Saturday, November 11, 2017

14 weeks in the monastery

The passing of time, the marking of milestones, commemorative coincidences...such things don't normally interest those devoted to living in the moment.
Yet as i sit here in my new home, i'm struck by resonances of the first article that ever appeared on this site. Almost ten years ago, i looked out my second-story city window and said hello to you.
Tonight, i look out another second-story window onto a city street, and it feels like a new birth has begun. Indeed, the main reason i returned to urban life after five years in a bucolic beach bungalow, is to maximize my literary voice in the world. I took some humblingly satisfying public-speaking baby steps on that Gulf of Mexico island...and now, i'm in one of the most famously progressive cities on the planet, ready to make writing and public speaking my primary means of interaction with my species.
Hello San Francisco! How is your spirit?
I've been here less than a week, but i've been in the Bay area almost five months, most of that time in painful purgatory, waiting for a safe haven. I seem to have found it, in the last place expected - the geographic center of the third most-expensive city in the U.S. I don't know anything about Honolulu, but with respect to NYC, i don't know whose ass they kissed to get a higher ranking. I lived in that Apple for ten years, and never had a problem getting a room at the drop of a hat, for $500 or less. Yet from my temporary housing across the Bay in San Pablo, i banged my head for three months against the local financial realities, trying to find a home on my non-materialist budget. Just a little room...a glorified closet would do! The ever-changing title to this article is testament to the never-ending stress of that search, because of the unrelenting hours it absorbed every day (visits that didn't pan out, disturbingly well-written fake ads, extensive phone calls and e-mails, flaky landlords, the feeling of having my life on hold, chained to my computer because if you're not one of the first respondents when an ad comes up, your chance is gone...NO, i don't have one of those pernicious smartphone doohickies).
And then there was the other component of my stress...a live-in, obsessive/compulsive, bipolar landlord. That doesn't sound so painful when spoken in clinical terms - which is the greatest flaw of overly clinical language. This piece's original title? "Six Weeks in the Monastery". That became a gut-lurching "Ten Weeks...", then finally...
So optimism and rebirth are upon me.
But first the strange, sad tale of the most schizophrenic home i've ever known (indeed, i don't know what the minimum time requirement is for a place to psychologically qualify as "home", but i definitely passed that benchmark once i moved beyond the initial title of this piece). "Schizophrenic" isn't a comment on that landlord, though...it refers to the heavenly aspects that existed alongside the hellish. Two of my housemates were an unqualified source of joy and camaraderie. One was a source of camaraderie and misery both.
Why do i say "monastery"? Because silence was urged - except for the occasional shared movie night, no electronic devices without headphones. If you had a phone call, it was recommended you take it to the garage, or outside. Cleanliness was not next to godliness, it was the other way around - nothing out of place, and cooking dishes were to be cleaned before you eat. And NO houseguests.
None of those restrictions are inherently unreasonable...indeed, some are perfectly acceptable, even nice (for example, in silence i discovered that cactus flowers make an extraordinary popping noise when they unfurl). But most of those restrictions are distinctly unpleasant when married to obsessive compulsion.
I originally came to San Pablo as a semi-desperate choice, after two housing opportunities fell through and i faced the prospect of being the "guest who stayed too long". I'd been at my brother's for a month, first housesitting, then going with john and mary on vacations to Monterrey and Mendocino. It was all wonderful, but approaching sour time, so when i had a lovely phone chat about eastern philosophy with a landlord who would take me right away, i was off!
For my $500 a month, i got a shared living room. S, the landlord, knew upfront that i'd be continuing my search for a permanent home. With my customary positivity, i threw myself into my new surroundings...given an air mattress and a suggestion that i place it near the other tenant, i crafted a nook under the stairs. It fit the mattress perfectly, and i hung a sheet for privacy. Charming. I also devoted much more of of my time than any other tenant to cleaning and improving the home. The building itself was in a modest little condo complex, with an enviable ethnic mix.
