October 6th, 2005

mmmmm delicious

Crappy is on the palate of the beholder (hit dice 11, XP value 5100, treasure types L, N, & O)

People are never asking me, "Leonard, you're a gourmet, by which I mean a fat pig who can't stop eating but who is also snooty. And yet, every year, you conduct the Crappys, an annual competition where you and your hapless friends eat really bad junk food you bought at grocery stores and write about it in a misguided attempt to milk humor out of the time- and money-wasting endeavor. But the question remains: with your pretentious foodie ways, is there any junk food you actually like?"

To which I fail to respond, "Why, of course, imaginary inquisitor! The fact is, I like all sorts of junk foods! I like them so much that, as you were kind enough to point out, I am a fat pig who can't stop eating! I like so many junk foods I can scarcely think of all the chemicals coursing through my overthickened bloodstream. From frozen Swedish meatballs to saddle-shaped potato crispoids to the slaughterhouse leftovers known as lunchmeat, if it was created by an industrial food-chemistry engineer, I will attempt to digest it. There are junk foods I hate but eat anyway, like Hot Pockets, and there are junk foods that I love but try to avoid due to the genocidal effect they have on my insides, like White Castle sliders. But, more to your point, while I attempt to cook as much as possible and avoid junk foods because they are unquestionably going to be the cause of my death, there are a few crap products I still consume with semi-regularity despite the fact that they are awful."

For example? Sure, for example!

1. RAMEN NOODLES. Pretty much everyone got hooked on these in college, because they're dead cheap and very filling. They're also 'tasty' in the sense that they're saturated in MSG, which makes you think things taste good even when they taste like sticks and gunpowder. Like most people of my station, I went through an extended period of eating this crap when I was impoverished, but unlike most people of any kind, I keep buying them on occasion even though I can now afford to buy steak. I really shouldn't, because my blood pressure is high enough to launch a suborbital missile and noodle cups have roughly six thousand tons of sodium per teaspoon, but they're quick, easy, and a sly approximation of delicious.

2. BEEF STICKS. I'm not talking about gritty, frontiersy, harder-on-your-jaw-than-an-hour-of-cunnilingus beef jerky; I'm talking about the greasy tubes of we're-legally-allowed-to-call-this-meat that are vended under the name of Slim Jim. These things are severely gross. Eating one leaves you feeling like you've been punched in the clavicle by an angry steer-man for several rounds. They're made from parts of a cow that even the cow doesn't wish it could have kept. Their texture, which falls somewhere between "mushy" and "chalky", neither of which should ever be applied to something made of meat, is second only to their peculiar (and peculiarly offensive) odor in the cavalcade of offensive sense data that begins when you open the package. And their nutritional value is is approximate to the financial value of a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge you get from a guy selling used sex toys off a blanket in Tompkins Square. But still, every few months, I eat one. I always regret it, but I do it anyway. Why? Because I'm an idiot, clearly.

3. GATORADE. Okay, let's get one thing straight: unless you're sick, dehydrated (and by this, I mean actually dehydrated, not just thirsty) or an actual hardcore athlete who's just done something a lot more strenuous than move the beer keg at a softball game, you do not need Gatorade. It was designed for real athletes, not people playing handball while smoking cigarettes at the Y. The fact that you can buy a thousand bottles of it at a goddamn pet store is a pure triumph of marketing; it doesn't sell by the barrelful because Americans are so hard-working or athletic -- in fact, given our ever-increasing bovinity, quite the opposite is true. It sells because people respond to advertising. And unless you need the electrolytes and nutrients, which if you're like 90% of Gatorade drinkers you don't, all you're getting when you swig a bottle is sugar water, no more healthful than drinking an identical amount of Coke. That said, Gatorade is goddamn delicious, even the funky-ass flavors like Fierce Watermelon and "Riptide Rush". An icy cold Gatorade on a hot day satisfies like nothing else. Once you open a bottle, you're almost compelled to drink the whole thing. It's great for mixing with vodka, and it's also great for drinking the next morning to help you recuperate from the hangover you got from drinking vodka and Gatorade the night before. It's such a perfect product that millions of people, myself included, continue to swill the stuff even though their long-running ad campaign features it secreting from the armpits, groins and foreheads of sweaty, bloody, smelly jocks.

How about you, food-lifers? What can't you get enough of even though you know you shouldn't get any at all?

Give the people what we say they want

The healing has begun: I'm prowling the newly painted corridors of Town Hall again. Today, some deke with the unlikely name of Craig Titley attempts to explain that the current Hollywood slump is not due to the failure of the movie industry to make better movies, but rather their failure to embrace Americanism.


