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Monday, 28 June
And He Was

Hello from the other side of the Birthday Weekend. All went well; and surprising things happened, which is not always nice, but in this case, was.

Thursday night found me and the wife at our favorite tapas restaurant, gorging ourselves on favorites like golden beet salad in vinaigrette (which have lost none of their "So good they make everything else in the world taste like old pants" charm), various coo-worthy cheeses, and of course, some bad-ass Rioja. It's basically impossible to go wrong at this place; it always leaves you feeling sort of breathless and euphoric, like surviving a rabid dog attack.

"Did you fucking see that? Those beets went right for my throat! I thought it was all over!"

"But you survived, baby. They were all like 'RAR! You can't handle this flavor!' And you were all like 'Fuck you!' And they were all like 'This guy is totally eating us!'

"Yeah! I owned those delicious punk-ass beets!"

Beet triumph is often hard-won. But it wasn't the most surprising thing to happen.

Friday, we did up the late birthday thing by going out bowling with friends. The turnout was nice, and allayed suspicions at least for a little while that Everyone Thinks I Suck, which was even nicer. B. showed up, ever the fan of all things sport, armed with his custom ball, his own shoes, and a complicated-looking forearm brace thingy. His first game was a real dog, however, and he amused me after one particularly disastrous frame by saying, "See, you can't show up in all this," he explained, waving his gear around (be quiet, Mr. Graham, I hear you snickering), "And throw like that. Because then you just look like an idiot."

Which is true. But then most people in a bowling alley look like idiots. Granted, mostly because they're drunk and haven't bowled for four years, like me. But B. also explained the Booze Effect re: bowling, which is, the more you have, the better you do. Which I initially doubted, but by the third game, I had scored a not-horrifying 145, so here I bow to the expert.

And then of course by the end of the night, a chocolate bunny had been thrown on some outdoor heating coals, and I had suffered head trauma from being hit by a beach ball thrown by K., and so that was all in its own way, typical, at least for my friends, who, unchecked, tend to behave like raving Huns anyway.

So that wasn't really surprising either.

Saturday, the wife and I went to the closing night of a show that the wife had actually had a hand in bringing to life. Called Are We Scared?, the piece was adapted from the actual everyday jabberings of pre-school-aged kids and then massaged into a very weird, wonderful whole. (The kids in question are under the charge of the wife, who works at the pre-school in question, and hence her involvement: she did some of the adaption.)

I was initially worried about the project when I heard of it, thinking, "Oh, Jesus, what if it just turns into Kids Say the Darnedest Things?" But it certainly did not, and in fact, it was utterly delightful and hilarious (because let's face it, sometimes the nippers are pretty fucking funny) and, most unexpectedly, oddly moving, as with the ending piece, adapted into song, which encouraged everyone to "Be careful in the gorgeous tunnel"--which isn't the stupidest metaphor for life that I've ever heard.

And I just have to point this out, even if it's only so I can search my archives and remember them: Here is one of the funniest lines I have ever heard onstage (my friend K. will back me up on this, because we just about came out of our chairs):

[Actor, at the encouragement of the other "kids," has been making mighty hops across the stage. Upon reaching the other "kids," the actor turns and yells proudly at the audience:]

"This hopper's name . . . is Noise-Boy!"

But even that wasn't the most surprising thing I heard all week. Although I may never recover from it. I couldn't even see for a while through the tears of laughter.

No, the most surprising thing I heard all week (last week, technically, but it didn't get finalized until today) was at work. I'll paraphrase several different conversations here, but this was the surprising thing I heard:

"Skot, we want to offer you a promotion. After your years of indifferent and desultory work, we are perplexingly interested in having you join the management team, and we hereby offer you this bunch of luckless revenants to boss around. If their spirits weren't broken before, they are now, because we already told them that you were going to be their supervisor, and those who didn't immediately drink poison have only shattered souls and sunken, twitchy eyes, and await your addled, perverse guidance."

"So what do you think, Skot? Will you do us the honor of filling this position with the same unnerving verve that we've come to expect from you, like that one time a few years ago, when you were disciplined for screaming 'FUCK!' down the hallway so loudly that the head of the whole organization heard you?"

Dimly, I heard myself accept the new job, thinking, I guess I can kiss all my former friends good-bye, but then conveniently remembered that I never really made a point of being friendly to anyone, so that was easy. Starting July 1, I am some very nervous peoples' supervisor. The higher-ups asked me, and even (mostly) kept straight faces.

That was definitely the most surprising thing I heard all week.

Friday, 25 June
The Book of Me

1 And the Lord took a break from the Heavenly Hassle, and saw that it was June the twenty-fourth, and he Said, "This is a holy day, for it is the day that Skot clawed his way out of the womb."

2 And the Lord kind of got creeped out by the word Womb, but He had already made it, so the Lord had to suck it up. "Womb" is icky," said the Lord, "why did I say that word?"

3 The Angels were of no help in this matter, and the Lord felt even stupider. "You Angels blow," declared the Lord. The serene Angels agreed placidly, and continued to fly about in worshipful inactivity. "This is the stupidest job," said the Lord, and He did pick at His astonishing pants dolefully, prising out bits of Holy Lint, and flicking them majestically at stuff.

4 Anyway.

5 The Lord noticed that it was June 24, and his servant Skot was faithfully at work, despite it being his birthday. Skot was a good follower, in that he was an uncomplaining dupe, and the Lord rewarded him with surprising hookers. Skot enjoyed the work-hookers, and bent them over his keyboard faithfully, and praised the Lord for His bounty. The hookers were paid handsomely with God's grace, and they did grumble, for that was not even worth a cheeseburger, for God is kind of a cheap-ass, but hey, it's God.

6 "Jesus, God," moaned the hookers. "This is kind of crappy."

7 "Saieth not His name!" said the Lord. "He is more than cheeseburgers." And the hookers felt like gravel, and they repentantly bought Frescas, and woe to them, they did drink the Frescas.

