Secret Pop

May 23, 2008


The weather sure has been apocalyptic-seeming. Two days ago, it was hot out but windy. I could taste Hollywood in my grit-filled mouth. And it tasted like something I should spit out. Little eddies of filth and debris swirled up above gutters running alongside my route home. What would have been a welcome breeze filled my eyes and mouth and imagination with the soot of Sunset Boulevard and the indigents who shit there.

Yesterday I heard there was hail. And a tornado.

This morning, it's plaster grey out. And cold. If there were withered wintry trees on the horizon, I would call it a fitting tableau for burying our old friend Indiana Jones, who died last night. At least for me. And not just because he said the word "nucular."

I'm not sure if I'm going to actually spoil anything for you with what I'm about to say about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but if you're worried that I will, consider yourself forewarned and by all means look away. And if you feel that knowing that Indiana Jones says the word "nucular" was already too much unannounced spoilage for your standards, I apologize and accept that we may never be the friends I once hoped we'd be.

I won't be able to read the temperamental phrases I scrawled while inside the darkened, goon-filled theater. I only had a red pen, and the light from the screen didn't do much to illuminate my rantings. But, if memory serves, it seems the once limitless expanses of the mind and its inventions are now only able to live in front of a green screen. And not like a fancy one where things look super real. But a crap one where everything looks fake and the only thing you can fixate on is everyone's flaws.

I only remember feeling like anything was kind of awesome at two points in the movie. And I'm not talking about seeing the little corner of the Ark of the Covenant, because that was a totally lame throwaway, despite the thrill it provided to the mouth-breather sitting behind me. The only rewarding moments for me were these two: When Indy mentioned Quechua, I thought, "That's what Greedo's speech was," and I felt self-importantly victorious for getting a reference that was clearly meant for me to get, albeit what seemed like hours into the film. And when Indy sees Marion and he seems boyishly delighted, I was tickled. But it faded immediately when it became clear that the previous chemistry born of her girlish-boyish disappointment and longing would now be replaced by the archetypal barbs of a radio age fishwife.

The chemistry is out the window. For everyone. For Indy and Marion, it might just be that we're looking at a guy we hoped wouldn't look too old for this role but clearly does planting kisses on the mouth of a woman who was never conventionally pretty but now looks pretty solidly daft. You know, I never thought Harrison Ford was all that handsome, but there was a knowledge in his eyes. An impatience. A demanding intensity. He was the perfect gentleman scoundrel. Now all I can see is hos old his teeth look.

The vast majority of the movie, I was so bored and so confused and so not at all interested in what happened to anyone or why. National Treasure shamelessly co-opts the style of caper that made the old Indy films fun by shamefully having Nicholas Cage pretend to not be bald and also be able to solve centuries-unsolved riddles by simply talking the problems through and then confidently arriving at a hypothesis that always turns out to be correct. I remember laughing at its buffoonery and thinking that all the production value in the world can't make an Indiana Jones movie unless you've got the key ingredients, the first of which being Indiana Jones.

But Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, even armed with Indy himself actually in the film and wearing the hat and everything, couldn't hide from its key weakness: a really stupid script. But I am incredulous that the film had no qualms at all about posing as National Treasure. And The Fountain. And The Mummy. And The Mummy Returns. And the X-Files movie. And a Thomas Kinkade painting. And various episodes of the Keystone Cops. And a Barbara Walters special. But with none of the artful choreography, whip-smart banter, or quotability of the previous films. And Sallah has been replaced by the far less adorable Mac, who calls Indy "Jonesey" instead of "Indy" and refers to adventures I have difficulty believing they ever had together.

If you loved Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and I did -- you should just watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. This latest installment cribs from its progenitor so blatantly at times that I expected Indy to say, "Don't look at it!" And I expected Cate Blanchett to say, "It's beautiful!" And they basically did. Just not exactly in those words. But the visual effects might as well have been exactly the same. So much so that it makes me wonder if the field of visual effects actually just involves a lot of cut and paste. I always thought it was really complicated, but what do I know.

I don't think Indiana Jones ever was, nor should it have become, a science fiction franchise. There was plenty of mystical hooey, sure, but it was largely mystical hooey that traded on mythology that was familiar to the audience on some level. I recently half watched a show on The History Channel about crystal skulls, but if I hadn't seen it, I don't think I would have had any reference base for crystal skulls or what they're supposed to be able to do. I don't really feel any better-informed now, but that's mainly because this movie had no idea what it wanted me to know about crystal skulls, except that (a) they are highly magnetic and (b) their powerful magnetic field can be interrupted by placing a Mexican blanket over them.

