MAKE LIKE A TREE AND LEAVE NOTHING TO THE IMAGINATION

This evening I found something interesting while trawling my favorite message board. (I suppose the correct term here would be “trawling” but this was a message board for fans of troll dolls and it’s kind of an inside joke among us Holy Trawlers. Yes, we call ourselves Holy Trawlers. I realize that probably seems confusing.) Someone had posted a review of the new RAMBO film and here’s what he had to say: “RAMBO was great.”

First of all, SPOILER ALERT! Also, you are an idiot…OR A GENIUS. Because, in a way, wouldn’t it almost be wasteful to back up an opinion of a movie like RAMBO with 1000 well-considered words full of supporting arguments, critical insight, and style? Chances are, no one put that kind of attention into making the movie RAMBO. It is likely that the two hardest working people involved in that film were the guy whose job it was to fill condoms with Caro syrup and food coloring, and the needle whose job it was to fill Sylvester Stallone’s ass cheeks with human growth hormone. (Snap! [spoken in old asian guy voice] “Levin wins…BURN-ALITY!”)

It would be perfectly fine if, instead of having to fill a few column inches with a thoughtful review of RAMBO or MEET THE SPARTANS or TYLER PERRY PRESENTS TYLER PERRY’S ‘GOD DON’T RAISE NO FOOLS’, critics like A.O. Scott could just write something pithy like “awesome!” or “stank” or “{ETERNAL FART NOISE}” and then allow themselves more time to review movies that people actually might talk about when they walk out of the theater. That way people could accurately quote reviewers’ assessments of films back to friends and blind dates as if they are their own opinions, and do it in a way that seems more honest.

[Update: for anyone else who thinks they’re game to write a RAMBO review, THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE. P.S. least convincing movie review handle ever.]

ARE WE GONNA DRINK THIS TIME? YES, RAMBO. YES

Some of you may remember–or may even remember playing–my wildly successful Angels in America drinking game. Well, with Sylvester Stallone mounting his latest 80s icon resurrection, RAMBO, this weekend, it seems like it’s time to start drinking again. Sure, there probably isn’t enough alcohol to make you dumb enough to see RAMBO, but now you have an excuse to try.

In instant-message collaboration with my friend, Justin “The Bug” Farren, I present The Rambo Drinking Game. Print out these rules and bring them, along with a case of beer and 2-3 bottles of tequila, to your local cineplex and demand “one for Rambo”:

RAMBO ’08 DRINKING GAME:

Every time…

  • A beating heart is held in Rambo’s hand: Drink
  • Someone looks down and sees an arrow in their chest, about to explode: Drink
  • A throat is cut while the enemy is preoccupied with reloading and looking around in a panicky fashion: Drink twice
  • Someone silently prowls through the jungle, searching for Rambo when, suddenly, a twig snaps ominously beneath his feet and, a split second later, some sharpened logs fly out of nowhere and kill him dead: Person with most full cup drinks
  • Rambo remembers when America used to be OK, and then feels sad: Pour your drink into the person’s glass sitting to the right of you and make him/her drink
  • People (possibly playing cards or Mahjongg) look down to see a grenade roll into their hut/room/building/fan boat, and proceed to dive out the nearest window: Finish Drinks
  • Someone has a live grenade stuffed into his mouth or uniform: Put an ice cube down your shirt, and drink
  • Rambo holds a dying person in his arm, and gets that revengey look in his eyes: Face salute and drink
  • Someone is looking for Rambo in the jungle when, behind him, a pair of Rambo eyes magically appear from the mud/leaves: Pour your drink into the garbage
  • Someone is killed by serrated knife: Drink, chase with a shot
  • Someone is killed by crossbow: Do a shot
  • Someone is killed by a crossbow, and pinned to a tree/wall: Do a shot, refill it, do another
  • We see a pair of empty boots still smoking as evidence of death by explosion: Fill your shoe with beer, drink
  • The screen fills with a slow, lingering shot of burned or torn American flag: Do a Body Shot off the person to your left
  • Someone mentions John Rambo’s green beret background: Nod serenly and knowingly drink and say, to no one in particular, “They brought this on themselves. They created John Rambo.”
  • Rambo catches a knife and throws it back at the thrower: Throw your drink at your neighbor and yell, “That was for our lost innocence!!”
  • Someone stands over a female captive, and unbuckles his belt: Take back the night, and drink
  • Rambo murders someone who has just unbuckled his pants and is seconds away from raping a female captive: Read aloud from The Feminine Mystique, and do a shot
  • Rambo uses an enemy as a human shield: Pour everyone’s drink into the least-full glass and make that person drink a “suicide”
  • Rambo or anyone uses the phrase “first blood” in a sentence: Cheer wildly, draw your own blood with a pen-knife, squeeze it into a shot glass, and drink
  • Rambo punches or kills a wild animal: Murmur into your glass, “This time you’ve gone too far, John Rambo,” and drink

SOMETIMES A LINK AND A QUOTE ARE ENOUGH

“[Mitt] Romney, the Republican candidate from Massachusetts by way of Michigan and Utah who enjoys a milkshake at the end of a long day, stopped by a staging area for a Martin Luther King Birthday parade here. In his dress shirt and tie, and with his unwavering smile, he walked over and posed for photographs with a group of black youngsters. Putting his arm around a teenage girl, he waved to the cameras and offered, “Who let the dogs out?” He added a tepid ‘woof woof.’”

