Friday, December 18, 2009

A Little Piece of Wisdom For Luke Wilson

If you're like me, you are slightly amazed at how fat Luke Wilson's face has gotten. Check him out on the At&t commercials that are on every other second now a days.

Now look at him in Bottle Rocket some fifteen years ago. There's an f word or two in there. Fair warning. But it also contains the finest line in any movie on the subject of water sports. And do you remember when Owen Wilson used to be hilarious? And how exactly did an asshole like Bob get such a nice kitchen? Damn it, I love that movie.

Anywho. . .

My point isn't to pile on Luke Wilson for getting a fat face. In fact, I'm all for fat face pride. We should have a parade, damn it. But it's time someone told Luke that long hair (even the slightly shaggy hair that he has in these commercials) makes your face look even fatter than it is. And I figure that someone should be me.

Look Luke, fat faces are something I know a thing or two about. I am a large man. I currently have about forty (read fifty) pounds I could stand to lose. Now, I think I carry it pretty well. Being tall helps. I'm far from being a Newman or a Charlie Weis. That man is the living, breathing definition of the term "pear shaped chode". And even though I probably joke about my own weight too much (it can border on begging for compliments and that just makes everyone feel uncomfortable), I don't think I'm some weight obsessed, bulimic cheerleader. I'm quite apathetic about it, actually.

But the sucky part about the extra weight that I do have, is that ten (read fifteen) of those forty pounds are in my face. Just like it is with you Luke. And that is total bull crap. It's a genetic screw job that has cursed us both. I know lots of people who have bigger guts than I do but still have skinny faces. It really sucks because when your face gets fat, everything changes. If you see an old friend from high school who has put on a few (and everyone who isn't an obnoxious, overachieving asshole has) it only surprises you if the weight shows in their face. Because that's how you identify people. When a person's face changes, they themselves seem to change. And here's the really crappy part. Let's say I were to actually start eating right. You know, eat food that wasn't ordered, prepared, purchased and consumed all while I sat in my car. And let's say I were to actually exercise regularly enough such that I wouldn't sweat uncontrollably while bowling. If I were to do these very achievable, common sense things then it reasons that I would be able to lose much of the extra weight that bothers me. But the shitty thing is that the last tens pounds I would lose, would be those ten pounds on my fat, sweaty head. And those are the only pounds that I actually care about. Again, genetic screw job. Plain and simple.

The good news is, I have and always will have a full head of hair. So suck on that, bald guys.

My point is, I can authoritatively speak when I declare to you, Luke Wilson, this little nugget of truth. Having longer than normal hair makes your fat face look even fatter than it really is. I can't explain the aesthetics of it, but it's an undeniable fact. Now that's not to say that short hair will hide a fat face. Alec Baldwin can trim it as tight as he wants, he still sporting a big fat face. But the shaggy, long hair definitely makes a bad situation worse.

Don't believe me? Look at Russell Crow. Short hair. Long hair. Fat face either way, but the long hair version definitely seems girthier. More jolly. How about Val Kilmer? Short hair. Long hair. Now, he's forty pounds from being Iceman in either one of those pictures. But the short hair version seems more at peace with his reality.(To be fair, Jim Morrison got pretty fat too. Maybe Val is just really committed to that role. Of course, if we was, he'd dead.)

And that's the thing, Luke. There really isn't any wrong with putting on a few undeniable face pounds. Just look at your buddy Vince Vaughn. Check out how ridiculously skinny his face looks in this clip from Swingers. (Again, f words.) Contrast that skinny young fella with every single movie he's done in the last decade. But it works for him. He doesn't make any futile attempts to distract us from the truth. So trim up the hair, Luke. You can make the fat face look work for you.

But you have to own it.

Look man, we all have The Royal Tenenbaums on DVD. We know you used to be a trim faced, handsome devil. But you're not the Bomber anymore. Time to cut that hair. But this time don't do it while listening to Elliott Smith (brutal scene), because you'll just end up slitting your wrists. Again. It's unavoidable really. Beautiful music, but man Elliott Smith is a downer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

That Fat Fat Beagle.

I've written about Coco before. She was the morbidly obese beagle that my brothers and I had growing up. Last week, I was rummaging around a box of VHS tapes in my parent's basement looking for a particular home movie from a million years ago and I found this little beauty. This is a video my brother Cam and I made that we called "Pud's Greatest Hits". Basically it's our fat dog walking around set to the music of Queen and The Beatles.

I thought I'd throw this baby up on Youtube. This is a viral sensation waiting to happen! Right? Hey, if it's a hit, I can go to the Youtube convention and meet the "Leave Britney Alone" guy, the drugged out kid leaving the dentist and the news lady that fell smashing grapes. One can only dream.

It was cut together with two VCR's in 1995. So it's quite choppy. But it does capture the essence of the finest dog to ever live. ( I realize by saying that, I'm indirectly insulting your dog. Sorry. But Coco really is better. Live with it.)


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The #9 Thing That Just Needs To Go Away

About a month ago I spewed out a mishmash of whining I called "Things that just need to go away." I figured I'd go back and turn this into an ongoing feature. After all, what's the use of having a blog if you can't use it to bitch about trivial crap? Right?

Now, these are things that I don't necessarily hate. They have just run their course and they need to politely go away. You're done. It's over. You had your time. But it's time to leave.

So, if you'll indulge me, I now happily continue the list of things that just need to go away.

#9 - Commercials with chirpy, happy indie music that features cutesy poo female vocals.

Let me illustrate what exactly I'm talking about.

Wow. Toyota is really laying it on thick here. It's pretty clear, they aren't trying to appeal to anyone outside of their loyal customer base with this sucker. No F150 driving good old boy is going to be sold on the virtues of a hybrid with babies dressed like bumble bees and flowers that bloom as the Prius drives by. That A Capella female chorus is so pleasant and yet so unnerving. It's hard to put my finger on why exactly I dislike it. It features nice voices singing a pretty little tune
in perfect harmony. It's relentlessly upbeat. And as much as it irritates me, it beats most music featured in commercials. For one thing, it isn't by the Black Eyed Peas. That's a huge plus right there. Sure it's cheesy, but that's not why I don't like it. I like lots of cheesy music.

But for some reason, this song makes my skin crawl.

I think this kind of music is a little like drinking Tampico fruit punch. You know the stuff. Sold in one gallon milk jugs for a buck and enjoyed at little league soccer halftimes all across our great land. And it tastes good. Which is to say it tastes as good as sugar and red die can taste. But there's no depth to it. It's so damn sweet that after half a cup, your throat starts to sting and you have the shakes. Such is our happy female glee chorus. Upon first gulp, it's enjoyable. And you think you really like it. But after a thirty second ad, your done with it for the rest of the week. But it's not done with you. You can't make it through an episode of "Community" without being assaulted by its ferocious sprightliness three or four times. Soon, its chipper enthusiasm breaks down your resistance causing your brains to melt and drip out of your ear and onto your couch cushion.

Now this wouldn't be a big deal if this kind of hipster, sing songy, music box schlock was limited to Prius ads. But these damn things are everywhere. Target. Amazon. Motorola. Apple (of course). Even Lagoon has jumped on this trend. I couldn't find the commercial, but picture that song played over slow motion shots of smiling children on Jet Star II. (By the way. That girl is a poster child for the "Utah girl" look.) Lagoon?! The place synonymous among all Utahns with
rat tails from Magna, the smell of axle grease, fat women wearing tank tops and the biggest carp on the planet? (I said carp.) There is a beer can floating in the moat around the Tidal Wave that has been there since the 70's. It's a pull top for hell sakes! They stopped making those before I was born. And I'm old! But when I went to Lagoon this summer, there it was, bobbing up and down amongst those mutant carp underneath the fake pirate ship.

But I guess Lagoon gets to be all hip and cool too.

I blame this all on Juno. In fact, my feelings about this music are identical to how I feel about that movie. It's appeal is obvious but limited. And when it overstays its welcome, it turns annoying fast. Now that I think of it, there are two other commercials that feature remixed Juno songs that totally fit this category. So let's throw those on the heap. This thing and this thing also need to go the hell away.

Now don't dismiss this criticism as some kind of chauvinist display of testosterone on my part. Some sort of "if it ain't Metallica, it sucks!" kind of thing. I have quite a love of happy, poppy music. Again, I don't hate these particular songs. But I have a very low tolerance for it. I am, however, all for that childish sounding, bouncy piano. Check out this song by The Zombies circa 1968. A Rose For Emily. Love that song. You want one with a female vocalist? How about More Adventurous by Rilo Kiley? That's a damn fine song. So it isn't that I reject all happy, girly music out right.

But I stand by statement that these damn commercials need to just go the hell away.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"What Is It You Really Want?"

"Real estate."

