I never, never, never want to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson.
"But why?" comes the stunned cry from the Internet. "He's so smart and funny! He loves science in a way that makes other people love it too! He won gold medals in dancing contests! He's got an adorable daughter and georgous wife! He's a fine wine conniseur! HOW COULD YOU NOT WANT TO MEET HIM??"
I know you all have been holding your little breaths wondering what would lure me back into posting--some political brohahaery? A celebrity scandal? A deeply felt personal screed?
Nope. It was a movie. And by movie, I mean "humungous gigantic cinematic event that nerds around the world have been jacking off to the mere idea of for the last decade and change." In other words, Ridley Scott was finally going to stop pretending that if he ignored Alien enough, the fanboy demands would go away. Yes, my freinds, I'm talking Prometheus.
I went to see Ralph Feinnes' film of Coriolanus a few weeks ago, and it left a deep impression on me.
So deep, in fact, that I've decide to write a few posts about the movie and the play's themes. Because this could easily devolve into the kind of three hundred page treatise beloved of English majors and no one else, I'm breaking it up into parts--this post is about the movie and future ones will deal more with abstract concepts from the play itself. I'm sure all six of you are waiting with bated breath. Shut up. Being a theater major should make me ashamed to admit this, but I haven't read Shakespeare's entire cannon. Oh, sure, the greatest hits--Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet--plus the sonnets to show I was intellectual. But except for skimming thorough the plays to find monologues that weren't Ophelia, Juliet or Hermoine, I was less then conversant with Shakespeare's later, more "cerebral" works.
What-evs, wench. Sell more oranges or I'll have your hide.
So it was with a blend of interest, self-embarrassment, and "wonder why he picked this one?" that I trotted off to the theater. I was especially curious because the tiny crumbs of information I had on Coriolanus implied that it was kind of Julius Caesar Lite--all of the pontificating in togas, none of the stabbery or dead rising from the graves visions related by loyal, thigh-wounding wives.
I work at Pizza Company, which I will not further identify so I don't get fired and never get another job ever again, and tonight was one of those nights--starts out nuts and just forges ahead into the truly unexplored Nutbag Territories. Here be dragons.
It started out before I even got there. I stroll in at noon and am promptly informed by my coworker, T, that the lunacy is laying thick on the ground. To wit: he had just taken an order from a customer who didn't want olives on their pizza because they were too Oriental.
Okay, WHAT? Not only is that racist, but it doesn't even make any sense! As another coworker put it, that's like not wanting noodles because they're too Mexican. Jesus, seriously. That's taking racism, which is inherently stupid, and just working that dormant stupidity, shaping and honing and filing it into a fine point. Of STUPID.
But ah! That was only the beginning!
About half an hour later or so, I got a call from a woman who wanted a bunch of pizzas for a birthday party. Not so unusual, except she was not calling prior to the party. Not the day before, not the morning of, not twenty minutes before a half dozen wired six year olds appear. This brilliant young mother calls during the party.
And it's not she's rushed or apologetic at all. She is an Entitled Princess Bitch, who can't understand why it's taking more then thirty seconds for someone to enter seven large pies cut sixteen slices each. And then. She's got two coupons, one for a salad, one for breadsticks. I patiently explain that you can only use one coupon per order. She instantly says no problem, she'll just place two separate orders.
Okay, you're not allowed to do this, for this precise reason. Coupons are an extra, not a way for you to score as much free shit as possible in one go. But fuck it, I can tell this one's the type to argue for fifteen minutes over saving seven dollars for a fucking salad and bread, plus she's keeping up the Patient But Aggravated Sighing about how long this is all taking and the kids, meanwhile, are running around and (hopefully) destroying all her overpriced Danish Modern or whatever the hell Bellevue Bitches stock their living rooms with, so FINE, TWO ORDERS.
