Thursday, April 30, 2009

Walpurgis Night

. . . and again it was Walburga's Eve, when almost anything is rather more than likely to happen.

-- Jurgen, James Branch Cabell

1. James Branch Cabell dreams of Humanity
April 30, 1919

The gallant, the knight errant and the poet
are all three brothers in the line of love.
The knight is chivalry personified.
His life is not his own -- it is a coin
borrowed in need that needs must be repaid
with more than mortal interest -- a gift
in trust that must be given back unspoiled;
he lives it in the spirit of the giver,
glorying in romantic servitude
as his love's champion or his god's vicar.

The poet would starve himself for weeks to pay
the price of one day's worth of ink and paper.
He borrows with no thought of reimbursement --
as long as his imagination is
not bankrupt, he will gladly hand-to-mouth
his days, content as knight upon a quest.
His life is nothing more than the wet clay
of creativity -- his hopes, his fears,
and his mundane concerns are marble blocks
from which to Michelangelo a David.

And since the world wishes to be deceived,
the gallant plays along with the deception.
He views poets and knights with an amused
ironic smile, pays homage to the god
his country worships, and in all things lives
a life of easy practicality,
making the best but never hoping for it
asking for nothing larger than the small
but serviceable soul which animates
his cool detached adherence to convention.

And we, figures of earth beneath the stars
of an indifferent heaven, with the blood
of all three brothers flowing in our veins,
both in the world and of it, juggling three
ready-made hearts before our starving chests,
act out the worth and worthlessness of life;
and if we're wise, we'll make a gallant bow
and shield our eyes from Helen's perfect face,
leaving undying love to knights and poets
as we walk home to share our spouse's bed.

2. Adolf Hitler dreams of forgiveness
April 30, 1945

As I sit here waiting to kill myself,
It occurs to me that if I did not exist,
It would be necessary to invent me:

The Father, Son and Holy Ghost of evil --
Mankind's cruellest monster; Lucifer fleshed
Out with the moustache of the Little Tramp.

When I die, my success will be a question mark
Behind the name of God. And as for my sins,
I am the acid test of Jesus Christ.

If he does not forgive me, he is not Christ.
And if he does forgive me, he betrays
My victims and his own humanity.

I taste the poison capsule on my tongue
And see Christ greet me at the gates of Auschwitz,
A bearded Jew with a Bible in his hand.

I put the pistol barrel to my head,
and as I gesture smartly to the left
where gas and flames will rid the world of him,

Christ smiles at me and whispers "Te absolvo,"
And saunters to the gas chamber, while I
With a clear conscience and a light heart,

Smile, close my eyes, bite down, and pull the trigger.

3. Henry Kissinger dreams of telling the truth
April 30, 1975

Why did we come?
We go where we want to.
Why did we stay?
Our pride was at stake.
Why did we leave?
They have to live here; we don't.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival - Easy Virtue

One of the great things about Tribeca is that you get to be an insider for a couple of weeks. Directors and actors are everywhere, if you know where to look (“Hey, isn’t that Jim Jarmusch?”) and you get to feel like you’re part of the process, instead of a target audience. Sometimes this backfires, like at the showing of Easy Virtue I saw. Director Stephan Elliott came out before the screening and said, “Sorry the cast couldn’t be here, but Kristin never leaves Paris, Colin’s on the Greek island he bought with all the royalties from Mama Mia, Jessica is in a hotel room with Justin somewhere, and Ben is alone in his apartment, totally depressed because Jessica is in a hotel room with Justin somewhere. [LAUGHTER] Yes, I suppose I should tell you, there’s very little acting in this movie. When you see Ben mooning over Jessica? That’s not acting. [LAUGHTER] And when you see Kristin and Jessica go at it [makes a snarly face and curls his hands like cat claws], that’s not acting either. [LAUGHTER] So enjoy the film.” To which I wanted to say “Film? What film? We’re here for the cat fight!”

