Thursday, October 30, 2003

Please, baby...

Don't be doing porn, k?

According to this article (and if ya don't want to go through the ad to read it yourself, I excerpt most of the skankiest parts here), we have begun to cross that barrier that John Waters predicted we would: Mainstream actors and actresses are crossing the line into graphic sexual scenes for mainstream movies. I'm talking obvious genital contact and total everythang hanging out nekkedness.

Full frontal ain't such big news, because many have bared all before. A short list of major stars who have: Kathleen Turner, Richard ("gerbil boy") Gere, Sissy Spacek, Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan, the younger), Kathleen Quinlan, Elizabeth McGovern, Harvey Keitel, Karen Allen, Kathy Bates, blah-de-blah. We've seen a lot of thespian skin. Onward.

No, kids and kittens, I'm taking full frontal technicolor contact with the uglies outside of porno. I for one don't like it. I guess it blows (ahem) my suspension of disbelief, because one moment I'm in the middle of a story, but once the porn starts, suddenly I'm looking at Meg Ryan doing porn, and the story is kaput.

Frinstance, there ya are, handful of popcorn, engrossed, then:

In [Jane Campion's choppy, erotic thriller, In the Cut], a mustachioed and criminally attractive Mark Ruffalo takes recovering-moppet Ryan to bed, plants her on her stomach, spreads her legs, and performs oral sex on her from behind in a scene that lasts a breathtaking two minutes. A steady master shot with no quick cuts and no "Is that what I think it is?" moments, the scene depicts exactly what you think it does, and even the most jaded filmgoers will feel their pulses quicken.

Kinda makes you wonder if they left an "n" out of the title of the film, doesn't it? [Rimshot!]

Or, another frinstance is this:

After a rushed and awkward first encounter, [William H.] Macy's character [in The Cooler] makes amends by paying [Maria] Bello lip service. The cut of the film that screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January shows Bello's face grimacing in a quiet, almost pained orgasm. The camera then moves lower, where Bello's own hand and Macy's face rest in the actress's thatch of brunet pubic hair, earning the film a dreaded NC-17 rating.

You remember William H. Macy, right? He played the schlepp who tried to have his wife fake kidnapped in Fargo, but everything goes wrong and it ends with him being dragged by police from a hotel, screaming, in his undies.

I don't think I can make a believable assertion that I am not a prude, but I will state that I have found some scenes of sex in past movies wonderful, tasteful, and appropriate for the story, thus my suspension of disbelief expanded into other happy suspensions, if you will. But Kathleen Turner and William Hurt going at it in Body Heat, or Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lang in The Postman Always Rings Twice putting a cutting board to good use, were exciting and titillating, and most precisely because we don't see any genitalia during an erotic scene. Seeing someone's privates does something to our wetware (ultra-geek term for our brains, you perv), and suddenly we are slammed into another mode (whether we like it or not). I guess because that is something related to one of our most intimate acts that we can't feel anything but the emotions related to the same. It breaks the fourth wall in a way nothing else does, even a creepy 3-D Michael Jackson reaching out of the screen for your kids at Disney World.

For the record, I don't think seeing someone's nude crotch outside of a sex scene is the same, because - even though it still sends a spark to that lizard part of our brain - if we are just seeing someone nude outside of a sexual situation, we just register that they're nude and don't necessarily lunge into that part of our brain that is involved with intimacy and such. I think we register, "oh, nekkid body" and go on, essentially -- perhaps, at most, making a mental note about proportions or aesthetics.

For myself, I hope that Hollywood gets through this phase quickly, that it does not catch on, and that it's remembered only as something to avoid, much like "smell-o-vision".
Douglas Coupland booster club, meeting three

Just finished a raft of Douglas Coupland's fiction. Hey Nostradamus! made my jaw swing low in awe so many times, I just had to see what came before.

