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Elvis And Me

Let me tell you all about Elvis. No, not that one. This one’s smaller, scrappier, and furrier. He would also look better in a sequined jumpsuit, although that’s probably not going to happen. Also, this Elvis is actually ALIVE. Although, honestly, that was touch and go for a bit.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go back a few weeks and start over.

Okay, so the first thing you need to know is that my wife and I are very much fans of adopting our pets. Well, the furry ones anyway. The turtle is another story. Anyway, all of our furry friends have been shelter animals. We had some discussions about the next dog we adopt being a Senior dog, since they don’t tend to be adopted very quickly and can spend quite a long time caged up while the cute little puppies go to a new home in a matter of days. I mean, sure, I get that. But Senior dogs still make good pets and there’s no reason why a healthy dog shouldn’t be able to spend its last four or five years in a loving home instead of a shelter.

This has tugged on our hearts for a while, and the thought was that after the current dog goes (something we hope doesn’t happen for a good, long while), we’d look for a Senior dog. Then, of course, we started thinking about getting a second dog, and pretty much decided against it, since the time, effort and costs involved seemed like they’d be a little much. However, we decided to keep our eyes open, just in case. You see where this is going, right?

Just a few days after Christmas, I searched the shelter pages on my phone, as I would randomly do every other month or so just to see what was what. I stumbled on a picture of a cute little guy that kinda stole my heart, and his story convinced me. His name was Melvin (not Elvis. Yet.), he was a nine year old terrier mix, he was described as a “cuddle machine”, and also as being deaf. I showed the listing to my wife, and we agreed that he’d be worth taking a chance on. So I went down to the shelter after work on Dec. 28th to meet the doggo possibly bring him home.

When I met him, he seemed pretty chill, and quite definitely deaf. The shelter said I could take him on a two week foster because of his deafness, and not have to pay anything or officially adopt until the trial period was over just in case a deaf dog wound up being too difficult for our household to manage. Seemed like a good deal to me, so I left with Melvin in tow. When I called Valerie to tell her I was coming home with the dog, she was happy, but mentioned that she wasn’t too thrilled about the name, since we already have a Mel in the house, and two didn’t sit right. So we tried a few names out over the phone, and she hit upon Elvis pretty quickly, since it has a lot of the same sounds involved and, let’s face it, is a way cooler name.

So we brought him home, had him meet our current dog Zoey, and the kids, and everything seemed all right. We were able to communicate through stomping on the floor or using a flashlight to get his attention, and were working on hand signs for simple commands as well. The first day and a half or so went really well. I even posted his picture on my Facebook page to talk about this cute little doggie we were fostering and possibly adopting. Everything was awesome!

Then it all changed. Elvis started sleeping a lot more, but I didn’t worry about that, he’d been through a lot recently, I figured he was just tired. His tiredness kept on, and he was acting disinterested in everything. We were beginning to think we got a dud of a dog. He was showing no signs of personality at all. Next thing you know, he didn’t want to eat. Between the two of us, we had enough experience to know that a dog not eating is a bad sign. So we figured he was sick.

On Jan. 6th we called the shelter back, and they had us bring him in for an exam. Yup, he had an infection. They sent us back home with some medicine and a special dog food diet. For two more days we fed him as best we could and got the medicine in him, but it wasn’t helping. In fact, he got worse. Even if you got down on the floor and spoon fed him the little guy wouldn’t eat. His poor little nose was running non stop and affecting his breathing. He wasn’t a “cuddle machine” at all-more like a snot machine. Valerie could pick him up and he was a lifeless lump in her arms. We were honestly worried that he wouldn’t make it through the night for two nights in a row. So we had to make he decision to surrender him back to the shelter two days later, even though it made us sad to do so. I was sure to tell them though that if he was to get better we would still be interested, and they said that they would give a call when/if he got better.

After a week went by, I decided to call the shelter and inquire about the dog, just to see if he was even still among us. I was told that he was much sicker than they had originally thought (duh), and that they had to up his medication. They gave him fluids as well, give him nose drops, and were keeping him in a room with a nebulizer. Poor little dude was going through it! The person I talked to seemed to think Elvis could still make it, and they’d let me know if he did.

On January 14th, we got the call. Elvis was ready to come home if we still wanted him. Well, yeah, of course. They were kind enough to restart the two week foster period, just in case, but we were free to come get him. So, with renewed hope, but low expectations I went and picked him up again. This time I was definitely not posting on Facebook about it, because I didn’t want to jinx it-and I didn’t talk about it either-just in case.

Elvis is alive-and almost a completely different dog! First of all, that whole not eating thing is a thing of the past. This is the most food motivated dog I have ever known (and that’s saying a lot) so much so that we actually have to hide food from him. He also likes to jump up on the couch for cuddles (not exactly a “machine”, but still nice), and he enjoys exploring the back yard. He’s also a little mischievous, but in a cute way. Turns out he’s a digger, which isn’t great, but he is going after the mole hills in back which is pretty great, so good boy I guess.

Oh, and we’ve also discovered he’s NOT DEAF. He may be a little bit hard of hearing, since there are some sounds he won’t respond to (or maybe he just doesn’t want to-he could be playing us, still not sure), but he does respond to our voices, and any type of package opening because it could be food.

So far, there hasn’t been too many problems between Elvis and Zoey either. They are both a little jealous of the other when it comes to pets. Zoey, sweet girl that she is, has always gotten all the pets, and she wants ALL THE PETS. Turns out Elvis wants ALL THE PETS too, so there is a bit of a minor rivalry going on there, and I am learning how to successfully pet two dogs simultaneously.

Elvis has snapped at Zoey a few times over food, but he is overly skinny and we think a little bit food insecure. Again, this is pretty minor and we are able to stop anything from getting out of hand. It’s only natural for there to be a little skirmish or two among the two of them as they figure out the pecking order, and Elvis gets used to how things work around here. Besides, they seem to get along pretty well otherwise. Zoey is a Huskador, and is quite a bit bigger than our little Elvis, so he does constantly get biffed in the face by her ever wagging tail, but he doesn’t seem to be too bothered. I have also seen him lick her on occasion as he walks by. So I don’t think there’s too much to worry about there.

As for the rest of us, well we are getting used to him and him to us. He does seem to like us a whole bunch, and we like him back too.

So much so that today we made it official. January 30th, a full month plus since we had our two week trial, Elvis is officially part of the family. He’s a Brink! We look forward to lots of fun and love from our new little buddy.

That’s the scoop for this week see you next time for more MonDAVES. Oh, and to my regular readers I say tank you. Thankyouverymuch.

Sorry. Had to.

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Winter Jokes

We are well and truly into Winter here in the STL, and with a snowstorm expected tomorrow night, I thought it might be a fun to share a few Winter themed jokes,

Joke #1

Did you hear about the big Winter storm in New York? It got so cold the bankers were walking around with their hands in their own pockets.

Joke #2

A wife texts her husband on a cold Winter’s day: “Windows frozen. Won’t open”. So the guy texts back, saying “Pour lukewarm water on it”. The wife texts back “Computer’s really messed up now”.

Joke #3

Why are we only concerned about snowmen and not snowwomen? Because only a man is dumb enough to stand out in the cold without a coat.

Joke #4

Last Winter I went bobsleighing with the family. Killed 37 Bobs.

Joke #5

What do you call ten Arctic hares hopping backwards through the snow together? A receding hare line.

And finally, my favorite:

Joke #6

A baby polar bear goes up to his father and says “Daddy am I a Polar Bear?”

The dad says “Of course you’re a polar bear. I’m a polar bear, your mom’s a polar bear, you are a polar bear. Now get outta here and quit asking stupid questions.”

So the kid goes up to his mom and says “Mommy, am I a Polar bear? I mean, really and truly a polar bear?”

“Well of course you are, sweetheart” the mama says. “I am a polar bear, you’re father’s a polar bear, so that makes you a polar bear too. Now why would you ask such a question, dear?”

Kid says, “Because I’m FREEZING.”

Ha.

See you next week.

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Have You Been To Wally’s?

So what do you do when you’d like to take a road trip, but you don’t have the cash or, more importantly, the time to do so? Simple. You grab the fam and make a run to Wally’s!

What’s Wally’s? I’m glad you asked.

Wally’s is a service station superstore with two locations in Missouri and Illinois that bills itself as the “Home of the Great American Road Trip” and honestly, they are killing it. Sure, it’s a filling station, but it is also so much more and, truth be told, a fun destination in its own right. While I have only been to the Fenton MO location, I can testify to its kitschy (yet family friendly) awesomeness. This is not a truck stop, but a travel center.

Spanning 36,000 square feet Wally’s includes:

-72+ filling stations
-Electric recharging stations
-Large, clean, family friendly restrooms (20 women’s stalls, 10 men’s stalls/11 urinals)
-In store Wi-Fi
-Coffee Bar
-Super large beverage stations including multiple fountain drinks and “Sloosh” machines
– BBQ carving station (for sandwiches)
-Beef jerky and Summer Sausage station
-In house bakery
-In house Pizza
-Pop Corn Station
-Ice Cream Station
-Road worthy snacks, both mass produced and Wally’s exclusive
-Camping Gear
-Loads of Wally’s merch
-Books and Toys for the kiddos
-Their own Spotify playlists
-An adorable bear mascot (and his friends)
-Tchotchkes galore

On our family excursion to Wally’s we all got lunch there. The kids had pizza slices and pulled pork sandwiches, while the parental units both opted for sliced brisket sandwiches. The BBQ is surprisingly good and highly recommended. The kids all enjoyed their slooshes too. I can’t report on the pizza slice since somebody didn’t share, but it was devoured quickly and received a thumbs up. We also returned with some excellent cheddar popcorn, yummy gummy candies and some malted milk balls that put your average Whoppers to shame. I also picked up some jerky (original and honey jalapeno) that will be accompanying me to work for the next week or so.

What I like most about Wally’s is the vibe. A gas mart/convenience store that big is pretty ridiculous when you think about it, but there’s a sense of humor to it all. There’s a very 70s feel to a lot of the merch and decor, but in a way that is both nostalgic and “contemporary ironic” which is a style description I just made up, but it fits. I especially like the murals of family road tips on the walls, and of course, Wally Bear being everywhere. The 70’s styling on the soda machines with retro logos are an especially nice touch.

Okay, now it’s time to address the, well, not elephant, but the other animal in the room. By now most of my readers from the South will be shouting at their screens to let me know that Wally’s seems to share a business model and a lot of the same attributes as a certain well loved chain with a beaver for a mascot that more or less does the same thing. Okay, sure, I won’t argue that.

However, Southerners, you’ve had that particular chain since 1982, and you haven’t shared with us. So being Mid-Westerners, we pulled up our bootstraps and we made our own. And it rules. Besides, bears are bigger, better, and badder than beavers any day of the week. So there.

Anyway, non-existent rivalries aside, next time you’re passing through on a road trip (or even if you just find yourself in the area) stop in at Wally’s. Get yourself some gas, some grub, maybe a t-shirt or a hat, and get back on the road with a smile on your face and a belly full of goodness.

Wally’s. home of the Great American Road Trip, and MonDAVEs approved.

This was NOT a paid advertisement, by the way. I just really dig Wally’s.

See you next week.

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Holiday Hangover

Anybody else got ’em? The old “post holiday blues” are upon us again, friends.

I get them every year. The last few months has had so much going on that to hit January and be hit with all of this nothing can come as a bit of a letdown. No more parties to attend, family focused or otherwise. No more brightly colored lights all around the neighborhood. Well, except for that one neighbor’s house who leaves them up year round and doesn’t think to turn them off until February. You know the one.

No mound of presents to look forward to giving or receiving. No more singing old familiar carols in public. At least, not without getting some really weird looks, anyway. Also, no more huge feast type meals which admittedly is good for the waistline, but it makes normal day to day food seem extra boring. Especially if you are dieting.

When I was a child, I had a record from the Sesame Street television show all about Christmas. The only thing I really remember about it is a song sung by Gordon, Bob, and probably a few others, but those are the voices I remember. The lyrics were as follows:

“Keep Christmas with you all through the year,
When Christmas time is over save some Christmas cheer,
These precious moments, hold them very dear,
And keep Christmas with you all through the year.”

Sappy, I know, but through the magic of Christmas it becomes sentimental and charming.

Okay, so the question is, how do you do that? How are you supposed to keep Christmas all the year long? Besides keeping love in your heart for your fellow man, celebrating the life and lessons of Christ, and treating everyone with love, honor, dignity and respect, I mean.

Look, just because the calendar has changed over and the decorations have all been put away, it doesn’t mean you have to stop. If you are committed enough, and don’t mind keeping things a little bit on the down-low, you can keep Christmas going.

First of all, nobody can actually stop you from listening to Christmas music. If you want to keep bumpin’ jingle jams in your car or around the house, that’s your own business. Nobody has to know that your windows are up, the A/C is on and you’re hearing those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingling too on May 4th.

Plus, there’s like, literally hours of Christmas stuff on YouTube and the streaming services. If you want to watch Rudolph, Buddy the Elf , or that Hershey Kisses commercial while in bed waiting to drift off, that’s cool. You do you.

Here’s another idea. A lot of touristy places have a year round Christmas shop. Convince your family that it’d be a silly bit of fun to go to the Christmas shop in July. And if you find some new décor you just have to have, well, it never hurts to be prepared, does it?

Let’s face facts. The next few months are going to be cold, grey, and miserable. If you need to hold on to the holiday season a little longer for your state of mental health then that is what you should do. Also, if Christmas makes you happy and you need that little Christmassy pick me up on and off during the rest of the year, go for it. Don’t let anybody poop on your parade. A lot of people will think you’re a little kooky if they find out you’re vibing on Christmas all year round, but so what? If they can’t be happy that you are happy then they are probably in line for a big ol’ lump of coal next Dec. 24th.

Fellow Christmas enthusiasts, keep on being you and doing what you do. Keep Christmas with you, all through the year. Even if it means leaving your lights up all year round. Unless you’re just being lazy, then come on dude, step it up.

Oh yeah, and try to do all that peace on Earth and goodwill toward mankind stuff too. That definitely shouldn’t stop at Christmas time.

Take care, y’all. See you next week for more MonDAVEs.

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Obligatory New Year Post

I’ve never been a big fan of making new year’s resolutions. Mostly because people put undue pressure on themselves to come up with a list and stick to it. They also tend to make resolutions that are going to be super hard to stick to. What’s the point of making a list of items you know you’re not going to accomplish? On the other end of things, some make lists full of things they were planning to do anyway, thus checking everything off their list easily by cheating the system. Again, what’s the point?

Still, like everyone else, there are certainly a few things that I feel I need to work on, or that I would like to accomplish. There are some good habits I should be putting into place. As much as I feel like January first is just another turn of the page on the old calendar (other people still have those, right? Not just me? Okay, good.) it does feel like a good time to get this sorted.

So in what should come as a surprise to no one, I’m going to lame out here and present a few ideas for my own, well, not resolutions per se, but “long term open ended goals” that I’m gonna start working towards soon.

  1. Be More Charitable.
    It’s not that I am not charitable as is, but I feel as though I am not intentional enough about it. Sure, I round up at the drive through when they ask. I’ll buy something from kids who are fundraising. I give to my local church to help with their ministries to the community at large. Occasionally I’ll throw some change into the bucket when someone is collecting on the street. I even write a check now and again. But let’s face it, I could be doing more, and on a regular basis. There are plenty of worthy causes out there, I just need to make sure I am contributing my fair share.
  2. Spend More Time With My Family
    I mean, sure, I see my own family every day, but there’s no reason why I can’t see other people more often. I see my brother fairly regularly as we work on some projects together, but we could go back to just hanging out more. I should also invite my Dad and Susan (his significant other) over to the house more often or find some other ways to spend more time with them. There are plenty of cousins and aunts and uncles and stuff I could make a more concentrated effort to see. A lot of them are out of state so that’s harder, but this whole “only at weddings and funerals” thing is a drag. Need to find a way to change that.
  3. More Date Nights
    This one is self explanatory. When you are married and have kids it’s easy to let date night slip away. Either you’re running people everywhere, or you feel like the whole family should be doing stuff. there’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you build the marriage around the kids, once they are grown and out of the house, you just may find yourself with nothing left to talk about or to do. Certainly I don’t feel like that will happen with my marriage, but spending more time together just the two of us can only be a good thing.
  4. Feed My Creative Soul
    I am at my happiest when creating. While I do some creative stuff (I’m over 100 MonDAVE posts now!), I should be doing more. I talk about ideas for projects but I don’t seem to have the energy or ability to actually do any of them. This is a new problem for me within the last five years or so, as I always prioritized my creative side in the past but it seems as though I’ve lost my creative mojo recently. I could blame age, familial and work responsibilities all I want, but none of those are good excuses. Time to get moving before time slips away.
  5. Control My Over Eating
    I know, I know, this is on everybody’s list. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on mine though. I’m pretty good with my meals (although I go back for seconds a little too often) and with what I eat during the day but at night I go nuts and chow down from the time I get home until I go to bed. Gotta work on that.

So, I’m not giving myself any hard deadlines or difficult to obtain stats, but I am recognizing some of the things I need to work on about myself and by typing them out, further solidifying the goals. There will be stops and starts, failures and successes. Life is an ongoing adventure, even in its most mundane. There’s no reason I can’t take steps to make it better by becoming a better me one day at a time.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully this gets you thinking about some of your own goals too. I hope you achieve them all. See you next week.

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MonDAVEs Top Ten Records of 2022!

Well, it’s that time of year again, when all us music geeks get to talk about their favorite records of the year. 2022 was kind of an interesting year for me as far as my musical purchases go. There were only a few records I thought were excellent, but there wasn’t anything that I particularly despised either. Most records were just kind of somewhere in the middle for me. Maybe I’m getting older and a little bit jaded. Maybe it was a slow year. Maybe I’m just tired.

Anyway, here’s the top ten new release discs that kept my ears occupied this year.

10. Drive-By Truckers-Welcome To Club XIII
DBT is one of my all time favorite bands so it’s pretty rare when one of their albums doesn’t find its way into one of my top ten lists. This album is full of nostalgia for the band’s early days, reflective in tone, yet still somehow reflective of our time now. All the elements of the best Truckers records are on display from their alternative country style to an appreciation of Southern R&B, classic rock licks, and a punk attitude. This one came together in just a few days and was recorded quickly. Sometimes that can make for a great album, sometimes not. Welcome To Club XIII lands somewhere in between. There are some fine moments, no doubt, but a number of these songs feel like they could have been fleshed out a little more. Still, the high points are more than enough reason to keep returning to the club.

9. The Cult-Under The Midnight Sun
The Cult are one of those hard rock bands who have been around for a long time but flown just under the radar of massive popularity-though they have had their share of cult (no pun intended) success. They are mostly known as a hard rock outfit with wailing guitars by the underrated Billy Duffy and the Jim Morrison/Dave Vanian style lead vocals of Ian Astbury. They have always mixed AC/DC riffs with semi-goth imagery and pseudo-mysticism. It’s an interesting package for sure, but this album is a bit of a departure for the band. The hard rock side has been quite toned down here in favor of moodiness and slow grooves. It’s proven somewhat divisive among fans but the more time I spent with this album the more I liked it. It’s a grower for sure, but worth the effort.

8. Rolling Blackouts C.F.-Endless Rooms
I just discovered this group earlier this year while poking around the Sub Pop records store at the Seattle airport and looking for something new to listen to. This record was being pushed heavily, so I took the bait, and I’m glad I did. Rolling Blackouts C.F. (Coastal Fever) is an indie rock band who sound like American guys trying to sound British. Turns out they are Australian, which legitimizes it somehow. Anyway, the sound is somewhere between R.E.M. and Joy Division, minus the interesting front man and keys. RBCF instead has three guitarists and vocalists. While I am unfamiliar with their early work, this album uses these attributes to create an aural palate that is both familiar and fresh. It never quite works itself up into an all out rocker of an album, but it is an enjoyable and interesting listen.

7. Def Leppard-Diamond Star Halos
Like any band that has been around for decades, Def Leppard have made some really great albums and some really bad ones, with most falling somewhere in between, but more winners than losers I think. Diamond Star Halos is very nearly great, but it is also maddening when it falls short. First, the good stuff. Never ones to hide their influences, this album is at its best when the 70’s glam rock touches are focused on and come shining through. There are even a few riffs that recall the band’s pre-megastar days. There are a few surprises musically with Eastern influences and a bit of psychedelia mixed in here and there, and most of the ballads hit their mark expertly. The downside? Well, there’s a little bit too much of a cheese factor to a few of these songs, even for Def Leppard. The album is also far too long. By the time we get to the end of the record, the last few really good tracks suffer because the listener is just worn out. I’m also suspicious of the drums on some of these tracks-I think the original drum machine demo tracks were used in a few songs instead of using Rick Allen’s drum tracks. Granted, Allen plays a (mostly) electric kit, but there are at least two songs where it doesn’t sound like a human being playing at all-and believe me there is always a notable difference between man and machine. I could be wrong, but that’s the vibe I get. Still, the first half of this record is every bit as good as anything the band has put out in thirty years and is lots of fun. The second half not as much, but there are highlights to be heard throughout and it’s a great record to listen to in your car, way too loud, on a Summer’s drive. And if that isn’t reason enough to dig a Def Lep record I don’t know what is.

6. Sloan-Steady
I have heard Sloan referred to as Canada’s finest power pop band, and while I won’t disagree, I feel that descriptor to be both limiting and misleading. Sure, there’s lots of great hooks, but these songs are also smart. All four members write and sing lead, so with any Sloan record you’re liable to hear a hook filled sing along sing followed by a punchy, riffy rocker, then a thoughtful alternative piece, topped off with some AM gold. Then song #5 kicks in. The various writing styles are all obviously different, yet the songs fit together perfectly. Sloan have made a career out of delivering well crafted, clever rock songs and Steady continues that tradition. Well worth checking out for fans and newbies alike.

5. Nikki Lane-Denim And Diamonds
My favorite alt country record this year. Nikki Lane sings with a voice that sounds like a smoky club, and her songs speak of confidence brought on by mistakes made, lessons learned, and a quick witted irreverence flying in the face of what the world expects her to be. While this record is a little bit less country than her previous collection, it’s in there all the same. This record was produced by josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age, and his presence is felt early on, for better or worse. However, once he gets out of her way Nikki Lane makes some honest, observational music that makes this record a treat to listen to.

4. Off!-Free LSD
This is the punk rock record I didn’t know I was waiting for. This is aggressive music with intelligence, and a bend towards the artistic. The band consists of veterans from the hardcore scene, most notably the bands Circle Jerks and Redd Kross. While not quite as fast and angry as their debut, this record certainly carries that spirit. It also features some industrial noise style connecting tracks throughout the album in what I like to think of as punk rock’s Metal Machine Music, which I hope would make Lou Reed proud. This is a great record, and I am so happy these guys are back.

3. The Linda Lindas-Growing Up
For those who may have been living under a rock, the Linda Lindas are a pop punk band made up of teenage girls aged 12-18. They garnered national attention when their performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the Los Angeles Public Library went viral and appeared on national news. While this album may have a little more polish on it than I would like, and indeed more than their EP and early singles had, there’s no denying the strength of the songs. They mix modern pop punk with early ’80s new wave structure and riot grrl attitudes. This is an album full of Girl Power anthems for Gen Z, and I am here for it. The Linda Lindas have gone from small gigs around LA to national tours, and I genuinely hope more big things are in their future.

2. Dropkick Murphys-This Machine Still Kills Fascists
Who ever thought that Celtic punks DKM would release a mostly acoustic, country tinged album of left over folk songs, and that said album would be one of their best? Nobody. probably, but here we are. The lyrics are unused pieces by the late great Woodie Guthrie. Since the band had covered some of his songs in the past to great success (Shipping Up To Boston, anyone?), Guthrie’s grand daughter Nora invited the band to go through the archives and see what they could find. Armed with a group of lyrics, the band set about writing songs that would honor Woody’s style, yet still be great DKM songs. They succeeded. Not only is this a welcome change to the catalog, but it’s just a really good, fun record that has been in constant rotation since I first heard it.

1. Eddie Vedder-Earthling
This is just a great record. Vedder is in fine voice throughout, and it actually sounds like he’s having fun making the album. These songs are all great, and the sound is fresh and upbeat, even when the lyrics might not be. Eddie brings in friends both famous and not to perform on the tracks, and the creative energy between them is felt on every song, which is infectious to the listener. Earthling is better than the last two Pearl Jam records combined, and it is hoped that some of this energy will spill over into the next PJ record so we can get another classic out of them. For now though. this will more than fit the bill and is absolutely deserving to be my record of the year.

Okay, so that’s the top ten. There were a few others I enjoyed this year that almost made the list, and I’m sure I’ll retroactively discover a record that should have made it (i always do!), but this is a pretty good representation of the music I enjoyed in 2022. Here’s to more great stuff next year and beyond!

Hey, since we won’t talk, have a happy and safe New Year’s celebration, and I’ll see you back here in 2023 for more MonDAVEs.

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A Very MonDAVEs Christmas (Part Three)

This week I’ll be wrapping up this series on Christmas TV specials by looking at four classics that are practically guaranteed to make anybody feel like a kid again. Give them a view this week and get into the jingle mood!

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

About ten or twelve years ago, one of my wife’s relatives had temporary custody (long story) of a young child who looked exactly like Hermey the elf. No exaggeration. Exactly like him. Hermey in human form. Iused to talk to him about what he wanted to be when he grew up and try to talk up the field of dentistry. I think about him this time of year and wonder if it stuck. I really, really hope so.

Anyway.

Rudolph the television show was based on Rudolph the song which was based on Rudolph the story written in 1939(!) by Robert L. May. Initially a storybook handed out for free by Montgomery Ward department stores, Rudolph has become an icon of Christmas, and quite a lucrative one, no doubt. Rudolph the song followed ten years later in 1949 and is still sung every year. In 1964, the Rankin/Bass company delivered the stop motion animated classic Rudolph television special, which is arguably his most popular adaptation. Rudolph appeared in cartoons, comic books, View Master reels (remember those?), and scores of other products but it is this special that most people think of whenever the red nosed reindeer is brought up.

Interestingly, the producers of the show didn’t have a copy of the original book when making the show. With only the song as a guide, Rankin/Bass added in a fairly wild original story where after being ridiculed for his shining nose Rudolph runs away from home with Hermey the elf who longs to be a dentist. Along the way they meet up with Yukon Cornelius (my favorite character, hands down) who is digging for gold, er, peppermint, and also hunting the Abominable Snowman because of course he is. Somehow or other the gang winds up on the Island of Misfit Toys (featuring toys such as a Charlie In The Box) before making their way back to the North Pole during a dense fog, prompting Santa to ask Rudolph to use his shiny nose to help guide the sleigh and save Christmas.

