Learning How Not to Sink

Posted in Free-Range Tampa, Live from the C.O., Oldies But Baddies with tags , , on January 26, 2014 by shenanitim

[I'm so glad I've left retail behind me...]

“Sir, do you carry baby coffins?”

“I’m sorry, we do not.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ve worked here a long time and have never seen baby coffins here.”

[Indignant] “Well, do you know where I could get one?”

Guests always get angry when you don’t have whatever they’re trying to buy. They become even angrier when they find out that you’re not, in fact, a walking retail encyclopedia.

No ma’am, I don’t know where you could buy what you’re looking for. Last time I checked, that part of our marketplace was your area. Having cash isn’t enough anymore, we expect you to know what you want to buy and where to buy it too!

Sometimes it’s fun to play along with them awhile, so as to make their eventual disappointment that much more poignant.

“Excuse me, where do you keep the baby coffins?”

“Oh those? Let me think… Yeah, I think we have a few left. What size did you need? I believe I have a couple newborn ones in back, plus a few 2-3 months… Are you looking for any in particular? I know the newborn ones are honey oak, and we might have one of the 2-3′s in expresso.”

“What about black?”

“Please ma’am, let’s keep this civil!”

ShenaniTims, Master Negotiator

Posted in Free-Range Tampa with tags , , on January 12, 2014 by shenanitim

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Truant and I were recently asked by the Venture Compound to help provide programming for their upcoming Venture TV. Obviously we were super stoked, so did what came naturally: raided our local flea market to buy crap to abuse. This is just one of the resultant adventures.

“How much for the case?,” I ask, motioning towards a decrepit hunk of plastic that probably housed baby tools a decade of decay ago.

“$5,” answer the gangly scrap metal dealer.

“$5?,” incredulously, “How much for just the case, without the freshwater testing kit inside?”

[The tool case contained some kind of fresh water treatment kit; of no interest to anyone but hardened outdoorsman/survivalist nuts.]

“Alone? $4.”

Truant: “So he’s saying that the case is worth more than the chemicals?”

“I’ll give you $3 for it,” I offer; feeling comfortable after watching hours of Hardcore Pawn that this is how haggling is done.

BEAT IT!,” shouts the man, now enraged, slamming the chemicals in question back into the now unattainable case.

Not all deals end with a handshake. We found a real tool case, one made from metal!, an hour later. We also found a robot. Click on either of the photos, over or under, to watch the promo and commercial we made from both.

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[Feel free to click either of the images to be taken to their respective commercials. Hilarity ensues!]

You Might Be Abandoned

Posted in Free-Range Tampa, Hobo-licious on December 17, 2013 by shenanitim

One frequently overlooked bonus from break ups; all those parts of your mind previously preoccupied with “being kind to your significant other” quickly changes back to “raining hell on strangers.”

Definitely a Lot Worse than Mashed Potatoes

Posted in Free-Range Tampa, Hobo-licious with tags , , on November 28, 2013 by shenanitim

One thing I’m most thankful for, and something my ever so humble self rarely talks about, is my forethought. Tonight, after feasting at both my sister’s Thanksgiving extravaganza and then my aunt’s, I washed up and prepared for bed. What I hope will become the post-Thanksgiving tradition in the post-retail years to come.

One small problem though, I forgot my glasses. As I’ve talked about earlier, my unaided eyesight is horrible. I think I (accurately) described it once as “seeing in watercolors.” I believe my amazing optometrist graded it as 20/200 (“legally blind”) when I went for glasses before 8th grade started.

I’m so aware of how bad my eyesight is that I even carried my glasses with me everywhere even after I had switched to contacts. I was subbing at the time, and was painfully aware that I was one mere eye rub away from trying to supervise a classroom full of budding miscreants totally blind.

“Hey you, who’s name I probably know but who’s face I cannot see, put that down!”

So for years I carried my glasses in my bag as back-up. Even though I’ve only ever had to use them once.

Tonight would be the second time. I took my contacts out and looked through my booty bag. Nothing. No glasses. Oh shit. The night I had dreamed of, lounging on my aunt’s couch; reading Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow,” editing sandcastle pictures, and watching the Food Network’s Chopped reruns came crashing down.

Until I realized that I still had these original back-up glasses stored in my car! As it happened, after I updated my glasses (which were nearly 15 years old at that point) I put my original pair in my car’s glove box as another needless failsafe. Just in case, I don’t know, I foolishly took out my contacts while driving to work after a freak bug in the eye after my windshield shatters accident.

Sometimes being super-meticulous pays off, even if it’s only once every 10 years or so.

