Tag Archives: Peter O’Toole

“But why are the kids crying?!”

“How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”

That’s the attitude I try to have when it comes to the death of someone I loved, yet never met.

In 2013, I lost three of my best friends.  The news was devastating every time.  Did I know them personally?  No.  And yes.  And not really.  And very well.

Why did I consider them my friends?  All of them had just, I dunno — all of them had gotten me through so many confusing, shitty, or just plain boring times.  I hope I don’t sound too crazy when I say that.  I’ve never stalked anyone and I understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but yeah, these people meant a lot to me.  They still mean a lot to me.  I can call them my “friends” if I want.  And I was sad when my friends made their exits.

Still, the question remains: “How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”

Lou Reed?  He ain’t dead.  He can’t be.  I still love him very much and I still have “Sweet Jane,” so nothing has changed.

James Gandolfini isn’t dead, either, and neither is Tony Soprano.  (My theory, anyway.)

Peter O’Toole.  My dearest, darling Peter O’Toole.  The coolest.  The smartest.  The hottest.  The craziest.  That voice.  That height.  That hair.  I think about him all the time and I miss him all the time, and yet, as long as I can get together with my friends every December and laugh and cry and yell and drink champagne while watching The Lion in Winter, Peter O’Toole can never die.

This morning, as soon as I got to work and turned on my computer, I found out that Rik Mayall died.  Today.  Rik Mayall died today.  Weird.  So very weird.  And sad.  He was still, well, young…

Just last week, I was listening to The Pogues and wondering when Shane MacGowan would die.  I was also wondering why Shane MacGowan hasn’t died already.  Seriously.

I should stop.  I don’t wanna give the universe any ideas.

My point is, I was already thinking about my remaining heroes and wondering who I’d lose next.  Apparently, not Shane MacGowan.

Oddly enough, I was also thinking about The Young Ones last week.  I don’t remember why or how, but, quite suddenly and inexplicably, I felt inspired to find the Dr. Marten’s boots song on YouTube.  After watching it, I spent a good hour and a half searching for cheap Dr. Marten’s online.  No avail.

The next day, a co-worker of mine mentioned The Young Ones.  He’s Scottish.  I said, “I fucking love The Young Ones.”  He said, “That’s too weird.”  I asked him why.  He said, “It’s just weird that you even know that show.”  I asked him why.  He said, “I dunno.  I mean, it’s British and it’s old and it’s weird…I mean, I was watching that when I was in high school.”  I said, “So was I.”

If you knew me in high school, you must recall that I was a pretty cool teenager.  I mean it.  Like, the coolest.  For example, when I was 15 or 16, I begged my mom to buy me orange suede ADIDAS like the ones Ewan McGregor wears in Trainspotting.  I felt so badass whenever I wore them.  Like, so very, very badass.  I also begged her to buy me a pair of plaid pants, because, ya know, Scotland.  Or something.

There’s really, like, very minimal plaid in Trainspotting.  I realize that now.

The coolest thing, though, was that every Saturday afternoon in tenth grade (after improv practice, no less) I would go to my friend Kaley’s house for Britcom.  Yes.  Britcom was our somewhat exclusive club that involved eating ice cream and watching British comedies until our eyes hurt.  We wrote a constitution at one point.  I don’t remember what was in it except for The Golden Rule, which came from an episode of Father Ted: “If anyone is ever talking to you again, think about what you’re saying and then don’t say it, and then just run away somewhere.”

The Young Ones was one of Britcom’s staples.  Every David Bowie reference made me feel so damn validated.  I went out and bought a Madness record and listened to “House of Fun” on repeat.  I began referring to my English teacher as a “fascist bully boy,” despite the fact that she was a She.  I seldom said, “I don’t have any money” — I usually launched into a Neil impression and said, “We haven’t got any breaaaad.”  When I was feeling boy crazy I was a “Bitch funky sex machine.”  I wrote “Boomshanka” on things I shouldn’t have written “Boomshanka” on.   I even once got a Starbucks barista to write it on the sleeve of my Americano.  I think I still have that sleeve somewhere.

Rik Mayall is dead.  The people’s poet is dead.  I’m sad for his wife and his family.  I’m sad for Ade Edmondson.  Like I keep saying, though, “we still have his poems.”

My VHS tapes of The Young Ones were dragged from my parents’ house to my college dorm (there was a VCR in the downstairs common room), and when I moved out of the dorm and into an on-campus apartment, I made sure to buy a TV that had both a VHS player and a DVD player.  Why?  Well, how could I live without Neil, Mike, Vyvyn, and Rick?  They were university students, after all.

I still have those tapes.  I’m not ever going to get rid of those tapes.