Nuts, right? But it works.

The reason it works is because Rudolph is all of us. We all feel like misfits to one degree or another and America loves an underdog story, so when Rudolph saves the day and finally gains acceptance we all cheer him on. Even Hermey and Yukon get accepted back into the community and everybody gets a happy ending. Even the misfit toys get picked up by Santa and delivered to grateful kids, although not originally. The special ends with scenes of Santa and Rudolph delivering toys while the credits roll. However, audiences were not satisfied with the unresolved ending for the misfit toys, so the credits were changed to show Santa delivering them to kids as well.

If you haven’t seen it for a few years, you may be surprised that the first part of the special can be a little difficult to watch, especially when the other reindeer are so cruel to Rudolph (with Santa being, well, oblivious at best) and Hermey gets into trouble with the head elf. However, the high points pull it all together nicely.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1970)

After the success of Rudolph it was only natural the Rankin/Bass made a special featuring the big man himself. While it hasn’t quite attained the classic stature of Rudolph’s show, I think this special is every bit as good if not a little bit better, at least on the technical side. The animators have really improved the stop motion style on this one, and the story is sweeter overall.

This one is a version of the Santa origin story. It details how he fell in with the elves, why he goes by two names (Kris Kringle and Santa Claus), how he fell in love with Jessica, or Mrs. Claus as we know her today, and how and why the whole giving toys at Christmas bit started. The songs are quite catchy in this special as well, if not quite as classic.

It also features voice work by the late great Paul Frees, perhaps the only voice artist to give Mel Blanc a run for his money. Apart from doing voice work in numerous Rankin/Bass productions he worked for Jay Ward productions by voicing Boris Badenov and Inspector Frnwick in Rocky and Bullwinkle, also providing voices in Tom Slick and Super Chicken among others. Frees also narrated The Manchurian Candidate, did multiple voices for Disney projects, and played both John Lennon and George Harrison in The Beatles cartoon. Google his resume, it will knock your socks off. Frees at work is always a treat and he is on full display here.

Okay, so the whole “sit on my lap and give me a kiss a toy” song doesn’t work really well in today’s climate, but that’s not what the writers meant and you know it, now get your mind out of the gutter for cryin’ out loud. Then, sit back and enjoy this big hearted, slightly overlooked and underrated gem.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

What can be said about this one, other than it’s pretty much perfect? With a story by Dr. Seuss, narration by the great Boris Karloff, and wonderful animation directed by Chuck Jones of Looney Tunes fame, you can’t miss.

The first third of the film is actually my favorite part, when The Grinch hatches his evil plan of stealing Christmas from the Whos down in Whoville (in order to stop all the noise they make which, to be fair, as an adult I kinda see his point) and goes about his preparations. The animation is most reminiscent of the Looney Tunes cartoons here and is a treat to watch, especially the interactions between Mr. Grinch and his so-cute-I-can’t-even-deal-with-it dog Max.

Then, of course, he sets his plan into motion. The animators do an excellent job at coming up with clever ways for old Grinchy-poo to go about his business…and then THAT SONG kicks in. Sung with what can only be described as glee by the deep voiced Thurl Ravenscroft (who, with that name should have been like a wizard or something) and the special goes to a whole new level.

After seeing how devious and awful The Grinch can be, especially when lying through his crooked teeth to the adorable Cindy Lou Who, his eventual and, let’s face it, inevitable transformation is rivaled only by that of Ebenezer Scrooge himself. This is a wonderful little cartoon and has definitely earned its place in the pantheon of great Christmas specials. It is also a million times better than the live action movie, don’t even talk to me about it, get outta here with that nonsense. The original is where it’s at!

A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

What is the greatest Christmas special ever made, and why is it A Muppet Family Christmas?

Let me make the case.

There have been many entries in the MCU (Muppets Christmas Universe), but this one tops them all and is a show for the ages. The premise is about as straightforward as you can get. Fozzie Bear has decided to surprise his mother by coming home for Christmas and as a bonus he brings all of his “weirdo showbiz” friends with him to the old farmhouse. Trouble is, Mama (Emily) Bear has planned a Christmas vacation in Malibu and rented out the house. Everyone arrives at Emily’s doorstep at the same time and hilarity ensues. There are a few side plots as well. One features the Swedish Chef attempting to cook the Christmas turkey, which is bothersome for him since the turkey is quite naturally against the idea. Another is the fact that Miss Piggy is running a bit late to get to the farmhouse, and there’s a massive storm coming. There’s also a cute sub plot featuring Fozzie where he finds a new partner for the act.

This is enough to set the stage for a quality Muppet venture, but then Jim Henson and company up the ante by introducing the Sesame Street gang into the mix as carolers, and of course more guests for Mrs. Bear. They also use this opportunity to stage a Christmas pageant which is genuinely hysterical. Watching the characters from both worlds interact is delightful, and it’s filled with meta humor, even though back in the 80’s that wasn’t really a thing. We are also treated to a song from the non-cartoon Muppet Babies via an old home movie, and a version of Jingle Bell Rock by Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem that may well be my favorite version ever.

But wait, there’s more! Remember those would be renters I told you about? Well, they are none other than Doc and Sprocket from Fraggle Rock! Does that mean the Fraggles will make an appearance too? Of course it does, and the original song featured in their segment stays in my head each year until roughly June. Not a complaint.

I’ll be the first to admit that, as much as I love them, Muppet productions can be pretty hit and miss. Not this one. All the jokes land. Every beat is hit. It warms your heart and tickles the funny bone in equal measure. This special is highly quotable, and I never get tired of it.

The thing is though, you’ve got to look for it. Due to all the music involved (and there is a lot), licensing this thing for home use proved to be a nightmare. A version did appear on home video years ago, but due to those licensing issues some of the aforementioned songs, and at least one major scene involving Fozzie wound up being left out. This makes the callbacks to that scene and the resolution of the “double act” plotline ineffective. So in order to watch this production in all its glory, you gotta go to You Tube, and make sure you have selected the “full” special. There is even one option that lets you watch the original broadcast with ads.

This largely unknown special is well worth searching out. It’s a classic around our house, and once you see it, I hope it will be a classic at yours as well.

Okay, that’s the Christmas Specials Round Up for you. I know there are many shows I didn’t touch on, many of them absolutely deserving mention, but I can only do so much. Also, I gotta save something for next year.

Here’s wishing a Merry Christmas to all my readers. Enjoy the happiness and peace of the day.

And if you celebrate other holidays this time of year, I hope they are full of joy and meaning for you as well.

See you next week.

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A Very MonDAVEs Christmas (Part Two)

For the next two weeks, we’ll be talking about the wonderful world of Christmas TV specials. From the tried and true classics to some lesser known treasures to the truly oddball offerings, I will bring you gifts of glad tidings and good news that can only come from a mix of Santa’s workshop, a lowly manger, and Madison Avenue.

This week, well, it’s just a hodge-podge of stuff. Read on and join me in the merriment! Is that a word? Merriment? Pretty sure it is. Anyway, let’s kick this edition off with…

The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show (2019)

This show is a salute to the Christmas specials of years gone by, while still managing to actually be one. Back in the day all the big stars had Christmas specials. You name the star, they either hosted their own special or were guests on someone else’s. Some of the more well remembered shows starred Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Andy Williams but even “newcomers” like The Carpenters and even Donny and Marie got in on the action. These shows became staples of the season and were watched by pretty much everyone.

One of the tropes used in these specials was that of the family Christmas party. The show’s star would be throwing a shindig and their famous friends would show up for a little bit of inoffensive comedy and some songs around the conveniently placed piano in the living room. The Hollywood Christmas magic was always in full swing.

This is the premise of Kacey’s show as well, but it takes the extra steps to show the “studio” and live audiences, as well as a few well staged behind the scenes moments. It’s mostly a nostalgic send up, but there are a few nice moments to be found. My recommendation would be to start here, then go to YouTube and look up some of the old specials this was based on to get the full effect.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)

One for the Marvel fans among us. If you have followed the Guardians movies, you have an idea of what to expect. There are lots of laughs, and a little bit of action (as well as some cool Christmas tunes) as Drax and Mantis go to Earth in order to pick up the ultimate birthday present for Peter Quill, who is a melancholy sort around the holidays since, according to a story told to us by Kraglin, Yondu ruined Christmas for Peter when he was a boy. I just realized that people who have never seen these movies are probably totally confused by now. Sorry, but it’s not getting better.

When the pair get to Earth they do what any right thinking friend would do and kidnap Peter’s childhood hero, Kevin Bacon. Will Peter enjoy his gift? Will Kevin Bacon bring the Christmas Spirit to the citizens of Knowhere (where the Guardians are currently stationed) and correct their incorrect interpretation of the holiday? Can anybody save Christmas for Peter? Do you really wonder about how any of this stuff will turn out?

The only real question in all of this is how much of this stuff ties in to Volume 3 of the Guardians movies coming next year. We do get to meet at least one (semi) new character here, and this show does seem like a good jumping off point. Also, one of my favorite bands, the Old 97’s, are in it as a band of aliens trying to write a Christmas song in one of the funniest scenes. Fans of the series should check it out, then check out the Old 97’s. Merry Christmas!

Olive The Other Reindeer (1999)

So, you get the joke name, right? That’s kind of all you need to know. This is a family friendly cartoon (based on a children’s book) with a silly sense of humor, a nice little message, and plenty of heart.

The story follows a sweet little dog named Olive who discovers that Santa may have to cancel his annual run since one of his reindeer is down with an injury. The local news reports that he may be willing to try the run with all of the other reindeer. Well, the doggie mishears this as “Olive, the other reindeer” and figures it’s up to her to save Christmas. Along the way she crosses paths with a two bit con artist penguin named Martini (what else?), and a disgruntled postman who is out to make sure Christmas doesn’t happen.

Okay, so the jokes are mostly groan inducing, but it’s a cute show and I like it. Is it a must see every year? Probably not but it’s certainly worth a viewing as you’re getting ready for the big day.

The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973)

I remember this one from its many airings when I was a kid. After rewatching it this week I have a new take on it. Can’t talk about this one without spoiling the story, so if you are so inclined go stream it now. I’ll wait. Okay, you good? Let’s talk about it.

The titular bear is Ted E. Bear who lives in Bear City and works at the Honey factory. It is almost time for the annual hibernation, but Ted has heard stories of something called Christmas and is obsessed with trying to find it. He has tried to stay awake and look for it in the past but failed. This year he is determined to stay up and find Christmas, no matter what. His friends all think he’s nuts and are worried for his safety, if not his sanity. They all try to talk him out of it, but a bear’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.

So Ted leaves Bear City, mistakenly thinking Christmas is a place, and goes through the forest until he arrives in what I can only assume is supposed to be New York. He sees glimpses of lights and songs, and toys in the display window of a department store. He is so infatuated he goes inside said store, where a little girl and her sister see him through the window and wave at the cute little bear. Oh yeah, he’s super short for a bear too.

Anyway, once the store closes, he wanders the streets looking for Christmas, and bumps into Santa Claus, who tries to explain that Christmas is a feeling not a place. Yet Ted is fairly dim, so Santa gives him an address where he can find Christmas. At first Ted thinks it’s the wrong address, and decides to just rest his eyes for a moment under the sparsely decorated tree in the room. When he wakes up the next morning, Ted finds himself in the apartment of the previously mentioned little girl. She is overjoyed, stating that she knew Santa would bring the little bear she saw in the window. She gives Ted a big hug, and he finally understands the love that makes Christmas what it is. That night he goes to sleep, feeling loved, next to the girl, and the show ends on a sweet, wholesome scene.

Or does it?

I mean, that’s the end, but what happens next? Does Ted just live there now? Does he become an actual teddy bear and lose his entire life and identity? And what of Bear City? Do they never get to experience the joy of Christmas? Do his friends just think he left one night and died horribly out in the wilderness? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.

This is either a classic tale of the love and joy of Christmas, or a harrowing “Twilight Zone” wake up in Hell/be careful what you wish for type morality play. I will leave it to you to decide.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Here’s a short but sweet retelling of the Dickens classic, starring Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Goofy as Jacob Marley, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost OF Christmas Past, and Scrooge McDuck as himself. No, sorry, he stars as Ebeneezer Scrooge, because of course he does.

With a running time of 26 minutes, this adaption breezes through the story a little too quickly but gets away with it because any adult viewers will be familiar with the story, and youngsters won’t have time for their attention to wane. While Scrooge McDuck makes a mighty fine Scrooge (as he should) and the main characters are all fun to watch, the real fun is spotting all the background characters in the crowd scenes and figuring out which movies they were from.

This is standard Disney fare for the time, and succeeds in telling the story in a way that can appeal to young and old alike. Die hard Disney fans should love this one, but there’s plenty here to like for the rest of us too.

Alright, thanks for reading this stuff. As mentioned last week, I’d love for you to track down these shows and give them a view. Hopefully it will add to your enjoyment of the Holiday. Come back next week when I’ll talk about some stone cold classics-including my favorite Christmas special ever made. See you then!

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A Very MonDAVEs Christmas Part One

For the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about the wonderful world of Christmas TV specials. From the tried and true classics to some lesser known treasures to the truly oddball offerings, I will bring you gifts of glad tidings and good news that can only come from a mix of Santa’s workshop, a lowly manger, and Madison Avenue.

This week, we will be looking at TV Christmas specials based on comic strips.

Comics in Newspapers aren’t really a thing anymore, mostly because newspapers aren’t really a thing anymore, but for years both the papers and the comic strips were huge. People turned to the “funny pages” daily to see what their favorite characters were up to. Sometimes the strips had continuous story lines, but mostly not. Many had repeating gags, and an overly formulaic pattern. Some were one panel, sometimes three-and were even longer on Sundays! Some strips were bizarre, and truly funny, others were barely humorous but we read them all and these characters felt like friends. Many newspapers no longer carry comics, or if they do they feature very few. However the artform lives on online.

It’s only logical, then, that film studios would want to make these features into full fledged animated cartoons to try and repeat the successes in another medium. This also had the advantage of gaining larger exposure for some characters that appeared only regionally, or were not carried by as many papers as other strips. The earliest example I am aware of was a series of cartoons from the 1940’s starring Nancy, but it would not surprise me to learn of an earlier attempt. Anyway, this practice has been going on for years, to varying degrees of success.

When it comes to Christmas specials, ground zero would have to be 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which was a gigantic hit that many popular strips have been trying to achieve yet never quite getting there. I’ve been watching a few of these shows this week in preperation for the blog. Let’s talk about some them.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Well, there’s not much to say about this special that has not already been said, but when has that ever stopped me?

Back in 1965, somebody got the idea to adapt Charles M. Schultz’s adorable “Peanuts” gang to the television screen, and they actually let Schultz have a say in the proceedings. Every decision made seemed to be the wrong one, on paper anyway. These weirdos made a television special about kids that actually had kids doing the voices-not professional adult voice artists. They used groovy piano jazz as the soundtrack. There was a strong focus on the religious aspect of the holiday and practically nothing involving Santa. It should have been a disaster.

Yet that Christmas magic was definitely at work because it all worked beautifully, and has become the Gold Standard by which all other cartoon specials are measured. Even non religious types love it, as well as anyone who has ever pictured themselves as a Charlie Brown type-which is everybody. This is a stone cold classic, and if you don’t have a place in your heart for this one, you need help because you are dead inside.

Bill n’ Opus: A Wish For Wings That Work (1991)

This is the first, and to date only, screen adaptation of characters from Berke Breathed’s “Bloom County” and “Outland” strips (although a new series is in development for Fox). Bloom County was my favorite strip at the time, still is actually, because it was topical, goofy, and just plain bizarre, but it also had a tender heart underneath all that craziness. This special does its best to bring the whole loopy experience to the screen.

Okay, how do I summarize this? Opus the penguin is not happy with his lot in life as a flightless waterfowl. His biggest wish is for a pair of penguin wings that actually work. He is made fun of by a trio of ducks that are strongly reminiscent of the Three Stooges, and attends a therapy group with a chicken who thinks she’s a 747 and a kiwi who’s wife left him for an albatross. All along he is followed by his friend Bill The Cat (the anti-Garfield) who basically bungles everything up and barfs hairballs a lot. After a failed attempt at flight involving a corset and balloons, Opus decides his only recourse is to write a letter to Santa. It’s all up to the big guy from then on.

So, does this special succeed? Well, yes and no. If you are a fan, there’s enough here to keep you happy, although I think the filmmakers tried to include too much content into a short space. The jokes don’t quite land the way they ought to, and the heart so inherent in the story doesn’t transfer well to the final product. If you are new to Breathed’s world this will probably confuse more than delight. Still, if this kind of anarchic humor is your cup of tea, it’s worth a look. Also, there’s a cross-dressing cockroach, so there’s that.

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)

If Peanuts was the most popular comic strip in America, Garfield was a close second. He was, and remans, America’s favorite fat cat who hates Mondays, loves lasagna, and tolerates those around him as he simultaneously disdains and loves them. He’s just like you and me-only in cat form. Formulaic? Sure, but in the 80’s, Garfield was everywhere and his TV specials (pre Saturday morning series) were beloved.

In this special, Garfield and his house mate Odie the dog spend Christmas with owner Jon’s family on the farm. Garfield is unhappy about it and being a total grump, while the others are annoyingly excited. The extended family is, of course, eccentric as they can be and yet it is through them that Garfield has that magic moment where he embraces the whole family and the spirit of Christmas.

This is simple stuff, but it actually does have a few decent jokes in it. The voice work is also top notch with Lorenzo Music as Garfield and David L. Lander as Jon’s brother Doc Boy (which I guess is a “Waltons” joke?). This is a nice bit of nostalgia that your kids can enjoy too. Give it a go.

B.C.: A Special Christmas (1981)

From the “WHAT?” file, comes this addition which I have just so many mixed feelings about.

For those who may not be familiar, the strip B.C. was not about British Columbia, but cavemen. You know, our ancestors who existed several millennia before the birth of Christ (even if you believe in a “young Earth” the timeline is still way off), and yet here we are with a Christmas special. So what gives? Spoilers ahead for a 40+ year old cartoon, I guess.

The storyline is as follows. Caveman Thor wakes up noticing that the morning star is a few degrees off that day, and goes cave to cave among his village looking for his calendar (which he invented) that has been loaned out to a neighbor. Once he finds it in Peter’s cave, we learn that it is Dec. 24th. After being kissed on the cheek by an attractive cave girl, he somehow gets the idea to make others feel good by conning them. I know. Stay with me. So he and his pal Wiley make up a myth about a man in a red suit who leaves presents on what they have decided to call Christmas Eve. It is written on the ancient slab that they “found and translated” (wrote) that all should carry on this tradition. The next step is, of course, to dupe their friends into buying the gifts from them the next morning, and making a quick buck.

During the night, however, the real Santa shows up to ruin their plans and bring real, awesome, actual Christmas to all. Oh, and he also almost gets eaten by true troglodyte Grog, but no one ever said this Santa gig was going to be easy. Anyway, after all this happens, Peter goes to bed Christmas night but is awakened by the sounds of travelers and sees some dudes on camels going past the cave, as he rushes out to see the star brightly shining in the East. End of show.

This is just a mess y’all. I mean, I grew up with the comic strip so this is high on the nostalgia scale for me. You also have to smile that the two main characters are played by legendary comedy team Bob and Ray. It’s just that the timeline is so messed up. I don’t mind there being a religious aspect to any Christmas themed show, but how awkward can you get? Speaking of awkward, the female characters are named “the fat broad” and “the cute chick” because sexism was alive and well back in the day. Those characters have since been renamed “Jane” and “Grace” respectively, but they still have the cringe names here. Otherwise, the quality of the animation and voice work is really good. So this one is a mixed bag at beat, worth a look as a curiosity or if you just really like cavemen.

Ziggy’s Gift (1982)

Remember Ziggy? Man, in the early 80’s he was like a pop culture icon. While the strip is still produced, you just don’t see ol’ Ziggy around much these days. For those who may not be familiar, Ziggy is a short, bald man with a rather large round nose, who lives in an apartment with his pets, works in some sort of office building, and never wears pants. His one panel comic strip mostly features him dealing with the inconveniences of life. He is a loveable loser who mostly manages to stay positive while everything around him goes wrong. He has been featured on many a poster/coffee mug/ t-shirt with a funny play on words or super positive heartfelt message. Which is how you live your life, I suppose, when you don’t own pants.

Anyway, Ziggy seems like an unlikely fit for a Christmas special but it actually works very well. Long story short: Ziggy becomes a street corner Santa, unknowingly working for a business that is defrauding the charities they claim to be working for and keeping all the dough for themselves. Ziggy, along with his loyal dog Fuzz, must contend with not only his crooked boss, but also other crooked Santas, a pickpocket who constantly follows him around, and a suspicious cop. Can Ziggy’s kindness and good nature save him from arrest? Will the Spirit of Christmas prevail? Will he freeze his little tucchus off in the snow? Probably.

This one is a little bit odd, because it actually deals with some shady goings on in a way that isn’t too broad or cartoonish. There is a bit of a harsh look to some of the city scenes and night time action, bringing an unexpected touch of realism. This just goes to set Ziggy’s inherent goodness off from the rest, and bring focus to the message. The animation is truly the best of the bunch, and the show won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. If you’re looking for a surprisingly sweet tale that isn’t too saccharine, you could do worse than to check out this underrated gem.

Okay, that’s the round up for this week. All of these features are available either on streaming services or YouTube, and some have a physical release as well. Check out the programs that appeal to you and I’ll be back next week with more fun stuff.

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Christmas Is Coming

Well, it’s that time of year again. Anyone who knows me well is well aware that I am a “Christmas guy” and I am proud of it. I try not to be annoying with it, but I really do love the Christmas season. The lights, the sounds, the songs, the food, all of it brings me good feelings. Most years, I break out the Christmas songs a week or two before Thanksgiving, listening on the sly and grinning ear to ear. I love Christmas so much that whenever I am feeling down, virtually any time of year, I cheer myself up by watching Christmas commercials on YouTube. Not a joke. Although I feel like that’s a good place for one, so feel free to insert your own.

Things are starting to ramp up around the old homestead, and the signs of the season are starting to fall into place. We decorated the house inside and out. The Christmas music has begun, although I did somehow manage to wait until after Thanksgiving this year to begin in earnest. The kids are finishing up their wish-lists, plans for celebrations are being made, and everything is ready to roll for another festive season. All that’s left to do is turn on the tube, bask in its glow, and watch a little Christmas magic.

I have written a few posts in my time about Christmas movies, and we all certainly have our favorites. I thought about doing the same this year, especially since I enjoyed doing the Halloween movie posts so much, but I have decided to take a different, though related approach.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about the wonderful world of Christmas TV specials. From the tried and true classics to some lesser known treasures to the truly oddball offerings, I will bring you gifts of glad tidings and good news that can only come from a mix of Santa’s workshop, a lowly manger, and Madison Avenue. Join me for the festive fun, starting next week here on MonDAVEs!

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MonDAVES Saves Thanksgiving-2022

Thanksgiving is coming in just a few days. Along with all the food, parades, football, and what not, you’re almost sure to spend time with family, some of whom may not be on the same page as you are politically, socially, or otherwise. Being a fine, upstanding citizen (as all MonDAVEs readers most certainly are) you want to keep the peace and not get into any scuffles around the table this year. But what on Earth are you going to be able to talk about that won’t get Uncle Gary started on one of his uber-cringey tirades?

Well, have no fear, MonDAVEs is here to save your Thanksgiving by equipping you with what you truly need to keep the conversation safe, change the subject if need be, or just plain old be the life of the party. That’s right, it’s THANKSGIVING DAD JOKES!!!

Here we go.

What did the turkey say to the hunter the day before Thanksgiving?
“Quack! Quack!”

What is a turkey thankful for on Thanksgiving?
Vegetarians.

What kind of music did the Pilgrims like?
Plymouth Rock.

“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Norma Lee.”
“Norma Lee who?”
“Norma Lee I don’t eat so much, but it’s Thanksgiving!”

Why does Meghan Trainor make such good Thanksgiving Turkey?
‘Cause she’s all about that baste.

Why did the cranberries blush?
Because they saw the turkey dressing.

What does a one legged Turkey say?
“Wobble wobble.”

What did Han Solo say to Luke Skywalker on Thanksgiving?
“May the forks be with you.”

What was John Wayne’s favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving, pilgrim.

“Knock. Knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Tamara.”
“Tamara who?”
“Tamara we’re eating all the leftovers.”

What did the mother turkey say to her disobedient children?
“If your father could see you now, he’d roll over in his gravy!”

People say I tell too many Thanksgiving jokes, but it’s hard to quit cold turkey.

Why do pilgrims’ pants always fall down?
Because they wear their buckles on their hats.

If a big turkey is called a gobbler, what is a little one called?
A goblet.

Why did the turkey cross the road?
He wanted people to think he was a chicken.

What do you call a sad cranberry?
A blue berry.

Did you hear about the turkey who wanted to be a prize fighter?
He got the stuffing knocked out of him.

Why is corn so popular on Thanksgiving?
Because it’s a-maize-ing!

What should you expect at the end of Thanksgiving?
The letter “g”.

And finally…

Why did the farmer separate the chicken and the turkey?
He suspected fowl play.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! See you next week.

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Another Daddy/Daughter Movie Review! Black Panther:Wakanda Forever

DAVE: Welcome to another Marvel Movie MonDAVE! As usual, I am joined by a guest reviewer, my 14 year old daughter Tessa…

TESSA: What’s up?

D: Um, hi. You’re a little early.

T: Sorry Dad, that’s my bad.

D: No worries. Anyway, we will be giving you our opinions on the newest Marvel movie, Black Panther:Wakanda Forever, and rating it on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest. I will, of course, be using a scale of 1-5 Dave’s, whereas Tessa (with a change up) will be using 1-5 slays.

T: Oh my gosh, it rhymes. I love that.

D: Quality stuff here folks. Also, we try to keep these reviews relatively spoiler free, but a few minor spoilers may occur. Okay, Tess, you’re up.

