Thursday, August 22, 2013

Overheard at Table 2: Hair

Michael: and the hijab, I'm sorry man, but it just bugs me.

James: what's wrong with the hijab?

Michael:  well, I been thinking about it and I just don't like it.

James: so you're some sort of feminist liberator or you just have something against religious expression?

Michael: nah it ain't got nothing to do with feminism or religion or anything, I'm just a hair guy.

James:  you're a 'hair guy'.

Michael: yeah, I'm a hair guy.  I love women's hair, especially thick, flowing, cascading long waves of black hair.

James: I think I get it.

Michael:  yeah, and I know they got that hair.   I  KNOW  they got beautiful waterfalls of hair, and it just drives me NUTS that I can't see it!

James: you got a problem.  I don't even think they have a name for your problem, but you definitely got it.

Michael:  hey man.   I just love hair!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Overread at Table 4: The Ghosts of Our Senescence by MR



What are the ghosts that will haunt us in our senescence?

Will it be the lovers that we left on the table,
helpless and breathless?

Will it be the faces of the children that we left
standing on the platform at the train station?

Will it be the dogs that we put down
for no good reason?

Will it be the cackling faces of the
false gods we served in order to

accumulate the trinkets that glut the cardboard
boxes in the attics, only to be

fed into dumpsters on some hot summer afternoon
by our grandchildren, as their parents

drive us to a “nice place, a really nice place to rest”
somewhere beyond the end of suburbia?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Overheard at Booth Two: Roald Dahl's "The Witches"

M: Loved that book.   As I was reading it I could just see it being made into a movie, like Mathilda, and I could see Angelica Houston playing the head witch.

R: It already is.

M: Already is what?

R: A movie.  Based on the book.  Came out about twenty or so years ago. 

M: And the head witch.

R: Angelica Houston.

M: No foolin!  They just stole my idea.

R: How can they steal an idea that you had just now and they had two decades ago?

M: Sometimes greatness just takes a little time to catch up with me.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Overread at Table 4: Billy Collins "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July"

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

by Billy Collins

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure--if it is a pleasure--
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one--
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table--
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Overheard at Table 1: Billyjoejimbob's Movie Roulette

Billy:  OK, movie time. 

Joe: Describe each movie in two lines or less.

Jim: Shouldn't that be "two lines or fewer"?

Bob: Fewer than two is only one.  Can't get much fewer.

Billy: Zero is fewer.  Two fewer, actually.

Joe: Semantics.  Let's git-er-done.

Jim: The Informant.

Bob: Matt Damon plays the geekiest whistleblower ever.

Billy: And only the spoiler saved the film.

Joe: Circle of Eight.

Jim: Even by B-movie standards, this ghost-filled stone walled apartment complex is sterile.

Bob: and what's with all the green lights?  And that one lesbian chick scene that had nothing to do with the plot at all?

Billy: Macbeth.

Joe: Which one?  There are tons!

Jim: The one with Sam Worthington.  Set in modern day street gang some such.

Bob: This movie is one you turn off ten minutes into the film, and you thank this movie for letting you know to turn it off, so you can better spend your time watching something better.

Billy: The History Boys.

Joe: I liked the dialogue, and the setting, and the lit references.

Jim: But do we REALLY need another movie about how tough it is to be a closet homosexual teenager boy in 1980's Britain?

Bob: Sukiyaki Western Django

Billy:  I got this one in three words:   Sucky-yucky Worthless Junk-o.

Joe:  Niiiiice one!   OK:  Case 39

Jim: This one starts out wonderful - reallllllly twisted, especially with the girl in the oven scene.  True horror, but then . . .

Bob: ....then it shows you just how CG demons can turn a psychological thriller into a bucketful of cheese-whiz.

Billy: Twilight: Eclipse.

Joe: *silence*

Jim: er . . . .

Bob:  Better than New Moon?

Billy: That'll work.  Southland Tales

Joe: Did I watch that one late, because it seems like a dream . . . something about a near-future LA that's all destroyed?

Jim: Doesn't that describe the "here and now" LA?

Bob: Yeah, but they have futuristic styles, kinda like Timothy Leary envisioning the Rapture.

Billy: How about Carriers?

Joe: Like Andromeda Strain meets The Walking Dead.

Jim: Nightmare on Elm Street.  The remake.

Bob: Showing once and for all why remakes of any sort should be outlawed, and those who make them should be tarred, feathered, and run out of town for the talentless heathens that they are.

Billy: and that my friends, wraps up this episode of "Movie Roulette"

Joe: Tune in next time when we take on the entire Disney Ouvre!

Jim: Cartoons or Live Action?

Bob: Both.   And that includes the Pixars!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Overheard at Booth 3: Who We Serve

"Reminds me of something that I read, everyone who drives in Houston will understand this, maybe not all over the country, but some of the other cities might get it as well, there was this guy and he was taking his son, about 6 or 7, on one of those take-your-kids-to-work days, and they were going down I-10, or maybe even 610, and it was packed tight to the rim, like usual, and the kid asks his dad "wow, dad, why are SO MANY CARS?"

