“Bitter to Better”

      1. Bitter To Better - Ric Size

 

Photo, production & art design by Tom Pearce.

Recorded March 1, 2021 in Sanford, FL. Tom Pearce is now using Behringer software to record & monitor on a Mac flatscreen, to match with his Behringer wireless pre-amp, which is the heart of everything. Two microphones, one on vocals & one on acoustic guitar, and a line-in guitar through a DI-box to the pre-amp. Three-track recording, clean as a pin.

I woke up late this morning and did my usual cucumber juicing in the kitchen. Two raw cukes, and if I have an apple core or fresh ginger, I’ll add that for some sweetness & zing. But I didn’t have any (as usual), so I slugged my veggies down & commented to myself, “It’s bitter, but it makes you better… ‘Bitter to Better’…. That’s a song title!” So I grabbed a paper & pen and wrote the song. You need a title.

What helps with riffs is knowing many, many covers, across the genres. Keep cycling through them, so when you have a title, you can invent the riff you need– by distilling from favorite covers. That’s how this song was done.

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Intelligent movie viewing

Movies and how they are consumed has changed at lightning speed. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down theaters, which were dying anyways, and online streaming is now the predominant direct-to-consumer delivery method. It’s now YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. The Hollywood & NYC studio systems are foundering on the rocks, with expensive overhead & production costs that can no longer be justified, because they don’t pay the bills anymore. Independent films, particularly documentaries, now have the market edge in many ways, as indies can make their movies quicker & cheaper, and are often more compelling in content.

For the longest time, Hollywood stars & the production studios that backed them, ruled the American film industry. That’s certainly been true since talkies came into existence around 1928, and the biggest indie movie stars, Buster Keaton & Charlie Chaplin, were destroyed by the industry. This paved the way for Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, etc, to become huge movie stars, and make lots of money for MGM, Paramount, Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Warner & Universal. Disney came along a few years later, and that’s been it for the American major studios. Until the internet changed everything.

Movies are primarily the creations of scriptwriters & directors. It’s a fact, you need both to have a chance at making a good movie. Most movies, in any era, aren’t good. That’s because it’s hard to make good movies, and even bad movies are something of an achievement, as it’s hard to make any kind of movie. Just sit through the credits of any modern movie, which usually run at least 5 minutes now, and you’ll get an idea of all the work involved in a production.

Knowing what a good movie is (in any era) is important because, 1) it makes watching good movies more enjoyable, and 2) it saves you time from watching too many bad movies. Therefore it is important to be able to distinguish between the good, the mediocre & the bad. We’ve all seen bad movies, so it’s really a question of how we react to them.

Those who tolerate bad movies are difficult to relate to, from the perspective of someone who knows movies. There are still a lot a good movies that I haven’t seen, and the best way for me to find them is to avoid getting derailed by watching too many bad movies. My attitude at this point is that I don’t have time for bad movies (or anything else bad), and I think that’s a healthy mantra at any age.

Since the directors are primarily responsible for a film’s quality, find the best directors from every era & genre. The best pre-WWII talkie directors included Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, John Huston, Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, etc. Post-war, look to Japan, Europe, India & Latin America, which more-than-competes with Hollywood’s output. Never fear subtitles, as some of the best movies ever made are subtitled in English.

For actresses, look for the women who have dynamic range & command attention, those are the best. The best leading women must be able to seduce any man, at any time, for any reason. Or, they smoke them out as gay. Joan Crawford, Faye Dunaway & Robin Wright are my all-time top silver-screen divas across the eras. They can play the good girls, or the villains, with equal ease. And they own men. That sizzles every time, and that’s why we watch. Others I always enjoy include Hedy Lamarr, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Raquel Welch, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver, etc.

Best actors is a different standard for me, because I’m not sexually attracted to men, so looks don’t matter so much. Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Sean Connery, Peter Sellers, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis (also directed), Eddie Murphy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, Charles Grodin, Damon Wayans, Kevin Spacey, Johnny Depp, etc. As you can see, I’m looking more for talented dramatic actors, humor, with a dab of action hero.

I believe at this point there are so many talented actors & actresses, that works of art in film could be routinely achieved. The problem today is with screen writing & director vision, along with studio interests. Art is being cancelled by the MeToo, BLM & neo-Nazi campaigns, which are being directed on both sides of the aisle. That’s why independent film making is now exploding, as people are tired of fake movies (Hollywood & NYC), just like they are sick of fake news on Fox, NBC & the New York Times.

New Hollywood was roughly 1965-75 and defined by filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdonavich, Francis Ford Coppola, etc. They were deeply influenced by film artists Orson Welles, Jean Luc Goddard, Luis Bunuel, etc.

Steven Spielberg ‘s Jaws (1975) ushered in the blockbuster era, and George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) consolidated it as the industry model. The mega-smash hit movie is now what every major studio is trying to produce– every summer & Christmas season. James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) pushed the film industry into the realm of CGI, and that’s what all of Disney’s Star Wars movies are today. Pixar evolved from all this.

Hollywood productions are increasingly unwatchable, with superhero & sci-fi propaganda films dominating the blockbuster realm. Virtue signaling SJW messaging is now endemic, and apparently required, in all Hollywood productions. Identity politics has much to answer for, historically, including degrading the film industry.