But of course the damn computer kept trying to erase the order, so it took forever, and while I'm trying to get it straightened out she's PBASIGHING about trying to give me her Goddamn credit card number, and it takes FOR-FUCKING-EVER but I finally get the two orders straight and call the store to double check that they went through okay and tell them her henpecked and presumably secretly alcoholic spouse can just wait five fuck-sozzled minutes at the counter for the cooks to finish the pies since it was HIS spectacularly ill-chosen mate who wanted to use TWO GODDAMN COUPONS, goodbye.
Well, that was annoying, but that should finish the Crazy for the day, right?
Oh, no. We have passed the isle of the Sirens, but Scylla and Caribdis lay dead ahead.
I didn't, thanks be to Jesus, get the first call from tonight's Gold medalist of crazy. That was poor newbie B, who I overheard pleading with our managers to talk to the following: a woman who, being disappointed that our previous seasonal special pie was no longer being made, was apparently demanding we make her not one, but two, of said NOT ON THE MENU ANYMORE pies.
Oh no, said my too-smart-to-touch-Madness bosses, who already realize that the simple facts of reality-- this pizza is no longer featured, we no longer have the ingredients, and thus the pie cannot be made--will not even penetrate the outer layer of this woman's version of how her life should be going at this moment. B (brave lad) gets back on the phone, then comes back to report that this woman is crying. Crying. And has not ceased her demands for these COMPLETELY UNAVAILABLE pies.
"Wow", I said as I headed back to my chair. "Sure am glad I didn't catch that call!"
Have you ever wondered if God's really listening to everything you say?
Sure enough, fifteen minutes later this woman calls back and guess who is being taught a lesson in humility? Yes, moi.
This woman demanded to talk to a manager, ranted about how we "used to" carry this pizza in March but changed it to February as a plot to keep it from her, I guess, said she's been petitioning for it to be put on the regular menu and apparently was waiting for me to just write it in or something, and when I asked for her number so one of our manager could "call her back" (HA) snapped "get caller ID. It's technology!"
(We actually do have caller ID. I just asked to fuck with her. What? I am but flesh! She's an idiot!)
She signed off by warning that she "didn't have time to wait around for a call" (I'll bet) and she fully expected to recieve TWO Special Pies tomorrow. Gahhhhhh. That call should be gold. Please, Jesus, let me have paid off my smugness debt already, please?
Seriously, I don't know what tipping point of lunacy was reached tonight. But may it take a long, long time for that point to be reached again. I've put up with the slow and steady erosion of all my youthful dreams and aspirations, but I really need my Disappointing But Let's Face The Real World job to just calm the fuck down for the next few weeks, okay? Okay.
So, after that last post, I was going to move on to my plans to read Petrarch and Virgil, but then I realized that makes me sound like a preening windbag. So here's some "been rattling 'round in there for a while" random things and bits instead.
DRIVE: Why Didn't it Get More Nominations?
Seriously, why? It got, like, Best Sound Editing. It's not even going to win for that, I bet. And it should have been nominated for at least Best Screenplay and Best Supporting (for Albert Brooks.)
This movie is the Bomb. It is the Shit. It is Ryan Gosling in a white satin jacket. (Really. It really is that last one. ) It's stuffed with fabulous actors giving the right kind of performances in a genuinely brilliant '80s brainless action film reworked and stripped down into a post-20th century tone poem.
Gosling gives less a performance than a portrait of a man who is living quietly in the wake of what was clearly a psychotic break, who only feels that he exists when he's driving, and having that carefully balanced pyschosis run head on into another human being, or beings; Carey Mulligan's tender and fragile young mother and her little boy, whose absent father is in prison--less for any crime he may have committed and more as the natural end result of spending his bewildered life being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Gosling's character (he's known only as "The Driver" in the credits) somehow becomes a whacked-out Knight Errant for Mulligan's and is dragged, blank-faced, into dealings with middle aged mobsters who make up for their lowly positions with an excess of grandiosity/bloodthirstiness. Brooks in particular does a great turn as a less-a-kingpin-then-an-old-courtier mobster who marches through acts of astonishing violence with sagging shoulders, weary eyes, and unerring stabbing ability. Ron Perlman (yippee!) is the mobster whose reach exceeds his grasp and discovers that's what hell is for, and Christina Hendricks shows up as a bad guy's gal who missed all her gangster's moll lessons and ended up in cheap boots and cheaper motel room.
