Friday, April 17, 2015

A Long Time Ago



Nostalgia is a narcotic. In small doses, it can enhance an experience. When I was eighteen years old, my best friend, my brother, and I took a trip to Ottawa one Saturday night on a whim, and on the way there, on another whim, we drove to the house I grew up in in Nepean until we moved when I was six. That was pretty cool. I get the same nostalgic feeling whenever I return to my hometown and drive around, passing my high school, or when I stay with my parents and sleep in the house in which I lived from six to twenty-two, the age I was when I moved to Korea.

I don't want to live my life again, however. I like to see photographs of the past and recall fond memories (and even the bad ones have a better coat of paint on them with the passing of years), but I don't want to experience everything over again in the same way that I didn't want to break into my childhood home and sleep in my old bedroom, or walk through the halls of my high school with gray hair. It's fine to look back, but not at the expense of looking forward.

For decades, Hollywood has been the hoary old coal miner of properties people my age grew up with, trying to find a gold vein but usually mining shit. While trying to appeal to the worst aspect of nostalgia -- remember when you liked this as a dumb kid? We're going to try to make you like it as a stupid adult -- movie producers also have continually thought that making children's properties into darker versions of their source materials will work.

The thing is, it does for some people. Earlier this year, director Joseph Kahn released a satirically gritty short film based on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It was meant as a fuck-you to the manchildren who actually want that kind of shit. Ironically, a vocal portion of the Internet took it seriously and ardently pleaded that a feature film be made.

I'm not entirely innocent when it comes to revisiting the nostalgic idiocy of 80s kids. I saw the first Transformers movie and liked it well enough (the sequels are for brain donors); I saw G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra twice in a movie theater*; I have a bunch of T-shirts with comic book and video game characters on them, which, as a soon-to-be thirty-seven-year-old man, I have no business wearing**.

My ability to discern between right and wrong, just and unjust, is pretty strong, I think. When it comes to entertainment, art, I'm better than I once was, but my subjective integrity can sometimes be compromised by what I think I've seen over what I saw (I gave Terminator: Salvation a 4/4 review on this very blog almost six years ago).

Case in point: In 1999, I saw The Phantom Menace on my birthday. That movie is absolutely awful, but because it was the first Star Wars movie released in sixteen years, and because I grew up with Star Wars***, I talked myself into thinking it was good. Adulthood doesn't erase idiocy, nor the indelible impressions of childhood.

 Today, I have a new hope. The second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is good. Really good. I've been a Star Wars apostate for longer than I was a true believer as a kid. My faith has been restored. For now.

Nostalgia is a drug.


* In that film's defense, it's just as stupidly silly and enjoyable as the original cartoon.

** In my own defense, I bought them while on vacation in Canada because I can't buy T-shirts here that would fit even an anorexic teenager.

*** I don't have a photographic memory, but I can recall almost every film I've ever seen inside a theater, who I was with, and where I sat. It's my mutant power. My mother took me to a double feature of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I was sitting to her left. Yoda scared the shit out of me. (This was perhaps 1981, during a second theatrical run. I have a good memory, but at two in 1980? I'd have to check with the matron.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Five (Consistency Has to Count for Something)



As far as halls of fame go, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has to be one of the most subjective, because it's impossible -- or at least pretty hard -- to qualify art. To quantify art is simpler, and in which case top-selling artists like Celine Dion and Justin Bieber are first ballot, but nobody wants that. So a happy medium occurs. If you can sell a bazillion records, you might be considered. Similarly, if you can be culturally significant or groundbreaking, with or without massive sales, you might get in (see: Zappa, Frank).

But I think consistency in music does need to be qualified (and, to a lesser extent, quantified; people can be pretty dumb, but if you like something for a number of years, there must be something inherently alluring there*), and so I've created this admittedly subjective -- but also based on general consensus! -- list of rock gods.

I call it the Pantheon. Shit, that's taken? When? Okay, let's call it

I Got 5 on It

The induction rules are simple: You have to have had five consecutive albums that are considered -- creatively and commercially -- as great.

First Ballot

The Beatles (Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Abbey Road)

Outkast (Southernplayalisticadillacmuzic, ATLiens, Aquemeni, Stankonia, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

The Beastie Boys (License to Ill, Paul's Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty)

Kanye West (The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak**, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus)

On the Cusp

Arcade Fire (Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suburbs, Reflektor)

So Close, No Cigar

Radiohead (The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A...)

Radiohead is out because Amnesiac was a bit shaky, and Hail to the Thief started an avalanche. They rebuilt that mountain, but you need five straight to enter the joint.

Led Zeppelin (I, II...)

III killed the momentum. IV is outstanding, and Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti are similarly great, but rules.