8 And so it was that Skot returned home, having gloriously succumbed to the work-hookers, and his wife did take him out to Dinner, whereupon he ate tapas. And they were good tapas, for the Lord had decreed: "Tiny portions of good food is the best idea anyone has ever had!"

9 And the Wife did say, "Wasn't that your idea? I mean, isn't everything?"

10 And the Lord did say, "Uh . . . yeah. Of course it was."

11 And the wife kind of stared at the Lord.

12 And the Lord said, "So . . . what else did my boy Skot get?" The Lord looked kind of hopeful and strange, like a guy who had forgotten to get his Favorite Son anything for his damn birthday.

13 "I bought my man some pants," said the Wife proudly. "And some scotch. And some books." The bounty was indeed impressive. The Lord was shamed.

14 "I only brought some meager spices," whined the Lord. He held out peppercorns. "I feel like a tool," said the Lord.

15 The Lord was indeed a tool. But that mattered little to Skot. He got pants. And dinner. Tapas, even.

16 God fulminated. "I could get you pants. The finest pants. Pants of panting gold!" The Lord seethed and wheedled.

17 And Skot said, "Gold pants? That seems kind of gay."

18 And God did say: "Don't give me any ideas.

19 And Skot said: "Pretend I said nothing. Sorry."

20 And God said, "Okay, then."

21 And like the best families, they talked of nothing at all.

Wednesday, 23 June
Buyer's Remorse

In my ongoing campaign to subject myself to things I find very irritating, I continue to watch TV. But there are gradations in the irritation scale, like, say, reruns of "The Simpsons," seasons 3-7 (Irritation factor: 0) to ESPN personalities (Irritation factor: 5 [Exceptions here are for Stuart Scott's crazy eye, Irritation factor: 3, and also for John Kruk's stolid crappiness, Irritation factor: 7]), and all the way up to State of the Union addresses (Irritation factor: 10, regardless of the administration).

Two recent-ish ads have caught my attention.

One is, on the face of it, a relatively inoffensive and unremarkable ad (which really just means that its fundamental stupidity is within what you'd expect at baseline). It's for some dreary website called Overstock.com, which evidently has the dubious allure of hawking crap that failed in the marketplace at least once already. In other words, it's an internet outlet store. I don't know about you, but in my mind, outlet stores rank very low on my mental list of "things that are sexy."

So what's the theme of the ad? Sex.

The camera finds an attractive brunette (dressed all in white, wocka wocka--this virgin wants to suck your retail cock!) seated on a couch. She looks at the camera with a saucy grin and says, "Have you heard of (tiny pause) the big O? A restless nation sits forward: Yay! Orgasms! I want those! What, is there porn on the net now?

The brunette smiles and gives the big letdown: "Overstock dot com!" she says somewhat chidingly, as if we were naughty for thinking about something else. There's something hilariously Phyllis Dilleresque about this, only typically watered down for the mainstream--say something utterly salacious and then express mock surprise. "How could you think that?" Of course when I say 'The big O,' I expect you imagine a website that hawks vertiginously devalued clothing items!" Then I guess you dispiritedly obey this weird message by going on line to browse the newest offerings from noted clothing designers like Gloria Peterbilt and Timmy Stinkfinger.

On top of this strange meta-ruse is the actress' not-quite-trained-out vocal patterns. Her vowels are revealingly flattened and labored: "Ovuhstack dut cam!" It's really kind of charming, as this simply screams, "Well, HELLO MIDWEST GIRL!" Chicago girl makes good with crummy ad! You just want to kind of serve her some corn to make her feel like she was home again.

Irritation factor: 5 (modified down because of entertaining regionalisms)

The other ad is . . . I don't know where to start. It's like watching surgery. No: botched surgery. The ad is for Pepto-Bismol, which I understand from the get-go is a toughie. I mean, one needs to advertise, but when the product is of a sensitive nature, I suppose it's limiting. Knowing what you can get away with is, therefore, important.

Pepto-Bismol apparently hasn't the faintest idea.

The ad features five or six random "office types" in some depressingly omnicorporate room, all displaying faces of purest woe. Who will help these unfortunates? Why, a jaunty British accent will! For no explicable reason, jaunty British accent proceeds (with musical accompaniment) to explain just what Pepto helps out with, employing some tortured rhythmical feet that is irreproducible here. Trust me. The Brit voice crisply chants: "Nausea, heartburn, indigestion/Constipation, diarrhea!" And a terrifying offscreen chorus screams, "HEY! PEPTO-BISMOL!" I hope this guy got a good paycheck, because he continues, again: "Nausea, heartburn, indigestion/Constipation, diarrhea!" Only this time, the office workers are dancing to his horrible nonrap. They clutch their chests, their stomachs, their hips (this when constipation is mentioned, which made me wonder if they all had colostomy bags), and finally, their asses, all in time to the listed maladies.

And every time the unseen chorus howls "HEY! PEPTO-BISMOL!" a tuxedoed arm blasts into the screen with ruffly hot pink shirtcuffs showing, because Hey, stupid, our product is pink! I believe the AMA recently found that of all noxious medicine colors, pink was most efficacious. Look forward to "Queer Docs for the Sick Cocks." (Oh, calm down. I get to make dumb jokes every now and then.)

I can't really help but watch this ad whenever it comes on, but the real horror comes after (seriously: you've seen this ad, right?) the four or five fucking iterations of its horrid theme song. At the end, when the plummy announcer is making his little "Buy a bottle of this rancid potion" bit, the camera is still on the unfortunate office workers, who have been forced to continue doing their pantomime-dance along with the cheerless music. At the end of the commercial--I cannot tell if this was planned--they are all dancing, backs to the cameras, attempting to draw us in to their baffling Gastrointestinal Hop. At least two of them insistently point to their asses; one of the dancers grabs his buttocks and shakes them threateningly at the viewer.

