Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wishing You Were Here . . . Wait: You Are Here

Saturday, December 10, 2011

He Knows When You Are Sleeping . . .

Why does Santa have a homeless alcoholic's nose, Mommy? Why is he looking at your ass like that? Is that Rudolph's dismembered head behind him?

Santa is PISSSSSED! 
     Man in Red Suit: "A Jew!"
     Men in Traditional Hassidic / Amish Garb: "We don't believe in you, but Gesundheit anyway. Love the belt-buckle, by the way."

Yes, no Christmas season is complete without mischief, mayhem and a little murder. In Santa's Slay, (get it? Slay - Sleigh? Ah hahahaha!) Santa, is a demon who is also the Son of Satan, who loses a bet with an angel and is forced to spread merriment, cheer and gifts. But it turns out it's not really his thing.

Santa, like clowns of all type except mimes who aren't really clowns anyway though are sometimes included in the category of entertainers called clowns though this doesn't seem fair since there is not, I do not believe, anyone in history that was much like John Wayne Gacy and that was either employed as a mime either full- or part-time nor who pursued the art of mimery as a hobby while also burying the bodies of teenage boys under his (or her) house, is a somewhat malevolent figure. He's supernatural, like poltergeists or The Kraken, hence, immune to human suppression, should the need arise. He has a long history of breaking and entering (sliding down yer chimney, boy!), animal abuse (utilizes magical, anti-gravity reindeer for commercial purposes without any form of rest during the delivery period), white slavery (maintains an unpaid crew of  workers who are apparently detained at the work-house without compensation), and invasion of privacy and stalking (he knows when you are sleeping and awake and whether you've been bad or good - however accomplished, clearly illegal.)

I recommend Santa's Slay, headlined by WWE Star Bill Goldberg (i-ron-y-?) because it will punch the whimsy right out of Christmas for you and that, my friend, is how it should be.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Driving Me To Drink

As I plunge headfirst into the Hemingway segment of my life, less the marlin fishing, rhino hunting and shotgun, I have rekindled my interest in booze. Of course, it didn't help that I befriended a wine expert or that Lexapro has so many damned side effects that hootch is the preferred choice for self-medication, though not the top beverage on the liver's list. Nevertheless, after a long day of hacking it out, a sherry seems in order and is evocative of the Euroelite of old, thus enhancing the illusion of assumed class rather than marginal alcoholism.

What to do, then? My regular spirits purveyor is of little help and, although there are a surprising number of Crown subjects in my rurally immediate area, they rather seem to avoid me and so, are of even comparably lesser value in terms of discovering, selecting and acquiring a nutty, yet bright aperitif able to exceed Harvey's pedestrian offering.

Therefore, I turned to my best friend, the Internet, to seek out a proper guide to tasty drunkeness. I have discovered that Amazon understands my need to imbibe better than I do and like a good friend, wants to help. The screenshot above proves it.

Damn. I need more ice. Maybe I should turn to Port. Hmmm. It would take some time, considering the hodgepodge of imbibables I have built up. Yes, by Jove, I shall. Bottoms up!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Se ya Soon, Steve

Kinda sucks that you're dead. But I feel ya. The way you worked to the last moment. I understand that.

Your way of thinking differently will be missed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Reason To Skip TV and Grocery Shopping Tomorrow

Hey! What are you doing tomorrow? Cruising the internet? Doing your laundry? Checking your Mega Millions numbers (no, you didn't win.) Forget it. Forget it all. Instead, get off your duff, shake out the hair rollers, shave your back and head out to Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day!

I'm so excited. I Just can't hide it. Why? Because the admission to thousands of museums, large and small, for one, plus one, is absolutely FREE! That's right - one day only: tomorrow, Saturday, 24th, 2011.

You can search for a museum local to you and get your free ticket by clicking this link. Screw the trip to Shoprite - see some frickin' ART! Yeah, baby!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet . . .

The National Geological Survey has reported a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in the typically non-tectonically active Northeast U.S., centred on Mineral, VA, ninety miles south of Washington, DC, but with reports of tremors being felt as far away as Boston, MA. Although I have not experienced these tremors directly, owing to the fact that my lair here at Choas Manor II is located in the far northwest of NJ and away from the Hudson Valley tectonic plain or rift or whatever the hell it's called (I'm too lazy and non-plussed to look it up right now,) I have had calls and e-mails exhorting me to report this non-event event.

If you were alive many decades ago, you might remember the hullaballoo surrounding the release of the granddaddy of disaster movies - Krakatoa - East of Java. The movie was based on the real-life disaster in 1883, when the frickin' island EXPLODED, killing about 40,000 people. Krakatoa is in Indonesia. You will no doubt notice that the poster for the movie features a total of zero Indonesians, although Rossano Brazzi might qualify as an expat considering the time he spent as the sexy French-speaking, civilian-warrior, horse-riding, plantation-owning baritone in South Pacific.

So, there you go. The world is collapsing right before our eyes. Don't say I didn't tell you so. Good thing you're not Indonesian, huh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh, My

I'm feeling maudlin and sentimental. No, this isn't a status update for Facebook, which I despise. It's this:


Go there. Now. Sorry. Can't write. Tears . . . making keyboard slippery.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Letter To My Daughter

In the midst of my ex-wife's strange and un-wonderful machinations, my daughter has been getting ready to go far, far away to college. Unfortunately, there's no actual way for her to complete her education at that particular institution without personally incurring more than a hundred grand in debt, mainly because her mother is not financially capable of stepping up to the plate, though she agreed to. Anyway, I don't want my kid to get saddled with a mortgage-sized college loan to pay back since she'll be in the arts and, unless you're especially savvy and extremely agressive, super lucky AND superbly talented, you will NOT make hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year. Still, she's my kid and I love her very much and so, I thought I should provide a modicum of fatherly advice. So I wrote her this:

I wanted to write something pithy, something exceptional on which you could rely as a touchstone for your launch into nearly utter independence. But I find that I have so much to tell you and so much to say that could serve to fill in the gaps in your young experience, that the best I could do today was to create an extemporaneous list. Here it is:
10 Things You Must Know To Succeed As A Young Human
1. Be on time. It matters.
2. Don't eat in the dark.
3. You will feel lonely sometimes. Savor those moments instead of allowing them to pull you into sadness. Those moments will become few and far between later and will be the times when you can express your inner voice without external censorship.
4. Be curious and educate yourself.
5. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't be quick to judge or to assume, neither should you dismiss. Instead, gather those cognitive end-points as elements of observation and store them for further use. Not everything is as it first appears.
6. Get plenty of exercise. You will feel better and happiness is impossible if you feel bad. Then, sleep fully, in a regular schedule that fits your brain-cycle.
7. Always pour your own drink.
8. Never carry less cash than is equal to or more than the cabfare from wherever you're going to be to wherever you'll be returning to. Relying on someone else for transportation takes away your options.
9. Don't get conned, unless you really want to.
10. Write it down.
Okay, and just one more . . .
11. Love yourself first. You are your greatest accomplishment.
Wait, there's one last one . . .
12. Call yer Dad. He's the Swiss Army Knife of human existence, has been there, done that, and will do anything he can to help you. It doesn't matter whether it's good or bad, enthusiastically upbeat or downright embarrassing, because he is your Dad and always has your best interests at heart.
There you go. You now know everything you need to. Well, okay, you don't, but you have the capacity to discover and you have the ability to make good choices if you choose to make the good choice of making good choices. Now go out there and beat the world, you world-beater, you.
I love you very much. Don't doubt it. Don't forget it. Count on it.

I miss her so much already, it's not even funny. No. Not funny at all. Good luck kid. I'm here for you and I'll be there for you as long as I live. Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stuff I Saw Today

Look, I know this isn't Facebook, which I despise, Facebook, that is, but I've been toying with the idea of producing a reality-based show surrounding my life. So, here are stills from today's meanderings:


Forget the show. It would be WAY too grim.  LOL, not.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I have something I must say.

