Monday, December 14, 2015

A New Hope


It was autumn, 2012. And there was a great disturbance in The Force.

The announcement came like an ion cannon blast from the blue: Disney had purchased Lucasfilm from founder George Lucas for a cool $4 billion in Republic Credits with the intention of immediately launching new Star Wars movies.

And with that ... millions of voices suddenly cried out ... and then continued to cry out. Louder and louder. Because the Internet.

As the months passed, the pieces started falling into place. Avowed Original Trilogy fanboy J.J. Abrams stepped behind the camera. Empire and Jedi (not to mention Raiders) screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan set to plinking away at the script. And all the original leads where wheeled out of storage. A reading was held. A picture was taken. Our nerd hearts fluttered.

They were putting the band back together.

"Break a leg," we urged them.

(Well, that didn't go exactly to plan, but no matter.)

There was a palpable electricity in the air! A feeling was starting to grow that had been largely absent from the Star Wars universe since those heady days in the run-up to Phantom Menace.

Hope?

A new one, maybe?

But why?

Well, for the first time in almost 40 years, a certain be-pompadoured, flannel-wrapped man-sausage wouldn't be piloting the ship. George Lucas would no longer be calling the shots in the Star Wars universe.

And this was a good thing.

Potentially a great thing.

Now before I go any further, let me just say this:

It is 1,000,000% true that millions upon millions of Star Wars fans the world over owe George Lucas their bottomless gratitude for creating the galaxy far, far away.

That's just a fact. It is beyond doubt.

As a world-builder, he's in a class all his own.

Untouchable. A true genius.


But ... as a storyteller?

"Eh ... less so?"

To put things politely, the changes made to the Special Editions in the late 90s fell somewhere on the spectrum between "unnecessary" and "cringeworthy."

And the Prequel Trilogy ... well, a majority of movie goers might place those further out toward the "cluster-fuck" end of that spectrum.

To say fandom's (not to mention my own) relationship with Mr. Lucas had become "strained" -- or at the very least "complicated" -- is something of an understatement.

Though, for me personally, the problems didn't start in the late 90s. His track record, in this nerd's opinion, had been in precipitous decline since the first execrable teddy bear yub-nubbed its way out of the underbrush in 1983. But that's a whole other conversation.

(Complete tangent: In 1995 I was talking trash about Ewoks at a bar and nearly got into a fistfight with a fellow who seemed willing to throw down to defend their honor. In retrospect, I almost wish cooler heads hadn't prevailed. Just so one day I could say I'd been in bar fight over Ewoks. The perils of drinking and nerding, I suppose.)

I digress ...

So ... Lucas was stepping aside to let somebody else play in the Star Wars sandbox. This was exciting news. This was a game-changer. The possibilities! The mind raced! (But did NOT pod race. Ever.)

Then more announcements came fast and hard. More directors, more writers, spin-off stand-alone movies ... the possibility of a Star Wars universe movie every year far into the foreseeable future.

And in a surprise to exactly no one, the Internet has churned into a non-stop Hoth-sized blizzard of Star Wars rumor-mongering, thinkpiece-ing, spy reporting, and armchair speculation for the better part of three years. Every trailer, TV spot, photo or toy package is broken down pixel by pixel -- Zapruder style -- in an attempt to unlock its secrets. Who uses a lightsaber? Who's flying what ships? Who's related to who? And would Harrison Ford be able to stay awake through the whole movie or spend it napping grouchily on a giant pile of money?

And so today ... anticipation is at a fever pitch with the film about to be unleashed upon the world. As a nerd on the Internet myself, I believe it to be my solemn obligation to offer a few thoughts on the subject.

It is my understanding that this is compulsory.

So here goes.

(drumroll ...)


5 Ways the New Star Wars Movies Will Probably Be Different Without George Lucas


5. Socio-Economic Mobility?

With someone new plugging coordinates into the saga’s navi-computer, perhaps now, at long last, inhabitants of the galaxy far, far away will no longer be doomed to the same job their parents had.

Maybe Lucas was trying to prevent storylines from getting too complicated. Maybe he intended to echo a simple, fairy tale convention. Or maybe he’s just a big fan of rigid caste systems based on strict Calvanist notions of inescapable predestination. For whatever reason, social mobility in the Star Wars universe doesn't really seem to be a thing. Whatever your mom or dad did for a living, like it or not, that’s the gig you’re gonna get, too.

Even if that job is as microscopically specific as “Telekinetic Plasma-Sword-Wielding Bionic Space Wizard.”

“Oh, quit pouting. Sure, the hours suck, but the health plan is surprisingly comprehensive.”

(For the sake of simplicity, and to mirror what the folks at LucasFilm are doing, I'm not counting any of the expanded universe stuff to be canon here. Just what Lucas himself scribbled into his trapper keeper for the movie scripts.)

When we first meet Luke he’s a moisture farmer, but since that’s not a job his dad ever had, it’s just a matter time before everything goes all handstands and laser swords for young Master Skywalker. Because in George's world, your job history is predetermined. Your resume is already printed in your DNA.

Midichlorians, it turns out, are actually tiny, blood-borne Guidance Counselors.