I don't know what this means. It certainly doesn't say "Buy our poo-goo" to me, but nothing in this commercial does. Does he have a bomb in his ass? Is it a coded message from the Pepto Rebellion?

This is possibly the most disquieting commercial I've ever seen.

Irritation factor: 9. It would get a 10, but I have a feeling that this is a meaningful cultural artifact. It must be studied.

Tuesday, 22 June
Golfers And Bowlers And Horseshit, Oh My

Walking home from work today, I was thinking about a few things coming up, such as my birthday on Thursday (you'll want to use FedEx, people). Yeah, it's the big 35--more on this later--and the wife and I and several of our closest reluctant friends will be going bowling. More on this later. Anyway, as I walked deep in thought, my body quickly adopted one of its least attractive traits when confronted with two simultaneously unconscious actions (walking and thinking), and allowed my mouth to fall agape. It's probably, overall, a happy gift. I imagine passersby:

Girl: "Wow. Who's the gork with the hang-mouth?"

Guy: "Ew. I think I can see the sandwich he ate earlier."

Girl: "Do you have an opinion, passing hobo?"

Hobo: "Disgusting! He's Joseph Stalin! Do you have fifteen cents? I only need fifteen cents."

And so on. My father used to comment on this openmouthed habit of mine, actually, when I was a kid. It's a crummy habit to have, especially when you aren't even aware of it; it gets worse when I'm deep in reading. Not only does my mouth hang open, I tend to let my tongue loll out grotesquely. My father's exasperated--and indelible-comment from my youth: "Jesus Christ, close your fucking mouth. It looks like a hunk of liver is hanging out of it."

It took me years to get over that comment, mainly because whenever I thought of making out with girls in high school, I'd remember that liver comment, and I'd get creeped out, thinking, Don't subject them to your mouth-liver! This turned out to be the least of my problems, as girls were not exactly lining up for the oral liver treatment, perhaps because I was pretty ugly, even by teenage standards.

Jesus. Where were we?

Oh, right. Walking home, thinking about the Big 35. Why is every year the Big [number here]? We're just not very honest with each other about birthdays. I'd like to rectify this. The Big [whatever] trope is a drag, because they're not big: it's usually stupid. We should embrace this. "Hey! So it's the Pointlessly Marking Time 28 this year!" Or: "Oh, boy. I guess we're up to the May Finally Learn How To Cook Crab But We Doubt It 42 now, huh?" Maybe: "Congratulations on the Cannot Ignore Hanging Gut 39!" The ne plus ultra is in sight: "I can't believe you're finally reaching the Eats Cabbage A Lot 50."

And so we're going bowling for the big event. Bowling, at least, has the virtue of being a sport that has the sense to encourage its participants to drink at the actual venue, during said participation. Golf is sort of like this, but then again not so: a martini on the third green is qualitatively different than a beer on the fourth frame. Plus, golf takes place out of doors, which is anathema to bowling; hell, actual sunlight is the bane of bowlers. Golfers are werewolves; Bowlers are vampires. Which may seem counterintuitive until you actually look at Phil Mickelson. I think he's hairier then he lets on.

I don't expect anyone to look at--much less identify--bowlers.

All of this wore on my mind today--honestly--as I walked home from work. My mind was occupied with all of these things. My mouth hung open.

Presently, a bug flew into my maw, and I had a rather awful experience as it buzzed frantically inside my mouth, exploring my gumline with a frankly horrifying enthusiasm for which I was not prepared. (It was really classic watching the woman across the street, bewildered by the noise I made as I spat the insect out: "HLEMGH!" She nervously looked away at this display of entomological spittoonery.) I vowed for the millionth hopeless time to keep my goddamn mouth shut from now on, knowing that I'd still fuck that resolve up sooner rather than later.

"Welcome to the Big 35," I would rather not hear my brain say. "Calling all bugs," says my brain. Or maybe: "Welcome to the Might Learn Not To Eat Bugs 35."

One can hope.

Wednesday, 16 June
A Shroom Of His Own

Remember college? All of it? Jesus, I hope not, otherwise you were doing it wrong.

I sure do, except for parts of it. This is one of those parts.

My senior year, I finally got up the gumption to do mushrooms. For the first time, and the last time. I haven't done any illegal drugs in a long time, actually; not out of any kind of newborn morality or some vague sense of civic fervor, but mainly just because it's kind of unseemly and weird (in my mind) for people in their mid-30s to be scrabbling at the doors of 20-year-olds looking for drugs. I just can't be bothered, and it's icky. I'm hardly a model adult--it could be argued that I am an adult in purely denotational terms only, for that matter--but I'm just not going to go out and try and "score" some "sticky buds" from any "mary jane vendors." I assume my command of the vernacular is still strong.

It was the closing night of a show I was in, and I joined three of my good friends in the bathroom during the closing party to divvy up the mushrooms. This task was handled by J., who had actually procured them. In addition to J. and myself, there were also two women, unfortunately for me both initialed A. But as it turned out, it won't matter. J. portioned out the mushrooms, and we chewed them grimacingly, gnawing the vile little nubs into oblivion. Thus began my mushroom experience. Afterwards, we rejoined the party taking place in the theater greenroom.

Nothing happened for a long time, and I was beginning to doubt the Castanedaesque rhetoric that I had always encountered when discussing mushrooms. Where were the opening doors, where were the third eyes? Where were the tuxedoed panther dancers who made omelettes? Nothing. I chatted calmly with an alarmingy pretty blonde whom I one day vowed to sleep with. [Ed. note--I'm sorry, but male pride forces me to interrupt this narrative to mention that I did one day sleep with her. Thank you.]

Minutes into the conversation with the blonde, I got a tap on my shoulder. It was J. and the A.s, looking noticably glassy. "We can't stay here," gasped J. "It's happening. Let's go."