My roommate G was from Uganda, and we hit it off beautifully. He was gentle and intelligent, a political science student at Berkeley. He wanted to become a U.N. delegate (if he could stand living long-term in such a spiritually-bankrupt country as ours, he said). As a child, he had escaped the rwandan genocide that killed most of the people he knew. Our first night, we talked about ubuntu philosophy. Later, he initiated me into the delights of dragon fruit, and invited me to visit Africa. He said that given my un-american personality, i might never leave (and that given my sexy paucity of pigmentation, ugandan women might not let me go). S, who had grown up in Iran and lived through a war, also talked eagerly with me that first night. He shared his dulcimer - lovely. The next day, he treated me to a walk in Tilden Park, and an amazing tibetan restaurant lunch. My third housemate M turned out to be one of the most gracious, humorous people i've ever known. He'd spent a lifetime in environmental and spiritual pursuits, and was also a poet. I realized i was the only non-believer in the house, but the others were anti-religious, so there was no tension. We eventually shared movie nights, and a few exquisite meals.
Heavenly.
And hellish!
The OC/bipolar factor made me feel like a guest in my own home (and an occasionally unwelcome one, at that). The no-houseguest policy hit me hard, as for the first time in five years, i had a lover! One with whom i struggled to find together time, and who could have visited me often. We met during my home search, when she was renting a room...which went to someone else, but i ended up her bed buddy, so i got the best of that deal. She was a single mother with a full-time job, so we saw each other only once a week for a few hours...plus innumerable garage Skype sessions.
Understand, a part of me has such admiration and hope for S. He's one of the sincerest people you'll ever meet, and perhaps one of the few who is actually making fundamental changes to his personality. I never spoke the word "bipolar" to him, because it's so heavy and permanent-sounding. With what we're learning about the plasticity of the human brain, i truly do think that he's pursuing spiritually-evolved attitudes so diligently, that ten years from now his bipolar issues may be gone. But holy clusterfuck, it is stunningly, soul-crushingly hard to live with a bipolar human being. I am in awe of my aunt, who has spent decades doing it. I truly don't understand how's she's survived. It's not the outbursts that destroy you...it's the omnipresent awareness that one might happen at any time. S's issues meant that everything had to be just right...which is hard enough when you have your own room to retreat to, but brutal without even that. Two or three times, i left an unwashed dish in the sink, and his reaction would either be condescending unpleasantry, or outright insanity as he viciously misremembered reality. I knew, i KNEW, that it wasn't him, it was his demons. I knew not to take it personally. Having the strength of will to not be affected though, was beyond me. I chided him once, saying that the only people who could be happy in his house are monks. He didn't understand how serious i was. In conversation, he also displayed energy vampire qualities - if he got going, he wouldn't even slow down to breathe. I realized that for our talks to be balanced, i would have to continuously and aggressively interrupt him...which was NOT going to happen, given my gentle personality and the diminished emotional walls that have been the by-product of my own spirit quest. I made an occasional attempt to be honest with him, but mostly i focused on keeping the peace. I looked forward to the time when i could give him the full measure of my understanding...which he might eagerly accept. I would share my theory on his conversational style (perhaps in his childhood, words were one of the only places he felt safe?). And i would offer my greatest uncertainty - that having housemates now is either the absolute worst thing he could do, or the best. Or both? It's a perfect formula for spreading misery in the world, but also perhaps a way for him to force himself to keep becoming more human.
This strange existence gave me a window into all those women (and some men) who stay in abusive relationships. There is something comforting in familiarity...indeed, i'm sure it's one of our primary psychological needs. Despite the unending undercurrent of dread, there was also a level on which i bonded with and found solace in that home.
How chillingly perverse.
And our home was a haven for black widows! I was the first to discover one. Their lethal reputation is largely hype, as i've yet to meet any californian with a horror story, and most bites don't require medical attention. I was content to kill them, though...having dealt with the sleep-murdering stress of New York bedbugs and Florida mosquitoes, my veganism has made peace with insecta annihilation. Every week or two, we'd find one...once, even by my elbow as i lay in bed reading.
