Movie(s) Monday- Wanderlust And Batman

This weekend I was extremely let down. After a wonderful curry dinner at a local Indian restaurant, where we were entertained by Indian music videos, my wife and I rented Wanderlust from RedBox. If I had paid more than $1.24 I would have been very upset. This movie fails for so many reasons. Potential is not one of them. Paul Rudd goes waaaay out on a limb to play a likable guy who just has bad luck and really only wants the acceptance of his family and the love of a pretty girl. As I sit here I can’t recall the character’s name. Pick one from one of his other films and it will probably do. As a matter of fact, pick The Object of My Affection. The main cast is the same. Alan Alda is great as a burn out old guru, and you sense the potential for this film is awesome in spite of every second of it not living up. Paul Rudd is extremely likable in Wanderlust, and he is watchable  as a guy who wants to make it in NYC with his dreamer girlfriend, played by Jennifer Aniston. The point is made that she has had a lot of jobs. She opens by pitching a documentary about raping the North Pole and the Penguins through Climate Change to HBO. Who turns it down, unless she can come up with something worse.  It was funny. The micro-loft apartment was funny. The commune in which they finally retreat, Elysium, on their way to Atlanta starts out funny. We forgive the movie for showing us someone’s penis right after a car crash, because it is sorta in context. Upon reflection, that is a perfect allegory for the rest of the film. The rest of Wanderlust is an inappropriate flash, (we don’t have to see your pecker to get that you are naked in the road) which we have all seen before and are adult enough to see, if it were interesting enough to stare at all day. Pooping in the yard, dead-pan exchanges about fellatio skills, and a drug scene that Hunter Thompson’s ghost said was predictable, all are supposed to combine to create a hilarious take on modern hippies and commune life, while making a half-arsed attempt to eat the rich. Wanderlust may have redeemed itself from the attempt at half-written-aren’t-we-clever-enough-to-ad-lib-and-call-it-improv-comedy, but I shut it off. $1.24 I should have given to Obama for America in lieu of a wedding gift.

Do not mistake the rehash of every movie Paul Rudd or Jason Siegel have made for this one-of-a-kind-experience.

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I don’t neeeeed to see your penis to laugh at you being naked

Then I went to see The Dark Night Rises…………………………….and all will be well with the world if the right people have the balls to fight in the face of incredible odds instead of retreating to communes.  No 99%…not your sorry asses….keep begging…

New York City Workshop: A Blog Writer’s Taxing Evasion

I enjoy my little office. Today it is a therapist’s waiting room. I just had a conversation with some friends about fellowship vs isolation. In 1998 I attended The Writer’s Studio. A small group of aspiring and professional writers met at The Village School in NYC once a week for ten weeks to receive and offer criticism and support for one another’s writing. The Chairman of the workshop would bring a piece in every week. It would usually be a page or two or three from a book. The Chairman felt that it was an exemplary excerpt, one which modeled a certain style or theme. We would sit around the table and dissect the words used, the devices used, and the time taken to create the modeled pages. We would in turn leave to write our own, in that style and theme. The next week we brought our offerings to the altar and subjected them to the pleasure of the temple priests and priestesses- each other. 

One week I was applauded for my Memorial Day barbecue essay. Another week I was nearly driven to tears (great song by the Police btw) because I had effectively written around a sensitive topic. I completely alluded the situation to which I was to write. I though I had been clever by so doing. I was called out, pushed around, and completely disrobed. I felt like the Lord Chamberlain, dismantled after losing the Trial by Stone in The Dark Crystal- raw, disfigured and outcast. It was not that harsh, mind you. In retrospect, in fact, it was a constructive and direct offering. In my defense it was also given down the nose of a few NYC elitists. Just saying.

I had failed to emulate two pages from the book Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. It was the scene where Billy Crudup and Jack Black-as overnight hospital orderlies- were stealing pills from the dispensary, and eating them. The major descrition and the bulk of the piece described examining the horrible squeaking sound emanating from a pair of shoes. At least that was the adapted movie version of the book version we studied. I chose to write about sitting in a therapists office, and being nervous and affected. I told of the young man sitting across from the speaker, as a mirror, who still wore a plastic band around his wrist, barely covering the stitches from a failed suicide attempt. I spoke completely around the stillness. I avoided the negative space and the tension. I spoke in codes and used highly descriptive words like, “it” and “something.” I did not want to accidentally identify with the speaker and the other boy, as they had each been a representation of me from one extreme to another. I felt I was being brave enough to mention therapy and mental illness, but evasive enough to protect myself, and isolate in a room full of people. I got got. It was evident to other writers. How dare I? I read the piece out loud. Then the Chairman asked that someone else read it out loud. It sounded clever and cunning and perfectly strange in my voice. It was inadequate and piecemeal and half-truth in the voice of another. 

