Friday, August 19, 2011


This has been a long time coming. I'm ending this blog and starting a new one. Blogspot has been very good to me, but I want to be more successful as a freelancer. I've started up a new site that uses my name as the url. This is something that I've been stewing over for some time, as eponymous websites can sometimes come off as narcissistic. Having one's own site with a url free of a "blogspot" or a "wordpress" in the title, though, does look much more professional, and I want to switch over before I'm too wedded to this site/format.

I've ported all of my old content from this site over to the new one, and will now be blogging at Hopefully you guys who have enjoyed reading my various rants and word-spewings will head on over.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"You're Tearing Me Apart, Lisa!"

The Room is a terrible movie.

It's developed something of a reputation as one of those movies that is called, variously, the worst movie ever, so bad it's good, and the ultimate midnight movie, etc. It's gained in popularity with late-night screenings that occasionally have the writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau in attendance. It's one of those bits of pop-culture ephemera that for some time I knew only by reputation and hadn't bothered to consume. Recently, though, I had a few folks over to my place and, aided by various brain-killing beverages, we gave the movie a watch.

Most movies that are known for being terrible are known for their awful special effects and horribly contrived genre conventions. Plan 9 From Outer Space is emblematic of the kind of B movies that are traditionally known as the Worst Ever.

You get the idea- badly delivered lines clustered with cheesy sci-fi jargon, costumes that are impossible to take seriously, and storylines that reach for epic status and fall woefully short. That's the traditional kind of Worst Movie Ever. The Room is not like that at all. The Room is more like this:

It's like they only rented the flower shop for thirty seconds, and only did a single take.

The guy speaking, by the way, is Tommy Wiseau, the writer/director/producer/actor auteur behind The Room. He is like that in more or less every scene, and his line reads and terminally awkward demeanor are what make The Room a truly weird and awful movie. Here's his most famous line:

The plot is mainly a love triangle between Johnny (Wiseau's character), Lisa, and Johnny's best friend Mark. Lisa is engaged to Johnny but has fallen out of love with him, and subsequently starts boning Mark because hey, why not. After that, bad things happen. There are a number of other plot lines as well- Lisa's mother at one point reveals that she has breast cancer, and a friend of Johnny and Lisa's apparently owes money to loan sharks because he has a drug problem. These plots never show up again. Not even in the scene they're in. Take a look:

Did you see all that exposition? All that backstory? Did you catch that big dramatic reveal "I definitely have breast cancer"? That's it. That's the entirety of that storyline in The Room. None of that information is ever important ever again. Breast cancer floats in, says hi, and then is never heard from again for the entire run time. The same thing happens with drugs and loan sharks- stuff from which a whole plot can make just floats into a scene and then dissipates into nothing.

And then there's the sex...

The Room is front-loaded with sex scenes, first between Johnny and Lisa and then between Mark and Lisa. Even with ample nudity, the sex scenes manage to be utterly and completely unsexy and completely devoid of anything that could be coherently construed as erotic. The sex scenes are set to hideous nineties R&B songs and lacy curtains hang from bedposts. Red candles flicker in the background, roses figure prominently, and it has a weird stilted softness that suggests Tommy Wiseau might not actually know how making the beast with two backs actually works. It's as if he's gotten all of his ideas about sex from soap operas, soft-core pornography, and romance novels. It's all about as sexy as watching someone clack Barbie and Ken dolls into each other while playing Celine Dion in the background. Having my eyes and ears assaulted by Tommy Wiseau's notion of strangled, plastic eroticism made me glad that I had a trusty bottle of Ninkasi nearby- the beer was far more physically pleasurable than anything going on in the film seemed to be.

The romantic relationships in the movie fall apart, dramatic shouting happens, and eventually there's something like a climax and the movie's over. It's all terrible and bad and awful but, really I sort of enjoyed The Room.

It's fun to watch because it is utterly singular. There are other bad movies out there, but they're bad because of their production values or cliches or because they're merely studio cash-cows. The Room, though, is bad because Tommy Wiseau doesn't seem to really have a handle on how actual human beings talk, act, have sex, do things, or even buy flowers. He doesn't seem to know how to act like any version of a convincing human being, and seems to live in a world slightly askew from ours. He may very well have some kind of mental disability (which would make me feel bad for laughing at him) but it's sort of diverting to see the world from such a weird perspective.

The Room is not something that I'd recommend watching alone. Get some friends, stock up on beer, and prepare for an incoherent mess. It's bad, sloppy, weird, and amateurish- but at least it's also somewhat interesting. That's more than you can say of a lot of films.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Adventures in Euphemisms: "Bath Tissue"

Earlier today I was at Fred Meyer and looked up. I saw this: 

I'd seen this before but never really thought about it. Fred Meyer, it seems, is politely refraining from using the dread phrase "toilet paper." Their in-house brand does the same:

Okay, technically it says "bathroom tissue," but it's basically the same thing. I got to wondering if any of the brands of toilet paper in my immediate vicinity actually proclaimed what they were- paper that you use after going to the toilet. I looked about and did not see a single one. Not one brand of toilet paper actually used the words "toilet paper" on their packaging. Instead, there were lots of pictures of cute puppies:

