Category Archives: Popular

There are topical issues not covered in other categories that may also venture into the banal.

We Can Be Zeroes

Now it’s time to close our eyes
Now it’s time to say goodbye
Now it’s time to face the lie
That we’d never cry
David Bowie, “What’s Really Happening?”

The unexpected death of the iconic David Bowie on January 10, 2016 was a shocking blow to much of the world. More than a week has passed, yet news and social media sites are still flooded with eulogies, tributes, and other commemorative pieces about the legendary artist.

Amidst all the tragedy and death in the world, this one seems more difficult to accept. Many of us were born when Bowie already released his classic, Space Oddity. It is hard to comprehend he is gone when he was always there. Truth be told, imagining a world without him in it is a challenge, because a small part of us assumed he was immortal.

His death reminds us that even appearing bigger than life, he is just like us—a mere speck of dust in endless void of space. It is a sobering thought. We get solace from having heroes, ones we can revere and rely upon. We could look up to the heavens, and the Starman would be there. How can such a dynamic force that had such a positive impact on the world just one day cease to be? Simply, we are all mortal. In an Orwellian way, some of us are “more mortal” than others.

Bowie

Bowie, Colored Pencil on toned paper, by Diane Bushemi 1/17/16

I am comforted by the collective sorrow. Misery loves company, after all. More to the point, I am less embarrassed that I cried for the passing of someone I never met, because I am not alone in my feelings. Still, my response is surprising to me. Even though I am a fan and as an artist and musician myself, greatly appreciate his unique genius. However, he was never my favorite. I always assumed I would reserve this type of emotional investment for my songwriting heroes—Neil Young, Sting, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Phillips, and Tori Amos. My connection is strong with them for various reasons, and, they have helped shape me into the artist I am and still am striving to be.

Then why did his death cause me so much distress? Like with all celebrity deaths, we make it about ourselves. From water cooler conversations to social media postings, it is about our own responses. It is a way to connect to someone we don’t know and to something we have yet to experience for ourselves. The mere concept of death is terrifying to us. There is a mystery in the unknown, of course. Even more so, there is that fear we would be gone and promptly forgotten. It is troubling enough to acknowledge that we are mortal in body, but we cannot accept that we could be mortal in influence, as well. Celebrities are immortalized in a way most of us can’t be through memories, photographs, film, et cetera. Canonizing the dead is a natural impulse, even more so when someone in the public eye dies. We want immortality to be true, any way we can get it. We can’t help ourselves.

That said, it isn’t the main reason Bowie’s death causes me so much dissonance. I had to take a long, brutal look at myself and figure out why this death affected me and was distinctly about me.

Bowie died of liver cancer. I am a cancer survivor. Pluck! There’s a succulent piece of low-hanging fruit from that Tree of Knowledge. I could accept that obvious connection, nosh on the apple, and leave it at that. Of course it upsets me, I know what he went through because I experienced it myself. I empathize.

If only it were that easy. It is one component, yes, but not the core reason. Get it? Apple—core. Anyway, here goes.

The past two years, starting with my entry into the mid-forties demographic, I’ve looked back on my life a lot, even more so than looking around in the present or to the future. Like the various Dickensian ghosts, it is all scary. For the sake of brevity, I will just say that I am filled with regret. Regret that I didn’t travel more, make more friends, and basically lived too safely. I avoided the path I was drawn to because it was intimidating. Why should I risk trying and failing at being a professional musician when the four-year college with a degree in accounting is right there? Since Bowie released his first album in his early twenties, he eschewed conservative ideals and did what he wanted to do during his formative years—ones that have long passed me by.

I can say with utmost certainty that regret, like jealousy, is a useless waste of energy. Just learn from past mistakes, live in the present, and keep your eye on the future. Right? It is easier said than done. The challenge with me is that my resolve is in short supply. I am a sprinter. I get an idea and take off with it, but run out of gas very shortly before I can achieve much. I don’t have the endurance for a marathon, literally and figuratively. My successes are small and far between, because I use up the majority of my reserves trying to keep myself motivated. Do you know who probably had plenty of resolve and motivation, considering how prolific and successful he was? Bowie.

I started the New Year recovering from an injury. A bulging disc in my neck caused incapacitating pain for several weeks. I was miserable. I couldn’t work out, draw, paint, play guitar, or write. I could do none of the things that I enjoyed. The two weeks for holiday that I reserved to accomplish so much were a complete bust. At least, I was willing to accept that I was physically unable to do anything productive. I wonder if Bowie ever experienced something similar to that.

I was equally unproductive during my battle with cancer. I did two quick drawings, and that was it. I didn’t write, and barely played any music. What did I do with those four months off from work while at home, day in and day out? There is no point in listing specifics. I was fighting for my life; I had no energy to focus on building a body of work for some legacy that no one would see anyway.

Do you know who co-wrote a musical, wrote, and recorded an album, all while battling cancer and accepting that he would ultimately lose that fight?

Damn it, Ziggy. Damn you to space! You make me look and feel bad for myself. I am the Zero to your Hero. How dare you?

Is it possible to be so in command of your life that despite the odds, you still write your own ending? I didn’t think it was possible, yet, Bowie showed that it is. He took something that was out of his control—terminal cancer—and like the maestro he was, orchestrated his dwindling time on Earth brilliantly. From the release of his album on his birthday to his peaceful death two days later, Major Tom was not only the pilot of his rocket ship; he was “Ground Control.”

This isn’t a life-changing revelation. I almost died, damn it. If that didn’t galvanize me, what would? I could carry a lightning bolt as my talisman and focus the rest of my life on becoming immortal in whatever way possible. Or . . . not.

This is not a closed-ended treatise. I have a long road ahead of me still. Not as long as I want it to be, given I am ostensibly halfway through my life already. I trust I will continue to stumble along the way, just like I always do. I hope I will leave more indelible footprints in my path. Until I shuffle off this mortal coil, I still might compose my own symphony that will resonate and continue to be heard when my voice is forever silenced.

I’ll end this with another lyric from his song, What’s Really Happening? I’ve had it on a loop the past week. It seems fitting.

All the clouds are made of glass
And they’re slowly sinking
Falling like the shattered past
Were we built to last?

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Summer Soulless in China

I wish I didn’t know this exists. But, it does.

I wish it didn’t keep me up at night. But, it has.

I wish I could protect all animals from this horrible fate. But, I can’t.

Despite amassing millions of signatures globally for a petition to the President of the People’s Republic of China to ban it, the Yulin Dogmeat Festival to celebrate the summer solstice happened again yesterday, or whenever the fuck China’s time zone rang in June 21st.

Oh, it is happening right now? As I write this? No wonder I am in a shitty mood. I thought it was the dark, rainy weather in Chicago today.

I know, we are all part of the food chain. I am fully aware of that, and even defended the right of Asian countries to open slaughter houses for dogs. We shouldn’t think it is wrong just because we identify the animal as Fido. Pigs can be pets, and some may consider a cow or chicken as one. Yet, we consume them on a grand scale. I argued this years ago when I was a vegan, no less.

What makes the Yulin Dogmeat Festival different?

If a subculture of China considers eating dog meat an appropriate way to celebrate the start of summer, then so be it. It is a puzzling choice considering how often dogs are portrayed—usually in a positive way—in Chinese mythology. I thought they would be revered, not consumed. But, I will set that aside. As long as the animal is respected and fully used, i.e., little to no waste, then there should be no real issue here.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. In order to accumulate the 10,000 dogs demanded for this festival, many are stolen off the streets, from backyards, and even from private homes. Dogs are shipped to restaurants in this small town still wearing the collars their humans put on them to declare ownership of and ostensibly, to protect them.

Cultural relativism be damned, those dogs are stolen “property” (as they are considered) and thus, illegally acquired. It should automatically put an end to this event. It does not. Apparently, the Yulin government turns a blind eye to this, even though many of China’s own citizens are against it, as well.

It does not stop there. The dogs are not only slaughtered, they are treated horribly. Not only are they crammed in cages or stuffed to bursting in nets, they are tortured to death because . . . wait for it . . . it is determined to make the meat taste better.

I would not have believed it, much less known about this horror, if it weren’t for Ricky Gervais. I like his Facebook page not only because he is one of my favorite comedians and a fellow atheist, he is also a huge animal lover. I look forward to seeing a post from him in my newsfeed of an adorable animal picture or video. It makes me smile.

