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Monday, 31 July
Metanoia Will Destroia

At Willamette University, where I received my precious, useless liberal arts education, students were required to spend the first two years in the dorms. This policy was enforced ostensibly to foster the social nature of college life, which I totally believe to this day: nothing says "Let's hang out!" like the guy across the hall blasting Enya's "Orinoco Flow." What it emphatically was not was a cynical way for the university to extract precious room and board dollars from powerless underclassmen. I used to think that, I confess, but I really changed my mind when I went to lodge a complaint with the dean, and he was blasting "I Melt With You" from his office. I had a little cry and realized that I had read the administration all wrong.

Anyway. My sophomore year, I decided to move out of the dorm I had lived in for my freshman year, and, in one of my many horribly stupid choices that continue to dog my life, I thought I knew just where to go. There was a new dorm being set up across campus, thanks to the recent yanking of a fraternity's charter--multiple allegations of date rape can do that to an otherwise cheery organization. A bunch of campus hippie goons petitioned for the hastily vacated building, and were granted the go-ahead to set up a new dorm.

It was to be called Metanoia, which at the time I was told was a Greek term meaning "peace through change." Stickler for research and minutiae that I am, I took this as the truth. But! According to Wikipedia, which, like stoned college students, is never wrong, metanoia is:

Metanoia (from the Greek metanoien, to change one's mind) is a rhetorical device used to retract a statement just made, and then state it in a better way.

Huh! Well, that's much different! And so is this, also from Wikipedia:

In english the closest word to "Metanoia" is "repent." However, the word "repent" has many inaccuracies. The word repent implies a "turning away from sin" or a form of penance. This is an incorrect interpertation of biblical doctrine. One must first change their mind(metanoia), accept Jesus Christ as savior, then choose to change their life through the power of God. Considering Jesus Christ died for all sin, how could one think they could turn from sin without first accepting Jesus Christ?

I think it's fair to say that I had no idea what I was getting into, and learning all this now, I still don't. Wikipedia can't be wrong! I think I would have remembered the Jesus stuff, but then again, I was stoned a lot of the time too.

So was my new roommate, R. R. was a fellow theater student, a year ahead of me, and had I not been so grievously disoriented by pummeling Enya melodies, I might have realized that we did not make the best fit. R. was a fairly hardcore hippie type. He worshiped the Grateful Dead, and I quickly learned to absent myself on Sunday nights at 9:00, when the local radio station aired an hour-long block of the Dead. R. also eschewed underwear, which I learned extremely quickly and in the most predictably devastating way possible.

R. was rivetingly hairy, and try as I might, I could not help noticing him as he took off all his clothes to sleep naked, just like nature, disgusting fucking nature, commands. He looked like a garden gnome as interpreted by Rick Baker. I had many nightmares.

R.'s presence also made it difficult for me to fuck my girlfriend at the time, a lissome dancer named B. In addition to his unwelcome existence at these times, there was also the ancillary issue that R. hated B.'s guts. "You're a bitch," he told her baldly at one point. That went over well. "Did you hear that?" she hissed at me. "Are you going to do something?" What was I going to do? He had no underwear to strangle him with. We resorted to trudging down to the commons room and pushing together couches. I'm all man.

Metanoia was big on meetings, and WHO DOESN'T LOVE MEETINGS? We'd sit (on the floor, of course--chairs are tools of the man!) and discuss potent issues: what's the status on our electrifying project to pick up trash around the local prison yards? (True.) Any progress on our food drive? (So many cans of garbanzo beans! Enjoy, poor people!) The only thing I could really feel decent about was a laudable program where a solitary girl could call a number and get an escort across campus so she'd get home safe (nasty memories here of how we got the building in the first place). I never did volunteer for it, however, as I noticed a certain salacity in some others who thought this was a capital way to meet single girls. Truly, we were an unstoppable force for . . . what? I put my shoulder into the cause, if by "the cause" you mean "my cause," which was to start scoring ecstasy from the guy across the hall.

R. really didn't give a shit at all either, though that might be because nobody ever backed his idea to blare "Terrapin Station" from the bell tower every day at noon. The only one who did give a shit, really, was Metanoia's lone Republican, an Asian-American kid who enjoyed our meetings if only to lightly mock the terrible, mostly neglected high-minded projects of the group. "Every underprivileged family enjoys cans of mashed pumpkin in March!" he would crow. During the febrile heights of the Gulf War, when I was mouthing terrible inanities like "Complacency is the enemy!", he would hold up a map in front of me. "Show me where Kuwait is," he commanded. I of course spent an embarrassing amount of time squinting. Later, I lay in bed, roiling with shame, staring helplessly as R. contemptuously pulled down his pants, readying for bed, pointing his awful Wookie ass at me.