A Charlie Brown Christmas. We've all seen it. But it's possible that you haven't really watched it in a few years. Maybe ever. I, like most people, associate this little gem with the background noise of the holiday season. There are a few clips that are immortal. Charlie Brown's sad little tree. Linus' recital of Luke. The cheesy looped dancing. And that dreary but somehow joyful jazz theme. The fact that kids waving their hands somehow transforms a tree. And doesn't Charlie Brown's bald head look incredibly cold under that hat? But I realize that this special has been reduced to shortened clips and highlights and it really is a shame.

It deserves to be appreciated in its entirety.

There are two main elements that set this cartoon apart. One is Vince Guaraldi's music. "Christmas Time is Here" is strangely melancholy. You would think a children’s choir singing about Christmas would sound all chipper and happy but this song has a beautifully sad tone. And to be honest, there always seems to be a hint of sadness to Christmas. Whether it's that another year has gone by and not much has changed or it's the cold dark weather. I don't know, but this song captures it perfectly. It makes me want to walk slowly with my head down. (Hey, where the f*%k are my hard-boiled eggs?)

The other defining characteristic is the voice acting. The director Bill Melendez went against the wishes of Warner Brothers studio and cast actual children to read the parts. The studio also wanted a laugh track, which would have ruined the whole thing. Many of the children were too young to read and had to be fed their lines in short increments. You can often hear where they have cut and pasted together different takes into one line of dialogue. Especially with Sally. But you can't recreate that childish cadence without using an actual five year old. But it is these obvious flaws that give this TV special has an undeniable creditability. The seven year old voice of Christopher Shea gives Linus the perfect tone as he recites from the New Testament. He isn't preachy or sanctimonious. Only heartfelt and deeply sincere.

When something becomes iconic (and this most certainly is), it's value and depth can lose a part of its initial impact. It runs the risk of becoming cliche. Because of this and the fact that it's a children's cartoon, it's easy to overlook something as profound as A Charlie Brown Christmas.

That's right, I said profound.

I may be overstating it, but I can't think of another well known piece of culture that better illustrates the conflict between materialism and Christianity that is inherent with the Christmas holiday. It's a bit of a strange paradox to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, (born not so subtly in a stable) by buying a bunch tacky crap (symbolized in "Charlie Brown" beautifully by the fake Christmas trees). This special features a wonderful blend of anti consumerism and heartfelt religion. Those two things aren't associated with each other as much as they should be.

Maybe there is another TV Special or book or movie that captures that conflict as well. But I can't think of it. "A Christmas Carol", "It's A Wonderful Life" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the Chuck Jones cartoon, not that Jim Carrey abomination) all illustrate the perils of consumerism. But they don't directly reference Christ. In fact I can't think of a more articulate depiction of the hollowness of materialism (a pretty broad and well covered idea) than "A Charlie Brown's Christmas". Again, I'm sure there are better works of art that illustrate this theme more effectively. But there's something about this 25 minute, simple, little cartoon that just nails it for me.

Charlie Brown feels bad. But he doesn't know why. He is surrounded by the self centered (Santa, just send money. Tens and twenties.) and the culturally uncouth (Beethoven was indeed never on bubble gum cards). Of course, they are children. So we should probably cut them some slack. Still, he feels alienated and disconnected. He then sees himself in a sad little twig of a tree only for the tree (him) to be rejected by everyone else. Linus then quotes Luke (notice how he drops his security blanket when he says "fear not") centering the meaning of the holiday season on Christ and His grace. Charlie Brown then sees the value in the little tree (again, himself) and with a renewed self confidence he tries to improve it. But he fails. It is the new found selflessness of his friends and, dare I say it, the grace of God that ultimately transforms the tree from a bare lonely stick to a glorious Christmas Tree. It's very simple. But it gets me.

(Did I just equate a bunch of kids waving their arms around a tree to the grace of God? I think I did. I'm going with it.)

So here it is, in all its glory. Take a little time and watch it as if you have never seen it before. I promise, you'll come away with some new insight.

a charlie brown christmas

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Charlie Blog

About a year ago, three friends of mine embarked upon an intercontinental adventure of high altitude endurance, Chinese border intrigue, yak butter, Pakistani telemarketers and some dick named Kyle. Spencer, Breckan and Charlie have spent the better part of the last year biking from Thailand through Western China and into Pakistan. And no, they are not those idiot journalism students that were imprisoned by the Iranian government.

Spencer and Breckan returned back to Utah a few months ago but Charlie had some more biking to do. He stayed back to venture into Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and a couple of other countries I have no idea how to spell on his own. Part of me is jealous of their massive balls. (Quite literally in the case of Charlie.) And I think to myself, "Man, I should have tagged along." Then I lose my breath while casually walk up a flight of stairs and am reminded of my perpetual state of pussiness.

I wouldn't have lasted a week.

I have posted a few links to Spencer's account of this epic tail. But I really wanted to relay this incredible story of Charlie's. The following are excerpts from his blog that recount a scary, crazy and down right amazing chain of events that happened to him over the last month or so. I have compiled this from several of his blog posts. It's a little long but it is such an interesting read, it really flies right by. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be impressed by it. It beats wasting your time reading about churros, that's for sure.

I've trimmed it down a little bit but I kept most of the crazy details that illustrate just how foreign this part of the world is. Be sure to stick with it to the end.

When this incident occurs, Charlie had biked solo from Pakistan around the Caspian Sea to the former Soviet State of Georgia on his way to Turkey where he planned to meet up with his brother. This is where our tale begins. Enjoy.

(Taken from a post on Charlie's Blog. October 13, 2009.)

I got hit by a drunk driver in Tblisi, Georgia driving a black BMW, license plate “KKK 779”. The girl, my bike, and myself are all mostly ok.

When I got to Tbilisi a few weeks ago I saw a flier hanging on the cork board of an English book store listing the time and meeting place for the Mormon church. I’m a Mormon and I hadn’t seen a Mormon church since Bangkok, so I decided to go. At church I met this girl Armine (pronounced ar mee nay) who speaks English really well, so we hung out and she showed me around town. She’s Armenian, but has lived in Georgia her whole life.


20 km from the Turkey border is a town called Akhaltsikhe, Georgia. We ate dinner Saturday night and were on my bike back to the hotel. Armine was standing on the back of my bike like a skateboard when the BMW slammed right into the back of us. The crotch of my pants blew wide open to my knees, on both legs, though I didn’t realize this until about 20 minutes later.

Everything happened really quickly and really slowly at the same time. There was a really loud ‘POP’ and I thought “nuts, you’ve got to be kidding me?” It felt like my bike popped a wheelie, which would be really hard for a bike as long as mine. Maybe it happened, I don’t know. It felt like I flew through the air for a long time. Like in comic books when the super heroes are fighting or going really fast and the artists don’t paint the background, instead they paint red and black zebra stripes or swirling backgrounds with lots of colors, that’s what it felt like. Then I hit the ground and started sliding. It felt like I slid forever.

I kept thinking “when am I going to stop sliding?”

When the car hit my bike, it lurched forward. Because Armine was standing, she flew onto the hood. It took a second for the driver, who was drunk, and to whom I will refer to as ‘Bad Guy’ for the rest of my story, to stop.

I stopped sliding and looked up just as Armine flew from the hood of the car. After we were hit, Bad Guy swerved just enough to the left so that he didn’t run me over. He stopped just in time so that when Armine landed she didn’t fly into any parked cars.

Thanks, Bad Guy.

I immediately jumped up and started running towards the car screaming every bad word Spencer ever taught me. Bad Guy was starting to drive away, and because I felt fine, I figured Armine would be fine also. So I tried to stop him from getting away. I pounded on the drivers side window yelling ‘stop you *#*@*#@*, what the #@*#*@ is @*##&@ wrong with you, you @&*# piece of @*#&#’ and so on and so on. Mom, I’m glad you didn’t hear me.

I opened Bad Guy’s door and started punching him in the face screaming at him. I pulled him into the street and kicked him in the side a few times before hitting his face some more. He was choking on his blood saying things I didn’t understand. I think he was talking bad about my mom, so I just kept laying into him. When he wasn’t breathing anymore I. . .

OK, not really. This is what really happened:

Bad Guy stopped his car when I started yelling and pounding on his passenger side window. I think everybody who was standing around stopped. Armine later told me that she was feeling confused and really dazed and the only coherent thing she could make out was my incoherent screaming. Bad Guy stopped long enough for me to jump in front of his car. Once in the front I was slamming my hands onto the hood and yelling and pointing at him. His bloodshot drunk eyes locked onto mine, and he started to turn to the right and hit the gas. Bad Guy already ran me over once in the last 30 seconds, so I got out of the way so he couldn’t do it again. But I saw his plate: KKK 779.


