Secret Pop

Oct 23, 2006

Magic Magic Magic
Friday night, I went to The Magic Castle to help my friends Kevin and Chris celebrate their birthdays. I am not a fan of magic. I find the melodrama and faggy hand gestures to be the height of overdoing it. I especially don't like the Vegas-y variety of comedy and magic that The Magic Castle seems to be famous for. (Incidentally, is it The Magic CASTLE or The MAGIC Castle?) The first time I ever went to The Magic Castle, I had only lived here for a month or two, and my office had our Christmas party there. I had dinner, and then left before the magic show. I had tickets to see Tenacious D, Naked Trucker, and Spinal Tap at the House of Blues that night. And that was far more magical a prospect.
I did actually like the Close-Up Room, where the show is more about sleight of hand, which I can truthfully appreciate very much. Our magician in the Close-Up Room was a lady named Suzanne, and she was really good. And not at all covered in glitter or self-tanner. I think sleight of hand and magic are very different things. Where one of them is a good and cool thing and the other is a thing that makes me want to punch my fist through a hat. And frankly, it really comes down more to the issue of whether or not you are really good at it or whether you have one of the two hairdos magicians are apparently allowed to have. The guy in the Parlor of Prestidigitation was not funny, not skillful, and not someone who is not a hunchback. I had had enough to drink that I was probably not a very gracious audience member. And a fat guy glared at me at one point because I was having a good time but not in synch with the rest of the group. I think we also annoyed the young lady whose bosom would have received a marriage proposal from Chris, had she not liked magic so much.
I also don't like being asked to participate in the show. I don't even like it when this happens at comedy shows. Or at restaurants with especially gregarious servers. I hate being put on the spot. And I'm always convinced I will do the wrong thing. So I was relieved to not be wrangled into doing anything to support the magic. I had warned Kevin before the event that there was no way I was going up on stage for anything. Especially not to be sawed in half. It also occurred to me that women are always more at risk at these events for the simple reason that women are considered less likely to be -- or worse to think they are -- funny. So you get a lady up on stage to hold your tablecloth, sprig of baby's breath, and bewitched hat stand and you can do your schtick uninterrupted. You get a dude up on stage, and there's a very good chance he will find himself a chance to do a one man interpretive scene from Top Gun. (Probably either the You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling part or the part where Goose dies.) So maybe I resent this tradition.
In the end, I had a nice enough time. A lot of whiskey helps. I also started out the evening with a Campari soda at dinner, and I haven't had one of those in years and years. It was nostalgic and good. And afterwards, Kevin and Chris and I went to the 101 Coffee Shop and argued about my Guitar Hero skills (though Chris has never played) and whether or not mac and cheese should be soupy. I'm a fan of the crispy/chewy variety. Chris prefers the soupy version. But everyone agreed on the onion rings. Although the boys ate theirs with mustard, while I ate mine with ranch. And I drove home quite certain I would never need to -- nor should I -- ever eat again.

Birthday Party

Oct 22, 2006

The High Ground

My front door step is unfortunate. If you are a gentleman leaving my apartment at some point, and I am standing there a step or two above you, seeing you off, chances are you will stumble a little or have to turn too suddenly. You will look slightly clumsy and slightly embarrassed. And I will either find it endearing or unfortunate. I'm not saying ladies never have cause to leave my apartment. I just think that it's the gentleman who is more prone to want to leave a dashing impression, and it's nearly impossible to accomplish if my front door is involved.

The Fed Ex guy who needs only stand there, awaiting my signature, accepting my apology for my dog's vicious demeanor, exchanging a parcel for my thanks -- he needn't fret. His altitude never changes. And it's more likely he isn't trying to make a memorable exit. Which is maybe why I'm the one who is usually flustered and wishing I had put on lipstick.

I watched Shop Girl tonight. It has a strange pace and an oddly fluid but seemingly motionless soundtrack. I felt as if I was holding my breath for the length of the film. No wonder I have a headache.

Oct 18, 2006

All in the timing.

Congratulations, Michael. An industrial fog machine has made certain that no one will be able to follow you. You win. With distinction.

Oct 17, 2006

It's probably a whiskey tumor.