It was a terrible year, and I try not to think about it too much. But a minor, dumb thing today made me remember. I was walking home, and a passing guy walked towards me. He looked me over--big deal, gay neighborhood, I thought--but then exclaimed something unintelligible to me. "Fuckin' good!" I thought he said. "What?" I asked. "Affection good!" he clarified. Huh? Why do I stop for this shit? "I don't know what you mean." I stood there like an idiot.

"Affection good!" he hollered. He gave me an exuberant double thumbs-up. "Violence bad." He frowned theatrically, and thumbed downward. I realized, finally, that my time was being wasted. "Agreed," I muttered, and walked away.

"Affection good!" he called after me. I knew just the place for that guy, but I couldn't be bothered to turn around.

Wednesday, 26 July
Thanks For Nothing

I was walking with the wife earlier today to the upscale Half-Priced Books after work. I picked up the newish Beatles biography, and noticed that it was priced to move at $12.98. HEY! I took it up with the manager. "This is not half price," I said indignantly. "This is much less." The book is a three pound brick of a thing. She looked at me warily and replied, "Right . . . it's like one third off." I just don't need this shit. "I come here for half price, and that's what I expect. Fix this. NOW." I clamped a steely gaze onto her face. She adopted a strange cow-eyed look in return, and whitely replied, "I could charge you five more dollars."

"I think you should. Thank you," I graciously said. There's no need to rub it in. You've got to stand up for yourself in our retail society.

Anyway. The wife and I were savoring my consumer victory, and my thoughts turned to the upcoming weekend. I asked my girl, "Do we have anything going on this weekend?" She thought a moment and said, "No." "That's awesome," I said.

I love a weekend of nothing. It's a lost art, as far as I'm concerned. There's a Zen-ness of a weekend of nothing, unless you're really into Zen, in which case there's koans or some such nonsense, and koans sound like a lot of bother to me. The sound of one hand clapping? I don't know. Fuck that. That sounds dangerously close to "something." Fuck you, something.

There's something alchemical about doing nothing; it's turning a lot of little seeming somethings into a larger, more absorbant nothing. Nothing is like a giant paper towel that soaks up somethings. Nothing is an art.

For example, on a good nothing weekend, I might watch three or four baseball games. "But Skot!" you might say. "Watching four baseball games isn't much, but surely it's something!" Oh, you silly goose. You have obviously never watched a baseball game. Baseball is the very essence of nothing. It is inconsequential. It is tedious. And it is--much like my two previous examples--the embodiment of life itself. You watch a baseball game, a game where getting a hit one third of the time at bat is considered pretty good, where players may call time out at any time for no reason, and where "pitcher's duels"--that is, games where hardly anyone if anyone at all ever scores--are breathlessly described as "exciting"--then you start to see how the something of baseball is really a concrete nothing. Baseball, again, is life: a walk-off home run is so rare and so unexpected and so thrilling. Sort of like that one time you got that blow job in a coat closet from a half-drunk bridesmaid. It made you forget, even if only for a few minutes, that the rest of your life was more or less stuffed from front to back with moments of not receiving illicit blow jobs, and was in fact filled with tedium, mundanity and woe. "This is living!" you think. But it's not. Walk-off homers and unexpected blow jobs are those strange particles that, thanks to quantum physics, get to wink into existence for unimaginably brief moments before diving out of the universe again before anyone notices. They're not real. They're nothing, not on any human scale. Baseball games--and, I'm sorry, so were those evanescent blow jobs--they're nothing.

There are other somethings that still add up, paradoxically, to nothings. Bad movies, for example. Watching bad movies, some might argue, constitute a willful act, or "doing something." But this is not true. Let me cite another seemingly unrelated parallel, the mathematical concept of a "zero divide." In common everyday mathematics, one cannot divide a number by zero; the result is, as they say, "undefined." Dividing a real number by zero can easily yield any result at all, and so there is no answer: a zero divide is a great big nothing.

(It's important to realize that "zero" is not the same as "nothing." "Zero" is a mathematical concept; "nothing" is that blow job you're still not getting while watching baseball. Though I do allow for the depressing idea that, somewhere, there are men who are watching baseball who have never received a blow job, but they have never been found in the wild, and represent a suspected 58% of all suicides.)

Shockingly horrible horror movies are an acknowleged form of the zero divide, and therefore count as nothing. Watching Driving Miss Daisy? That is surely something, even if it makes you want to take a can opener to your hard palate. Watching Piledriving Bitch Crazy? That is totally nothing. Sure, you sat there and stared at the thing unspooling before you, but did you do anything quantifiable? Were you able to say, at the end, "The result of that experience was a definable X"? I submit that you did not. You did nothing in the sense of the zero divide: you could say, "I just saw my own death." You could also say, "I just saw how I'm going to kill all my friends." And you could say, "I just saw the face of God, and He looks like Bronson Pinchot." They are all valid statements, and as such, are all meaningless in terms of determining a concrete, definable experience. You may have felt that you did something, but you have actually done nothing. You have tried to divide Alien Vs. Predator by zero, and instead of cracking the universe open, you have actually just made it more pointless and unanswerable, just as if you'd stared at a wall or a hoe for two hours.

