One More Thing…

Read this one in Peter Falk’s voice. It will sound so much better, trust me.

There are a great many things that I don’t understand. Vegans, reality TV, that stupid security tape on CDs and DVDs that is utterly impossible to pull of in one piece, you get the idea. But if there’s one thing that’s really bugging me right now, it’s economics. That’s not quite true, actually. There’s something just a little bit deeper that’s eating away at me. Let’s see if we can figure it out.

I enjoy objectifying men. Some people feel that it is wrong to objectify women, but I disagree. I love pornography. I also, as I mentioned in the post prior to this one, saw Skyfall recently and spent many long minutes drooling over Daniel Craig’s ripped body and glorious face. I want to have sex with him. There’s nothing wrong with that. I also want to rule the world, but until I can program these robots so that they will be sentient, adaptable, and fiercely loyal to me (how many mad scientists have sabotaged their own plans by forgetting about that one?), I’ll have to be content with my fantasies. As you might have noticed by now, I have a vivid imagination.

Okay, maybe that was too much information. I’m sorry. I have a lot on my mind. Let’s talk a little bit more about James Bond. The gender politics in that series have always been icky, but that is changing, albeit slowly. CraigBond is a bit more tender than ConneryBond or even BrosnanBond, and I don’t mind saying that while I wouldn’t mind saving the world with Sean Connery, I’m not sure I would enjoy being romanced by him. Some entitled old white men have bemoaned our culture’s gradual shift away from men who win women simply by dressing nicely and being available, and to that I say: good. How many movies can you name in which an average-looking sad sack woos a perfect 10? The former is almost always a man, the latter almost always a woman. Some cases are excusable–Knocked Up, in which the imbalance between the two was the entire point of the film, and Sideways, in which the woman was prettier, but no less well-developed–but after a while, the examples pile up. The most blatant example of this that I can name is Adam Sandler, whose characters have slept with dozens, if not hundreds of women who would not give a guy like him a second glance if they weren’t receiving a fat sack of cash for it. I suppose you could argue that Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison are funny in a very juvenile, Friday-night-rental kind of way, but the five minutes I spent watching I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (I couldn’t stomach any more) actually made me angry. What gives Sandler the right to cast himself as a total ladies’ man? Let me rephrase that. He certainly has the right, but that doesn’t make it right.

Adam Sandler movies have gone from being merely lazy to openly contemptuous of their audience. Jack and Jill was basically a feature-length scam, nothing more than an excuse for Sandler and his buddies to collect ridiculously inflated paychecks just to hang out and act like guys. Grown Ups, from what I can tell, was basically the same thing, although someone is bound to point out that Chris Rock is still awesome, so I’ll go ahead and say it: Chris Rock is awesome. Moving on…

The climax of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, according to what I’ve read (normally, it’s wrong to judge something without having seen it, but here, I honestly don’t give a shit), involves Kevin James and Adam Sandler’s little scheme to pass themselves off as gay lovers unraveling when the two can’t bring themselves to kiss each other in public. If you’re going to sign on for a ploy like that, shouldn’t you be prepared to at least give your “partner” a little peck on the cheek? But Sandler caves to the homophobia of his audience, still trying to include a message of tolerance by adding that it’s wrong to use the word “faggot”. Is it? I say “faggot” all the time. Faggot faggot faggot. And while I’m at it, homo queer cocksucker fudgepacker butt pirate pole-smoker gaylord gaywad gayass. Were you offended by that? If so, you’re on the wrong website.

I used to see every movie that was supposed to be good. I got bored with that after a while. These days, I see movies if they have some special relevance to me. A few weeks ago, I saw The Band Wagon, a fun old musical about the difficulties of working in the theater. This weekend, I think I’ll watch Food, Inc., for no reason other than that it’s been on my Netflix queue for some time and it will no longer be available for streaming as of Monday. But I will always have a special place in my heart for anything that is weird, out there, or just plain nuts. Speaking of which…

There’s only one way that I can properly describe this movie to somebody who’s never seen it: If you were a sci-fi-writing, disco-dancing leather daddy, this is what your acid trips would look like. That’s all I’ve got, seriously. It’s one of the greatest “so bad it’s good” movies ever made, a hallucinatory, hideously excessive futuristic musical with hammy overacting, surprisingly catchy tunes, sharp choreography, and a script so unhinged that when it ends with the most blatant deus ex machina this side of the Battlestar Galactica finale, it feels earned rather than cheap. If you are intrigued by cult movies at all, I cannot recommend The AppleĀ highly enough. It’s available for streaming on Netflix, in case anyone cares.