I Googled “Best Hollywood Directors Today” and these are the names that came up: Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Richard Linklater, Alfonso Cuarón, Martin Scorsese, Denis Villeneuve, David Fincher. To be honest, most of these names don’t excite me anymore, if they ever did. There are some good films made by these directors, but too much garbage & outright propaganda. And these are the so-called best.

As an artist & film fan, I know we deserve better. But this will only happen when the audience realizes en masse that a better reality is possible. Viewers must be more critical of what they are watching, and this is only possible by taking a film study approach. The history of movies is a massive field. It’s global, and always has been. For example, much of the best silent-era film making was Germany’s Wiemar cinema (1918-1932). All this has influenced what you see today, and to know this history makes subjective critical judgments of movies much more meaningful & correct.

You need to cover all the genres (short of pornography), to be a legitimate movie buff. Andy Warhol’s films & Midnight Cowboy (1969) are fair starting lines to debate modern pornography. For me, horror is one of my least favorite genres, yet I know & acknowledge the classics such as The Shining (1980), Psycho (1960), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), etc. I would categorize Silence of the Lambs (1991) as a horror movie, because it tries to scare you, and does. This just proves genres are mutable & fluid, as film history evolves. Notice there is no black film history, white film history, women’s film history, or gay film history for intelligent movie viewers, just film history.

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Favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 Experiments

I have said many times before that Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1989-99) was the greatest TV series ever, certainly the greatest comedy, and it ran concurrently with Seinfeld (1989-98). This was two hours of weekly programming which launched the Comedy Channel (CC), and in the early years, MST3K was certainly their signature show.

MST3K was a Best Brains, Inc (BBI) creation of comedian Joel Hodgson with producer Jim Mallon as Gypsy, and it first aired on KTMA in Minneapolis. It was picked by Comedy Central for $35K per episode in 1989, and their deal allowed BBI to retain the show’s rights.

Trace Beaulieu was established as Crow T. Robot & Dr. Clayton Forrester, and a young Josh Weinstein was Tom Servo & Dr. Laurence Erhardt– the other mad scientist. This show really got its act together in Season 2, when Kevin Murphy replaced Josh Weinstein as Tom Servo, and Frank Conniff became Dr. Forrester’s new assistant. This is also when Mike Nelson was brought on as a writer, and the show went to a new level.

This lasted until Joel Hodgson was forced off the show by Jim Mallon at Mitchell (1975), which was Experiment 512. Mike Nelson takes over admirably, but the show lost its soul, and lot of wit. Frank Conniff exited after Season 6, and wasn’t part of the cast for MST3K: The Movie (1996). Season 7 had only six episodes (experiments), due to filming the movie. Crow’s ‘Earth vs Soup’ sketches during the host segments of this era capture what working with Hollywood was like for BBI. Basically they got screwed.

Soon after this it was announced that MST3K was moving to the Sci-Fi Channel for Season 8. Then weeks later it was announced that Trace Beaulieu was leaving the show to work as a writer for America’s Funniest Home Videos, which has been running on ABC since 1989. Bill Corbett was brought in to replace him as Crow, and Mary Jo Pehl was promoted to head evil/mad scientist. I watched one or two episodes of S8 and gave up. With Joel, Trace & Frank gone, the writing gets much thinner, and the laughs a lot fewer.

Therefore, I don’t rate any of the Sci-Fi Channel episodes (S8-S10) among their best. All the best MST3K episodes are within Seasons 2-7. I don’t count the re-booted series, hosted by Jonah Ray. It sucks, and makes the Sci-Fi era stuff look first-rate by comparison. The fact is, you couldn’t get a show like the original MST3K on-the-air today, with all the virtue signalers, social justice warriors & snowflakes screaming into the network’s ear the first time somebody cracks a funny joke.

Here’s a truth about comedy. Jokes are supposed to offend people. It’s called being the butt of a joke. If you can’t handle the truth, then the problem is you. If you don’t understand this, then you are enabling & supporting censorship. The Office (2005-13) is another comedy series that couldn’t be made today for the same reasons. Married with Children & early seasons of The Simpsons too. It would really suck if we didn’t have these timeless comedy classics to enjoy and make us laugh. The reason they hold up so well is because they are so true to life.

Basically MST3K is a puppet show which wisecracks bad movies. It’s called riffing, and what this show teaches you is that there is a point where the ‘riff button’ needs to get pressed. We shouldn’t tolerate bad stories, lame acting, and blatant propaganda. Get to know MST3K, which helps you distinguish good movies from bad ones. After awhile, you’ll learn to riff as needed.

I’ve seen all the episodes from KTMA through Season 7, and The Movie. For me, these are their best experiments and why. They are listed in chronological order. They are all available on YouTube, so I won’t link them.

202 Sidehackers: This one was available through Rhino on VHS, and I bought it. This is their best effort of Season 2 which was 13 episodes. Classic MST3K numbering is read here as Season 2, Episode 02. I love Ross Hagan movies because of Sidehackers, also known as Five the Hard Way (1969). Little known movie fact: screen writer & director Gus Trikonis later married (and was divorced by) Goldie Hawn. Great songs here, including “Sidehacking is a thing to do” & “Love pads the film.” Essential MST3K.

