Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Elderly with a Hidden Camera

Betty White, seminal overexposed veteran of the small screen and near-nonagenarian, has emerged from her temporary (three months, was it?) seclusion to announce a new show. She'll be pranking old people, for our entertainment, on NBC.

I adore Betty White, but the past year or so has made me wish she'd take up knitting (temporarily!) because at 89 she's almost as omnipresent as Kardashians and Jersey Shorians, and I don't think the Betty White brand should be sold so cheaply. She's not a media event--she's a well-respected workhorse of entertainment. I mean, Angela Lansbury is almost as busy with various projects, but I don't see her visage in a banner ad when I go to brobible.com.

Anyway. I'm of two minds about Ms. White's new show, and those two minds are that it is a horrible idea since old people are cranky and probably won't like being punk'd, and depending on the prank may either stroke or have a heart attack. Or! It's a wonderful idea for a show, since Betty White has always been more Sue Ann Nivens than Rose Nylund--she's a sadistic bitch with an angelic smile, and this will be the 'Murder She Wrote' of the aging Baby-Boomer generation.

So I've come up with a few suggested pranks for Ms. White's new show. Based on my stereotyped observations of old people.

1). The "corpse in the coffin is really alive" joke is played out. But! Old people love going to funerals. I have it on good authority (Junior Soprano's, actually) that it's one of the few social engagements they can count on. So let's up the ante, Ms. White. Elderly Person's best friend "dies." Elderly Person attends the funeral. During the eulogy, Best Friend pops up out of the coffin, yells "Gotcha!" While Elderly Person is dealing the existential verities of life, the undead Best Friend fakes a heart attack and pretends to die for real. The other mourners at the funeral, who are all in on the joke, wail and scream and then... you, Ms. White, emerge from a hidden spot beneath the altar to comfort Elderly Person by saying, "Gotcha again!" Hilarious!

2). "We've replaced Ed Clavitt's heart medication with Viagra, and Thelma Clavitt's estrogen pills with Ambien. Let's watch."

3). Ms. White, whatever you do, do not hire actors to pretend to be Elderly Person's family only to convince Elderly Person that s/he has Alzheimer's. That's just cruel. It might be better to replace Elderly Person with an actor, then see if the family notices.

4). Replacing Elderly Person's Polygrip with Super Grip.

5.) Elderly Person Twister, but make it old-school. Rather than the primary colors, use a mat that's black-and-white. Tell the participants it's the original 'Twister' directed by George Cuckor rather than the terrible remake with Helen Hunt and that guy from 'Big Love.'

6). Tell them Englebert Humperdink is dead:


7). Force a perfectly rational, active, loving Elderly Person into a Home. Imagine how the audience will laugh when they watch Elderly Person try to eat strained peas with a fork! Imagine how the audience will laugh when they see Elderly Person need to go to the bathroom, only to be confronted with the choice of using the bed pan or the actual bed!

8). Hidden camera shots of an old man in a diner, sending back cold soup for warm soup. The waitress takes the soup away, returns with colder soup. Hilarity ensues.

A final thought: Ms. White, the indignities of aging suck. While it is a fun idea to bring the old people down to an Ashton Kutcher level, please remember that you're not Ashton Kutcher.

(But I guess modern society views humiliation as a sign of usefulness. Look at Rebecca Black, Britney Spears, the Tea Party, Joe Biden....).

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Years of Magical Legs

While I'm generally opposed to 'My Significant Other Is So Wonderful' posts, sometimes one needs to publicly, and unambiguously, declare the wonders of the person one chooses to spend a life with.

Why is it sometimes needed? I don't know. Why do people insist on asking themselves rhetorical questions, then answering them? Who knows. But the fact remains: sometimes a 'My Significant Other Is So Wonderful' post is called for.

First off, I'm a notorious misanthrope. It is not a pose. Just as I did not choose to be gay, I did not choose to be generally disgusted with my fellow humans--and I don't mean on an individual basis, since I am lucky to know several remarkable and exceptional individuals. But any time you get more than three people in a group, there are two people too many up to no good.

This is my issue of course and is no reflection on the multi-person gatherings upon which I've inflicted my presence. They were fine gatherings. Most of the people were more concerned with putting a right foot on red and a left hand on yellow, and not at all inclined to be assholes.

As a notorious misanthrope, I made an unexpected choice in a life-partner. A husband. Greg tends to like other people even when he goes into his dark places.

