Thursday, May 28, 2009

Close, But No Cigar

Today I was driving to Taco Hell for lunch (they're cheap, and the Fresca option's pretty good) and I noticed that the hardware store behind the Bell was closing.
It's been there for many a year, certainly longer than I've been in Chicago and possibly longer than I've been alive - a True Value hardware store. You know (or maybe you don't) - the kind of store about three times as big as a 7-11 and packed to the gills with everything from key-cut machines to flowerbed materials, fishing lures and lines to barbecue grills and light fixtures, all arranged heaven-knows-how so you have to ask someone (invariably an older gentleman named Earl) who will instantly know what you're talking about, no matter how obscure.
That kind of store.
And it's closing.
The store that lasted through wars and recessions couldn't handle this one.
I liked that hardware store - was the only place that made keys that worked the first time (ever send your parents keys to your place, so they could use it when you're gone, and NOT have the keys work? I have - thanks a lot, Home frickin' Depot!).
When I needed some little plugs to hold up my stereo table... they had 'em. Monofilament fishing line? Had that, too.
Sadly, I guess I only went in when I needed something pretty obscure or pretty cheap or both. Kind of hard to make a living off of people like me, I suppose.
I noticed, yesterday, that the Cardsmart store in downtown Des Plaines closed. Something like overnight - I stopped in just a little while ago (when you have 14 nieces and nephews and four brothers and sisters you're constantly buying cards for birthdays, anniversaries, first communions, etc) and it's right across the street from where I occasionally go to lunch, so I was a bit surprised.
And today, I noticed that Kaffecino, a coffeeshop downtown across from the train station, was gone, too. As in, vanished, cleaned out, gone kaput... and I had just stopped off there in February and March! It had always been there, ever since I moved here... had great sandwiches, good coffee...
Add in the local Boston Market store, the steakhouse I never went to, the Max and Erma's restaurant that I did and always, always regretted visiting, the furniture store and the Circuit City store just down the street...
That's quite a few places, all standing empty. And the only things that have opened in the past few years are a Goodwill Store and the Salvation Army store.
Not the best of times, I know.
It surprises me, I guess, how many places were living hand to mouth, month by month. If things are moving along, hey, fine, but the minute things go south... wham!
Some, like that Max and Erma's, should have closed long ago. But others, like Kaffecino, the furniture store where I got my kitchen table and chairs, and even the Cardsmart... what the heck? Are things that bad that they couldn't hang on a few more months?
Evidently, yes.
Yes they are.
I'm going to miss that old hardware store. I'm going to miss it whenever I have to go into the Home Depot or Menard's and find some piddly-ass little thing in those monster stores (well, Menard's just closed their store too, and built a new one several miles out. Thanks a lot, Menard's!), or try to. You know, where you have to go over 14 aisles for a door latch or something.
I know, I know... it's progress. The way of the world.
But I don't have to like it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

State of Play

Maggie and I went to see State of Play las tnight - and it turned ot to be a very good movie, with plenty of twists and turns.
Russell Crowe plays a reporter who's out to help a friend of his, a Congressman who ju-u-u-ust made a little mistake (affair) and now the affair-gal's dead and his wife won't talk to him - oh, and the wife is kind of engaged in some hanky panky with the reporter...
There's a lot more to it than that, but it's too good to ruin with giveaways. See this movie - it's a good antedote for the summer-blockbuster-kaBOOM! movies out there, and there's plenty of suspense and even a little action and gunplay, just to make it interesting. Good film!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Be sure and get out Monday and shop -

NO! Get out Monday and go to a cemetary or parade or some kind of service. Just remember who the day is truly for - those brave men and women who gave their lives so we and others could live in peace.

I'm marching in the Arlington Heights parade as a graduate of Arlington Heights Police Academy training program. And I'm going to see my nephew and niece play trumpet in their school bands!

Happy Memorial Day!

Ghosts of Girlfriends....

Hey,I went and saw "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past", the movie that just sounds like a chick flick but is actually very funny.

The lead is playing a guy who's kind of tearing up the female population by having sex with them then treating them like dirt. Turns out he's an orphan,emulating his (now dead) uncle.

He goes to his brother's house for a wedding and surprise! His uncle confronts him in the bathroom, where he's gone to sober up a bit. Read Jacob Marley - he's going to be visited by three ghosts!

Don't particularly think I'm spoiling anything by stating that it's his girlfriends Past, Present and Future! His Past girlfriend was the first girl he had sex with, the present is AT the same wedding he is, and the future doesn't talk much.

Anyway, you can see where this is all going. You could see it by the sive minute mark, actually. But you know, the guy does actually have some good points - they're just really buried. And it tales his love for his brother to bring him back to reality.

I laughed all through this movie. It's genuinely funny and well worth the ten bucks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hey, lookit all these discs!

One thing about moving, you have to pretty much take everything. Or sell it. Or give it away.

But you do end up finding a lot of things that perhaps you just put aside or forgot about - like DVDs.

Man, I don't remember owning so many darn DVD movies. I must have forty or fifty of them! (VHS, I have a couple hundred tapes, many of them unmarked (!). Sorry, I don't really have time to go through them all). So many I've simply... forgotten.

