skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Wednesday, 29 September
Today he stood by a recycling bin, feeling at the lid of the container and rattling it slightly, as if divining its contents. His white cane rested against the store wall, and he looked up into the air as always. When he heard my footsteps, he wheeled on me and I hate this guy.
Let me back up. There is a fellow, known to probably any long-term resident of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, who is (1) blind, and (2) perhaps homeless, but this is indeterminable, and (3) in the ultraviolet spectrum of "fucked up."
He can frequently be seen on Broadway, calling out to passersby, "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!" As he is obviously blind, this traps many people, who then sometimes quite helpfully--if they are new fish--accede to his outlandish requests, such as escorting him into stores to aid his shopping, which he will then ask for his victims to pay for. (When unaccompanied in stores, he simply enters and immediately begins shouting demands: "I need some tomato soup and some bread, please!") I have seen him get people to lead him into bars, where I can only assume he then presses them to buy him drinks.
When people walk right by him without acknowledging his cries for help, he delights in lobbing harangues after them: "Hey, that's great! Just ignore the blind man!"
I know this isn't painting me in the best light, but frankly I don't care any more. I'd feel worse in the grand liberal tradition if I thought the guy was radically unhinged, but really, I think he's just a titanic ass who exploits his disability at every single turn. Maybe he is homeless. Maybe he is a victim. Maybe he has mental problems (and here I see him aimlessly rattling at recycling bins again). But my impression is, he's just a big turd who won't leave my neighborhood.
I do know that I have no reason to disbelieve an old coworker of mine named M. (sorry, initial-haters, that's just the way it is), who had her own special encounter with the fellow. M. related the scene to me thusly:
M: I know that creepy blind fucker. He stopped me on the street once.
S: Why did you stop?
M: I didn't know who he was then. I felt bad because he was blind.
S: What did he want?
M: He wanted to give me fifty bucks to go back to his apartment.
S: You're joking.
M: You don't even know. His idea was that he would strip naked and then I was supposed to break albums on him.
S: (Pause) What?
M: He wanted me to break vinyl LPs on him while he jerked off.
Never has there been such a time where I really didn't know what to say. I staved off the urge to ask which LPs he had in mind. "First, Boston's second album! Then some Kurtis Blow, and we'll finish up with a nice Anita Baker!"
I hate him.
Tuesday, 28 September
This weekend's big marriage-related event was our friends G. and M. holding a party to renew their vows. It was all very fun and all, but I still wonder who fucked it so badly as to precipitate the event. Besides which, if I may nitpick, they didn't really renew their vows so much as write a couple of goddam new vows, which for me stank a bit of false advertising. I wanted dull, rote recitation of the old vows, with maybe a "And this time, we mean it!" stuck in at the end. But maybe it was for the best, and the old vows blew or were terribly embarrassing or something. "I promise never to watch John MacEnroe TV shows." "And I promise to stop clandestinely burying my face in your underwear drawer when you're out." "WHAT?"
G. and M. were resplendent in their finery, even if some of the guests were not. The theme was simple: wear red. Friend J. never got that message and showed up in earth tones; he rectified the situation by raiding the costume shop (for this took place at a previously described dingy theater) and coming up with a perfectly horrifying suit jacket whose crimson-paisley lining sort of fit the theme; it certainly red, and leered out from beneath the folds like some awful psychedelic tongue. [Disclosure: the suit jacket used to be mine, and I long ago donated the wretched thing to the theater. Distressingly, they actually used the fucking thing.]
K., for his part, appeared in a newly-purchased jumpsuit of confusing origin; it was far too small for him, and seemed to showcase his genitals in a frankly disturbing way, particularly when he sat down. (At one point, I saw his girlfriend K. reach over and give his member a companionable squeeze, causing me to refresh my drink.) The overall effect of the garment--and K.'s hair, which he had sculpted into a deliberately eerie Dennis the Menace tribute--was really quite arresting, especially considering that K.'s body type is something like one of those Punching Nun puppets: a central skinny stick sporting two wildly flailing arms. He looked like an inmate escaped from Prop Comedy Penitentiary.
And then of course there was A., who simply shoved himself into a red t-shirt and denim overalls, and stood around placidly, missing only a strand of wheat to chew on. One expects this sort of thing from A.--sartorial inexuberance being the least of it--which is reliably charming. One of my favorite stories about A. involves him noisily vomiting in some bushes; when friend E. tells the story, he employs some really terriffic sound effects, something like: HRRRrrrRRRR! HRRRrrrrRRR!
After a while, we settled down with our drinks and the show got underway. It was a pretty simple affair, if, at times, baffling. Limericks seemed to be a running joke, as many were told (none particularly funny or even Nantucket-y); a version of "White Wedding" was enthusiastically howled; and our friend L. delivered quite a lovely reading of Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat," diligently emphasizing the word PUSSY whenever it came up, which was, happily, often.
Then we got to the vows. M. delivered hers to G. pretty much straight, and they were sweet as all vows are--standard "Awwww!" stuff. (Not to demean them. "Awwww!" is a perfectly valid tone to strike.) Then G. came up, prefacing his comments with the observation: "I can tend to be a little geeky." This elicited some laughter of agreement: G. is a forensic toxicologist. We waited to see how geeky G. could possibly be. We didn't have to wait long. Here's what he got out before the entire room erupted into laughter for thirty seconds:
"A molecule . . . "
Pandemonium. I clamored for G. to stop right there, as it couldn't possibly get any better than that, but in the chaos, I was ignored. You have to give it up to anyone who start his renewal vows this way, but G. wasn't done. After a while, the laughter subsided, and G. gave a very lovely speech likening marriage to paired nucleotides, saying at one point, "Your adenine perfectly matches my guanine."
Everyone is going to think I made that up, but I did not. It made me so happy and into the spirit of the thing, I wanted right there to joyously run around and give everyone a celebratory fine needle aspirate for pathological analysis. "Hurrah! Hurrah! G. incorporated genetic dorkery into his renewal vows!" I would shout. "Oh, and Mrs. Bandersnatch, I'm afraid you have pharyngeal cancer. Anyway, huzzzah!"
