MAKING LISTS

Sometimes I speak too much in the superlative, which causes me to second-guess myself. (“Should I really have said calfouti is my favorite custard-based dessert? Is that going to come back to haunt me?”) To remedy this, I’ve gotten really specific in my rankings. Over the weekend, while speaking with my optometrist, I steered the subject of conversation (away from women he’s trying to date and the foibles of his dog) to The Feelies and their imminent reunion this summer. He asked if I really like the band, and I replied, “Absolutely. They’re my fourth favorite band of all time!” I guess this is like small children giving their ages in quarter-years (“I’m four and three quarters, biatch!” etc.) but it’s important for me to accurately represent myself. For instance:

FAVORITE BANDS (IN DESCENDING ORDER)

  1. The Pixies
  2. Velvet Underground
  3. Led Zeppelin
  4. The Feelies
  5. Eric B. & Rakim
  6. The Wedding Present

FAVORITE DOGS (IN DESCENDING ORDER)

  1. French Bulldog
  2. Pug
  3. Golden Labrador with faded bandana around its neck
  4. Boston Terrier
  5. Basset Hound
  6. Pit Bull with all teeth removed
  7. Anything overweight

LEAST FAVORITE DOGS (IN DESCENDING ORDER)

  1. Corgi*
  2. Standard Poodle
  3. Miniature Collie
  4. Chow Chow
  5. Any dog with a silky ribbon in its long, idiotic hair

FAVORITE SANDWICHES (IN DESCENDING ORDER)

  1. Banh mi
  2. Pulled pork with cole slaw
  3. Chicken salad, bacon, lettuce & mustard on wheat bread (from Eisenberg’s in NYC)
  4. The “magic sandwich” – turkey, mayonnaise, tomato, avocado, and fresh pepper on toasted sourdough bread

LEAST FAVORITE DINNER OPTIONS

  1. shit on a shingle (this is what my mother would offer if i asked her what we were having for dinner more than once, thereby trying her patience.)

*exceptions include: corgi with wheel legs and corgi sleeping on back

I HAVE A CRUSH ON THIS MOVIE

Over the weekend, I was alerted to the presence of a few dark hairs growing in the small of my back. That means long nose and ear hairs are not far behind. My skin is losing its elasticity and, in the process, revealing some ancient and positively Dane Cook-esque adolescent acne scars that I never even realized existed back when my skin was taut and dewy with youth. (My dermatologist was dismissive, telling me, “Guys can get away with looking a bit more rugged.” At least I think that’s what he said; it was hard to hear him while I was face-down, crying into a pillow with a disposable quilted paper pillowcase.) My metabolism is slowing and my middle is widening. When viewed from certain (all) angles this gives me the appearance of having a second, non-functional ass perched atop my original one. I can probably fix this, but it will take an actual, rather than stated, commitment to exercise as well a denial of certain things I enjoy. (whiskey, beer, red velvet cake) Plus, even if I do spend more time in the gym, the treadmill has been hell on my knees lately. Sitting cross-legged is difficult, and makes me feel silly in Lisa’s yoga classes.

But still, even as my knees fail me and my body sprouts weird hairs and I can’t stay out late like I used to and Saturday nights spent at home don’t really leave me feeling unwanted or left behind, and I’m making myself drink water and moisturize before I go to bed to avoid looking like Clint Eastwood’s neck, somehow I’m able to temporarily ignore all these undeniable signs of aging and get all crying-eyed and queer for movies like American Teen. I wonder if that sensation ever goes away, and is replaced by curly silver hairs and tumors.

But sincerely: “there’s a lot of grease on the table now.”

FUNNY BECAUSE IT’S TRUE

New York Comic-Con 2008 is officially over. In keeping with a tradition I’ve held since the very first NY Comic-Con, I opted not to attend. For those who do choose to attend, however, there are many joys to experience at Comic-Con–purchasing a comic book while being crushed in by 100,000 other people; getting your photograph taken with the guy who played Greedo; receiving a free Iron Man movie poster with your convention badge, then carrying the rolled-up poster around all day and, after finally coming to terms with the fact that you are never going to hang this Iron Man movie poster in your apartment or anywhere else, depositing it among the thousands of other Iron Man movie posters in one of the trash cans at the convention center exit. But for die-hard comic fans who look forward to this convention as a way to relax and show their true colors, perhaps no joy is greater than being asked to appear on-camera by one of the hundreds of correspondents attending the convention in the hopes of pointing a camera at a chubby IT professional in Darth Maul make-up, with sarcastically hilarious results.

