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Thursday, 30 June
Directed By James Cameron

A chilly rain was falling as I approached the structure, and as I glanced at its dull metal walls I felt a slither of fear uncoil in my stomach. I killed it with a last bolt of bad coffee and threw the container away carelessly. Fuck it, I thought. Seven thirty. Time to go to work. I checked the ammo readout on my pulse rifle for the third time and went in.

Hugging the walls, I made it to the elevator without incident. Who says this thing is going to work anyway? I wondered. But then the doors opened with a cheerful ding! that grated on my frayed nerves, but hey. Beats twenty flights of stairs. I pushed the button for my floor and relaxed.

Stupid. Rookie mistake. The thing dropped down from the ceiling so fast I barely had time to react. "Hi! Whatcha reading?" it screeched hellishly, and the nauseating tang of dopamine-inhibiting White Shoulders fragrance invaded my nostrils. "I wish I read more? Say, Wednesday, huh? I sure hate the old hump days!" The xenomorph's teeth snapped at me menacingly through this barrage of mindless nonsense. I had only seconds before it would have me in its talons.

"YAAAAAHHH!" I screamed, ripping my reeling mind away from the sickly reek of the thing's olfactory assault. This also happened to help clear my head of the deadening babble the beast was producing in order to confuse me. The beast looked uncertain, and crouched in the corner, baring its teeth. "I have a son who wears a hat like yours; would you like to see a picture?" it hissed defensively.

I blew that fucking monster straight to hell, and thought, Old Navy's gonna need a fresh customer. Clamped down on the happy thought, though, quick. Bitch almost got me with the perfume and the brainless chatter. You almost talked to her, son, I reprimanded myself. Stupid. Lucky to still be walking.

The elevator got to my floor. I cleared the lobby with efficient, darting precision, and then slid my keycard through the security door, and elbowed it grunt-style to my office. I didn't want to get ambushed by the Administrones--nasty, soup-based life forms whose lethal stings were rumored to be able to incapacitate a man before the beasts poured themselves into his ear and cool his brain to the temperature of fatal ennui.

I passed Carl's office, my supervisor, and gave him a glance. He was peering owlishly at some anti-personnel grenades piled up on his desk and absently cleaning the barrel of a nasty-looking Crystal Pistol--in our compromised office, a pretty effective weapon, considering how many people are named Crystal. It'll put down a solid six at a go if you really need it, and boy did we need it back in '02 during the Temp Incursion.

"Hey Carl," I said softly, trying not to provoke a panicked response. He gazed up at me coldly. "You're technically personnel," he said. "You ask me anything about protocol development and I'll frag you before you know it."

I met his gaze levelly. "I'm not even coming in," I replied. "Just wondered what the status was." He eased up a bit and put down the CryPi on his desk next to a gorgeous vintage chain email set. My finger loosened on the pulse rifle slightly. Technically, we were on the same team.

"It's quiet so far," he said evenly. "But who knows what the fuck is in the walls. I've got unconfirmed rumors about some Reply To All viruses spreading, but I haven't seen shit yet. And Carrie said something weird about fatal errors in Outlook, but I don't know anything more."

That was ominous. "What do you mean you don't know? What else did Carrie say?"

He stared at me flatly. "Nothing, you fucking moron. She's dead. I told you it was a fatal error. Last I heard from her, she was screaming about her legs being eaten off by Nigerian scam artists. Next thing I know, those creepy-ass golems from IT are carting off her computer and shit like she wasn't ever even here." I could see him suppressing a shudder. I couldn't blame him. IT golems are, it seems, entirely unkillable drones who carry out their grim functions with not even a whisper of emotion. Once I saw one eat a rubber plant. They are completely mysterious, completely indestructible, and apparently ageless. You can shoot them in the head with a .357, and the most likely reaction you'll get is, "You need to reboot."

"Christ," I said, looking down. "What can you do, you know?" This was a common refrain in our office. Carl gave the standard reply. "You log in, you give your eight, you get your check, right? That's how it works. Get to it, soldier."

Bastard. I nodded curtly and turned to go, but then I heard his tone soften. "Look. Stay frosty. All right?" A conciliation of sorts. I turned my head back. "Stay frosty," I said. Response to the call. Like Benedictine monks. Yeah, sure. Benedictine monks caught in an insane world of mind-wrecking craziness and eternal paranoia and murderous danger! Anyway, I ate a bagel and reflected on things like . . . oh man. Geez, man. I mean . . . man. The thoughts echoed in my brains as I sat in my office. Man.

Of course we were unprepared for the assault. It came fast and it came hard. I heard Carl die wetly in his office when the Aggrievers flooded in and nailed him with a deadly hail of tiny lethal knives. I heard him when he screamed, "You don't have that much vacation time!" and then his agonized moan as his guts must have slid out like cold lasagna from a greased pan onto the grey-carpeted floor.

But by then I was already in trouble. The assault waves came in what we military folk call waves, and they waved over me in waves. Some of the beasts had figured out a way to encode themselves into MIME format, and even more horribly, erupted ghostlike from my monitor in mime form. They began performing elaborate routines that ate at my brain; one fellow pretended that he was trapped inside an invisible box, and another seemed to me--it is hard to recollect--that he was emulating an enthusiastic dancing banana. I mowed down this first wave with the pulse rifle, and they collapsed in jittering piles onto my carpet.

More was to come. The things continued to clamber out of my comp system; one terrible beast cried to me with a voice like bones being clattered together, "There is an error message!" Another bat-winged horror moaned incessantly about lost passwords, and shat itself with alarming regularity as it prowled the corners of the room stealthily. One more hideous creature confined itself to hopping hideously in place, shrieking out the phrase, over and over, "Roster identification! Roster identification!" I think the most frightening beast was . . . oh God. You don't know. All it would say, in a voice from the coldest grave: "Run-time error. Run-time error." Over and over.