Thus far I've read:

- Shampoo Planet - Twentysomething deals with the initial steps out into the real world, hippie parents and cheating on girlfriend
- Life After God - Short story collection
- Girlfriend in a Coma - High school friends' stories that revolve around one of their group awaking from a coma after 16 years, and the world ending (no shit!)
- Generation X - His first novel, about three twentysomethings of the post babyboom generation out in the real world for the first time, which coins several memes and terms now taken for granted in journalism, fiction, and film. This was the mother ship.

I'm thrilled to gush that only the short story collection made me eye the TV remote a couple times. Everything else was fun, touching, and most of all written so well that sometimes it makes you (gentle reader) ache.

Every author has his or her constant themes. John Irving: the sweet comedy of life and the constant proximity of violence and tragedy. Stephen King: the horror and humor pulsing under the surface (like a straining boil) of modern American life. Patricia Cornwell: forensic medical examiner who hates men, loves guns, and solves nasty crimes. Dean Koontz: something evil is created in a government lab; everybody pays.

Douglas Coupland's common themes are:

- Fear of obliteration by nuclear war, especially seeing the flash that indicates detonation, thus having time to think about the coming wave of fire, and the world ending in general.

TLD: I think this is common for people my age. I once had a dream where, after the nuke hit, I walked around and saw the shadow left on the walls where my friends had been standing when it hit. I later discovered all of my friends have had that dream. A month or so ago, during a wicked thunderstorm, two lighting strikes detonated like explosions in the sky. Since we are more likely to get hit by a terrorist bomb now than we were in danger of being nuked by the Russians during the cold war, this scared the hell out of me. The whole room went completely white, with only a few stark shadows standing out in relief behind say, a chair, and the shock wave made the windows bulge.

- Fear of humanity wasting our opportunity for making the world a better place.

- Having a wasted life.

- Fear that God isn't there; wanting badly for God to be there.

_ Fear of love and the heartbreak it can bring.

- Inappropriate hair care.

The primary problem with Coupland's fiction (that I've read so far) is that there is never a single happy, uplifting, unalloyed moment. Yes, characters report hitting little pools of contentment, but as a reader, we are never allowed to see one of those moments live, with perhaps the exception of the ending of Generation X where the main character is essentially dog-piled on by jubilant retarded children, which the character reports is the happiest thing to have happened to him. (That isn't really a spoiler, btw.) Thus, there is never a let-up of the wonderful sad tone that Coupland is a master of. Another writer who's tone is primarily comic blue, John Irving, does provide a few laugh-out-loud moments in most of his best work, probably to provide relief. Coupland doesn't do that, to his detriment.

Still, he's a wonderful stylist, a master of tone, wonderful with dialogue, and tells compelling stories. Bet you'll like him if you're not already a fan.

Here are some quotes I liked:

"History does not record my response." [As a response to another character's question] - From Generation X

"Me-ism: A search by an individual, in the absence of training in traditional religious tenets, to formulate a personally tailored religion by himself. Most frequently a mishmash of reincarnation, personal dialogue with a nebulously defined god figure, naturalism, and karmic eye-for-eye attitudes." - From Generation X

"I think there was a trade-off somewhere along the line. I think the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched. And I wonder if this irony is the price we paid for the loss of God." - From Life After God

Three books I have tried and tried to read and enjoy, but will now forever avoid as though they were homework from an Accounting 101 class:

- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
- Ulysses by James Joyce

I'm officially giving up for good on all of them.

Sorry guys.

Saturday, October 25, 2003



I've been a member of the Columbia Music Club since I was a kid. Their "buy 1, get three more free" deals cannot be beat.

But, recently, I got a nastygram from them to the effect of "you've not ordered in a year, so we're ending your membership unless you order something". So, I go on-line to see if there is anything I want, the odds of which are slim because the music industry pretty much as a whole has lost its mind and spews yer basic dreck anymore. Well, anything that I did want wasn't available in any offer, so I woulda paid the full $22.98 or whatever for each freakin' one, in these days where I can go anywhere and get it up to $10 cheaper. So I wrote them an email and asked them not to dump me.

