The ones that got away — September 15, 2021

The ones that got away

So, apparently there’s going to a fourth movie in the Matrix franchise. This one is scheduled to be released in December. The first movie was released in 1999 to worldwide acclaim and a bountiful box office.

I’ve never gotten around to seeing it.

Oodles of Matrix fans throughout the years have insisted that I just had to watch it and the subsequent sequels. They obviously haven’t been convincing.  

Part of the reason why I’ve avoided all things Matrix is its star – Keanu Reeves. I’m sure everyone is right and he’s the nicest guy in Hollywood, but I don’t watch his movies. I haven’t seen once since circa 1993, and I stand by that decision.

Also, the gist of the film doesn’t draw me in. Here’s how the Wikipedia frames it: “The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of mankind, in which the creation of artificial intelligence led the way to a race of self-aware machines that imprisoned mankind in a virtual reality system — the Matrix — to be farmed as a power source. Occasionally, some of the prisoners manage to break free from the system and, considered a threat, become pursued by the artificial intelligence both inside and outside of it.”

If you knew how much trouble I had following the first two Terminator movies, what with their self-aware machines, you’d understand why I believe I’ll have even more trouble following The Matrix.

Although I’m known for being something of a movie fan, The Matrix isn’t the only movie from way back that I’ve never seen. I haven’t watched a second of Gremlins or The Goonies.

People from my generation freak the expletive out when they hear this.

But you can’t watch every movie. What’s more, you can’t care about every movie, either.

As they wipe away tears, folks my age encourage me to watch The Goonies, a flick about a group of kids who follow a treasure map to save their homes from foreclosure. These teary-eyed folks are coming from a place of nostalgia. Maybe if I had seen the movie during its original mid-‘80s run, I would feel the same. But I’m a woman of advanced age who has no connection to that movie or those characters. I’m not going to feel the way an ‘80s era tween or teen would feel.

When I was a wee lass on the Goff Estate, we subscribed to a premium network channel that seemingly played Gremlins around the clock. I never once had the inclination to spend time with those ugly bug-eyed creatures. What’s more, I heard so much about those dern critters – don’t feed them after midnight, don’t expose them to sunlight, don’t let them come into contact with water – that I felt like I had actually seen the movie.

Basically, I missed my chance.

Just like I missed my chance with The Karate Kid and Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours and…

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Be a good sport — August 4, 2021

Be a good sport

I know people have different interests, but if I live to be Master Yoda’s age, I’ll never understand why everyone in the galaxy doesn’t watch the Olympics.

Sure, one could argue that the entire Olympics enterprise is corrupt. But when I ask folks about their anti-Olympics feelings, some say they don’t like sports whilst others say they don’t like Olympics-style sports.

If you don’t enjoy sports, then the Olympics is marketed for you. The coverage is full of stories of orphaned athletes who considered limping away from their respective sport, but decided to risk their bodies for one more shot at an elusive medal. And all for love of country or athletics or to honor an ailing coach or a sick goat. These stories are designed to tug at your heart and make you care who wins the BMX freestyle race even if you’re not quite sure what BMX freestyle is.

If you only enjoy the big-name sports, then you’ll be happy to know the Games have been featuring basketball, baseball, and soccer for decades. In fact, I recorded the Slovenia-Spain basketball game and watched it at my leisure.

No, that is not a misprint. No, the game was not played in the medal round. Yes, such is my madness for the Games.

Golf was added a few years ago, too, but as much as I heart the Olympics, I draw the line at golf. When NBC switched to it the other night, my hand reached for the remote.

I’m also not a fan of soccer – except during the Olympics and World Cup – but I kept up with a men’s match between Egypt and Mexico. At one point during the match, my great-niece walked in front of the TV and I almost asked her to move. Longtime readers of this-here space will realize how out-of-character such behavior would have been for me.

