Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Year's Eve, a Time to Reflect... in Bar Mirrors

Last year, my New Year’s Eve resolution was to learn how to fly. When that didn’t happen I was so upset with myself that I started hitting others. Then I read somewhere that people who break their New Year’s Eve resolutions often do so because they set unattainable goals. So this year I simply want to hover a bit.

Of course, every New Year’s Eve I promise myself that I’m going to stop making New Year’s Eve resolutions in the first place. But by the next December 31st I’ve forgotten, make another "no more resolutions" resolution, and then realize I’ve inadvertently broken last year's "no resolution" resolution.

Now there are some people I wish would really try hard to stick to their resolutions. Those who are familiar with my political beliefs know that I’m mostly against murder (unless the person is really asking for it). So serial killers, it would be great if you would say to yourself, “This year I’m going to stop serial killing.” (And prostitutes in Tijuana might say, “I’m going to stop charging so much, falsely advertising that I’m a woman, and stealing Nathan’s kidneys.”)

Of course most people don’t have the imagination to fly or to stop killing so their New Year’s resolutions tend to be a bit more pedestrian-- like the promise to lose weight. Or sometimes their resolutions are actually pedestrian-- like the pledge to stop jaywalking. These are perfectly admirable goals. (By the way, I’ve found that the best way to lose weight is to not get pregnant in the first place, but, if you do, having the baby will shed some pounds.)

If one stops and thinks about it, New Year’s Eve is pretty silly to begin with. Did you know that Earth wasn’t actually born on January 1st? Historians think it was probably some time in the spring. So while we celebrate New Year’s on January 1st, it’s actually a pretty arbitrary date that just so happens to be at the beginning of the year.

So this year, besides vigorously flapping my arms every morning, I’m going to try and stop taking myself so hilariously. I’ve really got to get a little more serious if I ever want to have this baby and lose some weight. (This may help with the hovering as well.) I’m also 1,443,223 stamps away from completing my stamp collection, so I’ve got that to worry about. And all they keep doing is coming out with new stamps!

But let’s not forget the true meaning of New Year’s Eve-- pretending to know the words to “Auld Lang Syne.”

Of course, the very best thing about New Year’s Eve is that after having to care about everyone else all Christmas, New Year’s is all about you. It’s the time to stop giving and start taking. I have no qualms about asking my loved ones to return the gifts I gave them for Christmas. (So, Dad, Mom, I’m going to need those Arby’s coupons back.) Remember, New Year’s is the time to horde and indulge until you vomit. So let’s have a great New Year’s and celebrate the fact that we don’t have to be charitable until next Holiday Season!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Anatomy of a Funny Blog

At cocktail parties people often ask me why I’m so funny. It’s odd really, as I’ve never in my life said a word to these people. Now, they never explicitly state that I’m funny, but usually disguise their curiosity by using euphemisms like “weird” or “strange.” I know they really mean “funny.” And since they have no idea who I am, I just assume they are referring to my blog.

If these people were to follow up with a question other than “Did you actually receive an invitation to this party?” they would probably ask how it is that I write such hilarious posts. Unfortunately, the police often show up before I have a chance to divulge my secrets. But as an early Christmas gift to my loyal readers, I will share with you the secrets of funny blog writing.

Delivering good comedy is very much like delivering a child, it’s stressful, it’s messy, and once it comes out you’ll swear it looks vaguely Asian. I usually sit down in front of the computer with no idea what to write, so I just start typing. Eventually, I’ll start forming words, and after a few hours I’ve written enough words to paste into sentences. It takes another four to six hours to write a hilarious sentence. I don’t know when or where this sentence will occur, but my dog shot five people last week. Whoa! There it is! Notice how I took the word “sniff” and turned it into “shot?” That, dear readers, is where comedy writing comes from--- words that almost sound alike.

As many of you know, there’s no way my dog could actually shoot someone because he has no fingers. This is another rule of comedy writing: dogs with no fingers are hilarious. Now take that same dog and give him some fingers. That’s not funny, is it? It’s kind of creepy, and if middle-aged men who collect Disney figurines have taught us anything, it’s that creepy and funny are two very different things.

Now let’s come up with another funny sentence, because a funny blog needs more than one: Christina Aguilera smells like hot dogs. This is funny because it’s true, and I know this because I used to live in Pittsburgh and heard from everybody that she really smells like hot dogs. Or at least I heard from people who went to high school with Christina Aguilera. Or those people heard it from people who really did go to high school with her. And I’m pretty sure she went to school in Pittsburgh, but it may have been somewhere outside Pittsburgh, but it was close enough to lend some validity to the rumor that she smells like hot dogs.

Which brings me to the next rule of comedy: don’t over explain your joke. And also: it’s okay to make fun of people’s disabilities if they are famous and smell like foodstuffs.

So let’s recap the secrets to writing a funny blog:

1. If you’re in a public place within earshot and talking about a cocktail party, I’m just going to assume that everyone’s invited whether I know you or not.

2. I was obviously normal enough to get through the front door without anyone saying anything, so why was my presence an issue when I was just standing in the corner next to the bowl of nut mix?

3. If those women didn’t want me ogling their breasts then they wouldn’t have worn those kinds of shirts.

Now, with a whole lot of luck and a pinch of skill maybe you too can write a funny blog! Good luck!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving, an American Tradition Since a Long Time Ago

(The First Thanksgiving, painting by J.L.G. Farris. Can you spot the cowboy?)

It’s 1621. You’re a pilgrim. According to Wikipedia, you live in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Your Native American buddy, Squanto, who you refer to as “Redskin” because you’re racist, has dropped by to give you more eel fishing lessons. Before Squanto showed you something called a “net” the barehanded eel squeeze was your best wrangling method. But now, you're up to your neck in eels and dreading that night’s meal of eel pudding, your wife’s latest desperate attempt to prepare eel in a way that makes it stay down.

You gaze at Squanto, his bare back muscles sweaty and glistening in the evening sunset. Then you suppress those feelings because you don’t want to be burned at the stake, nor do you want your life to become an eventual Oscar contender.

Squanto looks at his watch. He tells you he has to go because he’s hanging out with some of his Indian friends that night at the local branch of the Wampanoag Club. They’re preparing gift bags for the annual Harvest Festival. This year’s theme is “dead turkey.”

“Hey,” you say, trying not to sound too desperate, “we’ve got a Harvest Festival too. Why don’t we potluck it? I’ll bring eel.”

And thus, since potluck was cheaper than catering anyway, the first Thanksgiving was born. William Bradford, in Plymouth Plantation, describes the preparations for the feast:

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion, except the Mansfields because no one liked them. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, muskrat, and Sasquatch. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports; Ha, Ha. We have food. Have fun starving in England, assholes.

And feast the pilgrims and Indians did. It was after this grand celebration that Larry, the most annoying of the Pilgrims, said, “Let us all give thanks for all that ye be thankful for.” And so began the tradition of each guest proclaiming what they were grateful for after Thanksgiving dinner. (The other post-meal tradition, started by Larry’s bulimic wife, Sally, is still practiced in entertainment-industry circles).

After the meal was finished, the Pilgrims remembered that they had to get home and check on the dogs, leaving the Indians to clean up the mess. The Pilgrims really just went to Target to get in line for fantastic deals on televisions.

And that, my friends, is the story of Thanksgiving. Have yourself a wonderful one.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Apology to Nebraska

Wouldn’t you know it? The one person who reads my blog that I don’t personally know lives in Nebraska. Last week, I named Nebraska one of my three least favorite states, and I made some rather snide comments about the non-existent population. (I’m just glad that West Virginia doesn’t have the Internet yet.) A fellow blogger named Greenthumb left a comment below my post that said, “I live in Nebraska... Omaha, actually, as do over 1 million other people. Ya jerk.”

Mr. Greenthumb, please do accept my apologies. My intention was never to offend, but to simply point out that Nebraska is not really a state I enjoy driving through or flying over. And while I have yet to verify that this “Omaha” place exists, I realize that without a respectable amount of research on my part, my comments merely sounded ignorant and short-sighted.

So this weekend I decided to hop on a plane and visit our 30th-something state. My first pleasant surprise was that Nebraska had an airport and there was no need to assume the crash position upon landing. The airport even seemed to be made of sturdy materials.

Once I collected my luggage from Ken, the airport security guard/air-traffic controller, I had no trouble waving down a cab. I asked the cab driver if he had heard of this Omaha place. He told me to take off my watch, as the technology was spooking his horses.

