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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: September 9-September 30, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006:

Big news for the old and the small! Henceforth, anyone who wants a copy of The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss, Disclaimer's debut CD and a fine one regardless of what anyone says, will be able to purchase a copy for only four dollars! That's less than half the previous price! I've lowered the cost after careful consideration of the fact that I've got more than 2,000 of these things and have sold, like, one in the last year. It's basically the Desiccant Records Emergency Liquidation Sale! No reasonable offer will be refused as long as the offer isn't less than four dollars! Price slightly higher outside North America! So if you've ever once had thoughts of buying a copy of this disc, now is the time to act on them! (Or, you know, in a few days. The price is staying at four bucks for the forseeable future.) Simply click here for The Airbag Experience.

If you'd like a "first one's free" sample of the music contained on that there record, right-click at the end of this sentence and select "Save target as...": an MP3 of the song "Hell," which people seem to enjoy.

To further sweeten the deal, we're going to have a little contest as well, involving the picture below:

This is a picture of one of my CD racks. It's not one of those hi-larious Internet pictures that features the cover of In the Court of the Crimson King popping up and yelling at you after you look at it for two minutes. You can stare. Some of the CD spines will be easily identifiable to those of you with proper musical taste. Some will be harder to distinguish (particularly with that big flash in the middle of the top two rows). At any rate, what I'd like you to do is e-mail me, naming all the CDs you can identify (artist and album title). The five people who have written in with the most correct titles by midnight on October 15 will receive a free copy of The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss and maybe some other stuff, depending on whether I've got something lying around that I want to get rid of.

Sound good? Don't worry- by e-mailing me, you're not going to be added to a Disclaimer mailing list or anything irritating like that. It's just a little game to commemorate the dissolution of my dream of making money off my album. So tell your friends! Tell your relatives! Write your congressional representatives! Print up some bumper stickers and slap them on strangers' cars! Confuse Jeanne Phillips by filling her mailbox with informative e-mails about this contest! Drop a plug for the album into your nightly prayers, for some reason! Clock's a-tickin', and I don't just mean your biological one!

CURRENT MUSIC: Stoneage Romeos [sic] by the Hoodoo Gurus.
CURRENT MOOD:
I've gone crazy and started slashing prices into bloody ribbons of savings!
CURRENT NEWEST T-SHIRT:
"Nature Call" from Threadless. A gift from Bev. I like it.
TIME:
2:11 PM.

Doot? | |

Friday, September 22, 2006:

Bev and I adopted two male parakeets from her coworker. They're both blue, and we've named them Gormley and Goldklang, after the goofy anchors of our local NBC and ABC news teams, respectively. Noví doesn't seem certain what she thinks of the boys yet, but it'll be nice for her to have some birdie friends around when Bev and I are at work, I think. They're hilariously chattery 'keets, arguing loudly one second and making out the next. I love them.

I'm trying to get the phrase "Spanish hot dogs" into the Eastern Agency on Aging's internal lexicon. Back story: we have a program called "Meals for ME" ("ME" being the phonetically illogical postal abbreviation for Maine), which provides food to cafeteria-style sites for seniors to congregate once or twice a week, so they get nutrition and an opportunity to socialize. The lunch specials are impressively varied and often quite good, but the one item that seems to be loathed by all 50 sites is the "Spanish hot dogs" entree. I've never tasted the Spanish hot dogs myself, of course, but... you know how gross hot dogs usually are? Well, picture hot dogs unceremoniously snapped into chunks by someone's questionably sanitary hand, dunked in improperly made salsa, and also, um, grayer than normal hot dogs, like some sort of cholesterol-riddled Pompeii relic. That's Spanish hot dogs. They'd make Upton Sinclair retch on sight. They'd be rejected from a sequel to The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan on grounds of obscenity. That part in The Wall where the kids go into the meat grinder looks like a Jacques Pepin masterpiece by comparison. So I can only imagine the horror of actually having one in your mouth. The seniors hate the things. The Meals for ME site in Brooksville (which happens to be run by Bev's aunt), for instance, will direct the agency not to deliver anything on Spanish hot dog day; they'll buy their own food with the site's petty cash rather than suffer through these zombified anti-parfaits. It's been a disaster for the nutrition program. 

