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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: March 1-April 16, 2005

Wednesday, March 30, 2005:

It's a wonderful day outside today. Spring has sprouted! Sun and breeze and sweet-smelling air and a total lack of any snow residue (though I guess the ground is still a little soggy). It may well have been similarly nice yesterday, but I was too busy being mopey to notice. Today, though, feelin' purty good.

This kind of weather always makes me think of two memories from my carefree youth:

In eighth grade, on the first day of the year when I felt like keeping my bedroom window open, I remember I had to spend the afternoon working on a poster that defined and illustrated the word inscrutable, which was the Word Masters word I'd been assigned in my English class. I was listening to Kerosene Hat by Cracker and drawing a rifle-laden postman climbing a clock tower with what I believed to be an "inscrutable" look on his face, and this wonderful breeze started blowing through my room, at which point I just felt so peaceful and content that I had to lie down on my back on the floor, motionless, for about 20 minutes. Perfect little moment that always comes rushing back at this time of year.

The second memory comes from eleventh grade: I'd just gotten my driver's license at the beginning of spring, so my mom started sending me on errands after school. I'd occasionally take T-Bone along with me, and for several weeks, our favorite pastime was to slowly cruise through the subdivision, blasting "Orgasm Addict" and "Oh Shit!" by The Buzzcocks as loud as the Blazer's stereo would go, and giggling uncontrollably at the idea of corrupting all the kids in the area.

And in the time it's taken me to type this, the temperature has fallen to about two degrees lower than the level at which my window can be comfortably be left open. So it's time to shut it, tape the aluminum foil back up, and see what the Netflix Fairy brought today.


Who or what is "The Verdict" and why did I order that?

CURRENT MUSIC: ABC Music by Stereolab.
MOM: "Thanks for e-mailing us that picture of you and Bev, where you're wearing the hardhats. It's a really cute picture, but your dad is trying to figure out the red-eye filter in that photo software to make your eyes the normal color... [sounds of Dad giggling in the background several minutes later] Okay, he has now made your eyeballs completely white, given Bev a moustache and put a gigantic scar across your cheek."
5:50 PM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, March 29, 2005:

I'm having a low. At work, Grace forwarded me a Humane Society bulletin on Canada's new open season on baby seals, and I totally lost it. They're skinning baby seals alive- like, what more could you do to inflict unnecessary pain on the innocent? Rape homeless orphans with the sharpened corpses of ducklings? Use blind, nonagenarian Holocaust survivors as bowling pins? I hate it here. Donated $100 to the Humane Society to fight this new trend, and it will accomplish nothing. Much as my donations to Move On and America Coming Together accomplished nothing. Because guess what? We're powerless. Evil will prevail.

Paul Hester of Split Enz and Crowded House killed himself this weekend. He had two kids, ages five and ten. I can't imagine the horror they're going through, but I'm really sad myself about it. T-Bone is probably the biggest fan of the Enz lineage in the United States, so I grew up hearing anecdote after anecdote about Paul, listening to innumerable live Crowded House bootlegs on which Paul would take the mike and say funny things, or unknowingly listening to songs that Paul had written (I think the name of his solo project was Largest Living Things) and thinking they were really damn good... It didn't hurt me as much as it did when Dave Blood did the same thing a little over a year ago, but this still hurt. Suicide just spreads the pain around, folks; doesn't eliminate any of it. I know this entry is going to be read by, like, a dozen people, none of whom are particularly suicidal (I hope- and if you are, whoever you are, I want to let you know that you can always confidentially talk to me if there's any chance of me easing your pain at all, even a little), and I can't improve upon the plea that Mark wrote in his intro to the interview with Dave, but although I can totally understand the impulses that would prompt someone to kill him-or-herself, doing so makes the world significantly worse unless your name is Tom DeLay, so don't.

