skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Monday, 23 June
The Day Brings
Another strange weekend spent hanging out with other humans! Most unusual. You will be relieved to learn, however, that we did fit in time to watch Jumper, a film that dares to ask the question, "Wouldn't it be awesome if you could hang out with a deck chair and a cooler on the Sphinx's head?" The answer, of course, is "No." It's really the least awesome thing ever, and since the Sphinx-hanger-outer is also Hayden Christiansen, the answer is further modified to "Jesus fucking Christ, no, just . . . holy shit, what the fuck?"
In life, some answers just lead to more questions.
Which was brought to me even more forcefully on Saturday, when we traveled up to Shoreline to attend C.'s birthday party. C. is forever fond of making me travel places; he lives in Shoreline, for one thing, and we invariably get lost when we drive up to that baffling little area. C. is also the one responsible for dragging us all to Las Vegas in the fall so we can blearily watch him get married. The bastard.
On the other hand, C. knows how to make with the barbecue. He was preparing fajitas that day, and made sure to include as many dead animals as possible: pork, beef and chicken were all represented, and at one point I saw him getting interesting ideas in his head as he eyed Charlie, a friend's little Scotty dog in attendance. He also had prepared mojitos, iced up a giant bucket of Red Stripes, and had a full bar to boot. As if all this magnificence weren't enough, he had set up a badminton court in his pocked, uneven, ankle-breaking hellscape of a back yard. Badminton, people.
While C. slaved red-faced over the various barbecues, occasionally immolating the odd tortilla here and there, the rest of the guests traded stories, mostly about--my favorite, as my tens of readers know--horrible movies. I got into a spirited discussion about In the Name of the King, and was pleased when someone perked up when I mentioned Burt Reynolds. "What?" said D. "I am a devotee of the films of Burt Reynolds." He gave every appearance of being perfectly serious about this.
The conversation meandered along this way for a while--"I'm still angry that I watched Alone in the Dark," said someone. "I think about it all the time."--when K. thoughtfully recalled her time as a young aspiring actress when she lived in LA. "I had an audition for this movie, and I either had to be topless or I had to agree to get pissed on by an evil demon dog." I did not question the oddly specific duality of this rather stark set of choices. "I didn't want to be topless, really, but then I wondered: did it have to be real urine? Did it have to be dog urine? Could I use my own urine?" She stared pensively at the overcast sky, caught up in the memory. "Then I realized I didn't feel like driving into the Valley."
Life is full of these choices and the questions we ask in making these choices. Then we realize that there is always a third option: "Fuck all that."
Well, drinks were had and meat was fajitaed and badminton was played--horrendously, of course. There's nothing like a bunch of meat-crazed half-in-the-bag thirtysomethings staggering around playing a racket-based game that they've only played before when C. has these ridiculous gatherings. C. himself was particularly putrid, continually calling "Yours!" to me while I was being battered terribly with shuttlecocks aimed mercilessly at me by the 5' 6" girl across the net from me. Under one of these withering assaults, I tore off half my big toenail; I noticed this later in post-defeat body examination. I proceeded to trim the other untorn half, and C. commented, "So this is what you do at parties? You trim your toenails?" "This is what I do at your parties," I replied. "I think everyone will be doing it soon."
In other game related shenanigans, K. was upstairs in C.'s game room--he has a game room--laying waste to all comers with her preternatural ping-pong skills. K. is a tiny little woman and she just strafed everybody stupid enough to take her on, yours truly included (no real feat, since I know I stink). Guys are often really terrible at ping-pong, and I think I know why: guys, when given the chance, love to hit the everloving shit out of things. So you see dudes trying to lay these incredible roundhouse smashes on a ping-pong ball, but really, there's a low limit to a ping-pong ball's max velocity. Strength means absolutely nothing; it's a finesse game. It's the same deal with pool: guys love to slamball every shot, just for the manly CRASH of the cue hitting shit. But it's just as stupid and counterproductive. You can see these meatheads in any bar at all, stinking up a perfectly good table. You saw the same sort of dumb flailing at the ping-pong table, and meanwhile, K. was making all these ninja precision shots without breaking a sweat.