I felt nothing at all, and felt restive at having my smoothtalk at blondie interrupted. "You guys go," I snapped. "I'm cool." J. looked less than convinced. "Are you sure?" he said. "We're kind of . . . ah . . . " He waved his arms vaguely. "Go ahead," I said. "Maybe I'll catch up to you."

They went.

I returned to my talks with blondie, and she was a warm conversationalist. I listened to her with fascination--and not a little wonder. What the fuck was she talking about? I couldn't make heads nor tails of anything she said, but, boy, was it interesting. I began to analyze her vowels clinically, evaluating their resonance; I also began to detect certain fricative errors in her speaking that I felt strongly could be corrected with some minor alterations to her mouth.

She continued talking, and it dawned on me with no little horror that I hadn't the faintest idea of what she was talking about, nor had I for some time. She had been drinking, and so had managed to happily not realize that she was speaking to a grinning, uncomprehending rictus-thing who was dementedly evaluating her vocal performance via some fantastical critera. But I knew. And I realized that I had voluntarily separated myself from the only people on campus who could possibly deal with me on my own vastly ruined level: those who gave me the shrooms.

I lurched out of my chair abruptly, saying something like "Ineedagonow" and slammed into the door several times before rapturously discovering the waist-level pushbar that opened it. Blondie stared after me quizzically, but all I knew was, I had to get the fuck out of there.

The rest of the night consists of reconstruction. I remember some of it hellishly, and other parts I do not remember at all, and were relayed to me by patient friends.

I do vividly remember trying to hobble home to my apartment, mere blocks away. Unfortunately, said hobbling consisted of wandering right in the road, on 12th Avenue in Salem, Oregon, a rather busy thoroughfare. It's miraculous I wasn't (a) run over, or (b) arrested, since this is usually frowned upon. All I know is, I couldn't find a fucking sidewalk to save my life, and on the rare occasion that I did, I couldn't fucking stay on it. Sidewalk! I remember screaming into my brain, I'll never leave you! Then, two minuutes later, I would see the sidewalk sliding inexorably away from me as I drifted off onto blacktop. NO! DON'T ABANDON ME, SIDEWALK! I mentally howled. My body refused to obey me. I can't believe I wasn't arrested.

I finally made it to my apartment, upon which my whirling body informed me of a very basic fact: You need to pee. RIGHT NOW. My bladder was very insistent upon this. I grabbed my groin and wobbled into a wall. Fuck! Where did this come from? My motor skills were decidedly unmotored; after an eternity, I finally stumbled upon the baffling solution to my button-fly and as I hurled myself into the bathroom . . .

Well, I didn't make it. Having nicely befouled myself, I peeled off my sodden jeans. (Not my shirt, mind you.) So there I was, covered in my own piss, pantsless, stoned, and freaking out.

It was apparently a ripe time for me to invent a new horrible scenario. Which I promptly did. In my addled state, I then decided that I was stuck in a "time-loop" (thanks, Star Trek). That is, convinced that I was reliving the same horrible pantsless experience over and over and over et cetera, and I couldn't break out of it. But oh how I tried. I would stalk the apartment in circles, thinking, "Fuck, I've done this before. I've done this before. I've done this before . . . until . . . NOW!" Then I would launch myself onto the sofa or the TV or something. It's a great image: unstable guy with no pants wanders apartment, occasionally throwing himself into the fireplace.

Finally, I came to with the First Wife (have I mentioned this before? I was married once when young, and it was a disaster) shaking me; I was stark naked in the corner of the bedrooms, stinking of urine. Yay! I can't imagine why things didn't work out. "Tom says he found you staring at the wall! For an hour!" Tom was our roommate; he tried to break me out of my spell, but I refused to not stare at wall while I envisioned God knows what. Tom eventually went to bed, choosing to ignore my wallstaring. I heart Tom. "You're covered in piss!" she continued to wail.

I tried to focus, but it was hard. She was right, though. I was disoriented, naked, and smelled of piss. I tried to remember the fractured night before, and only came up with fragments.

"Jesus," I moaned. "That was awful." I found out later that J. had inadvertantly given us way too many shrooms (though that group came out famously; they had stayed together, after all, which I suppose made all the difference). I tried to think back, and a weird memory surfaced. "God," I said, "I remember D. coming to vist. He had his guitar, and I remember him playing songs for me. I remember those!" I had warmed to my memories. "I should call D.! Fuck, he saved my life."

Later, I asked D. how he knew to come to my house and console me in my drug-fueled weirdness.

D. didn't have any idea what I was talking about. He was positively militant about the fact that he hadn't been there. I guess I don't know.

But I remember him so well, casually leaning against the wall, playing chords on his guitar, and I felt so much better. I still remember that. D. taught me D and G and C and E, and now I can write a rock song. I remember that. But not enough.

Here's what I'd like to do, in order of preference: I'd like to have D. back, so he can teach me rock songs.

And what I'd like least is to do mushrooms.

Come on back, D., any time you like.

Tuesday, 15 June
A Friend In Ben

As my tens of readers know, Izzle Pfaff is dedicated to bringing you, the work-shirking reader, the finest in celebrity interviews. This week is no different. Noted Hollywood star Ben Stiller, who must be stopped at all cost, joined me at a local establishment to talk about his success and his remarkable body of work.

IP: Hello, Ben.

BS: Hi there. Good to meet you.

Waitress: Hi, can I get you--[she clearly recognizes Stiller]--oh, Jesus. You're that guy.

BS: Oh, gosh, here we go.

Waitress: You were in Mystery Men, right? I saw that!

BS: So did four other people! What a world. Listen, what do you have on tap?

Waitress: How about a nice big glass of piss? That's what your fucking movie tasted like. Jesus Christ. That movie cost me my marriage.

BS: You're adorable. Whatever's on tap.

Waitress: You're getting piss. Comin' up.

IP: Can I get--

[Waitress exits.]