With such good I must take the bad. He posts his outrage over hunters smiling with their fresh kills. It makes my blood boil as well, but I get some solace out of seeing so many people gather to share in his disgust. When I see that, I know there is light. There is hope for this world.

With tremendous reluctance, Gervais posted a few pictures in his campaign to raise awareness about this practice. I just cannot unsee them. One dog is lowered with large, metal tongs into a vat of boiling water; another dog is bound and muzzled with wire while a flamethrower is applied to his lower body; a cat is trying to climb a fence in terror. Yes, cats are on the menu. Perhaps as an appetizer?

In addition, many are skinned alive because, again, the meat is more flavorful and tender. Imagine if that were done to you. Believe it, the animals feel it just as acutely. The difference is that they have no idea why they are being treated so cruelly. Is ignorance bliss?

When animals are tortured, chemicals are released, including adrenaline. Perhaps that is the flavor these sub-humans crave. Apparently, topping meat from animals slaughtered humanely with a special adrenal sauce is not enough. They must suffer for the pleasure of the superior animal.

Ricky Gervais deserves many kudos for being so outspoken about animal rights. This campaign is much stronger and more likely to eventually succeed because of his global influence. It was not enough to stop it this year, but maybe it will work to put an end to it next year.

For anyone who thinks atheists are evil and taking away religious freedoms, think of all the animals whose freedoms are not even considered for a second. Then, look who is brave enough to expose himself to the ugly truth in order to use his celebrity to defend those without a voice. Until then, shut the hell up.

This is where my own conflict causes me additional unrest. What can I do? I can barely emotionally handle these awful truths. I wish I hadn’t seen those pictures, but how else can the point be driven home? There is merit to shock value, as it is sometimes needed to galvanize people into action. Yet, I am left with my hands in the air, not knowing what I could do.

I look at my sweet, adorable pitbull mix and my heart feels like it will burst with love. I’d do anything to protect him. I was already paranoid about his safety before I knew about the Yulin festival. Dog fighting is still a problem in the U.S., and often dogs are obtained illegally. What would I do if my baby was stolen and found out later he was turned into a fighting dog, his loving personality violently destroyed along with his body? What if he was used as bait? What could I do except let a piece of me die?

I look at the pictures, and fantasize about what I would do at the festival. If I saw that flamethrower in action, I’d knock the abuser’s knee out, pull the flamethrower out of his hand, and set fire to him. I would then leap upon his writhing body and gouge his eyes out. I am convinced that would be my impulse response in that situation. I hate that I can feel a darkness like that. It isn’t a part of me. I shouldn’t have room for such violent hatred with all the love I have to give. They did this to me, those horrible beasts.

I feel so helpless. What can I do but cry, be angry, lose sleep, or write in my blog? I am not Ricky Gervais. I will never have that power, nor the bravery to face what scares and horrifies me. I don’t care if I am being a sycophant, I am grateful for people like him who can walk the walk while people like me talk the talk.

Since I do not have the means to end animal suffering worldwide, I must focus on my own home.

Geww at the Hospital 1

I don’t have a flamethrower, but I have enough fire in my belly to rain Hell down upon you if you try to harm my baby.

Defending the death of Dexter

That was an alliteration I couldn’t resist. I could call it homage to the originator of the book series, Jeff Lindsay. But I won’t. He alliterates ad nauseam in his book titles, as well as in Dexter’s voiceovers in a misguided attempt at making the character likeable, e.g. “dear darling Dexter.” Good gracious God. All he succeeds in doing is annoying the reader—at least, this reader. Jeff Lindsay is a hack who happened upon a promising idea, and then crapped on it after the first book. Yeah, I get it. Angel-no relation-Batista is not a winged being from the heavens. Say it once, and then move on!

Needless to say, the television series surpassed the books from the very first episode. Even the worst season was by far better than Linday’s best book. I have it on good authority considering I read the first five. I have heard they go even further downhill from there. Usually, derivative works are lower in quality, such as the recent Great Gatsby, if not on par with, as was the case in Jaws.

Every episode was entertaining and riveting. The acting was all first-rate, and the evolution of the two main characters in Dexter and Deb were brilliantly portrayed by Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, respectively. All the supporting and guest actors did an excellent job, as well. Who can forget John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer from Season 4, arguably their best season? Anyone who didn’t come away from witnessing that performance and recognize his acting genius needs a time-out on Dexter’s table. I kid. The only season I was disappointed with was the following, season 5. I felt Julia Stiles was miscast and out of her element. I could not suspend disbelief that she would be driven to murder, and could even help Dexter dump body parts and act like they were making conversation while cooking dinner together. If you ask me, and you probably won’t, Claire Danes would have made a more convincing Lumen. She has the required frailty masked by steely resolve to make that character believable.

Do not read any further if you have not watched the series finale of Dexter, by the way. The “death” in my title is symbolic, i.e., the ending of the series.

Or is it. . . ?

My husband and I are both writers, and we can usually sniff out plot turns before they happen—him more so than I. Neither of us had any idea how this series would end. We both knew that it wouldn’t end well for at least one of the characters. It turned out that it ended badly for all of them. I won’t discuss the whole season. It is only the final episode that left me an emotional mess.

The show’s writers took Vonnegut’s advice to be mean to their characters and ran with it. All the key players were victimized by Dexter, in some shape or form. And for that, Dexter had to die . . . in some shape or form.

When Deb was shot in the penultimate episode, it was the gun on the wall (pun intended) that a happy ending was not to be expected. Deb was injured picking up where Dexter felt he should leave off. He did not kill the Brain Surgeon—the season’s nemesis—because he realized he didn’t need to anymore and decided to go by the book and have him arrested and prosecuted. Is that character redemption I see? Not so fast! Dexter left Hannah and Harrison (another alliteration!) in their efforts to flee the country to be by Deb’s side when he got the call that she had been shot. Are you sure that isn’t character redemption? Scoff! That would be too easy.

I suspected even more so that something tragic would happen when the doctor told Dexter that everything went well in surgery. Context is important, because nothing goes well in that show, so it should not be assumed that it was just a plot device to add a little drama. A massive stroke from a blood clot left Deb brain-dead. It heralded the return of Dexter’s Dark Passenger, so the Brain Surgeon had to die. While doing a GSR test on Daniel Vogel in jail, he set it up so that Vogel, a.k.a. Oliver Saxon, would attack him, thus justifying Dexter killing him. Batista and Quinn, distraught by the loss of a detective and lover, respectively, viewed the video playback. It was apparent that they saw it for what it was—a premeditated murder in the guise of self-defense. After a few obvious questions from Batista, they declared the incident justifiable homicide. On the surface, it appeared to be sloppy writing to do away with some loose ends in the plot. But in actuality, it was showing another side to the detectives—more Batista in this case—demonstrating that sometimes ethics are situational. And some people have to die. So says “the code.”

Like he did to Camilla Figg in season 3, he felt it his duty to euthanize Deb. And that he did. I was shaking, trying to keep it together, when he held her hand and emotionally whispered “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He turned off the machine, disconnected the tube and wires, and listened for her breath to cease. “I love you,” were his last words. That is when I did a face-plant into my husband’s lap. My eyes are welling up just recalling that scene. I was devastated.

There was only one convincing path for Dexter to take at the loss of his moral compass in Deb, for which he felt responsible. He could have met up with Hannah and Harrison and lived his life the way Deb would have wanted him to. That would have been trite, out of character, and despite our desire for some semblance of a happy ending, unrealistic. He spoke one last time to Hannah and Harrison, leaving the possibility he would see them again. Then he threw the phone into the ocean to cast away any temptation to meet up with and eventually destroy them the way he did everyone he was close to. After that, he buried Deb in the same place he did his victims, as if she died at his hand, as well. But with her, he demonstrated his love and respect by keeping her whole and uncovered. Her face dissolved as it sank into the ocean’s depths in a symbolic disposal of the mask he wore for so many years.

He drove into the eye of the hurricane, and the wreckage of his boat was found the next day. The assumption was that he died, and in a way, he did. The façade, the emotional growth, as well as any possibility for more connections with humanity, died. Whether he intended to kill himself or fake his death is left for the viewer to decide. Regardless, he made a supreme sacrifice. The last scene showed him as what appeared to be a lumberjack, possibly in the upper Northwest. The cold, dark atmosphere was a stark contrast to Miami’s sunny warmth. He had a full beard, either as a disguise or perhaps to indicate that he no longer cared to maintain a carefully cultivated clean-cut and unthreatening appearance. His father’s image and voice were conspicuously absent. He sat down at a desk, and stared at nothing. His face with that mask fully removed, revealed the monster he always knew himself to be. This was the real Dexter, laid bare for the viewers to see. It was disturbing.

