Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm Grateful For . . .

A blogging buddy wrote a list last week of what she was grateful for and suggested it as a topic for her fellow bloggers. Sounds good to me with Thanksgiving approaching. I'll take a shot here.

But I think I'll shorten my list so I can give a bit more detail. And I'll exclude some of the more obvious blessings that people are generally thankful for--family, friends, life, health, home, God, church, and that all important job.

Some things I've been grateful for lately:

FREE INTERNET WEBSITES: Didn't somebody say the best things in life are free? I can look up pretty much anything on Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia. I trade pictures with friends on Facebook, tell my life's stories on Blogger, and play my favorite music on YouTube. And there's still so much more out there.

MY SCHWINN BICYCLE: I don't mind spending a couple hours on a pleasant summer morning driving around the city on my bicycle. It's relaxing, I occasionally can spot and pick up a dime or quarter, and it scores brownie points with my doctor. When I was a kid, riding a bike felt like being a cowboy on a pony. Sometimes it still feels like that.

MICHIGAN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: No offense to southern or western states, but there's nothing tastier in my book than a Michigan apple. Wendy and I discovered a fruit farm nearby that's open almost till Christmas. We bought a peck of McIntosh a couple weeks ago and I honestly can't remember having an apple so tasty and juicy. And it's going into the Thanksgiving stuffing Wendy's making on Thursday too. Michigan corn and tomatoes rank high on my tastemeter as well.

SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES: Not long ago I was browsing the DVD shelves at Best Buy and came across the movie Battle in Outer Space. That set off a light bulb upstairs. I had been looking for that movie for a while since I had determined that it was the first sci-fi movie I had even seen at the local theatre, when I was about seven or so. Going to the movies on Sunday became a regular affair and most often the movie was horror or science fiction epic. I still enjoy the genre today, having just seen most recently the movies 2012 and Planet 51.

WRITTEN MEMORIES: I've kept track of my comings and goings now for better than 20 years, in scrapbooks, journals, e-mails, etc. Many of these I still have stuffed away in a notebook somewhere. Reading back through these, I can recall for my wife what our children were doing on a particular day 20 years ago. Or what restaurant we ate at when we went to Alabama ten years ago.

BLOG COMMENTS: Of course, I read and enjoy all the comments I receive. I've always thought blogging buddies as a rule are as sympathetic and supportive a group as you'll find in life. But I also enjoy the occasional blog comment I find on an older blog that I've forgotten about. Some blog surfer within the past couple days came across an old blog from four months back where I talked about sampling food borne of my Polish heritage. They responded with a comment about some czarnina they sampled at a cafe near Buffalo, New York. And I was grateful that they had shared that.

Finally, I'm grateful that I don't have to cook the turkey this week. Wife Wendy is handling that. But I am doing my share of cleaning for the company to arrive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Down And Out

My supervisor interrupted my lunch yesterday to offer this comment:

"Did you know the 45 points that Wisconsin scored against Michigan on Saturday was the most points they ever scored against the Wolverines in the 73 years they've played eachother?"

No. Didn't know that. But my boss, who is a big fan of the rival Michigan State Spartans, has been making remarks like that often during this dismal football season when the Michigan Wolverines are ensconced at the bottom of the Big Ten.

"What do you call a bunch of Wolverine fans in the basement? A whine cellar."

Yeah, funny bossman. True, guys like me have been doing a lot of whining. And for me, it's a double whammy lately since my fantasy football team is nearly on the bottom of our family league, my play-off hopes all but gone now.

But who would kick a guy when he's down, right? Everybody, it appears. I got an e-mail from my buddy in Virginia, also a MSU Spartan fan, that included this line: "So it's payback time here. . . Here are the Wolverines dead last in the Big Ten conference."

What?? His e-mail correspondence for several years now has dogged my fav Michigan teams. Cheaters, overrated, criminals--he's called them every name in the book. So I responded back:

"Payback time?! Oh, c'mon. When have you ever needed a special time to heap abuse on my Wolverines? That's like Rush Limbaugh suddenly declaring that it's payback time for liberals on his radio show."

Or, for those who read the comments on my blog here, it'd be like Bonnie aka Babette suddenly declaring here, "It's payback time."

But, heck, I don't have any control over the destiny of my favorite college football team. But I thought I would have some control over the destiny of my fantasy football team. I read sports magazines, watch the Yahoo fantasy preview on my computer Sunday, check regularly for updates during the week and I practiced my drafting skills with several mock drafts during the pre-season.

So what to do when your teams are tanking. Then I check my Facebook page and I see this public comment from my brother, who posts here as The Enforcer: "Let's go Lions. Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap."

What?? Sombody's still cheering on our hapless Detroit Lions who have won just one game over the past two years? Now that takes some unbridled optimism. But despite my brother's cyber-encouragement, the Lions lost another game. Hmmm, my brother is also taking some powerful pain-killers for a back ailment.

Ah, so that's the answer then. Gimme drugs, gimme drugs.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Are You A Collector?

I'm a collector. How about you? Do you have collections of coins, stamps or trading cards sitting around in a closet somewhere? Maybe a collection of china or stuffed animals of one breed or another?

My own collections are shown in pictures below. I've been gatheringg these "treasures" since childhood and they sort of represent my interests at the time.

When I was a kid I was a big fan of the spy movies, whether it was James Bond, The Man From Uncle, or Matt Helm. At one time I had the complete collection of Thunderball trading cards, but somewhere along the way lost track of a bunch. I still have most of them, some of which are pictured here.