About Greg's dark places: Some people have physical handicaps to overcome--a bad or missing leg, paralysis, etc. Some, like Greg, have mental handicaps. Please forgive me if I sound awkward when writing about this, but I'm still learning the language, still learning how to phrase the issue in a way that is neither offensive nor trivial.

Let me go at it this way: A person with an obvious physical handicap is, well, obvious. Other people see the wheel chair or the cane or the useless sleeve pinned to the shoulder. And, in seeing these things, other people are able to make certain assumptions. And, for all the assumptions we make, we recognize there's no reason to doubt the person can do what they're asked to do.

Greg, however, has a different kind of handicap--and I'm not even sure 'handicap' is the proper word. But he has something hidden that is a legitimate difficulty to overcome, a difficulty that isn't immediately obvious. It is as if he has magical legs which appear normal to the observer but do not in fact exist. When asked to pick up coffee for the office, for instance, it's assumed he can quite easily walk down to the Starbucks and pick up coffee. Without incident, without inconvenience.

Truth is, on some days Greg's magical legs fail him. They don't exist. It's almost as if he's paralyzed from the waist down and crawling with his arms, no benefit of a wheelchair or cane. And why this is the image I've settled on I don't know, but from observation and from conversations with Greg, it's this image I'm stuck with: Greg, sent out on the ordinary task of picking up a few lattes for coworkers, all of whom are unaware of the strained journey they've set out before him.

Greg, collapsed because his magical legs aren't really there for him, reaching one arm out and digging the nails of his hand into the linoleum of the office floor and pulling himself forward, then the next arm, the next hand, another clawing forward; the awkward reach upwards for the elevator buttons; the reach and claw along the lobby, the attempts to push open the heavy glass door, the reach and claw along the sidewalk.

I don't even want to think about the placement of the order at the Starbucks counter or the maddening crawl back to the office, balancing the coffees while crawling, scraping his body toward the elevator, then the office.

Some days Greg is fine. Excited with life. Loving. Hell, even on his bad days, he's loving. He loves everything even in his despair, which makes that despair all the more tragic because no matter how dark the world seems for him he can't stop loving it.

Some years back, I did some things I should not have done. Probably Greg should've kicked me out and had nothing more to do with me. What he did tho was forgive me, and by extension save me. And continued to save me, over and over until I was, you know, safe. Greg was the only person capable of pulling off such a task even though he had magical disappearing legs and even though the task of saving me from myself was very much like asking him to drag himself to Starbucks. I regret that I didn't truly see his legs for what they were, then. I regret that I took his assistance for granted and drank the coffee, and didn't give him the respect he deserved for pulling himself along the linoleum to make sure I got it.

If this post seems to vague: Sorry. I sympathize. I set off to be unambiguous in my expression of 'My Significant Other Is So Wonderful' but ended up making everything a bit more opaque. Frosted glass and onion skin paper.

Maybe this will give some clarification on why "My Significant Other is So Wonderful:" Just after we met, 10 years ago, Greg chided me. "You so obviously wanted to fuck," he said.

"No, I didn't. Really."

"You were sitting with your legs wide open."

"Greg. I was just sitting. Maybe I was unfortunately comfortable."

"So you were unfortunately comfortable with your legs splayed on my couch."

"Yes. I was unfortunately comfortable on your couch. I didn't think I had to curb my natural splay habits so sent all my limbs akimbo."

"Have you considered a career as a couch model?"

"No."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Film Premise: Sarah Palin Gets Amnesia

Here's the pitch, okay:

We're in a dirty, chaotic marketplace in India. There are monkeys. There are street vendors, lots of billowing fabric. Brown people in turbans. A fakir coaxes a snake out of a basket. Think "Raiders of the Lost Ark," okay?

The camera settles in on a family of Americans from Alaska. How do we know they're from Alaska? They're incredibly white. Also, they're wearing red-white-and-blue clothing with the University of Alaska insignia emblazoned on the chest or ass. There's a youngish mother, a youngish father, both hot--think Anne Hathaway and Colin Firth--with a newly-minted adult daughter (Amanda Seyfried, just saying. This could be Mamma Mia 2! Picture 'Marrakesh' playing here, with everyone in the marketplace singing) and a younger daughter (what the hell, Dakota Fanning!) and some babies. The Alaskan family roams about the market, apprehensive. Foreigners in a foreign land, exposing themselves to the exotic. The youngest daughter, holding one of the babies, is approached by a swarthy be-turban'd man. The swarthy be-turban'd man presses some coins into the young girl's shaking hand, and, confused, she takes the money (think "The Man Who Knew Too Much," only with coins instead of a man's face in Jimmy Stewart's hands).