* see: Of Nazareth, Jesus; Big Bang Theory, The; Twizzlers

** This is very arguable.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Defibrillator



Something smelled awful.

It must have followed me home. I changed from my work clothes and showered, but a pungent odor hung around over dinner. 

"Jesus, Andrew, I can't even eat. What is that?"

I pretended I didn't know. Maybe something crawled into my boot before I closed the door? Something inky and stinky.

"I'll go see."

"Dad, it smells like when Grampy eats too many boiled eggs."

"It smells like Denise's clothes!"

"Shut up, Mark! It smells like the dead salamander in your desk drawer!"

"Kids!" Liz shouts. "Eat your dinner!"

The front door is closed tightly, and my boots, while smelling worse than a seaman's underwear, contain no trace of contamination.

But something reeks.

I go out into the driveway and check the car. Clean. Then I race around to the backyard to make sure Kander is still tied up. He isn't.

He has bitten through his rope. It's not the first time. He's gotten too big; it's time for chains.

I hear a bellow. Kander walks toward me growling like a chainsaw low on gas.

"Now, now, friend," I say. "Boy have you gotten big."

I sit down on the grass.

"I have some steaks out in the car if you're interested. Red and juicy, just as you like them."

Kander paces toward the car.

"Andrew!" Liz screams from the bedroom window, "run, now!"

I give it my best shot, but my bones are old. Kander has already discovered that there are no steaks in the car. It was just a trick. Just a way to try to buy some time.

I'm outside on the grass. My head is in a bear's mouth.

It feels like a hug.

I embrace it.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Snake Queen



I'm dreaming. I know I'm dreaming. It doesn't lessen my terror.

I'm in Israel (as a tourist? Perhaps; my dream isn't providing much back story).

I walk into a large synagogue-mosque with pews divided down the aisle between Jews on the right and Muslims on the left. I know I'm dreaming, and I know how sophomoric this would be if it were an actual bit of fiction, but it's only a dream.

I'm sure that someone is going to set off a bomb in here. People start filing in ahead of me wearing backpacks that I'm worried contain explosives.

Once the synagogue-mosque is full, a rabbi starts speaking. He's wearing a white robe and papal hat. Having never been to a synagogue, I realize that my mind is using the pope's regalia to fill in the blank.

"What a day we have here, where Israel and Palestine have come together to worship," he says. "We are all closer to death."

This elicits shouts of consternation from both sides of the religious divide.

As the shouting continues, the rabbi and the imam unfold a yard-long length of connected sachets containing a brown powder. The imam pours some water into one of the open sachets, and it grows to the size of a large bag. Then the imam and the rabbi begin eating from the over-sized sachet like dogs feasting on kibble, or children bobbing for apples.

---

I'm somewhere else now. In my dream, I call it nextwhere. A friend of mine has just bought a new car. He asks me to come along on its maiden voyage, but I decline. There's something else I'd rather do, but I don't know what that is.

One good thing about dreams is that regrets are easily erased; so when I decided that turning down my friend's offer to christen his new car was a bad idea, he was still there when I returned and hopped in.

No car has ever looked like this. Compact, with room for a single driver in the front seat and one passenger in the back, I start wondering who the hell would want to drive such a tiny thing. It was like a phone booth on wheels. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

As we're racing down the highway, obstacles start to appear: first a crashed bus, then an oil tanker engulfed in flames. Ronnie (not his real name) is driving at an incredible pace, but in the back seat all I can see is danger.

"Ronnie, pull the fuck over," I say. Even though I'm dreaming, I feel really bad about using the F-word.

We stop and get out of the car. I ask Ronnie for a cigarette, but he's not there anymore. Instead, a curly haired, sinewy man with a face covered in motor oil and a ten-year-old boy approach.

The man and the boy are speaking Spanish and arguing. I understand none of it. After their back-and-forth concludes, the man tells me he knows a good place to hide. I don't know what I should be hiding from, but I follow him anyway.

We drop down, one after another, into a basement full of cinder blocks and paint fumes.

The man is shouting to the boy in Spanish, shoving him to the center of the basement's concrete floor. Then he strips the boy of his T-shirt and shorts. The boy looks terrified.

"Hey!" I yell, finally aware of what is going on. "Leave the kid alone!"

The man walks over to me. He's breathing through his mouth and nose at the same time, menacingly.

"Don't get in my way," he says in English. "I don't want to bring you pain, but I will. All you need to do is watch."

There's a small twine rope hanging down from the ceiling. I grab it.

"You even think about hurting that kid and I'm going to strangle you with this! You got it?" I scream.

I strangled him with that. Then I put a shard of glass into his dead forehead. I wanted to put a period on the sentence.

I don't know where the fictional dream-boy I saved is now, but hopefully he's somewhere comfortable.