Aw, Rick.  Thanks for helping make it nearly impossible for me to legitimately enjoy 99.9% of the current comedies on television.  No giant sandwiches falling from the sky?  No jokes about Leonard Cohen being a vampire?  No pervasive political undertones?  No, thank you.

There was also the music: Dexy’s Midnight runners doing “Jackie Wilson Said” and multiple Madness appearances and that great scene with friggin’ Motorhead…

What the hell is that shot of you guys being pushed on that…what is that?  That’s a luggage carrier thing, right?  Well, it slays me.  Every time.

Ah, Rick.  Thank you.  Your show is so damn cool.  So, so cool.  It had everything the teenage version of Steff wanted in a show, and, since 27 year old Steff is very similar to the person she was 11 years ago, it’s still one of my all time favorites.  It’s part of me, really.  An appreciation for The Young Ones (or the ability to sit through several episodes in-a-row) is my litmus test for whether or not a man is husband material.  (Husband, not boyfriend.  Those are two different things.)  Watching an episode of The Young Ones is my solo go-to activity when I’m having a shitty day.  The music that plays during the end credits is what I hear in my head when I’m exceptionally happy.

Aw, Rick.  RICK.  My favorite pseudo-intellectual-anarchist-hipster-bachelor-boy.  You’ve never failed to make me smile.  You never will, you friggin’ weirdo.


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Strange Bedfellows.

Last week, my parents discovered they had bed bugs.  In their bed.  Only their bed.  I wasn’t bitten up and my brother wasn’t bitten up; just Steve and Barbara.  They don’t know how it happened.  They’re both rather fastidious people.

On Monday morning my mom had someone spray the house with all-natural, yet highly allergenic whatnot in order to kill the little bastard bed bugs.  The night before the insurgence, my mom brought a gray suitcase into my room and dropped it on my sofa.

“Ya may wanna pick up the stuff piled next to your bed,” she said.  “They’re gonna be spraying your carpet.”

I took her suggestion.  The suitcase is 3/4 full.  Its contents?  A veritable cornucopia of Dorky.

I shall now list for you the “stuff piled next to my bed” that has now been transferred to a gray suitcase on top of my sofa.

1. The Godfather Trilogy DVD Collection. 

Fully remastered.  The bouquet Johnny Fontaine sends to Don Corleone is so damn COLORFUL.

2. A Bag of Crackers

My mom brought this to me the night I came home from work after spending nearly two hours in the nurse’s office battling dehydration and low blood sugar.  Mom had also brought me soup, but I kept the crackers in case I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like a twitchy, malnourished mess.  Rather, still feeling like a twitchy, malnourished mess.

3. A Burned DVD copy of A Streetcar Named Desire

No one, but NO ONE, is sexier than Marlon Brando in his skin tight t-shirt.  I fell asleep to this movie every night for a good six months.

4. The Complete Works of Arthur Rimbaud

It has the English translations and the original French.  I memorized “Sensation.”  I was determined to memorize it in French, too.  I still haven’t done that.  I bought the book last October.  Damn.

5. An Illustrated Copy of The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle

Some people keep The Bible by their beds.  And so do I.

6. A Green Journal with a Butterfly on the Cover That I Bought at Logos Bookstore in Santa Cruz, CA

Page One:


In Santa Cruz for the weekend.  This paper is incredible.  I can’t tell if the guy next to me is cute. Ya know, this bar isn’t ideal for writing.  Well, the vibe is, but the position I’m in is slightly uncomfortable.  I saw an absolutely beautiful guy downtown.  He was playing guitar and singing his heart out.  He looked and sounded so gorgeous. 

7. The Favorite Game by Leonard Cohen

Picked this up last November.  I found it on eBay.  The last time I picked it up was one day in December when I was sitting in the waiting room of an Urgent Care in Westlake Village waiting to talk to a doctor about a bizarre ailment I was convinced was killing me.  It didn’t kill me, and I never finished this book.

8. Planet News by Allen Ginsberg

I bought this book of poetry in San Francisco.  I was there last February for five or six days.  I spent my first day there walking around North Beach.  After having a few beers at Cafe Vesuvio I wandered over to The Beat Museum to ask if they had copies of the poems I submitted to them for a poetry contest they held back in 2007.  They didn’t have copies, but the guy behind the counter searched the internet archives for a good twenty minutes trying to help me out.  I felt kinda guilty for making him look, so I bought something.

9. A Black, Ringed Journal My Parents Bought for Me at Citylights Books When I Was 19

The opening lines of “HOWL” are printed on the front cover.

Page One:


When I get angry I feel my shoulder blade muscles tense up and form a knot that hurts for days.

I can feel it pinching back there whenever I try to write

or type

or just fucking hold a book.

I once tried to work out the knot by wearing Icy-Hot bandages at night

But they just soothed the area around the hubbub of angst.*

I’d peel the bandage off in the morning and my skin would

smell like chemicals.