Earlier today, MSNBC reported that Jerry Falwell had a massive heart attack and was in critical condition. This was later retracted once it was found that he had merely(?) been hospitalized with pneumonia (GREAT REPORTING THERE!), and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel somewhat crestfallen at that news. And I feel absolutely horrible about that. He's a total douche, obviously- a bigoted, hatemongering asshole who takes advantage of plenty of people who I believe to be essentially benevolent but misguided and confused- but I'm no better than he is if my initial reaction to hearing that his condition wasn't as serious as initially reported was "Bummer, dude." My soul is just as full of hatred as his. Doesn't matter where that hatred is directed. (I mean, I don't really believe that anyone is any better than anyone else period- not to get all religious/philosophical, but we're all just silly little wads of greasy viscera, pollarded knobs, and cheap cling wrap who have no clue what's actually going on. Mother Teresa was no better than the BTK guy, and I don't think she would dispute that; we're all just nasty, shortsighted little beings who are ultimately terribly selfish, sprinting to surfeit, blaming others when we get there, and unable to see the big picture, whatever that may be. But within the box that is Life As We Know It, Falwell and I are total bastards.)

So what'd I do this afternoon? I went shopping! S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G! Hitting up Media Play for the new Beck album, the Incredibles DVD and that Ramones documentary didn't take the taste of the world out of my mouth, so I went to Meijer for food (and booze) instead. I decided that it was finally time for me to do some actual grocery shopping, rather than picking up three or four items here and there as I ran out. Bought lots of delicious stuff that I didn't necessarily need, in the hopes that I might be able to send a signal through my tastebuds to my conscience to tell it to shut the fuck up. I haven't had any bagels for awhile, so I bought bagels. (They didn't have any tongs with which to grab the bagels from the bin, and my hands felt grubby, so I had to turn the plastic bag inside out and pick up the individual bagels the same way you'd pick up your dog's poo.)

I remember reading a care guide for quaker parrots a few years ago, when Jen and I bought Bucky, and in the food section, it read, "Warm oatmeal can feel like love to a quaker." I remembered that line while in the store and practically broke down in tears. How wonderful this world would be if that were universal! Would that we were all that simple.

Do you remember that one X-Files that pissed a lot of fans off (but I found overwhelmingly beautiful) about how all the victims of a certain child murderer had been whisked away to a joyous afterlife before they actually had to feel any pain? That's what I want. Not for myself, because God knows I'm culpable for any number of evils, but for all the animals and innocent victims and good people and people who really tried to make things better and my family and friends and poor, sweet Bev who puts up with me even though she obviously doesn't have to...

Thanks, all, for being my friends. Otherwise, fuck this evil, stupid, hateful world of shit.

CURRENT MUSIC: Guero by Beck. I'm not very impressed thus far. Sampling the Beastie Boys? Blatantly rewriting "Blackhole"? I know Beck's all about self-parody and oxymorons, but that's not the good kind.
Really bitchy, I guess.
CAN YOU TELL THAT I WEANED MYSELF OFF OF LEXAPRO AGAINST ALL MEDICAL ADVICE? The smart money says you can. (Don't worry. I'm going back.) "You see, the thing is, Chris, is that your drug, it's effectively changing the world for the better. I mean, have you heard that crack is, you know, gone? I mean, crime is down, and oddly enough, so is tourism. So if I haven't said it before, you know, good job."
8:31 PM.

Doot? | |

Monday, March 21, 2005:

I went to Maine last week, Bev got her tubes tied, I got pulled over while driving her car (long story- I didn't get a ticket, but I did get to hear a real-life cop actually say, "Carry on!" which was no small thrill), and we got engaged, so it was a productive trip. But that's not what I'm here to talk to you about right now. I'm giving you that information so you won't be confused when I now refer to Bev as "my fiancee."

Tonight (well, Sunday night; it's now technically Monday morning), after watching the wonderfully awful CBS Sunday Movie Spring Break Shark Attack, my fiancee and I had a small disagreement over how to spell "roofies," the date rape drug that was a pivotal plot point in tonight's film, as you would expect in a film whose main draw is rubber shark fins. Bev insisted that she'd always seen it spelled "ruffies," which really wouldn't work without an umlaut (though an umlaut really would make it a bad-ass drug name), but she stuck to her guns, so I looked it up online. My spelling got about 37,000 hits, hers got 5,900 or so, so I won.