Which may explain why Luke sucked so hard at moisture farming. Well, I'm assuming he sucked at it. We never once see him harvest a single ... um ... bucket? I guess?

(Look, don’t ask me. I don’t know how it works. My father wasn't a moisture farmer either.)

Fun Fact: Jawa "squeezings" count as moisture!


It’s that same circuitous logic ... one might even call it tortured ... that mandates that since we've established Leia to be a princess, then BY GOD her birth mother MUST have been a queen.

Never mind the fact that we’re talking about two totally different planets.

Planets presumably with different, systems of governance.

And Leia was adopted.

And her adopted father was a Senator, not a King.

And her true identity was supposed to be a secret.

And Luke is never once referred to as a prince.

And Padme technically couldn’t really have been a “queen,” because she was elected and you don’t vote for queens because that’s not how queening works.

Point is, if you are a princess, your mom must have been a queen.

Somehow.

Because shut up is how!

(Not to disparage Naboo, but you have to wonder about a civilization that puts a tween girl in charge of a whole planet. As political systems go, that one seems fraught with peril. The likelihood of hearing the words “Secretary of State Justin Bieber” seems alarmingly high.)

(But what do I know, she’s not my queen. I didn't vote for her.)


Oh, admit it. You were thinking it, too.

And even though Boba Fett is technically a clone of Jango, not a son, that seems close enough for government work as far as George is concerned. Sorry, Boba. So much for your dream getting your MA in Italian Renaissance Poetry. Grab your jet pack. Them space skells ain't gonna disintegrate themselves.

(Though, to be fair, Dog the Bounty Hunter has numerous bleached, sun-damaged progeny who also hunt bounties. So maybe in this case it’s not a Lucas thing but more of a bounty hunter thing.)

Fittingly, the lone outlier might just be Han Solo. It’s never mentioned in either trilogy just what Papa Solo did for a living. We don't know anything about the guy.

But if he wasn't a smuggler, I think there’s a good chance he probably lived an honest life of herding Nerfs. Scruffiness, after all, rarely skips a generation.


4. Fewer Staff Meetings:

George Lucas may have started out as a rebel filmmaker (see what I did there?) with some big ideas and a metric ton of moxie-studded gumption ... but somewhere along the way he ended up growing, almost by accident, into one of the most staggeringly successful business men of the last century.

And when you’re mind-bogglingly successful at running a whole bunch of companies, you probably sit through a shit-ton of meetings in a day. That's gotta be pretty much your life. So in the late 90s, when he got round to penning the scripts for the Prequel Trilogy, maybe he took the old writing axiom: “Write what you know,” a little too literally.

Perhaps this is why the Prequel Trilogy is so liberally larded with scenes of people sitting around jabbering about things they could do – instead of scenes of them actually doing those things.

Depending on how you count them, there are something like TWO DOZEN staff meeting scenes in the Prequel Trilogy.

(And in true corporate style, those meetings usually involve the Jedi Council saying they're going to do something ... before then telling Obi-Wan to go do it for them.)

By contrast, there’s only one real staff meeting in the entire Original Trilogy and Darth Vader spices that one up by totally choking a guy out with his mind.

Which, be honest, is exactly how we wish all staff meetings would end.


"Does anyone have a Ricola?"


3. No More “Special Edition” Fiddling:

Whatever you think of Lucas as a filmmaker, it’s hard to argue that he didn't, on some level, have the authorial right to tweak a few things in the Original Trilogy.

Now the wisdom of tweaking those things? Oh, heavens! We can argue that until the stars burn out. In fact, providing the forum for that very argument was the whole reason Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet in the first place. Well, that and porn.

But with the saga’s imprimatur now turning over the reins to a voracious corporate behemoth bent on churning out fresh, profitable product for decades to come, it's not likely that any director, writer or producer will emerge with enough clout to continue Lucas' wrong-headed preoccupation of repeatedly reaching back into the three original movies to rearrange the furniture.

Point is, mercifully, this is probably the end of all the Special Editions. From now on, for better or worse, no more changes.

Sadly, that also probably means whoever the last one was to "shoot first" will likely continue to shoot first on into eternity. It’s like winning a game of musical chairs, only with terrible aim and terrible-er CGI.

"Greedo? That guy’s a hell of a shot! Taught me everything I know!"


2. Nobody Will Ever Say “Yippee!” Again:

Ever.

For any reason.

Thank the Maker.

Seriously. Shut the fuck up.

1. Fewer Amputations:

Given that the series will undoubtedly continue to feature the lightsaber as its signature, iconic weapon, it’s a good bet we’ll continue to see a few loose appendages go tumbling bloodlessly out of frame in future episodes. But my guess is, the galaxy far, far away just became a friendlier place for extremities.

Because George Lucas has an amputation fetish.

Okay, maybe “fetish” is too strong a word. But Lordy, he does seem inordinately fond of lopping pieces off his characters.

By my count there are 15 instances of arm, hand or leg amputation over the course of the six films in the Star Wars saga.

If you include decapitations, that raises the total to 18.

That goes up to 19 once you include Darth Maul’s always impressive hemicorporectomy.

And if you count all of C-3PO's various pieces, that goes up to 33.

