The Indubitable Dweeb
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July 14, 2010

Some Things That I Hate…

I’ve written before on this blog that I don’t have many pet peeves. It’s true. I really don’t. Perhaps I should qualify what I mean though. For there are some things that I hate with the passion of a lambada dancer. But that’s different than having peeves. Peeves are annoyances. Hate is at once emotional and, in my case, completely rational. It’s about seeing something that’s throwing the world off its axis and knowing you must condemn it for the travesty that it is. I will list some things that I hate here:

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberg: Look at this smug son-of-a-farmer. He lands a plane in the Hudson River and they book him on Oprah and 60 Minutes. Next thing you know, they’ll be knighting Toonces the Driving Cat for swerving off a friggin cliff. That’s right. Sully ain’t no better than Toonces. I mean, from where I stand, any pilot who can’t land his plane on a runway is a fascist, socialist, French food-eating, soccer-loving kamikaze! You can, and you should, quote me on that. Want a hero? Try John Travolta. Not only was he the yin to Kirstie Alley’s yang in all those Look Who’s Talking movies, but he also never lands his planes on rivers. Case in point.

Sustainable Agriculture: Cucumbers are like albino rhinos. When I buy a one, I’d like to know that there ain’t any others like it. It’s the last of its line. So, I would hope that after my cucumber has been plucked from its cucumber bush, the entire plant is drenched in kerosene, and some overalls-clad hillbilly is tossing his corncob pipe down and banjo plucking the inferno into the night. An extreme view? Not if you’ve ever suffered the humiliation of showing up at The International Cucumber Festival in Suzdal only to find that some woman also has a kirby shaped like a duck.

Orphans: I’m not talking the Dickens variety or those Slumdog Millionaire tots, though I’m certainly not big fans of their pickpocketing, gameshow-winning ways. What I’m talking about are the ones who are always hanging out at the hotspots with Sandra Bullock and Madonna and Angelina Jolie. Clearly all they want to do is wink and shoot finger-guns at the paparazzi, then parlay the TMZ coverage into a book deal and a perfume line. I’ve had a hard enough time getting department stores to even sniff Dusky, A Fragrance by Aaron Starmer, now I got some 4-year-old Javanese celebutante to compete with for shelf space! It’s enough to make a man cancel his subscription to OK! Magazine.

Bushbabies: I don’t have many occasions in my life when I actually have to deal with bushbabies, but every once in a while I like to pop into the nocturnal primate room at the local zoo and check out an aye-aye or a slow loris or two. Without fail, I always end up coming across one of these bug-eyed nightmare merchants of a bushbaby and my day is shot. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I certainly can’t take in some jungle-themed animated film, for fear that it might feature a John Ratzenberger-voiced silver greater galago singing Randy Newman ditties.

Huns: Attila was alright, but the rest of these jokers? According to Wikipedia, “Huns practiced scarification, slashing the faces of their male infants with swords to discourage beard growth.” Jeeze, what a pathetic band of 5th-century metrosexuals. Remind me that next time I take my time-machine back to the pre-Magna Carta days I shouldn’t worry about bringing toenail clippers and Amstel Light. The Huns should be fully stocked. Sissies.

April 29, 2010

World Famous in New Zealand: Das Bieber

I try to keep up with the Bieber-stream media. You see what I did there? Rather than writing “mainstream” or even “lamestream,” I went with “Bieber-stream.” It’s something I do here. Keep folks on their toes. Comment on culture in clever ways. Thank me by buying a book.

In any case, the Justin Bieber-slanting CBS News has asked the kids of New Zealand (The Kiwiettes, if you will) to chill the hell out. Bieber Fever has reached George Romero-like levels, resulting in a frightening mob scene at the Auckland Airport, and Justin’s “mama” has suffered as a result. I want to think the best of our very distant neighbors to the southwest (or southeast should you decide to fly Air Emirates), so I’m a skeptic. I smell a PR person behind this. And if not that, then I smell Germans. Because as anyone who has set their watch to NZST will tell you, if you want meet someone from Munich, go to the Auckland Airport. I swear, it’s like Paris in 1942.