BS: She's sweet. I get that a lot.

IP: So, Ben, thanks for joining me. Let's talk a little about your body of work.

BS: Sure.

IP: You have been bizarrely hailed for starring in what is possibly the ghastliest array of hopeless piles of shit for many years now. It's really quite impressive. How do you manage it?

BS: Well, it does take some work. I read a lot of Artaud--Theater of Cruelty and all that--and I try and go from there. It doesn't always work. For example, take The Royal Tenenbaums. What a disaster. Some people ended up thinking it was a good film. They were wrong, but the point is, that's not what I'm shooting for.

IP: I agree; that film is an overstuffed catastrophe with some decent performances. [Stiller visibly blanches.] Oh, sorry--no, not yours! Sorry about that. No, you were outacted by your hairdo. But I can see where you'd get worried. Some people did repsond positively to the movie.

BS: Yeah. It still creeps me out. It's just not the reaction I look for from my audience. As soon as Gene Hackman got attached, I got nervous, but I kept telling myself that I could still torpedo the movie despite his involvement. I think I held my own.

IP: You had a little help from Gwyneth Paltrow, didn't you?

BS: I really did. If the audience managed to get past my hair, there was no way they were going to just blow off her eyeliner. We beat those viewers stupid.

IP: That's great. Let's talk about another film that nobody with any brains bothered to watch, the very unharrowing cautionary drug movie Permanent Midnight.

BS: What an interesting experience that was. I really enjoyed that role; it's not every day you see Hollywood make a brave movie that explores the dark side of drug abuse these days . . . it's more like every other day. And I think I reached a lot of people with that terrible movie.

IP: Why do you say that?

BS: Because I looked at the statistics. The release of that movie coincided with a dramatic increase in drug use among moviegoers. It was pretty startling.

IP: Why do you think that was?

BS: Most of the people involved in the studies point to the fact that the movie seemed to indicate that heavy drug use tended to correlate strongly with Ben Stiller vomiting helplessly, Ben Stiller being unconscious, or Ben Stiller not making any more terrible movies because he might die. I guess people responded to that message with decisive action.

IP: That's super.

BS: I thought so. I wish more people had seen that movie. So many needless lives not lost.

[The waitress returns.]

Waitress: Here's your piss. I microwaved it, so it's kind of hot. [To IP:] Here's your nothing.

IP: Uh . . . thanks.

BS: [Drinking.] This is good piss.

IP: Things really took off for you when There's Something About Mary hit big, right?

BS: I guess so. People really identified with that "come in her hair" joke, for some reason. I think that guys really want to come in people's hair.

IP: That is funny.

BS: This is awkward. You don't want me to come in your hair, do you? I don't really go that way.

IP: No, no. Please don't.

BS: [Laughing] Oh, man, cool. I was worried. I'm saving a blast for that waitress, though. She's hot.

IP: After Mary came some more success with the wildly successful film Meet The Parents. This movie featured your character being emotionally and physically humiliated by a horrifying family populated by utter psychopaths for two hours. How was it working with slumming, will-mug-for-cash Robert DeNiro?

BS: That guy . . . wow. That guy can slum. Did you see Analyze This?

IP: Christ, no.

BS: How about Analyze That?

IP: I'd rather die.

BS: That's what I'm saying. The man is a pro. I'll do any horrible film with him. There's nobody in this business that can live down to the nadir of standards that he exemplefies. You can quote me on that.

IP: What's next for Ben Stiller? Can we look forward to Duplex 2?

BS: Boy. Probably not. I really liked working with Drew--she has a rack and a half--but it was not an easy project. I mean, how can you remake The Money Pit and not come out looking like an ass? I mean, I admire the work of Danny DeVito--who doesn't loathe Hoffa, for God's sake? That's practically unwatchable. Or The War of the Roses? Michael Douglas eats his dog? Come on! You can't compete with that.

IP: I guess I see where you're coming from.

BS: Yeah. Poor Danny. He's just an awful little man. I don't know where he went wrong. He's kind of a role model for me, except for the unspeakable string of failures.

IP: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ben. It's been illuminating.

BS: Oh, hey, thanks for the piss. I've had worse. [Conspiratorially] I have to run. I'm totally going to see if that waitress will let me come on her hair.

IP: Uh, good luck.

BS: You just spent an hour grilling me about my unforgivable career. Don't you know anything about luck by now?

IP: Good point.

[Make sure to catch Mr. Stiller in his mindbendingly awful new movie Dodge Ball, where he is sure to astonish as he plays a vile moron. Here's hoping Ben keeps reaching for new heights.]

Friday, 11 June
Nobody Remembers Eating Corn

Tonight as the wife and I watched The Daily Show, we were ostensibly treated to footage from the recent Tony Awards: it showed, incredibly, LL Cool J rapping onstage with the deathless, eerie, corn-joke-that-will-live-forever Carol Channing. (If you don't know the corn joke, the handy internet can probably help you out.) It was seriously "HOLY SHIT!" footage, and I literally--literally! (certain friends will appreciate this)--clutched my skull in horrified wonder. There was Commodore Ladies Love Cool James, spinning some rhymes and pretending like he never heard the word "Rollerball," and right next to him was this emaciated chicken neck clad in tinfoil doing a rather alarming kind of Frug.

The Tony Awards. Baffling. To tell the truth, I didn't even know when it ran. And, as far as I know, neither did any of my actor friends; that, or nobody was going to admit to it. The Tony Awards quite simply blow mangy dogs, and are of no relevance to anyone with a lick of sense. Hey, let's honor the BEST OF AMERICAN THEATER! And wouldn't you know it? Every year, it's to be found in New York City! What a strange phenomenon! Musicals? They're really GREAT! Especially piles of shit like "Wicked," which is a (by all reports) utterly mundane belt-fest based on a novel that is, in itself, a pile of shit. WHOOPEE! It is really a testament to the utter hubris of NYC/Broadway that these dreary awards can even pretend to have a whiff of credibility or gravitas. Winning a Tony is a lot like being the Great Neck Pork Queen--sure, you get a nice trophy; unfortunately, someday, others are bound to see it.