When opportunities finally presented themselves, G or M would commiserate with me about the stresses of our home. G had been there a year, and when he finally freed himself six weeks after i arrived, it wasn't pretty. His spiritual composure crumbled shockingly. His chief stresses were over S's cruelty, and the feeling he'd been taken advantage of financially (when i analyzed the house budget, i had to agree). Giving no notice, he just left...and soon was on the phone with S, threatening to call the police. I winced at his clumsy attack, but understood.
Yet even in his most stressful hour, S displayed flashes of advanced spirituality. In the midst of G's exodus, S realized that G had bagged up a box of Swiffer wipes S had bought. He reclaimed them...but soon put them back in G's bag. Yet there were also retaliatory, destructive impulses S was giving in to, which i made him acknowledge...but he walked back that Swiffer choice without any counsel but his own.
And M...it would be hard to overstate how much he helped my sanity. Such openness and gentle giving. After i'd been there ten weeks, he sprang free as well. I helped him move, and he stayed on good terms with S, even returning for a couple more Star Trek nights.
My last few weeks brought two new housemates, both coincidentally from Pakistan. The first gave his thirty-day notice three days after he arrived (but i'm not sure why, as he wasn't interacting with S). The second lasted forty-six hours before being evicted for smoking. It was unfortunate, and partly due to cultural differences (smoking-wise, Pakistan is where we were thirty years ago). I was sad, because even though he was a fundamentalist misogynist, he was perhaps quite progressive back home. His first night, he was rather lost and alone, having left his home soil for the first time only two days before. I gave him comfort...when he and S had their eviction argument, they huddled around me, as a safe zone.
Chemistry is a funny thing, though. While G was there, i was fine taking care of my sexual needs behind that hanging sheet...but when a new roommate moved in, i no longer felt that comfort.
A few nights after i left, i had a dream in which S and i were attending a community college class. When i later found him on a city street corner, he had been in an accident. He was sitting up and maintaining his composure, such that it took me a minute to realize he had been maimed. There were bloody wounds, including a widening pool around one eye, and a broken forearm hanging at a sharp angle.
Sometimes dreams are obscure. Other times, not even a little.
And there is always, always a price to pay for the damage we do to each other...and the damage we do to ourselves.
For all the ease with which i found homes in my price range in NYC, i never actually lived in Manhattan itself. And here i am now, smack dab in some of the most coveted real estate in the world...and i'd almost rather be in a "less desirable" borough, as i like Berkeley's energy more. But i tried for three months to find a home within biking distance...
And now, thanks to rent control and a non-greedy new landlord, i'll be coming to you from ground zero of the Summer of Love.
One block from Golden Gate Park.
The zero-emissions buses connected to the cables above, pass by below.
Tomorrow, my lover may be spending her first night here. We have sex. Without condoms. Wheeee!
Perhaps money has destroyed much of the authenticity and unconventionality this city once had, as many Bay locals grumble.
But i'm here. And i'm naked.
I love you all.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

funniest sketches of all time

The funniest comedy sketches in the history of television. I wish i could link you to them all, but oh that proprietary bullshit...
(NLA = no link available)
"The Sanity Clause"
-A Night at the Opera
Okay, this isn't television...but this is what every comedy writer of the 20th century was chasing. It only took half a century or so to catch up.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Sy6oiJbEk
"Who's on First?"
