Tuesday, May 31, 2005

a childhood of underwater sundays

“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” was a sci-fi series that aired from 1964 to 1968. It is much less known than other series like “Star Trek”, though it is essentially an underwater “Star Trek”, or “Lost in Space”, the most famous series created by “Voyage” creator Irwin Allen. It starred Richard Basehart (whom you may recall as “Wilton Knight” from the first couple episodes of “Knight Rider”) as Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Hedison (who played “Felix” in “Live and Let Die” and was also on “The Young and the Restless” for about three decades) as Captain Lee Crane. Both men also had single-episode roles on “Perry Mason”, “Hawaii 5-0”, and other assorted character actor vehicles of the time. Their “Enterprise” was a giant suckerfish-looking futuristic submarine with the unfortunately unimaginative moniker of the “Seaview”. There were races of sea people to encounter, some friendly and some hostile, mostly living in “Sealab”-like underwater bubble cities or under one giant snow globe-looking sphere. There were giant sea creatures, of course—mainly jellyfish, as they were most easily faked in the primitive special effects of the day. I also think they battled a couple of giant underwater cyclopses over the course of the series, stumbling dramatically and very “Trek”-like from one side of the bridge to another during each week’s climactic skirmish. It was longer running than “Trek” and just as campy, from what I recall, though it has never received a fraction of the post-mortem attention. Maybe it had something to do with the bland, unimaginative sets or boring khaki uniforms. Perhaps it just goes to show the power of Shatner.

At any rate, I mention it now because the series never fails to pop into my head during each of my bi or tri-annual church visits. It was there a couple weeks ago when I sat in the First United Methodist Church of Florence, AL on Mother’s Day. The local ABC affiliate always played “Voyage” after “Looney Tunes” and just before we had to leave on Sunday mornings during my much more church-active childhood, and I have been unable to disassociate the two ever since.

When I got home on Mother’s Day I was happy to find a number of websites, some with “Voyage” drinking games, on the Internet. I have yet to find a church based on the series but do not doubt that there possibly exists on in some corner of the universe.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

the margarita in black

I found this in a book. I cannot verify its authenticity as far as Johnny Cash ever having consumed one of these concoctions, but it does sound reasonable. Here are the instructions if you wish to build one in the privacy of your own home or have your local bartending professional construct one for you, though it should be relatively simple for even the most alcoholically novice.

Ingredients: one can of frozen limeade concentrate, tequila, Mountain Dew, ice.

Instructions: 1) Put limeade concentrate in a blender. 2) Use the empty can as a measuring cup to add one can tequila and one can Mountain Dew. 3) Add ice and blend.

The official name for this concoction is “A Boy Named Sue’s Man-in-Black Margarita”. I myself have never had one. Nor do I plan to have one, as I am not much for soft drinks—maybe going for a Diet Sun Drop about once a month—or overly sweet alcoholic beverages. I just thought that one of the handfull of people who accidentally stumble into my confused ramblings might find the information useful.

I’m not sure, but I believe that this was published before Johnny’s death. It doesn’t appear to have his blessing, as the Cash name is nowhere in its wordy title. Perhaps it was published posthumously with Johnny sending it from beyond the grave. Not even death can stop the choosing of Sam.

Sam Walton works in much the same way. On the rare occasion that I to venture into Wal-Mart I notice new varieties of Sam’s Choice colas and immediately picture a board meeting of executives gathered around a table full of various soda flavors encircling a ouija board.

I don’t see Johnny using the ouija board though. I picture him more as the seemingly disembodied voice coming from a burning bush or having his likeness appear in the rust stain on the side of a mobile home in a trailer park in Jackson, Tennessee.

