Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I knew I Should Have Started Stalking Heath Ledger Years Ago

Reflections on Heath Ledger's Death.

There was something about him. From the first movie of his that I ever saw -- the Brothers Grimm. Vulnerably boyish, yet manly. I liked the energy with which he inhabited his character's body. Second, in the DVDs extra sections, he was absolutely my type. Which is gorgeous, tatted up, lots of piercings, huge nose and able to string sentences together.

Then there was Brokeback Mountain. A vacant shell of a man, a tragic backstory, experiencing the ineffable. Left with the only thing he'd ever been able to give to his lover, an empty shell.

Certain people, you just identify with, you know? I looked at a couple of pictures of him, and then he was in a relationship with Michelle Williams and had a baby. "I love my girls more every day." Was that him? Anyway, fortunately they broke up. Because in my mind, that made him all the more available for me. At some point, when I had the time, I was planning to throw down everything and stake out every coffee shop within four miles of gentrified arty neighborhoods in New York.

While I was filing my taxes, arranging bunny care, changing the dryer hose, and knitting 1400 angora sweaters to fill my order sheets, Heath was diddling some models, starring in some movies and whatnot. Which only expressed the bottomless depth of his soul, trying to cope with the trite and incomprehensible wasteland of massive heart-wrenching breakup. A wasteland, by the way, that I was only too happy to spelunk (there's nothing like a man on the rebound).

According to some stalking website, "Delusional stalkers frequently have had little, if any, contact with their victims. They may have major mental illnesses like schizophrenia, manic-depression or erotomania. What they all have in common is some false belief that keeps them tied to their victims. In erotomania, the stalker’s delusional belief is that the victim loves him. This type of stalker actually believes that he is having a relationship with his victim, even though they might never have met." www. antistalking. com

Now, I've got no mental illnesses, and no belief that Heath loved me or could possibly know we were fated to be together, but I will say that I'd always intended to get around to stalking him. But it was always tomorrow. Actually, years from now (gotta get the burrow ready, gotta aerate the soil, gotta make the compost). Now that he's dead (tragically, even the words "found naked, face down in his apartment" sends the wrong kind of shivers through me), I realize something about myself more poignantly than ever: life is fleeting, each day glitters with untaken opportunities, and I am a goddamn procrastinator.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Knocked Up: A Dick Flick

Sometimes you spot some fantastically attractive guy out of the corner of your eye – he’s an incredible athlete, his lithe body rippling muscles, a lock of his hair dancing just so across his forehead. You fawn all over him, and suddenly, amazingly, he’s your boyfriend. He chooses you. Time goes by, and you discover the reason your shower smells is because he pees in it, that Men’s Health successfully summarizes everything he has to say for himself, and his ego’s the size of the truck he drives and is just as appropriate in its global context… Your friends whisper “Cute guy,” and your response is “Please girl -- save me.”

Other times, you get a sort of awkward dude. No neck, laugh like a hyena’s. Over time, though, his sweet, enduring charm begins to chip away at you. The fact that he takes two days off work to help you adjust your kitchen cabinets, the way that he holds you massaging your back as you fall asleep, counteracts the way he spends several hours in virtual lederhosen as a level 60 warlock in World of Warcraft. Your friends say nothing – they’s silently horrified -- but suddenly you know what love means, you’re in love with this incredibly great hobbit from Obispo. That very nape, so stunted in comparison to the rest of his body, has become a treasured, sacred space.

None of that happens to the female lead in the movie “Knocked Up.” In Knocked Up, Seth Rogen plays a chunky-style doof, Ben. When Alison (Katherine Heigl), a woman he barely knows, and whom he has accidentally impregnated, asks him “What would you expect on a second date?” Ben says “A BJ.”

Ben is neither disarmingly charming, nor, by any conventional standard, attractive. He is, literally, remotely attractive. As the movie fluxes between mildly humorous to downright skin-crawlingly crude, Ben morphs from an “in the right lighting, with the right sort of fitted clothes, if you squint your eyes and tilt your head to the left, kind of cute, if you're being kind, and you're an optimist” guy to a “head- in- the- shoulder-of- your-17-year-old-sister-whom-you’d- mistakenly- taken- to- see- this- film- at- the- dollar- theatre- on- the- recommendation- of- thousands- of- critics- who- lauded- this- film- you- can’t- stand- to- look- at- him” repulsive, fat little troll. Ben goes from an ugly guy, who, once you get to know him, becomes an even uglier guy. Fails every screen test.