I held them off for as long as I could. I really did. I can say that much. But I knew then that I was going to die.

You know, it's not that bad. The incubation period isn't too enjoyable, but once the child bursts out of your chest, I'm thinking it's all worth it. This way I have a kid. And, you know, maybe before the massive thoracic trauma kills me, I can hear the little guy's first words. I can already hear them.

"You need to reboot. You need to reboot."

Make me proud, kiddo.

Tuesday, 28 June
Failure Is So Totally An Option

If you're anything like me--and, you know, God help you--then you too are probably a big favorite of arbitrary milestones. And passed one on Friday! (They're like kidney stones, only conceptual!) On Friday I turned 36.

Thirty-six! The year of . . . before thirty-seven! The year you start to think, "I should have things looked at. Unpleasant things. Like this mole that looks kind of like Ed O'Neill." The year where, when you stare yet again at your battered 20+-year-old Honda, you find your cheeks moist with grief. Sort of because you know it still has more energy than you. The year that you realize that 40 is right around the bend, and your awareness of your prostate starts to move from being "Uh, that thing that is important for coming, or something?" to "Glandular minefield."

With these happy thoughts in mind, I did what any responsible mid-30s kind of guy would do and threw a party, got wrecked, and in general behaved like a Hun at a bikini party. Huzzah! Huzzah for the not-that-elder drunken statesperson!

Well, I had a little help from my friends. Is it actually possible to stay sober at an event (celebrating one's own birth) where a friend brings you a powder-blue t-shirt with big block printing on it thus: "ASK ME ABOUT MY THEATRE PROJECT"? (Because, of course, spelling it "theatre" makes it extra ghastly. Let's not say anything about the powder blue.) Or the person who brought me a card encouraging me "not to smell like pee" during the coming year?

And then there were the fellows who showed up a bit later carrying--I swear I did not know this kind of shit existed--a six-pack of something called "Brutal Fruit." The specific flavor was "MANIC MANGO," which makes me want to alliteratively Murder Myself Mightily Much. Of course, by this time, to be honest, I was far gone, and heaped vituperation upon them anyway, which is possibly why they revenged themselves by leaving a few bottles of this noxious elixir in my fridge. (These guys actually kill me. The "bring horrid undrinkable poison" strategy is a charming holdover from the "how will people not drink our booze?" years in which they would show up to parties armed with bottles of vermouth.)

For all that attended, take your pick: 1. It was great to talk to you! 2. It was great to rail incoherently at you! 3. I'm sorry. For what it's worth, which I suspect is nothing, I had a great time.

On Sunday, the wife and I traveled to the in-laws' (mine) place for a belated Happy Father's Day gathering and also so they could give me some birthday love. The in-laws, in usual fashion, had procured a truly Brobdingnagian amount of food for the event, leading to questions like, "Do you want chicken? Or steak? Or both? I think we have a sack of dead raccoons in the garage that we could blend into a nice shake for you too."

We were kindly given a ride to and over on the ferry by the wife's brother I. and his fiancee S., who are really lovely kids--I. is a big fellow and thinks nothing of eating an entire sack of dead raccoons, so it's always entertaining to watch him eat. After the preposterously large meal, we all retired into the living room, where, after a nice gift exchange--we got the wife's dad a pretty hot DVD called What Hump? about the erotic adventures of a randy French bellringer--we settled in to play a nice family game called "Scene It!"

"Scene It!" is a board game/DVD trivia game about movies: sometimes you watch a scene from a well-known movie or whatever, and then answer questions. Like, for example, one that came up for us (we all played teams), which said something like, "This '80s thriller involved an icepick, a novelist and film history's most notorious snatch grab." (I may be paraphrasing.) My mind was electrified, and I of course couldn't help yelling out the obvious answer.

"Fatal Attraction!" I howled in complete wrongness. What the fuck? My awful brain had subbed in one horrible, insulting '80s fuck/stab film for another. S. looked at me sadly, as if she suspected my prostate was starting to atrophy. "Basic Instinct," she corrected me gently.

"FUCK!" I screamed, momentarily forgetting the company I was in. The room fell into a gloomy silence. "Pardon my French," I said lamely. I should note here that the wife's father is a pastor. He looked down at the game board dismally, and my mother-in-law coughed politely and spun a few cookies on the rug with her little scooter (she has horrible arthritis), as if to distract from the fact that I had just displayed my utter worthlessness as a son-in-law.

It was right about then that I had wished I had worn a certain powder-blue t-shirt so someone, anyone could clear their throat and say, "Well! Tell me about your theatre project!"

Thursday, 23 June
I, Caregiver

Last night the wife had mentioned a couple times that her throat was a little sore, and fretted about possibly catching something from the little germ-bombs she minds each day. Despite my best efforts to tune out her complaints in order to read the fiery "New X-Men: Wolverine Buys New Pants," some of her ramblings sneaked into my brain. I mumbled, "Well, you'll feel better tomorrow. It's your mutant power." "What?" she said, but when I didn't answer, she went to bed.

But sure enough, when I got home from work today, there was my gal, bundled up on the couch, looking pretty miserable. She honked a greeting at me. "My baby!" I cried, running over to give her a kiss on the forehead, making sure to lay down some plastic wrap on her skin first. "You stayed home today?"

"Yezz," she said, huddled in her robe. I felt terrible, and said so.

"This is terrible," I cried. "We really needed the money. But if you're too lazy and sick to go to work and earn your keep, I guess it's my job to pull up the slack." She stared weakly at me, saying nothing, and I sighed, feeling terrible about everything. "My girl," I cooed. "I guess I need to take care of you, huh?" She nodded sadly, and so I pushed her roughly off the couch and fluffed up some pillows and lay down.