-The Abbott & Costello Show
This one first came to fame in radio and movies, and has inspired more imitations than any sketch ever.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=airT-m9LcoY
"This Is Your Story"
-Your Show of Shows
TV's breakthrough into the realm of real funny.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQBlEnsylI0
"The Dentist"
-The Carol Burnett Show
There's been sketch comedy more brilliant, but i'm not sure there's ever been anything more funny than conway cracking up korman.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cUZhHS0PMM
"Philosophy Football"
-Monty Python's Flying Circus
Too smart? Sorry.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur5fGSBsfq8&t=100s
"The Parrot Sketch"
-Monty Python's Flying Circus
There. They can dumb it down, too.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npjOSLCR2hE
"NPR's Delicious Dish: Schweddy Balls"
-SNL
Ladies love my balls.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPpcfH_HHH8
"Racial Draft"
-Chapelle's Show
Scattershot satire that misses no mark. NLA, but if you enjoyed "Who's on First?"...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evt6As72m4
"The Niggar Family"
-Chapelle's Show
Preposterous (ly funny). NLA, but if you happened to like "Who's on First?"...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BmTYpVtICE
"Jackie Rodgers' Jr.'s $100,000 Jackpot Wad"
-SNL
From the funniest SNL season ever. NLA - so, what did you think of "Who's on First?"?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdqv5xIsFLM
"I Know Black People"
-Chapelle's Show
NLA. Never saw the show, but somehow knew the black guy was cleaning up. Just like YOU know there's probably another "Who's on First?" coming...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ETjwNs3Qus
"Haunted Elevator"
-SNL
Can anyone explain why this is hysterical?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS00xWnqwvI
"Election Night Special"
-Monty Python's Flying Circus
Sllllightly silly...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJVROcKFnBQ
"Chocolate Factory"
-I Love Lucy
No, not technically sketch comedy...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkQ58I53mjk
"Substitute Teacher"
-key & peele
Son of a BITCH!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd7FixvoKBw
"Chippendale's Audition"
-SNL
Shameless? Lowbrow? Hysterical? NLA? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Like the band Yes, who were in that other tribute to "Who's on First?"...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK5HA5baxBo
"The Cheese Shop"
-Monty Python's Flying Circus
I think it's funnier than you like it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3KBuQHHKx0
"Buckwheat Has Been Shot"
-SNL
An amazing high wire act. Even now, some wouldn't be comfortable finding humor in john lennon's murder. And even though this one's NLA, i promise i'll never again inflict another "Who's on First?" on you.
"Behind the Music: Blue Oyster Cult"
-SNL
NLA. I gotta have more cowbell...and i gotta break my vow about "Who's on First?"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0Jg7pvVzKk
"Argument Clinic"
How delightful the lengths they went to never end on a punch line...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y
Too much python, chapelle, and SNL? Make your case! Fill up that comment box!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"God, No!"

(Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales)
-by penn jillette
2011
Don't get overexcited. The title is misleading.
Not in the specific sense...penn's lead-off essay is exactly what the title and subtitle promise. His premise is this - if "god" told you to kill your child, would you do so? Penn dares suggest that the overwhelming majority of believers would NOT, thereby outing themselves as atheists-in-hiding. It's a sharp argument.
But don't expect a book devoted to theistic matters. Penn shoots off into more traditional memoir fare...his experiences in zero G, firsthand knowledge of what burning cock smells like, devout admiration for siegfried & roy, devout loathing for kreskin, sober partying with ron jeremy and a naked elvis impersonator...penn's voice is well-honed, and his writing smooooth.
He also takes a stab at re-writing the Ten Commandments. He calls agnosticism insincere, intellectual sleight-of-hand, and that the sins of faith are too life-threatening to be appeased (my own approach is sometimes still conciliatory, but not long ago i wrote an "atheisto" essay in which i declared i could no longer be agnostic in good conscience).
Penn also dives into his libertarianism, and his frustrations with conservatives and liberals. He makes good points, yet it also seems that libertarianism's devotees are so widely divergent as to be almost incoherent. Penn acknowledges this...indeed he's sometimes modest to a fault (while at the same time being somehow unapologetically arrogant). Libertarian's individualism, freedom, and the notion that we don't need big government social programs, combined with penn's atheism, misses an important point - religion as an institution isn't about god at all. It's about social glue. And in a property-based culture of competition, people need artificial, POWERFUL social glue to keep us from acting despicably. Is penn right about people basically being good? I think so...but capitalism without something to replace religion is just a confederacy of amoral predators.
But the book taken as a whole is rather fantastic, and entertaining as hell. Penn's forthrightness is admirable, and even if you disagree with him, you get the sense that he'd be delighted to talk about it, and might possibly change his mind if you made sense.