God knows what kind of cancer it’ll give me.

Maybe the doctors will prescribe me some pot.

Then I could sell it on the streets and use the money to hire a masseuse. 

(*I feel like kicking my own ass for “hubbub of angst.”)

10. Light Blue Journal I Bought from Paper Source in Santa Cruz, CA

I’m not sharing Page One.  I can’t.  I will, however, reveal that it was written on Friday, October 16, 2009 at 12:54pm.

It was interesting to read Page One of this cute little unfinished journal, because it’s my retelling of the beginning of what turned out to be a very frustrating, rather sad story.  It was all so seemingly innocent at the time, but now that I’m looking at these scribbled words written by the 22-year-old version of myself, it’s obvious that this very frustrating period of my life left a rather sad impression on my ability to trust people.  Perfectly sweet people.

Perfectly sweet male people.

That Fucker.

11. A “One Line A Day: Five Year Memory” Journal from Barnes and Noble

I am so bad at keeping up with this thing.  There is literally just enough space to write one sentence per day.  I thought it seemed interesting.  I haven’t written any memories in it since January 9, 2012.  I wrote, “First unemployed Monday.”  That was a fun day, actually.  Mom and I went to the zoo.

12.  A Tennessee Williams Collection

Includes Summer and Smoke, Orpheus Descending, Suddenly Last Summer, and Period of Adjustment.  It also includes a personal essay by Tennessee that spoke to me so profoundly the first time I read it that I literally threw the book across the room.

So much for the past and present.  The future is called “perhaps,” which is the only possible thing to call the future.  And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.

13. Perfection by Julie Metz

A memoir I had to read for my writing group.  I was intrigued for the first few chapters, but the whole thing became so damn indulgent after a certain point that by the end I found the narrator annoying and stupid.  I must take great care to never become an annoying, stupid narrator.

14. Another Tennessee Williams Collection

This one includes Battle of Angels, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire.  I read this one on a flight from JFK to LAX.  Despite having watched A Streetcar Named Desire a dozen fucking times, I still teared up while I was reading it.  Tennessee may be damn easy to lampoon, but he’s also really fucking hard to beat.

15. The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan

There are sex scenes in books that make you want to have sex, but not often do you come across sex scenes in books that make you want to cry.  Cry for what?  I don’t know.  Nostalgia?  Longing?  Loneliness?  Wishing and hoping that somewhere out there someone remembers you and your body just like Richard Brautigan saw this girl and her body…

It’s a hard decision whether to start at the top or the bottom of a girl.  With Vida I just didn’t know where to begin.  It was really a problem.

After she reached up awkwardly and put my face in a small container which was her hands and kissed me quietly again and again, I had to start somewhere.

She stared up at me all the time, her eyes never leaving me as if they were an airfield.

I changed the container and her face became a flower in my hands.  I slowly let my hands drift down her face while I kissed her and then further down her neck to her shoulders.

I could see the future being moved in her mind while I arrived at the boundaries of her bosom.  Her breasts were so large, so perfectly formed under her sweater that my stomach was standing on a step-ladder when I touched them for the first time.

Her eyes never left me and I could see in her eyes the act of my touching her breasts.  It was like brief blue lightning.

I was almost hesitant in a librarian sort of way.

“I promise,” she said, reaching up and awkwardly pressing my hands harder against her breasts.  She of course had no idea what that did to me.  The step-ladder started swirling.

She kissed me again, but this time with her tongue.  Her tongue slid past my tongue like a piece of hot glass.

16. A Light Blue Guitar Pick from Amoeba Music in Berkely, CA.

I’ve now been to all three Amoebas.  The one in Hollywood is The Best.

17. Jason Webley’s Only Just Beginning

This is his favorite album of his.  This is also my favorite album of his.  It’s just his best album of his.  “Music That Puts Everything Together” brings me to my knees.  Oh Jesus, and “Map.”  And “Icarus.”  And “With.”  And “Coda.”

Of course they’re all better live.  I’m damn lucky that I know that firsthand.  Jason Webley live is more life affirming than…anything, really.  Except maybe Leonard Cohen live.  Speaking of which…

18. Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen

This is a Hell of a novel.  There is a scene where two men — The Narrator and his friend, F. — are driving at top speed in F.’s car down a dark highway.  F. is pleasuring himself while he drives.

F., put it back.  Enough is enough.

Never put it back when it gets like this.

My God, I’ve never seen you so big!  What’s going on in your mind?  What are you thinking of?  Please teach me how to do it.  Can I hold it?

No!  This is between me and God.

Who but Leonard Fucking Cohen would come up with “This is between me and God”?