But, assuming they will dump me because so far they've shown they don't really understand what customer service is, I call to redeem these "bonus points" I've earned (because of course you can't do it on the web), which is supposed to get me free music, but I'm like 5 short and they won't discount it or prorate it - you gotta have a full number for a CD, even if the CD is cheaper than full price (and thus should be fewer points). McFeh.

Here's where it gets stupid(er).

The person on the phone starts in with "but what I CAN do for you sir is offer you various selections, like 'Linkin Park', for $4.99, or..." I stopped her right there. This was the impression I got from the web site, too, that these people act as though they are selling towels or brands of soup and not music, as though one with a close enough color, or one that tastes like other stuff I like, is equivalent in regards to music. Worse, they are trying to sell what they want to sell, and are not allowing me to buy what I want to buy in perhaps one of the few retail situations where only the very thing you like will do.

It was kinda like this:

Moi: "Y'know, I'd like that Elvis CD over there."

Idjit music club: "Oooo! That'll cost ya! But, tell ya what, sport! I've got an Elton John CD right here today that'll cost a lot less, and Hey!, his name starts with an "E" too!"

Moi: "The fuck?"

I'm having a hard time getting past the sheer dunderheadedness of this.

I read a few years ago that all the actual music lovers were being run out of the music business, and they were all being replaced by suits who heard nothing but the bottom line and could care less about the product. The final death knell was A&M records being acquired and closed. Judging from today's shopping experience (and the radio - AND CD releases anymore) the conversion is now complete.


How sad for us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The School of Rock

The whole family went to see The School of Rock today. Roger Ebert went out of his way to point out that that PG-13 rating was silly, and that this was a good family film, so off went. Our daughter, who turns 7 this week, got to open her presents beforehand as we will be on a group outing on the actual day of her birthday. Since she'd peaked, as we all do, shortly after the presents were opened, and still wanted to play, she was not all that happy to be taken to a movie with "real people" (as opposed to animated people, her favorite (she's so my daughter that way)). Well, she giggled and danced the whole way through; gave it a big thumbs up at the end. My wife laughed out loud many times, which is an accomplishment, as she doesn't often laugh at scripted material. The majority of the audience was pre-teenagers, and they LOVED the movie. (In the men's room afterward, as we queued up, they all chattered excitedly about the fact that all the kids really played and sang as you see it in the film (which is true), and talked about forming their own bands. Dear Lord, yes!!!! Rock and roll staggers from the grave yet again!) Several adults belly-laughed throughout, as well. Jack Black is a joy.

Yes, this is a good movie. And so is literally everything else Richard Linklater has made. (Well, Waking Life is for fans and stoners only, but the rest of his oeuvre is excellent.) It's worth your time and money. Warm up ahead of time and see Dazed and Confused, his best so far. Rock on and all that.

TLD:The championing of rock and roll, and the fact that the kids in the audience responded so well to it, reminded me of a tiny episode when my wife and I were first dating. I was dragged to one of those family dinners, ostensibly for a possible future spouse test-drive with the family I would guess, and during the meal, her younger brother started extolling the virtues of rap. This would not do. The very next day me and the future missus went to the CD store and got AC/DC, Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Steve Miller, and a few other rock gods and goddesses and drove them right over. We knocked, he answered, and we just handed the stack to him and said, and I quote, "Here." Maybe he mistook our utterance for its near-homonym, but either way, it worked. He was saved.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003


I tried, and I mean I really tried, to not make political posts. My dismay at the way things have gone since the botched election have overcome my better judgement to not grouse about things. The pendulum will most likely swing back, even if this is the most ruinous administration ever to have power in my lifetime. We can and will recover. Clinton proved that.