For every three diehard comic book and sci-fi fans, there was probably at least one person with a microphone hoping to produce a local news story, late-night comedy remote piece or barely-credentialed Web video, frantically searching the convention floor for the most outlandishly dressed or most socially awkward attendee to interview/tease. For those of us who did not attend this convention, we can at least enjoy the experience of watching a very smug person pretending to be interested in Comic-Con while scarcely able to suppress his very fresh “virgin” and “living in your parents’ basement” jokes long enough to lull his interviewees into their false sense of security. Sorry, Comic-Convention attendees! If you didn’t want to get made fun of, maybe you shouldn’t have attended a convention that was ostensibly designed to let you indulge and celebrate your slightly fringe subculture amongst other like-minded fans in a safe, semi-private environment.

As editors work overtime, I will wake up each morning bright and early, eager to see one of the many wonderful videos of someone coaxing two Star Wars-obsessed attendees into a toy light saber duel as he stands back and gives that very essential “get a load of these queers” wink to the camera, just so we all know that he does not condone these nerdy shenanigans. Seriously, what is it with those nerds, right? Do they think they’re real Jedis or what? Sometimes, if the interviewer is really interested in making his Comic-Con video really soar in quality, he will go the extra mile and throw himself into the mix for a good laugh, taking light saber to hand to join the fight, as his eyes ask the camera person, “Holy crap are you getting all this?” This kind of dedication to expertly mocking one’s interview subject really lets us, the audience, know “I am not too scared to appear as if I am actually friends with these people for a few minutes but stay tuned for the part where I act extra over-the-top, because that is my signal to you that I am above all of this and as soon as the camera is turned off I will probably go somewhere and do pretty cool stuff like drive a sports car, or see a live band or get a bunch of ass.”

So thank you, journalists, for your intrepid and mocking coverage of Comic-Con. It’s comforting to know that, yet another year, someone (i.e. all 200 of you) had the uniquely great thought that, “Hey, I’ll bet if I went to Comic-Con I could find a ton of nerds dressed all crazy. That might be something someone would want to see.” And thank you even more, for following through on that instinct and bringing a news crew to Comic-Con over the weekend, then pointing your camera at someone wearing an painstakingly handmade Ghostbusters costume so the rest of us can laugh, shake our heads, and say, “yeah, man, those guys are certainly not cool like me. Case closed.” You really exposed the shit out of that one. See you in a few months, at the Celebrity Impersonator Convention.

DEAR CAT OWNERS

Jealous?


pphoto by Lisa Whiteman

I know it’s kind of fruity, but there are seriously times I can’t stand my cats for being this cute. They make me feel like a drooling idiot, because I am unable to take my eyes off them. I want to throw a heavy blanket over them, just to dim the dazzle for a second.

This type of feline configuration is actually pretty common in our home, so you can imagine my consternation. Ble has grown calmer, and her dental and mental health has been improving lately–the belly fur is even growing back, miraculously–possibly because Lisa decided the only way to calm Ble’s peanut-sized brain was to get maximum string-play every day. These days, when Ble approaches my desk making those strange close-lipped gurgling cat yodels with a frayed length of twine in her dumb mouth, instead of rolling my eyes at her, I let her drop the twine at my feet and then pick it up. I twirl it around her clockwise, until she whips her body around enough to lose balance, then twirl it similarly counter-clockwise. A couple minutes of this three or four (or seven) times every day seems like a pretty good trade-off for the return of 99.9% fur coverage.