Of course, this is from a tourist’s perspective. I spent 3 months in New Zealand a couple years back. My wife and I bought a cheap car, and filled the trunk with camping equipment and drove down every road and hiked in as many corners of that lovely little country as we could and slept in huts and yards and hostels and on beaches. We met plenty of locals, very few Americans, and a shocking number of Klauses and Ilsas. We ran into one intrepid young Bavarian on two separate occasions: once while doing a jigsaw puzzle in a headlamp-lit hut along the Milford Track; once along the steaming, sulfurous moonscape of the Tongariro Circuit. He (and every other German we met) spoke flawless English and was a perfectly lovely fellow, so I don’t mean to disparage an entire people. I’m just intrigued by the disproportion. The French and Spanish and English and Italian combined didn’t even have half the representation.

I’m sure if I actually lived and worked in New Zealand, I’d shrug this German infiltration off as some backpacker urban legend. But I assure you it’s true, and I think it has resulted in a Bieber bumrush. Germans get a bad rap for their taste in music. So perhaps a band of backpackers were trying to regain some cred. Perhaps they weren’t fans at all, but musical freedom fighters trying to rid the world of a devastating future filled with soulless bubble-gum pop. Perhaps Bieber is lucky to have gotten out with his reputation intact. Have you ever read The Dead Zone?

It seems far-fetched until you watch the following clip. It’s taken from an interview in New Zealand shortly after the airport fiasco. Cunning as ever, Bieber strikes back by denying that the German language even exists. “I don’t know that means. We don’t say that in America,” he quips. It’s a brassy move, and will spark numerous conspiracy theories. I expect Glenn Beck to break it down blackboard-style any day now.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. New Zealand! A strange and wonderful place and so much more than hobbits and Bret and Jemaine. I will be posting frequently about the oddities and peculiarities of New Zealand in upcoming weeks, and hopefully you’ll all learn a little something. Bieber was a just a gateway, the first dose to get you hooked. Stay tuned.

April 17, 2010

The Vegas Line: A Dinner with Andre

I know someone who had dinner with Andre. A friend of mine, through some art world connections, found himself across the table from the man, chatting between mouthfuls of pasta or sushi or some such. My apologies if this bombshell has caused you to drop your mug of coffee or to fall down a well, IPhone in hand, mouth agape. It is shocking, but I assure you it’s true.

If you aren’t shocked, it’s only because you’re thinking, “Andre? Andre Agassi?” Heavens no. This wasn’t some binge of crystal meth and Oedipal rants. “Andre the Giant, then?” Sadly, that glandular wonder is dead, and even if he was alive, I suspect a dinner with Andre the Giant would involve massive turkey legs and troughs of gravy as opposed to the stimulating discussions for which the Andre I refer to is famous. “And which Andre, pray tell, is that?”

In the 1980s, if you wanted to make a joke about intellectualism, Louis Malle’s My Dinner with Andre was always a good place to start. It was a film featuring Wallace Shawn, most famous to the masses for his “inconceivable” role in The Princess Bride and now for his joyously goofy part on Gossip Girl. In the film, Wallace (or Wally, as he’s known to pals) eats dinner with theatre stalwart Andre Gregory. They talk about art retreats and existentialism and all things well-heeled and white. And that’s it. Roll credits.

As much as people were baffled that this could be a movie, there were critics such as Roger Ebert, and plenty of turtle-necked philosophy majors, who ate the junk up. I saw it when I was green and impressionable and while I can say it wasn’t an entire bore, I definitely didn’t buy into it. Just like I didn’t buy into Waking Life or I Heart Huckabees or similar exercises in navel-gazing cinematic blather. That said, should I ever be invited to a dinner with Andre Gregory, I would be honored and humbled. Because it is the equivalent of winning the culinary/conversation lottery.

Really, it is. Think about it.

Let’s say Andre eats dinner every day, a safe assumption. Let’s also say he eats at home most often, but regularly goes out with his wife or friends, and occasionally dines at art openings and parties and business functions. From this, we can make a generous guess and assume that, on average, Andre eats dinner with a person he has never met once every five days. Now you can’t count any person who happens to be in the room while he cuts a t-bone. Having a conversation with Andre is essential to having dinner with him. So all things told, for each year of his life, Andre has had about 73 new dining companions. It’s been almost 30 years since the film. In that time, it multiplies to 2,190 folks.

