Friday, November 04, 2005

The Devil's Rejects

Rob Zombie clearly loves 70's grindhouse films. And not just their grisly love of violent mayhem and fascination with rage and depravity. He has internalized their visual style, their gritty sense of atmosphere, their washed-out cinematography, their amoral, fatalistic mindset. Everything in Devil's Rejects feels right, feels authentic to the period and the style Zombie's recalling.

Some quick background: In the days before Times Square was a haven of Disney-themed family fun, it used to house a lot of skeezy porno theaters. Some of these 42nd Street theaters, during the week, when they weren't showing porn, would show the 1970's equivalent of direct-to-DVD B-movies...Dirty, shocking, perverse or otherwise "inappropriate" movies made on the cheap. Guys like Harry Novak, Jess Franco and Bob Cresse have since become cult legends, but at the time it was about making a quick dollar churning out disposable, titilating cinematic trash.

Zombie's new film doesn't just recall these movies, it recreates them down to every last exacting detail. (The movie even takes place in 1978).

But what's his purpose? What is revisiting the grindhouse gorefests of the 70's supposed to mean? I suspect, nothing at all. Zombie probably just likes these kinds of movies and wanted to make one of his own. That's fine, I suppose, to create a pastiche of conventions from an all-but-dead style of filmmaking. It's an excuse to get a bunch of old actors together, which is always fun, and the genre is certainly appropriate to Zombie's taste for the perverse. The entire enterprise, though, is a bit hollow.

The original grindhouse films were the way they were for a reason. They were made by amateurs with no time to make a movie and no real financing. They needed to be shocking in order to grab people's attention, and to provide a genuine alternative to Hollywood product. If you wanted to see a film about a beautiful woman dying of a terminal disease, you could go see Love Story. You only went to Times Square to see the sort of fucked up shit Hollywood doesn't put in real movies.

In his debut film, House of 1000 Corpses, Zombie gave us yet another in a long line of bad Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes, stranding a bunch of random idiots in a farmhouse and turning some psychos loose on them. There was some controversy upon the film's original release, more I suspect for its unseemly atmosphere than its actual on-screen violence, but it was nothing that a low-budget horror movie fan hadn't seen before. That entire film, really, was nothing more than a tired retread.

The Devil's Rejects, by moving the action away from the farmhouse and on to the open road, gives Zombie a lot more to work with. More space, more characters, a wider variety of classic exploitation movie scenarios to play around with. More than just a violent horror film, Devil's Rejects is an ode to the "killers on the run" genre, a reunion of B-movie actors of the 70's and 80's and a pretty horrifying revenge film to boot. It's a far more confident and assured film than his debut. In fact, the attention to detail, the confident direction and the wonderful cinematography of Phil Parmet are light years ahead of 1000 Corpses. They are the marks of an interesting filmmaker who may just need a few more films to really figure out what it is he wants to say.

But this movie's content to serve as nostalgia, albeit nostalgia for a certain type of filmgoer who likes really intensely messed up, violent, gruesome, cruel stories about death and depravity.

As the film opens, hard-ass Sheriff Wydell (veteran character actor William Forsythe) has laid seige to the compound of the family of Satanaic nutcases who populated House of 1000 Corpses. Some family members are killed or captured, but a few escape, including insane clown Captain Spaulding (70's B-movie mainstay Sid Haig), his daughter Baby (Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon) and Charlie Manson lookalike Otis (Bill Moseley, a veteran of mainly films with names like Silent Night Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!).

Together, they flee the scene, leaving in their wake a trail of massacred bodies and tormented victims. Nearly everyone they encounter on their travels has some kind of pop culture cachet...There's indie comic Brian Posehn as an oafish roadie, 70's Penthouse Pet Priscilla Barnes as a hostage who is violently and sexually assaulted by the sadistic Otis, Western mainstay Geoffrey Lewis as a country singer, Robert Rodriguez featured player Danny Trejo as a hired gun, the late "tallest man alive" Matthew McGrory (who also appeared in Tim Burton's Big Fish) appears briefly, Dawn of the Dead star Ken Foree as a backwoods pimp and even Halloween vet PJ Soles as a woman who gets carjacked.

It's fun to play Spot That Reference for a while, but by the halfway point it starts to feel like a gimmick. Casting an old-time actor or an infamous face doesn't have to be a stunt, if they are right for the role, but it kind of takes away from the effect when every single part goes to some known personality. That's what sets apart a John Waters camp-fest from a more thoughtful homage.

Zombie, to his credit, understands that it's not the on-screen violence that gives these grindhouse films their power to repulse, horrify, amuse and shock - it's their constant focus on nihilistic cruelty. The Devil's Rejects isn't a fun movie with a few scattered scenes of horror. It's a non-stop celebration of carnage, torture and bloodshed. Its main characters (including Forsythe's maniacal cop) are soulless killing machines. Even their victims aren't really allowed any humanity or life. They are puppets to be manipulated, humiliated and then eviscerated.