I had Jason Webley sign my copy.  I knew he was a Leonard Cohen fan and I wanted to impress him with my dorkiness.  Because, ya know, traveling to Seattle to catch his 11-11-11 show wasn’t dorky enough.


I’m glad I remember your name.

And I’m glad that you came so far for my concert.

And I’m glad that you like this book.

♥ jason



18. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave

Nick, I love you with all my heart and soul, but this novel is no Beautiful Losers.

19. Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac

Gotta love a poem called “Pull My Daisy.”

20. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita, light of my life.  Fire of my loins.

‘Nuff said.

21. A DVD Copy of the Remake of Alfie Starring Jude Law

I bought this from the Blockbuster in Westlake right before the damn thing closed down for good.  Ya know what?  This is a terrible movie.  It is.  But damn, I really get a kick out of it.  It’s so atrocious it’s funny and Jude Law is just POSING the whole Goddamn time, which is all at once hilarious and fucking hot.  He’s so hot I wanna punch him in the face.

22. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz

An award-winning play my mom read earlier this year that she insisted I read as well.  Still haven’t gotten around to doing that.

23. Writing the Memoir: from Truth to Art by Judith Barrington

I have a lot to say about this book, but right now I am completely distracted by the fact that the author’s last name is Barrington.  I purchased this book before that last name became such a significant part of my life.  Co-workers of mine who are reading this, I’m sorry.

24. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Patti Smith is really into this book.  I found a copy of it on my mom’s bookshelf on a rainy day last November.  I read the first page, and then I decided to go buy a ukulele.

I attempted to make a video for you of me playing the ukulele, but my mom interrupted when she came in to ask me if I wanted anything from Lassen’s.

25. A Blue and Black Leather-bound Journal Given to Me by My High School Journalism Teacher

Page One is humiliating.

Here’s something from Page 12:

12:00am August 10, 2005 Wednesday

I bought a CD today.  I’m listening to it now.  It feels great.  Not as great as kissing.  Music makes me think of kissing — probably because I sometimes kiss to music.

26. A DVD Copy of The Graduate

Two nights before I moved back to my parents’s house after living in Santa Cruz for five years, I downloaded this movie and bought a bottle of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon.  At this point, I had already moved 99% of my furniture out of my apartment.  All I had was my twin-sized mattress, which was, at that point, pathetically sitting on the floor of my bedroom.  I sat on my pathetic mattress, drank my pathetic cheap wine, and watched Benjamin Braddock try his best not to be pathetic.  I cried a lot.

27. A DVD Copy of The Road to God Knows Where

Behind the scenes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds touring the United States after Tender Prey was released.  They’re all so young and beautiful.  I fall asleep to this one a lot.  Nick is such a jerk to journalists, but not in a Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back kind of way.  All the journalists that appear in this movie are such idiots that it really isn’t Nick’s fault that he comes off as so smart and so snide.  The people interviewing him really have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.

28.  A DVD Copy of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I will defend this movie until the end of time.  If, someday, I find myself with some spare time and some spare money (by the way, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!), I plan on writing an in-depth analysis of all four (or, by then, 15) Pirates films.  No one will publish it and no one will read it, so I’ll probably just send the manusctipt to Johnny Depp and wait for his reaction.  Maybe I’ll get to become one of his various best friends and I’ll start getting invitations to parties at Keith Richards’s house.

29. A DVD Copy of The Ruling Class

Just watch it.

30. The Complete Fawlty Towers

This show never got boring or bad because the British know when it’s time for a television show to end.  There are only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers, but they are all perfect.

31. A DVD Copy of Blue Velvet

I watched this not too long ago.  I had a 103 degree fever and I was sitting on the couch in my empty house shivering and sniffling and coughing.

A video is worth 1,000 words:

32. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Live DVD: God Is in the House

It’s pretty good, but Warren Ellis had joined the band by this point, and it’s upsetting to watch Nick try to divvy up his affection between Warren and Blixa.  And Blixa just looks BORED out of his mind, even during “The Carny.”  It saddens me.

33. A DVD Copy of The Darjeeling Limited

I can’t listen to people criticize Wes Andseron.  It’s a sin.

34. A DVD Copy of If….

My Malcolm McDowell obsession was one of the best things to ever happen to me.  He made a lot of crap movies, but it doesn’t matter, because he also made If….

This movie should be shown to everyone everywhere.  Politicians should watch and be warned.

35.  The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

I read two chapters of this self-help book in May right before the training period for my new job began.  I had been diagnosing myself with various terminal illnesses every day for two weeks and I was losing my Goddamn mind.  I had been unemployed since January and I was at my absolute wit’s end.  Two chapters of this thing had me back to normal.  (As in, I was suddenly cured of my lung cancer, throat cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease.)