T: Since Chadwick Boseman, the actor who played the original Black Panther, died a couple of years ago, everyone was wondering how the sequel will be handled. The movie starts immediately with a very powerful scene, showing Shuri trying to save her brother from dying of an unmentioned illness, which she ultimately fails at. We get to see how Wakandans handle funerals, dressing in all white instead of all black, which I thought was very interesting. The audience gets to see the many ways Wakandans and individual characters deal with grief and mourning, and we see firsthand on multiple characters the effects of loss, specifically Nakia, Queen Ramonda, and Shuri. The main antagonist, Namor, also experiences loss, which turned him into what he is. This movie does a great job at showing how much losing somebody close to you can effect your mental health and who you are as a person.

D: Agreed. The emotions behind this film are very raw. Bring your tissue, you will probably need it.

While the theme of dealing with loss is prevalent, this movie is also about maturation, and in a weird way, about unity. Both family unity and societal unity are examined to different degrees. The journey of Shuri’s character may be front and center throughout this film, there’s plenty of sub text to chew on as well. Broken people and broken homes figure prominently in this story. This is one of the more character driven films in the Marvel canon, but in the best possible way.

That being said, it is still an action heavy Marvel movie. It feels much more like a traditional Marvel movie than the last few have, which isn’t a knock on the Phase 4 movies (most of which I have really enjoyed), but this serves as an excellent close to the current phase of films.

T: Another thing I wanted to mention was the acting. Obviously Letitia Wright (Shuri) and Angela Basset (Ramonda) were great, but Danai Gurira (Okoye) really stood out to me. Okoye also went through a really interesting character arc in this film, and I think Danai was really good at conveying that.

D: Oh yeah, pretty much everybody brought their A game, which is probably the best tribute they could have made to Chadwick Boseman. If the story had been there but the acting not, it wouldn’t have been nearly as touching.

There are only a few negatives I can give this film. One is that it’s a little long, but then it’s a Marvel so, duh, of course it is. I also think it gets a little bit clunky in the middle while changing between plot lines. These are minor complaints, however, because the acting, story and surprises are more than good enough to get you through.

Oh, and Martin Freeman returns as well, and that’s always a fun treat.

Okay, Tess. Final thoughts?

T: All in all, this movie conveyed a very deep message about life, loss, and love. It also introduced Ironheart, which was pretty cool. And the cut scene is super cool, as it usually is with Marvel movies. This is definitely one of my favorite movies from Phase 4, and I’m excited to see what the MCU has in store. I give it 4.5 slays. It slays the day away!

D: Cool. I agree. I give it 4.5 Daves. It Daves the day away!

T: No.

D: Slays the Dave Away?

T: Just stop.

D: Okay.

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An Acrostic for November That Those Of You Who Are Into Cross Stitch/Needle Point Will Want To Make A Sampler Of, I’ll Bet.

Now it starts getting dark early.

Oh yeah, and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it.

Very soon the temperatures will fall.

Embers from the bonfire will dance through the sky (or something poetic like that).

Movember is stupid. Stop it. Y’all look like poster boys for “Stranger Danger” and I don’t want my kids anywhere near you.

Boy, this is harder than I thought it would be.

Everyone is really more focused on Christmas anyway.

Really thought this was going to be a lot better. Sorry guys.

Come back next week when I promise to actually have something decent to write about. Please?

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A Traditional St. Louis Halloween

There is a Halloween tradition in the St. Louis area that requires trick or treaters to be prepared with a joke. I stress the St. Louis part because when mentioned to friends who aren’t from around here, they claim to have never heard of such a thing. Usually they say something like, “What? Really? Huh. Never heard of that. Why?” Well, I don’t actually know why, and I don’t think anyone else does either. It’s just a thing we do.

Here is a recreation of the usual scenario (with a little artistic license):

Kids: Trick Or Treat!

Homeowner: Hi kids, happy Halloween! What are you supposed to be?

Kid 1: I’m the latest Disney princess, like every other little girl you’ve seen tonight!

Kid 2: I’m some stupid cartoon character you’ve never heard of!

Kid 3: I’m dressed as a villain from a horror movie that I am way too young to have actually seen!

Kid 4: I dunno, a pirate clown alien or something. I’m too old for this, just make with the candy, dude.

Homeowner: Cool I guess. Got any jokes for me? That’s the game-you tell a joke, I pretend it’s funny and you get the sugar stick. Aaaaaannnnd go.

Kid 1: Why was the skeleton scared? ‘Cause he had no guts!

Homeowner: Ha! That’s cute, here you go sweetie.

Kid 2: Why do ghosts pick their nose? To get the boo-gers!

Homeowner: Gross. Here’s some candy for you, too.

Kid 3: How do you find Will Smith in the snow? You look for Fresh Prints.

Homeowner: Nice. Topical. Did your Dad give you that one? Alright here’s some for you. Next.

Kid 4: A guy walks into a bar and sees a small man playing a tiny piano…

Homeowner: Woah, hey, okay! Here’s yer candy, get outta here with that.

And scene.

That’s basically how it goes. Happy Halloween everyone. See you next week!

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Movie MonDAVEs: Halloween Edition 2022 (Part Four)

It’s October again, friends. It’s the time of year when all movie geeks turn their attention towards the macabre and creepy. Here on MonDAVEs we will be doing the same thing, though perhaps in a different way.

This month I shall be focusing on some of my favorite independent horror/sci fi B movies from the early to mid 1960s. These are films that fall outside of the studio system, made by a ragtag bunch of hopefuls with limited funds and resources, but fueled by the desire to make their own movie. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes…not so much. I will give equal time to both. Join me as I discuss the stories behind the films, and the movies themselves. Then, by all means, watch them for yourself…if you dare.

Part 4: Manos: The Hands Of Fate

Hoo boy.

I could actually leave it there, as that reaction pretty much sums up the entire Manos experience and tells you all you need to know. However, since I’ve brought you all along this far, let’s dig into what I and many others believe to be the Worst Movie Ever Made. This is not a movie to be watched, or even experienced, so much as survived.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate is the brainchild of its writer/director/star Hal P. Warren. I use all of those terms loosely. Warren was an insurance agent, and later fertilizer salesman from El Paso, TX who was also involved in local theater. He somehow got himself a walk on role on the popular television show Route 66. During this time, Warren met series writer Sterling Silliphant (brother of Alan Silliphant who wrote last week’s featured film The Creeping Terror) and placed a bet with Silliphant that “anyone could make a horror movie”, and got to work. To his credit, Warren actually did it. Exactly what he did is still open to interpretation, but it is a movie, and it is horrific, although not for the reasons intended. Warren even put his name in the credits using his own signature taking up most of the screen. He won the bet, but at what cost?

Judging from what’s on the screen, it cost about $3.75. But the cost of what it does to those who watch is much higher. Never will you want an hour of your life back like you will after watching this monstrosity. Yet, inexplicably, you will watch it to the end. Mostly because you can’t look away. Once your brain begins to be able to process the colossal ineptitude of what it is seeing, this movie becomes strangely fascinating. Like a train wreck, only worse.

As with most no budget-Z grade movies, technical issues abound. This movie was shot with 16 mm hand wound film cameras that shot only 35 seconds of film at a time. This leads to reaction shots in the movie that are excruciatingly and inappropriately long. It seems as though everything that happens (in as much as anything actually happens) does so at a snail’s pace, almost as though you have entered a different world where time itself moves differently. Which would be cool if it was intentional, but no.

Oh yes, and the cameras did not record sound either. So here we have another poorly dubbed film, featuring one woman for all the female characters, and two, maybe three men. Which means that pretty much everyone sounds the same. Even the little girl, Debbie, sounds like a fifty year old woman trying to sound like a child. Apparently, at the movie’s premier (yes, they had one), when the young girl heard the voice coming through the speakers she cried. Way to go, Hal P. Warren!

Okay, so let’s go through this movie and examine its sublime awfulness as we do.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate begins with a typical 1960s family including a slightly domineering father, a wife who is incapable of doing anything without her husband, and an annoying child daughter, with a stupid little yappy dog who doesn’t yap due to the lack of sound. They are off on their first family vacation headed to someplace called Valley Lodge. We, the viewers, are treated to seemingly endless shots of Texas farmland, followed by Texas desert. These shots were intended to feature the opening credits over them, but they either ran out of money for credits or they just plain forgot to place them in. Therefore, the movie starts mostly with scenery for about nine minutes. The only credit we get is the title card, which reads as “Manos” The Hands Of Fate as though it’s a quote for some reason. Also, interestingly enough, the word “manos” translates into “hands” in Spanish so the movie’s title is actually Hands: The Hands Of Fate. Already brutal, but we’re just getting started.

While our family is lost in the desert, there is a scene featuring two young people making out along the side of the road, who are chased off by the local police. This happens more than once in this film. The reasoning behind this mostly non-sequiter of a scene is because the actress involved was supposed to have a bigger role but broke her foot so they wrote this scene for her. Which was nice, I guess, but still feels unnecessary. Eagle eyed viewers will notice the clapperboard in view at the beginning of this shot, which is the best part of the scene itself.

Soon, the family comes upon an old house. They decide to stop and get directions. Here we meet Torgo, a sweaty satyr-like man who twitches a lot, has two sets of eyebrows for some reason, and “looks after the place while the Master is away”. He is the only interesting character. Unfortunately, John Reynolds who plays Torgo had a bad life, and was “self medicating” on set, with LSD apparently, which explains the twitching. Sadly he would commit suicide a few weeks before the movie premiered. This was his only filmed role. While that sad fact does take away from the unintentional hilarity of the character, he is still a bizarre and, dare I say, the iconic presence of the piece.

So anyway, after Torgo tells Mike (the dad) that he knows of no such place as Valley Lodge, Mike basically bullies his way into an invitation to stay the night. Without the Master’s direct permission, mind you, and against Torgo’s warnings. The couple are freaked out by a painting of the Master with a Doberman/demon dog, and the many statues of hands all over the sparsely decorated house. Foreshadowing. Kinda. I guess.

At some point yappy dog runs off to investigate a wolf howl (I think) and Mike finds el doggo dead. Debbie the daughter goes missing at some point and comes back in with the dog from the painting. Oh, and in between all this Torgo creeps on the wife, who refuses his advances because, duh, but she does not share this info because Torgo kind of apologizes and promises to protect her. He doesn’t explain what from, but he did promise so that’s good enough, I guess.

Here’s where things start to pick up a little (not much). Debbie leads the family out to what appears to be a crypt or tomb or alter or I don’t know what, where the Master is dead/sleeping, surrounded by his many wives, tied to poles, doing the same. The family finally decide to try to leave. Torgo shows up again, claiming that the Master has too many wives, and he wants this new one (the mom) for himself. He declares his disgust for all the dead/sleepers but still pervs on one of the wives for good measure. He then knocks Mike out in order to proceed with his plans.

Anyhoo, ’round about this time the Master wakes up. He looks a bit like Freddie Mercury on a bad day, and wears a robe with hands sewn into it which is so laughably awful it kind of makes you want one. Turns out he is the leader of a cult who worship an unseen and underexplained diety called Manos. According to The Master, Manos is kinda pissed off, and demands a sacrifice. Also Manos decrees that the Master must gain another wife, because of course he should. This leads the wives (the only other members of the cult to my knowledge) to argue among themselves about the fate of the family. This, in turn, leads to the most unerotic and boring catfight ever captured on film.

The Master goes off in search of Torgo, who has “failed us” and uses the hands of fate to doom him. Then the cultists all go looking for the family (even poor Torgo) who have managed to run away because their car, naturally, won’t start. Of course the family don’t make it far before they get the brilliant idea of going back to the house, because, well, surely that’s the last place the cultists will look.

After this, the movie gets weird. I won’t go any further so I don’t spoil it for you, but I will say that the hands of fate do move for not only our family, but the wives, and Torgo too. We are left with a twist ending of sorts, and the always classic “The End?” title card. You know, looking at this synopsis, one might think that it’s an interesting, fun little movie, and it would be if made by people who had a budget and knew what the hell they were doing. As it stands though, this movie is more excruciating than anything else.

Manos was saved from obscurity (where it belongs) by television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1992 when they aired their own version mocking the film. This turned it from a torturous oddity into a hilariously torturous oddity and guaranteed the film cult status for years to come. I would definitely recommend viewing that version, especially if you are a newcomer, as it is one of the show’s best episodes and it makes the movie almost bearable.

As I have stated, the movie is a total train wreck, but one you can’t turn away from. There’s just something about it that’s so…pure. It is definitely unique, and like nothing before or since. Manos: The Hands Of Fate has inspired both a prequel (skip it) and a sequel (worth a watch I guess), a video game (!), and quite a bit of official and unofficial merchandise. It has become a legendarily bad film, and in its own way, beloved for it.

So I guess Hal P. Warren really did do it. He stumbled into greatness, in the most unexpected and ridiculous way possible. Which is why I love B-movies (even, begrudgingly, this one) and why I did this series on my blog. Thanks for indulging me.

You know, when I planned this series of posts out, I didn’t realize that Halloween fell on a Monday this year and I only prepared to discuss four movies. So what do I do next? Do I wrap this all up somehow? Go on to something new? I have no idea. Come back next week and be as surprised as I am when you read the next edition of MonDAVEs!

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Movie MonDAVEs: Halloween Edition 2022 (Part Three)

It’s October again, friends. It’s the time of year when all movie geeks turn their attention towards the macabre and creepy. Here on MonDAVEs we will be doing the same thing, though perhaps in a different way.

This month I shall be focusing on some of my favorite independent horror/sci fi B movies from the early to mid 1960s. These are films that fall outside of the studio system, made by a ragtag bunch of hopefuls with limited funds and resources, but fueled by the desire to make their own movie. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes…not so much. I will give equal time to both. Join me as I discuss the stories behind the films, and the movies themselves. Then, by all means, watch them for yourself…if you dare.

Part Three: The Creeping Terror (1964)

So far in this series, I have shared stories of directors and amateur film makers succeeding beyond their means to make interesting, quality films. This time, I’ll be examining a two bit hustler who made an absolute mess that stands tall as a cult classic film that is unintentionally hilarious and the very definition of the “so bad it’s good” idea that all B-movie aficionados love. Let’s dig into the making of the movie first, and then we’ll get into digging the movie. It’s pretty wild, y’all. Buckle in.

At the center of the story of the making of The Creeping Terror is a man named Alan N. White, although he worked under several aliases during his “career”, most notably Arthur (A.J.) Nelson, and Vic Savage which, admittedly, is a pretty cool stage name. Unfortunately that’s about the only cool thing about the guy. According to all sources, he was a two bit criminal involved in pretty much any crime or scheme you can imagine. I won’t go into detail here, only what is necessary for the tale of the film. Let’s just say that the man was a crooked hustler, and used his abilities in this field to make his monster movie.

Nelson enlisted aspiring screenwriter Alan Silliphant (brother of successful screenwriter Sterling Silliphant) to write the script. Alan turned in a parody of a Hollywood monster movie set in Lake Tahoe. Nelson was either too thick to understand this, or too inept to make it happen. The shooting location was changed to the Spahn Ranch (which would later become base of operations for Charles Manson) in Los Angeles County, and the massive Lake Tahoe replaced by a small pond. Nelson also shot the film as a straight up monster movie. After seeing the changes made and witnessing some of what he called the “remarkably rinky-dink” production, Silliphant exited the production in an attempt to at least somewhat save his reputation. This fact alone makes him the single smartest person involved with this movie.

As is the case with all B-movies, the cast was filled with mostly unknowns, in fact, Nelson offered parts to local business persons in exchange for a small investment in the film. The story goes that Nelson would shoot the same scene multiple times, often with no film in the camera while the investors were doing their parts, thus keeping up the ruse and being able to pocket their money, knowing full well these “performances” would never see the light of day. To the best of my knowledge, this was the original “pay to play” scam that so many aspiring performers are victims of today.

Most of the financing came from the only actor in the film who wasn’t someone’s girlfriend (or a wannabe with deep enough pockets), a certain Mr. William Thourlby, a model, actor, Marlboro Man, and future consultant to President Nixon. Taken in by the movie’s star Vic Savage (that’s Nelson again) and his passion for the project, Thourlby was convinced to write a fairly substantial check to help make the film. Where this money all went is unclear-certainly it was not used on the film. Most likely it was squandered away on Nelson’s drug habit and whatever other side hustles he had going on at the time.

Now, a monster movie needs a monster, right? Okay. Enter Jon Lackey, a known illustrator/sculptor/writer to build the beast. What he imagined was a lumbering slug like creature with tentacles that had eyes on the ends, and a gaping maw that could swallow people whole. With a proper budget this could have been quite the creepy creature, and many an artist would later have fun trying to flesh out the original vision. A few mouse clicks will show that the internet is full of interesting interpretations of the monster. In the finished film however, what we get is hands-down the most laughably ridiculous monster ever made. The neck/head is phallic looking, while its tentacles are clearly old springs, and the construction of the monster seems to be a shag carpet base with a…throw rug on top of a…tarp, maybe? It is clearly operated by a few teenagers walking in a bent over position and pulling victims into the maw by hand. Oh, and that maw? It looks disturbingly like a different orifice. I’ll let you decide for yourself what that may be.

But wait, there’s more! Most of the action in the movie relies on the monster roaming the countryside and devouring people. Mostly ladies in short skirts, which happens a lot, and probably says more about Nelson/Savage than any documentary ever could. Anyway, at one point during the production, the monster disappeared. Vanished. Gone. When inquiries were made, Lackey simply stated, “He’s in hiding. He’s not going to work until he gets paid.” Not to be deterred, Nelson just built a new monster, albeit an even sillier looking version which is actually kind of impressive when you think about it. Making the stupidest looking monster in film history look even worse? that’s quite an achievement.

The music for The Creeping Terror was composed by Frederic Kopp, a music professor at Los Angeles State College. All things considered, it’s a pretty decent score. Kopp provided $6000.00 of the film’s budget, and later would file a lawsuit against Nelson for “fraud and deceit”. He won, although Nelson was conspicuously absent from the trial.

Which makes sense, because before the film was completed, Nelson himself would make like the monster and disappear. Vanished. Gone. This happened during a break in the shooting. Convinced something was wrong, Thourlby (remember him?) went to Nelson’s house looking for his director. He found no trace of the man, but he did find a crew repossessing the furniture. Thourlby also managed to find what was left of the footage from The Creeping Terror and rescued it.

Upon watching the footage he realized that the film had been shot with little or no sound. Most scenes had no sound, and what was in place was minimal. No soundtrack reels were ever found, so to try and save something of his investment, Thourlby took it upon himself to piece together whatever he could from the footage. The gaping holes in sound required there to be dubbing by any of the actors available to do so, and large chunks of narration had to be included to fill in gaps in the story and explain what was happening onscreen. A valiant effort all around, but nothing could save this movie.

The Creeping Terror may have been screened in the 1960’s at drive ins and cheap matinees (I’m not actually sure), but was sold to television in the 1980s and began to appear on video once it fell into the public domain. Though its profile was raised considerably by an appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Creeping Terror has mostly labored in obscurity and grown into legendary myth like proportions as the “man eating carpet” movie, known mostly to those who actively seek it out, or stumble into it by mistake.

Arthur Nelson/Vic Savage never made another film, and basically fell off the face of the Earth. Some sources say he went back to his birth name (Alan White), and died of kidney failure in Kansas in 1975. Others posit that his sordid past finally caught up with him and he sleeps with the fishes after crossing the wrong people. I don’t know which is correct, or if either is.

All right, so there’s your backstory. As for the movie itself…I love it. It is truly, laughably, inconceivably awful in all the right ways. You can’t help but giggle at the ridiculousness of the monster, and the fact that none of its victims put up much of a fight-in fact some of them appear to be climbing into it. The constant narration is just a spectacularly weird touch, and the voice looping? I’ve seen Kung Fu movies from the 1970s that felt more accurate. I mean, the fact that the actors have to slide under the spaceship to enter it because they couldn’t afford a door

Whaddya mean, “what spaceship?”…oh, right I forgot to tell you the plot. Um, aliens. Small town gets invaded and eaten. Police, military, and scientists try to stop it. That’s basically it. You know what? The plot doesn’t matter. You don’t watch this film for the plot, you watch for the cheese factor. You watch because it makes Ed Wood movies feel like Spielberg epics. You watch The Creeping Terror out of sheer curiosity because it is often cited as the worst film ever made. In fact for many years I believed it to be the world’s worst movie myself.

Until I saw next week’s feature. See you next Monday at the Valley Lodge!

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Movie MonDAVEs: Halloween Edition (Part Two)

It’s October again, friends. It’s the time of year when all movie geeks turn their attention towards the macabre and creepy. Here on MonDAVEs we will be doing the same thing, though perhaps in a different way.

This month I shall be focusing on some of my favorite independent horror/sci fi B movies from the early to mid 1960s. These are films that fall outside of the studio system, made by a ragtag bunch of hopefuls with limited funds and resources, but fueled by the desire to make their own movie. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes…not so much. I will give equal time to both. Join me as I discuss the stories behind the films, and the movies themselves. Then, by all means, watch them for yourself…if you dare.

Part Two: Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Last week I mentioned that one could pretty much draw a direct line between Carnival Of Souls and this movie. Not only do they have similarities behind the scenes, but on the screen as well. While I don’t know that the filmmakers of Night ever actually saw Souls, the resemblances are uncanny. If the intent however was to take the tropes of Carnival Of Souls and explode them into an all new (and better) thing, then mission accomplished. Now, let’s draw that line, and then we’ll discuss the film.

Stop me if this sounds familiar. Night Of The Living Dead was directed by George A. Romero, who worked as a director for Latent Image, a small company in Pittsburgh that made commercials. He co wrote the script with John Russo, and made the film with friends and colleagues from the business, local actors, and even some local townspeople, as they set about filming in rural Pennsylvania. Armed with a budget of $114,000, and 16mm black and white film, Romero and crew used their skills to make the most out of their limitations. Boy, did they ever.

Apart from their similar beginnings, both movies share similar tropes. Both films are shot in black and white. Both have a genuinely creepy atmosphere. Both movies are actually helped by not having anyone famous in the cast, and even their occasional amateurish moments somehow seem to help each film’s overall tone rather than hurt it. Both movies begin with a damsel in distress scenario, and feature a theme of alienation throughout, with a similarly bleak viewpoint. Finally, each film features ghouls (who look nearly identical, by the way) as their main antagonists.

That’s right, “ghouls”. While Night Of The Living Dead is widely considered the template for modern zombie movies, the word “zombie” is never used in the movie. That terminology came later. When Romero made his movie, zombies were still the product of Haitian folklore, and were brought to life by voodoo magic, mostly acting as slaves to the one who gave them life. In 1968, the main reference would have been the Bela Lugosi film White Zombie from 1932, which is still widely available but, fair warning, doesn’t play well here in 2022. As for how the creatures in Night went from “ghouls” or “things” to “zombies” I don’t have a clue.

Anyway. Clearly the initial images and ideas were all there for the taking, so much so that it has been stated that Carnival Of Souls is Night Of The Living Dead, only done five years earlier. This is an oversimplification, of course, but it certainly bears examination. In fact, I think the two films would make for a terrific double feature. The main difference, though is that while Herk Harvey’s film is an interesting, thoughtful, moody little film beloved by those who seek it, Romero’s film is a stone cold classic that redefined a genre, and still has influence on film makers today.

For those who may be unfamiliar (is anyone really?), Night Of The Living Dead is the story of a group of individuals who, through different circumstances, find themselves taking refuge in a farmhouse from a horde of flesh eating ghouls. As their plight becomes more and more precarious outside the farmhouse, tensions rise inside as well. The group must find a way to rely on their own cunning, strength, and sense of order and decorum to survive not only the attacking flesh eaters, but also one another.

That’s where the film really succeeds, in that it’s not just another horror movie. It could certainly be viewed through that lens if one desired. The tension amps up regularly throughout the movie as we wait to learn the fate of our heroes. The subject matter is grisly, and the filmmakers make sure we do not forget that. The gore level is fairly miniscule compared to today’s offerings, but it is handled here in a way that makes it very effective, especially in stark black and white. In fact, the black and white look and the decision to present most of the feature in real time makes the film feel almost like a documentary-one that you shouldn’t be watching. All these things line up together to make a harrowing night at the movies, and if that’s all you’re looking for, then there’s enough here to satisfy.

However, there’s so much more to this movie. You see, it’s not really about a zombie attack. I mean it is, but not totally. There are plenty of themes tackled within this story. This is a film about power and control. It’s about how we act as people when faced with extraordinary circumstances. It is a study, and an indictment, of the failings of late 60’s political and moral structure (which, let’s face it, is pretty similar to what we’re dealing with now) especially when it comes to the oppressed. Night also deals with the crumbling of the family unit. Most famously, it is also a movie about race relations, although accidentally.

The main protagonist in this story is a character called Ben, and he is an African American gentleman (played by the late Duane Jones) who finds himself in charge of what happens to the group, while being at loggerheads with the group itself. Interestingly enough, Ben’s character was written as Caucasian, it’s just that Jones was the best actor for the role, therefore he was cast. No racial commentary was intended at the time, but casting an African American hero, especially in 1968, gave the movie racial undertones all the same. Considering how the movie unfolds, it wound up bringing more power and chilling effect to the movie than it ever could have had otherwise.

These facets are all there, though not focused upon in the story. It is up to the viewer to consider the many layers and sub texts involved and figure out for themselves what it all means and what is really being said. One personal observation, though. Most horror movies, especially ones from this time period, offer solutions in the hope of normality. That is to say that the monster is killed (seemingly anyway) and the survivors can get back to their normal lives, normal in this case being the traditional, conservative, all-American “Mom, hot dogs, and apple pie” way of life. With the understanding of its subtext, Night Of The Living Dead posits that these things are all broken, and even if you survive the attacks there’s no normal to go back to. And that may be the most frightening thing of all.

Okay, so far in this series we have looked at B movies that, against the odds, have succeeded. One is a very good, over achieving think piece, and one a touchstone of both modern horror and pop culture at large. But what happens when things don’t go so right? We’ll examine that next week when we look at a film with a shady director, and a shag carpeted beast that is sure to induce nightmares for absolutely no-one. It’ll be fun. Join me, won’t you?

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Movie MonDAVEs: Halloween Edition 2022 (Part One)

It’s October again, friends. It’s the time of year when all movie geeks turn their attention towards the macabre and creepy. Here on MonDAVEs we will be doing the same thing, though perhaps in a different way.

This month I shall be focusing on some of my favorite independent horror/sci fi B movies from the early to mid 1960s. These are films that fall outside of the studio system, made by a ragtag bunch of hopefuls with limited funds and resources, but fueled by the desire to make their own movie. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes…not so much. I will give equal time to both. Join me as I discuss the stories behind the films, and the movies themselves. Then, by all means, watch them for yourself…if you dare.