I know I'm making the movie sound disgusting and fairly repulsive. You don't know the half of it. As I said before, Zombie has internalized the twisted logic of these movies, and even if his choice of topic isn't exactly innovative, he has come up with some moments of genuinely outrageous, ugly intensity and surprise. I'll spoil one sequence...An unfortunate young woman (Kate Norby) runs out into the middle of a highway, half-insane, wearing a mask made from the peeled-off face of her dead husband, and is hit by a big rig.

Zombie lovingly photographs the aftermath, the most hideous intestine, bone and brain-filled skidmark imaginable. I have seen a number of incredibly violent movies, but this shot elicited a loud, verbal reaction from me. That's saying something.

And I do mean "lovingly." The entire movie has the feeling of a labor of love, the culmination of a lifetime spent watching gross-out, underground cinema. And I don't necessarily want to come down on that. I had a good time being disturbed by Devil's Rejects. But I'm not one of those people inclined to like a filmmaker just because we clearly share the same tastes in films. Quentin Tarantino, in the Kill Bill movies and his other films, has demonstrated an ability to reimagine old forms of cult storytelling for our times. His movies make old forgotten 70's style and music feel essential and contemporary.

Zombie hasn't quite gotten that far. His final shot, in which The Rejects face their law enforcement persuers head-on to the sounds of Lynard Skynard's "Freebird" on the soundtrack, works as a nifty little post-modern moment, as irony. And it's a very well-shot sequence. But it's not exactly Pulp Fiction, colliding the past and the future into a single film and giving it a timeless quality. More an engaging, debased in-joke that hardcore movie nerds will appreciate. Fortunately, I am one of those nerds.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

O'Reilly's Adventures Through Time

It's early November, so you know what that means. Bill O'Reilly begins his yearly attempt to convince everyone that there's a conspiracy to wipe out the holiday of Christmas. Every time Bill says something cataclysmically stupid on TV or radio, I keep thinking that he'll be fired or silenced. But, no, he's clinging tenaciously to the airwaves for another merry ol' season of crackpot paranoia and condescending dementia. Here's Bill's favorite website Media Matters:

Fox News host and nationally syndicated radio host Bill O'Reilly claimed that "traditionalist" Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., like the country's Founding Fathers, does not "want all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena."

Clearly, you can see why Bill hates Media Matters for America. They repeatedly insist on writing down all the idiotic things he says and putting them online for people to read. These bastards must be stopped! Bill O'Reilly is a broadcaster; he's not in the business of making public statements, obviously!

Also, I'm not sure if you knew this, but Bill has fashioned something of a time travel device, allowing him to interview America's Founding Fathers. He has returned to 2005 with a panoply of insights from Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Ben Franklin and others about all sorts of topics, from strict constructionism to even partial birth abortion!

Here's Bill's actual statements from his Westwood One radio show on November 1st:

O'REILLY: By the way, if Alito is confirmed, that will be a good thing for conservatives. That's the bottom line. Because Alito will take a more traditional view than a [Supreme Court justices Stephen G.] Breyer or a [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg. OK? He'll look at things, and he'll say, "You know, the Founding Fathers didn't want partial-birth abortion. The Founding Fathers didn't want all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena." That's what Alito will do. He's a traditionalist. He's going to rule that way.

How does he do it? How does he manage to generate the 1.21 jigowatts of electricity needed to power his flux capacitor without getting his hands on some weapons-grade Lyberian plutonium? A bolt of lightning?

Well, regardless of the futuristic technology involved, one thing is unavoidably clear...Bill O'Reilly now has domain over the whole of space-time. He's able to glide easily throughout American History, asking the really crucial questions that we, the People of the 21st Century, need answered.

Now, I understand that he has a book coming out full of his adventures through time, but Bill said it was okay for me to give you all a sneak preview of some of the interviews he has conducted. You know, cause we're such close, personal friends. First, here's Bill with one of my favorite Founding Fathers, the Father of our Country, George Washington.

O'REILLY: Mr. Washington, thank you for having the courage to speak with me, unlike that total coward Nathan Hale. He refused to appear.
WASHINGTON: Well, I hardly think Nathan Hale...
O'REILLY: One question, Mr. Washington...Do you like Christmas?
WASHINGTON: Actually, Bill, it may interest you to know that many of us who resented years of tyrannical rule by the British rejected traditional British holidays following the American Revolution. Did you know that, at one time, it was even a crime in the city of Boston to celebrate Christmas?
O'REILLY: Just answer the question, sir...Do you like Jesus?
WASHINGTON: I suppose he wasn't a bad sort of guy, although many of us Founding Fathers are deists, which means we...
O'REILLY: Shut up, Mr. Washington, for a minute...
WASHINGTON: Actually, Bill, it's General Washington, and...
O'REILLY: Don't try to spin me. This is a no-spin zone.
WASHINGTON: What is the spin...
O'REILLY: I will shut off your microphone, okay? I will do it unless you can be civil. Now, answer my question, yes or no. Would you like to murder Christian children in their sleep the night of December 24th?
WASHINGTON: Well, of course not.
O'REILLY: Okay, fair enough, you favor Christmas. I'll give you the last word.

