Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Got Yer Dark Ages Right Here

(Sorry. I am watching a show on the History Channel anout The Dark Ages, and they just went through the segment about whether the Dark Ages deserve to be called The Dark Ages, and they went through a brief explication of the fact that Petrarch coined the term, without bothering to note that Petrarch was a snob. Ahem.)
Back in 1989, when hurricane Hugo came through our fair city, I just happened to have a pot of chili in the fridge. For the next three days, cold chili was basically my diet, since there was no power and, being a college student, I didn't have anything else on hand. You might have thought that experience would have poisoned me on chili for the rest of my life, but no. A week later, after power was restored, the first thing I did was make a fresh pot of chili, and the following day lunch was the then ubiquitous chili cheese grilled sandwich. Far above being the best thing I ate that week-- my pal Dog Nagel staked me to a meal at the first joint we found open, which was Sonny's Barbeque, which sucks-- it was absolutely revelatory. It's not just food. It is love.

This was the result of, let us say one of the by-products of, the Wifey's coice to attend Dragon Con this year, and a damned good thing too. I think we had both heard bits and pieces about it over the last year, and I seem to think that the History channel screened it at some point, but getting it on DVD and sitting down and just chewing though the damned thing was the best way to do it. Even at that, there was a HELL of a lot of shorthand involved. James Marsters, who played Buzz Aldren-- oops! More shorthand required: this is a biopic detailing the Apollo 11 mission. So Marsters did a preso at the D*C and dished quite a bit of background, which the Wifey parsed out as we watched, and then I, with my own extensive knowledge of the moon landing, kicked in what I knew on background, and back and forth through the whole thing, to the point where we came to the conclusion that you might not have any real shot at enjoying this if you didn't have significant background to deal from. Whether that's true or not, eeeehhhhh, dunno. We managed to enjoy it, anyways, so that's enough for us.

This, on the other hand . . . We watched an unfinished version of it on a draft DVD about six months ago, with disjointed subtitles and about half the English commentary of the finished version, but I knew enough about the era of F1 involved and the driver himself-- Woops! This is a doc on the life and death of Ayreton Senna, possibly, no, probably, no, certainly the best Formula 1 race car driver of all time-- that we managed to digest and enjoy it with little effort. My Dad and I then went to watch the finished version, in it's limited release, at one of the local part-time art film theaters a week and a half ago. I enjoyed the hell out of it-- better subtitles, more racing footage than there had been in the scratch cut, more English speaking talking heads, and a lot more footage of Senna himself-- but my Dad seemed to think he would have enjoyed it more had there been mor subtext and explanation. And he's right. It'd be good to know that the first four seasons Senna competed in were not held solely at Susuka in Japan, just that that's where the final race of those seasons took place, so that's where the driver's championship was usually decided. Etcetera. I was going to keep going, but, honestly, it's F1. I find it largely the case that, on this subject, you either already know or just don't care.

This. Um. Well! This . . . This I tuned into periodically while I watched Tony Bourdain's show about Dubai, which is wack, and almost got sucked in several times. Ray Wolstone as an ethics professor! Tony Perkins as a star basketball player! Hanoi Jane as an embryo! And say what you will about her politics, she was, back in the day, and continues to be, and incredible piece of pulchritude. (And honestly, her politics don't bother me that much, largely because she really doesn't seem to have much in the way of politics, frankly.) But I just couldn't stick it out, in any way whatsoever, because it was just too ridiculous. Pop psychology and a bullet primer on the philosophical groundings of ethics drive a plot about a failing scholor who happens to be a hot shot on the court being offered a bribe to throw the big game against-- get this-- the Sputniks. I didn't stick around long enough to find out if they were supposed to be Russian or not. But I was there for the big punch line, wherein the hero is told to tell the ethics prof all he knew about Socrates. ("Socrates was a Greek. And they poisoned him.") Wherafter the Dean (or something) declares he passed the quiz because that's literally all he knew about Socrates. Now eat your spinach!

So do I recommend it? Hard to say. I think it takes a particular form of stalwart to even contemplate the notion of a chili cheese sandwich. It also violates at least five points of the Unified Sandwich Theory, not that you'd care per se. I suppose if you know enough about the moon shot you could enjoy Moon Shot, but I think being a big fan of either astronautics or James Martsters would help. You're only going to go see Senna if you're a fan of Senna or with one. But I can't see any reason in the world why you'd want to sit through Tall Story, unless your name was Alex and you were being reconditioned, in which case it might just make for a pleasant change of pace.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Because It Is Bitter, And Because It Is New York

(If you get this title, based on the best line of a pretty bad poem, I can only say: I'm sorry.)

I often find myself defending fast food for entirely the wrong reasons. Mainly that fast food gets a far worse rap that it really deserves, because, come on, people, it's crap. McDonald's burgers are not made of worms, the corporation is not responsible for South American deforestation, and even if KFC is called KFC because what they are serving isn't legally chicken, you really don't need any vast conspiracy theory or grotesque inference of the origin of the meat to indict the product. It's crap. It's stuff that developed and thrived because people travelling to far flung places on the highways and byways of America had to eat something. And while I have my objections to, for instance, Patton Oswalt's critique of the failure pile in a sadness bowl-- come on, dude, you took it home? You tried this fucking thing to go? Of course it sucked. But it sucked more because you gave it a chance to cool down. That's the kind of crap that, if it's got any chance at all, you gotta treat is like adamantium: you gotta keep it hot.

On the other hand, all it takes for me to curse at the TV is some fococta spokesman proclaiming that KFC uses real chicken to make its-- wait for it-- popcorn chicken. Oh, come the fuck on! For fuck's sake! Who the fuck would ever know or care if those little greasy breading balls were made of anything besides breading and Styrofoam? In fact, given what they end up as, I'd be slightly comforted knowing that they weren't real chickens, after all.

Of course McDonald's is bad food. That's all ye know in this world, and all ye need to know. But the fact that McDonald's is bad food because it's processed does not make my pastrami, not to say my rye bread, unprocessed. (And don't get me started on the mustards! That's right: plural.) But the cheese curls were a really odd choice. Not to say that they don't dance along with the deli in their own odd way, but it's not something I would do on a regular basis, I don't think.

This is something I have been trying to get my head around for awhile. I've known of Louis CK as a comedian and as a comedic theorist for quite awhile, but I shied away from his show from the get go, for no reason I could put a pin in. I have been trying to catch up with it, but so far, it's been a little painful. As I noted to the Wifey, if nothing else, it's pretty good New York porn, getting in a fair amount of gritty, cheap, street-level shots-- just my kind of thing-- but the plotz are all self-induced cruelty humor, which is in keeping with CK's stand up material, comedic theory and life in general, but so far, it's a little hard to take. Not that I am giving up on it, or even worse, hoping he'll change. Just that I have to say, as a fan, watching it is more a labor of love that a joy to the heart. So it goes.

On the other hand, if one is to be a fan of New York, one has to admit it can be more than a bit of a miserabilist place. It's easy to be very happy in New York; it is also very easy to be pissed off and depressed and convinced that all the forces of the universe are aligned against you.

That's better.

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