I ran back to Armine and she was standing up with people around her. I just kept screaming the license plate number and that someone should call the cops or something or anything. It was so frustrating because nobody could understand me and everyone was just standing around. Armine was scared but she wasn’t bleeding anywhere really so the people standing around took her into the hotel.

The hotel people said they called an ambulance and Armine wasn’t into it. She thought she was fine. I had been running around so much that I must have been fine. I sat down and looked at my ankle.

I had been limping while outside, but didn’t even stop to look at it. I then saw that my right hand was really bloody and swollen and filled with gravel. This was the hand I pounded on Bad Guy’s car with, which probably didn’t help my hand at all. An ambulance came and decided they wanted to take us to the hospital. The ambulance was a marshrutka, which is essentially a van. This van was gutted and Armine and I sat on wooden benches that ran down the sides of the vehicle. The road was incredibly bumpy and the ride was very uncomfortable, but only lasted about 4 minutes.

We got to the hospital and I immediately regretted not bringing my camera. I knew the situation was very serious, but I couldn’t help but notice how strange this whole experience was.

The hospital was a Soviet era building. It was very drab and cold. Every room and every hallway had a single 35 watt bulb dangling from a wire, centrally located and visibly retrofitted. Nobody had given me any sort of crutches and at this point I couldn’t walk on my left leg anymore, so I had to hop everywhere. And everywhere I hopped I was followed. Not just by staff who were there to look after me, but by everybody in the hospital, which was about 15 or so people.

We went into an examination room and sat down. They started asking us questions: name, birthdate, address, etc…. Armine translated for me. I was a little nervous because we had already taken an ambulance ride, and I wasn’t sure what the cost was going to be. I’m an unemployed American, I don’t have any health insurance.

A couple of minutes later the doctor sauntered into the room….smoking a cigarette. I don’t ever think smoking is cool, nor have I ever thought anyone smoking a cigarette looked cool. But this doctor looked cool. Ignoring the fact that he was the one who was going to give us the care we needed, I was amused. He didn’t speak very much at all and when he did he didn’t take the cigarette out of his mouth, he just let it dangle between his lips. The brashness of his attitude was oddly cool, for some reason. And I realize I just used the word ‘cool’ too many times, but that is the best description I could come up with for my ‘doctor’.

Once the paperwork was finished they told me to get onto the examination bed and he looked at my ankle. They phoned the lady who runs the x-ray machine, she was at home, and then started cleaning up the blood from my hand. Then we just waited. Armine tried telling the doctor where she was hurt and he said “You look fine, besides, I need to fix the American first or we’ll never get into NATO….”

A 90 pound nurse came with a wheelchair to take me to the x-ray room. Every doorway has a 2 or 3 inch threshold and the men stood watching as this tiny nurse put everything she had into getting me through the doorway. Armine was doing a good job translating, her English is excellent, but there was so much going on and so many people coming into and out of the room, to gawk, that she was being asked millions of questions and couldn’t translate everything for me. So when they put me in the wheelchair, I had no idea where we were going.

When they opened the door for us to go into the hallway there were at least 15 people huddled around the doorway to look at me. I’ve never before been a pregnant woman, but I could only imagine what it would feel like to be wheeled out of a hospital room with a newborn in your arms to a huge crowd of relatives, everyone craning their necks to get a slightly better view. It’s exactly how I felt. I just waved.

The x-ray machine was down several very long, dark and cold hallways. It was about 11 pm and the place was empty.

The machine itself looked like it was out of a WW II movie. Large steel tubes painted in a cream color with a very uncomfortable table for me to sit on. They gave me no lead blankets to cover myself with when they x-rayed me. But the nurses jumped behind a large shield.

We got back to the examination room and the doctor said that my ankle was not broken. I laid down on the table and just stared at the ceiling in frustration. The next thing I knew, the doctor put a cast on my leg. A cast. ????? While we sat there waiting for the cast to dry several nurses kept coming and going. They all kept talking and laughing. The only word I could make out, which was said everytime anyone spoke was: velosiped – bicycle.

While the cast was drying two guys walked in. Bad Guys friends or cousins or uncles or something I’m not sure. Everyone is related in these towns. The cops had already caught Bad Guy. These two guys asked us to not take this to the police, Bad Guy was scared of going to jail, and they would just pay us whatever we needed.

I said (with Armine translating) “why should I believe he’s going to pay?”
“Oh, well, it’s a very strong tradition with Georgian men to be honorable. If we say we’ll pay, we’ll pay.”
“Your friend ran into us and drove away….how is that being honorable?”
“Oh, well, he was very drunk and he thought he killed one of you, so he was scared because he didn’t want to get into trouble, so that is why he drove away…”. Armine wasn’t really into talking to these guys so she told them to get lost and they started getting angry. As if them getting angry would help us change our minds.

A police man came and asked us some questions and then said he would get an official interpreter for my statement, because I was friends with Armine they needed a third party. So he would get my statement the next day.

The hospital then gave us the bill, $50, and told us we could go. Armine asked “why should I pay anything, you haven’t done anything for me?” So they sat her up on the table and cleaned her road rash. And that was all they did for her. She asked for some pain medicine because her head hurt.
“Oh, the doctor has left and I can’t tell you to take anything without asking the doctor.”
“Ok, I’ll just get something at the hotel.”
“Oh, yes. Just take anything…”.

I went to bed that night very frustrated. The police had taken my bike to their station as evidence, so I couldn’t inspect it. I did know that the rear wheel still spun freely and it didn’t look like the frame was at all damaged. But I just didn’t know what was going to happen.

Two hours before Bad Guy hit us I had spoken with my brother, Ben, on the phone. We were supposed to be meeting in Turkey in 4 days. FOUR DAYS. He bought himself a bike and we were going to ride through Turkey together for 2 weeks. I was so excited. 20 kilometers from Turkey, 4 days from seeing my brother. Now this.

For three weeks now I’ve had a round trip plane ticket from Istanbul to Las Vegas for the month of November. My little sister is getting married after Thanksgiving. She got engaged about a month ago and it’s my little sister, so I’m not going to miss the wedding. But I didn’t feel done with my trip so I bought the round kind of ticket. I’ll get back to Turkey early December and spend some more time there before heading south into Syria and Jordan. That’s been my plan. But when I fell asleep that night I didn’t know what would happen with my brother or Armine’s injuires, or the rest of my trip, or my ankle, or anything. I still don’t know what is going to happen with most of these things.

(Taken from a post on Charlie's blog. October 15, 2009.)

The police were supposed to come to the hotel at 10 am to get our official statements. They didn’t come until noon. The police station was only about 150 yards up the street, but I didn’t have my bike, and neither of us could walk. We could both hobble ok, but 150 yards was too far. Never in my life have I had to consider taking a taxi 150 yards.

Bad Guy and his uncles came to the hotel to see us, twice. Both times we told reception we didn’t want to see them. I later found out he brought us a chicken. But we never saw this alleged chicken.

The cops showed up and drove us to the station. Armine’s foot was hurting now and she was limping. I was limping. And neither of us had crutches. All the hotel staff just laughed when they saw us trying to move around. We were quite pathetic. I couldn’t help her at all, and she couldn’t help me, and neither of us could really help ourselves. If anyone did offer help it was always for me. A man would let me put my arm on his shoulder and help me walk down the hall, but nobody ever paid attention to Armine. It drove me crazy. They would offer me help and I would tell them to go help Armine, but they couldn’t understand, or if they did understand they were more interested in helping the American.

Of course the office where we gave our statements was on the second floor, no elevator. When I followed the officer into the office there was another cop gambling online on the computer. He played games on the computer for almost two hours while we were there.

The interpreter, Helen, showed up late. She is Georgian and is the English teacher at the middle school in Akhaltsikhe. So she was really good at asking me my name, where I’m from and what my hobbies are…..Armine did a lot of translating for the translator. I would say something to Helen, and then Helen would look at Armine so Armine could put it into Georgian. But I guess she served the third party stipulation.

The cop made me sign some papers stating that I would tell the truth and if I lied I could be punished and blah blah blah. The papers were all in Georgian, technically written and long, so Armine just summed them up for me. On all of them I wrote “I have not read this….” And then I signed my name. The cop didn’t like it too much, but that’s his problem.

My statement took forever because of the translating. Then Armine had to give her statement. We were there for 3 hours.

My bike was in the room and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. When I got hit I was going in the same direction as the driver, so really he just made me go faster. My bike is a tank and the only thing I’m slightly worried about is that my frame was somewhat bent. But I really don’t think it is. I made a list of things that needed replacing and it came to $208.