Stay out of trouble, everyone. I’ll be back soon.

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My Blog Needs a Gritty Reboot

I just saw Skyfall and thought it was great. One of the popular topics of discussion amongst Bond fans is whether James Bond is one person or just a code name taken by a succession of people. The former explains why he is played by different actors in different movies and how he can spend 50 years saving the world without getting any older. It’s a nice idea, but Skyfall lays waste to this idea, paying explicit homage to the Sean Connery films by having Daniel Craig drive the old Aston Martin and do other things that I don’t want to mention for fear of spoiling the plot. Thus, I suggest a better theory, one that explains basically everything that I need it do without getting too bogged down in all these pesky notions of believability and realism: James Bond is a superhero. There, that’s it. Spider-Man has been fighting crime since the 1960s, yet we usually just assume that his origin story happened 10-15 years ago. I’m not a comics nerd (yet), but I’m pretty sure that’s how those guys manage to wrap their heads around the constant rewriting and recasting of their beloved characters. Some have suggested that James Bond is a Time Lord, which is a nice idea, but for once, I’m not going to drag Doctor Who into the discussion. He’s a superhero. There, that’s it.

It took all the willpower I had not to use this image.

Casino Royale was, to some purists, not a proper Bond movie. He didn’t have any cool gadgets (no, a defibrillator does not count), didn’t flirt with Moneypenny, and didn’t make any corny puns. Those people will no doubt enjoy Skyfall, as Daniel Craig does all of that and more in this film while still retaining the edginess and all-around badassery that made him arguably the best Bond since Connery. And as fans of the books will tell you, Craig’s Bond is far closer to what Ian Fleming envisioned than anything by Connery, Dalton, Moore, Lazenby, or Brosnan. He’s sexy, but not “pretty”. He’s also shorter and blonder than any of the other guys. If my life got a gritty reboot, I would demand that I be played by Daniel Radcliffe, who could probably capture my obsessive nature, peerless intellect, and devilish good looks about as well as could be expected from someone who is not the Robot King.

I’m definitely this handsome.

Gear shift: There are times when I wish I could just start my whole life over again from the beginning. Even when I can point to certain elements of it that I don’t hate, there are too many things inextricably intertwined with that that continue to vex me. One thing that I’ve learned in all my years of being wronged is that any apology that you have to actively pursue is not worth it. Sometimes people apologize to me for no reason, and I try to be patient with them as I explain that they don’t need to do that and honestly, it can get kind of annoying if they do it too much. Sometimes people demand an apology out of me. They almost never get it, as I am an asshole, but more importantly, I’m too busy trying to get my own life started to hate myself for every joke that went too far or every deadline that I failed to meet because I was too busy crying myself to sleep. I used to make the mistake of thinking that every apology that I received was some sort of victory. Occasionally, people use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card. (“You can’t get mad at me for that! I apologized!”) Sometimes, they realize they’ve offended me, but don’t understand why. I hate to say it, but love without understanding is useless. If you value someone but don’t see them for who they truly are, you don’t have a leg to stand on. It stings, doesn’t it? Yeah, I know the feeling.

So, back to James Bond. Actually, let’s talk about Kevin Clash. The Elmo puppeteer resigned from his post last week after 28 years on the job and frankly, I wish he had tried to tough the storm out. As of now, three men have come forward saying that he used them for underage sex. Whether there is any veracity to the stories is hard to say, but one thing that I can say for certain is that to me, they look like they just want attention. Nowhere in any of the statements issued by his victims can I find anything about protecting the other boys that he might abuse or putting an abuser behind bars. Instead, they just want money. Lots and lots of it. I don’t know why Kevin Clash sought out teenagers for sex rather than men his own age. Perhaps he thinks they’re sexy. More probably, he was so full of denial and self-loathing that he couldn’t bring himself to reveal that part of himself to somebody his own age. I know I’m being an armchair psychologist here, but I don’t care. We need to learn to stop seeing every error in judgment as a career-destroying mistake just because it involves somebody’s sex life. There is a world of difference between what Clash (allegedly) did and a priest fondling altar boys. The men here were not only consenting, they met Clash on a gay chat line. If they lied about their age to get laid, then Clash is no more of a creep than Steven Tyler and a zillion other rockers who slept with underage groupies. I repeat that I am not saying that Clash is not guilty of any wrongdoing, only that this whole affair has been blown way out of proportion.