"Well, I'll need my strength for this shit," I said. "And that means napping. In an hour I'll get up and go get you some of those discount throat lozenges from Latvia that you like. Remember? The ones that don't usually make you throw up? But right now I need rest." She honked again forlornly and crawled over to the baseboard heater to huddle against it, and I fell into sleep.

An hour later, I awoke feeling pretty rested. Time to tend to my gal! She was still lying on the ground clinging to the heat register; she really looked like she could use a hug, but she was pretty sweaty by now, so I just poked her with my foot. "I'm going to get some food," I said. "I'd make something here, but all we have is a box of Mike & Ike's." "That sounds good!" she said, perking up. "No. Those are mine," I replied. "How about some soup?" "Okay," she said, drooping. "Whatever you want!" I cried heartily. Sick people should be coddled.

So I wandered up to Broadway, where there is a perfectly fine Vietnamese pho joint. Pho, for the uninitiated, is a spicyish soup dish with rice noodles, onions, scallions, basil, bean sprouts and whatever happened to be slow enough to be caught and slaughtered that day. I ordered a couple small bowls to go, making sure to request "extra tendons" for the wife's, reasoning: tendons are funny. (If you're wondering about the "small" order portions, let me just say that pho places have their own ideas about serving sizes. "Small" means "you will piss for hours!" and X-large means "renal failure.")

Returning to our apartment, the wife cried out happily as I served up the soup. "What are these thick noodles?" she wondered as she slurped up tendons. "They're really al dente." I didn't tell her they were tendons; specifically neck tendons. I was using the "like treats like" medical reasoning, figuring that the neck protein would clear up her sore throat. (I saw this on a documentary once . . . I think it was called "Dr. Quinn, Frontier Medical Gal and Her Dancing Jesuit Bears." Something like that.) Also, I had thrown in of Vicodin into her bowl and dissolved them, because Jesus, how long did I have to listen to this bitch complain? She had already cost us a day's pay.

After a little while, having slurped up a good quantity of soup, the wife declared that her sinuses were feeling a lot better. "That's good!" I said happily, and then she pitched forward face-first into her soup. Boy, was she hungry!

Whoops, no, she was drowning. Soup bubbles gurgled up from the bowl and around her cheeks, but she was out. That would be the Vicodin. I hauled her skull out of the bowl by her hair, and winced as the broth spattered the carpet. Christ, that's going to stain, I thought, but dismissed it as unimportant. When the wife healed up, she could scrub that stuff out no problem, or just replace and install new carpeting.

Well, the poor thing was obviously done for the night. It was time for bed. I dragged her by her ankles into the bedroom and dumped her on the mattress, making sure that no part of her crossed the midline that I had drawn some months ago with Magic Marker (in case she forgot, my side of the bed reads, in large block letters, "SKOT'S SIDE"). I secured her leather restraints just in case she got some case of night-thrashes and intruded on my side of the bed, and then kissed her gently on the forehead, using a fresh piece of plastic wrap again for sterility. Poor thing.

I went into the kitchen and stacked up the dirty dishes neatly next to the sink for the wife to clean the next day. Usually I'd be a little irritated with having to do the chore, and I never like to go to bed knowing there's a dirty dish in the house anyway, but come on. She could always do them as soon as she feels up to it.

Tonight she needs her rest.

Tuesday, 21 June
Old Adventures In Lo-Fi

On Saturday night, having nothing much to do anyway, I decided to meet the wife down at a place called Re-bar, which happens to be the venue for her current show. Re-bar is a nightclub that also happens to stage theatrical productions here and again on their tiny two stages, usually gay-themed or at least gay-friendly, so a Terrence McNally farce is a good fit. Re-bar is renowned amongst the theater crowd for its incredible dinginess and thoroughly ramshackle atmosphere--backstage, which is a merely polite term for "curtained-off dead end," the actors put on makeup in front of one tiny mirror and array their props on plywood laid over the pool tables. We don't do this stuff for money, folks.

And yet, Re-bar, despite the monumental amount of shit we give it for being such a hilariously, uh, contaminant-friendly environment, is weirdly beloved by a lot of actors I know. And myself, really: I've done a whole ton of productions there. This despite the "well, it could be true" stories about things like carnivorous mushrooms that lurch around in the subcellar, garfing out hideous spore clouds that we all inhale during a show; the nearly irrefutable fact that during any given run at Re-bar, someone will get murderously ill--we still come back to the place, like that ex-girlfriend you broke up with like six times, and yet you still kept winding up in bed with her.

(Once, when going to the place for a rehearsal, someone found a tiny amber vial on the dance floor. "It looks like, uh, coke or something," someone ventured. Never one to shy away from empiricism, I took the vial and shook out some of the stuff and put it on my tongue, which numbed up in an old familiar, bitter way. "It's crank," I announced officiously. My friend B. snatched it from my hand. "I'll give this a good home," he said twinklingly, putting the thing in his pocket. That's the thing about actors: We are so picky. Mysterious chemicals on the floor? Sounds like heaven! Hey, let me taste that! It didn't kill you? Wonderful! I want some too!)

I went down there, timing my arrival for the end of the show and the commencement of the night's special event, something called "Frankenboot," which promised to be an evening full of dancing to mashups--where a DJ created improbable mixes of popular songs, like wedding the bass line of "Pressure" to the papery wailings of Britney Spears, and then perversely tossing in some trumpet line from the Beta Band.

Me, I eat this crap up. I mean, what kind of sociopath spends his free time thinking, "You know what would be cool? Basement Jaxx versus the Spice Girls, maybe with a calypso flair! I wonder what the BPM on 'Baby Elephant Walk' is!" Like I say, perverts. But I find it a lot of fun. And so did some of our companions, mostly other actors from the wife's show. Our friend R. exhibited real delight at the sonic appearance of C.C. Penniston, which while deeply weird, was at least mitigated by her total excitement, and never mind that good old C.C. was being married to something wrenching like the bass line from "Hangin' Tough." Finally, it happened to C.C., right in front of her face, and she just can't deny a certain hair-free Wahlberg penis.