Fascinating insights...After that, Bill jumped ahead a ways. Here's him speaking with Abraham Lincoln on the eve of his historic Gettysburg Address:

O'REILLY: Mr. Lincoln, thank you for meeting with me.
LINCOLN: Well, you just sort of barged in here. Didn't leave me much choice. I am actually quite busy.
O'REILLY: I appreciate your time.
LINCOLN: I guess I can just write the speech on the train there tomorrow. Hope I can come up with something good.
O'REILLY: Here's my question. Lots of people owned slaves, right? Even Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers, he owned slaves. What's the big deal? Your thoughts.
LINCOLN: But does the Declaration of Independence not say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal?"
O'REILLY: Don't try to spin me, okay? That's the interpretation of useless liberal activist judges and you know it, sir. I won't be spun.
LINCOLN: I don't know why you keep talking about spinning...
O'REILLY: You know, in the Bible, lots of people owned slaves. Are you saying that The Bible is wrong?
LINCOLN: Of course not, but...
O'REILLY: Okay, then, we agree. Slavery is in the Bible, so it's okay. I'll give you the last word.
LINCOLN: This is highly irregular.

Thank goodness it was a real informed journalist of O'Reilly's stature who made this phenomenal discovery, and not some loudmouth jackass. We might have hard a real crisis on our hands. Here's one final Billy O. interview, this time with the 20th Century's most notorious madman, Adolf Hitler.

Yeah, that's right, I'm going there.

O'REILLY: Wow, what a thrill. Here I am, in a bunker deep beneath Berlin with the original Ubermensch, Der Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.
HITLER: Danke, danke.
O'REILLY: Can I just say, I love what you've done with the place. Very homey.
HITLER: Yes, Eva is a whiz vit design. Did you see those lacy doilies unter all the bottles of suicide pills?
O'REILLY: A classy touch.
HITLER: Bill, I asked you down herr because I haff somezing to say to the zee Americans of zee future.
O'REILLY: Yeah, but before we get to that, can I just ask you one thing about America?
HITLER: Vell, I don't know about America in zee future. It's January of 1945.
O'REILLY: Why do you think these liberals hate Christmas so much?
HITLER: Vat are these liberals in America? Vat do they stand for?
O'REILLY: Oh, liberal is just a code word I use all the time for rich Jews who live in big coastal cities and run everything.
HITLER: Juden!
O'REILLY: Yeah, exactly.
HITLER: They hate Christmas because they were sent by the Devil to undermine the good, honest Christians. Zat is why they will try to eliminate Christmas, and Christianity. And it is why we have to eliminate them first!
O'REILLY: Yeah, totally. That's exactly what I've been saying.
HITLER: Bill, this comes right around into what I wanted to tell all the future Americans.
O'REILLY: Oh, yeah, what's that?
HITLER: I vill be back! Right now, in Brazil, brilliant Nazi scientists are developing a plan to clone me unt bring me into zee future! Once again, I vill make an attempt to conquer ze vorld!
O'REILLY: Really? Cause they tried that in a movie once and it didn't work.
HITLER: Really?
O'REILLY: Yeah. Gregory Peck was in it, I think.
HITLER: Schnell! Perhaps I vill just have to have them save my brain.
O'REILLY: Oh, jeez...

It goes on like that for a while. Anyway, you can check out the full transcripts once that book hits shelves.

Hopefully, after that, Bill will tell us about the mind-control device he has likewise developed, that allows him to view the contents of Samuel Alito's brain, including how the man will vote in any sort of hypothetical case that may one day arise.

I Guess That's Why They Call it the Glues

A guy is suing Home Depot because someone glued him to a toilet seat. That's awesome.

Home Depot was sued by a shopper who claims he got stuck to a restroom toilet seat because a prankster had smeared it with glue.

Bob Dougherty, 57, accused employees of ignoring his cries for help for about 15 minutes because they thought he was kidding.

It's already unpleasant enough to make a doody in a public restroom. There's always gross smells, and wadded-up little wet pieces of toilet paper strewn about in an unsavory fashion. And those paper toilet seat coverings are so thin and flimsy! They're not even 1-ply. That's, like, .25-ply. I want 3-ply toilet seat coverings, goddammit. There's asses touching that seat all day - we demand protection.

So this poor guy is already dealing with all of this, and then on top of that, he finds himself planted to the seat with glue. And then on top of that, everyone in the store ignores him.

A store employee who heard him calling for help informed the head clerk by radio, but the head clerk "believed it to be a hoax," the lawsuit said.

Man, that is great. Because you know that line, "Believed it to be a hoax," means that all the Home Depot employees were laughing at this guy while he's glued to a toilet in the back. That's got to be a trifle bit humiliating. I think, rather than go through such an ordeal, I'd probably just content myself to just live out the rest of my years on a toilet in the bathroom of a Home Depot.

