Well, I'm officially on vacation, though I have few plans other than attending Wizard World next weekend. We celebrated Jeff's birthday last night with a trip to the Bullet. Hey, they have exotic dancing there, who knew? After spending all my money there last night, I'm off this afternoon to have a bigass steak with Chris and Sara, who are in from El Lay. They went out to the Bullet last night for a few spirits, and it'll be great to spend some quieter time with them before they return to Cali on Monday.
Keep an eye out for The Hub this week, as my byline will be within its pages. I began working as a professional film critic back in 1999 for a local alternative weekly newspaper called The Octopus. I had been writing amateur reviews just for the hell of it for several years up to that point, and I thought it might be fun to get paid for it. So I sent a letter and some writing samples to Champaign-Urbana's only two newspapers: the Octopus and the daily News-Gazette. The N-G has used the same critics for decades, and neither is really all that great (I believe one has now retired, and they pick up his slack with Ebert and Knight-Ridder reviews). I didn't expect to get on there--my tastes are distinctly different from the staunchly conservative News-Gazette (liberal media...ppppptttttttt!)--so I thought my best chance was with The Octopus, which already had two or three film writers at the time.
After a few months, I did get contacted by the Octopus' movie editor, and I began earning a (meager) weekly income by reviewing one film per week. Being a film critic definitely has its ups (free movies) and downs (free shitty movies), but I liked it more or less. The trouble was keeping the publications afloat.
The Octopus was bought by a radio conglomerate called Saga Communications, which didn't understand how the paper and its audience worked. They changed the title to the bland CU Cityview, which eventually killed the paper forever. Later, a similar publication rose from the ashes, The Paper, which was similar to The Octopus and was run and financed by former Octopus staffers. I wrote off and on for all three incarnations, but none survived. I don't think it was my fault.
C-U currently has The Hub, which is, again, quite similar to The Paper and The Octopus. I don't know much about the operation and financing of this version, but the same movie editor I worked with beginning way back in '99 is running the film section. I hadn't been in contact with him for over a year, and it was a nice surprise to get a call from him on Friday, asking if I'd be willing to write 800 words on DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, a 1974 cult classic recently released on DVD by Anchor Bay. Of course, I already owned the disc and had recently watched it, something he was counting on.
Long story short--I said yes I would, and it should be appearing in this Friday's issue. Who knows--it could lead to more writing assignments, although I don't think I want to return to weekend reviewing. I grew restless of the routine of spending Saturday and Sunday watching something at a theater (especially since I hate theater-going these days) and then writing about it a few hours later. I much prefer staying home, watching something at my leisure, and then writing about it under a looser deadline. So if I continue with The Hub, it will likely be under those conditions, although--hey--nobody has really officially asked me yet (although the editor did tell me he'd "like to bring me on" writing this type of cult-movie review).
I'll probably post my DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY piece here next week, but read it in The Hub if you can.