322 & 324 Master Ninja I & II: I put these two together, because you have to see them both. This is riffing The Master (1984), a failed action series starring Lee Van Cleef (below), and his pupil Timothy Van Patten– the famous Dutch ninja. Killer riffing, with a great song to finish the first episode, “Master Ninja Theme Song.” I read somewhere that there is a Master Ninja III, which they produced but never aired. If that’s true, I’d love to see it. Master Ninja I has one of my favorite stingers, which is a quick movie clip BBI inserts after the final credits run. They started this in Season 2, and it keeps you watching until the end, like you are supposed to. There are so many ways MST3K was brilliant and ahead of its time.

401 Space Travelers: This has Gene Hackman, Richard Crenna, & Gregory Peck, in a stale sci-fi action drama, with enough plot holes to launch a rescue rocket through. Trace does a killer Gregory Peck voice. Great host segments, and this is what ties all the best episodes together, the time between the movies where they’re talking about what they’ve just seen. If you’ve ever tried to watch a bad movie and make it funny by writing your own riffs, you know it’s a lot of work. That’s why they’ll sometimes say “This one hurts,” or something to that effect.

405 Being from Another Planet: This is one of my all-time MST3K favorites that I never see listed anywhere else. Also known as Time Walker (1982), it stars a crummy dummy mummy in search of magic crystals, so it can phone home using a diamond encrusted, V-shaped, mummy communicator thing. Frank wants one, and so do I. Watch this experiment, and you will too.

407 The Killer Shrews: The Killer Shrews stars James Best, who was Roscoe in The Dukes of Hazzard, so I (like TV’s Frank) get excited about this one. I had this one recorded on a VHS cassette for a long time, as it wasn’t available through Rhino. Once CC took episodes off-the air, they were gone– until DVD pirating & YouTube came along. Licensing issues were the story of MST3K when it came to making it to VHS, and then to DVD.

BBI doesn’t hold the rights to re-distribute many of their classic episodes, because some movie makers won’t sell to them anymore. Sandy Frank is notoriously one of the biggest haters of MST3K, and won’t re-license his bad movies to BBI. So everyone watches them for free on YouTube. Joe Don Baker (Mitchell-512) was another infamous MST3K hater. Kevin Murphy had a reply for him in their Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, and that’s what Misties always loved about the show, they believed in what they were doing & always stood by it.

424 Manos: The Hands of Fate: You have to include this classic in any top-MST3K episode list. This is the worst movie ever made, by someone who tried to make a movie and got it distributed– Hal P. Warren, fertilizer salesman from El Paso, TX. It’s awful, offensive, bizarre and hilarious. The first time you experience Manos, it stuns you. Mike Nelson has stated that BBI didn’t think they could do Manos when they were test screening it, and they’ve seen the worst movies ever.

As far as MST3K episodes go, I say the Sandy Frank productions are the worst. These include all the Godzilla & Gamera movies, along with Mighty Jack, Time of the Apes, and Star Force: Fugitive Alien I & II. The most unwatchable thing BBI ever tried to riff was experiment 612, The Starfighters. Coleman Francis is the worst filmmaker who was allowed to make multiple movies. That’s what you learn (painfully), when you watch enough classic MST3K.

501 Warrior of the Lost World: The guy who played TJ in Baa Baa Black Sheep (Paper Chase guy) is our lone wolf hero, in this 1983 Italian post-apocalyptic schlock. Mega-weapon is the best character. This experiment is comparable in genre to City Limits (403), Alien from LA (516), and Escape 2000 (705).

502 Hercules: Steve Reeves toasted a few brain cells making this mythical B-movie classic in 1958. Arnold Schwarzenegger always cited Steve Reeves as the Hercster being an influence on him wanting to become a body builder. Steve Reeves is also in Hercules Unchained (408), but it’s a different Herc in Hercules Against the Moon Men (410).

507 I Accuse my Parents: This was also a Rhino release I enjoyed over & over. Truck Farming is one of their best shorts, and the riffing is non-stop funny through the host segments to the end. I love teenage delinquent B-movies, bad biker films, and 1970/80’s cheese. To me those are the easiest ones to riff. There were a lot of totally clueless filmmakers in the 1940’s & 1950’s, largely due to the anti-communist blacklist. Many true artists were run out of the movie industry, and that’s why this type of garbage got made– again & again.

509 Operation Double 007: This one stars Neil Connery, brother of Sean, and was originally released in 1967. So many great James Bond riffs, in this really bad Italian spy movie that has Montepenny, and Largo from Thunderball (1965). Great host segment where the acting careers of Neil & Sean Connery are compared. I love the brutality.

511 The Gunslinger: Beverly Garland is a big favorite of all Misties, and this is one of her two movies Joel & the bots riffed. The other is Swamp Diamonds (503). Roger Corman knew how to make bad movies, and John Ireland is in top form as the drunken hired gun, who exchanges loving thoughts with Beverley Garland as they shoot at each other until he is fatally wounded. Call it a love me tender western, with a bang-up climax. Everyone but Beverly Garland dies, as the new sheriff trots into town on his horse. Roll ’em.