The lawsuit said store officials called for an ambulance after about 15 minutes. Paramedics unbolted the toilet seat, and as they wheeled the "frightened and humiliated" Dougherty out of the store, he passed out.

This is seriously the most pathetic story I've ever heard. It starts out, and it's about a middle-aged guy getting stuck on the can, which is always funny. But by the end, you really start to feel for this guy, Dougherty. I mean, it doesn't sound like the entire incident was that big a deal, and it would make a kickass blog post if it happened to me, but he sounds genuinely traumatized by the event.

Which is why I can't understand suing the company. I mean, I guess he'll get some kind of cash settlement, and everyone's greedy, but it just menas he has to recount this entire trauma in front of a national audience. I mean, I would never even know about Bob Dougherty of Boulder, Colorado getting his ass stuck to a toilet seat if there wasn't this Associated Press article about the entire affair. Now and forever, the rest of his life, he'll be the guy who got glued to a toilet seat. How dignified.

"This is not Home Depot's fault," he said. "But I am blaming them for letting me hang in there and just ignoring me."

Bob, as someone who has worked retail for years, let me assure you...The Home Depot emplyoees were not ignoring you. They were having a cheap laugh at your expense. In fact, if my instincts are correct, one of those very employees is most likely your initial seat-gluer.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Party Down!

Of all the whackjobs on all the Internets, Bill Frist M.D. may by the wackiest. The guy is nuttier than the old ratty T-shirt under Pee Wee Herman's bed. (Give it a minute...There you go...)

He's the chairman of the Volunteer Political Action Committee, which goes by the charming and not-at-all-menacing-sounding acronym VOLPAC. Seriously, that sounds like the name of a Sith Lord, not a forward-thinking political organization. Fristie, do something about that.

Anyway, this entire website is stark raving insane. Frist does this thing where he pretends that nothing goes on in the Senate other than Democrats antagonizing Republicans. Seriously, to hear him tell it, the entire Capitol Building is exactly like a high school in a John Hughes film. The ruggedly handsome and ceaselessly macho jocks like Harry Reid (played by Emilio Estivez and Judd Nelson) run everything, while the nerdy but well-meaning heroes like Frist and Tom DeLay are your Anthony Michael Halls.

One need look no further than Frist's own column following Harry Reid's heroic and historic "closed session" of the Senate to discuss the intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. Frist whines about Reid making any decision without his prior approval.

Leave it to the Democrats to find old ways to sink to new lows ... Today ... for the first time in more than 25 years ... Harry Reid - backed by a loyal following of obstructionist Democrats - invoked an obscure rule under which the Senate chamber can be ordered into closed session.

Okay, first off, the rule isn't that obscure. Recent closed sessions of the Senate included discussions of chemical weapons and the Clinton impeachment hearings. And the Democrats are attempting to condcut an investigation about the intelligence that lead America into a long and costly war. The Republicans are the ones who are obstructing said investigation, not the other way around.

But the real point here is that Frist is supposed to be a professional politician, and here he is whining on his blog about having to discuss what Democrats want for one day without being able to grandstand for TV cameras. What an embarrassing excuse for leadership.

It was an affront to the Senate; it was an affront to the American people; and it was an affront to the principles of democracy. This political stunt, in truth ... reinforced the difference between US and THEM.

To accuse Democrats of reinforcing the current divide in American politics is the exact definition of projection. Frist rebukes others for things he does every day. The last 5 years of Republican rule is nothing more than the clever use of wedge issues like gay marriage to divide Americans by geography and religion. That's it.

Look ... it's no secret that Washington has been tense lately over numerous political issues, but this can be healthy. To debate is democratic ... a sign of progress ... a means to a resolution.

Maybe I'm wrong about Dr. Bill. Maybe all he wants is factually-based, well-reasoned debate. Why, just look at the poll on the front page of the VOLPAC website:

Why do you think Democrats shut down the Senate yesterday?

  • Party of No Ideas
  • Party of No Principles
  • Party of No Hope
  • All of the Above

Oh, jeez, this is hard...

Let's see..."Party of No Hope" doesn't make any sense...So it can't be C or D. I mean, what does that mean? The party has no hope of winning elections, or their platform is based around a lack of hope?

"Vote Democratic in 2006. We Support the Abandonment of All Hope for America. Our Main Proposal to Move America Forward is the Dissemination of a Poisoned Cocktail That Will Mercifully Exterminate All Human Life Over the Next 5 Years."

So, it's down to "no principles" or "no ideas." Well, I guess there would have to be at least some principle for which the Democrats stand. Even if that principle is just "Screw You, Senate Republicans." So I'm going to vote for "The Party of No Ideas." But, please, don't take my word for it. Make up your own mind; choose which of that diverse bevy of options makes the most sense to you.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I Am the Stupidest Man Alive

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, he's pretty stupid. He thinks that authorities should be allowed to strip search 10 year old girls for drugs, even if the warrant they have been issued says nothing about searching any occupants of the house other than the adult male suspect.

