The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness:Part 3

Jake and Falcon were the guitar players in one of my favorite Salisbury bands, a punkabilly tinged combo that was big on the hard drinking, drug taking, tattoo getting stereotype of those kind of bands. I went to Falcon's house one night for a after party after one of their shows and arrived right in the middle of a bourbon drinking contest between Falcon and a girl that was part of his circle of friends.

They squared off in the kitchen, going shot for shot. His opponent was about 6 foot 3 and proportionately sized for her height, but she was still a woman, so the slowly revealing fact that she was winning this contest was quite a shot to Falcon's ego.

He started getting more louder and belligerent; if he was going to lose, he was not going quietly. Pans were clanged; a bottle of hot sauce was opened and waved, drawing red stripes in the white ceiling. The bottle of bourbon was drained empty, but an auxiliary one awaited.

Falcon's roommate, Mark, was not too keen on the prospect of an even drunker Falcon, so he hid his other fifth of alcohol. Falcon went on a semi-coherent rampage through the house about his missing bourbon and about how he wasn't going to lose a drink off with a girl. He ambled upstairs and down, but came up short.

He was yelling in the living room about how much we sucked when Jerry, a slight kid who had just moved to the 'bury, spoke up. He had been passed out for so long on the floor at the party that someone had put a blanket over him, but Falcon..s ranting had woken him up. He stood up and yelled,"Why don't you shut the fuck up!""

If this story was ever dramatized, this would be the cue for the sound effect of the needle falling off the record. All of us more sober people looked at each other, Jerry was about 7 inches shorter than Falcon and had the muscle tone of a English dandy, this didn't look like it was going to end well. But Falcon didn't react the way we had thought he might.
"I like this guy, he fuckin tells the truth!" and then they kissed. They locked into an embrace with such force that they fell over the couch and onto the floor, still in each other arms. We looked on with slack jawed amazement.

But bellicose clamoring and male on male make-outs weren't getting him closer to his missing whiskey, but he did know the culprit.
"Mark! Give me my bourbon!" he yelled upstairs as he went up after him. Yelling was soon replaced by furniture sized crashing and the grunts of physical contact.

Then suddenly it stopped, and Mark stomped downstairs and sat on the couch, breathing heavy and hard, still in fight rage mode. His face was covered in blood and it didn't seem to be his, Jake immediately ran upstairs to see how Falcon was.

Falcon yelled from upstairs, "Mark, let's see how tough you are without a Samurai sword!"
Jake came down with an announcement, "Anyone who doesn't want to talk to the police, should probably leave right now," so off we went.

I saw Falcon at a bar a few days later. He still had all his limbs, thankfully, but his face looked like it had gotten hit with a whiskey bottle, because it had been. His face was still pretty swollen and discolored with a jagged stitch going from the top of his nose up to almost his hairline. I asked him if he was looking for another place to live.
"Nah, as long as he pays my hospital bill, we're fine."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness:Part 2

Simone was a woman I used to live with on Camden Avenue, in a huge group house. She was a friend of our roommate Angie and was desperate for a place to live. She was an expat German who had married an American serviceman and come to this country, only to have it bust up shortly after she got here. Little did we know that when Simone moved in we also got blessed with her boyfriend, Bill.

In the few times I had any direct contact with him, he struck me as the kind of fella that’s nice and personable enough, but a very forced kind of way, like he was keeping something under control just behind the eyes. He was a big, muscular guy who was trying to join the military himself had the haircut in anticipation.

I came home after working late and walked into the room where we kept our answering machine and listened to the messages. There were two, both from Bill.
“Hey Simone, it’s Bill.”, he started in a affable tone, “just catching up. O.K. so, give me a call, or I’ll come over and kill your roommates.” as casual as if he said,”Catch you later !”

That literally sent a chill up my spine into my chest, causing me to lose a breath. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as one of the most common slasher flick cliché came to life before my eyes, made more vivid by the fact that the only light in the room was the blinking red one on the answering machine. Then there was the second message.