And, sort of, you have. Which you must agree is pretty much the definition of doing nothing.

It's an old question: Why is there something instead of nothing? It's totally backwards. More properly: Why is there all this fucking something getting in the way of my nothing? Answer me that. And while you're at it, ask yourself this as well. How many times have you had this phone conversation?

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing."

And how about this one?

"What are you doing?"

"Something."

I thought so. Have a good weekend.

Monday, 24 July
A Million Little Boring-Ass Pieces

I don't generally talk about it a lot, but some of my tens of readers might not know that prior to being married to the wife . . . I was married to an entirely different wife.

And I'm not going to talk about it here, either. I could lie and say that there isn't a fat story there, but frankly, I don't want to fucking get into it for a lot of reasons. Suffice it to say that it was a terrible debacle that only the very young are capable of managing to stumble into, and I've long since made a sort of acidulated peace with, if that makes sense, and it doesn't.

Anyway. So I was previously married, and then suddenly, I wasn't, and so I had to rather quickly find a new place to live. My criteria were not terribly strict: Since I was poor, it had to be cheap. Since I was lazy and I think I mentioned poor, it had to be close by. And finally, since I was unencumbered by things like dignity, it had to be humiliating.

I found my dream apartment in one day. It was a refurbished utility room. I remember entering this sarcophagus (that's Greek for "flesh-eater"!), gazing upon its single 18" x 24" window with a grand view of a dumpster, noting its convenient proximity to the laundry room next door, and saying without hesitation, "I'll take it. Yes. This is where I want to die."

To describe this apartment as "small" is to heroically inflate its actual status. "Lilliputian" might be a better adjective. It was heated (quite adequately) by a sole wall-mounted little heating coil with a fan. The fridge was a diminutive little dormish thing, suitable for my half-racks of beer and my several condiments, suitable for being ignored by me as I heated up can after can of chili on my astounding little three-burner stove. Three! It had two in the front and one in the back, because . . . fuck you, you get three burners. It's the weirdest stove I've ever seen.

It probably says something about my state of mind that, during the year that I lived there, I never once bothered to lock the front door (right by the dumpsters!), even when I went to bed. Hey, hoboes and CHUDS! You should come in here, take my nothing, and then eat my legs!

The bathroom, at the end of a short hall which was clearly constructed after a wall kick-out, featured a sliding-door shower that required one to climb into the toilet before entering. Well, that does inspire one to get clean.

In my desperate state, I developed alarming habits. I started to smoke. Well, let me rephrase that: I started to smoke with real enthusiasm. Perhaps if I die, God will give me a stove with four burners, I thought. But being an atheist, this wasn't carrying me along too well. So, giving up on that pud known as Our Lord, I turned 180 degrees and embraced His polar opposite: AOL.

Sensitive readers might want to go shoot heroin now instead of reading the following.

I spent three years on AOL. I spent most of those years haunting the trivia forums, where, as far as I know, hosted trivia games still take place. These games were, during this dubious period, literally the most important things that I could look forward to. And do realize that this was in an age when, back in the day, I was paying by the minute for the great opportunity to enjoy the fruits of AOL. (Figuratively speaking, you jerks.) There I was, ruinously single, in a ridiculous oubliette of an apartment, working retail, and coughing up $100+ monthly bills to AOL that I could ill afford. (I know anecdotally of some shut-ins who spectacularly bankrupted themselves during the by-the-minute years of internet billing who routinely racked up monthly bills upwards of $500. In fact, some of them were fellow trivia players who would do nothing but fuck around on AOL for entire days at a time. And also some of them for whom the phrase "fuck around" was not entirely--or remotely--figurative.)

One night, a neighbor's cat entered my little window and perched himself on my lap, which nearly caused me to cry.

On another night, while pouncing on my keyboard to enter trivia answers in some damn AOL game, I was suddenly siezed by a violent sneeze. I turned my head to the side, kitchen-ward, and ACHOOED mightily. The cigarette that was in my mouth described a gorgeous parabola from my lips directly into the kitchen sink, which was ten or so feet away. SSSSSSS! I heard the butt die unheralded in my noisome sink full of chili-stained dishes.

You're getting weepy over garbage cats, I thought, and you don't do anything except play trivia games on AOL, which, I think, is the Romper Room of the Internet. And now you just spat your comet-like cigarette into your kitchen sink from a distance. And not much of a distance.

That month, a friend of mine from college quite kindly got me an audition. I went (and got it). I moved into a newer place--still a studio, but yet someplace that I didn't have to scale Mount Crapper to enter the shower. A couple months later, I met an intriguing woman. She would--after a few other relatively unappalling apartments--become my wife.

You feel so stilled sometimes. Paralyzed. The world is tensed and waiting. Eppur si muove.

