Sunday, November 16, 2008

All's Well That Ends Wellington

It's been quite awhile since I've done an update, and a lot has happened. First off, I moved to Wellington. It turns out that Wellington is perhaps one of the coolest cities in the world. It's very artsy and Bohemian, not to mention easy to get around. I live in an area called Newtown. Newtown is one of the more multi-cultural neighborhoods in the city. It's thus far been able to resist the ugly spread of total gentrification, and one can still walk through the main streets in town and come in contact with pilgrims from all over the world: African women haggling over prices at outdoor vegetable markets, elderly Chinese running five-and-dime stores and the spicy-sweet smell of Indian and Malaysian food.

I've fallen in with a tremendous group of friends here, easily some of the greatest people I've ever known. They're hilarious, energetic, welcoming and forgiving (these days, an important trait for those who befriend me). It was with this magnificent little crew that I made the pilgrimage to Toast Martinborough, a yearly wine festival held in the rich vineyards of the Wairarapa region about an hour outside of Wellington.

The weather could not have been better that day, as summer finally seemed to win its battle with the cold weather that's reared its head since I've been here. Five of us crammed in the car (one of whom was our designated driver. We're responsible people), and journeyed over the mountains to enjoy the beautiful sun and some tasty wine.

At the outset of Toast, it seems a very sophisticated event with people calmly enjoying fine wines and pleasant conversation. It does not stay that way. More than 10,000 people attended the event. More than 14,500 bottles of wine were consumed. You do the math.

Toast Martinborough: Beginning of the Day

Toast Martinborough: End of the Day

A couple tips if you ever plan to attend this event. First, make sure to eat in the morning. It doesn't matter whether or not you're hungry. Eat. Second, drink a lot of water, and do so consistently throughout the day. Third, pace yourself. You have a whole day to drink wine. There's no reason to put away an entire bottle in the first two hours you're there.

By following these tips, you assure yourself a lovely and relaxing day you'll remember for years to come. If you don't follow these few simple steps, you end up comatose in the back of your friend's Volkswagen while your other mates try to force feed you a mince pie, which you angrily reject, and then when they give you water to drink you pour it all over yourself, then you lean lecherously on one of your female friends, and apologize to her just in case you get "kissy" which you really don't even have the energy to do, you just lean there, haphazardly shoving foul-tasting potato chips into your mouth and missing entirely most of the time, then wake up a couple hours later with a splitting headache, cotton mouth and the realization that all your friends are enjoying the vineyard while you suffer DTs in the back of a hot car, and then when you finally muster the strength to stumble out of the car, you realize the entire scene has degenerated into a drunken orgy that's more sad than amusing and paramedics are hauling some guy out on a stretcher while you fight a pounding headache and watch helplessly as one of your friends is felt up by a guy in a safari costume. This is, of course, an entirely hypothetical situation.

Another tip. If one of your friends seems more than a little inebriated, don't let him call one of his female flatmates. Just don't do it.

Other than that, Toast Martinborough is a lovely event for the whole family. If you're ever in New Zealand, don't miss it!

Friday, October 10, 2008


When I find myself on the south end of my last paycheck, I go into a kind of crazed conservation mode, like a hibernating animal preparing for winter. As such, I usually head to a supermarket and buy as much foul, prepackaged swill as I can for $20. It's like a competition of sorts. See how many meals I can get out of $20. I've eaten for three weeks off of a haul like that.

It was this mindset that found me deep-frying frozen chicken nuggets for lunch today. A cursory examination of the package revealed that the nuggets were 37 percent chicken. This stirred in me a kind of awe-struck respect for the manufacturer. In today's world of quality control and consumer watchdog groups, I find it comforting to know that food purveyors can still label a product with the name of an animal that only appears for a third of the meal.

I fried the nuggets up in olive oil out of some misguided health-consciousness. Consuming food like this and then worrying about the oil you fry it in is like fighting a wildfire with a squirt gun. After patting the nuggets dry and waiting an appropriate time for them to cool, I bit into one with fear and trepidation. The "meat" contained in it was a grayish color, and had a watery, spongy feel to it. The flavor had a vague kinship with chicken, as though a chicken may have one time wandered past the factory where the nuggets were being made. If this is only one-third chicken, I wondered, what is the rest? Examining the bag again, I came across this cryptic ingredient: "Filler." Filler? Why, that could be anything! Newsprint, past-their-prime circus animals or vagrants! There was a grim excitement in the thought that I could be eating any manner of horrifying garbage.