In related “white people talking like black people” news, I’ve been floored by how well David Simon and his team of middle aged mostly-whiteboy writers repeatedly nail the nuances of conversation on The Wire, from corner kids and dock workers to political campaign strategists. Over and over again, I get sucked in by the way certain characters speak, particularly because this is a show where the best characters are the ones whose ability to speak well keeps all the other characters working for them. My favorites have been Lester Freamon, Prop Joe, Stringer Bell, Senator Clay Davis, Homocide Sargeant Jay Landsman, and Marlo Stanfield. The scenes between Marlo and Proposition Joe have become some of my favorite from the show’s run, mostly because their styles are so completely oppositional. Joe is a talker––slow and methodical, but still a great talker––while Marlo manages to communicate a tremendous amount of power, contempt, and swagger with three or four words punctuated by a drooping of eyelids or a tuck of his chin. His character is the poster child of Season Five’s “More With Less” mantra.

But sometimes the lesser characters–the ones digging in the dirt–get the best lines. My favorite line of dialogue from this season came out of the mouth of one of Michael’s corner boys, when Michael showed up late after going AWOL at Six Flags with his little brother and Dookie. While one of the young’ns dresses down Michael for abandoning his post, another chooses his words more carefully, for greater devastation. He just looks at Dookie, purses his lips, and says, “Nice dolphin, nigga.” Cut to: Dookie, face flushed with shame, standing on the corner with a stuffed dolphin–a prize he won at Six Flags–tucked in the crook of his arm. Outstanding.

DOPING STARS ON FAIR GAME

I sat in on Public Radio International’s “Fair Game” last night to talk about the hip-hop and R&B artists who were recently named in the massive steroids probe. The segment ran quite long, and unfortunately a lot of fun stuff was cut out, but I had a really good time interviewing Dr. Don Catlin, possibly the most reviled man among Olympic athletes. He’s the doctor responsible for starting up the drug screening laboratory for the Olympics, and he’s an expert on the positive and negative effects of steroids and human growth hormones. He was also very accommodating when I asked him how many bullets my muscles would be able to stop if I were taking steroids, and which had a greater risk of type 2 diabetes: prolonged use of HGH, or hanging out in 50 Cent’s ‘Candy Shop’, spending all day licking his lollypop.

You can here the whole Fair Game broadcast here, though my segment is right at the top of the show.

CHICKEN-FLAVORED TOOTHPASTE

When I take the cats to the vet, I take great pride in relating the doctor’s comments to Lisa, as they are usually overwhelmingly positive. For instance, when Coleman visited for her yearly check-up I practically called Lisa from the examining room when the doctor described Coleman’s demeanor as “perfect” and went to great lengths to admire her “beautiful coat” and “pretty face.” Do you know how many cats a veterinarian sees each day, I thought, as I rehearsed my conversation with Lisa. Coleman’s beauty was being praised on high authority! Of course, I neglected to mention that the doctor determined Coleman weighs 15 pounds–a bit more than a small terrier–or that she didn’t even flinch when she was assed by a thermometer. (This last observation pleased the doctor but somehow disturbed me, especially Coleman’s nostrils had to be momentarily blocked because she was purring so loudly while being sodomized that the doctor couldn’t pick out her heartbeat.)

Likewise, when Ble visited last week I memorized the vet’s assessment of her docile personality as “a breath of fresh air,” considering that most calico cats are completely mental, and can turn into a maelstrom of claws and spittle when a stranger tries to hold them. And likewise, I considering censoring the news that Ble has a neurological disorder that’s been causing her to lick her belly fur clean, and couldn’t quite recall how the vet described the less-than-stellar state of Ble’s teeth. (“Her mouth is a disgusting mess.”) In any case, Ble had to return today for a good old-fashioned tooth cleaning–preceded by a good old-fashioned IV filled with sedatives. It seemed ridiculous to pay someone to brush my cat’s teeth and the diagnosis made me wish I were a farmer or something, so I could say, “Brush her teeth? Well, that’s pure nonsense! Ain’t but a cat!! If’n its* teeth fall out, well, that’s just less teeth to fret over, now ain’t it?” But I am not a farmer and, as such, I am at the mercy of anyone in a lab coat.