Wednesday, 19 July
Ads Have Started Something In My Soul

I ask you all again: since man discovered the joys of being able to sell stuff for other stuff--oh, let's say money--we have had advertising. So WHY, WHY are our advertisers still so terrible at it?

There are exceptions, of course, but not unexpectedly, the exceptions are 1. unusual and 2. have a lousy shelf life. For an example, try walking up to a group of friends some time and greet them with a hearty "WHASSSSSUP?" And now you're being hit with tire irons, if you're lucky!

The liquor industry has once again reclaimed the airwaves after a long hiatus, and while there are some interesting efforts, born (I assume) from a long absence, most of these spots are ridiculously horrible. Morgan's Rum tries to cash in on its strange, calisthenic Pirate mascot, and Southern Comfort seems to be lamely trying to self-start a meme involving the term "SoCo." Go ahead! Order a "SoCo" or a "SoCo and lime" at your local bar! Watch as the bartender stares at you with naked horror. You are communicating many things by doing this: 1. You watch too much TV. 2. You actually listen to your TV. 3. You enjoy undrinkable brine such as Southern Comfort.

We don't have to get into the deeply alarming ads for Disaronno again, but suffice it to say that it has resulted in a massive exodus of females from bars ever since. Disaronno, once regarded as a fey liqueur for Yale cricket teams, is now known as the only drink out there for self-immolating chicks who enjoy waking up with simian bartenders.

Who thought these ads were a good idea? It doesn't even get much better on the malt liquor front, but perhaps that's not too surprising. Corona at least is intermittently clever and playful with its minimalistic ads, while the penniless-seeming Mike's Hard Lemonade commercials appear to be generated by people who got bounced from the Gong Show. J.P. Morgan says: "When I'm out of cough syrup, I almost always drink Mike's Hard Juice!" CUT! Honest, what do you say about an ad campaign that features an intern who holds up an empty bottle to the camera? "Mike's Hard Lemonade: The Beverage That We Can't Even Bear To Show On Film."

The sum of it all is, I don't get how advertisers, or the corporations who employ them to make these embarrassing spots, are so fucking terrible at it after all these years. Car ads are another good example. Car ads are routinely dull and humiliating and completely uninspiring. Car companies, when they feel they've siezed on some sort of memorable tagline, tend to keep it in their teeth, like a hungry leopard might gnaw on last week's gazelle. Think of things like Mazda's calcified "Zoom Zoom" campaign--oh, that adorable African child chorus! They'll only have to work for nine hundred years to afford your cars!--or Dodge's superannuated "Ram Tough" bits, which these days only makes me think of the Saint Louis Rams, which is perhaps not the ultimate example of "toughness." Earlier tonight, thinking about these things, I realized that I really missed those old 80s Infiniti ads where white-gowned divas prowled in marble hallways wailing about . . . I don't know . . . moss? Let's say moss. "Buy Infiniti cars! Or fuck off. We don't care."

There is a new car ad that frankly freaks me the fuck out. I can hardly bear to watch it, because it's even stupider than those old Infiniti ads. It's for Ford.

There's this guy in a suit; he has salt-and-pepper hair, and he is trapped in some strange circular neon-lit stage that seems to double as a star chamber, or perhaps Arkham Asylum's Neon Cabaret. I don't know: for all I know, he's dancing insied a digital watch. He's singing. I'd like to say I've written down all the lyrics, but I can't be bothered, but it's something like:

I know what I want!
I get what I need!
I snargle glampers
Mortimer Sneed!

Then he screams into the camera, "POSSIBILITIES!" He looks sort of like Adam Arkin, which somehow adds to the horror of it all. Then, of course, there's many cuts to a bunch of fucking cars driving around. Hey! You can drive cars! Good to know.

But it's really the trapped singer that makes this ad so nightmarish. For one thing, GET OUT OF MY FACE! The guy attacks the camera as if it owes him money. For another thing, where the fuck is the audience? Nowhere. This poor fool is trapped in some sterile orbital station and forced into lunging it out for nobody at all, which probably explains why he's so desperately trying to Arkin all over the poor cameraman.

"POSSIBILITIES!" he shrieks again to the bad music, and then his arms fall off. He's still in the empty digital watch, and I want to cry. Never in my life have I wanted to not buy anything so much as right now.

Fuck all this. The world has become confusing. Bartender? Give me a SoCo and lime.

Monday, 17 July
Alley Rats

On Friday my friend D. celebrated his thirtieth birthday, an important milestone for any young man who is interested in denary numeral systems. D. obviously wanted to celebrate in style, and so he chose for his venue a theater close to my heart, a grimy fringe palace noted for, among other thing, its lively rat population.

The wife and I could not resist such a gala event. We showed up and were greeted at the door by A. and R., who filled us in on the latest news: "We found two rats!" Awesome. "One was fresh and the other one . . . " R. trailed off here, and his face took on a greyish cast. "We found two rats," he concluded lamely. A. pensively chewed on his beard hair. I wasn't sure where to go with this conversational gambit, so I punted. "I guess we'll go inside," I said, hurrying along, leaving the duo to their mutual rat reverie.

