Wednesday, May 08, 2013

watch your stupid movie

There is much to find unbelievable in this
wacky sci-fi, but that's its charm.
I am no cinephile or cinesnob. There are far too many low-budget, low-brow and generally low-low films in my collection.

First Men in the Moon was made in 1964 and there's kind of a made-for-Tv, Disney goofiness about it. This is not a white-knuckle "man meets alien" thriller, but there is coolness aplenty.
The movies of my childhood remain favorites. So shall they always be. There is some hidden feeble attempt in this to return to much more innocent and happier time or to obscure time's constant reminder that youth has long faded.

 I wasn't a child who needed constant entertainment from his parents (according to my mother), but was happy being immersed in a book, TV or imaginary playtime.

Watching Saturday afternoon features is a big part of my nostalgic rewriting of my childhood. All memory is fiction, isn't it? It's certainly not very reliable. One thing's for sure, once watched, I never forgot these movies.

Why is this movie cool?

1. Lionel Jeffries as Joseph Cavor. Jeffries was an actor with obvious chops who perfectly plays Cavor with as an absentminded-scientist-cum-loopy-dreamer. Kate and Bedford play the romantic interests and hapless tag-a-longs to Cavor's wacky plans to go to the moon.

2. Hell's bells, boys! They fly to the moon in a giant metal sphere!

I'm not one of these idiots (on Amazon, for instance) who sits and cynically dissects all the flaws of a film. Why do that? Of course, it's all ridiculous and impossible: this is the realm of imagination and storytelling. In short, it's fucking stupid to do that.

3. Cool monsters animated by Ray Harryhausen.

The giant caterpillar is very cool, but the animated Selenites steal the show. The "actors" in the Selenite costumes have not aged well and there's a few laughs to be had, but when Harryhausen's creatures are on screen, then the film lifts off to another level.

Cavel's encounter with the Selenite leader is a nice turn. Personally, it's a bit too short because we could have learned how these moon insects colonized and maybe a bit more of their darker purpose and plans for the invading humans.

4. This film uses Dynamation!
The CGI of its time.

Yes, I know I should be watching The Notebook and learning the joys of humankind through mediocre and cliche love stories, but ya know? That shit seems just as unbelievable.

As Ray Bradbury said, "I'll keep my dinosaurs." Hells to the yeah, Ray.

I'll keep my fantasy films.

Friday, March 22, 2013

What Dreams May Dumb

"I had a dream about you, baby
A dream about you, baby"

"Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break."

This may be one of those posts where people tell me, "I am looking into your soul." Please, I have no soul; at least none that I can detect.

Last night, I had a dream about an old college love. Succinct and sweet, but as with all romantic dreams, it bears no relationship to logic, but to matters of the heart.

The dream was this:
In a classroom, I saw her. We were both avoiding each other. She then approached me and while keeping her eyes averted and her face hidden, she handed me a very small porcelain disc. It was like a coffee saucer and it had some words painted on it. Evidently it was an award she had won. I said something like, "Congratulations. That's great," and then kissed her left cheek. Then I kissed her lips and then her right cheek.

That kiss reminded me why I had fallen so crazy for her many years ago.

 When I woke up, that old haunting feeling was back. No chastisement, I just accepted it. Dreams are wild things, unbidden absurdities and buried truths that we suppress in daylight hours. I had thought that these feelings were long shelved and condemned to history. Evidently not.

The delicate pangs of wanting someone when
they reciprocate not. Nice.
But does this represent a subconscious desire?

 Maybe. The beautiful daylight today reminded me of passions long ago, but it also serves to separate emotion from fact. This amourous episode was one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with. Fucking hell. Of how the excitement built until our first kiss and then the painful and destructive havoc of separating a mere eight months later. Due to circumstance, ours was never going to be a healthy and real relationship. It got worse and worse as she slowly pulled away. She made it worse by denying it at first and then lying about her relationship with another man.

 Ah, love. People attribute sarcasm to my demeanor. No fucking wonder.

Dreams like these remind us of our childlike desire to have painful events into perspective; to peer into chaos and find pattern. Or to use a contemporary cliche, closure. Personally, I don't believe in the word closure. Accepted indifference by negligence? Sure. Time doesn't heal anything, it just gives us some distance between today and the pain of yesterdays. There is no closure. We bear up and we live with it.

