How does your garden grow? With muck, muck and more muck! I spent much of today finishing the final muck box and then shifting muck from one box to the next. The first box, which the Big Lad is enthusiastically pointing out, has been rotting down for two years now and once we’d removed the top quarter of unrotted material, we found we’d hit the pay dirt.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
The Last Frontier
Posted by Ben
I think a lot of people heard about how we landed on Mars and got some pictures from it. I think it's amazing we got something on another planet using robots, and it may not be long before a human being will see this view for themselves.
However I find it more incredible that we are still discovering separate groups of people on our own planet who until now have had NO EXPOSURE to the modern world as we know it. If I were hem, I'd wave my weapon at the sky as well.
Who can guess at what kind of debates and discourse are swirling round this amazonian tribe after the disturbance? Another explanation for their anger may be the plot line in the recent Indiana Jones movie, I mean flying saucers?!?!? For real?!?
Remember when I signed up for a "virtual lower east side" account? Well, it was stupid. I haven't logged on since. However, today I was bored and, after reading that the real lower east side is endangered, I decided to see if MTV's virtual environment managed to survive. I logged in and discovered...a ghost town. There was literally no one else anywhere in sight. Endangered indeed.
BUT, I did discover that Beirut will be playing a virtual concert there tonight at 8PM. What's a virtual concert you ask? That's a good question, and I don't have the answer. What do you say we all meet there and find out?
If you're interested, go here and register (it's free), then create an avatar that looks as close to yourself as possible and meet me in the virtual Bowery Ballroom at 8:00. We can make fun of the whole thing while secretly enjoying it.
There's a great site called MixWit that allows you to create a mixtape online and post the results on your webpage. It essentially crawls the web for posted mp3s, so you'll get mixed results, but it's mostly functional.
Here's a tape I call "3 Songs With The Word Muck In The Title" (I promise I'll come up with something better for the next one):
Not only is there a WTF sequel to Point Break on the way, but I've just learned of an even bigger WTF remake of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant...by Werner Herzog...starring Nicolas Cage.
I think they should start remaking movies from six months ago, so that the new version will be in theaters before the original hits DVD. Wouldn't you get excited about these remakes/sequels (I'd do some photoshopping if I weren't feeling lazy, but you can use your imaginations)
Lars and the Real Girl, starring Shia Leboeuf No Country for Old Men 2: No Country for Old Women, Either, starring Bea Arthur There Will Be Blood...ier, starring Ryan Reynolds Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr.
As a movie buff, for years I've bemoaned the lack of original content coming out of Hollywood. It's gotten worse and worse. Now, by "original," I don't mean fresh, daring, or even good. I simply mean original, as in not done before. I'm sure we've all noticed the trend of adaptations, sequels, and remakes, and the diminishing number of major motion pictures based on original material. And when you factor in how much money these sloppy seconds are raking in, it's all pretty sickening.
Or is it?? Today I read an article in The Hollywood Reporter concerning a sequel to one of my all time favorite uses of celluloid:
CANNES -- Seventeen years after "Point Break" washed up in movie theaters, surf's up for the sequel, "Point Break: Indo," with Jan de Bont aboard to direct.
RGM Entertainment and Essential Entertainment will exec produce this Asia-based follow-up to director Kathryn Bigelow's original, which starred de Bont's "Speed" lead Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent casing a gang of surfer bank robbers. The new film will take place 20 years after the disappearance of one of the criminal surfers (Patrick Swayze).
Both the original and sequel are written by W. Peter Iliff. Plot details and possible character reprises have not been disclosed, but the film will shoot in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Taylor Morgan Pictures' Chris Taylor and John Morgan will produce. RGM's Devesh Chetty, Essential's Jere Hausfater and Neil Kaplan, and the Paradigm-repped de Bont will executive produce.
That's right. Not only do the trades use awkward phrasing like "Paradigm-repped de Bont," but in this case they've clearly omitted the words "bank-robbing surf masterpiece" from their description. Nevertheless, this is an amazing bit of news.
Vaya con dios, Mr. de Bont, you've got a big wetsuit/ex-president's rubber mask to fill. Will W be the ring leader?
When I was 14, a good friend of mine borrowed a video camera from his cousin, and we began making movies. There were three of us, and mostly we loved to make skits for our non-existent sketch comedy show. Some of them still make me laugh when I think about them.
Around the same time, The State was airing on MTV. We loved The State, because it was the only thing on television that mirrored our bizarre senses of humor. Here are some of my personal favorite State sketches:
The notable exclusion here is "Taco Delivery," which I couldn't find on youtube. Anyone know a link?