Last night, my friend Tim's short film Slideshow screened at Garage Comedy. I took all the photos featured in the film, and the film is very funny, so I felt especially proud when I saw my name come up in the credits. I remember the day we shot those photos. It was a long, long day and included me getting a little toy dog out of a coin-op machine. There were many characters to choose from. A variety of breeds. Even one named "Duchess" who was nursing pups, but you had to get the pups separately. But the one I wanted stood out.


His name was "Craps," and he's in a shitting position. Which I can't believe was ever mass-manufactured. But it only took me three tries and $1.50 to win him, and now no one can ever tell me he doesn't exist.

So that was a fun day, as I recall. And it was already long enough ago that one of us could have had a baby by now. The blasted passage of time. I guess I like getting past the awful things, but the good stuff just whizzes past, too. At least we have this to show for it.

So last night, I went to Garage Comedy. It was a little chilly out. Fall weather that scolds me in advance for the sweater I don't feel like carrying. I was tired and out of sorts all day. Too many cocktails and too little sleep. For days and days. I haven't been to El Cid for a while. Mondays have become problematic and vied for. I always end up saying no to at least two things. But good ol' Garage Comedy. I always see so many friends there. I am a fan of that.

Ryan and Susie at El Cid

That above photo is a link to the photo set from last night. If you are not my friend on Flickr, you won't be able to see them. If you would like to become my friend on Flickr, click this link and use your powers of instruction-following and deductive reasoning to make it come to pass.

El Cid kicked us all out before midnight, which was unexpected and unwelcome. The persistent partygoers among us went over to 4100 and continued doing what it is we do, just in more dimly lit surroundings and with more places to sit.

All in all, I drank too much. I smoked too much. I have limited my hopes today to becoming hydrated.

Oct 15, 2006

The dream is still alive.

This morning, after a late night of applauding comedy, performing comedy, and then drinking more than was necessary, I took Audrey for a walk, feeling still slightly drunk and glad for the cloud cover. When we got to the east end of my block, an adorable little girl who lives on the corner was peeking out her kitchen door. She was wearing what may have been pajamas. She's a little short-haired thing with lovely manners and a seemingly jocular disposition. I've seen her outside with her father or with her nanny. She is a doll. So today, as Audrey and I walked past, she said, "Is that your dog?" I said it was. And she said, "What's her name?" And I said it was Audrey. And she said, "And what's YOUR name?" And I said, "Mary." Then I asked, "And what's your name?" And she had to say it a couple of times before I understood she was telling me her name is Princess Leia. I said that was a lovely name and that I was pleased to meet her. And I was.

Now, I suppose it's possible that her parents actually named her Princess Leia, in which case, it is their persisting awesome I'm proclaiming. But I suspect her name is probably not Princess Leia, making it all the more wonderful that she would want it to be. She can't be more than four or five. That she already has the presence of mind to wish she was able to see Alderaan one last time -- well, I just think that's super. The only thing that might have trounced that would have been for her to say her name was Han Solo. Because, gender oppression aside, that's who everyone wishes they could be.

Oct 11, 2006

Martin Scorsese still likes to fuck.

A friend of mine recently posited that the hallmark of compelling filmmaking is a director who wants to get laid. That you can scan the filmographies of directors who have at least at one time been considered to be great, and you can see where in their lives they lost interest in all the tail they were going to get as a result of their labors. George Lucas. Steven Spielberg. James Cameron. Quentin Tarantino. Oliver Stone. Some of them apparently have lost interest in sex altogether. Some have gone through apparent periods of quiet reflection and keeping their junk in tight little rubber underpants. Some have come back from celibacy like warriors. Some have tried to leave celibacy but found themselves instead in the persistent embrace of no-self-respecting-woman-would-ever-let-you-even-touch-her-boob-through-clothing-after-that-heap-of-shit-that-you-just-made. You can also see how long after a film comes out a director can milk the end credits for hanky panky in some cases. Darren Aronofsky. Richard Kelly. This may even explain why Kelly released his second version of Donnie Darko.

Anyway, I had this in mind when I went to watch The Departed yesterday. Does Martin Scorsese still care about banging? My short answer, which will come as no surprise to you if you read the title of this post, is, "Yes." But in the spirit of something that pretends more earnestly to be an actual review, I have these additional things to say, too.