I had reservations for that night at a nice little bed and breakfast in a town called Gatlin, but my cab driver informed me that all of the children there had murdered the adults and were into some weird cult stuff, so we set about finding a more suitable place for my big Nebraska weekend.

It turns out there is a town in Nebraska called Lincoln. It’s quite a nice city really. The townsfolk are pleasant enough, and upon arrival I was gifted with numerous baked goods and over twenty invitations to “come over and watch According to Jim.” And so that mystery is solved.

Over the weekend I learned many facts about Nebraska. For instance, did you know that the state slogan is “Nebraska. We Have Laundry to do this Weekend?” Here’s another fun fact: Nebraska is bordered by six other states, which gives every person in the US roughly a 12% chance that they may be unknowingly living right next to it. Check your maps! Also, Nebraska gave us Arbor Day which is the most important day for trees in the calendar year.

I spent most of the weekend talking to locals, learning what an “acre” was, and watching lots of television. Overall, I had a very pleasant time in the Cornhusker State. I may have even seen a unicorn on Sunday, but then again, that may have been the opium.

So, I’m happy to announce that I am removing Nebraska from my list of worst three states and replacing it with Alaska, a state whose greatest natural resource is Sarah Palin. And I am going to personally write a letter of apology to every single citizen of Nebraska, even if it takes me most of the afternoon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Least Favorite States

There were a couple of things that I realized as I watched this year’s presidential election. The first was that an entire evening can be ruined by the advent of new technology, proven by CNN’s inexplicable decision to destroy a perfectly entertaining presidential election with the unveiling of hologram technology. Was it really necessary to bring into the news studio in 3-D? While both anchorman and guest blathered on and on about how amazing this new technology was, all I kept thinking was, “Hey, guys. He’s still in 2D to me because I’m watching him on freakin’ television.”

The second thing I realized was that West Virginia was still a state. I had forgotten all about it quite honestly. My only knowledge of the Mountaineer state is limited to a small section of the panhandle that is inconveniently placed between Ohio and Pittsburgh. This is where I once lost $100 in a slot machine at the Wheeling Downs Racetrack and Casino. To give you some perspective on my perspective of West Virginia.... I was born and raised in Indiana. Every state in the north makes fun of Indiana, so we make fun of people from Kentucky. And people from Kentucky make fun of West Virginia. It’s sort of the redneck joke pecking order. I have no idea who the people of West Virginia make fun of, but I suspect it’s probably people who went to college.

Now I’m sure there are a lot of intelligent, cultured people who live in West Virginia. And I’m also pretty sure those people want to move. It’s not that I dislike West Virginia. It’s just that if you were to force me to visit every state in the US, I would visit West Virginia first and get it over with. And I’d probably just go back to the casino and try to win my $100 back.

The second state I would visit on my hypothetical forced tour of all the Unites States is Nebraska. I’ve driven through Nebraska before, and it was the longest three years of my life. I have to check my facts, but I’m pretty sure no one actually lives there. It’s big and boring-- this coming from someone whose favorite past time is listening to baseball on the radio.

The choice for my third state gets tougher, because West Virginia and Nebraska are pretty much the only states I want to avoid completely. There are plenty of states that I don’t really care about either way. I’ll call these the “shrug states.”

Vermont, for example. Now, I’ve never been to Vermont, and I don’t know anything about it. But when I imagine Vermont, I imagine one gigantic gated community where everyone wears turtleneck sweaters and smokes pipes while cross-country skiing. The capital is a place called Montpelier for Christ's sake. Just the thought of Vermont reminds me of those Hallmark stores at the mall where you are scared to move around because you might inadvertently bump into a shelf and send a million overpriced glass figurines crashing onto the floor. And I’m pretty sure Vermont has that new candle smell everywhere you go.

There are plenty of other shrug states-- Iowa, Kansas, pretty much the entire Bible Belt, but the reality is that I’m poor and stuck in California, so I won’t be visiting any of these places anytime soon. But I will say I’m proud of Indiana for voting Democrat for the first time since the talking pictures have been invented. And really, in the end, your home state is always the best.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nathan's Tips For Enjoying Halloween

Halloween is right around the corner (and by “around the corner,” I mean “tomorrow.”) Thank goodness there’s a day on the calendar where we get to listen to “Monster Mash” over and over again.

Because Halloween can be such a stressful time I thought it might be helpful to provide a few tips for enjoying the world’s most important holiday:

-Explain your absence from Halloween parties by saying that you did show up, it’s just that your costume was a ghost.

-Remember, safety may be first, but dressing in all black and carrying a sharp pointed weapon as a prop is a lot more fun.

-If you’re a psychotic killer, now is the perfect opportunity to escape from the mental institution and go on that killing spree you’ve been thinking about. If you’re a babysitter, you may want to pass up that job tonight.

-The best Halloween costumes are the ones that are made using wit, creativity, and materials that can be found in the home, you cheap piece of shit.

-You know what would be hilarious? Dressing up your dog in a costume.

-Save money by going around your neighborhood and trick or treating a few days before Halloween. Then on Halloween hand out that candy to the kids. Also, use real spider webs and actual human bones to decorate.

- Remember, nothing improves self-esteem more than dressing up like a slutty nurse, drinking until you vomit and passing out on a park bench.

-Haunted Houses can be expensive and have long lines. If you want some real scares, take the kids to Sizzler instead.

-Pray that a zombie virus doesn’t break out, because how would you know?

-Here’s a fun party game for the kids. Blindfold them and have them touch different objects. Have them feel cold spaghetti and tell them they are touching intestines. Tell them that peeled grapes are eyeballs. And stick their hands down the garbage disposal to replicate a school of piranhas.

-Be sure to check your kids’ candy for razors, poison, and safety pins by eating it all yourself.

-Remember, Halloween has nothing to do with witchcraft or Satan worship. And just keep telling yourself that while buzzards feast off your burning soul in hell, heathen.

-And finally, when all the Halloween festivities become a bit too much, just think ahead to what a wonderful fucking time Christmas is going to be.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Take Sip Of Coffee. Open Credit Card Bill. Spit Take!

You know the economy is bad when the credit card companies need more money.

I was paying my credit card bills this week when I noticed that one of my minimum payments had shot up considerably, and by considerably I mean by a time-to-sell-my-bodily-fluids amount.

This was a card I had since college. I had never missed a payment, hadn’t used the card in months, and was paying over the minimum every month in my attempt to pay down my overall credit debt. I’d even paid the card off completely a few years ago. My history was fine, although it was a Cubs Visa, so I should have figured that something would go wrong.

Closer inspection of my statement revealed that MBNA was raising my interest rate from 12% to 29%. I called customer service immediately, and was placed on hold giving me plenty of time to entertain the idea of trading in the Daewoo for a Ford Tempo.

Finally a cheerful-sounding man (they’re always in a good mood, the bastards) answered, and I explained the problem. “Ouch,” he said obviously looking over my statement. It’s bad when even the credit people feel sorry for you. It’s kind of like a homeless person making fun of your outfit.

Mr. Happy Pants explained that I should have received some mail from MBNA explaining the changes in terms of service and offering an option to opt out of the new agreement. Sure, I get change-of-service notices from the credit card companies every month. I don’t read them because usually it isn’t a warning that I’m about to get raped. But now I realized they send you all that meaningless shit so they can sneak this kind of thing through. I decided to play dumb.

“Oh. I didn’t get that warning.”

They guy transferred me to another woman whose job it was to sound more authoritative and decidedly less happy than her co-workers. “Well, you’ve had a balance for some time now,” she told me. “Credit cards aren’t meant to be loans.”

“Well if you want me to pay it off, how is raising my interest rate going to help?” I asked.

I honestly didn’t mind if they raised my minimum payment, but with the new interest rate, all I would be able to do would be to pay interest each month, and I’d have to buy all my gold chains from that guy on the street corner.

Of course her little lecture about responsible credit use was completely hypocritical in the first place. My high balance was keeping her employed. Luckily, before I got a chance to get really angry, she let me opt out of the new interest rate as long as I didn’t use the card anymore.

In these times I’m glad I only contribute $10 a paycheck to my 401K. (Yes, receptionists get those.) This weekend I’m investing my money in something a little safer than the stock market-- I'll be at the Breeder’s Cup.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Barknotes and Musings by Henry Bean

(Ed. Note: Since I'm still working on a few more projects, I thought I would give this week's posting to my dog, Henry Bean. I'll be back next week.)

-Look, people, I’m going to bark whether you like it or not. Deal with it. I’m a dog. That’s what we do, we bark. We also pee on things we're not supposed to, but I've been working on that lately.

