Monday, September 28, 2015

Everything I Learned About How Poor Boys Should Romance Rich Girls I Learned From 80's Movies, Mainly The Karate Kid, Teen Wolf and The Breakfast Club

First off, don't overthink the hair.  It''s a rookie mistake to contrive a hairstyle.  Let the hairstyle come to you.  Don't not brush it, but don't spend a lot on the haircut.  In fact, go to the local barber college and after sitting in the chair for 2 minutes just say "I'm done," pay and leave.

Clothing should be cheap, but not stained or holed.  Knock-offs are ideal.  Look for "Boxford" or "Izag" shirts.  While being dressed in a gym uniform is a pesky equalizer, create ways to look a cut below in the socks and shoes department.  Get knee high sports socks that don't stay up.  Shoes that have stepped in way too much dogshit.  Borrowed sweatpants and sweatshirts are a solid choice. Your dad's closet, provided he's still around and his wardrobe matches his shitty-paying job at the hardware store, can be a treasure trove.

It's probably okay if you have halitosis and a little dandruff, but don't smell bad.  Believe it or not, that's a deal-breaker.

Show the girl some skill you have.  Soccer is good because it's a team sport and implies that you get along with others.  Karate or kickboxing, God help you, shouldn't be selling points.  Guys who know martial arts are not socially adept, hence they learn martial arts.  If that's actually your thing, don't lead with that.  Basketball, surfing, street-smarts, even being a loveable pervert are better alternatives. Especially the pervert.  It's clean and honest.

On the first date it's important to set the standards low.  Meet her parents so she can see their disapproval and then rebel against it.  Let them assume you're a slacker who is poor out of choice. You can should be obviously embarrassed by the piece of shit car your mom is driving the two of you in, but you can secretly chalk it up in the plus column because it shows character.  Remember, she's dating you because she doesn't want to be at the debutante-country-club-what-the-fuck.  A mini-golf/arcade is the perfect sort of "slumming" for her.  It's also your element because it's what the rest of us do when we're not stealing stuff from Spencer's or sharing an Orange Julius with four people. Just don't go overboard and cross over into petty vandalism or pot smoking unless she's given signals that it's a turn-on.  Don't worry about any sex stuff either.  The only thing that's going to be blown is her mind over how authentic and nice you are.  And how you're pretty cool despite being poor and possibly a werewolf.

Inevitably, the rich jealous ex-boyfriend will make a move.  Don't play it cool.  It's only stalking if she catches you checking up on her.  And she will catch you, so have a self-deprecating event lined up to glean just enough sympathy so she'll consider giving you another chance.  If you can't have a waiter from the country club accidentally crash into you,  spilling rich person food all over your cheap clothes, or flaunt a cigarette burn your dad gave you for spilling paint in the garage, then let yourself get constantly flagrantly fouled in the high school basketball game.

Also, don't worry yourself about looking bad next to the ex.  He's going to be so unlikeable with his unnecessary possessions and white privilege (that's right - I said it!), that no one's even going to question the morality of holding this 17 year old guy responsible for how douchy he is, despite the fact that his parents have no doubt played a huge role in coddling and spoiling him for his entire fucking life. You could murder a doe-eyed, dimpled child and still not be as hated as this guy.  That's not a theory to test but it is the truth.  Even if you're the "bad boy," your brand of unscrupulous behavior is on a different level than his and more excusable.  It's totally okay for you to be a product of your environment.

However, all of this is completely useless should the girl be from the wrong side of the tracks.  It's rare, but it happens.  Her self-loathing over her chronically unemployed and unemployable father makes her an easy target, more so if she has the devil's red hair.  Any attention you show her will be so appreciated but it requires finesse, lest you become the asshole rich-guy who needs a level-headed dork to set you straight.