I don't know.

We of course observed the local fauna. "What's with this guy?" asked R. as an older gentleman paid the cover to get in, improbably decked out in a suit and tie. "Don't make fun of the librarian," I said. "He's on gay safari, doing research." "I understand," R. said gravely. I spied a girl while in line with the wife, waiting to get drinks, mainly because her tits were shoved up to her neck. Her hair was dyed the color of some unearthly metal unsynthesized by atomic processes not yet available in the hearts of nearby anemic stars; it looked like she had imported the color from a system with much more enthusiastic solar processes. "She brought the girls tonight," I breathed to the wife as she glided by. She chuckled briefly, and I realized that this whole scene was kind of exotic to me in a way that it really wasn't for my gal--I had always shunned the dance scene when I was (let's face it) a kid. Mainly after getting totally shot down a couple times in humiliating fashion.

(Memory that I will take to my grave, from college, at a dance club: me, approaching girl, on the floor: "Mind if I dance?" She: "Go for it!" Then she spun and walked away. OH THE ANGST! It really does make me laugh now, because, hey, that's pretty awesome. "Go for it!" What rejoinder could I possibly have? "You! You . . . damn you! One day I will vengefully blog about this!")

If only I had had some coke on me at the time. Then she wouldn't have walked away. "Don't go," I could have smoothly said, taking her upper arm. "I found this on the floor, baby."

If you're wondering how I ever got married, well, yeah. Me too.

Thursday, 16 June
Horrible Ad Campaigns, Another In An Ongoing Series

Vehix

The Vehix ads recently revamped their whole ad campaign. The old campaign featured a nebbishy middle-aged guy in glasses who wore a giant computer suit. This, we learned, was Vehix! Good old Vehix would visit people at their homes and carry out their every automotive-related wish, and he would do it with the best of humor, despite the fact that Vehix was always rewarded with some sort of naked hostility: one guy gave him a tip for his troubles, but then snatched it back. After another dutiful fact-finding mission for a housewife, Vehix got savagely kicked in the shins by her kid. The ads seemed to be saying: We are here to serve the automotive whims of you, the sociopathic customer.

It was puzzling to say the least to see an entire corporate campaign based on portraying its consumer base as a bunch of dire assholes--almost as puzzling as the idea of buying a car over the internet, but maybe that's just me.

Anyway, it was with great interest that I watched the new Vehix ads. Their overall slogan is now, basically: "Everything you wanted to do in real life? You can do with Vehix." In one spot, for example, I get to fuck Kate Winslet.

No! Of course not. That would not only be laughable, particularly for Ms. Winslet, but it would also veer dangerously towards the idea that a Vehix customer is a normal, healthy member of society. Vehix has yet again opted for the opposite tactic: that the Vehix customer is an unreasonable freak who will explore every opportunity for human cruelty in pursuit of his/her car.

In one spot, an imperious man stands, hands on hips, and barks out orders to two poor bastards who are turning a pickup truck mounted on a rotating platform. "Left. Left. More left. Right. More right." The idea is, he can get a 360-degree view of the vehicle with only the aid to two strong luckless buffoons and a rumbling tenor! That's a lot easier than simply walking around the fucking thing! I've always wanted to do that in real life!

Another thing I've longed to do is to have another put-upon goon spraypaint a car over and over again--while I watch--until I find the right color. Again, this beats the hell out of turning around to view all the other cars right behind me in a lot; it also beats, I don't know, hopelessly asking my atrophied brain to imagine another color. The woman customer in this ad is particularly awful; when the poor bastard has finally completed the paint job, she screws up her face into a ghastly rictus of fake apology and ventures "Can I see it in red again?" The viewer is then rewarded with what I assume is a wholly intentional cut to the painter, whose protective mask is unable to conceal the look of utter loathing that his face wears.

Hell, maybe it was intentional. These ads really do seem to assume that its target audience members are the creepiest bastards on the planet. Another shot shows a woman climbing into the back seat of an SUV, then hunkering down and slowly walking in a circle to get a full panoramic view of the interior. We've all done this, right? It's not enough to poke your fucking head in the car and use the good old occipital condyle to swivel your head around: you have to do a chicken dance instead. Right?

Other spots are just weird and run totally counter to the Vehix premise of offering things that "you always wanted to do." One spot, fixating again on the color of the car (which, as we all know, is the most important feature), has a fellow shot from the back looking at a car; he is also doing something that we can't initally see with his hands. (Oh, be quiet, perverts.) Gradually, we see that what he's been doing is making elaborate little construction paper templates of the car's shape so he can hold them up at a distance to see what different colors would be like. Again, leaving aside the part of you that wants to scream "USE YOUR POOR BRAIN! IT'S THERE TO HELP!", this is of course something that nobody in their right mind would ever do, except for people who at some later point see their names in sentences such as " . . . was used as the inspiration for the movie Se7en."

Which would all be fine and everything--ads like anything else use these sorts of tactics, and I don't expect them to hew to reality or anything. But shouldn't they be grounded in some form of humor, or drama, or tension, or . . . Christ, I don't know . . . rationality? In another spot, a guy climbs into a pickup truck, gets settled, and then presses a red button on a keypad. The truck is then struck in the grill by a gigantic fake sledgehammer that emerges from the ceiling, deploying the airbag. (It should be noted that the fake sledgehammer employs some of the worst CGI ever seen since the movie The Perfect Storm. It would have at least been funny if they just used a great big rubber hammer. [Which is probably what's going to happen when Troma gets the rights to adapt The Might Thor to film.]) Then the guy cheerfully gets out of the pickup, apparently satisfied that he's safe from any life-threatening collisions with fake hammers, a hail of rubber chickens, or common sense.