36. A DVD Copy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Live at Brixton Academy, London Thursday, November 11 2004

As long as I can shut my bedroom door, sit down by myself and watch this shit, then I can never really lose sight of the fact that my life is rather good.  And that I’m a bad motherfucker.

So, yeah.  I’m thinkin’ I’ll just put all this stuff back where I found it — piled up next to my bed.


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Anybody Want Anything?

want |wänt; wônt|


1 [ trans. ] have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for : I want an apple | [with infinitive ] we want to go to the beach | [ trans. ] she wanted me to go to her room | [ intrans. ] I’ll give you a lift into town if you want.

     • desire (someone) sexually : I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you.


1 chiefly archaic; a lack or deficiency of something: Victorian houses which are in want of repair | it won’t be through want of trying.

     • the state of being poor and in need of essentials; poverty : freedom from want.

2 a desire for something : the expression of our wants and desires.

Ever heard of California Chicken Cafe?  It’s a restaurant chain here in Southern Cali.  Most everything on the menu involves chicken, and, rest assured, the items that don’t contain chicken contain avocado.  You can also add chicken to any non-chicken item for $1.75.

You don’t know what you’re missing.  Really.  ::Cough::

California Chicken Cafe is a popular lunch option at the office where I work.  I, myself, rarely participate in the California Chicken Cafe extravaganzas.  No, I don’t think I’m better than everyone, I just can’t be spendin’ money on shit that doesn’t bring me immense joy.  Plus, I spent all my money on baked clams and cannoli last week at San Gennaro in New York City.

I regret nothing.

Today, a co-worker was about to make a chicken run when he suddenly cried out, “Anybody else want anything from California?”

There was a pause, and then I asked, “From California?”


I thought for a moment, and then said, “I want a house near the ocean.”

My co-worker laughed.

“No, no, as in, do you want anything from California Chicken Cafe.”

I didn’t want any damn chicken.  I did, however, proceed to ramble about some of the things I do, in fact, want.  When it was time for me to shut up and get back to work, the rambling continued in my head.

I now present to you Ten Random Things I Want.  Some of them are unique to California, and some of them…well…


Ten Random Things I Want

by Stephanie Callas


I want a house near the ocean.  I will live there by my damn self until I decide I want company.  I have not yet decided the exact location of this house, but I know it will be North of Pismo.  It will be impeccably decorated, and feature a killer sound system.


I want my car to be paid the Hell off.  No more monthly car payments.  None.


I want a bulldog.  An English Bulldog.  I will name him Brando and he will be my buddy.  He will be a healthy boy, with no respiratory problems or hip dysplasia, and he will not die of heatstroke like so many English Bulldogs tend to do.  He will be chubby and cute and he will love The Godfather as much as I do.


I want to know how to program computer viruses.   Ya never know when ya may need to rip someone off.


I want the cryogenically frozen body of Walt Disney.  People will come from all over the world just to get a glimpse of it, and I will charge admission based on my personal prejudices.  60-year-old man in an Armani suit with a 23-year-old socialite on his arm?  $10,000.  Cute hippie-boy with a beard and a beanie who wants to stop and see The Walt on his way to Mexico?  Admission is free!  (This is, of course, not including the food and wine he will inevitably purchase in his effort to seduce me).


I want to be able to travel.  I’m talkin’ far and wide.  I want to wake up, decide that I should spend the weekend in Barcelona drinking from a wine skin and speaking in an English accent and introducing myself as Brett, and then go do it.


I want to be friends with John Waters.  I want to be on a first name basis with him.  When he’s not visiting me in my fabulous house by the ocean, he will be sending me funny text messages and buying me semi-perverted presents.  We will Skype every Monday morning while we’re having our coffee.  He will say things like, “Mondays are just such a DRAG,” and I will say, “Honey, you WISH you were a DRAG,” and he will say, “Honey, the world couldn’t HANDLE all THIS in DRAG,” and I will say, “Honey, you WISH the world couldn’t handle YOU in DRAG”…


I want to speak fluent French.  I will go to Farmer’s Markets all over the world and ONLY speak French.


