Sunday, October 31, 2010

RiffTrax Live Live!

Last Thursday evening, I had the great pleasure of attending the live performance of RiffTrax Live at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, Tennessee. I'll save the story about the trip to Nashville for another post. For now, I'll pick up with Courtney and I standing in the parking lot of the Best Western Music Row. I gave her my parking permit to put on her dash then we left for the show in my nice, new Honda Fit.

The Belcourt Theater was 1.2 miles from the Best Western (thanks Mapquest!). As we drove slowly, looking for the theater, the line of people waiting to go in was impossible to miss. The Belcourt has a parking lot adjacent to the theater, but oops! It was taped off and occupied by 3 large, white trucks--one with a satellite dish--and a large white tent. This was apparently the RiffTrax uplink. The side road we had turned onto was narrow and all parking spots appeared to be taken. Anything that looked like a parking spot was actually the mouth of a driveway. Most fortunately, I did find a short spot (which fit my short car) near the end of the road.

Due to the low pressure front that had recently swept through the Midwest, Nashville was chilly. The low for the night was to be 39 F., but at 6:40 PM CST, it was still a pleasantly crisp walk back to the theater. The doors had opened at 6:30, so the long line had shortened considerably by the time we queued up.

The lobby of the Belcourt was very small. There was a confusion of lines: concessions, men's and women's rest rooms. I thought I was standing in a line to enter the theater, but it turned out I was just standing in the vicinity of the lines for concessions and the men's restroom. As I was trying to get my bearings, I spied @euphoriafish (Hi, Tracey!) It's always nice to meet a fellow MSTie! Once I realized we could just walk on into the theater, we did so and took a couple of seats in the middle, about 3/4 of the way back from the stage. The Belcourt is a small venue, so this gave us a perfect view.

The gentleman in this photo was affectionately called "Bald Spot" by the crowd. He did the mic checks and "read us the rules": pictures of us could be used by RiffTrax, turn off cell phones, don't record the show, and applaud loudly when appropriate! He had us yell, cheer, and clap so the guys in the sound truck could get a level reading. We made it loud!

This was my first time seeing Kevin, Mike, and Bill. When they walked onstage, it was a chill-worthy moment. Bill wore cat's ears, Mike wore a "Weird Al" wig and hippy shades, Kevin wore a rubber "Medusa" cap. I've got to say that watching a RiffTrax Live show via simulcast is very much like being there in person. Seeing the guys right there in front of me was awesome, but it also gave me an appreciation of the high quality of the simulcasts.

Both of the short features were hilarious and deeply disturbing. The first, Magical Disappearing Money, was about a witch-like woman who apparently lived inside a stacked display of grocery items at a supermarket. She stalked shoppers and disapproved of their food selections. At the peak of her disgust, she gave a demonstration (as if she were selling Ginsu knives) to the shoppers about how much money they were wasting buying such items as sugar-coated cereal, instant oatmeal, and frozen zucchini.

The second short was a detailed nightmare about the production of paper. A hapless child was set upon by hallucinations of a talking paper bag, very much in the vein of "Coily" from MST3K. If the voice of the bag had been less cheery, this could have been a depressingly accurate depiction of the onset of schizophrenia in a young boy.

The main feature, The House on Haunted Hill, has always been a favorite of mine. I loved Elisha Cook "the gunsel" in the too-big jacket in The Maltese Falcon. In Haunted Hill, the guys were constantly joking about his looking like a leprechaun (too true). Vincent Price is great, too. He's one of the few celebrities I've seen in person. I passed him on Fourth Street in Louisville one Derby Eve. He was tall and gaunt--but of course, you knew that! Richard Long suffered a head wound early on and, for the rest of the movie, he was pelted with riffs about being a bumbling idiot.

I can't wait for the DVD to come out! I understand that neither Courtney nor I made it into the broadcast. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I Hate Mark Zuckerberg

People used to hate "The Phone Company" even though they used telephones every day. Now people hate Facebook even though they use it every day.

Rather than list every reason that I hate Facebook, let me concentrate on just one: the concept of "identity".

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is fond of repeating the phrase, "You have one identity". Obviously, Mark Zuckerberg approaches human psychology from the viewpoint of marketing.

Everyone has multiple identities--everyone has multiple personalities. When you speak with your best friend, you exhibit an entirely different personality than when you speak with your parents. When you speak to your lover, you exhibit an entirely different personality than when you speak with your boss.

Mark Zuckerberg wants to maximize his profits. In the pursuit of this goal, he is trying to use the power of Facebook to twist us into something we are not. Branding every human on the planet with a unique, unalterable ID tag might be a marketer's wet dream, but it goes against the nature of being a human. If Mark Zuckerberg thinks his ratty little "Facebook" construct can remake humanity according to his own desires, he is biting on a particularly hard chunk of granite.

