Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

And on a serious note...

"A man can be destroyed but not defeated."
-Ernest Hemingway

Tomorrow, I'll be in Santa Fe for the NM Film Maker's Workshop, so my blog will probably be inaccessible. Therefore, this one will have to be extra long to make up for tomorrow's absence. I apologize for the length of this post, but if you manage to trudge through it, I'll try to make it worth your while.

Since my past two toilet posts have had all the insight of an Adam Sandler film, I’ve decided that today I owe it to myself to post something a tad more serious. Of course, whenever I think serious I always end up going back to the tragic day last summer when Dad attempted suicide.

The semester following that haunting afternoon, I decided that it would be fitting to take a course on Ernest Hemingway. I suppose that I figured I could bring a new layer of meaning to the class due to my situation.

In Hemingway’s final, posthumously-published novel Islands in the Stream, he presents repeating storylines and characters whose actions reflect each others. Throughout his career Hemingway has done this, but not to the extent that he does in Islands.

My family’s numerous meetings with several therapists provided somewhat of a companion course to this Hemingway course. Raising my hand in class, I pointed out a “cyclical” pattern in the novel that is often a characteristic thought pattern in depressives. The only reason I knew this was because therapists had pointed out, through my father’s increasing obsessive-compulsive habits and his often coming back to the same dark thoughts, that Dad had exhibited this dangerous pattern.

“Hmm.” My professor replied. “I’d never thought of it that way.”

This may or may not have been Hemingway's intention--the cyclical pattern could've been a coincidence or an artistic experiment--but whatever it was, I took pride in the fact that I may had given a published Hemingway scholar a new insight.

It’s been said that Hemingway’s father’s suicide may have opened a door to creativity in Ernest, that the trauma somehow unlocked a certain brilliance.

I believe that this is at least somewhat true. Following my own father’s incident, I found that my writing improved immensely. Before that, I’d been a mediocre writer at most, but when I chose I write about that afternoon I discovered that my writing contained something beautiful, despite the horrifying consequences.

I had been in a creative nonfiction class in which I later wrote an essay about his attempt at his life. I've been told that one must wait for some time before writing about something as tragic, and this is probably true; but, although my writing was overcome by disconcerting and disorienting unbridled emotion, the essay contained glimmers and occasional sparks of impressive material that even caught me off guard.

They say that writing something that makes you uncomfortable leads to material that is worthwhile. Take it from me, writing about a noodle-like tendon sticking out of your father's wrist is anything but comfortable.

I wonder about Hemingway's own levels of discomfort when he wrote his numerous stories that hinted at suicide, a character's depression, or that contained a subtext of violence and insecurity. My writing, I assure you, is not on par with Hemingway's, but I consider he and I to have a grasp on some things that it takes something this uniquely traumatic to gain. Trauma in any form, I suppose, is enlightening.

Fortunately, my father survived. Sadly, Hemingway's did not (and neither did Hemingway, for that matter). But the suicide attempt did make the concept of death something more tangible, and Dad's intensive therapy and the following months brought about, for me, a realization of life's fragilities. My father's summation of that day simplifies something so complex that it takes a situation rather than a single-sentence grasp of life.

He did the deed at a picnic area. As he lay on the ground staring at the blue, afternoon New Mexico sky, he felt a tingle.

"I thought is was happening," he explains. "I thought, 'This is it. I'm dying.'" When he tells the story, he usually pauses at this part. Then he continues:

"Turned out to be ants. That's when I decided to drive myself to the hospital."

Life and death, somehow defined and encapsulated by ants. I often consider those ants. Did these little creatures give Dad a taste of the dying process? Were they a mere coincidence? Or were they something larger, a form of Divine Intervention?

That afternoon has become my life's fulcrum point. It is from then on that I have a deeper understanding of life, and yet I've become even farther from any grasp of life's complexities. Every time I go back to that moment, I give thanks to God/the ants/something, somewhere that Dad survived. I cheer his rebirth that took place, his own reemergence as a sober, happy fellow that has become enlightened and has embraced life's ups and downs. But I also find anger and sadness, the yearning for an innocence lost, and the bittersweet realization that things will never be the same. Life is a pendulum, swinging back and forth, up and down, with its anxiously awaited upswings and inevitable downfalls.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bathroom phobia, part II

“Cleanliness becomes more important when godliness is unlikely.”

-P.J. O'Rourke

So I'm a little immature, and I haven't finished writing about the potty. What can I say? Tomorrow I'll get off the subject, OK?

When I was a boy scout, our troop spent two-weeks at a summer camp nestled in the Sandias. My best friend and I had decided to join the scouts, not realizing that we were too weird to gracefully take part in group-based activities. While the rest of the troop was busy tying knots or something around the campfire, Brian and I were dropping glowsticks into the vast hole known as the outhouse. The glowstick illuminated the muddy waste for at least a week. I had no idea they lasted that long.

I didn't make it for the full two weeks. One was enough. If you read my post from yesterday, you know that I carry a somewhat unreasonable fear of public restrooms. Well, even as a child, I had this same fear. So, as you can imagine, placing my butt on that splintered wooden hole filled with there's no telling how many week's worth of you-know-what, without even the paper seat protectors, was not going to happen. No way, Jose.

I had a horrific stomach ache by the time a week had elapsed. I visited the camp nurse, saying that I was terribly ill (she suspected dehydration, but I knew better). The second time I visited her, I said that things were only getting worse, that I was growing ever more sick. Finally, I was sent home to cheer at the sight of clean porcelain. I appreciated the toilet tenfold after that day. I almost curtsied it before using it.

I abandoned poor Brian, though, who returned after a week to say, "Thanks a lot. You left me." I feel bad for the guy--it's hard being the lone outcast in a group of rosy-cheeked campers, but I had my own problems. While the rest of the scouts were learning how to interact as team or a unit, I learned a little something about independence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Restroom phobia

“At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.”

-George Carlin

Some time ago, I read a RollingStone interview with Andy Dick in which Dick's strange bathroom habits were discussed.

Apparently, if Andy Dick absolutely must go No. 2 in a public restroom, he begins by standing on the toilet with his feet on the rim. He then creates a hammock out of toilet paper and suspends it beneath his bottom. By doing this he allows himself to catch and carefully lower his waste with little mess to the water below, therefore keeping as much distance as possible between his skin and the surface of the toilet.

The article presented this habit as if it is completely unreasonable, as if Andy Dick is very odd for doing this. Yes, Andy Dick is odd, but for separate reasons, and I personally wouldn't go so far by creating a TP hammock and balancing myself on a toilet. But I do sympathize with him.

I avoid contact with public toilets at all costs. I would rather go my entire ten-hour shift at work with unbearable stomach cramps before my heiny goes near the rim of a public toilet. Sorry, call me crazy, but I'm just not comfortable allowing my heiny to go where many heinies, perhaps thousands, have gone before.

