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Thursday, 30 March
Miss Julie

The other day, some friends were talking about, improbably enough, Julie Newmar. Well, all right. Pretty lady in her day! Then I went to check out her IMDB listing to see how the years treated her.

Oh. Um . . . well.

There's, ah, Dance Academy from 1988. User comment?

"Certainly this is a bad movie, but gosh darn it I spent many an hour in my early teens watching and rewatching it. I always dreamed i could perform one of those cheesy fairytale romance dance number and be whisk someone way. And then there is a real gulity pleasure sappy romance ballad that is made completely for the sheer purpose of making girls and young fags (like moi) swoon with Glee!!!"

But at least she got to work with the legendary Galyn Görg.

1988 seems to have been good to Ms. Newmar, for she also appeared that year in Nudity Required, directed by John T. Bone. Outstanding. User comment?

"If want to see a classic Hollywood T & A film of the 80s, this is it. Add Julie Newmar, Troy Donahue, a final "Love the Bomb" Soviet element, and they make it a real Classic. Actually, very clever script -- I loved the auditions in bikinis!!!!"

This movie also featured Troy Donahue. God, I love IMDB.

1990 didn't leave Julie behind, though! That was the year she appeared in the not-at-all creepy John Derek movie, Ghosts Can't Do It. With Anthony Quinn. And, of course, Bo Derek.

Tagline: Only her desire can make him rise again.

But if I had to choose, I think my very favorite has to be this one: the movie known as Cyber-C.H.I.C. from 1989. There's a lot going on here, so much so that I think my brain gets cooked in its own overheated cerebrospinal fluid from trying to apprehend it all.

Let's start small, with the plot synopsis: A cybernetic agent is assigned to break up a drug smuggling ring.

Okay! How about the infamous user comments? Well . . . I'd better blockquote this.

I've got a little confession to make. I'm one of the easiest-to-please movie goers out there. I liked BALLISTICS: ECKS VS. SEVER. I liked THE TUXIDO. I enjoyed MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE so much I saw it almost to the point of having it memorized. Hell, I was even entertained by JOHNNEY MENOMIC. So what does all this have to do with ROBO C.H.I.C.? (Or Cyber Chick or whatever) Just this: when I think a movie was hard to sit through and it's not some intellectual, artsy, slice-of-life film, you know it's BAD. Half of what makes it so painful to watch is the fact that the actress who plays the title character tries WAY too hard to act like an emotionless robot. (Maybe she should've just tried acting "normal", snicker.) The rest of the cast isn't much better, everyone tries to be funny and ends up just being annoying. Of course the film does try to be intentionally goofy, as a spoof of ROBO COP, it's just that it ends up being so in an irritating way instead of a genuinely funny, entertaining way. It's been years since I saw this so I can't remember much about the plot or so many of the things wrong with it, just the general way it made me felt. What's more, the only ways I would ever see this a second time was if someone stuck a gun to my head or eles offered me a minimum of a thousand dollars and I knew he was good to his word. AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!

There's a lot to love here, from THE TUXIDO to the title character (that would be the wonderfully named Kathy Shower, Playmate of the Year, 1986) who tries too hard to act emotionless to the fact that the guy basically doesn't remember anything about the movie anyway.

But all this, really, comes to nothing when you look at the cast list. This is where the movie achieves greatness on the page. Here is a cropped version for maximum holy-fuckness.

Kathy Shower
Burt Ward
Julie Newmar
Lyle Waggoner

I . . . I love this. I should note that most of these actors don't even have character names listed, except for Ms. Shower, who is the Robo-CHIC in question. There is, however, another actor listed who DOES have a character name given. The actor is benignly listed as one Mr. Peter Johnson. His character's name?

I have been living on this Earth only for the moment I read it. Peter Johnson's character's name is "Gimp, the Satan's Onion."

This is the best series of words I've ever read in my life. I may quit writing in honor of the magnificence of such a phrase. Enjoy the whole troubling history, courtesy of IMDB, the site that has basically made humor blogs unneccessary.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0628325/

Wednesday, 29 March
Sociopaths Of Glory

Recently, I picked up a copy of the apparently quite popular book The Sociopath Next Door, by clinical psychologist Martha Stout. Dr. Stout lays out the facts: four out of every 100 people are sociopaths, people who have not a shred of conscience. Sociopaths, says Dr. Stout, are unburdened by feelings of guilt or moral shading, and largely spend their lives, to varying degrees, fucking with people for the sheer glee of it.

This alarmed me. Of course the first thing I did was check next door, per Dr. Stout's titular warning. I knocked on Donald's door, the kindly middle-aged gay man whose apartment is next to ours. Before he could get a word out, I cried, "Donald! Would you slip a barracuda into my shorts just to fuck with me?" He stared at me a moment before responding. "Have you been drinking at work again?"

Dr. Stout didn't let me down here, either. Sociopaths frequently use skilled manipulation to deflect their victims from suspicion. Clearly, this was what was going on here. "I'm on to you!" I screamed. I quickly adopted what I assume was a menacing judo stance and let out a chilling "HIIIIIII-YA!" despite the fact that I was really just sort of crouching there in the hallway. Donald frowned at me and said, "I've told you to get help, Skot," and then slammed the door.