No one was redeemed, no one was happy. Joey Quinn became an honorable cop again during the season, and got the girl in the end. Then, she was cruelly taken away. What will happen to him? Hannah is left with Harrison. Will she be a good mother to him? Will she raise him to be a good, law-abiding person, or will he follow in her or his father’s footsteps?

What will become of Dexter? Did he mean it that he would see Harrison again? If so, would it be from afar? Dexter will continue killing, there is no doubt. But, did “the code” get buried along with the mask and moral compass, at the bottom of the ocean? There are so many questions that have a plethora of possible answers. Six Feet Under ended perfectly by giving closure to the key characters. It fit the theme and spirit of the show. The characters were surrounded by death, so too they must die eventually. The same goes for Dexter. Many fans are angry about the finale. Either they let their emotions cloud their judgment or they just didn’t get it.

On a final note, Jennifer Carpenter must at least get nominated for an Emmy. She has been overlooked for too long. Michael C. Hall should be nominated again, and actually win this time. It would be the appropriate closure to honor a terrific artistic work.

Like a Rolling Boner

I don’t read Rolling Stone magazine, but know people who do. Apparently, it is still primarily about music, along with topical issues to broaden their audience and keep the interest of their readers. I am all for a comprehensive magazine. That is why I don’t look at my husband’s Playboy with disdain. They really do have some great articles and interviews in there, especially their Political Forum. Plus, it is fun to locate the bunny logo on the cover.

Even with my musical background, I don’t usually pay attention to Rolling Stone. I might notice the cover if I pass it on the newsstand. Usually, a musician is on there, hence, the main purpose of the magazine. Dylan (whose classic song I punned in the title), Hendrix, Clapton, Page . . . those are the faces, and others of that ilk, I expect to see. Even actors have graced the cover, and that’s okay. My expectation was upset when Taylor Swift and her wind-blown hair were featured. She can barely play the sparkly acoustic guitar she was cradling in that photo, much less be presented in the same fashion as the musical icons who preceded her. Still, for all intents and purposes, she is making music, albeit mediocre at best. She is popular and Rolling Stone was catering to a growing segment of their readership. Understandable. 

I am, however, struggling with the impetus of plastering the younger, surviving Boston Marathon bomber’s face on the most recent cover. I won’t even print his name here, much less the image. Part of it is laziness; I don’t feel like pulling the photo and saving it to upload here. Also, I struggle with retaining names of Eastern origin. The other part is principle. I just won’t do it. I can’t bother myself to expend the effort to remember the pronunciation or the spelling of his name. I won’t even use it as a tag for this blog for search purposes. Why? Because, he does not deserve even an iota of energy, not by me nor by any other citizen of this country. He exposed himself to a dangerous ideology, and he acted on it. It could be argued that he wouldn’t have wrought the same havoc on his own. It does not matter. He was a willing participant, went into hiding, and eventually ran from the law. He knew right from wrong. He chose the latter, and for that, he should pay dearly. 

He certainly should not be rewarded for his despicable actions. So, what does landing on the cover of a popular, long-running magazine in the space normally reserved for actual musical greats, do? It sounds like he got his proverbial 15 minutes, and then some. He came to this country early enough to be Americanized.  He should know the magazine and its place in the annals of history. Is he shamed that his mug is splayed on a periodical that has a circulation of about 1.5 million readers, and quite possibly, could increase for this issue? Does he feel remorse for what he did after such exposure? Or more likely, does he think he has arrived and was granted the right of passage? He has been immortalized before Allah could reward him with 72 (give or take) virgins. 

Perhaps I am overstating this. Rolling Stone did put Charles Manson on a cover back during his heyday in 1970. Never mind that he was a surprisingly gifted musician (if only he got a record contract). He became famous for being a sociopath, and Rolling Stone hopped on that bandwagon. What is done is done. Somehow, this latest foray into newsworthy journalism displayed an unprecedented lack of judgment. 

In their defense, the article is apparently well-researched. At least, that is what I have heard; I don’t intend to read it. He is also referred to as a “monster” on the cover. That is where my support ends.  That same blurb lends a note of sympathy as a “promising student” whose “family failed him.” So now what? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? 

I painted that with a broad brush intentionally. The powers that be must have momentarily forgotten their influence. It is not an irrational speculation that other troubled youths heading on a wayward path would see this, and be envious. For better or worse, that would be the aforementioned arrival and right of passage. “I got on the cover of Rolling Stone. Score!” Something to ponder the next time we are inclined to glorify a demon. 

What would the response be if Playboy magazine put this punk on the cover in lieu of their usual Playmate? That would be out of place, despite their excellent journalism within. Maybe they would hide the logo in his mass of curly, black hair, vexing their most determined readers to stare at his mug until the bunny was found, thus burning his image into their retinas. That’s marketing genius, right there. I guarantee that Mr. Hefner would have some explaining to do. 

Certainly, we must know our enemies and understand why they become that way, so that we—as a collective—are better armed to stop it before it starts. Knowledge is power and all that. I get it. But, it is all in the presentation, and perhaps Rolling Stone is not the one to reveal this insight, given the likelihood that the original mission of the magazine was music and advertising its star power. I don’t know why I think that. It could be their name that has popped up in a couple of tunes, maybe one rock group. Just a theory. 

Here is another one: they may gain readers with this, but they might want to avoid the loss of their existing ones if they just stick to what they know.

Alice in Shame

Did you ever have one of those friends who compelled you in such a way to do things you normally wouldn’t, and then you regretted those actions afterwards? I had one, and even though we drifted apart, I fondly reminisce about her. To preserve her anonymity, I will just refer to her as ‘C’. C wanted to try most things at least once; I did not. Don’t get me wrong; I am a very curious sort. However, I am a calculated risk-taker, usually. She did not blithely venture into uncharted territory, mind you, but her carpe diem approach to life could be intoxicating. I trust you know what could happen under that influence.

We drove halfway across the country with maxed-out credit cards and no itinerary. I was given a CO2 handgun (no license needed at the time) for protection. I tried to fire it in a roadside motel room, but thankfully, the canister blew into a cloud of cool gas instead. I don’t know if there were any long-term effects of inhaling what the weapon expelled. Guns freak me out, but I felt empowered around my friend, C.

Another time, we turned an uneventful evening into a festival of firsts for her. Well, two firsts, to be precise. After consuming sugary cocktails and Pop-tarts, she dyed her dark, blonde hair red with a box of henna I had encouraged her to purchase earlier. We then ambled over to the nearest tattoo parlor, picked a unicorn off the wall, and spent the next hour getting it inked on her outer calf. She squeezed my hand the whole time; that girl had quite a grip. The artist was a dragger instead of a tapper, and that is a sensitive area, so I appreciated the pain she endured. Okay, I did not get a tattoo. I do have my limits. As an artist, I would only mark up my body with my own designs. Oh wait, I didn’t know I could draw at the time. I probably didn’t have the money. Yep, that’s it. I did put henna into my hair one time. Remember that episode of the Brady Bunch? Just picture Greg with waist-length hair and that show would have reached a new level of melodrama. Now you know why my risks are usually well thought-out. I can’t take complete credit for controlling her destiny that night. She was a doer to my thinker. She encouraged me to think about taking risks, and I thought really hard so that she would believe I was the mastermind of that evening. For the most part, though, I experienced her risk-taking ventures that night vicariously. 

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that a night spent at an Alice in Chains concert back in ‘93 would not end for us after the curtain dropped. I have always been a big fan of the band, but C had never heard of them until I asked her to go with me. During the course of the evening, she developed a huge crush on Jerry Cantrell. I can certainly see the appeal. Even now—years later—he looks like Greg Allman’s hotter, younger brother. However, I never cared for long hair on men. My older sister and I agreed on many things, but our paths diverged when the conversation turned to the hotness factor of Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon versus Tequila Sunrise. No contest there, in my opinion. Now, no hairstyle can redeem that man, but I digress. Anyway, despite Cantrell really being the creative force behind Alice in Chains, I was all about Layne Staley at the time. Apparently, I was into scrawny grunge rockers in my early twenties. There was something seductive about that dude, the voice, those intense eyes, and sultry lips. Picture Paul Newman on crack, and perhaps you will understand the allure there. I can’t stand cigarette smoking—he was a heavy smoker—but in my fantasies, he abstained while he sang his trademark growl into my ear. Sigh. 