I've been called paranoid, a little stuck-up, and perhaps OCD, but I'm much more comfortable with a stomach ache than with the haunting suspicion that my bottom has graced the same porcelain as Lord knows how many bottoms before it. I even carry this fear despite the fact that most public restrooms I have ever been in provide those paper toilet seat protectors--but who are we kidding? Does that thin sheet really provide that much protection from whatever mix of creepy-crawlies that has made a home of any public restroom?

I never understood how George Costanza was so comfortable in using every restroom he came across. Seinfeld fans may remember that George knew all the bathrooms in New York and even rated them like he was a restaurant critic. George Costanza, the restroom critic.

Maybe I've become somewhat of a slave to my own paranoia. Maybe I need to loosen up, to give in once in a while, to tread the mysterious waters. Maybe. But I'm just not ready to go there. Perhaps I'm too timid and cowardly, but I'm just not prepared to bravely make my way into that bathroom stall, newspaper tucked in my arm, a look of determination on my face. Not today.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Calvin and Hobbes, my boyhood pals

"Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."
-Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip

Last year's Best American Essays contained a piece Jonathan Franzen wrote about Charles Shulz's Peanuts. Franzen writes about keeping the Peanuts treasury on his night stand and, as a child, getting lost in the world of Charlie Brown and Co.

He also delves into Charlie Brown's psyche, and then into the personality and psyche of Shulz himself--all parallel to Franzen's own unique relation to both Brown's and Shulz's insecurities. It is a fantastic essay, one in which I recommend looking up. It is undoubtedly a worthwhile read.

Growing up, I developed my own fascination with another comic strip: Bill Watterson's brilliant Calvin and Hobbes. The magic of Watterson's strip is the same as Shulz's: Deeply imagined characters and an imaginative (sometimes very dark) sense of humor.

I used to save up my allowances to purchase Calvin and Hobbes collections at the bookstore. Chances are, I've read every one of those strips more than once, and if they are any that I've missed, I'd like to know immediately.

I used to be so envious of little Calvin. Why, I wondered, does his backyard open up to this forest wonderland while mine is surrounded by tall cinder-block walls? It wasn't until later that I realized that much of the comic strip's adventurous atmosphere (careening along in a sled or a wagon, treehouse clubs, massive snowball fights) came from Calvin's own imaginative perceptions of his surroundings (which are rendered beautifully by Watterson himself).

Though he's often a problem child, I enjoyed Calvin's company as he enjoys that of Hobbes. As for his parents, I loved them as I love my own. They were sarcastic (his father once mentioned that they should've gotten a dachsund rather than conceive a child) but well-meaning, and they reminded me very much of my parents' "for your own good" approach to child-rearing. I related to Calvin's frustrations with his parents, and upon more recent readings of the same strips, I agree with his parents and applaud their skills at raising a child.

When the strip came to an end some years back, I was heartbroken, as if I'd lost someone very close. I grew infuriated when I began to see bumper stickers using Calvin's image, pissing on the logos of rival teams or car makers. More recently, I've seen his image kneeling before a cross. Neither suits Calvin's personality.

While he was a bratty kid at times, he would never be the angry, evil "pissing" Calvin that gets my blood boiling, and he sure wasn't a saint either.

Whoever began developing these unauthorized portrayals of Calvin does not know him as I do. I highly doubt that they hold the comic strip with the same reverence. They've violated something sacred, something dear to my heart (and to the hearts of many others), but I can rest easy in knowing that this cheap imagery will never be as sacred as my own bond with the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Karma Police

"This is what you get when you mess with us."
-Radiohead, "Karma Police"

When I was in high school, only the seniors were allowed off campus for our lunch period, but that didn't stop the juniors from trying.

At school they had a faculty member (a "narc" we used to call them) guard the front entrance and check student ID's just so he'd know that anyone leaving was a senior.

We tried one day during our junior year, a whole carload of us, to make our way off campus. We didn't think the "narc" would be there--we thought we might just luck out.

Well, we were wrong. But when he tried to stop us, Josh stepped on the gas in a panic and we made it off of campus in a rush. Getting back on was the problem. Of course, as we expected, the guard was waiting for Josh's blue Taurus. He had us pull to the side and he came to the window.

He poked his head in to see the five of us. "I need your ID's," he said, and collected them. Then he asked for mine.

"I don't have it," I lied.

He sighed. "What's your name?"

"Thomas Jameson," I lied again. Now he had four valid ID's and a false name. The end result? The others got three days of detention, while I got away clean.

Later that year, being the deviant teenage rebel that I was, I stupidly smoked pot in the middle of a park in broad daylight with the same group of friends. Of course, somebody called the police.

So they arrived, and once again we were told to give our names.

"Thomas Jameson," I said.

This time, I ended up in cuffs in the back seat of a police car, while my friends were allowed to sit in the grass while we waited for our parents. The look on my mother's face was pure fury, while my own face, I've been told, carried a look of fear and humiliation.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A whisper of vermouth

"Do I look like I give a damn?"
-Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale, after being asked if he'd like his martini shaken or stirred.

We all know that Bond (except for the most recent incarnation) prefers his martinis "shaken, not stirred." I'll admit, this is a cool line, one in which I'd love to say to a bartender if I'd thought of it before 007, but the truth is this: only by stirring your gin and vermouth will you get a smoother, more satisfying martini.

Shaking your martini will "bruise" the gin (which is a concept I don't quiet understand, but there is a definitely a noticeable taste difference). A bruised martini results in a rougher taste.

Maybe this is one of Bond's subtleties. He's a suave cat, cool with the ladies and carrying an enviable sense of style. What if his edgy martini is a reflection of the tougher side that lies beneath that tuxedo?

There is a certain beauty to mixing the perfect martini. The process of making a martini is pure poetry (what is more poetic than the phrase "a whisper of vermouth"?) Despite the harshness and strength of that most potent mixture--vermouth, gin, and olives--achieving the right taste is a delicate procedure. It takes just the right amount of vermouth, just a whisper, to achieve the desired taste. Too little, you have just pure, cold gin; and too much gives you a tainted, cloudy, impure drink, and you've soiled a martini glass for nothing.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Animal Rights

"C'mon, princess, you're not that ugly. All right, you are ugly. But you're only like this at night. Shrek's ugly 24/7. "
-Donkey, from Shrek

Since it's a holiday weekend, there's about a gazillion small children running around at my grandparents' home. Today, when I stopped by, the rugrats swarmed me, all of them crying out, "Simon, come outside! We have to show you something!"

Outside, in a five gallon bucket, they'd managed to contain what looked something like a grey dust bunny. When I looked closely, I noticed two tiny ears and a tail. They'd "rescued" a mouse from a neighborhood cat.

My first reaction: "Whoever touched it, wash your hands NOW." My next thought: How do I humanely kill this thing without breaking the hearts of the five or six children surrounding me?

I instructed them to leave the mouse in the bucket WITHOUT TOUCHING IT. Then I told Grampo and my aunts, their mothers, about the find in the backyard. Then I went home. Not my kids, not my problem.

Despite my daring escape, I was left feeling a bit silly and somewhat mean. While I was trying to come up with a way to kill the damn thing, the kids reacted with such sympathy. "Let it go!" they cried. "Let's build it a fort!" one said. One of them even snuck some Cheez Whiz from the fridge to feed the little guy.