Last night I was up very late, recovering (re-writing) a script I had lost thanks to my adult ADD and Final Draft’s refusal to autosave by default. This happened to me after a very long day of writing (and not saving), and about 15 minutes after I was struck by a car while crossing the street. For another perspective, it happened 15 minutes before I accidentally spilled an entire tupperware container of refrigerated Quinoa on my kitchen floor, and 17 minutes before the broom I was using to sweep up the spilled Quinoa fell from its position leaning against the refrigerator and landed on the cats’ water bowl, flipping it and its contents 180 degrees .

(Regarding being hit by a car, I was banged up and thrown off-balance but, like Jake LaMotta, I was still standing when it was all over. The car was turning, and I honestly saw it coming but my brain was slowed down and I kept thinking, There’s no way this car can’t see me in the middle of the crosswalk, in the middle of the street. Surely it will stop. In retrospect, it’s probably a good rule to not the benefit of the doubt to cars that are obviously bearing down on you. The worst part was the driver gave me a look like I’d planned the whole thing; as if I’d jumped up from a manhole at the very last minute. I made sure to inform her of this gross misinterpretation of events, peppering my speech with coarse language to impress the drug dealers on the corner who had witnessed the whole thing. I think I might have called her a “dickhead.” High-five, fellas!)

When I shut down my computer at 3am and turned off the lights, I saw Ble and Coleman were once again in the same spot and same positions depicted in the above photo. Ble was awake, and tongue-bathing the top of Coleman’s head so emphatically her fur wasn’t just clean, it was damp. And maybe it was the late hour, my total exhaustion, or the events of the day, but as I watched my cats together I started crying a little. I was thinking about how fragile and neurotic this little cat is, but how genuinely happy she seems right now, and how so much of that happiness seems to be dependent on her relationship with a larger, much older cat who sometimes slaps and menaces her. And then I wondered how she’ll be affected if she outlives Coleman.

I know this is an equally morbid and idiotic to think about, and all the truly evolved people believe animals were put on earth to stop bullets, or eat rodents and burglars, but I couldn’t help myself. A cat’s brain can’t possibly comprehend the largeness of absence in death; my brain barely can and it is, by all accounts, super large. (and smooth) Coleman and Ble are the first cats I’ve been responsible for, so I couldn’t really say firsthand what happens when one survives the other. I know exactly how sad I’d be, but when I considered Ble’s dumb wiring, it was troubling to imagine how death would affect her. I expect she won’t be able to lick all of her fur off fast enough to express her primitive form of grieving.

THIS MOVIE HAS NO HEART

I never read Iron-Man comic books when I was a kid because, really, who cares? He was a pretty generic-looking, expressionless hero who seemed to take himself way too seriously considering the fact that he was also a big, clunking metal person. Iron-Man seemed like the kind of superhero you’d be into if you were a child with aspirations to become a European automobile engineer or CEO for an investment bank. I preferred the more sardonic, wise-cracking heroes like Spider-Man and Man-Thing. I also read Howard the Duck comic books, though I don’t remember ever actually laughing at them; I just knew they were *supposed* to be funny.

Now that I am a grown-up who still likes sarcasm and video games but also enjoys industrial design and mid-century modern furniture, I can kind of see the appeal of the Iron Man motion picture. The billboard and poster advertisements are very slick, simple and iconic–kind of like an ad for an Apple product.

Here, Iron Man isn’t necessarily doing anything–he’s not shooting laser eyebeams at an Al Qaeda jeep, for instance. (does iron man have laser eyes? does al qaeda have jeeps?) He’s just striking a confident pose and being all kinds of suggestive, forcing your imagination to ask many questions. Like, What do those hand-lanterns do? And, Could is that metal suit impervious to bullets or rockets or pricker bushes or some kind of magnetically charged homing missile filled with knives, each with a small bullet scotch-taped to it? You just don’t know, and I like that. (This “standing there and doing nothing” aesthetic can work against a super-hero film, too, as it did in those X-Men: The Last Stand movie posters I used to see all over the city, where the various characters were just hanging around and being all weepy, like a teenage girl who just got stood up for a Morrissey concert. Here, the mind asks a different set of questions. Like, What kind of poetry are these X-Men into? And, Man, I wonder if they’re still sad because all those Mexican emo kids got beat up? Wow, when did Wolverine become such a puss?) I really am pleased someone decided to run these posters everywhere, especially after seeing the Iron Man motion picture’s less earlier, less impressive teaser posters.