Faced with a powerful hunger, I cooked up ten of the ugly buggers. I was able to eat five before I was forced to call poison control. As I waited for the ambulance to arrive, I sealed the remaining nuggets in a sandwich bag. I can't wait to have them for dinner.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Western Civilization Has Officially Fallen

I found this picture online.

Oh, man, it hurts just to look at this. Yet, there's a brutish poetry to how wrong on every level this crudely drawn sign is. Whoever made it could not have slaughtered the English language any more thoroughly had they taken a hatchet to an Oxford Dictionary.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Searching For Strangeness On a Saturday Night*

Jean and I sat in the bar, waiting expectantly ... but for what? Deschler's had been sold to me as a hipster bar, a high-traffic hangout for the well-practiced and with-it. But tonight it was clogged with the after work crowd. Button-down shirts and too much cologne. The young, upwardly mobile and vacant all out for an evening of drinking away the horrifying realities of a life spent on nothing. It's the type of social setting I've never felt comfortable in. What self-respecting itinerant writer would? After all, had this been my scene I would be behind a desk writing copy instead of exiled on the opposite side of the globe in the desperate pursuit of something, anything interesting. Deep in my soul I've always felt out of my depth around these people, as though at any moment I would suddenly lose all motor control and begin flailing my arms around wildly, knocking drinks on expensive shirts and upending platters of hors d'oeuvres. It's because I'm from Kentucky, and am somehow convinced that there's an ingrained, atavistic rurality to me.

I tried to stifle my growing tension and fear with a piss-poor excuse for wheat beer, and bought Jean a Midori sour so I could escape the stigma of drinking by myself. One of the young turks broke away from the crowd, and occupied the vacant space to my right. He ordered a bizarre mixer containing a viscous substance that looked like Italian dressing, and shoved the high ball glass in my direction.

"This is weird, aye?" he said, gesturing toward the strange liquid. "It's tasty as, though. You want to try it?"

Never one to turn down free alcohol, I obliged and took a taste of the concoction. It sat heavy on my tongue, but had a pleasing citrusy flavor. 

"It's good, aye?" 

"Hot damn! That is good! What is it?"

"I have no idea," he said.

This raised an entirely new conundrum. How had he ordered this beverage? He seemed to have no clue what it was called, how it was made, or even its most rudimentary ingredients. How had he asked for it? Had he just told the bartender, give me a drink, any kind, but make damn sure there's Italian dressing in it? What manner of savage madman would issue a request like that? My mind boggled at the possibilities of such an exchange. Why, that impetuousness would get you killed at a bar in the States!

"My name's Louie," my new friend said, extending his hand. I introduced Jean and myself, and we launched into mundane particulars. Jean and I were friends in the States, lost touch, randomly moved to Auckland at the same time, were here semi-indefinitely. Louie was a university student. Electrical engineering, or some such nonsense. Anecdotal evidence led me to believe that he was quite brilliant, a trait belied by his somewhat vacuous demeanor. After no more than five minutes of stilted introductions, Louie sprang an invitation on us.

"I'm going to a party after this. It's a friend's going away party. Do you guys want to come?"

Merciful heavens, here it was! This was the stuff great epics sprang from! An innocuous invitation that led to a grand, Kerouacian journey! I looked for affirmation from Jean, but she seemed unconvinced. Come on, Jean! Keep your eye on the ball!

"Maybe. That might be fun," I said, remaining noncommittal out of deference to Jean. Louie's phone rang, and he excused himself to go outside. This was my chance to sell Jean on the idea.

"Jean," I said soberly. "We would be irresponsible not to ride this bizarre train to its terminus. We must go to this party."