"Hugh Jackman! I remember you! You took off your shirt in some horrible play I saw!"

"Yeah, it's me. Listen, give yourself a break and go rent X-Men."

"What about Swordfish?"

"You're not listening. Rent X-Men."

In unrelated news, last Christmas (note that this is June, here), the wife received some gift cards, one of them from JC Penney's. So she did a little online shopping, and bought some clothes. This was horribly unwise, as it turned out. (I got a card myself, but I spent it on failsafe things like a spice rack and a DVD.) When she got her merchandise, it was rather gruffly shoved into plastic bags, which were then also gruffly shoved into plastic shipping bags, so the whole process of liberation of said clothes was sort of like peeling away thick sheets of dead skin cells in order to get at a tumor.

At the time--months ago--I remember her unveiling the goods. One horrible garment appeared to be built by angry, retarded gnomes; it was allegedly a blouse, but seemed to be constructed of the same sort of thin paper that bar coasters are made of. The gaily-colored print that seemed nice in the catalog looked, in reality, like a cheap shroud for a disliked florist. A pair of pants that she had found attractive had the texture of tent canvas. It was possibly the most dispiriting package of merchandise ever to be countenanced by humans. If someone put this crap into a space module, and it was found by aliens, they would probably think, "Holy Baltoods, Meat Unit BARL 4! We must endeavor to avoid these beings. Did you see these bras? They're made out of bark."

So the wife sent the horrible crap back. Months ago. (Remember, this is JUNE!) She simply asked for a refund, if possible, knowing that they might get snitty about a refund, as it was a gift card purchase from a third party. But hey, no problem, JC Penney--some time later--sent a refund check. Cool! No more canvas pants!

The check bounced. From JC Penney.

I'm in contact with Sondheim. He's all over writing some tunes for my notional show, such as "Itchy Ass" and "How To Stuff A Mild Bikini." We're going to rake the Tonys, I predict. All I need are Hugh Jackman and Carol Channing.

I wonder if we can work in a bit about corn.

Wednesday, 09 June
Oogy Nights

The wife and I went out tonight to attend a new weekly sketch comedy thingie that several friends of ours have set up. It's to promote SketchFest, basically Seattle's own Burning Man festival of abbreviated comedy, but less hirsute. (But possibly more stoned.)

The leadoff act--names have been removed to protect the identities of the truly terrible--was truly terrible. They performed only two sketches (mercifully), but in that time, managed to fill me with an odd combination of suicidal ideation and somnambulism. I have left my own body and it walks without consciousness now, I thought. My body wants to hang itself! Perhaps I should let it. They might attempt another sketch. Then the somnambulist took over again before I could do myself in. Rest, child. The body knows what to do. See? It is buying more whiskey.

The second act was a stand-up comic, who deserved better than a tiny room that felt too reserved to laugh. She made a joke about a pot haze settling over Eugene, Oregon every day at 4:20, and I laughed alone. "Thank you, one guy," she said drily in my direction. This got a real roar, while I sat and pondered why I out of all my friends laughed. I haven't smoked pot in many years, while a good number of my friends are walking Three Strikes sentencing casualties.

The night concluded, shudderingly, with that grand tradition of ours (one that I've written about before), karaoke. It is nearly impossible to write about karaoke, particularly karaoke featuring actors who really don't give a damn how they come out, but hey, I'll try again.

K. led things off with a quavering rendition of "Cold As Ice," wearing a horrid wig of wavyhair and tremendous eyeglasses; he looked like a very bookish porn star, perhaps trying to recite some epic Foreigner poetry. "You're as cooooold as iiiiice! You're willing to sacrifice our looooooove!" His gutshot coyote delivery was very moving.

Next up was the always dazzling T., who again didn't disappoint in his magnificent high-sticking of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." What's that, you say? But that's a duet! Right you are. And T.--who is sporting a rather alarming pussy-tickler of a mustache these days for a role--handled both parts equally inexpertly, shifting between querulous falsetto and plummy ignorato, managing to singlevoicedly mockerize Streisand and Mathis all in one bravura vocal performance. By the end, he was alternating these effects with every word. [Yelp] YOU! [Croak] DON'T! [Whine] BRING! [Basso] ME! [Drill bit] FLOWERS! [Resounding belch] ANY! [Audible-only-to-dogs mixed tone] MOOOOOOORE!

It went on. Legendary V. even performed a truly horrific mangling of (karaoke favorite) Phil Collins by turning "Sussudio" into an extended grapeshot attack on the song's very essence. "SUUU! SUDIO! SUUU! SUDIO! SUDIO! SUDIO! OOOOOHHHHH!" V.'s Primal Scream treatment was harrowing in the extreme. She then interrupted the shattering flow of the song to comment on getting tested for STDs after throwing off a crummy boyfriend. "I'm clean! I could have got something from his towels!" she howled arhythmically, while awful 80s keyboards cheesed on inexorably in the background. "I hate my life. I'll never find anybody," she moaned dramatically. We all said "Awwwww!" and V. proceeded to then joyously improvise a one-woman kickline as the chorus romped back in.

SU-SU-SUDIO!

I have the best friends in the world. Or at least I did until I wrote this.

Monday, 07 June
Boy Versus Car

Growing up in a small town in Idaho, finding fun things to do with one's spare time was generally a challenge, and let's face it, rolling hoops with a stick or even shooting countless thing with BB guns gets pretty old pretty fast. The problem became worse once you hit high school, because really, high schoolers are evil little fucks with nearly boundless energy and frequent spasms of hopeless idiocy. You see the problems that can happen once you give the little bastards some car keys. But every parent does, at some point--God knows why. Then, all of a sudden, there's things to do.