Eventually, there's going to be a moment of truth for the two of you, or more accurately, a shit-or-get off-the-pot moment for her.  She either accepts the fact that you're a loser but you're her loser, or she snaps out of it and doesn't even acknowledge you in the hall at school.  If she indeed succumbs to your indigent lifestyle, you're going to have to at least get a job, maybe make an ill-fated attempt to be in the school play.  Baby-blue, ruffled tuxedos for prom aren't cheap and the honeymoon period won't last forever.  If she drops you then you can at least tell all your friends you were doing it with her, as they laugh their assess off as she walks by.  You should always have a quirky gal-pal you didn't appreciate at first but is waiting for you when you're done riding this 90-minute roller-coaster and just need to feel loved.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why Conservatives Are Losing Their Minds Over Pope Francis

There's a line in one of my favorite movies, O Brother, Where Art Thou? when the character of Homer Stokes (the Klansman running for governor) rails against a number of people including "Papists!"  The Papists!  It reminded me of what I'd read about John F. Kennedy running for President; how the south was leery of electing a Catholic for fear that his allegiance would be to Rome, not to the United States.  Apparently Kennedy's marital infidelity didn't clue them in on the fact that he was not the best Catholic.  But coming across Conservative media over the past few days has reminded me that there remains a strong anti-Catholic streak running through many southern conservatives.  It's related to anti-intellectualism and is upset that a Christian religion espouses so many socialist and, in their minds, liberal policies.

Most conservatives who have Christian affiliations are members of denominations with a strong American influence.  Baptists.  Methodists.  Lutherans (not the Evangelicals, though.) Non-Denomination Fundamentalists.  Even though most of these have their roots in England, all of these have a belief that the Good Lord has given America a divine mandate to practice Capitalism, expand its territory and be...well, American.  And most of these find a couple of common causes in Catholicism when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage.  But when it comes to ending the death penalty, friendly treatment of illegal immigrants, eliminating wealth inequalities, leading in combating climate change, and the dreaded social justice, these Christians will treat Catholics with the same venom they reserve for liberal professors at Berkeley who teach survey classes in pornography.  The Catholic Church has existed nearly 1500 years longer than America.  It was here before us and it'll likely be here after us, and it could care less about American Exceptionalism.

Previous Pontiffs haven't been quite as vocal as Pope Francis (none of them had the full spectrum of a 24-hour news cycle re-tweeting their thoughts, either), so Conservatives are not in the mood to listen to a scolding/reminder of what Christianity really is.  Seeing His Holiness converse with President Obama and Raul Castro is guilt by association, because unless Pope Francis challenges Obama on his birth certificate or castigates the Castro regime for its decades of brutal dictatorship, the Catholic Church is somehow legitimizing these governments that Conservatives stand opposed to.  Because they're un-American.  So the Pope is un-American.

I could spend the next thirty minutes responding to all the talking points: The Catholic Church has so much money - why don't they practice some wealth redistribution?  What are they offering to do with all them Syrian im'grants? Cursory searches will show how much the Catholic Church has given to charity.  The Catholic Church still has a lot of PR to work on between the sexual abuse scandals and misappropriation of tithes.  But the problem here is that Conservatism is about having all the benefits of American Exceptionalism with none of the responsibility.  They see fit to call the Pope out on the areas where they disagree, whereas moderate Democrats at least have the decency not to discuss their differing views on abortion and same-sex marriage while Francis is a guest in our country.

The film Mississippi Burning was playing practically non-stop a few weeks ago and I probably watched it twice in parts.  It's a movie I've seen before.  Hackman gives a great performance.  One thing the film hits on very effectively is the anti-intellectualism that the South in particular held against the Civil Rights Movement, and the Catholic Church is basically the Ivy League of religious academia, so it's expected that this sentiment spills over to the Pope's pleas of love thy neighbor.  It's just a shame that in this regard,  nothing's really changed over the past sixty years.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Clovis de Chaumes, Theatre Reviewer, Reviews an Elementary School Open House

I was having aperitifs at Boqueira Soho with Alan Cumming and William H. Macy when William asked, "Alan, when I say theatrical gravitas, who do you think of first?"  To which Alan replied, "I think of two things: Bill Nighy's eyes and Liev Schreiber's ass"  Which brings me to the subject of "Open House at Fairview Elementary School", a play that lures its audience in with mysterious eyes, but gives them a visceral physicality to grab on to.  The performance, subtitled "Welcome Back Tigers!" combines Brechtian dissonance with Chekovian tensions.  Complete with gluten-free cookies and sugarless juice, the show's set reaches beyond the cafeteria stage and throughout the venue, as motivational posters and quotes adorn the walls, along with student artwork showing various degrees of artistic competence.

The evening opens with Principal Jennifer McManus, a woman clearly in crisis.  Her absentee husband and rebellious daughter have made her job her rock.  As she throws herself into an opening monologue about "positive environment" and "gains in test scores," there is a lingering emptiness behind her eyes in which you can see her going to an empty house, feeding the dog, playing with herself without climax and crying herself to sleep.

