Saturday, March 20, 2021

TV: Community

It's been about a year since the COVID-19 shutdowns, and enough time has passed for everyone to reflect on the early days of the pandemic, when almost nothing was open and our lives seemed to be grinding to a halt. In that first month, I queued up Hulu and leaned hard on one particular show that I had never seen before - Community:

Created by Dan Harmon (who almost got himself cancelled due to his gross and unprofessional behavior towards a writer), the show focuses on a study group attending community college and their zany adventures. The rub here is that the group's misfit members have little in common and would have never met but for attending the same classes, which makes for fun personality clashes. Often entire episodes were turned over to parodies or pastiches of famous movie genres, such as the Apollo 13-esque "Basic Rocket Science":

Community was famously on the edge of cancellation for years, but eventually lasted six seasons and 110 episodes, almost fulfilling the slogan "six seasons and a movie" recited by one of the show's characters.  Well, there was never any movie, but there was a nostalgic Zoom table read a couple months into the pandemic that was almost as good:

Music: La bohème

COVID has had a catastrophic effect on the performing arts, so it was nice to see live music again at the Palm Beach Opera's 2021 festival, performed al fresco at the South Florida Fairgrounds Amphitheatre:

We watched some major league talent sing La bohème, sort of the opera equivalent of McDonald's: comfort food that maybe isn't the most complex experience musically. The concert-style staging and socially distanced blocking were smart concessions to the pandemic, but also made the plot fairly incomprehensible if you weren't previously familiar with the opera.

Still, everyone could tell the performers were giving it their all, and in some ways, the minimalist production was suited to La bohème's working-class setting. It was a unique experience and a lot of fun - let's just hope we don't have to do the same thing next year.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Miscellany: Tissot Chrono XL Classic watch review (Reference T1166171104701)

They say anything is better with a good story, and life gave me a doozy of one for the Tissot Chrono XL watch my parents got me for Christmas. On its own, it's a perfectly nice but not extravagant watch, sort of the adult version of the old Swatches I used to have in grade school. While I know there are multi-kilobuck Omegas and Rolexes out there, to me, a $400 watch was an awesome gift.

Then it got stolen.

A burglar hid in a closet in our office and ransacked the place overnight, stealing personal effects from almost everyone. I had left the watch on my desk, not wanting to wear it after a sweaty workout at the end of the workday. When we learned about the break-in the next morning, I thought that I would never see my watch again.

We got lucky, though. There was security footage of the assailant, and evidence that he didn't have a car, so I cruised around the city looking for him. Amazingly, I found him within 15 minutes and called the cops. He was caught red-handed with our stuff, and, in a week, I had my watch back.

Now, this watch embodies a memory, and it means a lot more to me than even six- and seven-figure Swiss watches that are more jewelry than timepieces. The phrases tempus fugit and carpe diem come to mind, very literally.

Movies: Drive-In Massacre

Movie theaters have been hit hard by the pandemic, especially small venues like Movies of Lake Worth. It's one of my folks' preferred destinations for seeing arthouse flicks, and they've been trying to limp along by selling concessions at free drive-in screenings of old movies in the parking lot. That's what led local horror movie club Shock A Rama to show the public domain B-movie, "Drive-In Massacre":

It's a terrible movie, a piece of low-budget cheese that barely hits feature film length despite interminable conversation scenes. The plot involves a series of serial killings at a California drive-in theater; the killer is hunted by a hilariously incompetent duo of police detectives. "Drive-In Massacre" would be a prime MST3K flick, since the special effects never rise about student film level and the chase and shootout scenes are less exciting than your average car commercial.

All that being said, the film gained something by being viewed late at night in a dimly lit parking lot, with a bag of popcorn and my tinny handcrank radio supplying the in-car soundtrack. A drive-in creates some natural distance between you and the movie, allowing your attention to wander to the audience outside and the people milling to and fro. In that respect, the screening was an unqualified success.

Rating: 4/10 (8/10 for the experience)