I wasn't even thrilled with the music, and that's usually a given. In each of the other three Indy features, you've got the Raiders March, you've got the love theme, but you've also got a few themes that really capture the specific story in the film. It's Hindi Indy. Or it's Camelot Indy. But this one. I think they should have been talking about Incans instead of Mayans, for one thing, unless I'm misremembering that. El Dorado. Peru. That's Inca territory, right? Well, whichever, I don't remember any sweeping musical references to ancient civilizations. Even when the indigenous peoples who apparently cocoon themselves in the walls of their various pyramids and cliffs in case a trespasser dares show his face pop out and wave their spears around. I don't remember any particularly Peruvian sounding music at that point. But I do remember thinking, "When do those guys eat and go to the bathroom and stuff?"

Martín didn't hate it, but I told him to sleep on it. He didn't think The Phantom Menace was a tragic disappointment at first either. And I distinctly recall him thinking I was an asshole for saying that it wasn't any good. But I can confidently say that -- while I don't really care if it's WORSE than The Phantom Menace -- I can say that it's terrible for many of the same reasons that The Phantom Menace was terrible. And with just about the same amount of Burger King.

May 7, 2008

I was dreaming about dog catchers.

I was a bit out of sorts today. Angry and hurt, a little bit heartsick over things that aren't actually beyond my control. But that's kind of the devil's bargain for today. I once told my mother I had been horrifically mistreated by someone, and, while she agreed that I had been done a very bad turn, she then said, "You know, the important thing is to put up with it." Oh, you women of the second half of last century. How wise you are. How unironically, abysmally wise.

I went to the gym. I didn't, like, hit a heavy bag or anything. It wasn't some cliché fitness montage from an '80s movie about sisters doing it for themselves. I just went to the gym. Because I feel better about myself when I go to the gym. And because I would rather run for a long time than hit something. I have a bad elbow and can't risk losing my trackball hand. I bought a new pair of Nike+ Shox, and I was ever-so-pleased to wear them today. The other pair of Nike+ shoes I have been wearing have been giving me blisters. This pair was heaven. But I forgot to put the Nike+ sensor in the insole, so when I got on the treadmill, I realized I was going to run these four miles and not get any credit for them. I don't publicize my Nike+ profile, and no one buys me a pie when I run a certain number of miles at a certain pace. But once I started using the device, I immediately became obsessive about getting credit for all the running I do and not accidentally recording my pace when I'm just slowly walking around. I don't know why I care. I was so sorry about missing this day's run (and the run I did the first time I used the device when I just plain used it wrong) that I started devising a plan to make Jessie wear it for me for two workouts, so I could just take credit for her exercise, even though she doesn't do the same exercise routine that I do. Because I can't ever make up the difference. Any exercise I do from now on needs to be tracked as its actual self. I realized as I was planning this caper that this must be the Mary Forrest version of an endorphin high. Which makes sense. Other people feel euphoria. I experience a temporary personality disorder.

But I do know that this mechanism is effective with me. Now that I'm getting this fictitious credit for my running, I am anxious to go in and get what's coming to me. It's crazy that this would have any impact on my behavior. I make a sport of finding ways to disassemble persuasive tactics being used on me by people and marketing campaigns. Ho ho, you're not going to get one past me, buddy. But then all of a sudden, I'm looking forward to running. That's just absurd. I hate running. Everyone does. I only do it because it's one of the few fitness activities I know how to do and which doesn't require a partner. Because I'm also largely anti-social when it comes to fitness. I'm too self-conscious to take a class, because I can't help but look like a fool. And I also don't like to be "motivated" by the shame I feel when someone is better at something than I am. Sucking at tennis won't make me want to learn to play tennis better. Sucking at tennis will make me want to do something else. Like go for a gelato. I really (and sort of uncannily) enjoy movies about sports, but I would make a terrible sports movie. Unless you like the idea of a sports movie about an unsuccessful would-be athlete who just gives up. I know you're thinking this story was already told in the film Ice Castles, but in that movie, that girl was actually a good skater at first, and then she went blind. So it's not just your typical tale of a quitter. Plus, I think in the end, she skates again. Which makes no sense at all. As she is blind at that point. And there's nothing better to do when blind than high-speed dance maneuvers on a surface with dramatically reduced friction.

To refer back to my earlier comment about being anti-social when it comes to fitness, I should clarify. I'm largely anti-social when it comes to everything. I know it doesn't seem like it. But I told Rob today that I watch a movie like I Am Legend and a part of me goes, "Yeah! Finally! They're all gone!" Because much of the time, I don't like people. I like specific people, sure. I mean, I'd like the earth to be emptied of its denizens except for the fifty or sixty -- wait, let's up that to eighty or a hundred, my birthday is coming up and I want there to be more than fifty people there, so my math must be off -- ones I love. I'm even willing to throw in a handful of people I don't like, because there's nothing terribly entertaining about spending eternity with a bunch of people you like. There has to be some drama to keep things interesting. And a good portion of my friends like me specifically for my aptitude for pointing out what should be disliked about other people. It's a gift.