What makes it worse is this story is about procreation. Before, I might have kept an unplanned pregnancy. Now I’m not longer pro-choice, I’m pro-abortion.

By the time Alison probes Ben with her foot to kick him out after their one-night stand, I couldn’t stand to look at Ben’ s face.

In fact, had Ben been attractive, I think audiences would have clearly recognized that Ben is an Agent-Orange defoiliator-ranking flaming asshole. But because Ben’s appearance is shudderingly uji – he’s “the guy with the man boobs” – people think he’s “refreshing honest” or “charming, in an off-beat kind of way.”

Some of these refreshingly honest episodes include:

Alison and Ben go to a restaurant so Alison can tell him she’s pregnant. Ben’s taken aback, and a blame-game shouting match ensues over who is to responsible for their protection-less sex act.

Ben shouts at Alison: “What did you think I was wearing, a DICK SKIN condom?”

Looking at Ben has become bad enough, but the mental image of his dick SKIN sits like a drying, curling turkey breast against the radiant heat of my frontal lobe.

Or how about the scene where our devastated, devastatingly beautiful heroine first calls Ben? She wants to set up the meeting to tell him she’s pregnant. Rather decent of her, I thought, and rather more than this puckered sphincter deserves. Ben, on the receiving end of this communication, tries to talk nonchalantly while simultaneously enjoying the antics of friends mimicking sex acts, perhaps all too representingly of their actual Saturday nights.

Then there’s the scene where Alison meets Ben at his house. While Ben changes his shirt for one with a less blatantly cretin-inspired logo, Alison endures an interaction with Ben’s friends. One creep comments about “how fast the milk comes in.” Then another clinically obese boy makes eye contact, only to resume the task of drooling and watching porn “research” for Ben’s “Celebuskin” internet business. Finally, the cruelty culminates when Ben’s high/developmentally-challenged/evil groupie friend compares the BenAlison fetus to a parasite and asks what it feels like to be eaten up inside. How much abuse can one woman take?

Which brings me to my next point. Knocked Up is a dick flick.

In the chick flick genre, a young girl faces life’s difficulties. She’s trying to make it in the world, and she’s yearning for love. She’s got a great heart, but maybe the guy that she’s got a crush on doesn’t see it. Eventually, she transforms herself after a series of hard knocks, perhaps even to become physically attractive, and finds true love – either with the crush guy, or maybe with somebody else who’s also a diamond in the rough. She’s loved for the woman that she is, but she’s actually a decent enough human to be worthy of love.

In the Knocked Up dick flick, however, the writers present this male fantasy. Here’s this lout, this loser, this dude who hasn’t done a damn thing to be worthy of the heroine’s – or our – affections. He’s just a below-average looking circle jerk participant, fortunate enough to bed a beautiful woman with low self-esteem, and who faces the crisis of their unplanned pregnancy. He doesn’t comport himself admirably – in fact, he and his band of merry sphincters continue to shock us with their verbal flatulence. And even this complete loser, who coasts financially on exploitation of others, and emotionally upon women’s masochism, can end up winning the heart of an inordinately attractive woman. Nary a kind word, honorable deed or self-sacrificing impulse necessary. We’re meant to suspend our disbelief that this woman will give him chance after chance to be in her and their baby’s life. In fact, we’re supposed to root for that. For the love of Steinem...

Not to mention that there’s no indication why Alison should love Ben. First of all, consistent with the dick flick, Alison is very attractive. And I mean in the kind of way that clearly requires cultivation. Looking at her, I can see her colorist, her hundred dollar hair clip and touchup artist, her breast augmentation surgeon, her tanning bed operator, and her eyebrow aesthetician. For starters. She's very conventional. There’s nothing to indicate Alison’s quirky or unusual taste, to explain her attraction to a guy who time and again startles us with his masturbatory musings. I can only guess her character was beaten as a child. After a childhood of beatings, Ben would seem safe and attractive. Ben lacks the ambition to get out of the cum-crusted lounge chair to calculate his cruelty.