And our President? We all know he's stupid.

And a lot of the customers we get at the store are intensely stupid. The other day, I had a woman come in and ask me if there was a movie called Space Odyssey. And then when I said there was, 2001: A Space Odyssey, she shot me a confused look, as if this was the strangest and most obscure fact anyone had ever laid on her. Also, today, we had a crazy man come in and tell us that he, personally, had faxed George Bush proof that there were no WMD's way back in 2003.

But none of these people are as stupid as me. I have just thrown the most important document in my life into a dumpster.

Alert readers may recall that yesterday, my roommates and I engaged in an unsurpassed fit of cleaning. Regrettably, included in the massive trash-collection effort was a single brown envelope, put aside by me to mail my parents, that included, among other important items, my copy of the contract I signed with a literary management agency.

Now, on one level, this is not the world's largest deal. They still have a copy of the contract, which they can copy for me I suppose. And it's not like they were planning on screwing me over anyway. But still...this makes me look like a complete assclown.

And I have that intensely frustrating feeling of wanting to turn back time a few hours, so you can prevent a bad thing from happening. I can actually picture myself placing that envelope down the other day on a speaker in the front room, and thinking "This may not be the best place for this could get thrown away..." but then ignoring this thought and going about my business.

Superman never has these sorts of problems. If he throws away an important paper, he can just reverse the rotation of the Earth and turn back time, and put the paper safely away in a filing cabinet. It might mess with the space-time continuum and pervert the whole of human history...but he wouldn't lose that essential contract. Plus, he's Superman. Fuck the space-time continuum, he can only be hurt by Kryptonite.

Unfortunately, I have larger problems. Mainly, my parents, who are going to be completely infuriated and irritated by this shocking turn of events. This is one of those things I'm still going to hear about 30 years from now, when I visit them in the Hom...I mean, in the lavish mansion I'm planning to purchase for them!

"Son, would you hold on to my purse for me while I use the ladies' room...But, actually hold on to it, don't just throw it away like you did that management countract back in your mid-20's."

But perhaps the largest problem will be dealing with the management company. Do I just ask them to make me another copy of the contract for safe-keeping? Doesn't that make me look like a World Class Asshat? I'm trying to convince these people to help me start a writing career...I don't want to come off like Corky from "Life Goes On."

In a way, though, Corky and I aren't so different. If people really wanted me to safely move documents and contracts from one point to another, they should really pin them to my overalls and tell me to walk straight home. It might be a bit undignified, but at least shit would wind up in the right place, and not under about a dozen oozing trash bags in my driveway.

The UCP and Other Tales of Horror

The following will be the scariest story you hear from this Halloween...If you are pregnant, have a heart condition or are upset by stories featuring massive clumps of dust and strewn debris, please go read another post.

Today, my roommates and I cleaned our living room. If I had to choose one word to describe the experience, that word would be "harrowing."

First, some background. My roommate Chris is moving back to North Carolina. We're sorry to see him go, but he's simply had enough of life on the lowest rung of Los Angeles. I can't say I blame him. In fact, he's not the first Los Angeles refugee I've known. My brother Jonathan has wisely retreated back into the comforting bosom of Orange County, a more comfortable and safe community, where the worst thing that ever happens is some maniac wearing a cape running around killing families at random. That's still a lot better than trying to get on the 405 from 3 to 8 pm, let me tell you...

So, he's out. And our good friend Vineet was planning to move into Chris' room, but in a stunning last-minute reversal, is now refusing to live with Nathan and myself. What could have prompted this decision?

Well, to be honest, the apartment is a little bit messy. Well, okay, the apartment is a little bit messy in the way travel in Baghdad is a little bit unsafe. Nathan, Chris and myself are...I don't want to say "degenerates," but let's say "gentlemen who value their leisure time more than being able to actually see their carpet."

In my more optimistic moments, I like to think of us as somehow above cleaning. We are men of ideas, we spend our days problem-solving, pondering the nature of life, and so forth. But, in reality, I spend my days blogging and watching trashy 70's Italian movies and they spend their days playing online poker and watching reality shows. I'm not sure if this qualifies as living the life of the mind.

Perhaps we are just slobs. I mean, I certainly am. I'm not sure I own a shirt without some sort of sauce-related stain on the front, and I'll go more days in a row without shaving than Mohammad Atta.

So, now that Vineet will not be moving in, we'll need to actually convince some stranger to spend their hard-earned money to move into this apartment with us. This is not an easy prospect. I feel like, in order to sell someone on moving in to this dank filth-encrusted shithole, an apartment without a single instance of insect infestation because the bugs all have found more comfortable, cleaner environs, I would have to employ sales tactics like the ones in Glengarry Glen Ross.


In anticipation of this glorious event, Nathan and Chris and I decided to give the apartment the old once-over. Clean it up a bit for the benefit of prospective tenants. Yikes. Tom Savini on his best day has not described gruesome imagery such as I found underneath our couches.