And the dad pops off with "Well, son, we're all in service to the Almighty Dollar!"

And the kid comes back with, "So is that why the highway's empty on Sunday mornings when we go to church?"

Overheard at the Counter: Sucker Punch

Well, I thought this would be good, because I loved "Watchmen" and because my wife loves the washboard stomachs of the "Spartan Hotties" (her words, not mine!), I thought "Sucker Punch" would be just as good.   I mean, the ads made it look like it had great FX and it's written and directed by the same guy, and yeah, I'll admit, what guy wouldn't want to see girls in thigh high boots r stockings kicking butt with big guns and swords?

But man!  You're watching this film and you're thinking, "with all this money that they can throw into a movie and they can't buy a decent script?"  It's just sad! 

I mean, don't get me wrong, this is a beautiful movie, and I ain't just talking about the girls, the sets, the CG backgrounds, the lighting, it's all brilliant, and the idea is pretty good, too, you're floating in and out of stories, and you kinda know what the fantasy is, but sometimes the fantasy bleeds into the reality a bit, and that's cool, but overall, you're just left going, "OK, so now they're kicking robot butt." and you shrug your shoulders and wonder if you're playing Xbox rather than watching an actual movie.

I dunno, the best acting in the whole bit was David Carradine, and all his dialogue probably doesn't total more than two minutes of film time.

and by the way, girls, you can prance around in your undergarments all you want to, but Carla Gugino is hotter than all five of you combined.  Sorry, ladies!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Overheard at Table 5: Attack on the Block

Lucky says,
Attack on the Block.

Verble, Niall, and John say,
Attack on the Block?

Lucky says,
Came out last year.  Inner city kids, Brixton, I think, become the unlikely heroes against an alien invasion.  What's cool is that these are gang kids, small time thugs, junkies, losers, the whole lot of 'em.  Yet the alien monsters falling out of the sky are killing them all off, and they have to figure out how to kill them,

Sounds interesting.

You mentioned Shaun of the Dead, and not that I'd put it on the same level - since Shaun was gutbustoutloud laughter, this one is definitely close.  And it really has the twist by making the setting the projects.  The dialogue is hilarious, the only problem is getting through the accents.

Niall says,
Shucher gob, mate, wha fooo-gn accent youah oahn abow'? 

Yeah.  Like that.  But once you key in, you start picking up some great lines.

Overheard at Table Four: The Man with the Iron Fists

Verble:  Another movie I saw last night was

"Man with the Iron Fists"

Not as wholly terrible as "Savages," but the less said about this tripe, the better.

Oh yeah, more eyeballs flying across the screen.

I swear, the only flying eyeball that was ever cool in cinema was in "Evil Dead 2."   Everything else is just stupid.   That one was stupid-cool.

Overheard at Booth 1: "Weetzie Bat" by Francesca Lia Block

Just finished this book.  Thought it was written in 1988, and was thinking "This is pretty bold for 88 - especially with the AIDS epidemic in full swing."  But it shows a copyright 1998, which brought it down a notch for me - it didn't seem so bold anymore, somehow.

Basically, it's about a late teen girl whose best friend is gay, he finds a lover, she finds a lover, they live in a dead woman's house in LA and they live quite happily making independent movies.  Along the way she wants a baby, her lover does not, she sleeps with the two gay guys so that she can get pregnant.  He gets mad and leaves, eventually returns, and we find out he'd impregnated a witch who leaves her baby with them.

One big happy California family.

The book is sparse, as in zero adjectives.   Rather hallucinogenic style, almost as if she had read too much Beaudelaire in bad translation yet still wanted to write something with Bukowski-cool.  

But maybe I'm being too harsh.   I was thinking about it yesterday: I'm disappointed in the book because I cannot "see" the characters.   I do not know what she looks like, nor her gay friends Dirk and Duck, or her boyfriend, named My Secret Agent Lover Man (or Max).   Yet her father I can see.   He looks like Charlie Swan from Twilight.  Strange I know, but at least I have a visual.   There's a chapter in the book where Weetzie goes to see him in New York and he takes her around New York and he tells her he won't go back to LA because everything is fake there, it's all a façade. 

Then he dies.  Either because he's dying any way or just accidentally ODs, but he dies.   And when I was thinking about how "there goes the one actual clearly-defined character" I also then thought about what he'd said about LA, and then thought, "Maybe this is what Block is doing:  I feel no connection to the characters.  I cannot see them.  They don't feel real to me."

That is supposed to be a sign of bad writing, and maybe it is.  But what if she also meant to do that - keep the characters as nothing but cardboard cutouts.  If so, then she's brilliant.

All I know is this: however much I think the book is rather hazy, somehow I know it's going to stick with me for a long mile, playing at the back of my brain.   And that, my friends, is the standard by which I do judge good literature.

Overheard at Table 1: The Marc Pease Experience

The Marc Pease Experience is vaguely uncomfortable, but that's its brilliance.   Unfortunately, the discomfort leads it to be not as funny as it should have been, it's in that gray area, in which it is not quite a black comedy, but it is nowhere near being a straight up comedy.