To them, this was like a dog or a cat rather than vermin. Perhaps they saw it as almost human, like a Disney film, while I saw disease and creepy crawlies.

Once again, as in my "Yes, Virginia" post, I'm left stunned and in awe at children's perspectives."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mysterious accumulations of stuff...

"Politics is my hobby. Smut is my vocation."
-Larry Flynt

When I was younger, maybe even in pre-school, my grandfather attached six pale blue strips of felt to a thin board. The board would hang on my wall, allowing the inch and a half wide, two foot long strips of felt to hang towards the ground. I attached my pins to the felt strips.

I had never planned on collecting pins. It just sort of happens. When a person has a collection it is not exactly a conscious decision. It’s more along the lines of “Gee, I sure have a lot of rubber stamps. I guess I should start collecting.” You don’t start collecting, though. The collection of rubber stamps/postage stamps/baseball cards/pins is already there. You just decide to add to it.

Who knows why I had so many pins in the first place—enough to completely fill the contraption on my wall. I had all kinds of pins. Now that I think back to it, despite that being perhaps the geekiest hobby a person could get sucked into, lots of those pins were pretty damn cool. Like my little orange Batman pins. They weren’t the more recent, Tim Burton-style dark caped crusader—No, this was the retro Adam West Batman. The one where the TV show had that really catchy theme song—DunananananaDuhnuhnuhnuh Batman! Batman!...Batman! Catchy…and annoying.

On one of those pins, an animated Batman and Robin practically burst out of the pin, and above them a cartoonish, black silhouette of a bat hovered behind orange letters spelling out the word “Batman.”

I need to find that pin. It would go great with my current college hipster years.

I had so many of those goddamn pins. My grandfather had to make me another of his contraptions. Then another. This third one had felt strips that were black, and twice as long as the former.

By the time I filled up the last of the felt, my collecting came to a halt. I suppose I just lost interest, or I went into a phase where the collecting simply heeded—perhaps I was too busy—and I never picked up my hobby again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yes, Virginia...

"I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt it in the sunlight. And your mom was just in here crying."
--Thomas Builds-The-Fire in Sherman Alexie's short story "What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona." (Also used in the wonderful film adaptation Smoke Signals)

When I was younger I was, for whatever little-kid reason, crawling around on my grandparent's driveway. Due to some optic discrepancy, I saw a strange flash of light beneath Grampo's little blue pickup.

This was somewhere during the beginning of the holiday season, so I was convinced that I had seen an elf, checking to see that I was behaving and maintaining my place on Santa's "good" list.

Keep in mind that my mother comes from a strong Catholic/Hispanic background, where a child's behavior is so incredibly important. I've decided that telling kids that Santa has sent out a diminutive surveillance crew is a perfect way to ensure proper behavior without parent's having to keep an eye on your young ones 24/7. Plus, it's got that Christian slant.

We all know that kids will believe pretty much anything (ever been "snipe" hunting as a child?). What's I find so magical (yes, it's cheesy) is that children will believe anything with all their hearts. They are so convinced of the most far-fetched things, and yet they don't question for one second that yes, Santa exists. Yes, magic can take place. Yes, some fairy pays me for my teeth. This last one I now find kind of weird. What use would anybody have for old teeth? It sounds a bit nasty.

I believed in all this and more as a child. I believed I'd one day be an astronaut, or an adventurer, or some kind of magician that could fly or make my lovely assistant truly disappear. In a way, being a writer, I'm technically capable of these things--but as I child I'd never considered the possibility of writing and, instead, my goals involved very literal visions of these dreams.

And now, I'm such a cynic. When did that happen? Not that I don't like cynicism (in fact, I love it), but when did I abandon the possibility of the impossible? Once again, I'm pondering such bittersweet notions, but as much as I can't stand kids sometimes, you gotta admit that they allow their minds to wander to places that we eventually deny ourselves access to.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Inexplicable Friendships

"You fucking derelict."
-Paul Giamatti as Miles on Sideways

Last night, my best friend and neighbor opened up a bottle of wine and threw away the cork. Then he and his girlfriend decided that they didn't want it after all, so they gave it to me.

So I poured a glass and turned on Sideways, one of my absolute favorite movies--one that just happens to be about wine.

As I watched the film, I repeatedly refilled my glass. Tipsy and contemplative, I began to realize that, though Miles and his buddy are totally flawed, I can relate to them in so many ways.

One of the themes of the film is friendships, and how they change over the years, very much like a bottle of wine. We all have inexplicable relationships with people that have nothing in common with us. Miles is an intellectual wine snob, pretentious author, and a tragic alcoholic; while Jack is a simple-minded, naive party boy. These two are painfully different in so many ways, and yet their friendship is totally believeable. Why?

I think the answer to this is that we all have at least one friend that is in no way like us, which brings me back to my buddy, Brian, the one that gave me the wine.

I grew up a block away from him, and we've known each other since kindergarten. Even now we've managed to get apartments that are back to back. We get along, we're good friends, and we are completely unalike.

I'm going to school for an English degree and I work in a kitchen. He's a firefighter and wants to be an EMT. I'm a writer. He's a guitar player. One of my favorite films is Sideways, one of his favorites is Alien Vs. Predator.

Like Miles and Jack, we have grown apart in many ways, and I'm sure that both of us are totally aware of it. We no longer spend every possible chance together like we did as kids, and it's very clear that our lives have taken separate trajectories.

By the end of last night, I shuffled into the kitchen to find that the bottle was empty. I had drunk the entire thing (watching Sideways, this is often inevitable). I went to bed and before drifting into a drunken sleep, I decided that, despite our separate lives, we are still loyal friends, and at least we have that. It was a very bittersweet notion.

This morning, I awoke with a splitting headache.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Smelling the roses (sometime between work and class)

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is."
-C.S. Lewis

Here in New Mexico, we don't respond to cold weather very well. We are desert dwellers, so now that November has come around, many of us prefer to stay in bed during these chilly mornings.

Since I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. for work, you can imagine that I am usually none too thrilled to get out of my warm bed and make my way over the cold, tiled kitchen floor to my coffee maker, let alone make the frigid journey out to my Blazer.

We New Mexicans are also known for our lack of driving skills. I always respond the same way to inept drivers. I scream through my teeth at their stupidity, wondering why they don't understand that a green light means go. But it's different on these cold early mornings.

I live my life in a blurry rush. I go to school, I work 35-40 hours a week, and I try to balance what little time is left over between girlfriend, family, writing, friends, and (of course) my blog. Despite living my life habitually rushing through meals, cramming for tests, making last-minute plans and getting very little sleep, I go to work in the mornings with the hope that I will hit at least a couple of red lights. They give me a moment to sip my coffee and turn down the radio so I can enjoy a fleeting moment of peace.

Yesterday on my way to work, I noticed two pairs of brake lights in the distance (at that time of the morning, it's still dark outside). Noticing that they were police, I made sure that I stayed near the speed limit. Then, a silver Celica went hauling past me and past the cops. Of course, the Celica was pulled over.