His tone had changed, now was talking low and what he probably thought was “sexy”, but with his jocky cadence was more like, “porny.”
“Simone, baby, I wanna drag my knife across your body, I want to cut your clothes off. I gonna give it to you, whether you want it or not.”

What the fuck, I thought, does this guy knows this is all our answering machine? I turned on the living room light and the phone rang. Bill. The voice he used was the same “Hello, Mrs. Cleaver, is the Beaver home?” as the first message.

“Is Simone there?”, he asked.
“No.”
“Thanks!”

I talked to my other roommates about this, and one said,”Don’t worry, she’s breaking up with him.” I was naive enough to believe that this would be the last we’d hear of him.

I woke up about 3 am one morning about a month later to an awful racket downstairs, like people falling down the stair case over and over. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, wondering if I was still asleep then started to get up to see what was up. I stopped when I heard our front door open like someone had been pushed through it and heard Blotto(one of the other roomies) yell, “You know where to come back if you want anymore, bitch!”, so I put my head back down to bed.

The next morning I walked down the stairs and noticed blood on our banister and smeared on the glass in the front door, but I wasn’t able to get the full story until that night allowed my curiosity to fester almost to the braking point.

Simone went out with Angie and her boyfriend and came home with a guy who was not Bill. Since she lived on the first floor of the house, it was easy for Bill to look in her window, as it turns out he had been doing for a while. He burst in the house and kicked open Simone’s bedroom door. The new paramour, not having signed up for this, took off, leaving Bill free to choke Simone. Angie’s boyfriend tried to help, but just got swatted away.

That meant BLOTTO TO THE RESCUE! Perhaps I should describe Blotto, he was extremely obese,with no trace of a neck, but still maintained the quickness he had when he played football. He had spent a lot of his post college time bouncing at area bars so he had a well honed talent for taking care of drunk guys who underestimated him.

Blotto came in and pulled Bill off her and tried to get him out the door, but he wasn’t leaving that easily, pulling away from the door and into our living room coming to rest on one of our couches. Bill tried to get him off by punching him in the side, but this merely angered him as he answered with his own blows.

He finally got Bill out, but wasn’t able to lock the door before Bill came back for round two, this time armed with brass knuckles he had on his motorcycle. Blotto immediately disarmed him and started to work him over on our staircase, which explained the banister blood. Then he shoved him out and said the “you know where to come back” thing that made me comfortable enough to go back to sleep.

It wasn’t until after all the excitement settled that Blotto took a closer look at the brass knuckles. In the darkness and confusion, Blotto didn’t notice that the knuckles were actually the handle of a rather large knife with a curvy, showy blade. I could have only assumed this was the knife he had referred to in his charming phone message a month earlier. Paging Dr. Freud!

I slept so deep, the police arriving didn’t wake me up, as they took statements and evidence to eventually charge Bill with assault with a deadly weapon. Not aware he was about to be arrested, he showed up at our house the next day and sheepishly asked for his knife back. We had to break it to him to it was now possessed by the Salisbury police. When your “sensual aids” become “evidence”, it’s not the sign of a healthy relationship.

I have to honest, the rest of this story is a bit lost to time, so I only remember some of the details. I know that at the trial, Blotto told his side of the story and Simone told hers. She had seem to totally forget the fact that Bill had tried to choke the life out of her and that Blotto had risked his life to save her. In fact, she had started complaining that Blotto should stay out of her and Bill’s life because, since the incident, they had gotten back together. The thing that pissed her off the most was that this was hurting his future in the military, not grasping the fact that they had rules about things like this to keep people like him from having unfettered access to explosive ordinance.

The judge said that he could tell that Simone was lying and he was abusing her, but he couldn’t prove it without her saying he did it. Blotto, however, told the truth and the police had the knife to prove it. I had heard the judge had remarked about Bill’s cutlery of choice,”I have opened my utensil drawer to get a knife to cut my steak a hundred times and I’ve never seen one with a blade like this.”