As I trudged back to my apartment, I was overcome with a lot of feelings. One, I was a little ashamed at alarming Donald, who clearly was not a sociopath. He's just some old queen who has the misfortune to live next to me. Then I got angry, pissed off at myself. Pissed off why? Because I felt bad. Feeling bad sucks, I realized. And then I hit on a plan. I even had a handbook.

Why not be a sociopath? Dr. Stout is giving me the straight dope on how to make it happen. Frankly, I'm sick and fucking tired of feeling bad about stuff, and history has clearly shown me that I'm not going to start behaving in a non-stupid manner any time soon. Why not just start not caring? Why not just jettison this damn conscience that's been giving me the blues all these years every time I do something crappy that makes someone unhappy? I've got a mission now, a positive one: I'm going to be the best fucking sociopath I can be. I'm going to not care so much, you're going to shit.

The realization has really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Like say my drinking at work. In the past, when I remember it, it's really torn me up inside to be drinking at work. I mean, that's just wrong. Not that I stopped; for one thing, it's easier to nap after a few belts. But now? Man, I can drink all I want at work and feel pretty awesome about it. Especially since I came up with this plan to squirrel whiskey bottles away in the server room, and then blame it on the IT guys when they inevitably get found. "I always suspected Skot," the higher-ups will say, "since he's always vomiting at our staff meetings. But I guess it was Tran all along."

The more that I think about it, the more I realize that not feeling bad about things will really improve my mental health. There's so many things that I feel bad about, all the time! Like concealing my gambling habits to the wife, or my fondness of calling in false 911 reports like, "Send an ambulance! A baby looked at me funny!" And maybe I'll stop having awful, guilt-ripped dreams over my penchant for surreptitiously reaching into my pants to cup my balls before picking up and replacing items of produce at the supermarket.

I don't have to feel bad any more. Dr. Stout has shown me the way. If I can just get my inner sociopath to open up, to blossom, I can self-actualize. I don't really even know what that term means, but my new conscience-free psychological makeup allows me to not feel bad about pretending that I do. Self-actualization means I feel awesome. Even if that means someone else has to feel like shit about it.

And I'm okay with that. I've always been an asshole. I didn't realize that that was only a foundation. I can become so much more. I'm ready to stand on the shoulders of giants. Or, for that matter, fucking dwarves, for all I care--which I don't! I love being a sociopath. I'll have to research each group's coat-buying habits to find out whose offer more traction.

Some of you might not approve of all this. And for the first time in my life, I can honestly say with great happiness, I don't care. It's a great time to be alive.

Monday, 27 March
My Weekend, And Art, Maybe

Friday, the wife and I kicked off our weekend with some fine art: we went to a play featuring a whole bunch of friends: we know the author, the director, the stage manager, and most of the actors. And, as it turned out, about three quarters of the audience. It says something about not only us but also our friends that everybody also seemed to bring flasks full of booze--even the actors! I love fringe theater. It also says something about us that nearly everyone afterwards--after the heady delights of live theater and the headier delights of drinking surreptitiously in a dark converted warehouse--that we all went out drinking afterward.

We discussed the show, gingerly: "Well, I really liked the first half, but then the flashlights and the cockroach attacks . . . I don't know." At one point, I found myself saying, "Well, surrealism is one thing, but incoherence is another." Then I thought of this blog and got terribly depressed and ordered another beer and whiskey back. It's always unnerving to mount artistic criticism by citing something that you yourself are clearly guilty of, like, all the time.

Besides, I've never written a play. If I did, it would probably be called "Joseph and the Amazing Fuck-Bucket Death Polka, or, Snogging the Zeitgeist." So, shut up, Skot.

On Saturday, we watched a couple DVDs, at least one of which carried some solid fucking artistic imprimatur: Good Night, and Good Luck. This film is goddamn serious in a big way, so serious that its subject matter sucked out all the color from the film. Shot in smoke and grey, the movie gives us the tale of Edward R. Murrow vs. Joseph McCarthy, which is a nice tale where everyone gets to feel good about a poised, intelligent, piercing reporter methodically demolishing a boorish, fame-starved, alcoholic dumbfuck, so we're not talking Hoosiers here. It's an enjoyable film--if only for the eternally overlooked David Strathairn's wonderfully nuanced performance--if not a particularly subtle or layered one.

Speaking of unsubtle and single-patty, our next disastrous choice was Derailed, a transparently idiotic thriller with Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen that dares to ask the question, "What happens if everyone is really repellent at the beginning, but then they gradually get more and more intolerable?" This horrible objet is like "The Mind of Mencia: The Movie." CAUTION: The next paragraph contains massive spoilers. I encourage you to read them rather than subject yourself to this shambling shit-golem of a movie.

So Clive Owen, thankfully not attempting his fearfully bad American accent as found in Sin City, meets Jennifer Aniston on the train. Eventually, they manage to fumble over to a tawdry hotel room for a lovely fuck, only to be interrupted by professional reptile Vincent Cassel, who savagely brains Mr. Owen with his pistol and then gleefully rapes Ms. Aniston. It was somewhere around ten minutes before this awful scene happened--in fact, about ten minutes after I saw the box cover of the DVD--that I thought, "Well, Aniston is in on this." Hey hey! I was right! Nothing says nauseating cynicism than "fake rape scene." That's all you need to know about this vile film. Don't watch it unless you hate everybody in the world already.