At this point you might be musing to yourself: “Say, that seems like rather a lot of amputations.”

It sure is.

Now please also consider that after all the fanboy belly-aching over Jar Jar Binks in 1999, Lucas strenuously and repeatedly insisted that these are, in fact, movies intended for small children.

"You know what happens to little boys who don't clean their plate? They get scissored into wet, steaming meat!
Now. Open. Your. Mouth.”

Unsettlingly, George's hunger for limb-lopping seems to grow more ravenous as the Prequel Trilogy rolls along. By the time we get to Episode III, several of the victims in question are now having more than one part sliced off in a sitting.

But if you're just counting lightsaber injuries, by my admittedly unscientific count, a total of 19 body parts are liberated from their owners in the Star Wars hexalogy. (OT: 6 vs. PT: 13.)

FUN FACT: That's 18 more amputations than are in the movie 127 Hours!

And I'm not even counting the amputations that happen off screen that Lucas doesn't even bother show you.

"I miss my leg. Almost as much as I miss that 'wife' I bought.”

And my numbers are actually super low, because I'm also not including in my tally any characters without names or dialogue. So, no Clone Troopers, Sand People or Geonosian bug-men.

But I am counting the Wampa. Because, come on. He’s the friggin' Wampa.

In addition, I'm also not totaling the legions upon legions of Battle Droids who get mercilessly hacked into a bajillion pieces because: A) numbers don’t go that high, and B) let’s face it, those irritating fuckers TOTALLY had it coming.

"Roger, roger?” Seriously?! Who says: “Roger, roger”?! AND WHY IS NOBODY HACKING THIS GODDAMN FLOOR LAMP INTO A THOUSAND PIECES RIGHT NOW?!

So, again, only characters with names and/or dialogue.

I'm also not counting anybody who gets stabbed with a lightsaber. Surprisingly, after six movies and over 14 hours of film, this only happens to two characters. Poor Qui-Gon Jinn, of course, gets his intestines flash boiled by Darth Maul in Episode I. And in Episode III, a Jedi whose name appears to be Agen Kolar (or so the package for his action figure would have us believe) gets gut-lanced by Palpatine in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it "fight" scene that will leave you wondering if it's really all that hard to become a Jedi Knight in the first place.

"Wait! We're starting? No fair! I wasn't ready! While you were leaping 40 feet across the room I was looking up there for some reason!"

(And yes, Yoda does skewer that one Clone Trooper in Episode III, but that guy doesn't have a name, so I'm not counting him. Okay, he might have a name, but we're never told what it is. Was it Carl? It could have been Carl. In any event, I'm not counting him. Sorry. Thoughts and prayers to Carl's family.)

Of all the main characters, C-3PO is the one who gets disarticulated into the most pieces with a whopping 15 chunks -- a total that includes three "hilarious" (read: screechingly unfunny) decapitations in a single sequence in Episode II. However, unlike everybody else, nearly all of his injuries come via blasters. Except that one time in Star Wars when he loses an arm by falling down.

(But then, he was built by a 10-year-old, so ... grain of salt, I guess.)

Tragically, no matter how many times he gets blown to pieces, they never manage to permanently disable the part that allows him to keep bitching.

When it comes to separating folks from their various dangly bits, picking a champion is tricky. If you're counting total bio-mass, Anakin is your clear first ballot hall-of-famer. Particularly if you count the steaming trail of Geonosian bug-men parts he leaves in his wake. But Anakin tends to do a lot indiscriminate mass-chopping among the extras pool, where Obi-Wan goes straight for the featured players. And as I said earlier, I'm only counting characters with names or dialogue.

So going by my methodology, it's Ben who snatches the trophy, lopping off no less than 8 limbs over the course of the six movies. And that's including one spectacularly unlikely three-for-one slash that deprives Anakin of his three remaining meat-limbs at the end of Episode III.

(Seriously? Three? In one chop? That’s gotta be the Warren Commission’s Magic Bullet of the Star Wars universe.)

Ben's total is all the more impressive when you consider that for two-and-a-half of those six movies he’s a ghost with no chopping powers whatsoever! Surely, in the Jedi netherworld Ben and Anakin must be forced to drag around spectral chains of all the limbs they severed in life, Jacob Marley-style.

Not to be outdone, Anakin himself manages a pretty nifty three-fer when he goes all Benihana on poor Count Dooku, slicing off both hands before then scissoring off a defenseless old man's head.

"Oh hi, Insult! Have you met Injury?"
Zzzzwwip!
Thud.

FOR CHILDREN.

THESE MOVIES ARE FOR CHILDREN.


Ultimately though, Lucas' final and most significant Star Wars amputation seems to be himself.

With the sale of Lucasfilm, he's neatly snipped himself off of his lifelong creation/burden, like an errant Jedi appendage.

And by doing so he's given J.J. Abrams two incredibly valuable things.

First, as I've said, he's given him the freedom to play in one of the richest, most iconic and amazingly fun sandboxes in the history of cinema. An opportunity any filmmaker worth their salt would kill for. Especially one like Abrams who came of age in the 70s and 80s simmering in the cinematic bouillabaisse of Lucas and Spielberg.

And second, and perhaps more importantly, he's given Abrams the freedom to totally and utterly fuck it up.