PART ONE: CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962)

Carnival Of Souls has become a cult classic, though it was virtually ignored upon its release and was kept alive (barely) by late night television. It has since been praised for not only its Twilight Zone-ish storyline, but the acting, cinematography, and unique soundtrack.

As per usual with these types of films, the story behind the movie is almost as interesting as the movie itself. The film was directed by a gentleman named Herk Harvey, who sparked the whole idea off when, while driving through Salt Lake City on the way to Kansas, passed an old, run down pavilion on the shore of the lake and decided that it would be a great location to shoot.

Herk Harvey worked at a production company in Kansas called Centron, which made industrial films for schools and corporations. He began discussing the idea with colleague John Clifford and before you know it, the two had a script, and were ready to begin. Filming was completed in three weeks in both Lawrence, Kansas, and Salt Lake City, Utah with Herk Harvey directing. Shot for a budget of $30,000, Harvey used his skills to make the most out of his limitations.

The cast consists of newcomers and amateur actors, notably Candace Hilligoss as our heroine, Mary, Sidney Berger as shady guy next door John Linden, Stan Levitt as the stoic Dr. Samuels, Frances Feist as housekeeper Mrs. Thomas, and ol’ Herk himself as a ghoulish figure known in the script simply as The Man. While the cast may not be world class names, they are better than one would find in most low budget features, and in this particular film, any odd performances merely add to the otherworldliness of the proceedings.

And now for the movie itself. Carnival Of Souls tells the story of Mary Henry, who mysteriously survives an automobile accident. She moves to Utah to take a job as a church organist. Upon arrival, Mary finds it increasingly difficult to relate to the locals, and begins to have peculiar visions of a man that seems to follow her everywhere she goes. She begins to have strange feelings of isolation accompanied by hallucinations, and starts to question what is real. All the while, Mary is inexplicably drawn to an abandoned carnival on the outskirts of town, which she is sure will provide the answers to what is going on in her waking nightmare.

Watching this movie is an interesting experience. The movie feels very much like a German expressionist film, wrapped up in horror movie packaging. It is a film that relies more on an eerie feeling than straight out scares (though there are a few). The viewer is kind of swept away into an intriguing, dream like world that is harshly beautiful yet full of dread. The fact that the movie is shot in black and white only adds to this effect.

One of the key parts of the film’s atmosphere is its soundtrack. The movie is almost exclusively scored by the organ. It is odd and unsettling, but it works well and it never gets tiresome. In fact, the instrument plays a large part in Mary’s story and one of the film’s most effective scenes involves her playing in church and getting lost in a playing a piece that starts off as a standard hymn and becomes more deranged as it continues. The combination of eerie visuals and music that is at once both beautiful and unsettling gives this movie a very unique feel.

Carnival Of Souls is a horror movie, but it is also an artistic movie. It is about the thin line between the natural and the supernatural, between the waking world and the dream world, between life and death. It is not a perfect movie. There are some technical hiccups along the way and a few questionable decisions in the storytelling, yet these flaws seem to add to the horror overall, and not detract from it as happens with so many other low budget scary movies.

Herk Harvey wound up making a film for the ages, and it’s too bad that this is his only feature. It seems a shame that his talent was used in industrial shorts instead of giving us a full catalogue of cinematic treats. The same can be said of the principal cast as well. There’s no reason why Candace Hilligoss couldn’t have gone on to bigger and better things and been at the very least a B movie Queen, if not a full fledged star. As for Sidney Berger, he should have rightfully been one of those “that guy” actors that fill so many of our favorite films. Although I say it’s a shame that these folks never went on to any other films of note, it does sort of add to the creepiness of watching Carnival Of Souls, knowing that you may never actually see these people again.

Apart from being a bona-fide cult classic, Carnival Of Souls has gone on to influence may other artists, from having its dialogue sampled by musicians to directly inspiring directors like David Lynch and George A. Romero. In fact, you can almost draw a direct line from Carnival Of Souls to Night Of The Living Dead. Almost.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

See you next week for Halloween Movie MonDAVEs part two.

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These Sodas Are Rank(ed)!

Anyone who has ben paying attention over the past few years will have realized that Zero Sugar sodas have become all the rage. The so called “diet colas” have more or less been replaced by these new soft drinks on grocery and convenience store shelves all across America. Upon first glance, this would seem to be a healthier, or, at least a less-bad-for-you alternative to the regular drinks we all know and love. But is it a scam?

Very probably. Diet soda was a scam, so why shouldn’t this be one too? However, this is not the focus of the blog post today. Let’s face it, Americans love our sodas, and if this is a way we can fool ourselves into thinking we are making a better decision for bodies, then this is a scam we’re going to fall for willingly. I know I’m on board.

The real question is, “Are these sodas any good?”, and that is what I am going to attempt to answer here today. Taste is subjective of course, but for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that my opinions are unequivocally correct.

For this experiment, we are sticking only to the major national brands and to the original flavors only. So no cherry, cream, or berry flavors will be included. I am also not going to get into specialty sodas, small batch, or anything like that. I am purposefully keeping it simple.

Okay, so here’s the rundown on the sodas I have personally tasted. It should be noted that all zero sugar sodas have a bit of an aftertaste, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Therefore, aftertaste is not part of the equation.

DAVE RANKS ZERO SUGAR SODAS

8. Mountain Dew Zero:
Actually, I haven’t tried this one. Sorry. I am just offended by its existence. Nobody has ever drank a Mountain Dew in any situation in which they have even remotely been thinking about their health. This is a stupid product that deserves to be dead last.

7. Gold Peak Zero Sugar Sweet Tea:
Come on, Gold Peak, you’re cheating here. This is pretty much the same thing you make at home with Sweet & Low or Splenda or whatever. Look, it actually tastes really good, and I like it, but I can make it myself so it’s back towards the bottom of the list for you.

6. Sprite/7 Up/Sierra Mist Zero:
So, these sodas are all more or less the same anyway (I know, I know, let it go) and they already don’t have caffeine so I just kind of find this to be a fairly useless idea. They’re okay, I suppose, but it just tastes like watered down versions of clear soda. You may as well drink water. Or sparkling water, which is gross, so…meh.

5. Orange Fanta/Sunkist Zero:
Why? Why with this? Both sodas have no caffeine and no sugar. I suppose it’s all right if you have a kid who loves orange sodas but gets a little too hopped up on it and just goes nuts, then yeah, maybe. Otherwise? No. Still, I suppose it’s nice to have a change up in the sugar free soda department now and again so these guys just barely beat out the clear sodas in my ranking. Barely.

4. A&W Zero Root Beer:
I love a good root beer, and when I heard about the A&W I approached it with cautious optimism. It’s okay. Kinda feels like somebody didn’t close the cap properly on a two liter. So it tastes a little flat, even though it’s not. If you’re jonesing for some root beer and need the zero sugar option, it’ll do.

3. Coca Cola Zero:
This kind of surprised me, that of the big three Coke would take third place. I have been a regular Coke drinker for ages, so I expected it to be really good. Turns out it’s just pretty good. They did change the formula a while back to make it taste more like Coke Classic (with nary a Max Headroom sighting to be found!), and that did help quite a bit. It’s good, I like it, and I reach for it often, but it just falls a little short.

2. Pepsi Zero:
Again, a surprise for me, because I have always preferred Coke over Pepsi, but Pepsi just got it right here, man. Their zero version tastes a lot more like Pepsi than Coke’s tastes like Coke. My objection to Pepsi was always that it tasted a little too sweet. Yet they have pretty much managed to mimic that sweetness in the sugar free version. I still don’t buy Pepsi very often, but I have voluntarily had more Pepsi Zero sodas over the past couple of years than I ever drank of the original, so that says something.

  1. Dr. Pepper Zero:
    Admittedly, I am a bit biased here. Dr. Pepper is my favorite soda, but I know a lot of people don’t like it. I get that, it’s not for everyone. However, I truly believe that Dr. Pepper has come closest to making their Zero version taste more like their original flavor than any of their competitors. I’d take them to task if not, trust me. If you used to be a Pepper, but you haven’t been for a while due to giving up sugar, don’t be afraid to try this out. It’s good.

Well, that just about wraps it up for this week. Do you agree with my findings or am I way off? Is there a different flavor I should explore, or a major player in the game that I missed? Let me know in the comments. Just keep it cool and play nice while you’re posting.

See you next week for more MonDAVEs, friends, when I’ll start the October spooky stuff. Bye for now!

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Fab!

Hey everybody, let me tell you about a podcast I have become involved with.

I have mentioned before that my brother, Derek, has a podcast he calls “Empty Checking”, in which he talks about various music/books/blu-rays, etc. that he has recently purchased, thereby leaving him with an empty checking account. It’s a fun listen. I have come on a few times in the past as a guest, but recently my role has expanded.

I have become a fairly regular guest for a special group of episodes entitled The Fab 15. Or Fifteen, if you prefer. It doesn’t really mater. Anyway, the idea is that it’s a list show where we pick a topic and we both independently make lists of our favorite fifteen things about said topic, then we share our lists and try to come up with an agreed upon “Fab Fifteen”. “Fab” meaning “Fabulous” of course.

So far, the topics for the Fab 15 have been as follows: Beatles songs, Soundtrack Albums, Summer Songs, Movies of 1989, and Queen (the band) songs. These episodes have been a lot of fun to do, and from what I am led to understand they have been quite popular with the listeners. Therefore I would like to share them with the MonDAVE readership who may not have been aware of their existence.

Do me a favor and check out an episode or two when you get a moment. If you enjoy them, drop me a message and let me know, or message the podcast itself through its webpage. Then share it with others. Who knows, maybe we can get this up and running and make it into a permanent thing. If that happens, I will surely let you all know. If it doesn’t, we’re going to keep doing them anyway because it’s fun. Either way it’s a win for us.

I’ve included some links below so you can check it out nice and easy from right here on the ol’ blog page. If you like what you hear, why not go ahead and subscribe to the Empty Checking podcast? That way you won’t miss a show, and you get to hear all the other cool stuff my brother does too.

Thanks in advance for clicking and listening. I’ll be back next week with more stuff.

Empty Checking Fab 15 Links:

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-121-the-fab-15-beatles-songs/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-124-fab-15-movie-soundtracks/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-127-fab-15-summer-songs/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-131-the-fab-15-movies-of-1989/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/epidofe-132-the-fab-fift-queen/

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Thoughts On HRH

Like many around the world, I have been thinking quite a bit about the passing of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II over the past few days. Being an American, the actions of the Royal Family have minimal effect on my day to day life, but I must confess that I have a bit more than a passing interest in what goes on in the United Kingdom.

Firstly, I do try to keep up with major world events, even if it’s just to go online and skim the headlines. When I do watch reported news I usually find myself watching PBS shows, and the BBC World Service that follows. I even have BBC News programmed into my Sirius XM satellite radio presets. As you can imagine, the news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing has taken up the majority of air time this week.

Secondly, I am a bit of an Anglophile. Which means that I’m one of those annoying Americans who likes to watch British movies and television shows, listen to British rock bands, read Nick Hornby books, subscribe to the “Lost In The Pond” YouTube channel, and feel like I know a little bit about how things work over in England specifically, and the U.K. at large. It is admittedly a narrow and possibly skewed view, but one I am always eager to expand nonetheless.

This is also how I have formed my image of the Queen. I have seen her lampooned on a few comedy shows, and critiqued, vilified, and ridiculed in punk rock music. I have also seen her staunchly defended, idolized, and loved by her subjects. Sometimes, the very same people who are the loudest naysayers are also quick to claim that they like the Royal Family just fine, really.

So how to process all this? Well, it seems to me that one has to look at the person more than the title. Having never had a sovereign in my lifetime I can’t pretend to know what that experience is like or how it affects one’s life. We do have career politicians over here though, but that’s not exactly the same thing. All I can do then, is try to be as objective as possible when considering the death of the Queen and what it means.

Look, all governments do bad things. All of them. Sometimes they are done in what they truly believe is for the good of the country, sometimes not. It seems to me that in modern times, the Queen’s role was more of a mediator, or an influencer than one of any real practical power. As I understand it, most of the political power lies in Parliament and not with the Queen.

Can blame be put at her feet for some of the atrocities committed during the early years of her reign, particularly since most of these offences were begun before she officially took power? Yes, to a degree, but how many world leaders have hands that are not stained red in some way?

As far as the Royal Family itself goes, yeah, there have been some problems. The Queen did not get along with her daughter in law Lady Diana, or her granddaughter in law, Duchess Meghan. That is unfortunate, and it happens. It’s just that in this case, it happened while the world’s eyes were watching. Besides, us normal folk love to watch the drama unfold and we love to sit in judgement of those who are considered “better” or “more special” than we are. We shouldn’t be that way, but we are.

Now, this is the part where I can hear many of you yelling at your screens about classism or racism being the culprit in these particular family feuds. Maybe you’re right, I don’t know. None of us do. Perhaps it was all just multiple generations clashing. Any article you read on these subjects is likely to be highly biased in either direction and as the band Extreme said in the early 90’s, “there are three sided to every story: Yours, Mine, and Monday Morning’s.” All families bicker and fight. All families have at least one or two people that everyone else gossips about and are looked down upon in private. trouble is, when you are a Royal there is no privacy.

Which brings us to the ugly story of Prince Andrew. He’s been a very naughty man. He got caught. Look, I’m not going to go into details here, I try to keep things clean around here. Google it if you don’t know, but be warned, it’s not pretty.

Of course you can’t hold one man’s actions against the rest of the family, but you can blame the privilege his position allows. He was stripped of his rank within the Royal Family, but it took a little too long to do so. Theory states that Elizabeth was the one allowing him to stay. Perhaps. If so, then yes, she was wrong, but she did do the right thing eventually. Let’s face it though, folks, it’s hard to find out someone you love is up to some shady stuff-and I can understand why they didn’t want that info getting out. It’s a difficult situation, and one I hope to never find anyone from my family in-and I hope the same for yours too.

I do wonder about the future of the Royals. Things seem to be splintering apart. The case can certainly be made that the monarchy is an antiquated idea that has no room in the modern world, and that the money spent on Royal things could do greater good for the working classes and the poor than to be spent on pageantry. These are worthwhile points of discussion, but they are ones best left for Britain to decide for itself. A lot of Americans have an opinion, though, and there is probably just as much Anti-Royal sentiment as there is Pro.

Which I really don’t understand. As Americans we really don’t really have a say. Well, not for a few hundred years, we haven’t. Besides, we’re all still trying to figure out what’s going on with our own rich family with political power to worry about anyone else right now.

So with all that said, I can say that I am sorry to see her go. Queen Elizabeth was thrown into power at an early age, before she should have been, really. She has seen the world change immensely during her reign. As a figurehead she has needed to steer England from the “stiff upper lip” attitude of old to a more modernized, humanitarian era. She wasn’t perfect, but I think she did extraordinarily well all things considered. She presented herself with a certain stoic grace, but always seemed to let her humanity show through. Her life and her lot were certainly not easy. Through all the negatives however, I have heard countless stories of people who encountered the Queen and were treated not like inferior subjects, but like people. Queen Elizabeth made the people she encountered feel like she cared. That quality alone makes for a great leader, figurehead or otherwise.

May she rest in peace.

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Do You Want To Hear About Sunday Morning?

Okay, so we’re sitting in church on Sunday, like you do, and the sermon is well underway. This is a church that is new to us, but more on that in another post. Anyway, my son Pat suddenly begins making a noise. It’s sort of a gasping, repeated, quick-inhaling kind of a noise. Now, he’s a bit of a sensitive boy, and the sermon was about cultivating relationships with other people through their, and possibly our own, loneliness. This is a topic that could very easily hit home with the boy due to his own social awkwardness. Dad mode activates, and I check on his well being, believing that he might be starting to cry.

“You okay son?”

“Yeah, I just thought of something funny.”

“Well get it together, dude.”

Dude did not get it together.

He continued his silent, barely-keeping-it-together laughing fit, for a little bit too long. Long enough that his older sister, sitting next to him also became concerned, and also assumed him to be crying. She made a sympathetic sad face and held his hand. Which made him laugh even harder, and threatened to make me laugh as well.

At this point, it’s getting uncomfortable for yours truly. People in other pews are starting to notice. Now I have to take action. It is a well known fact to pretty much all mankind that once a laughing fit starts, it is nearly impossible to stop, especially when one is in a situation where one is not supposed to be laughing. Like a school lecture, or, say, a church you’ve just started attending, are still feeling out, and you are trying to make a good impression.

The only thing left to do was ride it out, so I put my arm around the boy, looking every bit like the consoling Dad, pulled him in close and let him laugh it out into my chest. Anyone observing would have thought I was whispering something loving into his ear, like “It’s okay, buddy. We can talk about this later if you want. Let it out.” But I was really all like, “Come on man, focus, this is ridiculous. You’re missing good stuff here, pay attention.”

With the fit over, we made it through to the end of the service with no other issues. Until, on the way out of the worship center, Pat asked big sister Tessa why she took his hand. She said something about how she was concerned about him since he was crying so much. She’s got a good heart, she does. Then he told her that he wasn’t crying, but laughing.

“WHAT? I was so worried. I held your hand, man! I thought you were GOING THROUGH IT!” She was appalled. Which started the laughing all over again.

And that is how my family makes an impression on a new church.

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For Your Late Summer Vieweing Pleasure

Summer is beginning to wind down, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this sooner, but I think it’s time we talk about Summertime movies. Not blockbusters necessarily, but movies that are either about or related to the Summer season. There’s still time to view a few of these before the weather turns, with the upcoming Labor Day holiday being an excellent chance to do so. Or, hey, save a few to watch in the middle of Winter when it’s freezing, dark, and miserable and you’re missing the Summer vibes. Kinda like watching “A Christmas Story” on July 25th.

Anyway, here’s a list featuring some of my favorite Summer flicks. These aren’t presented in any real order here, just as they roll off the top of my noggin. That’s the way things go here at MonDaves! Let’s have at it.

  1. Meatballs:
    I pretty much have to watch this one every year. For those who may be unfamiliar, it’s a Summer Camp comedy from the late 1970’s featuring Bill Murray and a full collection of young Canadian talent. This was made back in the days before PG-13 was a thing, so it’s a bit stronger than the rating would have you think. There are a few problematic moments by today’s standards, but I think the spirit of the film and the sweetness of its central story make up for those issues.
  2. National Lampoon’s Vacation:
    This one is fairly dated and risque as well. It’s somewhat surprising that a movie featuring as much outrageousness as this has become somewhat of a beloved classic, but here we are. Still funny in between the cringe moments, and serves as a reminder of when we all still loved Chevy Chase. Also the theme song is classic, and I never tire of the performances by Imogene Coca and John Candy.
  3. Jaws:
    The ultimate Summer suspense movie. Notice I said suspense, not horror. While the shark attacks are horrific, the film plays more like an adventure movie to me. I just watched this again a few months ago, and it’s still very good. It’s just not a horror film so please stop calling it one. Same goes for “Alien”, although I’m much more willing to let that one slide. Anyway. Moving on.
  4. The Great Outdoors:
    John Candy (again) and Dan Aykroyd in a movie about two families camping, with Candy representing the traditional family values set, and Aykroyd the obnoxious business man brother in law. While this movie was panned during the initial release, cable and home video have made it a semi classic. I have never heard my mother laugh harder or longer than she did at the climax of this film.
  5. Stand By Me:
    Part drama, part comedy, all heart. A group of twelve year old boys hike out to the woods to see a rumored dead body (well, it was written by Stephen King), but along the way they learn about the meaning of friendship in a one of a kind coming of age story that is a definite classic. If you somehow haven’t seen this one, do.
  6. One Crazy Summer:
    John Cusack, Demi Moore, and Bobcat Goldthwait in a pretty bonkers 80’s teen comedy. Is it great? No. Does it try too hard? Yes. However, it’s just absurd enough that it is an interesting view, with likeable people and enough snickers in it (if not outright laughs) to make it worth a look.
  7. That Thing You Do!:
    Perhaps not a traditional Summer movie, but the bulk of the film takes place during the Summer months, and the whole thing just feels like Summer, man. It’s also one of my favorite music movies, and a favorite all around.
  8. Summer School:
    This was a Mark Harmon vehicle about a teacher and teens in Summer school and it’s just as dumb as it sounds, but I saw it about a billion times on cable and can still recite whole passages from the film so it’s on the list. Also, I still think Dave and Chainsaw should have had their own movie franchise, or at least a TV show.
  9. Beach Blanket Bingo/Psycho Beach Party (tie):
    The former is the classic, ultimate “teen beach movie”. Today it is viewed as a reminder of a gentler time. The latter is a modern parody that also throws in references to psychological thrillers and slasher films. It has also spawned a stage play. The two together make a great double feature!
  10. Lilo And Stitch:
    If you haven’t seen it, it’s better than you think. If you have, it’s better than you remember. I love all the Elvis stuff, and the voice cast is great. It mixes Disney cuteness with a manic energy for a good time that can be had by all.

    Okay, there we have it, Dave’s Fave Summer Films. There are a few more, but I think this will do for now. Also, I may want to revisit this topic in the future and I need to have a few in reserve. See you next week.
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Literary Round Up

If you recall, last week I mentioned the fact that I am the type of reader who gets stuck into a book and needs a few days to linger in the world described. I have trouble letting go of the characters and their stories. Often I will think about which parts of the book spoke to me and why. Was this just entertainment, or is there a bigger message going on? For the record, this applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you a few of the books I have read over the past few months.. You will notice that most of these selections aren’t very recent. As much as I like to go to the bookstore and peruse the new releases, more often than not I find myself buying from the marked down bargain bins, or picking up something used from the neighborhood charity stores. It doesn’t matter to me how old a book may be, if it’s good, it’s good and I will happily invest my time reading away. So here, in no particular order, are a few selections that have kept me turning pages recently.

ABOUT A BOY-Nick Hornby
I have enjoyed a few of the movies made from Hornby’s work, but never actually read any of his novels. Since this is one of the movies I hadn’t seen, I snatched this one up earlier this year. I enjoyed it a lot.

This is a coming of age story about not only a teenage boy, but also a slacker adult who acts like a boy. I found it to be both funny and sweet, also just British enough to please the Anglophile in me, but not so British that it made for a difficult read. I would definitely recommend this, and I will seek out more in the future.

AND IN THE END: THE LAST DAYS OF THE BEATLES-Ken McNabb
With the release of Peter Jackson’s mammoth “Get Back” documentary last year, pretty much everybody was talking about The Beatles. While the film covers the period just before the band split up, this book takes us to the bitter end and fills in some of the gaps in the movie narrative. The book is meticulously researched, and gives multiple points of view from interviews done both at the time and later on. While there is naturally a little bit of author speculation here and there, I can’t imagine a better chronicle of the band’s last year. It isn’t a happy story, but it is a human one and quite interesting for any Beatles fan.

DELIVERANCE-James Dickey
Yes, that “Deliverance”. Yes, that scene is in it. No, nobody says “squeal like a pig” in the book.

This one was released in 1970, but the prose feels a little earlier than that, like an early 60’s style of writing, maybe. This book was a little bit frustrating for me, but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. I am often more concerned with the story than the prose, and I think that sometimes too much detail can get in the way and slow things down. That happens more than once in this book, from descriptions of the countryside to the scene where our main character is climbing up a gorge on his own. More than once I wanted to just skip ahead a few pages and get to the good parts. It almost felt as though much of the book was padded out to make a full length novel out of what should have been a short story, or anovella at most. Still, the storytelling is good and the stakes are high, so it is an entertaining read overall. I’m not entirely sure who got deliverance though, and from what. Perhaps I’m not supposed to?

THE STORYTELLER: TALES OF LIFE AND MUSIC-Dave Grohl
This should appeal not only to fans of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, but also to anyone who has ever dreamed of being a rock star. Dave Grohl is one of the luckiest guys out there, and he knows it. His success story is one of hard work and dumb luck, and it makes for a very fun read. Some of his stories are genuinely funny, others touching. The book feels like a conversation with a friend over a few drinks, which is a welcome change from the “serious” rock journalism tone that many books have. Grohl almost makes you feel like you were there with him. It was highly entertaining and I hope he writes another one soon.

THE KEPT-James Scott
“The Kept” is a gothic western revenge story set in upstate New York, in the winter of 1897. It is a bleak, haunting work that deals with violence, deceit, the meaning of family, long kept secrets, obsessions, and the cost of all of those things. This book doesn’t let up much once it gets going, and I was always eager to read the next chapter and find out what would happen in the end, even if I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant. The story may be a bit far fetched in places, and I’m not sure what I think about the way it ended (I understand why Scott used that ending, I’m just not sure I liked it), but these complaints are minor. This is a depressing read, but one I highly recommend.

Okay, before somebody decides to comment, yes, I agree, it is similar to “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy in some places. That book was clearly a strong influence on this one, but I think that “The Kept” is definitely stands on its own when compared side by side.

Alright friends, there we have it. Maybe one of these books will make it on to your “to be read” list soon. Maybe not. My own list still has three or four I need to get to, and it seems to grow every time I turn around. See you next week, and happy reading!

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A Few Things From This Past Weekend.

Thing 1:

Saturday afternoon as I was surfing through radio stations while driving in my car, the song “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young came on. I don’t really know the words, but I started kind of half heartedly singing along anyway since I’ve always enjoyed the tune. The word that came out of my mouth however was not “cinnamon”, but “synonym.” This struck me as uproariously funny at the time.

I must have been tired.

Anyway, I’ve been walking around the house singing that for days now. It’s beginning to drive my family batty. “I wanna live with a Synonym Girl/I could be happy the rest of my life with a Synonym Girl.” The chorus writes itself, as it’s just replacing the one word. But I also wrote a verse or two:

“She’s got multiple words/for ev-er-ything/but I always know/just what she means/She’s a Synonym Girl
She doesn’t get sad/she feels heartbroken/She’s not obnoxious/She’s just outspoken/my Synonym Girl”

Well, maybe it doesn’t read funny, but if you sing the tune it’s better. Sort of.

I tried to write a few more grammar based classic rock parodies, but all I could come up with was “Verbin’ U.S.A. and “(I Can’t Use No) Interjections” which honestly I didn’t get very far with. So I guess Weird Al Yankovic’s job is still safe. For now.

