet would mess up her hair.

Oddly enough, she is, by far, the most convincing at summoning her dino-power.  Just watch them.  “Pterodactyl!!!”  The best.  Tommy is second-best; which is why they belong together.  Jason is a distant third.  But yeah, the gal can yell angrily.  It balances out.

Towards the end of the classic five-episode arc, “Green with Envy”, the Rangers see Goldar attacking the city and respond with, “Yeah.  Too bad.”  Ten minutes later, Dragonzord starts to destroy the city, and they are enraged and leap into action.  Why the change?

You can make fun of any school in the world.  But not the one I attend.  You can rampage all you want dressed like a puppy with shiny clothes and a sword.  But you come struttin’ downtown, knockin’ stuff other lookin’ like one of our Zords?  I don’t think so!  It’s on!

Not the most altruistic reason, but surely an emotional one.  Teenagers, just a bunch of emotions held together with attitude and baggy pants.

Even with Dragonzord Battlemode, they still had to call down the Power Sword to defeat a mirror.  And they used the grand creation, the Ultra Megazord, to defeat a spinning wheel.  I can break a mirror without trying.  You can ruin a spinning wheel by tripping.  Aren’t they horribly over-compensating?

Short answer:  Yes.  Again, teenagers.  However, it should be factored in that both the mirror and spinning wheel were floating in mid-air and moving of their own accord.  It does not excuse their dramatic nature.  Yet until you defeat a mirror that rotates and hovers, you cannot really judge now can you?  Nope.

So.  Much.  Touching.  Every high-five is drawn out.  Their manly handshakes last several seconds too long.  The teenager teaching a class of kids?  He puts his hand on their chest, repeatedly, for wayyyyy too long.  And the first time T-Rex and Dragonzord teamed up, they flippin’ held hands!  What is with all the touching?  This they can do, but Tommy and Kimberly are not kissing?  How is this happening?

Sometimes, after a day of blowing things up, you gotta engage in positive reinforcement.  A lot of it.  Plus, with all the monsters crushing Angel City under their feet/paws/stones, you have to figure the death count is getting up there.  You have to hug while you can.  Tomorrow you or your friend might get squished.

(I wonder if that is why you never see their parents.  Are the Rangers all orphans?  Are their inheritances paying for all their monochromatic clothing?)

Kimberly and Tommy do not need to hold hands, lean with their heads on the others’ shoulders, or kiss in public.  They have their matching ponytails.  Who needs signs of affections when you have true love like that?

Why is it, when Red Ranger calls his T-Rex to attack, the others do nothing?  He calls out, “We need Megazord Power NOW!”  Yet sometimes, the others hang back.  Are they just that lazy?

Jason appointed himself leader.  Nobody asked him to be leader.  If he wants to be overly assertive and dictate terms for the groups, sometimes the group is going to let him fight alone.  If they are out in the desert?  No victims around?  Nothing but rocks to get damaged?  Then, yeah, let the loudmouth try and handle it all by himself.  When he inevitably calls out, “Guys, I need help!”, then the rest of the Rangers will recognize that he acknowledges them as valuable assets.  Then they will enter the fray as friends and remind him that, just like High School Musical, they are all in this together.  (Stay humble, kids.  Nobody likes a bossy braggart.)

Explain the musical choices.  How many guitars died for the making of this show?  Why go from ‘20’s Vaudeville-ish music for high school hijinks, and then have the rock ballad bust out every battle?

Sometimes musicians like to show they have range.  Even if they should not.  But one imagines that a kid’s show lets the musicians do whatever they please.  Plus, between the opening credits, the battle scenes, and the end credits?  If they played any more guitar riffs, I think parents would have shown their kids what a truly scary monster would look like.

What’s with Billy wearing all the overalls in the world?  And why does he talk like he wants to impress everyone when it really just makes him even more of a social outcast then he already is?

The speech is to make Billy stand out as smart, even if it makes him look foolish.  (Ah, cruel irony.)

As to the overalls?  Huh.  I really do not know.  Guess I am all out of answers.

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Trying Out: MOHAI (Week 16)

Week Sixteen- Museum of History and Industry

One day I will run out of Seattle museums.  Honest.