Normally, I try to be deferential to victims who come forward to accuse powerful people. Right-wing douchebags wrote off the woman who spoke out against Herman Caine before they even knew her name. That was disgusting, misogynistic, and blatantly partisan. But here, the shoe is on the other foot. Being young doesn’t prevent a person from being a predator. These three men clearly just want money and/or attention, and I’d be saying the same thing if they were women.

I hope Kevin Clash is able to get his life restarted somewhere else. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Whether or not you think this dude is a creepazoid, the whole story is just depressing.

Awareness

I read Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke when I was eighteen and it hit me really hard. In the way that only certain books at certain times can. The protagonist is a sex addict whose best friend, a chronic masturbator, says that he would like to be a good person but is having enough trouble just not being a total asshole. I know exactly how he feels. Part of growing up is learning to push back against a world that keeps trying to force you to fit into a neat little box. I’m more complicated than that, but then again, isn’t everyone?

I used to be so insecure that I showed up to every social event that I got invited to because I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t. My first summer home from college, weeks would go by in which I would not talk to anyone besides my father and my coworkers. One day, I was walking down the street in such a transparently awful mood that a pair of cops pulled over to ask if I was alright. Something tells me the NYPD wouldn’t do that. But it’s nice to be able to say “No, thanks” for a change. If you’ve struggled with loneliness (and who hasn’t?), you know how it feels to spend an entire week looking forward to lunch with an old friend just so that you can experience relevant interaction with another human being for an hour or less. I’ve gotten better at living on my own. While Hurricane Sandy was in town, I went for two and a half days without leaving my apartment or seeing another person up close. (My roommate was staying with his partner.) It wasn’t that bad, actually.

My brain constantly feels like it’s being stretched, pulled, or compressed. That’s the other rough part of living alone: when you have an entire day to yourself, you find yourself overloaded with options. Should I read that book I’ve been meaning to get around to, catch up on that TV show, or do something more “productive”, like homework, exercising, or whatever? Strictly speaking, you don’t have to do any of those things, so hopefully, you can find a balance between fulfilling your academic and professional obligations and leaving time to watch Conan. It helps to be aware of the problem. That won’t solve it all by itself, but it can certainly take the edge off. Once you realize that the problem isn’t you, just your lack of experience at balancing all of your commitments, you hate yourself a bit less, and you can hopefully sleep a little better.

Something weird happened not too long ago that gave me a rare boost of confidence. A member of my workshop group gave a dry run of our final presentation to the faculty, and out of all the feedback we received, the overriding criticism was that we were failing to tell a story. Hey, I know about that! Part of the reason I’ve struggled so much over the past two semesters is that I can’t quite find the intersection between the things that I’m comfortable doing and the things that this program requires me to do. I’d like to believe that I’m not here by accident, but I still spend a lot of time blankly staring at my computer or banging my head against the wall trying to figure out what everybody wants from me. This time, however, I felt comfortable saying that I understood what needed fixing better than anybody else in my group. They kept trying to figure out what the overarching narrative was. I insisted that we should focus on the little things that don’t work first, and the story would emerge. Some thought that was ridiculous, but I think they took more of what I said to heart than they realize. I’m going to talk about Star Wars now.

I am not as worried about George Lucas’ selling his most beloved property to Disney as some are, but that’s not to say that I think it’s a good idea. One of the things that I always liked about the Star Wars universe is its commitment to continuity. Some have speculated that Lucas might have Asperger’s, and if so, that could explain his hardline stance against allowing alternate universes, retcons, or any internal contradictions to slip into the extended universe. The books, video games, and, of course, movies are, as far as I can tell, perfectly consistent with one another. Compare that with something like, say, Marvel Comics, which employs people whose sole job is to maintain continuity between the various storylines. Hell, I even knew a guy who was hoping to go into that once he graduated. Doctor Who has a similar problem, not with retcons but with the writers using time travel/parallel universes/whatever to explain why the character we bid farewell to in the last season is back for one last hurrah. That gets annoying. I understand that every writer has their own take on the character and is convinced that people will forgive them for resurrecting Davros for the umpteenth time if the new story is good enough, but there must be some way to kill a character and announce for good that they’re not coming back. Actually, there isn’t. The only way to ensure that is to own the exclusive legal rights to the universe. Which George Lucas just gave up. Oh, well.

I’m going to leave you with this. I love Eddie Izzard.