There are a few problems here to be discussed. I believe our largest single cleaning dysfunction is a failure to dust...ever. You don't think of dusting as being a particularly big deal, but no one tells you that if you leave dust undisturbed for too long, it becomes quite simply a part of your apartment. After a while, it simply refuses to leave. You can wipe shit down for hours, come back and in two minutes, it's caked with dust and grime once again.

This seems to violate some basic law of physics. But the fact is that we spent several hours throwing out trash, wiping down every surface in the room and vacuuming, and the room doesn't really look significantly cleaner. I mean, there's visibly less stuff in there. We threw out at least six big trash bags full of stuff. Here is a list of, I believe, all the unique items found during the cleaning frenzy:

Old newspapers, magazines, Victoria's Secret catalogs, opened and unopened mail, an unopened Starburst candy, cigarette packs, food wrappers, used-up lighters, soda cans, toothpicks, pennies and dimes, scrunchies, make-up (at one time, a girlfriend lived here), pens, movie and concert tickets, wire hangers, books, DVD's, CD's, folders, spoons, chewed gum, socks, little electronic toys that play 20 questions, broken PlayStation controllers, bottle caps, undershirts, jackets, underwear (why?), empty coffee cups, checkbooks, a passport, a USB cable, wads of cotton, old ashtrays, a piece of glass broken off of the entertainment unit, a copy of the PC Game "ChessMaster 8000," several broken plates, poker chips, a dried-up nearly-unrecognizable pepperocini, paper clips twisted for use as pipe cleaners, unusable broken speakers, AV cables, speaker wire, ear muffs (in California?), a pillow with a T-shirt serving as its pillowcase, a large metal tray, rolling papers, an old cell phone, brads, twist-ties, a Swiss Army Knife, sandwich bags, a law school application essay and about 100,000 take-out menus.

Once all the trash was taken out, and the dusting was done as well as it could be, we looked around and realized that the room was just ugly and dirty, that we were basically dirtbags, and that no on in their right mind was going to give us actual money to live in this place.

We also realized that it would be up to Chris to clean the bathroom he and I share (it's his turn), as well as his, quite franky disgusting, room before we show the apartment to anyone. I'd say the chance of these activites actually occuring in the next 48 hours are slim to nil. He's got to do something about that room. It looks like Meatwad's Room on "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." He's the only person I know to have little broken-up bits of styrofoam spread all over the floor of their bedroom. How does that not drive you crazy? Stepping on little bits of styrofoam peanut all day?

Anyway, the UCP...That's the Unclaimed Clothes Pile. During our cleaning, we found an entire wardrobe full of clothing. Some of it was comprised of long-lost roommate items. I found a jacket of mine, Chris a sweatshirt, and so forth. But much of the pile's contents are unknown to us. A few undershirts. A gross green blanket. Some kind of odd quilt thing. Some of this stuff has been behind the couch or under the entertainment center for so long, I can honestly say I've never seen it before. It predates me here. I'm actually quite new to the apartment, in geologic time.

We feel kind of guilty just chucking the UCP contents that aren't ours. What if it belongs to a friend who has stayed here before, and who will want their filthy green blanket back some day? (If you think this is impossible, it's only because you don't know my friends.) And isn't there someone less fortunate who could use this stuff? (Although you'd have to be really unfortunate to want to sleep under this blanket. I'd probably rather sleep under some fiberglass insulation.)

We'll probably end up throwing it away. We really ought to throw away (or burn) everything in this apartment, burn the whole building down really, and start fresh somewhere else. But we have, combined, about enough money for one night's stay in West LA's cheapest motel, so a little Fall Cleaning will have to suffice.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Songs That Once Spooked Me: A Halloween List

Last night, I watched a horror movie double-feature in honor of perhaps my favorite holiday, Halloween. It's not a huge contest for Lons' Favorite Holiday, just so you know. I hate all the Jew holidays, because they are all, every single one, depressing. Even the happy ones are only happy because something really depressing didn't happen.

Take Purim. This is the Jew equivalent of Easter, a Springtime celebration of renewal. Christians celebrate the resurrection of their Lord around this time of the year, and Jews celebrate the fact that once upon a time there was a really really evil guy named Haman who wanted to kill them all...but then he didn't! And now we eat three-cornered cookies called Hamentaschen (meaning Haman's Hat) that look nothing like a hat. Oh, and we wave around this bizarre fruit called lulov and egrog or some such nonsense inside a thatched hut we've constructed the day before.

Seriously. This is as ritualistic, primitive and ludicrous as lax American Judaism gets.

That's a stupid holiday. Halloween doesn't even have to work so hard to kick Purim's ass. It doesn't hurt, as well, that it's the patron holiday of horror movies. As someone who enjoys a nice gory horror movie year-round, I welcome a day set aside throughout the country for others to join me in watching splatterfests, grindhouse features, slasher films and giallos.

So, anyway, long story long, last night I watched the classic George C. Scott haunted house movie The Changeling and John Carpenter's original Halloween. I fell asleep about 3/4 of the way through that second film (don't worry...I've seen it before...), and woke up as the end credits were playing.