It was a great show, and their performance of Rooster did not disappoint. I also got a souvenir that will remind me of this evening, whether I want it to or not.

I did not have to wrestle anyone for it. One of the crowd control guys was giving it to me as another hand reached for it. He pulled it away until I was ready to take it. As the crowd started clearing out, I passed by him and thanked him for the token. “You know I was giving that to you, right?” he asked with a lascivious smile. Eww. I played dumb, “Yep! Thanks again.” I made a hasty exit before he could go all Indian giver on me. I was a bit insulted. My body was worth a Hell of a lot more than a cracked drumstick. I was an Accountant, damn it. How dare he assume I was just some tawdry, cheap fan-girl? Puh! 

We were hanging out in my car after the show, wondering what trouble we could get into, considering the night was still young. At one point, I entertained C with my Layne Staley impersonation singing Rooster and Man in a Box—spot-on, in my humble opinion. The topic turned to some key “what if” questions. What if . . . Jerry Cantrell came onto you right now, even though you are engaged? I had carte blanche if Mr. Staley propositioned me, as I wasn’t dating anyone at the time. The whole time in the car, we had a clear view of their tour bus, and were sitting there waiting for a glimpse of any of the band members. Layne was not to be seen, but there was a flash of long, blonde hair at one point. 

After about an hour, the bus started moving. We straightened up in our seats as we exchanged tentative, yet eager glances. “Let’s follow them!” Do I have to indicate who said that? So, onward I drove as I followed them through the back streets. I thought the fun was in the dare, and it would peter out and end there. The burning, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I get only when venturing out of my comfort zone came on full-force as we careened into the entrance to I-94N—heading towards Chicago. “Oh my god, we are really doing this!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe we are doing this!” I screamed. “This is so awesome,” as we giggled like schoolgirls. I pushed hard on the gas pedal, lest I lose sight of their big-ass, black tour bus. This was really happening! 

So, we get to the hotel they were staying at. We happened upon a couple of other grou . . . er, fans, who happened to know the floor, and even room numbers, the band were in. I don’t recall how they came upon that intel, but there it was. As we debated what to do next, Mike Inez—the bassist—sauntered through the lobby. He politely stopped for a photo. He really wasn’t on my radar, but who was I to pass up that opportunity. The guy had a great smile and crazy hair. The amicability of one member gave us the courage to seek out the others. 

As we stood in the elevator, C and I exchanged looks that could pass for either excitement or an urgent need to pee. As it dinged our arrival, we hesitated briefly before exiting onto the floor. Like automatons, we proceeded to their group of rooms at the end of the hall. Did we have a game plan? Of course not. We stopped in mid-stride as we happened upon an open room. We peeked into the door. Inside was a man who appeared to be their security guard, lounging in a chair and inactively watching porn. I say that because he wasn’t more “engaged,” but he was distracted enough that we could zip past his room unnoticed, like a couple of ninja groupies. Yes, admittedly, we ceased being just fans at that point. We heard voices behind door number two. Without thinking, I knocked. Then, the folly of our ways hit me, amongst other things that shone a light on our unbecoming behavior. I turned to make a hasty exit, abandoning C, and was stopped by the security dude. Dang, he was huge. “What are you doing?” he asked threateningly. Looking for inspiration, I just stared back at C. As we stalled to think up something clever, the door opened. 

That sinking feeling in my stomach came again as I stood mere feet from Layne Staley. The first thing that came to mind was, “Shit, that is one tiny dude.” He seemed larger than life on stage, but I could eat a meal off his head, and try to share it with him so he could gain a few pounds. He looked accusingly at his security guard as he asked us what we were doing there. I was ready to apologize that we made a mistake, when C held out a piece of paper and pen, and asked for his autograph. Oh, I wanted to be Down in a Hole at that point. His sexy blues looked at her hands with disdain. He then became physically agitated, held out the bottom of his shirt, and said, “Guys, I gotta get dressed.” SLAM! I guess he told us. I think, not sure. We waited briefly just in case he planned to come back out after indeed getting dressed, even though he was fully clothed already. The disappointment welled up in me as I realized we had been dismissed. I didn’t even get to share my impersonation of him. Surely, along with my cuteness, I would have risen above the ranks of his typical mindless fan. This is not how my encounter with him played out in my dreams. 

I turned my head wearily to gaze up at Mr. Horny and he looked down at me patronizingly, “See, now look what you did. Are you proud of yourself?” Umm, no, quite frankly. The ignominy sunk in hard and fast. I was mortified at what we did. Why did he direct that question at me? I didn’t ask for his autograph. I was trying to get out of there. It was all C’s fault! That’s what I told myself. I also considered that the guard was shitting his pants, because he should have stopped us from getting that close to the “talent.” He would be even in more trouble if they saw the adult movie on the bill. While his employers were snuffing the Rooster, he was choking his chicken. How irresponsible of him. 

My head was literally hanging low as we slinked back to the elevator. As it made its descent, my hot and heavy imaginary love affair with the troubled rocker cooled precipitously. “What the Hell did we just do? This is horrible. I can’t believe we would do that to someone,” I said between long-suffering sighs. C didn’t see it that way. “What an asshole. Did you see how he looked at my pen and paper like I was offering him a plate of shit or something?” She might have said that, I don’t remember. I was too overwhelmed with shame and regret. She, naturally, had a great time and would do it again, despite his “rudeness.” 

But he’s long dead, more than 10 years now. 

Yes, when Mr. Staley’s bloated corpse was found alone in his apartment, dead weeks earlier from an overdose, I thought back to what we did. What demons was he unable to exorcise? Did his obsessed fans smother him, or was he drowning in a Sea of Sorrow of his own making? My guess is that it was a combination of both, evidenced by his self-portrait in the Mad Season CD-jacket as being crucified while he sang into a microphone. His respectful, appreciative fans could not shine a bright enough light on his dark soul, so he self-medicated to his demise. 

Despite all my cognitive dissonance in what we did, I can set that aside as I tell this tale in my usual jocular, self-deprecating fashion. Levity is the best psychotropic.

Mo’ Mondegreens!

As promised almost a year ago, here is installment number two of my collection of mondegreens, i.e., misheard lyrics. Finally! I trust you have been waiting with bated breath for this. You may now, devoted reader, breathe a sigh of relief. I have come to deliver on that promise. Incidentally, Microsoft Word does not recognize the term, so my vision is currently being assaulted with the underlined red squiggle under “mondegreens.” There it is again. How dare these miscreant software developers offend my sensibilities so? Even the paperclip seems to be looking at me disapprovingly. Smug bastard.  

As last time, I am following the same format as in the famous books: misheard lyric; performer; song title; correct lyric.

Tell them all hookah, is smoking character . . . One man on the chessboard . . . and your mind is moving all . . . Have fallen softly dead . . . And the requiem’s offed his head. Remember, what the doormouth said.
Jefferson Airplane “White Rabbit”
Tell ‘em a hookah smoking catepillar . . . When men on the chessboard . . . and your mind is moving slow . . . Have fallen sloppy dead . . . And the Red Queen’s “Off with her head!” Remember, what the dormouse said.  

That’s right. I butchered the crap out of these lyrics. I was reminded of that when I got the urge to sing it in the shower recently. I drew a complete blank on the correct lyrics, so sang what I thought they sounded like. Yes, I read Lewis Carroll’s classic. So, I should know better, right? Besides, I’ve heard it a bazillion times, since Grace Slick’s opus is ubiquitous as a soundtrack to let the audience know that something trippy is going on. Incidentally, I always thought this song was about drugs. “Go Ask Alice” is a famous diary from a drug-user, and there was some kind of mushroom involved. What other conclusion could I draw from that? Besides the time it was released, the lyrics sound like they were inspired by an acid trip. I suppose by association it is about drugs. Do you have a better explanation for how LC came up with that psychedelic imagery? It was like H.R. Pufnstuf in lit-form. Certainly, it wouldn’t pass for children’s fiction today. Oh wait—then how does one explain the Teletubbies? I digress.

Where is my job today?
Paula Cole “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?”
Where is my John Wayne?

