Friday, April 25, 2008

"Look at the bitch, Dino!"

In February, Los Angeles passed a law requiring dogs to be spayed or neutered before they are 4 months old. I guess this law makes sense as some sort of 'civic responsibility' protocol, due to the daunting packs of feral dogs that roam our streets and harass the wives of city councilmen, but it just seems wrong to de-man a man, be he dog or human, or de-woman a woman, be she dog or woman.

But all that jazz is beside the point. The point is two of my friends had to have their dog neutered the other day.

This dog--I'll call him Dino--is a macho, prized purebred, and my friend Sal is a doting, equally macho owner. He hails from Spain, where machismo was invented. This being the case, it was a tough decision for him to abide by the impending law, and Sal and his wife, Delores, were only able to get themselves to do so after taking care of a few things.

"A few things" was actually only one thing--freezing Dino's sperm. I guess it was easier for them to deal with Dino being 'broken' if they at least had the power to create children for him , should Dino decide in his later years that he wants to bring children into this cruel, cruel world.

Conveniently, the only doggie sperm bank in the country happens to be located in California, a fact I find very hard to believe. I mean easy to believe--very, very easy to believe.

Now, since I heard this story from my mailman, through a game of telephone, I don't know all the details, but I do know some:

Delores drove 110 miles to San Marcos, CA, to the Canine Cryobank, with little ole Dino--a virgin--to supervise his first-ever sexual experience.

As it turned out, her involvement went a bit beyond 'supervision.'

As it turned out, Delores had to hold Dino's head in place, forcing him to look at the 'teaser bitch' as a female technician jacked off her dog. She offered helpful encouragement:
"Look at the bitch, Dino! Look at the bitch!"
A 'teaser bitch,' for those of you weirdos out there unfamiliar, is a female dog in heat, brought in to excite the male dog from afar, which I find fascinating. Why are doggie porn magazines not enough? Why is direct, clinically-precise stimulation of his doggie dick not enough? Why is any random sexy bitch, as opposed to one who is specifically in heat, not enough? Why are they not allowed to 'play?' He just has to be held down while he looks at her? They can't even kiss?

There must be a science to it. I mean, I doubt the scene is created just for kicks, since dog semen acquirers/injectors are clearly busy people who don't fuck around; this must just be the efficient result of over 25 years of trial and error.

That's right--I said 25 years. They've been freezing dog semen for more than TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. A dog who died before Back to the Future came out could have a kid tomorrow. In fact, the day before Dino done got did, a filthy little bitch was inseminated with semen that was twenty-six years old. Wow.

Back to Dino. Let's dog-ize this story once more. This is about a dog named Dino. His name is Dino. Let's not forget that. Dino was born, Dino was purchased and taken away from his family, Dino grew up with his new loving owners, Dino went through dog puberty, Dino's semen was deemed a citywide nuisance, Dino was held down and hand-raped by a specialist, Dino had his balls cut off.

What is Dino supposed to do now? Sit in a rocking chair in the front yard, with a blanket over his lap, reading Proust and frowning? Hide in the trees and drink himself into a stupor, repetitively reminiscing about his solitary orgasm?
"Let's see...I was in a room with some smokin' hot bitch who totally wanted me, but she was playin' hard to get, or she was tied to a post or something, I forget now, and all I wanted to do was run over and fuck her, and I don't know why, I don't even really know what that means, but that's irrelevant because I couldn't move. I couldn't stand to look at her, to smell her, but not be able to have her, so I tried to look away, but that woman kept forcing me to look at her. I tried to see what the hell was going on with my dick--it felt like something was happening to it, something weird, something good--but I couldn't move my head at all. Then I had the greatest feeling known to dog, suddenly felt tired, the bitch left, and I went home and took a nap. Then she took me somewhere else, somebody cut my balls off, and I've never felt that feeling again. Is there some correlation? I think there is and I can't understand a world that would deprive me of that feeling. What is the point of living anymore? Woe is me..."
Dino, if you're reading--my condolences, dog. I wish you the best, but fear depression shall rule the day. Good luck with that.

Especially when, on your deathbed, you come face to face with a younger version of yourself, fresh from the laboratory, full of vim and vigor and the arrogance of innocence--a further, deeper reminder of that most enjoyable/awful day, the final nail in your coffin.

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, yes--you can have dog semen shipped around the world FedEx Overnight. Huh. What a package to be waiting for, or to receive in error, or to have leak all over your package...

What a world we live in...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We Got One!

America's energy policy is somehow better than Europe's for once.

Power plants in European nations are converting back to coal at an alarming rate. Fifty coal-fired power plants are set to begin operation over the next five years, since coal is cheaper than oil or natural gas and nations are wisely hesitant to adopt volatile nuclear energy technology. The United States, on the other hand...
...fewer new coal plants are likely to begin operations, in part because it is becoming harder to get regulatory permits and in part because nuclear power remains an alternative. Of 151 proposals in early 2007, more than 60 had been dropped by the year’s end, many blocked by state governments. Dozens of other are stuck in court challenges. (courtesy New York Times)
But what does NASA think of all this?
“Building new coal-fired power plants is ill conceived,” said James E. Hansen, a leading climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Given our knowledge about what needs to be done to stabilize climate, this plan is like barging into a war without having a plan for how it should be conducted, even though information is available. (courtesy New York Times)
In nearly every other capacity, however, Europe remains more responsible, more intelligent, and more-level-headed than the United States, so, you know, there it is...

I Am Bear, Feel My Wrath!

Big Bear Lake, CA---A 700lb. bear killed an animal trainer here today. Fittingly, this bear was an employee (?) of Predators in Action, a company that trains wild animals for use in the motion picture industry.

No doubt the bear had good reason to bite the man in the neck, having been imprisoned, prodded, poked, and told what to do for how long now? Not to mention the fact that this bear was recently forced to appear in Will Ferrell's abysmal Semi-Pro--is that not reason enough to kill somebody?

As of yet, no decision has been made as to whether or not the bear will be snuffed out as part of the long-running, and sometimes unpopular, state-sponsored vengeance killing scheme, but let's hope he survives.

This bear is a bear of principal, and I respect that.

(photo: Cristina Bush, AP)

Top 5 Spots I Like to Light A Strike Anywhere Match

1. Zipper
2. Sole of my shoe
3. Brick wall
4. Leathery skin of a long-forgotten starlet
5. Eva Longoria's teeth

If You Hate Larry the Cable Guy...

...and you should...then you might very well love this open letter David Cross wrote to him recently. If you love David Cross, and you should, you might very well love this letter for two reasons.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Marketers Are So Creative!

My favorite sighting today, on the side of a box of Honey Nut Cheerios--

"It's where healthy, fun, and delicious can all hang out together."

Really? I didn't think those dirty dawgs could ever chill in the same crib at once...props to General Mills, Inc, for figurin' that shit out!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hope for the Future After All

As I walked to meet a couple friends for a late dinner the other night, lost in thought, probably thinking about how badly I need a hair cut, or that I should start stuffing my drawers with a bigger sock, I was roused back to reality by the laughter of little girls.

I turned to my right and was delighted to discover a glowing two-man tent on the other side of a fence, in the postage-stamp-sized front yard of a tiny house crammed onto a small wedge of a lot, between a skeezy old church and a hair salon.

I was not delighted in the 'I'm a pervert' sense, like you might have been, pervert, but rather because this is exactly the sort of romanticized childhood activity that I did not think existed anymore--especially in 'the city.'

The girls were playing with flashlights, talking, giggling--totally unaware of the danger they were in, the tempting bait they represented to the countless pedophiles that troll around at night praying to stumble upon this exact situation.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are at least two parents in this country who refuse to protect their children from life, who refuse to expect worst-case scenarios, who refuse to abandon their faith in mankind--albeit at a risk. No doubt aware of this risk, the parents, or parent, remained out of sight, but ostensibly awake and nearby, projecting their presence loudly at any would-be kidnapper/molester. All the lights in the house were on. The television blared. The front door was wide open, as were the windows.

For all I knew, however, the situation inside the house could have been any of the following:

1. A solitary mom or dad was sleeping on the couch in front of the TV, derelict of duty.
2. A solitary mom or dad was sitting on the floor by the front door, shaking from an overdose of caffeine, clutching a loaded gun, hoping they wouldn't have to use it, hoping they would be able to if they had to, vowing not to sleep that night so his/her child (+1) could have careless fun that night, wondering what that noise was...
3. Two parents were sitting on the couch in front of the TV, dead, killed for the $6 in their wallets as their innocent, oblivious children giggled in the front yard.
4. Two parents were sitting on the couch, eating popcorn, watching Leno, pretending their ears weren't attuned to the slightest changes in the sonic patterns of the cool spring evening, pretending they were cool enough to let their kids be kids without having to worry about it every second, feigning an inability to sleep so they could stay up longer to safeguard their children, thinking every second that they should probably bring the kids inside now just to be on the safe side.