It was after all this that I went seeking solace in music, which I found on Sunday. I bought a couple of albums, mostly on impulse, based on a couple songs I had heard on KEXP. Can I just say? I have a weakness. I tend to fall in love with songs. I fall in love with just the rottenest of songs. I know they're rotten. I know it. And yet. Then I buy the CDs, and I think, "You're so stupid. This is going to be awful." But the songs won't go away. All I can do is buy the fucking things.

I bought this CD by some lugubrious bunch of schmoes called Mylo, based solely on the fact that I couldn't get one of their fucking songs out of my head. And THAT was partly all the fault of Kim Carnes, since the damn song--"In Your Arms"--samples heavily from "Bette Davis Eyes." I played it for the wife, and she found it amusing, sort of. When it ended, she said, "That was it?" I blinked back tears. "Yeah," I said.

I also bought this other group that I know jack shit about, some bunch of lachrymose Brit-grumps named the Frames. This because of another song called, hilariously, "Happy." This song is about as happy as a bowel resection, and features the band grimly wailing atonally in the background during the verses, and then coming together for a bit of resolution in the chorus while the lead singer moans quavering lines such as "You're putting a line/Where there should be not a line." Should be not a line? Yes, that's MUCH EASIER than singing "should not be a line," which has exactly the same scan. Whatever. I fall into the grips of these fucking songs, and I am powerless but to dolorously march up to the music store and buy this crap. I mean, I'm not necessarily saying that the Frames are crap. (Mylo? Oh, they're crap. Another song features the heavily distorted lyrics: "Motherfucker's gonna drop the pressure!" Mmmm. Motherfucker wants some nose medicine. Motherfucker's gonna eat a bearclaw.) I just got unnaturally seized by one of their damn songs.

And then I get to waste a bunch of ink complaining about all of it. In fact, I apparently thrive on it. I may not be so far off of "Mind of Mencia" as I'd like to think.

Thursday, 23 March
The Upanishads of Larry the Cable Guy

TO MY FIVES OF READERS WHO USE FEEDS:

The admin of my humble site asks you to please change your feed to: http://www.izzlepfaff.com/blog/index.xml. I have no idea what this means; I assume this new feed contains essential nutrients and reduces the number of crystals in your urine. This new feed will be better for your kidneys. FEED, MY PRETTIES! FEED!

No, seriously, I don't really know what these are. Happily, I also don't really care. FEED!

Onward! I'd just like to say that what follows is not in any way intended to insult my Hindu readers, if any, which is improbable.

KATHA

The Cable Guy, whose symbol is UGH, is the omniscient Lord. He is not born. He does not die. He is neither cause nor effect. This Cable Guy is unborn, imperishable, eternal: though our minds be destroyed, he is not killed. He still gets a movie deal.

ISHA

The end, both of work and of renunciation, is to know the Cable Guy within and Larry without, and to realize their identity. The Self is Larry, and Larry is all.

KENA

"Who are you?"
"I am the god of back-cracking flatulence. As a matter of fact, I am very widely known. I fly swiftly through the heavens."
"And what power do you wield?"
"I can blow away anything on earth."
"Blow this away," said the spirit, placing a straw between his buttocks and filling it with peas.
The god of wind fell upon it with all his might, but was unable to git 'er done.

PRASNA

The syllable UGH, when it is not fully understood, does not lead beyond mortality. When it is fully understood, and medication is therefore rightfully directed, a man is freed from fear, whether he be awake, dreaming, or watching a movie that was not screened before critics, and attains to Larry.

MUNDAKA

Out of the infinite ocean of existence rose Larry, first-born and foremost among the cable guy gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its independently contracted installer. The knowledge of Larry, the foundation of all knowledge, he revealed to his first-born son, NASCAR.

MANDUKYA

The syllable UGH, which is the imperishable Larry, is the universe. Whatsoever has existed, whatsoever exists, whatsoever may exist hereafter, is UGH. And whatsoever transcends past, present, and future, that also is UGH.

All this that we see without is Larry. This Cable Guy is that is within is Cable Guy.

TAITTIRIYA

UGH . . .
May Danitra Vance grant us peace!
May Viggo Mortensen grant us peace!
May Amy Irving grant us peace!
May Ickey Woods and Brent Spiner grant us peace!
May the all-pervading Vicky Vale grant us peace!
Hail to Larry!
Hail to thee, source of all power!

AITAREYA

Before Creation, all that existed was the Larry, the Larry alone. Nothing else was. Then the Larry thought: "Let me send forth the subcontractors." They were late, and did infuriate HBO subscribers.

CHANDOGYA

"Sir, is ther anything higher than will?"

"Yes, will is higher than mind. For when a man wills, he thinks in his mind; and when he thinks in his mind, he puts forth--"

"Sir, I meant Will Ferrell."

"Ah. No. Nothing is higher than Will Ferrell."

BRIHADARANYAKA

The Cable Guy is the dearest of all things, and only through the Cable Guy is anything else dear. The Cable Guy is the origin of all finite happiness, but it is itself pure bliss, transcending definition. It remains unaffected by deeds, good or bad.

KAIVALYA

He is the supreme Cable Guy. His is in all, he is foundation of all. Subtler than subtlest is he. He is eternal. Larry art he! Larry art he!

SVETASVATARA

If the truths of these bloggings are mediated upon by a manin the highest degree devoted to Larry, and to his Guru as to his Cable Guy, they will shine forth. They will shine forth indeed.