So many I never viewed. I think once I met Maggie my personal taste in videos/DVDs no longer seemed to matter that much - no! Maggie's not a witch, or control-hog over the remote! I'd just rather spend time with her than watch a movie!

But going through the pile - where did I GET some of this stuff?!

Evidently I hit up a Blockbuster sale at one time or another - many of them are marked "pre-viewed" (though not by me!?) Odd titles, like Rustler's Rhapsody (a musical Western, I guess), Punch (a girl who fights?), Phantom of the Opera (I loved that film, and play!), Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (yep, I bought it - somewhere), Cinematic Titanic presents Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (the MST3K guys' latest version - funny!), MST3K presents Santa Claus (evidently he wasn't conquering any Martians this time).

Evidently a whole lot of movies featuring cars, trucks, motorcycles and for all I know unicycles that were secretly fighting machines - I recall some rocket firing out of one a big rig's exhaust pipes, and the front of a car folding down to reveal guns!

Evidently a whole lot of movies featuring superheroes. The Phantom (Slam Evil!). The Black Scorpion (What if Adam West were a girl?). Nyoka, Queen of the Tiger Men! (Nyoka! Duck! Wha- ugh!) Captain Marvel and the Return of the Scorpion! (Where was he returning from? Vacation in Aruba?) The Spirit! (With the guy from Flash Gordon, Sam Jones!) Superman Villains! (Rats! My Elecrto-thanusia Ray is useless against him!) Fleisher Superman Cartoons, Remastered! (Gosh, Superman, that Bullet Car the villains are using is a lot sharper now!) The Justice League - Final Frontier! (Say, how come everyone's drawn by Darwin Cooke?)

And, no, I've never seen any of them. At least, not my copies. I do get out to movies and watch TV on occasion.

The point is, I have hundreds of hours of video I've never watched. I really should sit down and watch some of this stuff, sometime.


This is why I quit buying stuff years ago - because I never got around to watching the things I had. There's always something interesting on, or a cool new movie, or just spending time with people you care about. There are not enough hours in a day to do everything we want to, or should. (I know I should exercise - trouble is, it takes too much time - away from everything else I want to do).

I guess I really do have a lot of catching up to do.

Oaky, tonight it's Panther Woman of the Congo night!

Terminate this.

Hey, the big Terminator movie opens today! Who's going?!
Yeah, that's what I thought.

Coming from someone who's seen all three previous Terminator pics, and for the most part enjoyed them, I just gotta say this -

Sometimes it's best to let a story END.

Not from a movie company's point of view, of course. The "pre-sold" audience is often good enough to make back whatever it cost in a week or two. The source doesn't even have to be that good in the first place - Beverly Hillbillies and Dukes of Hazard were fine TV shows, but did we really need a film version?

Now, I'm sure this movie has all the kick-ass metal robots you could want, fighting to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons. But how many times do we have to see An Indestructible Man-Robot shrug off anti-tank weapons?

Then again, take Star Trek. Possibly a better film than the TV series, certainly more action-oriented... should they have not made Trek #13 or whatever it was?

After all, we're still reading comics starring hcaracters from the 1940's, you realize that? Even Marvel's main characters are pushing forty, at least.

I don't know... should they have re-made Batman - again? Or Sherlock Holmes - again? Or John Dillinger - again? Or -

Well, you get the idea.

Sigh, I suppose I'll be going to see the Terminator. Sometime.

Just not on opening weekend.

After all, I still have my pride. :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

And if THAT doesn't attract comments...

I might as well throw in the towel.

Obama at Notre Dame

A number of people keep askig my opinion, mostly because I'm the only guy that went to Notre Dame they know, I suppose.

Frankly, I would have prefered if they didn't ask him. But once they did, I would prefer that the protests be a lot less... noisy.

See, I remember when they protested President Reagan there, too. Equal opportunity, I suppose.

It does strike me as wrong for the nation's leading Catholic university to honor a man who is pretty much against two big issues in the church - stem cells and abortion. Frankly, I don't care whether you agree or not. The point being, if you are going to stand for something, then by God stand for something! If the Church is against abortion, then stand up for that position! (Heck, if the Church were FOR abortion, I'd feel the same way - at least remain consistent!)

I forget her name right now, but the recipient of Laetare Medal, a high honor from ND, turned down the award because she'd have to appear and give legitimacy to Barack Obama, which she didn't want to do. Again, whether or not you agree is not the issue. It's that a woman chose to quietly make a stand, and for the first time since 1880-something there will not be a Medal awarded this year. That's standing up for your beliefs.

But, you say, aren't the protestors standing up for their beliefs? That abortion is murder?

Well, yes - and I have no problem with people quietly protesting, or deciding to simply not attend (as did the local bishop and 88 other bishops). I think people should be reasonable and not out to wave signs with aborted babies on them or some such - that does their cause more harm than good, IMHO.

Of course, if people were reasonable - there's a very big if.

Course, that kind of ruins the idea behind the protesting, which I get, but... I still wish people could be a little more reasonable about such things.