So anyway, inspired by the line in Microserfs in which underwhelming software is described as "sea monkeys," I've been trying to get people to adopt "Spanish hot dogs" as a description of any well-meaning plan that doesn't pan out. For instance, "Baldacci says he's going to try to cap property taxes for full-time residents of Maine, but if he doesn't get reelected, it'll all be Spanish hot dogs." Thus far, my coworkers are unresponsive.

CURRENT MUSIC: Tago Mago by Can.
CURRENT MOOD:
Annoyed with myself for being so impatient while watching The Wild Bunch that I'm having to take a break every ten minutes or so. The Western is not my favorite genre. Though the line "Silver rings your butt- them's washers!" has made my list of favorite expletives.
CURRENT DISAPPOINTMENT:
I was planning on naming the next Disclaimer album Welcome to Cooterville, but a quick Google search brings up 29 hits for that phrase. Though Lorenzo was the one who brought that sentence into my life (it was a non-sequitur utterance while watching The Ring with a bunch of friends, immediately after he'd castigated Tim and me for making smartass remarks during the movie), I'd hate for people to think I was naming an album after this (admittedly entertaining) story, so I've gotta come up with something else. Suggestions?
TIME:
10:28 PM.

Doot? | |

Sat'rday, September 9, 2006:

(Wrote this on Tuesday, didn't post it till now. My apologies.)

To hell with AmeriCorps! I have a new, lucrative job!

My VISTA leader did not care for the e-mail I sent him with that subject line.

True, though. New job. Starting tomorrow, I’m the Administrative Assistant for the directors of the Eastern Agency on Aging. It means giving up my awesome office in the senior housing facility where I’m typing this—with my fridge and air conditioner and stereo and nappin’ couch and combination stapler/tape dispenser that has the Avapro logo on it—but it’s lots more money and I think I’ll be more productive in that position. As long as they let me listen to my clattering IDM CDs and fill out the Washington Post crossword as I work in the atrium, I’ll be set.

Here’s how it happened: for the past couple weeks, I’ve been riding all over Maine with the agency’s directors (Noëlle, the executive director whose name I really need to create a macro for because typing ALT+0235 is going to get real old real fast; Deb, the housing director; Carol, the PR director; and Jody, the HR director) and a very nice consultant named Sandra, attending assorted Forums on Aging around the state. The forums were held in preparation for the statewide Blaine House Conference on Aging, in which the short-version theory is that seniors will interact with service providers and legislators (or legislative hopefuls) to talk about issues that are important to them and that they’d like to see addressed in public policy.

My job for these preliminary sessions was to act as a secretary, writing the seniors’ main points on an unwieldy Post-It easel. (After one session, a sweet old lady said to me, “You have very nice handwriting. You write in all caps so we could read it! You’re a very nice boy!”) We’d divide the oldies into groups according to whatever topic they were interested in, and then simply ask what problems they encounter in such areas and what they think would help. It’s such a simple idea—ask what seniors want so we can do it!—but it hardly ever happens, apparently. (Many of the other Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state held only one or two forums to get resolutions from their constituents; we held five.)

For example, in one session, Noëlle was trying to elicit recommendations about maintaining active lifestyles for the elderly, and asked, “What are some of the barriers to active aging you see in your everyday life?”

And naturally, the first response she got was, “Bears and moose.”

Well, she didn’t write that one down on the big board, but you get the idea.