Like the bizarre series of similarities found in the Lincoln/Kennedy assassinations, the box office “assassinations” of 1985 and 2005 share some eerie similarities and coincidences. Both slumps began in a year following the November re-election of a president who was despised by the coasts, the media, and Bruce Springsteen. Both of these re-elected presidents liked to wear cowboy hats and boots. Both presided over ambiguous, hard-to-define wars: the Cold War, the War on Terror. During both campaigns the who’s-who of hip Hollywood actors (who now probably need hip replacement) such as Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Jane Fonda, Barbara Streisand and Ed Asner came out in support of their guy (hint: not the one in the cowboy hat). The cowboy candidates, then and now, had Chuck Norris. During both campaigns, Bruce Springsteen took a tour on the road to encourage people not to vote for the guy in the cowboy hat. The “bad guys” in the world--Godless Russian commies in the 80’s; Our-God-4-Allah-ya Islamic Terrorists in the 00’s--also didn’t want the guy in the cowboy hat to win. But they didn’t particularly care for Springsteen either.


There are also similarities in the reason given for the slumps. The Hollywood-Know-It-Alls in the panic induced by both the Slump of ’85 and the current Slump of ’05, were quick to finger all the new-fangled home entertainment technology as the culprit. In 1985 videocassettes, VCRs, Commodore home computers, and Ms. Pac-Man were allegedly sucking us away from theaters. In 2005 DVDs, plasma screen televisions, chat rooms, and “Destroy All Humans” are supposedly doing the job. In 1985, this proved to be untrue as Hollywood rebounded and had some of the best years of its life in the tech-filled decades to come. It’s untrue now as well.


So what caused the slump of ’85? And what is causing the Slump of ‘05? The eerily similar political climates preceding the slumps have led some to suggest that moviegoers who liked the guy in the cowboy hat were holding a grudge against Hollywood by staying away from the multiplexes. After all, even in a landslide election, the nation is pretty much evenly split between the reds and the blues. Publicly picking a side is bound to alienate you from half of everyone. If just a small percentage of these moviegoers turned their backs on Hollywood, it could have a devastating effect on the bottom line.


When the Slump of ’85 began, the Top 10 films included Police Academy 2, Friday the 13th Part V, Porky’s Revenge, and The Care Bears Movie. Given a choice like that I’d stay home with Ms. Pac-Man too. The first major breakout hit during the slump was Code of Silence, the first of All-American hero Chuck Norris’s 1985 two’fer. It stayed at the top of the box office for two weeks and proved to be a modest, yet highly profitable, hit despite the slump. Hmmm. Didn't Norris support Reagan just a few months earlier?


Next on top, one of the films that helped make the Slump of ’85 a thing of the past, Back to the Future. The time-travel film (which, incidentally, had Islamic Terrorists for bad guys) became the highest grossing movie of the year, spent 11 weeks at number one, and grossed $377,000,000 in 2005 dollars. What's even more amazing about Back to the Future is that it was made without any big movie stars.


Our historical field trip back to 1985 reveals that the magical movie ingredients that saved Hollywood’s ass(ets) from the Slump of ’85 were: • Four right-leaning stars (Arnold, Clint, Chuck, and Sly) • Russian communist villains (plus one serving of Islamic Terrorists)• a college Republican in a nostalgic look at 1950’s Americana• a Christian preacher in a cowboy hat• a comedic mockery of snotty Europeans• a gun-loving vigilante• Rocky Balboa proudly displaying Old Glory


The good news: if they came back in 1985, they’ll come back now. All they need is the right stuff. Just look at the first big hit after the election of ’04 (and one of the last big hits before the Slump of ‘05 began): National Treasure.

Now, this is all very salutory, but here's something to think about: Craig Titley, who wrote this piece which eagerly urges Hollywood producers to embrace jingoism and studiously avoids blaming crap movies for the current slump, is himself a Hollywood screenwriter. His credits: See Spot Run, Cheaper By the Dozen, Scooby-Doo, and that immortal TV classic, Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?.

Yep. It's the lack of patriotism, that's why there's a slump. And not at all because of movies like those.
flavored with age

I am only doing this because Dora made me, and she is nice

Altered because I am a pessimistic fuck.

List five things that bug you right now.
Then list ten things that make you happy right now.
Then pass on to five others.

Things that bug me:

1. Getting a parking ticket.
2. My phone mysteriously not working.
3. The current presidential administration.
4. Not getting much freelance work this month.
5. Being single again.