Finally, the ceremony gave way to the post-vow celebration, and tragically, there was karaoke involved. I have written before about how my friends are horribly skilled at the art of karaoke subversion--in fact, I'm assuming this was the intent of having it--and this was no exception. I'll say it again: there is nothing that you have ever witnessed that can prepare you for malicious, shameless actors bent on completely strafing your favorite pop songs with deliberately ghastly renderings.
V., who may be the queen of this foul art, was the first to act, and she re-enacted a legendary crime by tackling "Bette Davis Eyes," which I have also previously wrote about. In true form, she waved her arms witchily about while her vocals screamed and whooped about the small space, like attacking harpies. It's truly beyond description what the woman can do: at one moment she evokes LeAnne Rimes suffering a debilitating inner ear disability, and then before you can recover, she's intoning the next line as an earnest Rod Steiger piece of dialogue. It's impossible to reproduce in print. Not that that ever stopped me from trying.
"Alllll the BOOOOOYYS think she's a [swoop into gutteral hiss] spyyyyyyyyy/ She's got [Borgninian pause. then an evangelical CALL TO GAWD] BETTE DAVIS EEEEEYYYYYYES!" Put that all together with some Stevie Nicks twirls and a couple hiii-ya! leg kicks and you've got . . . something. Birds have been seen to die when V. does karaoke.
K. and E. of course had to enter into things, and performed a simply murderous version of, God help everyone, "Gangsta's Paradise." K. took on the unglorious rap duties--this is, after all, Coolio--and acquainted himself with the typical misery of a Boston white guy attempting to take on even the lamest rap lyrics. However, his orange jumpsuited resplendence helped distract from his skillz, while E. growled out the chorus in a baffling, gruff accent of unknown origin--perhaps E. was paying tribute to the rich contributions of the Basque people to rap music. At any rate, the whole thing ended with an alarming scene where E. mounted the prone K. and simulated anal sex, which, let's face it, is a pretty stale act when it comes to dingy-theater-situated-vow-renewal-ceremonies. It's just played.
A good time had by all. I do wish G. and M. the very best, and since they continue to hang out with people like, well, us . . . they will need it. See you in ten years or so. We've got plenty of jumpsuits.
Friday, 24 September
I Continue To Prejudge Movies
Sports movies are almost always disasters; exceptions like Raging Bull and Bull Durham only emphasize this. (Apparently, if you're making a sports movie, take care to include the word "bull" in your title. Perhaps "Ryan Leaf's Horribe Bullshit Crimes Against Humanity" is a viable project.) This film looks like a bare notch up from such fare as Major League, which is faintest praise at best. It clearly depends on the questionable star power of Bernie Mac, who, while not actively horrible--though I have not seen his sitcom--does not fill one with hope. In the ads, Chris Noth looks entertainingly greasy and weird, but that's a more David Lynchian kind of effect that the film was probably aiming for. Like going to see a Broadway production of "Annie" and then noticing that Daddy Warbucks really has no eyeballs.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
A film that will surely benefit from nonexistent expectations. "Well, that wasn't even close to the worst thing I've ever seen in my life! Huzzah!" Sort of like those old episodes of "Moonlighting" when Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis attempted to create chemistry. It was kind of charming in that "Holy Jesus, this is going to be terrible" kind of way.
Nobody on earth will see this movie, and I refuse to acknowledge otherwise.
Kim Basinger preserves a long tradition of mediocre actors who win an improbable Oscar and then who go on to making awful films here. See also Undeserving Award Recipients such as Helen Hunt and the forever cursed Marisa Tomei, who is actually not horrible, but has become the default mascot for Death Oscars.
Apparently, the same mook who wrote Phone Booth also wrote this pile of hooey, as a sort of weird "I boringly see, or perhaps manipulate, both sides of this equation!" As a comment on, well, anything, I'm probably not getting it.
But then again, I thought Sky Captain was a big ball of dumb fun, so what do I know?
Wednesday, 22 September
What A Time That Was
Like a lot of people, summer jobs during college are not that unusual. After all, I had to defray some of the costs of attending school, such as profligate drinking and unlooked-at textbooks. And my deadbeat parents sure weren't helping, what with their incessant whining about $10K+ a year tuition and so forth--thanks for nothing, Mom and Dad. What, a third mortgage would have killed you? So I worked. Like a dog. A really lazy dog.
My main job during a couple summers was with the good people at the US Forest Service, whose mission seems to be, "Jesus, we've got to sell these fucking forests!" To that end, I worked what was called "Class III P-line Survey." This typical bit of jargon meant: "Go out and figure out what kind of a living bitch it will be to build timber roads for logging." Logging in Idaho is, unsurprisingly, a rather heated topic, and it was totally unremarkable at the time (and probably now) to see prominent bumper stickers (modern America's version of political broadsheets) with the words "I Love Spotted Owls . . . For DINNER!" I dealt with this sort of incendiary rhetoric by mostly not caring, a cherished skill amongst teenagers everywhere. Every now and then I'd get a pang of anger and think, "That's fucked up!" Then I'd get distracted by something else, like actually getting fucked up.
But the job was pretty good for me. We worked "four tens," Monday through Thursday, all out in the field in a camper with no shower or toilet, so you can imagine how we smelled when we came home at the end of the week. There were always four of us, the supervisor and three gormless boneheads. I am ashamed to say that I remember hardly anyones' names, save for the supervisor, whose name was R. R. was a good boss, diligent about keeping good hours, but also making sure people were rested and safe. R. did have some various neurological tics both motor and sensory that made him interesting, however. A compulsive smoker, he was given to tapping his unlit smoke on any available surface to tamp the tobacco down, which sometimes included our skulls. I have since occasionally tried this method on the wife, who is less than appreciative. The first time it happened to me--TAP! TAP! TAP! as he bounced the cigarette off my skull nonchalantly--I thought he was coming on to me with some weird bonding ritual. Later I learned to ignore it. His other strange habit was to idly blast out weird little rhyming raplets whose provenances were unknown. One that sticks in my memory that he blurted out while playing Spades one night--we played Spades constantly--went:
Johnny had zippers on his sleeves
I never asked about stuff like this, because I assumed he'd actually try to explain it.