I don’t mean to be such a downer, but in this economy, this one isn’t such a stretch.

Been through the desert on a horse with no brain
America “Horse With no Name”
Been through the desert on a horse with no name

This might have been the product of the listener smoking pot while listening to this song, which, pretty much, is the best way to enjoy this tune.

If the horse had no brain, but did have a name, would he know? I might be able to ponder that philosophically if I wasn’t so baked.

What if I’m a mummy in these jeans of his?
Tori Amos “Crucify”
What if I’m a mermaid in these jeans of his?

Pfft. Mermaids are so 80’s. Mummies are the “it” mythical creature du jour. They are like caterpillars emerging from their cocoons into beautiful . . . zombies.   

Run amok that ill
Kate Bush “Running Up That Hill”
Running up that hill 

This is just stupid. It is beneath my intellect to even formulate a response. Puh!

He got a raisin in his shoe
Jim Croce “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”
He got a razor in his shoe

What up, bitch? I’m walkin’ on nature’s sunshine fruit. That’s right. I’m bad.

As an aside, is it just me or does the new version of the Sun-Maid girl look like she would spread her legs for anyone who found his or her way into that vineyard? Just curious.

Kiss your soul heart. I’ll take your breast away
Sarah McLachlan “Possession”
Kiss you so hard. I’ll take your breath away

Wow. That is . . . awful. As if the song wasn’t creepy enough, that crosses the line from stalker to serial killer. Thanks for tonight’s nightmare.    

I believe I saw La Bamba (jet planes)
CSN “Woodstock”
I believe I saw the bombers (jet planes) 

It was a passenger plane in which the music died, not to get technical.

Watch the freakers eat Kenneth is your, Benzedrine all wet?
R.E.M. “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth”
What’s the frequency, Kenneth, is your Benzedrine, uh-huh.

Um . . . what? It sounds like their Benzedrine did get all wet, with some unforseen side-effects. Either that, or they got hit harder than Dan Rather did by the lunatic who attacked him screaming that question.

We are the priests of the temple with earrings
Rush “The Temples of Syrinx”
We are the priests of the temples of Syrinx 

Since most priests are closet homosexuals, that doesn’t surprise me. I know I know. It’s wrong. Sick and wrong!

And you steal rat meat in your Jesus Christ pose
Soundgarden “Jesus Christ Pose”
And you stare at me in your Jesus Christ pose

Maybe that’s why communion wafers taste like crap? 

Bunnies on the table, the fire is cooking
Temple of the Dog “Hunger Strike”
But it’s on the table, the fire is cooking

That doesn’t sound like much of a hunger strike to me. Don’t get me started on the fluffy bunnies. 

If there’s a barstool and your head rolls, don’t be alarmed now
Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”
If there’s a bustle in your hedge row, don’t be alarmed now

No chance of being alarmed, of course, considering my head inexplicably became detached from my body at the mere presence of a barstool. At most, my last sentient thought would be trying to connect the dots on that non sequiter

You can tell by the way that I use my wok, that I’m a wooden man
Bee Gees “Staying Alive”
You can tell by the way that I use my walk, that I’m a woman’s man 

You get a hard-on while making kung pao chicken? Kinky.   

Grab your teeth I’ve come to take you home
Peter Gabriel “Salisbury Hill”
Grab your things I’ve come to take you home 

Said the man to his grandfather in Salisbury Hill nursing home. Totally plausible.  

The pinball wizard’s got such a super ass
The Who “Pinball Wizard”
The pinball wizard got such a supple wrist

I bet Elton John made that very observation.

Leaping lost anus
Sheryl Crow “Leaving Las Vegas”
Leaving Las Vegas 

Since a lot of people have had their asses beaten in Vegas, it is apt, albeit a bizarre way to put it.

My dad lay and poohed on my room below
Pearl Jam “Jeremy”
The dead lay in pools of maroon below

No wonder that kid lost his shit.

Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gum in your hair?
Jimi Hendrix “Hey Joe”
Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand 

To add insult to injury, the cheating bitch spat her Wrigley Spearmint into Jimi’s fro? Damn right she deserved to get shot!

In Nam’ bodies float
Jimmy Buffet “Margaritaville”
It’s nobody’s fault 

And napalm sticks to kids.

Woman shits on the water, very queer
Crosby, Stills and Nash “Wooden Ships”
Wooden ships on the water, very clear 

A floating version of a Boston plate job; that’s definitely some kinky shit. 

They come to pluck the rooster
Alice in Chains “Rooster”
They come to snuff the rooster 

Is plucking the rooster foreplay for choking the chicken? Me torture you long time, Yankee!

Feelin’ like a ham and mustard shake
Stone Temple Pilots “Interstate Love Song”
Feelin’ like a hand in rusted shame 

Huh. Oddly specific, but I suppose it would suck to feel that way. Or at least you’d feel like Hell after you drank that!

Dr. Bronner’s Manic Soap

This image of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is probably a familiar one. They are a line of hemp-based, castile soaps that do not have any harsh detergents in it, just organic oils that are saponified into soap and glycerin. Being a natural product, it is available in whole-health and food-type establishments; it can also be found in big-box stores such as Target. The basic soap, being scented with peppermint, is gentle and tingles on the skin as it cleanses the body. It is labeled “Certified Fair Trade,” promoting its holistic purpose. Oh, it is certified, or maybe “certifiable” would be a better word. It occurred to me, as I read what is essentially a manifesto on the bottle, that the aforementioned tingle is the slight burn one feels as a holy liquid touches wicked flesh.   

This bottle of madness is a convenient, albeit unorthodox (ironic word choice, I know), delivery of the ultimate message: Absolute cleanliness is Godliness! Teach the Moral ABC that unites all mankind free, instantly 6 billion strong & we’re All-One. “Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One.” I would say you couldn’t make that shit up, but Dr. Bronner did. He needed an editor, most definitely. He had serious diarrhea of the pen. Besides that, we hit 7 billion this year, and yes, someone is counting. Also, what is up with the oddly placed capitalizations? I understand the God thing, but All-One, Children Eternal, etc.? Is there only one? Did he know something that we don’t? Apparently, and he laid it all out to his minions for some light reading while being anointed by his magically miracle soap. 

The Moral ABC is an amalgamation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If, as well as Dr. Batty’s (I know, ad hominems won’t get me into Heaven) views that supposedly evolved from Buddhist and Jewish as well as Christian teachings. I read Kipling’s poem. Like Manson gleaning murderous intentions from the Beatles’ Helter Skelter, Doc B’s interpretation of a poem about what passes for British virtue is almost as puzzling. I say almost, because it was considered an inspirational poem. And with that, I guess the Moral ABC is meant to inspire us to be good. I am assuming he consulted the Bhagavad Gita in his research; I haven’t read it. If it is anything as vast as the Moral ABCs, I’ll pass. They make Martin Luther’s 95 Theses look like a grocery list in comparison. 

I think there are 144 of them, but am not sure. He skipped around a lot. He jumped from the 1st to the 5th to the 7th, eventually to the 13th. On the back of the bottle, he miraculously got to 76, and then fast-forwarded to 144 at the bottom of the label. I won’t bore you with the details, but here are some blurbs: 

God’s Spaceship Earth (Umm . . . huh?); All One! All One! Exceptions Eternally? Absolute None! (Again with the caps and weird syntax!); Small minds decay! (I’ll buy that); Each swallow works hard to be perfect pilot-provider-builder-trainer-teacher-lover-mate, no half-true hate! (Eh, I got nothing); Thank God we don’t descend down from perfect Adam & Even to sinful sinner (Well duh, a sinner is sinful. Fucking Christ do I hate redundancy in writing); Free Speech is man’s only weapon against half-truth (Fred Phelps must use this soap); To dream that impossible dream! To reach that unreachable star! (Try making your goals a little less lofty, m’kay?)‘Til All-One, All-One we are! (For those about to rock, we salute you! Testifyyyyyy!) 

The bottle keeps rolling off my desk and quite frankly, I’m tired. I have perfect vision, well, maybe not Adam and Eve perfect, but reading that small, white print is straining my eyes. But dagnabbit, do I feel especially saved right now. What’s that parable about a blind man? Anyway. 

I trust I am not the first to write about this soap, nor will I be the last. There is even a documentary about the man, which I have not seen. That said, I figured in writing this, I should use my journalistic skills to find out more about the man behind the soap. 