Guys are stupid.
It was, of course, a good time. I wish C. a happy birthday again, and I thank him for his generosity and willingness to put up with a pack of half-mad raving wise-asses swanning around his pad all damn day, ruining the august tradition of good badminton play and trimming their toenails and other various violations of common decorum.
And what do you know? In mere minutes from now--at midnight--it will be my birthday. Thirty-nine damn years old. Which raises its own set of questions. Such as: why am I going to work, anyway? Will I get in trouble if I bring whiskey into the office? Will anyone notice? Will I find myself topless, or being urinated on by evil demon dogs?
It's possible! I don't have the answers, you know. Well, I have one.
Fuck all that. Happy birthday to me.
Wednesday, 18 June
It's almost summer (proper)! IT'S THE MOST EXCITING TIME OF YEAR FOR HORRIBLE MOVIE LOVERS!
*breathes into paper sack*
These are heady times, folks. We've already seen the release of a surprisingly good superhero movie (Iron Man) and a surprisingly dismal assault on precious childhood memories (Indy and the Great Big Pile of Feculence). What could Hollywood possibly have on tap now?
Could it be more comic book movies? YES, SIR. WE MAY HAVE ANOTHER. In fact, you're going to choke on them. You, the viewer, are going to have to decide: whose superhero penis are you going to suck? The Hulk's irradiated, engorged, treelike member? Or Christian Bale's slightly sociopathic yet smooth and well-proportioned phallus? I know I've made my choice. (I deliberately left out Hellboy's fiery crimson member on the grounds that . . . I don't know. I'm having weird dreams lately.)
The Love Guru
I always hated the Austin Powers movies. Mike Myers is less a comedian or an actor than he is simply a comedy bazooka aimed directly at the camera, ready to fire catchphrases, midget jokes and, most of all, Mike Myers' winking goddamn fucking face directly at your forebrain. Myers is never content to let his material stand up for itself--not surprising, since his reedy caricatures are, at best, soggy cardboard golems--and unrelentingly fills the bald spots of his comedies with anxious mugging, often directly to the camera. His is a comic form that somehow manages to sell despite its near-overwhelming stink of comedy's anathema: desperation.
The few early reviews of this thing are, I am pleased to report, sometimes verging on murderous, which is hardly surprising given the threadbare talents Myers chose to surround himself with: do you associate Jessica Alba with anything remotely resembling comedy? (Pause for comments about her acting chops.) I see that Jessica Simpson makes an appearance too, and while she certainly can be very funny, it is never due to any actual intent on her part. Vern Troyer is here too! Oh boy! He has no verifiable talent at all! I wonder what possible gags could result from his presence?
Ben Kingsley also shows up for his semiannual paycheck, but really, Sir Ben long ago proved he is utterly without shame. BloodRayne is potent evidence for this. Seriously, watch BloodRayne before you watch this reeking thing. Spare yourself Myers' flop-sweat grins to the camera, advertising his unique sort of "ain't-I-a-stinker?" appeals to the audience. Mike Myers isn't funny; he's a strange caveman buffoon who has somehow parlayed wretched dialect work and a supernatural talent for insinuating instantly-irritating catchphrases into our society. Think of it as a public health project: we'll all feel better if nobody sees it. Yeah, baby.
I can't decide if this is the most terrible name for a film in a while or the best. I do know I really enjoy looking at the cast list. Hey, it's Ben Kingsley! Disappointingly, he does not play a character actually named "The Wackness," because, as I've already alluded to, he already did that in BloodRayne.
Joining Mr. Kingsley is the utterly pneumatic Famke Janssen, the terrifying marionette Mary-Kate Olsen, and Method Man, the only person on earth who advertises his acting technique right in his name!
I have nothing further to contribute about the merits of this film. You're all going to be watching Wall-E anyway.
I assume the film was titled ironically, like I Heart Huckabees. Nobody hearted the Huckabees. Nobody wanted this.