The actors, however, are very well-suited to their roles:  Schwartzman as a 20 something who simply does not get that his dreams of being a professional singer are never going to materialize, and Stiller as the high school music teacher who is schtupping Schwartzman's 18 year old girlfriend (she's that girl from Twilight).  In fact, Stiller has just the right amount of sleaze and arrogance - shown how he avoids Schwartzman and his casual dismissal of the girl), yet in it is the touch of pathos.   How pathetic his own life is - as a rather talentless music teacher himself.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of the vocal group.   Schwartzman leads a quintet of singers - down from an octet, which they had when they graduated high school.   In the one or two scenes, there seemed to be some hints of some history there among the singers, their different expectations.   These are people who have been caught up in Marc Pease's dream so much that they have not yet gone on to start their own lives - they're too busy following his.   And he's living this pipe dream.  It is so sad.   I would have loved to have seen more of the vocal group, and their dynamic.

Still, Anna Kendrick is the only one who makes it out of this movie with her character unscathed, and possibly with the brightest future.  She tells off Stiller and Schwartzman, ultimately a gentleman, lets her go, so that she won't be tied down by his failure.

Sweet, sad, tragic disaster we make of our lives sometimes.  That's what this movie shows so well.

Overheard at Booth 5: The Tomb

In Booth Five there is a husband and wife, listening to the conversation about movies between Verble and his clientele.

The husband says, "I'm gonna tell them about The Tomb"

The wife puts her hand on his hand and says, "No, you're not, honey."

He says, "But, why not?"

"Because the movie sucked, dear.  Don't embarrass us."

Overheard at Booth 3: Vampire Killers

Niall Carter calls out to Verble from Booth 3, which he is sharing with John Steppenwolf:  Hey, I've got one even worse for you - Vampire Killers!

Verble:  Saw that one too.   I'd say that's a cut above Savages.

Niall:  It's like the writer got Evil Dead 2 and Shawn of the Dead mixed up with every forgettable vampire movie ever made in the 80s. 

John Steppenwolf: At least it's set in England.  That was cool.

Verble:  And it had a couple of good lines.   But I'll admit, it was pretty weak, even by B-movie standards.

Niall: All I know is that the LBGT community should be outraged.   These guys claim they're out to rid of the world of "Lesbian Vampires" - what, they're not gonna kill "Straight" vampires too?   Aren't they going to be equal-opportunity vampire hunters.  

John: You're right.  To single out one group is a human rights violation.

Verble: Except that they're undead.  Are they even protected under human rights laws.

At this point, the Barista takes off her apron and says, "If this is where the conversation is going, I'm clocking out early for the day!"

After she heads toward the back, John Steppenwolf says, "I kind liked the vicar.  He was sorta cool."

Overheard at Table Two: Savages

Verble: Wife left yesterday with the kids to visit her sister in Santa Fe, and that means Verble gets to watch some action movies instead of ingesting a healthy diet of chick flicks, and what kind of monster do I have the grave misfortune to waste two hours of my life on?


I should have known it would be a major turkey when I saw the two words: Oliver Stone.  I have NEVER, I repeated NEV-ER, liked an Oliver Stone film.   It's like he wants to be Martin Scorcese and Quinten Tarantino so bad it just hurts him.   But since I'm a sucker for Salma Hayek I gave it a try.

Crikey what a snoozer!  Two guys growing the "best weed" get involved in Mexican drug cartel, run by Salma, and there's kidnapping and mutilations and murder and blood spurting out of every orifice and eyeballs getting whipped out of eye sockets and it's just a useless bloody mess with no sense of style, no class.

If you want to see a good shoot-em-up with Benicio Del Toro, watch "Way of the Gun." That one has all the blood you can swallow, and with the added benefit of little things like "characters" and "dialogue."  The only good line in this movie is when Salma tells the blonde bimbo, "They obviously love each other more than they love you.   Otherwise they wouldn't share you."

But now that I've told you the best line, please spare yourself this incredible soupy mess of a movie.


Soundtrack to "Good Jakes"

Soundtrack to Good Jakes

Ingrid Michaelson - Soldier
Cristina Perri - Jar of Hearts
The Postal Service - There's Never Enough Time
Iron and Wine - Such Great Heights
Simple Minds - (Don't You) Forget About Me
Rogue Wave - Eyes
Whitley - More Than Life
Fountains of Wayne - Valley Winter Song
Gregory and the Hawk - A Wish
Death Cab for Cutie - My Mirror Speaks
Colin Hay - Waiting for my Real Life to Begin
Patti Griffin - Take It Down
Angus and Julia Stone - Hold On
Mazzy Star - Fade Into You
Midnight Choir - Mercy of Maria
The Walkabouts - Life Full of Holes
The Walkabouts - The Train Leaves at 8 (Mikis Theodakis)
The Walkabouts - Desierto
Angus and Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane
Sinéad O'Connor - The Last Day of Our Acquaintance
Angus and Julia Stone - Mango Tree