604 Zombie Nightmare: MST3K Season 6 is underrated. This lame 1986 horror flick stars Adam West as a bad cop. This experiment originally aired on Thanksgiving 1994, with Adam West hosting, and we get dry humor as he introduces experiment after experiment leading up to the debut of MST3K’s Zombie Nightmare, about which he has a few words of his own. Find the ‘Turkey Day’ host clips to this one.

608 Codename Diamondhead: One of my favorites. I don’t watch the short, A Day at the Fair, because it reminds me a little too much of the crap they used to show us on film day at school. But I do love 1977 cheese, and nothing personifies that more than Roy Thinnes (or Clu Gulager). As Crow quips, “This is Quinn Martin’s most personal film.” This experiment has so much polyester, with long sequences of non-action from Roy Thinnes, and Mike & the bots kill it. Note that Roy Thinnes (below, with France Nuyen) also appears in the serial shorts, General Hospital, which were featured during Season 4– experiments 413, 415 & 417.

614 San Francisco International: This is another made-for-TV movie, starring Clu Gulager & Pernell Roberts in 1970. David Hartman has a career defining role as a pilot with a mushy nose wheel. This turkey was actually picked-up by NBC, and defined TV movies for the better part of a decade, whether it meant to or not.

622 Angels Revenge: This was a 1979 Charlie’s Angels rip-off film that flopped. It starred Peter Lawford, Jack Palance & Jim Backus among others, in a shameful attempt to titillate. Like I said, Season 6 is overlooked. No Joel Hodgson hurts for sure, but it was maybe their most consistent season, with 24 episodes, most of them MST3K classics.

703 Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell: This is my favorite experiment from Season 7, which is when the series was falling apart behind-the-scenes. Also known as Deathstalker III: The Warriors from Hell, this is a 1988 sword & sorcery fantasy film, the third in the Deathstalker tetralogy. Even as you’re reading this, it’s not too early to hate the lead character. There’s also Thom Christopher as Troxartas (below), who played Hawk in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81) on NBC.  While I’m in the neighborhood, Cave Dwellers (301) was another popular MST3K Rhino release in this genre, with spoofing of mythical badness, and miles of Miles O’Keeffe as Ator.

I like what I like, based on when & where I grew up. So do you. It’s natural to get nostalgic for stuff that takes you back to childhood, which is why this list weights the way it does. That’s why I think it’s impossible to come up with a ‘Best of MST3K’ list, because peoples’ tastes & backgrounds are so different. A great strength of the original series is that it covered so many genres, styles, and tastes. Horror, action, teenage delinquency, giant bugs & monsters, made-for-TV fare, etc. If you ask 20 different Misties, you will get 20 different lists of favorite experiments. That’s a sign of depth & greatness. Classic MST3K can’t be pigeon-holed or put in a box.

In closing, the KTMA episodes are largely unwatchable, and many were re-done during the early Comedy Channel seasons, especially the Sandy Frank productions. All the CC remakes are better, as the KTMA episodes are only interesting as a study of a great idea in its infancy. The lesson is that great art doesn’t just happen, it takes genius, and years of hard work & refinement. It’s lack of money to go around, which tears apart many great collaborations.

Today Joel Hodgson makes more money at MST3K than he ever did in its 1990’s heyday. But the reboot isn’t nearly as biting or funny. That’s the price an artist pays for fame & money. I don’t blame Joel Hodgson for doing what he’s done. He and his colleagues at BBI were ripped-off, when they were the best at what they did. Artists should get paid for making us laugh, cry & think when they are relevant, and at the height of their power. It’s an industry practice to dismiss & marginalize such artists until they can be brought under the corporate thumb.

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I’m not looking for that

I’m from Wisconsin and went to college at Marquette, so I’ve been to a lot of parties & bars. As a musician you spend time at bars. Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, I had just invented a great two-person drinking game. The problem was I never found the right partner to play it with. Since who knows when all this is going to be over, I’m publishing my newly-invented drinking game, with all the rules. Here’s the official song.

      1. You-Drinkin-a-Beer-1.mp3

 

You do this with someone you really like on sight. Go up to her and be nice, offer to buy her a drink, etc, and if you can get her semi-alone, then start this game. “Would you like to play a personal drinking game I just made up?” The yes/no reply is the first test. If she’s not game, then she probably lacks courage & imagination. That’s what I say, and it makes the rejection easier. This game will weed-out the wrong ones, one way or another.

Okay she’s beautiful, and says yes. Now you’re cookin’. Tell her, “The name of the game is ‘I’m not looking for that,’ and I’ll start to demonstrate.” Gaze around the bar/party, and start surveying people individually. Begin with something like, “You see that 200-pound girl over there, showing us WAY too much gut? I’m not looking for that.”

Rule: If the listener laughs, or is amused, then they take a drink. Now it’s her turn to tell you what she’s not looking for…

I’ll list a few rounds to illustrate a typical society-party situation for me.