Would that we were all like that. We might even maybe save this insane world.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

funniest songs of all time

The biggest challenge for this list in the video age, is whether a song can stand apart from its visual element (or even whether it should). In reverse-alphabetical order, because we're hip like that:
"Who's Next?"
-tom lehrer
Wait, nuclear annihilation can be...funny?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUue4dBZwI8
"White & Nerdy"
-"weird al" yankovic
It's hard to crack this list with a parody...but if it were twice as long, half the additional entries might be al's. It was tempting to finish this list with "Amish Paradise", but there's really only one alphabetically-aligned perfect happy ending.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9qYF9DZPdw
"Start Me Up"
-the Folksmen
This parody is dryly commonplace silliness, until the transcendent tag explodes into heavenly hilarity.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toNjwDa-TTY
"Short People"
-randy newman
We don't use the word "genius" lightly.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrjStSqu_w4
"Shame"
-randy newman
If this list were half as long, both of randy's entries would still be here. '77, '99...shouldn't he have had a burst of genius in '88? And '00 and '11, for that matter?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4Iaur2Tlio
"Particle Man"
-They Might Be Giants
Pure absurdity? Social commentary? We just don't know.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOLivyykLqk
"Medical Love Song"
-Monty Python
Another source that might have easily had more entries, especially for fans of traffic lights.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfHCxIiZ_4M
"John Mayer for Dummies"
-Key of Awesome
Is it possible to love this parody in a 100% affectionate way?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ3FyFFDDiY
"I'm Fucking Ben Affleck"
-jimmy kimmel
The inspiration? Very funny. The response? (Almost) genius.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwIyLHsk2h4
"Here Comes Another One"
-Monty Python
Sit on my lumberjack face? Deserving, but too obvious.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAf0qmjiX7M
"Hannukah Song"
-adam sandler
Covered by both ozzy osborne and neil diamond? No, not really...but i had you going, didn't i?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDV_reO930A
"Fuck Her Gently"
-Tenacious D
And then, they're going to comedy you hard.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvdYly4A5W0
"Dick in a Box"
-The Lonely Island
Even without the genius visuals, the audio alone would make the list.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeWvs27JOCI
"Chocolate Salty Balls"
-isaac hayes
Well, they can't all be oscar wilde.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnNYXgV7L-c
"Chocolate"
-The Smothers Brothers
Chocolate!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSmqYSVVpTM
"Business Time"
-Flight of the Conchords
A rare example of the live version being funnier than the funny video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGOohBytKTU
"Big Bottom"
-Spinal Tap
Please give close attention to derek's instrument. He'd like that.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qDgCmzh5ao
So...have i missed any? Fill up that comment box!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"The Drunkard's Walk"

(How Randomness Rules Our Lives)
-by leonard mlodinow
2008
My aunts and mother believe that every time they find a penny, it's a message from their dead mother.
My brother insists that whenever we play cards, the trump card must always be "predicted". He gets mystically orgasmic when someone is right (or even vaguely close).
Am i the ONLY person in my family not a superstitious simpleton, ignorant of any understanding of statistics and probabilities?
Mind you, i have my own statistic bugaboo - the fact that i don't buy it. The whole concept, i mean. For the most part i do, but there's one element i can't reconcile, the notion that if you deal with large enough numbers, say dice rolls in the thousands, the distribution will become more and more predictable the higher you go...you'll eventually get the same percentage of sixes as ones...and I DON'T QUITE BUY IT. It seems just another form of mystical-wistical mumbo jumbo...for all that to work out, it seems that dice would have to possess memory. But DICE CAN'T REMEMBER, i say! Which mlodinow would agree with, to a point. He would say that you shouldn't be amazed by six sixes in a row (or even sixteen or twenty-six), but he would also say that when you get to high enough numbers, the probabilities even out.
It feels like statisticians want to have their cake, and eat it too.