-I’m holding open auditions for mouth squirrels this weekend. If you’re a local squirrel, and you’d like to be in my mouth, show up at my place anytime Saturday or Sunday, and we’ll see how it works out. No pay, but I’m willing to offer college credit.

-Do they make car freshener that smells like steak? And where do I get it?

-My penis tastes fantastic.

-I’m fascinated by the theory of relativity, wormholes, and time/space continuum, and how these concepts relate to keeping my tennis ball from rolling under the couch.

-I come from a long line of butt sniffers. Seriously, give me a few moments alone with your anus, and I can tell you what you’re going to have for dinner tomorrow.

-When I’m licking you, it’s not a kiss. It’s me using my tongue to clean the dried taco grease off your arm. And that’s because I’m a fat man trapped inside a dog’s body.

-Hey, neighborhood dogs. Can’t keep your dinner down? Leave it on the sidewalk. I’ll eat it.

-I hate AIDS. Please vote against AIDS in your next election.

-Yeah, I was the one who bit the local retard. So what?

-Let me just say that with black and white vision, it’s hard to tell the difference between a giant, dog-eating monster and a homeless guy’s shopping cart.

-If I've learned anything in my 10 months on this planet, it's this-- stay away from China.

-A dog's life can be summarized by one question. "Should I roll in that or should I eat it?"

Henry Bean lives in West Hollywood and is published in over 40 countries and 37 languages. His book, Method and Theory in Industrial Archaeology, will be published in the Spring of '09.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This Isn't Really Happening, Is It?

Last night the Cubs lost to the Brewers, the second-place, division-rival, on-the-cusp-of-the-wild-card Milwaukee Brewers.

Any other season, this would be a time to panic. There would be screaming, crying, and trips to Cost Plus to stock up on bottled water and battery-operated emergency radios. If this were last year, last night’s game would have caused pharmaceutical-like side effects: vomit, diarrhea, weight loss, and bleeding from the eyes.

If this were any other time in the history of the Chicago Cubs, I would be worried that the Cubs were on the verge of another 2004, when they lost the wild card spot in the final weeks of the regular season. After all, the Cubs have to play these Brewers four more times, including the last three games.

But this isn’t any other year. Last night, I simply shrugged, and thought, “How cute. The Brewers won a game.”

Part of my laissez-faire attitude towards the Brewers is that I don’t think they are a very good team beyond their two aces, Sheets and Sabathia, and I’m as confident as a Cubs fan can possibly be that the Cubs would take the Brewers in a seven game series. Another reason is that I have tickets to the Dodgers first home playoff game, and if Milwaukee wins the wild card, then the Cubs will be playing in LA.

But the main reason I don’t care about last night’s game is because, for the first time in my life, I don’t have to. That’s right. There is a little over two weeks left in the season, and I’m not agonizing over the Cubs.

This year, the Cubs have taken the division without much adversity, and they’ve been the dominant National League team. At no time this year was there any real panic. Sure, the Cubs recently went through a slump and faced the possibility of losing their two best pitchers for the season, but that scare lasted only a matter of days. Cubs fans are used to suffering for months, years, even centuries.

The whole situation is almost anti-climatic. I’m sure Mets, Phillies, and especially Brewers fans are dying right now. Baseball is a frustrating sport.
Not for me. Not this year. It’s a very strange time to be a Cubs fan. There’s no worry to go along with the whole thing. This must be what it feels like to be a Yankees or Braves fan.

Of course, being a Cubs fan, I’m sure it will all fall apart rather quickly. We still have to actually win in the playoffs, something we couldn’t do last year. Plus, I’ve already cursed them by buying playoff tickets, not to mention writing this blog. But at least I didn’t buy Angels/Cubs World Series tickets. At least not yet.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Life Is All About Balance Too. 'Cause I'm a Gymnast.

Yesterday it was brought to my attention that Cameron Diaz has a long list of demands that any potential partner must meet before they achieve official boyfriend status.

She told InStyle, "My list is all about balance. You can have smart but not funny. You can have funny but not very smart. You can have intellectual but not social. But I want it all! I love big brains, I love to eat, I love to be outdoors, I love to have conversations, I love to make love. I don't do anything half-assed, and I want someone who can keep up with all that."

Funny. I have my own list of demands that a potential girlfriend must meet. Here it is:

1. Must brush teeth. And hers as well.

2. Must be willing to observe Weird Al Yankovic Day on the 23rd of every month, at which time she will dress up as Weird Al and sing “I Want a New Duck” three consecutive times while I do sit-ups.

3. Must agree to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that she will never disclose to anyone at anytime my obsession with Gossip Girl star Chase Crawford.

4. Must never say the word “guacamole” in my presence.

5. Every time she tells me she misses me, she must immediately follow that statement with “like the deserts miss the rain.”

6. Must be able to cook human flesh, just in case.

7. Must like the outdoors and sleep there.

8. When a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, she must let me know.

9. Must be willing to sign a prenuptial prenup stating that if we ever get married she will then sign a prenuptial agreement offering me all of her money in case of divorce.

10. Must start returning my phone calls. I’m only going to call, like, seven more times before I start sending threatening letters.

(Thanks to Cameron Diaz beat reporter Brendan Muldoon for additional reporting.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Reality of One's Own

You may not know me, but I am currently starring in my own reality television series. Some may argue that since there are no actual cameras following me and since there are no current plans in place for my show to be filmed, that I’m not technically a reality-television star. Those people are just haters, all up in my Jello, and they don’t even know the flavor.

What is unique about my reality show, besides being the first reality show not actually on television, is my use of the Tire Screech! sound effect. This is employed whenever something unexpected happens. For example, the other day I arrived at my car to find a parking ticket. Tire Screech! Originally, I was going to go with the Record Needle Scratch! But that was done to death by The Simple Life. Thanks a lot Nicole and Paris.

People often ask me what it is like being on reality television. They don’t actually, but if they did I would tell them how wonderful it is to have the most banal moments of your life condensed into montage and set to the most obvious music available for licensing. For instance, the past three days I’ve been waiting by the phone for a call from my mechanic telling me that my car is ready. These three days will be edited down to a 10 second clip set to “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

I also get to re-shoot any scenes of my life that I don’t think play well on the first take. The other day I ate a donut. “Can we do that one more time for the cameras?” I asked no one in particular. By the time we got it right there were eleven more takes. And then I threw up, a scene that will be available only on the special-edition DVD.

Being on a reality show also helps me delay any important decisions I may have to make. The other night my girlfriend asked me, “Do you want to eat Thai food tonight or Mexican?” I was about to answer, but then I paused, dramatic music was cued, and I cut to commercial. Two minutes and two seconds later, I told her that I didn’t care.

Admittedly, my reality show isn’t very good right now. I think what my life needs is more contrived dramatic set-ups. I’m going to go home tonight and have my girlfriend insist that I take harmonica lessons so that I can perform a medley on her birthday. This should provide ample opportunity to employ the Tire Screech! sound effect while my exasperated harmonica instructor tries to teach me rhythm.

Of course, the exposure I’ve gotten from my reality television show has really given a boost to my career. But, like those people on The Hills, I know that life after reality television can be tough, so I’m hoping to use the momentum and exposure to start my own restaurant. It's a sushi restaurant where the sushi is served by hamsters wearing tiny backpacks. If anyone is interested in investing, let me know. The producer of my reality show isn’t returning my calls, most likely because he doesn’t exist.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Daewoo Lives On. And On. And On. And On. And On.

It’s been a banner summer for the Daewoo. First Will Ferrell accepted the ESPY for Athlete of the Year for Tiger Woods and thanked his sponsor, Daewoo, adding “which I believe is some kind of car.” Then in Pineapple Express, Danny McBride’s character smashes his bright yellow Daewoo into one of the bad guys and taunts, “You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos, motherfucker.” Daewoo pride is at an all time high right now, which is sort of like school spirit, but dorkier.

Yet, as I was pulled over to the side of road somewhere in Hollywood on Sunday night, my Daewoo’s engine billowing white smoke, I have to admit that I was hoping the engine would just catch on fire and that my car would go up in spectacular flames. I wasn’t sure if my insurance covered spontaneous combustion, but I was willing to risk it.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my car. On the one hand, it’s small, easy on the gas, and ideal for city driving. On the other hand, Daewoo has stopped making cars, putting all of their production resources into cheap televisions and DVD players. Also, the CEO of the company is in Korean prison for a few more years. And then there’s the check-engine light that has been on since I got the damn thing. Oh yeah, and there is some sort of black engine fluid leaking into the carpet.