I want a box of cannoli from Ferrara’s bakery to be delivered to my door every Friday night.  FRESH.  I want them to be all different varieties — regular, chocolate, Nutella, pistachio — and they will all have perfect shells and perfect filling.  I will serve the cannoli to all of my fabulous dinner guests.  Some parties will be small, and others will put Woodstock to shame.  Brando will be everyone’s favorite couch companion, and John Waters will bring out everyone’s inner freak.  Tom Waits will be playing the piano and Patti Smith will be playing the clarinet.  Peter O’Toole will be serving champagne and Leonard Cohen will be handing out white lilies.  Nick Cave and Barbara Streisand will perform duets that bring the guests to their knees in cathartic abandon.  My parents will be excited to be out of the house and my brothers will be happy to be away from school and work, even though school and work is treating them just fine.  All my friends will bring fabulous dates — no assholes, no losers, no fuddy-duddies — and those who do not will be more than thrilled to spend an evening unattached and irresponsible.  No one will get drunk, and everyone will get happy.  The next morning, I won’t have to do one bit of cleaning.  While everyone is driving home, not one person will be thinking about work problems or school problems or money problems or family problems or marriage problems or credit card problems or plumbing problems or love problems.  No one will think, “I should have just stayed home and studied,” or, “I should have stayed in and searched for a new job,” or, “I wish that guy had called me back,” or, “I wish that girl hadn’t been there.”  All they will be thinking is, “I can’t believe I got a picture with the cryogenically frozen body of Walt Disney.”


I guess it goes without say that I want World Peace, so fuck it — I want Don Draper.

The End?

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My Thoughts On “Blue Valentine”

   If you’re going to make a film about the downfall of a relationship, you better make sure the audience gives a shit about the people involved.

   I recently saw Blue Valentine, a film made famous before its release due to a very public debate over whether it should receive an “R” or an “NC-17” rating. The scene that upset the MPAA was of Ryan Gosling, the male lead, performing oral sex on co-star Michelle Williams, who, for whatever reason, has been nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. Well, Blue Valentine got the “R”rating, and the aforementioned controversial scene, like the movie, is, at best, underwhelming. Some may argue that the filmmakers deserve kudos for including a graphic oral sex scene; it’s such a gutsy thing to do. I say gimme a break. The scene doesn’t advance the story in any way. It isn’t symbolic, beautiful, ironic, or anything else that may help give it the label of “interesting” as opposed to “unnecessary.” Plus, it’s not like it was spectacularly shot. If I ever write director Derek Cianfrance a letter, it will simply say, “You’re not Bernardo Bertolucci. The ‘70‘s are over. Go home.”

   Enough whining about gratuitous sex — let’s go get down to it. Blue Valentine is “about” a married couple’s last attempt at salvaging whatever the Hell is left of their relationship. In the beginning of the film, Gosling and Williams decide to leave their daughter at grandpa’s house and spend the night at a cheesy motel to “get drunk and make love” and resolve whatever the Hell they need to resolve (you never really find out any specifics). En route to the motel, they both have flashbacks (Oh, you! I see what ya did there, Cianfrance, you utterly original filmmaker, you!) of the day they first met. Where? At a convalescent home. Gosling, a furniture mover, is moving an old man’s belongings into a new room when he spots Williams reading a saucy romance novel to her grandmother in a room across the hall. I cannot deny that Gosling looks rather attractive during the flashbacks, nor can I deny the fact that if I were approached by a cute, charming furniture mover with great facial hair and great tattoos, I would totally be tempted to go out with him (I’m so not kidding). However, at no point during the flashbacks did I think about how cute the two of them were when they first met/what a tragedy it was that their relationship goes south. Instead I thought, “I think I’ll have those frozen organic enchiladas when I get home.”

   The early flashbacks don’t offer much information other than the fact that the two leads come from humble, somewhat fucked up backgrounds. Like I said, all we are shown about Gosling is that he is a furniture mover. Meanwhile, all we are shown about Williams is her father is an angry bastard. I suspect I was supposed to be afraid of her father, but all he does is throw some meatloaf during a stereotypical “You call this dinner?” moment that’s about as believable as Brad’s Pitt’s accent in Troy. (You want a real “You call this dinner” scene? Watch Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Haven’t seen it? It’s Martin Scorsese. Stop jerking off to The Departed and visit Netflix.) After the meatloaf flinging, we see that Williams wants to break away from her white trash family and make something of herself, but totally ruins her chance when she lets her jock boyfriend screw her without a condom. You don’t understand, she coulda had class! She coulda been a contendah! She coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what she is. Let’s face it.

   At this time I wish to apologize to The Movie Gods for making a reference to On The Waterfront whist writing about Blue Valentine. References happen, and I’m sorry. I can’t help myself.

   What happens when they arrive at the cheesy motel, you ask? Williams takes a shower and Gosling tries to initiate shower sex, but Williams isn’t interested. Then they put some music on the CD player and dance. Then there’s more flashback bullshit, during which Gosling and Williams have a chance second-meeting on a bus and start flirting. They have an impromptu ice cream date and sing and dance in front of a freaking bridal store. While I watched Gosling and Williams give it their best, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. The shaky, It Feels Like You’re On The Outside Looking In! camera work was bothering me, plus I wanted to smack Cianfrance upside the head — yet again — for the bridal store bullshit. We know they end up getting married; we’re not stupid (although maybe we are, because we’re watching Blue Valentine).

