Friday, June 18, 2010

We Have Both Kinds-- Country AND Western

TODAY's lunch I have decided, in my infinite wisdom, to call "The Swaze."

"The Swaze" is kind of an ironic hipster nick-name for Patric Swayze, one which, I have it on pretty good authority, he relished. When he finally succumbed to cancer earlier this year, having worked right up to the point where it was fuctionally impossible for him to continue working, the internet was full of earnest lamentations by adorably earnest hipsters (and, in some cases, hipster douchbags) mourning his passing. The man is well and truly missed.

The sandwich here is a culmination of several influences, not to say inspirations, not the least of which is the experience of having ordered a hot ham and cheese sandwich from a fast-food chain and realizing, in consumption, "Hey, this doesn't suck!" (And yeah: rare experience.) The least of which is watching Tony Bourdain eat some gaudy monstrosity down in Central America-- least because, first of all, the sandwich he was eating was mortadella, and, simply put, ham is not mortadella, and secondly, in the words of Mr. William H. Joel, there's a new band in town, but you can't get the sound from a story in a magazine.

The beers were a flukey choice at best, the second to last Tsing in a six pack and the remains of a Saranac Trail Mix. They didn't go, they didn't not go . . . Or, well, I guess they went along with the sadnwich and tots in their own unique ways. Not that it matters: that is a pile of ham right there.

Which brings us to this, which is most definitely NOT the movie of the day. I tuned in to this earlier, after taking the dog for a semi-abortive walk around the block (hey-- it's hot out there, and she's old). I remembered watching it and loathing it years ago on HBO, on the grounds that the critics had absolutely brutalized it but the public absolutely lapped it up, about which more later. This time there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE ON (that I felt like watching). So, out of a perverse curiosity, related to the perverse fascination which lead to my perverse first viewing, I watched it.

It's really very bad.

The production values are patchy, and the plot is really bullshit, the issues are all cowbells-- MIA's who are really POW's! Our useless government! Those inscrutible Asians! Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is really alot like putting on a pantomime play!-- and, God bless 'em, only about three of the actors in the whole ensemble were able to ladel a decent performance out of the swirling, steamy soup.

Swayze isn't one of them.

The first time I watched I spent the whole time going "This is pretty bad . . . Hey! There's Gene Hackman! This is really very bad . . . Hey! There's Robert Stack!" (Who blusters with the best of them.) "This is actually horrible, borderline immoral . . . Hey! Who's that guy?" (Fred Ward, who even made the hammy, shadow-infested PTSD sequences semi-cogent.) This time I spent the majority of my attention reading artcles on the web, but I did manage to zero in on Swayze's performance. He was playing a guy who was going in despite his own self doubts and insecurities, but it came off as an actor who wasn't sure when to lean against the tree or chew its bark. It wasn't his fault, I don't think: it was a valid choice for the character, which could have been played way more straight up and macho, but the other guys hamming it up macho made it come off as just weak.

In 1983 there were tons of American who were desperate for reasons that our involvement in Vietnam was not futile and wrong, and believing that there were prisoner who had been deliberately listed as missing in action, either by the enemy or by our own government, so that they could be kept in prison and tortured beyond human understanding seemed like a good enough way to go about things. Which is a crying ass shame, because it's a lie, and an ugly, immoral motivation.

But I can recommend the sandwich.

Oh, and as to the name: part of the reason Swayze was, and remains, so vastly, widely loved, is that yeah, he gave us ham, but he also gave us cheese. When he was doing a role that ought to have a wink behind it, he held the wink in reserve, and then he stepped next door and did To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. And was the baddest son of a bitch in drag you ever saw.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

SO THIS IS not the lunch of the day. This was yesterday's lunch, the ubiquitous double cheese-burger, which I am in no way tempted to start calling a Royale With Cheese. No way. Well, maybe a little.