Too much conflict. I dislike confrontation. I don't understand roles. Boundaries have become mobile. It's unsettling. I'm come to understand that I really don't understand anything in fundamental ways. That's a bad thing. It puts me in league with The Sheep.

Thank you. I will post this now.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sentimental Reality Revisited

In a prior post, I showed you an image of what seemed like visual irony from outside my favorite post office. I was there today and it doesn't look like it's getting any better. In fact, if you look carefully enough, you can see a dead bug curled up in the middle. Sigh.


Let me be candid from the outset. This little bit of commentary will be uncomfortable for some to read. But then, if I can't elicit at least that emotion from the reader, I have no business pressing these little keys until an idea emerges, do I?

Farts are a fact of life. In fact, they are a proof of life, as it were, although dead people also may fart from time to time as the need, and gases of decomposition, arise. For the living, however, farts are often inopportune and a sullen inconvenience. On that point, I wonder if there is a time that represents the optimal temporal opportunity for gaseous effluence. Farts may be odoriferous or benign, gregarious or timid. I imagine that females actually do not fart at all, thus accounting for their distemperate attitude towards males who, as a group, are a notoriously gassy bunch.

There are very bad times to fart and some not-so-good moments, like during a funereal or when near an open flame. But of more concern is not the event of the fart itself, but of the quality of the fart. Yes, I believe we all know, at least us males, that there is a broad range of possibilities. Most preferable are the dry, lift-one-cheek, airy variety most like letting the air out of a camp mattress. Least desirable are sputtering, wet, acrid, short-singeing farts that give Jackson Pollack a run for his money if the derriere of the afflicted farter could be positioned perpendicular to a primed canvas of appropriate size.

In this way, farts are like lawsuits. They both begin for different reasons and at different moments in the human life-cycle. Some take a long time to produce results, and the peak of the bell curve for both farts and lawsuits represents something messy, unpleasant and unfortunate. Farts and lawsuits that can be suppressed are a win, a sort of lower abdominal settlement. But when they go all the way, the outcome is uncertain, but at least one person will be very uncomfortable and someone will have to clean up the mess.

My absence from these pages as of late can be explained away by my involvement in one heck of a stinker. My last foray into matrimonial conjugification was at least a failure if not a disaster. This is because I simply do not have the ability to identify psychopaths. Oh, I know. You're thinking that this is just more sour grapes from another weak male not willing to take responsibility for his part in a failed relationship. Um, no. That's not it. In this case, I take responsibility for not cashing my reality check and outlining what was crystal clear to not less than a half-dozen people at the time of my enamoration, that the girl of my dreams was, in fact, suffering from borderline personality disorder.

Actually, for those who have know, lived with or attempted to love someone with BPD, it's not the afflicted person who suffers - it's everyone else. Unfortunately, when this is turned into legal wranglings, it can get very expensive. When we were rolling up to the divorce date, a scant three years ago, I was spending two grand a month just to keep her at arm's length. In the end, the total spent was enough to buy a modest house in some or another less high-falutin' part of the country and have money left over for a pool, above-ground, of course. I should have run away.

Well, since we were divorced, that should be that, right? Perhaps if it was you and me, perhaps it would be civil and adult. But, unfortunately, a BPD'ed individual thrives on the stimulation from absolute drama and is so expert at using all resources at manipulation and can do so with utterly no remorse, that there never is an end, even when employing expertly-honed low-contact techniques.

After years of post-divorce wrangling which was really just time-wasting emotional abuse, it came time to sort up a nice and tight suit. And sure enough, since no one can know the case better than me, I chose myself as the lawyer. Yay. Don't worry, I'm not totally stupid. You've no doubt heard the old saw, "The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." This is because even for someone who trained in the law, the emotional components involved in a legal proceeding make sound judgment unlikely. So, I do have an attorney who is of counsel and I'm on the brief, that is to say that I do the motions, cross-motions, orders, certifications and so forth - anything to do that has to be researched and written down.

The idea is to be concise and precise. This is very difficult. Try describing something in sufficient detail so that another person a thousand miles away can draw it. No try doing that in one sentence, Twitter-length. Not so easy, neh? Even worse when one fancies oneself a writer. It's necessary to convey clearly that which the Judge needs to know with the appearance of as little vitriol as possible, also not easy when having to relive serial psychoses of years gone by.

But, it's done. I have eaten the burrito and I am ready to do my worst, or should I say wurst? Ha ha! In the end, ha again, it may be like a fallow breeze or like a leaking sump hose, but this fart is a-comin' Don your protective eye-wear and clothes-pins and let'r RIIIIPPPPPP!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Conspiracy of Silliness

It may be hard to believe, but it seems that us Merkins just can't seem to accept that which is. Every national disaster - assassination of a beloved leader, terrorist attacks, even Katrina, seems to bring along an in-built need for a better, more complex explanation that what the facts support.

In philosophy, there is a principle called Occam's Razor. The idea is that between two explanations that are similar, the simplest explanation is likely to be correct. Popular conspiracy theories ignore this principle, instead opting for DaVinci Code complexity where more sensible, factually established arguments should hold sway.

Scenario: two giant airplanes loaded with explosive and volatile jet fuel crash directly into the centre of two giant skyscrapers. The jet fuel ignites, burns at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The structures are compromised because of a) the intrusion of giant flaming foreign objects into the structure and 2) the hollow-tube design of the building which is meant to resist lateral force, not the multiplied gravity and force of pancaking floors, each weighing several thousand tons, that give way as the cantilevers that were distributing the force between the compromised center columns and the compromised outside tube columns are heating to melting. And those elements don't have to melt to fail, either, just get hot enough to allow their load-bearing spec to be exceeded.

In short, most buildings are NOT designed to withstand missile attacks, let alone almost a million pounds of aircraft loaded with super-hot-burning fossil fuel. So, it seems that the likeliest explanation, which is flaming, heavy, high-speed missiles + structure not designed to resist those forces = structure failure. Versus what else? Surreptitiously planting literally tons of high explosive? Per building? With no one noticing? In two buildings? With security tightened after the '93 bombing? Huh? Doesn't pass the "makes no sense" test.

I believe that conspiracy theories like this are rarely proved but understandable. Kennedy was assassinated by a team of black ops people or the Mafia or the Cubans left floundering in the Bay of Pigs or maybe Marylin Monroe. Yet, years of examination and the collection of all the evidence seem to point to the simplest answer - a crazy dude did it.

We would all like a more diabolical and complex answer to "why" rather than the simplicity of a coordinated, low-tech attack. The feeling of being "had" needs more than such simplicity in order to be erased. Aren't we the greatest, strongest nation in the world, or don't we believe that anyway? Don't we represent good and not evil?

We may be Goliath after all and it's clear that others in the world see America and Americans that way. The truth hurts. The truth is that the Davids out there will be successful when they use the simplest means at their disposal - cheapest, most direct, easily done. And there does not have to be, and usually isn't, a sophisticated explanation involving archaeologists, popes, CIA operatives and evil geniuses. The only way to beat that approach is with a stick, literally. Or close the gates and stay at home. Either way, it won't stop nasty jerks from their bullying, no matter whether we're the ones being bullied or whether we're smacking kids upside the head for their milk money.

Welcome to the human condition. Now, get over it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why I Don't Watch (Don't Like) "Black" Movies

It's really very simple. Motion picture entertainment target exclusively at "black" audiences is, believe it or not, still a developing market. As a consequence, "black" movies that get made and promoted tend to be, well, dumbed-down to a point that an equalized audience would have little choice but to be insulted.