I don't use this blog as much as I should do. I don't use it for the purposes that I could and should use it for either. I mean, it's a means of addressing an audience so wide and deep in it's diversity that if it were turned into a body of water it would make the Pacific Ocean look like a puddle. Ok maybe not but it would give one of the Great Lakes a run for their money. Point is, recently I was falsely accused of something, it's bothered me ever since, and I'd like to use the Muck to clear the waters. Jeff, I'm sorry if this interrupts your roots series, but I feel it does link to the social awkwardness post.
Last Thursday I was staffing an after school club for primary school children. I was there to work with one in particular. The children basically go there, have a snack, play with toys and stuff, and go when their parents get there. After helping make a race track and a nice sturdy base out of sofas, it became clear to me that one of the little rascals had stepped on a carpet toad. I didn't raise the subject because I didn't want to incite a witch hunt and pour scorn on the parper. As I prepared to leave with my charge one of the kids noticed the pong. "EEEuuurrrrr, someone faaaarrrted" she shouted. I was the closest one to her and she blamed me. ME. "Eeeuuurrr, he done a fart. A smelly fart". I didn't know how to react. I didn't want to get into a full blown argument about this but there was absolutely no way I could tacitly agree with her by responding with silence. I smiled, said, "no, of course it wasn't" and attempted to chivvy along my protege who was busy playing with a slinky.
The situation worsened when she alerted her friends (who were playing in the base that I had built) to the "fact" that I had farted. It wasn't long before I was surrounded by four or five 7 year olds pointing at me and holding their noses, calling me "a smelly farter". This was more than I could handle. Sometimes when I look in the mirror in the morning I like to think I could lend a comforting arm round the boy that I was and assure him that his fears and insecurities would be shed with the coming of age and that his skin, while still feeling the warmth of a summer breeze, the chill of a snowflake, the tenderness of a familiar touch, would repel such accusations and allow me to go about my daily business without wanting to disassemble myself, place me back in the box and return myself to the shop from whence I came. This was a reminder that those feelings never go away. You just get to leave when you want and buy yourself McDonalds.
A big part of me was embarrassed, as if I had been the farter. A part of me wanted to lash out, to thank the kid I was working with sarcastically for covering my back (he had just played with his stupid cars). I didn't do this, and I'd like to say that it was because I realised it was a completely irrational act, but deep down I know that a significant part of me just wanted to leave the torrid chapter behind for fear that he jumped on the band wagon, labelling me as the phantom guffer, and taking this information back home to his parents. THAT, I couldn't have dealt with, so I left it.
Anywho, to clarify, I did not drop one in after school club last week.
The latest in this series of posts on the foundations of my personality concerns my single most defining character trait: social awkwardness. Sometimes I think I could write a novel on the root causes of this awkwardness, but maybe it's not that complicated. Maybe it's just genetic. In any case, it's increasingly clear to me that I will never get over it. Sure I've learned how to manage the anxiety, but in a high pressure situation it all comes out - the stuttering, the jokes that don't go over, the paralyzing inability to make even the tiniest of decisions for fear that I'll get called out on making the wrong choice. I'm so self-conscious I even expect to be criticized when I'm all alone. Like someone's going to come around the corner and tell me I should have preheated the oven before mixing up the sauce. Really it's pretty ridiculous, and probably something I should go to therapy about. On the other hand, I'd never survive if I hadn't learned how to cover it up a little and press on. The ways by which I do that are innumerable, and nearly everything I've ever said in a social situation can be traced back to this all consuming phobia. And nearly every one of my obsessions has been an effort to escape from the pain of feeling like I'm merely an honorary member of the human race. I know that sounds negative, but I do like who I am, and I've had a lot of great experiences and interesting relationships as a result of being such a wreck. If everything had been easy, I probably would have bored myself to death. Instead, I'm just boring you.
I can't even articulate how important a role stand up comedy played in shaping my personality. Nobody gave me the time of day in school until I started stealing jokes from comedians and using them at the lunch table. Really, it's amazing how much you can get out of life just by making people laugh. Not only did I gain a social life, but I also developed a perspective on the world that still helps to keep me sane.
This isn't a clip from my adolescence, or even an example of the kind of comedy I'm normally drawn to, but it's the last thing that made me laugh, and I think it's sort of genius.
Here's a Maxim article looking back on True Romance 15 years after its release. I was 13 when I first saw this movie, and it lodged itself permanently into my brain for a few different reasons. First, there was this classic scene:
I must have replayed that scene on my VHS copy in my parent living room at least three dozen times. Why I wasn't immediately sent to therapy, I can not say. I'd crank it up, too, feeding off the techno beat and quoting all the lines. I still get a big thrill out of it, and Gary Oldman's performance is no less impressive - especially when you watch him talk about the role with his british accent and realize the acting muscles required to pull off an American cliche so convincingly:
The other classic scene, the one for the ages, is of course the great Moors dialog between Walken and Hopper:
Again, it still holds up really well. When's the last time you saw a scene this captivating, and yet so simple??