Bill got put on probation and had to keep 500 feet away from Blotto, which is tough to do in a town like Salisbury. We ran into him one night at an area bar when he was hanging out with one of his friends. Blotto said to me,”as long as he stays away from me, I won’t be a dick about it.” But Bill and his pals left soon anyway. A friend of ours heard one of Bill’s buddies ask him,”You mean that roly-poly motherfucker beat your ass?”

The peaceful coexistence was short lived as Bill started regularly dropped by our place to pick up Simone and occasionally spent the night under Blotto’s roof. Eventually he had enough and called Bill’s probation officer. Bill went to jail and Simone was so pissed off she immediately moved out.....and moved into Bill’s.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wag the Dog, Hello?

I recently wrote a post partially about how humans, with all our intelligence and language, still do 60 percent of our communication from body language. Man if that hasn't proven to be true after the President vs. Chris Wallace dust-up. All anyone can talk about is the outside voice and agitated gesticulation the former president used and not the fact that, for the most part, he was fucking right.

It wasn't too long ago that I can't remember when Republicans and conservative commentators yelled "Wag The Dog!" when then current events reflected the recently released movie of the same name; where a president created a war to divert the nations attention from a sex scandal.

Right around the discovery of the most historically significant money shot in history and the subsequent impeachment, The United States attacked Iraq,Afghanistan and the Sudan. A lot of people, myself included, thought this was a little too conveniently timed, but history has told a different tale. He did retaliate against attacks on the property of the United States (the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania) by attacking the people that were actually responsible for it and actually did destroy factories making actual WMDs. I used actual a lot because people seem to be having a hard time separating rhetoric for facts.

Not my readers, of course, you know.

I was never a huge Clinton fan, although I did vote for him twice. The same history that President Bush hoped will vindicate his current foreign policy seems to have worked for Bill Clinton first; but history only works if you remember the facts, not the gestures; remember the dead solders and civilians and not toppled statues and "Mission Accomplished" banners. What emboldens our enemy more, dead children or Bill Maher jokes?

I have grown to miss the leadership Clinton provided, but with George W. Bush at the helm, I find myself missing George Sr., too. But the fact is, Bill Clinton did attack Osama before Osama attacked the American mainland. True, he tried to stop him and failed, but he admitted his mistake. When will the current model President Bush truly admit his?

As for Clinton's aggression and oversensitivity, a TV mini-series did just air where he was shown worrying about the blowjob heard round the world more than our national security, when there is no evidence to support it. I'd be pissed too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Remember When?

Remember when you could agree to disagree?

Remember when we voted for someone instead of against the other person?

Remember when things went without saying, you didn’t say them?

Remember when you were naive enough to assume that people were being straight with you?

Remember when you could just be happy and not wonder how long it was going to last?

Remember, when talking about a movie/tv show/anything, you could to say,”How can it go wrong?” and it didn’t?

I haven’t felt that way in so long, I’m starting to think it was I dreaming that it ever happened.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness:Part 1

In sorting out my Salisbury posts, I tried to figure out in what order to tell them, in amount of police involvement or ratio of alcohol fueled mayhem to more clinical insanity, before settling on amount of blood spilled. This one has the least. They are all true, to the best of my memory.

Brian and Cathy were a couple that were part of my Don’s Belladonna circle of friends. Unlike a lot of the others in that crowd that I had met before my Don’s days, I knew them from the bar only for a long time, but my roommate Blotto had known them for quite a while.

I liked both of them separately, they seemed like fairly normal, in comparison of what I was used to. I didn’t hang out with them as a couple, but they seemed pretty level the few times I did. But Blotto and some of their other, closer friends had some stories about them that I found impossible to reconcile with the people I knew with the same names. They had a reputation as being far beyond dysfunctional into straight up mutually physically abusive “Brian? Cathy? From Don’s?” This just didn’t make sense. Cathy chased Brian through a cornfield with his car? They got into a fist fight when he was driving and she was in the back seat? Their arguments were knockdown, drag-out in the most literal sense. I knew these guys weren’t lying about the drama that surrounded them, but I wasn’t a direct witness. That was until the day....

