Southern Man

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Southern Man vs the Garage Door

Southern Man and gf are up to their necks in repairing and remodeling the house (it's sort of the same thing) and part of the problem is that the 16' door in the detached garage hasn't budged in, oh, several years. And the accumulation that has built up behind that door has reached the status of a small mountain. It turns out that gf is something of a tool and furniture junkie. Not to mention the dozens of pieces of oak trim that she plans to use in the house and huge pile of vinyl siding that's destined to go on the outside of said detached garageand the rolls and rolls and rolls of wallpaper and the replacement insert for the fireplace and the new bathtub and... So, there's hardly any way to move around in that garage, much less find anything that's there or cram anything else in (a necessity, as the house has also built up quite an accumulation of stuff over the past several years). Progress has been made: one of the three bedrooms has been emptied, repainted, trimmed, and converted into Southern Man's study (thank you, gf!) and a second (destined to be the girl's bedroom) is partially cleared out and partially painted. But we are stalled - there is simply no place to where stuff can be moved to finish that second bedroom, much less tackle the master bedroom and the master bathroom and the hall bathroom and the dining room and the kitchen and the living area and the laundry room, all of which are piled from floor to ceiling with furniture and boxes and bins and get the picture. Actually, you don't. Believe me, you don't. But trust me when I say that clearing out and organizing the garage is our only hope of getting this house into a state in which it can actually be occupied, short of just burning it down and starting over somewhere else.

But I digress. Back to the garage door. The frugal Southern Man and his equally frugal gf decided to save a few hundred bucks and purchase a used garage door. This was a mistake. To start with, "used" means "I'm tired of dealing with this damn door, so we're getting another one." Well, actually, in this case "used" means "the least beat up panels and hardware selected from various damn doors that other people got tired of dealing with." One of the panels was a different style than the others and was fit with an extra few inches of trim to make it fit. None of the panels had matching paint, so we spent hours and hours and hours grinding the old paint off the doors. We used the money "saved" to purchase a used compressor (which worked great) and a new spray gun (which we never did master) and ended up painting the doors by hand. During this process we found that all of the panels were damaged in some way or another. But after three long days the door was painted. And they did look pretty nice.

The old door came down fairly easily; Southern Man worked his way to the back of the door and somehow carved out enough space to dismember the thing from behind. Now while we noted that the "new" door was in far from new condition, that old door looked like it had been run over by a semi three or four times, then dropped off the roof of a tall office building. The side rails were barely attached - Southern Man was able to pull one of the off the wall with one hand. Then we spent a day pulling stuff out of the garage to create a work space, so the front yard looked like we were holding a rummage sale. And like all of the projects in this house, things got more complicated the deeper we got into it. In this case, the drywall on the inside of the garage was in such poor condition that Southern Man ended up pulling it all down and replacing it with plywood. This took the better part of a day, but gf was pleased. Then Southern Man installed the rails (one of which had to be beat back into shape) - and then we did all of the aforementioned grinding and painting, so the garage was actually left open for several nights running, with all this stuff piled in the driveway to boot. We slept in the camper one night just to keep an eye on things.

But finally the door was painted and ready to install, which Southern Man ended up doing more or less by himself. It wasn't as difficult as one might have thought; the panels weren't that heavy and Southern Man has done a garage door or two in the past. And finally after a relatively easy morning's work the door was up.

Well, "up" in the sense that "the panels were assembled and attached to the rails." Before the door could actually be "up" Southern Man would have to deal with his first torsion spring. Fortunately he had been reading up on such every evening for a week and was ready to install and wind that spring. But there were a few problems. First off, the spring was intended to go one way and the mounting plate another, so Southern Man had to re-engineer that part of the hardware. And then remember that extra piece of trim that made the door a few inches taller? Well, "a few inches taller" meant "won't clear the spring" so Southern Man had to re-engineer yet again. But the third time was the charm, at least in the sense that the door would, in theory, clear the spring when raised.

