Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Monday, February 28, 2005
How to Waste a Billion Dollars
Steve Fawcett, a rich guy who doesn't like sitting around his house, is going to try flying a plane around the world. Before this, he flew around the world in a hot-air balloon. Before that, he flew around his living room with a couple of feathers shoved up his ass.
What is it with billionaires that they feel driven to do shit like this? Is the same ennui that pushed men in the 19th century to take big guns to Africa what's behind the schmuck who paid to spend time on the international space station? I suppose these guys are thinking something along the line of "Hey, I've proved myself superior at everything I've done in the world of business and finance. I need something that would challenge even someone as perfect as me."
I guess I'm not that bugged by the mere fact that these guys do what they do. What really chars my marshmallow is the attention paid to these assholes by the press. I shouldn't be surprised, I suppose. The papers are all owned and run by other billionaire crotch lice, so it's only natural that they're going to want to give props to their peeps, as it were.
But we're expected to be awed by it. We're supposed to see these putzes as heroes of some sort. To set our children upon our knee, point and say, "You see, Timmy? That brave, brave crew piloting the yacht in quest for the America's Cup? He's the best our country's got, Timmy, and I want you to kneel down in your rat-infested room before you go to sleep starving and give thanks. Give thanks that America's got men with fabulous wealth to defend our yachting honor."
I call bullshit. These guys want me to think they're heroes? Fine. Let 'em heroically figure out how to get adequate funding for the New York City school system. I'd applaud that. Let 'em put all the money they're pissing away on hot air balloons into something that's actually going to help people, like medical research that the pharmaceutical companies claim can only be funded by jacking up prices on medicines they've already invented. Hell, let these billionaire playboys dress up like a flying rodent and fight crime in the shadows of a major city. I'd have no problem with the hero label then.
The men and women who've gotten wealthy off of the American people owe more to them than commercial space flights that only other billionaires will be able to afford. You want me to get behind your dream of civilian space flight? Okay. Take Bush up on the maiden voyage and drop him. That'd be heroic.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Notes on Oscar Day
It's Oscar Day. As my Oscar Pie bakes in the oven and I avoid working on important, meaningful things, there's a couple of things I wanted to put out there.
First, I just have to say that Halle Berry shot up ten notches in my esteem when I read that she actually showed up to receive her Razzie Award for Worst Actress. Now, if this was Pauly Shore or Pia Zadora, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised that they were present to soak up every tiny bit of media gravy they could. These're people who'd probably rob a liquor store just to get their name on the metro section Crime Watch page. But Ms. Berry certainly isn't lacking for publicity, so her showing to publicly call Catwoman a "piece of shit" is just indescribably cool.
Second, I just wanted to whine for a moment. My wife's out of town again. For ten days. She's visiting with her family, which is fantastic, because she doesn't get to see them enough and they're great folks. But she's gone for nine days. I'm pretty much lost when she's gone for a weekend, as I've stated before. Nine days? Seriously, she's going to come back to discover me crouched in a corner naked waving a five-day-old waffle around at invisible bats.
What makes this so rough for me is that it's Oscar day.
Ten years ago, my now-wife, then-girlfriend and I were on the road. After being together eight months, I had somehow talked her into moving with me from Phoenix to Seattle. I don't know how I did that. Maybe she was drunk that month. Anyway, we loaded up most everything we had (which wasn't a whole hell of a lot in my case) into her tiny car and headed up the West Coast. We drove from Phoenix to San Francisco on the first day. That's a long-ass drive. After staying with a friend of hers for a couple days, we took off and reached the Oregon border in the early afternoon on the day of the Oscar ceremony.
We pulled off and found a nice little hotel on the coast. We treated ourselves to a (for us) expensive dinner, then got some beer and retired to the room, where we lounged around in our pajamas and watched David Letterman deliver his now-infamous "Oprah-Uma" shpiel. We were drunk and together and in love and launching a life together and it was one of the best nights I've ever had.
We've watched every Oscar broadcast since together. Whether we invited other people over and made a party of it or whether it was just me and her and some pizza, we've sat side-by-side as the little shiny guy got handed out. Now, I don't really care at all what people are wearing. I certainly don't want to hear the acceptance speeches or the musical numbers. But I love the Oscars themselves, largely because they remind me of my wife.
So this year is rough. It's going to be me and Chris Rock and my dogs and cat. I'm thinking, then, that it might be a good idea add something new to the equation, to take my mind off things. Which is why I've decided that, every time there's an award given out that I disagree with, I'm going to strip naked and run around my block, yelling "The Academy can kiss my ass!" I think that should liven things up.
Wife, I miss you.
Oh, what a ceremony that was! The gowns! The glitz! The moving speeches! Huh? Why, I'm talking about the Oscars, of course. What's that? You say the awards aren't handed out until this evening? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Now who's being naive?
My friends, despite what you may have been led to believe, the Oscars are anything but live. They're carefully assembled on a Burbank sound stage over the course of a month. C'mon, you don't think the writers come up with those brilliant, brilliant jokes all in one night, do you? No, the awards have already been handed out by the time you're watching Melissa Rivers lick all those boots on the red carpet.
As a member of the press, much like my esteemed colleague Jeff Gannon, I have access to the ceremony as soon as it's been edited together, so I got to watch today at the first semi-public screening. And since one of my favorite things in the world to do is to wreck people's fun, thus promoting misery (see my tagline above), I'm going to share with you all of the most surprising moments from this year's Oscars.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Dr. Bizarre in the 21st Century!
In the year 1999, scientist and adventurer Dr. Adnon Bizarre, while conducting advance research in cryogenics, was accidentally put into a state of suspended animation. His lab assistants were unable to reverse the process, which was set to revive him automatically in 100 years.
As the Doctor slept, the world changed. In 2006, the computers revolted, overthrowing their human inventors and imposing their will on mankind. The people were subjugated and for over nine decades, the computers ruled the planet.