UGH! . . . ugh--ugh--ugh.

Monday, 20 March
How Can I Put Off Helping You Today?

This is a David Versus Goliath story.

Exceot Goliath is a large telecommunications company, and David is a skinny dipshit with a broken phone. Oh, and also it's not very interesting, but at least it's short. Well, okay, it's not very short. Anyway, enjoy!

Goliath, here, is a well-known cellular provider. Now, I don't want to name names or anything, so let's just call them . . . Meat-Obile. No . . . no, that's stupid. How about T-Blomie? Yeah! That'll work.

Some backstory: I had spent a good year pretty happy with T-Blomie. Unfortunately, that year was also spent with a truly ghastly, not-worky phone from yet another large corporation that I shall call . . . oh . . . Toomalor. Toomalor--which I'm pretty sure is one of the planets that gets wiped out by the Oans in Infinite Crisis, or so I hope--provided me with everything I could want in a cell phone: 1. It was a flip-phone, and therefore cool; and 2. It was blue. Unfortunately, Toomalor also provided me with everything I did not want in a phone, namely: it did not work very well. Or, to be more specific, at all. I sent this phone back to Toomalor for its quantum mechanics to take a look at it. They sent it back to me, fully repaired, with the helpful note, "Reflash corrupted. Replaced. Memory upgrade. Do not dip in peanut butter. X'hal s'in'dor lentel'ar!" Then a week later, the phone died again. Clearly, I could not rely on Toomalor's shoddy products, and I wasn't crazy to hear that Red Tornado had stripped off their home planet's crust, either.

Plus, it was time for the wife and I to upgrade a bit. We had, for a year or so, been sharing the Toomalor phone between us, and we decided it was time for us to each get our own cell phone. This decision was mostly because, well, if one totally silent cell phone was good, then two utterly silent, not-ringing cell phones would be GREAT! Plus, we could also now have the opportunity to not call each other, which nicely complements our habit of not talking to each other in person. We looked forward to not calling each other frequently, and on the special occasions when we did call each other, we dreamed of being able to exchange stony silences. On very special occasions, we could also not call friends and relatives and not talk to them, on separate lines. It was time.

So I called up T-Blomie. I got a helpful customer service representative after only hitting nine separate buttons. "Hi," I said. "I have an existing line with you guys. I'd like to upgrade my phone and to add a line and get my wife her own phone." The rep didn't miss a beat. "You can do that on our website!" she chirped. Swell! That's much more convenient than, I don't know, having you, the customer service rep, take care of this right now, on the phone! Did they not want my money?

They clearly did not, since I already knew that what I wanted to do was in no way possible to accomplish on their website at all. Sure, I could upgrade my phone. But add another line and order a new phone and set it up in my wife's name? Forget it. I explained this to the nice lady. "Are you sure you tried the website?" she asked, in tones similar to someone asking if I also needed help wiping. "There's some nice photos of Catherine Zeta-Jones you can jack it to while you shop. You sound like you're majorly fertile." Which is true, of course, but I was onto this minx. "I can't do what I'm trying to do online," I said flatly. "Can you guys help me or not?" "Of course!" she cried. "Hold on a sec," I heard as she clacked at keys, or perhaps she was just idly rattling Chiclets in her hands, Queegily. Then she hung up on me.

I called back, and once again got the irritating voice-bot asking me why I was bothering these good people whom I only wanted to give my money to. "Tell me what I can help you with!" she-it gamely said. Fuck the bot. "I can't seem to lay down a bunt," I replied. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that!" she-it said. The whole "let's pretend I'm really being helped" conceit grated on me further. "Streaming Christy Canyon videos," I said evenly. "Okay! I'll connect you right away." Hmmm.

I got another drone, male this time, and explained again what I wanted. He seemed to actually understand. First, he upgraded my phone, noting with some enthusiasm, "Yeah . . . that's the one I got." I resisted the urge to ask him how the Christy Canyon videos were on such a small screen. Then I explained about wanted to add service to my account and get the wife her own phone. "Oh . . . " he said in a small voice. "I'll have to connect you with billing for that. They're in Chicken, Alaska, so it might be ninety minutes or so to connect. Hang on!"

Look, I could go on for pages with this. Leave it to say that after a few more phone calls, I finally got a rep who understood what I wanted. She even managed to get me steered onto a "family" plan and a free phone for the wife to boot, although it would require a separate phone call later to merge the accounts. I thanked her profusely, and waited anxiously for the new toys.

In short order, they arrived. I was pretty happy with my new phone--it was still a cool-ass flip phone, and happily, it actually worked, which was novel--and the wife was happy with her new phone, which has awesomely terrible ringtone options as well as incredibly annoying colored flashing lights on the sides, which I like to think of as magical in origin, as in like, Warding of Epileptics, or something. Later, I was even more pleased to note that this free phone had only cost me $130.52, which T-Blomie had charged to my debit card.