When you break up with someone on campus, it's not like you're never going to see them again. After some time had passed (and my blinding anger subsided), I let sentiment rule my judgment and talked to her on a few occasions. It felt very awkward with her fake cheerfulness and her acting like we were beginning with a clean slate. Sincerity and honesty were not her strong suits. She was a master of evasion, obfuscation and I believe that she had some serious issues. I pity the poor bastards who followed me.
I wanted to go beneath her bullshit and find out many "whys?" This was not going to happen. In the end, as  painful as it was and as uncommunicative as she was, I had to let go of it all. It took a long time.

Evidently, not long enough.  

The Silence of Hannibal

It's nearly impossible to make a perfect movie,
but this one comes damn close.
CAVEAT: all my movie stuff has spoilers. Read at your own risk.

This is pretty much going to be on everyone's favorite list, but I must sing the praises of the two great Hannibal Lector movies (Hannibal Rising left me cold and Red Dragon has the wrong actor for Will Graham).

What is it about a well-educated, even polite, incredibly intelligent serial killer? After all, the man eats human flesh. What redeeming qualities could he have?


Dr. Lector's insight into people is remarkable. Instantly he finds Clarice's motives and insecurities and makes her squirm. A compulsion he savors like a fine vintage.

Hannibal is a metaphor for someone who acts upon what may cross our minds in a fit of fury: revenge/murder of those who have wronged us. But it isn't just Hannibal's horrific crimes that draw us to him, it is his unflinching honesty. (And who wouldn't want a mind with that much retention and capacity?)

Unlike us, Hannibal has no filters on his observations and thoughts. He says what we smother with an awkward smile.

If you asked people to quote anything from this movie, you're going to get the old "fave-beans-and-nice-Chianti" bit, but this movie reveals much, much more. When pressed for more information about Buffalo Bill, Dr. Lector reveals his brilliance:

"Look for severe childhood disturbances associated with violence. Our Billy wasn't born a criminal, Clarice. He was made one through years of systematic abuse. Billy hates his own identity, you see, and he thinks that makes him a transsexual. But his pathology is a thousand times more savage and more terrifying."

Boom: sum and substance in five sentences.

Some Lector fans never gave this movie a chance because Jodie Foster bitched out and did not reprise her Clarice. Her reasoning was that "my character wouldn't do that," referring to the book's ending of Clarice and Hannibal becoming romantically involved. As shocking as that was to read, I thought the author wrapped up the story quite convincingly and nicely. And since when does an actor own a character more than the writer who created it?

So what, Julianne Moore is great.

Hannibal is the most elegant of all the Lector movies. Here we are invited into the world of refined taste: delicately nuanced food, musical masterworks, literary treasures and even hand engineered skin lotion. Remember, "it rubs the lotion on its skin"? A nice reference back.

All the symbolism, the literary references, the symbols and metaphors of this magical movie were missed by movie-goers who were only impressed or grossed out by the brain dissection scene. Which proves that directors can lace their work with delightful layers upon layers of richness and Neanderthals will miss it every time.

(heavy sigh)

Again Lector's insight when talking to Clarice about her dismissal from the FBI:

"Would they have you back, you think? The FBI? Those people you despise almost as much as they despise you. Would they give you a medal, Clarice, do you think? Would you have it professionally framed and hang it on your wall to look at and remind you of your courage and incorruptibility? All you would need for that, Clarice, is a mirror."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Being Where?

Essential. Peter Sellers is a genius. Hands down, no argument.
 There are movies which can speak to the viewer in a way that might suggest, "Hey, you're not alone in the world. There's others just like you."

I put this movie in that category.

When you have an artistic bent or temperament, there can be a distinct disconnect between you and the world. Some might say that there's a disconnect until you "find yourself" or at least mature enough to understand more deeply who you are and your possible place in the world, but I contend that artists have to go further in understanding why they are the way they are and ultimately accept themselves as different.

When I saw this movie, I felt a kinship not only with the director ( Hal Ashby), but with Chancey Gardiner-the hapless, lost soul who is so out-of-step with the world that he is still a child inside a man's body. I do not know what Ashby's intent or point was of this movie, all I can say is that I have much more in common with Chance the gardener than I do with any other film character I've seen. I am that inadequate, lost and fumbling than many might believe.

But I digress.

Chance is a hopeless man-child who may be slightly mentally challenged, but people around him trust him because he is an authentic person-he has no running agenda, wears no social mask, has no hangups or baggage, He simply IS, which is why I see him as the embodiment of Zen.