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This time around, I took the stroll to MOHAI.  Museum of History and Industry is less than a mile away, but I was tired.  I was ready to go home.  It was on a day like this where I needed the obligation of trying something new that kept me from going straight home and flopping down on the couch.  Dedication and resolve won out over laziness.  This time…

Of all the museums I have visited this month, this is the one that most meets my definition of a traditional or classic museum.  You feel like you are walking through a textbook.  The galleries are the chapter headings.  The introductory signs are the headings, and the exhibits themselves are the details and paragraphs that you study.  Much less emphasis was given to interaction; more time was spent on reading descriptions.

Oddly, the entire main exhibit, True Northwest: The Seattle Journey, is told in a “we” narrative.  It starts off with a seven or eight minute video showing some of the highlights in Seattle, but location and history-wise.  “We are” this and “we strive” for that.  I understand that they are trying to be inclusive.  I found it hard to take them seriously.  If I disagree with one statement, then that ruins their credibility.  “We are famous for work in the tech industry.”  I don’t!  Ha!  Foiled!  A meager nitpick, I know.  I like my historians to be far enough removed that they have perspective.  Again, my personal preference.

The path of True Northwest was a little confusing at times.  As you walk through, the story of Seattle is told in eras.  Start off with the Native American settlers, move into colonialism, see their response to railroads, gold rushes, wars, prohibition, etc.  Yet the halls were absent arrows or stringent pathways.  In the in interest of having wide enough walkways, I missed a turn here or there.  Once I passed a family, somehow skipped about twenty years (museum time, not real time.  No Rip Van Winkle effects), and found myself being passed by the family.  I had glanced at the Great Seattle Fire, found no new information in that room, and turned around, not realizing I had missed a hallway at the other side.  You would think it would be hard to get lost in what is essentially a long hallway, but I pulled it off.

(Also, after I exited history exhibit, I saw the Seattle Food exhibit in their Walker Gallery.  The kick?  You have to walk past the exit, go in the entryway, and when you exit, you walk past the entire space again to get to the next display.  That is a lot of back and forth with no payoff.)

The main floor is where most of the “marquee” exhibits are visible.  There is the former Rainier Brewing “R”.  A large seaplane is mounted overhead.  And, being right next to Lake Union, a hydroplane hangs over one side of the building.  One nice thing about the main floor is that it is quite an open space.  The building itself is wide open, with exhibit spaces and halls taking up the perimeter.

The third floor has one room, enough for a rotating exhibit.  When I went, it was set up as a big play room, encouraging kids to build bridges, walls, and other practical construction sites that are common around Washington.

The fourth floor also contains only one room.  This one, the McCurdy Family Maritime Gallery, is about aquatic exploration.  An old steering wheel, a periscope, and an old diving helmet are on display.

There are some pros and cons, as always.  On the con side, everything is named for somebody.  Then entryway is named after one company.  The main floor is named after one donor.  A corner in that room is named after another family, while the screening room on the second floor is named after a foundation.  You can learn almost as much about Seattle by who has donated as you can from the exhibits themselves.  Naming things after people has never sat well with me.

However, they do have free admission every Thursday.  If having donors see their names on walls allows people to experience history for free?  I feel that is a reasonable trade-off.  However, at a quick glance it appears that one formal Naval Reserve Armory building has room for ten different entities to claim naming rights.   Oy.

If I am being honest, there are other places that cover the specifics better.  Neah Bay, most northwestern part of the continental U.S., has a more thorough description of Native American life and their contributions to Seattle.  The Seattle Underground Tour covers the early 1900s and industrial occurrences, especially the Great Seattle Fire, in far greater details.  This is an introductory tour.  Those wishing to get a brief overview of Seattle will find an hour-or-so cover-all locale.  Those wanting specific information should seek those out elsewhere.

The few interactive exhibits were interesting, the staff did not try to insert themselves into my visit, and I learned one or two things.  (Slinky dogs started in Seattle?  So did UPS?  Shows what I know.)  The classic, textbook, keep it simple historian in me was rather pleased with what I experienced.