As with Olympics in the past, I checked out handball – it’s a combination of basketball and soccer – as well as table tennis and badminton. One of the announcers pronounced both ns in badminton and I cannot stress how much that triggered me.

I watched men’s synchronized diving finals like I had money on the results. By the way, male divers and female beach volleyball players compete practically in the nude. Perhaps that will persuade you to tune into the Games.

Of course, there are only a few days left for you to do so. Swimming, my favorite part of the Summer Olympics, ended Saturday. I had several breakdowns during close races. I might have lost consciousness once. Or twice. Perhaps a few times.

As I say as the Games come to a close every time, I don’t know what I will do when they’re over. Wait. What’s that? The Winter Games start in six months?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Alone on an island — June 23, 2021

Alone on an island

Two friends have recommended the documentary, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. But as I’ve explained to said friends, if it’s not the NBA playoffs, the Olympic trials, an occasional MLB game, or a professional wrestling documentary, then it hasn’t been seen on my TV in weeks.

Unlike people who hate having fun, I enjoy the Bee Gees’ music. I’ve also long been a fan of the mane of hair Barry Gibb sported for decades. Barry, a singer-songwriter and producer, was one of the three brothers Gibb comprising the Bee Gees. Maurice and Robin were the other two members. Among oodles of other hits, the Bee Gees penned Islands in the Stream, which was released by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers in 1983.

The song was a humongous hit that topped every chart in the galaxy. There was no escaping it. Trust me. I tried.

Indeed, I’m sharing this moment in music history with you because whenever the Bee Gees come up in conversation, I tell folks (one of) my deepest darkest — that I don’t care for Dolly and Kenny’s version of the song.

As this is considered one of the greatest duets in recorded history, people respond by dern-near passing out.

They reach for the smelling salts when I add that I prefer the Bee Gees’ version of the song.

I mean no disrespect to Dolly, a national treasure who I rank up there with sunshine and puppy dogs, or the late great Kenny, a man whose hits I quote on a monthly basis. In fact, I play tunes from Dolly and Kenny’s Christmas album during the holiday season. I’m especially fond of a song called The Greatest Gift of All.

But when it comes to non-holiday duets, I prefer their work with others and will crank Kenny and Kim Carnes or Kenny and the late great Dottie West when I’m driving or doing something that resembles cleaning.

Back to Islands in the Stream…part of my issue with the song is that, even as a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, I had no idea what it meant. My surroundings weren’t populated by too many islands or streams. We had creeks and ditches and mud holes. Could Dolly and Kenny have been referring to the rocks in the ditches and mud holes when they sang of islands in streams? Or perhaps the trash that clung to the logs in the creeks?

Who knows? I just know that I sighed every time the song blared onto either the country or Top 40 radio station.

Because, like I said, there was no escaping it.

You know what would have made it more bearable? Barry Gibbs’ hair.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Men in tights — May 12, 2021

Men in tights

As I might have mentioned, I’m a recovering professional wrestling fan. As I also might have mentioned, my former fascination with wrestling — pronounced rasslin’ at the Goff Estate – used to surprise certain people.

I never understood why. After all, wrestling is a soap opera, featuring men in singlets and shorts. And if there’s one thing I’ve always loved, it’s a good soap opera, especially one featuring men in singlets and shorts.

Of course, the professional wrestling my siblings and I grew up watching on WTBS didn’t feature the over-the-top storylines that came to dominate the genre. It did have storylines, though. Not that I can remember any of them, but I can remember being heartbroken by the turn of a heel or when one of my favorites lost an important match.

I can also remember watching wrestling with my poppaw, the late, great Rufus Goff, but not with my dad, the late, great Burton Goff. Daddy was not a fan. He never let an opportunity pass to tell his children that the entire enterprise was fake and ridiculous and not worth our time. He’d cross his unibrow and say, “You know it’s not real.” Well, yeah. “Then why are you watching it?” Because.