This movie is amazing. It takes all the elements of a typical action flick--damaged man, vulnerable woman, cute kid, fast cars, bad guys, guns, money, neon pink credits--and reworks them into a flow of images that move around the main character without touching him, until that woman looks at him with those big, big eyes... there's even a scene at a strip club with boobs all over the place, but believe me, two minutes into that scene and you will forget they exist.
Best Sound Editing, pah! But it frankly should win for that. Check it out:
Diet Pepsi: The Drink of the Apocalypse
What? I said this was random.
One thing I've noticed in my illustrious career of taking pizza orders: when some customer or other asks for something odd, bizarre, or just plain weird, this apparently a signal for a huge cluster of future random customers to call up with the exact same weird request.
To wit: Diet Pepsi. We sell Coke products, always have. Nothing against the fine folks at the Pepsi-Cola Corporation, but we sell Coke products. But that hasn't kept at least twelve people, in the last few days, from requesting not only Pepsi, but Diet Pepsi.
Diet Pepsi? What is this, 1975? Who the hell still drinks Diet Pepsi? The Pepsi Generation has to be in their sixties at the very least! Are you calling me from the boardwalk in your Farrah hair and tight white pants, taking a break from rollerskating down the promenade to request this fizzy beverage? Did you just pass the Doublemint twins? Are you about to try on your new mood ring and giant hoop earrings? Because that was the last time Diet Pepsi was relevant in the pop culture landscape, people! The last time anyone cared about it it was setting Michael Jackson's hair on fire! Join the 21st century and go to Starbucks! Leave me alone!
The Oscars: I'm Never Actually Home to Watch
I don't think I've seen the first hour and a half of the Oscars for the past six years at least. And everyone knows that's the part really worth watching: critiquing hair, dresses, various guys' horrifyingly misguided attempts to be "eye catching" (Guys, stop it. You are men. You wear a tux. A regular, bow tie, well fitted tux. Do not wear a colored shirt. Do not wear creative footwear. Don't do a Robert De Neiro that one time he cut his hair to look like Marilyn Quayle's. When in doubt, pretend tobe George Clooney. Nice smile, tux, cute date. See how easy?) Wondering if this is the year that Joan Rivers is finally going to crumble into a pile of dust and silicon. Guessing who's already drunk. Guessing who's meeting who in the ladies' for some cocaine to take the edge off not eating for a week to fit into the designer gowns. It's not like you haven't guessed most of the winners by this point anyway.
And The Artist totally deserves to win, it's amazing. But it would be SO FUCKING COOL for Bridesmaids to win! Best Picture, not just Best Screenplay or whatever Pat the Lady On the Head award they have set aside for Wiig. (Wait, is Bridesmaids nominated for Best Picture? I can't remember. It fucking should be is my point.)
But I'll be at work, as usual, taking orders, hearing muffled cheering in the background and demanding of some random person to tell me who just won Best Whatever. Ah, the glamour of everyday life.
Well, that's it for now--Husband is home and listening to his Queen album and I'm getting distracted. Until next time remember: Drive, Tux, NO DIET PEPSI.
So I've been reading one of my "finish these before purchasing more" books from the FTBPM book drawer, Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve.
It's about an ancient Roman poet, Lucretius, and his masterwork, On The Nature of Things. It's very fascinating, incredibly so, but the author's tone--well, it's rubbing me the wrong way.
He's an atheist, and like many atheists, he hurts my feelings.