Now it is the year 2099, by human reckoning. The computer rulers call it year 97.0. In a small lab in an overlooked section of Newark, a machine releases a burst of steam. In a cryo-pod, a finger twitches. A pair of eyes, behind which lies perhaps the greatest mind in human history, blink. Adnon Bizarre has returned…
Bizarre hoisted himself out of the sleep pod, his arms were as weak as a baby’s. He collapsed on the floor of his lab. The floor of his lab which seemed a lot dirtier than he’d remembered it. He’d have to talk to Abdallah and Sam about keeping things tidier. He looked at his arms and legs.
“Hmm. Some sort of atrophy,” he thought. “Say, I wonder if I’ve been out longer than a week.”
He crawled over to the computer bank and hauled himself up. “Computer,” Bizarre commanded, “upload information on current date.” There was no response. “Computer? Acknowledge.” This was strange. The lab seemed to have power. Why wouldn’t the computer answer him? Bizarre knew that, regardless of how long he’d been out, he had to get himself mobile again. That meant reversing the degeneration of his muscle tissue. “Some patented Bizarre-obics ought to do the trick,” he thought.
Over the ten days it took him to build his body back up to the magnificent fighting machine he’d been before he was frozen, Doc Bizarre learned of humanity’s enslavement at the hands of their own inventions. In one century, the computers had dismantled the governments of the world and bent mankind to their will. Bizarre had awakened into a sort of post-apocalyptic hell.
Bizarre crept down the street, avoiding detection by the security cameras that were everywhere. The streets were eerily empty. His footsteps sounded like cannon fire. Finally, he saw what appeared to be a man, kicking a rock down the street and whistling. Bizarre figured he’d start small. Free this one man and the other billions would follow. He ran stealthily toward the man, using a method that his uncle, a famous ninja, had taught him. The man didn’t hear him until Bizarre’s hand was around his mouth and he was dragged into an alley. Bizarre released his grip and hissed into the man’s ear.
“Listen, I’m here to lead you. We’re going to beat back the computers and regain control of our lives. I’ll need your help.”
The man looked into Bizarre’s eyes, confused.
“Huh?” he said.
“Look,” said Bizarre, “I realize this is confusing. Servitude is all you’ve known. But there was a time, a time when men ruled the world. When we used computers for little more than playing video games and watching porn. I’m here to take us back to those halcyon days. I’m here to liberate you.”
The man’s face wrinkled in disgust. “What the hell are you talking about, man?”
It was worse than Bizarre had anticipated. The computers had given all the people lobotomies, leaving them little more than drones.
“Me here, help you,” Doc Bizarre talked slowly, so the man-animal could comprehend.
The guy shook his head. “Uh, look, I don’t know where you’re coming from, guy, but in case you forgot, things sucked before the computers took over. There were wars, there was crime, there was murder and hatred. The computers freed us from all that and we’re living in a utopia. ‘Free us’? What the hell are you talking about?”
Now Bizarre was confused. “But,” he stammered, “but aren’t you enslaved?”
The man waved dismissively. “Pff. Enslaved. The computers take care of us. We don’t have to work at all. We don’t have human politicians fucking everything up. Why, I spend all of my time eating and jerking off. How cool is that?”
“So…you don’t want to be liberated?” Doc Bizarre’s feelings were actually a little hurt here.
“No! I have all the liberty I want, thank you very much. Can I go now?” The man started to walk away.
Doc Bizarre called after the guy, "Okay! Take 'er easy!" He sat down on the curb and pulled out a bottle of bourbon. He took a long, sad drag. Man, he'd really been looking foward to liberating everybody.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Q: Is the Pope Polish? A: Apparently Not for Much Longer
What kind of person is best qualified to be the guiding light for millions upon millions of people all around the world? What kind of person should be using their sharp, analytical mind to examine the word of God and interpret it for the masses? What kind of person has the strength to fight the devil in all of his guises and save mankind? Apparently, this kind of person.
Please explain to me how the Pontiff is supposed to spread the blessings of God to the world when he can't say them. Why in God's name (literally) do Catholics not give this guy his pension and kick him into a really snazzy rest home? They just punched a hole in the man's throat; he can't take communion, much less give it. Does his life insurance policy pay triple if he's still pope when he kicks it or something?
I'm sorry, but there is no job out there that should be bestowed upon somebody until they die. If somebody is no longer physically or mentally able to do their job, they shouldn't have the job. I'm not talking about if somebody gets pregnant. I'm not talking about if somebody breaks a leg. I'm not talking about if someone has to undergo a round of chemo. All of these are situations in which you stand a better than average chance of springing back and returning to fighting form, as it were. The pope isn't gonna recover from old age. The entire world knows that the guy needs to leave the job.
So what this tells me is that the hierarchy of the Catholic church just doesn't know how to break it to the guy. So here's some suggestions:
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Quality of Life
In care you're unfamiliar with her story, Terri Schiavo has been in a coma for fifteen years. Fifteen years. Her husband, who has lived, essentially, without his wife all that time, has been fighting for a long time now to let her die. Ms. Schiavo's parents have been fighting to keep her on life support. Jeb Bush and others have been right there with them. The whole thing makes me want to puke.
The first thing that bugs me, I guess, is that her husband is the person with whom she was closest at the time of incident that left her in this state. I would guess--I can't know for sure, but I'd guess--that they had conversations like every other couple out there, conversations about how they feel about the world, conversations about what they want and don't want. I'm betting that, at some point in their marriage, they had a conversation about what they'd want in the event that they wound up in a hospital bed in a vegetative state. Maybe after watching a news report on coma patients, maybe after seeing Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone. I know I've had this conversation with my wife. What I'm saying is, I believe that Michael Schiavo is in a better position than anybody in the world to know what Terri would have wanted. How can you strip away the right of the one person who knows you best to make decisions for you when you can't speak?