Remember, however, this was a small town in Idaho. So "doing stuff," by our faulty, limited barometers, meant much less than it might to some. In the absence of genuinely interesting-to-teenagers stuff--video games, cable TV, urban unrest--our "doing stuff" mostly consisted of driving around, usually--it was devoutly to be hoped--while drinking beer.

What a really great idea. Drunk kids operating heavy machinery.

My first car was a really hilariously ugly blue Chevy Monza. It had this leatherette-y material that sheathed the top of the car, and it was stricken by some awful mange; my friends delighted in peeling raddled strips of the stuff off my car while I yelled at them. They rightly ignored me; it would be like telling them to not poke a corpse with a stick. Boys ruin things, and my car begged to be ruined.

One night while out in my car, driving listlessly through the dirt roads that spread everywhere beyond town limits--and where cops almost always weren't--we drank beer and listened to music and hassled each other. (If this sounds boring, it almost certainly was; the thing is, it beat utter inertia.) At some point, coming up on a turn, we spied a pickup truck parked by the side of the road. We were able to identify it immediately, of course; we knew pretty much every vehicle in town as well as who owned them. This one belonged to D., an upperclassman who while normally docile, had been known when piqued to unhesitatingly kick ass. We rolled up cautiously and said, "Hey, D. What's up?"

He stared at us flatly and took a drink of beer, saying nothing. The silence spun out ominously. We tried again. "So, out cruisin', huh?" Silence. D. took another pull on his beer. He didn't seem to be in a very good mood, and we were probably pissing him off by bothering him. He continued to stare at us intently, and I began to mentally evaluate who of us in the car was the fastest; I knew I could beat a couple of my friends in a footrace, so hopefully D. would expend all his beatdown energies on them.

Suddenly, D. crumpled his beer can and tossed it into the grass. Then he said, "Hang on," and opened his pickup door. Oh, fuck, here we go, I thought. He's going to pull us out of the car and bend us into terrible shapes.

But he didn't get out of the pickup. He calmly leaned out the door and emitted a powerful jet of acrid vomit onto the dirt. Then he sat back up in his seat again, pulling the door shut.

"Was waitin' for that. I could feel it." D. opened a fresh beer. "What's going on tonight?" he asked cheerfully. "Out cruisin'?"

Thursday, 03 June
Failing, It Takes Me Away

So briefly this evening the wife and I tuned into another VH1 abortion, called something like "The Awesomest [oy] Bad Rock Songs Ever." This was a typical lo-fi VH1 hairball where who-dat? comedians slagged on bad rock songs, mostly from the last 20 years, because apparently popular culture has adopted the lifespan of a mayfly: Birth, purchase questionable pants, sweat-fuck Tawny Kitaen, find self beneath dirt. The list was lifted from the all-blogged Blender magazine list, which I never bothered to read in full, so this is probably not news to anyone; I certainly never paid it any attention because lists like these are always arbitrary and impossibly dumb. The point--if any--seemed to be, "Let's pick entirely horrid songs and make fun of them." This is not exactly heavy lifting, especially when such broad targets as Limp Bizkit or Wang Chung enter into things. I should know. I've made fun of them before, and it is easy, thank God--I'm very lazy. But that's not the point. Did the list have to be so fucking obvious and mirthless and weak?

Their number one pick was Starship's "We Built This City." But everyone knew that was a terrible song, even when it came out, just like everyone knows that this Pink person is a horrible hack, or that J.Lo is only tolerated because of her startling ass. It's not very nuanced is what I'm saying. "We Built This City"? Come on. Where are the acts I've mocked before? Where is Toto? "Rosanna"? "Africa"? How about Neil Diamond (arguably not rock, I guess, but if we're talking not-rock, it's hard to get snitty when you're including Starship)? "America" is a deeply embarrassing song, if only for Diamond's frankly incredibly bombastic, leather-lunged delivery; and then there's "Heartlight," which sounds a lot like he's undergoing thoracic surgery. "Turn on your HEART LIGHT!" he screams, and I always expect him to continue, "Please remove THE BLOCKAGE!"

I don't really blame VH1 or this Blender rag for blowing off horrid music that is under their audience radar, as it would just cost them money. But I do get sad that some of our respected "alternative" or "indie" or "covered in piss" artists don't get recognized for their horrifying failures. No love for Tones On Tail's skeevy "Slender Fungus"? Come on! That's an abysmal song! "Slender fungus kiss the fish inside a stolen jeep." These lyrics are perhaps the reason that Bela Lugosi is dead.

Okay, forget it, fuck the nobodies. How about the legends? Are they represented? I doubt it. (I couldn't muster up the gumption to actually look at the whole list, so I don't know.) I'm willing to bet that the Rolling Stones weren't on there for things like "Turd on the Run," which sounds like it was recorded under an upturned iron bathtub, and oh, is also called "Turd on the Run." Or how about the sonic masterpiece of "She's A Rainbow," which is like a sonic itchy suit.

Led Zeppelin is forever responsible for "Immigrant Song," which sounds a lot like someone forced to recite Tolkein while being assaulted with a belt sander. "AAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!" Indeed! Tell me about the land of ice and snow. But at least Zep had a reputation for incredibly stupid songs, so it didn't really make any noticable dent.

The Doors? Eternally committed to vinyl is "The End," possibly the most hilarious example of unfortunate undergraduate prose ever committed to posterity. "I WANT TO KILL YOU!" Hey, that's interesting! I want to laugh at you! I like to imagine listening to this song with Sylvia Plath, and I imagine her going, "Jeez, what a tool. I want to live!" Then I play her the song again. "Scratch that, I'll die."

How about the infallible Beatles? No. You can blame a lot of horrible shit on Paul, such as, say, "She's Leaving Home," which would give anyone cavities, but John frequently fares no better. You can't tell me that "Revolution 9" is a real song any more than you can tell me that flip-flops are actually dress shoes. I'm pretty stupid, but come on. This is also the same band that countenanced "Piggies," a trenchant little ditty that managed to notice that some politicians are corrupt.

