Archive for January, 2006

Elephant love hangover

January 27, 2006

It’s not even open to debate: the BEST SCENE EVER in Moulin Rouge (which is essentially an entire movie of BEST SCENES EVER) is what is referred to on the soundtrack as the “Elephant Love Medley.” Following the Occam’s Razor approach to naming soundtrack cuts, this is the scene where Ewan McGregor sings a medley of songs on top of a giant elephant.

Elephant goes here.

This is the BEST SCENE EVER for many reasons, most obviously because Ewan McGregor is channeling David Bowie, Phil Collins, and Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes in practically the same breath. But I am also intrigued by the philosophical questions embedded in a phrase like “elephant love.” What IS elephant love? Is it the terrifying choreography of an intimate act between Earth’s largest land mammals? Is it the quiet bond that blooms between Dumbo and the little mouse in the red hat who get drunk together, believe in each other, fly through hoops of flame, and are, presumably, doomed to a long, hard lifetime of not being able to “quit each other”?

These are the questions that kept me up at night. And it wasn’t until I met a big ape that I truly learned what elephant love is all about.

Her last name isn’t ‘watts’ fer nothin’.

Elephant love is what is wrong with Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Because there is something wrong with the movie at a fundamental level, even though the most apt word to describe it is AWESOME; it inspires literal awe and even skirts the sublime. But for all the breathtaking imagery and pulse-pounding chases and aerial acrobatics, PJacks is asking a mighty slim story to bear far too much weight. Kong is simple, no matter how many cliche subplots are propping it up: destitute girl meets boy; troubling racial stereotypes sacrifice girl in act dripping with troubling racial metaphor to very impressive special effect/troubling racial metaphor; racial metaphor chases girl, is cut down by his own tragic flaw/troubling racial metaphor. It was PJack’s love for the source material that caused him to stick more bells, whistles, ridiculously prolonged chases, obvious dialog, and corny “Heart of Darkness” references than any movie–let alone one about a big gorilla with a soft spot for blondes–can stand.

This love was elephant love: love so enormous, you can’t see around it. You are standing so close to the elephant you love, all you can do is describe the terrain in great detail. It’s up to the people around you–the people not looking through elephant love-colored glasses–to inform you when the part of the elephant you are fixating on is, in fact, the elephant’s ass.

This is why we have editors, people.


Why I cannot contain my torrid love for Stephen King

January 20, 2006

…even though he writes largely uninteresting, self-important wankfests that Entertainment Weekly prints two or three times a month under the hideous banner “The Pop of King.”

I’m sorry. I need to take a minute for that pun to work its way out of my system. This coming from the girl who LIVES for puns. (“Bear left!” “Right, frog!”)

So here’s what brought Mr. King back to my heart this time–and for the very same reasons he wormed his way into my aorta all those years ago, when I spent my lunch hours at the Museum of Science and Technology with a cup of Maruchan Ramen brewing by my side and a copy of Misery in my hands: when King turns on his heart light, it’s a raging inferno. To wit:

And before Clay could begin helping Pixie Light with Power Suit Woman, Pixie Light had darted her pretty little face forward with snakelike speed, bared her undoubtedly strong young teeth, and battened on Power Suit Woman’s neck. There was an enormous jet of blood. The pixie-girl stuck her face in it, appeared to bathe in it, perhaps even drank from it (Clay was almost sure she did), then shook Power Suit Woman back and forth like a doll. The woman was taller and had to outweigh the girl by at least forty pounds, but the girl shook her hard enough to make the woman’s head flop back and forth and send more blood flying. At the same time the girl cocked her own blood-smeared face up to the bright blue October sky and howled in what sounded like triumph.

All of his literary tics (derivative of himself!) are there–the twee nomenclature, the parenthetical third-person limited, the “he’s not really going to–OH YES HE IS” gore–and it makes me GIDDY. So Entertainment Weekly doesn’t get all sue-y up in my grill, I’ll give credit where credit’s due: this is an excerpt from King’s new novel, Cell, the first two chapters of which are available at The premise of the book is that–oh who cares, ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. SET IN BOSTON. OH MY GOD CAN YOU TASTE THE AWESOME???

All awesome and no life make Roger a living dead boy.

King has written some damn fine stuff over the years (Shawshank, The Stand, The Shining, 4/7 of the Dark Tower series)), some gripping pulp lit (that totally awesome novella about prehistoric creatures in the mist terrorizing a bunch of people trapped in a Kwik-E-Mart), and some real crap (Rose Red? More like Rose…um…so I watched the whole damn thing, but I’m here to tell you it was almost total crap, and the Winchester Mystery House is way cooler and creepier in person).