And now came the time to wind that spring, a procedure fraught with peril (or at least according to the dire warnings on the many web pages on spring winding). Southern Man had already procured the winding rods (a single 36" rod that he had the local home store cut in half for him, which was done with much sweating and cursing by the unlucky chap who happened to be working the tool desk at that time) and the actual process wasn't that difficult. So the spring was wound and it came time to see if the door would lift.

The door came up easily enough. And the lift cables promptly came off. And thus began a long, hot, frustrating afternoon of unwinding and respooling and resetting and winding and retesting, over and over and over again. But the deed was finally done and the door was run all the way up and down several times, much to gf's delight. And gf's choice of paint color compliments the house quite nicely and her extra work to add some colorful touches to the door looks terrific.

Thus ended a frustrating full week of dealing with that garage door. Next week Southern Man will deal with the actual contents of the garage. But that will be another story.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Movie Review - Star Trek

Actually, not. All Southern Man will say is as a long, long-time Trekkie, he found the movie delightful. If you have ever even just sort of liked Star Trek, go see this one.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Midnight Movies

Southern Man doesn't see a lot of movies - probably half of what he attends is at the request of darling nine-going-on-ten-year-old daughter - but he does take a few seriously. And that brings us to the topic of midnight movies.

Midnight movies are special. Midnight movies don't draw ordinary moviegoers; they bring out the true fans. Southern Man treasures memories of the packed-out midnight showing of The Fellowship of the Ring where he was surrounded by people who loved those books at least as much as he did and knew during the opening sequence that the next two hours would be magical. And he made sure that his older children (then still in grade school) read the books before they saw the midnight screenings of the next two films. And then there was The Phantom Menace, where after the opening sequence we were looking around at each other and all obviously thinking "just WTF is this all about?" Midnight movies invariabley turn into something special. Only at midnight movies can you talk to your seatmates as though you've they're best friends that you've known forever. Only at midnight movies does everyone get the inside jokes and the obscure references. Only at midnight movies does everyone laugh and cry and gasp at all the right places. Only at midnight movies can you revel in all that you share with everyone else in the house. Only at midnight movies will audience members arrive in costume and witness lightsaber duels and hold impromptu stage shows before the film (which of course brings back fond memories of multiple outings to The Rocky Horror Picture Show - always at midnight, of course - and Southern Man will never, ever in this lifetime reveal what costumes he has worn to such and indeed will gladly murder any former friends who might rat him out). Only at midnight are you and the audience united into one huge family, out of the closet and openly sharing and treasuring and reveling and grokking and loving together.

So Southern Man has never hesitated to take his young 'uns to midnight movies. Sure, staying up 'till three am means they might bomb a pop quiz the next morning but bragging rights at school the next day are worth a lot and those memories will stay with them forever. And so it was with some dismay that we found a while back that the anticipated midnight opening of Pirates of the Caribbean III was actually going to be at - seven in the evening?

Seven in the evening is not midnight. At seven in the evening you don't get that family of fans and the special synergy that goes along with midnight. At seven in the evening you get - dare I say it - ordinary movie-goers. Yeah, the fans are there, but so are the muggles, so you must sit back and blend in. Seven in the evening means that at school and at work the next day everyone's already seen it. Midnight promises the potential of magic. Seven in the evening does not.

A midnight premier of Star Trek could have the charm of one of the old conventions, for the utter geekiness of trekkies far outstrips anything that any other franchise can claim and which grows exponentially when trekkies gather in large numbers. Star Trek at midnight would have brought out fans in full-dress Klingon uniforms and fully-functioning Borg costumes and Yeoman Rand miniskirts. Only at a midnight could a mother of three come dressed as an Orion slave girl and not only feel not the least bit self-consious but probably reap applause and general adulation. For Southern Man, a midnight showing of Star Trek could have potentially toppled The Fellowship of the Ring in terms of pure, unadulterated moviegoing joy openly shared with a packed house of new-found best friends united by a lifetime of utterly irrational devotion to that ridiculous show and its myriad spinoffs.