I'd like to say I remember the other people who worked with me on the job, but their names are forever lost to me. One guy, a nice fellow with a relaxed temperament, I knew spent most of his spare time selling drugs--I knew this because I was occasionally a customer--and there was a girl as well, who distinguished herself by complaining to me a couple times about the motorcycles we'd have to ride out in the field to get to our destinations. "I hate those fucking things," she'd say. "They make my snatch buzz."
Road surveying is a really boring thing to do. What happens is, someone decides they want to build a road into some fucking desolate place, and they refer to geographic maps to etch out where, roughly, the thing could go. Thats where we come in; we would go out there, map out the "center line"--the center of the road--and then take 90-degree measurements every 25-50 yards to fine-tune the geography. So every 25-50 yards, one person would go up the hill and one down (because they are always on hills) to take azimuth and elevation measurements on a 90-degree angle from the planned road, and you would take those measurements also at 10, 25, 50 foot increments. So in other words, two people monitoring the center line would stay on the planned road line, and then the other two luckless fucks would dash up and/or down a slope to take multiple measurements up/down to the center line, calling out figures as one went. Then, twenty-five feet later, you'd do it again.
More than any college course, this job taught me about what it is to be a functional adult. It's so great that you've taken a course in Renaissance Art, it told me. When you're done fucking around, we need you to run all over this godforesaken hillside and take measurements for future timber contracts.
I don't mean to sound bitter. I'm really not. In fact, I know I'm very lucky to be where I'm at. I don't even know what I mean. I didn't even write any of it thinking it was very funny. And I left a bunch of stuff out, like the time it snowed in July and we played cards all day ("No one on my watch is breakin' an ankle"), or the time where we stayed up until 4 a.m. watching a lightning storm create tiny, beautiful forest candleflames that we would the next morning go chase down and try and put out.
Johnny had zippers on his sleeves
Tuesday, 21 September
They Them Wed
On Friday, the wife and I attended the wedding of friends L. and K. They had rented out the Lake Union Cafe for the night, a swankyish place I hadn't been before. Said swank was somewhat nullified at the end of the evening by our parking place, which being directly below a portion of I-5 some height above, left our already-hideous little Honda befouled with dirty road drippings. Needless to say, we haven't bothered to wash it, but instead are content to continue driving the awful, filthy gnomelike beast on in ignominy.
As for the wedding, this was the SEATTLE RAWKS! entry in our nuptial roster, and so we found ourselves sitting with many musicians, who are easily identifiable by the apparently timeless practice of simply refusing to comb their hair. (The male ones, anyway.) These guys put on some nice respectable suits, shave, shine their shoes; but yet, because the Power of Rock has an inverse relationship with follicular kemptness, their hair always looks as if they had all gotten down on hands and knees and furiously rubbed their skulls into the ground.
(Here I could make a digression about rock stars who started to suck once all their hair came off, like Billy Corgan, but the argument would be diluted by the inescapable fact that Billy Corgan always sucked.)
After the mercifully brief ceremony, which really consisted mostly of the marble-mouthed guy who ran it--everything pointed to an Internet-based priesthood here--assuring the bride and groom that they were groovy, interesting people embarking on their big fucking journey of discovery and wonder and all that . . . you know, the stuff that everyone hears at any wedding, including mine. (It's a good thing I didn't think of this when I wrote my vows. "Darling, I'm so stoked about this big fucking journey of discovery and shit . . .") It's just one of the rules of weddings, just like the little kid who has to totter down the aisle artlessly dropping clumps of flower petals on people's shoes.
But like I say, it was creditably short, and before you knew it, everyone was standing up and clapping while the bride and groom chastely kissed; the musicians batted nervously at their heads with sticks to maintain the frenziedness of their coifs. Then after the wedding party split, the polite DASH TO THE OPEN BAR began. (Great. A wedding with an open bar where a large portion of the guests are theater people and rock musicians. The whole idea was so fraught with insanity that I immediately had two drinks just to put it out of my mind.)
And then of course the food, which everyone looks forward to criticizing. What can you ever say? It's wedding food, and unless you're loaded, it's just banquet food, which is a euphemism for cafeteria food. Hey, crostini! Bread with . . . stuff piled on it! Hey, smoked ahi! It's smoked so it won't rot! Hey, teriyaki chicken! It's teriyaki chicken! Everyone! Teriyaki chicken!
There is honestly nothing meaningful anyone can say about teriyaki chicken except to simply acknowledge its physical existence. It's not bad. It's not good. It just exists, like gravity. "Hey, whatcha eating?" "Teriyaki chicken." "Huh." "Yeah." "Is it . . . good?" (Pause.) "It's teriyaki chicken. You know." "Yeah."
Finally, the real deal of the night, the dancing. Now I'm no dancer; in fact I suspect I resemble a palsied mime, but I also know that nobody thinks they are a good dancer, except for women, who are all dynamite dancers because they don't give a fuck. They just dance, and everyone else can eat shit. It's kind of cool. But anyway, since as I mention, the place was lousy with musicians, the band was, atypically for weddings, fantastic. Not that they had pretensions or anything; they didn't turn it into their own Very Special Wedding Concert, but rather, just enthusiastically played fucking great songs really well. Chris Friel was yelling at people constantly to get out on the dance floor, and how can you resist when the opening chords of "Billie Jean" start honking out and the players are all loving it? Or--call me a sap--who doesn't want to dance with his gal when Kim Virant is up absolutely belting out "Maybe I'm Amazed"?
Suckers, that's who. I mean, fine, ironic distance and all that, and it exists in me to a degree, and it even has its place at times (though twenty years of misuse have taken their toll on good old I.D.), but Jesus Christ, it's just kind of sad when the band kicks in with (my favorite choice, especially for a wedding) "Another One Bites the Dust," and all you can do is sit around smirking. Well, fine, smirk away, weirdo; I'm gonna go out there and jerk my limbs around and grin. Just like that little tiny guy over there, with the frosted hair and the manic spasms that I recognize as a fellow sufferer of Crappy Dancer Syndrome? Dance like an ass, Mike McCready! I sure am.
Thursday, 16 September
All of our friends are apparently STEALING OUR IDEA. A while ago, the wife and I decided to get married, and now everyone is copying us. Jesus, people, be original! Buy a potbellied pig or take up macrame or send taunting letters to the FBI. Getting married is so lame now; we totally had the idea first.