But drifting in the gray zone along the King continuum of almost total crap and damn fine stuff there are things like Creepshow, Pet Sematary, and now (if there is a God) Cell. These are things that are damn fine because they are almost total crap. Things that are awesome because the King was thinking only of serving and protecting his loyal dear readers, only wishing to make them happy, to slake their bloodlusts, and when faced with the artistic decision to either write about the complexity of the human experience or about a young girl bathing in a spray of blood after tearing a woman’s carotid artery with her teeth, chose the latter.

Mr. King: consider yourself (mostly) forgiven for obliquely condemning television viewers for the cancellation of Kingdom Hospital (and I quote: “With ”KH,” I realize now, we were asking viewers to give us a week or two, maybe three, and that was more time than most were willing to give. Am I putting TV viewers down, accusing them of being dumb? I am not. You come home tired, you want something that’s fun and familiar? That’s fine.”) and not, for example, blaming the fact that the show itself was slow, cliche, and it’s genuinely upsetting to see Andrew McCarthy looking like he’s two (literal) Bloody Marys away from moving to ‘Salem’s Lot.

Can my ringtones make you sexy?

January 17, 2006

From a sidebar advertisement on the peerless Go Fug Yourself website, beneath a photograph of a redheaded woman wearing glasses and a white lab coat, her hair pulled back so severely she can no longer close her mouth (clearly the authority in sexy science):

Listen for yourself. Experience the ringtone secret I discovered in Denmark that?s [sic] too hot for mainstream science.

I’m picturing tweed- and wool-bedecked passerby in Denmark overcome by shockwaves of passion upon hearing fifteen seconds of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Rock Your Body’ as interpreted by cell phone.

James Frey DANCEPARTY!!!!

January 13, 2006

So this James Frey thing. I feel compelled to respond to it in some way, since I am a) a writer, and b) the kind of writer who’s very upfront about the fact that this is a polite, socially acceptable way of saying that what I really am is a liar. What makes me feel icky about James Frey is that he adamantly sold himself as that most elusive sub-breed of writers: the liar who tells the truth. I don’t dispute the idea that memoirs are personal, subjective, and more a record of remembered experiences than verifiable, factual accounts, but Frey nullified any get-out-of-jail-free qualifications when he insisted that everything in his gruelingly graphic addiction memoir was 100% true. Everything I would/could/should say about this has already been said with varying degrees of eloquency, like, EVERYWHERE, though I’m quite partial to Slate and Gawker’s philosophical smackdowns. To wit: it matters because Frey promotes a possibly dangerous method of (non)treatment for a serious disease (Frey and Tom Cruise are clearly taking the same crazy pills–oh wait, or not); and it matters because Frey duped Oprah, and Oprah makes the publishing industry’s pulse beat a little faster, and you don’t want to piss off a lady like that, Jonathan Franzen. I have to say I was disappointed that O let the whole thing go so easily; I would have stayed home from work to watch the episode where Frey and Oprah go mano a Oprah in the Thunderdome, and Oprah triumphantly swings Frey around by the hair on his curly head.

But since we can’t have that, let’s have the next best thing: JAMES FREY DANCEPARTY!

That’s right, this is DJ Katerac-a-lackin’, and I’m going to spin the beats and rock the tunes that get you moving, in honor of the It (Not so) Bad Boy of the moment! What better way to celebrate the fuzzy lines between fact, fiction, and addiction than with

Cake, “Tougher Than It Is”

Well there is no such thing as you
It doesn’t matter what you do
The more you try to qualify
The more it all will pass you by
Some people like to make life a little tougher than it is

Eurythmics, “Would I Lie to You?”

Depeche Mode, “The Policy of Truth”

Now you’re standing there tongue-tied
You’d better learn your lesson well
Hide what you have to hide
And tell what you have to tell

You’ll see your problems multiplied
If you continually decide
To faithfully pursue
The policy of truth

Flaming Lips, “Ego Tripping at the Gate of Hell”

Fleetwood Mac, “Little Lies”

Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies
(Tell me lies, tell me, tell me lies)
Oh no, no, you can’t disguise
(You can’t disguise, no you can’t disguise)

(Clearly, Lindsey Buckingham is Frey’s style icon.)

and no DANCEPARTY!!! is complete without

Duran Duran, “Electric Barbarella”

Majordomo plasticomo Barbarellaaaa
My pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty Barbarellllaaaa