As I went puttering by, I wondered "What if that was me?" While this guy was in his car getting a simple speeding ticket, probably with his car's heater on full blast, I was on my way to the cold stainless steel of a restaurant kitchen.

I often worry about being late to work, and sometimes I find this anxiety to be a little ridiculous. Let's say I got pulled over. When I arrived at work, it really would not be that silly of an explanation if I approached my manager with, "Hey, I'm sorry. I got pulled over." Besides, I graduate in a year (hopefully), and at that point I can say goodbye to kitchen jobs. A little extra time to sit in my car for the price of a speeding ticket.

Today, on my way home from work, I found myself in a school zone. Instead of sighing with dismay, I noticed that ground had a fresh covering of vibrant yellow leaves. The school zone became a film's slow-motion sequence, where the protagonist (me) notices the world around him and somehow discovers infinite peace in 30 seconds.

For the first time in my life, and I can actually thank my hectic schedule for this, I'm enjoying life's delays. Maybe, just maybe, I'll someday discover a fondness for the cold.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Coffee stains, part II

"You're so pretty when you're unfaithful to me."
-The Pixies
(This quote has nothing to do with the following post. I just like The Pixies, that's all.)


My dachshund, Coffee, finally completed her recent, how should I say this, "time of womanly inconvenience" (I think that's what ZZ Packer called it in a short story I recently read for class).

Anyway, whenever I mentioned to people that my dog was on her period, the most common response was, "I didn't know that dogs did that." Well, they do. And it lasts for what seems like forever. Near the end, when I hadn't any clue how much longer her bleeding would continue, I shredded an old t-shirt and crafted a diaper-like thing to wrap around her bottom end.

This took a while. The first one had a hole in the wrong spot for her tail, so this had her walking around the house looking rather uncomfortable. The second one, though the hole was in just the right spot, slid right off of poor Coffee's bottom. She's such a small creature, one that has refused to grow since she was a puppy.

Finally, I crafted one more--this one with a proper hole and suspenders that wrapped up and around her tiny shoulders and tied to the diaper, or pad, or whatever it should be called. She trotted about the house as if she was proud of her new fashion statement and I no longer had little red speckles all over my home. This piece of clothing didn't even budge.

Her period ended a mere two days later and we retired her new piece of clothing. After all that. You should've seen her though, in her silly, wrap-around onesy. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my camera, so here's a picture of Coffee when she was still a puppy, when she was still innocent. Before she became a woman. Here she is, crying out in her own way, "I am Coffee, hear me roar."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

24 Hour Party People

"The smaller the attendance the bigger the history. There were 12 people at the last supper. Half a dozen at Kitty Hawk. Archimedes was on his own in the bath. "
-Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson on 24 Hour Party People

Have you ever seen a movie that you can't believe that none of your friends have seen it because it is, in your opinion, utterly fantastic? The film I have in mind is 24 Hour Party People, and if you've passed this one over, you ought to backtrack a bit and check it out.

Initially, Michael Winterbottom's kinetic, bumpy, and altogether messy directing style may overwhelm or turn some viewers off. But the film is about yet another drug-addled movement in music--this one being evolution of punk and rave culture in England--and what better way to portray it?

I've never been a raver, but the film manages to find an appeal to Manchester and it's rave culture somewhere within me. "This is the moment," Steve Coogan says directly to the camera, "when even the white man starts dancing."

Maybe I'll never actually get into the rave scene. Actually, not "maybe," but DEFINITELY. What I think I find so appealing about this film's portrayal, is the subtle, nuanced performances and each character's unique relationship to the culture of music that surrounds them. Plus, the hilarious banter in the film is almost worthy of Monty Python. Steve Coogan ought to be a huge star--his performance here is impeccable. This comedian can truly act. Also worth watching is Andy Serkis, who has given physicality a name in much the same way Buster Keaton did (Serkis will go on to provide the movements for Gollum in LOTR and also King Kong).

What I think works most is the fact that such subtle performances take place within an atmosphere of extreme drug use, loud music, and unbridled sexuality. I like the juxtaposition.

If, like everybody I know, you haven't seen this film, I highly recommend you do. If you did and were disappointed, give it another chance.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Dear Lily

"Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best."
-Woody Allen

I apologize for the crudeness of this post. Ah, hell, I'm not that sorry...We're all adults here (for the most part).

Anyway, when I was in high school--you know, that place where rumors float about like a bunch of buzzing gnats--I heard of a girl that attended a local Christian school who was saving herself for marriage. Vaginal intercourse, that is.

Oral and anal was still considered "OK." I found this so compelling that she became the basis for our "American High" script. I was so utterly fascinated by this that I created Lily, a girl with the same warped sense of sexuality--the school shooting "hook" for the show was an afterthought. That's saying a hell of a lot--I was more interested in writing about a single individual's concept of sex than something as large, controversial, and compelling as a Columbine-style assault.

Lily even shows up in much of my short fiction. My most recent piece has been about the first time that Lily (again, I apologize for the crudeness) gave a handjob. In the story she's stuck on an elevator with this frat boy and, well, one thing leads to another...yada, yada, yada.

I'm so consumed with this girl that here I am, once again writing about Lily. I know Lily, this figment of my imagination, almost as much as I know myself or anybody else in my life.

The school-shooting angle did add a lot to the subtext of our script, and actually gave Lily some sort of motivation for her actions. Though we don't condone it, we understand her behavior.

Which brings me back to that girl I once heard about in high school, the one I've never met and, for all I know, one I may have heard a false rumor about. If that rumor is true, I no longer see her as the butt of a joke (Lily started out the same way) but rather, as somebody who is nothing less than human. Somebody to sympathize with and perhaps even relate to.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sexy Chemistry

"I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen."
-Frank Lloyd Wright

I'm happy to report that last night's script reading was an absolute success. The turnout was phenomenal (in fact, there weren't enough chairs), the actors were great, and we were able to have our heavily polished script finally read to a live audience.

We were at Frontier restaurant until 1:30 am on Tuesday night (or early Wednesday morning) making revisions, rearranging scenes, developing characters, etc. Totally anxious in anticipation of the following evening's event, I got very little sleep when I finally arrived home. Before the actual stage reading, we had one more rehearsal read-through. Then, five minutes before the performance was to begin, we made yet more last-minute revisions.

Jittery, sleep-deprived, and incredibly nervous, we took our seats as the audience filled in around us. The lights lowered, the actors sat on the stage before us, and the read-through of our year-long project--the pilot episode of "American High"--finally began.

The actors nailed their parts, as if they'd imagined the characters even more deeply than we did. Actually, I'm pretty convinced that the Sexy Chemists, our writing troupe, knows the characters better than we know ourselves, but the actors undoubtedly added a new layer of complexity to the project, making it all that much more compelling.