So as the cultural impact of the Daewoo continues to grow, so does the realization that my car could break down in Seoul, and I’d still have to wait three or four days for someone to track down the parts.

I’ve actually gotten some compliments about my car lately. A co-worker told me I was lucky to have a compact car during these days of expensive gas. I offered to trade her for her luxury SUV. She declined. Yesterday, I squeezed the Daewoo into a tight parking spot, and a neighbor told me that he had tried that same spot with his car but couldn’t fit. “Trust me,” I said, “That's the only thing that’s good about this car.”

Sunday night, after the engine smoke had dissipated, I opened the hood to assess the damage. The coolant had exploded all over the engine, symbolic of that fact that there was nothing on earth that could make my car cool. I was rescued by a tow truck driven by a completely humorless Russian man. In the five minutes it took to haul my car to the mechanic's, I learned that he disliked rich people, drank most nights when the shift was slow, and hated dogs and the people who owned them. When you drive a Daewoo these are the type of people you meet.

The next morning I learned that my thermostat exploded. It would only cost $150 to fix, and I would have my car back by the next morning. In the meantime I got to drive Camille’s Mini Cooper, which is like a Daewoo that doesn’t run on AA batteries. For one day I got to experience what it was like to have a real car. And it didn’t involve jamming my foot down on the brake just to stop.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Lifestyle

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have finally arrived. Fame is a funny thing like that. One day no one knows who you are, the next day you open the mailbox to find a letter addressed to you from the Beverly Hills Country Club asking if you would like to receive even more information about the Beverly Hills Country Club.

I'm not at liberty to reprint the entire letter, I wouldn't want to jeopardize the chances of my receiving further mailings from BHCC, but here is a little taste of the good life: "Beverly Hills Country Club is not for every one nor every family. If it were, it would not be a privilege to belong. Membership to our fine club is exclusive (their italics), but not exclusionary, and is by invitation. As you would expect, membership is limited. We invite you to get to know us and to allow us the same privilege."

Just a glance down the names on the Board of Governors on the left hand side of the letter gives an idea of the exclusiveness of the club I’ve been invited to inquire further details about-- Buzz Aldrin, Chris Carter, Barbara Eden, George Hamilton, Merv Griffin, Dr. Phil McGraw, Mathew Perry, Tom Selleck, and the list goes on. If you squint a little bit, chairman Gene Axelrod’s signature at the bottom of the letter almost looks like it was signed by hand.

I have to admit, my rise to fame took awhile. It started in fourth grade when I got my arm stuck in the back of my chair mid-class, a story oft repeated in Westville Elementary school lore. It culminated with my brief appearance in the background of a paparazzi video: (That’s me behind the desk. But, of course, you already knew that.)

Now that I’m famous, I’m going to have to make some changes. Camille and I are breaking up, both for the free tabloid publicity, and so that I can date someone a little more famousy. I’m moving to the new paparazzi-proof hi-rise apartments they are building in Westwood. I’m also getting a publicist and personal assistant for my dog, Henry.

By the way, Wolfgang Puck, I hope you’ve been practicing your backhand!

Of course fame isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I’m very lonely in my ivory tower of privilege and power. I’ve become addicted to the idea of caviar and lobster. For like every meal. Do you know what that does to your digestive system? Of course you don’t. You aren’t receiving bulk correspondence from the 90210.

So be prepared for a phone call Ms. Doreen Nesher, unspecified employee of the Beverly Hills Country Club, because I’m going to be calling and discussing this letter I have received and brightening your day with the shiny, ever-glowing privilege of getting to know more about me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh, Henry!

My dog, Henry, is getting fixed in a couple of weeks. Before last night, I think he suspected. His bark has been more sarcastic lately. When I tell him to sit, he obeys, but he does so begrudgingly. It could be that Henry is now a teenager (in dog years), or it may just be that he knows his manhood is about to end before it even begins. Such is the tragedy of a dog’s life.

I think Henry always knew this time was coming. About a month after we brought him home, he made a break for it. I wasn’t home to witness the self-emancipation, but apparently he just shot out the door and ran for freedom. For five minutes he was chased around the neighborhood by my girlfriend and four others. He made it around the block before shooting back inside and straight into his crate, soiling himself somewhere along the way.

We never found a goodbye note, and when I got home he refused to explain himself. As to where he was going, I don’t think even he knows. My guess was one of his two favorite spots: the next-door parking lot that is populated by a colony of giant cockroaches or the corner of our apartment building, a place he’s been obsessed with ever since a homeless person took a crap there.

The procedure will be performed at a place on Sunset Boulevard in a hospital picked randomly off the Internet for its low price. Why pay premium dollar for something that Henry won’t even enjoy? We’re hoping that he doesn't have to wear a cone on his head (which would prevent him from inadvertently removing his stitches after the surgery), but by the way he chews up underwear, we’re not optimistic.

Last night, I decided to come clean and tell Henry about the operation. I explained that it would be a great opportunity to refocus his life’s work on treat retrieval. When discussing the possibility of a cone, I tried to explain to Henry that when I was young I had to wear corrective shoes and braces. Sometimes we must go through an awkward adolescence in order to become our beautiful selves. He just looked at me and farted.

If he could talk I’m sure he’d say, “Why are you doing this to me?” Of course if he could talk, I’d ask him, “Since you’re blessed with a sense of smell 100 times greater than my own, why do you spend most of your time smelling dog butts?”

So Henry, if you’re reading this, please accept my very public apology for what is about to happen to you. And Good Boy! for learning how to use a computer.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Earthquake! The Blog.

At 11:42 AM, on Tuesday, I was sitting at the front desk at Lakeshore Entertainment when a giant jolt hit the building, rudely interrupting my game of solitaire. It took a split second to register that I was experiencing my first natural disaster. (Not counting that Denise Richards show on E!.)

After realizing that nothing was going to slam down on my head, I calmly walked around my desk as the entire office swayed back and forth for a few more seconds. And then it was over. At least, I thought it was over, but looking at the blinds in the office still rocking back and forth, I realized that it was still happening. And then it stopped, but I couldn’t tell because I was disoriented. It was the same experience I had drinking Jager bombs last Saturday.

The whole thing lasted maybe 15 seconds. Nothing fell of the wall. The power didn’t even go out. I had always heard that earthquakes seem to go on forever. Not this one.

I called Camille to make sure she was all right. She was with a friend who started her car right as the earthquake hit. They thought something was wrong with the car’s engine.

“It was over before I even got outside.” I told her.

“Who is going to answer the phones if you’re outside?” she asked.

That was how (thankfully) anti-climatic my first earthquake was. I didn’t even get so much as a five-minute break out of it.

The news was overstated on the Drudge Report within five minutes: “Earthquake Rocks Los Angeles.” News started filtering in saying that it was stronger than most, a 5.8 in Chino Hills, wherever that is. Apparently, anything above a 5 is newsworthy, and a 5.8 can be devastating in some parts of the world. Here, it rattled some slushy machines in Pomona.

The whole event became disconcerting after I started watching the news on my computer, waiting for aftershocks. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet I learned what a “foreshock” was, a minor earthquake preceding a larger one, like say that earthquake in China that was 4000 times stronger than this earthquake.

I decided to go home for lunch to check on the dogs and make sure my Playstation 3 hadn’t shattered into a million pieces. Both the dogs and Playstation were fine. The pictures on the walls hadn’t so much as shifted. On top of our bookcase, where we keep the board games, all the boxes were still precariously stacked on top of one another.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and responding to text messages my friends sent me, wondering if I was okay, which I appreciate. Although I hope no one is offended if I’m ever trapped in rubble and don’t have the time to text back right away.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Voice Over Chronicles

Years ago, I moved to Pittsburgh a year early to get residency for graduate school. Mind you, I hadn’t even been accepted. It was a gamble, but a gamble that would save me half the cost of tuition.

In the meantime, I worked at a video store. One day, soon after finding out that I had in fact been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh’s creative non fiction program, a customer at the video store said to me, “You have a great voice. Are you in school for radio?”

“No. I’m going to school for writing,” I told him.

“Well, that’s a mistake,” he replied.

Tens of thousands of dollars later, I sometimes can’t help but wonder if he was right. But the great thing about school is that you can always go back for more, so a mere two months after actually receiving my MFA, I’ve started taking voice over classes in Burbank.

I’m not giving up on writing by any means, but looking for something to supplement the writing income besides making coffee and answering phones. And since this is Los Angeles, I’ve chosen something just as high-risk and unreliable.

Voice over isn’t the cash cow it used to be. As our instructor told us, “It’s a cool part time job.” It used to be that a few actors got all the jobs and made a ton of money. Now, there’s more work available and a greater diversity of actors get jobs, but there is also more competition.