Aww yeah, we’re just gettin’ started! ::sound of thumping bass::

Endangered hairstyles in the wild

January 11, 2006

I’m not exactly in a position to make citizen’s arrests on behalf of the fashion police (my mug shot is plastered all over their HQ under the words WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, riddled with dart holes). But just because I have been known to dress entirely in denim, that doesn’t mean I don’t suffer an involuntary cringe when I cross paths with something like this on my morning commute:

Seeing this hairstyle worn totally devoid of irony is a little like discovering a baby stegosaurus with a broken leg: you’re simultaneously shocked, incredulous, and afraid your karma will implode if you don’t take it home and nurse it back to health. This particular specimen was either surprised to be out in public or tragically under-moussed; it quivered like a frightened porcupine perched atop the head of an otherwise seemingly normal fellow commuter. But she was clearly anything but. I have my own pet theories as to her true purpose (renegade time traveler hell bent on returning to 1988 with the single greatest invention of the past eighteen years: the silicon oven mitt), but for now, she and her hair are stalking Boston.

…Holy crap, 1988 was eighteen years ago. You can fit a college freshman in the space between now and the time when you could watch ‘Muppet Babies’ on Saturday mornings.

Mmm. Muppet Babies.

So friggin’ cute.

26 is a magic number

January 10, 2006

Today, I am

*a baker’s dozen twice over
*the day of the month when you remember to pay your rent, but five days before you actually pay it
*forty-three percent as old as Rod Stewart, to the day

Let that be a subtle reminder to gather ye rosebuds and siamese cats while ye may.

Curious sound heard intermittently in the 13th floor women’s bathroom at work

January 10, 2006

a) dixieland combo warming up
b) refreshing bottle of Coke being opened with a tantalizing pfssshhhhhhhhh
c) paddleball
d) The Cranberries’ “Zombie”
e) all of the above

I assure you one of these answers is correct.

Rejected from McSweeney’s: Vol 1, Part 1

January 10, 2006

Lionel Richie’s “Dancin’ on the Ceiling”
A Short Essay on a Favorite Song

When I was twelve I drew a picture of a cat in white pants and a pink shirt open to the waist, dancing by himself in an empty room with a disco ball and a table with two bowls, presumably containing potato chips and cheese twists. The cat is dancing on the ceiling, next to the disco ball. So that future art historians would not needlessly tax themselves deciphering the intent of my vision, I thoughtfully labeled the piece “Dancin’ on the Cielin'” [sic]. I dashed off a few music notes, in case future art historians are for some reason unfamiliar with the oeuvre of Lionel Richie. The sheer exhilaration I experienced whenever I heard that song could not be contained within my mortal flesh; only an anthropomorphized cat with a Miami Vice fetish could accurately embody my joy.

“Dancing on the Ceiling” had all but evaporated from my life until this past summer, when a chance encounter on VH1 Classic reminded me it existed. It was a video I had never seen–with a very tired-looking troupe of dancers gamely walking up and down the walls, gamely throwing their hands in the air to coincide with the “Wooo!”s already laid on the track–and it made me sad. These people could not have been listening to Lionel Richie’s song. These people were standing on a cold soundstage and counting off their steps like metronomes to prevent anyone getting ahead of the rotating room, and falling on their asses on a ceiling that was really a floor. Watching it made me profoundly aware of the gap between my romanticized childhood and my supposed grown-upedness. But then, everything does.

It wasn’t until a Lionel Richie LP found its way into my heart via J’s father and a rural firemen’s benefit auction that I remembered how to believe. The sleeve extends into a poster-sized image of Lionel in a white suit, straddling a yellow fireman’s pole, his face a rigor mortis of euphoria. He has been propelled off the ground by the power of music; nay, he is held aloft by a force greater than gravity, stronger than snobbishness, nestled so deeply within the human heart that it has taken a wrong turn at the aorta, spent some time in the spleen, thought it could make a go of it in the liver, and is now living on the outskirts of the appendix in a pop-up camper: shamelessness. Lionel Richie, legs splayed on either side of that yellow pole, mouth gaping like a bass, is a man without shame. He is a cat in white pants so entranced by the smooth rhythms of early-nineties r and b that, not only has his gravitational polarity reversed, he has thrown a party, no one has shown up, and he does not care. He is a child of twelve throwing her hands in the air, shouting Woooooo! and spinning around in her socks and underwear on her bed until she is so dizzy she actually understands what it feels like to get down upside-down.


The magic’s still there.


January 9, 2006

That about says it all.