So, by not being part of that audience, I choose to not support "black" movies by watching or renting them nor do I subscribe (knowingly) to any cable network that supports that kind of programming. The fact that the only director to ignore the audience, namely Spike Lee, can make intelligent movies and inform me on the real black, excuse me, African-American, perspective, means that it can be done. Not my fault that he's an intellectual. He is bankable, and so, can make his brilliant movies. The rest is absolute crap and is f*cking insulting to my African-American brothers and sisters. The time has come to look at this this and perhaps suggest a blanket boycott of that tripe.

So, is it okay to make stupid white-person movies? Maybe it's because there's more freedom and more history. There's certainly enough "free" perspective to make a significant difference and to allow way more latitude. In fact, it should be expected. But for black audiences, there are issues that need to be examined carefully, right now. That doesn't mean boring, dry scripts, either. It can be, and has been done in an entertaining way, too.

I beg you, Tyler Perry: stop with the Medea crap - that's particularly embarrassing. "Why Did I Get Married" one and two, is cringe worthy - for a white person!  Please - make it stop.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sentimental Reality

Well, there you are.

A well-worn sentiment, cast in stone, placed thoughtfully in a garden and subsequently shattered.

What is the message and who, may I ask, is sending it?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Maru: Defining Determination

Yes, I know. Two cat posts in a row can't be a good sign. But then, I don't really write about what I'm writing about when I'm writing about it. It's only when, like a good pot roast, it's had a while to soak in its own juices that it starts to take on the proper meaning.

This, however, is a cat post. I wish for you to have no illusions about this. I am addicted to cats. I can't get enough of them. oddly, I have none in my possession at this time. No, instead I have a dog. Interestingly, this dog has developed some very cat-like properties, like being forever underfoot in the kitchen, watching birds (also know as crack-for-cats) while muttering something akin to, "I could get you, I could kill you, I could, I could . . .", sleeping like all freakin' day and playing with string. Perhaps it's a good thing I have no cats as it's likely that I would have at least three and begin the not-so-long journey to stereotype-dom.

Still and all, I like cats. I especially like cats that are wacky. So, without further delay, here are two videos. The first one is about Maru The Japanese Cat and his obsession with a big box. Simple, I know, but like most things Japanese, elegant. And I can't be the only one who likes cats and cat videos, since this video has had nearly six million views. And the second is a video of an apparently invisible cat. Please excuse me if you've seen these and kindly let me know if they disappear, since the videos are on YT and may very well go "poof." Meow!

And here's yer bonus:


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Serious Cat Is Serious

These are two separate images of a feral cat sitting by a stream. The cat in the context of said stream is pictured at left. I came upon this cat by accident whilst parking my auto-motive conveyance device unit. As one can see from the photo, he, and I am assuming his gender as he never did back down and turn away, which would have allowed me to view his privates, is not a cat who is likely to take crap from anyone or anything. No, this is not a conniving Top Cat or OCD-ridden Tom (of Tom and Jerry fame) or some fuzzy internet meme. This is one serious-assed cat, ready to scratch out his name in your forehead or chew off your lips, should he find your lifeless body discarded, post-homicide, in the tall grass.

Don't get me wrong - I love cats. They are crazy cool. They don't need you or me for anything. Sure. they'll hang out at your house as long as you have something worthwhile to offer - food, that pile of comfy sweaters you've been meaning to put away in the attic all spring that make the perfect spot to deposit a matt of fur after too many curled-up naps to count, a shaft of sunlight, food. Did I mention food? Most won't be bothered to come when called nor will they want to do tricks or make cutie-pie faces to please Master or Mistress. Oh, they can do tricks: they just don't want to denigrate themselves. So, "house" cats may be domestic, but I am pretty sure that they're not entirely domesticated - they just want you to think that they are.

When a cat pees on a wall, say, it's not because he's being bad or that he's forgotten how to use the litterbox. He does it because he can. Cats have an acute sense of smell, so that spraying cat knows full well that you're going to smell Eau de Felis the minute you walk in the door. And there he will be perched - on your navy blue peacoat or velour couch, depositing impossible-to-entirely-remove cat fibers on your favourite fabrics, staring you down as if to say, "yeah, what?" On the other hand, a dog will let loose because he has no other damn choice since you decided to stop off at Target to pick up a Raspberry Entemann's on that super hot day during which he managed to gulp down, one tongue-coating at a time, a two-quart-sized bowl of water and he just couldn't hold on any longer. And then, he experiences the duality of being a dog: exquisite relief as the yellow puddle on your kitchen floor spreads out like pancake batter on a too-cold griddle with the momentary knowledge that you will be none too pleased as you slide across that same-said yellow lake on your way to depositing your baked treat on the formica of that table you should really have thrown away already, so old as to be pre-retro.

Dog: sad face, knows he did something to displease, ready to be contrite. Cat: f*ck you, gimme food. Smaller brain, yet, somehow, smarter, n'est ce pas? Methinks I prefer the attitude of Serious Cat. No pity, no question, just action when it's called for, otherwise, maintain the status quo and preserve energy. Sound like an excellent strategy for survival to me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Clever Chap, What?

Some you have heard, some you shall wish to have been of the hearing once in the again:

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.

What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary. -- Richard Harkness, The New York Times, 1960

Slogan of 105.9, the classic rock radio station in Chicago: "Of all the radio stations in Chicago ... we're one of them."

With every passing hour our solar system comes forty-three thousand miles closer to globular cluster 13 in the constellation Hercules, and still there are some misfits who continue to insist that there is no such thing as progress. -- Ransom K. Ferm

Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

The graduate with a Science degree asks, "Why does it work?" The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, "How does it work?" The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?" The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world. -- Dave Barry

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants. -- A. Whitney Brown

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. -- William James

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. -- Mark Twain

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base. -- Dave Barry

When cryptography is outlawed, bayl bhgynjf jvyy unir cevinpl.

668: The Neighbor of the Beast

Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps. -- Emo Phillips

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. -- F. P. Jones

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. -- Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, "Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?" -- Quentin Crisp

Boundary, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of another. -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

I think that all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I'm certainly not! But I'm sick and tired of being told that I am! -- Monty Python

May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house. -- George Carlin

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. -- John F. Kennedy

Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove. -- Ashleigh Brilliant

My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I am right. -- Ashleigh Brilliant

Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.

Always try to do things in chronological order; it's less confusing that way. (which, I believe, is a Steven Wright-ism.)

Once at a social gathering, Gladstone said to Disraeli, "I predict, Sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease". Disraeli replied, "That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off. -- Johnny Carson

A slipping gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular in what's left of your unit. -- In the August 1993 issue, page 9, of PS magazine, the Army's magazine of preventive maintenance

On one occasion a student burst into his office. "Professor Jones , I don't believe I deserve this F you've given me." To which Jones replied, "I agree, but unfortunately it is the lowest grade the University will allow me to award."

Don't worry about temptation--as you grow older, it starts avoiding you. -- Old Farmer's Almanac

G: "If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do?" EB: "Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area." -- Somewhere in No Man's Land, BA4

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. -- Plutarch

The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad. -- Salvador Dali

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Sacred cows make the best hamburger. -- Mark Twain

"Time's fun when you're having flies." -- Kermit the Frog

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night." -- Charlie Brown, _Peanuts_ [Charles Schulz]

Calvin: People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world. Hobbes: Isn't the zipper on your pants supposed to be in the front?

LOL. Right?

Monday, June 13, 2011


Muse, aged about 4386, died recently of unnatural causes. Which one? Hard to say: perhaps all of them in a tragic bus plunge on the way to Atlantic City or one of those Indian Casinos. All I know is that they're not speaking to me.

Part of the problem is early dementia, or something very much like it, that has taken over my brain as I obsess over cases and motions as I dredge out the dusty training I got so many years ago that I was forced to set aside in the quest to live vicariously through a sociopath. Oops: my mistake - what was I thinking?

