Fishy Buckeyes, analog wins, the Lizard King's magic Christmas present, Heat 2 & snackle box!
The day after we returned from Cleveland, I went to Trader Joe’s to replenish our supplies.
“Any plans today?” the cashier asked.
“Nah, I’m beat. We got home late last night from Cleveland. After this, I’m going to do laundry and some meal prep for the week.”
“Solid plan. How was Cleveland?”
“It was good.”
I shared the highlights, or as many highlights as you can cover during the checkout process.
“Did you see any aquariums? Everyone in Ohio has an aquarium. It gets so cold in the winter that you just have to build a giant aquarium in your basement and fill it with tropical fish. Otherwise, you freak out.”
We visited three homes in the Buckeye state, but we didn’t see a single home aquarium. Maybe we missed something?
“I watch a lot of aquarium content on YouTube,” the cashier explained. “All those creators are in Ohio. It’s what they do there.”
I wasn’t so sure about that. But then again, Ohio is a big state and it’s an even bigger internet. When I got home, I searched YouTube, for shits and giggles. That’s when I found a channel called Ohio Fish Rescue. Here’s their video promising the world’s largest private home aquarium tour.
Analog for the win
I’ve been trying to find ways of unplugging without disconnecting. It’s a struggle, but when we were staying with our friend Bridget in Cleveland Heights, we didn’t watch a second of television, and for the most part, we didn’t mess around on the internet either. Most nights, the three of us just talked and played records.
My first record player was a toy record player that played whatever records the Walt Disney Company produced back in the early 1980s. After that, I graduated to cassettes, then CDs, then MP3s, and finally subscription streaming services. The only exception was college, when my friend Melissa bought an old record player and some records at a thrift shop. We had fun listening to those records and spent way too much time trying to decipher the lyrics to A Simple Desultory Philippic by Simon & Garfunkel. At the time, I thought we were late to the party on records, but as it turned out, we were early on the whole retro thing.
Anyway, after returning home, Christina and I bought a record player. So far, so good. Plus, I enjoy doubling down on the analog life by putting on a record and reading a magazine. Like, totally, retro.
Merry Christmas from the Lizard King
Astute readers of Situation Normal will note that I’m low-key obsessed with The Doors and Jim “Lizard King” Morrison. You can see that obsession with our new record collection (see the above photo☝️) and in the section on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame from my Cleveland travelogue.
As it turns out, my friend Anna is a very astute Situation Normal reader. She sent me a YouTube video that combined my love for all things Lizard King with the magick we found in Cleveland. In the video, a man who was the Lizard King’s college roommate goes on Antiques Roadshow and explains that Morrison inscribed a book called The History of Magic and gave it to him for Christmas in 1963.
The other night, Christina joined some friends at the Hollywood Bowl for a screening of The Sound of Music. Christina wasn’t sure what she should bring to eat, but I suggested a snackle box. That was the right call.
While Christina was at The Hollywood Bowl, Mortimer and I were at home watching Heat. I probably saw Heat dozens of times in the 1990s, but I recently returned to the movie because I’m currently reading Heat 2 by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner. Billed as both a prequel and a sequel to the events depicted in the film, Heat 2 caught my eye for a few reasons.
Author Don Winslow heaped a bunch of praise on Heat 2. That alone would’ve been good enough for me.
I always wanted to know how Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) came to be partners in crime, the origins of their code—allow nothing to be in your life that you cannot walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner—and better understand why McCauley, who spends the entire film preaching that code to Shiherlis, ultimately betrays their code and dies as a result? Heat 2 answers all those questions and more.
I really enjoyed Quentin Tarantino’s novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because it added depth to the film, including insight into the troubled origins of Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), plus an entire Western novella that expands on the Lancer television pilot Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) shoots in the movie. I hoped Heat 2 would add a similar depth to its cinematic predecessor, and it does.
I’m still working my way through Heat 2. But watching the 1995 film again reminded me how much I love Heat for its intense action sequences, intricate story, and thoughtful exploration of the lives of cops and robbers. Watching Heat again also gave me an excuse to work on my Al Pacino impression, which Christina called “scary, in a good way.”
Amateur tip: the key to doing Pacino in Heat is to mumble the loud parts and scream the quiet parts with all the rage you can legally muster.
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Stick around and chat!
You know the drill. I’ve got questions, you may or may not have answers.
Do you own an aquarium? If so, do you use it to create YouTube content, and are you a Buckeye? If not, can you shed light on the Ohio aquarium rumor, and what are your bona fides?
What are your strategies for disconnecting from the digital world?
What record should we buy next? Bonus: what magazine should I subscribe to? Disclosure: I already subscribe to Horse & Hound.
Have you made a snackble box yet? If not, why not?
What’s your favorite Al Pacino performance, besides Any Given Sunday?
Read any good books lately?
I connect by turning off notifications for messages on my phone. Like all of them. I know that sounds like turning on DND or focus, but I just turn them off 75% of the time. I’ve started telling people they should call me if they really need a response asap. This has cut down lots of interruptions as I work (day job and writing).
Also, we cut the cord on cable TV years ago. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime, but we go through periods of binging one show then not turning on the TV for weeks (or even months!).
I also removed all social media apps and games from my phone. I have gained so much time and sanity from not scrolling endlessly--through social, or thorough TV channels.
Putting Heat 2 on my to-read list and definitely going to rewatch Heat prior to settling into it. That was a great flick that I watched multiple times in my college days. I’m interested to see what the 47-year-old version of me will think.
Heat is an all-time great movie. Two things really make it timeless: 1) Mann subtly but clearly paints DeNiro as the character you're rooting for and Pacino as the character you're rooting against. That dichotomy is brilliant. And 2) the bank shootout is an all-time great action set piece. The key is there's no score. Once Kilmer opens fire there's no music to distract your brain. It's all machine gun blasts, screams and shrapnel. Harrowing.
Re: reading Heat 2, that one's tricky for me. Revisiting characters from classic media risks leading to the Star Wars problem, i.e., I know how it's going to turn out, so you're more likely to ruin a character I already enjoy than improve upon their story arc. But that's not always the case. Would love to hear your final verdict.
Favorite Pacino performance: Donnie Brasco. Also, recency bias aside, thought he was fantastic in The Irishman.