The trailers for the Iron Man motion picture have revealed a few robot-oriented action sequences that seem to be pretty pulse-quickening, too, and that’s certainly something my stalled adolescent brain can get behind. Also, my ears have been very pleased by the many zippy and clangy sound effects employed to capture of the movement of robot men of various sizes, weights and sophistication of design. It’s good to know Iron Man is carrying on the rich tradition pioneered by the movie Heartbeeps and John Tesh and Mary Hart, the original animatronic hosts of “Entertainment Tonight.”

However! There is one particular thing that keep bugging me about this movie, and that is the (probably necessary but often annoying) “training” sequence of the film, where the ordinary person starts discovering his new super powers, with sometimes hilarious results. (Crash! Boing! Fart noise!) This kind of thing was fun to watch in Spider-Man because, seriously, it was Spider-Man and what’s not fun about that? It was less fun to watch in The Dark Knight where Batman sees the Batmobile for the first time and is all, “Bitchin’ ride, Alfred!” and then Alfred hands him the keys and says, “And now it’s *your* bitchin’ ride, Batman, Sir.” And it was not one bit of fun in The Hulk where the Hulk was at a fancy restaurant, trying to drink a class of Chablis and kept accidentally smashing the wine glass in his hand, which would only make him angry and therefore cause him to smash more wine glasses and finally the snooty French waiter comes over to his table and says, “Sir, might I suggest a drinking straw?” and then the Hulk gets super-mad and smoke comes out of his ears and the waiter’s eyes bug out and, man, you just know what’s coming next.

The film studio behind Iron Man has released a couple of the film’s early training scenes for all to see on the Internet. Here is the latest one, where Tony Stark is messing around with his Repulsor (so?) rays:

It’s a bit of fun but once Iron Man really starts flying and gets all disoriented I suddenly lose all interest in this film. I guess there is a certain naturalism to all those “how does this crazy thing work???” shenanigans but every time I see a clip of Tony Stark flailing around and screaming while figuring out the flight mechanics of his robot suit, my brain automatically adds the theme song from the television show, “The Greatest American Hero”:

THE MAN WITH PERPETUAL NERVOUSNESS

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Man, it’s been a good week for music nerds in their 30s. This is my third favorite band of all time. OF ALL TIME. Also, the very first thing I ever wrote for a publication that was not associated with my high school, college, day camp or synagogue youth group was about The Feelies. (I even did the “artwork,” using Aldus Photostyler. O.G.) This essay was horribly written and mawkish as all get out but I was so young and full of verve and completely un-self-conscious and defenseless about the things I loved. These mistakes are forgivable, I think, when you’re all verved up by youth as I was. Boing.

SOME THINGS I DID

Today, The Morning News published part four (four!) of my series on video games, “Consoles I Have Known.” The latest essay is about my start as a freelance writer, and my involvement in a dubious video game club. It’s called “Praystation.”

Lisa has already started poking around for a wedding dress, with varying degrees of success, so yesterday I decided to make my first real effort to find a wedding suit, by visiting the Paul Smith store. Now before you leap backwards in disbelief, like Bazooka Joe reacting to Mort’s confounding stupidity, let’s get something straight: Yes, I’m wealthy enough to walk right in the door of Paul Smith, no questions asked, and then walk out again after gently touching several jacket sleeves and purchasing nothing. I’m sure I’ll gradually make my way down the line of men’s formal fashions, from Jill Sander and John Varvatos, to A.P.C., Club Monaco, Men’s Wearhouse, eBay and that store where Steve Harvey buys his suits, eventually settling on a lovely performance fleece “cargo suit” at Old Navy. However, right now I am perfectly content to indulge in the fantasy of purchasing a $3,000 suit. Gawd! Let a girl dream, y’all!