Or cartoon bears:

Or babies:

The entreaties to softness, light, and general distance from things excremental even extends to invocations of the celestial on packaging. Juxtaposed, of course, with a baby:

I looked around for some kind of generic or earth-friendly brand that maybe dared to call itself by its true name, but found not a one. The only copy I saw was that recalling softness and, sometimes, absorbency. I wasn't put out by this because I think that "toilet paper" is the most fantastically well put together diptych of words in the English language- I simply appreciate honesty. No one says "I'm going to pick up some bath tissue," or "Hey, sweetie, pick up some bath tissue on your way home," or "Crap, guys! We're out of bath tissue." No human talks like that. We all call it toilet paper, but the aisles and packaging assume that the general population are too demure to be assaulted with such vulgar words.

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera said that kitsch is the denial of shit. He meant that literally. Denying that certain gross biological things happen to us is a form of intellectual laziness and naivete. I'm inclined to agree with him, and it seems that the most shit-denying place on earth, the kitschiest piece of real estate in existence, is the toilet paper aisle.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This is Ironic, Right?

Please let this be ironic. That is the only palatable reason I can think of for this thing being on N Mississippi.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Found Card

A neat, orderly little stack of these cards were inside the lobby of my company's building earlier today. I'm just going to choose to believe that it's all part of a work of satire, or a clever hoax, or a whimsical piece of performance art. All of those options seem far more appealing than a true believer earnestly searching for something that's not there.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Holy Cats!

Tiger: ROAR!

Me: Wow! Did something just roar? I shall check it out!

(I move my bike over in front of the cage I was about to pass, so I can see the source of the roaring.)

Tiger Keeper: Sir, could you please move your bike. He don't like bikes.

Me: Okay. Did he have a bad experience with a bike once?

Tiger Keeper: I don't know. He don't like bikes.

Me: Can I take a picture?

Tiger Keeper: Keep it quick.

Tiger: ROAR!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Die, Continuity, Die!

In an announcement that has the geek world's knickers in a bunch, DC announced that they're completely rebooting their continuity. Many nerds have been seemingly transformed into mouth-breathing bags of aggression because of this. I'm very happy with it, though. In fact, I think that DC and Marvel should do this sort of thing more often.

I love comics. I also really hate DCU and Marvel continuity. It's not that I dislike big, serialized stories. I don't. But with long-running continuity, nothing ever really sticks and that makes everything matter less. When dramatic changes happen in either comics line, they don't feel real because they'll inevitably get erased or smoothed over.

Superheroes have a sort of "zero point" that they always have to bounce back to. Spiderman's zero point, for example, is that he wears a red and blue costume, keeps his identity secret, and has a girlfriend named Mary Jane. Some years ago he donned an Iron Man-esque costume, publicly revealed his identity, and was married to Mary Jane. All of those elements have been erased- he once again wears the red and blue, keeps his identity secret, and Mary Jane (I believe) is his girlfriend again in current continuity. Everything reset- I think Marvel blamed it all on Mephisto or something stupid like that.

This happens to every superhero. They bounce back to their set point of pop-culture expectations. This is aggravating, and robs the drama from comic book stories. I didn't care when Captain America "died" because I knew he'd be back in a few short months.

This is why I actually like superhero reboots. One of my favorite Superman stories is Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" because it wraps up a given continuity. It was a rare time in the DC Universe where it seemed that things actually mattered because there wouldn't be a story later that reversed it. It has a climactic tension that is sorely lacking in most superhero comics.

Here's what I'd like to see: DC and Marvel rebooting their continuity all of the time. Every five years or so. This would allow changes to actually stick inside smaller, more self-contained continuities.

Let's say that DC reboots their universe now, and then ends it five years later. In that five years, they can introduce us to Batman, Wonderwoman, the Flash, etc., and then actually put them through some pretty dramatic changes. Inside that continuity, let's say they killed the Flash. Not temporarily killed him- killed him for good. For real. Lets say the Flash were allowed to be as dead as any other character in any other book or movie.

That would actually make me care about what's going on and actually worry about what happens for a change. There would be tension and suspense where there's now none whatsoever. If the Flash could die, that means that maybe Hal Jordan could, too. Or Hawkman. I might actually start to care.

This continuity could continue for a while, and then DC could wrap it up. Superman, Batman and the rest could have a big, climactic finish and the whole line of comics could come to a conclusion. Then, DC could relaunch everything again and re-introduce their characters back at the zero-points where we're used to them. In the new continuity, the Flash would be back and maybe they could kill Batman or something.

This wouldn't be that different from what they're doing now with superhero movies. In the Christopher Nolan Batman continuity, Ra's Al Ghul and Two-Face are both dead. This doesn't negate all the other things with Two-Face or Ra's out there- those media stand on their own. In the Nolan continuity, though, things matter way more than in any Batman story wedded to the zero-point that all superheroes inevitably get dragged back to.

So, DC, thank you for rebooting your continuity. Make it end with a blast, and go ahead and kill off a few beloved characters. A few years down the line, though, I hope you do it all again.