After we gave our statements Bad Guy’s uncle came in to talk money with us. Apparently the way it works is we tell him what we want, and if he gives it to us then that’s it. If he won’t give us what we want then it goes to court. Bad Guy is a commando in the military (he was in Iraq last year) and has been in trouble with the law before and really doesn’t want to go to court, so between him and his family they will come up with all the money to cover hospital bills and for my bike. This is what they’re telling us at least. We briefly saw Bad Guy the night before at the hospital. He keeps wearing this “I’m really concerned and sorry” pathetic face. He’s one ugly mope. I’m pretty sure he’s sorrier for what he’s going through than for what we’re going through.

Armine did not call her parents the night of the accident because they would have freaked out. She told them while we were at the police station, and they freaked out. Extended families are all really tight over here. She’s really close with all her aunts and uncles and with her parents cousins and their children and I don’t even know how far it goes. When she calls someone her uncle I ask if he is her mom’s or dad’s brother and she tells me that it is her grandma’s cousin’s grandson or something, I don’t even know. For the 4 hour bus ride back to Tbilisi she got a phone call every 3 minutes from a relative wanting to know if she was ok and when she was going to be home.

When we got to her house she had a few aunts and uncles there, along with her parents and brother. I felt like an idiot. Riding a bike isn’t necessarily risky, but it’s my decision to ride a bike in these places, and getting hit by a car is always a possibility. But Armine never made the decision to ride a bike; I was just giving her a ride. So it’s not fair that she got hurt too. Sure it wasn’t my fault, Bad Guy didn’t have his lights on and he was drunk. But I can’t help but feel responsible for Armine. Her family has been really nice about it, but I feel horrible that she’s hurt.

They’ve offered to let me stay at their house, since I can’t walk. They’re taking very good care of me. I asked Armine if I could have some orange juice. She texted her mom, who was out running errands and asked her to bring some home. Then her mom, her dad and her brother all came home with different brands of orange juice, in case I didn’t like one of the brands.

Armine’s brother, who is 21, wasn’t ok with the fact that Bad Guy just said he would pay. I didn’t really believe him either. So Varazdat got on the phone and got a hold of Bad Guy’s uncle, then his commander in the military and Bad Guy himself. He yelled at every single one of them. “If there is anything wrong with my sister…” “If you try not paying….” “If you don’t get that bike fixed….” And on and on.

It was cool.

My brother is able to change his ticket, with a fee. He’s not going to come out in 3 days….I won’t be there. But he’s going to try and come out and ride with me in December or January. It’s going to cost a little bit of money, but it will work out.

Bad Guy got hit with a $750 fine and his car taken away. I don’t know if anything else will happen to him or not. He’s really scared that I’m an American. Armine’s brother told him I have connections at the embassy.

I cut my cast off halfway through the night. It was hurting and I didn’t want it on anymore.

(Taken from a post on Charlie's blog. October 19, 2009)

Monday morning we went to another doctor, for a second opinion for me and for a first opinion for Armine. They did an ultra-sound on Armine. I’m not sure what they ultra-sounded, I wasn’t allowed in the room. Then they did an ultra-sound on my ankle, and told me there was a lot of blood around my ankle. The technician lady gave me a prescription for some kind of gel that I would put on my ankle which would help the swelling go down. My whole foot was really swollen at this point. We’d spent the whole previous day at the police station and in a bus, so I never got a chance to lie down.

We went into another room and they did a bunch of tests on Armine, she was having bad headaches, so they were checking her balance and how well she could focus her eyes, etc.

Armine’s mom paid for all this and kept the receipt to give to Bad Guy. And then we hopped to the radiology building. They told me it was about 100 meters, which is about a football field. I still have no crutches….still. The doctor we visited first didn’t have any and didn’t know where we could get some. I’d been hopping on one leg for some time now. I had Armine’s grandmother’s cane with me, but it just isn’t as helpful as crutches. I didn’t want to get a taxi for 100 m, so I hopped. I hopped for a long time before we realized the building was further than we thought. So we ended up getting a taxi anyway. My right leg was killing me from all the hopping, and everyone we passed stopped and stared.

We got to the x-ray building and the machine was on the second floor, no elevator. We both got x-rayed and had to wait an hour for them to develop. Armine’s mom walked around the whole time looking, unsuccessfully, for some friggin' crutches. While we were at the x-ray place Bad Guy showed up with his cousin (a girl), and two buddies. Varazdat, Armine’s brother, knew Bad Guy was bringing friends, so he came with two of his buddies. Armine hoped a fight wouldn’t break out. I did. This time I had a cane and Bad Guy wasn’t driving car, so I would have the upper hand.

The x-rays were finally given to us but the doctor to look at the x-rays was in a different building. So I hopped another 100 meters to a different building, with 10 people in tow, down 3 flights of stairs to the basement. I hopped into a doctor’s office and he looked at my x-ray. He said it wasn’t broken but then started to prepare a cast. I wasn’t cool with this. I had Armine ask a bunch of questions, but the doctor just shrugged them off. It was odd that the doctor wasn’t consulting; he was making his own decisions and just doing it.

But now with the cast, I can’t put spread on the prescription gel to help with the swelling. The gel the first doctor told me to get. There isn’t any communication between these doctor’s. So one will tell you one thing and another will tell you another and I guess I just have to pick which one I’ll listen to

The other doctor then looked at Armine’s x-ray, which showed that one of the discs in her spine didn’t look right. He told her to get an MRI. I sat outside the doctors office with Varazdat and his buddies and Bad Guy and his buddies while Armine went and got an MRI. The results wouldn’t come back for another day.

Bad Guy paid for the x-ray’s and was given receipts for everything else.

All Armine and I do all day is lay around. I keep watching this Argentinean soap opera which is dubbed into Georgian. Every 15 minutes Armine brings me up to speed on what is going on: “This girl is crying because her husband’s previously lost at sea wife just came back and he is still in love with her. But the lost at sea wife was having an affair with some other guy before she disappeared and she loves them both. Then some other woman is hiding from the police in a basement because she was having an affair with her sisters husband, who then framed her sister by killing her husband. And then this guy got run over by a car by some woman because he was cheating on her, and now his legs have to be amputated….” It’s great.

And one night a TV show came on and it was the Georgian version of Friends. It took me about 2 seconds to say ‘wait a minute, what is this?’ The set is almost identical, though the coffee shop is called ‘coffee house’ not ‘central perk’. Georgian Ross is fat.

Ben has changed his ticket and will now ride through Turkey with me after Christmas.

My ankle feels like it’s doing better. I don’t ever put weight on it and it only hurts if I put weight on it, so I’m not feeling any pain. I’m very anxious for some type of conclusion to Armine’s MRI. I wish she didn’t have to deal with this.

All things considered, we’re both terribly lucky. I’m lucky that I have such nice people willing to look after me and that I’m not stuck in some hotel in the middle of nowhere by myself. And we’re both lucky that we more or less walked away from it. When we were in one of the hospital’s the other day they wheeled some guy in who had two huge black eyes, cuts all over his face and wasn’t breathing on his own. That could easily be both Armine and myself in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia.

I’m going to go watch more soap opera’s.

(Taken from a post on Charlie's blog. November 1, 2009.)

I'm not sure why I didn't write about this earlier. Maybe because it isn't my story. Maybe because there was, at the time, a lot of uncertainty. But I'm feeling a lot better about all of it now.


She's not doing so good. Ok she can walk and talk and she seems fine, but she's not doing so good. When the drunk driver hit us and she flew onto his hood and then onto the ground, she hurt her neck. The next day she kept complaining about neck soreness, and I, being the patient understanding person that I am, kept telling her it was just some type of whiplash and to quit whining.

The x-ray's of her neck looked funky, so she got an MRI. Armine has a tumor the size of a ping pong ball in her neck at the 2nd vertebrae right up against her spine. The doctor's think it has been there for a few years, growing slowly. The type of tumor, the shape, etc. make the doctors think that it is most likely benign. But it needs to come out. But it's right up against her spine, which means it doesn't just 'come out'. It's not an emergency, it's been there for awhile, but getting hit by the car moved things around enough that it's hitting the nerves running through her spine and isn't very comfy.

I'm not really satisfied with the medical help I've been given in Georgia, and I have a sprained ankle. When Armine gave birth 6 years ago she nearly died because the doctor left part of the placenta inside her. Having this operation done in Georgia isn't even an option, it would be a paralysis or a death wish. Going outside is too much money. Her family gets by, but a flight and then spinal surgery? No way.

There's a Mormon Missionary couple here in Georgia. An older guy with his wife. This guy has a nephew in the US who just happens to be a world renowned neurosurgeon. He travels the world giving lectures and instructing other surgeons on how to perform certain operations. This missionary sent a picture of the MRI's to his nephew who confirmed everything the doctors in Georgia are saying. He added that this operation shouldn't be done in Georgia. (Of course.) The US, Japan, and Germany are about the only places on the planet that could pull it off. Then he said "I could probably get a group of surgeons here to do it gratis. And I could probably get a foundation to cover the hospital bills."