We then transition into a song sung by the school choir, titled "Get On The Bus!"  On the surface, a repetitive and trite melody and lyrics about boarding a school bus, but between the lines it's a call to conformity; a subliminal command to forget individuality and identity.  One can see our dear Ms. McManus realizing that her own cage was built when she was the same age as these children.  She tenses through smiles and thumbs-up as we can see her long to tell these young boys and girls to cast off the shackles of societal norms.  But alas, she stays mute.

Once the children exit the platform (quite noisily, I might add) we hear from campus police, Officer Ron Grossbeck. The resident Javert, Officer Ron seeks order and animatedly cautions the children about the boogeymen of "strangers," "jaywalking" and "being unsupervised afterschool." As he becomes ever sweatier, Officer Ron closes his soliloquy with a politically charged, "We're here to protect your children."

Then, in an interesting twist, the fourth wall is broken and the parents are encouraged by Ms. McManus to share amongst themselves their own first day of school stories.  This bold audience interaction does not come without risk, as several parents make for the doors, muttering "I just wanted to say 'Hi' to the teacher. I still have to pick up Josh from soccer."  Just when it seems the audience is on the brink of disinterest, Ms. McManus' voice rings out "If you can hear my voice, clap once!"  Immediately, like automatons, the room responds.  "If you can hear my voice, clap two times!" Another response!  "If you can hear my voice...clap three times!" A burst of applause and laughter at the ruse as the audience returns to their seats for the second act.

The second act opens with a word from Nurse June Stoerner, a jolly and matronly character whose unexpected acerbic wit is evident in lines like, "Your child is welcome to lie down in the clinic until you can arrive but once you get them they're your problem."

Ms. McManus returns (same costume as before) and steers the show towards a speech about the new cell-phone policy, stating "If your child's cellphone is confiscated there is a $10 fee to retrieve it."  A speech punctuated with audience reactions ranging from suspicion to confusion, it quickly unravels and is only saved by Ms. Ellen Newton, the school counselor.  In a regular deus ex machina, Ms. Newton swoops in to say that the PTO decided not to tack on the fee to avoid the conflict of interest.  Having been publicly subjugated by Ms. Newton, Ms. McManus descent into ignominy is complete, as we watch her step back and recognize that Ms. Newton has usurped her position.  We see in her eyes a glint of the realization that without power comes freedom.

The denouement comes in the form of Officer Ron returning to remind the parents that they were only permitted to park on the street because school was not in session; that normally "you will be ticketed."  It is at this point that Ms. McManus returns, ironically empowered by her loss of authority, to thank the audience for their attendance and asking the parents to sign-in before their departure so their child can receive the free bumper sticker in school tomorrow.

I remember watching a production of Equus in Stockholm where the actors portraying the horses were amputees outfitted with phalluses.  It remains the edgiest off-Broadway play I have seen and is the standard by which I judge all theatre that seeks to challenge, such as in "The Open House at Fairview Elementary School." There be no horse phalluses here but there is nothing obtuse about the evening as the stakes are raised from the start and the drama unfolds over the next 43 minutes.  But the true measure of play is in how much conversation it inspires after its viewing and rest assured, this play will lead to discussions of conformity, authority and existence. Be warned, however, you must bring your own Claret.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How To Create A Post That Will Change People's Deeply Held Beliefs

First, thank you.  Thank you for choosing to invest your time and talents into composing a digital creation that will force people to confront controversy on issues they wouldn't even discuss with their friends.  This takes balls and you, sir or ma'am, have them.  You have several options in which you can put something out there that will be a glib representation of a complicated issue.

1. Post Comment
The easiest and least risky way to express your thoughts on someone else's post.  Don't be afraid to let your opinion fly.  You're never going to see these people so judge them the best you can by their avatar and/or user name and previous comments. Feel free to use special characters in lieu of vulgarities.  Some sites will filter the four-letter words out.  Internet censorship, right?  Be careful because it could be Obama's Secret Internet Police or Big Pharmaceutical Companies.  Periodically check back to see if other readers have approved or disapproved your comment.  And by periodically I mean every 15 minutes.  It may be necessary to edit it to make it more inflammatory. (Note: Google Chrome loads archived comments faster than Internet Explorer)

This is the thinking man's meme.  A short paragraph where you offer some trenchant insight on an issue.  Don't worry if you heard it somewhere else like Sean Hannity, Stephen Colbert or Larry Wilmore.  If you couch it in the right verbiage you can pass it off as your own.  Simply start with "IMHO..." and then continue attempting to explain your opinion on gun control, abortion or gay weddings.  Remember, the main goal is to bait the opposition into posting replies that will inevitably devolve into four or five other issues by the 20th comment.  Try not to think how one click can delete the whole thread, rendering the entire exchange about as pointless as a 20-something's resume.