There were surprises, too, in the ways the audience reacted to certain parts. There were some chuckles during scenes that I never realized could be considered funny, a couple of surprise gasps, things that come from somebody other than yourself interpreting your work. This was neither good or bad, just a little surprising. There were, however, reactions that were supposed to be there--scenes we wrote that were supposed to be funny got explosions of laughter, and we got the intended gasps from the more shocking scenes. This put a smile on my face and the faces of the other three Sexy Chemists.

We got awesome feedback, especially from our screenwriting professor, the intense, ruthless editing fiend Matt McDuffie who had us doing rewrites five minutes before the show; even he gave us kudos. Ecstatically, he said, "You've got a T.V. show!"

After the performance ended, the actors got a wonderful round of applause. Then, Eric, the event's facilitator, piped up from the back of the room: "Let's hear it for the writers." This got a genuinely enthusiastic round of applause. As you can imagine, I'm on cloud nine right now.

Last night, watching my characters and my writing come to life, I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, standing over his grotesque creation and crying out, "It's ALIVE!" I may sound a little shallow, revelling in the audience's positive reaction and praising my own work, but we all have our insecurities, and a little stroke of the ego never hurt anybody. I am now a tad more comfortable in giving myself the "writer" label.

By the way, I'd like to thank my fellow bloggers for the well-wishes and kind words of encouragement.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Another editing frenzy

"This scene didn't actually make it to the final cut. I'm sure it'll be on the DVD."
-Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson on 24 Hour Party People

So, tonight's the night. Our script is finally getting it's stage reading. I slept very little last night, following a four-hour long editing frenzy. A little last minute, I know, but after Monday's table read, our screenwriting professor came up with a ton of "suggestions" for improving the script, and we left the read mumbling curses and resenting the fact that we'd even entered the damn contest in the first place.

But, after our tinkering with the script last night, it reads far better and I've had to admit that our professor was right.

And with that, I'll have to sign off. I've homework to turn in before tonight's event.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Oh, Christmas Tree

"Only one thing in the world could've dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window."
-Ralphie, A Christmas Story

My family is one of those for whom old habits die hard. Every Christmas, we still stubbornly purchase a live tree to erect and in the living room and decorate with decades-old ornamaments, many of which we have no clue where they came from.

I've noticed that people don't do that very often anymore. Nowadays, Christmas is about the cute Santa-with-a-barbecue ornaments from Hallmark and the Pottery Barn's hip flocked branches poking out of an overpriced vase that, I'm sad to admit, actually looked kinda cool. I'm giving in much too easily.

In fact, Kim and I, I'm somewhat sad to say, put up a fake tree in our apartment. If it were up to me, we'd just put up a little ceramic tree, no taller than a foot, that lights up on it's own and requires no decorating. Maybe, only maybe, would I go the extra mile and celebrate Christmas bachelor style and put a string of lights around the CD tower.

But the bachelor Christmas isn't happening this year, and Kim wanted a tree to decorate--she simply did not want to spend the holiday season vacuuming pine needles.

Though the easy cleanup is a relief for Kim and I, I miss the magic of the labor involved with putting up the real thing. I'm actually looking forward to the car ride in Mom's CRV to the tree lot. I'm looking forward to Dad, Robbie, and I precariously tying down the tree to the top of the vehicle with bungee cords and old, frayed, rope. For some inexplicable reason, I look forward to sawing off the bottom of the tree and dunking it into the green tree stand that always makes it a total pain in the ass to get the damn tree to stand up straight. I look forward to the needles in my fleece, the stubborn sap in my hands, and the tinsel in my hair.

And now that I no longer live at home, I have more to look forward to. This year, I'll allow myself, once that final deteriorating homemade ornament is up, to give my goodbye hugs and kisses, bid the messy tree farewell, and make my way to my apartment, where Kim and I will spend the evening sipping cocoa and fluffing the wire and plastic branches, making them look more realistic.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sibling Rivalry

"It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."
-Dylan Thomas

When I was little, my brother beat me up with softball. He's four years younger, but he managed to really kick my ass.

My friends and I love to torture each other. Because of this, my best friend likes to bring this story up way too often. "Remember that time," he'll say, "that Robbie threw you on the ground in the front yard?"

"Yeah, Brian, I remember," I'll respond in shame.

My humiliation doesn't stop him, though. In fact, it encourages him. "And he jumped on top of you," he'll continue, "and hit your head over and over with a softball?"

I don't know why I just opened an old wound, nor do I know why I chose to share this little story. My brother's a big guy. So he kicked my ass once. Big deal.

Robbie and I use to have bunk beds. Because I'm older, I got the top bunk. Once, he tried climbing up the side and I pushed him off and made him cry. I think this was sometime before the whole softball incident, so I guess I had it coming. Still, though I'm older now and shouldn't be concerned with something so petty, I find it a little embarrassing that my younger brother beat me up. ONCE.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Decapitated Fetus Face

"He who sings scares away his woes."

When I was in high school, an acquaintance of mine had started a metal band. He was a mediocre guitarist, I suppose, but I still couldn't seem to get into the music. Despite having this buddy that plays death metal, I never saw its appeal.

The band was made up solely of him and his drummer. I went to see them play two or three times at Albuquerque's The Attic, a sweaty, dark, musty closet where local metal bands could perform. Even after seeing their thrashing, eardrum bursting performance, I still could not see metal's appeal. Maybe they just weren't that good. I don't know, though, because other bands played on those nights also, and they were just as bad.

I don't play any instruments. I may even be tone-deaf. So maybe I'm missing the point. Perhaps I'm not qualified to judge music as harshly as I do. I certainly hope that's the case, because I'd hate to have the last word--too much responsibility. Besides, others seemed to disagree with me.

My buddy, the one with the band, was a perfectly cordial person. You would've never guessed that he was in a hardcore metal band (other than his dark clothes, baggy Dickies, and studded belt). In fact, he had the enviable charm and charisma that somehow seduced more girls in my high school than anybody else I knew. I had no idea suburban white girls digged metal so much.

One evening at The Attic, he chose to introduce a song they were about to play.

"This is a new one," he said. "But we haven't written the lyrics yet."

He hoisted his guitar strap over his shoulder and continued: "We have a title, though. It's called 'Decapitated Fetus Face.'"

With a harsh roar, they went into their song (Which, to me, sounded like their others. But, when the song began, their avid fans enthusiastically moshed in a violent whirlwind in the middle of the venue).

On those evenings I'd sit at a dirty table and watch the spectacle as I politely nodded my head to the music and waited for the night to end.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Unintentional Poor Taste

"I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."

-Winston Churchill

When I was in elementary school, the father of one of my classmates hanged himself. When Josh finally returned to school, he very bravely stood before the class and told us how he helped cut his daddy down from the noose. Afterwards, the counselor wrapped her arm around his shoulder and escorted him out of the classroom.

In Josh’s absence, we were given construction paper and crayons and instructed to make sympathy cards. The project, though it was difficult for our little minds to conceive, was good for fertilizing our budding creativity. Though I was sympathetic to Josh’s situation, I was secretly thrilled because I had recently learned how to draw a fairly convincing rose, and this provided me the opportunity to show off. I eagerly got to work, knowing that my delicate, painstakingly drawn roses would stand above the rest and brighten Josh’s day, making him feel so much better.