A dick flick explains all the good reviews. Maybe many men can empathize, but my vagina detached itself from me and indignantly stalked out of this movie after about twenty minutes, so I had to run out of the theater to catch it.

Afterword: A male friend of mine had this to say, “You think that was bad? I was just locked up with a couple of dudes for four days. As part of a medical research project, I got paid $4,000 to take glaucoma drops and have my blood taken… Thing was, I had to stay locked up in this room with these guys. You couldn’t have gotten me out of there faster. They just sat there and talked about woman – same kind of shit as that movie. I just sat there and looked at them, thinking ‘None of you guys have done half the stuff you just bullshitted about… Maybe you did, but not you, you and you.’ More than half of them had had “the scare” – and all of those ended in abortions. And they were all relieved about it!”

Monday, August 13, 2007

Paul McCartney's New Scat

In nine weeks, I have a big exam, so I'm combing the city for places to knock some sense into my head. Yesterday, my venue was Starbucks, which was utterly unfortunate, because unbeknownst to me they had indentured themselves to Paul McCartney's latest colon smear of an album. On rotation. All day.

How could I have missed it? When I opened that glass door, I should have noticed Sir Paul slammed against it, making that too-fun! moue! he seems to have contracted from his ex-wife, in a rougishly rumpled tux. Then there was the CD at the counter, a picture with an upholstered chair, and an empty card holder -- These limited edition cards went fast. Ask your barrista for more! How could I have missed the ten stickers along the espresso dispensing machine thing, "Memory Almost Full" logo plastered across it? Is that a pun? Do old people like puns? I don't. Nor do I like moues, although I have nothing against finely upholstered chairs.

So there I was, having made a requisite purchase (americano, which means "cheapskate" in Italian), opening my 562 page study guide, and setting my timer for three hours.

At about question 32, I started noticing the music.

Lead singer: You make me feel fine.
Backup elves: Fine, Fine.


Lead singer: We wear vintage clothes.
Backup elves: Vintage clothes.


Lead singer: At my funeral, I hope there'll be songs hung out like blanketsNo need to cry for me because there's better place...

Or whatever, because I had earplugs in. I was also playing a Spanish-language CD.

To be clear, I'm no music critic. I don't own an iPod. The only vinyl I've ever owned was a bunch of "When the Chime Rings, Turn the Page" Disney stories. And later, one Weird Al Yankovic album in 5th grade. We're not talking high standards here.

As far as the music part - meh, sounded ok to me. The beat's not very ambitious, a bit slow for pop, slightly upbeat of muzak, maybe because he's getting old and old people like that stuff. Like the perfume older ladies wear -- cloying floral, with undernotes of death. Maybe your parts start to go at that age, though I must say the older ladies I know are dear and charming, despite their presance. As far as the album goes though, the beat hinders the emotion prescience this album can have; like a sock puppet show at the public library, no matter what story you're trying to tell, be it the Aenied, Death of a Salesman, or Bambi, your medium will always give you away -- the Wigwams, the Hanes, the creepy nylons.

Which brings me to the stories this music is trying to carry. The lyrics are absolutely cigarette-burned-underpants, with-skidmarks-floating-in-the-public-toilet-at-the-gas-station-and-I-am-the-gas-station-attendant godawful.

Despite my earplugs, I could tell the CD was all about Paul. Clearly, it's about him. What sad is he's 60, 70 years old. Shouldn't he have something to say by now? At my funeral, don't cry because there's a better place? Thanks. I know he's a public figure, but his death will fill the same emotional space that all celebrities occupy; at death, he can expect to yeild as much emotional nutria as Don Ho. And he could have tidily put all that crap in his will. Vintage clothes? Gratitude? You'd think the fact that he's 60, 70 and has a two year-old daughter might make an interesting song, or maybe some of the hobbies rich people have. Rich people get to die doing their hobbies, skiing or wrapping their Spyders around trees. Instead, at 60, 70, Sir Paul's still attempting to slum in his songs, pretending to be one of the volk. Perhaps it's time to tell him we have more interesting lives now. And then there's a war on.