Remember when such activities weren't dangerous? When everything fun didn't have a dark side? When we lived in a Norman Rockwell world of ice cream sundaes, steadies, hot-rods, and baseball cards? When parents didn't sue everybody under the sun when an accident happened? When you didn't hear about every bad thing that ever happened to a child because the news programs used to actually focus on newsworthy events like wars, politics, the economy, global/national culture, etc? When kids could be kids, and only a small percentage of them were kidnapped or raped? I do. It wasn't that long ago.

[Actually, now that I think about it, kids have probably always been safer in their front yard at night than in a church. Ha! It's funny because it's true...]

Yep, kids today sure do have it bad.
"Your grades aren't good? That's nonsense. You're smart. You must just have ADD--here, take this speed. I mean, it's not speed, it has a different name, so it's totally fine. It's medicine. You look depressed. Are you depressed? Here, take these mood-altering drugs with atrocious side effects--but don't you dare ever drink beer or smoke pot or I'll be really mad! I'll go through all your possessions to make sure you're not smoking pot, because I saw a TV movie where a kid was smoking pot and then he got hit by a car. No, you can't go outside now--it's after dark. I saw on the news that a kid in Detroit got killed when he was outside at night. I watched part of the funeral on Oprah. I didn't have time to cook tonight, again, since I'm working two jobs to pay for our meds, so you'll have to eat Burger King again. No, you can't play football--people get paralyzed playing football. Why are you always playing video games? Why are you so fat? Go play in the playground or something, they finally replaced all those scary things like merry-go-rounds and tornado slides and open spaces with three-foot-long plastic slides and really fun games like tic-tac-toe and spin-the-pointless-steering-wheel. I'll drive you..."
Hopefully the backlash has begun; hopefully the pendulum will now swing away from this over-medicated, over-protected, overweight extreme we have been tolerating for the last twenty years, back toward the kinder, gentler, carefree, healthy, grass-stained childhood I remember. A couple girls camping in their front yard have finally given me a reason to believe this might actually happen, and that's a beautiful thing.

Here's to hoping they made it through the night...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gospel Brunch At House of Blues Didn't Suck!

This past Sunday, a friend invited me to the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip for the weekly Gospel Brunch. I initially balked at the idea, when it was pitched to me weeks beforehand, because I figured it would be super expensive and probably forgettable, but I'm glad I went.

First off, some girl my friend knew met us outside and gave us four free tickets (worth $200!). Nice. What did my friend do to deserve such a favor? He's not sure. He met her playing beer pong at a bar one night and she offered to 'hook him up' because she works at the House of Blues. I'll have to ask Miss Manners (or is it Ms. now?) if my friend is now obligated to have sex with her. I'm pretty sure he is.

The girl then gave us a tour of our breakfast options, spread out across the rambling dark first floor--two omelette stations, a waffle bar, fresh fruit spread, lunch options, desserts, etc. Again, nice.

It was already after one o'clock in the afternoon and I was hungry--I had stayed in bed til noon, arduously fighting my body's hard-wired desire to get out of bed and do something, simply to make sure I wouldn't eat before the brunch. I was glad I waited.

I was also glad we had smoked a joint ten minutes previously. My mouth watered.

The girl--well, to be fair she was very much a woman, nay, an angel--poured three mimosas and a bloody mary straight off and kept 'em coming. My friends and I toasted our good fortune, downed our glasses, and hit the buffets. As much as I wanted to eat everything in sight, as soon as I got my expertly-crafted omelette I was so worried it would get cold--and so hungry that I couldn't stand its tortuous presence under my nose--that I quickly scooped up some apple cobbler, hustled back to our table, and cleaned my plate in record time. Sadly, I was never able to return to the food spread, although I would have loved a mini Belgian waffle with fresh fruit. Hell, I'd love one right now...

After we inhaled our food, our Angel invited us upstairs to partake in a bizarre House tradition. The first five times she tried to explain it to us, none of us understood what the hell she was saying. It seemed to involve "throwing napkins at people" and them "loving it." She gave up and told us to just follow her upstairs. We did.

Once upstairs, she tried a few more times to explain why we were up there. I sort of understood what she meant when she said "we have the only moving bar in Los Angeles" and "it follows this track," but it still wasn't super clear--especially with regard to the napkins. Our Angel handed us each a stack of napkins and proceeded to set more napkins down on a crack in the floor. We guzzled champagne with furrowed brows and waited.

"Here we go!"

Suddenly, the entire room lurched and began to split down the middle, like some special effect in an Indiana Jones movie. As the crack widened, our fellow diners down below became visible, and we all launched our handfuls of napkins at them.

Believe it or not, they loved it.

Why did they love it? I have no idea. But adults and children alike smiled Disneyland-commercial smiles and reached up toward us, clutching at napkins wafting down on the air currents. These poor souls experienced something not unlike sheer bliss. (How boring are their lives that this is exciting? Even the three-year olds should be ashamed!) The four of us, plus a few staff members, watched from above, mesmerized. The lowly subjects down below waved at us like we were royalty; we waved back in kind. Out of napkins after the first twenty seconds of bar-rotating, I was tempted to dump champagne on them, but thought it not only a waste, but also perhaps not as welcome a gesture. I'm guessing used napkins would also have elicited something more ugly than happiness, but I'll have to wait until next time to find out for sure. (I mean, let's be honest--for all these poor people knew, the napkins we dropped had been down my pants for the last hour.)

Back down at our ringside seats on the ground floor--now with much more headroom, courtesy of the ceiling/upstairs-bars rotating off to the sides--the show got underway.

A midget dude in a suit busted out and juiced up the crowd with some surprisingly powerful singing, as well as a preacher-like call-and-response, which would normally have annoyed me, since I vehemently dislike religion being thrust upon me, but, I mean, it was the Gospel Brunch, after all, so it was okay; I had technically asked for it.

Behind the midget dude were four middle-aged, gospel-singing churchladies straight out of 1950's Georgia--and/or the movie The Blues Brothers, which I was unable to avoid thinking of throughout the entire performance.

The last time I brought up The Blues Brothers to a musician I regretted it, so I kept my mouth shut on Sunday. Just so you don't make the same mistake I did many years back, let it be known that country musicians do not like to hear white boys from Chicago request the theme from Rawhide or Stand By Your Man. While at a country bar on the north side of Chicago on night, I walked over to the stage and stuck a five-dollar bill on the strip of duct tape extended from floor-to-ceiling, which was intended for tips/request.

Here is the exchange that followed:
"Can you do Rawhide?"
"Nope."
"Really?"
"Don't know the words."
"Really?"
"Sing it for me and I'll do it."

I was too drunk and too put-on-the-spot to think of any of the words, or even the melody, which is always hard when a band is blasting a different tune right in front of you. I tried again.

"I can't remember, either. That's weird. How about Stand By Your Man?"
"Nope."
"What? You don't know the words to that one either?"
"No, I do. But I ain't gonna put on a dress and sing it to ya."

They band laughed at me. I took my five-dollar bill of the duct tape and walked back toward my table. Before I got there, though, I had a thought--what about Johnny Cash? He's country enough, right? I walked back over to the band.

"How about Ring of Fire?"
"Alright."

I replaced the five-dollar bill on the duct tape and returned to my seat, relieved, frustrated at how hard it was to make what had seemed like a simple request. Shit, like it's my fault I don't know any other country songs? Country music sucks! What did they want me to say--"Oh! I know! I want to hear Proud to Be an American by Lee Greenwood!" I know they were just taking the piss, to borrow a British phrase, and I know I deserved it, but that doesn't make the experience any less frustrating and embarrassing. Save yourself from it and just request Ring of Fire right off--no, wait, Walk the Line ruined that. Request some Ray Charles country music--no, wait--Ray ruined that. Now anybody who requests any good country music will be mocked as somebody who only knows about those songs/artists because of a movie and because they bought the soundtrack at Starbucks, regardless of whether or not that is true. It's a tough world out there, kids. Especially at Carol's Pub, where the bouncer wields a Maglite the size of my leg. Don't act like you don't know what that's for...

[note: now that I am older and wiser, I can recommend that you request some Lee Hazlewood, but I bet many of the bands won't know it. Another good option is any track off of Tumbleweed Connection, Elton John's country album, which is, according to a friend of mine in Nashville, every country musician's favorite album, which I accidentally discovered because I love Elton John.]