Seriously, I came away from the whole experience feeling very good about the agency and its potential for meaningful social change. You could tell that the seniors who attended were honored to be asked their opinion on things, and even if their suggestions aren’t implemented on the government level, we all agreed that this information was instructive in determining our agency’s plans for future services. (Except for the parts where the seniors went off on five-minute rants about how “people talk too fast nowadays.”) That’s what I like about the EAA: everyone there is truly committed to seeking out new ways to improve the quality of life for our area’s elderly, rather than just sitting back, filling out the occasional Medicare D form, and waiting for the seniors to come to us with their problems. It’s a little cornball, but I really do admire everything that goes on there. Excepting, of course, the glares I was given in the breakroom when I declared that “I so don’t care” about who really killed JonBenet.

Anyway, during the car ride back from the forum in Dover-Foxcroft, when Deb and Noëlle asked me to apply for the Administrative Assistant job that had recently been vacated by my friend Kelley, I was ecstatic. So I interviewed and got it. I’ve just realized that there aren’t many entertaining details in the remainder of this story. New job, is the point. Buy me things.

* * *

WILLIE'S MOVIE ROUNDUP: Over the weekend, I watched Sound and Fury, a documentary that follows two brothers, Chris and Peter, both of whom have deaf kids and one of whom (Peter) is himself deaf, as they struggle over the issue of whether to have cochlear implants surgically installed in their children. The implants, if successful, would allow the kids to hear (or "become part of the hearing world," a phrase that's repeated often throughout the film). Peter and his deaf wife are completely against the idea of getting an implant for their daughter because they don't feel that being deaf is something limiting or something to be ashamed of and corrected, and that having the implant would be one more step toward the extinction of their way of life. Chris and his hearing wife don't see that as a concern, and are really excited about the notion of their deaf son finally being able to hear.

The film does a great job of presenting the arguments (in every sense of the word) on each side of the discussion without passing judgement itself. The director, Josh Aronson, allows us to share in the pride and love Peter and his wife feel for their deaf daughter just as we share in the miraculous joy Chris and his wife experience when they watch their son react to a sound for the first time. In fact, even when the grandparents get involved, you never feel anyone is meddling, and you never question anyone's love for the kids or one another. They all truly are acting out of what they perceive as the kids' best interests. This, for me, is why it's so difficult to watch at times, because Aronson captures some brutal family arguments that arise, and, you know, it's easy for me to watch shouting rampages in something like Capturing the Friedmans, where the family is so insanely fractured they'd made Todd Solondz squirm, and you can get a bit of distance that way... but it's hard to watch a loving, functional family hurl around hurtful words like "abusive" and "normal" at one another as they do in Sound and Fury.

I'll admit that I came away from Sound and Fury not fully understanding the arguments against the implant. There's much talk of "deaf culture" and how it's threatened by these technological advances, but I'm still unclear on what, exactly, is supposed to be in danger. Peter expresses his love for the nuanced visual expression possible with American Sign Language, and as someone who's a total bitch about prescriptive English, I can definitely understand feeling protective of one's own language. And, of course, I don't feel that being deaf is something to be ashamed of in the first place. However, apart from that, I didn't get a sense for why Peter and others feel that being deaf is such an integral part of their identity that it should be preserved, and I wish Aronson had explored that further. Still, a great movie is one in which you get even one scene as affecting as that in which Peter's mother is patiently teaching his daughter how to read a recipe, and the girl enthusiastically voices cooking terms based on reading her grandma's lips... I'll admit that I cried so much I was afraid I was going to throw up.