Shockingly, she immediately agreed. It was settled, then. We would follow this strange young man to parts utterly unknown. That was the grand beauty of it all. Why, we could be walking right into the heart of some foul, pagan coven celebrating a long-forgotten rite through the sacrifice of wide-eyed Americans. Or a roving gang of bandits who seduced unsuspecting foreigners into their homes, violated them in every possible fashion, stripped them of their belongings and then beat them to death. There was a better than average chance that we were following this innocent-looking youngster to our doom, that no one would hear from us again until they dredged a lake for our bodies. This is what I had come here for. The dangerous and dizzying uncertainty of new experience.

When Louie returned, we told him we'd be more than happy to come to the party with him. Hell, we'd even drive. The three of us beat a hasty retreat and headed to the car. 

As we drove through town, Louie began asking about American culture, making vaguely discriminatory comments about black people. Good God! What kind of weird mutant had we picked up? Fortune had smiled upon us for sure. With any luck, we were being led to some kind of white supremacist meeting full of shaven-headed malcontents brandishing axe handles and pool cues. My appetite for weirdness was growing, and this seemed just the situation to satisfy it.

We arrived at our location. Sadly, not a flophouse full of villains and vagabonds, but a bar I frequented. Utterly pedestrian. Still, maybe there was hope for the evening. A drunken brawl, a raving, midnight excursion with strangers to a deserted beach, hell, even a chance encounter with a lonely and desperate woman. Anything to inject the evening with eccentricity. Auckland has as much strangeness per capita as any other large city. All one has to do is walk down Karangahape Road on a Saturday night to tell you that. The drag queens and drunkards spill onto the sidewalk from the pulsating madness of the bars and charge the air with a preternatural electricity, their freakishness drifting down the street like steam from a manhole. I once saw not one, but two transvestites dressed as Wonder Woman lilting down the road, high on pure methamphetamine, screaming obscenities at passing taxicabs. It's a beautiful, orgiastic circus on any given weekend.

But we were far from K Road tonight, in the safe confines of Mount Eden. There was little chance of such a display here. I was determined, though. Tonight had to be a night of stories to remember and ponder, the kind that make you reexamine your fundamental grasp on reality. All it would take was priming the pump a bit. We left Louie talking to a brace of lusty but dull gingers and headed into the bar's crowded back room.

Mingling about, we came to find out that this was a farewell party for a young man named Rob, but no one we talked to knew where he was going, or why. Evidently, a man of many acquaintances and few friends. Jean and I got stuck talking to a wild-eyed accountant who weaved, bobbed and gesticulated crazily as he spoke with electric enthusiasm about the most prosaic topics imaginable. 

"My firm actually just offered me a position in their office in Italy," he said.

This was it. My opening. I would fabricate a story so ridiculous, so utterly unbelievable that it would stun and amaze the entire room into submission. They would gather at our feet as we spun yarns of epic proportions. The whole crowd would gaze in awe at these peculiar Americans and their tales of wonder. Then we'd run up an enormous bar tab and slip out the back door without paying, cackling like lunatics all the way back to the car. 

"I lived in Italy for awhile," I said nonchalantly. Not only had I never lived in Italy, I hadn't even been anywhere close to Italy. Nevertheless, there it was. The trap was laid.

"Oh, yeah? What was it like?"

Ha! The poor, dumb bastard had taken the bait. Now all that was left was to pull the trigger. 

"Well, you have to take into account that at the time I was homeless, strung out on coke and drifting from bar to bar trying to pick up women just so I'd have a place to sleep that night."

He leaned in for more. It was working!

"I remember one night in particular, I went to a dance club in Firenze—you may know it as Florence—and I was there all night, drinking shot after shot of Frangelico while being eyed by a transvestite on the dance floor. After a bit, I decided to make a show of it for my friends. I went down to dance with the transvestite, and I really played it up. Hands on her hips, dipping and grinding. I knew my friends would get a good laugh out of it. But suddenly, I looked up and they were gone. This was unfortunate for two reasons. One, I had arranged to stay at one of their flats for the night and they were my ride there. Two, I had no money to pay my bar tab. So, I ran for the door. I went to the train station, but at that time of night the trains were only running once an hour. So, in my drunken, impatient haze, I wandered back into the town square, curled up on the side of a fountain and fell asleep. I woke up shortly thereafter to someone sitting on my chest, slapping my cheeks and yelling, 'Bello, bello! You cannot sleep here!' Sure enough, it was the transvestite. She was straddling my shoulders, her horrifying male reproductive organs mere inches from my face. In the momentary confusion, I thought I had gotten so hopelessly drunk that I'd gone home with her, and that from that moment on, I'd have to rethink everything I knew about myself. And that was my impression of Italy."

