14 October 2011
I don't like to say that my father drank himself to death because I feel like that implies agency, like Dad set out and to kill himself with booze rather than what actually happened, which is that he plain gave up and drank Miller High Life until his body did the same.
And that last part, it's probably the biggest reason I'm here on the Highland Cinema today. It's why I was so excited to see the Mentors a few years ago, why I search "most disturbing films" in Google whenever I reactivate my Netflix account, why I can never muster up the nerve to call a girl. All because of my dad. It's why I watched No Direction Home or bought Cat Stevens' Catch Bull at Four or why I tried to read a book on Richard Nixon. For years without me knowing it, Dad was the reason I couldn't help but put up defense mechanisms and deflate your enthusiasm with cynicism. He's why I felt it necessary to convince myself that the reason I bought used copies of Ham on Rye, Post Office, and Women wasn't because I couldn't pull myself away from sad, middle-aged alcoholics, but because I thought that Jon Daly and his Bill Cosby Bukowski character were just hilarious. Seriously....Jelloems? My God. Inspired.
If Bukowski had genius, it was in his fearlessness, a fearlessness that was rooted in defeat and completely without bravado. His finest moments are exercises in emasculated machismo: waking up and vomiting stomach acid into the bathroom sink or pulling out and telling her you can't cum because you're just too fucking blitzed, hon. Bukowski's charm is this gallows humor, the matter-of-factness with which he celebrates a homely woman's fat ass or talks back to his boss as he's getting chewed out about his far too frequent trips to the water fountain. Bukowski was prone to rambling and incoherence, but that's why we remember him. We like that he was a self-professed dirty old man who drank beer by the case and spent his nights in front of a ramshackle typewriter in an even more ramshackle welfare hotel. His adult existence was rejection letters and soulless shifts at menial jobs. But that's what gives us hope. Maybe someday our own brooding and half-ass will could amount to something so great as literary fame and fortune.
But then there's the mean-spirited sorrow of Charles Bukowski, a bleary-eyed insensitivity and inadvertent nastiness that make me want to take back everything I just wrote. There's the way he calls his girlfriend a bitch and a fucking whore while they're in front of the cameras. Or the way he opens his mouth and makes me nervous that his staggering intensity is about to trap me in a conversation peppered with bloodshot glares and sweaty finger pointing. Born Into This shows us Bukowski slur his way through horrible poetry readings while co-eds and burnouts cheer him on and he sucks down Screwdrivers. These scenes are book-ended with footage of agents and sunglasses-clad celebrities who speak with a glowing fondness for Bukowski's legacy as a drunken Bard of the Los Angeles streets. The whole time I can't help but think of the sadness and pain he'd gone through. I can hardly get over how offensive it is that anyone could mythologize or encourage such hurtful and melancholy behavior. It's almost unbearable.
But even after all of that I still feel a romance for the lonely alcoholic, awake and creative at one in the morning. Which is why tomorrow I'm still going to buy Factotum even though I didn't like Ham on Rye, and I thought Post Office was just okay.
Here's my favorite passage from Charles Bukowski. From the final two paragraphs of chapter thirty-eight of Women, published in 1978:
That night she drank half a bottle of red wine, good red wine, and she was sad and quiet. I knew she was connecting me with the racetrack people and the boxing crowd, and it was true, I was with them, I was one of them. Katherine knew that there was something about me that was not wholesome in the sense of wholesome is as wholesome does. I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn't have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. It didn't make for an interesting person. I didn't want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone. On the other hand, when I got drunk I screamed, went crazy, got all out of hand. One kind of behavior didn't fit the other. I didn't care.
The fucking was very good that night, but it was the night I lost her. There was nothing I could do about it. I rolled off and wiped myself on the sheet as she went to the bathroom. Overhead a police helicopter circled over Hollywood.
25 August 2011
I pretty much take Matthew Timmons' advice on everything, probably because we had the same PE class in seventh grade and he had a Metallica t-shirt. In recent years, Matt's been all, "You should move up to Seattle," and "You should buy that guitar," and "Dude, that TV! It's just like mine!" He's also been, like, "You totally need to call that girl," and "Eh, probably shouldn't call her again," and "It's Always Sunny is incredible, Booth. What am I, an asshole?"
So far it's all worked out pretty goddamn well.
19 August 2011
I like RA the Rugged Man because he's a tough white dude who raps about offensive things and I listen to a lot of Necro. But I also like boxing because of a Larry Sanders extra and I decided to go to Prague after I saw some Polish animation, so my logic isn't always the most sound.