But one thing i do accept, as this book shows, is that human probabilistic intuition is grievously flawed, and the sooner we understand that, the better our lives will get. And this book offers a wonderful, accessible understanding of how these things work. Mlodinow (who co-wrote "A Briefer History of Time" with stephen hawking) talks about regression toward the mean, which shows that great or awful results are aberrations, and subsequent events always trend back toward the average. This trips us up, because humans are easily swayed by extreme events (for example, flight instructors fallaciously believe that yelling at a student after a bad flight is a successful teaching tactic). And perhaps the greatest human statistical misconception is the belief that success and failure are based on merit. Statistics show that both results are largely random. For example, john grisham had his first book rejected by publishers twenty-six times. Dr. seuss, twenty-seven. Or take pulitzer-prize winning novelist john kennedy toole, whose first book was published eleven years after he committed suicide after repeated rejections by publishers. Success and failure (at least by the myopic, zero-sum standards of this society) are at least as much about persistence as ability.
I can imagine a more sharply-focused book, strictly dealing with exposing human misconceptions. The title refers to the randomness (like bouncing molecules) within order. Leonard perhaps neglects the topic of coincidence, and how "miraculous" events are actually commonplace...something we fail to appreciate, because we're not always looking where we would have to, to see them all. So we get boggle-eyed by seemingly-astounding coincidence. Mlodinow does, however, take the time to delve deeply into the history of probabilities. And he offers many rich examples...like how we know that a significant percentage of college sports games are fixed, or how we can be certain that wine-tasting guides are bullshit. Or how financial advisers and movie studio executives are rewarded or punished on the basis of nearly 100% bullshit.
As for my brother, if ESP existed, every casino in the world would go out of business.
As for my mother and aunts, if they started finding spanish doubloons everywhere...there STILL would be a rational explanation.
As for me, i may have to go roll a die one thousand times, just to accept the magical powers of statistical probabilities once and for all.
A wonderful book.

Friday, October 20, 2017

"Ishtar"

-directed and written by elaine may
1987
Oft-acerbic cartoonist gary larson penned some 4000 THE FAR SIDEs...and there was only ever one for which he publicly apologized. A "hell's video store" featuring shelves full of nothing but ISHTAR.
The zeitgeist's attitude toward this movie has softened from its initial roaring condemnation, when ISHTAR became the infamous poster child for bloated Hollywood wretchedness. Perhaps money was a factor in the public scorn that cascaded down, but not in the obvious way...perhaps it was a subconscious twinge of shame from an obscenely rich country that allows millions of its citizens to live in poverty. What's that? $40,000,000 for a MOVIE?? A comedy, no less? I HATE IT!!! Or perhaps, in this sycophantic culture of self-loathing, sometimes we have a cathartic need to immolate - for every Beatles or AVATAR, we need a nixon or ISHTAR. And if you read the trivia section from this movie's IMDB page, you might be dumbfounded at how seemingly doomed-to-failure it was, with toxic disagreements between director and stars and studio chief david puttnam (whose lack of enthusiasm for this inherited project may have blossomed into outright self-sabotage). It's certainly puzzling how the wheels fell off so swiftly, especially after the pre-release screenings were all successes.
But in the intervening decades, more and more cries of "unfairly maligned" have popped up. Or some version of "not bad, and the songs are wonderful". So perhaps someday ISHTAR will be hailed as one of the great comic gems of all time. I don't dabble in hyperbole (well, much), but i promise you, this film is on par with the quote-reference status of marx, mel, Python, or ZAZ.
One fascinating by-product of the discord was that may, hoffman, and beatty each had their own team of editors, making three different versions of the film. Which was released?? How many years are we going to have to wait for a deluxe edition, with all three?