Later, when we were adults and wrestling had morphed into a dazzling display of loud music and rude behavior, he would shake his head, sigh, and glance sideways at his children and grandchildren whenever he had to so much as endure a 10-second clip of a show. He must have been wondering where it had all gone wrong for him.

Perhaps I should have suggested to Daddy, a serious soap opera fan, that it was like a soap and the wrestlers were simply characters. Then again, in my analogy, I’m not sure which one would have been the Undertaker — John Black or Stefano. So, maybe it’s just as well that I kept that to myself.

Anyway, although I’m not a prude, over time, I started wincing more and more whilst watching wrestling. One night, I legit said to myself, “Self, I can’t do this anymore,” and I turned the channel. I haven’t watched in years, but I have tuned into A&E’s “Biography: WWE Legends.” They’re profiling eight legends — Steve Austin, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Booker T, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Mick Foley, and The Ultimate Warrior. If you’ve missed the original airings and you’re so inclined, check your local listings for the reruns.

The bios have given me a chance to discuss wrestling with my niece, Valerie, who alerted me to their existence, and to reminisce about my days as an active wrestling fan. It’s also given me the insight that if John Black and Stefano had solved their problems with a cage match, it would have spared a lot of people a lot of pain and heartache.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

May the fourth be with you — May 4, 2021

May the fourth be with you

Unlike other Star Wars galaxy fans of my generation, I didn’t grow up watching the movies. Indeed, I didn’t view my first Star Wars flick until a few years after the original trilogy had made history in movie theaters. What’s more, until that fateful Labor Day weekend when I happened across the first Star Wars movie on the TV, I had never had a scintilla of interest in the franchise.

But after that first viewing, I was hooked.

All these years later, on this Star Wars Day – May the Fourth – I’m still hooked. I have watched the prequel trilogy and the sequel trilogy and both standalone films, Solo and Rogue One. I enjoyed the former and loved the latter. Depending on my mood, I might make the bold statement that Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie ever. If you disagree, we can duel with lightsabers.

Although my feelings for Star Wars lore have not led me to sample any of the cartoons, oops, I mean animated series, I have read three books detailing the rise of Darth Vader as well as one focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi, aka my favorite Star Wars character. Thus, I’m beyond pumped about the upcoming Obi-Wan series and, of course, I am a faithful viewer of The Mandalorian.

Other than the fact that today is May the Fourth – a play on the Star Wars phrase “May the force be with you” – why am I reminiscing about Star Wars?

Because I’ve reflected on the fact that, for the most part, I’m not a blockbuster kind of gal. I’ve consulted the abacus and, unless the math is wrong, I have seen exactly one Marvel movie and maybe one Justice League movie. That’s a maybe because I’m not sure if the Superman flick I saw falls under the Justice League umbrella. I’m not even sure I know what the Justice League is.

Furthermore, I tried to watch the X-Men movies back in the day, and I made it through two or three before giving up after I realized it’s the exact same movie with different dialogue.

Before any of my friends and family members remind me, yes, I remain a fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, and yes, I recognize those movies were blockbusters.

Otherwise, I’m sort of a film snob, so why am I a Star Wars fangirl? It’s not due to nostalgia because, as aforementioned, I didn’t watch the movies until I had exited childhood.

I used to think my interest stemmed from the Darth Vader character and his frenemyship with Obi-Wan, but neither of those characters are in The Mandalorian. And while Darth Vader’s – and Leia’s – appearance at the end of Rogue One elevates that movie from good to great, the film was already giving me chills before Vader and his red lightsaber showed up.

The best answer I can give myself is that the original trilogy featured a group of scrappy guys and one awesome gal who not only took on the evil empire, but defeated it in the face of overwhelming odds. Those other blockbusters feature superheroes or mutants with special powers. Sure, you can make an argument about Luke Skywalker’s DNA and The Force being super powers, but I can also make an argument that he was just a whiny kid.

So, maybe I’m just a sucker for underdogs who defeat fascists.