Alas, it will not be so. Seven o'clock tomorrow evening it will be. The Mr. Spock uniform and pointy ears will stay in the box but Southern Man hopes to see you there anyway.

Ranking Trek

Southern Man has been a Trekkie pretty much since there was such a thing. It has been said that Southern Man knows more about Star Trek than is healthy for a grown man. Anyway, with the franchise-rebooting Star Trek opening tomorrow afternoon ("midnight" showings begin at seven pm) it is time to rank the ten preceeding movies.

1: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

There's just not any question about this one, any more than there is that The Empire Strikes Back is by far the best of the Star Wars films. This is classic Trek at its best. Khaaaaaaaan!

2: Star Trek VIII: First Contact

The best of the Next Generation films, with the best of the Star Trek villians. Only flaw is an uncharacteristically poor ending performance by Patrick Stewart.

3: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Another that captures both the humor and the drama of the classic Trek series. Leonard Nimoy in particular shines in this one. Best line, by Kirk, when asked if he were from outer space: "No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space." And they get to fly around in a very cool Klingon Bird of Prey.

4: Star Trek I: The Motion Picture

The long-awaited first both pleased and disappointed; ranking here is for the director's cut. That's two rogue space probes that Kirk has talked out of destroying the Earth, or whatever.

5: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

A let-down after the far superior predecessor, but with plenty of good moments. The newly-refit Enterprise explodes at the end, and that was great fun to watch.

6: Star Trek IX: Insurrection

This one plays just like an extra-long episode of Next Generation. But it did capture the fun side of that series, and all of the regulars had some great moments.

7: Star Trek VII: Generations

OK, there had to be a crossover film. This one, too, had some fine moments, and it was great fun to see another Enterprise crash. Movies are hard on that ship, aren't they?

8: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

A film that captures the silliest aspects of both Star Trek in particular and Hollywood sequels in general. Spock had a half-brother, did he? But, like the others, this one had some good moments.

9: Star Trek X: Nemesis

So Kirk has a son, Spock a half-brother, and Pickard has yet another clone. Sorry, Shinzon, but you're no Locutus.

10: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Somewhat better Klingons than classic Trek, but a far cry from Worf ( the steroptype ) and Martok ( Genuine Certified Klingon Bad-Ass ).

As is oft said, the even-numbered films are near the top; the odd numbers drift to the bottom. This does not bode well for the new entry. However, the initial reviews are positive. Southern Man is looking forward to it. Wonder if that old Mr. Spock uniform-and-ear set still fits?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Addicted to Free

Southern Man has a new vice, and that would be the "free stuff" category on Craigslist. With university work winding down to a somewhat more sane pace for the next few months, Southern Man is now prone to bringing the big pickup to work and watching the 'net for any free goodies he can snap up on the way home. You would be surprised at the useful stuff he's accumulated (or at least what Southern Man considers to be useful - lumber, building materials, cinderblocks, firewood...) You would not be surprised at the less useful stuff that's been hauled out to The Land as well. But there are worse vices that Southern Man could develop, so gf puts up with it. We won't mention how much furniture that truck has hauled to the house on her bequest...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Movie Review - The Hannah Montana Movie

Southern Man generally ignores the Disney Channel silliness that his daughters tune to when they're over but grudgingly admits that he is something of a Hannah Montana fan and The Hannah Montana Movie does not disappoint if you expect good clean corny fun, predictable plot, a bit of chaste romance, and plenty of decent singing. Miley Cyrus is genuinely talented as both actress and vocalist - after her teen-pop days are done she is going to be one hell of a country singer - and both skills are put to impressive use here. Real-life and movie dad Billy Ray gets a good share of screen time as well. A cameo by Rascal Flatts covering Bless the Broken Road was a pleasant surprise. The screening nine-going-on-ten-year-old daughter and Southern Man attended was packed with parents and kids and all had a great time. Daughter and her newly-met seatmate knew all of the songs and sang along together, which was great fun. This is one DVD that Southern Man won't mind adding to the collection.