I think it's telling that no single Vehix ad has ever once shown anyone actually buying a car.

BONUS HORRIBLE AD: Giorgio Armani

Armani has a new perfume called . . . well, it says something that I'm not even sure what its name is, but anyway, it's pretty unremarkable in form and content, and I mean that literally, in that it really has neither. Just some black and white shots of a ember-eyed fellow schnuzzling up to some icy brunette who seems not to be aware of his existence. But what's really thrillingly great and marrow-freezingly awful about the spot is the overheated voiceover, done in the kind of nonspecific Continental accent that is usually found in bad sketch comedy. It sounds like I imagine spoiled pears taste like.

It's not a long ad, but what it lacks in running time, it makes up for in yuks. "Do yoo know ze code?" says ze voice. Noir shot of something glinting in the dark. Some murky shots of the couple who do not evidently enjoy looking at anything, particularly each other. "Ze code of sed-uck-shun?" Suddenly the smoldery guy seems to notice us, the viewer, past she-who-does-not-care's profile. He looks kind of pissed off, and not very seductive. Or -ory. Or whatever. The voice is back to give us the payoff line anyway.

"A new fwagrahnce!" it says with fresh intensity. And then the most fabulously clipped accenting on the final three words: "From CHAWCHAW AHMANI!"

If there was ever an ad I wanted to smell exactly like, it's this one. "Jesus, Skot, what's the reek?" my friends would ask. "CHAWCHAW AHMANI!" I would scream at them.

After that? I don't know. Maybe go kneecap some car salesmen.

Tuesday, 14 June
Just The Facts

SANTA MARIA, Calif-- In what some described as a "harmonic convergence of holy fucking SHIT, dude!", reality appeared to break free of its moorings today in California, as Michael Jackson was aquitted of all charges leveled against him in a high-profile case involving accusations of child abuse, child endangerment, child eating, Julia Child and Raul Julia. In one of the more bizarre spectacles of our time, California seemed to erupt with a spasm of surreality.

Ms. Child and Mr. Julia, themselves both dead celebrities, reported surprise at being involved in such a high-wattage event, noting for reporters that they were, in fact, dead and confused, with Child being quoted as saying, "UUUNNNNNGH!" She then embarked on a ghoulish feast of the damned by savagely dining on the undead corpse of Mr. Julia.

Upon announcement of his blanket acquittal, Mr. Jackson was seen to totter feebly out of the courthouse and blow shaky kisses at the throngs of onlookers; seen on hand was also heavyweight prizefighter Mike Tyson, fresh from his recent loss to a gentleman picked out of the audience. Mr. Tyson, who had after his loss announced his retirement from boxing, called out to Mr. Jackson. "Michael! Do you have any children you're done with? I could eat them for you. I'm hungry and poor." Mr. Jackson did not reply, but instead leaped onto a nearby car and screamed "HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" while grabbing his groin. Mr. Jackson then smashed the car's windshield with a crowbar as a zombie dance team shuffled out of the crowd and began executing tightly choreographed shrugging movements.

Not to be outdone, apparently, famed Hollywood actor Tom Cruise was also on hand for the media event, and joined Mr. Jackson atop the ruined car with newfound love Katie Holmes in tow. As Jackson continued his automotive assault, Cruise leaped up and down manically and screamed paeans of love for Ms. Holmes to the stunned crowd; Holmes stood uncertainly nearby, smiling gently, until Cruise finally nailed the young actress to an inverted cross and let Holmes' blood course over his face as he kneeled beneath her wailing form. "Clear," gasped Cruise, clearly overwhelmed. "I'm finally clear." When asked for comment, Ms. Holmes told reporters, "AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!"

With the media circus apparently at its crescendo, it is doubtful that anyone could have predicted what came next. Mr. Cruise, now bloodied and sobbing beneath Ms. Holmes' stilled body, did not bank on the arrival of another of Hollywood's anointed: to the shocked eyes of reporters and onlookers alike, actor Ben Affleck creeped stealthily from out of the gathered crowd, making elaborate "you-don't-see-me!" gestures. He crept up behind the openly weeping Cruise, and the crowd held its breath.

Mr. Affleck then freed his mighty testicles from his trousers and gently rested them on the back of Mr. Cruise's neck in full view of witnesses. Onlookers gasped, and one woman was seen to release white doves into freedom at the moment that Mr. Affleck's testes made contact with Mr. Cruise's sinewy neck. Cruise was then seen to whirl on Affleck, who danced away, singing, "Fruit basket! Fruit basket!" in mocking tones.

Cruise did not seem amused. "You put your nuts on my neck!" he screamed. Mr. Affleck coyly replied, "Now you know how people felt after seeing Mission Impossible: 2." At this point, the woman in the crowd released another white dove, which sailed cinematically into the air; Mr. Tyson was observed chasing after it hungrily. By now, Ms. Holmes was thoroughly dead, and Mr. Jackson seemed a bit dazed at the sudden shift of focus. The dancing zombies continued to shuffle dutifully. The moment stretched out.

A voice off to the side suddenly burbled out a gasping sentence. It was Mr. Julia, still being consumed by the feral ghoul that used to be Ms. Child. "This . . . this is not the Hollywood I remember," he moaned as his face was finally, fatefully devoured. And there was a deep silence as Julia finished eating Raul.

Thursday, 09 June
Once More, Sith Feeling

Today the wife and I and a friend went to see a matinee of Revenge of the Sith. If you're worried about spoilers, you should stop here. Also, if you're bone-tired of reading pretty much the same thing everyone seems to be saying about the movie, you should also stop here. Because I don't think I have anything new to offer.