3. The meme
Clearly the most popular and most effective.  There are many photos out there to choose from.  There are traditional photos of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka smirking, art deco designs of catty women from the 50's, and don't forget:  Black people.  You might want something more original and you may even have to get creative and do some photoshopping, especially if you can't find an actual photo of a Muslim woman yelling in a bakery.  After you have the photo, you'll want a catchy sentence that embodies a straw-man argument, a slippery-slope argument, or any of the accepted logical fallacies.  White text, all caps is the current aesthetic, but don't be confined by it.  But know that people use it because it's easy for people who read at a 9th grade level to comprehend.  Position the first part of the phrase at the top of the photo and then the second part at the bottom for optimum impact.  Proofread (unless the misspelling is intentional to poke fun at certain ethnicities).

A Word About 'Trolls'
So you may have encountered comments that really stand out in a thread.  You can tell them apart from the others because they usually have correct spelling, credible evidence and read like someone who went to college.  These individuals aren't truly interested in changing minds, they're just trying to crash your party.  Ignore them.  Resist the temptation to engage them because they'll just keep coming with the grad-school talk.  Assume they listen to a lot of NPR or read the National Review. These people don't know how the real world works, they just sit in their little bubble typing away and ruining perfectly transcendent posts.

Whichever one of these you choose, you can be sure that someone who believes differently than you will give some serious thought to changing their deeply held convictions because of something you created.  Ten people might see it and nine of those people will just sneer and click onto something else, like McSweeney's or The Federalist.  But that one person sitting there in a t-shirt with tamale stains and mismatched socks will be persuaded by your post about a Muslim takeover to go out and stock up on canned goods and ammo.  Remember, every time a post changes a heart, a Syrian refugee finds a home.  Or gets deported.  Whatever floats your boat.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Day I Learned About The F-Word

I attended parochial school for my entire compulsory schooling, except for a 9 week stint in a public high school my sophomore year because we had trouble getting tuition together that fall.  Being in a small church-school kept me sheltered for a long time.  Just to give you a frame of reference, the worst word I knew in Kindergarten was damnation.  Not damn.  Damnation.  As in my mom exclaiming "What in damnation is going on in here?!"  By contrast, I once asked a Hispanic boy in a kindergarten class I was subbing for what 'puto' meant.  He replied, "It means, like, bitch-motherfucker-ass-" Okay, I get it.  I think he genuinely felt sorry me that I didn't know and he had to explain it to me.

So in 3rd grade I didn't know much cursing beyond damn or hell.  I'd heard about this 'F' word but didn't exactly know what it was.  One day at school, my friend Sam and I took a restroom break.

While Sam used the urinal and I used the stall (because I still pulled my pants all the way down to pee) I noticed that someone had scratched this into the wall: "Suck it - Fuck it."  I called Sam over and he clasped his hand over his mouth and uttered a long "Ooo!"  This let me know it was pretty bad.  "We have to tell Mr. Foster!" Sam said.  Of course we had to.  I was what my peers referred to as a tattle-tale.  It was my responsibility to inform the teacher of any and all infractions so justice could be served.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it.  Tattling was the best.  A sure-fire way to boost my own fledgling self-esteem by pointing out the whispered cussing, hidden middle fingers and surreptitious cheating that went on in my classroom.  Bad words on the restroom wall?  We sure as shit were gonna go tell.  We bolted from the restroom to tell Mr. Foster.

Mr. Foster was the only male teacher at school.  He usually wore sweatpants and buttoned-up short sleeve shirts.  He was a bald, paunchy man with an unkempt mustache and only later on in my life when I thought about it did it register as a pretty grim existence.  