And you know? Good move, Skot. When presented with verbal evidence of dead-ratness? FORGE AHEAD! This is how to live a life of richness and luxury. We proceeded into the Dead Rat Cathedral.

And greeted many friends! Well, the wife did. Me? Not so much. See, the thing is, I cannot remember people's names to save my life. I'd like to pretend that it's some sort of mnemonic tic of mine, or that I have a kind of Proper Noun Alexia or something, but if I'm honest with myself, it's probably just this: I'm kind of a highly distractable and neurotic prick who doesn't make any kind of effort when it comes to introductions. So if I get introduced to, say, someone named James, I don't make any mental notes to record that fact. Instead, I do things like think about James' ridiculously garish rings, or his bad cargo pants, or the fact that I'm suddenly thinking about how my feet are sweaty. "Hi, I'm James!" he says. These fucking shoes, I'm thinking. And then James has moved on, and I'm still all, I'm going to cut my feet off with a hatchet. And then, weeks later, there's James greeting me like an old friend, and I'm thinking Oh fuck. Feet guy. Which is helpful. Feet guy. And I can't very well say, "What's up, Feet Guy?" So instead I brilliantly revert to the default: "Hey! What's going on, man?" My entire hopeless social life would grind to a scorching halt without that placeholder "man."

Later, I rasp to the wife, "Who's that guy? I know I know him, but I forget his name." The wife is kind to me, but still betrays some measure of exasperation. "It's James. He saved your life that one time in Myanmar. You always call him 'Feet Guy'."

"Oh, God, right," I mutter, and then forget James' name seconds later. Because, you know, remembering the names of your friends is hard. Especially names as exotic as "James."

So I wandered among the nameless wraiths for some time, making jaw-clicking small talk with these friendly mysteries when the Big Event came nigh.

See, D., for reasons best known to himself and his luckless girlfriend had decided to ring in his thirtieth with . . . a food fight. They had even laid tarps down in the alley, for the purposes of, I suppose, not filthifying the theater itself. Because you don't want to get a nice rat-infested theater all messy.

A food fight. This sounded awful beyond all comprehension, but there were many willing participants. My friend Lisa had come equipped with some strange sort of Silkwoodian bodysuit, complete with smoked square eye-apertures; she was particularly adorable when she favored us with an impromptu pre-fight little hornpipe. It looked like Smee if he were receiving rhythmic electric shocks. Another friend, C., eschewed any protective gear at all, and opted to participate in his underwear. I would dearly love to claim that this was especially horrifying, but the fact remains that I once was (at another time, in another theater) an event at which C. had his balls waxed.

Yeah.

Oh, I didn't mention one other salient fact: for some reason best known only to D., for the duration of the food fight, our friend K. was also to sing Michael McDonald's "What A Fool Believes" over the sound system. K. employs a disturbingly awful McDonald imitation, complete with his throaty, half-gulped vocal style that resembles yards of innocent bullfrogs being crushed under tractor wheels. This was the soundtrack for the food fight.

I can only recall certain moments, such as someone being hit with an explosion of what appeared to be croutons. I know that dill pickles were involved, and I also remember an arterial spray of ketchup hitting a nearby wall.

"WHAT A FOOOL BELIEEEEEEEEEEEEEVES . . . "

There was L., running around like the avatar of white piracy, hurling--were they hot dogs?--something at someone. C. seemed to be patrolling the perimeter, looking for discarded food to recycle, his underwear glinting in the moonlight. An entire bottle of ranch dressing seemed to Krakatoa at the epicenter of the fight.

K., meanwhile, had given up even trying to bother with the McDonald lyrics, which he had clearly forgotten, or mistranscribed, and had adopted an unforgivable kind of adenoidal scatting technique to accopany the gustatory mayhem transpiring in the alley.

"HOOP HEP HAWN DIP DE DANGLE DAR DUNG BE-MEEEEEEE . . . "

By the end, with K.'s howling drifting back down into a subharmonic range, the place looked like some unspeakable culinary Holocaust. L.'s pristine white suit-thing seemed to be caked with distilled nausea, and D., the celebant, wearing an ill-fitting wool suit, appeared to have been violently raped by a Cobb salad. The alley was a desolate horror of sights and smells, and I have no doubt that local rats were sitting on the sidelines twitching with vast anticipation.

We learned later that at least two people had vomited in the midst of the battle. D. had apparently received a stripe of ketchup across his lip, which was, along with the admixture of other evocative scents, enough to make him let it go. I suspect the jar of tartar sauce. Where did he puke? "Right in the middle of the tarps," I heard second-hand.

I'd love to tell you all these people's names. But to be honest? I can't remember a single one of them.