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Trying Out: Donating Platelets (Week 15)

Week Sixteen- Platelets

God and I have an arrangement.  I get to be rather healthy.  But I get to bleed into a bag every eight weeks or so.  It took a few years to figure out a few things (I didn’t drink enough water once or twice and I found I need to eat about four bowls of Rice Krispies to crank up my iron levels).  Yet it is now a rather painless process.  Once I get over that little needle to the arm prick, everything flows smoothly.

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The platelet device

For several years I was quite content to donate whole blood.  Not that I recommend this, but I sometimes will try to beat the clock.  (Hint: Drink lots of water.)  Thirty-five minutes from check-in to walking out the door is my record.  Again, do not try this at home.  Years of practice were involved and I was squeezing frequently to get that blood to flow.

Much of that time was spent noticing the chairs across the room.  Those folks laid there for much longer than I.  They were the platelet donors.  I never really got a full explanation of what was going on.  No matter if we were on the whole blood side of the room or the platelet side, we were still helping folks.  Why rock the boat?

Because I like to help, darnit.  If I can help more people by donating differently, then I will at least give it a try.  How much could it really hurt?

Thus, my most recent visit was also my first platelet trip.  I ate my spinach, I drank some water, and I had a belly full of cereal.  They asked a few more questions, but the beginning was essentially the same.  Since I knew I would be writing about the process, I asked more questions than I normally would.  For example, men who have had sex with other men in the last year are not eligible to donate.  However, it used to be that if a man had sex with another man at any point in their life, they were not eligible.  Small steps are being made.  Everybody bleed!

As he sat me down in the big chair, I asked the staff member what was going on.  As I understood it, here it is:  The blood goes out of the body and into a big machine.  It goes through a centrifuge which separates the blood into the parts it wants and the parts it will return.  The blood goes back into the arm in two parts.  The machine keeps the platelets.  Blood goes out, then some is returned to keep the body from slipping into distress, and then blood goes back into the machine again.  An anti-coagulant is added to the return-part so that the blood does not clot.

Seizures: Bad.  Blood clot to the brain:  Bad.

The machine has an idea of how much blood it wants to withdraw at what rate.  On the first donation, the staff member essentially has to stand there the first half hour, adjusting and readjusting the rate at which the machine asks for raw material.  It was displeased at how much and how quickly I was feeding it.  (My cat has the same attitude.)  The machine is programmed to chug away for roughly ninety minutes.

That is one factor that affects the number of people that go this route.  Between the screening, the sitting, and the recovery period, it ends up being a two-hour process.

A special note of thanks should be given to the staff member/ tech.  He answered all the questions, left no bruises, and watched over me the entire time.  Kudos to those that offer excellent care.

There are more ways that side effects can occur with platelet donations.  Calcium levels drop when platelets are kept, so donors are given a cup of a dozen Tums to keep the body happy.  I experienced some sort of sinus headache for much of the process.  (That could have been for several reasons.  Maybe I hadn’t consumed enough water and I was dehydrated.  Maybe I had a cold.  Or maybe I was undergoing a reaction to the anti-coagulant.  None of which are serious in my book.)  I may not have been overly comfortable, but I had games and the internet to distract myself with and I have to assume the first time is always a shock to the body.

 

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Nobody was watching, so I thought I’d show off my blood.  See!

The pros far outweigh the cons.  Honestly, I have two hours.  After the process, I still beat rush hour traffic.  Making time is not an issue.  Also, in theory, platelets can be donated once a week.  I am not sure I would go in that often.  It sure beats the eight week wait of whole blood.  Finally, the real clincher for me; whole blood donations help one to three people.  Platelets can help up to eighteen people.  That means dozens of lives could be treated in a month, as opposed to two.  (According to the tech, whole blood is often turned into platelets, so it saves hospitals a step.)  It is hard to argue with those facts.  Especially since one of my favorite people lost a sibling the week prior due to a serious accident.

 

Yes, I would have liked for it to have gone a little smoother.  Yet I think another try is not out of the question.  No matter what version of donating one chooses, it is good for the donor’s body as well.  Helps them give back to the community, sure.  At the same time, the donor’s body replenishes and refreshes their system.  Ever hear of “tired blood”?  This helps that.

I think if they are able, people should give blood often.  Start off with whole blood and see how it goes.  Join me as one more bleeding heart.