Sam and I burst into the classroom, Sam barely able to talk from the excitement and running up the stairs (he was a little doughy).  "Mr. Foster," Sam said, "someone wrote something really bad on the wall in the boys restroom!"  This was my moment.  My opportunity to call out the guilty party.  "Yeah," I started.  "It says 'Suck it' and 'Fuck it.'"  I looked accusingly across the room.  As sure as someone had written it on the wall, their guilt would certainly be written on their young faces. 

Someone blurted out, "I did it!"  "You did?" Mr. Foster replied.  "Then you shall go the principal's office and confess your crimes there!  Meanwhile, we will have an extra 30 minutes of recess time in Franz's honor for bringing this to our attention and calling out the guilty party!  Franz is truly a mench!"  

This is what I thought would happen, or something close to it.  Instead, after declaring what was written on the bathroom wall, the entire class gasped.  Mr. Foster found it hard to stifle his amusement, saying "Franz, you can't say that."  What?!  You mean I'm in trouble for finding it and having the courage to tell you?  We're on the same side, Mr. Foster!  Don't just sit there with your hands in your sweat jacket pockets, jingling your keys, do something!  "Okay, I'll let the principal know, thank you," he said.  I went to my seat, confused.  Someone had written this profanity in the bathroom of all places and was going to get a way with it.  Meanwhile, I'm the one causing snickers and giggles because I wanted Mr. Foster to know about this act of vandalism?  I learned a lesson that day, all right.  Not only does the F in F-word stand for fuck, but adults don't really care about it.  And yet if I were to go into Toys'R Us and say something like, "Aw man, the new Optimus Prime is $25.  Fuck it," I'd be the one in trouble.


There's not enough unsolicited commentary on the internet and I feel mine is REALLY important so you should read it.  Politics.  Humor.  Political Humor. I'm committed to bringing back blogging like it's 2004 all over again.  Join me, friends.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

If You Give A Unicorn An Uzi, by Esther Numeroff

If you give a unicorn an uzi, he's going to want to know why you're giving him an uzi. You'll probably have to tell him that it's because he's going to do your "dirty work." He probably won't understand that euphemism so you'll have to further explain that you're going to ask him to use the uzi to shoot someone, he'll probably object on moral grounds. If he objects based on moral grounds, then explain that the person doesn't deserve to live. He'll want to know why. You'll probably mutter that he's asking a lot of questions for a unicorn but then you'll go on to explain that this person, this bitch rather, is simply a worthless human being who contributes nothing to society, has never struggled (unlike yourself) and is living a perfect life with a perfect family in a house that's too good for her. That and she's racist. The unicorn will probably be taken aback by your outburst and given his inexplicable inquisitive nature will start with more questions, but you'll cut him off and say, "Just get your uzi and get in my Celica." If he's going for a ride he'll want to stick his head out the window. Once you get to your destination, a quaint cottage in Saranac Lake, you'll direct the unicorn to "Kick in the door, find the woman, say 'This is for Esther' and then shoot her up good." The unicorn is likely to object but you'll just have to start pushing him out and tell him that this woman once killed a whole family of unicorns just to watch them die and he'll -- Then suddenly the woman will come out the house and say, "Esther? What are you doing out there, come on inside!" You'll wonder if she saw the unicorn but he must've jumped out the window because he's suddenly disappeared. "Esther, come on inside! It's been so long, the kids want to see their aunt!" "I don't know, Laura," you'll say. "I was just coming up here to deliver something but I guess I left it at home." "You left it at home in Pittsburgh?" You'll start to scramble, trying to figure out how to salvage this plan that seemed so brilliant: One unicorn, one uzi, one dead over-achieving sister, for whom the world was always handed to on a silver platter! "Um, Esther, why don't you just come in, I'm sure you've had a long drive." Oh, that condescending tone! Oh, Esther! Here just take some of my "If you give a moose a muffin" royalties. Trust me, we'll be fine. Oh, Esther! Mom just bought the kids laptops for Hannukah! "Esther, you coming in?" "Oh you would just love that, wouldn't you! Me coming into your Crate & Barrel show room of a house to hear about Stevenson and Shelly and how gifted they are and how Luke just got offered to redesign Seinfeld's summer home and how you're starting a new children's book! Well I got a title for you: If you give a skank a nose job at fifteen!" Then you'll drive off and head to the nearest Burger King. And if you head to the nearest Burger King, the unicorn will pop back up in the backseat.  He'll want a #4.  If you give him his #4, he's going to want some ketchup.