Maybe that's the problem of having succeeded as an artist. Sir Paul is either too-well adjusted, taking too few (or too many?) drugs now, or really needed cab fare and sold his soul to a toothless beggar by the side of the road, who wrapped the soul up with a few guilders and a pigeon heart and tossed it over the bridge to cure his 'roids -- and if so, Paul should've written a song about it, what it's like to have a big empty cavity in the middle of his chest, because he's got nothing to work with in this album. It's a greeting card. The kind they sell in hospitals.

Back at the Starbucks, on the fourth rotation (question number 245), I finally went over to the barrista and asked her as kindly as I could if she could change the album.

"We can't."
"But it's crap!"
"I know."

Somewhere out there is a very talented musician who doesn't have the stamina to make him or herself known to the public because people with nothing to say are moue-ing up the airwaves. A tree falls in the woods, soudlessly because there are no ears there to hear it, and then that bear that always craps in the woods lumbers in, and loudly drops scat on that silent fallen tree.

Unknown musician, I wish I were listening to you.

Reality TV

Yesterday, I received a call from Neilsen or Gallup or something. The woman on the other end really, really wanted to impress upon me how important my contribution would be, that it was her agency's duty to get a random sample of the American public, that no matter how little TV I watched, the results only I could give would be of great service. I was about to give in, but thought I'd check just one more time -- "You really want to ask me questions about the shows I watch, even when I don't physically own a TV?"
"No TV?"
"I thought when you said you didn't watch TV --"
"I meant I didn't watch TV."

She let me go.

Then I went over to a friend's house, and he was watching a program called "Elimadate," which featured a bachelor coveted by four -- I wouldn't say desperate, maybe "fame seeking" is more accurate -- females. The bachelor dated all four together, and then eliminated them as the night wore on.

Personally, I could tell he'd pick the quiet, cute (recreational) bisexual, just after he rejected the older "Cherylann - I'm internationally known" specimen, but before the sex yoga and jello-wrestling. I was not surprised. This show failed to inform me about anything pop-cultural I didn't already know. Therefore, I've developed three pilots that address issues I'd actually be curious about.

The Battle of the Sexually Undecided
An open-minded male contestant is simulateously wooed by a bevy of establishedly gay males and straight females. Alternative episode: a woman is wooed by a passle of lesbians and straight men.

Because: I want to know who will win the heart of the sexually undecided? And can homo- and hetero-sexism be kept at bay?

Battle of the Who-Would-He-Do?
Take your average socially-retarded person, trench coat, fedora, suspenders, moccassins, body odor, virginity and all. Who will he choose, now given the choice? Will it be a stereotypically trampy vamp? An intellectual? A fellow World of Warcraft addict?

A mission of mercy, people, Channel 3 at 7 Central and Mountain.

The subject in question is contractually bound to surrender his virginity by week six, but can he manage not to alienate all of the contestants by then?

Battle of the Playa Pimps or "Who Got Game?"
This show takes would-be gang-bangin, star-f***ing Romeos to decide WHO IS THE BIGGEST PLAYA OF THEM ALL??

The female targets of this drama know the male contestants are playas, so we get to see which techniques, scams, lines, and driveups actually succeed. The Pipeline Masters of Playas, if you will.

Women rank individual playas on technique to decide "he got game." Extra points go to pimps who actually score.

Subjects can try out themselves, or be nominated as contestants by friends and exes.

Because: I'd finally get to see the men with "Pimp Daddy" tinted Caddy windows throw down.

Variation: Most Charismatic Gay Playa of the Year, etc.

Must see TV.
This photo was not taken by a celebrity.

celebrity revenge

Perhaps you’ve noticed. There’s a whole industry out there whose entire purpose is to generate insecurity. At first glance, it appears to be geared to make the public covet the lives of the celebrities. Like – “These people know good living” and “Here’s their gadjillion-acre beachfront. Maids lick the sand up from the tiles!”

But then notice the turn, when gossip mags rag on the celebrities. There are pages devoted to “Worst dressed!” “Tackiest Couples,” “Carlotta and Craig - Headed for divorce?” "Kelly's wild party nights, what’s Madge to do?” and "Who's Gay in Hollywood?" These seem designed to generate insecurity in the celebrities.