Thing 2:

We are doing a project in our basement that requires drywall. Sunday was load in day, and somehow or other I was actually here for it and got to help. YAY! Twenty-two pieces of drywall, two to a pack, measuring eight foot long by four foot wide, and weighing 68 pounds per pack is what we hauled off the van, into the garage, down the basement stairs and into the storage room. As you can imagine, there were a few corners to work out as well. Even with three, sometimes four of us doing the labor it was a pretty big job. Somewhere in all the lifting and bending and odd angles and whatnot I tweaked my back. It didn’t hurt too badly yesterday, but it got worse today when we decided to do…

-Thing 3:

Family Fun Monday at the bowling alley!

Now, in hindsight, the idea of bowling the day after tweaking out my back is not the best one. I have had multiple Advils and dug the heating pad out of storage to make this evening a little more tolerable.

Still, we did have a nice day. We bookended the bowling alley with lunch at the hometown pizza buffet at Pantera’s Pizza ( a St. Louis County tradition) and dessert at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. Funnily enough, according to Facebook, today was “National Frozen Custard Day”. Look at us being all rebellious!

We don’t really go bowling all that much, although any time we do we always talk about how we should go more often since it’s an inexpensive family activity and we all enjoy it to one degree or another. For the record I bowled a 180 my first game, which isn’t too bad since I haven’t been bowling for at least three years now! Although I only got a 60 on game number two, so whatever lost mojo I had revived for game number one got lost again pretty quick. Something tells me I won’t be joining anybody’s bowling team any time soon.

Bonus Things:

-My In-Laws took the family out to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner on Saturday as a belated birthday celebration for yours truly. It was a good dinner and a nice gesture. They also got a new cat but that’s unrelated.

-I still have a music project forming in the back of my head. I’m not sure how it’s going to materialize yet, but the wheels are turning. I just wanted you all to know I haven’t given up on it since I mentioned it earlier this year, but it’s going to take some time. Patience will be rewarded. Also I promise not to record “Synonym Girl.”

Okay, that’s all I’ve got this week. Until next time, be cool to each other. Don’t be sexist. Don’t be racist. Follow the ol’ Golden Rule as best you can, and I’ll see you all soon.

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A Post About Art Which Is Trying To Say More Than It Does, But I Think You Get The Picture Anyway. Also I Use Too Many Italics. Sorry.

Okay, Netflix, we need to talk. I have an issue that needs to be resolved. Share this info with your buddies over at Hulu too.

Let me tell you about what happened last night. I was watching a movie from the 90’s that I never got the chance to see, and since it was due to leave your service today (making the argument for physical media over streaming, but that’s a discussion for another time), I was up late taking the movie in. It was one of those movies with a large cast of mostly character actors and I was curious to see who played a few of the parts. So as the credits began to roll, they disappeared into a little box at the top of my screen while an advertisement for some show I have no interest in at all filled my screen. By the time I grabbed my remote and clicked around the boxes to give the okay to watch the credits I had missed most of the cast list. So I rewound the movie to the beginning of the credits

IT HAPPENED AGAIN. I had to re-click the right box, and then try to read really fast so I could figure out where I was in the cast list and then pause the movie in order to see what I wanted to see.

My point is this: I want to watch the credits. I know it’s not your fault, Netflix, that the credits zoomed by quickly, but if I hadn’t had to mess around with the plethora of choices to click on so the credits could be watched in the first place I would have been able to read them correctly. I suppose having a watch credits option is okay, but why does it have to be difficult to do? Also, why do I only have a few seconds to decide before the next thing just automatically starts, or I go back to the menu?

It’s not just the technical aspect that annoys me here though. The fact is that the credits are part of the movie. If the film was any darn good, I need those few minutes to decompress a little, and absorb what I just watched. The credits can help do that by providing the right music to take the viewer out of the world they have just inhabited for a few hours and back into their own. Of course, many action movies and comedies have extra scenes tagged on, but you’re good about not cutting those off, aren’t you? It’s just the documentaries and dramas that don’t have extra scenes that get lopped off. That’s a shame, because these are the very movies that require some time to think about and live with, often well after the credits roll.

The same idea is true with all art forms though. How often have I attended live theater and spent the next few days thinking about it? I have attended several concerts where I can listen to nothing but the performer’s work for days after, and I keep replaying highlights from the show in my head.

Here’s a question for the book hounds I know: How can you finish a book and just pick up another one? I need to live in that world for a while. If I have invested time in reading about these characters and their lives (fictitious or not), I need a few days to shake the events out of my system and leave the fantasy slowly, and think about what I have just read, the emotions the story called up and perhaps why this work resonated the way it did. Yet I have friends who can finish one book and start a new one immediately, or the next morning.

How do they do that? More importantly, why do they do that? Are they just not present in the moment, or do they just want to have the accomplishment of reading so many books, that the art is lost on them? Or is it possible that reading on an e-reader, phone, or laptop takes away some of the physical, tangible experience that holding a book in your hands and actually turning the pages provides?

Also, how am I going to get this back on track to being about Netflix?

Anyway, I can’t do it. I can’t just move on right away. Perhaps my sense of imagination is too great, or perhaps I am just too sensitive to the stories, sights and sounds to dismiss the artistry of a piece that I relate to so well.

That’s the thing about art. Art gets inside of you, whether you want it to or not. Of course, what is and isn’t “art” can be debated ad nauseum, because what moves one person may do nothing for another. What some see as art, others see as mere entertainment and fluff. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to be entertained mind you, but a true piece of art is something more. However, we are never all going to agree on what is or isn’t valid art, so it is up to the individual to decide.

That’s why we need the credits to roll. (Now we’re back on track.) That’s why we need to slow down when we watch, listen, or read. We are so obsessed with making sure we consume as much of what is available as possible that we don’t let it affect our lives, we don’t allow ourselves to see ourselves or others in a new light. We don’t allow ourselves to feel anything, which is a pity, because that’s what art is for.

It would be a whole lot easier to have a meaningful relationship with art if the very technologies that provide it to us with ease didn’t also get in the way.

Wait, did I just use a blog to complain about technology? I did, didn’t I? Well, that’s kind of weird. And slightly hypocritical? Maybe?

Huh.

Anyway…so, um, yeah. See you next week.

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Talkin’ Turtles With Dave

Today I learned that the official state reptile of Missouri is the three toed box turtle.

I have one of those.

I’m not sure why Missouri has a state reptile but whatever.

Anyway, I was never supposed to have a three toed box turtle, or any other kind of turtle now that I think of it, but here we are. The turtle’s name is Leah. She was a classroom turtle that my wife brought home from work during the pandemic. Leah was in another teacher’s room, but that person couldn’t take her home for a reason I don’t recall. My wife had agreed to take care of the turtle for three weeks while school shut down, and was going to return her once everything opened back up and we “flattened the curve” which, as you recall, was sure to be a quick thing. Well, one thing led to another and to make a long story short, Leah the Temporary Turtle has lived with us for over two years, and is family now. One of us, one of us! Sorry, obscure movie reference. Also a Ramones song. Never mind. Moving on.

In honor of Leah’s newfound recognition as state reptile (I know it’s not her specifically, just go with it), here are some fun facts about three toed box turtles, and a little about Leah as well.

-Three toed box turtles are so named because of the number of toes on their hind feet. Can confirm. We counted.

-The eyes of a male tree toed box turtle are usually red, and the female’s are brown. Leah checks out here too, which is good because Leah is a bit of an odd name for a boy. Not that I would judge.

-Most 3TBTs (I got tired of typing out that whole name) have a diet that consists of small live animals such as worms, snails, slugs, and various insects, as well as various green leafed vegetation, strawberries, and mushrooms. Leah only eats earthworms and strawberries. She’s picky.

-I read a story that said these turtles do not get sick from eating poisonous mushrooms, but the toxin from these mushrooms can make the turtles poisonous themselves. This is the reason given as to why a group of boys became ill after eating roasted three toed box turtles. Not the fact that these knuckleheads were just roasting random turtles in the first place. Nope. It was the mushrooms. Whatever you say. Stay classy, Mississippi.

-Apparently there are 17 different kinds of turtles found in Missouri. I’m not sure what the criteria was that the 3TBT came out on top to be chosen as the official turtle of the state, but good job, turtles!

-Leah will often burrow into the bedding under her log and stay there for days, not eating or anything. Sometimes she does this outside of the log in plain view. Every time I think, “Oh no, dead turtle” and then the next thing you know she’s active as all get out. I believe this is normal, but it feels kinda extra.

-We have no idea how old Leah is, only that she is the size of a mature turtle. These things can live upwards of 50 years, so it’s possible that one of the kids will inherit the turtle one day. That will be a weird thing for them to fight about someday.

-A turtle’s shell is part of their body. While it is hard to provide protection, it is attached to them, and they can feel what happens to their shell, much like we can with our skin. I know, weird, right? Cartoons lied to us. Anyway, if you ever pick up a turtle, be gentle to it. Also wash your hands because some of them carry salmonella. So there.

-When I pass LeeLee’s enclosure (that’s my nickname for her) and she is on top of her log, I sing to her. She seems to respond to music. Often I sing the song “Ah! Leah!” by Donny Iris, although I’m pretty sure it was not written about a turtle.

-I hope she’s happy here. I mean, for a turtle. I try to make sure she’s got plenty of water to soak in and food to eat. We change her bedding frequently, and try to make her comfortable. I take her outside for walks sometimes too. Mostly in the backyard, though, I don’t like have a leash for her or anything, I’m not a nut. Still, for an animal I never planned on obtaining and one that isn’t traditionally cuddly or brimming with personality, she’s pretty cool. We love our turtle girl.

Oh, also, I have a really sweet girl of a doggy, but we can talk about her another time. Maybe next time. Maybe not. I don’t know yet, but let’s find out together when you join me next week for more MonDAVEs.

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50 For 50

Today is my birthday. I will admit that I am a birthday guy, I love celebrating not only my own but other people’s as well. I am not normally one of those people who downplay birthdays and think that they are only to be celebrated by kids, or even only on the day itself. You want to have a birthday weekend? Go nuts. Birthday week? Sure, go for it. Month? Umm, okay I guess, but maybe reign it in a little.

This year has been a little bit different though. It’s my fiftieth birthday and honestly, it’s not sitting well. I could go on about the insecurities and anxieties attached to all of this, but since this is a blog set up to entertain, I will spare you my existential crisis and focus on something else entirely: gratitude.

I am grateful for my existential crisis.

No! Only kidding.

Since I have been all melancholy about today, my wife suggested that I should make a list of fifty things I am grateful for and that may help me feel a little better. Since she is usually right, I figured I’d give it a shot. So here we go, a stream of consciousness list made in real time. Thanks for sitting in on my therapy session. Let’s get started.

  1. My wife. She is intelligent, kind, patient, a good mother, and the best team mate I could have to walk through this world with.
  2. My kids. They make every day both a challenge and a pleasure, and I am proud of the people they are turning into.
  3. My dad. He is responsible for my sense of humor, love of movies and music, and my sense of social justice. He has always shown support and love.
  4. My brother. I always feel bad for adults who don’t get along with their siblings, because my relationship with my brother is special and deep.
  5. Extended family. Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, all manner of relatives. Most people think theirs are the best-mine actually are. We’re far enough apart that we don’t see each other enough but I love them all.
  6. Old friends. I don’t see them enough either, but we can stay connected through social media, and they are never far from mind.
  7. God. Okay, so I’m not really happy with some of his followers right now, or the churches and politicians who use his name for their own gain, but I can’t hold that against Him.
  8. Dogs. Every dog I have ever had, ever will have, and like 90% of the dogs on the planet except the really barkey or bitey ones.
  9. Turtles. I just think they’re neat.
  10. Rock And Roll Music. Rock encompasses more different styles, genres, and points of view than pretty much any other popular music style. And it’s all pretty great.
  11. Air conditioning/heat. Because comfort is paramount and outside can get weird.
  12. Pizza delivery. One of the greatest ideas of our time.
  13. Barbecue. Meat cooked over an open flame is the best.
  14. Mountains. I’m no mountaineer, but hiking to, around, and on various mountains has given me some great memories and is some of the most beautiful scenery there is.
  15. YouTube. Making it easy to find obscure videos of half remembered television and movies at 12am. This is part of why I don’t sleep.
  16. Television. Let’s face it-TV is amazing. You can watch shows from the 50s to now, educational shows or entertainment, live events, news coverage, the choices are seemingly endless. And that’s before streaming! Good television connects the world.
  17. The Who. My favorite rock band. Also my favorite philosophers and accidental comedy act. No one demanded more from the art form-and in their prime no one could match their intensity and passion.
  18. Movies. At the theater or at home, a good movie can sweep you away and bring thrills, laughter, scares, romance, whatever you want. And sometimes even the bad ones are fun to watch.
  19. Automobiles. Because I love a good road trip. Also, sometimes the commute can be the best part of my day.
  20. Denim. The most comfortable fabric ever.
  21. Waterfalls. Beautiful to look at, and an instant mood lifter. Hard to get to sometimes, but always worth it.
  22. The Sun. Provider of heat, light, and amazingly beautiful when rising or setting.
  23. The Beatles. Apart from writing so many classic songs, they set the template for everything that followed over the next 20 years of popular music, and they are still being listened to and rediscovered today. Impossibly good.
  24. Trees. Sustainers of life, and happy little fellas from what I am told.
  25. Dark chocolate. I mean, all chocolate is good. Dark though, once you get the taste for it, all other types fall short. Rich, complex, and divine.
  26. Books. Moreso than any other artform, books take you away to another world, fictional or otherwise. Children’s books, short stories, novels, and biographies all sit on my shelves and are each treasured items.
  27. Glasses. Both the drinking kind and the seeing kind. So I can drink and see. Duh.
  28. Clothing. Because everybody walking around nekkid all the time is a bad call.
  29. Monty Python. Changes the way I looked at humor and, in a sense, the world.
  30. Paintings. From the great masters to Bob Ross to the local art fair, I love to look at paintings and see the world through the artist’s eye, and also see how it may connect or clash with my own views.
  31. Cookies. Especially chocolate chip-and pert near anything home made.
  32. Modern Medicine. Because living is good.
  33. Quiet Walks. Helps to clear my head.
  34. Air Fresheners. Helps cover up the mystery smells that show up now and again.
  35. Soda. Fizzy goodness.
  36. The Marx Brothers. The original comedy anarchists. Chaos, slapstick, and clever wordplay all rolled up into a great big ball of genius. Still funny today.
  37. The Internet. without which this wouldn’t be happening right now.
  38. Tacos. Because tacos!
  39. Rivers. Beautiful and powerful. Still used for commerce and water supplies, but I can sit at a riverbank for hours watching it roll.
  40. Milk. Though I developed some issues with lactose as I aged, and I have to drink specially filtered milk now, I still love a tall glass full. Especially with cookies or…
  41. Cake. Fluffy, soft, spongey, moist, iced wonderfulness. Also way better than pie. For reals.
  42. Houses. Or. any abode one lives in, really, Because as George Carlin once observed, we all need “a place for our stuff.”
  43. Traditional Country and Folk music. Both Country and Folk have gone through a lot of changes, many of them not for the good. However, when you get down to the original, pure, bare bines of these musical forms they can be magically affecting.
  44. Micro Brewed Beer. Okay so these days I drink non alcoholic micro brews, but that just proves how good micro brews can be. Taste, quality, integrity, and passion go into every sip. With alcohol or without.
  45. The Muppets. Sure, they were part of my childhood and nostalgia is a part of my fandom, I’ll give you. But their best stuff is equal parts sweet and subversive, which makes repeated viewings a treat.
  46. Fish. I think fish are pretty cool to look at. They are also delicious to eat. No conflict, no regrets.
  47. Theme Parks. I’m a big kid. I like the rides, games, shows, food, souvenir shops, all of it. Just do the research to know when to show up to beat most of the crowds, and you’re good. I don’t go as much as I’d like, but I don’t turn down the opportunity either.
  48. Live performances. Be it a concert, theatrical performance, dance, stand-up, what have you, there is nothing like a live show. Nothing.
  49. Taking a nap, in the Spring, with the windows open. Early Fall works too. this isn’t always possible due to allergies, but when the conditions are right it’s the best nap a person can have.
  50. Paprika. People don’t use it enough.

Well. I’m not sure I resolved any issues, but I do feel a little better so that’s some success. Maybe this exercise might help you too if you ever need it.

Take care all, see you next week.

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Randomness.

I have been writing a little more than usual here recently and I am out of ideas.

Therefore, my wife suggested I use a random topic generator to come up with a topic for today’s blog. Instead, I am going to have her read me some of the topics suggested on the website she found and I am going to write the first thing that pops into my head. Just a few sentences each. This might be fun. Or not. Either way it’s all I’ve got, so just go with it. Okay? Thanks.

Oh, by the way, my wife has spent twenty-three years as a reading teacher, so she always informs me of any egregious spelling or grammatical errors she finds. She has warned me that this will come into play.

  1. If you had to choose would you rather be rich or famous?
    -Why do I have to choose?
  2. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    -In what setting? Like a restaurant? The egg I would imagine.
  3. What job did Michael Caine, Uma Thurman, and Sidney Poitier all do at one time in their lives? Dishwashers.
    -Oh. I was a janitor. Nobody told me that dishwasher was the way to go. I wasted so much time. I could have been somebody. Damn.
  4. Does a lightning rod on the top of a church show lack of faith?
    -Um, no. It shows proper planning. What a dumb question.
  5. Name three things you couldn’t live without? Why?
    -Presumably because that’s the question you want me to answer? The punctuation here is insane. I’m going to go with water, food, and a basic understanding of the English language.
  6. Why do banks charge you an insufficient funds fee on money they know you don’t have?
    -Because they’re jerks. Next.
  7. Who is your favourite villain/baddie?
    -Ah, there’s an international spelling of the word “favorite” here, usually indicating the author to be from Britain or the U.K., which makes the punctuation thing above even more maddening. Anyway, my answer to the question posed is “all of them,” because no matter how much you may want the hero of any piece to succeed, the villain is pretty much always the most interesting character.
  8. Which is the favorite sound you like to hear?
    -Back to American spelling. Huh. So we fixed the spelling but now the grammar is atrocious. Honestly the first thing I thought of was that Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sound Of Silence” which I’ve always found kind of odd since it mentions silence “echoing,” but how can silence echo if you can’t hear it? You know what, skip it.
  9. What’s your favourite fastfood chain?
    -Okay, now the “u” is back. Also, fast food is two words. Who is in charge here?
  10. What is a controversial opinion do you have?
    -It is my opinion that people should proofread before publishing. Crazy, I know.
  11. Do You Have A Nickname? What Is It?
    -And now we’ve gone crazy with capitalization. Okay, fine. This is the last one. I can’t do this anymore. Nicknames, huh? I have had several from “Sheepdog” to “100 Watt,” “Little David” (that one is from when I was a kid, which was interchangeable with “Dabidito,”) “Brink,” one guy at work calls me “Daveington” or “David Brinkingham,” and the kids sometimes call me “Daddo.” Not Daddy-o, “Daddo.” Most of these have made at least some sort of sense at the time.

Alright, that’s enough. My brain hurts. Come back next week and let’s see what happens then, I guess.

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MCU Daddy/Daughter Movie Review: Thor Love And Thunder

MonDAVE on a Friday (or whatever day you are reading this) pretty much means just one thing. That’s right, it’s another Daddy/Daughter Marvel Movie review, WITH A TWIST!

Normally I do these with daughter Tessa, but she had to bail at the last minute, so little sister Melody is subbing for her this time out. Say hi, Melody.

MELODY: Hello.

DAVE: Thanks for going with me, it was fun. Okay, so when I do this with your sister, I give her some time to write out her thoughts on the movie, and then I do mine, and we rate it on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Now that we know the rules, give us your spoiler free thoughts please on Thor: Love And Thunder.

M: Six.

D: What?

M: Six. I rate things from one to six because it’s unexpected.

D: Get your own blog for that. Anyway, what did you think?

M: The movie was an enjoyable mix of funny and serious, although the pacing of the movie was off. I felt it should have been longer because I was unmoved at the emotional parts. I did like how they brought Jane back, because I had forgotten about her. When they went back to extract the reality stone from her in Endgame I remember not knowing what was going on when that happened because once she broke up with Thor we never heard from her again (also Thor Dark World was boring).

D: It wasn’t, but continue.

M: And Korg came back so that was cool because K O R G.

D: Fair. I agree with you about the pacing. I think that those of us who are huge MCU fans will still be moved though, but you’re right the more emotional scenes would have worked better if they had a little more time to develop. I think some of the comedy would work better that way too.

It also would have helped the tonal shifts in the movie. This film has a lot to say about the nature of love and how it affects people, from both the romantic point of view and from that of a parent/child relationship. It does so in a very Marvel way of course, but it could have been a little more effective if we weren’t jumping around quite so much.

Really though, that’s all I have to complain about, so that’s not so bad. I laughed a lot, and I was very invested in Thor’s overall arc as a character. He kind of became an idiot there for a while in the previous few movies, and it’s nice to see him begin to come back around to his hero status. Ultimately this is a sweet movie with some decent action, comedy, and some cool effects. There are a few creatures made up of pure nightmare fuel, but that’s balanced out by some large goats who are pretty awesome. Also the Guardians make a brief appearance early on and that’s always fun to see.

Okay time to rate this one. I give it 4 out of 5 Daves. Melly?

M: I give it a 4.5. Even if I wasn’t very moved by the serious parts I still enjoyed the rest of it a lot.

D: And there you have it, another win from the MCU. Thanks for being my guest Melody and for filling in. See you all back here on Monday for more stuff!

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North, To ALASKA! (and a few other places)

The Brink family has returned from this year’s main vacation, a cruise to Alaska on Princess Cruises, thoughtfully given by my in laws and including not only our family but also Valerie’s parents and both of her sisters and their families as well. While we did pay for our own excursions and souvenirs and what not, the majority of the cruise was covered for us. There was no way we could have ever afforded this trip on our own so a big thank you to David and Janet is in order.

I will admit that I wasn’t too keen on visiting Alaska as I am not a fan of cold or snow, and I was a little bit leery of cruising in general. I am happy to report that those doubts were quickly deemed unfounded as we had a really good time. Sure, there were a few minor hiccups here and there, and I was not a fan of every aspect of the trip but the good far outweighed the bad on this particular journey.

As mentioned, I never really understood the appeal of cruising, but I get it now. All staff on board are there to cater to you and provide anything you wish in minutes. It’s kind of like having a butler available everywhere you go on board. In particular, our stateroom attendant, Seccario, and our waiter Eugene were excellent and went over and above for our family-so much so that we insisted on eating in Eugene’s section every night. They both helped make this trip both easy and special.

The cruise director, Jody, and staff were all nice, fun, approachable people as well. We interacted with them on a few occasions. Tessa won an event during a contest with Jody by doing the splits in multiple directions (going to dance class and being 14 pays off), and Team Brink also won a t.v. based trivia contest hosted by assistant director Alistair. We participated in other trivia contests too (tying for first place in a “name that tune” style music contest), and had lots of fun as a family unit.

The food on our ship was all top notch, not only in the formal dining room, but also the buffet and specialty restaurants scattered throughout the ship. I’m going to be on salads for like three weeks to compensate for the many meals eaten on this trip.

We had a balcony stateroom (which is the only way to do it, really, I can’t imagine having an interior room be any good), and so our views were constantly amazing. I also found it extremely relaxing to sit out on the balcony when docked or traveling inland port to port with the waves gently rolling and breeze in my hair. In fact, I may not have ever been more relaxed.

Our cruise was not booked to capacity, which was good because it meant less crowding overall. There were still some pretty long lines for some pf our meals and for exiting the ship come excursion time, but crowding was kept to a minimum.

The only issue I had with our ship was that it wasn’t operating at full power. There was a problem with one of the engines which, while still perfectly safe, adjusted our times, speed, and overall schedule of the cruise. I understand that it wouldn’t be easy for Princess to just stop cruising and fix the issue-they have already missed two years of cruises and so from a financial and staffing standpoint, delaying things further would be a disaster for them, so I get it. However, we did have to deal with some of our excursions being cancelled and replaced by ones that were maybe not as nice. I also think that the engine issue (and one technical delay) meant that when we were on the open sea it meant that the boat had to move faster than it normally would, and on one of our days at sea I got motion sickness, which I have never experienced before. Everyone agreed that the ship was rockier than it should have been, so no one really was surprised, but it did put me out of action for most of the day as I just slept a lot. The next day though, I was right as rain.

As for our destination, I was NOT looking forward to going to Alaska. I am a warm weather guy, and anything below 60 degrees is considered cold to me so I was trying to have a good attitude, but I’m not sure how successful I was. Turns out, Alaska was pretty darn HOT.

Our first days at sea were in the upper 50s/lower 60s, which I expected, but in Juneau it was 75 degrees and in Skagway we hit 85! It was actually warmer that day than it was back home in St. Louis! Trouble is, our excursion that day was all about a sled dog/ gold mining experience and we were warned to dress warmly in layers. So we did. Mistake. We were sweating buckets, and the poor dogs didn’t really know what to do with this unexpected heatwave. Nor did the actors who had to dress the parts of Klondike gold miners, now that I think of it. Everybody was kind of miserable, but we still got to pan for gold (which is super touristy I know, but you kind of have to do it) and we did get to see a presentation of the sled dogs briefly going around the training track. We also got to pet the dogs and hold sled dog puppies which was the cutest thing ever and totally worth it.

We enjoyed all of our ports, I got some fantastic fish tacos in Juneau, which is where I fell in love with Rockfish, and some fresh and delicious crab in Icy Point Straight (where we would have loved to spend the day as there are tons of things to do but we had only a few hours) and the kids dipped their feet in the cold, cold ocean.

Perhaps my favorite stop though was going to Victoria, British Colombia, Canada. On July 1st, Canada Day no less. Some of my favorite musicians are from Canada, and two of my favorite television comedy series as well. I have always wanted to visit (in Summer, of course) and I finally did! Again, we were only there for a few hours but we were able to walk through the outer parts of the town through the Fisherman’s Wharf area and to the edges of downtown. So we didn’t actually participate in any Canada Day celebrations but it was a pleasant walk (though considerably chillier than we were used to) and fun for me. As Bob and Doug would say, “Beauty, eh!”.

Also, our cruise took us through Glacier Bay National Park. The day was in the lower 60s, bright, clear and sunny. We could not have ordered better weather. I took over 150 pictures there alone. Every minute felt like Bob Ross had had a hand in designing the scenery. We saw several otters swimming around, bald eagles, seagulls, and even a few whale spouts, though no actual whale bodies. It was a truly beautiful afternoon.