The accountant stared at me dumbfounded. "Wow. Well, I'll stay away from dance clubs." He turned to talk to someone else. Complete failure on all fronts.

"Let's go," Jean said, and we headed for the door. I'd never felt so wholly defeated. The evening had started out with such promise, yet here we were heading for the exit without a hint of fanfare. I had formulated an ironclad plan, executed it to perfection, and received nothing in response but a stare that insinuated that I might be the vilest human being ever to walk the Earth. How had it come to this?

As we left, we saw Louie in the corner with his tongue down the throat of one of the gingers, his hands feverishly exploring her ass in full view of the entire party. At least one of us had a memorable evening. Jean and I drove home, talking about what could have been if only the night had taken a different turn. She dropped me off, and I headed to my bedroom for another boring evening spent in the droning oblivion of the internet. 

A few minutes later, I heard my flatmate Lex enter. He came into my room wearing a sheep costume, a hula hoop slung across his chest like a bandolier strap. We chatted for ten minutes or so, Lex never offering an explanation for his get up, and me stubbornly refusing to ask. As he walked off to go to bed, I smiled with the warm satisfaction that the evening wasn't a total loss.

*Portions may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Long Overdue Update

Sorry for the delay in posting. It's been a busy week. I'll give a few updates, then share a few discoveries.

First, I'm still living with Lex. Here's the house.

It's been an absolute blast. He's a really fun dude. The other night we had a potluck, and much hilarity ensued. Lex and his group of friends are extremely competitive, so needless to say, a juggling contest broke out. At one point this devolved into seeing how many times a person could juggle while balanced on an exercise ball. It made for some tremendous wipeouts.

Second, I've already gained an absolutely phenomenal group of friends, and I just keep meeting more cool people. Everyone here is extremely friendly, and in the span of two weeks I've already started to forge some deep relationships.

Third, Jean Schwartz and I took a little trip to Hamilton the other day. Hamilton is a smallish town about an hour south of Auckland. In the course of our trip, we stopped in a tiny little burg called Huntly. It looked shockingly similar to every small town in South Georgia I've ever been to. So much so, in fact, that I was taken aback when I got out of the car and didn't hear Southern accents. Hamilton itself was quite fun. We went to some public gardens, which were absolutely stunning. The gardens were divided into different national styles of ... uh ... gardening ... I guess. Of particular interest was the American section which attempted to gather absolutely every variety of American flora imaginable, regardless of region, and was dominated by a faux-swimming pool, deck chairs and a huge Andy Warhol print. It really captured the national spirit, I should say. The funny thing is that I immediately felt at home.

OK, on to the discoveries.

First, Auckland weather has to be the strangest I've ever experienced. Many days, we seem to cycle through all four seasons within the span of a few hours. It's absolutely impossible to plan outfits accordingly.

Second, high hipster fashion right now in Auckland entails dressing like an early 90s hip-hopper. I'm not sure if this is big in the States at the moment, but every hipster here looks like they could be an extra in a school cafeteria scene from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It actually looks pretty cool, but I don't think it would work for me.

Lastly, I already knew that Kiwis love coffee, but until this week I was unaware of the majesty that is the latte bowl.

"Excuse me. I believe I ordered the large."

Look at that thing! I don't know whether to drink it or bathe in it! Pictured is my friend Todd relaxing with a bucket of coffee and a side of renal failure.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hubbub and Goings On

Much to tell in this post. First and foremost, I'm no longer in the youth hostel. An awesome guy named Lex is letting me crash with him for awhile. It's so nice to actually be in a house. I finally unpacked, and I'm starting to feel settled here.

Second, I got a job. I'm bartending at a place called The Flying Moa. It seems like a cool place, though it is a long way from everything. Kind of out in the sticks, or, as Kiwis would say, the wop-wops.