Now let’s round the number to 2,000 for the sake of calculations and Andre’s expanding ego. There are approximately 6 billion people in the world. 6 billion divided by 2,000 equals 3 million. So one out of every 3 million people can at one point in his or her life brag, “Guess what I did last night, dude? I had dinner with friggin’ Andre?” Mugs of coffee are dropped. Wells are fed with the awestruck.

For perspective, consider this:

  • You’re 3 times more likely to have won an Olympic Gold Medal in the last 30 years (about one in a million)
  • If you’re a woman,you’re 12 times more likely to have gotten sweet with Warren Beatty (one in 250,000)
  • And watch the skies! Cause you’re about 15 times more likely to die from an asteroid impact (one in 200,000)

Was my friend lucky? As you can see, he was, and his luck didn’t stop there. After his dinner with Andre, they moved on to a bar to grab some drinks. And what did Andre propose? “I should call my friend to join us,” he said. “You would really like Wally.” Inconceivable.

April 6, 2010

Five Animals that are Uglier than Zac Efron

A lot of people pity Zac Efron. They assume his mother must have smoked during pregnancy, maybe even taken a headlong dive into a vat of DDT. Because the man is a hideous spectacle. Disney has foisted him upon us as an example of equal opportunity run amuck and what saddens people most is that soon, someone will have to explain to Efron that his career is essentially a cruel joke played one of Earth’s most deformed human beings. The only thing that might serve to comfort him is the knowledge that there are at least a few other creatures in the world that are uglier than him. Unbelievable, but true, and some of these beasts have even starred in movies!

WARTHOG

Pumbaa, the singing warthog from The Lion King, has proven that a furry hunk of ham is a bigger box-office draw than Efron, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the species is more attractive. It’s difficult, but pull your gaze back from those bedroom eyes and you’ll notice something a little unconventional about the warthog. Tusks. Last time I checked, Efron didn’t have tusks. While tusks can be extremely useful for opening bottles of wine, they don’t do much in the heartthrob department. And you can’t exactly hakuna matata your way out of any manslaughter raps that result from the combination of overly enthusiastic necking and razor sharp cheek appendages.

BATHYNOMUS GIGANTEUS

Not many people know about this isopod, because it lives on the floor of the ocean. I’m sure that Efron has encountered his share of bottom-feeders in the music industry, but what makes the bathynomus unique is its slavish devotion to sunglasses. Yeah, shades are rock-and-roll, but even Corey Hart and the guys from Timbuk3 set them on the nightstand when they hit the hay. This crustacean, he has them fused to his skull, wears them 24-7, which means he obviously has something to hide. My guess? Pink-eye. Good thing Efron has access to antibiotics.

BLIND MOLE-RAT

In defense of the blind-mole rat, it has no way of knowing how ugly it is. Even if it miraculously gained the ability to see, it lives in complete darkness, and couldn’t possibly afford a decent mirror. Beauty pageants don’t make exceptions for poor girls who live in dimly lit homes, and I won’t make exceptions here. Some orthodonture and a trip to St. Croix might change my opinion, but for now, I’m saying Zac Efron looks better than a blind mole-rat.

THE KRAKEN

Not the one from the new Clash of the Titans. That Kraken is a smoldering bad boy who may not win the battle of strength with Sam Worthington, but certainly wins the battle of snarling sexiness. I’m talking about Harry Hamlin’s nemesis in the 1981 affair. It’s not that he’s awful looking. He has a gilled sophistication and a chest you could do skateboard tricks on. It’s his herky-jerky movements that put him a rung below Efron. Blame animation if you will, but I have my suspicions that Efron might just be a clever bit of computer graphics. At least he doesn’t act like he’s constantly suffering from delerium tremens.