Thinking - aye, there's the rub. The creative force that is the source of the myth of the muse comes, for me, anyway, from some foggy, emotional place. Just like depressed folks can't "snap out of it, " creative people can't snap into it. It's either there or it ain't. When it's there, it's powerful. It's love, sex, hysteria and goosebumps, gluttony, vibration and ice water all at once. It's The Force in Star Wars. But it's not something to mulled over. One wouldn't spend the afternoon considering whether to have mad goat sex, would one? It just happens, rising from that place without words, to manifest as something that someone, somewhere, will receive like a shot to the soul as perfect communication.

When I was in High School, I had a film teacher who was, I know now, a sorry has-been-that-never-was, a failed film critic that hadn't even managed to rise to the level of college instruction. Still, he knew a lot about movies and for a year and a half, he was mentor to a smallish group of artsy-fartsy students at a hippiesque school where one could either pass or fail. No judgements, man. But this "experiment" in education meant that the standards were much higher than other schools with traditional grading systems. We had a ton of work to do each semester in every class and the "passing" grade was equal to an 85. Two fails in while attending and you were out, slung back into the school system that was otherwise host to race riots and guido fascism. No place for hippy-dippy creative types.

So, as wonky as the guy was personally, he knew how to love film, and he knew that one way to understand how to make movies was to make movies. So, each semester, one film was due from each student plus a group effort, all shorts of eight to ten minutes or under. This was in the days before portable video and anything other than real celluloid wouldn't have gone over very well for this guy anyway. As he put it, "This is a film class. Not a TV class. We will watch films, make films and understand films." And that's what we did.

Now, making a film as a group is not so easy, but he was totally hands off, except to advise now and then, mostly when we were about to beat each other to death. We had to script the picture, storyboard it, choose a director, cast the parts, scout locations, light it, edit and dub it, all in about twelve weeks PLUS shoot our individual projects. Mind you, most of the kids were sixteen to eighteen and the school paid no part of the cost for film stock and processing. There were two editing set-ups with winders, edit bins and an 1950's-era Moviola for 16mm and a Rollei viewer for 8mm/Super 8. The "house" rig was a Bolex R16 with a 400-foot magazine and no synchronous sound. For audio, there was a Uher Reporter and a Sennheiser boom mic with a fuzzy rabbit-fur covering to kill wind noise. There was some studio-type lighting that basically amounted to a bunch of "beauty dishes" with 150-watt color-balanced incandescent bulbs gaffer-taped to the top of very dicey-looking and very rickety stands. But we learned how to actually take what we had and turn it into a few student-y, but finished, productions, complete with titles.

In retrospect, it was a ridiculous amount of work to foist on students with a full load of other courses to pass. So, I guess this was the seventies' version of School of Rock, only, it was School of Film and the teacher was nowhere near as charming as Jack Black. No: not at all.

For my own projects, I started out okay. I had a Bolex P1 8mm that was through-the-lens with a massive zoom and took very nice footage. My first project was a documentary on a pro-Israel rally near the United Nations, done in newsreel style owing to the lack of any way to either record or sync sound, though there was a music track and crowd sounds added. Shot with a single camera, this project was where I began to appreciate the importance of loads of B-roll and tons of choices to be shot and maybe tossed for cutaways and such, but without which, a very boring project would be the only possibility. And I read Dymytyk's On Film Editing from cover to cover, precocious lad that I was, and learned stuff that I would use a-plenty when I edited video commercially, many years later.

On the next project, I went with a dramatic mystery/crime script. This time, I had graduated to 16mm with my own Bolex R16, which could shoot 100 foot rolls of film. The story was about a guy who was casually minding his business, reading the paper and eating his lunch when he gets the sense that there's someone watching him. His anxiety level increases through the film as he senses, but can't put down to an actual entity, that he's being stalked. The camera goes POV from time to time to show that there doesn't appear to be anyone around, let alone a malevolent attacker. I had just spent a summer watching a bunch of Hitchcock movies and reading about his style of filmaking and I storyboarded the hell out of that thing - each shot planned and marked so that anybody could have shot it and it would have come out the same way. The star? My best friend, who was very photogenic and could actually take direction. We had good weather, good light, everything worked, the concept was compact, the dailies looked good, and then I started editing it.

Maybe I succumbed to my teacher's own delusions of grandeur in his role as either Golwyn or as Mayer. I don't know. But I started editing that thing and no matter what, I could not seem to get it where I wanted it. I had all the shots as scripted. I even went back out and reshot a little. But the deadline was up and I was screwed. I offered to show the rough cut to the teacher. He refused. I either had to submit a finished piece or he would fail me, for my own good, he said.

Bitch. I knew I couldn't finish it in time for that coming Tuesday, because even if I made a work print, I would still have to cut the negative, run into the city and have an answer print made that could be project, for peer review, of course. Again, in retrospect, WTF?

So, I punted. I went to the beach (it was absolutely freezing, as I recall) and in one reel, no edits, in about three hours, shot a very abstract bunch of images that would become the now-classic, "Brighton Impressions." Heard of it? Yeah, no, didn't think so, although it did play on Channel 13 once . . .

Teach was disappointed. He said, and I will never forget it, "You know, Mr. B, you will never be anything other than a conceptual artist. Sure, what we watched here today slides in under the wire - right length, titled, on time. But what does it say? Huh? What? Nothing! Nothing, because you have nothing to say." In front of everyone, he did this. To a high school student. If that happened today, he'd be flipping burgers on the following Wednesday. Loser.

But I learned some valuable lessons, besides how to take a concept, a thought, a mere idea, and make it into something real that could be communicated to someone else. First, authority-types are not gods. Just because they wield or project power, doesn't mean they're qualified to do so, and even if they are, they can be wrong and more importantly at the moment, they can be bitches. Nevertheless, it's their tree house and one must play by their rules, even if they make absolutely no sense. Next, respect the form of communication your audience expects. If you want to go to a strange place, go, but give them a point of reference, otherwise, it won't be fun for them anymore and they won't come along. I give you David Lynch's Blue Velvet as a guide to this, versus the much earlier Eraserhead. Go watch those and you'll see what I mean.

I'll wait. Tap, tap, tap. Done? Okay: let's continue.

Most importantly, I understand that if a creative work is meant to be, it will be. The work has to come from within. That doesn't mean that one sits around sipping absinthe hoping to be inspired. The "work" part is producing even if what's produced varies from sub-par to utter crap. Keep shooting at the target, since their is a concept you're aiming at.  Don't get me wrong - if all you seem to produce is crap, better leave this job to the pros and take up something more suited to your Muse, like needlepoint, say. But once you start creating stuff, keeping trying things, cleaning, honing, polishing BUT remember that it will NEVER be perfect. Never. It will be finished, though, and that's when you have to stop and say, "Hello, World! Look at what I've wrought."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let's Not Lose Our Heads

Is this explicable in any way? Maybe the concept behind this is lost, but I'm thinking I might have done well in 1928. Still, seems not much has changed with how women think about men, or rather, how men think women think about men. Yeah, that's it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What? No Valet?

Hello, Mr. Chairman and Greetings:

I am writing to you from the Office of the First Consular Envoy From Gleepmorp. I believe we have had the brief pleasure of meeting at the recent Counsel Mixer, which seemed to end almost as soon as I arrived. I regret not having come earlier as spending cycles with colleagues in a non-work modality would likely have been more than pleasant. I understand that this time, the bean dip was to die for. I'm personally sorry to have missed it.

A matter of some concern has crossed my desk and I would like it very much if you could put some thought to it prior to our meeting next month in Justinia.