Third, I found out that Eden Terrace, the place I've been spending all my time, is home to none other than Neil Finn of Crowded House fame. I was actually in his studio the other night. He lives directly above it, and I could feel his awesomeness emanating from up there.

Greatness lives here.

Finally, I've come to the conclusion that if Kevin Bacon were a Kiwi, the game would be called "Three Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Everyone here knows everyone, and one cannot go out in public without running into friends or friends of friends. Even in a city of 1.3 million people, everyone's connected. It's bizarre.

I'll leave you with this random photo.

This is evidently Jean-Paul Sartre's street.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Huzzah For Friends

After being here for about 48 hours, I've already made friends. People here are amazing. This group of folks has practically adopted me. It's lovely.

The youth hostel, however, is not entirely lovely. People there seem very standoffish. Most people seem to be German or French, and sitting in the lounge is like being in the cantina in Star Wars.  Here's the house band.

I'm hoping to find a bit more permanent residence soon, but I have some good leads. I'll let you all know how it turns out.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lost At the Bottom Of the World

I was just walking down Queen Street, the main thoroughfare through the city center here, and I was listening to my iPod and musing about the utter perfection of it all. A few months ago, this all seemed like a ridiculous dream. Even with visa and plane tickets in hand, I still didn't believe it would happen. In fact, I don't think I really thought I would pull this off until I stepped outside the airport last night. I can't tell you the tremendous sense of satisfaction I feel that this actually materialized. About every five minutes, I grin and think to myself, "I live in New Zealand!" Every time I catch that amazing accent (which, of course, is all the time), I once again blissfully remind myself that I live in New Zealand. 



Anyway, here's a view from my front door.

Look on and envy. 

24 Hours In Tahiti

French Polynesia is a wonderful scam on the part of the French. They found a beautiful, unspoiled paradise teeming with friendly natives, eager to please, and then made them speak a language every honeymooning tourist couple wants to hear. Beautiful Asians with French accents. You couldn't get better results if you built this place in a lab. As the Japanese steamrolled through the Pacific in World War II, they no doubt had similar designs—even linguistically—but ultimately not the staying power to see them through. Concrete proof that if you can't take a little nuclear holocaust, you don't belong in the game.

Bouganville wrote of Tahiti back in 1768, and hailed it as an untouched, unspoiled paradise free from the ugly corruption of society. Europe must have taken this as a challenge, because it signaled the beginning of a race to ruin Tahiti, a task almost completed by smallpox and syphilis. Still, it retains a kind of mythical grandeur. After all, this is the place of the Bounty, Gaguin, Captain Cook. It's a place of beauty and romance, as long as you don't wander outside the resorts. If you do, you're faced with the brutish realities of poverty and the half-hearted and broken promises of distant colonizers. Corrugated steel shacks and dark, esoteric graffiti. Locals wandering around in the kind of hopeless daze that is only known by those who see no way out of the life they're accustomed to. But the hotels keep you from all this. They present the untarnished facade people come here looking for, and no doubt leave thinking is genuine. They choke out the beach, leaving only a thin ribbon of black sand to testify that this was ever anything more than a grownup Disneyland for the obscenely wealthy. Yet, jungle covered mountains shoot up from the sea, asserting their dominance over even the most grotesque and creative attempts at capitalism. Fat tourists snap pictures of them, blissfully ignorant of their defiance.

On the plane ride here, I sit next to a brash and overly-friendly 21-year-old named Ben. He tells me he and his friends are here for a wedding, and it's obvious he sees Tahiti as some kind of Bacchanalian playground. A place where any vice can be indulged for the right amount of money. In between hitting on the politely disinterested stewardesses and getting progressively drunker on shitty Tahitian beer, he learns of my plans for Auckland.  I'm moving here from the States knowing no one, no job prospects, no place to live. All in the ridiculous pursuit of being a vagabond journalist, the lowest rung on the social—and perhaps even evolutionary—ladder. Ben gives the kind of lilting, amoral encouragement and advice only a drunk frat boy can. Tear it up, he advises. Live life in a drunken, orgiastic stupor, taking from New Zealand what I can and giving nothing in return. Normally, his antics would draw my intellectual contempt. Instead, I'm touched by this fantastic salute to American ignorance, excess and entitlement. Ben's is the kind of naive overbearance that is simultaneously our country's most beautiful and horrifying trait, and I love him for personifying it so well. At the end of the trip he makes a gift to me of his Playboy magazine, and I accept it—not only because I've learned not to argue with drunks, but because I understand that nothing could be more meaningful coming from a guy like Ben than the twentieth century's foremost chronicle of indulgent nihillism and tits. I discard it at the airport, but with a deep sense of appreciation.