Things that make me happy:

1. The fact that my friends have been so kind and supportive after my breakup.
2. The fact that even after the breakup, my ex is still an amazing person and a good friend.
3. WHITE SOX, fool (sorry, Dora, but...WHITE SOX!).
4. The prospect of going out tonight to see Lara and Jeff perform at Vaudeville Underground.
5. The prospect of going out Friday to rum_holiday's place to eat New England food and watch noir.
6. Vodka.
7. Music in general and MF Doom in particular, whose Special Herbs series and The Mouse and the Mask collabo with Dangermouse is entertaining me at work.
8. The possibility of going hiking next week at Starved Rock.
9. Having more free time to write.
10. Chicago, the greatest place I have ever lived.

Five friends to do this: I won't tag anyone. Do this if you like.

"Dear God, not THE CHILDREN..."

Ladies and gentlemen and Kudas of all ages, I now have in my possession the shooting script of The Day the Clown Cried, one of the most staggeringly awful films never made -- the infamous unreleased 1971 flick written, directed by and starring Jerry Lewis as, ahem, a clown who entertains children in a Nazi death camp.

Herewith some choice quotes from Jerry's character, Helmut Doork (that's right, HELMUT DOORK), the centerpiece of this amazingly inappropriate movie.

Helmut explains his relationship with the audience to his patient wife:

I AM A CLOWN ... PEOPLE LAUGH AT ME ... I like being a clown ... I DON'T LIKE people laughing at me ... But, Oh, How I HATE when they DON'T !!!

Helmut delivers some lines Jerry no doubt made up from whole cloth:

I just have nowhere to explode ...I feel lost and alone, I can't handle the pain of being a HAS-BEEN!

Helmut gives a drunken speech in front of some Gestapo men that will soon get him tossed in a concentration camp (note that this monologue is clearly meant to be a serious and powerful dramatic moment instead of a jaw-droppingly misguided one):

The trouble with man today is that he takes everything for granted ... he thinks what he's told to think ...and accepts it! Just because we know meanings of words, we use them and we fool ourselves ... people should use the dictionary more ... look up words like good ... bad ... honest ... loyal ... especially loyal. I know what loyal means and I have always been that ... but does anyone care? No! Of course not ... Only when it is expedient ... When it isn't ---(he slashes his throat with his finger) -- ZIPP! You're out! And that goes for you too ... Mein Fuhrer ... You, too, are a fool. You allow yourself to think you have “loyal” followers ... Ha! Wait until they've had it with you ... all the smiling, bowing, heel-clicking idiots will turn on you too. And you will deserve it, because if you allow people like Herr Schmidt to go on with lying and cheating, and being disloyal, one day all the Schmidts in Germany will find you out and you will finish as the dumb little corporal you started as, and you'll never know what hit you ... He really has to be stupid ... because he doesn't know about the people he thinks are loyal Germans ... ha! What are you staring at? Didn't you ever see a man drink before? What's the matter? Haven't you guys a sense of humor? You must have! Look how you're dressed! Grown men in their black coats and gloves ... like in a movie ... Real cloak and dagger stuff ... Didn't you Gestapo guys ever know that everybody can spot you a mile away? Listen, if you really wanted to be unnoticed ... You should dress like plain people, then nobody would know you ... You might even wear straw hats and shorts ... Straw hats and shorts!! That's funny! Now that's really funny, isn't it? Straw hats and shorts! Well, isn't that funny? Think of it ... that's funny! Why don't you laugh? I know why you're not laughing ... Because things you hear, you have to think about ... I'll show you something that you'll laugh at because all you'll have to do is watch ...We vill conquer the world ... Heil me! Heil me! Heil me!

Helmut doth protest too much when even other concentration camp inmates don't think he's funny:

I am a clown. I am, I am. Come back, damn you, come back -- Listen to the children ... They're laughing -- Come see ... I AM a clown!

Helmut, in the movie's highly moving climax, leads those laffing kiddies into the death chamber:

Look, Im a Jack-in-the-box. We're all Jacks-in the box -- the same box. Everybody's eyes shut? Now, think about your mommys and daddys ... There, don't you see them? Can't you see their faces? So you see! They're right here with you. All you have to do is look into your hearts. ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, I'M BACK! Now, everybody just back away and sit down, because “Helmut the Great” will perform weird and wonderful tasks for you, AND WE WILL HAVE a good time ...

No, Helmut, nobody will ever have a good time again. PLEASE GOD someone release this film.