Possibly Better than Mashed Potatoes

Posted in Free-Range Tampa, Live from the C.O. with tags , , on November 26, 2013 by shenanitim

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It’s weird, this will be the first time I’ve been truly excited about thanksgiving in nearly seven years. (Except maybe here.) I realized this last week when I was driving to work. For the first time in forever, a national holiday will actually mean real time off from work.

Granted, this freedom comes at the cost of no holiday pay our insurance, but thinking about it now, overall this seems like s small price to pay.

Before, back when I worked retail, the three major holidays were: Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas. (Now it’s shrunk down to just Easter and Christmas.) What this meant was less than 24 hours off of work – once you factor in the work details. Such as always seeming to be the one chosen to close the night before, despite having the farthest to travel home. So I’d usually work really late, hop home and sleep for a few hours, wake up and drive for another hour to see the family, and “enjoy” the holiday for 3-4 hours before driving back.

Not to mention the not inconsiderable fact that before heading home I would be thinking of the considerable (work) day ahead: Black Friday or the day after Christmas.

Such thoughts usually take you right out of the holiday spirit. You can’t really appreciate all the stories being made around you because you’re too preoccupied with your boss’ vision of how things should be.

Which is probably the exact reason why I’m so stoked now. I’m looking at four days with nothing to do but bask in the glory of homemade sugar free cream cheese pie. And nothing else.

All My Closest “Friends” are Associates

Posted in Free-Range Tampa, Hobo-licious with tags , , , on November 24, 2013 by shenanitim

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“I might as well just shut the store down now.”

“What do you mean? The day ain’t over yet, someone might top this.”

“You’re buying Pac-Man Fever, the Last Poets, and Pharoah Sanders. No one’s going to top that. That’s it folks, it’s over!

(Apparently Ruben Blades isn’t cool enough to land in this upper echelon. Record store guy needs to read up on his music history!)

“I can’t understand how anyone would pass up Pac-Man Fever for a dollar. Have you looked at it? Every song is about a classic videogame! ‘The Defender’ is what sold it for me.”

Slither (2006)

Posted in 2013, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , on November 22, 2013 by shenanitim

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I was looking to end this October strong. I forced my way through the horrendous Puppet Masters earlier, as well as one by Jess Franco so that my last week would only have hits. Well, maybe not legit “hits,” but films that either should’ve been hits, or could’ve been hits had they played the theaters instead of the SyFy network.

Tonight’s film, Slither,explains why there hasn’t been much apparent action out of my beloved Troma camp since their Tromeo and JulietTerror Firmer run in the late ’90s. It appears that part of Troma’s drop off the collective cultural radar stemmed from losing significant portions of their 2nd wave of talent. Slither being James Gunn’s first feature as a director; after having written both Troma’s Tromeo and Juliet AND the big-budget blockbuster Scooby Doo.

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He’s also listed as a co-writer to Lloyd Kaufman’s 2nd book, Make Your Own Damn Movie!. Which is funny, considering Gunn hadn’t made his own damn movie at that time, but would soon be leaving Troma so that he could. A situation I’m sure couldn’t have bothered Lloyd too much; considering how much Slither has in common with its low(er) brethren.

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It should come as no surprise that Slither’s script is top-notch. The story is centered in some anonymous small-town, but rather than have the protagonists be outsiders (as in, say, I Know What You Did Last Summer), instead everyone is small-town. It’s somewhat shocking to see a film without a severe cultural bias to it.

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The story centers around a husband, Grant (Michael Rooker), and his wife Starla, (Elizabeth Banks). After having his advances refused, Grant meets up a young admirer in a karaoke bar and leads her off into the woods. Where they stumble across a meteorite housing an alien worm. Grant gets infected, and the rest of the story concerns the devastation this invader causes.

Grant infects Brenda (Brenda James), who sits in a barn and eats until she’s as big as the structure housing her. Then, predictably, she explodes the alien worms all over the investigating police force; thereby infecting them before spreading out into the countryside.

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Another neat feature of Slither is how compliant the aforementioned police force is. These aren’t the cops from Killer Klowns from Outer Space who ignore crazy calls all night before sending someone out to investigate. No, once the police see Grant and his mutated tentacle arm, they load up with the city’s arsenal, and start hunting. Starla either has or had something for sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) too, but there’s absolutely no sexual tension expressed; which seems like a wasted opportunity as by the time Bill appears Grant is a tentacle-covered mass of flesh.

The detail here is fantastic too. When Kylie (Tania Saulnier) is attacked while lounging in her bath tub, she almost swallows the alien worm. While Kylie struggles to remove the parasite, we’re treated to glimpses of the alien’s natural life on their homeward up through Grant’s infection. You know a movie’s good if it can steal something from Underworld: Evolution and actually make it awesome.