This may seem a small matter, what with the recent discovery that the entirety of the known universe will implode in 6.3 billion IUs, but it is nevertheless a concern of my colleagues and I, while we wait. Let me get to it. It seems that the parking of personal transportation devices, or rather, the location of the area assigned to our delegation here at the Empirical Counsel of the Universe has become, shall we say, a reflection of one's collective standing, politically speaking, within the Counsel. Though not so much a concern to me personally, I can say that the High-Praised Ambassador is more than somewhat, let us say, disappointed at the distance he and his entourage are forced to walk each day from the deposit location of his Ford Floater in order to attend official business here at the Administrative Centre. This planet's gravity, as you know, is more than 1.62 times the force we experience on Gleepmorp. The location of assigned parking is nearly two IKMs away, which, even when it is possible to take the shuttle that only seems to come by once every three cycles, causes great pressure, in the literal sense, to be brought upon His Most Magisterial Ambassador and his "clique," as you have been given to call his staff and security, I have heard it said.

I must emphasize that I personally, as the Furiously Splendid Ambassdor's Adjunct, am only concerned with my service to the interests of the Good People of Gleepmorp, the Righteously Ignominious Ambassador and to the Counsel and that I have no true concern regarding where I am permitted to park or whether, even, I am permitted to continue in a state of ready reproduction. However, I do believe the Flatulently Adept Ambassador is right in saying that having been assigned what is possibly the most distant and remote area for our delegation in the assigned parking level bespeaks something about the diminutive regard in which he and the Delegation and, indeed, the people of Gleepmorp, are held.

I have also heard it murmured, in the esteemed halls of the Counsel, behind hands-to-face, I might add, a grave insult in our culture, that perhaps the Gleepmorp Delegation should be relegated to attendance only by means of Interspacetime Conferencing rather than by personal appearance. I understood IC to be reserved for those cultures so distant from the Counsel's premises so as to be able to attend only in this manner. I also understand that there are cultures for whom the environment on this planet is so inhospitable that making the necessary accommodations for in-entity attendance would be impractical and burdensome to the Counsel as a whole, such as for ammonia-dwellers or The Dense Ones of Pendente, who would surely move the whole of this planet into a neighboring sun simply by appearing, thus incinerating us all. Having casually shared my concerns with another similarly-stationed entity, his, her or its response was simply, "Yeah, you might say the whole situation stinks" before giggling, then gagging, then abruptly running away, out of shame, I should say.

We have attempted to assimilate ourselves while retaining recognition of GleepMorp's contributions to, and position in, the Universe. We breathe what you breathe, eat what you eat. Again, that bean dip . . .  but, I digress: apologies. We have also, most importantly, endeavoured to be vital and fair members of the Universal Community, attending each Discussion Session, Counsel Panel and Committee Hearing and through careful deliberation, subsequently voting on matters brought before the entire Counsel so as to benefit the greatest good. In short, we have been Good Universal Citizens and yet, we feel shunned.

Of course, this situation is unlikely to be an expression of any intent on the part of you, Mr. Chairman, or of the Counsel. As the Distinguished and Powerful Earthian, John Wayne, once said, "the squawking wheel is likely to be lubricated first, pilgrim." Therefore, by bringing this matter to your attention, it is the sincerest hope of the Illuminatingly Elevated Ambassador that this matter could be discussed and subsequently rectified to everyone's satisfaction. Of course, should you see fit to recommend appropriate changes in the interval prior to our meeting, I can assure you that every Gleepmorpian would be ecstatic with delight.

On the other hand, and perhaps I should not approach this angle prematurely, if Gleepmorp is not to be afforded due consideration, then we shall request a Hearing to adjudicate the matter in front of the Rules Committee, of which you are the head. For my part, I should not like to see the impression of all your good work tainted by what might be viewed by some as blatant discrimination by the Counsel against the meek and good-natured Gleepmorps who seek only to bring the best of our sulfur-based breed to the Counsel and by doing so, benefit all entities, everywhere, for all time. That time which is left, that is.

With most sincere appreciation,

Bungee Gleep Vanderplass, XXXCII, HMS, TNT, OMG, PhD
Most Succinct Adjunct to the Volumetrically Obsequious Ambassador From Gleepmorp

Is This What You Had In Mind?

An able account across addiction.
Adjustment against agreement.
Air all almost among amusement and angry animal answers.
Any approval?
Argument as attack, attempt attention. Attraction? Authority!

Back bad, balance beautiful because before behaviour, BELIEF!
Berry, between bird births, bit bitter black blade.
Blood: blue.
Boiling bone-box boy, broken brother.
Brown brush, building-burst business.
But, butter button by cake.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Yeah, Kinda Like That

It seems that the ex's have finally caught up with each other and I'm in the sh*t.
That makes it the perfect moment for you to avert your eyes to this blog. Yeah, klicken-sie on the linkin-see?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is That All There Is?

Oh, you know, I hate to use my PEW's insanity as a muse for essays, but I have to credit her downright nutty-ness for inspiring two bits this week. I present the following response to the similar thread as mentioned in yesterday's posting, with her response indicating how far she can take a simple request and simply run it up the flagpole. It's lucky I type fast. So, without further a-doo-doo, here's Swan Song, version 23948, in OhMy!-nor . . . gents? . . . . anna won anna too . . .

On Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 6:59 AM, <XXXX@XXX.com> wrote:
Let's see you weren't Jewish and then you were and supposedly unitarian, you're no longer xxx and instead mostly xxxx, and now you're perfect in every, wow....the things you did are unforgivable and you pretend you didn't, which is I guess how you survive. I don't forget.

Dear _____;

You, or whoever gets to read all this sorry-ass stuff at some point, presumably in paperback, will notice how I manage to avoid dragging you through whatever my imaginary mud might be or even the actual  "things you did" that are "unforgivable." You know what those things are and I actually hate to have to accept the possibility that it tears at your mind that you weren't more careful or callous. But it doesn't matter, because that was long ago, a few incarnations back, in another life.

Had the spiral into insanity been broken, and I will point out that it was all in your hands as the alpha-mother, it would have worked out. I don't want credit for trying to do the right thing and I don't want an eternity of suffering for the wrong things, either. To take it a little further, your point of view, if I can be generous enough to call it that, is skewed by inappropriately rabid levels of ire so that it's not actually possible to either reconcile or to forgive. No one wins at such games, except for the short-term satisfaction of scoring a single tactical point. Emperors, kings, presidents, generals and diplomats all understand that hatred is ultimately destructive and counterproductive and not likely to reflect well on their respective office.

All major religions have reconciliation and forgiveness at the core of their systems. Though neither of us are religious, such practices are typically integrated into the secular world in the cycle of human relations. It is reasonable to expect that, after a time, the warfare must end and the healing begins. It's how we all manage to get along. Otherwise, I'm sure the Hatfields and McCoys would still be shooting at each other and clearly that's just no darn good.

I survive by trying to accept that things are as they are and that people are, for good or ill, how they are at this point in time, and that includes me. It helps to recognize that one is not the centre of the universe but only one fraction of roughly six billion people currently on this planet. This individual existence is only one of many generations who have gone before. Each of us and all of us will pass through the arc of time and sooner rather than later, our individual and collective experience will simply and finally fizzle out. No matter how much drama, real or perceived, may exist in one's life, the sun will still rise, and set, and rise again. And with the start of a new day brings the potential of a new beginning, a chance to try again, perhaps to win and maybe to lose, but in the end, to live.

There's a Peggy Lee song written by Lieber and Stoller that pretty much nails it for me. It's mostly spoken with the choruses sung, as if she's telling us a story with a certain palatable amount of wistfulness mixed with a dash of unhurried regret. Toward the end, she says and sings:

Then I fell in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other's eyes.
We were so very much in love.
Then one day, he went away. And I thought I'd die -- but I didn't.
And when I didn't I said to myself, "Is that all there is to love?"