With the Special Editions and the Prequel Trilogy, Lucas has lowered expectations to the point where just about anything Abrams cobbles together will be hailed as a victory. Even if Abrams totally muffs it, his worst, most misguided efforts will still likely be a step up.

That said, it's also plausible this could end up being a legitimately great movie in its own right. Is that a real possibility? I don't know. I'm still a little gunshy. Keeping my expectations reasonable. I'm just hoping for "good."

That would be just fine by me.

That's my new hope.





Till meet we do next ...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Yup. That's It. We're Done. Pack It Up, Everybody.


Every once in a while it's nice to get a little reminder of where you are in the Universe. A reality check, as it were.

It's just helpful to know exactly where you -- and society as a whole -- actually stand in the Grand Scheme of Things.

A little perspective.

For instance, it might interest you to know that right this very minute we are no longer teetering on the precipice between order and chaos, between stability and utter bedlam.

Nope!

We have already plunged headlong into the muck and mire of the End of All Things!

The End Times have arrived, my friends, and everything you've held dear has crumbled to dust!

All bets are off! Tear up those rule books, they don't apply anymore!

Time to start flinging your poop, everybody!

Because apparently nothing goddamn matters anymore!




Yup. That happened.

(And actually continued to happen for several minutes.)

And by the by, this wasn't a kid who didn't know any better. This was a woman in her late 50s to early 60s.

Somebody's mom or grandma.

And there were several employees literally a few yards away! Employees who I'm sure would have been delighted to help her not step all over the damn hot dogs.


It may not be raining hellfire and brimstone just yet, but I think this is pretty solid proof that we are, in fact, living in a Pre-Apocalyptic Wasteland.

So good luck, everybody! And remember, babies have the tenderest meat!



It's my own fault, though. I shouldn't be shopping at Thunderdome.

Two men enter! One man leaves ... with savings!



Till next we meet ...


Monday, September 14, 2015

(Animal) Protection Racket


THE SCENARIO:

It's two in the morning. You're sprawled on the couch, drifting in and out of consciousness. An episode of Forensic Files flickers unwatched across the TV screen ... the oddly comforting white noise of a grisly tale of murder and depravity easing you into slumber.

And then you hear it.

The slow plinking of a very sad piano filters through your haze.

Instantly your eyes SNAP open!

NOOO!!!

With all the grace of a pile of lumber tumbling down a flight of stairs, you lurch up from your repose, scrambling madly for the remote!

You mash all the buttons in blind panic ... desperate to avoid what's coming ...!

But it's too late.

"They call me 'The Night-Ruiner'!"

Before your fumbly, sleep-palsied thumb can find the GO-AWAY button ... you've seen them.

The filthy, the emaciated, the scabrous. Quivering in rusty cages. Their terrified, imploring eyes boring holes straight into your soul.

Like a pitchfork twisting through your guts, reminding you what you already knew ... humans, whether by action or neglect, can be goddamn monsters.


And yup. It's official. Your night is ruined.

Thanks a LOT, Sarah.

(And not only that, you used to like that song! Can you ever hear it again without having a Pavlovian tear-gush response?)

But I have a humble suggestion for Ms. McLachlan and her various cohorts whose seemingly feature-length misery-paloozas haunt my late-night cable box.

I WILL PAY YOU TO STOP.


I mean it.

My proposal:


The ASPCA, Humane Society and other such organizations should band together and launch Kickstarter campaigns in each of the major media markets.

The purpose of the campaign? To raise the funding needed to run their good and vital operations in those regions, of course.

But what do we get if they reach their goal?


They promise NOT to play their horribly upsetting ads in that area.


I suspect I'm like a lot of people out there when I say I would pay cash money to ensure those deeply troubling and tear-inducing ads do not show up on my television. Ever.

The thing is though, their current ads just can't be working very well. Because logically, people who love animals don't want to see soul-searing footage of animals being abused. They're going to change the channel.

In fact, I personally have NEVER seen the end of one of those commercials. Like a lot of people, I've changed the channel long before they've had a chance to make their donation pitch. I wouldn't know where to send the money even if I wanted to.

So why not make a promise that if folks donate enough cash, they'll withhold the thing that so many of us find so horrifying?

If that sounds familiar, it should. That's precisely how a protection racket works.

"Some nice tear ducts you got there. Be a shame if something happened to 'em."


Now I realize this is a dangerous precedent to set. If it worked, other less scrupulous advertisers would surely try to exploit this same tactic to try squeezing money out of a beleaguered public by crafting the most irritating and grating commercials possible. (To be honest, I can't say for sure the people at Intel aren't already setting us up for this right now with those execrable and profoundly unfunny Jim Parsons ads.)

But I'm willing to take that chance.



Now, if the anti-animal cruelty folks wanted to sweeten the deal and really make us love them, they could replace their existing ads with ones featuring cute, hilarious and heart-warming animal footage.

After all, if the Internet has taught us anything (I mean, other than: "never read the comments"), it's that people LOVE LOVE LOVE looking at pictures and videos of adorable cats and dogs.

If they really want people to watch their ads all the way to the end, they need to make it possible for us to watch them all the way to the end.