I don’t see him requiring a blender for his adult beverages either, but, by all means, enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2005

guatemalan exchange rates

I had this foreign exchange student in high school named Juan. Juan was (and still is) a little guy from Guatemala, half-Asian and half-Hispanic, who had the rare Guatemalan characteristic of being devoutly Baptist. He also liked sushi and had a thin little moustache at the age of 16. That was all I knew about Juan. I lived in the room next to him, drove back and forth to school with him, sat next to him in class, and hung out with him and the other exchange students and host families for six or seven weeks and that was all I knew about Juan because the only thing worse than his English was my Spanish. There was another exchange student, Abel, hosted by my friend Nick, who was rather fluent and served as a translator for the important stuff. Abel was a godsend for such things, but he came from a remote Guatemalan coffee farm and was rather unhousebroken. Nick had many gripes about Abel’s hygiene and toilet practices and had either the luck or misfortune of being able to explain these things to him. My closest attempt at communicating with Juan was playing the beginning of the Jane’s Addiction “Ritual De Lo Habitual” CD—that part with the woman speaking in Spanish, if you will recall. I didn’t know what she was saying at the time but figured it would impress him. You know how devout Baptists love their Jane’s Addiction.

Anyway, Juan kept up his communicating with my parents over the next twelve years with letters and then e-mails in increasingly less broken English. Mom always thought of him as her Guatemalan son and let me know each time he had a major life achievement. He has two or three degrees and is currently working on a few more, I think. I recall that his second degree was in business or marketing and that mom was rather quick to inform me of this, as I was in the fifth year of my one and only degree. I can only imagine the reaction when he provides them with their first grandchild.

Juan, his wife, brother, and brother’s girlfriend came to Alabama just before last Christmas and stayed at my parent’s place, where my wife and I went down one afternoon to have lunch with them. The moustache was a bit thicker but he was relatively unchanged. After a couple of awkward hugs and the exchanging of Spanglish pleasantries and awkward grins my mother asked that we translate whatever it was they had been talking about for the two days the Guatemalans had been with them, my parents not knowing a single Spanish word. My wife conversed with them rather competently while I tried a word here in there, mostly Spanglish as I said. I like to speak Spanish when there are no Spanish speakers around but become quite nervous about it in their company, fearing I may combine my unconfident words into some unforgivable sentence or cultural insult. I do that enough in English as it is.

We ended up communicate well enough over lunch and a trip to the mall, and have been exchanging emails over the last few months. I feel that neither of us really knows completely what the other is trying to say but manage to convey warm wishes and a few minor details of what’s going on in our respective lives. Juan does much better at this than I. He attempts to communicate in English and generally does well for the first couple of sentences before laying something like, “I’m sure the river at your family’s house is pretty now and I hope you saw where he is.” My parents indeed live on a river but I have no idea who and where this “he” is. The previous sentences give no clue. Juan generally does a good job with the pronoun translation and I doubt the “he” is supposed to be my family or the river. I think he may be talking about God.

My responses to Juan are always in English, written is short, concise, Hemingway-esque sentences that are easy to translate and hopefully amend in some small way for my cowardice at attempting Spanish. I say things like, “I poured the whiskey and liked it. I petted the cat and the cat liked the petting and the smell of the whiskey. My wife tore her dress and I gave her the cat and the cat was purring. I poured her a whiskey and she liked it and it was fine. Then we made the cat wear the dress and the cat was angry and broke the whiskey bottle and shook it at us and then tore the dress some more.”

Only I don’t say those exact things, as Juan does not need to know them. I tell him about us working in the garden and me teaching guitar and then I lie about the cat liking it when we put him in a dress.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

gracelandscaping: a music review over lawnmower fumes

I just finished mowing the weeds that had risen above the patches of dead grass on our front lawn, essentially accomplishing nothing more than stirring up dust clouds and various allergens. The only real proof of my labor is the crooked pushmower tracks that now stripe the yard. It is a dry heat. The mower threatened to die at every turn, sputtering and coughing a faint black smoke on the rare occasions of having to deal with actual blades of grass. It was a free and had probably been on its deathwatch for some time before winding up with us. A young couple’s first house is generally where mowers, washers, and dryers are sent to die, though I’m sure I could kill a healthy one.