---

"Dan, come on!" my roommate shouts. "Aren't you done yet?"

"Almost, but I don't know what to call it," I say.

"How about 'Asshole of the Year,' or 'Requiem for a Jerk?'"

Snake Queen

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exes and Ohs



Right now, the Miami Heat have 150/1 Vegas odds to win the NBA title. It might as well be zero, because there is no way that the Heat have a chance. None. Basketball doesn't work that way. Since 1991, 24 years, here is the list of champions: Bulls (6), Rockets (2), Spurs (5), Lakers (5), Pistons (1), Heat (3), Celtics (1), and Mavericks (1). Eight teams in 24 years; there is no parity in basketball.

Another takeaway from that sample is that the only two Finals "upsets" came in 2004 when the Pistons beat an imploding Lakers team 4-1 and in 2011 when the Mavericks beat the Heat 4-2 in the first year of the Heatles mini-dynasty.

There is no parity in basketball. There are transition periods. What Golden State and the Hawks have done this season has been fun to watch -- but neither team is going to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy (the Warriors are much closer to it than the Hawks). Neither will the Grizzlies, Clippers (I've picked the Clippers at the beginning of the past 2 seasons to make the Finals, and they always underachieve), Bulls, Thunder, Mavericks, Blazers, Raptors, Wizards, etc.

In my somewhat-knowledgeable opinion, only three teams have a shot at the 2015 NBA title: the Spurs, the Cavs, and the Rockets. The Warriors might get in there, but I doubt it. It's fun to watch Klay Thompson and Steph Curry play Pop-A-Shot, but that shit won't win you a chip (it might get you some Chuck E. Cheese tickets to exchange for a green plastic army man or a silver-painted handgun key chain, though).

That is what I think. Now here is what I want.

The Heat are currently matched up with the Cavaliers in the East's 2-7 seeding. I am not a bitter man, but I want the Heat to face LeBron James in the first round. I want the Heat to beat the Cavs in the first round.

The Heat beat Cleveland 2-1 during the regular season. Of course, the regular season means little when it comes to playoff match-ups, and the Heat might get smoked, probably will get smoked -- but i want it like Pookie craved the crack pipe.

Because if, by some miracle, the Heat could knock LeBron's new-old team out of the playoffs in the first round, however unlikely*, Kevin Love would probably bolt, right?



That would be my championship. I love a good comedy.


* David Blatt vs. Erik Spoelstra: I'm picking the high school dance chaperone who's seen the gymnasium and kids sneaking in airplane bottles of liquor a few times over the frustrated parent who doesn't understand why his children keep leaving their milk-stained math homework on the kitchen table.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Killing Words



Heavy fire.

Out of breath, I duck behind a stone barrier and check my ammo. Only three gofuckyourself bullets remain in my side pistol. My machine gun is out of ifuckedyourmothers. Aside from my special weapons, which I've been saving for a long time because I bought them with a gift card my mother gave me on my thirty-ninth birthday, my diebitch melee weapon is all I have if I run out of pistol ammo.

Curtis019Hotlanta has me on the ropes.

"Coming for that ass, bitchcakes," he says into his headset.

I can hear him approaching. I want to flee, find another cover, but that would mean certain death.

I check my inventory. I have two remaining eatadicks that I'd forgotten about, but they won't help me now. I'm going to have to go deep.

"Say hello to my little friend," Curtis019Hotlanta shouts into his headset just as he lobs a niggerfaggot grenade over the barrier. I scramble and make it out with 19% health. Could be worse.

I run in to a poorly rendered cinder-block building while Curtis019Hotlanta cackles maniacally afoot.

"Run, run, run, but you sure can't hide, bitchcakes. I'm going to kill you with my dickinyoureye knife."

I run up three flights of stairs and come out on a roof. I have a clear look at the doorway, but I have to time my shot. I pull out my yoursisterownsavaginadinerandthespecialtyisallyoucaneatsnapper but hesitate. I try to switch to my didyourparentshaveanykidsthatlived, and that's when the bullet struck me.

I'm on my back, and my enemy is standing over me.

"Say goodnight, bitchcakes," he says as he fires a youeatcumforbreakfast bullet into my skull.

Misfire.


"Deus ex machina!" I scream into my own headset.

Then I turn off my computer, thankful to be alive after narrowly escaping death.

Now I have a fourth-grade spelling test to prepare for. Frau Kovacs is going to be so disappointed if I don't ace it.

I'm confident that I will spell pity, petty, pitiful, plentiful, and fuck all correctly.

Practice.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Camping



I love seeing nature: flora, fauna, all of that shit. What's the allure of camping, though? Why go into the forest to put up a tent and start a fire when you have a home at home? I don't need mosquito coils or a fire; I have walls and windows and central heating! And electricity! I don't want to cook beans from a can! I can order pizza from home, the place where I live and pay a mortgage. By the way, and I'm shitty at French, but "mort" is the French word for death, I think. "Mortgage" is the English word for debt, so they're pretty close. But to get back on topic...