Because I can say with absolute certainty that you're MUCH more likely to get money out of me by just showing me pictures of, say, this guy for sixty straight seconds:

"You can't look away, can you. And you know what? You don't have to! Yay!"


Seriously, where do I send the check?





Till next we meet ...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Object of My Affectation



I have no patience for affectation.

Never have.

You know the people I'm talking about. Whether it was the kid from theater camp who always carried the sword cane, or the guy from junior high with the fish ties, or the girl in homeroom who dyed her giant mohawk every color in the rainbow.

Look around your workplace right now. You're bound to spot a guy with a handlebar mustache, or skinny jeans, or sleeve tats, or one of those huge, upsetting tribal-earlobe-disc-things. (Come to think of it, you'll probably find all of those things on the same guy.)

"My neck gets cold." 

"Look-at-me!" behavior has always just rubbed me the wrong way.

Which is pretty ironic.

Because since I could walk I've engaged in nothing but look-at-me behavior.

When I was a kid I was constantly writing, acting, directing, drawing, sculpting, animating, filming, and generally extracurricular-ing my ass off.

On and on it went. You name the activity, I was desperately trying to draw attention to myself by doing it.

But back then you'd never have known I wanted you to look at me just by ... well ... looking at me. The way I dressed or cut my hair was never flashy, unique or even remotely fashionable. My oft repeated mantra was, I wanted BE unique, not LOOK unique. I wanted attention for accomplishing things, not for how I dressed. I never wanted to visually stand out in a crowd. If somebody was going to notice me, I wanted there to be a good goddamned reason.

I wanted to be known for doing, not for shopping.

Which I suppose could be considered commendable.

You know ... if I hadn't been such an unbearable asshole about it.

For some reason, I really felt the need to harangue people who had the temerity to decorate themselves for their personal pleasure. They drove me up the wall and I didn't mind one little bit explaining that to them -- with all the judgmental, acid-tongued sanctimony I could muster.

Which was a lot.

I was a teenager, after all.

From my roost waaaaay up on that high horse, I'd lob long, preachy diatribes down at all sorts of innocent folks whose only crime was engaging me on the subject. Like Deidra -- my high school's version of Mohawk Girl. We'd have long arguments that usually ended with me feeling smugly superior and her feeling shitty and bullied.

(Did I mention that I was mean, pompous little fuck when I was a kid? Well, I was. "Recovering Asshole" isn't meant to be a clever title for the blog. It's more "Science-facty".)


The problem is, it's now thirty years later and while I've somewhat successfully managed to sand down some of the more objectionable corners of my personality, I still can't quite curb that knee-jerk aversion to affectation.

I know how I ought to feel. I ought to be rejoicing that people are celebrating their glorious and beautiful differences and letting their freak flags fly. Because, honestly, I LOVE the beautiful and bountiful banquet of different faces in the world!

I do!

Honestly!

Objectively I know there is nothing wrong with wanting to look different or unique or stylish.

It's not a character flaw.

I know this.

But for some reason I just can't help instinctively recoiling. It's a bone-deep, lizard-brain reaction that I've never been able to shake.

And it's swollen over the years, into a kind of blue-collar snobbery.

It's actually become a point of pride for me (rather than shame, as it probably should), that I own just one solitary necktie. An inexpensive accessory that I had my father tie for me about 20 years ago, that I loosen and tighten as the occasion dictates.

"No. Mr. Grey will not see you now. Go torture-sex yourself, you unprofessional shit-heel."


My lower middle class upbringing (or more accurately upper lower class) taught me early and often that money wasn't free. And since I've never had any, trendy clothes and haircuts have always been the equivalent of the expensive dishes that were on that page of the menu we weren't allowed to order from.

So I've never been able to stomach the idea of spending money on pricey outfits just because some magazine said I should. (Also, let's face it, the Fashion Industrial Complex is responsible for perpetuating some pretty awful things in our culture, so defying them can't be so bad.)

(Plus, as I've pointed out previously, I am in fact shaped like a mailbox made of meat. So there's a fair amount of fashion (read: all of it) that isn't tailored for my body type anyway.)

So it's all cargo pants and tee-shirts for me. Unfashionable in any decade.

"Dress for the job you want," the old axiom goes. And a cursory glance at me should tell you I apparently want to be homeless. Or a writer. (Not mutually exclusive, I suppose. Also both equally likely.)

Such is the level of my reflexive bias that simply "dressing like a professional" in my mind has become akin to "showing up at work in mutton-chops and a monocle."

"We're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports now, wut-wut. Bumbershoots!" 


But all of that is prologue.


Because The Universe has tossed me a bit of a brain grenade recently.


An extremely worrying thought crossed my mind the other day:

What if my staunch anti-affectation stance is actually an affectation unto itself?



Oh.

Shit.





"Well, that sure looks delicious! Better start swallowing until I wink out of existence in a puff of well-earned, self-absorbed karmic retribution!"


Well, if the hypocrisy fits, I guess I have to wear it.



(sigh)



Suppose I'd better start shopping for a top hat and a unicycle.

And I gotta call my dad. Gonna need him to tie my new fish tie.




Shit.