Wednesday, 12 July
Mealy, Gapemouthed Incumbent Challenged By Ratfaced Thing And Rational Humans

Washington
12 July 2006

Nine or ten Liberal Democrats in Connecticut are upset with Senator Lieberman for his strong support for the war in Iraq.

So upset, in fact, that Senator Lieberman faces a strong challenge from fellow Democrat Ned Lamont in a primary election on August 8.

During a recent televised debate, challenger Lamont focused on Lieberman's support for the Iraq war.

"Snapfish Lieberman, if you will not challenge President Bush and his failed agenda, I will," he said.

Senator Lieberman replied, "Did you just call me a snapfish?"

Lamont responded by making a vulgar masturbatory gesture, and then used his index fingers to draw the corners of his mouth into a strange amphibian aspect. Lieberman angrily attacked his opponent, asking, "Hey, what in the heckies?" Which caused the rodential Lamont to visibly roll his eyes and reply, "Whatever, Turtle-Man."

Joe Lieberman has long been one of Connecticut's most dead-end politicians, with a record of appealing to spineless Democrats, ophidiophile independents, and even moderately tolerable Republicans.

But after three six-year terms in the Senate, Lieberman finds himself in a tough re-election battle with a little known challenger, and he is fighting hard to keep his specially-constructed reptile cage, where he enjoys crafting new legislation, tirelessly moralizing, licking his own eyeballs and eating delicious katydids.

The Lieberman-Lamont primary race in Connecticut is getting national attention. Many congressional Democrats who voted for the war will be watching to see to what extent unhappy Democratic voters take out their anger over Iraq on Senator Lieberman.

"This is going to be big," commented local Connectihoovian Rick Budd. "Safeway has a huge discount on tuna." When asked what relevance his remarks had to the Senatorial race, Budd groaned, "Another election already? Jesus fuck." After a brief explanation of the upcoming elections, Budd continued, "I guess I'll vote for Lamont. I don't care. But I like that guy's tomato paste."

This reporter informed Budd that the brand name of his tomato paste was actually DelMonte, to which Budd replied, "Whatever. I don't vote anyway."

Monday, 10 July
I Just Died In My Eyes Last Night

Ah, a long weekend of doing nothing. Well, that's not strictly true--we tried to do nothing, but we were helpless to passively do a series of little somethings. One of those was listening to the fevered screams of the people at the Summit Avenue Tavern who were watching the World Cup. SCREEEEEEEAAAM! I would flip over to ESPN to see guys running around like murder suspects. Then I would remember that I don't care and flip back to a baseball game. "Was that Italy or France?" asked the wife. "I don't care," I replied. "Why did you go look?" she asked. "I'm a fucking tool," I said. The wife then returned to her book, quietly happy that there were still a couple sports I don't give a damn about. I secretly noted, however, that the World Cup was, even in that moment of not-caringness, still infinitely more interesting to me than the NBA has ever been.

Other little somethings included maintaining our simmering resentment of the pool people as they marched past our glass sliding door. I was cheered, however, when our upstairs neighbor, an elderly Middle European widow, stalked downstairs to chastise the pool rats to stop slamming the metal gate all the fucking time. "Can't you shut eet qvietly?" she demanded. "Qvietly!" I kind of hoped that she'd start throwing ice cubes at the Trust Funds, like she did when our pool had visiting ducks, but no luck.

What else? Oh, of course! We watched movies. Terrible movies, for the most part, which my wife actually picked out herself, for she knows how much I enjoy rotten action movies. She also tempered the pain by actually renting one decent movie, but she was still really hitting for average pretty well. Here they are! Spoilers, blah blah blah. You know the drill. Again, I say, if you're actually watching these fucking things, there's nothing to spoil. It's like complaining that someone really ruined your future expectations by explaining that someday you're going to die. In fact, two of these movies really will make you want to die, and really? It's sort of unexpected that you don't!

Millions

This was a nice movie! It is genuinely charming, which in itself is surprising, given the large Charm Deficit that movieworld has been experiencing over the past ever. In this sorta-kid film, Danny Boyle moves from his last completely brilliant idea--"What if zombies were really fast?"--to another one: "What if we remade A Simple Plan, but instead of Bill Paxton, we use an adorable Scottish kid? And instead of Bridget Fonda, we use another great Scottish kid as the big brother?" It's a lovely film, and I'm not saying that just because of its chief virtue, which is the absence of Bridget Fonda.

Great line: "The French have said au revoir to the franc, the Germans have said auf wiedersehen to the mark, and the Portuguese have said... whatever to their thing."

Ultraviolet

This stylish action flick stars our new reigning nearly-straight-to-video queen Milla Jovovich! And her midriff! Mostly her midriff. It also stars Nick Chinlund as "Vicecardinum Ferdinand Daxus," but to me he is forever Donnie Faster from "The X-Files." For some reason, he wears mesh nose plugs throughout the entire movie, which, speaking as an actor, has to kind of cramp your style. "Do I have to wear these?" "Yes." "Am I a diving champion?" "Maybe!" "Sigh."