Anyway, the four women singing on Sunday at the House of Blues were all decked out in solid-color satin skirt-suits--one purple, one sky blue, one green, one pink (?)--and they each wore a classic big ole churchgoing hat. They were priceless and they could also sing and our Angel kept popping around the corner and refilling my glass of champagne after every sip. What more could a man ask for?

I feel I should mention that one of the singers had fingernails at least 6-8 inches long. No joke. She would clap and wave her hands around and draw attention to them as much as possible. They were scary looking and sad. What causes a person to want to grow fingernails that long? What hole in their life is filled by frustratingly, disgustingly long fingernails? How do they use phones/computers/pens? Who do they think will be impressed with them, or find them attractive? Who knows. Maybe the Lord loves that shit. Or maybe she'll burn in hell for them. Who knows! But I bet she hopes for the former...

At some point, I realized the guy sitting in front of our table, who kept looking at us funny, had handcuffs on his belt. Lettering on his polo shirt identified him as a PROBATION OFFICER. He was sitting with a grip of about ten young girls in matching blue 'industrial employee' shirts and blue Dickies-type pants, but it never occurred to me that they were all together and that he was their escort from a Juvenile Detention Facility until my friend suggested it. I think he was guessing, since I never saw them speak to one another, but I think he was right. The girls enjoyed the show, as you might have imagined, and I'd hate to say they shouldn't have been there, but I do have to wonder what the deal is. Who forked over all the bread ($40 a head, without alcohol), or was it some sort of 'give back to the community' program within House of Blues, Inc? What other sweet-ass field trips do they get to go on? Should I be jealous? Who knows!

Several of the juvey girls went up to sing during a rousing number called Thank You--so did my friend, Pedro, and a handful of other audience members. Everybody introduced themselves and sung "thank you" as impressively as they could. Some of them were okay, some of them were not. Especially a little old crazy white librarian-type woman whom I had earlier dubbed '#1 Fan' after watching her blow kisses at the singers as if she had been following them around on tour for her the last four years and it was some sort of tradition they had going. All she said was 'thank you,' once, and without feeling, before passing the mike. Some #1 fan...

I should mention a mostly-unrelated but interesting fact--Pedro is Mariah Carey's #1 Fan. Seriously. And it's not because he thinks she's sexy (he's gay). Pedro is a devoted member of her official fan club and gets wristbands mailed to him so he can attend album signings and the like. He knows everything about her. He's met her on several occasions and she knows who he is because the first time he met her he knocked over dozens of 11 year-old children (and their parents) to run right up to Mariah and then proceeded to cry like a baby until he soaked his shirt with his own tears! I am not making this up--that's just what Pedro is like.

The performance ended, we drank some more champagne, watched as our Angel cleaned up after everybody and dismantled the tables and chairs, which was depressing, left her a fat tip, said goodbye, and headed off into the California sunshine, off to the next stop on the party train. It was Sunday, after all...

I highly recommend recreating this experience if you have the chance and the bread (or the connections). Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

'The Man' Is So Crafty

Item: I heard a commercial for ATV Insurance on the radio yesterday.

I waited for a punchline that never came.
It actually exists.
Have you heard this?

Do insurance companies not make enough money off our cars, homes, lives, health, vacations, etc? They have to go after our ATVs now?

How many people even own ATVs? Was it even worth printing up all the brochures, designing the new web pages, and creating the commercials?

More to the point, it seems to me that people who own ATVs are not exactly the kind of people who are worried about getting into accidents. They are the kind of people who require warnings before shows like Jackass come on the air; they are the kind of people who ignore those warnings; they are the kind of people who go to the emergency room holding their own severed leg in their hand, among miscellaneous other odd and vicious injuries; none of these injuries would be covered by their insurance.


The biggest question though, I guess, is that, in this age of constant mega-corporate-conglomerate-ass-rape, why would anybody pay for insurance they are not legally required to have?

What's next, bicycle insurance? Just $100/month! Subway insurance? [Note: policy void if weird person is in train car with you]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Shine A Light -- Review

Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones IMAX extravaganza, Shine A Light, opened on April 4th, and I was lucky enough to be one of the 1000 or so people in LA crammed into the only two theaters in town playing the film. As expected, I enjoyed it. Also as expected, the audience was full of douchebags--but that’s a story for another time.

Despite the band’s desire to be immortalized at one of their typical stadium shows, luckily Marty was able to convince them to add two performances to their A Bigger Bang tour in a smaller, more intimate venue--New York City’s historic, 2800-seat Beacon Theater.

The theater was a beautiful backdrop--well-aided by the set designed and built by Marty’s crew--although it certainly could have been filled with a livelier, less-handpicked, less-moneyed, more-representative audience. Let’s see...the front row just happened to contain only upper-class females aged 21-30? Are you kidding? Did you think we wouldn’t notice, Marty? The LA Times referred to these ladies as “a cluster of hedge-fund hotties front and center.” Truth. The men in the crowd, standing back a bit, giving the ladies their space, lest they be tasered by Scorsese’s militant PAs, were all chubby banker-types holding aloft cell phone cameras all night long.

Why watch a once-in-a-lifetime concert when you can get low-grade video of it on your phone?! It’s not like Scorsese’s shooting it in IMAX or anything...

Speaking of cinematography, it was lush and intimate, as you would imagine, albeit too reliant on extreme close-ups of Jagger’s oh-so-British 64-year-old teeth, and too afraid to linger on wide shots and two-shots. My favorite shots in the film were the two-shots of Mick and Keith and the wide shots of the band, and they were far too brief and far too few. I also would have liked to have seen more of drummer Charlie Watts pounding away, and some longer close-ups of the guitar fingering during the instrumental portions.

Shots of the audience should have scrapped entirely, in this case, as they were distracting and immediately deflated the energy of the performance, due to the energy/quality of the crowd. Had Scorsese/Jagger decided to pack the place with a Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus sort of crowd, then I would definitely have wanted to see them; however, it was not, and so I didn’t--my imagination would have served me far better than reality, in this instance.

The sound was killer and the set-list was great; I can actually imagine myself buying the soundtrack, which I’ve only done twice in my life--Dumb and Dumber, when I was 16 with money to burn, and Storytelling, because it was essentially a Belle and Sebastian album. There is no way Mick could have chosen a set-list that would have made everybody happy, as the Stones catalog is simply too vast; this being the case, I thought he was successful in his approach to give the crowd some of the hits, some of the lesser-known stuff, and a few well-chosen covers.

I loved Jack White’s duet with Mick. I don’t think there is a musician alive today that would have been a better choice to play with the Stones, as Jack is the heart-and-soul of blues-influenced rock and roll.

Blues legend Buddy Guy was also great to see up there and it was a treat to watch him, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood jam together, but I was shocked they didn’t let him have a solo--Buddy can play the guitar better with his teeth than 90% of working guitarists out there can do with their hands.

Christina Aguilera was woefully out of place on stage with the Stones during her number--girl’s got pipes, for sure, but I don’t care. I don’t want to see her out there with the Stones, just like my jaw would drop if Celine Dion or Mariah Carey had strutted out; she has nothing to do with either the blues or rock and roll. The worst part? She got a solo. Ouch. And, just to rub it in, Mick grooved all up on her, but didn’t lay a finger on Jack or Buddy--come now, Micky-baby, play fair!

Despite their advanced age and scarily-skeletal faces, the band performed well and, with the glaring exception of silver-haired, mild-mannered bookstore manager Charlie Watts, still managed to look the part of rock stars. Mick was skinny as ever, somehow still possessed the energy of a teenage coke-head, and even though he brought in two back-up singers to hit the high notes for him, I thought his voice held up well. I must admit, though, I was sometimes reminded of scary, nearly-as-old, gravelly-voiced New York Dolls frontman David Johansen, who counts Jagger among his early influences. I’d like to see the two do a number together someday. Any takers out their in promoter-ville?

Keith was as charming as ever, loving every second of it as if it was the first time, and hitting his guitar licks like clockwork, more because his heart beats in time with the blues than his brain remembers the notes (I can’t say the same for his vocals, although they were charmingly off-key, off-beat).

Charlie Watts was firmly in the background of the film, represented mostly by the hilarious footage of his younger self and his ‘oh boy, I’m an old man trying to do a teenager’s job’ weary-eyed looks to the camera in the present day.

I thought the footage of the Stones from the early years was brilliantly used to break up the would-be monotony of the concert, as well as to put their enduring success in perspective. Mick, Keith, and Charlie--the only three members left from the early days (Ronnie Wood joined in 1974, after founding-guitarist Brian Jones was fired and then his replacement Mick Taylor left the band; bassist Bill Wyman left the band in 1993)--all came across as innocent, charming, honest, funny, and wise. Contrasting their younger faces, words, and deeds with their current performance, it was not hard to see why/how they have endured--they have always done it for the love of the music, and they have always wanted to do it until they can’t do it anymore.