18 August 2011
I'm kinda tired of the story where I went to see ArnoCorps and got blackout drunk on a few PBRs and one whisky sour and I vomited all over a girl I liked in the back seat of her car. But the story I'm not yet tired of is the one where I got home the next day reeking of of hangover and remorse and I put on Take Me to the Plaza just so I could watch Jonathan Richman sing about how beautiful it was to live in a world where the sad sun stared at you through the trees and men sat in the cafe crying in vain and your heart hurt so bad you can't eat, you can't sleep, you just wandered around. After that, I knew everything was going to be okay.
15 August 2011
I'm halfway certain that my ninth grade English teacher wanted me to read A Prayer for Owen Meany because of how pleased he was that he looked like John Irving's dust jacket photo. I knew this at the time, but that didn't stop younger me from really really digging this book, so much so that during the year I read as many Irving pieces as I could.
But then, once I got out of high school I found myself at the community college, and I all but stopped reading entirely. Sometimes I would sit there in pretend-class and start feeling bad about myself and think, "Man, didn't I used to read all sorts of real books all the time? Didn't I do more than scroll through the GWAR FUQ while eating Taco Bell and drinking Dr. Pepper?"
Finally, one afternoon I decided I had to do something about this, and I drove down to the used book store and bought the first copy of Son of the Circus I saw. With all sorts of good intentions I got home and plowed through the opening thirty-five pages, but before I knew what had happened, I found myself bored, I'd slid a bookmark between the pages, and I'd slipped this New York Times bestseller right back onto the shelf, right back into the spot that'd been recently vacated by the X-Cops CD I'd picked up a few weeks before and which had almost as recently taken up permanent residence in the bedroom stereo. As I pushed play, I silently pledged to myself that I'd give John Irving a shot in just a few days, once I got over the momentary thrill of loud, offensive music and was back in the right frame of mind. Yep. In just a few days.
I still haven't made it to page 36.
23 July 2011
03 July 2011
02 July 2011
01 July 2011
30 June 2011
25 June 2011
04 June 2011
Normally a movie about the guys who wrote the songs for Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks wouldn't pique my interest, but after I heard David Feldman gush about this on his podcast, and after I found out that the director is married to a certain comedienne named Wendy Liebman who just so happens to follow me on Twitter...well, I was SOLD.
Great movie. Great story. Great movie. Good story.
01 June 2011
29 May 2011
22 May 2011
16 May 2011
15 May 2011
During the summer of 2001, back when I was but a college livin' man at the University of California, Berkeley, I listened to Rollins Band's "Joy Riding With Frank" every single goddamn day. Each and every day from May to September whether I was sitting on BART, cruising to Safeway in my 1986 Mazda, or shutting my eyes trying to fall asleep at two in the morning after I'd finished watching The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, I had nothing but thirty-two minutes of hollerin', guitar bloops, and slappy bass fills rattling through my head. My roommate totally (deservedly) made fun of me for it, probably because he knew that it wouldn't be long before I'd come home late one night so jonesing to hear this song I would wind up snapping my headphones in half as I stumbled toward my bed.
This bed, I should point out, wasn't really even a bed at all. It was a twenty-five year old sleeping bag on top of a mattress pad on top of my olive green shag-carpeted bedroom, a bedroom which, I should also point out, wasn't really even a bedroom at all. It was our living room that'd been partitioned into a pretend bedroom by a plywood sheet that was screwed into the ceiling and decorated with charcoal-drawn orchids.
That was pretty much how I lived all through college. I slept on the floor and listened to shitty rock music from 1987.
13 May 2011
Buddy Giovinazzo has no choice in life but to make movies about dopesick panhandlers who mentor child prostitutes, pre-op trannies who are flat-out gorgeous, and teenage gang-bangers whose hearts ache for their departed sisters with such intensity they pee on rape victims and beat old men half to death just to get through the day.
06 May 2011
Like everyone else I've always enjoyed comedians. I remember lying in bed watching Comic Strip Live on Saturday nights, downloading the audio for Chappelle's Killin' Them Softly off Napster (I didn't actually see the video for another three years), and talking close personal friend Chris Daly into driving me around for an extra forty minutes just so we could listen to the rest of Skanks for the Memories in his car. But over the past two years I've decided that I don't just like stand-up comedy, I love it. It all started in February of 2009 when Matt Timmons told me I should listen to Adam Carolla's new podcast. I'd been listening to Fresh Air and The Sound of Young America for a few years by then, but hearing Carolla's show changed everything. I remember sitting at work hearing Carolla and David Alan Grier bullshit for an hour, Grier telling stories about his parents' divorce and how his psychiatrist father wrote Black Rage, and all of the sudden I realized how much was missing from my life. From then on, all I wanted was to have clever conversations with smart people, reference Billy Jack with 40 year-olds, and have a dad who penned a treatise on Black Power.