Happy Star Wars Day!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

It was a week — March 31, 2021

It was a week

This week, everyone was enthralled by the saga of a man who might or might not have found shrimp tails in a box of cereal and with a big-expletive boat blocking the Suez Canal.

As for the tale of the alleged shrimp tails…all I have to say is that I only buy brand name cereal when purchasing for someone else or purchasing for myself with a coupon. And I’ve never found anything but cereal in my boxes of cereal. You can extrapolate that to mean whatever you wish.

As for the big-expletive boat…I am not nearly as enamored with this story as are my fellow galaxy mates, but I do wonder how the big-expletive boat managed to become dislodged in the canal. Where was it going? Why was it turning in the middle of said canal? I dare say that Capt. Stubing never allowed the MS Pacific Princess to become stuck in a waterway.

Regardless, I haven’t spent much time worrying over these matters because I’ve been mourning the back-to-back deaths of actress Jessica Walter and author Larry McMurtry.

Walter amassed oodles of credits during her 60-year, Emmy-award winning career. But for many of us, she came to personify Lucille Bluth, the character she played on Arrested Development. Indeed, on the afternoon of Walter’s death, a friend messaged me that Lucille Bluth had died.

In the days since Walter’s passing, I have consoled myself by watching clips of Lucille and giggled again and again at her unparalleled ability to roll her eyes, judge another character with only her eyes and a frown, and deliver a biting line. All whilst holding a martini glass.

I was still mourning the loss of Lucille Bluth/Jessica Walter when the same friend messaged me about the death of McMurtry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove and oodles of other books.

The obituaries for McMurtry have described him as an unsentimental author of the American West. I’m simplifying it, obviously, but anyone familiar with his work would agree with that assessment. My sister, Kathy, has read dern-near every work of fiction McMurtry penned. This weekend, she told me she couldn’t finish one book in particular because it was too dark. I told her I can’t finish one series in particular because I know it will end with the death of the main character. As long as I don’t finish the last book, he will live forever.

Of course, no one lives forever, including McMurtry’s fictional characters. As I sit here, I can remember turning a page more than 20 years ago to discover the fate of a beloved character. I immediately threw the book across the room and I, a woman not prone to fits of sentimentality, began weeping. I briefly cursed McMurtry for killing the character and for letting the readers know her fate.

But he had to do so. He had to be true to his story. And such was the power of his stories and his characters that their fates still move me. I can always revisit the books, though, where I will find the characters alive and alluring.

Just as I can always re-watch Arrested Development and find Lucille judging everyone as she day drinks.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Come on down — January 13, 2021

Come on down

Well, 2021 is off to a terrible start, but one good thing has occurred this year. I’ve learned that Pluto TV now has a channel devoted to the 1980’s Bob Barker era of The Price Is Right.

You might have some questions, including what the expletive is Pluto TV and how do I access it?

I researched the Internets to find a good description of Pluto TV, but I found the explanations sorely lacking. Here’s the best that I can do. If you can access the likes of Netflix and Hulu, then you can add Pluto to your buffet of platforms. It’s free, offers live TV-ish, and has oodles of channels. Don’t ask me how to add it or you’ll end up in Denmark. Instead, ask a loved one or a neighbor or that pesky feller who keeps offering to upgrade your car warranty.

Anyway, Pluto added TPIR on Dec. 1, but I didn’t learn of its existence until Jan. 1, which means I missed the holiday marathon. (Fun fact, as a wee lass, I thought the TPIR anagram stood for trip. I also thought announcer Johnny Olson was saying cars came equipped with California ignition instead of emission. Yes, even as a child, I was a candidate for a think tank.)

Many of the episodes haven’t been seen since they aired back in the ’80s and, during my down time, I do my best to make sure I watch as many as possible. It reminds me of when my family first got the MTV. My siblings and I tried to watch the channel around-the-clock, as if we expected it to disappear if we turned off the TV.