And what a great cat fight it is. Although I should say right off that if you don't like Jessica Biel, you will probably not like this film. She's the intruding force, the outsider about whom everyone has an opinion, and her acting chops are nowhere near the level of everyone else’s. Which totally works for the way Elliott and co-writer Sheridan Jobbins have revised Noel Coward’s play. By making Larita American, you get a built-in conflict; she is now so totally DIFFERENT that it raises the stakes tenfold. And it doesn't hurt that Biel is eye candy. But if that’s all you think she is, then there will be a hole in the middle that nothing can fill in.

In which case I say, watch the Brits. They are all wonderful. Kristin Scott-Thomas gets huge laughs with silent reaction shots, but I'm getting a little tired of her doing the pinched, withdrawn, repressed harridan. She can do it in her sleep, and I'd rather see her do something a little more challenging before she drops off of a night in Paris. (Of course if this movie had been made twenty years ago, she would have been playing the Biel part.) Colin Firth has something like 20 lines in the whole thing (as well as one long speech) and everything he says opens up another window on who he is. Ben Barnes is okay, but if I were Biel I would go home to Justin too. And keep your eyes on Furber the butler. He’s played by Kris Marshall, who looks like the son of the guy who played Felton in the Richard Lester Three Musketeers, and he practically steals the movie.

It’s opening nationwide at the end of May, I believe. I highly recommend it as an alternative to Transformers 2.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival - An Englishman In New York

The second part of Don Quixote starts when the Don and Sancho are reading a copy of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and say “This is an outrage! We have to go out there and correct the record.” An Englishman In New York begins when John Hurt (playing Quentin Crisp) decides to go to New York after the TV broadcast of A Naked Civil Servant, in which Jon Hurt played Quentin Crisp. Both journeys are Quixotic in the truest sense of the word –- doomed not just to failure, but to glorious failure. Crisp has three Sanchos in this movie -– the editor of the NY Native (Denis O’Hare), young artist Patrick Angus (Jonathan Tucker), and Penny Arcade (Cynthia Nixon) –- and the windmills he winds up jousting against are windmills that wind up whacking us all on our ass, like irrelevance, old age, and (my personal favorite, he said, rubbing his butt in pain) speaking without thinking.

Quentin Crisp probably would have worked the word “style” into that somewhere, and John Hurt has it in spades. It’s a wonderful performance, which does a lot to make you overlook the movie’s flaws –- all the Sanchos are continually used as plot machinery rather than people, vignettes are separated by blackouts that seem to anticipate commercial breaks and begin and end with jarringly clashing underscoring, and there’s a little too much of Crisp dispensing wisdom like Buddha under the Bo Tree.

And, alas, the wonderful voiceover pretty much disappears about a third of the way through. I suspect this was an artistic choice, because the moment you no longer hear what’s going on in Crisp’s head is the moment when he makes his infamous remark about AIDS being a fad, and discovers that being clever about hot-button issues will turn a windmill into a tar baby. From that point on, as Crisp is ostracized from his own community, we are ostracized from his inner life, and only get to see him reacting to O’Hare's editor and Tucker's Patrick Angus. Crisp’s penance for the “fad” remark seems to be watching Angus die of AIDS, but not before he helps Angus get his paintings shown. At which point the voiceover returns. (It all sounds very schematic, doesn’t it?)

Overall, it’s a worthy film (with all the good and bad which that word entails). And Crisp’s message of personal style resonates even more today, when style is about to get ten separate channels on cable: There is something unique inside you: nurture it. Let the world come to you. Stay outside -- that is your power lies. And as Denis O’Hare said in the talkback, “You don’t have to be emblematic; you just have to be yourself.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival - The Burning Season

Here's a movie that'll make you want to go out and change the world.

Burning Season was broadcast last year as part of the Frontline series, minus the orangutans and the shall we say pragmatic look at the Bush Regime’s so-called environmental policies, which can best be summed up the sentence: “We believe that every tree on earth is just another baby ream of Xerox paper.” There’s also a sentence that sums up the difference between that version and this version: “Oh THAT’S what you were talking about.”