When Josh returned to class and sat in his little yellow plastic seat, we all gathered around and gave him our cards. Unfortunately, I was too young to actually grasp the concept of death and, more importantly, the mourning process. Even more unfortunately, our teacher never previewed our cards before having us present them to poor young Josh.

Though my card included some very kind words and lots of incredibly pretty, lifelike flowers that I was quite proud of, I had drawn them surrounding a black coffin. At the time, my idea of death was so immersed in skulls and tombstones and Halloween and funerals that I’d never realized that somebody in mourning may not want to be reminded of death with something as concrete as a coffin or a corpse. My well thought-out words of sympathy showed that I’d obviously grasped the concept of sentimentality. As for the concept of subtlety, I was clueless.

When I gently placed the card on the desk, with the coffin facing up, Josh looked at me with sad, wet eyes. He did not seem horrified or angry at my ignorance, but almost understanding. I remember to this day that very look, the way his eyes peered into me; and behind those eyes I recognized something unfamiliar. I think today, however, I'd have something to call it: "wisdom beyond his years".

Friday, November 10, 2006


"There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up."
--Oscar Wilde
The following is an excerpt from a short story I am currently working on. I recently realized that much of the fiction I write is about characters discovering themselves as sexual creatures. I think that means I've got to get my head out of the gutter. Anyway, the piece is called "Chemistry." Enjoy:

Excerpt from "Chemistry"
In college, Stewart thought he would one day be a famous chemist, perhaps win a Nobel Prize. But he had always been the shy type, too bashful to go out and make his mark on the world, too scared to even apply to grad school and maybe one day apply for a research grant.

Instead, Stewart graduated and, rather than leave his hometown for bigger, better things, he took the path of least resistance. He applied at a job that would involve his degree in chemistry and at the same time (hopefully) put less pressure on him than a Nobel Prize would. He knew that there was no way he could gracefully handle himself in the public eye. Besides, Stewart had always respected his high school teachers, especially the late Mr. Higgins, his own high school Chem I teacher, the very teacher Stewart was now replacing.

Still, Stewart often sat in his small apartment and stared his poster of the milky way floating over the words "Dare to Discover!" and hated himself for his cowardice, his lack of assertiveness, his bashful nature.

He had always approached the opposite sex in the same passive manner that he approached his job, yet this didn't stop him from yearning for some kind of actual romance. Sometimes he found himself deep in conversation with his hamsters, Einstein and Kepler, and he'd stop mid sentence with the realization that he was completely, painfully alone.

His first serious (or, at least slightly serious) relationship took place during his unenviable high school years. When he was a junior he'd begun dating Cynthia Walters, a redheaded trumpet player in American High's band. After a year of dating, he lost his virginity. As they sat on Cynthia's parents' large bed, Stewart had been petrified that he would frighten Cynthia with a wrong move, or perhaps her parents would return home or, even worse, he'd come too soon. Cynthia, on the other hand, seemed frustrated but at least patient with the bumbling Stewart, and when they finally made it beneath the covers and removed their clothes, Stewart had trouble finding her vagina and Cynthia, also a virgin, seemed afraid to even guide him with her hands. Stewart hovered over her in terror and realized that this was not what he’d been expecting throughout his boyhood fantasies—expectations that involved excitedly tearing clothes from one another, a beautiful seductress (perhaps multiple seductresses), and the time of his life. Instead, he found these countless obstacles—his fear, awkwardness, and shame—along with this frightened redheaded trumpet player who, like him, had to have been horrified by the entire experience. Once it was finally over their strained conversations became even more unbearable. Stewart had been humiliated, as had Cynthia, and they broke up shortly thereafter.

Stewart had very few sexual experiences beyond this. His relationships in college were almost nonexistent, for he could not bring himself to simply say Hi to a girl, though he’d always wanted to. In his classes he'd find an attractive one, and rather than spark a conversation, he'd sit and stare, making up in his head the girl's life story. This one is tired of getting her heart broken, he might decide. She’s waiting for a guy like me to take her away, to show her a good time, to make her realize that there are men in the world that can make her happy and, by God, I am one of them. He imagined scenarios in which he made girls laugh, scenarios in which he effortlessly seduced them and made them squeal with passion and delight.

In the real world, he never attempted seduction or even tried to get a phone number, for fear of betraying the bumbling fool that he knew he was.

By the time he graduated, Stewart had stopped even imagining. He'd been broken and accepted his loneliness. Relationships weren’t for him. He was not cut out for love.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"Dispatches" exclusive!

"I want to see your kitty and a little bit of titty--/ Want to know where I go when I'm your city?"
--Kevin Federline, "Popozao"

Thanks to tabloid photographers, some light has been shed on the recent, shocking divorce of Britney and Vanilla Ice--er, KFed.

"Dispatches from Suburbia" has the photo, as well as a shocking commentary from the KFed's stunning mistress (shown above):

"He just knew how to treat a woman. Last weekend, he spent the allowance Britney gave him by taking me to HER favorite fancy restaurant, Red Lobster. Then, we went out for cigarettes, followed by a delicious dessert at Mickey D's. I'm just a country girl, so it was nice getting a taste of the fabulous life. I feel bad about what happened between Britney and him, but he was just so sweet, and we clicked, ya know?"

Alright, I'm sorry. I just wanted to point out how absurd our fascination is with these two. I find them both so unappealing, and yet, I can't get enough of them...Kevin got his 15 minutes, so he'll be off of the radar sooner than later. As for Britney, her time will be up soon as well. She'll drop off of the face of the earth, and in twenty years she'll make a comeback after a few bad plastic surgeries and a stint in the Betty Ford clinic.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Existentialism and microwaves

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."
Ecclesiastes (1:9)

At work, our microwave broke (which is fine with me because it's an expensive restaurant that, in my opinion, should avoid using the microwave at all costs).

Anyway, the situation led to a conversation about death rays. "How?" you might ask. Well, Matt, another line cook, informed me that two local men invented a death ray.

"How?" I asked.

"They used 400 microwaves," he replied, as if that really answered my question. "They did it on their free time," he continued.

"Well," I asked, "what for?"

Excitedly, Matt told me that the death ray could cook a burger on the inside and leave the outside cold.


"Isn't that what a single microwave does anyhow?" I said.

"Well, yeah," he replied, "but this does it really fast. And if they did it fast enough, it would blow up the burger." We quietly considered this for a moment, then Matt broke the silence: "But they haven't used it on anything living yet."

Unsure of why they would want to, and completely unsure of where this conversation was headed, I asked, "So...are they planning on selling it to the military, or what?"

Matt shrugged and got back to work, leaving me standing and peering at the empty spot in which the microwave used to sit.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dark places

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."
-John Milton

A little over a year ago, immediately following my father's suicide attempt, I began to have very violent, haunting dreams. Though I'm not willing to go into the details of the dreams, I will say that they involved me engaging in horrific acts of violence towards others. One involved a shotgun and a group of strangers.