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing

I know what you must be saying to yourselves.
If that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no. Not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment.
For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself,

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing

So, I keep dancing. After all, what else is there to do?


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's Ain't Easy

This was written in response to something typically vile from the mother of my child after I made sure to ask her whether I could have the kid stay over a Monday since I was being robbed of Easter with her yet again, probably the last one, too, an important and traditional holiday for my now-dead mother and a point of rememberance for a time where we would go to my mother's tiny apartment in Brooklyn, where she lived with my saintly Polish cousin, gather around the table and eat good Polish food, and just enjoy, herein redacted to protect the innocent:

(She's) not under my control now. I can only encourage her, help her and try to motivate her.  I let her know that I follow the rules and that that she should follow the rules. I also let her know that people that don't follow the rules are potentially dangerous to themselves, certainly not trustworthy, and, if possible, should be avoided as immediately as she is able, with as much distance as is possible.

I will be telling her what to do as long as she listens and as long as I have an opinion from which I think she can benefit. I'm only afraid that she won't keep her own sound counsel and thereafter make good choices. I fear her good nature will fool her into trusting those who should not be trusted and who will waste her time, energy and emotion for their own nefarious purposes. The world can be a very nasty place, even for the well-initiated and the price to be paid by the meek is great. What's worse is that for every person who lacks unreasonable circumspection because, after all, why should they come to harm, especially from someone they should ostensibly trust, there is a skilled hunter waiting to make them their own. These denizens are efficient because they are absent remorse - there's no hesitation in subsuming the victim, no pause, no mercy. Yet, I believe it's better to be the meal rather than suffer without a soul.

So am I worried about losing "control" over (her)? Let's see - I don't hunt her down by phone or text except when I am concerned about her and when I do get her, I'm mindful of the fact that she may be involved in something else and I don't utterly demand her attention at that moment - I let her be. I don't pry into her private conversations with others or try to deconstruct her relationships. I protect her privacy and I encourage her to be self-aware. I also encourage her to be active with people on a one-to-one basis and to make choices. If these actions were inverted, THEN my motives would be suspect.

I miss (her) every day. But, it's part of life. Parents are only a launching pad. But as such, I intend to keep trying to be the best at it I can be, because that's my kid and my responsibility is to help her hopes materialize, no matter what. And that's one way I can stay just a little bit closer, but not too close, behind her, but further and further back, ready to catch her if she starts to fall and needs a hand. Even if that's my only job, that'll be enough for me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Slobidarity, Yes

During a time where the middle class is just about at the midpoint of its disappearing act, one would think that there should be a grass-roots revolt by the oppressed merchant and proletariat classes, but no. The Tea Party, or Tea Baggers, as Bill Maher likes to call them, inexplicably employ sufficient leverage to scare the centre even out of John Boehner. And that rightward momentum of the movement itself flies in the face of logic: middle-class, middle-aged  people facing effectively stagnant income, reduced benefits they either need now or will need at retirement or when they get sick busily campaigning against their own interests.

One would think it's the perfect time for unions to step in and up the ante and not just with the occasional display of a giant inflatable rat. And if the unions are worried about small-shop viability, there's no shortage of bedraggled, disenfranchised workers out there. Wal-Mart alone employees 2.1 million people across the globe.

So, say you want to start a union at your place of work. The logical first step would be to find out a bit of general information about unions and how they can help in the process. Of course, you'd want to limit your exposure in getting "caught," and what better way than making semi-anonymous contact by e-mail?

I tried it. The result in the the screen capture above. And this was through the national AFL-CIO / Teamsters site. I followed up with a call, which referred me to someone else, who gave me the number of a local organizer, who's number was disconnected. So, in the solemn quest to find out whether I could organize my imaginary workplace, I exposed my theoretically soon-to-be unemployed underbelly to quite a few people, something a real and frightened worker would probably not do.

My mother was a union worker only because she couldn't work without it. The story of the growth of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union has its roots in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Into the mid-50's and into the very early 70's, the unions saw the great arc of their cumulative success begin a long march into the sea until today, where they seem less than relevant, since the shift of American business has been to non-smokestack industries and so many "traditional" jobs have simply gone away, either overseas or as victim of technology or forced efficiency.

With all of this motivation, history and new opportunity, the unions, like the left in general, cower and shirk, still, apparently, not ready for prime-time. Oh, well. Welcome to Wal-Mart!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hothothothothothot. HOT!

The main thing I learned from my current encounter with Maruchan Roast Chicken Flavour Instant Lunch is that Styrofoam and pseudo-ramen noodles make EXCELLENT insulating material. Flippin' ow. I mean, geez. Damn.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not Very

It's always a disappointment to see well-respected actors try to fill out a vapid script as they push the edges out only to have their performance diluted by heavy-handed, uneven direction. One might not be sure where to lay the blame when unknowns are involved, but in the case of 2009's It's Complicated, it's certain that none of the leads can be held to fault, so the viewer's excoriation can only be turned to the director and screenwriter who, in this annoying effort, clearly deserves a cinematic bitch-slapping.

It's Complicated stars three veterans, Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin and is written and directed by Nancy Myers, who also wrote and directed The Holiday, Something's Gotta Give and who directed and wrote the screenplay of 1998's The Parent Trap starring the not-yet-voluptuous and still-sober Lindsay Lohan. Myer's rom-com cred can be traced back through Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II, both ostensibly starring Steve Martin, all the way back to 1980's ubercute Private Benjamin, which she wrote. So, with her last few movies, she's wrested more complete control over the finished product and in the case of It's Complicated, that's not a good thing.

The movie opens with an establishing aerial shot of the gloriously beautiful California coast near exclusive and well-monied Santa Barbara and as the titles roll, land at an event celebrating the college graduation of one of the character's kids. Surprising is Steve Martin's second billing against Streep, though the viewer will shortly find that his character, that of architect Adam, is more minor in terms of spoken lines or appearances in scenes through the movie than third-billed Alec Baldwin, the putative lead of Jake Adler, successful attorney, versus Streep's pastry-happy Jane Adler. Focus is quickly drawn to Jake and Jane champagne-toasting their long-time friends on their assumed successful thirty years of marriage. The impression is that one married pair is celebrating another and they do make a likely couple, but the appearance of Agness, bitchily played by Lake Bell, and Jane's ha-ha double take of Agness' perfect abs as she waltzes toward the camera in slo-mo, very oddly dressed for the occasion, is the first of many WTF eye-rolls to come. Oh, we get it - Jake and Jane aren't together after all as it turns out that the much younger Agness is barrel-shaped Jake's trophy. Sigh.

Nevertheless, for reasons both boring and inane, Jake and Jane hook up, reigniting a flame that perhaps never quite went out. Why? Insert minor dramatic tension here - okay, moving on. That's right: without even seeing the movie, whatever the reader of this review cares to sketch out in his or her mind is what comes to pass, together with baby-boomer pot smoking, minor health scares of the aged and revelations thereto that are just, plain sad and scrumptiously flabby but fabulous tumbles in the sack.

Perhaps it could be said that Nancy Myers has a brand to offer and is a known quantity at the box office so that, when liberally mixed with indubitably A-list talent, a hit of sorts is in the offing, bankable and guaranteed to be undisturbing to casual, middle-aged holiday moviegoers. It doesn't seem that this demographic is tired of the well-worn hat she's served up, either. With an incredible $85 million budget, this movie, as it really shouldn't be called "film," grossed $112 million domestically by the time is closed in theatres after Easter 2010. Don't worry, though, since foreign ticket sales more than made up for the domestic close-call, topping the take at $219 million. Her prior flick, The Holiday, actually lost money on the home front, possibly disappointing the older set by featuring the not-yet-mid-life ensemble cast of Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet and a surprising turn by Jack Black, grossing only a tad over $63 million against another hard-to-believe budget of $85 million, and again making up the difference worldwide. The guess should be that the top-line box-office Dysons she ropes in are the biggest "above the line" part of her non-CGI budgets and this helps make bank on an otherwise tired-and-true formula, hence, Hollywood, or rather, Tokyo, opens the checkbook. Domo arigato.