Clearly, the man is pressing Indian currency--what is it, Rupees? Futsi? Whatever the currency, it's clearly in coins rather than paper money--into Little Alaskan Dakota Fanning's (what's she doing now? She must be available?) palms, and she clearly doesn't understand the be-turban'd man's intent. We understand, though, and we want to tell her to reject the money. Think of the audience anxiety!

As Mother Alaska and Father Alaska and Big Sister Alaska are distracted by the exotic nature of the Indian market, Little Sister Dakota Fanning Alaska takes the swarthy be-turban'd man's exotic coin money and watches in horror as the swarthy be-turban'd man rips the defenseless Alaskan infant from her. He dashes off into the crowd. We hear the distant cries of the Alaskan infant. We see the man disappear through the billowing fabric and the agitated monkeys.

Close up insert shot of the fakir raising a snake from a basket.

Wider shot: local media filming the Alaskan family.

Close-up: despite the cameras present, only one man--a boom operator--notices the predicament of Little Sister Dakota Fanning Alaska and the stolen baby. He reacts with horror. He tries to intervene. He moves forward, reaching out to Little Sister Dakota Fanning, but trips over a street urchin at his feet and falls forcefully into Mother Alaska, knocking her down.

Money shot: Mother Alaska, with her brown hair perfectly coiffed and her dark, penetrating eyes hidden behind Ray-Bans, falls to the dirty ground. Her head smashes into the head of a blind, poor, Indian street urchin. (IMPORTANT: Not the same street urchin the boom operator tripped over. 1)There are a lot of urchins in India, as American audiences have seen in 'Slumdog. And 2), for the final act, these two urchins must meet and fall in love (think 'Slumdog'.)).

Magic. Imagine this sequence! The camera cuts to the fakir raising the snake from the basket. The camera cuts to a slow-motion collapse of Mother Alaska. The camera cuts to the blind street urchin. Then back to the fakir. Then to the snake being seduced from a basket by the incantation (fakirs use incantations to coax snakes from baskets!). Then to the neatly-styled Alaskan hair of Mother Alaska (if not Anne Hathaway, perhaps Michelle Williams?). Cut to the urchin, then back to Mother Alaska's slo-mo fall. Then. BAAAAM. Mother Alaska (Rachel Griffiths, if she's free) and blind street urchin smash their heads together.

Final shot in the sequence: Boom operator reacting in horror, while Father Alaska (we can go older. Maybe Harrison is willing?) and Big and Little Sister scream. Another shot of Baby Alaska disappearing into the crowd. Little Sister drops her coins (Euro?).

The media callously snaps photographs and reporters step in front of cameras to document the Alaskan family tragedy.

Mother Alaska and the blind street urchin, meanwhile, have exchanged brains. Because of the proximity of the tragedy to an incantation-uttering fakir and a hungry 'lamestream' media, a certain type of magic has happened: the urchin is no longer blind and now has a mad desire to wander his country judging everyone despite his low education, while Mother Alaska is clearly blind. She does not know who she is, she cannot remember anything.

Soundtrack: The piano crescendo of 'A Day in the Life' by The Beatles. Builds.

Newly blind amnesiac Mother Alaska stands, reaches out with her hand as if to guide herself.

Father Alaska (Keifer Sutherland isn't shooting the '24' movie anytime soon and his new play sucks so maybe he's available?) and Big Sister Alaska and Little Dakota (Elle?) Fanning Alaska search for the missing baby (while collecting the spilled exotic (Denar? When not trading goats for humans, what do Indians use for currency? MUST RESEARCH) coins.

Mother Alaska (Tina Fey: Too obvious?), no longer in possession of her own mind but instead with the mind of a 9 year old blind street urchin in India, wanders off on her own.

Crowd swallows her.

She's on her own.

'A Day in the Life" reaches it's peak, and hits its final chord.

Wide shot of the chaotic market as the final chord fades away.

Cut to: Hillary Clinton look-a-like in a Washington, DC office. "We must find her."

There. There's your opening.

And here's my agent's number. If she's not available, here's my manager's number. And here's mine, but don't call before noon.

I should tell you I've got a meeting with MGM tomorrow. They see--yes, they don't have the money--but they see Sally Field in the lead role.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Can't read my bullied face


True story: During the fifth grade, Ray Carpenter would knee me in the balls every day.