If “the stars” are so media savvy, why don''t they turn the tables on these people? Why spit, punch, scream, spill or verabally tirade when the stars can publish their own magazine – The Uninquired or LittleTeenyTinyInsignificantPeople.com or maybe just Roadkill – featuring the lives of pop journalists, photographers and celeb features editors. It should include pics of the author of “Ricardo and Margo – in trouble?” hunkering down in her cubicle, chowing another HaagenDaz, the twenty pound overweight – or is it pleasantly plump? – worst dressed analyst, hunched over the copier, and the trashed mobile home of Tony, celeb photog, as he lies splayed across the couch in another three-day binger, note the absolute lack of children, pets or spouse that need to be fed. Poor them.

From there, "the stars" could move on to the public at large, the audience for celebrity garbage. Go on, Bite the Hand that Feeds You – in fact, it'd be a good title for this feature– and could cash in on photos of the elderly thumbing through pages of the glossies, cigarette butts and emphysemic cats everywhere, rapt housewives discussing the latest, coupled with insets of their husbands dallying with strippers, balding truckers at the checkout eyeing a front page and scratching their jocks, cancer-stricken patients drawing in last shaky breaths while catching up on the latest “star” activity, and just about anyone who can't flee the onslaught quickly enough.
Of course, these magazines should include full page editorials by celebrities whining about how misportrayed they are, and amusing little anecdotes about brushes with ordinary people, say when they got their tires rotated or had a mole removed or made some other lark into averageness. I think I might enjoy reading about ordinary people for a change.

Although the reason celebrities don't write about ordinary people is because we're so insignificant.


Welcome to my soapbox. Nice and sturdy isn’t it? Let’s bounce up and down a few times. One… two… three…. See, it is a little flexible – the wood’s tensile (got a little give), but not too tensile. I’ve been told it might be teak, but I think it’s a little waterlogged, which might account for all the squishiness.

You’ll have noticed that there’s not much room up here for more than one person at time – but hey, it’s my soapbox, I’m the one who went to all the trouble of digging it out of the trash and everything. So you’ll kindly pardon me – shove – for taking up the most space.

So I’ve failed to acquire a TV. Metaphorically killed the thing, choking it to death by its little metal and rubber cord. And as a result, I have no idea who the bachelor is, who the apprentice is, who wants to be a millionaire, and whether those people will ever get off the island or not (I’m guessing not – it’s a series, isn’t it? You tell me which is more likely - to run out of writers or to run out of ratings first?).

On a daily basis, this non-TVdom doesn’t mean much. I’ve noticed I’m much more sensitive to simulated violence and also really alert to human behavioral cues, such that I’ve recently found myself weeping to Cliffhanger - yup, the Sylvester Stallone movie – you know the part… where the Sly character climbs up that cliff face, with no equipment whatsoever – he’s freeclimbing, freeclimbing, freeclimbing, and he gets to the top, when the neo-Nazi character who happens to be up there at that exact spot stomps on his poor little hard-scrabbling fingers? Apparently, my subconscious was deeply touched by this scene – I mean, he just climbed a whole mountain for godssake. I wept. At the same time, my narrative brain (the part of my brain that thinks in verbal terms) was laughing at what a sucker my subconscious had become.

[There was also a pretty scary response to an after school special about a figure skater who got paralyzed. The emotional import can be summed up in the dialogue “I will skate again! I will! I will!” … but I’m trying to blot that from my mind.]

Having no TV, though, I find my small-talk with people I barely know severely curtailed. I have to do the smile and nod when people start gabbing about CSI – “you know, like, it’s like, CSI!” and careful not to tread on anyone’s toes when I mentally ridicule anyone who’d ever watch a call-in show about people trying to become singers.

Nevertheless – and here’s my overarching theme, rumpumpumpum! – I remain bombarded with stars and the life of stars. Sometimes I catch myself involuntarily thumbing through People at the checkout. After all, I have to read People to understand who’s on the cover, and why they’re sleeping with their nannies.

Since quite a number of the free radicals of my imagination are being herded toward Hollywood, I’ve decided to get up here on my soapbox like so many others and giving my suggestions and critique on popular media and culture. Although this endeavor is nearly as shallow as that which prompted it – there’s a nearly unavoidable hypocrisy here – I’m launching this site as the effluvium that puddles around my feet as a result of living in the shadows of the media glare. The aftermath of partially digested and inedible media bits.