Frankly, I believe ND blew it when they extended the invitation. What on earth were they thinking? to "score' a big commencement speaker?

Well, they did get him to come and speak, but they also honored him with a degree.

I maintain that the "preeminent Catholic university in the land" ought to at least try to stick to promoting Catholic doctrine. It's a Catholic university - one of only a relative few. There are plenty of schools which could give a degree to President Obama (note - he spoke at Arizona State, and THEY didn't give him a degree!).

In short ( a tad late, I know) I'm not quite ashamed of ND, but I do question their judgement.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

OK - so I saw Star Trek last night...

I really enjoyed the new Star Trek movie, presented in IMAX.
Truth to tell, I couldn't really tell, other than it was one helluva big screen, what made it IMAX, but that's just quibbling I suppose. It was worth the fourteen (!) bucks.

All the time travel -alternate universe stuff was a little difficult to follow - I'm glad (for once) that I had read someone's review and they mentioned that time travel was involved.

I also wasn't clear on whether Uhura had a Super Power of mind-blowing Telepathy and Super-Hearing, or just was plugged into the right channels.

And I wasn't too clear on why lil' Kirk was out driving a Corvette in the desert, in Iowa (Idaho?). I mean, did we really need to see that to know he's a bit irresponsible?

Seriously,those are my only three quibbles about the film. The rest - 98.99999%! - I enjoyed immensely.


(As if I haven't already ruined the film somewhat)

Boy, just so many good scenes. Bones and Kirk being such good friends, Spock and Kirk being such not-good friends (he puts him on a pod and rockets him to nowheresville? That I'd call "not-good"). Scotty's fun-loving attitude. Uhuru's take-charge I'm on the Enterprise talk. Heck, Uhuru kissing Spock. Several times.

The guys space-diving onto the drill. The rescue of Captain Pike (as opposed to, say, Captain Carp or Captain Sunfish). Spock and Kirk teleporting in to the "deserted" landing bay (and subsequent poom poom shooting gallery!). Vulcan biting the big one! The difficulty of transporting people - you have to lock on to them and they can't be moving around!

The spaceship battles! The sword-fighting battle! Kirk getting repeatedly pasted, over and over! (Waitaminute...)

At first, I admit, each time a character appeared it was kind of a shock, seeing someone else play the roles. But then, it only lasted a couple of minutes, tops. This guy IS James T. Kirk, that guy IS Spock, that other guy IS Scotty...

Frankly, the entire cast really was excellent. Even Chekov's funny pronounciations were funny! The movie was funny where it had to be, serious where it had to be... overall, a great time!

And Leonard Nimoy, who, I admit, I never really cared for that much (actually, I never really cared much for any of them except for Bones and Scotty, and that was probably because I had met them once or thrice and was really impressed... ah, let's face it, I never really cared that much for Star Trek at all, in any incarnation. Sure, I watched Next Gen on occasion, but I never really CARED about them the way I did for, say, Star Wars' original cast.)

Well, consider that problem solved.

I really enjoyed Spock as a kind of rebellious bad-ass, Scotty as kind of a drunk (though not actually so) fun loving Scotsman, Kirk as the kind of smart-aleck that you'd want to punch real hard if he'd just stop backing it up!, Uhuru as a take-charge kind of gal... I just loved the whole movie!

I even liked the updates to the uniforms - kind of grew on me after awhile.

And I SO want there to be more adventures!

Star Trekkin', Across the Universe....

On the Starship Enterprise
Under Captain Kirk.
Star Trekkin'
Across the Universe,
Boldly going forward
'Cause we can't find reverse!

Monday, May 4, 2009

I moved this past weekend

Yes, you read that right. I moved.

Ten miles down the road.


Well, long story short, I could not afford to stay in the townhouse any longer.

I'm now in a two bedroom apartment, which admittedly isn't so bad (it's actually rather nice, and I DO have a place, which is also nice) but it's a far cry from having a townhome with a garage and relatively speaking, a lot more space.

This becomes important when you have to, say, put the dining room in storage, or look for someplace to store your comic collection, or just put away your Christmas decorations.

Admittedly, this has been coming awhile. My paycheck has been squeezed just at the same time taxes andbills keep going up, including the condo fees. I figure it was costing me something like nine hundred fifty a month just in taxes and fees, which is pretty high for a townhome.

I'm feeling... well, humiliation. Loss. And many more less than charitable, less than pleasant thoughts.

Truth to tell, I should have done something years ago, but you just get in that kind of situation where you hope things get better tomorrow. Well, tomorrow came.

On the one hand, it's a nice apartment complex I moved into - one of those that's set up with individual entrances and nice views of the lake (neccessary for flood control, but still...). I'm in a townhome unit, with two bedrooms upstairs and a living room and dining area downstairs. Pretty nice all things considered.

But also much, much smaller, which means I'll have to be getting rid of a lot of stuff. Some of which I don't mind getting rid of, other stuff of which I do mind very much.

I mean, I realize that having a roof over my head and all is great, and I really could have been a lot worse off, but still, moving when you don't really want to is not fun, let's put it that way.