I took off from work an hour early to wander over to Cinerama, which might just be the best theater ever, with its Face-Of-God-sized screen and hellaciously great sound system. I unfortunately then had to go and ruin everything by getting hungry--pre-movie, I unwisely bought and ate a hot dog, which by the film's end, was sloshing around uneasily in my stomach. PEOPLE! Don't be dumb like me! For God's sake, eat the fucking popcorn.

My guts are still restive, frankly. Fucking hot dog. Not that George Lucas' famously tin-eared dialogue helped; it might have been more than just rancid squirrel meat twisting my bowels while Natalie Portman said things like, "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo."

But I get ahead of myself. First of course were the trailers, which are important for people like me who Prejudge Movies. Impressions? Batman Begins might, against long odds, actually be good. I got a little happy when I saw the Scarecrow, anyway. And as you all know, even if it is terrible, I'll probably enjoy it anyway.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith? It's a tough one. On paper, it looks almost risibly bad, but I confess . . . it might just work. I was not horrified by what I saw, but perhaps that was thanks to the countless leering shots of Angelina Jolie's vertiginous decolletage. But still, I have hopes that it can be saved from itself via a "we're all just having a good time here!" vibe like you got with Ocean's 11 and were so viciously denied in Ocean's 12.

And then there are the spots for The Fantastic Four, which looks so dire, so ghastly, so embarrassing that it might just be the neutron bomb of movies: after this thing goes off, everyone involved with it and their careers will all be dead, while the movie still stands there, placidly and horribly untouched. IT'S SOBBERIN' TIME!

Anyway, so we watched Revenge, and as you've no doubt heard, it's way better than the last two catheterizations--which I recognize is faint praise at best. And, really, that's about as much praise as it deserves. Don't get me wrong, I mostly enjoyed myself, but really, we all know that these movies are barely a step up from Independence Day anyway, and we all know also that George Lucas is if perhaps a technical wizard (or one who handsomely employs them) then also a second-tier talent and the bottom-rung screenwriter who happened to luck into a shockingly popular franchise that he has mercilessly milked for every fucking farthing he possibly could.

At least here, possibly cornered by inevitability--well, it's time we made a Darth outta this boy!--the movie seems to move along at a decent clip, with great action sequences (though it still runs a good 20 minutes over one's goodwill allotment). It does, unfortunately, still have to include horrible, pace-murdering sequences with Anakin and Padme, and as usual, the actors are not remotely up to the task of trying to inject any kind of pathos into Lucas' wrenchingly hilarious dialogue. I've made my opinions on Ms. Portman known before--that she is an utterly hopeless actress--and they emphatically have not changed. And why does she glisten so? Maybe she's allergic to Midichloreans. For whatever reason, I kept wanting someone to show up with a chamois and wipe her down to a clean finish.

And Mr. Christianson fares not much better, settling for one strategy through the entire movie of lowering his head and staring at everything from under a furrowed brow. This has the unfortunate effect of making him look like he just doesn't quite get what's happening most of the time, so he has to think about it really hard. Or that he's smoldering all the time. You know what the problem is with smoldering? Smolders are easily extinguishable with a glass of water. It's hard to take the future Dark Lord very seriously when you figure you can take him out with a bottle of Dasani.

What else? Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits continue their pitched battle to determine which one of them gets the title of Most Improbable Fit into the Star Wars universe: Jackson, who can be a charming performer, utterly defanged of any of his sense of danger at all? Or Smits, who looks vaguely lost without a Droid Sipowicz to help slap some fucking sense into these intransigent assholes he's surrounded by? They should have given him some Spock ears and let him be Mace Simone or something. And Darth Sidious . . . well. Let's just say that 30 or 40 minutes of "I am so delighted to be evil that I must cackle all the time!" gets really, really, really old. I imagined him taking a foul shit and calling in people to take a look. "Look, my minions! Look at my shit! See how it is cakey and malformed! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" And the Stormtroopers (or clones, or whatever) all kind of look at each other and go, "You know, this guy is just a pud. Why did we back him again?"

Oh, there are all kinds of other questions, of course. Why, for instance, in Episode IV, does Cap'n Vader evince no emotion nor recollection at all about the droids? Why, since he is an android, does Grievous seem to have a debilitating case of asthma? (He wheezes! He coughs! Though never when in hand-to-hand combat, much like Yoda all of a sudden gets spry and ninja-y and caneless.) Why would a medical robot say, when revealing that Padme is dying in childbirth, this: "We don't know what is wrong with her!" And then, immediately after that, "She has lost the will to live." You know what? For a minute there, so did I.

But the biggest question of all is, who in the NAME OF GOD failed to say to Lucas, "Um . . . you know, George . . . that scene where Darth-man finds out that Padme croaked? Maybe you shouldn't, uh . . . show that." But nobody did. And so in the movie you are treated to Darth busting free of his medical restraints to bumble around all Godzilla-like--for some reason, it appears that he cannot move his arms--and then shout (now of course in James Earl Jones' calypso-tinged basso), "NOOOOOOOO!"

Ah well. We all knew it wouldn't end well. We knew that after the nightmarishly bad Episode I, didn't we? This, at least, is nothing like Episode I. For one thing, you can watch it--even with a poisoned hot dog in your body--without wanting to die.

For another? Well, you can pretend that Natalie Portman really died.

Tuesday, 07 June
Swervedriver

A true story!

My senior prom, I double-dated with another couple. His nickname was, for reasons lost to me (probably for the best), "Tweety," and her name was . . . to be honest, I don't even remember who she was at all. Let's call her Bailey, in honor of the WKRP character that I thought was hotter than Loni Anderson. (It doesn't even matter . . . she barely surfaces in the story again anyway.)

My date's name was L. And she was Not Into Me, really, but then again, like a lot of dweeby high school guys, I wasn't raking in the chicks anyway. I thought I was lucky to have a date, and since we were driving around in Tweety's Galaxie 500 (I think that's what it was--I know shit about cars [actually, this may be insulting to actual shit, since I know even less than that]), I admit that I harbored lonely hopes about the evening's promises, not only because of the double date (social currency being earned! Tweety was popular!) but also because we were drinking, yes, wine coolers.