Hating Twilight Is My Hobby

A chapter in my life is drawing to a close. I have always made a hobby out of hating things that are not awesome, and now, one of my favorite targets is retiring its cultural significance. It could be a long time before another cultural phenomenon this obnoxious, empty, and thoroughly hilarious comes along. People I respect tell me The Hunger Games is quite the page-turner. I suppose I could start watching the Disney Channel again, but that would just make me feel creepy. Seriously, what are the kids into these days? I wasn’t up-to-date on that sort of thing even when I was a kid, but I must confess to having a certain fascination with something that is so obviously a product. Looking at the lead actors, I see that Robert Pattinson doesn’t much care for the series, Kristen Stewart has only one facial expression, and Taylor Lautner has looks and enthusiasm, but no talent that I can discern. He was the best thing about the first two movies, but that was just because he was the only cast member who seemed to give a shit. I’ll post a shirtless picture of him just for old time’s sake, but really, I think it’s better for both of us if I just move on.

So long, Taylor. It was nice knowing your torso, I mean, you.

I honestly don’t know if anyone involved in the books or films besides Stephenie “How do I spell that?” Meyer actually thinks that they have created good art. I have a soft spot for romances, but I need them to feel honest and realistic, not shallow and derivative. Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I picked up 50 Shades of Grey in a bookstore and read the first page. It took about 20 seconds. The print is very large, possibly out of consideration for the intelligence level of its target audience. If the author intends to write any more books, I suggest she consider leaving words out entirely and just telling the story through crayon drawings. It would probably be more titillating, and would spare the English language the great abuses that it has suffered at her hands. I am not a misogynist, partially because I know that men like things that are equally stupid and probably as misogynistic. But our stuff isn’t walled off from everything else the way that “chick stuff” is. I know women who like The Matrix. I’ve met some who enjoyed Michael Bay’s Transformers, and as soon as I finished shaming them for having such uncultured and intellectually unrefined tastes, I reflected that I know one, maybe two (straight) guys who would admit to enjoying Twilight. Taken as a film, Twilight is probably better than Transformers. It’s moody and atmospheric, with some nice flashes of subdued humor and a central relationship that isn’t particularly romantic, but is kind of creepily fascinating. I cannot say any such thing about any of Michael Bay’s filmography. (Okay, I did kind of enjoy The Rock, but sweet Jesus, what a loud, dumb, overblown movie.) See where I’m going with all this?

If there is one thing about the Twilight films (and I haven’t seen the latest one but will undoubtedly watch it as soon as the Rifftrax becomes available) that I genuinely enjoyed, it’s Bella’s father, Charlie. He is something of a stereotypically overprotective movie father, but he’s also the only truly sympathetic major character in the series, loving and supporting his daughter in good times and bad, and never missing the opportunity to undercut the melodrama with a clever aside. He also rocks a mustache that, in a fair and just world, would have its own separate billing (much like David Bowie’s crotch in Labyrinth deserved but was so cruelly denied.)

Men come and go, but the Mustache abides.

I used to make fun of Dan Brown a lot, but his date of relevancy seems to have passed. His characters were thin, his plots silly and full of holes, and his historical puzzles nowhere near as clever as they first seemed. I even wrote a scene parodying him for my undergraduate sketch comedy group, taking the time to research “Easter eggs” hidden in Michelangelo’s art so that I could piece together a mystery of my own. The scene ended with the villainess killing the other characters with David’s genitals (which turns out to be a magical artifact that gives the bearer power over life and death), then resurrecting them and leading her army of the undead off to the sounds of (what else?) “Thriller“. It was rejected for being “too intellectual”. I fail to see how that is a bad thing.

Where to go from here? I don’t know. I’m failing at least two of my classes, racking up tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and still firmly believe that I’m at least as smart, talented and driven as anyone at Columbia, if not more so. So maybe I don’t have to retire Twilight as an object of mockery just yet. It might be fascinating to see where the young actors’ careers go from here. Taylor Lautner, I imagine, will fade rapidly unless he turns to modeling. Kristen Stewart might survive, but since I don’t like her, I don’t give a shit what happens to her. Is Robert Pattinson a talented actor? It’s kind of hard to tell. He seems charming enough, but I haven’t seen anything else he’s been in besides Harry Potter (in which he had only a small role.) Not that David Cronenberg movie, not Bel Ami, not anything else.

Bel Ami, in case anyone is wondering, is a beloved 19th-century novel by Guy de Maupaussant. It definitely is not also the name of one of the best gay porn studios in the world. No, that would be just ridiculous.