If anyone can think of a better Matt Bettinelli-Olpin summer vehicle than this, I'd like to hear it.
Oh, now I'm just being snotty. To be honest, the trailers for this movie did make me at least grin, and the premise--a gone-to-seed drunk superhero--is pretty ripe with comedic possibility, though it gives one pause to note that the director is Peter Berg, the person responsible for the entirely humor-free The Kingdom as well as the astoundingly repellent Very Bad Things. So . . . approach with caution.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Awww, it's that Abigail Breslin girl that caught America's heart for a few minutes! Soon she'll be doing lines in a bathroom at Harrah's with Haley Joel Osment wondering what happened. In the meantime, I continue to love improbable cast lists:
It also has Max Thieriot, and can I just say that it's refreshing to see unremarkable Cubs infielders branching out into the arts? ANYway, that is a really awesomely white cast. It's like staring at a glacier.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
I have only two things to say about these movies once I remove all these superhero penises from my mouth:
YEAH, BABY, YEAH!
Ain't I a stinker?
Tuesday, 10 June
In the summer of 1986, I was anxiously awaiting the onset of my junior year when it came time for me to attend a something of a weird thing that I been recommended for by my school: it was some sort of Notional Future Business Genius thing that I got to attend for the paltry sum of $100 that one of my teachers had put me in for. What it amounted to was that you got to travel down to Boise to take some patently ridiculous capitalism seminars and other dumb crap--I remember having to build a model for a fictional business that the instructors then ran through some primitive algorithm and then told you that you were a failure--well, it was terrible, of course, one of those silly things that allegedly looks good on your college application. I didn't really care; none of us did. It was a fun trip to Boise, back in that youthful time when such an idea could actually be plausible.
(No offense, but Boise is actually about as exciting as a tabletop.)
So we all gathered, we special Future Businesspeople, and listened to revenants such as the potato mogul (seriously) J.R. Simplot rave at us in an auditorium about how he would never hire smokers to work in his ghoulish potato mines. He also railed against "loose women." It would have been incredible had it not been coming from the piston-jawed visage of a literal billionaire mummy who sealed his starchy fortunes on the basis of a handshake deal with Ray Kroc back when cavemen were still working out how to spell GEICO. It was, obviously, tremendously boring, and most of us treated it as a free four days to grab-ass with whomever would allow it.
It's here that I met Noel. He was hard to miss. He was a rough six-foot-six and a not-fat 270 or so person-slash-barbarian, and he was my roommate at the strange, circular dormitory we shared on the BSU campus; he came into my portion of the dorm to greet me, displacing a tremendous amount of air as he did so. I gulped.
"Have you seen the chicks here?" he rumbled. He could have picked his teeth with my femur. I allowed that I had, and we compared notes.
"Have you met Margo?" I asked. She was this curvy redhead I had met and had also successfully avoided vomiting on out of purest flop-fear. I regarded this as a success. (I got nowhere with Margo nor anyone else.)
He consulted his memory, breathing like a bellows, and presently seemed to call up her image. "C cup?" he asked earnestly.
We didn't really spend a lot of time together at that weird little Boise thing, apart from our dorm time. I was pleased on the second night when he appeared back at the dorm with a half-rack of beer, since the man (at age seventeen) appeared to be part Yeti, and who was going to refuse him a beer sale? Noel was a gentle soul, but he also looked like a shaven silverback who would tear off your arms at the least provocation. Also, it was Idaho in the mid-eighties; buying beer when underage was practically a rite of passage, nearly encouraged by local merchants.
Later that year, I got a postcard from Noel; he was off working some terrible job, like smokejumping or something. He included on the postcard the loud message: "STAY GREEN!" With an accompanying drawing of a pot plant. My father smiled toothily at me when he handed it to me, and I wondered if he realized that I had been stealing their bedroom marijuana for the last six months. My father owns guns.
A year and a half later in 1987, I was in line for college registration, trying to make sure I got into the Lyric Poetry class I was desperately hoping wouldn't fill up. (Surprise! It didn't!) And I heard this:
"You've got to be fucking kidding me."