STEVE BUSCEMI

I know what you’re thinking. Trees Lounge Steve Buscemi? Airheads Steve Buscemi? But he was so hot in the Lord of the Rings! Everyone’s entitled to an opinion and Buscemi may seem to some a modern day Peter Lorre, and as every fan of rap knows, Ladies Love Peter Lorre. But let’s be honest. Zac Efron beat him out for the lead role in High School Musical. That counts for something. If only barely.

March 23, 2010

Call Tiger Beat. We Got Forehead Scars, Ghost Skin and Hair Nests

I have a scar on my forehead, starting just below my current hairline. I “cracked open my skull,” as the neighborhood kids liked to say, at the height of my curly-haired moppetness. It was the result of a head-to-head collision during an intense garden hose fight. Six stitches later, I was fixed, but I was forever marked.

This was the early 80s. Forehead stitches, as well as dermatological pastiness, were Frankenstein’s stock in trade, and I was the proud possessor of both. I can’t count the number of times I was chased through elementary school halls by pitchfork wielding bullies. Well, maybe not pitchfork-wielding, but they certainly had some sharp barbs to poke me with. My hair wasn’t helping things either. You could swab a deck with the stuff. Since the barber crisis of the 70s had come and gone, afros weren’t cutting it anymore in my town. If you didn’t look like Ted McGinley, William Zabka or Michael Schoeffling, you might as well have been Curtis Armstrong. I only wish I was born a generation or two later. “Why?” you ask. Well let’s look at the evidence.

Forehead Scars

The boy who lived, and has the scar to prove it. That’s right. Harry Potter. Can you think of anything that would get you more hand-holding at a modern-day roller skating party? You can’t, because a Harry Potter scar bestows upon its owner a Fonzie level of chick-magnetism. It implies that you are a hero, but the soul of a bad-boy is always at the front of your mind. It’s the type of internal conflict that will keep the valentine box full and the pleas to see your patronus pouring in.

Ghost Skin

Thanks to Robert Pattison, visible cheek veins haven’t been this en vogue since they were casting for The Munsters. Vampire fanaticism is nothing new, but 13-year-old girls never hung posters of Bela Lugosi or Max Schreck on their walls. And it’s certainly not the Interview with a Vampire Brad Pitt that got them swooning more than 15 years back. All the libidinous metaphors aside, what distinguishes the current craze is its insidious, ubiquitous infiltration of bubble-gum culture. Most notably: Justin Bieber. He may not be some 100-year-old man who runs his incisors across your daughter’s neck, but he’s as pale-skinned as they come and his lyrics give away his agenda. His song Eenie Meenie features the chorus, “Eenie meenie miney mo. Catch a bad chick by her toe. If she holla (if, if, if she holla) let her go.” It’s nice to see Mr. Bieber takes no for an answer, but what happens if she don’t “holla?” He’s Canadian, you know? I don’t doubt that deep in the woods of Manitoba, Bieber’s got a log cabin full of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and ninja gear. And I don’t doubt that he stands on the roof of that cabin, all shirtless and pigment-free, and he screams his mantra into the endless Canadian night: “By the blood and souls of all shorties, I will never, ever die!

Hair Nests

Dr. Spock must have added an afterword to one of his tomes imploring us to raise a bunch of Albert Hammond Juniors. Because kids these days look like rejects from Phoenix (the band, not the city…or the mythological beast). Go to any grade school and you’ll find the evidence that parents of all socio-economic stripes are against the clear cutting of hair. When I was a kid, the school nurse would make regular visits to our homerooms to perform lice examinations. We’d put our heads on our desks and she’d tickle our scalps with rubber-gloved fingers. Then, 45 minutes after she left, the classroom phone would ring and the teacher would call out names of children who were to report to the gymnasium. Never was there a less subtle outing of the lousy. In my day, the shamed would hang their heads as they shuffled to the door. Now, I bet they walk a proud gauntlet of high-fives and sprint to the gym hoping to learn that their tangled locks are harboring ticks.

Which all meanshad I been born 20 years later than I was, my scar, my skin and my hair would have made me, quite simply, legendary. Or maybe I would have ended up a tan, unblemished boy with a nicely parted quaff and nary an invitation to slow dance. In any case, a man must ponder these things from time to time.