   Flash forward to the motel — Gosling and Williams get very drunk and have an argument about Gosling’s “potential.” Williams talks about how Gosling is good at everything he does, and he shouldn’t continue to sell himself short. Gosling says that all he wants is to be a husband and a father. Blah blah blah, awkward sex scene that was obviously shot with the intention of being awkward, blah blah blah.

   I could go on and tell you about how underwhelmed I was by the ending, but, truthfully, I don’t really care to examine any more scenes because it is starting to bore me. This is all I am trying to convey: Blue Valentine is shit. I understand that the filmmakers wanted to present a true-to-life story (IE: cunnilingus and nipples) about two people who fall in love and then fall out of love. I understand that the realism (IE: cunnilingus and nipples) is meant to be mind-blowing. What I do not understand is how they, the filmmakers, failed at making me give a fuck about anything I saw on the screen. Throughout the entire film I wanted to care about something — the characters, the story, the fucking art direction — but I just didn’t. Instead, the thought of frozen organic enchiladas was the only thing keeping me awake. What was keeping me in the theater? The thought that I’d have a blast writing a scathing review.

   Here’s a clip. Williams has to leave the motel early in the morning because she gets called in to work. Not only does she warn Gosling of the possibility the night before, but she also leaves him a note the next morning. I have no idea why he claims he does not know what happened. Perhaps he cannot read? Perhaps that is the reason they fight all the time?

   Before going to see Blue Valentine on Saturday afternoon, I watched a bit of the 1968 period film The Lion in Winter, starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. The film takes place on an exceptionally stressful Christmas Eve, when King Henry II (O’Toole) is supposed to name an heir. His wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn), wants their son Richard (as in “The Lionhearted”) to succeed Henry, while Henry wants John (as in, “The Total Loser”) to be king. Given the circumstances, as well as given the two lead actors, drama ensues.

   In my humble opinion, The Lion in Winter features two of the most kickass performances ever captured on film. Just thinking about the performances heightens my energy level — my mind races and I start thinking about specific scenes and specific techniques and unique choices and unpredictable deliveries and the delicate art of combining subtlety and theatricality. Basically, the full moon rises and I become a Werenerd. Hepburn and O’Toole bring their A -Games as the deceitful, conniving, pissed off King and Queen, both presenting multidimensional performances that put Gosling and Williams to shame. (Duh.) Yes, The Lion in Winter is a work of historical fiction that involves references to King Louis and Thomas Beckett and Eleanor’s “uncle Raymond,” but period film whatnot aside, the film is about a troubled marriage. While The Lion in Winter doesn’t have graphic sex scenes with oh-so-realistic moaning sounds, it does have — gasp! — a fucking great script. Meaty dialogue. Subtext. Complex fucking characters. It tells the story of two people who were in love, and now are out of love, and dammit, I love both of the lead characters from start to finish. I love the horrible things they say to each other while they’re fighting, and I love the few tender moments they share together when they both let their guard down. The writer, James Goldman, neglected to include any scenes where Henry and Eleanor get drunk and yell at each other, and he didn’t include any sappy, indulgent flashbacks; no half-assed, old-hat shocking shit. He kept it simple and created people, not just parts.

   At this point, you may think that I am a judgmental, stuck-up bitch who tries too hard to be cynical. Not true. In truth, I wish I loved everything that I hate — life would be so much easier. I wish I totally dug all the films that are up for Oscars this year — I wish that Black Swan hadn’t made me smirk and that The King’s Speech was my idea of breathtaking. I wish that my top three celebrity crushes were Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Robert Pattinson instead of Marlon Brando, Peter O’Toole, and Robert De Niro. I wish I was counting down the days until the release of the Russell Brand version of Arthur! and that I had never heard of Dudley Moore. I wish my favorite film was The Notebook. Unfortunately, my parents instilled in me an appreciation for good shit, and now here I am, constantly having to bite my tongue when perfectly nice people talk about the brilliance that is It’s Complicated, or about how they can’t wait to see No Strings Attached. It’s a tough life, but fuck it — Blue Valentine is terrible, Michelle Williams didn’t deserve a nomination, and had it not been for those organic frozen enchiladas my Saturday night would have been ruined. For the love of Brando, watch something else. It really isn’t difficult to find something of substance — something conceived by an intelligent writer and brought to life by a brave director and powerful actors. Don’t settle for all the sterile garbage disguised as cutting-edge cinema — you’re better than that, and don’t forget it. Derek Cianfrance, blow me.

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I Guess I Must Be Having Fun

It is the evening of January 17, 2011, and I am now 24 years old.