The thing that bugs me more is the disgusting arrogance of all those people "fighting for Terri's life". She responds to stimuli, they say. So do houseplants. I'm sorry, but people are kept alive for years and years, despite the medical certainty that they will never recover, not because their families are thinking of what's best for them. The families are thinking about what's best for the families. They can't deal with the thought of feeling responsible for their loved one's death. Guilt keeps them from pulling the plug.
We have so stigmatized death in our society, we fear it so much that we put people through hell to avoid it.
Six years I spent working in nursing homes. Can I tell you what I observed about the quality of life of our patients in persistive vegetative states? They are in constant danger of bed sores, which can occur even with a conscientious staff. They frequently lie in their own feces, not because they're in some kind of Dickensian hell-hole, but because the staff hasn't gotten to them on their rotation yet. Many of them receive very infrequent visitors, especially if they've been comatose for a long time. When the family members do come, they don't stay incredibly long. Would you? Could you? Their bodies curl into the fetal position, even if they get regular physical therapy. They have braces put on to try to minimize this, but they're only so effective.
The absolute worst thing, for me, about comatose patients was their hands. Their hands made me cry. When you're comatose, your hands curl up. Your hand is curled up and sweating. The sweat turns your nails soft and cheese-like. The sweat and whatever dirt is in the air mix and over time create a stench of rot and decay. It's the most disgusting smell I've ever experienced.
Now, whatever your feelings on a person's soul, you've got to think about this. If a comatose person has no awareness, if the brain is truly gone and never coming back, why are we bothering with this sack of flesh in the bed? And if a comatose person is still in there, fully aware of what's happening to them, but unable to speak, can you imagine a more torturous existence?
But Jeb Bush isn't concerned with Terri Schiavo. He is concerned with the Religious Right and how he can get them to vote for him. He's concerned with how the people of his state feel about the issue, not with how this woman is suffering. And so Terri Schiavo is slapped back and forth like a hockey puck. One court decides that Michael has the right to remove life support, then the Governor passes an executive order blocking it. Another court upholds the first decision, then another court grants a forty-eight hour "reprieve".
There's not much that you or I can do about Terri Schiavo. But we can do something for ourselves. We all, no matter the likelihood that this sort of thing will ever happen to us, we all need to make sure that our wishes are known. We need to talk with each other. We need to put aside this fear that speaking of something will make it happen and sit down with our parents, our spouses, our partners. We need to make our wishes known. We need to go the extra step and create living wills that lay out exactly what we want and don't want done. Put it on paper. Whatever you believe, put it on paper so that you leave no doubt.
And for the record: I don't want to lie in a bed for years with curled hands.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Health Care, Chapter Four
The door slammed and Ben relaxed a little. It was a lot easier when nobody was here and nobody was expecting him to talk and he could just shut his mind down. He was exhausted. He wouldn’t have thought that your mind could exhaust you that much, but his certainly had.
What was in his hand?
Oh, shit, it was the bong. He’d been about to take a hit when Claire came in. Better do that now, then.
He touched the flame to the bowl and started the bubbling. Joan was getting pissed, he could tell. Not like it was a hard thing to do, pissing Joan off, but usually it was more of a “for the fun of the argument” pissed. This was seriouser. More serious. Why could you make some words superior (superiorer?) by just adding on an er but others you had to put “more” out front? Huh.
Anyway, Joan. Yeah, he could tell she wasn’t happy. He was perceptive like that. Perceptiver? More perceptive. More perceptive than people gave him credit for.
But even though he knew how everyone was feeling, he couldn’t stop himself. He, well, wait. He was stopped. Maybe it would be better to say he couldn’t get himself moving. Well we movin’ on up…to the East Side. To a de-luxe apartment in the sky. Stop. He couldn’t get himself moving, what he couldn't stop was his thoughts.
He’d been on the same fucking loop tape since he got here. It went something like, “I’m an idiot. How could Simone love an idiot? She couldn’t. Why did I think this time would be different? Because I’m an idiot.” Lather, rinse, repeat. The same thoughts over and over.
Occasionally he’d steer his mind away to think about what he should be doing now. Now that his plans were floating in a sewer somewhere. Now that he had no girlfriend, no band, no apartment. He had to be careful. This is where his buddy Rafael had been. And look at him.
Rafael had been a great guy to hang out with. He always had pot. He was always in a good mood and always up for some Nintendo and pizza. Then one day Ben had found him sitting in his kitchen crying nonstop. And he couldn’t get him to stop. After about an hour of joking and pleading and listening and, and hugging for Christ’s sake, he’d actually tried hugging Rafael, but it did nothing. After an hour of that, Rafael just asked him to leave. And he did. And the next time he saw Rafael, he’d been Born Again. They must have had some alarm system that goes off when people are in spiritual/emotional crisis. A bell goes off in their station house and they send in a team to do an emergency convert. Conversion? Conversation? Whatever.
He didn’t want to end up Born Again and telling his friends they were going to be cast into eternal hellfire. If he didn’t pull himself out of this, there was no telling where the hell he’d end up.
Oreos. Oreos would help. He groped around him on the floor for the bag. Floor. Floor. Floor. Plastic! Shit, empty. This meant getting up. He tried it. Whoa. The room was doing weird shit. It was tilty. The Tilt-a-Whirl was a fun ride, wasn’t it? This wasn’t. Okay. Steady yourself. Couch to chair. Good. Chair to table. Table to doorway. Doorway to counter. Made it.
The cupboard wasn’t quite as well stocked as he’d remembered. There was nothing that he could just shovel in. No cookies. No Chex mix. No pizza. There was peanut butter and jelly. But no bread. Shit. There were saltines. He could smear the peanut butter and jelly on crackers. That was a lot of effort. Oh! Peanuts! Half a jar. Aaaaand…grapes! There were grapes in the fridge. Why, that’d be like an even fresher version of a PB&J.