It's a beautiful and very funny movie with a fantastic cast and a wonderful story.

If you don't "get this one,

I understand.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Napalm Morning

From absolute chaos, Coppola created
the epic tale of one man's journey to confront
his soul. A soul blackened by the horrors
of war.
This film nearly cost Coppola everything: his home, bank roll, family and sanity. This was the subject of Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. This documentary about the making-of  is essential for Apocalypse enthusiasts.

So much shit went wrong during the filming that it was almost as if the gods were trying their very best to stop Apocalypse Now from being made.

Then there was Brando-way overweight and being the trickster. He and Coppola had these long conversations about his character Kurtz until Coppola realized Brando was just stalling to get out of working. Meanwhile money is flying away.

But when Brando was on, he was really on. Improvising dialogue from a broken soul-lost in despair and no way to return to the world once known.

Outtakes (from the aforementioned doc) from Brando's improv's include a digression with a far-off monkey chatter ("He's my critic. My only critic.") and the famous, "I swallowed a bug."

When not hospitalized, Martin Sheen is marvelous as Cpt. Willard- a man who has stared into the darkness and has just a sliver of humanity left in him before he is fully enveloped. Willard is a fractured man with an angry darkness, but the emptiness has no tyet. fully overtaken him.

When he meets Kurtz, he is confronting a mirror of his soul. He then is imprisoned, deprived of food and water, and undergoes the psychological terror Kurtz unleashes. Willard dies, metaphorically, only to be nursed back to life by Kurtz for three reasons: in the hope that Kurtz might make him understand "what I've tried to be," to go back to the States and tell Kurtz's son all about his father and what he accomplished. The third, and maybe the most important, Willard is to kill Kurtz (the king slayer becomes the new king idea) and thus end his nightmarish existence.
This film is very powerful on a number of levels. You should not watch it too much. You think I jest? I gave my friend a copy of the VHS I owned. He gave it back to me after a week and told me that he felt like the movie was getting under his skin. He started to watch it obsessively.

Coppola captured something real in those frames. Call it depression, insanity or the dark soul-it's there.

I highly recommend The Complete Dossier which has the original, Redux and a shitload of extras.

Apocalypse Now – The Complete Dossier DVD (Paramount Home Entertainment) (2006) Disc 2 extras include:

The Post Production of Apocalypse Now: Documentary (four featurettes covering the editing, music and sound of the film through Coppola and his team)
"A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now" (18 minutes)
"The Music of Apocalypse Now" (15 minutes)
"Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now" (15 minutes)
"The Final Mix" (3 minutes)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kubrick Kubrick Kubrick

What is it about Kubrick?

Is it his color schemes? Is it the extreme characters he brings us? His obsessive detail? The stories?

Little Alex: lad gone wrong or victim of society and
A Clockwork Orange
2001: A Space Odyssey
Full Metal Jacket

The moral dilemma of A Clockwork Orange was completely lost on me when I first saw the film. I was in love with the style of the clothes, the language, the outrageous characters and of course, the ultra-violence.

I admired Alex's courage and his defiance of all authority- even that of rival gangs. My peer group were pacifistic, nature-loving, leaning towards hippie, intellectuals with most of us not knowing how to defend ourselves against the assholes and bullies of the world. Alex and his droogies would mop them up. I envied his courage and power.

The central thesis:
"Choice! The boy has not a real choice, has he? Self-interest, the fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. The insincerity was clear to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice."

To this day, the great moral/ethical dilemma that Kubrick (and Burgess) proposed is still lost on me, but I've changed my view on the violence of the film. Or rather, time has made me much more empathetic to those who suffer physical pain. I've seen my fair share of suffering and when I see Alex and company pound the crap out of the homeless man, I winced a few times. The violence is demented and hard to watch, but it's done with such style.

  But every frame, every scene is a keeper without a false note throughout the film. It's damn near cinematic perfection as you can get. Is there a more stylistically unique film?

2001: A Space Odyssey

Imagine a young lad being dropped off at a movie theater, barely 11 years old, to see his first sci-fi film. I didn't know what the hell was happening on the screen sometimes, but the sheer escapism of movies was magical.   When I asked my brother about the psychedelic (not even a word in my wheelhouse yet) ending, he told me that the astronaut had become a "star child." Heady stuff for a young lad, but my brother did his best to explain the story to me because he had read the book.   The scenes with HAL 9000 are brilliant.