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The Cost of Free Expression

Something rather interesting happened in comics this month.  And it had very little to do with superheroes.

Ardian Syaf has been drawing comics for at least a decade.  He had an exclusive contract with DC Comics and had recently made the way to Marvel Comics.

At the same time, Marvel has been refocusing their efforts on the X-Men.  Theories abound as to why they were put on the back-burner for a bit.  But that is no longer the case.  Three new team books and several new single-character titles have made their way to the shelves.  One of the first that made its way to the comic shops was Syaf’s title, X-Men Gold.  (Traditionally, X-Men have been split into two teams; the Gold team, and the Blue team.)

What no one at Marvel knew, except Syaf, was that the artist had made a few personal alterations to the artwork.  The t-shirt of Colossus hid a message.  Street signs and ads were used to show inside meanings.

In short, Syaf used his artistic position to express his personal beliefs.  And he got into big trouble for it.

The comic went on sale Wednesday.  By Sunday, word had started to get out and people were in shops trying to snag up copies.  By Monday, Marvel had released a statement.  Tuesday, Syaf stated that his career in comics was over.

This is hardly the first time that things have slipped past an editor.  Their job is to be forgotten.  If everything goes perfectly, you hardly know they exist.  If something goes wrong, they are the ones that get charged with the error.  They are usually the first ones to pair a creative team and one of the last ones to look at the book before it goes to print.

Previously, Marvel has seen a copy of Wolverine go to print with Sabretooth referred to using a racial slur, a bookshelf has mocked the departing of a higher-up, and once a comic was recalled because the wrong quality of paper was used in the cover.  DC also has a history of problems.  Their most recent issue came when someone used the wrong shade to block out a word and the text was visible through the censoring block.

At one point I had a collection of these errors.  I find it amusing that sometimes things slip through.  We all make mistakes, but some are more public.  As a comic shop guy, I have easier access than many to recalled comics.  I made a call, found a copy of X-Men Gold, and had planned to keep it.

Back in the Syaf world, things were not going well.  Marvel came out and effectively stated that he was fired.  The first three issues would have his art, as they had already been completed, but fill-in artists had been announced and a permanent replacement was in the works.  I had assumed that Syaf would find a spot at an independent publisher.  Companies like Image or Fantagraphics tend to encourage strong views and political overtures.  Yet Syaf seems to hint that he will never work in comics again.

What I find odd is that comics is often viewed as a place where unpopular views and opinions are given free reign.  Gender issues, political statements, challenges of authority; these are all common staples of comics.

Amazing Spider-Man went against the Comic Code Authority and printed an issue on drug use that they did not get approved.  Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams spent several issues of Green Lantern/ Green Arrow on delving into political issues of the 70’s.  Preacher and Savage Dragon took delight in ripping religion a new one.  Way back in Captain America, the costumed hero was portrayed, on the cover no less, punching Hitler in the face.  Controversy and comics have always been pals.

So why is this any different?  Syaf expressed a view and was fired for that view.  I do not fully understand the logic.  I can only surmise that his references were done without approval.  He “snuck” in notions without letting others know that it might rubs some the wrong way.

Here is another factor.  All those other editorial issues and errors that happened, happened before Marvel was bought by Disney.  They happened before Marvel was making millions of dollars at the box office.  I am sure that the pressure on the comics is to appeal to a wider, easier to sell, crowd of people.  (Which is why, when Disney became their boss, Wolverine and Nick Fury were no longer allowed to smoke cigars.)

I had a copy of X-Men Gold reserved for me.  I put it back.  I decided not to buy it.  The issue is never going to be worth much.  In the ‘90’s, X-Men #1 sold roughly six million copies.  The comic industry is a fraction of that size now.  But for a new #1 X-Men title, sales of a hundred to two hundred thousand are rather assured.  Future printings will not have Syaf’s personal touches.  Collections will be altered.  The references will only be seen in that first printing.  The printing with “only” a few hundred thousand copies.  Calling it a collectible is a stretch.

Mostly, I like free speech.  I see no harm in expressing oneself, even if I do not agree with everything that Syaf was referencing.  Comics are filled with vigilantes.  Vigilantes break the law quite often.  So is anyone really surprised that a person working full time in that field did something that was not illegal, was not morally reprehensible, but just did something that many regard as unpopular?  I can hardly support creators over the decades and hold out on this one because he has a different past than I.