We were planning on having a July 4th party at my house but got the keg a day early, so we had a smaller July 3rd get together. Having a kegerator, pool and foozball table made our house popular for any instant get together, this was a good and bad thing. Having your room nearby made it extremely likely that if I were to pass out, I’d land in my own bed. However, occasional vomiting from our guests and floors too sticky to wear socks were what we had to deal with in return. And sometimes alcohol makes bad ideas seem to look like good ones.

I had just started shaving my head with electric clippers and Brian asked me to cut the back and sides short so his hair would look less like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I’ve always been kinda nervous to cut anyone else's hair, but he wanted was pretty straight forward and the detachable hair guides guaranteed a minimum of error and he begged me to do it, so I was more than happy to oblige, but Cathy stopped me before we got to the bathroom and pleaded,”Pete, please don’t do this.”
“I’m sorry,” I told her, “This is going to happen whether I do it or not and I’m the most experienced at this and the least drunk person that’s willing to try it.”

She relented, but if looks could kill, there would be nary a survivor if they dared cross the white-hot glare Cathy aimed at Brian’s freshly shorn head.

About 15 minutes later, I was sitting in our living room with about a half a dozen guests watching TV when Brian and Cathy walked in. Actually Cathy walked in, pulling Brian backwards by the remaining long hairs he had at the top of his head. She dragged him across the living room floor, his legs flailing underneath him to walk backward fast enough to keep him on his feet.

She finally rested on an ottoman at the far end, in front of where I was. As she sat down she pulled Brian’s head into her lap and growled obscenities through her frothing, clenched teeth. Her white hot glare was replaced by twin thermonuclear explosions consuming any trace of reason or civility I may have ever seen in her. Brian turned to me and said flatly, “Pete, get this bitch off of me before I beat the shit out of her.”

This all had happened so fast I was still in bewildered mode. One thing was certain, the party was over. All nonessential personnel disappeared instantly, with not a “see ya” among them. Blotto and some of the remained pulled her off and threw her out of the house.

About half an hour later, I had mentally drifted away from the earlier excitement as I went to the bathroom. I was walking past our front door when I heard, “Pete?” I was startled to find Cathy standing on our front porch on the other side of the screen door. She said, with the relaxed smile and calm cadence of a Stepford wife,”I just wanted to warn you, I called the police and they’re going to arrest Brian for attempted fetal homicide.”

Attempted fetal homicide? She’s pregnant? They’re bringing an innocent life in to this? But the cops never came and, as it turns out, Cathy wasn’t pregnant. Yet. That would happen in a couple months.

An interesting post script: I was telling this story not so long after it happened to a friend and she said,”Wow, that sound’s like a friend of mine’s sister ” She went on to tell me about this friend’s wedding, a horrendous affair spiced up to a Springer-esque level by her sister and her boyfriend fighting. The cherry on top of this matrimonial shit sundae was the sibling (who was her maid of honor) delaying the ceremony for an hour and a half after she locked herself in the bathroom. It didn’t take us long to realize that my story sounded like her because it was her. It was Cathy’s sister and Brian was the boyfriend.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness

I lived in Salisbury, Maryland from age 20 to 26 (1990 to 1996). It seemed like a step up from Georgetown, and for the most part it was. Most of my friends had gone off to college and a lot of them had ended up in Salisbury, so I moved there with my best friend when he transfered from the University of Delaware.

Your early to mid twenties tends to be the time when you make some of your most memorable mistakes. Mine was Cisco fortified wine, but that story is for another time. My mom and I were talking about that time in my life and she said, “I thought you had a drinking problem.” I said, “Nope, I was just in my early twenties.”

I made some of my best friends there, and I have some fond memories of the ‘bury, but it’s exactly the kind of town that Bruce Springsteen sang about eather leaving or being hopelessly trapt in. It was lame,but it was dangerously easy to get comfortable there. People stayed there after dropping out or finishing college at SSU. The only link some of them had was a bar, mine was Don’s Belladonna.

It took a trip to RICHMOND for me to realize how uncool Salisbury was. Georgetown, Delaware(where I grew up) was boring, but Salisbury had drugs and plenty of alcohol and enough people I liked hanging out with to keep me there.