It also has William Fichtner, who is a terrific character actor (oh, look him up, you'll know who he is immediately), and who looks vaguely embarrassed, but not too embarrassed to pick up his check. It also has Digger Mesch! Whose name is Digger! Good enough for me!

Anyway, Ultraviolet is, weirdly enough, a future-dystopia thing where Milla and certain others are just trying to cope . . . as vampires--no, wait, "hemophages"--just trying to make their way in a society that for some reason don't like them much, and would like to exterminate them. Stupid humans! Always hassling the vampires! And so she must battle against the MAN--or rather, thousands of men--all of whom seem to have been luckless enough to draw the world's most incompetent armorer, for these soldiers all seem to be wearing battle suits made of highly shatterable plastic. All the grand battle scenes looked like Milla was taking out a highly mobile squad of snow globes.

Ultraviolet is, of course, bad and stupid, but it really commits the ultimate sin of any action movie: it saddles its heroine with that most pace-killing of all MacGuffins, the Kid Who Must Be Protected. So here's the Gumblety-Fifth iteration of MUST KICK ASS WHILE PROTECTING CHILD against the PVC army, and it all rests on Milla Jovovich's shoulders. And midriff. And carefully applied saline drops that allow her to dump copious tears all over her wet little charge, who is really too young to appreciate what a dreadful place he's been dropped down into.

I look forward to the upcoming Dale Chihuly movie where, when he's not piratically crying one-eyed tears over a little lost moppet, he's totally kicking ass against the Army of the Future, represented by little unposeable green plastic army men controlled by the Eely Glass Hive Mind. Go, Dale, go!

Great line: "Hello. My name is Violet and I was born into a world you may not understand." YOU THINK?

BloodRayne

Oh my. This gem of unobservable luster was of course served up by the uncontested heavyweight of unspeakable filmmaking, Uwe Boll. The most incomprehensibly awful pile of noisome spittle ever to be penned by a woman named "Guinevere," BloodRayne stands tall indeed in the pantheon of cinematic embarrassments. "If I have stood on the shoulders of giants," this film proclaims, "I don't remember it at all. I think I stood on the shoulders of midgets drowning in backyard pools. God bless those thrashing blue-faced midgets."

There isn't anything about this movie that doesn't inspire cthonic feelings of deep unease and anxiety. There is the cast: Kristanna Loken, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Madsen, Michael Pare, Billy Zane, Meat Loaf and . . . Ben Kingsley? It's like some entry from the Book of Lists where John Updike names all the people he desperately never wants to have dinner with.

It's hard to even know what to say. Michael Madsen, legendarily arrogant and hilariously unemployed Hollywood prick, slouches through the movie as if he might avoid actually being caught on camera. Hey, maybe you should have been a vampire, Mike! They don't show up on film! Sadly, Ben Kingsley does, and his performance could possibly be described as "phoning it in," except that there are no phones in the Castles 'N Hassles world of BloodRayne, so Sir Ben is forced to send his performance via wheezing, consumptive falcon.

Meat Loaf (billed here as "Meat Loaf Aday"--really? Each day? Will it keep the doctor away?)--seems to have some brief fun, mainly thanks to the bare-breasted whores surrounding him, but this movie really belongs to Kristanna Loken, and by "belongs" I of course mean, "should return immediately for a refund." Apart from a really back-tingling sex scene where she fucks some guy with a truly funereal haircut against prison cell bars--comfy!--Kristanna is stuck with series after series of unchoreographed fight scenes where her opponents were evidently advised to ram their heads directly into her swords. It's probably not a good sign when the fight choreography on your film makes the Michael Jackson video for "Bad" relatively terrifying.

BloodRayne, we desperately hoped, would be so wrenchingly awful as to be fun. It was not. It was simply ghastly and dreary and Michael Madsen-y. It was more boring than a penetrating documentary about stairs.

Here's the last word on this movie. This is the entirety of IMDB's "memorable quotes" for BloodRayne. All two of them.

Elrich: Would you stop throwing things at me?!
. . .
Darius the Kid: Can I see your teeth?

You know, I don't think I'll ever forget those lines. No matter how hard I try.

Wednesday, 05 July
This Is Going Just Swimmingly

The wife and I love our condo. In fact, we've dropped dozens of thinly-veiled hints that we'd like to buy it, but no dice. One of the things we love is that we're on the ground floor, with backdoor access to the lovely deck and the lovely pool and the lovely barbecue. We've come to think of it as our own, really, and in the rainy months, it practically is our own--who else would want to invade a concrete rainland and a chilly pool?

This illusion is, of course, utterly destroyed in the summer months. This is when we realize that, no, this is not all ours: it belongs to everyone in the building, and anyone else that anyone else in the building cares to invite over. And it's our rear back set of windows that gets walked by as they march happily to our deck, our pool, our barbecue.