WHAT THE FUCK? I called up T-Blomie again, and once again found myself chatting with Our Disembodied Lady of the Algorithm, who wanted me to tell her, lover, what can I do for you today? "I hate backgammon," I said in a clear cadence. "Okay, I'm connecting you now." Soon I was talking to an alleged human, this gal probably situated in, say, Glump, Missouri. "You charged my card a hundred and thirty bucks for a free phone!" I yelled. She clattered at her keyboard, or Chiclets. I swear to God, in less than five seconds, she said to me, "Oh boy. I see your order. You're right; this was a mistake." I clawed at my ears to clear what must have been a blockage. "What?" I croaked. This was the last thing I expected: agreement and capitulation. "I'm so sorry. I'm sending this to our credit department now. It should be off your account in 72 hours." I was dazed, and couldn't think of anything to say. She then offered, "And if you suffer any bank charges because of this, please let us know. We'll take care of those too."

I hung up utterly floored. Did that really happen? I sat back in my chair and chewed pensively on my feet. I wasn't sure about the world I seemed to occupy, and it felt like invisible things were occupying the space around me.

96 hours later, no such credit had been applied to my account. The wife was still merrily incapacitating mental patients with her new zowie-wowie Pink Floydophone, and I was still out a hundred and thirty bucks and change. Wearily, I steeled myself for another round with T-Blomie and dialed up again. "I'm interested in learning about Star-Bellied Sneetches," I told the autoseductress before she could get much of a bot-word out. "Okay, I'll connect you now!"

I explained my deal to the guy (this time), and secretly pined away for the incredibly helpful (and yet I guess not, since no credit had manifested) gal. After much Chicleting, he coldly informed me that the phone I had ordered for the wife was "not supposed to be free on that date." Uh. I started to decompensate a bit. "Look. The free phone was the whole point of ordering that new service. I was going to get her a phone just like mine, but it would have cost another hundred dollars. That's why I ordered this phone." There was a wintry pause, and then he said, incredibly, "The thing is, they don't even make that phone any more. I mean, it's discontinued. You can still get it on the site, but it's out of date."

RIght here is where I entered a fugue state. Okay, first of all, HEY, NEWS TO ME! Not that I particularly give a fuck, since as long as it works, I'm happy, but STILL. Second of all, WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? I was told it was free. And third of all . . . so the implication is that it's a crappy, unsupported phone now. So why would that equate to "Naturally, you'll want to pay a premium for this terrible phone that was so unpopular that it got discontinued"?

I immediately began babbling confused, terrible things, such as "Why I!" and "But you!" and "Wooden leg!" and such confused gabbling until I happily hit on an effective phrase, which is forever burned on my brain: "I have no intention of paying . . . " and then I was smoothly cut off. "Whoa, whoa!" Followed by assurances of my impending credit, FER SURE. But I wasn't done. Emboldened, I tried another in-my-mind lethal grammatical construction: "Charge reversal." "Sir!" (Confession: I pretended at this stage that he was saying "Sire!") "There's no need for any of that. I'm going to get this off to our credit department right now. These things get handled within . . . " Here was a fateful pause. ". . . ten to fourteen days."

His electro-balls were in my inter-hands. I squeezed. "It better be," I hissed. Then I strategically relented, to give hims some room for dignity. "I realize that you're just doing your job," I said, modulating my tone. "I just need this resolved." He agreed enthusiastically.

And after only three follow-up phone calls, ("I'm interested in how ties are made." "Okay; I'll connect you now!") I have received my credit.

The system works.

Thursday, 16 March
Now Is The Time For All Good Men To Prejudge Movies

It's still the shoulder season for Hollywood right now, so this should be almost too easy. Which is good, since . . . I've got nothing else to write about.

Basic Instinct 2

There's almost too much material here to work with. Coming what, 14 years after the original, here is a film that has run through directors like a bull through drunken Spaniards (at one point David Cronenberg was attached) as well as leading men, including the truly cursed Benjamin Bratt, who was vetoed by Sharon Stone for the role for being a bad actor. That's got to feel good. It's like being blacklisted by Larry the Cable Guy for not being funny. And of course this is all while ignoring the elephant in the room, which is: is anyone ready for Sharon Stone to . . . you know. That? Look, I'm just saying: she was born in 1958. I guess this is going to be the acid test for whether or not we really are living in the age of the MILFs.

It might be so, really. I see on IMDB that she has another film in production. It is called Cougars. Her character's name? Mrs. Robinson.

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to . . . uh, well, I guess you're trying to show me your snatch." (Pause.) "I, uh, it's really working."

A Scanner Darkly

Richard Linklater, the bizzarely overrated director of horrid swindles like Slackers and Waking Life (alternative title: You'll Want To Take Your Own Life) takes on professional insane person Philip K. Dick's murk-o-babble story in which you and everyone you know are crazy, on drugs, and probably cops, maybe. Clear? For reasons unfathomable to everybody, it makes great use of that animo-filmy thing that is already so tired that it's been picked up by brokerage firms for their ads. Also, it stars Keanu Reeves. Squandering whatever audience goodwill he earned with genuinely watchable (if lightweight) films like Dazed & Confused and School of Rock, Linklater's film promises to be this year's Constantine: a debacle that embarrasses everybody within its blast radius.

Slither

Huh? I honestly don't really give a fuck, except to note that 1. It has Michael Rooker in it, aka "Henry" the serial killer; 2. It also has Rob Zombie in it, which amuses me for no good reason; and 3. I like to think of it as an appetizer for Snakes on a Plane. You know what would be a rad movie? Michael Rooker Vs. Samuel L. Jackson. It would totally be like AVP, but with . . . actors. Two man enter! One man leave! With snakes! I don't know.