Ben and his entourage invite me to party with them, and I almost do. My layover here is only 24 hours, after all. Why not spend it getting bombed out of my skull with a bunch of meatheads? At the very least, it would make for an interesting story. Instead, I somehow find the will to go to my hotel and have a nice dinner of steak and foie gras. Anyone who's ever had foie gras knows that it's the single most glorious thing a human can experience. Even the most hardened vegan, had he tried it, would rip the liver out of every goose he saw to get at that succulent meat. It's the perfect dish for a place like this. Excessive. And every night, it's served to self-involved Anglos like me by beautiful island girls who get off work and go to their tenement homes far away from the prying eyes of tourism. Just one more day of selling an opulence they themselves will never own.

All the girls here are sweet and demure, but skittish like a dog that's been hit too many times, and I wonder if this is a heavily patriarchal society, or if tourists are just that fucking rude and demanding. I try to be overly polite to compensate, but they still constantly apologize, and it makes me sad. Makes me wish I could have seen this place as the proud and savage tribal society it used to be rather than a prefabricated retreat for honeymooners without the sense to spend their money on a house instead.

Everything at the Radisson here smells like flowers and the salty mist drifting off the ocean, and all around me I see happy couples either just beginning their marriage, or contented veterans of it. There's something beautiful about their unspoken hypothesis that any trial of relationship, any trouble they may face can be left at their point of embarkation. No void of communication, no infidelity, no cold emotional apathy could overcome the beauty of this place if it were real and if it were forever. But it is neither. The cynic in me knows that when these couples return home, all those things will be waiting where they left them in longterm parking.

Guinea hens run around the grounds of the hotel, and I can hear birds of paradise singing in the distance. This island was theirs long before it was anyone else's, even before those first brave Asian pioneers set out across the angry Pacific in outrigged canoes. With any luck, it will be theirs again someday. The jungle and the beach will swallow up the resorts, their deserted husks a lonely monument to a time when man thought utopia could be packaged and sold, and the birds will sing on into the emptiness with only each other to hear it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Judge Not

While urinating today, I suddenly realized that I have an incredibly wide stance. Larry Craig, we judged you too quickly.


The problem with protein bars is that you don't really get full. You just get tired of chewing. It's a lot like eating crab legs. Though the process of eating them may appear haphazard—nay, even barbaric—it actually requires a great deal of dexterity. Unfortunately, the reward for all your painstaking labor is a tiny amount of meat, succulent though it may be. You actually weary of eating before you get full. It's as though you were forced to solder miniscule components onto a circuit board, and were rewarded for each piece you attached with a single Cheez-It. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flim Springfield

We all love movies, and for the most part originality is to be applauded. But there are a few Hollywood conventions that have fallen by the wayside that would make any movie immediately better.

1. A Theme Song By Kenny Loggins
Kenny Loggins was the master of the ass-kicking movie theme song. From Caddyshack to Footloose to Top Gun, a Kenny Loggins tune elevated any film to grandeur.

Example: Imagine if Schindler's List had a screaming Kenny Loggins tune to ease us into the despair. It would, of course, center around how times were tough, but Kenny was gonna go out dancin' with his baby tonight. I see it sounding something like this...

Well Old Man Hitler was kind of a drag

But Oskar Schindler, savin' Jews was his bag

Gonna pay a lot of money, gonna save a few Jews

But first he's puttin' on his dancin' shoes

2. A wealthy dowager becomes overwhelmed and faints
It's always gratifying to see a stuffy Eleanor Roosevelt-type high society woman faint when faced with what she deems impropriety. The fainting dowager was a staple of Three Stooges shorts, and could easily be incorporated to bring even dramatic films some much-needed levity.