Even my favorite band of all time, The Who, recorded howlingly terrible songs. "Baba O'Reilly" is probably my favorite song of all time, but Jesus God: they were also responsible for puke-tastic "Cousin Kevin" or the unbelievably wretched "Christmas" (both off of Tommy), songs so worthless that even the band recognized were hair-raisingly horrible, and quietly didn't perform for years.

The whole thing is just silly (not that I mind silly). Part of the fun of these things is to shriek with disbelief at the noninclusions (and I again state that I didn't bother to read the whole thing). Where is John Parr? Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" was worse than the utterly reprehensible "To Kill A Hooker" by NWA? Deep Blue Something's utterly somnabulistic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was somehow more forgettable than Dada's no-cal song "Dizz Knee Land"? And how do you even try to compare thinglets like Chuck Berry's intolerable "My Ding-A-Ling" versus Kip Winger allegedly singing about "Madelaine"? You can't!

You can't do anything.

The best that you can do? The best that you can do? Is fall in love.

Wednesday, 02 June
Their Otis Wants To Party All The Time

Back to work today after five sweet days of freedom, and you can just call me Cap'n Ugh. Waking up at 7:00? Ugh. Feeling like death after drinking for eight hours the previous day? Ugh. Fielding calls about gastric tumors? CAP'N UGH! Fuck, I felt like a gastric tumor. Which doesn't go over well with co-workers. "Hey, Skot, how you doing?" "I feel like a gastric tumor." "Ugh!" "Yes, that's me, but please address me as 'Cap'n.' Honorifics are all I've got today."

We threw an overdue housewarming party on Memorial Day, you see, hence this week's excuse for drinking for eight hours. We planned everything perfectly! Except for the part where the condo also threw a big party for all the tenants to celebrate our new refurbished deck. Fuck. So right outside our sliding glass door was an enormous, slow-moving party attended by the various geriatrics who live around me, slowly conga-lining while waving their canes rapturously. And that guy in 4D! He really tarted up his iron lung for the occasion. Really, though, the best thing was watching my guests try and find our place: see, the condo party was based in the rec room next door to ours, so my guests kept wandering in there, mistaking it for our party, only to be confronted by people like Googly-Eyed Man Who Will Not Say Hello and Boisterous Board Member Who Wears Coconut Bikinis. Our guests soon realized their horrible mistake, and usually emerged looking rather shattered by the encounter, and I of course laughed at their misfortune. This may explain the utter lack of housewarming gifts.

The party went very well, and exceeded our every expectation, as I think 40 or 50 people cycled in and out before the evening was done. We had prepared a taco feed, with homemade margaritas and Bloody Marys, and these were all mercilessly pillaged with the unsurprising ferocity and raw speed you commonly find in a whole bunch of stage actors. Actors, you see, have no useful real-world talents, and thus tend to find themselves enmired in horrifying, unrewarding, low-paying jobs, and so tend to regard free food and booze in the same way that starving cougars think of free range babies. I'm generalizing, of course. Not all actors are dumb meat-golems who donate plasma every month in order to afford rice. Some are debauched, scabby deviants who somehow miraculously stumble into jobs that they are supremely undeserving of, yet through some manner of baffling hoodoo, manage to retain. I cite, of course, me.

Anyway. At some point, a couple of the wife's work-friends showed up, and they brought their little two-year-old Otis. (Normally, I wouldn't use his name, but come on, he's named Otis. That's outstanding.) Otis didn't really care about anything going on around him, least of all stuporous, fumbling adults, but did really enjoy this weird alligator toy that shimmies along the ground. He also enjoyed punching random buttons on my home electronics, which earned him a soft tackle from Dad, as he nearly reprogrammed my DVD player to endlessly loop "Thirteen Erotic Ghosts" with subtitles in Farsi. We attempted to fascinate the child by throwing on some DVDs of The Muppet Show, which he immediately dismissed in favor of more alligator shimmy-action, so that left the rest of us glumly watching Elton John singing "Crocodile Rock," at least until they showed closeups of Animal maniacally smashing his drum kit, which elicited cheers. I am deeply wary of anyone who doesn't like Animal.

Later, another friend decided to hook up the GameCube and play some Resident Evil. Weirdly, people enjoyed watching this as well, particularly when the player was savagely eaten by a zombie. It's kind of freaky watching an entire living room's worth of people get enthusiastic about arterial spray. Apparently tired of being hapless zombie-dinner, she switched to Spider-Man, and entertained us a bit longer by routinely making Spidey fall to his death with substandard webslinging skills. Finally, my friend C. took over the reins, and loaded in some awful Star Wars game I bought early on. I told him, "That one's really hard, dude." But C. was very confident. C. was also terribly mistaken, and I watched him plow several pixilated X-wing fighters into unforgiving earth.

Finally, the partygoers cleared out, one by one, and the wife and I puttered about, did some dishes, et cetera. Our next door neighbor--a very nice gay man--tottered over to our place to congratulate us on a nice event, and enthusiastically offered to help us out if we ever needed help "gardening"--a rather mystifying offer, considering that our deck is solid concrete, so I suppose he meant our wan, straining plants that sit blinking in their unflashy, crummy pots outside our door. To emphasize his depth of feeling on the matter, our neighbor (who was really quite crocked on red wine) kissed me enthusiastically on the cheek. "I'll buy the soil!" he muzzily assured me, waving vaguely at my horrible little plants. Oh, hot pants! You kiss me with that mouth?

Really, the whole evening was so dynamic and interesting, I've decided to immortalize it in a comic book. Look for the new title "Cap'n Ugh," distributed by Shimmying Alligator press. We've got this great editor. Otis.

You really can't go wrong with anyone named Otis. I just decided that.










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