Lately, Bev and I have been watching a bunch of terrible VHS tapes that Aud left at our house when she moved out, along with our usual Netfleece. Nothing’s going to beat Feeders II, a horror tape that Tim loaned us, which makes MS Paint look like ILM software, but watching bad stuff is the new watching… good… s—I don’t really get how that catchphrase works. Screw it. Here are some quick summaries:

Exile. This is a Wonderful World of Disney made-for-TV orgasm that Aud taped when Bev’s family lived in Florida in 1990. It is a Lord of the Flies rip-off starring Corey Feldman, Chris Barnes (Greg from The Brady Bunch Movie), and Kristin Dattilo (the pizza girl in the Friends episode “The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt”), which distinguishes itself by going really dark for a production that’s preceded by a jaunty Michael Eisner intro and frequently interrupted by Little Caesar’s “Crazy Eights” commercials. A class trip lands on a deserted island, one kid manages to drown in the first 12 hours, the teacher bites it in a plane crash, one kid starts talking to monkeys, and one emotionally unstable girl is kidnapped by the plane’s creepy, leathery pilot who has some disturbingly unwholesome lust going on (but not to worry: the narration at the end explains that Karen “is starting to heal”). And they use Crowded House’s “Hole in the River” for a scene in which the kids are looking for a water source. Best awful thing I’ve seen in a long time.

Dream a Little Dream. Released in 1989, I think this one missed the big ‘80s body-switching comedy explosion (Big, Freaky Friday, Vice Versa), but it’s the only one to feature Corey Feldman trying to channel the personality of Oscar winner Jason Robards (after a tai chi/bicycle accident results in the mind-switch) (really) and to feature Piper Laurie in a leotard that would get her kicked out of any high school dance program. Oddly, the film doesn’t explore the potential fun of inhabiting someone else’s skin: Robards’s character is so desperate to be Robards again that he doesn’t pause for a second to take advantage of his situation. He just sort of grumbles around, taking out his frustration on Feldman's harmless buddy, played by Corey Haim. And therein lies the wonderful tragedy that is Dream a Little Dream. Oh, and Corey’s parents are Alex Rocco and Victoria Jackson. If anyone has a copy of the sequel (Dream a Little Dream 2), let’s talk.

The Lost Boys. This completed our Feldman trilogy, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous two, because it actually attempts to be funny at times. And since the director is failure-at-everything Joel Schumacher, the “funny” bits aren’t even bad funny, but are rather erratically sprinkled so that the potentially amusing “suspenseful” bits are defanged and the “comedy” bits fall flat. Jason Patric gets bit by vampire Kiefer Sutherland, blah, it’s even dumber than you’d think. Alex Winter sports a killer mullet in it, though.

Marjoe. Tracy, my erstwhile Math Reviews supervisor, brought her family to visit me last week, which was a wonderful surprise. Just thought I’d publicly thank her for that, because I really miss all my MR friends. Anyway, she recommended Marjoe to me, and I’m glad she did. It’s a documentary about Marjoe Gortner, an atheist who was raised, by overbearing fundamentalist parents, as the world’s youngest faith healer. It’s a job he hung onto well into his adult years because it was a money-maker, even though he didn’t believe a word he was saying. Though the film spends too much time passively observing revival ceremonies, it’s fascinating to watch Marjoe slip from the fuzzy-headed hippie of his interviews into the character of a flailing church fundraiser when he needs to. In a weird sense, Marjoe reminded me of the segments of Comedian that followed hack comic Orny Adams: both Adams and Gortner are part of an entertainment world that they believe they can conquer simply by understanding the formula the audience wants. While Adams utterly sucks, though (“funny in theory” isn’t funny), Gortner manages to have his crowd in the palm of his hand by simply delivering the platitudes they want to hear in the inflection they expect. It’s a little scary, frankly.

Akeelah and the Bee. Bev and I haven’t bothered with Bee Season because Jess said it’s not worth it, but we’re still fascinated by spelling bees and Spellbound offers no further surprises for us, so Akeelah it was. It’s about an inner-city girl who discovers she has a talent for words, and after she accepts the assistance of spelling coach Laurence Fishburne (playing basically the same character he played in Searching for Bobby Fischer, though using all of Jeff Goldblum’s mannerisms for some reason), she captures the heart of the community. There’s nothing inventive about it at all, but Keke Palmer’s title performance is fantastic, and it’s cute enough to keep you entertained even if you hate kids. For instance, the bit where Akeelah starts miming jumping rope during a bee? Still not as transcendentally, unself-consciously bizarre as Rebecca Sealfon, but still endearing. And Booger is the school’s principal, just so you know.