I don't own any firearms. The only knives I own are my kitchen knives. I don't even own a baseball bat. I've never taken part in a fight, and I've never wanted to. As you can imagine, the dreams were frightening and utterly perplexing. Unfortunately, these were not the type of dreams that you forget right away.

It took me a while to make sense of these nightmares, and this of course brought me back to Dad's attempt at his own life. The semester following that tragic afternoon, I took a Creative Nonfiction writing class. Feeling that I could not yet write clearly about what Dad had done, I wrote a piece about a high school relationship.

Of course, as it usually does, the "story that needs to be told" came bubbling to the surface, and my essay about high school dating inevitably turned into a piece about that regrettable afternoon in the E.R.

I wrote several drafts, and by the time the semester ended I'd had enough of the piece. This semester I'm taking a Fiction writing class and, luckily, none of my stories have had anything to do with suicide (They have retained a dark flavor, which is fine--a good thing, in fact. I'm simply happy that I have not found the overwhelming need to focus on "the incident" and only that).

Looking back on my previous essay, I find that much of my focus was on the violence of Dad's actions. Dad was formerly a Vietnam protester and, more recently, a demonstrator against the U.S. presence in the Middle East. He'd always harshly reprimanded my little brother and me for any sort of fighting, and as far as I can tell, he'd always avoided violent confrontation.

Though I hadn't realized it until recently, the reason I was so focused on such disturbing images as the noodle-like tendon poking from his wrist, or the stitches in his neck, or the crusted blood inside of his car, was because they really stuck out. The most violent act Dad ever engaged in was towards himself.

Come to think of it, this is the first time I've written about this in months. I suppose I'm much more comfortable with the situation, now that Dad has undergone extensive therapy, has been sober for over a year, and has, as Y Tu Mama Tambien phrases it, "accepted his freedom." In a way, Dad was reborn.

As for myself, the dreams ended shortly after they began, but the memory remains. The memories are haunting, yes, but they are also a necessary, cautionary reminder of the dark places that the mind sometimes wanders.

Simon's Lessons in Scriptwriting, Part I

"The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder."
--Alfred Hitchcock

Our television script finally got a table reading this weeking. While the feedback, overall, was extremely positive, we did receive some helpful advice.

We've been relentlessly pursuing the completion of this piece, working nonstop to make it as powerful as possible. Consequently, the four of us were drunk off of the script, and therefore, before we went any further, needed outside opinion.

So what have we learned? In screenwriting, one must train himself to portray a narrative through images. This means, basically, get to the point and move on to the next scene. Brevity is an absolute must.

We had a scene in which Jonah, the janitor character, chooses to pick up drug dealing. He and his pregnant girlfriend, Denise, are in their little, cheap apartment, and they discuss their money situation. She reveals that they've received an eviction notice, so Jonah goes out to his car and calls his drug connection.

We unnecessarily loaded this scene with dialogue and far to much description and action, when it needed none of that. The scene went on for far too long. All we had to establish was: 1. Jonah and Denise need money, and 2. Jonah chooses to deal dope.

Easy, right? I don't understand how we could've missed that. I suppose that is the beauty of the writing workshop.

The point of my story is this: Embrace brevity. This works not just in scriptwriting, but any type of writing. Hemingway knew this. Even in everyday conversation, brevity helps, because nobody likes a person that talks too much. And with that, I'm signing off.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Being vague is virtuous?

"Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

--H.L. Mencken

Alright, so I'm a little Hedonistic...

Since I posted something less than compelling yesterday, I figured that today I ought to find something a little more insightful to talk about. Well, if not insightful, at least something a little deeper than a passing grudge.

My "Bible as Literature" professor has some brilliant things to say that pertains to religion. What's great is that Gaines (my professor) does not focus on certain opinions or specific ideologies, but rather the Bible as a literary piece. Here are some things that I found interesting.

According to Gaines, the intro to the Bible, in it's original Hebrew translation, is NOT "In the beginning, when God created..." The actual translation is, roughly, "In the beginning, when God began to create" [italics mine].

Here's my own commentary to this little nugget of wisdom: This would imply an ongoing process, perhaps one that continues to this day. I have nothing negative to say about creationists, but I feel that this is an important concept to consider when it comes to the evolutionary process. Yes, I concede that my half-baked theory is bit of a stretch, but I myself have not come to any concrete conclusions concerning the meaning of the Bible, and I don't plan to. The Bible is marvelous, vague, and a total mystery, and I accept that. This brings me to something else that Gaines pointed out:

In Matthew and Luke, Jesus responds to often nagging questions in parables with more than one meaning. Christianity, as far as I know, is based on the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and if this is in fact the case, I would assume that Christianity and all of it's assumptions may have multiple meanings. So nothing is certain. Perhaps, and this is just a theory, Christianity, and maybe other religions, ought to serve as guidelines. There's more to the Bible than the Ten (rather vague) Commandments.

Anyway, I don't myself as belonging to any religion (right now, anyway. I may one day reconsider), but I do find the Bible to be an exciting, very deep read, and if one allows to be, something special. Think of it as what it is--a book with complex, moving ideas--rather than a set of laws and certainties.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Succumbing to a guilty pleasure

"When you ain't got no money, you gotta get an attitude..."

-Richard Pryor

...or, sometimes, you have an attitude because you're a dick, or you insecure, or whatever. But not Richard Pryor. He was an incredible talent, and will be missed.

No, at the moment I'm speaking of a douche bag that I work with (by the way, Richard Pryor has a great bit about his grandmother's douche. So, whenever you're in the mood for some filthy comedy, look it up).

Anyway, some people just love the thrill of picking a fight. All the time. I work on a restaurant line, and this clown that I work with forgot to put carmelized onions on a burger. No big deal. "Brandon," I said, very politely, "this needs carmelized onions."

He gave that smug, could-give-a-shit look, and said to me, "Then put them on there." This 'tude is a constant ordeal with this "badass."

So I slapped some onions on the flat top grill and said, "Put these on the goddamn burger when they're ready," and I went back to my post.

I'm getting to the point of this. I realize that I sound like I bitch and moan a lot by posting a blog about somebody I have a grudge against. Well, my point is to satisfy a guilty pleasure. I will do this by sharing the following story on a public forum. Yeah, it's petty, but what the hell. So here goes:

Last Sunday, Brandon had to leave work early because his hand hurt. After he left, Some of the other cooks and I came to the realization that Brandon always seems to get an injury whenever the Cowboys play. Hmmm.

So, we decided that he was either full of crap, or that he was just a big sissy posing as a tough guy. So, we asked him what happened to his hand. "Oh," he replied, "I ran into my boy's counter" (by "boy," Brandon was referring to his "friend" using his hip urban slang. Because Brandon is a tough guy).

Well, Brandon's little brother works with me as well, and the two don't care much for each other at times. They have a complex love/hate relationship that really doesn't matter right now. What matters is that I got the whole story from Brandon's brother. According to him, Brandon did not run "into a counter." No, apparently Brandon got in a fight with his girlfriend. "She completely laid him out," the brother explained. So! The truth comes to light! The walking testosterone got beat up by a girl!