While doing so I listened to Gillian Welch’s Time (the Revelator), which is quite possibly the best record to ever come out of Nashville. Yes, it is even better than the one you just thought of. It is also better than the second and third ones. Oh, stop it. Just head out and purchase yourself a copy before trying to prove me wrong. Seriously.

Welch is one of those songwriters who make one immediately go out and try to write songs. Her music sounds deceptively effortless and her lyrics are one of the few examples of great songwriting that can also be described as great poetry. I tend to like very little poetry. The vast majority of self-described “poets” appear to do nothing more than take an overdose of emotional ex-lax before writing. The same thing goes with songwriting, regardless of the genre. You need only turn on your local college radio station and hear any number of the whiney “emo” bands on their playlist to know the importance of learning the art of restraint. You need only open a Nashville phone book for an example in the field of country music.

Sorry for the tirade. It appears that I have accidentally stumbled upon a soapbox. I should mention here that I first heard Welch on a college radio station and still find them the best source for anyone actually interested in hearing music, despite all the “emo” crap one is bound to encounter from show to show. Country radio, if they have ever played Welch, most likely only did so after the success of the O’Brother soundtrack. Johnny Cash had to die to get back on, and only then for a day or two before they returned to shitting in your ears with all the Tim McGraws and Reba McEntires of the world.

I have now cleared the soapbox out of the way.

I suppose my high opinion of Welch may be a bit clouded, as we share the common experience of having been adopted. It’s like if someone with six toes on each foot suddenly found out that Ben Affleck had six toes on each foot they wouldn’t be so quick to point out what a horrible actor Affleck is. People tend to stick together, and I easily relate to interviews with Welch where she talks about growing up wondering about her biological parents being musicians. A part of me still hopes to find out I’m a genuine Elvis Presley love child someday.
Perhaps I could then claim Graceland as my own and thus inherit a decent lawnmower.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

short people got no reason

I generally get my mornings started off with an unhealthy dose of that damnable Katie Kouric, allowing myself just enough of the perky she-demon to help bring out my negative energy and ensure a relatively positive and tranquil rest of the today. I try, as a rule, not to get too angry at things on television, with the notable exception of those bastards at the Hallmark Channel who abruptly stopped their mid-day back to back episodes of Perry Mason a few months back so that back to back episodes of Matlock could take their place, as if TBS had not already exhausted the series.

Anyway, the other I opted to take in the E Hollywood True Story of one Mr. Herve Villechaize while consuming blueberry waffles and apple butter. You might know him better from his role as “Tatoo”, the sidekick to Ricardo Montoban’s “Mr. Rourke” from Fantasy Island. As expected, this seemingly lovable little Frenchman led a sad and poignant life filled with alcoholism, womanizing, drug use, and a failed art career before ending it himself in the early nineties. It was nearly enough to make me weep into my breakfast martini and made me recall a completely unrelated conversation I had with the wife a while back. It turns out that “little people” prefer to be called “dwarves”. The word “midget” is now incorrect nomenclature and even viewed by many in the dwarf community as derogatory and insulting, though I would have assumed it to be the opposite.

“Dwarf” seems so mythological, methinks. It would sort of be like the scientific community deciding that they would like to be known as “wizards” and science as “wizardry” from here on out. “Dwarf” makes me think that they should be somewhere guarding a pot of gold, stealing goats, or starring in a Zeppelin video…By the way, does anybody remember that band “Killer Dwarves”? They had that video where a literal killer dwarf would show up in a crate marked “Killer Dwarves” and still people would open the crate. Madness ensued. It was the Eighties.