And then there is the whole issue of whether or not I can actually act. As I immediately learned, this isn’t just about reading some copy off a piece of paper. You have to act like a sandwich from Arby’s is the greatest thing you’ve ever tasted.

Our first exercise was a car commercial. We had to conjure up something that about which we reminisced. Most people thought about an old girlfriend or car. I, naturally, chose Denny’s bar in Pittsburgh. When I got out of class, I even felt like an actor, which in LA means that I can quit my job and hang out at outdoor cafes all day.

Like anything else, voice over takes a lot of time, practice, hard work, and commitment, commitment like the guy in our class who commutes from Las Vegas to Burbank every Saturday; an eight-hour drive, there and back, for a three-hour class.

And even after all that practice, time, and effort, it’s still a gamble that you’ll ever book anything. We’ll see if this one pays off.

P.S. I’m available for voice mail work.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I always get depressed when someone asks me, “If you were a superhero, what power would you have?” I would choose invisibility, but not so I can go into the women’s locker room and spy on naked girls. I would use my power to disappear at work and watch the reaction of people when they walked into Lakeshore Entertainment. “Good God,” they would think, “There is no receptionist!” But this scenario only gets me thinking about how if I really did disappear, it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference anyway, and I’d probably be docked a vacation day. This makes me disheartened.

But the biggest reason I get depressed is because I already do have a superpower, it’s just not very good. No, it’s not flight, super strength, incredible flexibility, or even the ability to summon fire with my bare hands. It’s much more mundane than any of that. I have what dentists refer to as “Teeth of Steel.”
Now, I’ve never actually heard a dentist use this term when referring to my teeth, but I’m pretty sure my super chompers have come up more than once in casual dentist conversation, probably during an all-dentist poker game or something of that ilk. “My patient,” my dentist would say, eyeing his cards, “He’s got teeth like I’ve never seen before. Teeth of Steel, I’d say.”

Like most superheroes, the discovery of my super power was by accident... accidentally not brushing my teeth before bed for over ten years. As soon as I got into college I thought, “Why brush at night when my breath will just smell bad in the morning, and I have to brush my teeth all over again?” I also didn’t floss. I had never flossed, and the thought of picking up something like that when I was well into my late teens seemed like a desperate kowtow to authority. Mouthwash? Forget it.

I didn’t go to the dentist for ten years either. At first, it was because I was lazy. Then it was because I didn’t have insurance. And then it was because I was frightened of getting yelled at by a dentist for not going for so long, and I was afraid of what they may actually find nesting in my mouth. (Remember, I didn’t know I had Teeth of Steel.)

I had some teeth pain during those years, but nothing too major, and my gums only bled if touched. You know how they say plaque is invisible? Well, not after ten years.

Eventually, I decided if anyone was ever going to love me again I needed to get rid of my earrings and get a dentist to clean my teeth.

“Wow,” my dentist told me during my first exam in over a decade, “You only have two small cavities.” Yes, after ten years I only had two small cavities. Sure, my teeth would have eventually fallen out from gum disease, but they would be strong teeth with no fillings, teeth that would last for an eternity. After a nuclear war there will be only cockroaches and my teeth.

Alas, I haven’t saved any lives with my super power. But I’m happy to report that I’ve been brushing my teeth regularly twice a day for the last few years. I even floss nightly. My teeth look good, but I know that somewhere out there is a toothless super villain out to destroy my Teeth of Steel. And until the day we meet and do battle, I’ll continue to disguise myself as plain old Nathan Jordan, mild-mannered receptionist.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hell, Thy Name is Pie

Two 4th of July’s ago, I almost blew my finger clean off. I am admittedly one of those judgmental people who say things like “What kind of inbred moron blows off his own hand with fireworks?” and yet I came inches away from subjecting myself to a lifetime of having to explain my inability to shoot a gun. That 4th I was in Indiana, the state of legal fireworks and 3 AM last calls. Fireworks are not only legal in Indiana, but they are embraced as a means of fundraising. My sister and I loaded up on fireworks at a tent sale that was operated by a local church in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

That afternoon we set off one of those chains of rapid-fire firecrackers. Afterwards, I found one in the yard the still hadn’t been detonated. I lit the thing, not realizing that those kinds of firecrackers have quick fuses. As soon as I tossed it, it exploded one foot from my face.

This year there were no almost-amputations. Some party pooper in the California government thought it best that thousands of square miles of dried vegetation wasn't exposed to flaming projectiles set off by drunk people. Instead, we celebrated with a cook-out and water balloon fight.

And then, this week, I decided to out-American myself and make an honest-to-goodness apple pie from scratch. See, I was involved in a pie baking contest at work, which meant that I got to try 14 pieces of pie over a 15 week period. Unfortunately, this also meant that I had to make a pie myself.

I had never made a pie before. After looking at the short list of ingredients, I decided to go with a simple caramel apple pie. Of course, I didn’t bother to read the actual recipe before starting. It was too long, a fact that a smarter person would have taken as a warning of the complexity of baking a caramel apple pie.

The first thing I noticed as I prepped all of my ingredients was that there were four steps to this thing. I had to make the crust. Then prepare the apples. Then make the caramel. Then get around to baking the damn thing. The second thing that I noticed was that I was home alone. I would be solely responsible for any type of explosion, electrocution, or food poisoning that may take place.

It took five hours to make the fucking thing. First of all, I didn’t realize that I had to peel every single apple. Then, I had to cook sugar and water until it caramelized. That took three attempts. I kept stirring the sugar, waiting for it to turn brown, you know, like caramel. Each time, the water would suddenly cook out of the mixture, leaving me with something resembling crack cocaine. By midnight, Camille was helping me roll out dough in our way-too-small-to-bake-a-mother-fucking-pie kitchen. The baking didn’t even go according to plan. After 50 minutes, the pie was barely hot. Maybe that had something to do with my head also being in the oven. Note: A 350 degree oven is not hot enough to bake a pie or to kill yourself.

After all was said and done, the half-cooked pie was set in the fridge at one in the morning. At this point I didn’t care. I had fulfilled my commitment to my job and to America. And
at least I hadn’t blown my finger off.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm How Old?

“I remember when gas was less than $5 a gallon,” I’ll be saying to my grandchildren when gas is $48 a gallon. And they’ll say to me, “Grandpa, you’re so old. What’s gas?” And then they’ll strap on their hydrogen jet packs and fly off to the virtual master brain for the fourth dimensional sensory simulation unit.

Until then, I can rest comfortably knowing that gas is well below $50 a gallon and that it only costs $200 to drive a rented Ford Explorer from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a semi-annual weekend getaway. At least there were four of us that split the gas this last weekend, although two of these passengers subjected the driver, yours truly, to a two-hour ‘N Sync marathon.

For those of you who are my age, ‘N Sync is like New Kids on the Block, but with Justin Timberlake. And I believe that starting in Barstow we listened to every song ‘N Sync ever lip-synced, mercifully skipping the Christmas songs.

The way these trips work is that on the way to Vegas the girls get to listen to their Ipods, and on the way back, I get to listen to mine. I take my opportunity with the radio to teach these kids about my generation’s music. I like to think of myself as a tour bus, cruising down the musical freeway known as the mid-nineties. If I can get these young ones to crack open and crawl out of their MTV shells, then maybe we can not only have fun, but perhaps learn something as well.

But as usual, by the time we were two tracks in to Wildflowers everyone was asleep.

Halfway through the trip back I discovered that the Explorer was equipped with satellite radio. I quickly found my favorite station, Backspin. Backspin played all of the rap music I listened to in junior high and high school-- Naughty by Nature, Public Enemy, KRS 1, NWA, etc. I tried to impress Camille by naming the artist and title of every song that came on.

“Back when I was in high school,” I told her, “I had over 200 rap tapes.”

“On 8 track?” she asked.

Listening to all of my old music made me think about how rap used to be so notorious. And then I remembered that back in those days, even The Simpsons was controversial. When I was in junior high, Bart Simpson shirts were banned from some high schools.

But I didn’t feel old until the DJ, Kurtis Blow, said “This is Backspin, the station playing the dope cuts from back in the day.” And that’s the speed of life. One day you’re in high school cruising down the strip in Greencastle, Indiana bumpin’ 2 Live Crew in your dad’s truck, the next you’re listening to some old rapper tell you that, yes, it’s been fifteen years and your youth belongs to a time that is now referred to as "back in the day. "

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some Notes on Dodger Stadium

Two Thursdays ago I went with my friends Bryan and Brendan to the Cubs game at Dodger Stadium. We had seats in the third deck with a fine view of the entire field. (One of the many things I like about Dodger Stadium is that all of the seats are pretty good.) It was a fantastic game with the first-place Cubs taking an early lead, blowing that lead, and then coming from behind to win by one. It was also Takashi Saito bobble head night.