Okay, so I am not a journalist. I just googled his name and clicked on links until I found a photograph: 

Why doesn’t it surprise me he looked insane? However, I didn’t expect such an uncanny resemblance to this guy: 

That’s right—Herr Döktor from The Human Centipede. Take a moment to compare the two. Scroll up, scroll down. Coincidence? 

Like your average mere mortal, I just went to Wikipedia for some background information. I can’t confirm if Dr. Bronner, born Emanuel Bronner in Germany in 1908, was really a doctor, but it sounds like he had a pretty tumultuous existence. His parents were killed in the Holocaust and he suffered shock treatments in an Illinois mental hospital after he was arrested for publicly announcing his Moral ABCs. He later escaped from the hospital, settling in California to start his soap-making enterprise. He died in 1997; I assume it was of natural causes. His surviving family has continued his legacy since then. It stated they modify the label as needed, but I find that claim suspect. 

Gotta give him credit, the guy was devoted to his crazy cause. Okay, I’m finished picking on that whacky dude. He lived a rough life, so I’ll give him latitude for that. And I have to say: His soap rocks. 

This has to be the most multi-functional product I have encountered. It is meant for cleaning the body (and soul), but it works just as well on other things. I clean my cat’s litter box with it—just a few squirts in the water are enough to neutralize the odor. I can also use it in the laundry. Because I was cursed with sensitive skin (why hast thou forsaken me with that affliction?), I can’t use artificial fragrances in my soaps and detergents. While those “free and clear” detergents do clean just as effectively as their fragrant brethren, they don’t handle pungent odors well. All it takes is a few drops of his soap with the detergent, and my laundry smells fresh again! 

I also make a sugar scrub with it and sometimes add more coconut oil for extra moisturizing. I don’t mean to imply that St. Bronner needs an abrasive substance to help scour the impiety from flesh, but there is no such thing as over-compensation in the war against evil. Plus, I do feel extra purified afterwards. 

I recommend not using the soap on your naughty bits, and definitely do not get it in your eyes. While not as bad as throwing holy water on a vampire, it is quite unpleasant. Apparently, those dirty parts of the anatomy have seen and experienced so many nefarious things, they are beyond redemption. 

I stumbled upon an additional use for this soap recently. How to start? Umm . . . I, erm, was given—AGAINST MY WILL!—a couple of glass thingamajiggies used for something unholy. Yes. God makes this iniquitous substance, so it should be okay, right? No, he did it just to test us! They were too pretty to throw away, so I decided—for the greater good—to salvage them. Nothing was working to purge these pipes, er, demonic delivery devices, of the vile contraband. Repeated soakings with dish soap, as well as numerous rubbing alcohol dips, did little to make these objects chaste once again. In a rapturous moment, it occurred to me to soak them in hot water and his hemp (the irony did not escape me) soap. Dr. B exorcised the ashes of that evil plant straight to HELL! Yay-yah! Dr. Bronner saved me from eternal damnation! Again! 

I trust this soap has even more uses, but it is a bit pricey at $9.99–$14.99 a bottle. That exorcism used up a few bucks worth alone. Perhaps I am governed by my household budget, but it seems I shouldn’t be so indulgent with my Savior’s resources. I’m sure it says that somewhere in the Bible.

The Human Dementopede

One of my first posts to this blog was a review of The Human Centipede back in 2010. https://thepurplepedant.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/the-human-centipuke/ 

I had a legitimate reason why I inflicted such a horrific display of cinematic depravity on myself. The concept really spooked me and it kept me up into the wee hours. Watching the movie allowed me to take control and put the ridiculousness of it in perspective. Regrettably, I have no reasonable explanation why I did the same for its sequel—The Human Centipede 2—when it became available on IFC On Demand this month. I didn’t think it could get more sickening than the first one, but, oh, I was terribly wrong. Tom Six, the, er, creative genius behind it, like a Criminal Minds unsub, escalated his twisted creation to new and repulsive depths. He out-icked himself. I think for the rest of this review, I will refer to him as the more aptly named Mr. Sick. His mother must be proud.

To add insult to injury, I spent $6.99 (plus tax) to suffer through what is no doubt one of the most disgusting movies in existence. And I saw Faces of Death! It leaves about as much to the imagination as your average snuff film. Does that drive my point home? This film was horrifyingly horrible. Thankfully, the movie was only 90 minutes long, which amounted to 7.766¢ per minute. While it seems nominal when put that way, the possible damage it did to my psyche cannot be recompensed.

I suspect Mr. Sick was aiming for a noir-esque feel by filming completely in black and white. What he got was more reminiscent of Eraser Head, complete with that perturbing ambient white noise. What was that hissing radiator sound about, anyway? Really, an homage to that chin-scratcher of a flick is unnecessary. Still, viewing such a grisly display in monochrome does take a bit of the edge off. Thanks for that bone, Tom.

While the first film’s tagline was “100% Medically Accurate,” this one is “100% Medically Inaccurate.” How tongue-in-cheek. That would be because the psycho in the first one was supposed to be an actual surgeon with credentials, but the one in the second was just plain psychotic with no surgical knowledge whatsoever. Bwahaha! That is . . . hilarious. 

The central character, Martin Lomax, was a mentally challenged and disturbed night watch security guard of an English parking garage. His visage was repulsive with a pair of googly eyes that made Marty Feldman and Peter Lorre look merely surprised in comparison, man boobs, an atrociously large gut, all on what appeared to be a sub-5-foot tall frame. Plus, he had no shoulders. Odd for me to notice, I know. One can imagine him hacking his halitosis into the air during his many asthmatic attacks. He was disgusting from top to bottom. There was no positive quality in this dude to be seen. Of course, such a pivotal role required an actor that looked the part.

God was in a bad mood when he created the recipe for that gene pool. He looks like Dr. Evil’s deformed clone—MutantMe. I guess the audience is supposed to feel a bit sorry for the guy, as he was sexually abused as a child and as an adult, still lives with his crazy mother who blames him for her husband being jailed for life. “Keep crying, you’re just making Daddy’s willy harder.” Wow, that is creepy. We can only sympathize so much when the psychological damage manifests itself in the desire to inflict some of the worst tortures man—Tom Sick in this case—can imagine. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself in this review.

Speaking of, I would say that Mr. Sick should quit while he is ahead, but he never was ahead. He just needs to quit.

You know, I suspect the actor who was suckered into playing Martin Lomax, Laurence R. Harvey, initially welcomed the acting challenge of portraying such a deviant character who had no speaking lines. It must have been a fascinating exercise to emote mostly through facial and body language. To his credit, he was successful. As for the other actors, I believe they displayed the appropriate level of horror. I wonder if any of them asked Mr. Sick, “What’s my motivation?”

By the way, Roger Ebert reviewed the original and its sequel. He gave the first movie one and a half stars (in a world where stars don’t shine, as he hilariously put it), and this one zero stars. I believe that might be overly generous. I am trying to picture how he must have looked before and during this movie.

Roger Ebert before The Human Centipede 2

 

Roger Ebert during The Human Centipede 2

There is not much difference, eh? At least I have the ability to express my horror in what I am watching—verbally and physically; he doesn’t. Poor guy is all bottled up with his disgust. Whatever he was paid to review these movies, I trust it wasn’t enough. But I digress, again.

Focus! Something I wish Mr. Sick had not done quite so sharply; it would have made it easier to watch if it were filmed a bit blurrier!

Okay, back to the movie. I hope to sum it up as expeditiously as possible. To spend more time than necessary is to risk venturing again down that path of revulsion from which I may not be able to return. Yes, I am going to spoil the whole plot for you so that you won’t have to experience what I did. You’re welcome.

The first 55 minutes was spent implying the sources of Martin’s pathologies, as well as setting the stage for his modus operandi. He watched The Human Centipede during his shift every night, while paging through a lovingly crafted scrapbook containing highlights from the film. Thus, it was obvious he was obsessed with the movie. As he shot and clubbed random victims he spied on the security cameras in the garage, and stowed them in a warehouse, his plans were laid bare: He wanted to create a 12-segment human centipede. His ideal goal was to incorporate the three actors from the original centipede into his freaky, little magnum opus. He was successful in acquiring Ashlynn Yennie—the actress who played the surviving middle segment—by claiming to be a casting agent for a new Tarantino film. The other two were busy with other projects. Do you have an idea where this is going? Let me just say that one moral of this story could be that actors should be choosier with their roles.