One of the problems with It's Complicated is that it's insulting. It assumes its audience is interested in the juvenile machinations of its ultra-rich and highly whiny lead characters who, at their ripe old age, haven't yet figured stuff out for themselves though they display great success in the professional and parenting aspects of their lives. It's a falsehood that grates especially because such people in real life have the resources to force a difference, they know it and know full well how to accomplish whatever the heck they want. Let's see - Baldwin's character Jake is a lawyer, apparently wealthy (what lawyer isn't, especially in California, right?), Streep's Jane is the hands-on owner of a tremendously-sized, super upscale Starbucks-style bake shop, doling out hundred of gallons of over-priced lattes per hour to an endless stream of Polo- and Prada-wearing white people, whose lives are already so sweet that she admonishes, in the scene that establishes her massive success as the Lady Barista of the hills or the valley or wherever they are, one of her many bakers  to take a tray of brioche back because there's "too much sugar." Break, please? Using details like this to instantly define a character is most definitely phoning it in on the part of the script. Finally, poor, poor Architect Adam relies on self-help tapes to re-centre his feelings of loss toward his ex-wife who might have, probably, possibly left him because she was a "ho." Or because he was 2% when her coffee called for cream. Whatever, wimp.

In the end, there's no real explanation why Martin's character is such a cuckolded milquetoast or why Baldwin is such a sorry, flabby character or even why Streep is so conflicted. So, Myers thoughtfully inserts a scene in which Streep explains to her three very grown, red-eye-rimmed kids, all huddled together on a bed in their literally palatial house, why she got her Mojo tuned with old, fat, Flomax-suckin' Dad. Who is actually a loser. Who we should pity. But he's you're Dad, so he must be absent from this conversation. And these grown children, who are apparently still getting over a fifteen year-old divorce, where both parents parted amicably with loads of cash left behind and Ivy League educations and Priuses for all, are so hurt and fearful that their parents might again come together that they come apart. It's disturbing to imagine that these could possibly be real people. Let's hope not. Instead, let's be irritated by the notion that the director and script would have us believe that it is so.

Which brings this film to the concept that's critical to the success of a movie - suspension of disbelief. The characters fail to bring us there. For instance, successful lawyers don't have oodles of time to rattle around hotel rooms and fertility clinics. They are billing hours, meeting with clients, running meetings and possibly even litigating, if they're senior partners which, in the absence of anything more concrete about Jake-as-lawyer, we must assume he is. Ultimately, he's dimensionless and unbelievable because of it. Again, Baldwin is only reading what weak lines he's got and cashing the check at the end of it. Adam is an architect, and must be at least somewhat successful at it because he's an old guy and is still doing it. It's a tough business, the building trades, and being an all-around pussy will kill your career there for sure. And Adam is such a complete wimp, even more so than Jake. Clearly, Jane is attracted to wimpy guys, right? Sorry, it's not enough. Why does she choose a weak man with whom once before she's had a catastrophic relationship demise? Loneliness? The need for closure? Boredom? Revenge? Is Jane really the archetypal rich divorcee, shunned by husband of late, very late in this case, for the favours of snap-bottom recent grad student? Unfortunately, it's all explained very  neatly between Jane's coffee klatches with her lady-buds and a session with her therapist, who, I might add, is the only believable character I could find in an eye-roll filled hour and fifty-eight minutes of purely saccharine meanderings.

I'm neither an enemy nor a friend of the proverbial chick-flick. If a movie is good, I'll enjoy it. I might enjoy it even if it's middling if there's some particular appeal on any level, something subjectively particular to my taste or if it manages to disperse the ennui of the moment. But nearly two hours of mildly slapstick, upper-middle-class post-midlife angst in the land of climate so perfect that the hills bloom green all year 'round left me squirming, with sore eyeballs and wishing that these elitist, wishy-washy characters would just "snap out of it," as Loretta says to Ronny in Moonstruck. It's not complicated at all, which is at the core of what makes this film so terrible. It's impossible to feel empathy for people with perfect lives that purposely run off the path and when they do, not much happens. There's no great loss, no change, no real tension and not much learned. It's Complicated? Not very.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is The End Near For Retouchers?

I've had a teeny bit of fame and only momentary recognition garnered by touching the faces of some pretty famous people and some famously pretty people, like Faith Hill, Mel Karmazin, David Beckham (and Victoria, too), Kate Moss and Shania Twain. By touching, I don't mean that I disturbed their expensive Hamptons spray-on tans, but as a retoucher plus d'extraordinaire, on a pixel level. Kate Moss' pores are quite tiny, I assure you.

Of course, you probably know someone who knows someone who has an illicit copy of Photoshop on their laptop and who fancies himself l'artiste plus grande. Heck: two french phrases in two paragraphs - I'll come back and fix that when I can think of something better. Anyway, while it's true that any fourth-grader can remove diabolous red-eye or that giant zit from Aunt Livia's right cheek - on her face, mind you, as for those other pictures, well, you get the idea - it takes a lot more education and experience and, yes, talent, to correctly render the human form or to render it in such a way as to achieve a desired look.

Most of the top-of-the-pile retouchers are painters by vocation and most have advanced fine-art educations. Those who study fine art learn about form and light, texture and colour, and it takes years to find the core of one's talent in such a way as to have it accessible at will. This elite, of whom I am sad to say I am not a member, bill several thousand bucks per head or scene, with follow-ups (for client changes, not errors, that is, if the client would prefer this or that for whatever whimsy needs fulfillment that day) billing at half that again. And their stuff looks like art. It is art. You can see it in Glamour, Elle, Cosmo and WWD and on a bus shelter near you. Even the New Yorker profiled Pascal Dangin in 2008, who worked on the now-famous "real women" Dove campaign and is considered by many as probably the best of the best.

But the end may be near for Dangin and his priestly minion. Panasonic has come out with a camera that can retouch in-camera, going so far as to add "makeup" to the image so that you, too, can look your best when posting to your mySpace profile. This video from New York's New Tang Dynasty Television breaks it down:

Fashion Week

It's my favorite Blue's Clues shirt, rendered as a woodcut. Cool, huh?


Figger it out . . .

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

He Be eBay'in' It A Little Too Much

Okay, so I was bored. So, I started scanning eBay, as I can for hours and hours if left alone too long, and I started noticing patterns in the images as they appeared next to each auction item.
 Kinda kyute, right? A few pages later:
 And then:
Just so you don't think I've started cross-dressing, I was looking for a "chandelier" and apparently, there's crap costume jewelry that's also called chandelier-style, so it came up in the search. What I want with a chandelier, I don't really know, come to think of it, I only like the ones that cost thousands and thousands of dollars and, for that kind of money, I can hire someone to walk around in a leather thong, holding a really big candle. But, I digress. What's so cool about this is that the auction listing are from different sellers, positioned in the way you see them, by software at eBay, without human intervention. So, there is randomness in the unsold junk of the unwashed masses after all. And in that, I find beauty.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Take The Quiz

With the advent of on-line media supplanting print media, or so we're told by mass media, and the coming, if not already arrived, supremacy of the iPad (full disclosure: I don't own one), it seems that we can expect flag-sized newsprint editions and glossy magazine volumes to soon disappear from the face of the earth. At least it may mean fewer trips to the recycling center. In the meantime, there's no shortage of this presumably now-antique form of communication. If one has doubts, a few long minutes at a WalMart checkout should serve to change minds.