Firstly, it really seems that Leonardo di Caprio is chasing Oscar. Not that he shouldn't. But it seems like the last few films he has chosen are really intended to be excursions for him. Before the film, I saw the trailer for Blood Diamond, and I heard Leo wielding a passable Afrikaans accent. And in The Departed, he's from Southy. Although, I don't think the Boston accents in this film are always so worthy of applause. Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon have obviously got it nailed, but some of the other headliners -- while delivering truly fine performances -- couldn't seem to keep their vowel decoder card straight. But that's neither here nor there. I think Leonardo di Caprio is really good. Not just in this. In general. I really think he is. I think it's a shame that even when he slathers on a convincing new dialect, it's hard to hear anyone but Jack Dawson, but that's just because all women remember the first fictional man they fell in love with who died handcuffed to the North Atlantic. It's a fact of life. That being said, it seems that he really wants an Oscar, and I'm not going to say he shouldn't get one. But I'm not someone who gets a say in it anyway.

It's not a cawmedy.

So my first big problem with this movie was not with the movie. It was with the audience, who laughed entirely too much for my liking. And there were at least two fellows sitting near me who seemed to think they were watching a Farrelly Brothers film. This one dude in particular. He laughed at every single line Jack Nicholson spoke. And, while I will admit there is a lot of snappy dialogue in this film and that it is in some cases funny enough to merit a laugh, there is also a tone that is being set by the dialogue that has nothing to do with its being funny or not. But no one who saw the movie with me seemed to get that. Nor did they worry that they were missing the point of what was being said. They were all too busy experiencing the orgasmic release of being able to laugh at racist and homophobic one-liners in a public place without fear of being hit in the teeth with a gun butt for it. I guess there's something comforting for white people about hearing the word "nigger" in a movie made by an Academy Award-nominated (and famously not yet Academy Award-winning) director and being allowed to find it amusing.

Mark Wahlberg's character's first scene reminds me of Hank Azaria's character in Quiz Show. That is not a qualitative assessment. It just does. Also, the back of his hair looked ridiculous. His stylist should buy him a truffle farm (as a means of making restitution, in case that didn't come across).

Both Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen are enjoyable to watch. But neither of them can consistently do that Boston "o." It's not a cawmedy. But it is a cawp movie. And in one sentence Martin Sheen has to say "cawp" three or four times, and only one or two of them is not pronounced "cop." I forgive them that. Jack Nicholson didn't even try.

I would say that my overall takeaway was positive. I cared about the characters. I saw the careful juxtaposition of the good guy living the bad guy life and the bad guy living the good guy life. I was intrigued by all the subterfuge and trying to figure out who could be trusted. I was invested in it, and I think it was very articulately accomplished. Cinematically, it felt very Scorsese. The violence was vivid but not especially gratuitous. I enjoyed it. And I was not angry at my friends who have raved or begrudging of the critics who have thumbs-upped. In my book, that's a victory.

I do have to say that I almost categorically hated the music choices. The soundtrack was just jarring and ill-chosen. And that seems like such a small mistake to make. I wish they had opted to make a good soundtrack, but then I once really liked the soundtrack to St Elmo's Fire. True, it is a very Scorsese-sounding soundtrack, with a moody original score by Howard Shore and a bunch of rock and roll songs. And I know a lot of people might disagree with me about this, but I really think the music blurts out in weird places at unusual volumes and doesn't necessarily support the action on screen, and that's the stuff that Scorsese is usually lauded for. There is a version of Comfortably Numb that I hated, and that is a song that I love. There is a lot of the Stones' Gimme Shelter, which just feels like every other urban drug culture movie ever made. And there is a lot of the Dropkick Murphys' I'm Shipping Up to Boston, which was fine, if a bit on the nose. It's not the worst soundtrack ever made. But it kept jumping out at me, and I actually think that a good soundtrack has to be unobtrusive enough to make whatever point it needs to make without making you suddenly go, "Wait. What was that song. I'll try to remember to look it up when the credits roll." Or, worse, "Ow. That was so loud. I can't concentrate on the dialogue because my ear is sore." I hated it. In short.

Oh, and my one really big eye-rolling groaner moment was at the very end of the film. There is a bit of symbolism that is really just such overkill. I was very sorry that I saw it and wished instead that I had been sneezing.