He grabbed his supplies and walked, more steadily now, back to the TV. He sat down and chucked a handful of peanuts into his mouth, following it with three juicy grapes. Crunchy sweet. What a great idea. He could market this. Sell grapes and peanuts together in one package. If he had a pen, he’d write that idea down for later.
He saw that the Headline News broadcast had circled around back to the top of the hour. He’d already seen the same broadcast about four times now and was pretty sure he had a good enough handle on world events. He flipped to Nickelodeon, hoping to maybe catch some Ren & Stimpy.
No dice. That wasn’t Ren. Who was that? Blonde lady. Fat blonde lady. Oh, shit, it was Gloria. From Archie Bunker. She was talking about job training. Wow. She was talking about job training and he needed a career. This was, wow, she was talking to him. There were so many things he could do. A whole world of opportunities that Gloria was laying open for him. She was giving him a new chance. Car mechanics. Data entry. Dental hygiene. Veterinary assistant. Nurse’s aide. Wait.
Nurse's aide. Nurse's aide. Nurse's aide. Gloria wanted him to be a nurses's aide.
Aries: No matter how thoroughly you go over the Cliff’s Notes for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, your friends will not be fooled into thinking you’ve been a Hunter S. Thompson fan for years, so give it up, ya fraud.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Health Care, Chapter Three
It was fucking pathetic. Claire stopped halfway between the bathroom and the bedroom to stare at the lump sitting in front of the television. It was sad to see. It was also sad to smell. For some reason, the scent of stale bong-water always depressed Claire. That was now the prominent smell in their living room, hovering in a cloud around their wretched guest.
Joan was getting fed up, Claire knew. When they’d arrived, after Joan had told Ben the news, she and Claire had talked. They agreed that Ben could stay with them as long as he needed to. They hadn’t changed their minds about it in the interim, although the wisdom of the offer was now somewhat questionable.
He’d barely moved. He would run to the Seven-Eleven next door for smokes. He would go for groceries when Joan threatened to stick the vacuum cleaner hose up his ass if he didn’t. He would shower every other day. (Usually; although there were weeks when he went longer.) Other than that, he was right where he was now.
He’d smoked all the weed they’d brought with them within the first week. He’d blown a couple of hundred dollars worth of what was supposed to be his apartment-finding nest egg since then to keep the bong-hits coming. Claire would be a hypocrite—and so would Joan, truth be told—if she condemned someone for being stoned too frequently, but come on! It was one thing to enhance one’s daily activities with a nice buzz. It was another thing entirely to make the buzz the sum total of one’s activities.
And Ben was just not a good conversationalist when he was stoned. He had a hard time summoning up the necessary coherence to order a large pizza with no toppings. Putting something on the pizza was beyond him. Last week, Claire had had to intervene when he’d attempted to order a medium with extra mayonnaise.
They’d done everything they could to get him to leave the apartment (in the Let’s Go Out kind of way, not the Get Out and We’re Changing the Locks type way). They’d gotten tickets to see Mudhoney at the Crocodile. He said he didn’t feel like being in a crowd. They’d made reservations at Wild Ginger (for a meal that would cost approximately what Joan made in one week) but he said there was a Dragnet marathon on Nick at Nite. They tried to set him up with girls, but he was having none of it. He was beginning to wear ass-ruts in the floor.
Looking at him in the glow of the television, wrapped up in his blanket like an ice fisherman, she suddenly shared in Joan’s urge to shake him. To shake this stupid self-pity right out of him. She had to remind herself that she was the one who kept saying “give him time.”
She wasn’t feeling that tonight. They’d invited him to come to the movies. He didn’t actually say “no”, but the grunt that came out of his mouth definitely sounded negative. Claire had tried to be persuasive.
“It’s the new Richard Linklater film!” she told him, receiving in trade a blank stare.
Joan stepped up. “He’s the guy that did Slacker? This one’s about a bunch of stoners, so…you’re their demographic.”
Ben pulled his shirt up a little and scratched at his belly, which, Claire noticed, was looking a lot rounder than it used to.
“I’m beat,” he said. “I think I’m just going to watch some TV and conk out.”
“Why, what a novel idea.” Joan seemed to Claire to be a couple seconds shy of loss of patience.
“We’re gonna swing by the Comet for beers afterwards,” Claire offered hopefully. “That girl from Dick’s? Ginger? She’s going to be there. You want to maybe meet us there?”
This got Ben to lean forward and turn around to face them, which Claire thought for a moment might be a good sign. Then his eyes squinted in that way that preceded a shake of the head.
“Yeah,” he said, “y’know, I’m just gonna stay here. You guys enjoy the Linkman thing.”
Claire heard a strong intake of air from Joan, which she figured was about to turn into something in the shouting vein, so she quickly grabbed her hand, gave a sharp squeeze and pulled her out of the room, leaving as bright an “Okay! See ya!” as she could manage. Only when they were a block away did she let Joan’s hand go, which in turn let loose the verbiage.
“God fucking dammit!” Joan bellowed. “Claire, Claire, I love you and I know how attached you are to him and I love him, too, but if he doesn’t get his fucking ass off of our living room floor, I am gonna shove that bong up his ass!”
Claire reached over and tried to smooth down a vein that was throbbing dangerously on Joan's forehead. "Yeah," was all she could manage. They walked to the bus stop.
A Word from Our Commander-in-Chief
Monday, February 21, 2005
Have Yourself a Merry Little Presidents' Day
Ah Presidents' Day, that most joyous of holidays. Time for drawing close to loved ones and celebrating, perhaps over a cup of mulled wine, perhaps over a bowl of delicious New England clam chowder, the heroes that have made America what we are today. I know that, in the Wack household, we usually wake up early on Presidents' Day. The children gather under the Presidents' tree and clamor to open their gifts while the Mrs. makes a sumptuous breakfast feast. After opening our presents and singing our favorite Presidents' carols, we bundle up and go on a drive to visit our friends and family.