Waxing political when that is not the main thrust of your blog almost never has good effect, I've noticed when I read other blogs. What finally tipped the scales for me is this post by my favorite blogger (even though it's not technically a blog as he will point out), James Lileks. I nearly always unconditionally love every word that Lileks bothers to tap out for us on his site (though his articles for his various professional gigs, though uniformly good, aren't as much fun as his writing for the hell of it, probably for that very reason). But this one post made me wonder if James is really taking into account that the FBI person he thrashes is making some really valid points about the dangers to our constitutional rights, even if he does not agree with the way she made them. He seems to trust that the government will be right, good, and fair in dealing with those they target as enemies, which astounds me, given recent history. I think some administrations would be fair, but clearly not all will be. So they shouldn't have the kind of power that this FBI person is concerned about. They don't need it. And only those who would use it would naturally abuse it.

So, I kinda wandered away from that post thinking a little less of one of my heroes.

Also, this weekend at a party, I spouted about how Fox News is calling Plame a CIA "worker" and not an agent, in their typical wingnut spin. It cleared the table. People suddenly needed another beer, to hit the facilities, go find something else. There I sat, blowhard asshole, immediately knowing it wasn't worth the bad feelings to blabber about such things in the middle of polite company. Mother's warning about religion and politics proves to be true.

As my blog is still new, and my intent is to entertain and not anger or alienate, I think I'm going to put the kibosh on political posts. That doesn't mean they won't come up as topics, but hopefully it will stay light. I will try.

Most humble apologies.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Music Corner - Totally Terrible and Really Wrong

People ask me, since my music taste is as eclectic as it is and I tend to like about everything (except that foulness know as rap), what do I think is a BAD song?

Well, like the rest of the western world, "Feelings" is about as bad as it gets. Even "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" and "Run, Joey, Run" are opuses (opai?) unto themselves compared to "Feelings". Still, "Feelings" is a gimme.

Therefore, I present to you, the second suckiest song ever composed and recorded:

"A Cowboy's Work is Never Done", performed by Sonny and Cher. Penned and produced by Sonny for a 1972 album (which I believe my mom won at a Jaycees raffle or something).

(Note to RIAA: this example is at a low sample rate, and is taken from the original vinyl so it crackles more than a yoga session at the old folks home, so it sounds like crap. No one will burn this onto a CD, nor will any artist lose money over this - it may even spur someone to go buy it for all its terrible glory. Yet, if this is infringement of copyright and not "fair use" please don't sue me, just tell me to remove it.)

I was all set to tell you how obscure this song was, buried on side 2 of a minor album, and then I was going to defend Sonny who did write some great tunes and was a protege of Phil Spector (inventor of "the wall of sound"), but I discovered through a little research it was one of their hits! Dear Lord! To think they played this on the radio on purpose and that people actually thought, "Hey! Let's go buy that one! It rocks!" just astounds me. Evidently I don't need to defend Sonny.

But, heck, my mom would play the thing so we could all roll around laughing at lines like, "Ride! I usta jump my horse and ride!" (I was old enough to get the sad image of a poor horse being buggered by Sonny in a cheap variety show cowboy costume) and, "And I got shot, but I never died". Maybe everyone listened to it in that spirit. I dunno.

And there you have it.
Egregious political post #8 (or so), but it's my blog and I'll bitch if I want to.

So the Texas gerrymandering worked.

The California recall worked. They now have a popular actor as their new Governor puppet. (Grand total of neocon puppets in charge, if you're counting, is now 4: Texas, California, Florida, and the USA herself!) Said puppet has clearly done more womanizing than ole Billy, but did we hear a peep from the moral brigade? Of course not! This one's their puppet. (Though Bill was anything but someone's puppet, which I think was one of the things that pissed off the neocons. "What!? He doesn't have controllers out in the shadows? He's running it himself?! That's just wrong!)

Our president has achieved, in a scant couple years, a new depression, a (potential) Vietnam, and a scandal worse than Watergate (*cough* Plame *cough*).