There are two things that occur at Dodger Stadium that any self-respecting Cubs fan loathes. The first is the wave. The second is the overabundance of beach balls bouncing around the park. Apparently, Dodger baseball isn’t entertaining enough in its own right; fans have to bring activities. Brendan takes the proactive approach and annihilates any of the beach balls that come his way, usually to a chorus of boos and crying children. On that Thursday, Brendan wasn’t even going out of his way to grab the floating distractions, but the two balls that bounced in our area landed on the empty seat right next to him. He had no choice. In the ninth inning Saito came into pitch, and Brendan held up his Takashi bobble head and ceremoniously decapitated it in front of the entire section. He was pelted with food from angry fans. The good news was that the curse worked, and the Cubs scored the winning run that inning. The bad news was that I was hit by a cup of ice thrown at Brendan by an angry fan who had as good of aim as Saito did that night.

On Saturday, I was still recovering from Thursday’s dinner of two dodger dogs and tray of garlic fries. Camille and I had great seats thanks to my Dad, who sent me tickets as a graduation gift. We were eight rows off the field on the third base side in screaming line drive, foul ball territory. The day was hot, and for some reason I thought that being at a ball game made me immune to sunburn. After the game, I looked like an embarrassed lobster.

The Cubs lost badly that day, and so did Big Brown. The good news was that I only lost a few dollars more on the Belmont Stakes than I did paying $15 for parking outside Dodger Stadium. Getting out after the game took a good 50 minutes. For those of you not familiar with Dodger Stadium, all of the parking is in the ravine where Dodger Stadium is located. There are three or four roads out. Everyone drives, and the exits bottleneck as the game ends. This is why Dodger fans leave the game in the seventh inning, to beat traffic. That day I managed to find the worst of the parking lots, which was a level down from the main parking area. We had to wait for most of the main lot to empty before we could even move.

But for those who haven’t been, Dodger stadium is a great old ballpark. (It’s now one of the oldest and my favorite in California.) The best time to be there is sunset when an orange glow is cast over the hills and palm trees behind the outfield bleachers. And when the Cubs win.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Last Tirade

Oh, hell. I went and did it again. But this is the last one. I promise. Do you really think I’m going to be writing blogs about Indiana Jones when I’m sixty? Okay. Maybe if I get the right idea for a blog. But it absolutely has to be the right idea. And George Lucas has to approve the concept.
My change of heart came last night when I received two e-mails. The first was from my friend, Brendan, mentioning that the Frank Darabont Indiana Jones script, Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, had been leaked online. The second was from another friend, Rooster, and contained a copy of said script-- the script that Spielberg loved and that was going to be filmed until the Lucas veto. Honestly, it wasn’t a question of whether City of the Gods would be better than David Koepp's script for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it was a question of how much better.
First and foremost, there is no Mutt. This isn’t a story to set up the next franchise; this is an Indiana Jones movie. Otherwise, the plot is largely the same, involving a crystal skull and the search for the fabled lost city of the gods.
But this script is well written, and makes much more sense than Crystal Skull. Still wondering why the Russians kidnapped Indy (in his archeology gear for some reason) in the first scene in Crystal Skull and how the ensuing warehouse sequence connected to the plot? In City of the Gods everything makes sense. Indy shows up at the top-secret army warehouse because he sees his Russian friend sneak some fellow Russians into the base using Indy's own car. There is no mention of an alien or Roswell or any of that. The Russians are there for stolen plutonium and a mysterious object in a bowling ball bag.
After escaping the same nuclear blast in Crystal Skull and being accused of being a spy because of his connection with the Russian friend, Indy is put on leave as a professor and becomes the victim of an assassination attempt. When his would-be assassin kills an FBI agent, it looks like Jones did it, so now the police are after Indy too. This series of event leads Indy to the contents of the bowling ball bag-- the crystal skull. Off to Peru to clear his name, Indy delivers the skull to Marion Ravenwood, who doesn’t know that she is working for Russian spies. Indy decides he’s going to tag along in the search for the city of the gods, and Indy and Marion are soon being pursued by the Americans, the Russians, and the Peruvian government. The script certainly raises the stakes, and is that much more exciting as a result.
But most importantly, Darabont gets the characters right. Marion is as feisty as ever. And she is not outwardly happy to have Indy tagging along. Indy soon learns that Marion is married to a competing archeologist. Hence actual character development and story arc as Indy must come to terms with the fact that he has always loved Marion and has lost her. In Crystal Skull they seemingly get together for no other reason than they are supposed to. There’s also a fantastic mid-air fight sequence between Indiana Jones and the Russian friend who betrayed him. It’s too bad this wasn’t filmed. The river sequence is much better as well.
The script is not perfect. It’s long, and there are some drawn-out moments of exposition. There is still a Tarzan scene, and there aren’t three, but four waterfalls. There are also giant jungle creatures, which I’m not sure works, but at least explains how a horde of ants could eat a person in two seconds. Ultimately, the few outlandish action sequences make just enough sense to allow the reader suspend belief, a fine line that the Indiana Jones series constantly toes. Unlike Koepp and Lucas, Darabont seems to understand this dance. It’s the difference between forgiving some of the more over-the-top moments and not. In other words, there are no gophers.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Blah

Welcome to my first sequel blog! And you only had to wait one week. Normally, I don’t like to do more than one post per topic, but I have more to say about Indiana Jones. And unlike Steven Spielberg, I don’t have to take advice from George Lucas.

It’s impossible to say, exactly, from what perspective one should view Kingdom of the Crystal Skull since most of us are watching it through a lens of nostalgia for the other films. For some, this could mean accepting Kingdom despite all of its faults. My buddy, Mike, who liked the movie, wrote to tell me that while he had some of the same issues I did with the film, he felt it was on par with the rest of the series. He points out that both Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Ark were full of “what were they thinking” moments. He points out that the mine car chase in Temple was just as outlandish as the vine swinging scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. “Those old films are not always as good as we remember them,” he says. And he’s right. (One could also point out that surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator is no more probable than surviving a plane crash in an inflatable raft.)

But others, myself included, associate the first three films with great childhood memories, and remember the films as epic adventure masterpieces. Admittedly, for those people, Kingdom had hardly a chance of living up to impossible expectations. And that’s a fair enough pro-Kingdom argument.

But I still think Kingdom of the Crystal Skull failed as an Indiana Jones movie. To me, it still seems overstuffed and unnecessary. It just doesn’t work on an emotional level, or on a story telling level the way it should. (See original blog.)

I think one of the problems with Kingdom, as well as with the new Star Wars movies, is that George Lucas has never adapted to the increased sophistication of today’s audiences. Ironically, this is something that he himself helped nurture by being a pioneer in special effects and then promoting himself and his methods like mad. Like never before, audiences scrutinize special effects. Bad CGI groundhogs just don’t cut it because you can’t wow audiences anymore with anything that looks fake. It’s sad in a way, because audiences are now in on the magic trick. And since Indiana Jones doesn’t seem to be begging for extensive CGI, when it looks bad, it looks really bad. At least the Star Wars films were consistently nothing but special effects.

It’s also possible that Lucas doesn’t understand his audience anymore. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the audience that went and saw Indy skewed older than your typical action film. The fan base are the ones who saw the originals in theaters, no longer teenagers. Yet, goofy groundhogs and Shia LeBeoff swinging from a vine seemed thrown in to satisfy Lucas’s kids. (He ran into this same problem by making the Star Wars sequels for children. But Lucas doesn’t have to learn from his mistakes anymore. He can afford to be lazy.)

Lucas must not go to the movies anymore because there are plenty of examples of big-budget, mega-successful genre films that are both commercially viable and appeal to hard-core fans and critics. Like Batman Begins. Or Casino Royale. People don’t want to see cartoons anymore. They want their fantastic stories to be more grounded in reality. (Iron Man played it perfectly.) It’s a fine line, the one between fantasy and reality, one that Lucas doesn’t seem to grasp. Or maybe he just refuses to grow up like the rest of us.