It appears the filmmaker is a practical jokester, as well. The agent left a callback number for Martin: 713-499-0913. Since it wasn’t the usual fake “555” movie number, of course viewers will dial it. Guess what? The subscriber doesn’t accept calls. Screw you, Mr. Sick!

Oh yeah, Martin also had a real centipede as a pet, and it had a role outside of a heavy-handed symbolic device. Keep reading. It’s epic.

He eventually acquired all twelve necessary victims. In between that, he bludgeoned his mother to death and used her corpse to lure his skinhead bully of a neighbor as another victim (I really don’t feel like explaining that one). I would say the murder of his mother was his trigger, but that chamber was emptied long before that. Oh, he also shot his psychiatrist in the head because he kept rubbing his knee. That’s right, Martin’s doctor was sexually attracted to him. I know, hard to swallow, but so is this whole movie. While we are on that subject, if you must see it, don’t eat during it.

Onto the last 35 minutes. He laid out all his tools that he acquired from his mother’s kitchen. He even grabbed a fork. Better to have it than . . . whatever. He had a fork. Anyway, Martin took a break from preparing and assembling his victims to pick up the unsuspecting Ashlynn Yennie and drive her to the warehouse. As is typical of horror films, just as she realized what she was walking into, he whacked her on the head with a crowbar. Oh yeah, that was his weapon of choice outside of the gun. He’d cripple them with the gun, then knock them unconscious with the crowbar. Since head wounds tend to bleed profusely, all the victims had duct tape wrapped around them like headbands. Actually, wherever there was a wound there was duct tape. His monster was going to look like trailer trash, to boot.

After positioning Miss Yennie as the front segment, he was ready to create his centipede. At least, Herr Doktor from the first film used anesthetic and proper surgical techniques. That was pretty humane, relatively speaking. Martin, however, just started hammering, cutting, and slicing away. Tap, tap, crack! Out goes his neighbor’s teeth with a hammer. Slice! Off goes Ashlynn’s kneecap tendons with a vegetable knife. One lucky guy died from blood loss as Martin tried to create the butt flaps that would be attached to another’s face. I am very grateful he had to abandon that approach, in retrospect. Anyway, off to the side segment #1 went.

MutantMe was getting quite frustrated as his vision was not unfolding as planned. He lost segment #2—a pregnant woman (awesome!)—who seemed to die just from laying there. He listened to her belly, and there was still a fetal heartbeat. I could feel my toes tighten and curl in revulsion as I feared the reason he was checking to see if the fetus was still alive. Thankfully, he just moved Mom off to the side to join the other guy. He was left with making only a 10-segment bug. Alas.

Only 11 minutes passed since I had checked the DVR clock last at that point. Cripes, I was really hoping that the ending credits would take up at least 10 minutes, so that I’d only have to endure this for no more than 14 more minutes. Since the butt flaps didn’t work, he went straight to the staple gun. That’s right. Ass to mouth, carpenter-style. It became horrifyingly obvious that Martin had an anal fixation that mind-bogglingly surpassed Freud’s vision, as he did everything possible to get everyone to shit and eat. One of the kitchen gadgets he brought was what looked like a beer bong. Since Ashlynn was being recalcitrant, he pushed the tube down her throat to force-feed her. Since digestion isn’t immediate, he started rubbing everyone’s belly. That must have been soothing. It started to have an effect. He pulled out a syringe that he filled with a laxative. I don’t remember seeing that before, not even as a gun on the wall. Regardless, it served its purpose. Everyone got an injection in the ass. He didn’t even change the needle. Hello? Did he not know about HIV?

The results were bloody disgusting. Even a coprophile would have lost his erection. Diarrhea shit splattered everywhere, even on the camera lens. Remember the scene from Jaws when water splashed on the lens during a shark attack? It made you feel like you were in the water, watching it unfold. Not the same effect here. I didn’t want a front-row seat to that nasty Gallagher concert.

Let me try to wrap this up. Ms. Yennie screamed too much for Martin’s liking, so he pulled out her tongue. Technically, she could have kept yelping, but it shut her up. One of the braver chaps ripped his mouth off to separate from the rest of the team, causing the centipede to branch off into two segments. Oddly enough, that looked even more horrifying. That disrupted MutantMe’s paradigm, so he started executing them all, segment by segment. I trust he didn’t appreciate what a favor he was doing them at that point. Ashlynn, being the spunky actress that she was, eventually retaliated as he got to her. After valiantly striving to turn off the lights to gain the element of surprise, when Martin turned them back on she hurled his beloved pet centipede at him, causing the aquarium to shatter and free the bug. Okay, so here comes the epic part.

As the last living segment, the soon to be out-of-work actress exacted her revenge to the best of her abilities. She somehow knocked him in the groin and de-pantsed him. Conveniently, the beer bong and centipede were within her reach. Do I need to describe what happened next?

He really should have wound up in the hospital, and possibly died from internal injuries. But, like a trooper, he was back to work. Although, in truth, I don’t know how much time passed. Nor do I know how he got rid of the dead insect. I just realized the double entendre there. I could be talking about the dead people, or the centipede slithering through his colon. I believe Mr. Sick wanted the ending to be nebulous: Did he survive and go back to business as usual, or did he fantasize the whole thing? I don’t know if it matters; we probably will not see these actors in anything credible. 

Oh wait, there’s one more thing. The pregnant woman wasn’t actually dead, and thus was able to escape. She got into a car that still had the keys in the ignition. Inconveniently, she started giving birth as Martin tried unsuccessfully to break into the car. It only took a few minutes for her to spit out the baby. I guess trauma is a great labor-inducer. The newborn spurted onto the floor of the car, and in the mother’s desperation, she slammed the pedal to the metal. Yes, indeed, the baby’s head was between the floor and the gas pedal. Mr. Sick, you officially went too fucking far with that. Why did that need to happen? I would not want to get inside his brain to mine for that answer.

I weep at the prospect of a third movie. Shudder. One can only hope that cannibalistic, venomous centipedes everywhere will rise up and put a stop to Tom Six sullying their good names. 

 
 

Celebrating the mundane

For the most part, I don’t attach more importance to what “celebrities” say than I do to anyone else’s words. I put that word in quotes, because it is a label that has always perturbed me. Any entertainer on television or the big screen earns that dubious honor. It invariable puts that person on a pedestal to be celebrated for being known by the masses. This would be regardless of their actual level of talent—anyone can become a celebrity these days. With the accessibility of the Internet to waste bandwidth in the endless pursuit of the proverbial fifteen minutes, as well as the plethora of reality shows that seem to glorify and even encourage stupidity, the whole concept is becoming over-saturated and possibly obsolete. Pity. 

That all said, there is someone recently who went beyond the usual sound bite that passes for wisdom, at least in the context of my own situation. It wasn’t particularly profound, but it certainly struck a resonant chord for me. Brad Pitt realized that he was spending so much time sitting on the couch, waiting for an interesting movie to do as opposed to living an interesting life. Basically, he admitted that his life was dull, and he laid blame on his marriage for a lot of that. He took some flak for implying that Jennifer Anniston was boring, but that is beside the point.

I struggle to suspend disbelief and accept this as an honest admission. Really, isn’t one of the prevailing reasons for celebrity worship due to the assumption that their lives are more interesting than those outside of that world? They have more money, exposure, and freedom to indulge in just about anything, or even engage in bad behavior. How could life be boring? Well, it depends on what one considers interesting.

This year, my father died, along with two of my animals. In addition, I spent a holiday at the emergency vet after my dog was attacked by a pit bull. She has recovered, thankfully. The credit card is almost maxed out from medical bills, and incurring interest fees as I write this. We are battling a large organization that is looking for every loophole imaginable to avoid reimbursing us for those costs. I could go on, but wouldn’t want to bore you with my problems.

Puh, what am I talking about? This is fascinating stuff. My professional life is vying for the limits of my tolerance, as well. Our annual raises have all but ceased, our pension and retirement plans have been chopped to bits, and the business is going through a re-structuring—my department being the latest victim. Re-structuring is a tidy euphemism for a re-organization that could result in the termination of employees. This has already occurred in three departments with seven jobs eliminated, so my colleagues are a touch on edge. It is happening while we are going through two audits. Since the powers-that-be deemed us high risk and misrepresenting the financial position of the company, one of those audits is so extensive that it smacks of a forensic witch-hunt. Exciting!