Lastly, I couldn't help but think about the film's Hong Kong progenitor while I was watching, and maybe that made me go more easily on the movie as a whole than my friend Kevin did. For some reason, foreign films get away with a certain amount of whimsy that I don't always allow in American films. Maybe it's just that I don't know the streets of Hong Kong as well as I know the streets of America, so I'm less likely to know when something that would never happen happens. Or maybe it's that foreign films sometimes incorporate cartoonish elements into otherwise straight-laced storytelling and it feels courageous and clever rather than contrived and forced. The best example I can think of is the way I felt about Face/Off. If that movie had starred Jet Li and Chow Yun-Fat and had been made in Chinese, I'll bet I would have thought it was awesome. But because it was Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, it seemed so dumb, so implausible. So unintentionally campy. I guess campy is not so bad. And I guess I dislike Nicolas Cage and John Travolta so much that I wouldn't have really liked them in a movie unless they died in it. For real. And with a huge gay scandal surrounding their deaths.

In summation, I liked The Departed. And Martin Scorsese apparently still likes to bone. And if you want to know which trailers I saw and what I thought of them, you're in luck. As long as you do not go blind before reaching the next line.

Trailer Trash

So I mentioned Blood Diamond. I didn't form any distinct impressions. Just that Leonardo di Caprio is campaigning for his statuette by way of the Meryl Streep school.

The trailer for The Queen looked interesting enough. Although the main thing I noted was that it was obviously VERY important to cast actors who looked a great deal like their real-life counterparts. Because James Cromwell looks a good bit like Prince Philip, but I'm not entirely convinced he can sound like him. However Helen Mirren is wonderful. And I am one of those Americans who is too uninformed about British government to resent the Royals. I still have a bunch of Diana clippings in a cabinet. Clippings. I'm embarrassed that I have clippings of anyone. And, not that you care, but the trailer music was from the Restoration soundtrack.

Stranger than Fiction looks funny. It also looks like a Charlie Kaufman movie, but it isn't.

300 looks like Frank Miller, and it is. I don't know if Frank Miller's graphic novel was based on the 1962 Italian film The 300 Spartans -- although they are both certainly based on the actual story of Spartan King Leonidas and his army of 300 men at the Battle of Thermopylae -- but in doing my research, I read this detail about the 1962 film on "When the Immortals attack, the javelins thrown by the Greeks have no points. Many of the Immortals can be seen dropping their weapons to grab the javelins and hold them under their arms or to their chests. A javelin with a blunt end can also be plainly seen hitting one of the extras in the mouth." I kind of want to see that instead.

Oct 5, 2006

A bowl of broth

I don't think "broth" is a very pleasant word. Even when limited to the meanings that are food-related. It still brings to mind frothy, chummy liquid. Something that -- once skimmed -- will be clear, but will still glisten with telltale dots of fatty oil. When I worked in biotechnology, "broth" meant things in fermentation and cell culture that would in no way go good with rice.

But I've been sick all week, so broth it is.

Oct 2, 2006

"Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty."

There is a campaign ad running right now that begins with both the text titles and the voice over announcement that Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty. It goes like this: "Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty. Even for serial killers and cop killers. Jerry Brown. He may just be the least qualified person in all of California to be Attorney General. Paid for by Poochigian for Attorney General." Holy assumptive leap. I don't even know what the premise of this objection is. Because Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty, he doesn't know the law or wouldn't be willing to uphold it? What a load. For the record, I oppose the death penalty. And, yes, even for cop killers and serial killers. Opposing the death penalty does not mean that one opposes enforcement of the law or that one maybe even applauds crime. But proponents of the death penalty often use this method of communication to get you to start thinking that people who think the death penalty is bad must also believe that violent criminals should go free. Like if you think it's pointless and unenlightened to think that killing murderers will not keep people safer or less murdered -- despite what common sense, statistics, and the rest of the Western World might tell you -- you must be some kind of misanthrope or perhaps even a criminal mastermind yourself. Do you think Jerry Brown thinks serial killers and cop killers should just go free? Maybe you think that Jerry Brown thinks that cop killers and serial killers are super cool and that he probably has a secret fan site dedicated to congratulating these guys and hoping that one day he might get a chance to buy one of the works of art they create while behind bars, eating lobster thermidor on the taxpayers' tab. If you don't already think that sort of thing, I guess you should start hanging out with Chuck Poochigian. He's probably got some opinions on the topic.