Of course, it’s not fair to put all of the blame on Lucas. Spielberg did direct the movie. He’s the auteur. But my theory is that Spielberg became annoyed with Lucas, decided he just wanted to shoot the movie already, and gave in. So don’t be surprised if the Howard The Duck prequel is on its way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and Ehhhhhh

As much as he tried, George Lucas did not completely ruin my childhood this weekend. In Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago, Lucas complained about the fans who wrote him saying their childhood memories of Star Wars were ruined thanks to his crappy prequel trilogy. In the interview Lucas, perhaps shocked that the fans didn’t just bow down and kiss his feet for being gracious enough to deliver three new Star Wars films, actually shifted the blame to the fans for having impossibly high expectations. Never mind that if Lucas had delivered even a half-way decent series of films, the fans would have been ecstatic. And never mind that if Lucas had just put his ego aside and hired a real screenwriter and a real director for the new Star Wars movies, it would have been hard to screw up Darth Vader’s story. No, according to Lucas, the fans just expected too much. These statements were in reference to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Lucas, sounding uncharacteristically insecure, was warning that expectation for a movie we’ve all been waiting twenty years for should be subdued. And if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that when George Lucas tells you his own movie is going to suck, you better listen.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull begins with the Paramount logo morphing into a small mound of dirt. A groundhog pops out of the mound and scurries away. My first thought was “Why couldn’t they just get a real groundhog? Why did they have to use CGI?” I soon discovered that this was because the fake groundhog had to match the family of fake groundhogs seen later in the sequence. And that family of groundhogs had to respond with human expression as Indiana Jones crawls out of a refrigerator he uses to survive a nuclear blast.

I’m not going to bore you with plot details; you can let the movie do that for you. I will say that Harrison Ford is great, and the movie at least serves as a reminder for those who saw Firewall that Harrison Ford can still carry a movie. And of course, there are some great action sequences including a car chase through the jungle that actually feels like an Indiana Jones movie (at least until Shia LeBeouf plays Tarzan with some CGI monkeys).

The plot is explained using a lot of mumbo jumbo about the titular crystal skull and beings from another dimension. This being an Indiana Jones movie, mumbo jumbo is expected, but if you compare it to the simple and straight-forward way the exposition is delivered in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you see the main problem with this movie. There’s just too much. The movie is overwhelming, loud, and never seems to settle into a tone consistent with the other Indiana Jones movies. There are way too many “What were they thinking?” moments.

Ridiculous CGI, too much talking, moments that are over-the-top even for Indiana Jones standards. Sure sounds like George Lucas to me. (At least the aliens don’t look like Jar Jar Binks.) My biggest complaint was that Lucas was notoriously picky when it came to the script . Frank Darabont wrote the original version of this movie, a draft Spielberg was ready to shoot before Lucas decided that he had ideas that he wanted to incorporate instead. We now know that George Lucas wasn’t looking for a great script, he was just trying to stroke his own ego. Thanks George. Thanks for the gophers.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I have but one passion in life-- delivering food.

Each week, Sunday afternoon brings joy and happiness. Each Sunday night, after my shift, comes the darkness and depression, only alleviated by the realization that my next evening of delivering food is only seven days away. From the look and feel of my uniform to the sweet scent of my food bag, there isn’t one thing I don’t love about delivering food. And there is nothing I would rather be doing on a lazy Sunday afternoon than driving my Daewoo and spending quality time with the take-out personnel at California Pizza Kitchen.

Now, if you’re anyone other than a certain customer who I delivered food to last night, you probably understand that the above paragraph is dripping with sarcasm. You see, the customer, let’s call him “Dick,” apparently doesn’t understand what kind of work goes into delivering his chicken fingers.

First, I get a call over my radio telling me to report to a specific restaurant. I now have less than one hour to complete the order. Five minutes into my drive, I get cut off by a yuppie in BMW who is too busy to signal because he is trying to figure out how to text on his new Iphone. He then flips me the bird because I honk at him. Once safely at the restaurant, I am ignored by the take-out person for five minutes for no other reason than he or she hates dealing with delivery drivers. Once the take-out person finally acknowledges my presence, he or she tells me, “Oh, we just got the order,” even though I know the restaurant received the fax twenty minutes ago. Now I have to wait fifteen unnecessary minutes for the food to get ready. So, I tell the take-out person that I’ll be back, run to my car (and almost get smushed by an SUV), and drive to the gas station so I can fill up for the low, low price of $4 a gallon. When I get back to the restaurant, the food is ready but sitting somewhere behind the counter. So now I have to wait for the take-out person to help a line of seven customers before I’m handed the food, which means that I watch the food cool off for a good ten minutes, ten minutes that I could be driving with the food in my heat bag. The only good news is that the now-cold food all has to be remade anyway because there is cheese all over everything despite the note on the fax saying that the customer is allergic to cheese. By the time I finally get the food, I have less than ten minutes to get the order across town. Risking life, limb, and traffic ticket by driving my Daewoo above 40 miles-per-hour, I manage to get to the right address on time, but of course, the customer lives on a block full of apartment buildings, and there is no parking anywhere. I park five blocks away and hike it. When I get to the apartment building, the customer’s name is not on the buzzer, and I’ve left my phone in my car, so I have to get dispatch to call the customer. And then I get another order and start all over again.

So last night, I handed Dick his food, and he asked me if tip was included in the price. I told him it wasn’t, so he tipped me $1.38 on a $36 order, a 3% tip.

Please tip delivery drivers at least 15%. For the love of God.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Random Thoughts and Interesting Facts

Sometimes I wonder how many people were so inspired by Macaulay Culkin’s rap on Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video that they decided they would never again be racist. And then I wonder if these same people ever figured out that Macaulay Culkin was just lip-synching.

Werefish got the short end of the lycanthrope stick. You see, Werefish don’t live long because they usually aren't around a bucket of water when a full moon rises.

Did you know that America’s Funniest Home Videos is still on television?

Just for fun, I think that the lottery should have an “everybody wins” promotion where they draw all the balls, and everybody wins their dollar back.

Can you lose track of your thoughts if you are thinking about trains?

A lot of people say they have “gaydar.” I have something called “atractdar,” which means that I can tell if someone is attractive just by looking at them.

My sister and I have the type of relationship where we both have the same parents.

I have a new idea for a restaurant. It’s like the sushi restaurants where the sushi comes by on a conveyor belt. In my place, when you order a piece of sushi it's delivered by a hamster wearing a backpack.

You know your girlfriend is young when you ask her if she’s going to vote, and she tells you that she’s decided that she isn’t going to prom this year.

A lot of people think it’s homophobic when athletes say that they don’t want a gay man on their team because they don’t want that man checking them out in the shower. But it’s true-- gay men do look at you in the shower. I know because I joined a gay gym and every time I shower I have five or six men come up to me and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

I just got a new pet fish. He’s a clown fish. He has a little flower on his chest that shoots air on my face.

I think there may be a ghost in my house. Every so often my belt disappears from its usual spot, only to appear days later. And sometimes late at night I hear weeping. Either the ghost is sad that the afterlife involves dealing with loose trousers, or my girlfriend is still coming to terms with the fact that she moved in with someone who alphabetizes the spice rack.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The 10 Things I'm Going to Do Now that I Have My MFA

As many of you may already know, after eight years I finally received my MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from the University of Pittsburgh. For those of you wondering what, exactly, Creative Non-Fiction is, I can only tell you that it’s not fiction. In celebration of my graduation, I present to you:


1. Defer student loans by not paying them.

2. Finally take that trip to Nigeria. Meet with exiled prince. Collect the $3.5 million he promised me and deposit it in my bank until the prince can come to America and collect 50% of it, thus leaving me with a net profit of 2 million dollars.

3. Fulfill lifelong fantasy of having sex with one woman at the same time.

4. Work the phrase “I have an MFA” into conversation as much as possible. As in “Welcome to Taco Bell, I have an MFA, would you like to try our new Cheesy Gordita Crunch?”

5. Come up with a new idea that’s not “open a lightbulb store.”

6. Get job with Los Angeles Times. Come up with brilliant concept for story about the high-school experience. Go undercover at a suburban high school as nerd. Befriend nerds, and then fall in with the cool crowd. Attain popularity that I never achieved at real high school. Shun original nerd friends. Fall in love with hunky teacher who has moral dilemma about dating students. Have cover get blown, resulting in falling out with all my cool friends. Beg for forgiveness from nerd friends who were the only ones really there for me in the first place. Make up with hunky teacher and get first kiss ever on the pitcher’s mound of the baseball field before the championship game. Learn a big lesson about life. Win Pulitzer.