Anyway, I was just wondering how the word “dwarf” won out and if all the dwarves are on board with it. Perhaps it is the correct scientific term and some wizard decreed that it heretofore be employed when discussing them. If so, and all the dwarves are on board with it, then so it shall be in my vocabulary from here on out. More power to you. Let it be known that Rex L. Camino has nothing but love for the dwarf, and would be especially appreciative to any that showed up in Katie Kouric’s dressing room in a “Killer Dwarves” crate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

robert altman, you fat bastard

I was relatively unemployed for most of the fall, having just a few design projects here and there and my meager musician earnings to help with the groceries and bills and whatnot. It was time well spent though. I would get up at a decent hour and walk the dog before working for a while on the computer. After lunch I would have a glass or two of peach iced tea, each with a shot of orange brandy, and retire to the porch or couch with a Raymond Chandler novel, working my way from The Big Sleep to Playback some eight novels later. However, if you ever take it upon yourself to run through these books (and I highly recommend that you do), do yourself a favor and leave Playback out of it. I know you won’t—you’ll finish The Long Goodbye and will need another Marlowe fix despite any and all warnings—but I should warn you nonetheless. I won’t get into it here but I’ll tell you that it ends abruptly and in a pathetically lazy plot twist that had me wanting to dig up Raymond’s corpse and slap it around a bit. Then maybe I would buy it a martini and we’d share a few unfiltered Camels at a roadside diner somewhere.

This is the thing to keep in mind: He made a horrible mistake of the ending, but it was his universe to fuck up. Also, he was the master of noir literature or pulp fiction or whatever name you want slap on the genre, and you can’t be too pissed when you weigh all the great work that came before that disappointing conclusion. However, you shouldn’t allow such graces for Robert Altman.

The first thing that you need to know about Robert Altman is that no Robert Altman film is a safe bet. He’s a gamble. People will tell you that he is great, and he has done some great work (Short Cuts, Gosford Park, MASH, maybe The Player and…well, that’s about it), but the man also has the ability to take a good story, actors, cinematography, and the like and combine them into an end result that feels sitting through a grade school production of La Dolce Vida. I don't like La Dolce Vida.

I knew what to expect from Altman when I rented the DVD of his 1973 adaptation of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, which is probably my favorite of the novels. I knew also that a comparison to other Chandler adaptations was setting the bar way too high. The Big Sleep (1946), easily the most famous Marlowe film, was done by Howard Hawks with a William Faulkner screenplay and Humphrey Bogart sharing the screen with Lauren Bacall at the height of their being Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Can any film, with the possible exception of the original Cannonball Run, ever hope to measure up? Of course not. Were films to contemplate such things they would no doubt be ashamed to place themselves in the same medium.

I knew all this going in. I lowered my expectations and hoped for the best. I didn’t expect to see Bogart; the face of Elliott Gould is clearly depicted on the cover. It is hard to mistake the face of Elliott Gould for someone else, except maybe Dustin Diamond in another forty years or so. Elliott Gould is not Humphrey Bogart. That having been said, Gould’s performance was probably the one thing that I liked. He had a horrible script that bore little resemblance to the novel but managed to make the most of it.

I won’t go into my laundry list of grievances here for the two, possibly three of you who accidentally wander into this space (unless, of course, one of you happens to actually be Robert Altman), but you should know that Altman gives it an unforgivably horrible and cheesy Hollywood action film-esque ending that is even more unbelievable than Chandler’s conclusion to Playback. It wasn’t the typical Altman fuck up and I was woefully unprepared to view it. I immediately wanted to dig up Chandler so the two of us could repeatedly bitch slap Altman in tandem, leaving him a bloody hog-squealing pulp of an overrated film maker before heading out for a dozen martinis and a couple of the rarest steaks allowed by law.
Thank you. I’m glad I got this all out in the open.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


I have nothing to say at this time, alas. Fear not, however, for soon I will summon a sufficient amount of musings for the one or two of you errant individuals who are (un)lucky enough to stumble upon the sporadic exhibitionist rambling that is libel to occur. I would like to thank the both of you in advance for your patronage.