Mark Zuckerberg's tactics are insidious. When I first signed up for a Facebook account, I dutifully provided them with my real name assuming I'd have an opportunity to choose a "handle" or at least abbreviate my last name before activating my account. There was no such opportunity. And adding insult to injury, I learned that I had to submit an email request to Facebook staff if I wanted to change the name that was displayed to the public.

Don't get me started on how Mark Zuckerberg allows games such as "Farmville" to access your private information and forward it to advertisers and tracking agencies. Even if you've blocked the Farmville application, if you have a friend who plays Farmville, Facebook allows your private data to be sucked up and redistributed.

Facebook: Use, but verify.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Adoption: Moonlight and Marabella

When my ex-girlfriend moved out in 2005, she left me with the three cats she had acquired for us: Sara, Lucy, and Petra. Since that time, Petra has died of complications from diabetes and Sara has died from a rare cancer of a blood vessel. Lucy, bless her heart, is about 17 years old now and is in very good health. Since she'd been terrorized by Petra for most of her life, she has a skittish personality. Although she loves being cuddled at times, she is rather aloof. I guess I'd been spoiled by my dear Sara, who needed to be with me every waking and sleeping moment of the day.

I started toying with the idea of adopting another pair of cats. I say "pair" because I believe cats are happiest if they are living with a comfortable companion--a littermates would be ideal. I knew that Lucy appreciated having my full attention, but I also know she's exhibited a desire to cuddle with Sara and Petra, but she'd always been rejected. I thought she might adjust to the presence of a pair of tiny, non-aggressive kittens.

There is a no-kill animal shelter less than 1/4 mile from my house: Animal Care Society. My ex-girlfriend worked there for a while. Actually, Lucy was found shivering in the rain on the land near Animal Care. People frequently abandoned unwanted pets near Animal Care, assuming someone would rescue them.

The first time I stopped by Animal Care, they were not allowing visits with kittens because they'd had an outbreak of ringworm. They let me browse through a binder with listings of cats that people were offering for adoption. I leafed through it, but I really wanted to adopt directly from Animal Care. I knew they would be rigorous in performing veterinary tests and procedures for their animals. With an unknown 3rd party, I could not be sure about anything.

The lady at Animal Care told me to watch their web site for news about the re-opening of the kitten room. Yeah, right. They're good people, but they do not keep their web site up-to-date! I just dropped back by after a couple of weeks and was allowed to walk into the kitten room. I knelt down in the middle of the floor and was instantly swarmed by sweet, needy kittehs!

The kitten they called "Moonlight" jumped on my back and licked my neck and ears. The one they called "Marabella" sniffed me and accepted pets but then backed off and observed. Now that they've been with me for a few weeks, I can confirm that this was a very good indication of how they'd behave with me on an ongoing basis.

After seeing the kittens, I filled out an adoption form, which was not to be processed until I'd called them back to give them the go-ahead. I was a bit taken aback by the quantity and nature of the questions on the form. Most notably was the requirement to provide them with three personal references, one of which needed to be a family member. Great. I am happily estranged from my family, but I reluctantly gave them my father's name and telephone number. I somehow convinced myself that they would only actually call my vet. I was wrong. Apparently, they called everyone. Thankfully, they did approve my adoption request. One of my references, my boss, wrote me that he told them I was their "wet dream" of an adopter. Funny! And apparently effective!

I went to Animal Care the following Saturday with two cleaned-up carriers to pick up my new family members. From the get-go, the adoption was a comedy of errors. The woman ("handler"?) who processed my case was apparently a higher-up in the organization. Higher-ups are never as savvy about business operations as the "menials". There followed re-printing of medical forms and various signings. After 45 minutes of confusion and delay, I was ushered into the kitten room with my two carriers.

The handler shoved two cats into my carriers. I asked if she could tell me which cat was "Moonlight" and which was "Marabella". "Oh, you can name them anything you like," she said, but I insisted. She didn't know the cats by sight, but both had been micro-chipped (apparently a standard policy for cats about to be adopted). It's a very good thing I insisted, because she was trying to give me one of the kittens and the mother! Next, she tried to shove a long-tailed cat into the carrier the mother had been in. I was adopting two Manx kittens, so I questioned this. She re-scanned the long-tailed cat a
nd left the room to look up the ID. No, this was a different cat. Finally both of the Manx kittens were in my carriers and I exited the kitten room. As I exited, one of the "menials" took a close look at the two kittens and confirmed that I did, indeed, have "Moonlight" and "Marabella".

Here are the two kittehs in the back of my car as I'm about to leave Animal Care.

I've tentatively renamed "Moonlight" as Ginny and "Marabella" as Gypsy. They seem to be hugely content in their new home. Lucy has been hiding out in the living room ever since they arrived. She is doing less hissing and spitting now. Just today she allowed a quiet nose-touch with Ginny. I feel her pain, but I think this could be a plus for her in the long run. She's never had a housemate with whom she could cuddle. Once she realizes how non-threatening these two little girls are, she may actually have nap partners for those long, lazy afternoons.