Guilty Pleasures

What makes the gay marriage debate so interesting is that there is only one reasonable conclusion, yet everybody comes around to it in a different way (provided, of course, that they come around at all.) Perhaps that’s why some of the holdouts are so resistant. When everybody tells you that you absolutely must see the new Batman movie, don’t you almost want to see it just so you can tell everybody else how wrong they were? I went through that with The Dark Knight, enjoying it a great deal but finding myself distracted by its pacing issues and wondering why all of the praise for Heath Ledger’s performance had to eclipse Aaron Eckhart’s outstanding turn. No matter what perspective I take in examining it–legal, moral, spiritual, or otherwise–I cannot escape thinking that gay marriage is not just right, but necessary. Your reasoning can be purely selfish (“I’m gay, and I’d like to marry the man/woman I love”) or born out of sheer indifference (“I’m straight, but I don’t care what other people do with their own lives.”) Either position is acceptable (they’re opposite sides of the same coin, really), as is everything in between. But saying that you don’t agree with something and therefore have the right to make it illegal does not make sense, never has, and never will.

If you have the time, you should watch Mike Huckabee’s recent interview on The Daily Show. I’m trying to embed it, but can’t, as WordPress seems to have a hard time embedding anything that isn’t on YouTube. But here’s the link (parts one and two), in case anybody gives a damn. I was surprised at just how angry it made me. I’ve never liked Mike Huckabee, but to hear him tell Jon Stewart right to his face that the fiery imagery in a political ad he voiced had nothing to do with Hell made my blood boil. Fire isn’t just fire, you nitwit, just as a cross to bear can take many metaphorical forms. I especially love his dismissive answer to Stewart’s query about why he thinks gay marriage is a greater threat to Christian values than poverty–basically, that the ad was short, and that was all they had time for. Fuck you. I’ve given money to charity before, and not because it’s convenient. Huckabee tells Jon Stewart to read 1 Corinthians, as if the fact that he has read something that Jon hasn’t somehow proves his point. I’ve read 1 Corinthians, and I still think Mike Huckabee is full of shit. He is incapable of extrapolating on the literal meaning of anything. Opposing gay marriage is not like opposing interracial marriage because black people and gay people are not the same. Also, some people wear hats and some don’t, so we should treat the people who wear hats differently than those that don’t. Because that is totally fair and Christian.

On some level, Huckabee is correct that a person’s faith cannot be separated from their vote. It’s always dangerous to try to isolate one part of oneself. That, in a nutshell, is what makes internalized homophobia so dangerous. The harder you try to pretend something isn’t there, the the faster and fiercer it will eat you alive. I’m sick of people who try to control society, then wall themselves off from it when it doesn’t go their way. In way, the anti-gay marriage crowd is no better than the people who read gossip magazines and judge the stars who cheat on their spouses. In a lot of cases it amounts to nothing more than slut-shaming, as when Kristen Stewart slept with a married man. From the hate she got, you’d think she had raped a baby. The best recent example of this, of course, is the Dave Petraeus scandal, which I won’t spend too much time on since my prevailing response to the “scandal” is best expressed in this gif.

I will say, however, that in spite of all this nonsensical, blatantly misogynistic talk about how Paula Broadwell seduced a saintly man whose only flaw was in caring too deeply about others, I still got a kick out of this:

Not PhotoShopped, that’s the real title!

Why do we care about the private lives of celebrities? I guess it’s because we want to believe that they’re like the people they portray in their art. Usually, they aren’t, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still embody some of those qualities. I was heartbroken to read about Henry Fonda’s personal life and hear him described as temperamental, cold, and narcissistic. He not only starred in and produced 12 Angry Men, one of my favorite films of all time, but represented something fundamentally honest, altruistic, and noble in basically everything I’ve seen him in besides Once Upon a Time in the West. Maybe he wasn’t like that. Then again, maybe he was more like that than people give him credit for. His children both report that he was not a very good father. But plenty of good people have troubled relationships with their kids. I get along with my mother right now, but for much of my life, that was not the case, and the fact that virtually everyone who encountered her thought she was wonderful exacerbated rather than soothed my resentment. I kind of have to believe that in spite of his numerous flaws, Henry Fonda was somehow more than the sum of his parts, that it wasn’t an accident or some act of mass deception that turned him into the icon that he is. I have similar feelings about Christopher Eccleston, the 9th Doctor, who was described by at least one of his castmates on Doctor Who as cranky and, frankly, just not a fun person to be around. I can be like that, but I don’t think that tells you everything about a person.

Sometimes it is fair to ask questions about the private nature of somebody we admire, and sometimes, you have to just back the fuck off. It is possible to be a terrible human being and a great artist, but I think most, if not all of the artists, politicians, journalists, and other figures that inspire me do so because I try to look past whatever is superficial about a person and, if I can, glimpse their soul. Gandhi was a deeply flawed man in some ways, but he accomplished many great things. Let us try to see all of his sides rather than just the ones that make us feel comfortable.