I stopped trying to “collect” comics a while ago.  I simply like to read them.  I am not interested in speculative buying, eBay-ing, or scoping out that one hit comic.  I just want to read.  The story I read in X-Men Gold was not the greatest, and not the worst.  It was a fairly solid story full of popular characters.  That is the only grounds on which I need to judge it on.  I would rather let others get worked up over politics and printing issues.  That stuff does not make for a good story.  And that’s all I am after.

 

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Trying Out: MoPOP and Chihuly (Week 13 & 14)

These were the two that I had an imagined grudge against.  I started working around Seattle before these two entities came into existence.  And when it was being discussed, I was rather vehemently against Chihuly.  So for me to have a fine time at either of these establishments was going to be quite the feat.

Week Thirteen-  MoPOP

Grudge number one: From the outside, it appears that this building cannot decide who it wants to be.  They started off as the Experience Music Project.  But no matter how famous your musical instrument structure is, or who hideous that roof looked during construction, they still wanted to draw a bigger crowd.

A few years down the road, they more or less split the museum in half.  EMP became EMP/Sci-Fi; or the Experience Music Project and Sci-Fiction Museum.  I know.  Words much?  And the café has gone through more management and name changes that I can keep track of.  So it was not terribly surprising when they rebranded themselves again this year, calling themselves the Museum of Pop Culture.

What I did not realize before going in, that this is a rather adult museum.  Right next door, Pacific Science Center focuses their exhibits on the age range of three to thirteen.  (They have adult exhibitions here or there, and their movies are blockbusters or documentaries, but the core exhibits?  Those are school-focused.)  MoPOP picks up at age thirteen.  (Conveniently, the Children’s Museum probably aims for newborns to toddlers, so families have all their kids set within a one block radius.)

I took my tour at the same time that a high school group was booking through the exhibits.   They were having a grand time.  “Man, this is the greatest place ever!”  Direct quote. Not too shabby a comment for what is technically a museum.

I say, “technically”, because the ambience was not one of quiet contemplation.  Go to the Seattle Art Museum.  Then come to MoPOP.  Your head will explode.  There are music concerts being held at their performance stage.  An exhibit on video games has noises and effects playing.   Even the historic exhibit has old-timey music and broadcasts playing in the background.  Appropriate enough for a music-focused setting, but quite disorienting when you are trying to read all the displays and navigate around the crowds.

The reason I chose this time to come is that MoPOP had an exhibit on Rube Goldberg.  An amateur physics nut, I could not turn that down. I was hoping for more physical displays (I believe they built two of Goldberg’s creations), but instead was treated to dozens of his cartoon sketches.  I had not known that he was also a Pulitzer-winner and editorial cartoonist.  Turns out I learned quite a bit.  Surprise.

However the first exhibit I went to was the “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film”.  Okay, technically I tried to go to Star Trek first.  But it was a featured/touring exhibit and it cost extra.  I am not a Trekkie.  So I made my way to the free exhibits.

I do not like horror movies.  I think there are plenty of bloody murders in real life without seeking out more.  However, they did their best to make it entertaining and informative.  (They also labeled it several times as PG-13.  Keep out the wimps like me.)  There were plenty of monitors showing clips from classic horror scenes.  I avoided those.  I had no desire to see The Exorcist or any gore-filled moments from the Saw franchise.  But the high school kids sure liked it.

They also loved the Sound Lab.  Go through a room filled with instruments.  Go into a booth and rock out.  Basically, go nuts.  My nine months of piano had me at a disadvantage.  I peeked around a bit, but again, too loud for me.

Jimi Hendrix has his own room.  Kurt Cobain has his own display.  Neither of which were quite my style, but I have their displays the courtesy look.  (I did not sit through the television interviews.)  A story was told, their legacy was celebrated, but I still could not name more than two of their songs if pressed.

Guitar Gallery was more interesting than I would have thought.  They had guitars from throughout the ages, some of them previously owned or used by famous musicians.  The technology part won me over.  I was intrigued to see how they guitar had changed over the years, what innovations had come about as supplies were short, and how electricity was used over the decades.  It was rather interesting.  Surprise.