That’s me and TPIR on Pluto. There are so many aspects of the ‘80s episodes I had forgotten. These include the train, a few of the retired games, and the fact that women didn’t wear much clothing back in the day. I also wince at some of the remarks Bob Barker makes to the female contestants and models, who were known as Barker’s Beauties.

But I’ll give the man his due. He brought energy and pizazz to every single episode and never acted like he was too good or too cool for the show. Other game show hosts act(ed) like they’d been lobotomized, but not Barker (or the recently departed Alex Trebek). Barker maintained a repartee with the contestants and the studio audience that was fun to experience.

Another fun fact: whilst watching my first Pluto episode, I wondered in what year it was set. So, I studied the skimpy clothing, the hairstyles, and the TPIR merchandise and decided on 1982. Then, I watched the credits to see if I was right.

I was.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me because the showcase showdown is starting.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Watching the wheels — April 29, 2020

Watching the wheels

If my TV was on in the 7 p.m. hour during my pre-pandemic existence, then it was usually tuned to some sort of sporting event. Alas, just as with not being able to see my great-niece and great-nephew or make random trips to Dollar General and Big Lots, sports represents something else I’ve had to learn to live without. Well, sort of. I’ve taken advantage of a free subscription to NFL’s Game Pass and I’ve devoted dozens of hours to classic Olympics coverage. What’s more, as of this writing, my TV is tuned to a classic Major League Baseball game.

But during the aforementioned 7 p.m. hour, I’ve returned to two old favorites – “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”

Indeed, for decades I had a nightly date with “Jeopardy!” The show was also a favorite of my dad, who pronounced it as Jefferdee. At some point, though, I fell out of the habit of watching every evening. Oh, I would watch both game shows here and there and sometimes for several nights in a row, but I can’t say that either resumed being part of my daily routine.

That is, they weren’t until the coronavirus.

One evening, with no sports on and with “Magnum, P.I.” airing an episode I had seen a couple weeks prior, I decided to flip the flicker to “Wheel.” It comforted me to see that Vanna White was still lovely and sweet and that Pat Sajak was still ingratiatingly sarcastic.

But I have two complaints with the show. Firstly, it has too many toss-up puzzles. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it means the puzzle is revealed one letter at a time and the contestant who correctly guesses wins $1,000 or $2,000.

To the best of my recollection, the last time I watched they had only three toss-up puzzles, which was already excessive. Sure, toss-ups throw money at the contestants, who don’t have to spin the wheel and, thus, run the risk of hitting a bankrupt or lose a turn. But it also reduces the drama because viewers know the contestants won’t lose any money or turns.

Secondly, the rules regarding winning $1 million make me borderline angry. In order to win the million bucks, a contestant must hit the million dollar wedge, call a letter, successfully solve that puzzle, win that round, and win the game without hitting bankrupt.

If you assume that the contestant will then win $1 million if he or she successfully solves the bonus round puzzle, you would be wrong. If you haven’t watched in several seasons, during the bonus round the winning contestant spins another wheel containing envelopes that represent money and prizes. If the contestant has hit and held onto the million dollar wedge, the envelope that usually represents $100,000 is replaced with a million. This means that the contestant still has to correctly solve the puzzle, which I endorse, and hit the million dollar envelope to win the big bucks.

I do not endorse that nonsense. If a contestant makes it that far and still has the million dollar wedge, he or she shouldn’t even have to spin the second wheel.

Somehow, this extra hurdle has not rendered it impossible to win a million on “Wheel.” In fact, three contestants have done so.

Of course, I guess I should just be happy that they’re not throwing a million dollars at contestants who solve those ridiculous toss-up puzzles.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The one and only — February 11, 2020

The one and only

On the heels of last week’s “news” that the postal service still offers collect on delivery services, I’m back with another bulletin of epic proportions. This time I’m here to let you know that the original recipe “Magnum, P.I.” is now on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel.