This is apparently our year to endure the things. We already went to one earlier in the summer, which was held in a perfectly lovely boathouse thing, replete with full Western exposure, giving everyone present a grand view of the shimmering water, the gorgeous sunset, and the stroke-inducing summer heat. Everyone, including the bride and groom, felt like bugs scurrying around under a gigantic magnifying glass, as if the ceremony was a particularly cruel panel out of "Calvin & Hobbes."
On Friday, we've got another one; a friend of the wife is getting hitched to a local musician--the wife and said friend also spent many years hanging out with bands, which I refer to as the "groupie years," irritating the wife to no end--and so I am promised many ostensible celebrity sightings. People like, say, Stone Gossard or Jeff Ament or the shambling corpse of Layne Staley.
(Who I actually met years ago, working retail. We could make conversation!
Skot: So. Layne Staley, huh?
Shambling Corpse of Layne Staley: (gnawing rattily on overcooked shrimp) Yuh.
Skot: You probably remember me from a few years ago. I sold you some pillows and shit that one time.
Skot: So . . . any new projects? Or stuff? Like . . . you need . . . I don't know . . . a guy on tambourine or something? I could be your man.
Skot: I'M IN THE BAND! I'M IN THE BAND!
That would be pretty cool.)
Not that I would recognize any of these guys anyway (except for Layne Staley, being a corpse and all). I guess I'll try and look for the guys who just have that "rock dude" vibe about them, that vibe that always makes me think of strangely pampered undertakers: they seem privileged and aloof, but there's some earthy stink of gloom always haunting them.
"Is that Mark Arm?" I'll say to the wife, pointing at some sallow creature uncomfortably inhabiting a bad suit.
The wife will roll her eyes. "No. I think that's L.'s uncle. He works in insurance."
"L.'s uncle is Mark Arm? He looks terrible!" This is where the wife will stop talking to me, and I'll spend the rest of the evening casing the joint, and accusing random strangers of being Chris Walla.
On Saturday, we are attending an event where a friend-couple of ours are renewing their vows. This is charming, I suppose, if a little . . . I don't know . . . soon? They are lovely people, but around our age, so it kind of makes me want to ask, "Hey, uh . . . so what happened that you have to renew the vows? Come on, spill. Who fucked up?" Then, hopefully, I would be treated to a tearful rant about how one party cheated on the other, or failed to feed the dog properly, or committed mail fraud. Whatever.
"G., do you promise to love and cherish M. for the rest of your days?"
"And to not invent bogus internet personas?"
"Look, Kaycee just started as a goof, really, I . . . "
"And not to invent bogus internet personas?"
And then two weeks after the vow-wow, the wife and I hit another ceremony, this time for her friend M. and his Mystery Fiancee. Nobody seems to have met her. M. is a fine fellow, and I would say that even if he weren't close to seven feet tall and perfectly capable of picking his teeth with my femur. He just apparently met this person and it all clicked or whirred or purred or gasped interestingly or whatever; and now they're getting married. Naturally, everyone is excited to have a look at the bride, if only to assure themselves that M. hasn't gone off his nut with drink and decided to wed, say, trickster god Loki, or perhaps some clever, sentient yak.
Given our very strange friends, anything could play out. Perhaps, one day, after realizing that being undead was kind of a crappy existence, the shambling corpse of Layne Staley would be looking for love. And in this state, he could meet up, quite innocently, with the clever, sentient yak (who herself is getting a little tired of the shaving regimen she has to maintain). They'd go for coffee, talking haltingly at first, and then animatedly. Eventually, they'd fall in love, and the clever, sentient yak would leave M. for SCoLS--M. would be heartbroken, but would soon find happiness in buying a potbellied pig.
Finally, there would be one last ceremony to attend, presided over, of course, by Loki.
Loki: "Do you, Shambling Corpse of Layne Staley, take this clever, sentient yak as your wife?"
Loki: "And do you, clever sentient yak, also so swear?"
CSY: (Lowing happily) "I do. HRRRRAAAAAWWW!"
Loki: "Then I now pronounce you corpse and yak. You may tug affectionately on her teats."
Loki: "Now let us celebrate with . . . burritos! Some of them I have shat in!"
Crowd: (Less enthusiastically) "Er . . . huzzah!"
And I'll be off in the corner with the wife, beaming. Why?
I'M IN THE BAND! I'M IN THE BAND!
Tuesday, 14 September
For at least a couple weeks now, when walking home from work, I have been subject to the profoundly horrifying experience of hearing The Bangles' "Eternal Flame" in my head, over and over. Whether there is some unknown somatic trigger on my walk that I am unaware of or simply a troubling disorder of organic nature, this cannot continue. Why? Why this suffocating, mephitic song? Strong measures are called for. Tomorrow I will begin loudly singing The Fixx. If that doesn't work, I'll have to call in the big guns, like say Richard Marx, or, God forbid, Rush. I'll do what it takes.
Friday, 10 September
To continue with the Cruisectomy, it occurs to me that some people might get the idea that I simply don't like Tom Cruise much as an actor. Which I confess is true. I grant that he looks dynamite in front of a camera, is technically proficient, and frequently has an engaging manner, but you can also say these things about people like Ann Richards, or Lassie. Look what it got those two.
Cruise is less an actor than some weird, pervasive phenomenon that has assumed some sort of unkillable social currency; his female analogue would be Julia Roberts, whose tiny bag of Actor Tricks rivals Cruise's for its astonishing shallowness and superficiality. That Roberts won acclaim for Erin Brockovich would be purely astounding if not for the associated cred of director Soderbergh, whose legitimacy apparently rewarded a performance that was one degree removed from that of Flo. Kiss her grits! She's got an Oscar!
Having gained some improbable credibility from Rain Man--was it a dry Levinsonian joke that Cruise's character was introduced with the song "Iko Iko"?--Cruise made his real bid for Cap'n Oscar with Born on the Fourth of July, a movie that I have happily never seen. Unfortunately, I did see the dreadful Bruce Willis catastrophe In Country, and they seem to be nearly the same story, so I will simply ignore the fact that this film was ever made.