ROUND 2: “Do you see that guy who’s been looking at me since I walked in here? I’m not looking for that.”

ROUND 3: “Do you see that 55-year old lady who’s pretending she’s 28? I’m not looking for that.”

ROUND 4: “Do you see that pretty thing who has destroyed herself with drugs & alcohol? I’m not looking for that.”

ROUND 5: “Do you hear that girl who has no sense-of-humor at all? I’m not looking for that.”

Once you’ve taken-out all the easy targets, it’s time to deliver a few sobering thoughts. If she’s hanging in there, and making YOU drink, it means she’s a good woman. Now is the time to get specific on lying & other big turn-offs.

ROUND 6: “You know those people who think lying, to the one you love, is okay? I’m not looking for that.”

ROUND 7: “You know those women who are just in it for themselves? I’m not looking for that.”

These are the brutal advanced rounds, where you need to keep your head, while inebriated with alcohol & enchanted by beauty. This is graduate-level drinking & partying. If you earn a PhD here, you’ll probably find your life partner, because everyone is looking for this. To those who can’t handle this, I’m not looking for that.

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Brass in Pocket

I will finally fully reveal myself as the hidden prankster at Marquette’s School of Dentistry, from 1990-94. I always had to be careful, because the deans & faculty who ran the school were largely out to get me. But they didn’t catch me. If you know GnR, you know the rest…

I was living with Matt, my 3-year roomie, in a 2nd floor, two bedroom, shared bathroom apartment on the corner of 20th & Wells. Tough neighborhood, and a long cold walk in the winter. It was still early fall when Matt was telling me about his day around the engineering building, and so forth. He had obtained a roll of orange special stickers, and was tagging the campus with them.

We’re both having a beer, and a few laughs, so I asked for a few and he tore off a nice roll for me. As a first-year dental student (D1), you quickly learn that the dental school is your new ‘home way from home.’ We’re always there, Mon-Fri from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and then often after– for lab work or whatever. It’s all serious from the start when they tell you, “Look to the person on your left, and then the right. One of you won’t graduate in 4 years.”

That makes it cut-throat among the students, especially those who want coveted residencies such as oral surgery or orthodontics. Student loans only add to the pressure. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t going to be a top-GPA dental student. I just wanted to keep the academic scholarship I had earned, and get through.

There is a lot of favoritism in dental school, and it sorts itself out early. For instance, we had a dental prodigy who could wax-up a tooth so beautifully that he was offered the Marquette prosthodontics residency (highly coveted) within a month. He accepted, and sailed through dental school. Now, he’s a world class prosthodontist in Miami.

We had a talented class, for sure. I don’t even have to include myself for that to be true. Talent reveals itself early, and after a few weeks everyone pretty much knew where they fit in with this hierarchy. I had a lot of support from classmates, and we were a generally supportive group, but there are always rats, snitches & gunners in professional school.

I was living on the edge, as the ruling faculty didn’t like me, and there were plenty of rats willing to endear themselves to power by snitching on me. Student government is where these types tend to exist, as it gives them liaison power with faculty, and hides their mediocrity. I was always the biggest enemy of mediocrity, and was made a target because I refused to conform.

Professional schools try to break you. If you don’t obey, they punish you– one way or another. That pressure can be enough to prevent a student from getting their diploma. It’s easier to conform. It gets you through, but the long-term costs are significant. It’s a character thing in my mind.

All this & more, is why I was really excited to start plastering Marquette’s dental school with orange special stickers. I was going to kick ass, have some laughs, and get away with it. A dental school is a busy building with around 350 students, plus faculty, administrative personnel, and so forth. No witnesses is rule number one in tagging. Since it’s so busy, I determine that it’s best to place a limited number of strategically placed stickers, versus carpet bombing. In the evening it’s quieter, and that’s mostly when to strike.

The lecture room we sit in, hours on end all week, gets a sticker on the face of the lecture rostrum. So as Dr. Austin goes on & on about cranial nerves & other gross anatomy, everyone sees that bright orange sticker. I think that’s hilarious. To our left, up on the wall, is the clock that shows the time– and to the left of that is an orange special sticker. People get bored, look at the clock, and are thinking to themselves, “Wow, that must be a tall person placing those stickers. I’ve been seeing quite a few of them…”

We had several vending machines in the student lounge, located in the basement bowels of the dental school. I’m referencing the old Marquette dental school on 16th, off Wisconsin. I made sure the milk machine always had a special. Also the snacks machine, which featured such salty delights as cheddar cheese Combos & Gardetto’s pretzel mixes were constantly on special.

Soon, I noticed the stickers started disappearing almost as fast as I could put them up. Someone who is serious and has power doesn’t like this. “Be careful,” I kept saying to myself. This could get me kicked out. One of my favorite gags was the ‘Special Patients’ clinic sign in the basement. I got that one– twice. The second time, I went back a few minutes later, and the sticker was already gone. BE CAREFUL– LOL!!!

I’d look forward to getting back to my crappy apartment in the evening, and telling Matt what was going on. He’d be cracking up, and then say, “I’m getting another beer, you want one…?” Yeah, sure….