Welcome to the third world my friends. Brought to you by Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, and Georgy "the puppet" W!

Calpundit spells out what their agenda is, just in case you were wondering. With an addition here.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Nietzsche was an asshole

Stephen King is writing a bi-monthly article for "Entertainment Weekly" and he recommended some authors recently, one being Peter Abrahams. Just finished Crying Wolf and enjoyed it immensely, though the ending was a little anticlimactic.

The best thing about the novel is the continual riffing and rippage on the evil bastard philosopher Nietzsche. Dying insane and riddled with syphilis was too good for that son of a bitch, if you ask me.

Abrahams creates an interesting dynamic by presenting a Nietzscheian superman (the evil character of the book, natch) who's contrasted by a college professor who's enamored of Nietzsche. This misguided, prissy prof. foists his crap on clean, young minds using the standard lies that Nietzsche was a "free thinker" who was unencumbered with our stale notions of morality while the bad buy lives the nightmare. (My theory about Nietzsche is that he was so putrid that he was driven by the sole need to improve his impoverished sex life; thus, he sought to expand his potential mating pool by convincing others that screwing anyone was fair game. In short, he was the Pauly "the weasel" Shore of his day.)

However, all the characters with a little savvy expose him for the gumball machine diamond ring he was:

"Nietzsche didn't mind a little rudeness, did he, Leo?" said Mr. Zorn.

"He was rather correct in his personal dealing, in fact," said Professor [Leo] Uzig. "Excluding the period of his madness, of course."

"Let's exclude Lizzie Borden's one bad day while we're at it," said Mr. Zorn.

It's nice seeing Nietzsche upended like the bucket of turds he was.

Saturday, October 04, 2003


Ah, the season of Halloween has arrived! Halloween is a holiday where no one expects presents, cards, a meal, an invitation, or a big freakin TV sports game of some sort. Nope, everyone just wants to put on a costume, get a piece of candy, and perhaps attend a great party. Now THAT'S a holiday. The only way it could be improved upon is by adding in some Mardi Gras-like gratuitous nudity.

Because Halloween is my family's favorite holiday, we start planning our costumes in August, and put up the decorations October 1st. (I sit amongst pumpkins and skulls and bats - oh my! - as I type this.) This year, my wife and I are going as an electrical socket and a plug, respectively. Our daughter is going as a princess.

One year, my (then future) wife and I went as the 7-up dots. Remember them? They would detach from the red dot on the can, with little wayfarers and white gloves, and run around squeaking whilst making mischief, and were probably abandoned as product mascots because they are so similar to the M&M guys.

Before the party (shown here), we stopped at a bar nearby for a beer, which happened to be a sports bar. Because I am missing the competitive sports gene entirely, we had no idea that there was a game on with our most bitter rival (assuming you give a flying star-spangle fuck about such things), Nebraska. Nebraska's team color is red. People acted as though we had walked in and insulted everyone's mother, peed on the floor, beat their dog, stole their Bible, and then shouted "vote Democrat!" The bartender ignored me until I finally yelled over for a beer. She looked at me with a scowl and hesitated as though she wasn't going to serve me. When she did, she gave me a stunning variety of dirty looks, didn't say a word, and didn't even touch the money I put on the bar until I walked away. When we got to the party and told them about our trip to the twilight zone, they clued us in about the game and such. Still, though, what a weird subculture sports nuts are, getting all pissy about the colors on someone's costume on Halloween, for crying out loud.

Back in college, I went as a werewolf once.

I did it just like they did for the old movies; I glued it on layer by layer. However, I did not follow the instructions to put cold cream on my face first (as I hadn't read that until it was too late), and when I came home later from the bar, blasted off my canine gourd, I had the joy of ripping the hair off my face and literally sanding the glue off. Thank God I was so wasted or it would've hurt like hell. It was wild, though; No one recognized me. It's thrilling and chilling to walk up to someone you know well, and be able to tell that they have no glimmer of recognition in their eyes. You'd think that simple recognition wouldn't be such a blatant facial expression. The best costume at the bar that night was this bunch of guys who had attached eight ski boots to one set of skis, and all four of them trooped around all night together as the "Norwegian Ski Team." Going to the bathroom must've been interesting for them.