Although I did like the idea of warming up the audience with some pre-concert action, I wish Marty would not have felt the need to thrust himself into the picture with a long, drawn-out, ultimately pointless opening about how hard it is to shoot a concert video. Why make excuses before you even begin? Did he feel the need to start Raging Bull with a five-minute sequence on how hard it was to shoot the movie, in case nobody liked it? (The answer is ‘no,’ although who knows, maybe his producer nixed the idea--“too expensive!”).

I would rather have just watched the band’s arrival, heard some interesting snippets of pre-show dialogue, and then seen part of the sound-check. Watching Marty whine repeatedly about not having the set-list, and then finally receiving it in an obviously-staged moment immediately before the lights went up, was embarrassingly bad--it was something Bruce Filanch would have done before a Billy Crystal-hosted Oscars ceremony, not a bit that should go in a Scorsese film. Especially because Marty shot this concert TWICE, and could easily rub out any kinks the second time around (indeed, most of the footage is from the second performance). I cringed for him--Marty wants so much to be loved, but sometimes he doth try too hard.

The most aggravating Marty moment, however, came at the very end, when the audience watches him directing a camera movement, instead of seeing Mick Jagger & Co.’s explosive exit into the Manhattan night. WTF, Marty? Do you think people forget what you look like or something? Why are you trying, in your later years, to so desperately ‘get yourself out there?’ Just keep being you, keep making great movies, and we will love you. Don’t suddenly try to imitate cameo-master Alfred Hitchcock or self-promote a la Brett Ratner.

We love Marty for being Marty, just like we will always love the Stones for being the Stones--the best rock and roll band in the world. Still.

Goodtime Charlie gives Shine A Light a B+, his highest grade of the year so far. Go see it!


To read about Goodtime Charlie’s experience at a Rolling Stones concert in 2005, click here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hey! Will Ferrell! You've Reached Saturation!


Confessional--I loved you in:
Zoolander (2001)
Old School (2003)
Anchorman
(2004)


Now, listen up, assface:

Quality, not quantity.


I'm not sure whether or not you have realized it yet, but we (you) are no longer living in the era of 'stables,' meaning that studios no longer have herds of actors over a barrel, tied to long-term contracts, required to work whenever the studio head deems it necessary, regardless of the quality of the project. Actors, especially the big ones, have more power now than ever before and, hopefully, they ever will in the future (because it has, as I'm sure I don't even have to say, proven itself to be bad for the movie industry.)

This being the case, it confuses me as to why you make the decisions you make. Don't get me wrong--without having gone through it myself, I do understand what you had to go through to get to where you are right now. I've witnessed the trials and tribulations of actors first hand; I know it wasn't easy.

I would never take that away from you--this hard-fought-but- still-in-the-end-sudden freedom to do as you please, but, at the same time, I am almost to the point where I feel as though I should.

Simply because every time you fart some agent/manager/creative executive says "genius!" does not mean that every idea you have actually is genius. You need to be your own judge here, and you need to do it well--that's part of the responsibility of stardom/sainthood.

Will Ferrell movies that came out in 2005:
The Producers
Winter Passing
Wedding Crashers
Bewitched
Kicking and Screaming
The Wendell Baker Story

Okay, so, using your A-list-star/veto power, you were involved in six movies in 2005, only one of which was remotely good (Wedding Crashers). That is not a good hit ratio (0.167); not even for a batter in the National League; you would have been reassigned to the minors, considering your number of plate appearances. I will remind you, the reader, SIX MOVIES IN ONE YEAR!?!

Although I still think you shouldn't have agreed to be in the movie because the script/concept sucked, I actually SAW Winter Passing, and your performance was one of the few highlights of the movie; how come you can't be so reserved and mysterious in other movies? It would behoove you. Don't take the failure of the movie as a failure of you in that role. Likewise, don't take the success of you in other roles as an indication that you should play that particular role again...or even should have played it in the first place (Elf?).


Will Ferrell movies that came out in 2006:
Curious George
Talladega Nights
Stranger Than Fiction

Jesus. Need I say more?


Will Ferrell movies in the works since 2006:
Blades of Glory (2007)
Semi Pro (2008)
Step Brothers (2008)
Land of the Lost (2009)

Two have been released so far; two have been awful. I have no higher hopes for the others.


Although, thankfully, your pace has slackened, I still worry about you, Will. I think you should have taken some time off to recover your comedic self, to relax, to go on extravagant vacations, to discreetly cheat on your wife with various daughters of Greek shipping magnates, to let the creative juices fortify themselves, to re-earn my confidence in you, to allow scripts to pile up, and to then reward yourself with the pick of the litter, the cream that rises to the top.

It's not like you need the money; it's not like you need the fame; so...what is it that you need? What are you getting out of all of these shitty movies, besides some unnecessary green? Are you involved in some sort of career-destroying bet that I am not aware of? I certainly hope so, for your sake, but I doubt you have such an excuse.

Woody Allen makes only ONE movie a year, and he is regarded as amazingly productive as a result. Why?

Two reasons:
1. Despite their frequency, his movies have usually been very good.
2. Because he is an artist, and we know he gives his all to them, as a writer/director/star; and yet they are still so frequent (if recently not so great, considering I haven't liked one since 1995, but that's okay--he's 72 years old, with many classics in his cap, and I forgive him).

Which begs the question:
Why can't you, Will, be as discerning an artist, in your capacity as an actor/comedian?
Why can't you say to yourself, "okay, I will only make one movie a year, but it will be GREAT!"?

What's the problem? Are you running out of money?
Do you have a $20million/year gambling problem, or something?
99.9% of the world--including 99.9% of the U.S.--could live their entire lives off of the salary of ONE of your movies, and you shot 6 of them in one year. [Will Farrell's estimated 2005 salary= $40million]
So don't tell me you have some sort of financial reason.
That being the case, what reason DO you have?
Do you even have a reason?
Or is this where you smile, let your eyes go dead, and freeze, hoping somebody else will come up with the answer for you, before the commercial break?

(Great bit, by the way...)

Life isn't like Saturday Night Live (thank, God).
Grow up and take responsibility for yourself, your career, and your legacy--cuz nobody else will. Trust me.
I told them not to.

Oh, and just so you know, the answer to that question that's been haunting you is 'yes, everybody is tired of seeing you in your skivvies.' It's not funny, it's not sexy, and it's certainly not shocking anymore, so...stop? Please?

[One thing I bet you didn't know about Mr. Farrell, that I couldn't resist throwing into this article, although it has no real place: He won a James Joyce Award from the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin for the 2007/2008 school year. Other recipients this year included: Eddie Izzard, J.K. Rowling, Michael Palin, Rory Bremner, Johan Norberg, and Richard Swinburne. And so I can think of at least two more reasons for Joyce to roll over in his grave...]

Idea for a Movie


A story about Jews living in Europe during World War II, and how they heroically, admirably, humorously coped with it.


Starring Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Zac Efron, Hayden Christenson, and Amy Adams

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rob Lowe is Getting Awfully Tired

Of all these young female nannies getting all up on him and then forcing him to sue them for violation of their confidentiality agreement, part of which probably read like this:
"...and you promise never to tell anyone about all the sex we have or any other inappropriate thing I might do, so my wife of 16 years won't get mad, which is important because I love her very much. And you will also promise never to bring up the twenty hours of community service I did in Dayton, Ohio, in 1988, after being caught starring in a 'sexually-explicit videotape which involved a minor.' I hate being called a laborer."
If you haven't been paying attention to Lowe's legal woes over the years, which I hope is the case, because otherwise there's something wrong with you, here are a few points of interest:



1988---Sentenced to perform 20hrs community service in Dayton, Ohio, as a result of the above-mentioned video. That sounds like an awfully harsh punishment, John Q. Law! Rest assured he never even thought about sex with young girls ever again after that whole torturous ordeal...

2007--Sues ex-nanny Laura Boyce for allegedly violating the terms of her confidentiality agreement she signed before beginning work with Lowe and his wife, former make-up artist Sheryl Berkoff. She allegedly spread "malicious lies."

2007--Sues his former chef, Pete Clements, for allegedly violating...some part of his contract that must have forbid him from bringing "third parties" back to Lowe's house and violating them on Lowe's bed. And stealing prescription drugs. And "overcharging them for food." Isn't that an integral part of a chef's job? Come on, Rob...don't be petty.

2007--Ex-nanny Jessica Gibson blackmails Rob & Sheryl, demanding $1.5million by the end of the week or she 'will tell all.' Lowe informs the police that he would like to handle matters on his own, does not press criminal charges, and instead sues Gibson for violating the terms of her confidentiality agreement.