And that’s not all. There is a snake-tongued, reptilian outside consultant in my division who has a nasty habit of covering his ass at the peril of others, all while looking innocent and even magnanimous in the process. He tried to throw me under the bus twice, as well as get my staff in trouble. I had the choice of either modifying his behavior, or allowing him to toy with my livelihood. I opted for the former. My responses to him were equally calculating and manipulative. I am confident that I made it painful for him to try that crap with me again. Perhaps it is the wide berth he now gives me as he passes me in the office corridors. Riveting!

I believe I hit the thesaurus up enough with different words to emphasize how interesting my life is. In addition to my writing, artistic, and musical pursuits that I must squeeze in, quite often unsuccessfully I must add, life is never dull. Then, why do I feel like Brad Pitt allegedly did?

There are different degrees of interest, you see. Many thrive on controversy and negative stress. I am not one of those people. Therefore, while I do have enough to keep me on my toes, the energy it leeches from me leaves me having to tap into my reserves for any positive feelings. When your existence becomes a series of reactions to situations that make it more difficult to drive on the path of your own choosing, it can fall short of expectations. Mr. Pitt has the resources, i.e., oodles of money, to pull himself off the couch and find ways to liven things up in a good way. Due to my aforementioned financial problems, as well as being stuck in a stifling career, it appears I have additional barriers of contention.

George Carlin said that he wasn’t a glass half-empty person; sometimes the glass just isn’t big enough. I like that rationalization, and there are times that it is the case. I can’t use that as an excuse, though. I look back on the times when life was less vexing, albeit more mundane. Retrospectives can be a bit hazy, especially when viewed with a jaundiced eye. I strongly suspect that I was filled with ennui from lack of stimuli. Perhaps I am one who craves drama after all. However, as I mentioned above, that drags me down, as well. I am left with expending those energy reserves by griping about my situation, yet not putting forth the effort to actually change it. I can easily blame my lack of funds, and if I didn’t have debt, was independently wealthy, etc., I would be much happier. Yet, I must be realistic and admit that paying down one set of problems can leave me open to new and possibly more complex ones.

Cripes, will I ever be satisfied?

Aha! Maybe that is it. Satisfaction, contentment. I’ve got neither. Most definitely, the issues I laid out have a lot to do with that, and they should be managed appropriately. I am not experiencing a unique predicament; sadly, a large majority of the population is dissatisfied with their lot in life. I can’t speak for anyone else, nor can I often change what happens around me, at least when it doesn’t affect me directly. What I do have the power to do is alter my view of the world and how I respond to it. I am bored and discontent in large part because I let myself feel that way. I don’t need a large balance in my checkbook to transform how I feel. Perception is a free and unlimited resource. 

Besides, it doesn’t cost any money to get off the couch. Isn’t that half the battle?

A Sprinklage of Dinklage Makes Cinema *Sparkle*!

Props must be given to the spouse for that title. If it isn’t obvious whom this is about, I am referring to the recent (and richly deserved) Emmy winner, Peter Dinklage. I had a rant mentally scripted if he didn’t win that award. It involved a fantasy of him storming the stage à la Kanye West, grabbing the statue from the undeserving winner, and whacking him in the knees à la Tanya Harding with it. What am I talking about? Bah! He wouldn’t à la anything, he’s above aping those cretins. A feral, baritone roar would make the arena quake as he came out swinging a mace in a circle of death above his head, barreling towards the idiot judges who deemed him unworthy of such accolades. If you diss the Dink, you enter a world of pain. 

I have seen him in only a half-dozen performances, but every one has been terrific and completely engaging. His intense gaze, strong features, and mellifluous voice, command attention. Unless it is a prominent feature of the character, it is easy to forget that he is actually a dwarf. Just as I don’t focus on the fact that John Lithgow (another favorite), as an example, is a very tall man; I am riveted solely by his acting. Warwick Davis is a fine actor, but I always am aware of his stature. As for the Dinkster, it is no Napoleon Complex; this man is a strong actor with a powerful presence. Without further ado, allow me to bestow upon you a sprinklage of Dinklage:

Look at those penetrating blue eyes. Hmm.

He, um . . . wow. He works out.

Excuse me for a moment. . . . 

*   *   *

 All right! I’m back! Sorry about that momentary interruption. Those hypothetical deserted islands don’t populate themselves. Ahem. Onward.

 Back to my main point: Every show or movie I have seen him in is exponentially more entertaining because of his presence. Ergo, Peter Dinklage makes cinema better. Allow me to present examples to support my claim. 

The Station Agent 

This was the first time I experienced Dinktstacy. It was a subtle movie in ways, and in a lesser actor, the spirit and comedy of it would have been lost on the audience. He didn’t play an immediately likable character; he wanted to be left alone with his thoughts and his trains. Eventually, he became a person with whom the audience could identify. Perhaps it was when he leapt into a ditch to avoid an oncoming vehicle. That scene garnered the biggest laugh, yet, it showed a more fragile side to his stoicism in a very humorous way, and that exterior slowly dissolved as he allowed outsiders into his world. It was completely believable that women were attracted to him. Not only is he handsome, he is also a person we can understand. It took Peter Dinklage to make this movie work as well as it did. Sorry, Warwick. You must stay on your side of the pond. 

Elf  

I had absolutely no idea that the disembodied, menacing voice on the phone was Peter Dinklage. This character was all about his dwarfism and over-compensation, i.e., Napoleon Complex, by being a royal dick. The main character mistaking him for an elf was the ultimate insult that had to be punished with physical violence. This was a very funny movie, but the image of him running with bloodlust vengeance across the conference room table to attack Will Ferrell makes me giggle every time I think about it. That scene pushed the movie to a higher plane for me. 

Game of Thrones 

Really, what needs to be said about this? The series is excellent, but for me, I found myself hoping a Tyrion-less scene would end so that one with him could begin. What better way to introduce such a complex character than showing a close-up of him slovenly swilling wine as he is getting a blowjob from a prostitute? That was a rhetorical question. He upset expectations by revealing the man as the most complex and ethical of the Lannisters. Oh yeah, and his British accent was pitch-perfect. Sorry again, Warwick. You just wouldn’t have been able to pull this one off. 

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride 

I saw this movie on my DVR queue, and was ready to ask the hubby why he recorded that. Then, I saw that Peter Dinklage was in it. No further explanation was needed. It had an interesting supporting cast, but as I got close to halfway into it, I started to wonder why I was watching it. There was nary a Dinker to be found. This movie was a real chin-scratcher, and I felt myself reaching the same level of frustration that I did while I watched Eraserhead. Not even the presence of the two biggest living bad-asses of country music in Dwight Yoakam and Kris Kristofferson could raise me to an acceptable level of enjoyment. I really was ready to hit stop and delete the recording. Then, this appeared:

Okay, we were getting somewhere. He was only in a few scenes, but again, he was my main focus. What a bizarre character he created. I still wasn’t crazy about the movie, but Peter Dinklage did make it worth watching for me. 

Death at a Funeral (American version) 

I haven’t seen the original, British version. I hear it is far better than this one. There really was some funny stuff in it, especially some of the punch lines Chris Rock delivered. However, I see this as a skillful throwaway for Fair Dinkums. His homosexual was not over-the-top. He was very calm as he delivered his blackmail ultimatum. As ridiculous as the premise was, I found myself believing that he would follow through on his threat, albeit in the most genteel fashion. I actually was disappointed when I thought his character croaked. His response as he resurrected while in the coffin made me double over in hysterics. I have to see the original to find out if he played the character the same way. I doubt it; British humor has a different flavor to it. 

I just looked at his IMDB; he has been in a lot of stuff. I want to see everything to further my assertion, thus proving my theory that: A Sprinklage of Dinklage Makes Cinema *Sparkle*. I long for the days of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. I could walk to the nearest location, whip out my membership and credit cards, and go on a Dinklagian film fest. Sadly, Redbox does not fully appreciate his sublime Dinktacity. I can’t bring myself to order Netflix. Despite his extensive resume, I won’t commit to ordering at least three items every month. Eventually, I will run out of Dinktation. That would be a Dinktastrophe of epic proportions. 

There is a movie currently in production called Knights of Badassdom. Mr. Dinklage’s character is named Hung. Can you think of three more compelling reasons to see that movie? Great title, great character name, and of course, the Dink-o-matic is starring in it. I am so there when it comes to the theaters.