Two lines over, there stood Noel, big as life, provided that you grew up on a light-gravity planet where everyone sprouted up to titanic proportions. Noel's line-sharers blanched at his shout and gave him more space, as if he had suddenly bristled with spines; Noel took no notice of them, except for the girls, whose breast size he quickly and clinically assessed before thumping over to pick me up and shake me like a carnival plushie.
I don't know why I'm even writing this. Noel and I were certainly cordial and enjoyed each others' company, but we were hardly close. Noel played rugby (of course), where his dreadnought presence terrified other teams' players beyond lucidity; I was quickly inserting myself into the theater program and also into as many actresses as would have me, which weren't many, but I figured Noel appreciated the effort. Noel had a part-time job off-campus as a truly fearsome bouncer, while I had a part-time job at the theater doing absolutely nothing. I answered the phones and licked stamps; Noel bounced drunks off of hard surfaces.
I do remember one night. Noel and I had found each other at loose ends, and we wandered the streets of Salem, Oregon, looking for . . . what? I don't know. Noel spotted a sign at a drugstore: "BOHEMIAN: $6.00 CASE." Bohemian beer is, for the uninitiated, a lot like what Taco Bell is to genuine Mexican cuisine; that is to say, an appalling affront to all that is sensible and good and palatable. Bohemian managed to rebottle all of the things that were set free when Pandora fatefully opened that box, and the company's quality control also ensured that the one thing that remained--Hope--was never introduced to the process. To drink Bohemian is the sensorial equivalent of existentialism.
We bought two cases (again, nobody gave Noel any grief about this, other than to simply become ashen in his presence) and took them back to my dorm room and got cracking. Upon his first drink, Noel's spadelike face knotted like a fist; his normally sleepy eyes pinched into a drunk-mauling sort of aspect and he grimaced mightily.
"Jesus Christ, this is shit," he remarked, looking at the puny bottle in his paw. (One of Bohemian's dirty little tricks was to sell cases of 11.5-oz. bottles.) "This is fucking terrible," he said later, by now on his fourth beer. I couldn't disagree. It was almost comically horrible beer; it tasted like someone had wrung out the fluids from discarded, sodden doormats into our bottles.
Eventually, after far too many beers that can be regarded as healthy, Noel left, lumbering off into the night while I contemplated and eventually fell gladly into my ridiculous "long single" dorm bed that always uncomfortably reminded me, in dimension and design, as a sort of undergraduate coffin.
Tap! Tap! Tap! I was awakened later that night around 3 AM. I looked over at my depressing second-story window that overlooked my dorm's truly malnourished, strangled lawn. Tap! Another small stone bounced off the glass. I wearily got up and looked out. Noel, of course. He motioned at me to open the window, which I did, already knowing what was coming.
"You got any more of that Bohemian left?" he shouted. I barked out a laugh, and then threw him my keys.
It's odd the things you remember, the things that are otherwise, for all intents and purposes, fundamentally unmemorable.
J.R. Simplot died May 25, 2008.
Monday, 02 June
Into The Mild
Say! Took a week off there, didn't I? Fortunately, nobody noticed.
The wife and I have been trying this new thing. Instead of holing up in the apartment to watch terrible, mirth-strangling DVDs and occasionally breaking out in mournful sobs at unpredictable intervals, we've been spending time with other people over food and drinks! It's pretty fucked up, but we're into it; we're talking with CBS about a possible reality show that we like to call (in the planning stages) "Socializing"! Sumner Redstone called us the other day and said, "Your idea--interacting with other people in familiar social situations--really makes me almost feel my skin again. This could be bigger than buttfucking." So we're pretty excited.
On Memorial Day, for example, we had sent out a little email to fifty or so of our closest uneasy, distant, faltering relationship entities inviting them to come over and spend some quality time remembering the fallen warriors of our past and eating pork tacos. "Nobody will come," we told each other, "because we are strange hermits who never talk to other humans any more."