And I'm not sure what year it was, but a girl I know also had sex with Rob Lowe in the recent past, so, you know, it's no secret that the guy likes his ladies.

What innocent man has this many lawsuits going on involving inappropriate/immoral sexual encounters yet is, as his imdb bio claims "a clean and sober husband and father?"

The better questions: Who cares? Does anybody even like Rob Lowe? Would anybody care if malicious lies were told about him? Would anybody hear them? (besides me...) Would it really change anybody's opinion of him?

I just think it's funny that he is working so hard to stop the truth from getting out (and failing), not realizing how much worse he makes it for himself. I wonder if he's at all associated with Scientology...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Lineup

March 17, 2008. Los Angeles.

This past Wednesday, I was supposed to be at the police station on Venice Boulevard at 5:30pm. I was late. I had forgotten it was so far away. And I had been dreading it all week, so it's not like I was in a hurry to get there.

The Detective on my case called to make sure I was on my way and I was surprised to hear how nonchalant he sounded; I had expected a reprimand of some kind, or at least a little sternness or something. Nothing--I might as well have been calling a friend to tell her I'd be five minutes late for drinks.

I parked right out front and approached the front door to the station. A large black woman blocked the doorway, on her way out, moving at a remarkably slow pace.

"We closed."

"Huh?" The police station is closed? How...hard to believe. I stood there for a second, planning my next move.

"You lookin' for the traffic school?"

"No..."

"Oh, you want the next door. That way."

"Thanks."

I walked over to the next set of doors and they clearly led to the same wing that was now evidently ‘closed.’ I looked around a series of obstructing columns and saw another set of doors. A handful of schoolchildren stood in front of them. White lettering informed me to USE OTHER DOORS. I kept walking in the same direction, to find more and more doors. Police cadets were lined up in formation along the walkway. They looked at me funny. There was such a random assortment of people buzzing around that I felt like I was on a movie set, where there is always a far-too-convenient assortment of people buzzing around, to make every scene more 'dynamic.' This did not feel like a real police station at all; I was getting creeped out. Where the hell was the main entrance?

Although I hadn’t done anything wrong, I was definitely feeling nervous. Walking into the hornets' nest, as it were. As a career sinner--at least in the eyes of the law--I am never happy to see cops, even when they're just innocently passing by, doing their jobs to keep me safe or whatever. I always expect them to catch me absentmindedly jaywalking or driving two miles over the speed limit, forgetting I had an open bottle of liquor in the back of my car, peeing in public, driving on an out-of-state license despite the fact that I've lived in LA for four years...you get the point. There’s always something.

Sometimes I get so nervous when a cop drives behind me, even while 100% sober, that I actually envision running somebody over while secretly watching my rearview mirror the whole time. This makes me even more nervous behind the wheel and, thus, increases its potential reality. I'd feel horrible. I'd go to jail. It'd be awful. And, to top it off, everybody would think I was stupid. I can hear the raspy, mocking voice of my psychopathic cellmate now:

"You ran somebody over while a cop was tailin’ ya?! Jesus, listen kid--if you're gonna run somebody over, do it when there ain't no COPS around...idiot. Now let me borrow your toe for a second..."

Were they going to smell something on me? Find something on me? Shit--I didn't even check my pockets! I even check my pockets and luggage with special care when I go to the airport, but I don't think of it when I'm going into a police station? Idiot! I'm not sure what would have been in my pockets, but if there WAS something in them, and I walked straight into a police station with it on me, and they searched me or something, as a standard procedure, and I got caught, I'd feel pretty stupid. I could see the headline:

"Man arrested after walking into police station for routine lineup with unlicensed firearm and kilo of heroin absent-mindedly duct-taped to thigh. 'I forgot they were there!' Moron says."

This is how nervous this lineup had made me. Why was I nervous when I had done nothing wrong? I didn't think I could identify either of the guys who robbed me.

Now, I'm normally a pretty observant fellow, which is partly why this story is so long, but that night my mind was racing too fast in too many directions. I was simply walking home from where I parked my car and then--WHAM--I was suddenly being robbed! Right across the street from my building! On one of the biggest/busiest streets in Los Angeles! I was freaking out. I was wondering if they had a gun, if they were going to kill me, if I should try to run away--I wasn't checking my assailants' faces for birthmarks and cheekbone prominence.

I never thought this ‘lineup’ situation would arise--how often is a suspect in a mugging actually apprehended? Yet, in this particular case, the police department investigated so thoroughly that they actually had a suspect in custody, without any help from me, who thought stupidly that it could not, would not be done.

Here we were. They got him. If I couldn't identify him, he could be set free; all that hard work, ON MY BEHALF, for naught. The cops left wondering why they even bother trying to help, when stupid people like me can't even do a simple thing like recognize the guy that robbed them. And so, my inability to identify said criminal might result in that criminal being on the loose once more. A criminal with my home address and apartment number (and cell phone, iPod, credit cards, etc). A criminal that might be a little pissed off about spending a month getting pushed around by 'the man' in the county jail. I almost wished that he had never been caught.

I was sweating. I was looking around and couldn't help but feel like I was in Paul Verhoeven's Detroit. Was this the police station he used for Robocop? It sure looked like it. The paint on the doorjamb seemed fifty years old, yet the station looked modern in design. Everything was hyper-institutional, drab, dirty, smelly, WORN. I expected a laser beam fired by a malfunctioning robot to end my days at any moment.

Instead, I walked into what had to be the main door, because there were none left, and a friendly officer standing behind the desk smiled at me and asked me if he could help. He looked at me funny. He was thinking hard; I could see it in his eyes.

"Wait a minute--didn't I do a report on you?"

I recognized him instantly; he was the officer who spent an hour taking down my story, and repeatedly got almost every detail wrong, including something as simple as the location of the incident, but was so genuinely kind I didn't have the heart to tell him, because it's not like they'd ever catch the guys, right, so who cared?

"Yeah, I remember you, too."

"Charlie, right?"

"Yeah. Good memory."

"Yep--I never forget a face."

He smiled broadly, and even chuckled, proud of his memory. I believed him--how in the world did he remember me? Was I his only report? His first? He did seem new at it.

"Hey--you ever go to court for your case?"

"No. But that's why I'm here. I'm here for a lineup. With Detective Sang."

"Oh, oh, yeah. The lineup. He's waiting for you."

Detective Sang came out from the back and ushered me inside the nerve center of the police station without saying a word. Two men in their fifties followed me in. I was confused. One of them spoke:

"All of us?"

"Yeah. You're all involved in the case."

What? Three of us? All robbed by the same guy? I guess that made him easier to catch, and more worthwhile to spend the time investigating. Maybe they'll know what he looks like.

I began to feel more at ease; the burden wasn't entirely on my shoulders anymore.

Detective Sang--never has the word ‘doofus’ seemed so appropriate when describing someone--slouched his way through an enormous room filled with cubicles, his head bobbing listlessly from side to side as he walked. I followed, eyes open in wonder. 'This is where it all happens,' I thought to myself. Signs hung from the ceiling, denoting certain clusters of desks as "HOMICIDE," "ROBBERY," etc. Pictures of officers' loved ones adorned their cubicles. Folders, papers, books, clutter everywhere. I was reminded of brief glimpses into the faculty offices at my high school.

Detective Sang retrieved car keys and a sportcoat from his cubicle. He told the officer across from him, who was in the middle of a phone call, that he couldn't find an important file and to see if he could find it for him while he was gone. The other detective said some other guy probably took it off Det. Sang's desk. I hoped it wasn't about our case; it wasn't.

We left through a back door and climbed into an unmarked car.

I rode in the back, behind Det. Sang. I instinctively avoided eye contact with the other two victims. I also didn't speak. I wasn't sure why, but I also wasn’t sure what I should say and do, and I figured I was entitled to that behavior, 'having gone through what I've been through,' and all. Hell, for all the other two guys knew, my life had completely crumbled to pieces as a result of the robbery and today was a very difficult, potentially cathartic, experience for me, and I needed to psych myself up for it and not be distracted by banal conversations with three middle-aged men I didn't know and didn't necessarily ever want to know. I thought about this and liked the element of mystery involved, so I stuck to it even when my social instincts screamed, ‘SPEAK! Don’t be so unfriendly!’

Instead of talking, I listened.

The first thing Det. Sang told us was that we should talk about anything BUT the case, so as not to influence our individual opinions of what the guy looked like. So, instead, I listened as Det. Sang talked in excruciating detail about some TV show I've never watched, but that apparently the other two men had watched every episode of--‘because their wives love it.’ It's a show about the nitty gritty of crime investigation, as far as I could gather--morgues, coroners' laboratories, etc. It sounded disgusting, but its existence makes total sense in these forensic-scientist-as-run-of-the-mill-TV-hero days.