There's something rather unsettling about waking up in a darkened room at 3 in the morning to the sounds of John Carpenter's eerie synth theme to Halloween. (Trust me, even if you don't think you know it, you know it from 100,000,000 horror movie previews). It reminded me of being a little boy.

You see, when I was a kid, I would listen to the radio as I fell asleep. I guess I was a nervous, exictable sort, even when I was young, because I used to find getting a good, solid night's rest quite difficult. I would actually lie in bed at night and worry about whether or not I'd be able to fall asleep. Weird, no? But what do you actually do about that situation? The more you think about it, force yourself not to worry, the more you are, in fact, worrying.

Frequently, my solution to this dilemma would be to wake my parents up for no reason. Eventually, they devised a different plan - by listening to the radio, I could distract myself long enough to doze off. It kind of worked most of the time, except that, for whatever reason, certain songs would creep me out, there, alone, in the dark in the middle of the night when it seemed like the whole world was asleep.

Much of it has to do with how weird popular music was during this time period (roughly 1984-1988). Nowadays, I'd probably just hear Gwen Stefani declare that she was not, in fact, no hollaback girl, whatever the fuck that means. But back in '87, you were far more likely to hear some weird, Dio-esque power ballad about love in the time of the Vikings as you were 50 Cent inviting you to the candy shop.

So, after perhaps the longest and sloppiest introduction in Crushed By Inertia History, I present the songs that freaked me out as a young child listening to Top 40 radio late at night. You know, in honor of Halloween (it's all there in the first paragraph...)

Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes

Something about the timbre of Jon Anderson's voice, or the weird freak-out synth part after he yells "Heeeeeeeeaaaaarrrrrrrrrttt!!!" used to genuinely rattle my young mind. Once or twice, I did have to get out of bed and turn off the radio when this song came on. I still don't like it, but it's hard to imagine what bothered me so much about it at 8 years old. I think maybe I was taking the lyrics to literally, imaging a man who actually owned someone's heart. Say, keeping it inside a heart-shaped box.

Thriller by Michael Jackson

I really liked this song. Still do. But when it was late at night and I was trying to go to sleep, the Vincent Price bit at the end used to bug me intensely. The song would come on, and I'd decide I was going to finally grow up and be a man and listen to the whole song without getting out of bed to turn it off, but then VP would come on informing me that darkness had fallen across the land, and that the midnight hour was close at hand. (I think this used to double unnerve me because quite often the midnight hour would be close at hand, which really drove the notion of zombie/werewolf violence home).

King of Pain by The Police

It was the very very beginning of this song that freaked me out. "There's a little black spot on the sun today...It's the same old thing as yesterday..." Why is that concept scary? What did it even mean? I have no idea. Even today, with Sting at his most nasal and the band totally quiet and then building to a crescendo behind him, that part's a little strange. During the day, I could listen to this song no problem, but I would turn off the radio the second I knew it was coming on.
Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo

There is absolutely nothing scary about this song. 9 year old me was kind of a pussy.

Invisible Touch by Genesis

Am I going to be really embarrassed by this list tomorrow? Maybe you all should pretend you haven't read this. Anyway, this is clearly a case of a metaphor going over my young head. See, Phil Collins says "She seems to have an invisible touch/She reaches in and comes out holding your heart/She seems to have an invisible touch/She takes control and slowly tears you apart."

He means she's a cold-blooded woman who has left him, and he's heartsick. I thought he was discussing some female version of Mola Ram actually reaching into men's stomachs to remove vital organs. Which I now realize would be a far cooler song. Also, this was the same album as "Land of Confusion," which spawned that hideous, bizarre Reagan-puppet-head music video, which TOTALLY used to give me nightmares.

Little China Girl by David Bowie

I really like this song now, but as a kid, I hated the part where David Bowie goes "shhhhhhhhh." Oh, David, just you shut your mouth.

At This Moment by Billy Vera and the Beaters

Okay, maybe this song didn't so much spook me as annoy me, but I used to dread hearing it more than any other song that would ever come on the radio. Maybe that's just because it used to come on the radio so goddamn much. And it's a terrible song! Did you know, in 1986, it was at the top of the Billboard charts for a while? The top! A #1 song.

You may not remember "At This Moment." It features Billy, a white guy soul crooner, singing a bunch of verses that begin "What did you think I would do at this moment" Except he doesn't say "do at this moment." He says "dooooooooooooo at this mo-meeeeeeennnnnt." At one point, he wails something like, "If you'd stay, I'd subtract 20 years from my life..."

As a young person with no conception of romantic love, this concept was very strange to me. He'd actually be willing to die 20 years earlier if this woman would stay with him? Forever, or just for a little while? Now, I realize it's just that kind of sentiment balladeers throw into love songs all the time.

There is a genuinely haunting, eerie quality to the song, aside from the fact that it just isn't very good.