The best costume I ever wore, though, was a cake donut.

Simulation Only

I hadn't expected to get off work in time from the movie theater to go to the party, so I didn't have a costume. There was a bakery on the way to the party, so I got a cake donut, hung it around my neck, and went as an asshole. It was a total success. Everyone had a built-in joke. Also, it was the anthro dept.'s party, so everyone else there was dressed as Jesus (there were four, one carrying a life-sized cross), Moses (three, one with a tablet with profane commandments), or a nun (five, if I recall). I got away with calling everyone a bunch of assholes, getting a big laugh rather than a belt in the face.

I love Halloween.
New Genre Alert. Category: Music

Flying so low under the radar that only the most obsessive music sluts (like myownself) have detected it, is a new music genre known as "chillout" music. It's essentially jazz, classical, and other low-key instrumental music purposely intended to be background music - sorta like muzak with some cachet - or the old chestnut PBS radio show "Hearts of Space" with a rhythm track. Classical and jazz purists might spray blood from their eyeballs in apoplexy upon their first encounter with chillout mixes because this is an offshoot of modern sampled, looped and spliced drums, with licks and phrases mixed and hashed all together - for sheer ambiance or effect more so than musical purity.

Yet, it does make an excellent background soundscape for working or a mellow party.

A search on or for the terms "chillout" or "after hours" will pull up a bunch.

I can personally recommend these two:

-- classical chillout

-- the very best of AfterHours

Check it out, mang.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Enron, the sequel

Here in Colorado, we are getting gamed by an energy utility the same way that California got gamed by Enron.

In a nutshell, Xcel Energy has completed the construction of a new pipeline that allows them to divert natural gas from Colorado to California. Since they can make more money from the gas in California, they are sending a lot there. This creates a shortage and a competitor for the gas here in Colorado, so they are increasing the price of our natural gas 73% (and that's just for residential, with commercial getting an 84% gouge), making our prices roughly equivalent to what they charge Californians. That means, in dollars, that someone in Colorado who paid $64 a month last year will pay around $110 a month this year. So, we get the onus of California's rates without the benefit of their economy. Rapture.

Don'cha love big energy business and deregulation, especially when the energy boys run the country?

Here are a couple articles about it (if you care). (I love the spin on the title of the second one, "cost of coziness". Shit, as if we need heat to be merely cozy as opposed to NOT DYING.)

- Xcel's 73% heat-bill hike approved
- Cost of coziness could be worse

Layoffs have hit Colorado pretty hard, too. For instance, on my block alone, 9 people have been laid off in the past year, most of them in the past 4 months. Of a total of 30 people available to work (and this includes the stay-at-home moms), 9 have lost their jobs, making it roughly 1 out of every 3 people on my block alone have lost their jobs just this year. That's obscene.

And, so, we are being gamed by an energy company in the midst of the depression. Fuckers.

For many years, when I've had enough scotch at a party, I howled into the wind about how the neocon's most basic goal is to convert the USA into Mexico. I didn't think they'd get this far this fast.

At least we finally have proof (and it was just a matter of time with this bunch) of a political scandal that may help to bring this administration down. I direct you, as a starting point, to Andrew's (the Poor Man) hilarious post (it's precious!), from which you can surf around for other blogs and news about what will probably get monikered "spygate" at some point. (And I couldn't be happier that it's our own private Machiavelli, Karl Rove, who is probably the perpetrator of the crime. And a felony no less! (Funny how perpetrator almost includes the word "traitor".))
Update: Folks, check out the comments for corrections to some of my suppositions here. (Thanks everyone!)