Somewhere, I hope a smile just curled across Deidra's pierced lips. It's been a long time coming.




Till next we meet ...



Monday, June 22, 2015

Everybody At The Garage Learned To Rue The Day Bill Got His Word-Of-The-Day Calendar



"I mean, can a person ever really know what is or isn't broken on your car? Heck, what does 'broken' even mean?"

"And what's a 'car', anyhow?"

"How could any of us ever possibly know?"





"Those new struts are gonna run you about a grand, though."




Till next we meet ...


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Flour Pouer


I don't pay a LOT of attention to stuff.

Sometimes it takes me a while to notice things that everybody else spotted ages ago.

(Did you know there are DRUG references in Scooby Doo!? I know! Crazy, right!?)

So it wasn't terribly surprising that the bag of flour The Missus sent me to fetch sat on the counter for a couple of days before I finally took a good look at it.

Day 1:

Went to the store with a list. Came back with everything on it.

Including this bag of flour. Yessir. Right there.


My work here is done.



Day 2:

Bag of flour. Right where I left it.

Boom.


Everything still A-OK with The Universe.



Day 3:

Yessir. That sure is a bag of flour all ri---WHAT THE SHIT?!


SWEET MOTHER OF FUCK!

THAT'S A GODDAMN BABY WITH A GODDAMN KNIFE!!


Look, I'm not entirely sure how flour is made -- I have a vague notion there's a fair amount of sifting involved -- but I'm almost 100% certain that it isn't made by buttery cherubs carving up phone books with hunting knives!


"Heckers: Tastes so good, you'll swear it was dangerously manufactured by children!"

And while we're on the subject, if you MUST carve up a phone book with a hunting knife -- and I'm not altogether convinced you must -- never cut TOWARDS yourself! That's just tempting fate. You're practically begging to lop off a minimum of three of those stubby little sausage fingers.

Pretty sure it was Henry Ford who said that.




Till next we meet ...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Little Big Man


I'm a little guy.

On a good day, when gravity isn't being too dickish, I totter around at a vertigo-soothing five feet six inches.

Undertall for an average adult man, to be sure.

But hey, what are you gonna do? Genes are genes. They line up how they line up. No point getting fussed about it.

Unlike a lot of short guys, though, I've never been one to get overly hung up on my lack of verticality. No Napoleon Complexes for me, thanks.

Why?

Probably because, while I've always been a little guy, I've also always been a pretty big guy.

Which is to say, what I lack in height, I more than make up for in breadth.

Visual Approximation:

This. Except my cape isn't as fancy.
Also, I'm much blockier.

I've always been broad. Cartoonishly so. Even when I was thin. (Check that. "Thin" isn't really a thing I can be.) "Unfat" I suppose.

When I hit puberty it was like somebody yanked the ripcord on an airplane escape raft. Almost overnight, muscle sprouted everywhere. I went from a scrawny little spider monkey of a child ... to a lowland gorilla of a teen.

Sturdy. Burly. Dense. Thick.

I have the type of body that's built for pulling a plow. Like a Shetland pony crossed with a Clydesdale.

So even at my unfattest, I'm still absurdly broad.

Like a mailbox made of meat.


I honestly don't know how they got this photo of me without skin. I almost always have skin.


I'm often reminded of a great throw-away joke from Cheers:


WOODY
What are you up to, Mr. Peterson?

NORM
My ideal weight, if I were eleven feet tall.



Which pretty much sums up the relationship I've had with my body since about the age of 10. (By the way, some quick back-of-the-envelope math says my ideal height would be about 8'4".)

So I wasn't hugely surprised when the doctor turned to me and said:

"You are morbidly obese."

"Saywhatnow?"

(Okay, I was pretty surprised.)

"Morbidly obese."

"Morbidly?"

"Yup."

"As in--"

"Yup."

Jeez. I knew I'd paunched up a little in recent years, but it's not like I'm one of those poor souls that have to be cut out of their houses by the fire department.

"Just out of curiosity ... where are you getting those numbers?" I asked.

"Your BMI."

"Ah."

"That's Body--"

"Body Mass Index. Right. The chart. I'm familiar with its work."

"I'm sorry, but your pie chart seems to be composed entirely of pie."

Now, I'm not saying the chart is bullshit. It's a generalized tool meant to help a broad spectrum of people get healthier. I have no quarrel with that.

And I'm also not denying that I'm significantly "well-marbled" right now.

It's just that, if you're built like me -- and god help you if you are -- that chart doesn't really "work."

It doesn't factor in muscle mass or bone density or frame. So if you're a dense meat brick like myself, the numbers get a little squiffy.

According to the BMI chart, a fella of my height ought to be tipping the scales at roughly HALF of my current weight.

It's true -- I really do need to drop some weight. (I'm planning to shed about 50 pounds of unneeded girth over the next year.) But the BMI chart would prefer I drop a ludicrous 130!

This is not a thing that is likely. Nor is it -- without considerable assistance from a serious consumptive disorder and at least two amputations -- even remotely possible.

At the recommended 135 pounds, you'd be able to see every bone in my body. Every rib, every vertebrae, all my teeth ... Even the microscopic bones inside my eardrums.

Probably.