I decided that sharing this with every single coworker was not enough. Only by erecting a billboard alongside the internet superhighway will I fulfill this guilty pleasure. I'm only human.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Joan Crawford, I love you.

"I said to myself -- I'll paint what I see -- what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it -- I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers."

-Georgia O'Keefe

Last week, we watched the wonderful Lon Chaney film The Unknown in my film history class. Of course, I was drawn to Chaney's phenomenal acting, but it didn't hurt that his lady costar was Joan Crawford.

There is a scene where Lon Chaney (who plays Alonzo, the Armless Knife-Thrower) is tossing knives with is feet at Crawford in a circus act. Though he is using his feet, his knife-throwing is so precise that he manages to undress Crawford, little by little.

Of course, this is 1927, so I wasn't expecting any full body shots of Joan Crawford. Besides, I actually go to films for, you know, plot and stuff. But I couldn't help but be stunned. She was curvy, and through the 60-minute running time of the film I developed a crush on her, as did Alonzo, the Armless Knife-Thrower.

Why isn't this encouraged today? Not armless knife-throwing, but CURVES! The last time we saw curvy was in Titanic, with Winslet's nude scene. I figured that was going to be the new thing, goodbye heroin chic, hello CURVE chic! Or something along those lines. But no, today's most sought after leading ladies seem to be Angelina Jolie, or Nicole Kidman, or other skinny beauties.

I do realize that weight is in our genetics. In fact, I work with this girl who is thin as a rail, yet she eats and eats and eats. It's unbelievable, and kind of fascinating. But I know that today's popular actresses couldn't possibly ALL be that thin because of genetics.

I don't want to encourage gorging on a daily basis or anything, that's just as wrong as starving oneself. But when you have canyons between your ribs, you might want to up your calorie intake. Just a suggestion. It's not considered gross if you order something other than a salad every once in a while, for Pete's sake.

One more suggestion: Check out The Unknown. It's directed by Tod Browning, of Freaks and Dracula fame. I promise, it will be the best movie about armless knife throwing you'll ever see.

The Passion of the Carters

"Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be."

-Kurt Vonnegut

The other day, I watched the horrid reality tv show House of Carters. I'm known for my addiction to garbage T.V.: There's E! True Hollywood Story that I can never seem to turn off (even if the subject is Anna Nicole), or there's Flavor of Love
, a show that presents to us such strange individuals that it's almost like a weird dream/nightmare. Occasionally, I'll even catch an episode of The Girls Next Door to remind myself that no, Hef is not living every guy's dream (in fact, a houseful of those ditzes looks more like a living hell); and sometimes, not always, but sometimes, I'll catch myself watching, eh, I hate to say it...Passions.

But, that dump of a show House of Carters came on the other day, and I could watch no more than ten minutes. First of all, reality shows, whether they're scripted or not, shouldn't sound so scripted. Secondly, I prefer fictional television about whiny folks (Seinfeld, Grey's Anatomy, Ally McBeal, etc.) rather than supposed real people are this incredibly blah. They outdo even Meredith Grey. Does the Carter family really have it all that bad? If this is supposed to be reality, then this world needs nothing less than a nuclear holocaust.

Though I admit to watching this junk, I won't say that reality T.V. is a good use of my time. Like coffee, cigarettes, or booze, this is an addiction. I'm a junkie. If I sit down to watch the telly and come across an America's Next Top Model marathon, don't expect to hear from me until Tyra chooses a winner. I tend to put Flava Flav, the Hef's Playmate's, and Anna Nicole's tortuous life story over homework, friends, and family, who have, surprisingly enough, not yet staged an intervention. My name is Simon, and I'm a reality T.V.-holic.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Aw, Lordy, What's that Smell?!

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. "
-Oscar Wilde

I was in class yesterday, and I noticed a sour, stale, sweat-like smell emanating from God-knows-where. I decided it was the guy next to me, who sat there in his own little world, listening to the professor, or pondering life, or whatever. It doesn't matter. What matters is that it was a horrendous smell.

I considered saying something. It would embarrass him, yes, but if I stunk I'd certainly like to know. But I chickened out and, instead, I refrained from breathing.

Today, after I got up and brushed my teeth, I dressed and suddenly was overcome with that same sour smell. I thought to myself, "I'm a clean person, I wear deodorant, I brush, and I shower daily." Then, I realized what was going on, and I was horrified.

Last week, my washing machine stopped spinning. This means that, rather than throwing the soapy water off of our clothing as a washing machine is supposed to do, the machine let our clothes sit and soak until somebody rotated the laundry. So, that sour, mildewy smell was, in all probability, stale laundry water. Some of my clothes simply didn't make it through a cleaning in the new washing machine before being hung in my closet.

The whole ordeal has left me wondering this: how come none of my classmates told me?

Bob-like Divinity

"Oh, Mama, can this really be the end, To be stuck inside of Mobile With the Memphis blues again."
-Bob Dylan

When I was younger, my family often took road trips, usually to South Dakota, Dad's birthplace. Many of these trips, of course, included long car rides that involved fighting over what CD or tape we'd play next.

Dad chose, almost exclusively, Bob Dylan. Robbie, my little brother, often chose Alanis Morrisette (in the earlier days), and, once the Alanis cassette melted and that phase faded away, soon he found himself drawn towards Incubus. I sometimes chose Sublime, but usually changed my mind when my parents heard the swearing contained in the music. And Mom, the poor thing, usually chose something like Neil Diamond, which was immediately voted down by the three males in the vehicle.

Since Dad was driving, and since it was usually his car, we pretty much listened to Dylan for at least 3/4 of every trip. Every once in a while, Dad would choose Cat Stevens or Randy Newman, but for the most part, his choice was Dylan, no ifs, ands, or buts.

I was raised not on the teachings of the Bible, but rather the Gospel according to Bob. Dad was one of those people that, every time the weather came on the television, would say "Ya don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." On those long car trips, Mom, Robbie and I were forced to listen to that gravelly voice as he put forth some of the most obscure, ambiguous lyrics that, to this day, often baffle me. You can imagine that, as a child, I had nothing but trouble in comprehending what I was hearing.

It wasn't until about two years ago that I really got into the world of Dylan. I had listened to him passively up until then, but I gradually became the obsessive that my father is. And now, I'M the one keeping HIM updated daily on the Bob news. I'll call Dad and inform him that Bob's new album is out in a month, or I'll ask him if he's seen the new Bob iPod commercial.

When the car trips involved listening to Cat Steven's Tea for the Tillerman, Robbie and I reacted as if our fingernails were being pried off with pliers. We bitched and moaned about the album's lameness until the CD finally ended and we could play our Sublime.

Yesterday, I sheepishly snuck the Cat Steven's CD out of my parent's house, and now it's in my car's CD player.

I could only imagine the type of music I'd be listening to today, had I not been subjected to hours upon hours in a car listening to Dylan. What if Mom had driven? What if we'd taken her car? What if, God forbid, today I eagerly awaited the next Neil Diamond album?