Next up was another Bruckheimer/Simpson horror, a retread of Top Gun called Days of Thunder, which everyone pointed out was simply the Air Force moved to a NASCAR venue. Written by the briefly talented Robert Towne in his free-fall career stage and directed by indefatigable hack Tony Scott . . . oy. I don't know how to finish that sentence. Nobody on earth went to see this movie.
Then was Far and Away. Which is exactly where audiences sensibly remained. Nobody on earth went to see this movie either, despite Ron Howard's attempts to shove heather and burnished wood into every scene.
Sensing doom, I think Cruise then must have decided to bank on an easy winner, and found it in the hilariously clunky Aaron Sorkin project A Few Good Men. This military potboiler--directed, incredibly, by the previously sensible Rob Reiner--throws midlevel stars at the camera willy-nilly (Hey, it's that guy! Hey, it's that other guy!"), mostly to distract the viewer from the troubling fact that for the first time in her career, Demi Moore fails to take off her shirt. Sorkin's awkward scripting doesn't help much either--"I want the truth!" now being a comedic infield error--nor does the fact that journeyman Kevin Bacon makes eveyone else look kind of stupid and inept. Demi! Quick! Take your shirt off!
The Firm. What to say? John Grisham is to writing as Sidney Pollack is to directing: they both deserve Tom Cruise. Pollack actually pulled off something remarkable in that he managed to make a film exactly as long, dreary and unsuspenseful as the original novel (Actual line from the book: "Damn, they wanted him."). Whenever I go to empty the garbage and catch a whiff from the dumpster, I think of this movie.
Mission Impossible, a typical Brian DePalma mess, was troublesome. It combined some really great action sequences with an utterly incomprehensible storyline, with a by now totally rote Cruise performance as Indestructible Beautiful Guy. That this movie has many websites as it does protesting about its brilliance is, in my mind, the most damning thing about the movie. If I have to closely read bloggers telling me what the fuck went on in a given movie, it failed. And just so you know, I'm not even going to talk about the horrifying John Woo sequel, which was abominable, and if that's not obvious, then I fold.
In fact, I'm getting tired of all of this. It's depressingly easy to make fun of this guy, and it's also depressingly a tired topic. Tom Cruise? It's like taking on the Vatican: You can write and write and write, but really, who cares? Tom Cruise is forever part of our lives; there's nothing I can do to change that.
Jerry Maguire? I haven't seen it. I don't care.
Magnolia? A ghastly mess. So many friends disagree with me on this. While Cruise Respects His Cock, Jason Robards outacts him by lying around dying. How humiliating.
Let's not even discuss Vanilla Sky, a movie so stupid it seems to wonder when Gallagher is going to show up to smash some melons.
I know I'm leaving out Cruise's latest films like The Last Samurai--which I don't believe anyone on Earth, again, ever saw; and Collateral, which I feel that nobody will.
This whole thing petered out pretty badly, I know. I don't know what to say. I got tired.
So why didn't Tom Cruise?
Thursday, 09 September
I was just watching a rerun of a Daily Show that I hadn't seen due to Olympic nonfever, and it featured an interview with Tom Cruise. What a toothsome bantam! I decided that, over the years, this fellow has received more than his share of jabs and insults, and I realized, Man, I'm way behind. So here I give a very abbreviated overview of Mr. Cruise's film career.
Cruise began with a dinky role in Endless Love, a movie that dared to ask the question, "If I show Brooke Shields fucking, will that make up for her acting?" Though the answer was an unqualified "NO!", nothing ever stopped Zeffirelli from making his terrible movies anyway.
No, Mr. Cruise first caught everyone's eye in Taps, where he first hit upon his dramatic technique of indicating raw intensity by clenching his throat muscles. Clench, Tom, clench! Pretend you're eating from the craft services table!
After Taps came a movie that I'm sure made sense to everyone (read: no one): Losin' It, a tepid sex comedy with . . . Shelley Long. I can only assume that this project was the brainchild of some incredibly willful pervert who browbeat every dumb development nerd in Hollywood into something like catatonia. "Yes . . . Jesus . . . shoot your horrible movie . . . just get out of my office . . . " Interestingly, the movie was directed by Curtis Hanson, later of LA Confidential fame (a bona fide really good movie), as well as 8 Mile. I think I'd lay awake at nights pondering a career which saw me describing the decidedly strange arc from Shelley Long to Eminem; I imagine myself drawing weird, abstract shapes as I connected the cultural footnote-dots in my brain.
Cruise of course hit it big with Risky Business, really just another sex comedy, albeit a clever one, where he creates a brothel out of his own house while his folks are away. I'm pretty sure the infamous "sex on the subway" scene with Rebecca DeMornay also had a lot to do with this film's success. In retrospect, the film is interesting for a couple reasons: one, it's slightly baffling that one of the most famous lines from the movie contains the uninspiring phrase "What the fuck?", and two, Rebecca DeMornay is still pretty hot. How the fuck old is she?
Moving along, there was the relative failure of All the Right Moves, which was clearly not in any way. Cruise plays a steeltown jock from the wrong side of the tracks and hey hey, everyone's bored! If I recall correctly, he gets the dubious honor of putting the wood to Lea Thompson, a strenuously incompetent actress. This wouldn't be the first time Cruise had to endure a blandly pretty placeholder as a love interest.
Next was Legend, which I can barely even think about. Tim Curry was in there somewhere, with hilarious rubber devil horns, and Cruise I think shook weary locks a lot. Horrible. It needed more Oompa-Loompas.
If Risky Business set Cruise up for stardom, it was Top Gun that cemented his career. And I do mean "cemented," mainly with a gigantic shot of implied male ejaculate. An ode to men who work hard, play hard and generally stay hard, this homoerotic hooey was a shockingly huge hit, and doomed us to the evil reign of Simpson/Bruckheimer for years to come. I'm still waiting for the Platinum Edition of this horrendous turkey to come out, featuring the loving mutual fellatio scene between Maverick and Iceman. Maybe Goose is even in there to give a helpful reacharound. Meanwhile, Kelly McGillis sits in the greenroom drafting prenups.
The Color of Money: While one can argue that Cruise has nothing to do here--and he doesn't--he certainly does nothing enthusiastically. When your role is mostly remembered for singing "Werewolves of London" while dancing with a pool cue, perhaps you deserve it. On the other hand, I might be dinging him unfairly for exhibiting pure common sense. It's possible that he was simply getting the fuck out of the way of Paul Newman, in which case, maybe the guy isn't as dumb as I thought.