Not in a deliberate way, or a taunting schoolyard bully kind of thing, but in his (apparent) relief that there is no God and therefore nothing to dread after death, this tone of moral superiority comes out. It's probably the same tone he hears in believers when they speak of being "saved". And I don't blame him a bit. I loathe that whole bumper sticker "In Case Of Rapture This Vehicle Will Be Suddenly Unoccupied" crap blend of pride and vainglory masquerading as faith or devotion. It's so gross, and shallow, and ultimately demeaning to the Jesus Christ these people are loudly proclaiming to revere. It makes me feel really, really unchristian and punchy. And stabby. And then all prideful because I am not that way at all! Oh, no I am not! See? I am wonderful and loving and humble and so much better than you Jesus loves you but He loves me more nyah nyah nyah!
It really does bring out my ugly side.
But anyway, I'm not to far in yet and the story he's telling is fascinating, but he seems, as I said, a bit "Well, I've seen the light in that there's nothing after we die, maybe you will too, someday", and frankly, it's every bit as irritating as anything Mars Hill Church has come up with about gay marriage or what have you. Any time someone goes This Far and No Further in their beliefs, no matter what they are, I start to itch, because watching people deny uncomfortable thoughts is like a rash. And that makes me think about all the thoughts I don't examine because I am, to use the theological term, fucking terrified of going that far. Of what I would find if I did. I get all twitchy and tense and anxious, and tend to distract myself online or watching The Creeping Terror for the uppity-umpth time instead.
So I'm alternating reading The Swerve with Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris, and it's the perfect blend. Her book is about the "demon" of acedia, or "lack of care", and is unabashedly Christian in its viewpoint, but it's the opposite of rash inducing because it's hard and clearly thought through, and tries to frame humility as the basis, underneath it all, of all security within God.
So I occasionally get a little miffed at her too, all "Have you been following the recent shannanigans of the Church, lady? The Magdalene laundries? The sexual abuse? The attempted takeover of health care? These people are a menace!" And they are. But that's not God's fault, really, is it? That's our fault.
One conclusion I've come to recently is that once humans get involved, things get complicated. We can't help ourselves, it's our nature, the one (if you are framing it using Genesis) that we selected for ourselves. But the thing is, no matter how often or profoundly or completely humans get it wrong, that doesn't make God wrong. Even if every single religion ever concieved in the mind of man is completely off track and fucked up and wrong, God still isn't wrong.
And we're allowed to get it wrong. Over and over for years, decades, centuries, forever. We can live and die enthralled to incorrect ideas, religious, atheist, or otherwise. We're allowed to screw up after fifteen or fifty years of trying to get it right, to convert to a new viewpoint in college or on our deathbeds or sitting in a sports bar. And if someone comes up with something really twisted and vicious and hurtful, we're allowed to say so, to wave our arms and petition our government and rant on the internet even if we keep getting it wrong. We're allowed to change our minds even when it's really, really, REALLY embarrassing and all our freinds would stare in disbelief and change the subject and hope you get over this soon, that you aren't going to show up at their door in a white shirt and tie and invite them to join a study group and refuse to leave.
So that's what irritates me about this particular atheist stance, the idea that a world/life view has some kind of peak or stopping point, and there's no reason to go any further. And no, not all nonbelievers are like this, I'm sure you're not. I'm sure you are kind and polite and understanding and never snidely refer to believers as having "an invisible freind in the sky" on the internet, even when they are doing something deeply enraging in Congress. And if you are a believer I'm sure you're not the kind who get all show-pious and post "I'll pray for you" on someone's blog when you know damn good and well that is really insulting to them.
This was quite a wandering post, and if I had any sense I'd save it and rework it. But I don't and I'm going to throw it up there because frankly it's pretty reflective of my thought process. It's not meant to be insulting or any kind of instruction guide, just a section of the endless blathering essay that is my brain at times.
No matter what you think, don't stop here. There's always more to go.
So the other day the Husband and I were going out for lunch in an act of defiance against realizing we will never be able to afford a better apartment.
We went to Six Arms, had some delicious stew, then trotted across the street so H could buy more markers (he wears them out by the truckload for his comic at thatgalaxynextdoor.blogspot.com; appreciate what he does for you!) I wasn't overly fascinated by his selection process, so I wandered over to a demonstration table.