Worse than trying to fool everyone else, worse than wasting class time, I had neglected myself and a chance to really b e known as a writer who tackles his own issues and speaks to them. I allowed fear to speak instead of courage. I used isolation instead of vulnerability in the face of emotion. I didn’t trust the process of creation, the workshop, or myself enough to describe in detail the two sides of the man sitting in a therapists waiting room, being called in separately, so he can begin discussing a shameful addiction. I avoided the topic and thought no one else would notice. 

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I trust in the fellowship of other writers. Personal criticism for my politics I expect. When there is no ideological argumentation, personal smudgery is the only option. Literary and creative criticism can be taken as personally- it oughtn’t. I need to be sure that as a writer I am never practicing evasion while preaching prudence. The fellowship of writers, keeps me from being too guarded. I had isolated in a room full of writer’s in the past. I can feel surrounded in my office by myself. It is important that I use that fellowship for enrichment. Hey, once in a while I actually step outside and interact in person too.

Movie Monday – Jason and The Argonauts

I am posting this on a Tuesday..whew, I feel better already. The Enzian Theater in Orlando is an exceptional place. My wife took my son and I to see Jason and the Argonauts. The original version is a great way to spend a few hours. The stop motion animation is as ingenious as it is campy. There were even a few parts where it was obvious that the filmmaker was showing off this new technology. The story is open ended and typically Greek Classic heroics. So much so that the story has zero importance in the movie. It is the one damn thing after another that takes center stage. That is not to say that it is a comedy, mind you. But it is hilarious at parts. The portrayal of a middle aged Hercules, who enters the story as the trials and games which filter the weak from the strong end. Jason searches for the best crew in all of Greece to man the Argos. The games are Olympic type matches, nothing at all to do with seafaring. We assume that all Greeks can operate a boat. Hercules however, is hilarious! I had to do a double take. Did he just call that flabby old man with a hairy back and Jerry-Lee Lewis curls Hercules? 

The battles against the living bronze statue of the Titan, Talos, against the Harpies, and killing the Hydra were worth the price of admission. I have to say I was disappointing that the animators didn’t challenge themselves further and show a head, once cleaved from the Hydra’s body, replaced by two as the myth contends. The creepy maidenhead – at the rear of the boat- which would open and move it’s eyes like those creepy babydolls- was just enough to fill in the blanks between fights and adventures. Did you kow that if you gently sprinkle Hydra teeth before your enemy they will plant and grow an army of undead skeletons, with swords and bad expressions? I could see some of the personality of the animators come through in those skeletons. It was quite interesting. My son spent an hour in front of the mirror practicing his sword fighting in front of the mirror after that. Oh, Medina, the high priestess, is apparently the great prize, the movie ends when Jason finally kisses her. Rent this film immediately. The Rhinocerous macrame hats….all I’m saying.Image

Back to Business

I enjoy my little office. Today it is a jukebox. I am going through my vinyl again. I just put away Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. I just can’t be that mellow today. After a few of the curiosities in my collection failed the test, I have settled on Billy Joel’s 52nd Street.Image Big Shot is blaring as I type. I remember as a kid wondering why anyone with Park Ave clothes would walk around with a spoon up their nose. The very next song is Honesty. I already mentioned that one in a previous post. But is exactly what I need to hear this morning. I awoke later than I cared to, and to a phone call from a good friend, so it evened out. I have what seems like a mountain of work ahead of me today. Whenever I feel that way I know I am full of shit. I get it done. If I don’t take 2 hours to watch a movie I’ve already seen and lie on the couch, that is. So today it’s back to business. I have some Lame SEO to create, (it pays). I have an article for NOTAfied magazine to rewrite. There is so much ripe content to create right now for The Washington Fancy. I have some optimization to do for my own blogs, and the regular tasks of being a house-husband before I head off to my Rehab volunteering. Man, my poor life huh?

They can tell you you can’t sleep alone in a strange place, then they tell you can’t sleep with someone else……..

The Dukes of Buzzard

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This is the photo prompt for this weeks Friday Fictioneers. It is a great writing community and creative outlet put on by Madison Woods. I try to follow it, you should too. Here is my 100 word for the above photo.