This was all made horribly clear on this Fourth of July weekend, when the usual suspects came strolling out, along with several dozen of previously unknown suspects, many of whom had shockingly ugly children in tow. Into the pool they dove, screaming like tortured revenants, like sausages dumped into boiling water. EEEEEEEEEEEE!! And the children and their parents were also stunningly frank about staring at us through our windows, as if we were paramecia frantically wriggling for their entertainment. I took a good deal of entertainment out of 1. wriggling like a paramecium, just to be disturbing--I must say that Bloc Party is good wriggling music-- and 2. when, in finest Seattle tradition, it rained like hell on their barbecue party. If there's one thing you can count on in this ridiculous city, it is that it will unfailingly rain on the Fourth of July. Cry, children, cry! Cry as you are hauled out of the pool like Belugas! Enjoy your unappealing, moistly bunned hot dogs!

I think it's clear that I hate people. But more specifically, I hate the invaders of our--yes, I have come to consider the entire deck and pool area "ours"--back yard. They come in a few categories.

THE TRUST FUNDS

Let me say right now that all of these judgments are completely unfounded and also are completely set in the uneasy concrete of my mind. But there is something fundamentally irritating about kids in their early twenties who have nothing better to do than sit around the pool all day, every day, and worst of all, drink cans of Miller High Life. They clearly have money--they have complicated, spiky haircuts, and the girls they hang out with are unfailingly slim and adorn themselves with obviously expensive little hankies--and yet they delight in swill like Miller High Life. In cans. Their leader--who I guess is the trust fund leader, and there's been some delightful dish going around the condo about a certain someone's fund running low--sports a chest whose concavity is truly inspiring to chess players everywhere. It seems to be defined by negative space, a less-than-nothing defined by the landmarks around it, like his sloping shoulders and weak chin.

That said, his girlfriend is alarmingly hot, and will certainly set new land speed records when his funds run out. We're sort of hoping that we can buy his condo.

THE NEO-YUPPIES

These folks are more our age, but we only really see the gal. She's an impossibly leggy thing with a trim body and the kind of hair that says "I pay over a hundred dollars for this kind of carelessness." She will lay out for hours, courting melanomas, while he only shows up occasionally for brief bouts of exposing his awful, hairy gut to Yellow Face before scratching himself uncomfortably and retreating inside: I have him pegged for a lawyer. I say this on flimsy evidence, but let me just say that he is clearly incapable of moving farther than five feet from his cell phone, which rings at every ten-minute mark, and is also prone to barking into it: "What? What? No! What? No! Yes! Fuck that! I'll call you back!" Then he jiggle-bellies out of the pool area while Legs turns over languorously to bake her back and see what Star magazine has to offer.

I hate them. Although since we encountered them--well, her--I no longer need a calendar. "What day of the week is it?" "I don't know. What's Star magazine wearing?" "Some kind of stomach-lining color . . . pink or grey?" "Thursday."

OZZIE GUILLENS

Our next-door neighboor, a social dynamo, has this thing for company. Specifically, working-class Latino gay company. He threw a Fourth of July party as well this weekend--again, it was awesome watching these poor people hunch under party umbrellas--and it was not much different than his weekly visitors: an endless parade of gone-to-seed Latino men in Speedos wandering around proudly with tiny, groucHy penises encased in polyethylene, all screaming things like "No bueno!" and, in one memorable case, "C'est chaud!" (Our freezing pool was too hot? Was our friend from the Latin Quarter? So confusing.) I wouldn't even mind the Ozzie Guillens that much--they're certainly less irritating then the Trust Fund Kids' penchant for boring tribal tattoos--except for their penchant for astounding, water-assisted flatulence. The wife and I have been woken up more than once, wondering if were undergoing attack by sentient lawnmowers.

THE SCUM

So yeah, here we get to the nitty. I don't have ANY IDEA who these nutfucks are, but they terrify me. But they are clearly scum. They are some driftwood horrors that occasionally filter down to our pool, and nobody--including me--has the balls to chase them off. They are three of them, and they all look like things that you'd pass over in the produce aisle: one has a horrible, greasy beard; another has tattoos with legends like "REJECTED BY THE EU," and the last one is a sexually indeterminate thing with alarming lumps in all the wrong places, like it had been surgically modified by Penthouse editors from a galaxy without gravity.

As if I need to make it clear, the pool area clears of visitors once the Scum come to visit. Mr. Belly swats at his abdomen like it owes him money, while greasebeard admires his tats, and the unidentifiable thing improbably smears his/her armpits with what one desperately hopes in deodorant. The whole picture is impossible to take, much like any episode of CSI: Miami. We close the blinds.

I try to think clearly about everything I've seen, and come up short. The Scum have destroyed anything like that. I imagine them not only as the rednecks who shoot Peter Fonda at the end of the monumentally awful Easy Rider, but then I happily also imagine them as the victims.

In the end, I imagine the Scum as blowing off their own faces with shotguns.

I can some day be happy.










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