I think any decent veterinarian would do his or her best to make sure the examining rooms are free of anything that would either ridicule or horrify pets. This vet manages to break both rules at once. While waiting in the examining room, I noticed it was appointed with a “Dogs Playing Snooker” print on one wall and, on the opposing wall, a full cat skeleton and dog skull. Look one way and it’s the Friar’s Club; look the other way and you’re in the offices of Ed Gein, M.D. Was any of it necessary? Does a cat need to see how its own skeleton works? Does a dog need to be tempted with billiards and gambling?

I was sent home with a bag full of goofy, punch-drunk cat and a dental kit, including a “finger brush” and tube of poultry-flavored toothpaste. (fresh!) The vet charged more to clean Ble’s teeth than my dentist charged to clean mine, which seemed borderline criminal. Even worse, I have to bring Ble back next week to get fitted for braces.

*Having never really spent much time with farmers, I decided that in my fantasy the character of “farmer” would neither know, nor care to know the gender of his pets.

RADAR 100: ACT NATURAL

Do you have a computer??? If so, this month’s RADAR 100 list is now online, too. 100 Ways We’re Trying to Go Green. I’m really happy with the way this list turned out, and which of my items were chosen. However, among my personal submissions that did not make the cut, this was probably my favorite: Conserving energy by switching to low-fives. Here were a few more I liked that didn’t make it into the 100:

  • No longer draining lake every time that black family swims in it
  • Now using both sides of toilet paper (they used a variation on this, which i’d submitted as an alternative: “After first use, turning condoms inside-out”)
  • Recycling Austin Powers impression from 1999
  • For sideshow act, eating only compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Imprisoning the cute girl from the coffee shop in a gigantic jar made of recyclable plastic
  • Trying to reverse global warming by acting extra cool
  • Planting some queer-ass trees and shit
  • Searching for clues for reversing climate change in Presidential Book of Secrets
  • TiVo’ing anything featuring Seth Green
  • From now on, only having anonymous gay sex with pro-environment senators (topical!)

And the winner of my “I am the only person who will find this joke amusing but I’m going to submit it, anyway” award for this list: Switching from bottled to boxed water

IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF STEALING

Not to brag, but I’ve recently been plagiarized. Actually, this has happened to me plenty of times before but it’s usually the work of some 3-hits-per-day blogger (and yes I’m talking to you, Metafilter!) who has decided to cut and paste something I’ve published on this site or elsewhere on the web, and just added a little “check out what I just thought of in this very moment” intro before it.

In this instance, it was a slightly better-known source: The Times of London. One of their stringers put together a list, aimed at the ‘dating set’, called 50 Reasons Why You’re Still Single, which borrows generously and very specifically from a list I co-authored for RADAR Magazine a while back, called “100 Reasons Why You’re Still Single.” (I’ve written about that list here, and included all the items I wrote that made or missed the cut in RADAR.) One of the other RADAR writers was nice enough to point out the instance of plagiarism and, at first, I wasn’t especially concerned. Those lists we do for RADAR are goofy and I took the act of plagiarism about as seriously as I took the lists themselves.

Then I remembered that this writer actually got paid to steal our jokes, and by a much higher profile publication than RADAR. (Well, to be fair, Cesarean Sluts Magazine has a higher profile than RADAR. But still!) Upon realizing this, I was all, “I’LL DRINK HER MILKSHAKE!! I’LL DRINK IT UP!!!” But not in the good way; I mean that in the bad, “street” kind of way, like on The Wire. While I wait for other string-pullers to make sure this “journalist” (burn!) is promptly taken down, all the way to Chinatown, it’s nice to know that other sites linking to the Times London article have at least had the decency to acknowledge this list was largely swiped from RADAR Magazine. In any case, Camilla Long, I’m waving the shame finger at you! As a writer for the Tatler, how does it feel to be tat(t)led on, Miss Long??? (super value burn!)

Oh, and speaking of those RADAR lists, if you pick up the current issue of the magazine and flip the back page, you will find yet another RADAR 100, and it’s all about the ways we’re trying to save the environment…WITH CRAZINESS! And, if you live in the UK, I guess you can read Camilla Long’s identical list in the Times, with all references to “elevators” changed to “lifts.” (snap! crackle! burn!)