Director and writer Cathy Henkel juggles three stories and a civics lesson, interspersed with images of orangutans wandering through what look like war zones. (The orangutans really are the human face of this story.) An Indonesian farmer wrestles with the need to clear forest land in order to produce a cash-bearing crop of palm wine seeds; a rescue worker is trying to save as many orangutans as possible from the burnt-out wastelands that used to be their home; and a driven young idealist is trying to get corporate backing for a carbon-trading system which would hit up environmental polluters by having them fund reforestation projects.

It’s an accomplished juggling act, interspersed with stunningly-animated sequences that provide the civics lesson. I say “stunningly” not because the animation is so beautiful, but because of its stark and primitively individual look, like captured silhouettes from some allegorical puppet show. Maps of countries sending smoke to the skies from their denuded forests are like head-shots from an info gun (when you factor deforestation into the carbon emission graph, Indonesia is the third worst offender in the entire world, behind only China and us).

The main storyline follows Dorjee Sun (the idealist), who ironically enough embodies the American ideal of entrepreneurial gumption even as he fights, in essence, America’s deliberate refusal to address the issue he wants to find a solution for. If anybody ever tells you that young people have no drive or idealism, show them this movie. Sun is inspirational, articulate, and charmingly implacable.

Overall it’s a great mix of stuff you didn’t know, stuff that makes you want to go out and change the world, and stuff that makes you realize orangutans are like Humanity’s second cousins. There’s a moment towards the end where a female with a baby clinging to her fur has been reforested, if you will, and when the door to the crate she’s in opens up, she sticks her head out like a refugee expecting to be shot at, only to see this jungle, these trees she probably hasn’t seen in months. Then, just as warily as that refugee, she moves off into the vegetation, throwing a look over her shoulder that says “I get to leave? I get to go here? It’s okay, really?” As I said before: the human face of the story.

And oh yeah -- this is all happening in 2007, when there was actual corporate cash money around for ideas like this. Which makes for an oh-no kick-in-the-gut epilogue, let me tell you.

Highly recommended. And for more info (and orangutan pictures):

The Burning Season

Ten Things You Can Do To Change The World

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Long View - Entropy, Class War, and the Death of Newspapers

So here’s the premise:

The Internet runs on a non-renewable resource called electricity.

Assume for the moment that it’s a valid premise. (We’ll assume the opposite in a second.) If you put all the people who use electricity to access the Internet in one room, what will happen? What always happens in a closed system: entropy.

Hexagram 23. Things fall apart. That is the nature of things. And man-made things fall apart even quicker. That is the nature of planned obsolescence. Given the pressures of capitalism (not so much a premise as a given), three separate things are going to happen in The Room. Sophisticated Internet-based toys will get replaced by even more sophisticated toys. Access to Internet sites will become pay-based. And the power to access these sites will start disappearing.

So the people in The Room will have to shell out more and more money for site subscription increases, upgraded access devices, and the power to run them. Those who can’t afford these costs will have to leave The Room. (See Class War below.) Eventually, as prices increase, The Room will contain an increasingly smaller number of people who are willing to pay whatever it costs to access the Internet. And these people, given the nature of Capitalism, will eventually become the target audience for all Internet content. (See Requiescat in Pace, below.)

In other words, eventually the Internet will become the electronic equivalent of a high-priced specialty store which caters to the interests of the few people who can afford it, reflecting their values and their vision of the world like a mirror. Specifically, a mirror in Versailles circa 1789.

And in the end, The Room will eventually run out of power. (See Fossil Fuels, Coal, and Oil, Dwindling Supplies Of.) Which means that everything housed on the Internet will vanish like the smallpox virus, and the medieval Dark Ages will look like a fireworks display by comparison.

(Oh yeah—penmanship will disappear too, as people rely more and more on either keyboards or voice-recognition typing software.)

Hexagram 24. But let’s say I’m wrong. Let’s say everything keeps expanding and never deteriorates, everything keeps growing and never dies, everything keeps going on the way it has for the millions and millions of minutes the Internet has been in existence.

We’ve still got people in The Room, and people outside The Room. And as the gap widens between what the insiders have and the outsiders don’t, I can think of a few possible scenarios, none of which are pretty.