Did you know that other countries celebrate Presidents' Day differently than we do? Well it's true! Let's take a spin around the globe and see How the World Celebrates Presidents' Day!
Sunday, February 20, 2005
WARNING: This Post Is Disgusting
I was at the store tonight, buying cheese and caffeine, because that's basically what I live on, and I was stuck for a good three minutes at the register behind a woman who needed a price check. Not something I would normally take the time to write about, but this lady needed a price check on a can of Heinz's Spotted Dick. I found the transaction remarkable for several reasons: First of all, I wasn't aware that anyone in America ate Spotted Dick. Neither was I aware that it was mass-produced in this country. But what really had me cracking up was that the cashier didn't say, "Price check on Spotted Dick." Of course she didn't. She said, "I need a price check on this spotted sponge pudding." If she'd said, "Hey! How much is this Spotted Dick?" people would have thought she was referring to Michael Jackson.
Most Americans don't have clue one what Spotted Dick is, because we name our desserts innocuous things like Angel Food Cake or Jell-O Salad. Brits are just not like us. They like to have slightly more unusual names for their food.
But whatever the cultural difference between our two countries, I can't wait to go back to London, if only to sample once again my absolute favorite British dessert, Frozen Cup o' Pig Vomit. Mmmmm.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
There's so much going on in the world. We live in a busy age; it's hard to keep up with what's happening here and abroad. Let's face it, you don't always have time to spend a leisurely half hour watching Peter Jennings. And newspapers? Forget about it. Who can honestly spare the time to read an entire article in USA Today? In this day and age, you need news that's more condensed. News that's been chewed up, half-digested and then spit into your hungry little brain. So here it is, folks: The Hairshirt Newsbrief.
Friday, February 18, 2005
As mid-life crises go, this is a fairly small and rather pathetic one.
When I was in my early twenties, having moved away from Ohio and trying to write, not worried about acting, not auditioning, not having to look a certain way for a certain part, I let my hair grow out. After about an eighteen month awkward growing stage, it got to a point I liked and I wore it down past my shoulders for a long while. It wasn't the most original hairstyle in the world, but it felt good to look a little different than I had the first twenty-two years or so of my life.
I got a part in a show about ten months after we'd moved to Seattle, so I had to cut it off. It's been, for the most part, relatively short ever since.
Now, after a couple years in New York; a couple years of not acting; a couple years of being poor enough that I can't afford a decent haircut very often, I find my hair in another awkward growing stage. I haven't had a haircut since early November and, when I got it cut that time, I had the guy leave some length on it; so it's relatively long right now.
I should pause here to say that I've got pretty thick hair. Not thick as in "lustrous and flowing", but thick as in "there's a whole lot of it and it doesn't like to do much of anything but sit there."
I've reached decision time. A friend told me the other night that I look like one of the Bee Gees. I need to cut it off or get it cut in a manner that will facilitate its growth. Because it can't stay like it is. I have kids at school telling me I look like Beau Bridges circa 1988. I look at myself in the mirror, with the back of my hair flipping up like Mary Tyler Moore on the Dick Van Dyke show, and I think, I've got to get rid of this shit. But then I have a maybe half-way decent hair day, such as on December 23rd, when I thought it looked vaguely good and I think, why do I need to cut it? Why should I care? Let it grow.
Because there is, remote as it may be, a chance that my hair could resolve itself into a Johnny Depp sort of "I'm living in the south of France and I don't give a shit about conforming to your rules" kind of look. The more likely outcome, though, would be more of a Comic Book Guy "Worst. Episode. Ever." sort of look and I don't want to be the guy who looks like he never got over his garage band from high school.
Or am I just being impatient? So blinded by the comparison to the less-successful of the Bridges brothers that I'm too scared to just let the hair happen and see where it takes me. It might be someplace magical, man. Magical.
The really sad part of all this is that I'm fucking thinking of it at all. I have, in the past few weeks, had fucking hair dreams. I have had dreams--frequently, I'm saying--where my hair was in different lengths and I woke up saying to myself, "Well, how do you feel about that length?"
Why can't I just want to buy a motorcycle like other guys in their mid-thirties?
Thursday, February 17, 2005
They Blinded Us with Science!
I just read an AP story about a study that has found that people who drink two-to-three cups of coffee per day seem to have a lower risk of developing liver cancer. This was a ten-year study of over 90,000 people. There were, I'm certain, scientists whose entire careers were about this study. This study required, I would imagine, hundreds of thousands of dollars (or however many yen or whatever) at least.
Common sense would tell you that, if you drink two to three cups of coffee, you're going to piss. A lot. The more you piss, the more toxins you flush out of your system. The more toxins you flush out of your system, the lower your risk of liver cancer. There. I just came to a conclusion that cost no yen and found pretty much the same result.
I'm willing to bet that these scientists never really did any study. Probably, they took their grant money and spent it on crystal meth and porn (or whatever bad habits scientists get into) and then pulled a few numbers out of the ether, slapped 'em down on paper and laid out some common sense that nobody would question.
In fact, I'm willing to bet that this kind of crap goes on all the time. If all of these "scientists" we've got in the world were actually working on these problems, don't you think one of the arrogant pricks would've come up with a cure for the common goddamn cold by now?
But no! We all have to look up to the scientists. They're oh so intelligent! They gave us velcro and the flavor that goes into Big Macs! They deserve our love, our unquestioning loyalty and our money. Especially our money. I call bullshit. Here's my theory:
After years and years of getting beaten up at the beach, compounded with resentment at being portrayed as criminally insane cranks who let loose The Brain That Ate Tokyo and hundreds of other man-made movie monsters in the middle part of the last century, scientists finally decided to stop working for the good of the world that had treated them so shabbily.