Somebody's Watching Me by Rockwell

This is a tremendous song. Did you know that Rockwell is actually Kenneth Gordy, Motown founder Berry Gordy's son, and that the backing vocals on this track are done by Michael and Jermaine Jackson? Anyway, I still really like it. Classic 80's R&B.

I used to hate it because it reminded me of a scary story I had read in a random book once that had always stuck with me, stood out as particularly terrifying. I don't even remember the book. But it had this story about a little boy who heard a voice talking to him at night. And his parents would come in and look all around the room and show him that there was nothing there, and then leave. Eventually, after they did this a few times, the boy relaxed, safe in the knowledge that no one was in the room with him.

"Thank goodness," says the boy. "There's nobody here but me."

"AND ME!" responds a deep voice from his closet.

That's how the story ends. It touched a nerve in me. The idea that your senses and rationality could deceive you. That there's a man or a monster in the closet and the parents didn't see him, even with the lights on. Basically, it's that fear that the rational order of the universe is imperfect or uncertain, that everything we accept could disappear, or be proved wrong.

Anyway, it used to really bug me. I would look around the room and see no one was there, and then lie down and think about what might be right behind my head, out of my field of vision. And here was this catchy pop song about that very concept!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Darth is Going Down


I'm not gay, but I'm developing something of a man-crush on Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Check this out from today's Drudge Report.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is planning to call Vice President Dick Cheney as a witness in the trial of Lewis Libby, the DRUDGE REPORT has leaned.

But the high stakes move could result in an executive privilege showdown between the White House and Fitzgerald, a top government source said Sunday.

"If Mr. Fitzgerald is going to demand a public recounting of conversations between the vice president, or even the president, and his staff, on matters he, himself, has acknowledged are 'classified,' executive privilege will obviously be invoked."

Is anyone else hoping for a Few Good Men-esque showdown in which Fitzie catches the Dickster in a web of lies, leading to a frothing-at-the-mouth, angry rant by the soon-to-be-ex-Vice President?

"The Middle East has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You, Special Counselor Fitzgerald? You Lieutenant Jew-Boy? You want me torturing those detainees. You need me torturing those detainees!"

I see Danny DeVito in his Penguin make-up from Batman Returns as Cheney and, I don't know, Chris Cooper for Fitz? Peter Sarsgaard? Robert Downey Jr.? I'm open to suggestions...

Fitzgerald has made it clear to lawyers involved in the case that he prefers Cheney appear as a witness in open court.

"Mr. Fitzgerald is starting from the position that this should not be done on remote or videotape," the well-placed source said. Fitzgerald and Libby's attorney Joseph Tate discussed possible plea options before the indictment was issued last week, TIME magazine reports in new editions. But the deal was scotched because the prosecutor insisted that Libby do some "serious" jail time.

The three greatest words in the English language...Serious Jail Time. I hope they lock that scumbag Scooter up in Abu Gharib. Let's see how he likes being held under ice water until he nearly develops hypothermia (tested via anal thermometer, of course) while loud music blares and giggling soldiers coat him with imitation menstruel blood. I'm thinking he's going to be into it.

Now, I know what you're thinking...There goes Lons again, calling every Republican a scumbag and wishing for them all to be tortured and killed in various, horror-film-inspired ways. But, no, like all the other right-wingers discussed here on CBI, Libby earns the term "scumbag" all on his own.

Here's the Center for American Progress:

It was Libby - along with Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and a handful of other top aides at the Pentagon and White House - who convinced the president that the U.S. should go to war in Iraq. It was Libby who pushed Cheney to publicly argue that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and 9/11.

Libby's the Guy behind The Guy behind The Guy, you know? This whole Iraq thing was just some wacky idea cooked up by him and a few other neo-cons, possibly after smoking a massive blunt laced with methamphetamines, formaldehyde and fabric softener.

It was also Libby who prodded former Secretary of State Colin Powell to include specious reports about an alleged meeting between 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence official in Powell's February 2003 speech to the United Nations. Libby and his staff reportedly badgered Powell's speechwriters for weeks, culminating in a meeting where Libby presented information in a manner that, according to those who were there, was aggressive and over the top.


And here's the most important part of the article...About a paper written by Libby while working in the Department of Defense under the first and only sane President Bush.

The paper - highly praised by neocons at the time - called for the United States to build up its military capabilities to the point where no other country could ever rival them. Cheney, who was then secretary of defense, liked the document so much that he ordered parts of the usually secret plan declassified and made them public. This Planning Guidance document went a long way toward endearing Libby to Cheney.

That's what you need to know. That's where this guy is coming from. Endless militarism, fascistic levels of governmental control, disinformation campaigns. He's a scumbag. I hope he goes to jail for a long time, and I hope he takes his former boss with him. Actually, no, I don't want Dick to die in jail. I want him to die in some really humiliating way, like having a coronary on the shitter before a formal dinner at the White House. Or at the end of a brief address held at a convention or large event, so he can fall off the stage and directly into the orchestra pit, possibly weding his head inside a large brass instrument. Dying in jail is too good for him.