Full Metal Jacket

Clearly divided into two sections, we see Marine boot camp at its most brutal with an outstanding (and mostly improvising-a Kubrick no-no) performance by R. Lee Ermey.  The combat scenes are some of the most intense ever. When the squad encounters the sniper, the shit gets real. If this movie comes on cable, I am mesmerized and all things stop. The death of Cowboy still fucks me up.

Lolita   James Mason and Peter Sellers are brilliant in this tale of taboo love. Dark, creepy, funny and tense. Who else but James Mason could shoot crazy Peter Sellers with such grace? Who else but Peter Sellers could play the devious, pushy stranger who follows, threatens and eventually kidnaps Lolita?

Post scriptus:
Played with such subtlety, bartender Lloyd brings a wintry
chill to the ballroom scenes. Bladerunner, anyone?
The Shining   I have to mention this film sort of as a post script because in it contains some of the most disturbing images of a paranormal nature that I've ever seen. Steven King did not like Nicholson's performance because it was way over-the-top and through the years, I've come to agree. Watching Uncle Jack go through his crazy faces used to be fun, but now I far prefer something dialed way, way back.

Still, Kubrick had a way of getting into the psyche and setting it ablaze with his twisted images.  Blood flooding from an elevator, the ghosts that inhabit the hotel, the hotel itself and the maze at the end: how can anyone get these images out of their mind?  

Monday, January 07, 2013

Film of the Doc

Grizzly Man


Werner Herzog has made a perfect documentary. The trouble is that it is a compelling as it is disturbing.


I'll wait for you to make your decision to read further.

Mostly taken from footage shot by Timothy Treadwell (nee Timothy Dexter), an amateur wildlife enthusiast and self-proclaimed protector of grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness, Herzog tells the story of this man who believed that he had found his calling living, unprotected mind you, among these deadly giants.

Sounds completely daft, yes?

Treadwell was a lost soul who tried acting (He auditioned to be on Cheers, but lost to Woody Harrelson), alcohol, drugs, changing his name, surfing, and a variety of odd jobs. In short, he didn't fit in anywhere except when he first observed wild bears in Alaska. From then on, his life's work and fate were sealed.

To watch Treadwell's passion for these animals is to see a man fully in love with the bears, but clearly denies their wild and savage nature. These are animals that kill their young for food after all. What would a man mean to a ten-foot, 400 pound behemoth?

At best, lunch.

As passionate as Treadwell is about his beloved bears, he often reveals deep fissures in his mental stability. Even if he is performing for the camera, there is a hysteria which cannot be faked.

There are tender moments and moments of sheer beauty. A fox hangs about like a household pet. Footage of bears running on a foggy morning is magnificent. Stranger, interloper, or weirdo, he lived in their world and captured his subjects with such intimacy.

A great, great documentary and once watched, never forgotten.

More Film Fun!

Such a simple image, but it has influenced many generations of filmmakers.
The Seventh Seal

Ingmar Bergman doesn't make films, he makes profound existential observations. Every frame is a perfect still, conveying the complex and mystifying contradictory nature of the human condition.

He reaches the desert places, the lonely isolated wastelands of the psyche. His films are not easy to watch. Sometimes they are almost unbearable.

His work has been copied by countless directors because the images are so strong, they leave an indelible impression. It's almost as if he has captured every imaginable archetype. And the faces. Glorious faces with a thousand stories told in a glance. How does he do it? I have no idea.

Bergman's The Seventh Seal is a masterwork that deals with the unanswered questions of existence: Who am I? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of life? And why does God seem so silent and absent from our lives?

From the opening scene where a knight (played by the glorious Max von Sydow) makes a deal with Death by engaging him in a game of chess to the iconic "danse macabre," final scene, this film shows the power of film in one of it's purest forms. No special effects, no annoying soundtrack, just dialogue and a thick, almost unbearable silence.

Bergman wrote about the silence of God and use of silence and space
in his films draws us into an almost breathless state of being.
Fanny and Alexander
Wild Strawberries
and I believe I saw Cries and Whispers. This might be the one that was brutal.

Friday, January 04, 2013

My Favorite Films

Ultimately film may be about money, but magical things can happen
and lives can be changed.


Before I got off (no pun intended) onto the subject of love, I had the intention of blogging about film.