I can't plug a hair dryer into a tree stump...yet! We're probably working on it. Yellowstone is going to have WiFi soon. "Getting back to nature" is going to become "exactly like home." You won't have to wipe your ass with leaves -- they'll probably install working toilets with bidets.

Getting closer to nature is a joke. Nature is like, "Who the fuck invited you? We had a good thing going on, and then you had to show up. Fuck you, we're going to send some bears and shit into your territory...and then you're going to kill them."

I will, however, admit that it is sometimes fun to sleep outside.

I've done it a few times near subway stations. No bears that way.

.




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Emma Dilemma




Everyone whom I spoke to insists that Katie Masterson is a good person and would never intentionally bring harm to others. Her neighbors, friends, and the people she worked with are stunned by last week's mauling death of Heather Carter by Emma, a Sumatran orangutan from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

Yet the details of the case, currently under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department, remain murky. Masterson, a 13-year veterinarian at the zoo, is reported to have taken Emma from her enclosure and to her own Pleasant Ridge home, a clear violation of the zoo's policies.

Several cell phone videos of the incident that have appeared online [WKB5 has chosen not to link to or broadcast the videos], which depict a woman screaming and running from Masterson's home and then being tackled by what looks like an ape, are chilling.

I was able to speak with an EMT specialist on the condition of anonymity who described Heather Carter's injuries:

"Her whole [expletive] face was ripped off, man. No skin. No lips. All I could see was teeth and eyeballs."

Masterson was taken into custody shortly thereafter, but the search for Emma continued for several days. She was finally captured in Mt. Airy Forest two days ago. Sources at the scene have described her as being weak and dehydrated.

"She was about dead," one official was heard to say.

"There's no motive yet, but maybe we just found our murder weapon," another official said.

"Like a mystery novel plot"

Not much is known about Heather Carter, a former Washington school teacher. Her social media accounts show that she was acquainted in some capacity with Katie Masterson, but the nature of their relationship remains vague.

"I saw her at the house for the first time probably two months ago," neighbor Dennis Jurgen told me. "Then a few times after that. It didn't even register to me. Why would it? If Katie was in a lesbian relationship, good for her. But a [expletive] orangutan? Nope. I definitely never saw that."

Another neighbor, Terry Kearns, has a different account.

"Katie was taking that monkey home a lot. She'd walk him on the front lawn, and I'd be like, "Seriously? This is going to end badly."

"I mean, I've read my share of mystery novels, and the best murder weapon would be an animal that can't stand trial or an icicle used as a dagger and then it melts."

"There's some shit going on in the media now, and it's probably clogging the toilet of the actual police investigation."

Yet another neighbor was quick to express his opinion.

"What's that gorilla who had the cat? Kiko? Koko? She had a little kitten called All Ball. They're both probably dead now."

Can a primate stand trial?

That is for a grand jury to decide. Is there testimony that an orangutan could provide to shed light on this murder, or would it be considered inadmissible? Currently, there is an online petition to have Emma hanged on live television.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Life



I can't believe I'm doing this. This isn't right. I'm terrified. I want to stay right where I am. But I keep getting pushed to go forward, move down the line. What have I gotten myself into?

I was hoping I'd be too small, not ready yet. But I'm apparently big enough to get on this ride. I can hear people all around encouraging me to hop aboard, to join in the fun.

"Here he comes!" someone shouts. "Make way for the big boy!"

The actual ride only takes a few minutes. There are some loops that really scared me, but overall it wasn't as bad as I imagined.

I'd totally do it again.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Social Networking


   Hey, long time no whatever. Given that we're such close friends -dare I say it, bosom buddies?- I figure we can cut to the chase. No horseshit, Wang.


    Do you recognize this individual? Does that face ring any bells? Is she your sister, mother and/or lover? Is the person in that picture you? Serious inquiry, because I haven't the slightest idea who she is, yet Facebook seems to think I know her.


    The other folks on the abbreviated list make sense, insomuch that there are mutual friends involved, thus Facebook could be forgiven for trying to tell me who my friends are, but when it gets to the point of social media suggesting ostensibly random people become friends? Ridiculous. In response, I did what any rational person would do - I sent her a message.



    I mean, she could be the best friend I've never met! We could chat about the latest episode of Girls, compare notes on dating, take selfies at Pizza Hut, rally behind whichever social issue is the featured flavor of the month, talk behind each other's back, etc. The possibilities are endless!

    She has yet to respond, and while I doubt we'll start having slumber parties any time soon, Facebook has spoken, so let's see how this plays out, shall we?