Look, I know my body. I've been lumbering around inside it for the past 45 years. At 190 pounds I'll have a pretty respectable six-pack. At 135 I'd be horrifying. Like, Christian-Bale-in-The-Machinist horrifying.

So, what I'm saying is ... if I can land in the neighborhood of 200 pounds ... that'll do, pig. That'll do.

"Hey kids! It's Mr. Bulky! Enjoy my thickness, won't you? I certainly don't!"


So while I try not to take the whole BMI thing too personally ... it does jab a pointy stick straight into one of my emotional sore spots.

Like I said at the top, I've never been hung up about being short.

But I've long been hung up about being wide.

I may not be tall, but I'm physically obtrusive.

Put simply ... I'm in your way.

It's an issue I've had my entire adult life. Even in the salad days of my 20s and 30s. Back before the washboard turned into a washtub.

I've always been in your way.

This is especially vexing for me because I consider Personal Space to be sacrosanct. A right guaranteed by the Constitution. Or the Magna Carta. Or at least by the unwritten, but widely agreed upon Social Contract. We are all entitled to our own physical buffer zone. I don't want you in mine, and I sure as hell don't want to be in yours.

Trouble is, when you're essentially a slow-moving man-hassock, it's near impossible to stay out of everybody's buffer zones.

I don't want to be in your way ... desperately so ... but my thickness makes a hypocrite of me. A fact that drives me more than a little nuts.

At all times, I'm acutely aware of the space I take up.

I twist and I contort, but I just can't help it. I'm physically obtrusive. I'm in your way.

"Sorry."
(sigh)

When you're broad, the world just isn't designed for you. Restaurant booths, crowded sidewalks, escalators, theater seats, not so crowded sidewalks, subways, buses, trains -- any kind of public transit, really -- it's all gonna be uncomfortable somehow.

I can't squeeze through a subway turnstile unless I twist sideways. I can't walk down the aisle of my commuter train without having to bob and weave to keep my shoulders from bouncing off the heads of everybody on the damn train as I trudge past.

Even those little "modesty" partitions they put between urinals to keep guys from spraying urine all over one another are too narrow for my ridiculous shoulders. I either have to stand further back (not recommended), or wedge myself in at a 45 (also not recommended). Hell, if men's public restroom toilet stalls weren't universally horrifying places, I'd consider doing all my peeing in there. But then, there's usually not enough room in those things for me to turn around either.

And as you'd expect, air travel is particularly fraught with miseries.

There's nothing quite so dispiriting as that grim, crestfallen look that settles over your seatmate's face when they realize the wide, rhinoceros-shaped guy squeezing down the aisle is headed for the seat next to them.

It sucks pretty hard knowing that your mere physical existence is causing other people discomfort.

I always try for an aisle seat so at least one shoulder can hang over the side. (Which then gets clipped by every single person heading to and from the toilet. Not to mention the bruises from the drink cart.) Then, in order to clear the arm rest, I clamp my hands in my armpits and cross my arms high across my chest for the duration of the flight. Worst case scenario, I also have to keep my torso twisted at a 45 degree angle the whole time.

When you're thick-set, the world is a neverending Parent/Teacher Night and you're crammed into those little kindergarten desks wherever you go.

Then, of course, there's the fact that I commute into Manhattan from Jersey every day. A voyage teeming with thousands of some of the most aggressive, impatient and hostile humans on the planet.

(I've said it before and I'll say it again: When we get the news that the asteroid is coming and the world is about to end, commuters will be the first ones to start with the cannibalism. Even before the asteroid hits. And even if they've just had lunch. Just to be dicks.)

I'm in their way. And they hate me for it.

I can feel their loathing searing into me as they push, shove and desperately scramble to get around, over and away from me at all costs. All the while, resenting the utter volume I occupy.

Every.

Single.

Day.

And it sucks.

Penn Station. 7th Avenue and 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001

(True, they pretty much hate every other living soul, too, but that doesn't make you feel any better about it in the moment.)

Buying clothes is exactly as vexing as you'd expect, too.

Well, buying nice clothes, at any rate. There really isn't a rack off of which I can buy formal wear. This is why I'm almost always seen wearing cargo shorts/pants and t-shirts. I just buy a double or triple XL in everything and roll it up.

The good news is, I'm mercifully through the gauntlet of all my friends' first marriages. There was a stretch in my 30s where I was asked to be in about a dozen weddings in a row. The chief indignity of renting a tuxedo when you're anvil-shaped is that you will endure more fittings and alterations than the bride. And when you're done, it's still going to look like shit and be crazy uncomfortable.

I remember once trying to buy a suit jacket at a Men's Warehouse and having a great deal of trouble finding one to fit me across the chest and back. (Nevermind the foot and a half they'd need to chop off the sleeves.)

The sales clerk, who clearly wished he was somewhere else, tried to hurry me along. He made no effort to hide his disdain. (His name, if I recall, was something like Smuggy McFuckStick, but I could be mis-remembering that.)

"I think I need more room through the shoulders and upper arms. It feels like I'm going to rip right out of it if I move wrong."

"Well, I don't think it's meant for wearing to the gym," he smirked condescendingly.

"Well, I don't think it would be appropriate if it splits up the back while I'm carrying the coffin," I shot back.