[Update: the offending list has been removed without apology, but the story of its plagiarism has been covered by The Guardian UK and, more depressingly, New York Magazine’s “Daily Intelligencer.” From reading the comments on the NYMag piece, it seems their editors ‘borrowed’ the facts supplied to them by a writer who must have pitched the story in an email, then made up the story surrounding those facts all by themselves while attributing them to the writer. It’s a crazy world when a journalist has to use the comments section on his own story to voice a complaint about the ineptitude and unprofessionalism of his editors. The NYMag thing was especially interesting to me because, just as Camilla Long apparently took submissions from friends and published them without any further examination, in reporting on the story NYMag kind of did the same thing. I can say this because they seem to have gone out of their way to make fun of RADAR in the piece by including this really long and not especially pointed scenario where RADAR’s editors conceived their original list together on cocktail napkins. If they’d actually done any work they would have known that piece was not written by RADAR’s editors. Maybe NYMag assumed the byline on our list was just a formality, because that is a practice to which they’re so accustomed in their own day-to-day work. (NYMag, ask Camilla if you can borrow her bucket of sand because you’ve been burned…a smidge!)]

NEW AT ‘THE MORNING NEWS’

The Morning News has been kind enough to publish a multi-part series of autobiographical essays about video games, written by me. The series is called Consoles I Have Known, and first essay, titled, “A Very Weird and Blocky Future,” is available for eyeballs today.

THERE WILL BE PROM

I guess There Will Be Blood left me thinking about a lot of things. Among them:

  • “Were Paul and Eli truly separate characters, or two sides of a single metaphor about the American Character?”
  • “What was the symbolic significance of the goat milk Plainview constantly fed to his surrogate child?”
  • “Was that opening scene with Plainview toiling in a well meant to be a birth metaphor?”
  • “Is Baltimore ready for a white mayor like Tommy Carcetti?” (I can’t stop thinking about The Wire)

But mostly I kept thinking about what great material Daniel Plainview’s dialogue will provide to disgruntled high school students in search of the perfect senior quote for their high school yearbook:

YOU WILL BE FIRED*

That is my message to the critic from the the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, assigned to review P.T. Anderson’s incredible film, There Will Be Blood. After spending several column inches imagining a world where Daniel Day-Lewis literally wrestles an Oscar from George Clooney and Emile Hirsch (what is he, Kanye West?), he buttons up his review with the following solemn oath:

“I’d give blood to see the movie again!”

First of all, slow down. Has this movie taught you nothing about capitalism and the art of the deal? You don’t start a negotiation this way. We’re talking about blood, buddy. How about revising your opening gambit to something more acceptable, like:

“I’d pay $12 to see the movie again!”

I’m not going to tell you I have an “in” with the film industry, but put that offer on the table and There Will Be Blood might just take it without going through a second or third round of negotiations. I’m serious; it could be that easy. Play it cool and for $12 you just might win yourself a chance to see the movie again, with all your blood inside you.

In the event you weren’t serious about your offer and you were just making a “blood” related pun about how much you enjoyed this film, I have to say this movie might deserve a bit more. A lot of people worked very hard on this film, for many years. I read Daniel Day-Lewis was so committed to his character work he built a time machine (by hand!) to take him and the film crew back to 1898, just so they could shoot the movie in real time. So the least you could do is spend an extra 15 minutes writing your review and reserve that wordplay for lighter fare like Enchanted (“It will cast its spell on you!”), where puns planted in a movie review are perfectly acceptable. I think it’s only fair to expect a movie as carefully considered and visionary as There Will Be Blood be reviewed in kind. Because, come on—I’d give blood to see the movie again? What’s wrong? Did your editor reject your original sound bite: “Oil wells that ends well!”?

I realize this is probably falling on deaf ears because I just did a search on the Dail Mail web site and found some of this writer’s other reviews. They’re pretty flip for such serious films:

Into the Wild
“I was into Emile Hirsch’s wild performance as a free spirit who freezes and starves to death. Don’t get left out in the cold on this one!”

No Country for Old Men
“…No Country for Old Men will prove to be some country for gold men…named OSCAR!”

Zodiac
“Killer performances all around. Zodiac’s horoscope should read, ‘I see an Oscar in your future!’”

Atonement
“I must confess, Atonement is one of the year’s best. Say your prayers, other Best Picture nominees.”

Judgment at Nuremburg
“The judgment at Hollywood is in, and the Oscar court finds you guilty…of being powerfully good. With Judgment in the mix, it’s going to be a master race to the Best Picture award this year!”

Apocalypse Now
“Smells like victory. America might have lost the Vietnam War, but it will surely win the war on ‘most Oscar wins’ this year. Academy Now! “

Do The Right Thing
“Do the right thing by seeing this movie! Even if black and white people can’t get along in America, now at least black and gold people can…assuming one of those gold people is an OSCAR! After this year’s Academy Awards, I can guarantee there will be a picture of a brother on the wall…the wall for Best Directors! I would allow a black person to throw a garbage can through my window while screaming ‘hate!!’ like it was some kind of student film exercise, just to see the movie again! “

The Accused
“Tilt! Foster’s performance is nothing short of penetrating. For The Accused, I think it’s safe to say ‘no’ means ‘Oscar’! I would allow myself to be raped several times to see the movie again.”

*With respect and apologies to the late, great Walter Monheit

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