Rattle around with me, nubile innocent, in this spacious backseat! For don't your breasts find comfort in occasionally--if accidentally--rubbing on my arm? Is there not room enough here in this slightly dank back seat for salacity? And do you not slake your thirst from the chilly illicit potions delivered to your perfect throat by Messrs. Bartles and Jaymes? (Note: Her throat was not, in fact, perfect. On the other hand, neither was my grey tux with "dusty rose" cummerbund and tie.)

So we drove for a while in the muscly SnatchCar--as I was already fervidly imagining it--drinking our hideous wine coolers and no doubt listening to Night Ranger-y things, and in general having a good time.

Then Tweety, uncharacteristically diverting his gaze to the actual rural road we were traveling, spied something. A small thing, pierced by the headlights. Two small coins of light reflected back at us in the night. And Tweety identified it instantly.

"CAT!" he screamed joyously. This all happened in seconds.

You have to understand boys, I guess. Is it just rural hick boys? Maybe "understand" is totally the wrong word. I don't even know. It's hard to explain. I'll just keep going.

It would have been easy, perhaps, to mistake his identifying cry as one of alarm. It was emphatically not. Tweety, his instincts honed by what I assume was more than a little bit of practice, intentionally swerved towards the panic-stricken cat. I gripped the seatback in front of me and felt myself go a little slack. I immediately knew what was going to happen.

CRUNCH

Tweety ran effortlessly over the cat, no doubt reducing it to atoms with the huge car. The girls screamed as if their tits had caught on fire. "OOOOOOHHHH--OOOOOOHHHHH!" they firebelled.

Tweety, for his part, had an entirely different reaction. He twisted in the driver's seat to face me. "YEAH!" he screamed victoriously, as if he had repelled an invading force of malevolent aliens. He held up his hand to me. And God help, me, I tiredly slapped it back. He laughed quite a bit, drinking more wine cooler, and the girls fell into a wintry silence.

Boys are awful little beings. (And while I say that I was truly icked out by this particular incident, I myself cannot claim to be an innocent when it comes to the rotten things boys do--but that was when I was eight. Anyway.)

Needless to say, there was no awkward grappling with the date to be had that night. The rest of the evening was spent with me standing around morosely nursing a glass of terrible punch while the date wriggled enthusiastically with her girlfriends, ignoring me entirely. I can hardly blame her.

For all I know, Tweety got his brains fucked out. It all seemed terribly unfair. I'll run over a cat, lover! I called out in my brain. Just let me go grab my bike!

It was a pretty horrible evening all the way through. As I stood around, I had a thought: Well, I'm going to go all the way through high school as a virgin. This turned out to be true.

I wondered today why I thought of this, and I think I know why: it's because the wife and I finally saw Elektra on Saturday night, and I had a similar thought: We all die alone.

It's not an original thought. In fact, my friend Johnny 13 is fond of the phrase. But it kept coming back to me as I watched this awful funeral of a film, replete with a precociously irritating little girl as a main character. We all die alone. And when I die, I will be thinking of this movie.

It was a miserable film, barely tolerable, and so not filled with action as to make you wonder exactly how much the makeup folks spent on "EXTREME MOPINESS!" It made you long for the touch of a loving hand as you sat dying by inches while the Magical Tattoo Guy shat out his soul with the effort of pretending to emote as snakes, bears and friendly pandas erupted from his body.

It's a horrible film. Don't ever see it. You know what's more fun than Elektra?

Running over someone's cat on Prom Night and not getting laid.

Friday, 03 June
Heather And Puggly Drop A Deuce

Has there ever been a finer filmography than that of Debbie Rochon? I ask you.

"Mulva 2: Kill Teen Ape!" is, I argue, the best movie title ever.

Thursday, 02 June
Outrageous Yarn

The wife has recently opened up a show here in Seattle where she makes a brief appearance at the top of the play and then isn't really seen until act two, so she was looking for a hobby that she could try out as she whiled away the free time backstage. (If you're interested, Seattleites, go check out The Ritz at Re-bar. It's funny!)

She tried bearbaiting for a while, but you know what? Bears, while hilarious to see cruelly killed, are in fact damned expensive. So that was out. She tried primal scream therapy for a short time, but it turns out that bone-chilling howls of agony from backstage tend to unnerve audiences, so that didn't work out either; she also tried an alternative, primal sigh therapy, but it wasn't that fulfilling, nor was primal belching. Musical autopsies didn't even last for two days, as we quickly ran out of fresh corpses, and the noise factor became an issue again when audiences complained about the racket made when she joyfully cracked a chest and played the ribs like a marimba.

And then a friend turned her on to . . . knitting. Which is possibly the most disturbing one yet, at least from my perspective. Because while I know it works for her situation--it's quiet, productive, passes the time, etc.--it is really sort of disturbing to be sitting around the home, I'm watching SportsCenter, and then to look over at my wife . . . knitting. My breathing becomes shallow, and the adrenal glands go juicy. Oh, God! I think. My wife is seventy years old! Because, I'm sorry, I do associate knitting with the elderly. Inept scarves and ill-fitting scratchy sweaters and all that, those lovingly-made gifts that have ruined countless Christmases for children.

"Oh, isn't that adorable! Skot, thank your gramma for the shapeless, abrasive sweater!"

"But I wanted Micronauts! I hate you, gramma! All the other kids are going to laugh at me and make me lick the toilet seats if I wear this!"

"They do that anyway, son," my mother would say in reassuring tones. "But for being such a little turd on Christmas, we're going to burn all your good gifts."