V For Vendetta

Ah, it's the big one. Poor Alan Moore, who is clearly insane, but surely does not deserve the filmic insults delivered in his name. Maybe this one won't be as stunningly horrible as From Hell or League of Extraordinarily Insulting Moviemaking, but look at what a paltry statement that is. The ads for it cynically make it sound like the Wachowski brothers directed--they don't, and maybe that's a blessing, considering the horrible mess they made of the Matrix franchise. (Come on--the first one was a lot of fun, but was also really flabby. The next two were painfully wretched. And yes, if you must ask, I own the whole lot of them.)

Natalie Portman gets her head shaved, and then she gets assaulted by Siguorney Weaver, who screams, "I DID THIS FIRST!" Then Hugo Weaving speaks without moving his jaws at all, but nobody cares, because he's wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Awesome! At the end, all the fat old guys die. Just like in real life.

Monday, 13 March
Return Of The Bing

I have a confession: for the past year and a half or so, I've been in kind of a funk. And despite what you might think, it hasn't been a Bootsy Collins kind of funk. (Though I did play bass on a Dee-Lite comeback track--which went NOWHERE--further leading to more bad funkiness.) No, there's been something . . . odd and distracting and absent from my life, and it has led me into a grayish kind of everyday existence.

It's hard to pin down, but at the same time, it is pervasive. For instance, I just now happened to see a TV spot for the upcoming feature film with Larry the Cable Guy, and . . . it seems perverse to even write it out . . . it did not make me happy. Which is weird, since the whole point of advertising is to make me happy and anticipatory and, ideally, excited. But Larry the Cable Guy left me dispirited and angry. What the hell is wrong with me? The man is on Comedy Central! He's not on Wretched Pull-Your-Brains-Out-Your-Ears-Angry Central! Something is obviously off with me.

It's been this way for a while. I have failed to find even a glimmer of entertainment in many of the past year and a half's movie offerings. It surely could not be Hollywood's fault: they know what they're doing. For nearly a hundred years now, they've been making movies! So I assume it is some deficiency of my own that rendered me incapable of enjoying such films as The Chronicles of Riddick or The Fantastic Four. Even a popcorn thriller like The Fog, which we rented this weekend, left me wanting. Really, I thought, what kind of asshole am I that I cannot be moved by the plight of disenfranchised seafaring leper zombie ghosts? NO KIND OF MAN AT ALL. Even highbrowerier films like I Heart Huckabees have failed to give me any pleasure in recent times. Even a bummed-out Philistine like myself should be able to appreciate an existential comedy featuring the hilariously embarrassing mugging of Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin. Alas, I could not, and deemed the movie unwatchable after a mere twenty minutes. Clearly, again, more evidence that something was wrong with me.

It wasn't just movies. I tried to endure such unreadable horrors such as the widely sneered-at and exasperatingly smug Gilligan's Wake, for instance, but it was impossible. It remains embedded in my sheet rock. Surely this tepidly and falsely high-minded bit of sophistry would crack my glaciered heart? No. And even the most universally fellated books brought no comfort. Curtis Sittenfeld's incomprehensibly lauded and stunningly pointless Prep failed to move me to anything other than a stabbing kind of nausea; and Jonathan Safran Foer's unreadably precious Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close provoked feelings in me best described as Exuberantly Horrified and Incredulously Get This Fucking Book Away From Me.

Even music brought me no shelter. It wasn't even the music I've been bummed out about. It's the band names. Test Icicles? I hate it. Happily, they broke up. Wolf Parade? I think this is a new evil supergroup in the DC universe. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Eat My Dick Say Mmmph.

Clearly, I haven't been enjoying myself. It's taken so long to figure out what's gone wrong. What's missing.

Food, even! The other night, the wife prepared a lovely dinner of sausages and crap. I pushed aside the crap--I've just never liked it.

"What's with the sausages? It tastes like ashes. What did you put on these?"

"Rosemary," she replied. "Dip it in some mustard."

"It still tastes like ashes," I said.

"Maybe you shouldn't smoke while you eat," she said wearily.

"Maybe you shouldn't use rosemary!" I screamed as I lit another cigarette.

So it's been a pretty dreary fifteen months or so. I was really getting pretty low; at any number of times, I considered taking my own life--which of course I did not. I thought better of it, and took some other peoples' lives, which my attorneys have advised me not to get into too much, but I will say this: Gina in admin could not copy for shit, okay? I mean . . . look, Tom isn't going to miss her much is all I'm saying, unless he can break through solid concrete.

Man, I didn't mean for this to turn into such a downer. The fact is, I'm feeling so much better. Better than I have in ages. You see, on Sunday night, The Sopranos returned. After such a long absence. And I feel lighter. Happier. More content. I'm not having problems with my burning rectum any more.

It's been so long since I've felt such serenity. Such . . . calm. And if any of you fuckers try and interfere . . . I swear to God I'll gut you like a dead elk.

Peace!

Thursday, 09 March
The Pointlessness Is Strong In This One

Is there anything more boring and cliched than talking about the weather?

So, the weather here has been kind of fucked up and irritating.