This went on for a few weeks. Another classic gag I came up with was tagging the inside elevator door. I’m inside alone, anytime. When the door opens the sticker disappears. As people go in, I get out, and when the door closes everyone inside sees how special they are. Matt LOVED that one, and adopted it in the engineering building.

One day we’re in lecture, and the blackboard the doctor wants to write on is covered up by the projector screen. He pulls up the screen, and BANG, there’s an orange special sticker on the blackboard! He picks up the chalk to write and there it is. He kinda glances sideways at it, and then moves over to his right to start there instead. I’m sitting next to a very pretty girl named Stephanie, who was really cool and I was sweet on. She sees this and half-whispers, “What is up with those stickers? I’m seeing them EVERYWHERE!” I’m trying to control my internal laughter, while looking at her & wanting to ravish her.

At this point, it had become a student-liaison/faculty issue. The uptight nerds were getting very restless, and the faculty wanted this stopped immediately. It’s Friday at lunch, and we’re all in the lounge. I’ve decided to give myself up, but only to a good woman. Stephanie is to my left, talking whatever with her friends, so I interrupt to ask to see he notes for reference. As I said, she’s cool, so she passes her binder over, and doesn’t look back at me. I pretend to be poring over them, and make sure no one else is looking, while I place an orange special sticker in a blank space by her notes a few pages earlier. Then I fold everything up, and give it back to her. I knew Stephanie always reviewed her notes before going out to meet us on Fridays.

Around 6:00 PM, I walk into the Ardmore bar, and Stephanie is arguing loudly with two of our buddies– Vijay & Tim. One of the tallest dental students is our class president, Randy. Randy was a muscle-bound dork who thought he was funny, and was always trying to goof in front of the class. His act wore thin, and by this time he was sitting with the geeks up front. Many of these folks were openly accusing Randy of being the prankster. Vijay & Tim were convinced it’s Randy too. Stephanie is standing there– 100% sure it is not. “How do you know?!” Tim & Vijay are exclaiming as I approach.  I play it straight and ask, “What are you talking about?”

Vijay & Tim face me, and blurt out what Stephanie has told them, and say, “It’s Randy, right?” I’m just looking at Stephanie, who isn’t in love with me (I now know), who is ready to explode with laughter. She points straight at me. and exclaims, “It’s Ric!” Vijay & Tim look puzzled, as their jaws hit the floor. I smile to all three of them, then shrug my shoulders and say, “Surprise.”

Lots of laughter after that… Vijay is Indian-Canadian, and my best friend in dental school. He keeps feeding me beers to get the full story, and is just shaking his head. Then Cele comes in, and wants to know what’s up… Cele is Philippine-American, and went to Madison for his undergraduate. He’s cool, and is one of us. Cele loves gossip, and now he knows. I had to make sure he didn’t pass it on too freely, otherwise I’m caught in the danger zone. He didn’t, to his credit.

By next Monday morning, most of our group knew, but no one else. The heat was boiling over by that point. Randy was beside himself, hands in the air, insisting he didn’t do it before the first lecture. There were more than a few nags who were reading him the riot act, when in exasperation, Randy looked towards us for help. and he called out, “Come on, will someone say I didn’t do this? Everyone is accusing me here…”

I’m seated on the opposite side of the room, with Stephanie to my right. I look dead into his eyes, and firmly say, “Well I guess this is what you get for being the class clown?” Randy looks back for a second, and then collapses in defeat. Stephanie is head down, hiding behind her gorgeous hair, quivering in laughter. She whispers softly to me, “You… are … so… bad.”

And that’s it. The last time I visited that building was in 2002, and in the back stairwell on an ‘Exit’ sign remained an orange special sticker. I had to jump down the stairs to tag that one. You can’t reach it with a ladder, because the stairs are directly below it. A janitor tried to get it, but only ripped it down the middle. Someone up high, badly wanted it gone. All I can say is that if the sign is still there, then the sticker is too.

The one that got away (and there’s always one, right?), was when the grades for the semester were being posted. On the first floor there’s a glass cabinet, where the top-5 GPA’s in each class (D1-D4) were listed each semester. It was a great honor to be on that list, and I was never close to it– until the day I was walking by it from the Science Library. I saw it wide open, with the keys still in it. The grades were posted, but the janitor had presumably left to run an errand….

I’ve got my right hand in pocket, peeling the orange special sticker off inside. I’m going to place it next to our class, and when it’s locked under glass, everyone will see & know just how special the Class of 1994 is. Just as I’m about to pull it out, a secretary comes down the stairs and up the hall. I stroll by and duck into the student lounge for a minute, then go back up, but the case was locked up by then. I still wonder sometimes, if it was the one that got away, or it was the one that would have given me away?

Campus Phone gag: There was a time in Marquette dental school (D2, D3) when we had to be in the Science Library a lot. I’m a stairs person, but on this day I took the elevator from the first floor of the dental school to the 4th floor, which spills into the Science Library. The Science Library elevator had an emergency phone with no listed number. As I’m going up, it rings, so I opened the box and pick it up. It’s some girl on campus trying to reach her friend. I tell her it’s the wrong number, and then ask for the number she dialed. She tells me, and I jot it down.