Everything started feeling better when we heard that there was a possibility to have the surgery done in a safe place. The missionary in Georgia then offered up some frequent flier miles to get her to San Antonio and back. All she needed was a visa.

The United States' policy is to assume that every foreigner (excluding the EU and a handful of other places) entering the US is doing so to immigrate. So it is the responsibility of the applicant to prove otherwise. Armine is a 23 year old single mother and works as a nanny. She makes enough for what she needs, but it isn't like she has huge financial incentives to come back to Georgia. Getting this visa was very stressful. Her and I spent a week filling out forms, calling friends/employers, etc. asking for letters of reference and putting everything together. She was a nervous wreck. We had absolutely no Plan B if she were to be denied this visa. Go to Russia maybe and look for a doctor there? But the cost would have been too high. It was very literally this or nothing.

I wasn't allowed to go in to the interview with her. It was first thing on a Monday morning. About 1 minute into the interview the US interviewer started reorganizing all the papers saying "I don't see any clear evidence that you'll come back. . ." Armine was scared out of her mind, pulled out the MRI results and showed her the seriousness of her situation. She then pulled out a letter from her boss, who is the vice consul to the British Embassy. And that did it. That letter changed everything. The interviewer left the room to make a phone call. She came back a couple of minutes later and was much warmer and processed the visa.

Armine gets to America on Nov. 7th.

This whole situation was strange. I mean, she would have found this tumor eventually, it's growing in her neck. But she found it at a time when there was a connection to a skilled surgeon in the States who just happened to throw everything together, for free. It's incredible to me how this all worked out.

I'm a religious person. And while I don't like to get all religousy on my blog, I see God's hand in this. It's all been a very moving experience to see the generosity of these men and to see how everything was put into place for her.

Armine is still nervous, the surgery is dangerous, but it will be done by someone who knows what he is doing and she will be very well taken care of. And, she gets to spend her recovery time in Florida with her cousin, who is married to an American and has lived in the states for a few years. Everything is working out.

So I got hit by a drunk driver. My leg will be fine. I'll easily replace the broken parts on my bike. And Armine is getting the tumor taken out of her neck. Crazy.

Good luck, Armine.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Question: What's The Only Thing More Vain Than A Self Commissioned Portrait Of Yourself As A Centaur?

Answer: TWO self commissioned portraits of yourself as a centaur hanging above your bed. Two self commissioned portraits of yourself as a centaur hanging above your bed!? In case you have ever questioned that instinct we all have inside of us to hate Alex Rodriguez, he has given us all rock solid confirmation that he is in fact a douchy, ego maniacal, quasi homosexual jaggoff.


Is this not reason enough to hate the filthy Yankees?

I read it on the internet so it has to be true. I mean it's not like some snotty, jilted ex would ever make something up to smear a high profile and thoroughly hatable celebrity and leak it to US Weekly. But you know, I really don't care if it is bull crap. I choose to believe it. The world is a better place in my mind when Alex Rodriguez's ego is confirmed to be so excessive and creepy that he paid what I imagine to be a sizable amount of money to a portrait artist teary with laughter to create such an abomination. And then do it again!

"Yeah, see the one I already have hanging there? I want it like that but better. No, I'm not replacing it. I'm putting the new one next to it. No, I don't want one to be humping the other. That would be weird. Just the two centaurs would be fine."

This is something you would see in hanging in one of Saddam Hussein's Palace.

It's a fair conclusion to read some homosexual overtones into this. A centaur is a very gay creature. First off, it's Greek. Secondly, it's a shirtless man torso combined with the animal most commonly associated with a huge dong. Now I'm not saying Arod is gay. I'm saying he's gay for himself. He would love nothing more on earth than to bang the hell out of himself. Not in a masturbatorial kind of way. But actually nailing a clone of himself. Of course, if he's going to play make believe than it isn't that much of a leap for him to want to do a centaur version of himself. Or be done by one. I actually have no idea how that would work.

So yeah. Alex Rodriguez is totally gay for himself. And Jeter. Not that there's anything wrong with it. Actually, all due respect to alternative lifestyles, I think it's safe to say that there is indeed something wrong with the centaur thing. It's only slightly more disturbing than banging Madonna or Kate Hudson. (Actually, Kate Hudson is adorable. But her movies are just too terrible. Almost Famous aside. But Madonna is just gross.)

While I'm bagging on one of the few sports figures to rival Kobe Bryant in his shear detestability, here's a link to an article from The Onion that I enjoyed.

F*cking Yankees.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Things That Just Need To Go Away #'s 1-8

Not that it matters much anyways.

Am I alone in thinking that 2009 has been a crappy year? I really don't want to sound like our suicidal, cartoon friend here. But I also don't think I'm being too dour to say that this year has just plain sucked. The economy is still in the toilet. Unemployment is getting worse. Lady Gaga is somehow popular. Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, China, Russia and North Korea are all about to take turns in blowing everyone up. The world is dying of Swine Flu which actually doesn't matter much since we're all apparently doomed to perish in 2012 when the Earth reverses its rotation. Damn Mayans and their curses. I can't listen to TV or the radio for five minutes without hearing the word "Twitter". Glen Beck is a massive hit. As is Kieth Olberman. (What is a reasonable, non-hateful person to do?) And now to drop a crap covered cherry on this turd sundae, the dirty ass Yankees have won the World Series. Mind you, this is only a few months after the dirty ass Lakers won the NBA title. Which happened a couple of months after the dirty ass Utes won the Sugar Bowl.

I need to start drinking. Or freebasing heroin.

But you know, this really isn't anything new. The economy will (eventually) rebound. People lose their jobs but guess what? They get other jobs. And even though there's always some crisis somewhere, the world will survive. It turns out that the Swine Flu is not that big of a deal. And even though the bad guys sometimes win in sports, none of it really matters worth a damn. And if the Mayans knew a damn thing about anything, then there would still be Mayans.

So really, it's all more of the same old nonsense. But friends, I'd rather light a candle than curse the darkness. Certainly one can't expect to recover from an illness without the proper diagnosis. So I am here to play doctor. (Ladies?) I have decided to highlight a few elements of our culture that need to go the hell away. They need to stop. Some may dismiss this is a whiny, trivial bitch fest by an angry Red Sox fan who feels the need to lash out at meaningless irritants in the name of some imaginary greater good in an effort to distract himself from the terrible reality that this purple lip gloss wearing dick hole has a World Series ring. I wouldn't disagree with that statement.

So for your time wasting pleasure, here is a list of things that for the sake of all humanity, just need to go the hell away. You can't deny that life would be a lot more livable without them. Since these are things that often pop into my head (I'm a crabby old coot and I need love), this will be an on going feature. Why have a blog if you're not going to use it to bitch?

#1. Velour sweat pants with stupid things written on the butt.

Ladies, this ain't sassy. It ain't sexy. It's played out. And it was trashy as a herpes scab before it got played out. If your ass is worth looking at, you can trust me, it will be looked at. But don't compel my glance with this misleading, desperate commercial. Juicy? I'll be the judge of that. Pink? Well, that's just down right confusing. It should say, "I wish I was younger than I really am." I realize that's a pretty long slogan. But most of the women I see actually wearing these things in line at Cafe Rio seem have plenty of ad space to sell. They look nothing like our friend up there.

#2. Sports memorabilia that are not in their proper team colors.
Look upon that abomination! It is a hybrid of all that is unholy. A Yankee hat in Lakers colors. It's as if Satan himself birthed a hybrid spawn of concentrated evil straight from his fiery anus. But let's forget my predisposition to hate these two teams. This is just plain merchandising greed. When you wear your team's colors, that is a proud display of your loyalty. It's your identity as a fan. When you commit to a team, you commit to their colors. And confusing that logo with conflicting colors just ain't right. There are three exceptions. Any team merchandise in pink. I don't really like it, but let's make the ladies happy. Red Sox caps in green. It's Bean Town. Irish to the bone. And the Padre's Caps in camo. Camp Pendleton is next door to the Pads and they've been doing it forever.

#3. Kanye West's stupid robot voice.

I don't know Kanye's music. It isn't my taste so I don't care what he sounds like. And I don't really care if he makes an ass out of himself at a make believe awards show. Nor do I care if he hates George Bush. Nor do I care that he is a gay fish. But I seem to hear a lot of unsolicited music (commercials, at parties, basketball games) that feature that stupid robot voice effect. This one. Cher did it a decade ago. As did Kid Rock. So I guess I shouldn't blame it all on Kanye. But my issue with this lazy little device is that it makes it impossible for me to ignore mediocre music. And that's really all I want to do. Your music doesn't have to be good. Just uneventful. But I can't tone that Optimus Prime thing out. It is needlessly antagonistic.