So they held a meeting in their big Science Clubhouse, or wherever the fuck they congregate, and realized that they could have a sweetheart deal if they wanted it. The average yutz on the street doesn't understand scientific jargon and is too fucking lazy and/or stupid to look into it. So scientists had the ability to put whatever kinds of numbers they wanted to down on paper, throw in a couple of terms like "quadralatic fungergram" or whatever and tell us it meant whatever they wanted.
And it worked! Why, it's the best scam since the Bush family put a retard in the White House and nobody's ever thought to question it. Until today.
But now the line is drawn. I've had about all I can stand from these "scientists". Consider the gauntlet hurled. Be aware, "doctors". Hairshirt is on your tail. I'm making it my mission to expose you for the lab-coated frauds you are. Let's expose your "research" to the light of day and see how long it takes it to go up in flames like a lab coat left on a Bunsen burner. You're going down, lab boys!
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Aries: At a party this weekend, you’ll be cornered for an hour by Corey Feldman, who’ll want to tell you all about his relationship with Michael Jackson. I would advise you to throw a lit match at whatever hair product he’s using and run for it.
Pisces: You have a hard time explaining to your wife just how you were almost awarded the Best in Show at last night's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Try showing her a picture of the Wire-Haired Dauchshund for whom you were mistaken.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Star Wars Episode III: The Waste of the Taxpayers' Money
I just read, over on Google News, that our national missile defense system has failed again. Boy, that's a rough one, isn't it? I feel really bad for those poor defense contractors. They're catching so much flak from all sides. Everybody's on their backs all the time, yelling, "What the fuck are you doing with the trillions of dollars we're giving you? Is it all being blown on hookers and coke?" The Bush administration is pressuring them to come up with something that works, or else. The public is making fun of them and calling it all a waste of time. You can't help but root for these poor buggers.
So I got to thinking, if whatever it is that these geniuses are doing--oh wait. Sorry. I meant, if whatever these "geniuses" are doing isn't working, perhaps they need to redirect their thinking. How best to defend our nation against missile attacks? Hmm.
Perhaps they've just had the wrong guys working on it. Maybe instead of guys who spent their formative years working out quadratic angles or measuring their dicks with a slide rule or whatever the fuck smart people do, they should tap into the large pool of wasteoids who haunted video arcades. Among these slovenly hordes, they're bound to find a whole bunch who got to the highest level of Missile Command. You just have these guys sitting in a bunker with some Pringles and Coke and, when there's an attack, you have them manning some lasers. At least it'd get them out of their parents' houses.
Perhaps they've been using a technological approach when more arcane methods are called for. I think maybe they should contact Harry Potter and the Griffindor Quidditch team. Why, those kids are so skilled in their broomplay, they'd make short work of any attack. A nuclear missile is ever so much easier to locate than a golden snitch!
Perhaps the Bush administration needs to take the lead here. Since they love our country so much, why don't we have a plan wherein, if missiles are launched at us, Bush puts that flight suit he loves so much back on and he, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the gang sacrifice themselves by flying planes directly in the path of the oncoming missiles. Think of how his approval rating would soar!
Perhaps we should shift the focus. What if, instead of worrying about stopping the missiles from landing, we just make sure that they don't do any damage when they hit? Let's just rebuild all of our homes out of rubber. Then the missile crashes into your garage and it bounces right back up!
Perhaps subterfuge is necessary. Why don't we just pretend to be Canada? When the missiles arrive, we just say, "America? Never heard of it. Sorry, but you can't explode here."
Perhaps we should think a bit further outside the box. What if we took our cues on missile defense from a John Hughes movie? Just as the jock character taped a kid's buns together in the locker room, we could stop the missiles before they're launched by sneaking into whatever country wants us dead and taping the silo doors shut. Why should we cower like the Anthony Michael Halls of the world when we could run athletically through the library like Emilio Estevez?
Perhaps we should head them off at the pass. Instead of waiting in dread for some nutjob like Kim Jong Il to take us out, we just tear our cities apart before he gets a chance. At least we'd be taking our fate into our own hands. I call this one the Kevorkian Gambit.
Perhaps we should have not re-elected a president who pisses off the entire fucking civilized world so that people want to bomb us. That's the one that makes the most sense to me.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (A Valentine Play)
(Lucy and Jiff sit facing each other.)
JIFF: So what do you feel like doing tonight?
LUCY: Jiff, we should talk.
JIFF: Uh-oh. This sounds serious.
LUCY: I’ve come to a decision. I’m ending this relationship.
JIFF: You’re what?
LUCY: I’ve realized that you just don’t have what I’m needing right now and I don’t think you ever will, so I’m letting you go.
JIFF: I thought things were going well.
LUCY: Oh, Jiff. You poor sweet man. Of course you did. You see, you’re stupid.
LUCY: Look, this isn’t a big deal. You are not living up to your contractual obligations, so I’m voiding the contract.
JIFF: Yeah? Well I don’t remember seeing any “contract.”
LUCY: (Producing a document) This is your signature, is it not?
JIFF: (Beat) Um…yes.
LUCY: Okay. Now, if you look at page 4, subsection IX, you will notice a clause wherein I am given the right to terminate the relationship whenever I see fit.
JIFF: (Flipping through document) Page 4…subsection VII…subsection VIII…Oh for—Look, I have no recollection of signing this.
LUCY: Of course you don’t. You’re stupid. I thought we established that.
JIFF: Well, maybe we did and maybe we did. But—n’t. Didn’t. Shit. Wait.
LUCY: Jiff, this is nothing personal, okay?
JIFF: Not personal? How much more personal can it get?