I blame the notion that man’s nature and instincts are perfectible. I especially blame the notion that man in perfectible by being forced to follow men who think they are perfect. Perfection exists in fantasy, not even in potential, the notion of perfection limits potential at the summit. The death of this, the buzzard bait and the tree burner is the man who assumes that another man is more than a man simply because of a status he would not have achieved had he not fooled others into believing he was better in the first place. The death of it…

Wrecked-The Birth of Movie Monday

I was sitting in my little office. The one I refer to often as an escape, where I try to play guitar, listen to vinyl records and write. I read a lot of other peoples’ blogs and reply to the ones I have a genuine reply to. I seem to like reviews. That is the trend. I had a dream once of being a restaurant critic. I could do it. I am a hound dog for proper service and effective management. I spent a decade behind a bar and worked in dives, margarittavilles, and million dollar resorts. That’s my qualification.

Same story, different intro. My brother-in-law got the dubious luxury of going to a baseball game with my cousin and I. My cousin turned me on to Metallica at the age of 8. I have never properly thanked him for it. He told me about a band named Pearl Jam that was bout to rip it open in 1990. When I finally got to see Suicidal Tendencies a few years back, he was the first one I told. We both got to see Bruuuuuce this year, and have enjoyed music together. We are the same about movies. We can name actors and movies, and play name that film in a quote or less. We are almost boundless in the Kevin Bacon game. If you don’t know what that is…I’m not telling you.

My brother-in-law sat through a lecture on the culture of music and movie fandom for the entire ride to and from Fulton County Stadium. That night I made him watch SNATCH. That is one of the all-time greatest quotable movies. There are no good gangster one-liners left. Brick Top stole them all. I watch a lot of movies. I don’t watch as many as I could because I judge them first. If the trailer features a full white background with bold red title letters, I have seen it already, every summer. Same goes for Ben Stiller. How many times can I watch him get hit in the nuts and still laugh. I get it. Your awkward and inept. Even he has flashes of brilliance- Tropic Thunder opening character intros- but I dont watch them because I have already judged them. My loss for sure. The movies I own I have watched a dozen times each. I could go watch one and still love it. I just watched Apocalypse Now for the hundredth time and still get confused as to why Kurtz is such a bad guy. So I will begin my weeks with the movies I have seen over the weekend. When I don’t see a movie, I will pull one out of the archive. This could turn into a good snack blog too. A popcorn rant.

Wrecked

Starring Adrian Brody, dead people, a mountain lion and a dog. The woods are a character too.

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We start out, as the protagonist does, coming to. We know only a little more than he does because we can see behind him, and know that there is a dead body in the back seat. We can make out the feet another dead body a few yards in front of the broken windshield. We don’t know anything else. This is the great part of this movie, we are in the predicament with the actor. The first twenty minutes get very tiring. A day or two passes and he is still stuck in the wrecked car. The scenery hasn’t changed. It can’t. The character is stuck, his shin pinned painfully beneath the dashboard which has collapsed on impact.

We dont’t know the character’s name, neither does he. We don’t know what happened, except for a news report on the radio that we learn he was involved in, and that’s all the character knows. I would like to call him a name, but we don’t know it, not for sure. Live people come and go, or are they visions? We are not entirely sure. Animals come and go, or are they visions? We and he, are not entirely sure. Neither is our man. The audience is dragged along the forest floor looking for a way out as our man is trying to find a path. The way he came is seemingly insurmountable. It is easier to fall from a cliff than it is to climb one, with a lame leg. The forest even plays tricks on us, and tells us we have made progress by giving us motion. The two are not always conjoined.

Don’t try to put too much together while you watch this film, it might spoil it for you as you continue to experience the action alongside Mr. Brody’s one man traveling band. There is blood and death, and a little violence, but not for show. It is part of the injury. The juxtaposition of a vibrant and green forest alongside the dead unknown people and our man’s faltering condition provides all the conflict, because not much action occurs as we understand action. Well, there is a Mountain Lion, who may or not be naturally attracted to rotten flesh, depending on if you watch it with a daughter of a veteranarian. It provides some conflict as well. The cat not the zoological argument. You have to build your hand one card at a time, and then bet at the end to see if you have the strongest suit. The last clip is the reveal.

This is a character movie. Adrian Brody has to be mangled, and express himself facially through much of the film. His face is not subtle, it has tools, let’s say. He has dominant features that lend themselves to injury and expression alike. I liked Wrecked. I have no rating system. But for this movie, 4 out of 5 satchels of cash.

I invite you to watch the movie and comment. What did I forget? What was great? Etc…

The Astonishing Ant Races; or, How We Didn’t Do the Dishes

The following was written years ago for a memoir exercise at The Writer’s Workshop in NYC. It has been edited and rewritten, for your pleasure…………

                                   

Insignificance is a disease rarely curable by anything but time, and then only in part by significance of memory. Some lucky folks are immune to it. The luckiest never get cured. The world spins and huge events occur, big deal. Try to be insignificant on purpose. Watch all the great things that happen.