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Slither exists as if Troma had rebooted Night of the Living Dead using Dead Alive’s production values. Not a bad point of praise even if Grant’s final mutative form looks more akin to a centaur from Fall-Out than an actual zombie.

‘Stache Bash 2013

Posted in Roller Derby., Tampa Bay Derby Darlins. with tags , , , , on November 20, 2013 by shenanitim

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I usually try to keep my Octobers derby-free every year. This allows me to conduct my Halloween Endurance Test in relative peace without the thought of a journalistic deadline eating away at my psyche. This year though, I felt bad because I had been MIA from roller derby since I switched careers and set fire to (most of) my old life.

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So when the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins’ Championship bout, the ‘Stache Bash, was scheduled in October, I couldn’t say no. This year, following a bench-clearing, start from scratch, Day One draft, promised to break the Black Widows and Cigar City Mafia’s stranglehold on the Derby Darlins’ league title. (This year also introduced a trophy for the winning team to lord over until next season.) Giving us something this year that had only been hinted at in the past. Each year the Switchblade Sisters would get better, and come closer to the Championship, and with the draft/roster mix-up in place, and now they’ve finally succeeded!

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‘Stache Bash 2013: the Black Widows vs the Switchblade Sisters – a match-up I would’ve thought crazy even one year ago; now a reality. Read about all the details in the write-up here.

Longhairs: Allergic to Laughter?

Posted in Free-Range Tampa on November 18, 2013 by shenanitim

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Yesterday was Creative Loafing’s annual Reel Terror Festival; twelve hours worth of independently produced local horror product. (Okay,produced by locals, as one full-length (Joe Davison’s Frost Bite) and one short (Ryan Sullivan’s Jack Swings) were actually shot out of state.

Armzka Productions was there in full force, supported by our favorite (and only) musical director Whirlyn. Somehow our entry, the (retitled) Night the Haunted Stroller Ate St. Petersburg, was accepted; allowing Leigh and myself to walk amongst those who debate whether Hellraiser really needs/deserves a reboot, or whether Halloween is the penultimate slasher.

Needless to say, we didn’t fit in. Leigh’s a highly trained journalist; so superfluous shots were immediately called out. As were the weak(er) scripts.

I, meanwhile, was much too busy playing with Villagio Cinema’s robotic chairs to pay much of this any mind. As if the playing the Night the Haunted Stroller Ate St. Petersburg wasn’t a big enough affront to common sense, they had us watching it from the deck of the Enterprise!

Realizing ahead of time that we might be men amongst trolls, we made the logical decision to emphasize our differences. Draw a line in the sand as it were. So we opted to come correct in suits; figuring that the unshaven horror masses would show up looking like What Not to Wear rejects: blue jeans and black shirts.

One small complication here was my failure to factor in FL’s cultural delay. Any fad that hits the nation hits FL years later. Which explains why the blue jeans and black shirts also came decked out in sports jackets. While you might not remember sport coats since it’s been ages since Kanye (re)popularized them (right after his pink polo phase), in Tampa they’re apparently the rage. Or just never became unpopular again; after people came to their senses realizing that any event worth getting dressed up for is also worth getting dressed up correctly for.

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Suit and tie, kids; they’re not optional when you’re trying to look nice.

Other than my churlishness towards those who don’t follow implied dress codes (it is a FESTIVAL after all!), the day went off relatively well. The Haunted Stroller being one of the chosen few of shorts only being shown once; mainly due to its tone I believe.

Most of Reel Terror’s selections were tradition in a sense. Glenn Register Jr.’s Resurrecting Evil was a slasher with a fantastic costuming job and one of the strongest sequences when Jack Hatchett murders a slew of hilariously detailed background characters. (The Hatchett image on the website doesn’t come close to looking as nice as he does in the film.)

Joe Davison’s Frost Bite was the traditional zombie movie. Pretty much pick Dawn of the Dead up (the original, not the remake) and drop it into Alaska and you have the gist of the plot. Town under seige by zombies, which later undergoes an attack by bandits. Bandits wearing Road Warrior gear in freezing Alaska.

It turns out Tampa isn’t the only edge of the United States’ state with cultural delay issues…

Jake Jalbert’s House Guest was a home invasion movie. Smaller budget (obviously) than the Purge and that other movie that came out where the killers wear animal masks and one female protagonist had a surprisingly strong role by Hollywood standards. While predictable in that sense, House Guest also had a ton of recognizable locations (shot in and around Seminole FL), a bizarre bathroom sequence where one of the characters, Seth (Nick Canning), runs into the bathroom and talks to himself about shitting while he’s shitting, and Seth also has what will soon be Armzka’s running gag: the pizza slap.