Films are not just mere entertainment to me- I want to get lost into them, losing all sense of time and become deeply involved with the story and the characters. That being said, I also like a good, hokey ride with often outlandish special effects. In other words, you wanna go serious, I can watch some Italian surrealism for two and half hours with the best of them. You like creepy, stupid silly, I'm laughing along with you.

Around Christmas, we had some people over to the house. A person pulled out about 5 DVDs out of my collection and casually stated, "I'm going to borrow these."

While I was boiling inside, I did my best to be polite. You see, there are only a select few I would ever let borrow from my collection. Call it greedy, materialistic or selfish- your words fall on deaf ears. When it comes to my collection, I'm a prick. If I sense you are a person who is going to be meticulous and careful,, then you might get a pass.

One guy at work wanted to borrow my box set of "Band of Brothers." I did my best diplomatic "no." The thought of my collection laying around on someone's floor makes me ill.

"Some of those are not for loaning out, " was my best diplomatic answer. The movies she wanted to rent were given to me and I hadn't watched them anyways. She did borrow "Borat." I told her that she needs to keep it away from the kids and make sure it doesn't get damaged. I'm sure that didn't go down as well as I thought it did, but those discs are my babies and I keep them pristine.

I take films very seriously.

In no particular order, here's a partial list:


It reeks of cliche to state, "This film changed my life," but this three-hour masterpiece reached into me and changed things.

I was going to school at Peabody and my good friend, Bill (an excellent photographer), took  me to see what I presumed was going to another "art film." Art films are simply films that try too damn hard to have substance when it's pretty clear that the filmmaker is in love with one of the leads or in love with themselves.
(spoiler ahead)

Watching poor Salieri at the end absolving the inmates of the asylum because he was the "patron saint of mediocrities everywhere" was absolutely unnerving. Who, in the arts, has not tasted jealousy? Only the blindly arrogant.

I ran into some Peabody twit the next day and excitedly asked how he liked the film. His answer was one that matched the heartless, soulless pretentiousness that I encountered on a daily basis at school: "It didn't work," he stated triumphantly and then proceeded to point out historical errors. The idiot has missed the entire point of the film.

This visually sumptuous masterpiece is about how we ordinary people deal with our issues of blatant inadequacy when confronted with great talent, or in Mozart's case, blinding genius. We ask ourselves or God, "Why was so much ability given to this twit when I deserve it so much more?" I have met many a twit with so much natural ability that I had asked myself that question countless times.

Being humble becomes easier when you go to a big university or a small conservatory. It's one thing to be considered to be a good player by your high school peers, but another experience altogether when grouped with people from all over the world in a conservatory. The level you thought you were at (and all of its "specialness") dissipates like the morning fog when you see people doing things so effortlessly that cost you umpteen hours in a practice room just to come close to executing.

Salieri was destroyed by his jealousy. Was I going to let myself be eaten up by the same?

I told Bill on the ride home that Amadeus changed my life. Slowly, painfully and with the grace of time, I learned not to internally wince when someone mentioned how many gigs they had, what show they were doing or how many students they were teaching. I had to let jealousy go. It truly took a lot of time to let go and just be.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


This very silly, but I'm bummed that the KC Blockbuster is closing.

Part of my joy is to run in the store, before the Kroger jaunt, and see if there's anything that might be worth renting.

Say goodbye to that convenience now. I had a pass that only cost me $15 a month. No due dates, no hassles, no pay for individual rentals- it was all cool.

I brought home many a really bad horror film, but never had to to feel the sting of the $5 or whatever rental fee hit me in the ass.

Blockbuster made some major fuckups along the way and eventually Dish TV bought them. Their selection changed somewhat as I noticed that the more out-of-the-way titles seemed to no longer be offered.

Where will we end up? Netflix? Amazon? Not sure.

I will not pay 7 or 8 bucks to rent a movie.

Maybe I can catch up on my reading.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

I Watch Too Much TV

TV is a big part of what I do. TV has the best writing now and probably has had for some time.

1. Breaking Bad. This badass and truly sick (Thank you, Uncle Bill) series is a drama masterpiece. Consistently high quality episodes with several "WTF" moments. It burns with a light that blinds. If you've missed out, there's time to catch up before some blogger spoils it for you.