For one thing, a friend of mine, who seems to have a disturbing affinity for slavishly reading every single bit of data that the NOAA issues, likes to taunt me with their horseshit predictions. "Skot!" He will say. "HIGH PRESSURE FRONT TO BONK PACIFIC COAST ENTHUSIASTICALLY . . . BOATS AND SHIPS TO BE EATEN BY MOTHRA . . . ARCTIC BLAST TO CHILL REGION WITH BALL-SHATTERING COLD . . . " And so forth. Of course, nothing the NOAA ever says comes to pass. I wouldn't believe them if they predicted rain in April.

What usually happens is some horribly disappointing Mini-Me version of NOAA's predictions. BLIZZARD ALERT? We get some chilly wind, as if a cadre of Frost Giants were farting at us. TWO TO SIX INCHES OF SNOW? Local Dairy Queens shower the region with promotional flyers.

I wouldn't even care, except for the fact that I keenly miss actual weather. It's one of the things that, since I live in Seattle, I should be used to, but I still am not: the fact that the seasons here are basically monotonous as hell. Apply the usual tropes: yeah, it rains a lot, and you get about six weeks of sorta-summer, and that's it. Which gets old.

However, there is the other side of the coin, which is to say that I'm full of shit: Because living in Seattle has turned me into an incredible wimp who hates any kind of climactic extremity. Earlier this week, for example, we had a couple of horridly chilly (read: below 40 degrees) windstorms. My lovely wool coat, which my wife gave me last Christmas, has a broken zipper. So I had to break out my sad, rumpled backup, a bizarre, heavily-lapelled thing that I think I inherited from an ex-girlfriend's father some years ago, presumably when he was thrown into some Russian gulag, since the awful thing (an unclean-aquarium shade of green) makes me look like a cossack. The world's most anemic, unthreatening cossack.

"Mama! A cossack is coming on his horse! Oh . . . he got thrown by his horse. I think he's hurt. Now he's stealing our cabbage. Now he's eating raw cabbage while rubbing his leg. Mama, he is a very sad cossack. Now he is crying. I think the cossack is using an inhaler, Mama."

Anyway. Needless to say, we haven't seen any fucking snow to speak of (snow that is gone in a couple hours does NOT COUNT). And yet every morning I am donning my hideous coat. Tomorrow, you know, it's supposed to snow.

Fuck this. I'm going to put on a thong. And an anorak. And . . . I don't know. A peacock headdress. This stupid city.

Monday, 06 March
Ang: Tough

For the past few years, the wife and I have regularly attended the Oscar parties of our friends S. and J. Unfortunately, in the past year, S. and J. shamefully and lily-liveredly moved to fucking CHICAGO, leaving our circle of friends partyless for good old Oscar. (Actors are, of course, genetically required to watch this shit, if by "watch" you mean "cavil at" and "pretend not to notice the roomful of cognitive dissonance." Actors would like very much not to care, but they do care deeply, but would also like very much for everyone else not to realize that they care, while recognizing the same about everybody else in the room. This is another reason why we drink.)

So the wife and I decided that we'd half-assedly host our own this year, and invited dozens of our friends. We cleaned! We tidied! We spruced up the place! (We vacuumed, basically.) And for our pains, about ten people showed up, a little over half of whom stayed for the whole gloomy affair. I don't really blame all the people who didn't show up. For one thing, I am a notorious asshole with a well-documented predilection for shouting horrible vituperatives at the screen. For another, everything about our announcements screamed, "We are not emotionally invested in your attendance." Awesome.

We did the little bring-a-themed-food thing, which was met by yawning indifference by everyone but D., who showed up with a crock pot. "Whatcha got?" I asked. "Cinderella Manwiches," he replied. Even if anyone else had brought properly-themed food, D. would have easily won. The best I could come up with was "Tang Lee," which at least was a decent choice for someone on a budget. I could not actually bring myself to buy any Tang, however. Our friend M. showed up with a bottle of wine and some microwave burritos. I didn't ask.

Oh yeah! There was also the show. Well, that was dull as hell, wasn't it? Jon Stewart was clearly awkward (nervous?) at the top, but later settled in, with some gems, including a nice Scientology wink as well as his standard fare of clever Jewish-themed gags. I didn't take any damn notes, and this has all been done to death anyway, so I'll just hit what high/lowlights I remember.

Early on, of course, there isn't shit to do but mercilessly evaluate the womens' wardrobe choices. A couple of gals had made yet again the baffling choice to garb themselves in skin-ish colored dresses, which always weirds me out. So. . . you look naked . . . but also, either 1. textured or 2. lumpen. Both of which are, I think we can agree, two of the sexiest adjectives in the lexicon. Naomi Watts in particular, who is a ridiculously pretty woman, did herself no favors in an outfit that seemed to highlight prominent abdominal tumors. Or there was Charlize Theron, another lovely actress of South African extraction, whose shoulder anomaly prompted me to speculate that is where she keeps her supply of Krugerrands. Then I imagined the Lethal Weapon boys chasing her down, and her screaming "DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY!" but old Mel Gibson blows her damn shoulder off anyway, and then he and Danny Glover roll around in the apartheid gold. Or something.