They had a (very well worn) set of watercolors and brushes out so you could feel all arty, along with some little squares of paper. I set to and in a few minutes painted this:
I've been dithering for a good long while on what to write for my first "offical" post--should it be light and funny? Deep and thoughtful? Boring and pretentious? But finally I decided to go for a kind of background thing; something that really explains me. It should be about the one thing that's shaped me, molded me, hell, turned me into my present self, the thing that's influenced my thoughts and tastes, my aesthetics, my humor and my thinking for the last fifteen or so years.
Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Everybody has Their Show. The one that speaks to that part of their mind that was sleeping, all unawares, until The Show came and woke it up with lights and colors and sounds and music. Ever since the dawn of human civilization, when our barely evolved ancestors crouched around the hard-won fires in their caves, our Astroprolithicus brethen had a favorite story/cave painting/Look I Can Make A Shadow Mastadon On The Wall. In ancient Greece, a hopeful tragedian's take on Electra siezed the heart and wine-sodden guts of some Bacchian festival goer. Medeval Japan produced a Kabuki play that threw on the lights for some rice harvest celebration attending shopkeeper. In the bowels of seventeenth century London, a music hall act somewhere hit a fourteen year old scullery maid full in the face with a wave of gold. In a two story house in 1949 Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a radio play made the spine of a twenty four year old father of two clench in recognition.
Everybody has Their Show.
Mine came into my life about two hundred years ago; when I was but a young and hopeful theater graduate moving to Seattle with my freind C, who had just gotten a job at that Microsoft company we'd heard so much tell about. We drove up in his car, ready to set the world on fire.
Microsoft may be a word-bestriding behemoth that has dictated how we interface with every aspect of our world for the last thirty years, but they treated their employees/slaves right. One perk of the velvet cage was a month's rent free stay in one of their thousands of employee housing condos. The idea was that a person could get settled into their work, learn the layout of the city, and not try to start a new job and search for housing all at once.
It was very kind and generous of them and all, but. A few things.
One, I don't drive. Never have (my driving phobia is legendary.) And even if I could, C's car was the only car. He needed it to get to work, so I was in a condo in the wilds of Issaquah and at the mercy of a bus system I could barely navigate. Plus, I had no real way to search for work until I had a better idea of where we'd be living. So every day I'd be clawing the walls or spending hours lost among various buses (did I mention my period started once while I was sitting in a bus shelter in the middle of nowhere, soaking my jeans to the knees with blood? MY PERIOD STARTED. IN A BUS SHELTER. SOAKING MY JEANS TO THE KNEES WITH BLOOD.) Then C would come home, exhausted and stressed out from basically starting his first major venture of his adult life, to find a young woman bouncing with boredom, rage, and terror, and having the same basic demeanor of a hamster on really strong crack.
This did not do much for our relationship.
And then, one day about three weeks into this saga of extitential Issaqhahian dread, something happened.
One perk of the velvet condo cage was cable, and late one afternoon, desperate, bored and trying to find something, anything to waste some time with, I came across...well...I had no idea what the hell it was.
It had a movie. It wasn't a movie, it had a movie. And in the right hand corner, three shadows. One looked human, but the other two...well, I didn't know what the hell they were.
The shadows were talking. More precisely, the shadows were riffing.
For those of you who missed the last two decades and change, riffing is mocking/funning/satirizing a piece of pre-existing media. It's mainly done with movies, t.v. shows and commercials, but tumblr has proven that the still image is certainly up for grabs. The humor of the riffing is entirely subjective. But the right riffing will leave you to laugh, laugh, laugh until oxygen debt creates flashing lights and pretty colors all along your peripheral vision, while in your thoracic cavity a big, fluffy dahlia of delight is opening--the shocked realization that you have, entirely accidentally, found your tribe. The ones that understand you.
That's what happened to me.