Class War. For one thing, the outsiders will resent the insiders. This resentment will increase as the Internet becomes the single-source subscriber-based delivery system for news and entertainment. I can see the have-nots on the outside of The Room flaunting their lack of information access as a badge of honor; I can see them turning to religion, or any political movement that promises them the right to access what they’re missing. (Insert pictures of Russian serfs circa 1917 here.)

Will there be violence? Quite possibly. Why? Because of the other thing besides news that the Internet is keeping from the outsiders: entertainment. Given that entertainment distracts the masses from social injustice, class inequities, and personal hardship, with the removal of entertainment as a distraction from the have-not life, they’ll have nothing to make them forget their anger, and all hell will break loose.

Unless of course somebody in the Have side is smart enough to keep TV (a) affordable and (b) separate from the Internet. In that case, everyone will be happy forever with what they do and do not have.

Until they aren’t.

But if that does happen, only the ones in The Room will know about it, because they’ll be the only ones with access to multiple news sources outside of, say TV news.

Requiescat in Paper.

Enjoy free access to online newspapers while you can; the day is fast approaching when they will be pay-only subscription sites, and there will be little or no paper copies as an alternative reading option. Why? Because the paper copies are a money pit. Why? Because everyone’s getting online access for free. I can't think of more perfect example of self-defeating corporate circular logic -- it's like your ass biting you in the ass.

Yes, there will be some organizations which will publish hard copies of the news, but their resemblance to current newspapers will be about the same as the relationship between Reader’s Digest condensed versions and an actual novel. For instance, I can definitely see the print version of the New York Times becoming a compendium of archive-worthy online pieces; what I can’t see is a print version of the Times that actually records, evaluates and delivers current events or opinion. All that will be done electronically.

So we will end up with the same people in The Room, paying for access to a content-delivery system which will become increasingly targeted to them as an audience. This means that news as well as entertainment will eventually become whatever makes the people in The Room feel knowledgeable and entertained. These people will become the info version of the Nouveau Riche. Call them the Infeau Riche.

Now even if there isn’t a class war between the Infeau Riche and the Infeau Poors -- even if the Poors have dial-up pay-as-you-go access to the Internet, say –- their presence will only be acknowledged, and their comments only allowed, if they say what the Riche want to hear.

Meaning censorship? You bet. And it’ll be incredibly easy. Currently, the Internet is a delivery system for critiques and comments aimed at the mainstream media. But when the mainstream media is coming into your laptop via the same delivery system as its critics, well, that’s like putting King Kong and a New York cop in the same room. Guess who walks out picking his teeth with a pine tree.

Point being, when the Internet becomes the primary delivery system for everything, there will be nothing it transmits which its content providers or paying audience do not want to receive.

ANSWER: E-talitarianism.

QUESTION: What do you call internet-based totalitarianism?

Next? The cranky old fart shaking his buggy whip as the nasty old Stanley Steamer leaves him in the dust looks at why Twitter is to e-mail as FaceBook is to MySpace, as this week's must-be-seen-there hot spot is to that-place-is-so-last-week, as cocaine is to marijuana.

(Hint: in all four cases? The Cool People think it makes them look cooler.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Long View - Magical Thinking

One of the big reasons I hated AI, that stupid Spielberg movie about the kid robot, was because not once did anyone ever mention the fact that (cover your ears now) ROBOTS NEED A POWER SOURCE, MORON. Did little Aryan boy have to be plugged in? Did he have an atomic reactor in his chest? Did he absorb the rays of the sun like a Kryptonian? Heavens no! He just magically lived forever because he’s a robot. Which is how Hollywood takes the science out of science fiction, and people just line up to take money out of their wallets to buy it, because it buys into a prevailing myth we all share about life on earth. What myth is that, you ask? Silly rabbit -– the one filed under M for Magical Thinking.

I am the exception to everything. Magical Thinking takes many forms. Here’s one from the movie Manhattan Melodrama:

MYRNA LOY: Don’t you ever figure ahead further than 15 minutes?