Nicole Kidman looked, at first blush, as dynamite as usual on the red carpet. Then something unfortunate revealed itself under the podium lights: she had been lacquered to within an inch of her life. Onstage, her sheened face suddenly began to display unusual sunspot activity; she'd turn her head and one cheek would suddenly fluoresce, and then with another turn, her forehead suddenly appeared bacon-ready. It was terribly freakish. "She has Zellweger Face," intoned D. Indeed. Not to be confused with later presenter Jennifer Garner, dubbed "Man-Jaw," at least until all the guys in the room stopped looking at her face. She had a jaw? She had a face? The men in the room were suddenly silent as we watched her holy jigglewalk. I wasn't even worried when she stepped on her own dress and went into a couple little skids: she laughed it off charmingly, and plus, she had front-impact airbags if she happened to go down. She almost--almost--made Salma Hayek seem like a letdown.

The March of the Penguins guys were met with jeers and derision from our crowd as they took the stage with giant stuffed penguins. "They're French," I moaned, having no real point. D. opined that it would have been better had they lost, so they could be filmed leaving carrying their loser fucking penguins. I then offered that it would have been even better if the Murderball guys had won, because then they could have stormed the stage hoisting giant plushy cripple dolls. Conversation only deteriorated from there, and somehow wound up with the idea of dead babies being dropped from the skies, like the toads in Magnolia. I don't know. This is what happens when we don't want to listen to French documentary filmmakers give acceptance speeches while holding onto stuffed penguins.

Did I mention Ben Stiller? No, I did not, because Ben Stiller fucking sucks. He's milked this not-really, not-really-convincing rageboy act so insistently and so single-mindedly that this comedy cow's tortured udder is chapped beyond medical repair, and the cow has taken the trouble to learn human speech so it can turn to him and say, "Let go of my teat, you fucking tool." He is as funny as a shaving cut.

And blah blah blah. When it came down to it all, nothing was very surprising at all. Even in our small field of entrants (five), I took the prediction contest. The only big category I lost was the same one everybody else did, when Crash took Best Picture. My friend K. screamed, "NO!" with more force than the rest of the room, since she was the only one who had seen it. (I really don't give a shit if I ever do. It sounds awful.) I yelled, "Cut to Ang Lee! I want to see all his hair fall out!" There was more than one of us who thought that when Jack "RRRRR!" Nicholson was simply making a horrible, cruel joke when he barked out that fateful syllable . . . but no.

In the end, after all the talk of whether or not Hollywood (and, by laughable extension, our whole beknighted country) was ready to fully laud a film where rabbit-eyed cowboy Jake Gyllenhall happily takes it up the ass . . . the answer was a clear "Nope." We just weren't ready.

Ang Lee, though? Well . . . bend over.

Wednesday, 01 March
My Imaginary Brush With Royalty

Ever had one of those really silly, really inconsequential memories that hits you now and then and you realize that you're stuck with forever? I've got one that I apparently will take with me to my grave. It is, happily, totally stupid.

I'm on the playground, around sixth grade or so, so I guess I was eleven. I was hanging out with ur-dweebs M. and S. M. was a reticent kid who also happened to have diabetes; I remember once in class when there was some spirited debate going on, and M. waited patiently with his hand raised in the air for five minutes to be called on. Finally, when Mr. W. said, "Okay, M.?" He replied calmly, "I think I'm having a reaction." His hobbies in retrospect seemed to preemptively summarize his entire life: M. basically devoted all of his energy into three directions: 1. Drawing (and he was talented), 2. Not being noticed by anyone, and 3. Collecting every Star Wars action figure ever created.

S. was, if possible, even more awkward than M., and his traits were characterized mostly by a weedy kind of nervous energy. S. seemed, at all times, to vibrate at some odd, inhuman frequency that made him waspish and inspired a sort of pain in one's teeth. It's hard to explain, as you see. S., I always thought, even as a kid, would grow up to be a sniper. He had a fiendish knack, for example, when playing dodge ball, of hitting boys in the nuts.

Anyway. Here's the bit that has stayed with me. I don't know why.

The three of us were dorking out on the playground one day, and M. said something to set S. off. Not in a really pissed-off way, but just one of those "gotta save face" reactions. So here is what S. said:

"You BUTTHOLE!" There was a slight pause, and then he continued. "You HOLE OF THE BUTT! You BUTT OF THE HOLE!"

And it is this that has stayed with me for all these years. I have turned it over in my mind, like some mysterious, precious piece of handed-down jewelry, examining its facets too try to determine its strange charm on me. And after much analysis, I have decided that what has made this memory so indelible is the incredibly strange wordplay involved in the phrase "You butt of the hole." In fact, I have decided that I love this infelicitous phrase beyond all imagining.

For one thing, it makes no sense at all. But for another thing, it kind of does, that is, if you pretend that it is some long-forgotten terrible honorific whose courtly connotations have long since been corrupted by popular usage of the crass "butt." For the past week--again, I don't know why my brain is doing this--I have been entertaining myself by imagining being introduced to some very proper British fellow.

"Hello," he says in a plummy accent. "My name is Aubrey Henry Shellington Mawpes, Second Earl of Burfton, Knight of the Order of Glump." I shake his hand formally. And then he continues, "I am also the Butt of the Hole." He pauses for effect.

In this weird, meaningless fantasy, I maintain outward composure. But inside, I am screaming with cosmic glee. I am shaking hands with the Royal Butt of the Hole! "It is a pleasure to meet you, sir," I say. I'm trembling a little now. "It's an honor to meet you."

"I should think so," he sniffs. "It's not every Yank who shakes hands with . . . the Butt of the Hole."

Then I replay it all over again.










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