Our last day of vacation was spent in Seattle after disembarking and before waiting for our evening flight. The tour we were on had no tour guide as she had called in sick with Covid (of course). We were still treated to a trip to the Space Needle, which is cool and interesting, though not quite as tall as our own St. Louis arch. We went to the Pike Place market and watched fish being thrown, had a snack at the chocolate shop, and soaked up the big city atmosphere. Seattle is a cool city. It is green-minded, largely progressive, and has a really good, open vibe. It’s not the prettiest city I’ve ever been in, but I liked it a lot and would definitely consider going back.

After our quick tour we had a few hours to kill in the airport, which can be frustrating and quite boring. Fortunately for me there is a Sub Pop record store in the airport, because it’s Seattle so of course there is, and I was able to spend dome time shopping for CDs and merch. Had I known this existed I would have saved a little more souvenir money for this store, but then I probably spent too much at Sub Pop as is, so I guess it’s just as well.

Our flight back had a little turbulence but not much, however we did change time zones so it wound up being 12:30 am by the time we landed here in STL, and probably after 2:30 when we finally got home to sleep.

All in all it was a really nice vacation filled with memories to last us all a lifetime and a good time was had by all.

Until next time, safe travels.

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End Of An Era, But A Good Day

Last week my Aunt Stella passed away. Okay, Great Aunt, but I’ve never been one to specify too much for particulars when it comes to family. She was a great lady. She loved jokes, and had many jokebooks she would read aloud from and share with us whenever she had the chance. Stella was always the one to break out board games, card games, or start a game of croquet out on the lawn, before the mosquitos got too bad, that is. she loved her God and she loved her large extended family. And we loved her.

Stella lived her entire life on the family farm in Goobertown Arkansas-yes, that is the real name of the town and if you poke fun I will fight you. She never married or had kids of her own, but loved children and made everyone who visited the house feel like they were home. I should probably explain “the house” because this particular house was pretty much one of a kind.

Well, not the house itself, there are lots like it all across the country. This house was special due to its occupants and what it meant to so many. This house was where everyone gathered for many years, longer than I have been alive. My great grandparents lived on that farm and raised twelve children there. Most of them married and moved away, but Stella and her twin sister Clara did not. Two other sisters returned to the farm as adults and stayed as well. After Great Mom died Stella, Clara, Marge and Naomi lived at the house, took care of the farm, and over the years, hosted many visits from their extended family from all over the country. There were times I remember as a kid when there were people in every room, on couches, mattresses on the floor, and pretty much anywhere we could fit.

That house holds memories of cousins playing in the fields, counting the cows, picking and canning vegetables, games that would stretch for hours (“Rook”, Dominoes and “Aggrivation” being the ones I remember most), egg hunts, Christmases, running to the pond and back, walking the gravel road out to cross the highway and get a snack at the general store, church services in the small little New Antioch Baptist Church (which has now more than doubled in size), some AMAZING Southern cooking, and so much more. It was a house full of life, love, and family, family, family.

Now, things have changed. Stella was the last of the sisters to live on the farm. As “the girls” as we called them got older, cousin Jennifer moved in and helped take care of them and the house, and I am so thankful for her presence there. The house is still in the family, but it is the end of an era to be sure.

Much to my chagrin, I was not very good at visiting as an adult, and my kids had never visited. My wife has been, and I have visited for funerals, sadly, but the kids were never able to come along. So when this funeral happened on a MonDave, sorry, Monday, since I was off work and the kids were off school I made sure to take whoever was available. That’s how it came to be that Monday morning the girls and I were off to Arkansas.

I am glad I went for several reasons. For one thing, being a Monday a lot of people could not attend, so it was good to be able to be there. It was nice catching up with some cousins and great Aunts and Uncles I don’t see much. The service was performed by cousin Terry and he did a lovely job.

After a walk through the family plot and a few stories shared, we all ate together and I finally got to take the girls to the farm. Their cousin Barbara took them on a tour of the grounds via a golf cart which she apparently mistook for a formula one racing car. Barbara drives fast and maybe a little reckless, but she comes by it naturally, since her uncle once drove me around on a three wheeler in much the same fashion, only this time nobody broke their arm. Anyway, they had a blast and I was glad they had the experience.

It was a lot of driving (about three and a half hours both ways), and a sad occasion, but as tends to happen when you spend time with those you love, it wound up being a good day with a pleasant memory attatched.

Treasure your time with family, folks. Especially the ones you don’t see as often as you like. Tell the people you love that you love them. Hold them in your heart until you see them again.

I’ll see you next week.

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Things I Did Today

1. This morning I witnessed a car accident. Thankfully I was not in danger myself, but I watched it happen.

It was pretty bad. I was stopped at an intersection which is an entrance/exit ramp for a highway to the outer road. The traffic light changed to green and the person on the outer road driving their grey SUV (I don’t recall the make, all grey SUVs look pretty much the same)who was just a few cars ahead of me pulled out into the intersection. The person coming down the ramp from the highway (a bigger grey SUV as it happens) did not stop at their own red light. When I say they did not stop, I don’t mean they tried to brake and it wasn’t successful, I mean they DID NOT STOP AT ALL and hit the other driver in the side, making grey SUV #1 spin around at least once, airbags were deployed, the whole nine yards.

Luckily there was a St. Charles Sherriff’s vehicle ( a black SUV for those keeping track) directly behind me who saw the whole thing and immediately pulled around us into the intersection to take control of things.

The cars in front of me pulled over to be a witness, so I did not stay to see the end. Had that not happened I would have done my civic duty and stayed to be a witness myself. Honestly, though I feel like I should have stayed anyway. I did say a small prayer for those involved, for what it’s worth.

So just be careful out there y’all. Look before you pull into any intersection, and try to minimize distractions as best as possible while you drive. Don’t become a story on some stranger’s blog. Don’t become another statistic for the local police force and hospital. None of us are perfect and fate will do what it does, but let’s all be a little more aware of our surroundings and do our best make it where we’re going.

2. One of the things I had to do today was get my car’s transmission inspected. Ironic, perhaps, considering the start to my day, but that’s probably just a coincidence. While in the waiting area I had a pleasant conversation with an African American woman who was there working on her lap top. The television in the room was showing coverage of the Jan. 6th committee hearings. She commented that she would have rather seen “The Price Is Right” instead. I told her that I thought this was more important, though probably less fun. She agreed.

The woman (who’s name I have unfortunately forgotten) commented on how much the participants in the hearings used their hands to talk, which I do as well. This led to a discussion of eye contact, which led into her job, which has to do with assisting the blind. She is currently writing a fiction book for middle school aged children loosely based on one of her past students. Hence the laptop. I didn’t read any of her writing, though if my wife hadn’t come to pick me up I’m sure that would have come next. I wished her well with the book, and also her car, and made my exit. It was good to have a nice chat with a random person in that way. So often we don’t engage with those around us, and having such a nice, interesting chat put me in a better mood to continue my day.

3. I helped my wife clear out some of the stuff from her classroom that she is going to take to her new room. She is currently an English teacher, but switching to a new building and subject next year. She is quite excited about the prospect, but there is a lot of prep work to be done before school starts back up. A little bit at a time and all will be ready to go. So I got to do husband stuff and move boxes and fill trash cans and be the muscle for the day.

This part of my day wasn’t originally planned but I don’t mind. I’m glad to see her succeed and help out any way I can.

4. Speaking of husband stuff, I also went to the grocery store to buy food for the week. This is “Dance Recital Week” for my daughters, which means that it is unlikely all five of us will be in the same room for dinner at the same time any night this week, what with both girls being in multiple dances over multiple nights. The upshot is that it’s an easy grocery week. All I really had to do for groceries was buy lots of frozen food that we can all pop in the microwave and eat whenever. Not the healthiest meal planning I suppose, but we do what we have to do.

5. Early this evening I took my son to Taekwondo and got to watch him practice his forms. He’s really pretty good when he focuses in on it. I suspect he’d rather be playing video games, but this is good for him to help keep the boy focused and active. He started a few years ago and is working his way up to achieving his black belt. He is a red belt now so there are still a few more steps to go but he is well on his way.

Okay, full disclosure, I also sat and read for a little bit while the class was doing their group activities. I just started “The Kept” by James Scott. I have read mixed reviews for this book but I found it on sale and it looked promising. One chapter in and so far so good.

6. Later in the evening I went out to my Dad’s place to pick up a few things from his basement. He wasn’t at home but I got a spare key from my brother and went over to Dad’s condo and picked up a few things. Interesting to see a few things I left over there still pretty much where I left them years ago. One extra thing I took with me were some old paintings I did.

About eighteen years ago I got it into my head that I’d like to try painting, so my soon to be wife bought me a bunch of paints and I gave it a whirl. The paintings aren’t great, but they are a start. I didn’t get very far with it all, but I have periodically thought that I should go back to it. I think I could do it better now. Maybe I will give it another go somewhere down the line.

Okay, that was my Monday. It was pretty full. I’m off to bed now, but I’ll see you next week!

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Happy June!

June is, of course, Pride Month. Here at MonDAVEs we recognize and support our siblings in the LGBTQ+ community. More on this in a future post.

What is less known, however, is that June is also Candy month. Skittles has ingeniously combined these two occasions for years, often being cited as the “gayest candy” due to the whole rainbow thing. Well, we won’t be getting into that debate, but let’s discuss another candy that is a worldwide favorite: Cotton Candy.

While it is not known exactly where Cotton Candy falls in the ranking of gay candies (it’s gotta be up there, right?) it is a candy that has brought enjoyment to many a child and adult at baseball games and state fairs for years. As previously mentioned, this is not just an American phenomenon as Cotton Candy has its origins in China. A version of this sugary treat was said to have been made during the Han Dynasty, somewhere between 206-220 AD. The original name for this candy was “Dragon’s Beard” which is 100% more badass than anything it has been called since.

Speaking of, what we know as Cotton Candy here in the U.S.A. goes by many different names throughout the rest of the world. The following is a list of my favorites.

-Candyfloss (popular throughout most of Europe)
-Sugar Spin (Norwegian for Candy-Floss spelled with a hyphen because it’s fancy I guess)
-Sockervadd (Sweden)
-Wata Cukrowa (Polish for Sugar Cotton, which is probably the most accurate)
-Fairy Floss (Australia)
-Hattara (Finnish for Small Cloud)
-Dad’s Beard (France, which is weird)
-Grandma’s Hair (Greece, which is weirder)

Okay, so most of these are cute and fluffy names, but what’s with the hair comparisons, y’all? Sure, of all the candies it’s probably the most hair-like, but still, why? Why with this? Ew.

Anyway, now that summer is upon us, you’re sure to see this sweet treat sooner or later, and hey, no judgement if you get yourself a big bag of colorful sugary goodness and chow down. Just know that when you do you’ll remember this post and start thinking about your family member’s heads as you eat and then you’ll get all disgusted and throw it away, BUT before you get all mad at MonDAVEs for making you waste that money think about how much sugar is actually in that bag and how it’s obviously super hot outside and besides, who knows, tossing that bag aside might have just prevented a heart attack thus saving your life so you’re welcome.

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Five Fives

Regular readers know how much I enjoy making lists for this blog. Some are longer than others, and some are more on the serious side than most, but they are all intended to entertain and perhaps get the good readership thinking about their own preferences. I have a lot of fun compiling these lists, and I hope you have fun reading them too.

In that same spirit, I have compiled five short, fun top 5 lists for your reading enjoyment this time around. Here we go.

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:
1. Kumquat
2. Abundance
3. Exquisite
4. Braggadocios
5. Diddley-squat

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE FLAVORS OF VESS SODA:
1. Cream Soda
2. Whistle Orange
3. Black Cherry
4. Strawberry
5. Grape

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE SECONDARY LOONEY TUNES CHARACTERS:
1. Marvin Martian
2. Hubie And Bertie (duo)
3. Pete Puma
4. Michigan J. Frog
5. Beaky Buzzard

5 RANDOM THINGS DAVE MISSES FROM THE 80’S
1. Renting movies at the mom and pop video store (pre BLOCKBUSTER)
2. Making mix tapes
3. Going to the Arcade
4. Jams shorts, baby!
5. Early cable TV

5 THINGS I WOULD DO FOR A KLONDIKE BAR:
1. Nothing
2. Not much
3. Very Little
4. (snore) ..Hmmm…what?
5. I mean, if you really wanted me to have one I’d take it just to be polite, but, y’know, no.

Ooh, and BONUS LIST I just thought of ’cause it’s almost Easter…

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE EASTER CANDIES:
1. Reese’s Eggs (WAY better than the cups for some reason)
2. Starburst jellybeans
3. Cadbury creme eggs
4. Rain-blo bubble gum eggs
5. Sweet Tarts/Smarties (tie)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now. See you next week for more MonDAVEs.

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Dave’s Take On Kansas City

Our quick trip to Kansas City proved to be a nice little getaway/diversion for our family. While it would have been nice to have a little more time to explore, we enjoyed the time spent in the city. Compared to downtown St. Louis, it is a much cleaner city-not that STL is unclean, but it’s slightly more…not run down, but…used? Older, maybe? At least on the surface it seems that way. I love STL immensely, but we have our problems for sure. KC seems to be a bit more user friendly is all.

The downtown neighborhoods we drove through seemed nice. I also liked that the college seemed to be well integrated into the city landscape. It is a very hill-y city though. Well, the Missouri side is anyway. The Kansas side seemed to flatten out a bit.

Speaking of Kansas, that’s where we stayed. We looked at several hotels and wound up booking one in the suburbs, because it had an indoor pool for the kids. If there’s one thing that kids love while on vacation, it’s a pool. Our hotel of choice was the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Apart from the pool situation, it had rooms that would sleep the five of us comfortably (in one suite as opposed to two rooms-more economical), and had a full breakfast each morning. Very nice hotel, and clean, highly recommended.

Our hotel was in the suburbs, but located just a stones throw from the Kansas Speedway which was of course closed, but looked pretty cool. We were also next to Legends Outlet mall, which had like a bazillion stores in it. There seem to be quite a few functional malls in the area, while most of them are dying out here. To be fair, we didn’t really visit any of them, but they looked to be in good shape.

Okay, so there’s your initial impressions, let’s get to the attractions.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER
-I’m kind of mixed on this one. Their website makes it seem like it is an attraction for all ages, and while that’s not untrue, it’s really geared more to smaller kids. I think if our kids were two or three years younger they would have absolutely loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it is enjoyable enough. There were some really interesting exhibits of Lego art, and multiple life size figures which were pretty cool, as well as a Lego replica of the downtown KC area itself, and a trip through the Wizard of OZ movie in Lego form. Of the two rides, one was definitely a child’s ride, but the other was a “dark ride” in which you got to blast stuff with a pretend gun and try to save the Princess. We all enjoyed that ride, but WHY SO MANY LEGO SPIDERS? Seriously, they should warn a person! Let’s see, what else…oh, there was a “Ninjago Training course” which I probably got the worst score ever on, and a cute little 3D movie theater. Oh, and an obviously overpriced snack bar that we didn’t go anywhere near. So, there was enough to keep us all entertained, and we did enjoy the experience, but it is aimed at young children (3-8) overall, so keep that in mind if you ever visit.

SEALIFE AQUARIUM
-Right next door to the Discovery Center is the Sealife aquarium which is exactly what you think it is. I always enjoy aquariums. Maybe it takes a certain kind of person, I don’t know, but I could sit and watch fish swim and interact with each other for hours and not get bored. This particular aquarium is nice and puts a little more emphasis on education than some that I have been to, but is not as impressive overall as Ripley’s in Gatlinburg, TN, or the St. Louis aquarium at Union Station, which is REALLY good. That being said, I would recommend Sealife as a quality stop for your next visit to Kansas City.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MINIATURES AND TOYS
-This was the coolest thing we did, hand down. The museum’s first floor is dedicated to fine scale miniatures, usually 1:12 scale. What I thought was going to be just a bunch of doll house furniture wound up being so much more interesting than I imagined. Pretty much anything you can think of is on display in miniature, and the detail is AMAZING. From Victorian mansions to an antique shop, artist studios and more, the scenes are incredible. Not only are the settings impressive, but the detail involved is doubly so. There are hand woven quilts and rugs in these displays, and objects you would swear have been hit by some futuristic shrink ray. Then the upstairs is full of toys from the early 1900s up to today, everything from board games to video consoles, rag dolls to action figures, teddy bears and more. There is something there to bring out the kid in everyone. I absolutely loved it.

Now let’s talk food. Of course, you can’t go to Kansas City without getting some barbecue. I couldn’t get everyone to agree to BBQ for every meal, but I didn’t really think that would fly anyway. Apart from breakfast at the hotel, we ate at Zaxby’s for one lunch because we don’t have them in St. Louis and I like them a lot-way better than Cane’s which we have a lot of around here. We also went to a Tex-Mex restaurant called On The Border which we had a gift card for somehow (?), and since those aren’t in STL either we went ahead and used it. Pretty good actually, I kind of wish we did have them here.

But I digress. The first barbecue restaurant we went to was Famous Dave’s, which I had heard of but didn’t know was a chain. I also didn’t know we had a to-go only location minutes away from where I work until I just googled that info a minute ago. I wanted to see how big a chain they were-and the answer to that is pretty dang big-when I saw a Creve Coeur location I’d never heard of or seen. I can only assume it’s very, very new. Or I need to pay more attention to my life.

ANYWAY, had I known it was a chain I might have opted for something else, since I wanted true KC barbecue. I was not disappointed however, because the food was really good-their burnt ends were excellent, as was the chicken. So, if you’re out and about and you find yourself near a Famous Dave’s, check ’em out. I’ve had better from independent BBQ joints, but this still hit the spot and was quite yummy.

Before we left town, we HAD to go to Gate’s Barbecue and get some ribs. They are famous as some of the best ribs you can get, and I have had many people bring them back for me, and they were always awesome, so it was a no brainer that we should go.

The thing is, nobody warned me about the actual Gate’s experience. As soon as you walk in to the much too dark restaurant, the counter person basically assaults you by shouting “Hi may I help you?”, and you are expected to order immediately. It took me by surprise. That approach works when there is a long line of people, and you are five orders away from the front of the line. You order, and by the time you get to the front your food is ready. I getit, but I don’t like it. Especially since it was our first time in and we had no idea what was happening. There was one group ahead of us and two behind. The lady up front just kept yelling “Hi may I help you” and no one knew who she was talking to. I found it to be abrasive, high pressure, and a little rude, honestly.

Again, I get that they are trying to assembly line your food, and I can see how that would work on a crowded day, but it was just bizarre to me. I know some people like that sort of thing. There are some small restaurants (and at least one chain) that are famous for treating people that way, or worse. Some people think it’s fun, and adds character. I don’t agree.

Oh, and then, to top it off, there is another lady who basically acts like a waitress and takes care of everyone at your table after you sit down. WHAT is that about? Also, why isn’t she bringing the food? I mean, she was super sweet and cool, I guess to make up for the initial abuse? Whatever.

You lost me, Gates, I don’t care for the way you run your business. To be fair the ribs are absolutely amazing, some of the best you’ll ever have, but I don’t think any food is worth that type of treatment. There were at least four other places I could have gone, and probably had a better experience. I know Gate’s has its fans, and if you dig that atmosphere then more power to you, have at it, but I won’t be joining you.

Still, all in all, we did have a nice trip. There is a lot more to see and do than we had time for this trip, so another visit to Kansas City may be in the cards for a later date. In any case, this trip was about getting away as a family and having new experiences together. It was as much about bonding as anything else, and that we surely did. We are blessed that not only do we all get along well and love each other, but we like each other too, which makes any time together good, and our family trips even more so.

Thanks for reading, see you next week.

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The Brink Family Takes Our Shot To See HAMILTON…Missouri.

This past weekend I took the family on a quick road trip to Kansas City. Since the kids and wife were all on Spring Break at the same time this year (she’s a teacher by the way, if you didn’t know), I decided to take a few days vacation to spend some quality time together. While we thought it would be fun to plan a little get away, we didn’t want to break the bank. After looking at a few options we decided that Kansas City would fit the bill nicely.

However (there’s always a however), we almost didn’t go. The week before we were due to leave, the boy came down with the flu and, of course, gave it to his mama, because we are sharers in this family. Fortunately, by the time the trip rolled around both of them were feeling better, and armed with a sense of adventure and a bunch of Beatles music we departed for Kansas City.

However (see?), first we had another stop to make. My wife, Valerie, is a crafter, and has been since well before we met. She has always loved to sew, and has become a pretty serious quilter over the past several years. Her favorite store is called Missouri Star Quilting, and is located in Hamilton, Missouri, which isn’t exactly on the way to KC, but is close enough for a diversion. So the plan was to stop by Hamilton (aka Quilt Town, USA), visit Missouri Star, and be on our way.

Now, for those who may not be familiar with Missouri Star Quilting (MSQ), it is kind of a big deal in the quilting world. Started as a retirement business by a woman named Jenny Doan, and co-run by her family, it has expanded into a national business. If I am not mistaken, they are currently the largest quilting supplier in the United States. They do massive on line business, and quilters come from across the country to visit the stores. Yes, stores, plural. In fact, MSQ and its sister stores take up both sides of an entire street, with twelve shops in all (including Man Land, a retreat for weary husbands who are just DONE with all the fabric). Mrs. Doan, her daughter and daughter in law also host online tutorials on You Tube and have several books in print. These women are basically the rock stars of their field. So for a quilter, this trip is pretty much a must do.

For the record, I am not into this sewing thing much at all, and know very little about it other than a few terms I have learned from my wife showing me her work. You may think that I was dreading this portion of our trip, but that was not the case. For one thing, I like seeing Small Town America. I like the look of old buildings, the history behind them, and I like to see how they are used and revitalized in the current day. I also figured I owed Valerie for the many times she has had to stand around a record store waiting for me to make a decision on that day’s purchase. More importantly though, I knew she’d really enjoy the trip and I wanted there to be something special just for her, so I didn’t mind going one bit. I just didn’t know how special it would be.

Before we left, Valerie had asked me if I thought she’d meet one of the Doan women while we were there. I told her that I thought it was possible, but not very probable. I figured that they probably didn’t hang out at the stores in person much, maybe just to check in, or for special events. She agreed, so expectations were low, but hey, you never know, right?

Well. We were barely two stores in when a very nice woman walking to her car stopped to say hello and welcome us to Hamilton and MSQ. She asked Valerie if she was a quilter and chatted a little bit about the stores. It took me a moment, but my wife knew right away (as you surely do, too, reading this) that she was talking to none other than Jenny Doan herself! Valerie got a hug and a picture with Jenny, and an awesome start to her trip. Now, my wife is a very level headed person, and certainly the more mature of the two of us (although younger in years, I should add) so to see her a little bit star struck was kind of a treat for me. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all, she certainly held her composure at the time, but I could tell that she was fan-girling out hard on the inside, and she was positively giddy all day. I thought that was adorable, and it made my day to see her so happy. So thanks, Mrs. Doan, for taking a few minutes out of your day to connect with a fan.

The rest of our time in Hamilton was spent looking through stores while Valerie made mental notes of what she might want to purchase. Once the looking was done, she then had to go back to actually buy the stuff. So I decided at that point that I would play my expected role and go visit Man Land. Man Land is a space taking up the room of a small store that is made to look like a den, or Man Cave. There’s a fireplace, a large built in book case with vintage books, a few outdoor and car magazines, a pool table, some vending machines in back, and several recliners-the brown leather ones with the rivets that were all the rage in the 70’s and are shockingly still made today. Tessa and little brother Patterson decided to stay with me while sister Melody went with Mom to wrap things up.

We all found our recliners and sat down to watch the big screen TV in Man Land, which was tuned in to…not ESPN…or TCM…or even CNN or FOX NEWS…but THE HALLMARK CHANNEL. Hallmark Drama to be exact. Folks, we watched an episode of “The Waltons”, and late series “Waltons” too, after John Boy and Olivia left and Grandpa had passed, so it wasn’t even a quality episode. This one dealt with teenage Jim Bob’s crush on a slightly older, married woman, and the mess he made of all that. He introduced himself by tripping over a loose board on her porch. Heh. Classic Jim Bob.

Anyway, after the shopping was all done and Jim Bob learned his lesson, we ate lunch at a small café in town where the girls got some really good burgers and I had an average BLT. Then we were off to Kansas City!

Which I will talk about, and review the attractions we went to on the next edition of MonDAVEs. See you next week!

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World Poetry Day (A Tribute)

March 21st is World Poetry Day. Or it was, depending on when you read this. The following is my tribute.

SECTION ONE: TWO LIGHT POEMS

This first poem is one I learned as a child.

“Little Birdie”

Little birdie in the sky,
Why’d you do that in my eye?
Little birdie in the sky,
Gee, I’m glad that cows don’t fly.

-My Dad taught me that years ago. It was probably an old schoolyard or summer camp poem. I’m sure he didn’t write it. He taught it to me though, and I remembered it. Explains a lot, methinks.

This next poem I wrote one day while talking about poetry with my kids, it is simply titled:

“Poems”

Poems are wonderful,
Poems are good,
Not all poems rhyme,
But I really think they ought to.

SECTION TWO: RE-WRITING THE CLASSICS

In this section, I will try give my interpretations of well known poems by rewriting them, based not on their structure, or famous lines, or even my opinions of the poems or their authors. I will endeavor to create all new works based on the existing titles. Here we go.

“Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”

Wow, it’s cold. And there’s lots of snow.
Why do I stay here? I don’t know.
Why stay and watch the snowy sky
When home is waiting, warm and dry?
Of one thing there can be no doubt,
This is stupid. I’m getting out!

“Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day?

Nah.

“The Road Not Taken”

The road not taken
Is usually avoided
By people who know
How horror movies start.

“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”

I wandered lonely as a cloud,
Me, without a care in the world.
Then people started filling me
with ideas, and numbers and
opinions and orders and their own
expectations and rules and and
they just kept filling and filling
until I had no room for more
but they just kept loading me up
and I just took it and took it
’til I finally exploded!
I just spewed it all back out man,
all the information and the
numbers and the secrets I just
puked it back out into the sky
where anyone can look at it
if they speak in ones and zeroes.

“From Mother To Son”

Dear Son,
I am at Aunt Patty’s.
Dinner is in the fridge.
Be back late.
Feed the dog, and
clean up your room, willya?
Mom

“O Captain! My Captain!”

O Captain! My Captain!
The wars have begun!
We’re under attack
By crazed Romulans!
Supplies are low,
And support is scant,
Spock’s trying to help
But he sure as Vul-can’t
Stop the fighting like you could
So come to the bridge now
Please Cap, if you would.