Exhausting this topic, Det. Sang transitioned into a couple tremendously long, boring, and revolting stories about his own various experiences with rotting corpses. I looked out the window and tried not to puke as his descriptions got more and more detailed, but never actually interesting; let's put it this way--he is not and will never be a storyteller. The only interesting thing he said all day was that LA has only 9,000 police officers, whereas New York has 30-40,000 for a smaller area. I knew we were greatly understaffed, but not to that degree; it explains a lot. Like why everybody can speed like maniacs with little fear of getting caught--all the cops are too busy chasing serious criminals to worry about little things like speeding.

I noticed we were driving to downtown LA, which struck me as odd, but I didn't say anything. I also thought it odd that I never asked where we were going, but, whatever, it’s not like it would have mattered. I was in their hands, and here we were. Roll with it.

It being rush hour, the drive was long, and there was plenty more time to talk. The man riding shotgun revealed, when asked if he grew up in LA, that he was Filipino, born and raised. It turns out that Det. Sang's wife is “Filipina,” so he then started rambling on about different towns he'd been to when they visited the Philippines, and his opinion of them, as well as his opinion of the Philippines and Filipinos in general. The man sitting beside me, who had tattoos visible on his forearms and looked rather worse for wear, chimed in that he had been to the Philippines twice. Evidently his band toured army bases at some point in the vague past. I was the only one in the car who had not visited the Philippines, which struck me as odd when I considered the random assortment of people gathered inside it today.

This fact certainly aided me in my quest to remain silent, I'll say that much.

I smiled to myself, wondering what they must think of me. Did they think I was some kind of iceman, who never talks to anybody because I think they're all idiots? Did they think I was just shy, waiting for the right topic to be broached before I chimed in and joined the fray? Did they think I was mute? I could tell they were thinking about me--the feeling was palpable in the stale air of the bouncing, nausea-inducing cop car, but I liked it that way. I liked the mystery. I kept my mouth shut.

I listened to the three of them talk about the unrivaled dominance of Filipinos in the Asian music industry--evidently nearly every working band in Asia consists of Filipino musicians, which I did not know, but is now a fact I have in my pocket--and heard one interesting story about a singer who was shot and killed onstage for singing off-key during a concert in the Philippines.

This story immediately reminded me of the Columbian defender who was killed after his own-goal resulted not only in his nation's first-round elimination in the 1994 World Cup, but also allowed for the advancement of the much-hated United States national team.

Several wealthy, predictably-intemperate drug lords lost a lot of money as a result, and so:
"On July 2, 1994, [Andres] Escobar was shot outside ‘El Indio’ bar, located in a Medellín suburb. According to Escobar's girlfriend, the killer shouted ‘Gooooooooooooool!’ (mimicking South American sporting commentators for their calls after a goal is scored) for each of the 12 bullets fired."
 (courtesy wikipedia.org)
[Editor's Note: Please think about this. Do you know how long it would take somebody to shout "Gooooooooooooool!" TWELVE TIMES? And nobody stopped him until he emptied his entire clip...]

With this in mind, I thought about speaking for the first time. I thought about saying something clever, like "I guess Filipinos are as passionate about music as Columbians are for their fútbol." But I didn't. I chose to maintain my silence, which is probably for the best since it wasn't that witty. I tossed the sentence around for a while in my head, reconsidering my silence at every turn, thinking it might be an ideal moment to stop being rude. I figured these guys would forgive me the lengthy space between ‘Filipino musician’ story and my Columbian reference, since they seemed to hunger for the sound of my voice for any reason, worried about what my silence might mean, etc.

After a long stretch of dead air, I almost gave in and uttered a sound, but figured far too much time had passed and it would be weird to bring the topic up again. Besides, I was enjoying my role as the quiet, mysterious outsider too much. I like unnerving people in general, but especially if I am able to do so by doing absolutely nothing.

I think Detective Sang picked up on this and turned himself completely around, while driving, to ask me if I had to leave work early to be here today.

Unable to avoid this direct address, I told him I had the day off and everybody was visibly surprised.

"Really?"

"Wow..."

"Yeah. I work freelance...so...I have a lot of days where I don't work."

They seemed suspicious. Why would I not have to work on a Wednesday?

"I do film and event production."

Now it made sense--and everybody got really excited. People not in the industry always do, because they don't realize how mundane the work is on a day-to-day basis. I tried to calm them down, telling them I work mostly on commercials, which usually works, but then I remembered the last commercial I worked on--where we blew up a car on a residential street in a poor neighborhood (for some reason, they always choose the poor neighborhoods...). I decided to give 'em a rise and told them about it. They loved it. I went on.

"Glass went everywhere and the hood flew off over the houses, landed on somebody's roof. Could've killed somebody--it was incredibly dangerous."

I was now the center of attention. I revealed that I also work on large events a few times a year. Detective Sang turned around to face me again.

"Have you ever thought about working for the city? You know, the Cultural Department has people on staff that run the events the city puts on. Real big events."

"No...I've...never thought about that..."

Lord. Help! I immediately had flashbacks to every office job I ever had, which--no matter where it was--always involved fat middle-aged women talking endlessly about their cats' most recent operations.

I shuttered at the thought and tried to change the subject, informing them that I also write in my ample free time. This also excited them. Everybody has a script idea they've tossed around, everybody hears the rags-to-riches Ben Affleck-Matt Damon/Diablo Cody stories and retains hope they will one day conquer Hollywood, so I braced for the worst. Luckily, though, it seems these were the only three people in LA that had no desire to write a script and so I relaxed. The aged rock'n'roller informed me he works for CAA, the titan of talent agencies. I was confused-he didn't look the type. He had the shakes, quite frankly. And he lives in MY neighborhood. And he's over the age of forty. Turned out he works nights, putting covers on scripts.

"I got lucky--I was working there as a temp and they needed somebody full time, so I got the job. Been there ten years."

My heart sank. I had to look away. This dude, who is as old as my dad, who earlier was telling everybody about a TV show he used to watch as a kid--IN THE FIFTIES--was not only temping, but then felt LUCKY to be promoted to the shittiest 'staff' job in the industry. (Trust me, the mailroom positions are above this one--mailroom employees often have law degrees...it’s where you are forced to start out.) AND, he has done it for TEN YEARS? GodDAMN this man is never gonna give up on his music, at any cost. It was at once admirable and miserably depressing. I don't want to be him in 25 years. I don't. I promise. Please kill me first.

We finally pulled into the LA County Jail downtown. It's a sprawling complex. Very institutional, like an Eastern-bloc university campus. The inside carries over the theme. The lobby was very Modern Times/Art Deco/Soviet. Busts of Stalin would not have been out of place.

Waiting for us in the lobby were three people: the female Defense Attorney and two more-iconic-looking detectives. Slap a couple fedoras on 'em and they coulda been in LA Confidential. Every man in the room checked out the Defense Attorney--on the sly of course--many, many times as we waited for a photographer to show up. I felt sorry for her. She knew it was happening, but it's not like she could do anything about it. I'm sure it always happens--this woman hangs out in PRISONS, for Christ's sake. And she had a nice ass, so, you know, there it is. The fact that she was only marginally attractive is irrelevant. You take what you can get around here, in this female desert that is the County Jail, and it's not like all these men standing in the lobby had anything more pressing to focus on for the moment. Maybe she likes the attention (she was wearing tight pants...). Maybe she uses it to her advantage sometimes. Who knows? Women are so mysterious, aren't they? [Sometimes. -Ed]

Meanwhile, as we all surreptitiously checked-out the Defense Attorney, the cops grumbled about paperwork and overtime, per usual. I realized this is a quality they share with Grips, Electricians, and Camera Assistants in the film industry--always griping. The two more manly detectives wanted to know if Det. Sang thought they should get overtime for 'staying late on this one.' I tuned out and went to the bathroom to avoid having to hear, or get dragged into, any more chit-chat. I hate chit-chat.

When I returned to the lobby, the photographer had shown up and we were led through the secure doorway, into a hallway that immediately reminded me of high school. Trophy cases lined the walls, as did posters advertising fundraising campaigns and softball team practice schedules and such. The paint was drab and old, the linoleum floor had the same faux-marble pattern, the fluorescent lighting cast a greenish pall over everything. We stopped outside a door and waited. I looked around. A sweaty football-player-type left what must have been the weight room and said 'hey' to some other guy, on his way to the showers. We might as well have been in the hallway outside my high school gymnasium.

"Right this way, folks."