I spent the rest of that year listening to every episode Carolla put online. And then when I got tired of that I switched to Marc Maron's WTF and Greg Fitzsimmons. I spent the entire summer listening to Bill Burr's Monday Morning Podcast, and anytime I had two and a half hours to spare and a hankering to hear about DMT and pornography I didn't hesitate to download the latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience. Comedy has really spoken to me, and it was all because of the podcast medium. Thinking about it made me realize that what I like about stand-up had nothing to do with wanting to laugh and everything to do with the comedians themselves. I liked their miserable and bitter lives, so full of loneliness and 12-Step Meetings. I liked their failings with women and their arguments with...everyone. It all made sense to me, and I could relate to nearly all of it.
So for the past two years this enthusiasm has turned me into a bit of a lunatic myself, drunkenly haranguing friends and family with tales of my own self-loathing and non-romantic non-entanglements, every minute of every one of these debacles I fantasize as training sessions for my own Evening at the Improv. I know it's after last call and we're standing on the corner outside your building, but in my head I look like Rick Shapiro and sound like Bill Burr.
04 May 2011
01 May 2011
I've been a fan of Bobcat Goldthwait since I was a child, and when I say "fan" I mean I saw him on television and he made my dad laugh. The guy also had a funny voice and walked out onstage with his pants around his ankles. It was a three-point frozen rope right into a young boy's heart.
16 April 2011
I really liked this movie. I spent a long time sitting on the sofa trying to remember why I wanted to watch it in the first place, and then I finally gave in and looked it up on my phone's IMDB app. Turns out it was written and directed by the guy who made Chop Shop. I liked that movie too.
13 April 2011
Movies in Spanish remind me of when I went to Mexico. That was a great few weeks of my life. I drank a lot of Nescafe and wore a big stupid hat. And then my sunglasses and camera got stolen and I stopped shaving. And to think that I came awfully close to talking myself out of going. Such foolishness!
12 April 2011
10 April 2011
31 January 2011
Kinda scared this might be movie about wood nymphs and pan flutes 'cause the title makes me think of the box art for that Calista Flockhart Midsummer Night's Dream, but the Woodman came through with a picture that was goddamn charming and poignant as all hell.
18 January 2011
17 January 2011
07 January 2011
If you were part of the Human Centipede, which segment would you be?
I think most of us would want to be the guy in front. But honestly, isn't that the guiltiest of segments? Think about it: you can use both arms, turn your head, and hold a conversation. You can even eat a tasty meal! As far as a Centipede existence could go, life is pretty darn great. But here's where the horror comes in, and it's the most evil type of horror, a psychological pain that you will never escape since all the while you know, you know, that some poor fucker has his mouth sewn into your butthole, and behind him? Another poor fucker whose mouth is sewn into that guy's butthole. So while you have a wealth of creature comforts and get to enjoy the freedom of pretend mobility, you will never ever ever forget that each and every one of your natural instincts contributes to the suffering of at least two other kind-hearted souls. Do you honestly think you could live with that burden? With that guilt on your conscience?
The middle segment, now that's the one conventional wisdom abhors.We wouldn't even have a movie if it wasn't for this segment. But to all of you, I posit this: maybe, just maybe, you're the type of person who likes the status quo. Maybe you routinely accept your position in life. If that sounds like you, then maybe this middle segment ain't so bad. Sure, you may subsist on a diet of raw feces and shit in the mouth of a stranger, but you have the luxury of knowing full well that there is nothing you can do about it! You are bereft of any and all decision-making capabilities. Harboring illusions that you can get yourself out of this and improve your life? Impossible. That's actually kind of comforting, right? It's not like you can waste your time devising an escape plan because you can't even talk! And hell, talk? You can't even make eye contact. Everything in your life from crawling across the front lawn to swallowing a quart of diarrhea is going to happen whether you want it to or not. A life without choice, without all free will. How liberating.
But if it's nobility and honor that you crave, then you have one and only one choice. The final segment. Absorbing twice-filtered poo is, of course, a nauseating way to live out your final days, but doing so will only build you into the ultimate martyr. While you may be on the receiving end of the most miserable of miseries, you absolutely cannot make anyone's life worse. Your sphincter releases now-thrice-filtered poop onto...what? The floor? Big deal. You are like Jesus, you are, dying a slow death so that others may live. Choose the caboose, and you will be live for eternity.