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Imagine taking on a madman armed only with a slice of pizza and you’ll understand.

(House Guest also stars Alex Vincent (the kid from the Child’s Play movies), but the real star is Poppa John’s flying pan pizza.)

Reel Terror’s shorts were equally predictable. Agrizoophobia was tough, as there were a lot of places it could’ve went, rather than just being one note. Dormant was a(nother) zombie film; this time done video-game style with out-of-place Army of Darkness quotes. Also an uncomfortably strong touch of racism.

The first zombie we see is just a black man sans make-up, chasing our white protagonist. At first we all thought, Okay, they’re rage virus “zombies” a la 28 Days Later. That worked until the other All the (white) zombies appeared with actual zombie make-up on. I guess the filmmakers felt the need to underline to the audience that white people can be a threat too.

Then came Round Two of shorts, a series that would only get one play: Secret Family Recipe, You Are All Going to Die (starring Kato Kaelin, Rhonda Shear, and my next door neighbor all in one short!), and the Night the Haunted Stroller Ate St. Petersburg. A set of films all connected by their strong comedic aspects.

We naturally wondered why the funny films were pushed to the side like this. Was it purely due to logistics (x amount of films playing on three screens versus y amount of time)? Or is the horror crowd allergic to things outside the norm the same way they’re allergic to fashion?

(For the record, Leigh in our photo above started the day out in a suit and tie, but took the tie off after lunch. See how quickly improper dress spreads its evil tentacles?)

St. Pete Noise Fest 2013: Day Two

Posted in Free-Range Tampa with tags , , on November 16, 2013 by shenanitim

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Every year since I’ve been in Saint Petersburg there’s been a Noise Fest. And every year I’d miss it either because of my work schedule, or by not hearing about it until it was finished. Not this year though! This year I heard about it early enough to plan ahead, contribute to its indiegogo campaign, and actually attend (most of) day two.

How could I not? It was two days worth of free (near) music, and the hosting Venture Compound gave everyone free earplugs! Thereby eliminating every reason you could conceivably think of not to attend.

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(I arrived home late from work on day one and was too tired to motivate myself after my after work work out. Apologies to all the great acts I missed who didn’t get a chance to be (poorly) immortalized by your’s truly. There’s always next year.)

Here are the photos I took of (most) of the acts. I’ll be linking to performance videoclips whenever I’m motivated enough to upload them all onto youtube. I’m also going to try to match up the photos with their names, but it’s going to be tough because there were a million acts and I failed to do any sort of time/name referencing. Two big thanks going out to Hal Harmon (Forever Escaping Boredom) and AODL‘s J. Shell for having pages up that clued me in to many of the acts’ identities.

That said, there’s still a few missing for the end of the night. So if you see an act you know, drop their name in the comments and I’ll get my notations corrected.

Again, a super big thanks to Hal Harmon for filling in the remaining names.

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Triangle and Rhino.

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OTOLATHE from Tampa.

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Hal McGee: easily the loudest act of the night. Just a unbelievably piercing high-pitched squeal; one that sent me running to the Compound’s gallery. (I had forgotten the earplugs. Hal McGee made me realize how foolish a mistake that was.)

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Sharlyn Evertsz

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Arvo Zylo.

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Clang Quartet who was amazingly both very upfront about his faith, yet surprisingly centered. When asked about the lack of subtlety in his performance, he replied with something along the lines of I don’t have enough time left to be anything but direct.

I know that’s a horrible paraphrase, as SPNF2013 was two or three weeks ago, and I’m usually not one for religious messages period, but in this case it worked. He had a message delivered as overtly as humanly possible, yet he still left room for the non-believers in the audience. Even if the message wasn’t for you, you could still what is was for him.

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B-O-U-R-G-E

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Juice Machine might’ve had the greatest name in the festival.

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Thirteen Hurts.

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Andy Borsz (mem Slasher Risk) opened his set with a plea for the audience not to be as lame as the audiences back home in Jacksonville. A plea that gave validity to every lame thing I’ve ever heard about Jax.

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Newton.

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AODL.

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Dromez served as a helpful reminder, when everyone around you is rapidly backing up, put down your camera and back up too fool!

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My pant leg was noticeably warmer after its spark shower.

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Glasgow Smile.

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Jadis Mercado.

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As the message above notes, the Noise Fest’s last act, the Uh…, were supposedly going to play their interpretation of John Cage’s 4’33.

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