CLARK GABLE: Aw, sure –- I already got bets on the World Series in October.

And here’s one from the play I’ve been working on since this time last year:

HAMLET: I made my peace with death when I was your age. It will come when it comes, and what comes after will not concern me. It will happen when it happens, and nothing I can do will either stop it or prevent it.

PHYLLIDA: I don’t believe that.

HAMLET: Of course you don’t –- you’re twenty-three. Death is what happens to other people. Not you -- you can kick Death’s ass. And every time you do, every time you take a stupid risk and walk away unharmed, you will believe you are immortal. And Death will smile and say, “Just wait, just wait. One day you too will melt into a grave, and be a soup for worms.”

Change? What change? That’s the core of any kind of magical thinking, the sword in the stone that we all yank out like it’s stuck in butter and not a rock, because the writing on the stone says WHOSOEVER PULLETH THE SWORD FROM THIS STONE IS RIGHTWISE POSITIVE THINGS WILL GO ON FOREVER LIKE THEY ARE NOW.

And we do. We all think magically about everything from our own lives (“I am the one who will beat this death thing; you wait!”) to the state of the world (“The USA will be the first country to ever last forever; you wait!”) to sports rivalries ("The Red Sox have always had the Angels' number in the playoffs!"), and it only works because we ignore either the obvious or an unpleasant truth (people always die; empires always fall; team players change from season to season).

So what obvious, unpleasant truths are we all ignoring at the moment? Here’s a big one, and it’s directly related to the logical error underlying the plot of AI (you can uncover your ears now):

The Internet runs on a non-renewable resource called electricity.

(You all went "Whoa!" just now, didn't you? Come on--admit it.)

And what does that mean? Think about it and come back for tomorrow's post, entitled Entropy, Class War, and the Death of Newspapers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

100 Proof - Matthew's 1Q '09 Liquor Ticker

The Quarterly Report of Matthew's Nightlife for the period 1/1/09 - 3/31/09. Submitted with Auditor's Footnotes:

* The .5 in this total represents not an unfinished pint, which is sacrilege and punishable by the enforced ingestion of a pitcher of Bud Lite, but a full pint which was split with a drinking companion who shall remain nameless, primarily because said companion is still in shock that I actually took notes on what I was drinking as I was drinking.

** This number of Jameson shots includes several which were poured heavy, and at least two which were poured backbreaking. The difference between heavy and backbreaking is the difference between a double shot and a shot whose liquid volume equals the normal pour for a glass of white wine. Although it is not noted above, the same difference holds true for the 3 Patron shots, minus the heavy.

*** Or in other words, to break down by socially-accepted type: Hard Liquor (17), Wine (11), Beer (214.5). This total does not include (a) an unknown number of Jack Daniels shots consumed at Kris’ Farewell Party in February; (b) an unknown number of Guinness pints which were not recorded in my notebook; and (c) 12 late-night pints which I did indeed record, but looked at later and said “That’s impossible!” Silly me.

**** This percentage increase is due to two factors, the Februaries and a surprise Ava visit from Australia. Either way, with alcohol being such a depressant, it’s pretty God damn obvious why Matthew is always so down in the dumps between 2/1 and 2/28.

***** ADPN: Average Drinks Per Night. This is a feeble attempt to convince myself that I am not a lush. Except, of course, in February.

****** Incredibly massive increase due to (a) the Kris Farewell Party (13 drinks); (b) Dave Doobinin Birthday (8 drinks); (c) the Ava Factor (39 drinks in 6 days); and (d) Black Friday, the day they laid off Buddy and Michael (16 drinks in 10 hours).

******* Given the above footnote, an even more feeble attempt to deny the obvious.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thought For The Day

I started reading this over the weekend:

I don't have to finish it to tell you what it's about. Here's the theme in a nutshell:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mooning Over Myrna - 2: So Long, Anna May Wong

For some reason, in the late 20’s and early 30’s, producers looked at future I-embody-the-modern-socialite Myrna Loy and said “Slant her eyes, darken her pancake, and give her a brown wig—she’s an exotic temptress!” Specifically an Asian temptress. Go figure. When she was cast in the lead role of a Chinese woman sold into slavery in 1928’s The Crimson City, she got the part over Anna May Wong, who got relegated to a supporting role. After which Wong said “Fuck this!” in Cantonese and left LA to try her hand at making movies overseas.