However, we did wind up at the official White House Office of National Drug Control Policy website, which was pretty funny, because like most law enforcement publications about drugs, it has a bunch of great lists of "street names" for illegal substances that would be about as convincing to people actually involved in the drug trade as an undercover cop wearing a Jerry Garcia tie to make himself look hard. I'll let you have the fun of looking up most of them on your own, but the "fact sheet" on heroin claims that the street toughs of our nation refer to heroin as "Bart Simpson."

So apparently, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (or the "Jive Hotcakes Society," as it's known on the street) is getting all its information directly from Megan Jasper.

CURRENT MOOD: Sleepy but amused.
Locusts. Coming in April. It promises to be as spectacular as that killer ant one that was on when I was in high school.
12:30 AM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, March 13, 2005:

Because I've been in a really crappy mood for the past week or so, here are a few things that have made me happy lately, outside the usual joy of Bev/friends/immediate family/TV:

Last night, I randomly got an e-mail from Gregg Turkington, Neil Hamburger's producer (as well as member of the Zip Code Rapists and Faxed Head, and co-author of the head-spinningly brilliant book Warm Voices Rearranged: Anagram Record Reviews), thanking me for my reviews of Neil's albums. Gregg said he'd try to get Drag City to send me a promo copy of Neil's new album, which is out April 29. How cool is that?

My cousin Caitlin gave me a package containing a bunch of burned copies of CDs she enjoys, and for the cover of each CD case, she made a collage of pictures of a different celebrity she knows I despise (e.g., John Mayer, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton). I laughed very hard upon opening it.

And here is the most sublimely hilarious picture I've seen in a long time:

(It's part of a really funny photo collection here.)

CURRENT MUSIC: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo! (Side note: Half.com says that if you enjoy this album, you may also enjoy Freedom of Choice by Devo, Devo's Greatest Hits compilation, and... the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.)
Paralyzed by the ease with which obliteration can be obtained.
4:15. Gotta drive my brother and his girlfriend to the airport.
7:29 PM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, March 1, 2005:

I'm not going to do my minute-by-minute Oscar recap this year because the ceremony was so impossibly boring, but feel free to either read the ones I wrote last year and the year before or else read the new one by Wing Chun and Sars from Television Without Pity. I'll just touch on a few important points:

1. After having heard all those sorry nominees for Best Original Song, I have to say there's no reason that at least three songs from Team America shouldn't have been nominated.
2. Bev and I were both convinced that Pierce Brosnan was affecting laryngitis in the hope of sounding more like James Mason.
3. It has finally been officially confirmed that the Best Screenplay categories are always the de facto "best films of the year" awards, while Best Picture is reserved for "the one we feel obligated to vote for." Of the four Best Picture nominees I've seen (I took a pass on Finding Neverland), Sideways blew the other three out of the water in the twin departments of creativity and quality, and Eternal Sunshine topped even Sideways. So it was nice to see them rewarded somewhat.
4. Sean Penn is officially on my shitlist. It's bad enough not to have a sense of humor about yourself (and to rob Bill Murray of an Oscar that he deserved infinitely more than you did), but to launch into a humorless rant against Chris Rock for making a joke about Jude Law? You do realize that you are not, in fact, a bad-ass or an auteur or a UN ambassador and you are, in fact, Spicoli, don't you? I mean, don't you?
5. I am not ashamed to admit that Adam Sandler cracks me up. I am somewhat more ashamed to admit that, when Best Editing winner Thelma Schoonmaker thanks her coworkers for "getting it up there on-screen," this also cracks me up.
6. I can only assume that having both The Aviator and Ray up for Best Picture split the biopic vote (though that does require a bit of a leap of logic to explain why anyone would've thrown over a solid, artful film in favor of a 150-minute episode of Behind the Music), which is what allowed Million Dollar Baby to sneak its way in there. Because if I have to accept that enough people actually thought Million Dollar Baby was not only better than Sideways but better even than Aviator- which is flawed but still an acceptable crowdpleaser- I'm going to cry.