Example: In Saving Private Ryan, the secretary and lieutenant come to inform the colonel that all of Matthew Ryan's brothers have been killed.

Lieutenant: Sir, I'm afraid all three of Private Ryan's brothers have been killed in action.
Wealthy Dowager: All three Ryans? Ohhhhhhh, my! (faints)

3. A stuffy academic is incredulous, causing his bowtie to spin and steam to come out of his ears.
It has been proven in clinical trials that nothing elicits more laughter than spinning bowties. This is empirical fact, and to dispute it would be to call scientists liars. Are you prepared to do that, tough guy?

Example: In Dances With Wolves, Lt. John Dunbar has been captured by the Army, and is being interrogated for his involvement with the Lakota.

John Dunbar: My name is Dances with Wolves. I will not talk to you anymore. You are not worth talking to.
Man With Bowtie: Not worth talking to! (Begins visibly shaking) Why you! (Bowtie spins. Steam shoots from ears)

4. A fast-motion chase scene ensues and "Yakkety-Sax" plays.
Any chase scene not involving "Yakkety Sax" does not fully realize its potential.

Example: The chase scene in Bullitt. That is all.

5. An AC/DC as closing credits music.
When you're leaving a movie, you want to feel a bit of an adrenaline rush to make up for the down-note of the film experience ending. It's always a little bittersweet to come to the conclusion of an engaging story, but AC/DC will make sure you leave ready to kick some ass.

Example: In Gladiator, Russell Crowe has avenged the death of his family by killing the evil Emperor Commodus. However, he is mortally wounded. The life ebbs out of him and the spectators hoist his body aloft to carry it solemnly from the Colliseum. As the camera pulls back, the opening strains of "Shook Me All Night Long" play. Fade to black.

So there you have it. It's time for Hollywood to see the light and step up to the plate. With any luck, some brilliant studio executive is reading this, and we can hope to see these conventions revived just in time for Christmas.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008


By the early 1960s, Esquire had become regarded as little more than a "dirty old man" magazine. A mysoginistic, out-of-touch relic of a bygone era of men's magazines. But when editor Harold Hayes took the reigns, teaming with designer George Lois, the magazine was reinvigorated with purpose. Esquire became one of the foremost voices of the '60s with innovative covers and groudbreaking content that defined the generation of radicalism and protest.

Check out some of Lois' covers here.

For their 75th anniversary, Esquire is currently running homages to some of their most innovative covers. By comparison, they look artless and contrived. Not to mention the fact that the over-the-top coverlines make you feel like you're reading an eye chart. Though Esquire still has some great content and amazing writing (AJ Jacobs, I'm looking at you), the era of giving rise to activism and pushing creative boundaries seems to be gone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Death and Taxes ... Sounds Like a Lateral Move

Sweet merciful Lord! I just filed my taxes for the year (yes, I'm one of those people), and I owe the IRS $1,000! The whole process just makes me shake with rage.

I think one of the more depressing things about filling out tax forms is that they ask you all the things you did in the previous year. Have I had any gambling winnings? Any income from farming? Fishing? Foreign investments? Looking back over 2007 in light of my tax forms, I realize I haven't done shit! Why don't I have any gambling winnings? Was I too lazy to do even some light farming this past year? I feel like I've accomplished very little. This year, I'm going to buy a casino boat and tend my rooftop garden as my ship trolls for fish down the Amazon River. Figure that one out, assholes!

Now, I know this is a common frustration, but it really does bother me that I have taxes taken out of my check all year, and then at the end of the year I still owe more! Obviously, this is because the government didn't account for any changes of income or circumstances when they were withholding stuff throughout the year. Still, there should be a box I can check to promise that I'm going nowhere in life, and nothing will change next year. "Look, it's all going to be the same shit this year. I've got no ambition. Just take what you need, and at the end of the year we can shake hands and go our separate ways."

George Harrison said it best in The Beatles' scathing commentary of taxation, "Here Comes the Sun." I quote, "Here comes the sun/Doo doo doo doo/Here comes the sun/And I said/It's all right." Wait. Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong song.