The elevator opens, I see my friends sitting at a table together and go over to join them. I do whatever I have to do, and then I’m waiting. It’s Vijay, Stephanie, Cele, and maybe a few others. Cele was usually the first to end his studies, and go do something else, and that’s what happened. Cele packed up his stuff, and said goodbye. He’s heading towards the elevator, when I say to the rest, “I’m gonna get Cele back here right away,” and get up to use the campus phone behind me. Someone says, “Cele just left, you can catch him if you hurry.” I reply, “No, I”m going to call him.”

This was around 1992, before cell phones truly existed. I dial up the number, and my buddies are ignoring me like I’m nuts. It rings once and Cele answers, “Hello?” Without missing a beat I say, “Hey Cele, it’s Ric. I just wanted to tell you what a great guy you are, and how I appreciate our friendship, it means a lot to me.” Then I hang up.

Thirty seconds later, Cele comes busting out of the Science Library elevator. “How did you get that number?!” Everyone else is wondering what’s going on, and I can’t stop laughing. But when I do, I explain the situation to everyone, and give Cele the number. He’s now excited to prank someone, but I explain it has to be the right person. Some people won’t pick up the phone.

Soon enough Stacey, a semi-friendly, brown-nose type moves towards the elevator, and I alert Cele. As the doors close, Cele dials the number, and Stacey picks it up. It went something like this. Stacey: “Hello.” Cele replies: “Hey Stacey, it’s Cele. How are you doing?” Stacey: “I’m fine. Why are you calling me here?!” Lots more laughter after that, until it’s time for me to go. I then tell Cele I’m taking the stairs, so don’t even think about calling me in the elevator.

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2020 Political Math

Seated at a table are the following: a Black Lives Matter protester, a #MeToo feminist, a LGBT activist, and a Biden-Harris voter; along with a Blue Lives Matter advocate, a US military fanatic, a Christian fundamentalist, and a Trump supporter.

The zombie petty bourgeois reductionist insists the score is 4-4, good vs. evil (either way), with an urgent need to appoint a tie-breaker. The Trotskyist knows it’s 8-0, in favor of political reaction, against the working people & youth.

I don’t answer dumb questions anymore, unless I’m paid to do it. The problem with dumb questions is the selfish nature of the person asking them. The are needy of attention, and always have follow-ups. Once you answer one (1) dumb question, the floodgates are open.

It’s the kid in class who won’t stopping raising his hand, and in the process slows down everyone else’s learning. These are special-needs children, who need special help. Read serious books to avoid asking dumb questions, or saying stupid stuff.

For those ramping up their personal politics because a Presidential election is near, beware there are people who take politics seriously ALL THE TIME. Trotskyists know the issues & facts, and consider those who parrot dumb stuff to be dilettantes.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: a brief political obituary

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) is just another reason Marxists and hard working people don’t listen to liberals. Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her 27 years on the Supreme Court (1993-2020) supported killer cops, immigrant detention, and the reactionary #MeToo campaign. She was considered the most “left leaning” of her peers, which says much more about the US Supreme Court’s composition as a whole.

Liberals idealize their heroes, just like conservatives boost Trump, because they have no real answers– just half truths, evasions & outright lies. That’s the two-party straitjacket of American politics. No real dissent is allowed. That’s why Green Party & Socialist Equality Party candidates have been kept off the November 3 ballot by the Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, California & Pennsylvania. The US Supreme Court has refused to hear these cases.

The law says, “Innocent until proven guilty.” That’s an enlightened principle, for those who have read books. The #MeToo campaign says, “All women must be believed,” and that there can be no blowback when a woman accuser makes false & slanderous claims against a man. What kind of judge is that? A politically motivated judge, by definition, can not be fair to the Constitution or law. RBG was just another faithful servant of the ruling class, so don’t believe the hype.

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Cuties (2020)

This movie hits hard, and is outstanding– five stars.

Cuties is about children living in abusive situations, and how they act out to reclaim themselves. It’s young girls, doing what all young girls naturally do, which is pretend they are women.

The twerking is intentionally in-your-face. If you like porn, it will turn you on. If you have moral hang-ups, and like to dictate them to others, then you will be offended. If you are someone like me, who loves a great movie and has no preconceptions, then Cuties will knock you on your ass.

Pornography doesn’t have character development, complex storylines, and serious motifs. The dirty dancing in Cuties is a kids’ imitation of any Super Bowl halftime show or Dallas Cowboys cheerleader routine. Everyone watches & talks about these events without batting an eyelash, so it’s nothing but hypocrisy from the moralist camp on Cuties. This movie is a mirror, in the sense that it reflects what you bring to it.

Cuties is an instant classic. See it for yourself before you comment on it, as this is serious film-making merging with hot-button social issues. It’s on Netflix, and runs 94 minutes. Gorgeous soundtrack.

One spoiler: When Amy impales a boy classmate’s hand to his desk for talking trash, it evokes Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita (1991) screaming, “My name is cutie!”