Also, I've lived in California for a number of years now, and I feel fairly confident that there are a few residents who are less qualified than Jerry Brown to be Attorney General. Let's just start with my upstairs neighbor and then begin going house to house on my street, knocking on doors and asking my neighbors what res ipsa loquitur means. It's not that I never use hyperbole, but come on Senator Poochigian. Is campaign advertising really the place for it? I'm surprised the advertisement I saw didn't close by saying Chuck Poochigian is the only man in California ever to have had a dream or be handsome.

And Chuck Poochigian's campaign web site promotes him with the slogan, "Tough to pronounce. Tougher on crime." If this isn't a ridiculous non sequitur. While he alienates his Armenian constituents and those of use who have at one point or another been hooked on phonics, he also proves that he is not keen on convincing anyone that he is an astute logician. I'm not running for Attorney General, but I'm pretty certain that the ability to put two and two together (and find four, as opposed to a lollipop or a hat) is a big part of what the job calls for.

Please make up your own mind when you go to the polls, but please also remember that it would likely be possible to stymie Chuck Poochigian with a simple if-then statement.

The Thankless Beauty of Your Better Side

Beulah and I were watching Celebrity Duets the other night, and I couldn't get over how misshapen Wayne Brady's head is. One side, normal. The other side, smashed in with a sledgehammer. One side, adult human male. The other side, silverback gorilla, gender not specified. Beulah hadn't noticed it until I pointed it out, but once I brought it to her attention, she congratulated me for again using that unique talent I have for telling you what or who someone looks like. Like when I pointed out that Lance Bass looks like K.D. Lang. And then later when I pointed out that Jake Gyllenhaal looks like K.D. Lang. And then later still, when I pointed out that Clive Owen looks somewhat like K.D. Lang, as well. Well, there are better examples.

In other news, the other day I was listening to NPR, and I heard a Chinese diplomat discussing the goings on in the Middle East, and he kept saying that we should not use "The Force" and that there are many diplomatic alternatives to the use of "The Force." Whether or not this comes from this diplomat having heard and taken to heart Lionel Twain's admonitions about Chinese syntax in Murder by Death, I couldn't help but be amused by the idea that the solution to the world's most pressing problems might be to tell the Jedis to give it a rest.

Oct 1, 2006

Identity theft is so Buddhist.*

So I posted to my MySpace blog last week, because it had been brought to my attention that there was someone calling herself Jessica in New Haven, Connecticut, using pictures of me on her profile and passing them off as her. So I guess it's more appearance theft than identity theft. But it's theft anyway. Ten out of her twleve profile pictures are photos of me. They were all taken in various parts of 2004, and they are all copyrighted. By me.

I wrote to MySpace requesting they get involved. (There hasn't been any response yet, by the way. I know we hear this argument all the time, but honestly, for the amount of money that was paid to purchase MySpace, you'd think by now they would have been able to staff up and start offering some actual customer service. But no.) The way you do that is to send them what's called a "salute." Basically, you have to take a picture of yourself holding a handwritten sign that reads and then your friend ID. You send that to them, and then you send them the URL of the profile that is attempting to pass itself off as you. And theoretically, they swoop in and fix everything.

In a show of passing but pitiable dumbness, I remember having a flash of concern that this Jessica could send them a picture and get them to shut down MY profile. It took me a second or two to realize, "Oh, wait. She can't do that, because she isn't me. So if she were to take a picture of herself holding up this sign, the picture would reveal that she isn't me. Because she isn't. Duh." I shared this lapse with Beulah, and she confessed to having thought the same thing. And she's a school teacher.