#4. Nancy Pelosi's face.
Have you ever seen Brazil? Weird movie. Look, when a middle aged man has an obvious case of hair plugs, it's hard to take him seriously. Clearly it is a man who was so consumed with his own physical imperfections, that he subjected himself to a painful and futile effort to conceal something that isn't worth hiding in the first place. It is a man that lies to himself every time he looks in the mirror. That is a man I cannot trust. Similarly, when a woman has stretched and botoxed any natural expression away from her face forever, it destroys her credibility. Pelosi does not portray herself as a confident woman of authority. She comes off as an insecure divorcee trying get back in the dating game as she drives her Miada to the 50 and older singles bar. I don't care for her politics in general. But she is so ineffective at persuading anybody to follow her, the more she's in the public light, the more damage she does to the far left political spectrum. That's just fine with me. So I don't want her to go away. I just want her face to go away. Be considerate Nancy. Most people have HD TV's now. Paper bags are cheap.

This request also applies to Jerry Jones.

#5. Those pop up ads that start an audio sales pitch after you have closed them so you can't shut off without closing down your entire browser.

F*ck those things.

#6. The History Channel wasting my time with nonsense about UFO's and Nostradamus.

When the slogan of the show questions if the subject is legitimate history, maybe it should be broadcast on the Alien Bullshit and Ghost Chasers Channel. And yet despite all the deeply relevant and fascinating historical subjects that could be the subject of compelling and challenging programs, the damn History Channel more often than not kills its time chasing Big Foot, validating these idiots and confusing Nostradamus with Alexis De Tocqueville. But every once in a while they do talk about actual history. A few weeks ago they did a week long focus on the Kennedy's. It was fascinating. I ate that stuff up. But too often they cop out. Look, I realize that the History Channel knows what it's doing. They're chasing ratings. It's what a TV station does. This means there's apparently an audience for "Haunted History" and "Monster Quest". I am not among that audience. I wouldn't mind this that much if the Discovery Channel didn't also kill all of its time with fishing, truck driving and logging themed reality shows. Is it too much to ask that I feel a false sense of productivity while I piss away time in front of the TV? Give me interesting infotainment that fools me into thinking I've actually learned something. Then I can repeat what I happen to remember in conversations providing me with the illusion that I am well informed. And all without touching a book. The History Channel is seriously letting me down.

#7. BYU Football.

It's not that I don't love them. I love them so very much. But cheering for this team is like cheering for an insecure 13 year old girl. "You're really good! You just don't know it. If you just believed in yourself, you'd be so successful! Oh no. Please don't cry. No no no no. You're just so talented and smart and pretty. And the boys think you're cute. They really do. But you just don't see it." A team this talented and experienced should get better and better as the season goes on. But when they get punched in the face, they collapse into the fetal position every time. They still haven't recovered from that damn TCU game last year. Look, I have a whole lifetime of self induced failure to reflect upon. I don't need to see the same insecure sabotage displayed every week in my football team. Life's too short.

#8. Mac v PC commercials.

Apple has certainly done an exceptional job branding it's product over the years. And generally I like Justin Long. He was great as the likable, supportive boyfriend in Drag Me To Hell. (Awesome movie, by the way.) But these stupid ads have just become smarmy. It's not that it bags on Microsoft. I don't care if they do. But it's done in such a passive aggressive, smug way. I think it's the cutesy poo piano in that background that puts it over the top for me. This viciously negative slam combined with such childlike music is like the really friendly traffic cop that smiles while he jams you up with bullshit ticket. I don't have any kind of loyalty toward Microsoft (no real complaints either) but these ads make me defensive of Windows. Also, the commercial above is total bullcrap. Only those square, uptight PC's have failed in hilarious dated ways in the past as portrayed by the Daily Show guys ugly suits. Really Apple? What about this massive failure? Or this. Take a look at this monstrosity . As successful as it was tell me that doesn't scream "late nineties" louder than Pokemon and The Spice Girls.

Also Apple, would it kill you to put a right click button on your mouse?

Alright. You know, I actually feel slightly better having gotten that all off my chest. Thank you for humoring me. I'm sure there's more stupid things that would do the world a favor by vanishing. But nothing else is coming to mind. Sadly, complaining about annoying trivial bull crap really does make me feel good. That doesn't reflect anything too flattering about my true nature.

Oh well. I gotta be me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

OOOHHHH!! Now I get it!

The hooker picture will makes sense in a few paragraphs. Just go with me for a second.

A million years ago, probably about 1988, my cousins from my dad's side came to town from Arizona for the biannual Westenskow family reunion. It was the end of July in Utah. Hot as hell. Of course, it was quite temperate for our Arizona friends but that's beside the point. We decided that it was the right time to exercise our duty as a Mormon family in Salt Lake with more than nine kids (it was a total of 11 with the Whitmers and us) and camp out on State Street to get a great spot to enjoy the 24th of July parade. It is a rite of passage for all of the proud decedents of pioneer stock. We show our appreciation of the gut wrenching sacrifice of our ancestors by sleeping on an air mattress, waving at marathon runners and then watching a float that features Dick Norse slowly drive by.

Now I can think of few things on this planet less interesting than parades. Unless it features the members of the Utah Jazz and we are all celebrating the 2010 NBA Championship (This is the year, right? No?) then I have exactly zero desire to watch a parade on TV. Much less watching it in person on a hot ass July day. Much less investing a sleepless night to get "great seats" to watch it in person on a hot ass July day.

However, that was one damn fun night. I was about nine or ten years old and I had a cousin that was just a year older than me named Westen. (For the record, his Mom is a Westenskow, hence the name.) For all intents and purposes, we were the same age. And we had a great time just screwing around. We went by all the local fast food places that were open all night and grabbed all the sugar and salt packets and made a huge pile of powdered condiments in the gutter. That thing was the size of a traffic cone. When your nine, this constitutes a good time. We actually pretended it was cocaine and that we were going chop it up to get it ready for distribution. We had Scarface accents and everything, even though neither of us had seen that movie. It was the 80's, man. A time when couple of lilly white Mormon kids playing "Drug Dealer" in the streets while waiting for a Pioneer themed parade just didn't seem that weird.

There's a reason I bring this up. Have you ever had a moment in your life where something happened and for some reason, you weren't completely aware of the moment's complete significance. But a few years later, the full impact dawns on you in a dramatic "Oh duh!" kind of epiphany? Let me illustrate what I'm saying.

As my cousin Westen and I were stealing and then wasting sweetener packets from Arctic Circle, I remember a car full guys pulled up in some beat up muscle car and started talking to some lady that was standing on the corner. Now, State Street isn't the best part of town. It's littered with pawn shops and crappy used car lots. But that's the parade route. It's always been the parade route. As a result, that's where the happy families set up their sleeping bags. Hookers or not. Yeah, I specifically remember the lady getting into the car. And I thought it was a little strange. But didn't think twice about it the rest of the night. I crashed about 5:00 that morning in a sleeping bag on the lawn of a credit union and refused to wake up when the sprinklers came on. I somehow woke up in a corner booth of that Arctic Circle, disoriented and confused. I had slept through the stupid parade. My feelings weren't that hurt.

Probably five or six years later, I was in health class watching some scare tactic, after school special style video about the dangers of drugs. There was a scene that showed a big pile of what was supposed to be cocaine. That triggered my memory of my night on the mean streets, pushing dope with my cous. It then dawned on me like a revelation from above. "That was a hooker! Holy crap! Those guys picked up a hooker right in front of me. That's crazy." That little insight totally changed my view of that night. It suddenly felt all dangerous and seedy. And I guess that it kind of was.

These sort of realizations seem to happen for me a lot. Mostly with movies. I can think of several movies that I saw ten times when I was a little kid that featured some sort of dirty joke. But it wasn't until I saw it the eleventh time, years later, that I actually got it. Sometimes the question involves a complicated plot point. Or sometimes, it's just a realization that a movie I thought was good, in all actuality totally sucks. It just took me fifteen years to figure it out.

Here's a couple of examples that came to mind. These are all movies that I have seen over and over. They have a achieved regular rotation in the general pop culture lexicon. And yet despite my vivid familiarity with them, they have each hit me with one of those "Oh duh!" moments on the tenth or eleventh viewing.

1. Smoke Up Johnny!

The Breakfast Club. It's a Saturday afternoon standard. Federal law mandates that it will be rerun on some cable channel at least twice a month. And odds are good that if I catch any part of it, I'll probably sit on the couch and finish it off. I've seen some portion of the TV edited version probably over 20 times. But it wasn't until I watched the full version in college that I realized the central plot point. They all got stoned together. That's why they had to sneak to Judd Nelson's locker. That's what was in the bag they shove down Anthony Michael Hall's pants. That's why Molly Ringwald dances in her giant boots and why Emilio Esteves strips down to the tank top. In fact, smoking weed seems to be the moral of the film. If we could all just pass a joint around and talk about our feelings, we'd all get along. We'd realize that the dandruff ridden basket case is really Ally Sheedy in disguise.