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The NBA Boycott & Athletes’ Rights

For the record, this was not a strike. Strikes are organized workers refusing to labor, due to grievances against ownership. The NBA players were not protesting the work conditions of the bubble, money, etc. They were boycotting to protest social injustice, and other issues, that extend beyond their profession. Same with MLB, WNBA, NHL etc… It’s important for Marxists to recognize the difference.

The NBA players & NBA board met separately (& together) inside the Disney bubble on Thursday, August 27, around 11:00 AM ET, and the results were that the league announced it would re-start by the weekend.  This had a ‘domino effect’ on MLB, as the postponed baseball games were re-scheduled as doubleheaders– 7-inning games, per the new rule. Many have already been made up. More MLB games were boycotted on Thursday & Friday, but they too are expected to be made up as doubleheaders. The WNBA had shut down, but returned Friday night, as it takes its cue (& name) from the NBA.

As I had suspected, many high-powered black politicians were back channeling with NBA player reps (LeBron James & Chris Paul, particularly) during this boycott.
Led by Barack Obama and multi-millionaire owner Michael Jordan (Charlotte Hornets), these black Democrats steered the players towards a reformist compromise, which will do nothing to abate police violence against the working class. Other hucksters such as Donna Brazile have been asked to weigh-in on this & help with policy, through the corporate media.

This would be a good time for many NBA fans to curtail their LeBron James worship, after seeing this linked Stephen A. Smith (ESPN) clip on how King James turned off all the young players (and others) with his selfish stance at NBA player meetings these past few days. This is a high-school graduate who is a basketball genius, but he is neither ready, nor equipped to lead a mass movement. You need to be educated & in solidarity to lead disenfranchised workers & youth out of dead-end capitalism. That’s what’s required, and the NBA players had nothing close to that revolutionary program.

The truth is that the vast majority of NBA players still in the bubble want to finish the season. These are young men who have sacrificed their personal lives for their profession, and to earn income. It’s been mentally tough & exhausting, and it’s like that for anyone who has had to work in close contact during this coronavirus pandemic, but the NBA players are determined to finish what they’ve started. Next season? That’s another matter.

What players are most frustrated about is not being able to speak their minds on trigger-happy, killer cops. The NBA, since David Stern, has applied strict censorship towards its players concerning ANYTHING controversial. Players & coaches get fined for complaining about the officiating– even when it’s Tim Donaghy or Joey Crawford. The young players, especially, don’t honor those rules anymore. They understand that they are the product, more than ever. These are unconscious Marxists. That’s the real conflict here, which has been papered over, through the use of star-powered union bureaucracy & back channel politics.

The NBA bubble courts have ‘Black Lives Matter’ stamped on their hardwood. The NBA has obviously thrown in its lot with the Democratic Party. It’s safe to oppose Trump, since everyone knows he’s a fascist sociopath. You just can’t say it. That’s why secret negotiations were held immediately after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court on Wednesday night, August 26. One NBA team does this, and the entire league shuts down, because all the players are together in a bubble. They can meet and talk at length, instead of just passing-by, like they normally do during the season. New ideas are being discussed by the players, and it’s a young league.

It then spills over to other sports, as they feel solidarity. The WNBA, MLB & NHL all stopped play, either collectively, or as individual teams in protest over the Jacob Blake shooting. Women’s tennis star, Naomi Osaka boycotted her semi-final match, and was willing to accept the forfeit. Her opponent refused the forfeit win, just as NBA & MLB teams refused. The USTA wanted Naomi Osaka to play, and convinced her to change her mind. She did, and she made the finals, then withdrew. This hands the Western & Southern Open women’s trophy to Victoria Azarenka.

The US Open starts on Monday, August 31, and this was a tune-up tournament. Therefore it’s not in either players’ interest to play, so Naomi Osaka graciously withdrew. Fans must accept that. Don’t expect a protest from Serena Williams (or Venus) to cancel the US Open, so the event will go on despite all the withdrawals from top players concerning coronavirus safety.

Without athletes, there are no sports. What fascists don’t like is athletes asserting their political power, and their right to speak out on important issues. “Just shut up and play,” is an elitist & de-humanizing attitude towards athletes. If you care about sports, then you have to recognize these athletes as human beings. That means respecting their personal decisions & political statements, especially if you don’t like them.

Fans are allowed to criticize, but only rationally. Save morality for when you look in the mirror. Too often, professional & college athletes have been shackled by owners, universities & sponsors, and therefore can’t defend themselves. For this reason, media & fans should not be allowed to attack athletes personally, or use them for nefarious political purposes.

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“Patch Me Up Doc”

      1. Patch Me Up Doc - Ric Size

 

Recording, drums & production by Tom Pearce; bass by Bill Pelick; vocals by Rachel Decker; songwriting, guitar & vocals by Ric Size

“Patch Me Up Doc” is an A-side from Extended Play 2019-20; cover design by Ric Size & Tom Pearce

Cover Images:  Photo of Rachel (& Tom) by Danny Mcguire taken during an Oak Hill Drifters live performance at Casey’s in New Smyrna Beach, FL on December 15, 2019

RockStarDentalConsulting social media profile image by Malcolm Yawn Photography, Mount Dora, FL, February 2014

False-color transmission electron microscope image of coronavirus by NIAID

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