I don't remember the episode (or "ep", as we old hands call them), but I do remember staring first with bemusement and then open mouth bellow laughing at the screen, as the three shadows spewed out quip after quip that turned that forgotten B movie inside out, upside down, and shook entertainment from it like a bully shaking out a nerd's lunch money from his pockets.
About twenty minutes later, C came home. Curious about why I hadn't been hovering at the door to rip his arms off with my neediness, he came over to the couch.
"LOOK!" I shouted. (I'm always one for the subtle.) "LOOK AT THIS! IT'S BRILLIANT! I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS BUT IT'S BRILLIANT!"
"Oh yeah," said C casually after a moment or two. "I heard about this. It's that Mysterious Science show or whatever. They make fun of movies."
Well, C may have had it much more together in every Really Truly Adult catagory than I did, but he was wrong.
He wasn't factually inaccurate; That Mysterious Science Show does make fun of movies. But it's so much more than that.
It's a show that layers smart funny at a dizzying speed--juxtaposing Sophocles with fart jokes, Satre with horrible puns, Madame Curie with songs about pants. It's a show that, the more you think about it, should never have had the room to exist in the first place (A two hour comedy show? That makes fun of terrible forgotten movies? With PUPPETS?) let alone run for ten years. It's a show made in Minneapolis, for Christ's sake, that managed to be hilarious, insightful, and sly without ever succumbing to post modernist nihilism "crap on everything" self-hate. It's a miracle.
And I know it's just that, a miracle, because like all miracles, it appeared when I needed it more than I had ever needed anything before. And like all miracles, it didn't solve all my problems, it just showed me a way to a new state of mind about my life, a club that had been waiting for me with nametag and open arms, a new way to be.
I've got a lot more to say about my favorite miracle, but I'll let the story be for now--on a couch in a furnished condo in Issaquah, with a young woman desperate for some kind of ground beneath her feet, staring at a cable tv show starring a man and two puppets, having her life saved.
I've resisted blogging for years, simply because I am completely and thoroughly intimidated by all this newfangled technology. I grew up in the early eighties, when the idea of "home computers" was just beginning its transition from scifi dream to complete new reality, and the terrifying first wave of "home computers" completely freaked me out.
You know how computer engineers have certain mind set that allows them to write code, build working computers out of tinkertoys, and start Microsoft? I do not have that mindset. At ALL. And so the first personal computers, built by geeks and used to impress other geeks, made no more sense to me then trying to read the future in a flight of birds. It didn't help the first programming languages like BASIC held no more than a passing and superficial resemblance to any language a regular human being might conceviably use. Programming early computers may have been a dream pasttime for some, but for me it was as if Sysiphus had been assigned something even more arcane and pointless then all the boulder-rolling.
Luckily for me there are way more people like me than MIT trained programmers and such, so "user freindly" was quickly shot up the Need To Do list for the computer creators. So now I have a laptop and can find YouTube and do all the regular things this thing is apparently good for--up to a point.
I still get puzzled and dismayed by things like GoogleMaps. I can't grasp the whole "save a file" thing half the time (I understand it how to do it on my computer but not on another system). I can't understand this "embedding" business.
Not only that, but I am the kind of person who for some reason makes technology hate me on sight. This laptop? It's destroyed two hard drives so far. I hadn't done anything to it--it sat on my desk and suffered my going to Cute Overload a lot, and that was pretty much it. But of the two otherwise identical laptops my husband and I bought two years ago, mine is the one that overheats, burns out, loses the screws that keep the screen on... you name it.
So before you wonder why a forty year old woman is still answering phones at a pizza company, remember that not everybody can just surf this wave of the future, kids. Some of us flail and sputter in the surf, wiping sand from our eyes and wondering if that flitting shadow is perchance a shark. Not everybody's as lucky as you.
(Oh, and I majored in theater. I'm pretty sure that's the other reason I spend my working life asking "so, pepperoni on both sides, then?")
But, as long as this present computer doesn't go up in a puff of smoke, I guess I can keep trying this blog thingy. Here goes.