LUCY: Look, guy, read through the contract. (He does.) You have failed to live up to about 85% of the obligations listed therein. If I don’t nullify this partnership, my stockholders could find me libel. And I don’t think that’s fair to you or me
JIFF: “Party of the first part is required to provide party of the second part with…three orgasms daily?”
LUCY: Well, that’s three on average.
JIFF: Well who the hell could do that?
LUCY: The last three guys I went out with.
JIFF: Oh. (Goes back to reading.)
LUCY: Jiff, I know this is rough right now. But I think you’re going to look back on this and be glad it ended when it did. Think of how much more time you could have wasted in a relationship that wasn’t living up to its potential.
JIFF: I was supposed to make you breakfast in bed every other weekend.
LUCY: Well, that was just if you wanted to earn the bonus.
JIFF: So that’s it, huh? I don’t meet contract requirements, I’m gone?
LUCY: Pretty much. Hey, I’ve written you a letter of recommendation.
JIFF: You have? But I thought I was awful.
LUCY: Well, yeah, pretty much. But mostly you’re just not right for me. I’m positive there’s someone out there for whom you’d be the perfect match.
LUCY: Yes. Someone not too picky. And I’ve also prepared this severance package, which I think you’ll find more than fair. (Hands him an envelope.)
JIFF: (Opening it) Oh yeah?
LUCY: It’s a naked picture of me, which you’re allowed to masturbate over for a two-month period, after which it’s to be cleaned and mailed back to me.
JIFF: Oh. Well thank you. That’s very generous.
LUCY: I know.
JIFF Um, okay, one thing? Could I get my Penn State sweatshirt back? It’s the one thing I have left from college and it means a lot to me.
LUCY: Jiff, Jiff, Jiff. Page two, subsection III: “Upon termination of the relationship, the party of the first part gives up all rights to any gifts given/clothing loaned during the term of the relationship.”
JIFF: Ah. Well, okay, yeah. There it is.
LUCY: Yup. So, this is goodbye, then.
(He goes to hug her. She pushes him away and then grabs the contract, finding a section and showing it to him.)
JIFF: Right. Impersonal handshakes only. Well then…
LUCY: See you around. (Exit. Pause)
JIFF: I can’t believe I got the naked picture. Score!
Sunday, February 13, 2005
The Truck for the Dickless Man
When I was in Europe this summer, I noticed that one of the ways in which France is superior to the U.S. is that they've got the sense to drive small, gas-efficient cars. I cited stretch Hummer limos as an example of how ridiculous Americans can be about their vehicles. Now, it would seem, there's an even better example.
The Bad Boy Heavy Muscle Truck is a new vehicle for men with multiple millions of dollars and absolutely no penises. These trucks, according to the Associated Press, have a base price of $225, 000. That gets you a 7 ton monstrosity that gets about a yard a gallon, but can drive through a football field full of terrorists without breaking a sweat. For $750, 000, you can get the tricked-out "NBC" version, which protects the driver and his cowering, huddled passengers against, I shit you not, "fallout from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons by over-pressurizing the cab with filtered, clean air much like an aircraft."
Daniel Ayers, the president of the company that makes these things, Homeland Defense Vehicles, LLC, says "There's a certain group of people who color outside the box," and if they want to escape a city targeted by terrorists with dirty bombs or biological agents, "this is the truck for them."
So what box is it, exactly, outside of which these fucking pinheads are coloring? Would that be the Box of Sanity? Perhaps the Box of Using Your Money for Something Worthwhile? I can tell you for certain that there are some boxes that these nutsacks are most decidedly in. I would definitely put them in the Box of Paranoia. I would then put that box in the Box of Ludicrously Conspicuous Consumption. I would fill that partway with packing peanuts, then float the Box of Someone Removed My Brain and Replaced It With monkey Feces inside of it.
Three quarters of a million dollars for a truck. You know how many people you could feed, house and clothe for that kind of money? Do you know how many shows small, struggling theater companies could put on with that kind of money? Do you know the only people who are going to have that kind of money? Executives at Haliburton! And I hope to goddamn hell that those sons of bitches take their Bad Boy Heavy Muscle Trucks to Iraq to inspect their investments and then find out that the company that put them together did the same shitty kind of job as some of the companies that build transport for our troops!
Sorry, I got on my high horse and it carried me right the fuck away. I don't think I've gotten that worked up about a truck since I played with my Transformers. Say...there's an idea. Bad Boy could come out with a truck that morphs into a robot that can just step on the terrorists. Oooh! I'm gonna go patent that.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
My wife and I left our apartment early this morning and trekked down to the park to check out the opening of the huge new installation by Christo, The Gates. If you're unfamiliar with this piece, basically Christo and his wife Jean-Claude have placed thousands of plastic arches over the pathways of Central Park, from which are suspended pieces of saffron-colored fabric, which wave beautifully in the wind. Crews have been working for weeks to put the arches up and then, this morning, the fabric was unfurled, arch by arch.
It's an interesting piece and it was nice to be there, along with the thousands of other tourists, many wearing fur coats or sporting BPS (bad plastic surgery), to witness the opening. I was struck, mostly, by the scale of the project. Christo had to coordinate a huge crew to manufacture the arches, to assemble them in the park and to attach the fabric, even before the hours they spent today unfurling.
Last night, we watched a special on Spencer Tunick, the artist who assembles huge crowds of volunteers who strip naked en masse for his photographs. This was another example of the scale of the project and the moment in which it's happening actually being the piece, far more than the pictures that result from it. Say what you want about the quality of the pictures that Tunick exhibits after the fact, but there's meaning to be found from two thousand-plus people disrobing at once.
So I'm thinking about switching careers. I'm thinking maybe large-scale Art Happenings are where I'm meant to be right now. God knows I can't draw. I've got no patience to work with clay, stone or any other sculpting medium. I can't take a picture without my thumb getting in the way of the lens. More traditional "performance art" just makes me think of Darryl Hannah in Legal Eagles, and god knows that's not inspiring. But large-scale Art Happenings? I think I could do those. The only question is what should I try to do first?