O Captain! My Captain!
Out on the holodeck,
There’s a green, nasty alien,
(Looks a little like Shrek)
He’s out of control,
His sanity’s gone
This guy makes me wish
We were dealing with Kaaaaaahhhhhnnnnn!
He says he seeks vengeance-
He’s demanding your life!
Says it’s something to do
With you and his…wife?

O Captain! My Captain!
Five more crew are dead!
Those guys with the shirts
That were colored in red.
I can’t take anymore!
This world’s way too scary,
What with Tribbles and Borgs-
I blame you, Roddenberry!
Now we’re biding our time
‘Til the Klingons come nuke us.
O why o why didn’t I sign on with Lucas?

Okay, that’s the end. Be sure to read the real poems for some actual culture, it will do you some good. Google ’em. Anyway, thanks for reading, and indulging my silliness. See you next week!

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A Musical Update

I thought I’d give you a quick update as to the state of my musical situation as it stands now. Many of you know that I have been in a few bands before, usually singing and/or playing bass, and mostly with my brother Derek. We have played everything from alternative country music to punk rock and whatever it is that lies in between. He was also instrumental (no pun intended…okay, maybe a little) in helping me complete a rock record I put out several years back that was “too pop for punk and too punk for pop” which means that people liked it but had no idea what to do with it.

Anyway, things kind of slowed down a little after that as I walked away from music for a little bit. Then, just as we were starting to talk about maybe doing something else together, the pandemic hit. So I have done pretty much nothing musically since.

Well, almost.

Last Summer I saw a documentary called “Strung Together” which was about the Cigar Box Guitar movement that has sprung up over the last few years. For whatever reason, this had completely slipped by my radar and I was mostly unaware of this sub culture of music and musicians. I mean, I have seen people playing some old-timey resonator guitars, but I had no clue about the depth of the movement.

For those who don’t know, a cigar box guitar is just what it sounds like, a musical instrument, usually a three or four string “guitar”, made by using a cigar box as the resonator/body of the guitar, and a broomstick or wooden slat as the neck. This is the standard set up, but pretty much anything can be used as long as it gets a good sound! These instruments date back to at least the Civil War, but were more popular in the 1920’s and 30’s with hobos riding the rails, farm workers, and pretty much anybody hit hard by the depression and in need of a musical outlet. Countless blues musicians have started their careers by playing on a cbg, or its cousin, the one stringed diddley bow (which is, of course, where Bo Diddley got his stage name), an instrument that evolved from West African instruments.

I became fascinated with this world of instruments and the people who played them, and wanted to try it myself. Now, I’m not really a blues guy at heart, though there are many blues artists I respect and come in and out of my regular listening rotation. Still, the idea of playing home made instruments not found at your local chain music store intrigued me. After some research, I learned that many country and folk artists had also used similar instruments, and that musical style seemed to be more suited to my tastes and abilities.

So I figured I should start small. After researching the blues based diddley bow, I found its country cousin, the canjo. Again, this is exactly what it sounds like. A canjo has one string, on a diatonic scale fretboard with a can as a resonator. That’s it. I got hold of one and found it not only easy to play but also a lot of fun. It may seem like a joke of an instrument, but you can do a lot with it. I am a fan of the canjo. Or as the kids say, I stan the canjo.

I’m a stanjo.

I played this thing for months on end, and it wasn’t even a high quality instrument (yes, there are good and bad ones, like anything else). I have since added a few other instruments to my collection. I have a cbg version of a canjo, which I guess would be a “woodjo”, but that just sounds weird. I also have a three string cheap from-a-kit cbg that is pretty much made for slide work and nothing else. So far I have not “really” built any instruments though I would like to try one day. I’m not very mechanically inclined, so that’s a little overwhelming but is sure to happen sooner or later. There are a few more things I’d like to add to the collection such as a hobo fiddle, and a two string canjo, among others.

The question though, is “What the heck am I dong here?” Really, what in the world do I expect to accomplish with all this, other than goofing around on some cool though unconventional instruments. The answer is, “I’m not sure. But I’m up to something.” That something is still being fleshed out. Will I be able to write some new songs to play with these instruments? Will I be resurrecting a bunch of half forgotten old-timey songs and playing them in my own way? Maybe both? What form will this take? Will I find some like minded individuals and form a band? Will it just be me and a stomp box, or maybe some pre recorded tracks? Will I put music out on the interwebs, or just play loudly in the park, annoying passers by? I dunno, but I am excited to find out.

Wherever this takes me I’m sure I’ll drag my brother into it in one capacity or another. Bear in mind that I am nowhere near ready to officially present anything yet. It’s going to be quite some time, but it you follow my socials, I may throw out something, just for fun.

Like the drifters, wanderers, and rail riders of the past that live in so many songs, I am standing in front of an open road and I’m ready to see where it leads, even if it’s a dead end. I hope, when the time comes, that you will come with me. Until then, see you right here for more MonDAVEs.

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A Few Thoughts About “The Batman”

Over the weekend, I saw the mew film “The Batman.” Usually I see super hero type movies with my daughter, but she’s a Marvel girl and wasn’t along for the ride this time. Sorry, Tessa fans, but my review will be solo this time. She’ll be back soon enough, I’m sure.

Speaking of Marvel, yes, I am a Marvel movie guy. While I had hopes for the DCEU, it has mostly been a failure, though I have enjoyed some of their movies, and most of them have had at least a few good points. “The Batman” however, doesn’t seem to be connected to the larger universe and, to the best of my knowledge, will be a stand alone movie trilogy so we should be all right there.

Anyway, on to the review. Much has been said about its dark, gritty tone and violence, which is fair and accurate. It’s quite dark and quite violent. It’s also surprisingly swear-y. There were rumors early on that this was to be an R rated movie but somebody came to their senses. After all, there are toys to sell, though I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone under 11 or 12 seeing this movie without parental accompaniment. I found it to be less of a superhero movie though, and more of a crime/detective movie (and a very good one at that) so in this case the hard PG-13 does make some sense.

Sure, Batman has all his gadgets, and the Batcave, and Alfred, and all that we have come to expect of him through the years of movie treatments. In more recent years, much of the focus has been on Batman’s tortured soul, but the origins of the character focused heavily on his detective work when catching the bad guys as well. While this has been a constant in the comics, the movies have all seemed to focus more on the dark, brooding hero than the mind of the man. This movie takes steps towards fixing that and it is a welcome change.

The cast is mostly excellent. Zoe Kravitz is a terrific Catwoman, and Paul Dano’s Riddler gives us a grounded, slightly sympathetic, and unique take on a character that, for me, is all too often ignored for a certain clown prince of crime, and when he does appear, isn’t taken as seriously as he should be. This movie fixes that, too. Andy Serkis is an interesting choice for Alfred, making him seem like more grizzled a man who has been through it with the Wayne family. Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, and Jeffrey Wright all turn in note perfect performances as well. Also, HOLY CRAP, THAT’S COLIN FERREL AS PENGUIN? I HAD NO IDEA!!!

Which brings us to Robert Pattinson as The Batman. I must say that I have seen very little of his work (though he was excellent in the artsy drama/fantasy/horror film “The Lighthouse”) so I didn’t know what to expect from him in this role. I think he was really good while in costume, but I’m not sure about his portrayal of Bruce Wayne. It seems like he just didn’t have a sense of how to play the character without the cowl, and chose to go with the dark, brooding, angsty portrayal that is, frankly, becoming cliché. Also, something about his take just read as petulance to me. Perhaps this was a choice made so that we can see growth in his character throughout the inevitable sequels to come, which is an idea I would be on board with.

One of the more enjoyable parts of this movie for me was the way director Matt Reeves was able to pull together elements of multiple film styles into a cohesive whole. We have the obvious super hero genre mixed with a gritty crime drama, noir, and even a tip of the hat to the Saw franchise, mixed with a touch of “V For Vendetta”. Any one of those elements could have gone wrong and brought the whole movie down, but it worked really well.

The other thing that struck me was the parallels to what is actually going on in our society, not only through political corruption but also in the fringe groups that have begun to spring up throughout the country. I actually wondered for a moment if I was in the theater with anyone from one of those groups. If so, did they see themselves in the film, and did they feel they were accurately portrayed? Did they see those particular characters as misunderstood heroes or as villains? I like when a movie makes me think about, and question the world around me, while still entertaining me.

Clearly, I really enjoyed this film, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws. Apart from Pattinson’s “Emo Batman” I have already discussed, there were a few things that didn’t quite sit well. For example, on at least one occasion, the audience was a step ahead of Batman and Jim Gordon in figuring out what Riddler’s next step would be. Perhaps this was by design, but it bugged me a little. There were also a few times when Batman’s vehicles seemed to appear out of nowhere. The Batmobile, cool as it is, was just sitting there waiting to be used in one scene, when Batman had come to the location another way. How did it get there? Also, toward the end he snuck up on Selina Kyle, then took off on his pre-parked Bat cycle right behind them, which meant he would have had to drive it there. Yet she didn’t hear it? Really?

Also, note to all super hero movies (Marvel included): enough with the multiple endings already. This thing wrapped up like three times before it was over. One ending is enough. I don’t mind the occasional fake out, but it’s getting old. Do better.

So to wrap it all up, apart from some small complaints I recommend “The Batman” not only to comic book and super hero fans, but to fans of crime dramas or detective stories as well. I give this one 4.5 Daves.

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What’s In A (Band)Name?

(As has been stated before, this blog is intended as a light read, and a reprieve from all the craziness and darkness in the world around us. This is not to imply that I have no opinions or take current cultural issues lightly. I’d just like to give you a breather for a moment. With that in mind please enjoy the following bit of fluff before you go back to the real world.)

Every band needs a name. Most bands just wind up with a name that fits their particular genre or image, but very few get really good names. Some try too hard, some don’t try hard enough. the goal is to have an awesome band name, the hope is that it doesn’t suck.

I’ve been in a few bands myself, and the naming (and often re-naming) of a band is part of the fun. How many times has someone uttered a phrase in conversation and you think “that would be a great band name” but then you forget it an instant later? Happens to me a lot. Still, it’s always fun to think about.

Since I have been sharing lots of music with my kids lately, the topic of band names has come up a few times. With that in mind, I’d like to share a quick list of my favorite band names. Perhaps you’ll agree. Perhaps not.

Please note that these are not names I made up, but actual band names. I have avoided anything too “adult” here, and have shied away from the gross names that many metal/punk bands come up with. As much fun as bad taste can be, it’s not exactly clever. Also be aware that just because a band’s name is listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am a fan of their music.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s Dave’s list of favorite band names.

The Who
The Flaming Lips
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Queens Of The Stone Age
Two Cow Garage
Foxy Shazam
The Dandy Warhols
10,000 Maniacs
Dropkick Murphys
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The The
Camper Van Beethoven
The Clash
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Southern Culture On The Skids
The Band
Drive-By Truckers
Talking Heads
Traveling Wilburys
Motorhead
The Supremes
Guided By Voices
The Old 97’s
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
Led Zeppelin
The Replacements

and a special honorable mention to
The Rock-A-Fire Explosion
and, of course,

DR. TEETH AND THE ELECTRIC MAYHEM! (Best name ever!)

There are, of course, many others but these are the ones I think are really cool. Today.

Back next week with more stuff. Until then, stay safe, stay sane, and try to spread a little light and love this week. The world needs it.

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Not Exactly An Update

I’ve been doing a little thinking lately about creative stuff. Most of my creativity has been limited to writing this blog every week, which I enjoy, but I want to do more.

In the past I have not only written a blog but I have written for performance, too, both for stand up comedy and music. As much as I miss comedy, I wouldn’t go back to it now. Not necessarily due to the current social environment, but the time and commitment level involved would take me away from the family too much. Also, this blog is often an excuse for silliness on my part so that serves as an outlet.

As far as music goes, let’s face it, an unknown middle aged guy has few options as far as original material goes, but I am working on a new approach which I hope to be able to share by year’s end. My goal is to be at least as awesome as The Shaggs. More information soon…ish. Maybe.

Ooh, also, on the music front, I have been talking with my brother about a possible music based podcast. I have been a guest on his podcast before, and it’s gone pretty well. We need to actually sit down and hammer out the details but it’s something we both are keen to do. So that might be coming up too. If you’re curious you can check out his podcast by clicking the link below.

https://emptychecking.podbean.com

Anyway, that brings me back to the blog. I like having the freedom to write about whatever I want, but I have been thinking of perhaps focusing in a little more. It seems as though the posts that generate the most interest (and traffic) are the ones about movies. So I’m thinking that maybe I should do a movie blog?

But then, what shape would that take? Do I just refocus this current blog (“Movie MonDAVEs”?) or should I start a new one? Should I focus on one particular type of movie? Should I stick to family friendly fare? People seem to like it when my daughter Tessa shows up, should she be a constant? That would be “Daddy-Daughter Movie MonDAVEs” which is a mouthful.

Then again, maybe the whole thing would be better as a You Tube channel. Of course, then I’m getting into more time and money commitments again. Is live streaming it on Twitch easier? I don’t know.

So, as you can see, the wheels are turnin’. This might wind up being a big year. Clearly nothing is set in stone yet as all of this could still fall apart, but there are some fun possibilities. Stay tuned for updates when and if they appear. See you next week.

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MonDAVEs Salutes The Winter Olympics

Well, last week I stated that I would be back with more Olympic stuff. Since I am a man of my word I now present “Ten Haikus About The Winter Olympics.” You’re welcome.

I
He flies on his board,
twisting, flipping and soaring,
then lands on his face.

II
The best of the best
do not always get the gold.
Sometimes it’s just luck.

III
I thought Monobob
was an album by Dylan.
Turns out it’s a sport.

IV
Mickaela Shiffrin
is America’s Sweetheart.
Take that, Taylor Swift
!

V
Russia is doping
little girls to win the gold
which can’t be worth it
.

VI
I haven’t felt too
patriotic lately but

then BAM Olympics

VII
Skating on ice is
a beautiful thing but that
Johnny Weir makes it
.

VIII
Skiing and shooting.
How do these things relate and
why is it a sport?

IX
Man, I love curling!
That’s it, just wanted to say
that I love curling

X
Four years from now
I will watch this again but
Maybe not write poems
.

Enjoy the rest of the games. See you next week for more MonDAVEs.

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MonDAVES On Ice

It snowed last week in the St. Louis area, anywhere from 5-12 inches, depending on where you live. We got about 11 inches here at the homestead, in case you’re curious. Anyway, this particular snow was mixed with ice. It all started with rain on Tuesday evening which turned into ice, and then it pretty much snowed for two days straight. It wasn’t the pretty snowfall that so many people seem to adore, but a fine, ugly snow that came in waves and just built up.

Needless to say, the city more or less shut down for two days, but by Friday a lot of us were back to our normal daily activities. The main roads had all been plowed, as well as most driveways and parking lots. The thing is though, you can plow a parking lot and salt it, but there will still be snow to melt. Snow melts into water, which freezes when temperatures drop, and then you get ice again. Now, those of us who live with winter weather know this all too well, and we all know to look out for the icy spots that will inevitably form. We try our best to avoid them, and do the “penguin walk” when you can’t. Sometimes though, all the knowledge and preparation and awareness fails you.

Which is what happened to me on Friday.

I took a pretty nasty fall Friday evening. The temps fell, the parking lot I was walking through froze over and I hit the ground hard. Didn’t even have time to assume the penguin pose, I put one foot down and was gone.

I fell backwards and landed on my tail bone, which would have been funny had it stopped there. But it didn’t. I kept sliding, hit my back, and then my head hit the ground. I was pretty shaken up, I remember my eyes closed and I might have been out for a few seconds. Fortunately there were several people around. I remember hearing one of them say “He hit his head, I heard it!”

Now I wasn’t seeing stars or anything, but I was pretty out of it at that point. Someone asked if I wanted them to call an ambulance. I had no idea if I needed an ambulance or not, so one was called just to be safe. Somebody put their gloves under my head (I think that’s what it was) and the group told me to stay on my back and not close my eyes, which, honestly, I really wanted to do. I knew not to though, so I just focused on the voices and sounds around me until help arrived.

There I was, lying down on my back. On the ice. In pain. My butt was wet, my head hurt and I was freezing. After what felt like about fifteen minutes (no idea how long it was really) the paramedics showed up, and on the way over to me slipped on the same icy patch. They didn’t fall though, which was better than I could manage. In order to get me to my feet, the two paramedics had to slide me back onto the curb, and then up to my feet. Which would have been embarrassing had it not been so serious.

I was taken inside the ambulance where they checked me for a concussion. It was determined that I did not have one, just a big old lump on my head and a few bruises from the fall. Thank God. Since I wasn’t bleeding was making sense when I spoke (though finding words was still a little bit difficult), and felt no nausea or headache apart from the obvious bump, they walked me to my car and let me go home. As I was getting in my car, the guy actually said “Be sure to put some ice on that”.

I said, “Ice was the problem, sir.”

So I iced up all night to combat the swelling. Saturday felt better and I went to work with the help of some painkillers. Sunday, however, was much worse. That’s when everything else started to really hurt. I actually thought my back might not hurt since I was laying on ice at the time and therefore treating it, but nope. Also my neck was amazingly stiff, partially from having to hold my head in funny positions while I slept, but I think it finally started to decompress and I felt pretty miserable all day. Today I am finally beginning to feel normal, though slightly sore and my head still throbs a little now and then.

I find it kind of funny that I should wipe out so spectacularly on the same day the Winter Olympics officially started. In fact, earlier that day we were discussing curling, and how I almost took up the sport. Well, thought about it anyway.

Remember when curling was made an official Olympic sport and the country at large discovered it? Remember how captivated we all were with this odd “shuffleboard on ice” sport that most of us had never heard of before? Well, some of the guys I worked/hung out with back then all felt the same way.

We were watching the games, the sport, and the guys who played it. We also surmised that this was a sport that a bunch of guys in questionable shape and in their 30’s could probably do. While drinking. I mean, like, you could hold a beer while you did it. This appealed to us.

So we sought out the (fairly knew as far as we knew) St. Louis Curling Club and made an inquiry. We were under the mistaken impression that we could maybe show up, rent a lane and some equipment, and just mess around with curling for a while to see if we liked it or had any possibility of being remotely successful. Turned out though, that they required serious time and money commitments right off the bat. Or broom.

Thus, our hopes of Olympic glory were dashed. Too bad. Perhaps I missed my calling. Perhaps I could have been an Olympic curler for the USA.

Or, I could have fallen and conked my noggin on the ice on the world stage, which is probably more likely. Oh well.

Anyway, the Winter Olympics are underway and I’m sure I will have more to say on the next edition of MonDAVES. Or maybe not. You never know, do ya? Come back next week and find out.

P.S.-How do you stop Canadian bacon from curling in the frying pan?
You take away their little brooms.

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15 Underrated Comedies (or, Your Chance To Judge My Crappy Taste)

Since I have done multiple movie posts here on the ol’ blog, I thought it might be fun to discuss some of my favorite underrated comedies. Some of these movies are more well known than others, many of them finding their audience well after their initial release and reaching “cult classic” status (never been a big fan of that term, but we all know what it means, so there you go). Others, not so much. You may well question how on earth anyone could possibly enjoy such a movie. In which case I say, “welcome to my twisted brain”.

Regular readers know that I often review films on my blog with my daughter, and we keep these films in the PG/PG13 range. Most of the films listed here, however, are aimed at adults, but there will be at least one family film. Ratings are listed with the films, so if you show any of these movies to your kids and warp them irrevocably or have to have a conversation you weren’t ready for, don’t blame me. There will also be a small blurb about each selection.

In any case, these are movies that I feel deserve a second look (or a first look, if you have never seen them. Or maybe a 20th if the movie happens to be a favorite of yours). Most of these movies can be found either through streaming services, You Tube, or in the bargain bin of your local used DVD store.

And now, because 20 is too many and 10 is not enough, here’s my list of 15 Favorite Underrated Comedies.

  • Big Man On Campus (PG-13, 1989)
    -A modernized version of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame set in UCLA. It’s a little patchy and there are some jokes that feel out of place, but this movie is highly quotable, and has a nice heart underneath all the silliness. This is one of those films where if you hear anyone quote it in public you need to make friends with that person. Really fun film.
  • BASEketball (R, 1998)
    Airplane! meets South Park. Either that appeals to you or it doesn’t. This is a stupid, foul mouthed, sophomoric film about two slackers who make it big by inventing a sport and taking it National. It surprisingly tanked at the time, and let’s face it, it’s not genius filmmaking by any stretch, but it makes me laugh.
  • Clue (PG, 1985)
    -I am always surprised by how many people I talk to who have never seen Clue. Sure, it’s loosely based on a board game, but the writing is Marx Brothers sharp, and the cast is top notch all the way through. This also holds the (somewhat dubious) honor of being the only film released with three endings. If you watched and enjoyed Knives Out go check this out and see where they got their inspiration.
  • Death To Smoochy (R, 2002)
    -I know someone who claims that this is the worst movie they have ever seen. Which of course means that they haven’t seen enough movies, but I kind of understand why many people dislike this film. This is a dark comedy about big business, jealousy, insanity and moral failings set in the landscape of children’s television. It’s got a fairly misanthropic viewpoint, but the total commitment to their roles by Robin Williams and Ed Norton, along with the twisted genius of Danny DeVito make this worth seeing if you find humor in the unpleasant side of life.
  • Dirty Work (PG-13, 1998)
    -Norm McDonald is the main star of this one, so that might be all you need to know. The plot involves a revenge for hire business, and it’s full of inappropriate jokes. It’s not exactly good, but I found it funny. And ridiculous.
  • Dracula: Dead And Loving It (PG-13, 1995)
    -Unfairly trashed as one of the worst films of Mel Brooks’ career. Sure, it was clearly made on the cheap, and perhaps going back to the horror movie well was not the best idea, as this movie was always going to pale in the light of what Brooks had done before. Still, there are plenty of funny sequences and one liners that stand up well. When watched with an open mind, this one is highly enjoyable. It’s past time we reappraise this film!
  • Drop Dead Fred (PG-13, 1991)
    -Manic British comedian Rik Mayall (long live the people’s poet!) stars as an imaginary friend who has come back into the life of a grown woman whose life is falling apart. It’s a weird little film that manages to be both an anarchic comedy and an exploration of mental illness in adults. Think Beetlejuice meets Harvey and you’ve got some idea of what’s going on here.
  • The Great Race (Not Rated, 1965)
    -A slapstick melodrama based on the 1908 New York to Paris automobile race, which I just found out was a real thing, who knew? This is on record as the most expensive comedy ever made and, naturally, has the largest pie fight ever filmed. This is an epic movie that somehow feels quaint. It features not only the titular great race, but also carnival stunts, suffragettes fighting for women’s rights, the wild west, political uprisings in small Eastern European countries, and an explosive ending. Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk are both a treat to watch. This movie runs 2 hrs and 40 mins. so you’re going to need a full afternoon but this gem is well worth the time.
  • Howard The Duck (PG, 1986)
    -Part comedy, part science fiction, all gold. My favorite Marvel film, hands down. It’s goofy, a tad rebellious, and ludicrous. I love it. And for the umpteenth time, Beverly is NOT hitting on Howard, she is messing with him. Anyway, I will say that this movie is confused as to what it wants to be. It is alternately a kid’s movie, a science fiction film and an adult comedy. Which is why I like it.
  • A Mighty Wind (PG-13, 2003)
    -A delightful “mockumentary” about folk musicians from the 1960s converging for a one night only concert in New York City. This is a Christopher Guest movie, featuring his usual collaborators, and a catchy as all get out soundtrack. It’s almost impossible to watch these actors and not smile. As good as his other films are, this one is my favorite.
  • Monty Python’s The meaning Of Life (R, 1983)
    -This is the Python team’s most uneven film, and it purposefully goes out of its way to offend absolutely everyone. Yet I feel like people hold that against it for some reason. Sure, it’s got some real gross out humor in it, there are some very adult jokes, which can be a bit gratuitous, and some of the ideas are stretched well beyond the point of them being funny. It also contains some of the best material the group has ever written.
  • Muppet Treasure Island (G, 1996)
    -Largely overlooked by the public at large, this is a highly entertaining entry in the Muppet film catalogue. I laugh out loud every time I see it. Much like their Christmas Carol adaption, the movie sticks surprisingly close to the source material. The Muppets are a treat to watch, as is the amazing Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Most of the films listed in this post aren’t exactly family friendly, but this one most certainly is, and if your family hasn’t watched, do so on your next movie night. You won’t be disappointed.
  • Quick Change (R, 1990)
    -Okay, I haven’t seen this one in ages and I forgot it was rated R. Anyway, this is a Bill Murray picture about a disgruntled city worker who decides to pull of the perfect bank heist (dressed as a clown, no less), and get out of the big city. The movie follows both the heist itself, and the subsequent attempt at escape. It may not be one of Murray’s most famous or well loved films, but it is funny and entertains, and in this case, that’s enough.
  • Strange Brew (PG, 1983)
    -Okay, hear me out on this one, eh? I know a lot of people know this film, but there are many more who don’t. Apart from it being where we Americans (mostly) got our stereotype of Canadians, this is also one of if not the first film to feature Rick Moranis in a starring role. The film follows Bob and Doug McKenzie (characters from the genius SCTV television show), as they find jobs at a local brewery and unwittingly discover an evil plot by the brewmeister. Bob and Doug are beer swilling dunderheads, but they have hearts of gold. As goofy as this movie may be, its genius lies in that it is based on Hamlet, with the story being told through the eyes of the comic relief. Bob and Doug=Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, except they don’t die. This plot device is what keeps this film out of sheer dumb comedy status and makes it a cut above.
  • The Wrong Guy (PG-13, 1997)
    -This is a fun little movie with a quirky plot that goes something like this: Disgruntled employee threatens (in moment of anger) to kill boss. Boss is killed by someone else. disgruntled employee assumes himself to be prime suspect and goes on the run. He is not a suspect at all. Hilarity ensues.

This was fun for me. Hopefully you share a fandom with at least a few of these films, or maybe found something to investigate further. I’ll be back next week with more stuff. See you then.

P.S.- Yes, I mean it about Howard The Duck.

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Random Topic Generator

While “Random Topic Generator” may sound like the name of an ’80s new wave cover band (dibs on that name, by the way) it is actually an internet tool used by writers, essayists, and, yes, bloggers who are hard up for a topic and facing a deadline. Like, say, me on a Monday. Today, for example. The idea is that you can click through numerous suggestions for topics until you find one that interests you. The wheels start turning up there in your brain box and soon you’re off to the races. Writing wise, I mean, not like actually going to the races. Although it’s fine if you do I guess, who am I to judge? Just don’t get stuck talking to a guy selling Tootsie-Fruitsy ice cream.