It is a college town, but it’s the most conservative one I’ve been to. Beer flowed like wine throughout the ‘Bury, but the local government operated with all the blustery cluelessness of Colonel Klink. A store across the street from the campus hemmoraged cases of National Bohemian every weekend but the town council wouldn’t allow a brewpub next door because they didn’t want to increase the alcohol consumption of the college students. A underage kid died of alcohol poisoning the summer before I moved there and thus few people could have parties that weren’t visited by the police. Then the parties moved out of town to places like Fruitland and the bars were packed with underaged kids with fake IDs, where you pay 3 bucks for a single beer instead of all you could get as long as the keg lasted.

When I wanted to leave, I had to leave. I packed my shitty Mustang with essentials and I took off in the dead of night for Rockville in thick fog and the power being out along a lot of the way, like the town was trying to keep me there.

More than one person I’ve known has had things happen to them that kept them there when they would try to leave. One friend met a girl and got engaged to a townie after he had already decided to leave and spent a good chunk of their relationship trying to get him to move back after he moved to Silver Spring.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those days and jarred loose some memories that I wanted to share. There’s a lot of drinking that I took part in and a lot of fighting that I didn’t. I’m a lover not a fighter. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

From the "weep for the future" department

I was on the Metro Saturday night, going to seethe Glory and the Majesty at Iota(if you like pop music like I do you should check them out). I was on my way to Virginia when a trio of teenage boys came on and stood by the door. Two of them looked like teenagers do, all baggy sweaters and awkwardness. But the other one was going for something different. He was about 5' 7" with a massive jewfro adding a couple of extra inches. He had a black studded belt, which served a mainly ornamental purpose since his pants were falling down at an alarming rate. But the crowning touch was wearing a leather jacket with no shirt, featuring his hairless chest for all the lucky ladies he'd be crossing paths with. I simple couldn't imagine him looking in the mirror at home and saying, "Oh yeah, this is exactly the look I'm going for." But here he was.
I had to stiffle a laugh the whole rest of the ride, but I had to hold my mouth and stare at the floor until I left the train. A guy who was looking at the kid with similar knitted brow consternation got off at Clarendon with me and I just had to say something, since words could not truly capture this moment.
"What was up with the kid with the jewfro?"
After a moment acclimating to a stranger talking to him, he said,"With no shirt? I know, that was fucking hilarious!"

Monday, September 18, 2006

I wanna be a millionaire, but alas...

I tried out for the "Who wants to be a millionaire" pop culture week in NYC last week(I'll write more about that later). I had to fill out a questionaire that didn't get seen because, sigh, I didn't make it that far, but I wanted to share it with you.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE
POP CULTURE WEEK AUDITION APPLICATION

Please answer the following questions:

1. Why do you consider yourself a Pop Culture buff? (Do you go to a ton of movies, record hours of shows, subscribe to crazy amounts of magazines, etc.?)
Its what sticks in my brain, all this useless trivia. Ive seen tons of movies, watched tons of TV, and music oh, music. Its ruined my life, but I couldnt have had it any other way.

2. What do you like about Pop Culture?
I often say that pop culture is a whore running at the speed of light. If you try to catch it youll die of exhaustion, you can only hope to be in its way. Thats what I love about it. These days especially, they can make a multi million-dollar movie that nobody cares about, but someone can shoot something in their living room, upload it, and it can be a literal overnight sensation.


3. Do you have any strange or quirky Pop Culture related collections?
I had to think about this for a second before finally realizing, my entire life is a pop culture collection from the t-shirts I wear to the DVDs of seasons of shows and music and movie magazines strewn about.

4. Did/do you follow fads, watch shows/movies or worship celebrities that you are embarrassed to admit to?

Loving pop culture means never having to say youre sorry, or at least it should. As much as I preach about not believing in guilty pleasures, I hide my admiration of Justin Timberlake from my roommates. Trust me, its for the best.


5. Finish this sentence... I would be totally devastated if my Mother/Wife/Roommate ever threw away or I ever lost my... (insert your most prized pop culture memorabilia here)
The hard drive from my computer. Some of the songs on there may very well be gone forever if I lost it. Just thinking about it makes me tear up.