He'd do the knee thing after lunch.

Ray Carpenter was blond, with blue marbles for eyes, and he was fleshy without being fat, like a Michelangelo sculpture. He was a slab of plaster, ill-defined.

"Hey Marc," he'd say.

"Hi."

"Not gonna hurt you today," Ray'd say.

I'd relax.

"How did you like the meatloaf?"

"I didn't eat," I'd say.

Ray would place hand on my shoulder. His bony plaster-hand clutched my shirt. "It was good meatloaf."

"Great."

There were other classmates standing around. They knew what was coming, usually before I knew.

The weird thing about being regularly kneed in the balls by Ray Carpenter was that I was only kneed in the balls after lunch. Most times, Ray was nice to me--we joked around during class, we played around during recess. During gym, Ray and I formed a coalition and took out other boys during dodgeball.

Then, after lunch, Ray would place a hand on my shoulder, assure me nothing would happen, ask me a few questions, then slam his knee into my crotch.

He wasn't the only bully I came across--there were plenty of them. Most called me names, which didn't bother me, or found ways to make me feel like a freak. The only person to physically attack me, tho, was Ray Carpenter.

Well, and the guy who choked me until I passed out in class. I don't remember the guy's name. I do remember the teacher, tho: Mrs. Embry. Mrs. Embry was standing at the front of the classroom, and we were sitting in our desks, and the guy behind me reached forward and pulled my shirt collar into my throat until I passed out and collapsed. When I regained consciousness, the first thing I heard was the laughter of the class. The second thing I heard was Mrs. Embry telling me to stop being a clown. I'd fallen out of my desk onto the floor. I'd interrupted Mrs. Embry's lesson. Shame on me.

Fortunately, this choking event happened after lunch so I'd already gotten my knee-to-groin for the day. I think if I'd been kneed in the balls after the choking, I'd've been too weak to continue the school-day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

I don't remember what year it was when I first heard Dave Eggers talk about his little brother, Toph. I remember where I was--I was cleaning a ceiling fan in my apartment on Irvine Street in Florence, AL--and I remember that Eggers was discussing Toph in a segment for 'This American Life.'

I remember standing on a very shaky chair that was set on a very fluffy mattress, and chunks of dust were falling in my face while I used a dry cloth to clean the ceiling fan's blades. My balance was important. I wished I had an audience to appreciate the masterful technique on display as I shifted from one foot to the other, standing on the chair standing on the mattress. No one saw it. No one appreciated it. I was home alone.

Back then, I often did housework while listening to 'This American Life' because the rhythm of the show matched the rhythm of cleaning house. Kinda erratic, but inevitable, with pauses perfect for the wringing out of a washcloth, with quick, loud passages perfect for the frenetic rush of a broom. Back then, I had thirty or so 120-minute cassette tapes filled with two episodes each of 'This American Life,' so I'd pop a tape in and clean. What's remarkable is that I listened to the tapes often and cleaned often and still lived in a messy, dusty, lonely apartment. What's even more remarkable is that I survived all the cleanings, since I was constantly balancing on chairs or teetering from cabinets or stooping beneath sinks and concentrating more on the stories of TAL than on my safety.

Sarah Vowell's story about shooting her father's ashes out of a cannon nearly killed me--literally. I became so engrossed in what she was saying I forgot to turn the gas off in the oven I was scrubbing down, nearly Sylvia Plath'd myself as I shoved my body into the gaping, gaseous maw of the oven.

So.

Thank god for this current push to strip NPR, home of 'This American Life,' of federal funding. NPR is a menace.

One of the advantages of free enterprise is that the majority drives demand. If NPR were allowed to drive the market, we'd be robbed of Uggs, Crocs, Hanes Socks, and all sorts of footwear except Birks. Sure, we'd still have the Harry Potter books, since NPR is/was obsessed with Harry Potter, but we'd also think Alfonso Cuaron is better than the Ugg-worthy Chris Columbus as director of the film adaptations. Everyone in America knows Columbus is better at direction than Cuaron. 'Home Alone' is much better than 'Y Tu Mama Tambien.'

When I was a younger man, balancing on a chair set on a mattress, listening to Dave Eggers discuss his younger brother Toph, rather than be distracted by the story, I should've been distracted by the ability to hear the story. I should've been angry. How dare this radio station in Alabama assault me with alternative tales.

And how dare the Catholic Church give Michelangelo money to paint the Sistine Chapel. Dude could've fallen off that scaffold just as easily as I could've fallen off the chair.

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