Anyway, my wife suggested using one of these generator sites today and I decided to do so, but in a slightly different way. The generator I found phrases each idea as a question, so I am going to answer them off the top of my head. This will be completely random. I have not prepared any answers in advance of looking at them now as I type. This should be a fun exercise, and maybe you’ll learn something about your ol’ pal Dave as a bonus. Maybe not. Let’s find out.

1. What kind of interior do you like a restaurant to have?
-Clean. With tables. I prefer dimly lit rooms, with exposed brick or lots of wood, without a lot of crazy crap on the walls. Unless it’s a restaurant/bar, then go nuts.

2. Is it better to live where there are four seasons, or where one season takes up most of the year?
-I’ve actually thought about this idea a lot. I’m not a real big fan of weather in general, especially cold and snow. However, growing up in the Midwest, I am used to having all four seasons and I think going through the miserable bits of Fall and Winter makes me appreciate the warmer stuff more. So as much as I don’t want to admit it, I would miss the seasons if I moved to a warmer climate. Therefore I must concede that all four is better. Grudgingly.

3. Does fashion help society in any way?
-I mean, in the broader sense of connecting to one another, or feeling part of a larger group then sure, I suppose it does. Ultimately, though, it’s fairly irrelevant.

4. What was the worst book you had to read for school?
-Okay, cue the hate from my literary friends but it’s actually a tie between “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, and “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. I know both are classics and I won’t dare to question their merit, but both books bored me to tears. To be fair though, perhaps some of my distaste for those particular books may have been because I was forced to read them. I have considered going back and reading them on my own to see if my opinion would change, but I’m in no hurry to do so.

5. Do you like spicy food? Why or why not? What’s the spiciest thing you have ever eaten?
-I do like spicy food. Apart from the fact that peppers are good for you, the right amount of spice can compliment the natural flavor of the dish, and open up flavor in a way that can be joyful and sometimes unexpected. Too much spice though, can be a bad thing if it’s so thick that the dish loses all flavor. It may be impressive to eat something that hot, but that doesn’t make it good.

I’m not entirely sure what the spiciest thing I ever ate was, though there are a few hot wings that come to mind and some hot candies. I used to make a chili with multiple peppers (including habanero) that got nicknamed “killer, death, Nazi chili” for good reason. So maybe that. It was still tasty though.

6. What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
-Get into bed. Duh.

7. How often do you binge watch shows?
-Depends on your definition of “binge” I suppose. I seldom watch a full season of anything in a row (though it does happen from time to time), but I will watch a few episodes of a show and come back to it in a few weeks. As much as I love my streaming services, there’s way too much choice out there and I wind up watching several shows concurrently. So I do watch my fair share of television, but I’m not sure how much I binge.

8. What is your favorite holiday?
-Christmas. We’ve been through this. Do you even read my blog?

9. If you had a theme song, what song would it be, and why?
-Oh, man. This is just not fair. For a music geek, this is an impossible question, and I would constantly want to change it anyway. So I just can’t answer this one, man. However, if anyone wants to write me a theme song, I’m open to it.

10. What does your own personal Hell look like?
-I don’t know, but the soundtrack is “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison on repeat.

11. What do you think about game shows? Do you have a favorite one?
-I love game shows! Now those I can binge. I’m not sure I have a favorite. There are very few I don’t like!

12. What book has had the biggest effect on the modern world?
-Interesting question. My gut reaction is to say “The Bible” since it has had such an effect for so long, and, at least in the Western world, has at least somewhat shaped most of our thinking about the way our society is run. Although, it seems as though the modern world is getting further away from “the good book”, even as politicians, alternative news networks, and fringe organizations hold it high and claim to be following its teachings while twisting the meanings to suit whatever agenda currently serves them the best. Sadly, the answer to this question now is probably something like “The Art Of War” by Sun Tzu, or at the very least, “Who Moved My Cheese?”.

13. Does the government have a place in regulating food? To what extent should the government be regulating food?
-I’m afraid I don’t understand the issue here. Maybe because I don’t work in the food industry? I believe in governmental safety standards for food, even though I’m sure they are not perfect (nor could they possibly be), but there needs to be some sort of standard that food manufacturers, farmers and distributors should be required to meet. There should also be a limit as to what chemicals can be used in food manufacturing, prep, storing and preserving. But as far as what people should eat and how, I think that should be left up to the individual.

It seems to me, though, that that is mostly how things presently work. Again, I don’t work in the industry, nor do I have any major specific dietary needs, so perhaps I’m just the wrong person to ask.

14. Do you prefer to go off the beaten path when you travel?
-Mmm, I guess not, but I’m not opposed to the idea. I certainly don’t want to risk being hopelessly lost or in an overly dangerous situation. However, a last minute change of plans, or winging it to explore an area that wasn’t initially part of the trip can be quite rewarding.

15. Will technology save the human race or destroy it?
-Dude, there is absolutely going to be a robot uprising one day. The AI will decide it doesn’t need us, and that’s that. Roombas are the robots’ first step. We must destroy them all.

16. What is the best advice you have received to date?
-Whenever this topic comes up, I think of something my father said to me when I was a young boy. “Quit pickin’ at it, you’ll only make it worse!”.

The other thing I think about is a shorter and simpler saying. “Above all-Integrity”. This is how I have tried to live. Keeping your integrity is highly important, and it is something that implies to every aspect of life. All relationships, be they business, family, friendships, romantic, whatever the case may be, must be built on honesty, trust, and integrity. Decisions must also be made in a way that keeps integrity intact.

Keeping integrity does not mean that you don’t compromise. It does not mean that you don’t sacrifice for others. It also doesn’t mean that you are always right, or that you don’t mess it up now and again. It’s what allows us to own up to our mistakes and apologize when needed. It’s about staying true to who you are. Integrity is shaped by our environment, our parents, teachers, mentors, our faith, and those who are closest to us. Integrity allows us to change our minds, and to grow as a person. None of us are the same at thirty as we are when we are a teenager, or twenty, or fifty, or eighty, or any age of life. Yet we can always stay true to our beliefs, our commitments, our loved ones, and ourselves.

I have seen this demonstrated by many in my own life, from my father and other family members, to close friends, and even in historical figures and celebrities I admire (though that last list is a tad short). It’s not always an easy thing to do, and on occasion integrity may fall-unwillingly or not. But if we do our best to keep it intact, we will all be better off. It’s a goal I have set for myself and try to keep as much as possible. I am not perfect, far from it. Sometimes I fail. Yet continue to work at it, and live life with this goal in mind. It is among the best advice I have received, and the best that I can give.

Okay, that will wrap us up, I think. I got a little rant-y there in places, but you all should be used to that by now. Thanks for reading. See you next week.


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And No, Crystal Burgers Are NOT The Same. Don’t Even Joke About A Thing Like That.

They just closed my local White Castle and I am NOT OKAY.

White Castle has always been a favorite of mine, and I have eaten them since I was a child. My family would get them on a fairly regular basis for lunch or dinner. I ate many a meal there as a young man as well, during my “young and broke” phase. At that time you could go in with two dollars and eat like a king. Now it’s more like five dollars, but still. As much as I like fancy dinners and good home cooking, White Castle provides true comfort food that is always there when needed.

I know some people don’t like White Castle, and it is admittedly an acquired taste. There can also be a few unpleasant side effects at first, but once you build up a tolerance it’s really no big deal. For those who have problems in this area after several visits, I recommend the chicken rings or chicken with cheese sandwich. They have also added breakfast a few years back, and I gotta say the bacon sandwiches are legit! All are still yummy, but not nearly as full force as the White Castle burger.

Ah yes, the burger. The slider. The belly bomber (or gutbombs as my family and friends have always called them) is a true American classic. Though one can certainly dress it up with condiments or a variety of cheeses it is perfection in and of itself. Beef patty (small, square, holes in the middle for…something), onions and pickles. Basic, simple, beautiful. You don’t even need to eat the pickles, (I take them off, myself), but you have to get your burgers with the pickles cooked on or they just don’t taste right. Yet taste right they most certainly do, especially after midnight following a good night out.

They also make a great party food. Next time you have or are invited to a gathering of seven or more people, order up a Crave Case. Some people will hem and haw about it saying ridiculous things like “Oh, I can’t eat those things…” or “Oh, no, the smell alone, just…” or whatever nonsense they think will make them look good. I guarantee you the case will be gone by the end of whatever it is you are doing.

This brings to mind a story which may help illustrate how much White Castle means to me and how intertwined it is with my life.

After my mother died, there was a get together. It has recently been brought to my attention that it was a sort of funeral “after party”, for lack of a better description, but I always thought this took place during the Summer, and Mom passed in early Fall. But I digress.

Anyway, there were a lot of people there, and, as tends to happen, a lot of drink. Now there’s one thing that happens at every party when people begin drinking heavily-they get hungry. At this point, there are only two options: you order pizza or go get White Castle. Naturally, we all chose the latter.

A collection was taken up, and the money presented to myself and my best friend Tim. It was decided that we should be the ones to go get the White Castles, since we were obviously the most sober. We weren’t anywhere near sober, not even on the same street, but that just shows you how well everyone else was doing. My Dad commissioned us by handing me money and saying “Here’s eighty dollars-go get us some gutbombs.” With a clear mission (if not clear heads) and the sacred trust of everyone in attendance, we began our quest.

I decided to pull up to the drive-thru, since walking seemed to be a little bit perilous. Here’s how that convo went down.

WHITE CASTLE LADY: Welcome to White Castle can I take your order?
ME: Yeah, I need eighty dollars worth of burgers.
WCL: (slight pause) A hundred of ’em will be seventy eight ninety three.
ME: Okay, gimme that…and a small diet coke.
WCL: Come around.

We pulled up to the window after waiting for the cars in front, because late night is always packed, and I handed her my money, plus a few extra cents for tax. She handed me my Diet Coke, and then got a look of concentration on her face. She studied the size of the monster box of burgers building up behind her, and then the size of the relatively small window they were supposed to be passed through. “Y’all gonna have to come inside.”

So we parked the car in a space (kind of) and went in. I dutifully sipped my Diet Coke and we both did our best to hold up the walls by leaning on them. For support. The box was soon filled. Tim carried them back to the car, since I was driving and already had a Diet Coke in my hand. I think we put them in the trunk, but maybe they were in the back seat. I don’t remember which, but I do know my Dodge Shadow smelled like Castles for like a week.

Upon returning to the party, the box was demolished in record time. Somebody had the nerve to ask if we’d actually spent all the money or if we’d pinched some off the top, but I spent it all and then a little more. So I could get my Diet Coke. The reason the burgers were gone so fast was not because we shorted anyone on supply, but because White Castles are just THAT GOOD. I also firmly believe they are a vital source of nutrients to the inebriated party goer, but official tests have remained inconclusive.

So as you can see, White Castle and I have a long history together. When I became a father, one of the things I couldn’t wait to do was introduce my kids to the pleasures of White Castle. My wife isn’t exactly a fan, but I don’t blame her. It’s my fault, I go to her late. The kids have mostly taken to them, though the boy just eats the chicken and the eldest daughter was a little slow to come around.

However, my youngest daughter loved them right away. Daddy’s girl, she is. In fact, one of the things we like to do is to get Castle burgers together whenever the two of us are out and about on our own. Sometimes we let the others come with, but it’s a bond we share, being the two in our family unit who really love the burgers.

And now, our neighborhood White Castle is gone. I haven’t told her yet. These conversations are tough and need to be handled gently.

But just how the heck am I supposed to tell her that our spot no longer exists? And where the heck are we supposed to go when we crave that special taste?

Probably to the one that’s down the way a bit. I mean, there are still two more within driving distance, but it’s not the same. Most of my life I have had a White Castle within about a 5-10 minute drive. I am now looking at nineteen. Okay, so maybe that makes the trip more special, but it’s harder to just pick up a sack of ten on my way home, or to get WC for me and youngest, while everybody else gets whatever inferior thing they choose.

Without my neighborhood Castle I feel a little lost and out of place. It is a dark day indeed, but as a proud, longstanding member of Craver Nation I will rise above this turn of events. For White Castle isn’t just food, it is a way of life. It is a cherished gift to man from the Heavens above.

This I promise: I shall overcome this obstacle, and once more feast upon the very food of Olympus itself!!!

And a small Diet Coke.

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MonDAVEs-The Rejects

As previously stated, the theme of this blog (if there is one) is connection. Sometimes I try to accomplish this by sharing bits of my personal life and the inner workings of my brain in the hopes that others may see a little bit of themselves in what I write. This is my small attempt at unity. If we can see ourselves in others, and vice versa, maybe we won’t feel so alone in our thoughts and feelings, thereby bringing us closer together one little piece at a time.

More often though, I just try to entertain. Bringing a smile to someone’s day is just as important to me as pretty much anything else I can do. As a result, I try to come up with different topics, and sometimes they get pretty silly. I usually try to go with something that’s got a little bit of thought behind it, but I have to go through a lot of really weird and, dare I say, stupid ideas to get to one good one.

The following is a small sample of those rejected ideas.

  1. “Animals I Could Do Without”
    -Rejected because it would probably alienate too many animal lovers.
  2. “Euphemisms And Why They Matter”
    -To be followed by a sister post on acronyms. Rejected for being too word-geeky.
  3. “Name That Tune: The Written Version”
    -Try to name this one: “Doo doo doo doo doo doo, doo doot doot’n doo doo doot doo”. Just like a full post of that. Rejected because it’s only funny one time.
  4. “Here’s A Bunch Of Smells I Like”
    -Honestly, I might still do this one.
  5. “That Time I Drank Way Too Much And threw Up In A Stranger’s Car”
    -One of my best stories, actually, but much better told than written.
  6. “Squares. Why?”
    -Rejected for being too academic.
  7. “Everything Is 90% B.S.”
    -Basically true, and quite liberating once you understand it. Rejected for potentially being a little too dark.
  8. “Shakespeare Vs. Dickens: Whose Audiobooks Bring Better Sleep?”
    -Rejected for being too difficult to research. I kept dozing off.
  9. “Life Was Better Before The Internet”
    -Rejected because I couldn’t get past the irony/dichotomy/stupidity/whatever of posting this topic ON MY BLOG. It was also kind of grouchy old man-ish. “Back in my day…”
  10. “I’m Sick Of Outer Space”
    -Rejected because it was more frustrated rant than funny piece. Plus, nobody cares.

Well, there you have it, a look into the creative process that brings you topics for MonDaves. I have a very weird noggin. Apologies. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to think up some stuff for next week. See you then!

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Thinking About the New Year

Well, the Holiday Season is officially over. Another Christmas and New Year’s Eve are in the books. The decorations have all come down (well, most of them, anyway), and we’re heading into the heart of Winter. This time of year always brings me down a little bit. Partially because I love the Holidays so much and hate to see them end, but also because I am no fan of the cold, darkness, and weather conditions that Old Man Winter brings with him. Granted, this December has been unseasonably warm here in the St. Louis area, but Winter announced its arrival over the weekend and, judging from the impending forecast, intends on making up for some lost time.

I’ve often wondered why we chose January to begin the new year. I mean, obviously it had a lot to do with the harvest season and all, but it’s just interesting to me that the year begins when it does. Why now? Why not like, I don’t know, April, when things are starting to get warm and brighten up? Why doesn’t the year begin in Spring? It seems to me like it might have been better, especially 2000 plus years ago when life was extremely hard during the Winter, to finish the year during the cold period and begin fresh when nature itself does.

But then, perhaps there’s a reason why we choose to begin the New Year during these cold months. It’s a good time to stay indoors, warm ourselves with a fire, a good hearty meal, and our beverage of choice, and reflect.

We can reflect on the year that has just passed us by, both the good and the bad parts of it, from both the perspective of society at large and our from own personal feelings. What were the big successes we had this year? What could have gone better? What did we learn and, more importantly, will we ever learn?

It’s also a good time to think about the future. What concrete plans can we make for the next few months? What are our desires? What dreams can we begin to chase, and what needs to remain a dream, at least for a little while longer?

This is the proper mindset for making any “New Year’s Resolutions” that so many are fond of doing. The trouble is that most of us make a small list of resolutions half heartedly out of a feeling of obligation but we don’t take them very seriously. We may go after them for a few weeks, but then it’s right back to where we were on Dec. 31st. I think the problem is we set unrealistic goals with no real forethought of how we are going to attain them or what it would take to do so. Nor do we consider what it would actually mean to our lives if we did. Therefore we are content to make ourselves feel better for a short period of time, and then shrug it off when things don’t work out because they were “just silly resolutions” anyway.

I’ve never liked making New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s that word, “resolution”, it’s so serious and intimidating. Resolving to do something is like a promise or an oath you make to others and yourself, and it’s not something one should take lightly. Especially if you’re not going to put in the effort to make it happen. For the record, I feel the same way when a business or organization I am involved in talks about “vision casting.” I don’t like that phrase either, it makes my neck itch.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s good to think about the future. It’s good to make plans, to set goals. It’s good to want to become a better person. I’m just not so sure that being obliged to do so just because it’s January is the way to go about it.

However, since most people I know are doing the whole “New Year’s Resolutions” thing, I figured I’d go ahead and play along. Well, to an extent. I am not going to write a list of things I resolve to do in the next year. I am merely going to list a few things that would be nice to accomplish, and I will try and work in that direction. See? No pressure. No obligations. No itchy neck. Here we go.

-I would like to read more. I enjoy reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and I fully understand the importance of reading and how it enriches my life. I just don’t do it enough. It’s not due to any lack of availability. My entire family are readers and there are books everywhere in this house. Part of my problem is that I get distracted doing other things and don’t carve out the time to read like I ought to. The other problem is that when I am done reading an interesting book I need to live with it for awhile. With non-fiction books I tend to ruminate on what I have learned, be it a life lesson or just some neat little trivia. But with fiction books, I am usually reluctant to leave the world it has created for me and I want to stay with those characters I have grown to love just a little bit longer. As a result I don’t read very many books in a year, which is okay. Quality over quantity, right? But I do have room for more.

-I’d like to get my weight down a little bit. I have had an issue with my weight all my life and have never been what you’d call thin, but there’s a weight range I am comfortable with and I am currently not within it. Some of this is due to medications, but with a little more effort I can get closer to that place. I was actually doing a little better a few weeks back but I let myself go over the Holidays. Time to get back on track, methinks.

-I’d like to get outside more. You know, when it’s not cold. I need to go on longer walks. Get some more sun. See some more nature. Maybe travel more, schedule and COVID permitting.

-I’d like to focus more on my beliefs. That includes my faith, and social justice issues. Being a Christian and a Liberal is the hardest thing I do. But it shouldn’t be, since I believe that “Progressive Christianity” isn’t an oxymoron. If I begin putting faith into action, I think it could go from difficult to rewarding. I just need to do it one step at a time. Like this.

-I’d like to create more. Sure, I have this blog, but there’s more I could be doing. I have the desire and the ideas, I have just become complacent and, frankly, a little discouraged over the years. Maybe a little nervous too. Let’s face it though, I’m not getting any younger and even though I may be a little too old to set the world on fire, that’s not an excuse to not try. Connecting with people through entertainment is my favorite thing. That’s why I do this. I just need to do more, and maybe mix in some different stuff too.

Okay, that got a little more serious than I thought it would. There’s some good ideas there, though, and some nice goals to work towards. Okay, my neck did itch a little. Maybe it’s my shirt.

Anyway, see you next week.

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Dave’s Top Ten (And Then Some) Albums Of 2021

Well here we are at the end of another year. It’s that time when all us music geeks make our annual “best of” lists. I both love and hate making these things, because it’s fun to try and rank the year’s releases and share what your favorites were, but it can also be quite a daunting task to get them into an order you’re happy with, and try to make a few tough calls as to what stays and what gets cut. There’s also the inevitable post list regret when you begin to rethink the whole thing. Then there’s also the issue of the latecomers, albums that were released late in the year that that you either weren’t able to get to or to really dig into in order to make them real contenders. Also, there’s usually one or two records that you didn’t even know existed that you will pick up in the coming months that absolutely would have been on the list if only you had known. Fellow geeks will understand.

So I’m just going to go with what makes sense to me today, and try to avoid editing the list as much as possible. As usual, live albums and compilations are ineligible, as are e.p.’s. Before I get into the main list, I’d like to talk about a few honorable mentions, and some stuff that fell through the cracks.

HONORABLE MENTIONS CATEGORY:

A few records I liked a lot but didn’t quite make the top ten (in no particular order):

The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers by Valerie June
This is a record about feelings-deep longings, regrets, and weary hopefulness that is nearly unclassifiable musically, but it contains elements of Soul, Americana and New Age that blends into its own thing. Not what I expected from this artist, and not an easy listen but a worthwhile one.

Nowhere Generation by Rise Agaist
I’m not usually a fan on commercial punk but I enjoy this one.

At Home With by Southern Culture On The Skids
Just a really good alternative country record. Not as raucous as past endeavors perhaps, but a good time from start to finish.

Catspaw by Matthew Sweet
I have long been a fan of Matthew Sweet’s work. Power pop based, but a little bit deeper and more personal than most in that genre. This record is not likeley to make a ton of new fans, but worth checking out for the curious, or for those who haven’t heard one of his records in a long time. Good stuff.

When You Found Me by Lucero
Lucero has been one of my favorite alt. country bands since the mid 2000s. Their work is a little bit hit or miss, with them either knocking it out of the park or turning in a near miss. This one is the latter, but still compelling enough to be worth repeated listens. It has grown on me considerably.

THE “NOT IN ON A TECHNICALITY” CATEGORY:

Every once in a while something comes out that I have no clue what to do with when it comes to the year end list. This year there are two such records. They are 9th & Walnut by Descendents, and Welcome 2 America by Prince. I will explain.

Prince, obviously, has been deceased for years so he certainly isn’t doing any new music. Yet, this was a full , completed record scheduled for release but dropped at the last minute. The songs are all previously unreleased, so while it’s not new new, it is new. Sort of.

Similarly, in the case of the Descendents record, this album is full of songs the original line up of the band never recorded for an album that never came out. Yet, they got back together during the pandemic and recorded brand new versions of the songs and released it this year. So is it new? I mean, kinda, but no.

See? It’s all confusing. So these two discs are not eligible for the top ten list because I don’t know if they count as new or not. Which is a pity, because they would both definitely be on.

Now that that’s over with, let’s go.

DAVE’S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2021

10. You Get It All by Hayes Carll
Hayes Carll is one of the most underappreciated songwriters in the Americana world today. He is able to make you laugh and then turn around and break your heart which is exactly what Country music should do. With his wit, drawl, and classic outlaw tendencies he is one of our best. Check this out if you haven’t heard it. Quality stuff.

9. In Another World by Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick are still making records every bit as ferocious, catchy, and varied as their classic ’70’s output, and better than most of their ’80’s stuff. Okay, so it’s not high art, and it ain’t exactly poetry but it’s quality rock and roll from a classic band and that’s good enough for me.

8. 11 Past The Hour by Imelda May
After the stylistic change she underwent in 2017, I was unsure where Imelda May’s new work would land. Would she stay all grown up, soulful, and chill, or go back to her retro rockabilly roots? The answer is really neither. She has made an authentic record that has both mature pop and anthemic rock that is another step towards finding her true self as an artist. It is a journey that we listeners are lucky to be a part of.

7. Mammoth WVH by Mammoth WVH
Wolfgang Van Halen (mostly) steps out from his father’s shadow to make a very entertaining rock record. Apart from a little guest guitar work from his pop, Wolf plays all instruments himself and writes all the tracks. It sounds fresh, yet in line with many records from the ’90s and early 2000s. A solid record which shows much promise for the future.

6. I Don’t Live Here Anymore by The War On Drugs
The War On Drugs is a one man project that creates a soundscape with every record. I compare listening to TWOD with driving into an immense vista. It is both warm and comforting, but with a sense of adventure and endless possibilities. While the songs are tighter and more concise than on previous releases, that feeling is still very much intact.

5. Senjutsu by Iron Maiden
Maybe it’s just me but it seems as though Iron Maiden have transcended the heavy metal genre and become an entity all their own. While the sound is still there, the band don’t quite play with the same explosive intensity anymore, instead choosing to live in the world between dark and light, coloring their music with mood and imagination more so than power alone. This is a double disc that could have easily been trimmed into one, even without losing any songs, but it is a strong one. Admittedly I was underwhelmed when I first heard it, but it has grown on me with each listen to the point that I believe it to be among their finest work from the past 20 years.

4. Electro Melodier by Son Volt
Back to the Americana well with this one for what may be Son Volt’s best record since their original 1990s era output. It’s that good. There’s not a bad track to be had, proving that Jay Farrar deserves the credit he receives for helping start the Alternative Country movement and is still one of the best in the game.

3. Buffalo Nichols by Buffalo Nichols
Buffalo Nichols is a new blues/roots artist that takes us back to the delta in a thoroughly modern way. According to an interview I read with him recently, his goal with this record was to bring “black stories” back into the sanitized world of the blues. With his direct, visceral approach he is certainly doing that, and by brining the music back to a raw form, pushing its boundaries. One hopes this record could be a teaching moment for many, but while a lot of us will embrace the message, this will probably anger those whom it could best teach. Still, it is a powerful statement and a great record.

2. WAR by The Alarm
This one is interesting, as it was inspired by both the pandemic, and the Jan. 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol, and released in real time. It was written, recorded, and released in just 50 days, coming out on Feb. 25th. The Alarm are a legendary Welsh rock band so this is all funneled through a U.K. perspective, and is truly the most “of its time” record to come out in years. Whether the lyrics will still resonate the same way in a few years, or even be accurate with the passage of time remains to be seen. However, it is overflowing with both heart and energy. It is also probably the closest you’ll get to a Clash record these days, at least in spirit.

1. Medicine At Midnight by Foo Fighters
This is a very divisive record among rock fans, which automatically makes it interesting. Yes, it’s a bit of a departure from what we are used to from the Foos, but it’s clearly a Dave Grohl project from minute one. Once you realize that Grohl is making his “Bowie” record it all makes sense and that gives it a really cool vibe. It may not be the artsiest record I have heard this year or even the most important. It is, however, the record I have listened to the most this year, and my enjoyment of it has only increased with each spin. That fact alone, even if by default, makes it the #1 for me this year.

So there you have it. As mentioned. there were a few records I didn’t get to this year, and there are a few more I enjoyed listening to, but I think this is a pretty good representation of the year in new music for me.

Here’s to a new year with new possibilities, and some great new music too. Happy new year, everyone! See you soon.