6. Have you ever missed work or an important event to see a movie, go to a concert, watch TV, etc?
When I was 12, a girl I liked told me I could come by where she was babysitting the same night as the last episode of M*A*S*H* and I stayed home to watch it. Really.

7. Why should you be on this show?
Because Im good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. No, seriously, the pursuit of pop culture has cost me money, time and the chance of a real social life. I want payback.

Monday, September 11, 2006

This is true story.

When I worked at the toy store, a lady called from Upstate New York who wanted us to send her a special scooter that only our store had in the entire country. We sent it to her, since it was still in the box it was shipped in, it was easy to slap a new label on it and send it on it's way.

The next Monday, she called again. The handle bars weren't in the box. O.K., no problem, we told her, we'll call the company and they'll send some to you.

We called the company later that day, and they said the lady had already called three times about the shortage by calling the number on the warranty card. They said it's taken care of and it was going out on 2 day air today and it should be there from California by Wednesday. In summery, everyone did everything they said they'd do to correct this problem.

On Thursday, the lady called again, despite our best efforts the handlebars didn't make it to her, and someone was going to hear her yell about it. .

Maybe I should tell you a little more about this story, that Monday when the handles got shipped was September 10th, 2001. The next day, as you may have heard, the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in the nation's history. The air traffic above the entire United States was limited to Air Force One and fighter planes, stranding people and handlebars alike in airports and freight distribution centers.

"You ruined my daughter's birthday!", she had told the poor soul that had answered the phone. I don't remember what my co-worker said in response. But I do know what I would have.

"Ma'am, I'm only going to apologize if you've recently come out a coma, but Tuesday something real fucked up happened and the Air Force aren't letting anything or anybody into the air right now, under threat of being shot out of the sky. I'm afraid the threat of certain flaming death outweighed any duty to get the handle bars to you on time. No, I'm not the person who ruined your daughter's birthday. That would be Osama bin Laden, and I dont have his extension.

That's what I think of whenever anyone likes to talk about how we've changed since 9/11.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Three Types of Human Failure and President Bush

As I write my book, "Surviving Retail", I'm thankful for what fate has given me to work with. The toy store has provided me with a great way to finish it off. It's the closing argument for my amateur sociological thesis. Seeing multiple generation of people and their interactions ties a lot of my theories together.
The other things are my roommates that I've had for the last year. The many opinions and observations that we've shared as given me a fresh perspective on human behavior that I've gained more from than anything I ever learned in community college.

My roommate Ed in particular has come up with something that really cleared my way of thinking, the three kinds of human failure. When we see someone (or ourselves) do something wrong or make a bad decision, we say "What a fuckin' idiot!", but it's not that simple. We've been all three more times than we'd like to admit, but for illustrative purposes, I'll take the hit.
1. Stupidity- Sometimes I simply do not have the mental ability to make the right decisions. I think this accounts for less human failure than people think.

2. Ignorance -I may have the cranial capacity but I've never been taught or had the life experience to know better.

3. Foolishness - I'm smart enough and should know better, but I still do the wrong thing. God Damn, have I been foolish!

When I write about my crazy customer experiences, I'm assuming they're much more intelligent than my interaction with them may have suggested. I do this hoping someone will extend me the same courtesy when I'm at my worst.

So how does this relate to President Bush? I'm glad you asked. I was watching Bill Maher this past weekend and Christopher Hitchens was pissing me off a bit. I will say, however, that he is definitely the most intelligent man that believes Bush is doing the right thing. He bristles when people call George W. Bush a "moron" but didn't have a problem calling Bill Clinton a "rapist", when there is a lot more direct evidence of the former rather than the latter.