Love in the Afternoon. I love Billy Wilder, and Bev and I are completely infatuated with Audrey Hepburn (just like Ashley!) and the oopsy-daisy inventiveness she brings to her every character. So naturally, I loved this movie. Stoic Gary Cooper plays a lothario whose life is saved by Hepburn when she warns him about a vindictive client of her father, a private eye. Audrey falls in love with him, and pretends to be every bit the gigolo he is in order to win him over. There’s not a lot I can say to defend this movie on feminist grounds (I don’t even want to get into the double standards it embodies, because I’ll write paragraphs), but when Billy Wilder lets himself get a little silly and romantic, there’s no greater cinematic joy. And from the hilarious opening montage, where Maurice Chevalier narrates the assorted types of love available in France, it’s clear you’re in for a breezy and brilliant ride.

Young Guns and Young Guns II. Bev seemed appalled that I’d never seen either of these. I suppose I’m a richer man for having done so, if only because of the peyote scene in the original. No, wait—“richer” isn’t the term I’m looking for… Older! I’m an older man for having done so! But let’s never speak of them again.

Route 666. Lou Diamond Phillips and Lori Petty are federallies escorting relocated witness Steven Williams (in a role substantially less dignified than his recurring X-Files character) to a trial… But they decide to take a shortcut along the titular road, which is haunted by the cement-covered zombies of four ex-cons who tend to murder people who set foot on their asphalt. And one of them is Phillips’s father. It’s okay if you stand on the dirt alongside the road, though. Just don’t touch the road. Williams’s character is nicknamed “The Rabbit” because he’s “lucky with the ladies.” As rabbits are. And Phillips has an amusing peyote scene in this one too. And it includes a scene (spoiler) in which a cop is run over by an invisible steamroller. So basically, you should watch it.

Since I last updated, Bev and/or I have also watched, in descending order of quality, Double Indemnity, innumerable episodes of House, the Kenneth Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing, Munich, Slums of Beverly Hills, Sid & Nancy, The Gnome-Mobile, and Fritz the Cat.

* * *

SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE—T-BONE’S MOVIE ROUNDUP (via e-mail): “The Ice Harvest: There's a reason it was in the theater for like 2 days. Don't bother. Burned it on a cd so I could watch it (It was one of those .iso files), didn't keep the cd.”

* * *

I'll leave you with Dr. Audrey Kelly's explanation of lesbianism, from her unimpeachably researched A Catholic Parent's Guide to Sex Education, 1962: "Usually, true homosexual tendencies show themselves for the first time during the late teens. Certain girls are found to exhibit little interest in boy friends, to adopt a somewhat masculine style of dress and to enjoy such activities as tinkering with the inside of a car, and taking part in various tests of endurance. Yet others, although feminine in their appearance and in their dress, are by nature sexually frigid with men and are not attracted by normal sexual activities. Because of their normal appearance, and because they wish to appear to be the same as other women, this latter type usually marries, but the marriage is rarely successful owing to the wife's frigidity. The couple drift apart and it is at this stage that the woman happens to come into contact with one of the masculine type of women and the two will decide to live together. In many cases no attempt is made to have a truly sexual relationship. Both members of the pair are quite content with embraces and endearments. The masculine partner delights in assuming an efficiently protective attitude toward the other one one, who will, in her turn, tend to 'mother' her friend."

I'm not sure why this information hasn't yet hit Wikipedia.

CURRENT MUSIC: The Repo Man soundtrack and Bluffer's Guide to the Flight Deck by Flotation Toy Warning.
CURRENT MOOD:
Swarming about.
CURRENT PROVIDER OF TRAGIC HILARITY:
The Octodog. (Thanks, Adrienne!)
TIME:
6:02 PM.

Doot? | |

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