I have thought about this situation for the past week, as I've been waiting for MySpace to respond. I suppose there's room to be flattered that someone in need of a fake appearance would choose mine. The profile is not intended to use my image to satisfy anyone's chubby fetish. Jessica is not telling anyone that she -- wearing my face and body -- is some cock-hungry whore or multi-level marketer. I just took issue with the fact that this fake me would say that her musical likes are Enya and Buddhist chants. And that she would make all of the content of her profile about how much she's into Buddhism and helping others, especially children. I was discussing it with my brilliant friend Simon over IM last week, and he said, "You should write, 'Fuck you, Jessica,' on your hand and take a picture. Or how about writing something hurtful about the Dalai Lama on your body, take a nude picture, and email it to all her MySpace friends." I love the idea of getting back at this person by maligning the Dalai Lama. Not that I believe for a moment that she's really a Buddhist. Or that she's really a she for that matter. And what's the point of pretending to be so enthusiastic about Buddhism? I don't think a lot of hot girls are going to be sending nude pictures of themselves to Jessica with a rap like that. And I'm assuming that's the idea. But I'm no psychologist. Is there money to be made in Buddhist evangelism? I'm assuming there isn't, but I haven't really done my homework.

A number of my friends have written to Jessica, as have I. The gist of my message was just, who are you and why are you using pictures of me. My friends may have phrased their queries with more verve. MySpace lets you see when someone has read your message, and I've confirmed that "she" has read mine but just chose not to respond. She didn't accept any of their friend requests either, so no one has been able to post comments to her profile or photos. The one of me with my min pin Audrey that is captioned, "Me and my puppy Tina," is particularly irritating. As is the one of me at Coachella wearing a Duran Duran baseball cap and captioned, "Duran Duran is my band." The one that is captioned "Saturday night" was actually taken in the middle of the day on a Monday. I remember it distinctly, as I was on my way to LACMA to meet a guy for coffee, and it was my friend Angie's birthday. Beulah and I have taken to referring to Audrey as Tina now, just to amuse ourselves. But everyone knows "Tina" is a dumb name for a dog.

It seems that Jessica has not signed on since reading my message, so I assume that she -- like me -- is just waiting for MySpace to summarily pull the plug. I wish there was some hope that the mystery would actually be solved. But I doubt I'll ever find out if this was a prank or something more sinister, if it was executed by someone who actually knows me or just by someone who has been to my web site enough to have collected a few photos they liked. The photos were all pulled from my Roundup page but from a few different sets and from a few different time periods. So that has an element of creepiness to it. Generally, no one gets weirded out when they find out someone likes them. But when they like them enough to have done their homework...that's a horse of a different color.

So I'm in San Diego now. I played the late show and the midnight show at the comedy theater. I was exhausted, but the shows went all right. My eyes are burning, and I am filled with a form of disquiet about a number of things. Tina is curled up sleeping beside me, but when I got home, I realized that she had splattered a few of my parents' carpeted steps with liquid shit. So I spent a half hour or so cleaning that up, much to my dismay. I really do need the help of the Dog Whisperer. As cute as she is, she is a ridiculous handful. But I don't want to apply to be featured on the show, because I don't want the world to make fun of my cluttered apartment.

I've been uploading photos to my Flickr photostream for the past week or so. I have more than 21,000 photos uploaded so far. And there are many, many more to go. That verges on mindblowing. I have taken a gigantic lot of pictures in the past few years. A crazy, inexcusable lot. If only I could focus some of that energy on all the other things I still have to do.

Kerstin and I are trading writing projects. I've got a Channel 101 pilot idea that I think could fly. I've got a friend's screenplay to rewrite, and I've been sitting on that one for ages. I've got a thousand one- or two-sentence ideas that could easily be fleshed out if I would just stop destroying the muscles in my right arm moving pictures and photo sets around on the Flickr web site with my notebook touchpad. My right forearm is noticeably Popeye-ified. And that can't be good.

My plan tomorrow is to wake up at a reasonable hour, maybe go swimming a little bit, then go down to Mission Valley to take executive portraits of my clients, for whom I am designing a fundraising prospectus. Then I will drive back to Los Angeles and hopefully get back in time to perform in a show at Improv Olympic West with Lunch with the Girls. I played my first show with them last week. I don't know that I distinguished myself so terrifically, but I did get to play Teddy Ruxpin in one scene. I only wish I knew more of the phrases Teddy actually said.

Anyway, I'm extraordinarily tired. I even overslept this morning and didn't make it to San Diego in time to sing at a funeral I had agreed to sing at. I'm pretty sure that makes me an awful person. But then I've never tried to pass myself off as anyone else. So maybe it all balances out.

*Beulah Forrest