But I agree with him, President Bush is certainly not an idiot, malapropisms aside. But he is foolish, and regardless of how you arrive at the wrong decision, it's still wrong.
Calling him an idiot is like calling him a nazi, it's false and it destroys a lot of the intellectual credibility the person saying it may have with the kind of people whose minds truly need changing. Let us on the left side of the fence come up with our own version of "cut and run". Let's call it what it most obviously is: our "foolish" foreign policy, our "foolish" domestic policies. It's created by people that should know better, but fail regardless. Hearts and minds are two different things, both need to be appealed to before anything can be accomplished in any lasting way.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Shitty Action Movies, part 2: John Carpenter edition

Oh my days off, I had just gotten back from Chipotle, having had my traditional day off burrito, and switched on the TV and saw that "John Carpenter's 'They Live'" was on. Any film geek worth their salt should be able to guess what part of the movie I was in the middle of when I tuned it in. That's right, the "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Keith David fight.
This is an oft-discussed subject among my roommates and I.
If you've never seen John Carpenter's"They Live" It stars Piper as a guy that discovers that aliens are living amung us and are manupulaing the human population into complacency, placing subliminal messages in billboards and magazines. The Rowdy one wanted Keith to put on his special sunglasses so he can see through the alien's brainwashing and see the world as it is. And Keith doesn't want to put them on. And so begins one of the longest and certainly the most pointless fight scene in all of film history. These moments are what I think about when a movie has the misfortune of being called "John Carpenter's" ANYTHING. I think about the basketball scene in "Escape From LA" where Kurt Russell does lay ups for his life. I think of every single frame of "Ghosts of Mars". That's what the name means to me.
What positive feeling am I suppost by know by knowing he's involved? Because of "Halloween"? I apologize if I'm upsetting anyone by saying this, but that movie has not aged well. Whatever happened to P.J. Soles anyway?

Roddy quotes in "They Live":"Life's a bitch and she's back in heat!"
"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum"
"White line's in the middle of the road, that's the worst place to drive."

It's a shame, really, "They Live" has a great premise done in by clumsy and inept execution. It seems like it would fit well in today's political climate and the fever pitched, farflung senarios of the modern conspiracy theorist. It's still too out there to be real, right?

Warning! Film Geekery Afoot! Shitty Action Movies edition

The Jason Statham dilemma.
I still don't know how I feel about Jason Statham, action star. He's got a new movie "Crank" coming out and he's a man on the edge, much like his characters from the "Transporter" movies. His character, Chev, seems to have been poisoned and much keep his adrenaline up or he dies, kinda like a bio-chemical version of the bus bomb in "Speed".
It's not that he's not a good actor, his turns in "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" proved that. He certainly has the graceful physicality of the modern action star, but something's still amiss.

It's like the feeling I got drinking strawberry milk as a kid, it tasted like strawberries alright, it just feels wrong.

It looks like I'm not the only one who thinks so, even after the "Transporter" movies, "Crank"'s advertising has begun featuring as his co starAmy Smart, hitching his wagon to her considerable "star power". If there was a emoticon that said "sarcasm" I still wouldn't use it. It certainly doesn't help that he got in the trouble he got into in those flicks because he fucked up at his job "transporting".
I actually watched "The Transporter 2" today, and I think I know what they're going to do. Accepting Statham as a limey Jackie Chan is, by a huge margin, the most believable thing about this movie. This movie makes you stretch the limits of the plausible to level that can best described as "Segal-esqe."
Speaking of the leathery one, Steven Segal used to bristle when people would call him a "martial arts" actor.
"Is Frank Sinatra a martial arts actor because he used it in The Manchurian Candidate'?'"
No, it's because I have a problem with calling you just an "actor" like the problem I have calling Bowlers, "athletes". The "martial arts" qualifier is essential to accept it.
But, god love him, he's made it work for him, there is no way he could been a star any other than beating the living shit of as many bad guys as much as humanly possible while keeping his ponytail in place. He was what ever the movie told him to be, Steven Segal was "Out for Justice", he is, "Above the Law". "Hard to Kill" had his actual wife as his love interest and they displayed the kind of chemistry that got me a "D" in science class.
He can't kick above his waist anymore, but people actually consider him an action star. Is it the irony factor? The smart assed cracks during the movie factor? Sometimes the musky majesty of Segal needs nothing more than to be taken in with out comment... and then quickly coughed back out in fits of laughter.