Screw this--I'm going to Paris!

After that, Loy found herself typecast as an Asian tramp, and played a bunch of bit-parts in yellowface, among them the exotic temptress in John Ford’s version of King of the Khyber Rifles, The Black Watch, and (most notably) Fu Manchu’s "ugly and insignificant" daughter Fah Lo Suee in 1932’s Mask of Fu Manchu:

Like a lot of Pre-Code movies, Mask of Fu Manchu is subversively kinky and blatantly racist. Boris Karloff plays the Doctor as a lisping sadist who's having the time of his life insulting Christianity and Caucasians, and Loy pretty much finds her G spot by watching large black men whip the white hero in the scene below, which was censored and cut from the final distribution print almost immediately. I leave it to your imagination what Fah Lo Suee's "customary procedure" is. As well as the source of that orgasmic eyes-closed look of thanks that Loy gives just as the crossfade starts:

Because she's the vamp, Myrna's character disappears once the seduced hero comes out of his Fu-Manchu-induced trance and asserts his love for the bland blonde heroine, who spends most of the movie with her right hand to her lips and a look of horror in her eyes. When she's not doing that, or screaming about something, she's doing this, in the movie's most famous (or infamous) expression of what the Yellow Peril meant to the white middle class of America in 1932. And I'm not talking about the Carmen Miranda headgear, either:

To quote Myrna's priceless reaction on first reading the script: "Say -- this is obscene."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Guide To Guys: The Pulsus Avelleritus

Has this ever happened to you?

You meet this guy at an out-of-town party; he’s friends with some friends of yours. You get along great. You flirt. You smooch. He puts his arm around you and doesn’t even try to get to second base. “I can’t wait to see you at the next party,” he says, which is two weeks away, and for the next two weeks he text-flirts and e-flirts like crazy with you. And then, when you show up at the party? He acts like you are a total stranger and barely says two words to you. And you spend the next two months with a "When did I enter the Twilight Zone?" expression on your face, analyzing every text, e-mail and conversation you shared with this guy. And come up blank.

You know why you keep coming up blank? Because you’re avoiding the obvious explanation. This is the guy who comes on strong and finishes weak, like three-quarters of the movies that come out of Hollywood. This is the guy who visits you for a weekend and the first thing he does when he walks in is check the train schedule to see when he’ll be leaving. This is the guy who says he’ll call you and never rings, says he’ll e-mail you and never does, says he’ll meet you and never shows up, and who is so into you that he disappears off the face of Planet Earth when romantic push comes to carnal shove.

This guy is the PushMePullYou. And he is every guy. You have ever gone out with. In your. Entire. Life.

One minute it's this:

HIM: I really really like you.

YOU: I like you too.

And the next minute it's this:

YOU: I thought you liked me.

HIM: God no. Now I have to put my money where my mouth is.

That’s the guy in a nutshell. The problem isn't getting him to say "Yes." All you have to do to get a PushMePullYou to say “Yes!” is to make the first move. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Make the first move and a PushMePullYou will say “Yes!” immediately. It's getting him to say "Yes!" tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and a week later that's the problem, because by then, he will have had second, third, fourth and fifth thoughts. Which are actually first thoughts. This is because PushMePullYous are trained by years of playing sports to react without thinking or feeling to any kind of pressure situation. It’s only after they react that they say, “What the hell did I just do?” And if they did it badly, “Can I take it back?” This is not an option when you’re fielding a line drive and you botch the throw to first for the out. But when you’re fielding a come-on from a pretty girl, you always take it back, because you actually have the time to think it through.