As you might recall, “Magnum, P.I.” ran on CBS from 1980 to 1988 and starred Tom Selleck as the title character. The show followed the exploits of Magnum as he solved mysteries in paradise aka Hawaii. Magnum lived on a beautiful estate called Robin’s Nest, which was owned by the celebrated – yet never seen – author, Robin Masters. Magnum frequently bickered with Higgins, (John Hillerman) the caretaker of Robin’s Nest, who was not amused by Magnum’s laid back approach to life.

Although I adore Higgy-Baby, which is how Magnum’s buddy, T.C., referred to Higgins, I’ve always been a Magnum fangirl. Nonetheless, Higgins had a point about Magnum. In dern-near every episode, Magnum, Higgins, T.C., their other friend, Rick, and Magnum’s love interest of the week found themselves embroiled in dangerous situations that could have been avoided.

Indeed, in an episode I happened to catch a couple weeks ago, bad guys and one bad gal descended upon Robin’s Nest with machine guns. Magnum, with an assist from T.C. and his ubiquitous helicopter, saved the day and everyone’s lives. Afterward, Magnum offered a wisecrack about how Higgins’ guard dogs, two Doberman Pinchers nicknamed the lads, let him down. At that point, I said to myself, “Self, unlike the lads, Magnum is a professional and he has opposable thumbs. So shouldn’t he be held a tad more accountable for weekly ruckuses?”

Regardless, I’ve been a fan of “Magnum, P.I.” since my days as a wee lass. I can remember coming in from a long summer’s day of playing to find Magnum on the TV, speeding through the streets of Hawaii in Robin’s red Ferrari. The show has been in syndication on and off since the ’80s and I’m always overjoyed when it shows up on my TV. It’s one of those shows I can keep on all day without watching a complete episode.

I have, however, never sampled so much as a second of the version of “Magnum” currently airing on CBS. Let’s be honest. The original series owed its success to the various charms of Selleck and Hillerman. There is only one true Thomas Magnum and his name is Tom Selleck.

So, if you want to watch him crack wise his way across paradise, check your local listings.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Collect on delivery — February 4, 2020

Collect on delivery

Did you know that collect on delivery (COD) is still offered by the United States Postal Service (USPS)?

Of course, if you’re under a certain age, you probably have no idea what the heck I’m talking about. Well, according to the USPS website, COD allows a sender to “collect from the recipient money for postage, fees, merchandise, or any combination thereof.”

In other words, you can order something and pay for it upon delivery. There are oodles of restrictions, though. What’s more, oodles of senders do not offer the COD service. But it was all the rage when I was a wee lass growing up.

Again, if you’re under a certain age, it might come as a surprise to learn that the Internet/online shopping hasn’t always existed and that credit/debit cards weren’t always common, either. So, if you saw a television advertisement for, let’s say, ABBA’s greatest hits on 8-track and you were too young to have a checking account, you could call the 800 number listed on screen or mail your order to the address, also given on screen, and pay the mailperson upon delivery of said 8-track.

All this assumes you could find a writing utensil and a scrap of paper on which to write the address or phone number before the advertisement ended. And that, if you grew up in my house and were too young to have a checking account, that you had your parents’ permission to place the order. If not, then the combination thereof the mailperson would have collected would have been one or more minor children.

Anyway, COD recently popped into my head as I marveled over the ease of downloading and/or uploading books. Although I’ve been doing this for years, the instant delivery continues to amaze me. Indeed, I hope I never forget that for most of my life I did not have the option of receiving oodles of books or movies or songs via a simple click of my finger.

That’s when I recalled, with a chuckle, the days of COD. I realized I had never really thought about how COD worked and how it seemed like a heck of a lot of effort on behalf of the USPS and how there’s no way the COD service still existed.

So imagine my surprise upon learning that although oodles of restrictions apply, I could place a COD order if I so desired.

Oh, by the way, if you’re under a certain age, we will discuss ABBA and 8-tracks at a future time.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.