"Of course, Brian. What movie have you been watching?"

Hey, it's clear to me now. And yet, somehow the full impact of the marijuana element eluded me. With the combination of my dense naivete and the fact that they edit out any actually smoking of a joint on the TV version, you can see why I would make the mistake. But it still took me twenty one years and probably fifteen viewings to get it. In fact I'm pretty sure when I saw the full version at that one guys house in college, I actually said out loud while I was watching it, "So THAT'S why they all of a sudden like each other." It's a statement whose obviousness is along the same lines as, "So wait a minute, Darth Vader is Luke's father? What? OOOOOHHHHH. Now I get it."

By the way, I saw Vacation probably thirty times (recorded off TV, so also edited) before I figured out that Audry was smoking weed she got from her cousin throughout the second half of the movie. I was pretty ignorant to the weed references. Then I started listening to The Beatles and it all became clear.

2. "I Can't Bare To Watch."

I mentioned Darth Vader earlier, so I might as well go with the segway. Now this isn't so much a revelation as it is a genuine question. What the hell is up with Jabba the Hutt and Princess Leia? Seriously. In Return of The Jedi, just after Leia frees Han from the carbonite and is captured by Jabba (if you think this post just got nerdy, wait till the next movie), the following exchange takes place:

Jabba: Bring her before me!
Leia: (Struggling as she is forced toward Jabba.) We have powerful friends. You're going to regret this.
Jabba: I'm sure. (Suggestively licks his lips)
C3PO: Oh, I can't bare to watch. (Turns away in horror.)

Salacious Crumb, the little rat thing that sits next to Jabba, then laughs nefariously. The next time we see Leia she is sporting the metal bikini slave girl outfit with a defeated, empty look on her face. The look that you would expect to see on the face of a sex crime victim.

Now let's ignore the trans species element for just a second. Let's just pretend that Jabba is a big fat human being. Read that conversation again and tell me if this can be interpreted as anything but an implied rape? A public rape at that? What exactly was it that 3PO couldn't bare to watch? I don't think I'm reading too much into this. I don't think this is my dirty mind filling in the blanks. This is clearly forced sex.

George Lucas, what in the hell? You had your female protagonist get raped? In a movie geared toward kids? The previous movie you had her making out with her brother. And in the movie before that you blew up her entire planet. Now you have her being violated by a giant slug? What the hell did Carrie Fisher ever do to you? Am I weird in being put off by this? There's a rape scene in the same movie in which the fuzzy wuzzy Ewoks dance around a bonfire. It's a bit of a shift in tone. And it isn't just a rape scene, it's an inter species rape with a hoard of gangsters presumably watching. But not 3PO because he's gay. And this then begs the unpleasant question of just how exactly would a thing like Jabba go about . . . yeah, I'm not going to bother finishing that sentence. George Lucas, you are a sick minded soul.

But I do appreciate the Leia slave outfit. Seriously, thank you for that.

Here's my late coming revelation for The Never Ending Story. Actually, this is more of a confirmation of an opinion I had as a kid. The movie doesn't make sense. The ending doesn't work. It confused the hell out of me as a kid and when I rewatched it a few years ago on TV, it still confused me. And it's not unclear in a "interpret it for yourself" kind of way. But in a muddled, incomplete kind of way.

I feel bad trashing a kids' movie. Not because the movie will have its feelings hurt but because it makes me sound like a massive dork. In fact, just for fun, as you read the next two paragraphs, do it with a Comic Book Guy voice in your head. It'll make this a little more tolerable. Here's a sample to get you going. But massively nerdy or not, this confusion needs to be exposed.

(Begin CBG voice.)

Okay. We are to believe that Falcor flies Atreyu to the Childlike Empress' meteor palace even though The Nothing has already consumed Fantasia. They speak of the weird kid reading the book. By the way, I sell replicas of that book in my store. It is a hot item. The child's name is Bastian, which also happens to be the name of my cat. In the real world, the storm breaks the window and Bastian has to give the princess a new name. Strange since this is a previously unmentioned condition. "I can't. I gotta keep my feet on the ground!" He finally yells out his name of choice which is Moon Child. That happens to be the name of my other cat. Oddly enough, they dislike each other immensely. Everything then goes dark. And suddenly Bastian, the real boy, is now talking to the imaginary Childlike Empress face to face. Now are we to believe he was sucked into the book's world a la Tron? Or is this all an elaborate fantasy of the child's? Perhaps. But we the audience do not know. They look at the grain of sand which is all that is left of Fantasia. And Bastion then learns that he needs to use his imagination more. As if THAT'S not a cliche. Next thing we know, Bastion is riding Falcor through a restored Fantasia. Excuse me? Just how did that happen? And look! Atreyu is riding Artex. Apparently the horse did not really die in the Swamp of Sadness. And now there's the Rock Biter on his tricycle and that really fast snail. Even though Fantasia was destroyed, apparently it really wasn't.

And now, Falcor appears in the real world. (Continue with CBG voice.) Excuse me? Just how did that happen? Are we to believe that a full sized Luck Dragon can leap from the pages of a novel? And if it can be done, then why not document such an occurrence in the actual film? Bastian is now riding Falcor through the streets of a city, chasing the bullies into the dumpster. We've got worlds colliding here with no explanation as to what is going on. Worst. Ending. Ever.

Alright, lose the voice. Now maybe all of it is just Bastian using his imagination. So he brings everybody back to life and then pretends to get those damn bullies. But if that's the case we needed a scene at the end, where he's back in reality closing the book and walking home, or something. There's no resolution! It's unclear.

But you know what? Who cares? It doesn't really have to make sense. It's a movie made for a nine year old for hell sakes. They don't care if works. Why should I?

Now watch this and feel good.

4. Stupid Is As Stupid D. . . Ah F*ck It.

Was it weird for anyone else, that Forrest Gump prematurely ejaculated onto to Jenaaaaay's roommate's robe? You know the exact scene I'm talking about. Yeah, that was a creepy moment for me. Sitting in the theater next to my folks back in '94. I'm pretty sure I understood what was happening at the time. Maybe. Actually, I think I was probably a little confused. But I've never been accused of being the sharpest pencil in the drawer.

Don't get me wrong. It's quite a funny scene. And I'm all for a good jizz joke. And Tom Hanks makes it work. The man really is a king. The guy can do no wrong. As main stream as his appeal is, there is virtually no backlash. Who doesn't like Tom Hanks? As an actor and as a person. He's just that good in everything he does. And you know what else? The Man With One Red Shoe was a fine movie, and I won't hear anything to the contrary.

But while I'm talking about Forrest Gump, I feel compelled to discuss some unpleasantness. Have you ever noticed how it's actually a cheap, manipulative movie that gets its mileage by focusing in like a sniper on the most easily exploited and obvious of nostalgic images? Hanks is still great in it. But you may have walked out of that movie in 1994 thinking that it was the greatest illustration of the Boomer generation of all time. When in fact, it's the cinematic equivalent of one of those infomercials for 60's music hosted by an incredibly old looking Davey Jones. But with tons of annoying catch phrases.

Go ahead. Think of five Forrest Gump catch phrases right now. You won't even hesitate to come up with them and that movies is 15 years old. And you also hate those catch phrases and the bad Gump voice that accompanies them.

I'm not going to say that Forrest Gump is a poorly made movie. In fact, its sentimental precision is astounding. It knows exactly what it's doing. It is, however, far from being the great movie it pretends to be. It fools you into thinking it's this stupendous generational achievement because it is an incredibly manipulative collage of iconic moments and images. It doesn't create real connections to well thought out characters. Instead it drops a goofy yet familiar guy into the equivalent of an iconic Life magazine photo. (Now blue screen Forrest carrying a bucket of water down the street, tripping and spilling the water in a hilarious way on the no longer burning monk and saying, "Sorry I ruined your suicide protest.") That's not real storytelling. That's just historical interloping. And then the directer cues "Smile on Your Brother" by the Youngbloods to warm your heart and fog your mind. You feel good. But in the way Snuggle the fabric softener bear makes you feel good. Not because you just saw a profound, honest film.

You know how in Family Guy, they constantly make random, meaningless references to pop culture nostalgia? And then they awkwardly stick Stewie into it? "Hey it's Thundercats but Quagmire is Lionel. There's no joke. There's nothing to get, there's no connection between that cutaway and the rest of the episode, but I remember Thundercats so I feel included in the reference. Ha ha ha." Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But even when it does work, it's still lazy. It's a comedic cheap shot. It isn't generating a real reaction. There's no satirical commentary. It's just nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia.