We Are Number Twelve.   No, we are not.  At least, I am not.  I do not like sports.  I do not want to spend my off-time watching tribute to a football game that happened years ago.  And I do not think an entire room should be dedicated to it.  For all those reasons, I refused to go into that exhibit.  That bias I will not get over.  Me and sports are not soulmates.

Plus, and this is perhaps my biggest bias against MoPOP, the owner’s name is everywhere.  All of Seattle knows how owns the building.  We know he also owns the Seahawks.  We know that he owns most of the movie and music trinkets strewn around the building and much, much more in warehouses.  How do we know this?  Because there are signs everywhere stating as much.  Every display case has a little sign acknowledging the loan.  And the three paragraph sign welcoming visitors to the Number Twelve exhibit had to mention his name twice.  It suggests he was the one responsible for the Super Bowl win.  And I still have not gotten over my bias that the guy likes putting his name out there too much.  End rant.

Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction is a bit of a must-see for hardcore nerds.  Their range on the topic was pretty comprehensive.  From comics to Stargate to Battlestar Galactica, they had their bases pretty well-covered.  The weapons case forced me to pause.  It was an entire wall dedicated to replicas of guns from the ages.  Everything from GalaxyQuest to Men in Black.  It was a lot of guns.  To be fair, the museum folks were not the ones that came up with these guns, they simply put them all in one place.  But man, there is a lot of time dedicated to impressive and creative ways to blow creatures to juicy bits.

You get the idea.  I thought it would be a series of rooms, but it was three stories of well-thought out displays and information.  Surprise.  The group that normally shirks formal education and museums?  The teenagers?  They thought this place was amazing.  And darned if I did not learn a thing or two.  Surprise.

All those surprises add up.  There is an obvious effort put into the museum.  Despite my biases against it, I have to admit that I spent two and a half hours in there, and much of it was spent being impressed.  If you have a family of teenagers, I would have to recommend it.

Week Fourteen- Chihuly Glass Museum

There is already a Chihuly place in Tacoma.  Only once in my decade or so of working nearby had a question from a tourist about Dale Chihuly.  (And people ask all kinds of questions.)  It is my understanding that Chihuly does not even create pieces anymore.  So why name the place after him?  And honestly,  I am not blown away by glass art.

Get it?  Glass art?  Blown?  …’cause you have to blow the glass to form…  Ahem.  Moving on.

You can scroll through the pictures for yourself.  Sorry for the image quality.  Regardless of focus, you can still see why some people really like the place.  The colors are lovely.  The craftsmanship is evident.  But to me?  It is a room full of glass.  Glass in different shades and shapes, sure.  At the end of the day though, it is simply glass.

(Hence  the pictures and very little paragraphs.  If you enjoy this, do not let me ruin it for you.  Simply bask in the hues and forms.)

However, and I almost missed this part, it was the demonstration that won me over.  Every hour, they host glass-blowing.  Two folks, who have worked in the glass-blowing field for years, usually in a factory, work by their airstream trailer and show what they do.  It is rather captivating.  You can see the glass change color as each layer is added.  You learn how hot the glass and the rods have to be kept.  Even the mitts the man used at the end had to be warmed up in the furnace a little to maintain a workable temperature.

The audience sat there and witnessed the glass being stretched and bended.  We observed their skill and patience, knowing that these two had probably shattered hundreds of pieces before they got to this level.  The thousands of man hours came across.  Again, the science fan in me had to marvel at the way in which they tweaked and manipulated the glass across all stages.  The impressive part was in the doing, not the end product.

The glass displays took less than half an hour to navigate.  The demonstration at the end was well worth the wait and kept in interested.  Forty-five minutes well spent.

I just hope the MoPOPs guitars and their many speakers never break free from next door.  One can only imagine the carnage…

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Trying Out: Floating through Waves and Radio Waves (Week 11 & 12)

Week Eleven- First Swim Lesson

“You don’t know how to swim?”

“I understand the concept of it.  I simply have yet to execute the process.”