Next up was Cocktail, which is of course supremely horrible. Cruise here is improbably outacted by Bryan Brown, the Aussie actor you may remember from such fims as F/X and, uh, Cocktail. Not good. In this film, Cruise gets to stick it to Elisabeth Shue, who is only mildly more interesting than, well, a shoe.
After Cocktail, Cruise teamed up with Barry Levinson for Rain Man, a bit of naked Oscar bait for Dustin Hoffman, who played the remarkably functional autistic. Cruise shrewdly stood aside while Hoffman essentially welded two performances together: Brad Dourif's indelible Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest combined with Hoffman's own gaze-down work in The Graduate sufficed to make Rain Man an icon. Cruise was again smart enough to get the fuck out of the way, to his credit, and spent most of the film deferring to the Golden Retard. It was to be another brilliant choice.
Christ, this guy has made a lot of pictures. Let's pick this back up tomorrow. Plus, this will give much-needed time for people to yell at me.
Wednesday, 08 September
Hi, howdy, hi, and all that shit! Have a good weekend? I did. Nice and relaxing. I think my favorite part was hanging out and my friend K.'s, and he became disgusted with a package of corn tortillas (we were making tacos); I think they smelled funny or something--I wouldn't know, as I was eating flour tacos. Anyway, K. was most dissatisfied with his flatbread purchase and suddenly yelled at me, "DUCK!" Then he hurled them at my head. Fortunately, my unearthly reflexes kicked in, and I did duck, and they sailed over my head through K.'s fourth-floor balcony door and gracefully fell to the pavement below, landing with a lonely-sounding DAP. K.'s girlfriend K. covered her eyes at this sadly typical display of tortilla discontent--this was by no means the first thing she had ever seen hurled furiously into the street--while K. (the former) and I entertained ourselves briefly by watching cars run over the discarded corn-disks. Not for very long, really, though. It wasn't like they were getting much flatter. It's just fun watching cars run over stuff, even mundane things like substandard taco shells.
Not so much fun is watching cars run over things that are precious to you, like, say, you. As a person who walks to work, this nearly happens to me, oh, I think nearly EVERY FUCKING DAY. I say nearly, of course, because I have so far managed not to be run over, but it's only despite the best, most enthusiastic efforts of Seattle's frankly incredibly shit-blind drivers. I could fill a lot of space with stories of my near-hits. (Seriously, Seattle drivers: an awful lot of you are real fuckballs, and I sincerely hope many of you die in exotically unpleasant scenarios involving things like starved boars.)
Most stories, unfortunately, about walking around being menaced by cars, observing local fauna excreting, etc., are pretty boring. Including these. Enjoy!
Every morning, I am forced to cross Olive Way, which at the I-5 overpass is a one-way road where two lanes veer off onto the freeway onramp. Needless to say, cars aren't real fucking enthused about gearing down to let people cross the onramp entrance, despite the clearly posted crosswalk, so I routinely have to scamper across the road to avoid being crushed by the accursed commuters every morning and afternoon. You get used to it, but it certainly instills a singular loathing for the zooming parade of bastards who ignore you waiting to cross the fucking road.
One morning I began to cross (with cars oncoming but down the road a bit), and I failed to correctly judge the outlandish speed that one small car was approaching at. The next thing I knew, the damn sporty little can had squealed to a screeching halt mere feet from my knees, scaring the helpless loafs of shit nearly right out of me. (Bear in mind that the bloody assholes are supposed to stop anyway.) Then--then!--the tiny little silver fucking douchecar emitted this unbelievably horrible noise--BLAAAAAP!
The fuckette--for it was a woman--was honking at me. For crossing the street. At a crosswalk. At which she was hurtling at barely subsonic speed. Well, that was it. In a truly reptilian display of limbic outrage, I wheeled on the car and let fly with my lit cigarette at the windshield, whose trajectory was remarkably flat for such an aerodynamically challenged item. It bounced off the glass feebly, and I screamed, "FUCK YOU!" I was dimly pleased to see the woman flinch, probably fearing that I was going to crawl into her car like a mythical, horrid onramp incubus and violate her in some awfully specific way.
I felt bad about this later--a little bit--I mean, freaking women out is not something I strive for on a daily basis. But maybe this one deserved it . . . a little bit?
Walking to work, as I mentioned before, also entails on a regular basis seeing things like people relieving themselves on the streets. At least in most urban settings. I barely register it any more, except in kind of a "Gee, I sure hope that peeing guy doesn't talk to me." Sometimes they do. "Hey, you got any change?" Uh . . . no. Please don't vengefully pee on me. But hey, you know, people gotta pee.
But perhaps not . . . well . . . inventively. Another day, this time on my way home from work, a fellow was taking a piss right outside the Capitol Hill library. His technique was, ah, innovative. Rather than the usual "huddle against a wall, go to it" method, this man rewrote the rules. He was standing near the sidewalk, his pants around his knees, and he was bent over at the waist. He had tucked his dick in between his legs, Jame Gumb style, so his dick was pointing backwards under his ass and clenched between his thighs, and his urine described an unlovely parabola from its point of origin directly onto the sidewalk. His female companion watched this display clinically, and they gabbled incomprehensibly, exchanging baffling syllables animatedly. I wondered if David Lynch was directing a scat video, and hurried along, despite the realization that even that would be better than Mulholland Drive.
The final tale to relate rests on the sorta-kinda reputation that Seattle has for its laughably strict no-jaywalking laws. For years I heard tales of people getting cited for UNLAWFUL STREET CROSSING, mostly of the friend-of-a-friend type, so I never gave them much credence. Until one morning.
I was waiting at a light as I made my way to work; traffic was minimal at best. Olive and Bellevue was deader than a thousand corpses, and so I made my way across, not noticing the cop car idling at the light behind me. He pulled up alongside me with full lights and a BLAP on the siren; already I was filled with disdain. Oh, for God's sake, I thought. I'm public enemy number nine hundred and five.
"You know why I pulled you over?" he asked. I refrained from letting him know that I was already on the sidewalk. Where was he going to "pull me over"? Into someone's apartment?