The four of us were led into a room resembling a small college lecture hall. There were about 80-100 seats. I can't imagine this scale would ever be necessary.

"Okay, Marty--bring in the 80 people who were robbed by this guy. They all have to see the lineup at the same time, for some reason."

"Yes, sir--we'll use the big room!"

We, the three victims, were led to the front row and told to leave an empty seat between us as we sat down. We did. One of the iconic detectives sat down on an elevated stage up front and spoke. His partner handed us each a blank form, a clip-less clipboard, and a pen.

"I'm Detective Murray and this is my partner, Detective Smith. We are here today to run the lineup; we don't know anything about your case, so we are unbiased. Now, have any of you ever done a lineup before?"

We all shook our heads no.

"Have you seen it on TV?"

Before we could even answer, he smiled, nodded knowingly, and continued speaking.

"Well, it's exactly like it is on TV."

Weird. Det. Sang had said the exact same thing on the ride over here. Is that really their official line? He continued:

"When we turn out the lights in here, and turn on the lights in there, this becomes a two-way mirror. You will see six men in front of you; all they will see is themselves in a mirror. You might see them fixing their hair or picking their teeth, because they're looking into a mirror. They can't see you."

I thought to myself, 'Yeah, but it's not like they don't know we're HERE, on the other side of the mirror, looking at them. It's not like they think they're being led into the bathroom for a group nose-pick before prison picture day or something.' I wondered if they would make faces at us, try to scare us or whatever. I pictured myself in this thug's shoes, or any of the other thugs' shoes, for that matter, and I could see myself confrontationally mouthing the words, 'I will kill you' and smiling maniacally. Intimidation, baby! It's worked for the mob for how long now? The detective went on:

"They will all be wearing a number from 1 to 6. If you ever need to look more closely at one of them, please come up to the stage and do one of two things: either walk slowly all the way down the black line, past all of them at the same speed, or move forward, up to the glass, and look closely at each one of them, so as not to influence the others' decisions. And if you have any questions, please raise your hand and either I or my partner will pull you aside and answer them in private, so as not to influence the others."

He said 'in-FLU-ence.' Both times. It bothered me, but I let it go.

Det. Murray told us how to fill out the form and asked if we had any questions. We did not.

"Alright, here we go."

He turned the lights off in the auditorium and turned the lights on in the lineup room. I was shocked at how close, small, and well-lit it was. I mean, I understand the concept of the two-way mirror, but it was still pretty surprising to see the reality of this situation in person. It was like a brightly-illuminated department store window at Christmastime.

'Which man do you want, honey?'

'That one!'

'Are you sure? Are you sure that's the one you want Santa to bring you? The scary-looking Hispanic guy with a mustache and knife-scars all over his face? The one who's clearly killed a man and gotten away with it? Are you sure you don't want a pony instead? Okay...I'll let Santa know...'

The men filtered in. It was surreal. It was so surreal that I just had to say, 'It was so surreal.' It was--there is no other word to accurately describe the feeling that washed over me immediately. It was like having an out-of-body experience; I was watching myself sit in this room watching this unfold.

Six huge Hispanic men in matching outfits, with numbers hanging around their necks, trudged in and faced forward. They wore yellow t-shirts that had the word 'LINEUP' printed on the back. I wondered whose job it was to design those, how many times they had to be redesigned, how many people had to approve the design in meetings, how many they had to order, how often they had to replace them, whether or not jail employees wear them out and about--as a joke, why they chose yellow, etc. Then I told the voice in my head to shut up and pay attention.

I looked them all in the eyes. They all looked like they had killed somebody, or at least tried to. They all looked overweight--gut-heavy, broad--which did not match with my memory of either of the two men who robbed me. They all looked guilty. Most surprisingly, they all looked SCARED. All of them. So scared that I have never seen six men with better posture, six men who maintained such rigidly identical body positions, six men who so perfectly executed sometimes-vague instructions dictated to them by the disembodied voice of 'the law.' Whichever five guys were not the guy who robbed me were all pulled from the prison population, so I'm sure they all had a right to be scared--they were all IN PRISON, getting abused by fellow inmates and guards, deprived of almost everything enjoyable in life, etc. I knew all this, in theory, of course, but I was still surprised to see how much it showed on their faces, in their body language. They did not move a muscle, their posture was perfect, their hands hung at their sides at an irregular, uncomfortable, uniform angle; their eyes screamed, "I AM FUCKED! I AM FUCKED! OH, HOLY FUCK--I AM FUCKED! DON’T LET IT SHOW! OH, FUCK! I CAN’T HELP MYSELF--I’M FUCKED! I’M SO FUCKED!"

Det. Smith was standing on the stage, on our side of the two-way mirror, barking tried-and-true commands into a wall-mounted microphone that, for some reason, had a faded, discolored windscreen on it. The windscreen looked like those faded old Nerf balls you would sometimes see on the side of the highway, dropped by misbehaving children, faded by the sun, as you were taking an emergency piss on a family vacation, hoping nobody could see your penis. It grossed me out.

"Number One, step forward. Turn to your left one quarter turn. Walk to the wall. Turn around. Walk to the middle of the room. Turn to your left one quarter turn. Look up. Look down. Turn around. Return to your number."

He repeated this procedure with each of the six men. My time was therefore predictably finite--as soon as he finished with the first one, we were 1/6th of the way finished. Shit--not much time. Who is it? What's the answer? Hurry!

I eliminated the last three from contention immediately, but then wondered if that was only because the other three were the ones closest to me. No, I confirmed, it was because they didn't look right. I looked at the first three again. The middle one looked almost black, which made me think that maybe the 'black' guy I got the best look at during the robbery was actually a very dark Hispanic man with a hood pulled over his hair. This might explain why the police, and everybody else I've recounted the story to has been surprised that a Black guy and an Hispanic guy would work together. Evidently, as I've also learned from paying somewhat close attention to the Obama campaign, blacks and Hispanics hate each other.

This realization did not instill much confidence in my observational skills--I got even more nervous. Regardless of the black/Hispanic dynamic, though, this guy simply seemed too big to be the guy that robbed me. The robber had seemed skinny to me and, besides, this guy's hands looked funny, sort of like Down's-syndrome hands, whatever that means. They were super chunky, short, like useless sausages. Wait a minute--was that why, when I had the knife stuck in my throat and my feet lifted off the ground, the 'black' guy in front of me asked ME to empty my pockets, rather than relieve me of my valuables himself? (My response to his request, by the way, was a sarcastic, "YOU do it!" to which he immediately obliged) Hmmm...it's an interesting hypothesis... Staying true to the idea that I was robbed by a black man and an Hispanic man, though, since I had to go with my gut in this situation, I figured we must be looking for the other guy here--the Hispanic guy who stuck the knife in my neck.

Unfortunately, I never got a good look at this guy, as he was behind me during most of the fracas. This being the case, Number 1 and Number 3 both looked like they could be that guy. They looked incredibly similar. Number One looked the most scared--he was clenching his left fist, which none of the other guys were doing. This, in fact, was the ONLY distinguishing behavioral characteristic displayed among the six men for the duration of the lineup. I wondered if it was an unconscious giveaway, or if it was mere coincidence, or if it was simply a red herring gleefully tossed in by the mirthful Lineup King backstage.

Surely I couldn't pick him simply because he clenched his fist. I looked at them again. I looked at their faces, their eyes, their hands, their bellies. Number One was also the skinniest--I thought the guys who robbed me were fairly thin, or at least not what I would consider fat like five of these six guys were. Number 1 was looking like the best shot.

But I was hardly sure.

The last man 'returned to his number' and Detective Murray asked if any of us would like to look closer. We all shook our heads 'no.'

"Okay."

He nodded to Det. Smith, who must have pushed a button or something, because all six of the men suddenly filed out of the room, as if instructed to do so by some guard off-screen, who heard the buzzer. My heart leapt--the same feeling I used to get when my teacher would announce 'Pencils down!' when I wasn't yet finished with the quiz. Who was it? Was it Number 1? Number 2? Number 3? I don't know. I can't pick. I couldn't figure it out. It should have been immediate, right? Or, at least, certain at some point soon thereafter. It wasn't.

I had no choice but to put an 'X' on the line that said 'I cannot identify the suspect.' I felt stupid, like I had wasted everybody's efforts. At the same time, however, I felt relieved. I came here with the best of intentions, I tried my best, I failed, oh well, it happens--end of story.