I have here a 220 page issue of the March 2011 Cosmopolitan. You may be wondering why a guy has an issue of Cosmo open on his lap. Well, I read the articles, okay? What puzzles and frightens me is this concluding question: is this what women think about all day while guys are fantasizing about pimping their Volvos into monster trucks? If so, we're in more trouble than I thought.

Cosmopolitan Magazine, for those who have lived strictly in a monastery since birth, is a collection of advertising, sex and beauty tips and sex tips for the beautiful. It's also famous for its quizzes, where ladies can test any aspect of their existence, from the level of their ability to conquer the elusive orgasm to some other thing about orgasms. The March issue has a quiz on, you guessed it, sex. Here's an interesting question: "You're about to indulge in a steamy solo session, so you reach for . . .", followed by four brash choices, but I there's really no reason to go past letter A, "Your clitoris or breasts or both - no reason to wait." Exactly. Good enough for me. However, I'm not a woman, at least, I don't think I am, and the purpose of the test is to suss out what kind of sexual deviant you actually are. Enough A answers, and your "pleasure MO" is "tactile," a column of information goes on to tell the compliant, test-taking female reader who would probably otherwise be having sex, as far as I can tell from the magazine, that she has a particular "go-to style" and that there is a way to trigger a "bigger O," though why a large zero would be beneficial is a mystery to me. There's even a handy and colorful graphic depicting the ideal, or maybe only, sexual position, tastefully done in two-tone color-coded silhouette complete with a slim, pony-tailed girl and pec-bearing dude. I somehow doubt that the peak of the Bell Curve of Cosmo readers, who are mostly American, after all, would bear similar profiles.

My favourite article this month is "25 Ways To Go Naked . . . Without Freezing Your Butt Off." I wonder how many editorial meetings it took to get that ellipsis to stay in there. Yes, I like nakedness and I indeed dislike freezing, so this must be the place to gather some tips: let's see . . ..  "Try These With Your Guy" - Number 6 tells the reader to use warming lube during sex. Okay, that seems like a no-brainer. Warmth. Lubrication. Works. Number 9 suggests a sleeping bag and summer movies: clever and romantic. But Number 12, involving turning up the heat in the car and having a romp, sounds downright deadly. Should we not be in a private place, lest a serial killer put me and my "man" at the top of the 11 O'Clock News? If we're in the garage, how long before the CO poisoning kicks in? No less deadly, and likely a favorite of members of the SS, is Number 8, "Bake a pie together in a hot 400 degree oven." You know what, I guess I'll keep my clothes on for now.

I dunno. Maybe Cosmo describes what women really want out of life - makeup and orgasms. It's a bit reductionist, but okay, everybody needs a hobby. What bothers me is the arc of induction into womanhood that Cosmo and magazines like it describe. Starting with Teen Magazine, then Seventeen and graduating to Cosmopolitan, it seems almost as if it's a movie plot where a subversive Manchurian Candidate / Stepford Wives evil empire of a government, or secret social Star Chamber prep our womyn for their future "place" in society and, with sufficient indoctrination, they will like it and long to be better at it.With a seventeen-year-old daughter myself, I worry about the focus that pop media is still trying to bring to the forefront of impressionable and later, jaded, minds. That of a focus on being able, willing and ready to breed and to be objectified and to finally be put to pasture as well-trained cougars since there is no media for the non-egg producing set, unless you include Family Circle, Good Housekeeping and Reader's Digest.

Maybe it's a good thing that Cosmo and its ilk will pass into obscurity or, at least, not be all up in the face, to paraphrase the slang, dog. Perhaps the identities, sexual and otherwise, of our vaunted special boys and girls can develop on their own, without the pressure of guidebooks to what they should want and need, courtesy of some mega publisher. Perhaps, in the case of the individuality of people in general, perhaps there's no app for that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lies, Liars and the Search For Something Good

Wow. That sounds like the title of a best-seller. Actually, there's a scholarly and somewhat overlooked book called "On Bullsh*t" (asterisk added so my blog doesn't get yanked) by Princeton professor Harry Frankfurt. In this philosophic essay, he reviews the evolution and meaning of the term and the effect of bullsh*t on the perception of reality. Rather than turn this into a review of the book, why not get yourself a copy and read it - I'm sure one can be had on eBay or Amazon for a couple of bucks. I found the book very interesting because Dr. Frankfurt expounded on a knowledge-state that is very apparent in our modern society and it expands on some specific points in Ayers' The Problem of Knowledge, which I would also recommend if you're a philosopher, I guess. Frankfurt makes the point, or floats the theory, that a preponderance of bullsh*t eventually washes out the basis of what we understand to be true until even simple truths are no longer self-evident.

There are certainly some apparently good reasons to not be entirely truthful. As children, many are taught to not necessarily disclose each and every thought to the point of the precocious four-year-old being chided for observing in a guileless way, perhaps, that old Mr. Jones is pretty fat, for instance. So, we're taught that deception in the form of non-disclosure and omission is sometimes the right thing to do. Left undiscovered, such a pattern of lies may become a convenient form of leverage or otherwise turned to a less-than-honest purpose and certainly a way to avoid responsibility.

But what about the circumstance where, say, a loved one meets their end, the State Troopers arrive and promptly announce that little Timmy fell headfirst into the woodchipper and gosh what a mess and then the machine must have gotten jammed because it was stopped when they found him with only his legs sticking straight up like some kind of V-is-for-victory sign and funny, but no one heard his screams. That would probably not go over very well with whomever was unfortunate enough to have answered the door. Or the infamous "do these pants make me look fat" question that every married man dreads and so universal is the sentiment that innumerable television commercials have centered around just that topic.

It's a fine line to walk, indeed. Self-editing is a subtle skill started at home and honed in the schoolyard. And that skill is something diplomats, lawyers, used car salesmen and successful lovers all have in common - know when to hold 'em and know when to lay the cards out on the table.

Of course, the latter option is more difficult. It means that the revelator has to be ready to own, and possibly own up to, the likely unfavourable feedback upon delivery of said revelation. It's much easier, and probably less likely to result in bodily harm, to simply hold back the fact that Carla really shouldn't be wearing fitted Capris or to share only that Timmy is gone, all, oh, okay, mostly gone.

Confession is apparently good for the soul. The Catholics even have a method by which a compromise is effected where the Sinner can be absolved for less heinous crimes by a Deitistic Intermediary, in private, all on the QT. Jews (and I am half of one) don't even bother - just tote 'em up and neatly dispose of them with the L*rd directly, once a year, wholesale, no middlegod involved.

What about complex confessions that could have been avoided by being honest from the beginning? Ah, well, the more complex the fib, the higher the price to pay - it's only fair. But perhaps the ultimate price is that of devoted Stoicism, where nothing is confessed and instead, the interests of those who might be hurt are preserved, possibly at an emotional price, but at a discount, let us say, over the full-tilt blather. In other words, if there is something to say, it had better be worth the pain for all involved and not simply be a matter of principle, otherwise, the hurt is doubled. Or worse.

Speaking for myself, I admit I have many sins to confess, none major except for those I regret. But what would my motivation be to "come clean?" I would probably feel better, at least after recovery from my coma that the beat-down would produce, but in that case, I'd only be helping myself. So, I guess I'm punishing myself, being responsible and prudent by keeping my big mouth shut. Oh, there's a line, of course, but I would only cross it if there was a clear benefit to the recipient of my well-salted tale.

Even here, there is a compromise. Everyone wants something. I want peace for myself, but no longer at the expense of others. I am hoping that this will make me somewhat less misanthropic, meaning that I'm willing to set aside my self as priority so that those who gave their care and abidance to me should not have to pay for that generosity.

Yep, Carla, those jeans are lookin' pret-ty good, if I do say so myself. Yow! Nice. I'm a liar, but I'm your liar. Ain't that sweet?