He didn't say much after that.

And yes. One of the armpits did rip out during that funeral. But fortunately, no one noticed.

Except me.



So, yeah ... the point is ... I'm sorry for being in your way.

Maybe someday I'll figure out how to get out of mine.






Till next we meet ...





(Total side note: If we have Big & Tall stores why don't we have Short & Thick stores? Humans CAN be big without being tall, people. It's Science.)

(Seriously, how great would it be to have a shop that specifically carried short and thick sizes? How great? Very great. And it should be called "Napoleon's Complex." And I would totally shop there all the time.)



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sorry, Drew Barrymore.


"IF YOU CAN START FIRES WITH YOUR MIND, PLEASE DO NOT USE THE WASHING MACHINE"


Thank you,
--The Management




Till next we meet ...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Getting The Finger


"It'll be okay," the doctor said with a wry smile. "I have thin fingers."

He didn't, though.

He really didn't.

I'd taken note of them when we'd met and shaken hands not twenty minutes prior.



The thing about hitching a ride on this good earth as she lazily rolls ever onward on her belly ... is that the more she rolls, the more each of us cracks and crumbles just a little bit under her weight.

This is not a revelation, of course. That's mortality for you. Time and tide, they say. Happens to the best of us.

One day you're ten years old, playing pick-up baseball in the vacant lot around the corner from your house, and the next ... well, you look up and you're smack in the middle of middle age.

And when that day comes, you'd better be ready for a stranger with a wall of diplomas to be two knuckles deep in your ass.

And hopefully, for your sake, that stranger will be a doctor.


"Number 1? I don't mean to tell you your job, Doc, but if #1 is what you're looking for, you've got the wrong hole."


For the purposes of our discussion, I consider the Stages of Life to break down into 30-year chunks as follows:

0-30: YOUNG

30-60: MIDDLE AGED

60-90: OLD

90+: THE BONUS ROUND

By that reckoning, since I was essentially within hours of my 45th birthday last week, that put me dead smack in the exact geographical middle of middle age. I was straddling, almost to the minute, the International Date Line between the first and (hopefully) second half of my life.

So I knew what to expect at this check-up. And I really thought I had prepared myself for it. I thought I had steeled myself. Thought I was ready.

After all, that's his job, I reasoned. And he'd be a bad doctor if he didn't do his job.

Did I want him to be a bad doctor? No. No, of course not.

The rest of the physical had gone off without a hitch. Nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it was going pretty well so far.

Still, I knew he was going to say it. And when those words inevitably came, I told myself, I was going to take everything in stride and behave like an adult.

"I'm gonna need you to drop your shorts and bend over the exam table," he said, snapping on a rubber glove.

Boom.

There it was.


(sigh)

Ok.

Here we go.

Everything's fine.

We've prepared for this.

Tooootally ready for it.










"It works better if you back up into it."









Um ...








"I'm sorry?"

"It works better."

"If I ..."

"Yes."

"... back ..."

"If you back up into it, yes."








Huh.









I was expecting the "drop your shorts" part ... but ...

What the shit?!

Did it really work better? Or was was he just lazy. (Both could be true, I suppose.)

Now, I'm no medical expert, so I can't speak to the clinical efficacy of the "backing up" technique. But can tell you that the chaotic hot-air popper of thoughts suddenly ping-ponging around the inside of my skull at that moment were equal parts confusion, alarm and surprise with a liberal dash of "wait-what-now?".

In the course of just a few seconds, without a single rehearsal, I rocketed from being a reluctant audience member in our gross little play, to the headliner with his name on the marquee.

I was suddenly complicit in the act. I was the one doing it, not him.

Because technically, he didn't stick his finger up my ass ... I shoved my ass all over his finger!

(Which, incidentally, would make the most horrifying Peanut Butter Cup commercial ever.)

"Show me on the doll where the chocolate touched your peanut butter."

So while my mind spun, trying and failing to grapple with a panicky miasma of irrational thoughts, my body dutifully just backed up and got on with it.

Boop!

My brain had essentially short-circuited and needed a second to reboot and my body took over. By the time my mental start-up screen returned, he was snapping off his glove.

Was it --? Was that ... it?

He couldn't possibly be done with his traumatic, invasive plunging about. No way. I must have mis-heard. He must be snapping on a second glove because this was about to get extra horrible. After all, he had four more fingers and a whole palm to jam in there. Not to mention another hand and a couple of feet.

I gripped the exam table harder and braced for the worst.

But all I got was a reassuring tap on the shoulder.

Was it ... was it ... ?

"All righty."

That couldn't have been it, my mind yelled at me. Was he seriously just casually chatting away as though he wasn't about to go groping around my large intestine like a bear scooping out paw-fuls of grubs from an old log? Stand-up comedians and sit-coms have told me my entire life that this will be a singularly upsetting and traumatizing experience. THEY WOULDN'T LIE TO ME! WOULD THEY?! WOULD THEY!?

"You can get dressed and come on back to my office when you're ready."

And he was gone.






Huh.





Sooo ...






Huh.





But the thing was ... I didn't actually remember it happening.





I guess maybe it does work better if you back up into it.





Till next we meet ...