7. When I get to work every morning and brew the coffee for the office, add a new ingredient: sophistication.

8. Draw face on egg. Pretend it is a child. Stay at home and take care off egg. Ask friends to watch egg just for one night. Tell friends, “Well I want to go to the bar too, but I can’t because I’ve got to watch my egg. Why won’t somebody just watch the god damned egg for just three freaking hours!!!” Throw egg against wall. Receive a C- in Home Ec.

9. Open my new NetFlix-inspired, internet-based clothing rental business. For only $20 a month, you can rent a pair of socks, wear them, return them, and receive another item of clothing in the mail within 3 days.

10. Celebrate by getting really drunk and bask in the irony that drinking was the reason that it took me eight years to get my degree in the first place.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Reading Habits of Highly Ineffective People

It occurred to me this morning, while staring at my copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that the very first chapter in the book shouldn’t be “Habit 1: Be Proactive,” but should be dedicated to methods and strategies for actually reading the book past chapter one. Yes, in two months, that’s as far as I’ve made it. Have I learned “powerful lessons in personal change” as the book jacket promises? Well, I’ve learned to expand my circle of influence and shrink my circle of concern. Ask my girlfriend who is tired of me repeating “that’s outside my circle of concern” over and over again. I need some new mantras, but that means actually reading chapter two.

It’s not that I don’t like reading; it’s that I try to read too much at once. For instance, besides Habits, I’m also well into the six month of reading A Tale of Two Cities. I started the novel with the intention of becoming more learned, a mission I’ve been on ever since I was forced to take a graduate-level literature class called “Young Britain: Class/Nation/Youth.” (All grad courses are required to have an obnoxious, and sometimes repetitive, name that utilizes a colon.) The first week of class we were assigned Alice in Wonderland. I breezed through the book in thirty minutes, and that’s including illustrations. “This graduate school stuff is easy,” I thought.

The next week’s class began with a discussion where the fifteen other students analyzed Alice in Wonderland in a psychosexual context referencing Foucault and Lewis Carroll’s photography of naked children. Since all of the conversation was spoken using undecipherable lit-school jargon, I didn’t understand much except that the class consensus was that Lewis Carroll was a pervert. I just thought it was neat when Alice ate the cookies and became really small.

Over the course of the semester, I realized that not only was I decidedly under read compared to my classmates, but that I had no idea how to analyze literature in a graduate-studies atmosphere, a skill that would surely earn me millions of dollars in the private sector. I made a promise to myself to improve by consuming and analyzing mass amounts of literature on my own time. In the eight years since, I’ve made it through half of War and Peace and one-third of Walden. Every so often, I renew this promise to myself, hence A Tale of Two Cities. I’m on page 106, and every time I pick it up I have to read the online CliffsNotes first just to remind myself what in the hell is going on.

If I go by the theory that one should read what one actually enjoys, then I’m doing better. I devour memoirs like Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up and The Tender Bar. But it seems like I’m always reading three books at once. Right now, besides Two Cities and Habits, I’m well into Bukowski’s Post Office. It seems like I’ll never catch up with my reading, especially when you consider that I have to watch movies and make time for PlayStation 3.

I do have friends who enjoy reading five books at once, but I’m too high-strung for that kind of thing. I like to finish what I start. Of course, if I could just concentrate on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and get to chapter 3, “Begin with the End in Mind,” I might be able get something accomplished. That should only take another year or two.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Regarding Henry

After much deliberation, we decided on the name Henry Bean. He looks like a Henry; the name Bean is strictly for comic effect. Henry was rescued by his former owner from a pet store, one of those puppy mill distribution places that should be outlawed. Since Henry’s former owner already owned three hundred dogs, Henry needed a home. Now I am a father.

Henry arrived out of nowhere two Sundays ago, my girlfriend surreptitiously bringing him into our lives. It was like that movie with the Rock where he’s a football player and his daughter just shows up one day. Except this wasn’t some movie that I’m forced to watch on the plane ride back from Jamaica, this was real.

Henry is half Lhasa Apso and half Australian Cattle Dog. He’s a scruffy canine, with an old man’s beard that gets wet every time he drinks water. He’s still getting used to his long, fawn-like legs, and he walks at an angle. The other day I took him for a run on the leash. He looked back at me with his trusting puppy eyes every few seconds to make sure that I was following. Then the little bastard ran sideways into a fence.

Dogs aren’t only retarded, but they’re expensive. The first thing we had to do was buy Henry a crate for $100. He promptly thanked us by defecating in it. Hence, the potty training started. I’ve said the word “poop” more times in the last two weeks than I have since I was four. I have whole conversations with my girlfriend on the phone about my dog’s bathroom habits.

Of course Henry has diarrhea, and he steadfastly refuses to go in grass. Cleaning up after him involves scraping the feces off of the sidewalk with a plastic bag. Imagine my delight the other day when I discovered there weren’t any plastic bags in the leash dispenser. Since I couldn’t go anywhere without leaving a huge pile of poop in a parking lot, I was forced to dig through a nearby trash can and use a Doritos bag and a napkin soiled with something yellow and wet. And I still got shit on my hands.

The training has gone well ever since I’ve started rewarding him with treats every time he uses the bathroom outside. But all day long I stress out about my dog and his poop. Will he go in the crate? Can he hold it until I get home? Are we almost out of treats? I’ve becomes so preoccupied with house training that the other night I gave a snausage to a drunk guy urinating on the tree outside my house.

Henry won’t stop itching either. It’s so bad, he’s taking the fur off his ears. (Which makes a great idiom: “I can’t stand that guy. Man, he really takes the fur off my ears.”) After a vet visit on Sunday, it turns out Henry has ear mites, also known as “mange.” That’s right, without further treatment my dog will look like a chupacabra. Scabies treatment: $300.

But damn if I don’t love the little sonofabitch. If the Rock can learn to juggle his career as an all-star quarterback with the responsibility of being a parent, then surely I can learn to juggle my career as a receptionist with the responsibility of cleaning dog shit off the sidewalk. And that, my friends, is called parenthood.

Monday, April 7, 2008

We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off to Enjoy Bad Music

I admit it; I have the worst taste in music. This is no great secret among my friends and family. My girlfriend listens to the smooth jazz radio from time to time and still has better taste in music than I do. (By the way, why does every smooth jazz radio station in the US have a late night show called “The Quiet Storm?” How about something original; “The Soft Explosion” maybe?)

In my formative pre-school years, I listened to three albums: Everybody Loves a Nut by Johnny Cash, Steve Martin Live, and My Home’s in Alabama, by Alabama. My mom listened to Q101, Chicago’s rock station. I couldn’t stand it. Pop music generally sucked in the mid-to-late eighties. Now I like a lot of that music, which means that early grade school was the zenith of my music-listening sophistication.

By junior high I was obsessed with Weird Al Yankovic. From there, my musical taste never really matured. At the very least, I became musically stunted. I would go through musical phases five years later than most people. You’re supposed to obsessively listen to Led Zeppelin when you’re in high school. I waited until college. College kids discover Pink Floyd. I was in graduate school. I’m still waiting to hit my Beatles phase. Maybe I’ll pick up the White Album this weekend and see what all the hubbub is about.

Now I listen to a mish-mash of music, buying whatever catches my fancy. I consider myself a jack of all trades, uncommitted to any one style. As a result my taste tends to run middle-of-the-road which I realize is not the best place to find innovative music. With the exception of Tom Petty, I don’t know any particular artist’s repertoire extensively. But at the very least, I’m not pretentious. I know what I like when I hear it. That’s good news for bands like Hootie and the Blowfish. has a list of the worst 50 songs of all time. Surprisingly, I would only say that I like five or six records on the list. The worst song of all time is “We Built This City,” by Starship, which is a song I would spontaneously belt out at least once a night during a two-week period of binge drinking in May of ’03.

I have three of these worst songs on my Ipod: number 42, “The Sounds of Silence,” by Simon and Garfunkel; number 29, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” by Deep Blue Something; and number 16, “What’s Up?” by Four Non Blondes, which I didn’t even realize was a bad song until just now.

My poor musical taste may be attributed to the fact that I truly enjoy songs that are notoriously bad, songs that most people listen too ironically. My favorite bad song of all time is “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” by Jermaine Stewart. You have to love any song that opens with the lyric, “You just took for granted that I wanted to skinny dip.” Jermaine Stewart’s good-time alternative? Dancing and drinking cherry wine. Is he dating a homeless person?

When it comes to musical taste, I’m more of a victim than anything else. The music I listen to chooses me-- a song from a great movie, something I overhear at a bar, music that makes me reminisce about a particular time in my life. And that’s what music is all about, right? How can I help it if “I Want a New Duck” makes me think of my first girlfriend?