Bad Blogger! No Biscuit!

Okay, a month off is excessive, even for me, the uncrowned king of long-term blogging. I'll just dispense with the excuses, if you don't mind, and note just a couple of things that have drawn my attention over the past four weeks, shall I?

First, there was this significant family development:

DSC00729.JPGYes, that is Ian Cashwell striding into the future, or at least into the room where the dean of VCU's history department is handing him a B.A. with a minor in anthopology. With this in hand, he is now searching for gainful employment (though he is hanging on to his gig as a host at Chili's for the moment). Kelly and I are enormously proud of him, as well as amazed (that we're old enough to be the parents of a college graduate), relieved (that we're now down to paying only one college tuition), and exhausted (from planning the Richmond meeting of various relatives and friends to celebrate the big day in a town with basically no hotel rooms or restaurant reservations left.)

From that point, May got crazier, with a short bout of illness on my part and a consequent rush to get a bunch of papers graded in a very limited time. With all that to do, I didn't get much done on the birding front or the writing front. On the latter, I was at least treated to the daylight antics of the pair of Barred Owls that came to hang out near our school's gatehouse, but most of the spring migrants passed by without my notice. On the former, I heard from Paul Dry Books about the amount of cutting they'd like me to shoot for: between 20 and 25 percent of the current manuscript. I can definitely see a number of places where I can make cuts and tighten the focus, but there's no question that this is going to require some hard choices... when I eventually get around to making them.

The reason I haven't buckled down to edit yet include the aforementioned schoolwork and sick days, but there was also one more family celebration to get through. Back in March, I had learned about a live tour by the cast of Cinematic Titanic, the web-and-DVD movie riffing ensemble formed by the original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Kel and I have been fans since our pals Tony Plutonium and Jenny Slash introduced us to MST3K's take on Tormented back in '92, and after the show's cancellation, we got in on the ground floor of CT by buying their discs of such appalling films as The Wasp Woman, Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (with not ONE joke repeated from the MST3K version!). Still, in all our years of fandom, we'd never had the chance to catch one of CT's live performances... and as I saw the announcement about this year's tour, I learned a crucial fact: that this tour would be their last.

Well, that clinched it: we were going. The nearest venue was the Arlington Drafthouse, which would host the show on May 31st and June 1st. Since both the Things were brought up MSTies, I reasoned that they would be eager to join us for what might be the group's live swan song, so I booked four tickets for Saturday night. (Note: If you live in Milwaukee, Missouri, Boston, or Philly, you've still got a shot to see them in person before the end of 2013, but get your tickets NOW.) I didn't really think about the fact that this would mean a trip to NoVa on the weekend when I'd be finishing up the grading of my exams and the writing of my final student comments, but dammit, this was too important.

We arrived for the 7:30 show at about 6:00, with a line of around twenty people already in front of us, but after some complex maneuvering around the lobby, the ticket booth, and the Green Room Grill, which is located just off the lobby, we were eventually seated comfortably back from the screen (and relatively close to the merchandise table, which turned out to be significant later on.) and ready to enjoy the opening act by Freaks & Geeks veteran Dave "Gruber" Allen, who set up his own one-man riffing demonstration for the final scene of Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House." (Titans Mary Jo Pehl and Trace Beaulieu were brought in to assay the roles of Nora and Torvald.)

But then the lights went down and the film began. The target of this particular massacre was the 1973 proto-Charlie's Angels flick The Doll Squad, produced and directed by Ted V. Mikels, whom MST3K creator/star Joel Hodgson described as "Russ Meyer without the substance." After a US rocket is blown up, a glorified teletype machine calculates that the shapely Francine York and her stable of bosomy swimmers, black belts, and demolitions experts are the best agents to investigate the sabotage, and badly-lit and -staged mayhem ensues. The Titans (Hodgson, Beaulieu, Pehl, Frank Conniff, and J. Elvis Weinstein) were in fine form, throwing out snark about everything from the plot ("Oh, yeah, run down a dark alley--nothing bad EVER happens THERE!") to the costumes ("Why is she dressed as an elf?") to the lighting ("Jeez, it was actually lighter underground."), plus miscellaneous gems like these:

Joel (as the captain opens the door in his gunwale): "He broke the boat."

Frank (as one of the Dolls blasts a fallen gunman repeatedly): "Jeez, she's like Bush AND Cheney."

Mary Jo (reading the credit for "the All-Star 'Doll Squad' members"): "I think All-Star should be in quotation marks, too."

Trace (as an exotic dancer spins across the stage madly): "My wiener is getting dizzy!"

J. Elvis (as the villain throws down his wine glass in fury): "Mazel tov, bitch!"

Joel (as the captain closes the door in his gunwale): "There. That'll keep the fish out."

After the show, all five Titans sat down at the merch table to sign stuff and greet the fans, and they were as nice and friendly as you could want. Naturally, as total geeks, the four of us had brought all our CT DVDs, and we bought a poster for the Arlington show for everyone to sign as well.

I think the evening can be best summed up by this moment after the show: Dixon had brought along his beloved homemade VHS copy of Joel's last appearance on MST3K, in the execrable Joe Don Baker vehicle Mitchell, and he shyly asked if he could get it signed. As the Titans did so, Ian remarked, "It's kind of sad that this is my childhood."

J. Elvis replied, "Could be worse. Imagine if it were your career."

And of course, Kelly finally had the chance to pose with one of her longtime TV crushes, Trace Beaulieu, who on MST3K played both the acerbic Crow T. Robot and the mustachioed mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester. Though he was no longer sporting the mustache she loved so well, she was still delighted to have this brush with greatness:

DSC00742.JPGAnd then we were off homeward, loaded down with Sharpie-covered videos and one last night as a foursome before we split up for the summer. Dixon's taking summer school classes and looking for occasional paying work in Richmond, Kelly's on her own job hunt here, and I'm getting set for about ten days of travel in the Rockies with my parents, who have been driving all over Utah, Nevada, and California and will meet me in Salt Lake City in a couple of days. I'll have the chance to decompress and do a little birding--okay, a LOT of birding--as well as meeting up with Friend of the Blog David Abrams to get my copy of Fobbit signed.

And yes, I'll post about it. Soon. Here. Honest.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on June 3, 2013 5:29 PM.

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