HIM: Okay, I have the ball. Now what do I do with it? Do I throw to first? Do I give her the base? Do I even want her on base? Crap, she could score against me if she’s on base. I should throw her out. But I like her. I think I like her. Do I really like her? Do I like her enough to give her the base? She likes me. I should give her the base for liking me, right? But what if she steals second? Do I want her on second base? Second base is too close to home. And forget about third; if she gets to second, then third is just 90 feet away. I should throw her out. Oh crap; she’s on first already. She’s standing there smiling. And now she probably thinks that I let her get to first base because I didn’t try to throw her out. Crap crap crap. Maybe if I just ignore her. Maybe if I just hang on to the ball and walk into the dugout, she’ll go away.

“Maybe she’ll just go away.” Remember those words, because every PushMePullYou thinks them, even though he never says them out loud. They're not even the whole sentence - just the first half. The second half of the sentence? He can't even say it to himself, it's so embarrassing. Seven little words that explain it all: "So my life can be simple again." You didn't know you were like pneumonia after open-heart surgery, did you? You didn't know you were a complication. Butcha are, Blanche - yuh are. And armed with this knowledge, you can now save yourself countless hours of needless nitpicking over the incomprehensible behavior of these simpletons. Gone are the days when this conversation was the norm:

YOU: What do you think this means? He said he’d call me and he didn’t.

YOUR BEST FRIEND: How far did you get with him?

YOU: First base on a single, stole second.

YOUR BEST FRIEND: Then he totally should have called you.

YOU: But he didn’t! He said he had a great time, he texted me the next day and he wasn’t even psychotic, he said let’s go out Friday, I’ll call you Thursday about Friday; and now it’s Friday and he never called and I don’t know what to do. Did I hear him wrong? Should I call him? Should I text him? Should I say "Screw him?" What should I do?

YOUR BEST FRIEND: Okay – run that by me again.

Yes, kiss those frustratingly repetitive conversations goodbye the way you’d kiss that asshole goodbye. From now on you’ll be having conversations like this:

YOU: What do you think this means? He said he liked me and then he –


YOU: He said he’d call me and he –




It is the single all-purpose answer to any question about back-and-forth I'm-all-over-you-today-and-why-the-fuck-are-you-hanging-on-me-tomorrow male behavior: whatever you do or say, he will always do the opposite. Be distant? He’ll chase. Be forward? He’ll run. Be blasé? He’ll offer. Be expectant? He’ll disappoint.

YOU: Why did you pull back?


YOU: It was just a date; it’s not like were getting married.

HIM: [YES IT IS!] . . .

YOU: I’m sorry, did you say something? I thought I heard something.

HIM: [RUN! RUN AWAY!] I didn’t say anything.

YOU: So we’re okay then?

HIM: [FUCK NO!] Sure. [I’VE ALREADY FORGOTTEN YOUR NUMBER.] I’ll call you tomorrow.

So what do we learn from this? Four very worthwhile lessons:

1. Never give a PushMePullYou a chance to think. Thinking means second-guessing. Second-guessing means kicking himself. Kicking himself means he screwed up. And the only way to fix a screw-up is to screw up bigger.

2. When there’s nobody on base, it’s easier for guys to play the game. And when there is somebody on base, it's all about throwing them out.

3. A PushMePullYou will never live up to his promises, but always live up to his name.

4. Possibility always trumps actuality, like penis trumps brain.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mooning over Myrna -1

I broke down and bought the Myrna Loy/William Powell box set a couple of weeks ago, and finally got around to watching Manhattan Melodrama over the weekend for only maybe the third time in my life (I know; I know -- I'm such a slacker). I was immediately struck by (1) an idea for a short story and (b) the immediate chemistry between Myrna Loy and William Powell in their first screen meeting. For a woman who was voted Hollywood's Queen to Gable's King, Loy's scenes with Gable the gangster feel, well, "scripted" would be the best word. As opposed to her initial scene with Powell (below), which is like a breath of fresh air. Are they ad-libbing? Is that playfulness real? It sure comes across as real, in a way that the rest of the movie doesn't. Just look at that smile on Powell's face at about the 1 minute 48 second mark:

Bill? if I was in a car with that woman? I'd be grinning too.

More clips to come.