See, the film student part of me still really wants to believe that the Oscars are meaningful. Not cosmically or in the sense that they're important to the world or anything, but just within the film industry. The Awards, at their heart, were never meant to reward the best of the best in the world of film, but the best of the best within the Hollywood-based, major studio-oriented world of film. You're never going to see something as tiny and oddball as, say, The Saddest Music in the World nominated for an Oscar, simply because the studios have no stake in it, and the Academy that they compose sees no reason to reward anything outside its limited view. Which, all things considered, is fine. The Oscars, in my opinion, represent the notion that there is still creativity and originality and talent and art being produced by Hollywood that, yes, is still accessible. That it's not all Elektras and Son of the Masks and Collaterals and Spielbergs and Lohans and Bruckheimers and Gellars and McGs; that the studios are still willing to meet the viewers' brains halfway on occasion.

And I was willing to believe that some sort of mass hypnosis was at work during the Lord of the Rings sweep last year.

But Million Dollar Baby? That pandering loogie of Eastwood ego? Its Best Picture victory may offend me more than even that of Forrest Gump, because even though I'd like to take a Sharpie and draw a big red X through every frame of the latter film before stamping a gigantic letter F on Robert Zemeckis's forehead, it didn't demand to be taken seriously. Even during its dour finale with childbirth, AIDS, death, etc., Gump at least didn't make any pretense to being capital-I Important. That doesn't mean it's not still one of the worst movies ever made, but I will grudgingly give it credit for at least trying to send the audience home satisfied.

Million Dollar Baby, on the other hand, is a tepid and mediocre message movie that cynically builds itself up as a (fairly inept but watchable) genre-sports-boxing-little-guy film for its first two-thirds and then suddenly takes an artless left turn for no discernable reason and never returns. Without giving anything away to those who haven't seen it- though you shouldn't bother- at a crucial point, Eastwood decides to chuck the entire movie that you've spent two hours watching out the damn window and Make. A. Statement. with absolutely nothing to set it up. (Well, actually... this sentence may count as a spoiler, but I will concede the cleverness- assuming it's intentional- of Eastwood hiring a guy who looks exactly like Jack Kevorkian to play a Michael Buffer-style boxing announcer. That bit is well done. Not enough to make up for the fact that it's still essentially two middling films spliced together to make one even worse one, but a nice detail.) You don't have to be a screenwriter to know that it's bad form to not at least employ a little well-placed foreshadowing or parallel structure or SOMETHING if you're going to drop in some deus ex machina- hell, even Adaptation had an explicit reference to deus ex machina before using it- but Eastwood compounds the injury by dropping the entire story in favor of unsubtle and simplistic sermonizing that seems to come from nowhere. It's as if the final 30 pages of the script accidentally got replaced by rejected lecture notes from some self-righteous liberal blowhard like, say, Jello Biafra. In a year that featured at least one hot-button film with the balls to actually come out and say what was on its mind- Fahrenheit 9/11- for Eastwood to ham-fistedly and inexplicably (and mawkishly) try to cram the story somewhere it wasn't prepared to go is not just amateurish, but smacks of craven insecurity.

And the characters, or lack thereof- GAH. I do like Hilary Swank, and I think she did what she could with what she was given here. Kate Winslet still should've won, but Swank managed to bring at least a second dimension to a character that was written with only one, so good for her. However, Eastwood spent the entire film doing an impression of Burgess Meredith in Rocky that somehow manages to be worse than most people's impressions of Eastwood in Dirty Harry, and although I know it's kind of douchey to complain about the presence of Morgan Freeman in any film because he's so cool, there was no reason for the Academy to reward him for yet again playing the world-weary-and-put-upon-yet-wisest-of-the-wise has-been role that he's been doing in films both good (Se7en) and not-so (Deep Impact) for at least ten years.

You get the point. It's a Lifetime Original Movie, but because Clint Eastwood directed it, the Academy will consider it "art." And they'll tell him he's a better director than Scorsese. And my case for American film as art will keep gettin' weaker and weaker... and the Oscars will kick my ass every year because, after all, I take this stuff way too seriously.

CURRENT MUSIC: Melody A.M. by Royksopp.
To rekindle the Song of the Day feature within a week or so. You people have talked me into it. ("You people" = Oleg and Jon.)
7:29 PM.

Doot? | |

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