I've tried to convince by boys that these will be worth a fortune someday. They're not convinced, however.

Also during my youth, I started a penny collection. I have quite of few "wheat" pennies of various year and mint marks, mostly because I made a list of which ones I needed and passed that list along to my sister-in-law when Christmas came.

Now she has protested that the remaining pennies on my list are fairly rare and if she bought just one, that would be my one and only Christmas present. Maybe for years to come.

When my wife and I were just married, I would haunt the video game parlors for a little fun and relaxation. Hence, the arcade token collection. Note that I wrote on each coinholder the name and location of the arcade. Again, I've told my sons they'll be worth lots someday. Again, I believe they are unconvinced.

I also collected matchbooks from restaurants where the family and I have gone. That interest has waned since restaurants often do not offer smoking areas, let alone matchbooks.

Finally, there is my collection of magnetic clings picturing lighthouses that have figured somehow into one vacation or another. Of course, Little Sable Lighthouse is represented there since we have tent-camped at nearby Silver Lake for about a dozen years. But the annual craft show booth where I used to find these magnetic clings no longer is there. *sigh*

Now I have to find something else to collect, I guess.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Envisioning The Apocalypse

This past week I attended a screening for a new movie. With Michigan's lucrative tax breaks for film-makers, more movie crews are finding their way to the Great Lakes State. This movie entitled The 6th Extinction was a local production shot in and around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

An e-mail circulated by one of the movies' cast members at my work invited all to come to the screening. The sender said she played a vampire in the film. And it was free! A vampire movie the week of Halloween? Attending a movie debut would be a first for me too. The missus wasn't interested in going but I was fine so long as I had money for popcorn.

I even arrived extra early to make sure I got a good seat. As it turned out, that wasn't necessary. In fact, the theatre was seemingly empty when I arrived, save for a lone gentleman sitting in back. "If you want John, he's sitting way up front," he told me when I walked in.

Who was John? And why did I have to check in with him? Turns out that John was the writer-slash-director of the picture. I explained that I was just there to see the movie, and took a seat with my box of popcorn. Eventually, the other man left, leaving just John and I in the theatre. Rather awkward for me. Soon John's family came along and a few pictures were taken to commemorate the opening of the picture.

Gee, I hope I wasn't in any of them. I can hear someone asking, "Who is that older gentleman sitting all by himself in the back of the theatre?" The screening was set up mainly for cast and crew to see the final working print of the film, I learned later. But I was all right, feeling secure in my anonymity anyway. Until . . .

"There's Dave!" I heard a voice call out. It was a lady from my work. She pointed me out to a few of her co-workers sitting with her a few rows in front of me. Wonderful. So much for my anonymity. The theatre did fill in by the designated show-time. Most of the people seemed to know eachother.

I thought I would do a quickie review of the film here, since I'm doubtful this local low budget indie is going to attract much mainstream press.

The 6th Extinction gives an apocalyptic account of civilized mankind's demise when evil-worshipers organize, going house to house in white robes to slaughter the innocent. If that wasn't bad enough, vampires rise up to plague the survivors as well. The story focuses on one young woman whose first date with an internet suitor goes awry when he becomes a vampire after being attacked by another of the undead, all this happening when the young woman makes a brief trip to a restaurant bathroom.

With Harper's Grove (Ypsilanti, actually) erupting into flames about her, the heroine flees her newly fanged tormentor and eventually joins forces with a fireman. Together they find refuge in the basement of a local home after a tense stand-off with the armed homeowner.

Although they're safe from the woman's bloodsucking date, since he can't enter unless invited inside, another female vampire isn't so restricted and attacks the survivors, killing a young girl and mortally wounding her mother. Then the father tells the vampire to leave and she does, since that's another vampire rule to leave when asked. Lots of vampire rules in this movie. I took notes. You never know.

But it turns out, vampires can invite other vampires inside so the date eventually does get into the house when the mother becomes a vampire too. Meanwhile, somehow the daughter ends up outside when her dead corpse re-animates to become a vampire and she has to request permission to enter, or maybe it's her ghost since the corpse is apparently still inside--you know, it gets a little confusing here. I'm going to skip this part.

Here's a tip from the film anyway. If one encounters a vampire, dump a container containing pepper balls or something like that on the floor. For like the count on Sesame Street, these vampires have to count too. It's a priority for them. And it gives would-be victims a chance to flee. By the way, despite all the mayhem, I didn't find the movie suspenseful or scary, but it did maintain a campy spirit throughout.

The film is also visually effective and entertaining, even if the script isn't up to Hollywood standards. As the success of Paranormal Activity has demonstrated, even low budget films can produce cutting edge special effects. In Extinction, a vampire hurls a victim across Michigan Avenue into a downtown Ypsilanti building, the moon breaks into pieces, and a passenger train is attacked and its riders slaughtered by one of the undead. (Another tip: if the apocalypse is nigh, avoid AMTRAK).

As a fan of Sigourney Weaver in the Alien flicks, I admired the strong heroine in this picture too. Despite a broken arm and fractured ankle, she manages to cast aside one vampire, hurry upstairs and take out one of the devil-worshiping dudes with a single blow. That leads me to one last tip: scour the internet dating sites for survivalists if you want to live when it all breaks loose.

My ad is ready to go. "Seeking single white female with moxie to survive an apocalypse, plus the ability to overcome vampires and evil incarnate. Cooking skills appreciated." Reply to Big Dave's Blog.