"The Swede" on Hell on Wheels.
Watch out. This is one crazy and plotting son-of-a-bitch.
Brilliant acting by Christopher Heyerdahl.
2. Hell on Wheels. The first season was good, but season two has found it's engine. There wasn't a single misstep this whole season and the finale was jaw-dropping (literally). Heyerdahl should win an Emmy, hands-down. Anything less is treason.
3. Dexter. There has not been a bad season of this series. That says a lot about this show because even The Sopranos had some lame seasons.
Gore and dark humor abound, but it's the characters and story lines that keep me coming back.

4. The Walking Dead. After season two's glacial pace, the noted exception being the last "barn burning" episode, this zombie series may finally become the horrifying, flesh-eating goodness that it should. Every episode of a great series has to have "wtf" moments. Fingers crossed that this season will surprise, delight and freak out. I have a feeling we won't be disappointed.

5. Inspector Lewis. Lewis may be a less educated man than his predecessor, but his relative simplicity is reflected in this "hold the pomp, bring on the murders" PBS favorite. Call it the thinking person's detective series.

"Slow the cray cray roll, Ms. Conspiracy Theory."
6. Homeland. Well done first season with plenty of twists. Hell, it's got Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers) in it and Claire Danes as every cray cray girlfriend you ever had, minus the Lithium. Both Lewis and Danes took the Emmy.

7. Boardwalk Empire. Total kickass show. Shut the hell up and start watching.

8. The Borgias. Jeremy Irons is a total hoot as a most unsaintly pope with a keen knowledge of how to win wars, keep kingdoms and bed hot women. Great supporting cast as well.

9. Falling Skies. This show seemed to be stuck looking at its own reflection with delusions of a gritty, dystopian tale of the last fighting survivors in a post alien takeover. What's there is weak and repetitive dialogue (Can someone please just shoot the captain so we can get out of the faux tough soldier shit?), predictable characters and metal robots that look like plastic toys. I don't even like the look of the show.
10. Game of Thrones. Me likey, but I sometimes wonder why the story seems to be a little more convoluted than it should be.

11. Nurse Jackie. Drug addicted nurse Jackie used to have her dirty little secret under control and now the havoc of her addiction has poisoned every aspect of her life. Good casting and colorful characters make this watchable.

12. Weeds. The season finale was done right, albeit with some ridiculous contrivances and story lines that went nowhere. Compared to last season, which was an epic fail, this funny, this sexy stoner series went off to DVD land with a decent ending.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Wedding Not

My poor old guitar has seen the best and worst of me.
We are one in the same. We both are tired of weddings.
My first "real" gig was a wedding, but it was very unsatisfying.

More than slightly champagne buzzed, I hurled my electric guitar into the back of the car. Angry and disappointed that no one had listened, I wasn't happy. My keyboard playing friend had a good time. You see, he's free of any ego. He doesn't even see himself as a musician sometimes, so he's free of expectations. I wanted attention and compliments- at a wedding.

How foolish and naive.

To the "civilians" out there, the wedding gig is certainly one of the best paying gigs in the working musician's jobs. They come in two distinct categories: really easy and nightmarish.

Why such a dichotomy? Good question.

"What do you mean it's going to be cloudy?!"
1. Bridezillas and/or monster-in-laws make for very tense events.
The tone is set by the bride, the mother and/or the mother-in-law. Period.

The struggles of an ever-demanding bride and her struggle with her mother (or mother-in-law or both) can make the whole day TENSE for everyone. Though the bridesmaids are happy to be all dolled up and the groomsmen are setting their marks on the bridesmaids and the father is rendered perfunctory, it is the women who must muss, fuss and sputter over every mind-bending detail. All to make this day so special, so extraordinary, soooo unique and everyone miserable.

The groom is merely along for the ride. This is not his show, not matter his level of alpha male in his social group. He is essentially, for lack of a better metaphor, castrated until the big day is over.

2. Weather and other unforeseen, uncontrollable forces. God has his little moments. Oh yes indeed. Go ahead, make plans. God smirks at planners.

Here's an example: As the rain swirled around us, we nervously played under a tent. We and everyone else had just dashed from a golf course where hand-of-God lightning bolts were flashing all around. Loud thunder, wind, rain, but the guitar-flute duo played on. Good times. Wet, miserable and playing bossa novas. This is the life. The dream.

Another:  This place was remote, one of those "Where in the hell are we?" West Virginia residences. I remember driving on this dirt road and wondering when we would see a house, any house. There appeared, propped up on hill, was one of those fancy get-away-from-it-all-but-let's-have-it-all kind of homes.