Nearly everybody on the invite showed up, grimly marching through our door like and endless stream of disgruntled Huns, demanding tacos. We didn't underestimate our popularity; we underestimated our friends' botomless capacity for free pork. The tacos were gone in mere instants, forcing the wife to improvise, which she did with aplomb, quickly whipping up a batch of taco meat salvaged from some discarded turkey and stretching it with several past issues of the New York Times, which we have neatly piled in several six-foot stacks that creatively delineate the mazelike contours of our living space. Some of the dozens of hamsters that reside in our place loudly squeaked their outrage, and into the spicy pot they were swept as well, and all were sated.
When the freeloaders began to overstay their welcome, I simply put on a 1985 cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" by a long-forgotten/never-remembered rap group named the Three Wize Men, and that started clearing the room nicely; the song sounds not unlike a roomful of Juggalos sodomizing a parliament of unlucky barn owls. It is unearthly, and I'm proud to own the recording; it's like owning Ed Gein's big toe, or a theremin. It just doesn't make sense.
When the last few obstinate stragglers proved immune to the terrible song, I simply retrieved my well-thumbed copy of the Planet Hulk trade paperback and began reading it aloud using the voice of Fannie Flagg, and the rest reeled out into the streets clutching their ears.
Then, more recently, we found ourselves at a birthday party for our friend S., a geriatric bank worker who mysteriously has been tasked with learning about infectious disease vectors. (Really. Except for the geriatric part. I think she's like 34. It's confusing.) They recently bought a house out in Greenwood or some such--fuck neighborhoods located more than six blocks from mine--and so we drove out there for a barbecue! This being Seattle, it of course rained, and this being again Seattle, nobody really gave a shit.
S.'s husband J., who is the walking embodiment of "jovial," manned the damp grill while swigging from his finest cans of Hamm's beer. J. is a confusing fellow, a pastry chef with a taste for the finer things--bleu cheese was one of the options for burger toppings--and yet he is content to drink radioactive brine such as Hamm's and PBR. It wasn't until I saw his garage that I understood; inside I found two scooters that he apparently tinkers with obsessively. "Oh, I get it!" I exclaimed. "You're deranged and twee!" "I am, sir!" he cried, and attempted to crush an empty against his skull, but the empty was, regrettably, full--in fact unopened--and he collapsed to the ground in a mighty, unconscious heap.
The rain had driven a few of us to the garage; all men. The reasoning being, I suppose, that that's where men go when the weather turns to shit. Some of the men for the occasion had brought cigars, which were passed around. I demurred, content to smoke my regular cigarettes, and was briefly derided: "Sure, you stick with your little cigarettes, Skot." I declined to point out the various underlying psychological rationales that might be responsible for their enthusiasm for putting the largest possible cylindrical objects into their mouths, mainly because we were also playing a manly game of darts and I didn't want to get punctured. Also, J. was starting to stir, and he could have easily harmed me rather badly had he felt like driving over me several hundred times with one of his scooters, had they been in working order, which they weren't. They simply stared at us balefully, like lazy, one-eyed candy apple red heifers.
I am unnerved by scooters, I think.
We were, it must be said, laughably wretched at darts. We were--manfully--playing a game called Cricket, where the simple object is to hit the numbers 15 through 20 (and the bullseye) three times each; first player to do this (including credit for doubles and triples) wins. In addition to the dartboard, I also hit: the wall, the ceiling, my shoe, someone's piece of birthday cake, a wayward scrivener, Jupiter, and, happily, a colicky baby, the last of which raised cheers from everyone. The tiny garage continued to fill with the unholy fug of accumulated cigar smoke, and as the game continued ineptly--to be fair, nobody was striving too terribly for anything resembling eptness--and I was moved by our close camaraderie, the social inroads I had made that day that I had been neglecting for so wrong.
"It's so good to hang with you guys," I said to the group. "Do you guys know when Jumper comes out on DVD? We could totally watch that some time."
There was a long, dreadful silence, punctuated only by mournful sucking noises as they worked the cigars in their mouths.
Baby steps. I'll get there.