"I guess because I walked against the signal," I said. I noted sadly that he had alongside him, at seven in the morning, a Subway sandwich larded with pepperoncinis. I mastered the urge to ask him how his divorce proceedings were going.
"Yep. That's seventy-four dollars, you know." He said this in flat tones that mirrored the state of his depressing sandwich.
"I'm sure sorry," I replied. "I was just trying to get to work. I'm a few minutes late."
He seemed to survey me for a few moments, trying to gauge my smartass factor, which, when it comes to cops, is nil. Why fuck them around? It's only going to mean woe.
He said, "Would you have done that if you'd have seen me first?"
This struck me as really puzzling. Would I have crossed illegally had I noticed the cop car? Of course not. (Lord knows I'm too much of a moron to be trusted with something as complicated as crossing the fucking street on my own, officer! I need the government's aid for this perplexing task!) He seemed to be asking whether or not I was just a feeb or some kind of loony anarchist street-crosser.
"No, sir, I don't think so," I replied. "Like I say, I was just in a hurry to get to work." Like most of us are murdering ourselves to get into the office.
He scowled at me like the SCUMBAG I OBVIOUSLY WAS. Then he said, weirdly, "Seventy-four dollars!" again, as a further warning. And took off.
This is like the most petty thing ever, but my Christ . . . that cop has inspired me to walk on every stupid light I ever see.
Friday, 03 September
Here There Be Unsubtlety
[The wife, who is the head of teaching at a local preschool, recently had a chance to acquaint herself with a new hire: staunch Democrat Senator Zell Miller! Senator Miller spent the day meeting the children and making sure they didn't kill each other unless, of course, it was good for America. I took the opportunity to take a day off from not curing cancer to be a fly on the wall for his first day. Here's my transcription of the events that day.]
Wife: Kids, I'd like you to meet Senator Zell Miller. He's going to be teaching you today. Can you say hello to the Senator?
Kids: (In unison): HELLO, SEMAPHORE MILLER!
Miller: Hi kids! I'm sure looking forward to spending time with you today! I brought you some buttons to wear. Do you boys like buttons?
Girl: I like buttons.
Miller: I was asking the boys. Nobody likes pushy lesbians, dear.
Wife: Senator . . .
Miller: AH HA HA HA! A small joke, dear! My apologies. I'll be on the straight and narrow today, don't worry. (The wife exits after a suspicious look. Once she's gone:) Just kidding, children. Nobody likes lesbians at all.
Boy: What's a lesbian?
Miller: Son, I'm glad you asked. Have you ever seen a Godzilla movie?
Miller: Then you've seen a lesbian. Horrible, scaly monsters, they are.
Girl: (Confused) Are the Japanese people lesbians?
Miller: Probably. Anyway, let's get down to brass tacks! What's going on here?
Boy: I have to go to the bathroom.
Miller: Son, I like your initiative. You haul ass to the bathroom.
Boy: There's someone in there, though. (He clutches his groin dramatically.)
Miller: (Sternly) Nothing makes this Marine madder than an occupied bathroom. (His jaw sets defiantly; it may be lockjaw.) We are going to liberate that fucking bathroom.
Girl: (Squealing) That's a bad word!
Miller: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, young lady. And we are going to liberate the shit out of that bathroom! Our boy's gotta squat!
(Miller kicks down the door to the bathroom with a mighty blow. There is a five-year-old child inside perched uncertainly on the toilet.)
(Miller flings the screaming child through the bathroom window. Shattered glass explodes outward, and the wailing becomes slightly fainter, replaced by agonized groans. Miller plants a flag into the toilet bowl and adopts an Iwo Jima stance.)
Miller: Fuck you, Jim Carrey.
Boy: Do you mean John Kerry?
Miller: I don't even know any more.
(The Wife enters, terrified.)
Wife: Senator Miller! You have to do something! We're being attacked! By Mothra! It's eaten three children! (Pause.) Fortunately, they were really irritating children.
Miller: My work is never done. Aides! Prepare the catapult!
Wife: What will you use for ammo?
Miller: We have plenty of children. Many of them are quite heavy.
Wife: That's horrible! What on earth are you going to tell their parents?
Miller: They can always make some more Democrats. They'll be able to vote in a mere eighteen years.
God bless America.
Wednesday, 01 September
When it came time to leave the college dorms--O bliss--I and two friends inherited a two-story house called, unimaginatively, The Pit. Its virtues included proximity to campus (two blocks), hilariously low rent, and countless structural defects. The latter doesn't sound like a real perk, but it really was, since these horrifying code violations also resulted in a landlord who was supremely unconcerned with the various depredations visited upon the unfortunate house, as long as it meant he wasn't bothered in any material way. The most agitated I ever saw the man--and I saw him rarely--was when our toilet fell through the rotting bathroom floor, and even then he stared at the debris with a kind of weary unsurprise. My roommates and I spent an exciting couple of weeks navigating the bathroom by hopping from 2x12 to 2x12, which is challenging even when one is sober.
One roomie was J., an agreeable, curly-haired Euroweenie pop enthusiast; he would excitedly show you his collection of 12" dance remixes. Improbably, he also actually had a couple girlfriends, both disturbing in their own ways. One was A., the tragically late but yet nascent free-lover; she was noted for her curt summations of current lovers. Of J. she confided in me once, "His dick is so fucking huge. Sometimes I can't even face it." This made me think of her as Indiana Jones, lying on her stomach, fearfully confronting a giant rising snakelike penis, an image that haunts me still.
(I think our favorite girlfriend of J.'s was another J., who was dubbed "The Pod," for her tendency to lie around all day on the couch, buried under blankets. The Pod was interesting not only for her profound inactivity, but also for her mysterious powers. You see, when we would go to class, The Pod would already be lying there on the couch, watching TV. "Bye," she'd say listlessly. Then we would come home, and The Pod, again, was immobile on the couch. But the house was magically, somehow, cleaner. N., the other roommate, and I talked about this. N. would say, "The Pod kind of freaks me out." And I would say, "I know. But it cleans. All J. has to do is pat her head in the morning and then leave. Then it somehow cleans." N. thought about this. "We must not fuck with The Pod," he declared.)