So here's what you'll fall in love with, if you dare. Hoffman (TOOTSIE, THE EARTH DAY SPECIAL) and beatty (BULWORTH, THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS) play two hack lounge singers who get a booking in Morocco, then get swept up into intrigue between a despot, rebels, and the CIA. In acting, drama gets the glory...but comedy is harder, and dustin and warren nail this one. Throughout the mayhem, lyle and chuck keep writing songs and focusing on their act...and indeed the music (by may and songwriting legend paul williams - THE MUPPET MOVIE, THE LOVE BOAT) is so off-the-charts, intentionally-awful hysterical, one can only hope it was as much fun to create as it is to hear. It's so infectious, you might end up rejecting the "awful" premise altogether. It's certainly my holy grail, as a soundtrack was recorded but never released. Are you reading this, paul?? Tell us you didn't burn the masters! Our bumbling leads both fall in love with the same revolutionary (the impeccable isabelle adjani - NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, QUEEN MARGOT). The oscar goes to charles grodin (MIDNIGHT RUN, DAVE), who manages to make an amoral CIA antagonist both hysterical and sympathetic. Jack weston (THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET, THE FOUR SEASONS) plays the duo's jaded agent, to hangdog perfection. Carol kane (TAXI, THE PRINCESS BRIDE) is priceless as a put-upon girlfriend. Matt frewer (MAX HEADROOM, THE CRIMSON PERMANENT ASSURANCE) is spiffy as a CIA operative.
The chemistry and comedy are seamless...and sometimes the accidents worked in their favor. There was supposed to be a big military climax, which warren almost insisted upon, but it wasn't elaine's forte. Warren gave in, and as a result, that scene centers around a lone jeep in the desert...which is a perfect metaphor for chuck and lyle themselves. It keeps the lightness and pathos close at hand.
There. I've told the truth. That's dangerous business.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"The Princess Diarist"

-by carrie fisher
2016
What happened? I told myself (and the world) that i was out! Yet here i am, touching (however tangentially) upon a piece of the Star Wars universe. I made the break a few years back...i, who for much of my childhood plus my teen years PLUS most of my adulthood, had held my devotion aloft (admittedly never so, shall we say, "colorfully" as some fans, but in my heart and the scope of my knowledge, i took a back seat to no one). Finally though, i could no longer ignore the fact that the SW universe is one of glamorized, unrelenting violence, wherein the "good" people are just as blood-spattered as the "bad" (okay, light sabers self-cauterize, but you get the point). And beyond that, to see life as "good vs. evil" is a child's philosophy, one that has humynity stuck in apocalyptic barbarism.
And when i say "enough", that's what i mean. So when Episode VII (with original cast!) was released, i took no notice. Not one stray glance or thought. It would be almost impossible to overstate the enormity of that, given my previous life.
Why then, am i here today?
Because of carrie. That plus extenuating circumstances. I'd been aware of this book, and wasn't tempted, even though i hold ms. fisher the writer in high regard. But last week, i was in a rush at the library, needing a semi-mindless bedtime book. So i grabbed this - a collection of diary entries from the time she was filming the first SW movie, before her world (and ours) changed forever.
Knowing carrie, i expected literary merit and blunt honesty. What the hell, i said...it would be the one little indulgent SW reminiscence i would ever give myself. So what happened on the way to this being a trifle that i would never consider worthy of sharing with you?
An eye-openingly wonderful book, that's what.
The way she set up the diaries, with self-deprecation about what an unformed, uneducated teenager she'd been, led me to have minuscule expectations. I assumed that i would enjoy her present-day commentaries more.
Which turned out to be true...
But the power of the diaries snuck up on me, until i was gobsmacked by her nuanced, crystalline expressions of longing and self-loathing, all centered around the "secret" affair she had during those three months, with harrison ford. These diaries are a searing portrayal of alienation...and not just the kind we feel from other people, but the more disturbing alienation we feel from ourselves. Carrie captures what it means to live in this dysfunctional culture, where even our most intimate relationships are often a source of never-ending torment, as we struggle and bargain for the simple love we need. Which leads us (for those who try to remain emotionally open) to never-ending cycles of self-destruction...or never-ending cycles of self-deception for everybody else.
Carrie was, of course, more in the destruction than deception camp.
And her teenage poetry is astonishing. My expectations were comically low, so i had to read four or five of them before it sank in just how good they are.
And now, i realize that if i live a long life, i may actually one day watch her two late-life SW films...if only to search for a glimpse of the deeper soul hidden behind her eyes.
Brilliantly done, carrie. Thank you.