I haven’t shopped for suits in a while and, honestly, don’t have a solid idea of what I want. Three-button suits are nice, but lately I’ve fancied a fitted two-button, three-piece suit. Something that says, “Let’s talk about junk bonds over a plate of Bolivian cocaine.” I realize that’s hard to explain to the average salesperson, though, so when someone approached me at Paul Smith and asked what I was interested in, I just said, “me want suit. Handsome day!”

I often get intimidated at stores like this because I feel like the salespeople get one look at my ripped leather jacket, battered Pro-Ked hi-tops and children’s backpack and instantly make the same kind of assessment about me that a salesperson at the Gagosian Gallery might make i.e. “This guy ain’t gonna buy anything.” I usually walk in there under some imaginary belief, often reinforced by the employees’ own attitudes, that everyone who works there is far wealthier and more knowledgeable than me.

That’s why it really surprised me when the Paul Smith salesperson turned out to be a complete dummy. As he was showing me suits, barely bothering to walk more than a couple of inches from where he was standing, he explained why customers love certain items by basically pointing to the most obvious attributes of those items. For instance, here was his pitch on a suit jacket that had interesting stitching around the lapels: “Yeah, people love this ’cause like it’s got really interesting stitching around the lapels.” Then he would open the jacket to reveal its colorful lining–all Paul Smith jackets excel in their lining–and say something like, “and it’s got this, which is real good. People love the arm holes, especially because there’s two of them. This suit has that feature, which is, you know…(trails off).”

I still don’t know what I want exactly, but I know it has to have dual armholes or I AM WALKING. Thanks, Paul Smith, for making me a more educated consumer.

NEW BREEDERS ALBUM

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OK. Better now.

ROOM FOR COMPROMISE

Sean Combs aka P. Diddy aka One of Hip-Hop Entertainment’s Most Distinguished Black Nerds* has decided it’s time to make himself culturally relevant again. After it became clear that no one else was feeling his very calculated “Making of the Band” catchphrase, Diddy took matters into his own jewel-encrusted hands by tapping Sean John clothing to create a special line “NO BITCHASSNESS” t-shirts. As you can probably imagine, they’re as beautiful as they are subtle:

Of course, he’s already taken some heat for these shirts, mostly from people who exhibit unusually high levels of bitchassness. Like the “Stop Snitchin’” campaign, a lot of cultural critics will probably find this kind of message irresponsible and sort of intolerant. And sure, that controversy might buy Diddy a few extra minutes of screen time on FOX News’ “Red Eye” or a small piece of real estate in the front of Entertainment Weekly, but he has to remember he’s no longer a street-level player. These days he’s a national treasure and his words strike at the very heart of our young ones. I guess what I’m saying is, Diddy, if you’re listening–maybe you’ve been spending the day surfing the Web over fellow-black-nerd Kanye West’s shoulder and, after arguing about which Coach leather toilet seat Kanye should link up on his own blog today, you were all “I wonder if that bitchassness over at tremble.com has been updated in this calendar year”–I know you don’t like to do things half way, but maybe you need to chill your zero tolerance policy on the subject of bitchassness. You’re going to make kids cry. Lots of kids. Kids who might have otherwise auditioned for “Making of the Band,” giving you one more great season of black teens with neck tattoos, cursing and fighting until their pants fall down.

Please, Diddy, don’t hurt them before they can hurt themselves and each other. Consider a path of greater understanding:

I know you’re an uncompromising genius–everyone knows how hard you killed it on the Godzilla soundtrack, man–but sometimes compromise is just what you need to spread your message. Spoonful of sugar, Hamburger.

*(hip-hop’s other distinguished black nerds include: Prince Paul, DJ Premier, MC Serch, Ludacris, Talib Kweli, Jay-Z and hip-hop’s original black nerd, Russell Simmons. ironically, the members of N*E*R*D are not nerds.)

GOOD EGG

Enough about me. My pal, Bob Powers, recently started writing for the very funny comedy news website, 236.com. Today, the NY Times’ “Laugh Lines” blog re-printed one of Bob’s pieces for 236.com, and I think you should read it. It’s called Ted Turner’s Ornery-isms, and it’s top-notch. (I realize that was a million URLs at once. I hope I haven’t blown your minds.)

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