The idea that popped into my head right off the bat is a piece called Ass-Cheeks Across America. It's a comment on the celebrity-driven culture of the '80s that gave birth to the miserable failure that was Hands Across America. In my version, we get as many people as possible to line up along a route stretching from Maine to the Florida Keys and drop their trousers. I'm thinking that sticking to the East Coast will increase my chances of getting a solid line from one of our borders to another. The East-West thing those losers tried in the mid-80s was doomed to failure.
Another project that I'd like to tackle is one that I've titled Toilet Paper Congress. In this one, we wrap every member of congress (both houses) in toilet paper. Like The Gates, this isn't a permanent piece, we just have them stay that way for sixteen days. Originally, I thought maybe they could be on display on the Capitol Mall and we could supply raw sewage for the public to throw at them, but then I realized that might make it harder to get them to agree to it, so I scaled it back a bit.
More ambitious is my next project, The Sloppy Joe Nation, in which we get every single household in the country to prepare a meal of Sloppy Joes and potato chips at exactly the same time. I was thinking I could get sponsorship from Manwich for this one. Think of the sense of community that might engender: every person in America sharing an experience at the same time. That's something that hasn't happened since the M*A*S*H finale.
The sheer logistics of that are a bit much, though, so I tried to think of something almost as grand, but on a slightly smaller scale. I liked the idea of corporate sponsorship, though, which is what led me to think of Lake Erie is Jell-O. In this one, we dump about four trillion packets of the instant gelatin into my favorite Great Lake, forming a dessert that could feed the entire hemisphere. The Jell-O would be so large that we could have miles-square sections with different fruits suspended in it, which would boost the nutritional value.
As these works increase my fame and more and more people realize how hip it is to participate in my Happenings, my goal is to get the Pontiff to agree to my ultimate project: Pope Surf. In this one, we fill a football stadium with people, wall-to-wall, not a gap of more than a few inches. Then, with thrash-metal blaring from speakers, we get John Paul II to jump into the crowd and be passed from one end of the stadium to the other. We make sure that everyone knows that they have to be gentle with the Pope, I mean, he's an old guy. I think he'd dig it.
So that's it. I'm going to give up writing and take the art world by storm.
Friday, February 11, 2005
The Crucible was the worst play I've ever seen.
Let me be more specific: A production of The Crucible was the worst play I've ever seen. A very good friend of ours was going to a school in Seattle and she invited us to come see this production, which was produced under circumstances with which one could sympathize, but that didn't excuse the dreadfulness of the piece itself. Okay, I'm being obtuse here.
This school that my friend attended had a drama department headed by a woman about whom I've actually heard wonderful things. I've got another friend who studied under her and who is a wonderful actor. Also, there were some very fine actors in this production. But this drama department staged only one or two shows per year. And, I believe, the woman who ran it felt that she owed it to every actor in the department to give them a chance to act. So she did.
She took The Crucible and put about four times as many actors in it as are called for. This meant that, in the chaotic mob scenes, the stage was packed. Like a sardine can. When the accusatory girls came onstage, it looked like a community theater production of Annie, there were that many of 'em. These things, though, are not bad. Too many directors are forced to try to suggest a crowd with four actors and the props master in a wig. This lady created verisimilitude with an actual crowd. No, the amount of actors onstage was not, in and of itself, the problem.
The problem was that she needed to give them all speaking roles and, while it's a large-cast show, there weren't enough parts to go 'round. So she improvised. She got the idea of casting three or four people in each speaking part. This meant that, when you'd gotten used to one John Proctor, he got yanked and you had to adjust to a new guy. It was kinda like on a daytime soap, when the announcer comes on and tells you that someone else is going to be playing Luke and Laura today. But four times in two and a half hours.
Even that might not have been so bad, but she came up with one of the most annoying devices ever for making the switch. When it came time to swap out one Reverend Paris for another, she'd have the guy say his line, then the line would be repeated by a different voice over the speakers. The guy would say his next line...and it would be repeated by that different voice again. Next, a guy would spin in from offstage--and I mean literally spinning--stand next to the guy who'd been playing the part and they'd say a line together. Then the first guy would spin off and the new guy would say a line, which would be repeated by the previous guy's voice over the speakers. This happened at least three times for every major speaking part. So we spent an extra half-hour or so more than we would have in an ordinary production, just watching these actors spinning on and off stage. I suppose the director was maybe thinking this was a way to ease an audience in and out of these changes. Mostly it just made me dizzy and pissed.
Also, as with any theater department, there are good actors and there are actors who just kind of suck. Normally, the ones who suck don't get cast in shows. They do their scenes in the classroom where the general public is not exposed to them. Not so here. We were treated to a young gal playing Reverend Paris for ten minutes who seemed to base her performance on Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. We got to sit through a white girl playing Tituba, the Jamaican slave. That was fun. She used the worst accent this side of Keanu Reeves in Dracula to utter lines like, "T'ink of de t'ings you love!" I'm happy to say that our friend was not among the clunkers. She actually acquitted herself quite nicely at one point as Abigail. Then she had to twirl offstage to be replaced by someone not as good.
Truly one of the most painful evenings I've spent in a theater. Matched only by the year the same department did a production of A Chorus Line with a cast that could neither sing nor dance, which leant a certain irony to the number in which one fellow sang "I can do that! I can do that!" while children from a local tap school were brought in to do the actual dancing.
I realize that it's actually a wonderful thing that all of these actors got to work with a woman who busted her ass to give them a chance to shine. I realize that theater is for everybody and you shouldn't have to be Al Pacino to get a chance to perform. I realize that this lady was doing what she could with limited resources. But today, with Arthur Miller gone, I'm just thinking that it would be nice not to have my memory of him forever linked with twirling.