As the finality of that 'X' sunk in, though, I began to wonder about the Defense Attorney and her Defendant, the alleged mugger I failed to identify. I wondered how many otherwise clear-cut cases are thrown out of court before they even go to trial, because nobody can positively identify the guy in a lineup. I wondered how much evidence it takes to make a trial worthwhile for the city/state if nobody can identify the criminal. I thought about how hard it must be for anybody to identify an assailant in such a quick, frightful crime, especially when the authorities are required to line up other people that look almost exactly like the criminal. I wondered if this process benefits the criminal more than the victim. Obviously, I wouldn't want somebody to get railroaded, and so it seems fair that he/she should need to be identified, and yet, if every guy in a gang has the same haircut, the same physique, the same coloring, the same hooded sweatshirt...it seems like a really easy loophole to exploit.

But the effectiveness of the lineup as an element of due process is not what I was here today to judge, so I raised my hand. I was finished with my test. Det. Murray grabbed the piece of paper from my hand. I watched his eyes look down and notice the 'X.' I wondered if he was disappointed. I wondered if he cared at all. He probably just wanted to go home because he knew he wouldn't be getting any overtime today because the city's already way over-budget. He told me to go stand in the back of the room.

The Filipino man next to me was scribbling away on his paper--perhaps he was able to identify the guy? The rock'n'roller had turned his paper in right off, even before I had, and stepped to the back of the room. Once the Filipino man finished and joined the two of us, Det. Smith called the other Detectives and the Defense Attorney over to look at our three pieces of paper. Nobody said anything revealing like, "Aha! Got him!" or "Shit!" They just looked and nodded, as if being shown a TV Guide schedule for the night before. Det. Smith turned to the Defense Attorney:

"When is your next day in court?"

"The 23rd."

"You will have copies of the reports mailed to your office before the 23rd."

"Okay."

"Okay. Let's get outta here."

Det. Sang, the two other victims, and I waited outside for the others. Det. Sang told us he would be on vacation starting the next day, for two weeks, but then sheepishly admitted that it was not a real vacation. He was sending his mother-in-law on vacation, and he was going to stay home to watch his 10-month-old son while his wife worked. He also revealed, for some reason, that a few days before, he had taken the grates off of his oven, to clean them in the driveway, and somebody stole them as soon as he went back inside. They cost him $600 to replace. I laughed. Jesus, that sucks; but why did he own an oven that had $600 grates in it? How much did the entire oven cost? On a cop's salary? And where did he live that somebody would steal those so quickly, from a cop’s house no less? Why not buy a house in a better neighborhood, but have a shitty oven?

I was reminded of the summer I lived in Bournemouth, England, when I was 19, and had just downgraded bed & breakfasts because I still hadn't found a job and money was tight. This was a 'bed and breakfast' in name only, mind you--it was quite dodgy--and somebody stole my brand-new shoes while I was in the communal shower, a mere ten minutes after I had moved in. I told them this story and it was their turn to laugh at ME.

The others joined us in the hallway and we retraced our steps, outside, to the car--we sat in the same seats as before, an unspoken agreement--and drove off. Nobody said anything about what just happened. I imagine this conspicuous silence was a result of both our private reactions to the process, as well as not knowing whether or not it was allowed. Det. Sang informed us that we would all be served with subpoenas at some point in the near future. I wondered what the point of that would be if I couldn't identify the guy. I hope I don't have to do it. I hope I don't have to turn down a job because I have to go to court and say, for the record, "Duhhhhhh...I don't know..."

The ride back to the police station was much faster, thankfully, it now being 8pm. I stared out the window and tried not to vomit--Det. Sang is a horrible stop-and-go driver, and a poor merger. I was reminded of the opening line to Less Than Zero:

“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”

It's true. My thoughts strayed to Bret Easton Ellis, and how I wish I can do what he has done. There's still time.

We pulled up to the police station and Det. Sang let the three of us out of the car. We all said goodbye to him, all shook hands with each other. Afterwards, the rock'n'roller and I were going in the same direction. We had already said goodbye, so this was a bit awkward, as usual.

The rock'n'roller immediately pulled a cigarette out from somewhere. He seemed nervous, like he wanted to exchange numbers and be friends, but wasn't sure if he should ask, if I would want to. He had even said something earlier, in fact, in the car, about staying in touch and maybe helping me get a script of mine on somebody's desk at CAA. It was endearing, but I'm a realist--we're not going to be friends. It's not worth it to me. It's probably not worth it to him, either. I broke the silence.

"So, you said you were in a band--what instrument do you play?"

"Guitar, and the harmonica."

He pulled a harmonica out of his pocket and smiled sheepishly.

"I play the blues. And Celtic music; I'm learning the Celtic Harp."

We got to the fork in the road. My car was a tantalizing few feet away.

"Cool. Well...good luck with your music."

"Yeah, same to you. With your writing."

He walked off toward the vast strip mall parking lot next to the police station.

I hopped in my Jeep, started it up, and drove away, not really sure how I felt about the whole affair. I had a vague nervous energy; I felt troubled, I guess, but I wasn't sure why. My brain was true whiteness--my thoughts were like all the colors of the rainbow, which combined to form a furious, pulsating blank slate in my brain--maximum energy expended, zero result. I was home before I knew it and hardly knew how I got there.

I had to get up at 5am the next day for work, sadly, so I went to bed almost immediately. Even if I had had the following day off, though, I imagine I would have done the same thing. It's not like I could've sat down to write, or watched a movie and been able to give it any thought, or pretended my mind wasn't twisted in a knot as I had a light-hearted drink with a friend. Unfortunately, however, sleep was impossible. The combination of getting out of bed at 2pm that day--which happened mostly because I knew I would be unable to accomplish anything knowing the lineup was happening later that day, and so was in a state of semi-mental-paralysis--my actual experience at the lineup itself, my ringing phone (friends wanting to know how it went, me ignoring them because I didn't want to talk about it yet and just wanted to lose consciousness), and my dread of the 16-hour soul-destroyingly-boring day ahead of me all conspired to keep me awake for most of the night.

The next morning, I felt like a truck had run over me. But I suppose it could have been worse.

I could have gone home to my post-menopausal wife, in my shitty Koreatown apartment, to watch some revolting forensic-science cable TV show, all the while pondering why I have to work as a menial office servant at the CAA 'Death Star' five nights a week in order to afford the privilege of playing music clearly nobody wants to hear, after 35 years of trying unsuccessfully to gain a following large enough to support myself in even a meager economic position.

I've still got plenty of time to reach that low--don't worry. And stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

If You Liked Sideways...

..if spunky Ellen Page cracked your shit up in Juno...

...if you think your sensibilities are similar to those of this man, commercial director Noam Murro...
(photo courtesy of viewimage)

...if you've been waiting for a newer, slightly different, slightly worse version of Wonder Boys for eight years now...

...then you'll probably go see Smart People this weekend...
...and I will hate you forever!

One question I have for the producer of the movie, who, incidentally, also produced Sideways--were Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen not available for the Dennis Quaid/Sarah Jessica Parker roles? Or did you burn some bridges, bub? I mean, come on--'crusty English professor/widower' and 'sexy, but respectable, former student who now works as a doctor in an ER?' Don't tell me you didn't try to get them onboard for this barnbuster! Was Giamatti's face irrevocably frozen into a frown after John Adams? Did now-forgotten Virginia Madsen not skew young enough?

Hmmm...I don't know...maybe I shouldn't be knocking this one; I mean, it did get into Sundance, so it must be super good and 'indie'...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wow

How did a random fly girl suddenly rocket to stardom?
Read this for one fascinating hypothesis.

This Just In--Clinton Advisor an Asshole!


Shock of shocks! The top advisor to Hillary Clinton has just been revealed to the 0.5% of Americans who read the newspaper as an asshole with no loyalty or common decency, but plenty of greed.
"Mark Penn, the pollster who has advised Bill and Hillary Clinton since 1996, stepped down under pressure on Sunday as the chief political strategist for Mrs. Clinton’s struggling presidential campaign after his private business arrangements again clashed with her campaign positions."
What business arrangements? Is his toy company making a mint selling plush Barack Obama toys?
"Mr. Penn, who was widely disliked by Mrs. Clinton’s fiercest loyalists and had bitterly feuded with many of them, sealed his fate last week by meeting with officials from Colombia, which hired him to help secure passage of a bilateral trade treaty with the United States that Mrs. Clinton, a senator from New York, opposes."
Oh. That makes sense. But what were the earlier offenses? Are they similarly obscure? No, they are not:
"Mr. Penn met with the Colombians in his role as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm. He has refused to sever his ties to the company, which also represented Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, and through a subsidiary represented Blackwater Worldwide, the military contractor blamed for numerous civilian deaths in Iraq."
(emphasis mine; source--New York Times)
Also shocking is the fact that Mr. Penn is an overweight, unattractive, white male with a combover. Come on, guys! Stop giving white men such a bad reputation!

(For the full text of the article quoted above, please click on this link)