I was weary of using that explanation year after year.  (The same is true for riding a bike, but bicycles are expensive and they get flats and I like hiking instead.)  When I was around age nine or so, we went to visit our favorite cousins.  Our cousins had a pool in their backyard.  They were informed that I did not know how to swim.  They tried to teach me to float.  My immediate family is not skilled at floating.  (None of us would label ourselves as “swimmers”.)  Of all the things I want to try or learn this year, becoming a swimmer has always been on the top of my list.

I do not fear drowning.  I simply dislike the thought of having water up my nose or in my eyes.  I have been using the bathtub to curb those qualms.  Dipping my head low enough to get water in them, exhaling when I turn my head sideways; you get the idea.  Also, let it be said that swim goggles are a cheap investment that are worth every penny.

It also does not hurt that my instructor is delightful.  She already tried to give me a bicycle lesson once, so she knows how embarrassing I think my shortcomings are.  She has done her share of triathlons, so swimming is an area that she excels at.  When you are trying to keep your mind off of tense muscles and water in your lungs, I find it helps to have a comforting sight and friend to aim towards.

The first lesson was me trying to feel comfortable.  Most days I still feel self-conscious walking around with no shirt.  My body resists the idea of submerging everything below water.  And floating?  Turns out, years later, I still lack any obvious floating skills.  In short, not a lot was accomplished.  However, I never expected to learn everything in one lesson.  Nor did my friend expect it of me.  So we will keep at it.

(Lesson two was a bit better.  But still not dignified.  “Push off!”  And after my two-foot thrust, I began to sink.  “Try pulling yourself forward with your arms!”  I did, as my feet touched the bottom of the three-foot pool.  “Hold onto the edge and kick your feet out behind you.  Now let go!”  Kicked me feet, felt fine, and then, surprise surprise; sinking kicked in.  Not the kind of kick we were hoping for.  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…)

Happily she likes being in the water and has missed it.  The opportunity to see each other and catch up is a happy result.  Sometimes good things come from slow learners.  (Though I could do without swallowing so much water.)

Week Twelve- Radio Play

I am a sucker for the Golden Age of Radio.  (This remains, now and again, a media blog after all.)  So when I heard that a theatre I volunteer for was performing one as a fundraiser?  Well color me intrigued.  I quickly let them know that I would be happy to volunteer.  I wanted to relive the glory of yesteryear through a live performance.

As I said last time, just because I attempt to do something each week, does not mean that I will succeed.  For one thing, I was coat checking.  And let me tell you, everyone had a coat that night.  Coats all over the place.  Then there were those that saw there was a coat check after they had passed the coat check station so they were trying to add theirs to the stack while I was already trying to clear the hangers for the three new coats someone had just handed me.  It was hardly an I Love Lucy scenario.  Though I would say they kept me busy for a while.

Twelve or so minutes past the hour, I more or less gave up on catching the act.  (We all know theatres have latecomers.  ‘tis a fact of life.)  I would have preferred to be there, watching from within the theatre.  However there is a monitor in the lobby that people can watch.  After the proceedings were underway, I joined half a dozen staff members that were strewn about.  We tried to take in the show while catering rushed back and forth with full trays and carts.

It turned out that the “cast” was made up of local celebrities.  An author, a weather forecaster, some board members; the emphasis was not on bringing actors on stage.  The emcee is a rather notable actor, but I admit to some disappointment.

I get it.  I do.  You want to bring in figureheads from the community.  Should they happen to invite some spending-inclined friends with them, swell.  The goal was to raise their profile and their income.  The other six shows of the year can show of their ability to draw in skilled actors.

However my goal was not to see a group of people read pages off a script.  My goal had been to see a group of actors invoke a performance style that had not been popular for almost eighty years.  My expectations were not quite in line with what I saw on the screen.  Perhaps my experience would have been different if I had been watching it unfold on stage.  But it was already past my bedtime, I had worked my shift at work beforehand and had completed my volunteer shift.  I was ready to go home.

Perhaps I only like radio for its nostalgia.  Maybe I like having the finished product piped into my headphones but I find the actual act of a row of chairs and microphones boring?  I am not sure.  I still think the theatre-going public would enjoy professionals displaying their craft.  However, I am not the one calling the shots; I am the one assisting those that do.  I may be a purist who wants his radio dramas to play out a certain way.  Oh well.  I am not about to make waves.

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