The beer here is the real story. This was yet another accidental purchase, something that I thought was on sale for 14 bucks for the variety 12 pack but was actually 18. (Yes, I know this is becoming a familiar story around here, and no, I don't think it's psychological, at least not yet.) The brand in question here is Peak Organic, out of Portland, Maine. The products are exactly what they would seem to be, high-end, organic, micro-brewed beer, and precisely the high quality product you ought to get for the price. In fact, eighteen bucks is maybe even a little cheap, but I am not generally in the habit of buying stuff in this end of the spectrum. I am an unabashed beer snob, I confess it, but the same way I have a single malt Scotch every coupla three years . . . The specimens in evidence here are an Imperial IPA and their maple oak ale. The IPA is a dead solid perfect California IPA, firm-bodied and thoroughly hopped up, and slightly dangereous, ranking as they do at 7.1 ABV. The maple oak ale was a real smartass brew, a terrific oat ale with a child's breath of maple syrup hiding just underneath. It went even better with the Keebler Peanut Butter Fudge Sticks I had for dessert than it did with the burger, which is saying something.

This was not the film of the day, either. Well, because it's not a film. It's something Michael Nesmith did back in the 80's, apparently with his mother's White-Out money,* which largely anticipated and was subsequently sunk by the MTV phenomenon. A collection of mostly funny skits and bits sandwiched in between videos for Mikey's songs, at a shade over an hour's running time, it presented the ideal entertainment package for myriad networks and local stations and cable outlets who refused and/or neglected to play it. That's not entirely fair: it was really aimed more at the home entertainment/VCR market. to suit a demographic which, although it most certainly existed at the time, remained blissfully ignorant of Sir Michael's oblations.

Which is, again, unfair. This has been a cult hit for years, and that I really only just now got around to seeing it in it's entirety is entirely my own fault. I just put it off. However, I may soon buy a copy of my own. Good songs. Fun stuff.

Yesterday's movie was this, which I had seen many years previous. I had forgotten how gritty and funny and poignant and . . . What's the word I'm looking for? The sort of thing that happens when an ironic twist coincides with the satisfaction of a justified revenge in the final act. Like: "Is that . . . could be . . . yeah . . . yeah . . . yeah . . . YEAH!!!" Schadenfruede doesn't really do it.

When I saw it originally, Gary Busey was the guy who played Buddy Holly and Willie Nelson was the guy who sang "On The Road Again." It wasn't until years later that I found out they were drug-fueled perverts bent on discovering the Xanadu of the mind-body duality. The whole thing made way more sense after that.

This was the Weekend Movie. I almost wish I were kidding. The original was really very disturbing, dark and amoral and chaotic and anarchic. There are these caves and there are these people lost in them and then, suddenly, there are things that want to kill and eat them. There: deal with it for an hour and forty minutes. Afterwards, the Wifey declared that a) THAT's the way horror movies ought to be made, and b) she was NEVER EVER EVER EVER watching THAT again. This one, we spent the full hour and a half bitching about how flat the characters were and how stupid they were being and whether or not (about 50%) what they were required to do by the script was anything they would logically ever have done in real life. Basically, The Descent: Part 2 was indecent.

So do I recommend it? I could recommend a cheeseburger anytime, but that's largely a part of the mania that will most likely result in my hospitalization for either cardiac or mental disease. If you love beer like I do, then you ought to plunk down some cash~ for something as exotic as the Peak brews once in a while. Michael Nesmith's collected work is something of an aquired taste, but this is probably as suitable gateway as any. Oh, and it's nowhere near as hokey as the cover art might lead you to believe. You oughta watch Busey and Nelson egg each other on at least once; so far as I know, it never happened again, and if memory serves, this is the best acting job the Redheaded Stranger ever put in.

But The Descent: Part 2? Not just no, not just hell no, but Go To Hell No. To call it pandering would be to give everyone involved waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much credit.

*Michael Nesmith's mom was an execituve assisant and she invented White-Out. True story.

~In point of fact, this was paid for with grocery money, which lead to me putting out a spot of cash for one thing or another over the past weekend. All's fair in love and beer.

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