Nights in our big old house at theJerseyShorewere a time for winding down, watching the news or more likely Nova on PBS, and smoking cigarettes. They hadn’t turned that bad for you yet so grownups could still do it in the house. Most of the parents were tired from the days work and subsequent commute from the city.  Not the kids of course. We didn’t believe in winding down. It just didn’t exist in our world; which was still flat by the way, and ended just north of Philadelphia, as far north as Lake George, N.Y. and no further west than the Pocono Mts.  The news was only relevant if a shuttle took off or exploded, or some country bumpkin let their kid fall down a well. Who the heck still has wells, and if you fell down one, surely all you had to do was call for someone to raise the bucket, or better yet wish your way out? We didn’t smoke yet. Our commute was a bus ride or short walk from school. There was only one more option at night then. It was time for chores, doing the dishes specifically.

Dinner had been burnt but eaten anyway. Plates of food were finished lest you ate the rest for breakfast. True. My cousin Tracy had the same bowl of mini-wheats for almost a week. Another time. Another option was to endure the story of the huge baby boomer families the grown-ups came from and how there wasn’t enough to eat and how lucky we were and if we wanted to throw food away maybe we should get jobs to buy our own and how this type of degradation and humiliation would soon be considered child abuse by less hardy individuals in our lifetime. They conveniently left that last part out always. After a little dinner conversation, or sing-a-long, it was the job of my two cousins: Chris, the oldest; Tracy, his younger sister, and me to the dishes. We had a huge porcelain enameled iron sink with two big wells. You filled the first with hot soapy water and let the dishes soak, and no it didn’t take an hour. The rinsing had to be fast. Wasting water was like wasting food and who did we think we were wasting etc…

Chores being what they are, a repetitive task with miniscule challenge and fleeting reward; and children being what we were, miniscule adults with fleeting attention, any and all distractions were welcomed. Aunt Diane’s or Uncle Augie’s voice, struggling over the volume of the television, calling from the living room telling us to hurry up, or quiet down, didn’t quite qualify as such. My mother never yelled about the chores. She hated having to do them herself. Conveniently for her she worked nights. She was a bartender, busy yelling at grownups. She and I lived with her sister’s family in an old house Uncle Augie, the husband, owned. The wind spoke through it on summer nights. Only the basement was haunted. The attic was awesome; you could see almost the whole town from its windows. You could target passing drunkards at night retreating from the night club
Over twelve years we lived there, sporadically. The big house in Belmar is what we all still call our childhood home.  There was a short stint in a bungalow, followed by garage apartment- practically a lean-to in Bradley Beach, and a shorter one in Wall, again with the cousin’s. No time was as great as the time in this big old house. At one point we were the only two people in the three-story twelve bedroom house, with the biggest yard in the neighbor hood. The majority of the year our neighborhood was just a quite beach town. The waves tickling the sand and the jetties punching back were the only sounds from the out of doorsup the street, hitting them with pennies. Another time. It seemed huge as a kid. It seems like a pitiful loss of memories as an adult.

Fitting distractions were many, but the best ones were few. The sink was the hypotenuse of a triangle, just beneath two large windows facing west and south. Those are adult words for the sink was in the corner. I think there was a planter box behind the sink. We could look out-southward- into the backyard and see the apartment building behind our ivy and weed littered back fence, often

making up stories about the people we could see in the large picture windows each identical apartment sported. We could see the pastel pink glow from the bathroom window of Mr. A’s house next door- westward. Mr. A’s house was a little ranch in a neighborhood of big houses like ours. Mr. A’s wife decorated the bathroom pink, with pink ruffle-trimmed curtains which transformed the light for a few intermittent minutes at night. Mr. A’s side yard was a three foot wide section that butted up against and ran along our side yard until both reached the scorching hot slate side walks. If you never knew what so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk meant, you never spent summers in my neighborhood. Chris was obligated to mow that part of the yard for Mr. A. I still have no idea what the A stood for.  Something in my mind says, “Alvarez,” but I would rather not be sure.