The guests were seated outdoors to watch the sunset as the wedding ceremony was to unfold. Great concept, but rife with problems. Several nightmares: the evening sun was still in blinding and burning mode all the while legions of ladybugs and bees hovered and swarmed. On cue, we began the processional, but not a bridesmaid in sight. When the first bridesmaid appeared, she walked an absolute lethargic pace, taking a good ten minutes. The gap between the bridesmaids was another ten minutes and so forth.

Meanwhile the guitar-flute duo was in sheer agony as we played Pachelbel's Canon until my left hand went numb and her lip deadened. Watching the well-dressed people, already sweltering and sun blind, swatting at the massive insect cloud above them was surely not what the glorious "ah" moment the wedding planners had envisioned. It was Dali meets David Lynch on a codeine jag.

Why then thy glum face over the latest gig?

FYI: Our bride was laid-back, casual and sweet.

In a nutshell, this is what happened:

My partner, the flutist, days from hand surgery, had just taken off her cast. She was very nervous and had some worries about playing and the gig in general. She was right.

My amp had gone south about two weeks before, so we had to use her amp. Two instruments and one amp isn't ideal for clarity.
Despite my casual attire of no tie or jacket ( I hate suit jackets), sweat was pouring from my head.
Giant mosquitoes moved about, looking for victims.
Soon after we got the hardware in place, she discovered that the pickup had broken. I called for Super Glue and a Glue Stick was delivered.
I used it before realizing how ridiculous and fruitless it would be to glue metal to metal with a fucking Glue Stick.
Scotch tape was used in order to "reattach" the flute pickup to make the playing time of 5:30. This caused a terrible hum in the amp.
Of course, since we are the entertainment, most people take a glance at us (some choose to stare-they nothing better to do), but when the entertainment are obviously having problems, it feels a bit like being in a play when things are going terribly, terribly wrong.
All the while, I sense my partner is getting a little close to hitting the panic button. I was irritated, but panic was not going to come. I wouldn't allow it. This is a wedding-one of countless. No need for anxiety.

Experience tempers the temptation to panic. Plus, the musical duo is so much better doing a solo act because we serve as reality check and emotional support for each other. We have to have each other's backs.

Proof positive that guitarists do show up at weddings.
Sidebar: Musicians are invisible are these functions. Li-Li has to sidestep the constant threat of having her flute smashed into her mouth. Guitar playing also involves the ability to dodge the herds, to keep the neck from being stumbled into, and keep playing. I have actually been accused (via a threatening letter by a lawyer) of not showing up at a wedding. Yes, that's how much I matter at a wedding.

Tuning was a real issue as flutes go sharp in heat and strings tend to destabilize. Luckily, my tuner  helped to keep the guitar from sounding like a watery turd. But despite this, Li'Li's flute declined to be pulled out any further and so we couldn't agree on tuning. Nice.

To conclude:

After all that hassle, I suggested, "That was enough ass kicking for one day." Two ice-cold Blue Moons were slipped out in a purse and two sweaty, beaten musicians drank them with gratitude. Hooray for cold beer. The cheap panacea for badly beaten musicians.
What comment is it when a cold beer is the best part of the day?

I confessed to L that quitting weddings altogether had crossed my mind. They are handy for some gas money or a nice meal, but they have become so soulless that it is merely a professional, robotic act. Giving a damn left me a long time ago. I mean, I would never deliberately play poorly at a job, but that's what it is-a job and nothing more.

Will I simply say "no" and stop playing them altogether? Or will I be like Rumpole of the Bailey when Rumpole declares that he's quitting the bar, due to some financial windfall, but despite all of his noble sounding words, returns to chambers the next day looking for the dreary dog-ends of a case in magistrate court?

It isn't as dramatic as all that. I am at a very different stage in my "career" now. Play for the sake of playing-that's my credo. No slogging out the hits for the sweaty loud bar crowd. No late night jam sessions at open mike nights. I leave that to the young and hungry go-getters. God love them, they deserve a chance.

 Not quite at the point of dismissing all these soul-sucking gigs, I'd rather concentrate on writing music and gigs that reward the artistic, not the commerce side.

For now, I will grumble, but will not abandon the possibility. The fee should be set at a rate where, should all chaos break loose, we can walk away with a decent bit of change for our hassle.

Time to think about a new amp.