That is all Forrest Gump is. One giant Family Guy skit with Forrest inserted into it instead of Peter. "Hey, I remember Watergate! It was Forrest that called the cops! Ha ha! Forrest is dancing like Elvis, before Elvis even knew how to do it. And then they see Elvis dancing like Forrest on TV! And oooo, I also know the lyrics to Imagine. But John Lennon said them inadvertently on the Dick Cavet show when Forrest was talking about China! Man, that Forrest did everything. Shit happens! It sure does. And since I am familiar with the references, I'm in on the joke. Brilliant!"

It's not brilliant. It's cheap.

You can still like the movie. I'm not trying to get you to hate it. But once you see through the stereotyped fluff there isn't much left.

One more thing; how the hell was Bubba not considered a horribly racist characature? I'm not big on politically correct enforcement. It just seems that in an era as self righteous and overly sensitive about offending anyone as the 1990's were, Bubba should have at least pissed off Al Sharpton. Instead he became a restaurant franchise. I'm not complaining. It's just strange.

5. You Sending The Wolf?! Sheeyat Negro! That's All You Had To Say.

While I'm railing on the astounding overrated nature of 1994's biggest Oscar winner, I might as well get a little jab at its chief competition. Pulp Fiction is possibly the most definitive film of the 1990's. And yet upon rewatching it a week ago, it didn't feel that dated. Probably because it is immersed in Americana Pop Culture of every decade leading up to it. It's a sort of Swiss Army Knife of zeitgeist. Sure, some of the dialogue feels a little contrived but that's only because conceited, aspiring screenwriters have been ripping of Tarantinospeak for fifteen solid years. As horrific, violent and vulgar as it is, it is one damn cool movie. But here's my revelation that didn't register with me until my most recent viewing last week.

Did Vince and Jules really need the Wolf to come and tell them to clean up the car?

Jules calls Marcellus from Jimmy's house, frantic because he and Vince have dead bits of Marvin all over inside of their car and they're in the Valley with no friendly contacts and Bonnie will be home in about an hour. Marcellus puts his best man on the job and Jules is down right excited to be working with the Wolf. I get it. Winston Wolf is an illustration of the hierarchy of respect among gangsters. He takes control and gets results.

But what exactly does he do? He basically says, "Clean up the car and then change your clothes." That's it. Like they wouldn't have figured that out? Seeing as time was a factor, why would they wait for him to drive across LA to tell them to do the incredibly obvious? What value did he add? It's like paying money to a corporate consultant that tells you customer service is important. Thanks, buddy. It's still a cool scene. Given the greatness of the rest of the film, it's a bit of nit pick. But I thought it was worth bringing up.

Wow. Sometimes I start on what I think is an original and concise idea and it ends up dragging way too long. The thing with blogs is that if it's longer than a few paragraphs people usually give up. One of these days I'll learn that, instead of beating a semi interesting dead horse into the ground. But again, if you're looking to kill time on a slow Monday morning, I hope I helped your cause.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Nice Monday Morning Diversion

Odds are good you're checking this blog at work because you just don't feel like responding to your email inbox that you successfully avoided all weekend. Or you just don't feel like returning that one voicemail. I hear ya. Honestly, I don't know how people ground through an 8 hour work day in the pre internet dark ages. Without, I can't get through lunch. And I don't even have a job right now.

So I thought I would contribute this little gem to the cause of killing time. Perhaps you're already familiar with this website. I'm really not on the edge of online trends, so this could be old news. But I certainly entertained myself for an hour or two sifting through this baby.

The website is called Pretty self explanatory site, really. Just check out that group of badasses on the top of the page teasing us with the seductive and symmetric back pocket pose. Yeah, they may be a nice family but that doesn't mean they can't be sassy. You'll note the blue and white vertically striped Gerbeaus on Nike kid in the middle. I didn't have a pair of those things particular pants back in '91, but I sure wanted them. How much do you want to bet they were listening to the Saturday's Warrior Soundtrack as they drove to the Olen Mills Studio in The University Mall? As sure as the Nike kid has a tag on his crotch, they were. In fact that is a fun game to play. Sift through this site and guess which families are Mormon. Unless my radar is off (and it isn't) there are quite a few.

Though I gotta say was relieved when I first saw this site. None of my direct family is featured. I can think of a couple of extended Westenskow family photos circa 1983 that would definitely qualify. And just about every back to school picture of me featuring my immaculately combed hair (the secret is moose). As well as every elementary / junior high school photo. And the Thanksgiving line up of the cousins. Yeah, this site hits pretty close to home. But in the absence of actual self esteem, it's nice to be able to point your finger and scoff at people only slightly more derelict than yourself.

Here are a few highlights:

This poor kid. I bet his name is Ralph. And his dad regularly yells at him in public. But man I love that sweet half dissolve, double photo technique. I need to get married just so I can have some classy wedding photos with my spooky profile floating in the middle of my own head. In fact, I think I'm going to have a profile of Ralph here floating in the middle of my head. Like my buddy here, I proudly played the clarinet in 5th and 6th grade. I wanted to play the saxophone but my folks craftily convinced me to go with the old licorice stick and then move up to the saxophone. I'm pretty sure the clarinet was much cheaper to rent. But I was a friggen prodigy. I could have been the next . . . . (thinking of any clarinet player in history) . . . . . . guy who played on "When I'm Sixty-Four".

"I'm not gay! See?! I have a wife and kid! I just like to work out. A lot. It was a sunny day, figured I'd pop the top off and blast my nips. No big deal. And yes I naturally don't grow hair on my nipples. So what? Nothing wrong with a hairless man nipple every now and again. It can be a beautiful thing. But seriously, I'm not gay."


I can't confirm this one, but this is a possible Mormon family. Maybe. Nothing says "families are forever" like a big old pile of denim. Every family has done the "denim shirt photo shoot". In the Westenskow version, I'm doing a Rico Swave squat in front of everyone. Pretty sure you can see two well defined balls in it. I see these particular folks opted for the pig pile over the human pyramid. Good choice either way.

Somehow the nebula background seems to fit. Look at that poor woman. Her spirit is broken. She's been a single mom for a long time and she's just worn out. Her kids are a couple of shits. She gets a weekly call from the Junior High principal of Nosferatu in the bottom right corner, informing her of the latest fire he set in shop class. When she confronts him about, he just tells her to f*ck off. And instead of kicking out the dirtbags that sleep with her daughter in her own house, she just quietly cries in her room. But today they're getting their picture taken. She's using that coupon for a family photo she cut out of the Pennysaver no matter how black her son's lipstick is. "Damn it, we are going to be a happy family for one afternoon! Is that too much to ask?!"

This guy's got it all figured out. I would guess this baby was taken about 1988. Which means by now this kid is either a dotcom millionaire who is broke all over again or a registered sex offender. Or both.

These folks right here are the reason Glen Beck is as successful as he is. God bless America.

There's a lot of ways you could go with this one, but I'm gonna choose to focus on the dad's glasses. You like the splits kid? Nope, I'm sticking with Sensei of this dojo. The damn paterfamilias. Why? Because perma tinted glasses and a mustache always demand respect. It turns out this man was the real life inspiration for John Kreese. "OUT OF COMMISSION!"

If you look in the right corner, you will see that these are indeed genuine Glamor Shots. Not that fake crap. Nothing but the finest for this girls' day at the mall. Filtered lens. Denim Jacket theme. Matching poses. Denim looking backdrop. What looks to be a ten year old girl in full make up. Classy top to bottom. Now let's go get an Orange Julius.

The old Mexican Standoff. Except in this one, everybody wins. Also, I would be interested in seeing any concrete data on the mustache to mullet ratio. There are plenty of mulletless mustaches out there. But if a guy is sporting the old Kentucky Waterfall, odds are good he has a Magnum to match. And really why wouldn't you?

See the touchy feely kid on the top right? I had those exact same glasses from 1st to 5th grade. The thing is, it wasn't like I made one bad decision in first grade and got stuck with them. I broke those things all the time. Which meant I kept buying more of the exact glasses frames. That also means that in 5th grade, I wore those sweet brown framed classes while playing the clarinet. Like I said, there are no shortage of Westenskow family photos that would be a hit on this site. Also, what's up with the angry kid on the left? He doesn't look like the others. Is he a bastard brother who has yet to earn his pink and black sweater not to mention his mother's love? By the way, I like how one of the legitimate kids (the nonbastards) is wearing a pink shirt to compliment his sweater and the other is wearing a teal shirt. Excellence is found in the details. Although it's possible the angry bastard child is of no relation at all. Perhaps it's an option the studio offers. For an extra 3.99 you can have an pissed off stranger pose with your family. Either way, feather haired glasses guy accepts him. We brown framed glasses wearers are a compassionate bunch.

So there you go. A quick starter but by no means the best of what this website has to offer. I totally ripped this whole post off from, so please visit them. You'll find yourself laughing because it isn't your family on there. And crying because it could be.