N. didn't really hang out a lot (though we remained good friends for years); he was largely preoccupied by his rather astonishingly annoying girlfriend E., who was (really) given to machine-gun-like statements such as, "N. do you think she's cute? Do you think she's cuter than me?" Then we would watch N.'s neck get red as she harangued him about the nothing he had said. The most salient anecdote I can remember of their entire relationship was (as related to me by N.) when they were sitting on her sofa watching TV. E. had just emerged from the shower and was reclining in her robe; N. noticed something on her thigh. "Oh, you've got a little string here, honey," said N., and proceeded to unintentionally pull out her tampon. Yay!
So the three of us moved into the house, taking it over from the previous occupants, three female students. I was quickly disabused of my notions that girls are cleaner than men. When I started putting clothes into my closet, I noted a shelf devoted to a large collection of canned soups that had been left behind inexplicably by D., the room's previous owner. I wondered if D. were some sort of forlorn militia of one, silently stockpiling nourishment in case martial law suddenly befell Felony Flats (as our neighborhood was affectionately known). The shower was an unmitigated horror, and featured only two clean, white spots in the entire plaque-armored interior, which were feet-shaped spots on the floor. We fellows regarded these basically as instructions to "Stand Here," and kept up the proud tradition of not cleaning anything. Also in the bathroom we found a companion lurking in the corner: it was a semi-translucent little blob that proved singularly impervious to all known forms of physical, chemical or mystical attack. We were informed later by a biology student that the thing was called a "plasmodium." It was there when we came, and it was there when we left. I hacked at it one boring afternoon with a paint scraper, and I swear I could hear it jeering at me. I'm guessing it's still there.
What really sealed the whole "chicks are pigs too" deal for us, though, was when it came to the fridge. N. and I opened it on our inauguration day and stared at some condiments and not much else. Typical student stuff. The thing was, it smelled pretty damn bad, and we uncharacteristically decided to clean it before loading in our groceries (read: beer). So the first thing I did was to reach down at the very bottom to grab the drip tray, where all the crap that falls down collects, and where all the excess moisture ends up. I knew it was going to be horrible--these things always are--but I was utterly unprepared for what revealed itself.
The tray was heavy, and I realized that the girls had never once even touched it, if they knew it was there. "The thing's filled with fucking nasty water," I thought, which was true. What I couldn't foresee was the thick blanket of dead houseflies that covered every centimeter of the brimming tray. My mind reeled as I brought this horror out from the fridge, refusing to acknowledge this insectile charnel-house, and I stared at it unbelievingly. How the fuck did all these flies get in here? It was like a tiny Jonestown. Finally, unable to deal at all, I gently set the awful thing down on the kitchen floor and ran outside to vomit convulsively. N. ended up being the hero and gingerly brought the tray outside to dump. He tried valiantly to lure the neighbor's yappy dog over to soak the beast with the noisome liquid, but had to settle for merely befouling her rosebed with the fly-brine.
With The Pit's closeness to campus, it quite unsurprisingly became a magnet for sudden parties or unnanounced dropins. My good friend D. once came by during finals, clutching a twelve-pack of beer. I was sitting on the scabrous couch we inherited from the girls, and was working my way glumly through a six-inch stack of various papers I had to do. "D.," I protested, "no. I've got to get this shit done." I waved at the daunting stack. "No problem," replied D. twinklingly. He put the beer down on my stuff. "We work from the top down."
Another time, during another impromptu party, my girlfriend at the time became exceedingly drunk, and therefore vulnerable to attacks intended to maim, which she seemed to invite: someone shoved her down the stairs. She bonelessly and agreeably jounced down the stairs with great velocity, finally impacting on the crispy wall below, producing a rather giant hole in the plaster. N. and I acted fast, and quickly put a poster up over the maw, reasoning that what we couldn't see surely couldn't hurt us.
The next weekend, someone inexplicably smeared pumpkin all over the poster, and when we couldn't bear the smell any more, we had to remove it, forcing us to the realization that something more substantial had to be done--even our willfully blind landlord surely couldn't ignore a gaping span of emptiness in one of his walls. Lacking money, but not ingenuity, N. and I came up with a solution: we stapled several used Domino's pizza boxes together and shoved them into the wall until it was flush, then liberally spackled the whole fucking thing over. A paint job later, and we had a new wall.
Lord, I could go on for pages. One more. Another night, another party, heigh-ho, whatever. The next morning I awoke with an unsurprisingly indignant bladder; I headed downstairs to use the bathroom (by now refloored, hallelujah). On my way through the living room, I noticed something in the corner over by the phone stand. I couldn't tell what the hell it was, so I crept up to it cautiously, inching closer and closer to identify it. (I am myopic in the extreme.) I screwed up my eyes to examine the damn thing. What the fuck?
Finally, my brain took it in. There was, on my carpet, a single well-formed turd, of goodish length and heft, about eight inches long. The world was still for a moment.
Then I screamed bloody murder. J! I howled. N.! GET THE FUCK DOWN HERE! It was no use screaming for N.; he was off at his girlfriend's, presumably being browbeaten in some unfortunate way. J., however, was upstairs, and evidently wrangled his gargantuan dick into some shorts and loped downstairs. "DID YOU SHIT ON THE FUCKING RUG?" I screamed. He stared at the hideous, recumbent mass for a moment. "Is that a turd?" he blearily wondered. I went to the kitchen in a storm to gather an entire roll of paper towels, wishing for a biohazard suit. I eventually collected the awful thing and vengefully hurled it into the neighbor's rosebed; her yappy dog remonstrated at me while I stalked back into the house.
The thing was, I was the last person to bed that night. I personally booted the stragglers out before flopping into bed, and I knew that I didn't commit that horrible deed. I spent the next couple days blasting through doorways and confronting people terribly: "TELL ME YOU DIDN'T SHIT ON MY RUG!" Then I would examine their reactions, all detective-like. Pathetic. Most people reacted predictably. "What? You're insane. Get away from me."
I never did find out who laid the Immaculate Turd. I guess I never will. But I'll bet it's still there, in the neighbor's rosebed. Like the plasmodium. And the pizza boxes, entombed in our wall. And, maybe, some soup cans.
I'll bet it's all still there.