But the main reason True Romance holds a special place in my heart is because it was the very first time I consciously understood the importance of the screenwriter. It sounds absurd, but when we watch a movie we're so taken with the acting and the imagery that it's easy to forget that it all began with some courier font on a white page.
With True Romance, I loved the movie (which bombed in the theaters, by the way) before I knew that it was penned by Quentin Tarantino. I was very proud of myself for putting two and two together after I saw Reservoir Dogs, as I had an epiphay that the dialog was similar and maybe the two were written the same guy, this dude with the funny name.
And, finally, as a bonus, who can forget Brad Pitt's scene stealing role as Floyd: Unfortunately I couldn't find the great "Don't condescend me man...I'll fucking kill ya, man" clip, but it deserves a mention.
Continuing the hopscotch through memory lane, we move from Michael Jackson to David Lynch's 1980 film, The Elephant Man. The connection lies in the rumor that Jackson wanted to buy the real Elephant Man's skeleton. According to Wikipedia:
In the mid-1980s, it was widely reported that singer Michael Jackson wanted to purchase the Elephant Man's bones. Jackson denied this. In 1993, during an interview at his Neverland Ranch, Michael Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that it was, "another stupid story. I love the story of the Elephant Man, he reminds me of me a lot, and I could relate to it, it made me cry because I saw myself in the story, but no I never asked for the... where am I going to put some bones? And why would I want some bones?" In a 1989 music video for the song "Leave Me Alone" (from Moonwalker), Jackson could be seen dancing alongside a claymation version of Merrick's bones. This was a piece of sarcastic humor, as other parts of the video dealt with how Jackson was unfairly portrayed by the media.
Jacko aside, I don't know much about the real Joseph Merrick (his name in real life was Joseph, not John). The movie, however, left a strong impression on me when I finally saw it 16 years after its release.
While I've only seen The Elephant Man once, the story and imagery moved me so much that I remember it as if I've seen it dozens of times. In particular, I remember that grainy, beautiful black & white: Well, I have to cut this short because I'm at work, but basically it's an awesome movie and one of the reasons I love David Lynch, as it shows the true breadth of his range.
Here are some interesting facts (from imdb):
-This film was executive produced by 'Mel Brooks (I)' , who was responsible for hiring director David Lynch and obtaining permission to film in black and white. He deliberately left his name off the credits, as he knew that people would get the wrong idea about the movie if they saw his name on the film, given his fame as a satirist.
-Following the death of the real Joseph "John" Merrick, parts of his body were preserved for medical science to study. Some internal organs were kept in jars, and plaster casts were taken of his head, an arm, and a foot. Although the organs were destroyed by German air raids during the Second World War, the casts survived and are kept at the London Hospital. The makeup for John Hurt, who played Merrick in the film, was designed directly from those casts.
-The Elephant Man makeup took 7 hours to apply each time. John Hurt would arrive on set at 5.00am and shoot from noon until 10.00pm. Because of the strain on the actor, he worked alternate days.
-After the first day of shooting, when actor John Hurt was exposed for the first time to the inconveniences of having his make-up applied and walking around in it, he called his wife, saying, I think they finally managed to make me hate acting.
Michael Jackson owns one of the E.T. puppets. Or at least he used to. So it's a perfect segue from that film to the former King of Pop.
Michael Jackson is one of those icons that we have all responded to at one point or another. He's so ubiquitous that it's impossible to imagine America without him, especially for children of the 70s and 80s who were born after he was already as famous as God. Like it or not, we all have some sort of consumptive relationship with Michael Jackson.
My earliest memory of him dates back to when I was five years old (it's not what you're thinking). I have a clear recollection of standing in my best friend Christopher's room as he dropped the needle on a well played record album. This was Thriller. I had no idea who Vincent Price was, but I liked Halloween and ghouls, and I liked this music. But I didn't love it.
Years later, I purchased the second album I ever owned. Well, my parents purchased it. This was Michael Jackson's Bad. And man, it was bad. In a good way (if you were white, it was necessary to clarify this).
The titular song was my favorite, of course. For several nights after I got the tape, I took my boom box into the bathroom with me so I could have "Bad" as the soundtrack to my bath. One night, I tried to memorize the lyrics, and played the song over and over while writing down the words in a soggy notebook. I don't think I ever got them right ("And the whole world knows I'm nice and not noose (?!) and I tell you once again, who's bad?")
I loved the video as well, which, unbeknown to me at the time, was directed by Martin Scorsese. But this was the extent of my obsession with Michael. Definitely on the tame end of that spectrum. I still love old videos of him dancing, and he really was a smooth criminal. Freak or not.
Anyway, here's the Bad video. I haven't seen it in years, but I'm actually pretty excited about watching it.