"Ahahahahahahaha!" my grandmother would cackle at me then. "Fucked you pretty good again, didn't I, ya little smartass?" She would rattle the ice cubes in her empty bourbon glass wrathfully and lower her voice to a hiss. "Knitcha a coffin next year, ya lousy little pisser."

Maybe we shouldn't talk about Christmas. Sorry . . . took a little trip down memory lane. What were we talking about?

Oh! Right! Knitting. Yeah, anyway, so the wife does this now, and I enjoy ribbing her about it. "Can you knit more quietly?" I said to her tonight, mock-serious. She made a face at me, and then pretended to "knit quietly," which was kind of funny in a way that I can't really describe.

Later, still knitting, she said mildly, out of the blue, "I'm making you a cock warmer." I laughed, and took a look at her work so far. "You've seen my cock, right? I think you're done." She laughed. I looked again. "Seriously, I think you've made three of them," I said. She held up the yarnwork. "Nuh uh!" she exclaimed. (You see why I love this woman?)

After a bit, she put her knitting down to take a break. I turned to her. "Hey," I said, "get back to work. My cock is cold."

And so goes another evening in a happy marriage.

Wednesday, 01 June
Causation

Really, this whole weekend was about questionable choices.

This morning, for example, after walking to work in the rain, I attempted to close up my umbrella. But the latch seems to have broken. I spent a few minutes trying to force the damn thing, but it's just busted, and sat open all day. Every now and then it would catch my eye in the office, sitting in the corner not closed and a fresh wave of irritation would wash over me. Fucking umbrella, I'd think. I even bought a nice one with a LIFETIME FUCKING GUARANTEE because I was sick of all the cheap ones breaking. It really burned me. Lifetime guarantee, my ass. Like I'm going to go through the trouble of finding an umbrella-sized box for the thing and then cough up the dough to ship the bastard back to the manufacturer--by that time, I could have just bought a new fucking umbrella. It ate at me all day.

So when it was time to go home, I stared at the umbrella for a minute and then thought, Fuck you, umbrella! And marched right out the door. Into the heavy rain which was still falling.

Stay with me here. First, I let a broken umbrella turn into a grim psychodrama starring ME! And a broken umbrella. Then, in order to cause the broken umbrella emotional pain, I spurned the thing and left it in my perfectly dry office, where it is presumably still stewing. Then, despite the fact that the umbrella was only broken in the sense that it would not close--in other words, that its normal rest state was now one in which it was perfectly capable of serving its only function, that is, keeping me dry, I instead chose to leave it behind to walk out into the pouring rain, which was clearly visible from out my office window.

Oh, and the whole walk home in the rain, I also managed to anthropomorphize the rain, which was clearly in collusion with broken umbrella in a campaign to break my spirit. At one point, I actually thought, Fuck you, rain. I'm glad I didn't bring broken umbrella. That's just what you would want. Take that, you . . . weather!

This whole thing might have been influenced by another poor choice made earlier in the day. Our office had a little pizza party to celebrate the May birthdays (that we didn't get around to this until the last day of the month should tell you something, but I'm not sure what), and I noted with private gloom that they had ordered from Domino's. Have you ever read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich? It's a harrowing book about a guy in a Russian gulag. You know what he does all day? He eats Domino's pizza.

I'M TELLING YOU RIGHT NOW YOU PROBABLY DON'T WANT TO READ THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH.

But I was hungry. I ate two slices of the wretched stuff. And worse, I chose the "all meat" pizza, guaranteeing me my RDA of poisoned pig and stretched cat. Nummy! Needless to say, two hours later, my guts were roiling and my skin felt too tight on my face. I groaned and clutched my addled stomach, and my revolted brain began torturing me with foul hallucinations. Ugh, god, that tasted like shit, I thought. Brain took over from there, and--God help me, I am not making this up, and you're going to be really sorry you ever read it--I suddenly imagined an entire digestive process gruesomely reversed. I spent a good ten minutes or so hellishly picturing my greedy ass gulping up excrement, reverse-mouthed, cheeks writhing in an awful approximation of mastication, then a two-hour interlude where mysterious, awful things happened in my body, and then finally me opening my mouth wide and disgorging a perfectly formed slice of pizza.

I'm sorry, I had to stop for a moment there to laugh as I wondered exactly how many of my tens of readers just read that horrible paragraph and swore off this site forever. I blame nobody but myself.

And to take things further back, I'm not sure that my febrile rectodental reveries cannot be tied to another rotten choice earlier in the weekend, which was my fateful decision to watch Ladder 49 on pay-per-view. "Honey!" I sang. "There's a shitty movie on cable!" What is wrong with me? Because she is a good and loving wife, she cried, "Let's watch it!" And so we did. And it was a lot like eating shit with your own ass, in some ways: you will be filled with awful garbage, but you won't taste anything, and it will probably take hours.

I really need this image out of my mind.

Anyway, Ladder 49 is one of those tough films with a difficult message: firefighters are heroes, man. Hey, they might drink too much sometimes, and maybe the life is hard on the little woman, but when you get right down to it, there's nothing like sitting around for days on end eating with other men, showering with other men, and darn it, just being with other men. In other words, it is a courageous gay film, but without the gay.

SPOILERS HERE!

Ladder 49 is, of course, unspeakably bad. For one thing, Joaquin Phoenix is utterly useless, as he has been in everything he's ever done save for To Die For. John Travolta does his usual teeth-baring hissing routine, and Robert Patrick seems content to sit back and let his really hilarious moustache do the heavy lifting. There are moments of comedy, though, such as when Balthazar Getty falls through a roof and gets cooked like a hot dog. As befits someone named "Balthazar." No word on whether he plumped when you cooked 'im, though one wonders if that's what's happened to Travolta.

If I had only watched Elektra instead, this whole series of events might have been avoided. On the other hand, watching it might, oh, I don't know, give me lupus.

I really can't wait to find out.










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