The only sad part about this admission is that it's probably not really true. I am good at pointing out what should be frowned upon in other people. But I think for the most part, I'm pretty generally nice to nearly everyone. I even give money to homeless people. And not just because they have "insulted" me with a lewd overture. And I feel bad when I hear that something unpleasant has happened to someone. Even if it's an awful person. Because I am detrimentally empathetic, and I always imagine what it would feel like to be in someone else's shoes. And sometimes that means wondering what it feels like to wear a very old pair of Sperry Top-Siders that should obviously have been discarded years ago. The one exception to the empathy thing is Howard Glenn, my former Farmers Insurance agent. About whom I have repeatedly said I think he may be dead now and I hope that he is. I guess if I actually learned he was dead or if a member of his family who had not been mistreated by him the way I was read this, it would make me feel bad, but in terms of my own personal experience with him, I hope he is dead, and I hope it was not a clean exit. I'm sorry to have to say that, but he really was horrible. I insure with State Farm now. And even though my first agent Kimyee Ross was a horrible human being (who I also hope is dead now), my current agent (whose name I forget) is actually a lovely person, and I welcome his computer-generated birthday and holiday cards each time they arrive.

I have a big glass of whiskey sitting to my left. The heat from the computer will probably help the ice to melt. I need the ice to melt a little before I can truly enjoy it. I have been suffering from a half-cold the past week or so. It's mostly a very constricted throat, swollen glands, and an occasional cough. And the throat constriction seems to limit itself to mornings and nighttime. So you wake up feeling like utter crap and you stay home from work, but then by mid-day you think, what a waste, I'm actually okay. And then by evening, when you're thinking you deserve a night out, your throat starts to swell up again. Perhaps this is a new strain of virus intended to get you fired and end your relationship. P.S. There's no need to post a bunch of comments telling me to take this or that or to look up the symptoms of strep throat or what-have-you. I'm one of those people who likes to list all of her problems but has no real interest in actually solving them. You would hate me if you knew me.

It's been gloomy and all-of-a-sudden cold these past few days. The weekend before last was hot enough to provoke news stories about it. And two weekends before that, we celebrated Beulah's birthday with a bang-up weekend at Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel, and it was literally over one hundred degrees. I don't know why I feel the need to say "literally." I guess I assume you will think I'm lying. I'm not prone to exaggerate, though. You should give me the benefit of the doubt. My point is just that only a week or so ago, I was wearing summer clothes to work because it was unbearably hot. And people noticed I'd gotten sun over the weekend, because my shoulders were completely bare. Which wouldn't happen in an office setting with me, except that the office where I work is not outfitted with any modern temperature control system, and sometimes Hollywood is about as hot as a motherfucker. Anyway, it's been a lot of up and down. And it's been hard to be prudent about what to wear and how many covers to throw off when sleeping. And the result is what seems like a summer cold but whose symptoms seem to linger in the throat part more than usual. I'm supposed to sing in church for Mother's Day, and I think I might legitimately have an out this time. I will not, however, be making any excuses to get out of the pricey brunch I've planned for my family. Swanky living does not prerequire health. Plenty of swanky people are about to keel over dead. Healthy living, by contrast, is generally not swanky at all. On account of the wheat grass juice and kinesis classes.

At the end of April, I was beginning to feel that rush to post something. To make the month less bare. I obviously place too much stock in keeping things even. The older I get, the more I wish I had started watching Monk when it first aired.

But I missed the rush. And suddenly it was May. And May carries birthdays and holidays and excuses for raising a glass. I don't hate May. I would say May is generally kind to me. November has long been my favorite, but it has no business to be. November has frequently been peppered with tragedy for me, but somehow the smell of fireplaces trumps that. I don't pretend to make sense. I just know I pay for web hosting, so I am allowed to say all of this here.

May 5, 2008

Absence of Altitude

I didn't do anything for St. Patrick's Day this year. I was working. I planned to go to San Diego for Cinco de Mayo today. But work interfered again. I had a nice enough time. But it wasn't any of the traditional merrymaking. And I think what I notice I miss the most is the unfailing sense of expectation that these various co-opted celebrations would hold some amount of epiphany for me. It's the equation that enables one to look forward. Maybe something will happen. Maybe I will experience something new. Maybe I will re-experience something I once thought wonderful. Trite as it seems, some of the time it's as basic as thinking, maybe this time I'll get a really good drunk on. It's been a long time since I've had one of those.

Tonight, Stacey asked me if I like poetry. I made light of it. But inside, I was thinking, I remember when I felt like I was made of poetry. Now, I'm just made of sentences. Many of which have been said before.