It’s funny how when all these messed up coins started surfacing, wine glasses started getting broken, and chair backs and drawer faces looked like they had been chewed on by My Pet Monster, no amount of interrogation could get any of us to crack and blame one of the others. That’s one game we didn’t play. We never snitched, much. The usual penance, at least for my cousins, was a smack to the legs with a Wiffle Ball bat. I digress. All of these little diversions went on while I did the dishes. You see, I took pride in my job. I did them the best. My older cousins told me so. They gladly conceded the title and subsequent privileges to me… I know.  Taking advantage of the littlest, it’s a sin, but only I was practicing Catholic, so I forgave them. I was happy to make them happy. I was young enough to play dolls with Tracy, and old enough to know that Chris was cool. He even had his hair feathered. I wanted to please them.Once the dishes were scraped and piled, the left sink full of hot, hot, hot-ass-who’s-the-most-grown-up-and-can-stand-it water, we were ready to be distracted. Catching a slippery note from the rim of a wet wine glass would soon turn into an orchestra of multi-level filled red wine goblets. That counted as one of the best distractions. I think we got the beginning of Mary Had a Little Lamb once.  Jingle Bells was my forte. The same note three times, twice. I was good. Chris was the best. Man, he could get a note going on a rim and keep it pitch-perfect for hours. It was probably a few seconds, but still. We owned Cutco knives, the sharpest and best knives around. The handle is comfortable in both right and left hands! You couldn’t and can’t buy them in a store. They are sold to you by representatives who come to your house. We were apparently on some knife credit program, because we didn’t receive them all at once, rather one a month. I remember the scissors could turn a penny into a corkscrew then still cut paper by simply running the sheet across the blade. I cut so many pennies. Did you know they are silver on the inside? I would cut spare change in half for fun, good thing I didn’t get in trouble, imagine the guilt lecture that would have been, actually destroying money. I feel I owe an apology even now. I actually became one of those Cutco reps in a later life, so many corkscrew pennies. We didn’t need infomercials then, and we didn’t need computers to entertain us. Handy, since neither were available anyway. Seeing which one of us could sink the blade of the newest, sharpest knife furthest into the back of a wooden chair or drawer or counter top, kid stuff you know, that was entertainment, better it was not the dishes.

One night, amongst the soaking pots and sudsy dishes, sometime after the “Whose Fingers are the Pruniest” competition, I won that too coincidentally, my cousins and I noticed the ants. Somehow, amid the three ring circus that a simple chore had become, or rather escalated into, the tiny black insects drew our attention. The ants were small and insignificant, but they managed to contrast their landscape. They too had chores. Unlike us, they were not to be distracted. They were precise, and in a hurry, also unlike us. In a single file line, they traveled from one undetermined point to another. Both were somewhere within the walls of our old bed and breakfast turned family home at theJerseyShore.

In our enthused young eyes this was not a detachment of soldiers bringing burnt crumbs to their children who would have to finish their dinners or eat them for breakfast. It was another distraction. Better still, it was a race! Outside they would have just been ants. If we were eating our breakfast they would have just been ants. But we were doing chores, just ants would not do.

We would each try to concentrate on one ant and cheer it on. This was like picking just one car on a speeding freeway or better yet the lines in middle of the road as you sped by in a car; soon it was out of vision or lost in the mix. Thankfully the supply was endless. There were probably hundreds of ants in that wall, how great was that? Racers forever.

The relentless little insects kept us busy for hours, in bug years. Their racetrack was a wooden molding, a trim that traced the space where the stainless steel tiled walls met the foam tile and metal grid of the drop ceiling. Burnt dinners and smoking mothers had turned the trim yellow and dingey. Time and indifference left it dusty. The ants didn’t mind and neither did we. They were racing and we weren’t doing the dishes. Every now and then a really big one would stand in contrast to the average. Chris got to pick that one. It wasn’t usually a particularly devoted sponsorship, unless it was making good time. Then as if he had trained the bug in a gym- weeks of conditioning and jump rope until the ant could take steps a whole flight at a time- he would take credit for the win, not that there was a determined end point.

I could imagine what the grown-ups thought, hearing “Go! Go!” “That ones mine!” “I got the Big ONE!” That doesn’t sound like doing dishes. If only they could see what we saw, and how we saw it.

As we rewarded our curiosity more acutely, we noticed that every now and then one would seem to jump. Hah, look at that, where, which one, it was impossible to determine but you know you saw it.  The race would soon turn into a game of ant chicken. As a few ants having gotten the scent trail down, and returning, would travel in the opposite direction of traffic. We would bet on which little enterprising racer would win by climbing over its cowardly oncoming competition. It didn’t just separate the cool ants from the crappy ones, it gave us rank too. A small winning streak was all I needed to rise above the other two fans. I was already the best dish washer; add that to the most gullible, now the fastest ant fan. Triple Crown! Man that was the best part, aside from still being able to remember it. Damn the insignificance, full speed ahead!