As I typed that second clause, I imagined a camera zooming in, à la Sex and the City, capturing the words as they appeared, one at a time, to emphasize their gargantuan importance. Well, the words “I am now 24 years old” may not be as substantial as anything Carrie Bradshaw ever wrote (“Are we sluts?”), but I’m feeling rather, I don’t know. No, I do; I feel vulnerable. I feel vulnerable. I’m in control of very little, and that scares me a little. Happy birthday to me.

Having a birthday at the very beginning of a new year is strange. New Year’s resolutions aren’t just about how Next Year I Will Be Better At Such and Such — they’re about growing up. “This year, I’m going to lose 20 pounds.” Well, that’s cool, but for me that resolution sounds more like, “This year I’m going to lose 20 pounds because it looks like I still have my fucking baby fat and I’m an adult now and I’m another year older and for as long as I have a chubby little face I’m gonna look like a fucking teenager as opposed to a mysterious, grown woman and FOR FUCK’S SAKE, YOU KNOW WHAT ICE CREAM TASTES LIKE!”

Did I frighten anyone, just then? Good.

I had a fantastic time this weekend. See?

So, what’s my damage, right?

Well, I decided in December that 2011 is going to be all about working towards The Next Step. For as much as I’m enjoying living with my parents and working at an office part time, I realize that life cannot, and should not, go on like this forever. I do not wish for that to be the case, either. I have no doubt that some substantial changes are going to occur. Eventually. Meanwhile, I need to help get things moving. At least a bit. Right?

Just who am I talking to, and just what do I expect him or her to say to me?

Last week, I attempted to “get moving.” I thought to myself, “What kind of job would I be willing to settle for that somehow involves doing things that I like to do, and may possibly lead me down a rewarding, somewhat [if not extremely] lucrative path?” I narrowed it down to a few choices, and then got to Googling. I came up with nothing. I found no information on how to break in to any of the fields for which I searched. Feeling downhearted, I decided I had three options: go to bed, cry, or watch a Peter O’Toole movie. After choosing the third option, I realized I had three new options: The Ruling Class, What’s New, Pussycat? or something I haven’t already seen five times. I went on Netflix, and found a movie called The Creator, a comedy from 1985, where Mr. O’Toole plays a wacky scientist. Having very little expectations and wanting nothing more than an escape from the very real reality that I was feeling very, very sad, I hit “Play.”

The sub-plot just had to be a love story, and it just had to be a sweet one that really got to me. My mood suddenly went from, “I feel rather bummed that I’m going to live in Agoura for the rest of my twenties,” to, “I feel rather bummed that I’m going to live in Agoura for the rest of my twenties and be single for the rest of my Goddamn life.” I cried. I did. The sight of young Virginia Madsen naked in the shower with a dude didn’t arouse me — it made me insanely jealous and sad. I’ll say it again — I cried.

Hey, at least I was alone. I wasn’t bringing anyone else down with my wackness.

I continued watching the movie, because even though it wasn’t exactly serving as the greatest sanctuary, it was better than nothing. Plus, I find that crying while watching a movie is so much better than crying yourself to sleep. (How SAD is that sentence? FUCK!) A scene ended, and suddenly I was looking at Mr. O’Toole sitting at a table on the patio of the fucking Stevenson Coffee Shop at UC Santa Cruz. Not only did I go to UCSC, I lived at Stevenson College for two damn years. The patio at the Stevenson Coffee Shop was my favorite place on campus, and remains one of my favorite places in all of California. The patio is incredible — it’s elevated, and all the tables are surrounded by majestic trees that are several hundred feet tall. If you sit at the table in the middle of the most elevated part and look up, it’s like you’re looking through a tunnel to the heavens. I spent many days of my life sitting at that table socializing, studying, and daydreaming, always accompanied by a cup of dark roast coffee and a feeling of immeasurable tranquility — a feeling that I was very much not experiencing whilst watching The Creator… until I saw Peter fucking O’Toole, the current object of my idolatry, sitting at my table. I’m not entirely superstitious, I don’t completely believe in fate, and I’m pretty much Agnostic, but dammit, I know that I get markedly nervous when I see people open umbrellas indoors, I know that my “random” decision to borrow Blonde on Blonde from my dad when I was 14 was meant to be, and I know that the Stevenson Coffee Shop scene in The Creator was a message from the universe.

A few hours ago, I treated myself to yet another viewing of What’s New, Pussycat?, and a homemade banana split, consisting of non-fat frozen yogurt from Golden Spoon, an organic banana, and fat-free Reddi-Whip. When the movie ended, my dad decided it was time for the two of us to watch YouTube. We watched The Rolling Thunder Review version of “Tangled Up In Blue.” We watched Tom Waits sing “Pasties and a G-String” live in Germany. We watched Patti Smith being interviewed by Tom Snyder. We watching Jason Mraz sing “Blitzkreig Bop,” and when he said, “I first heard this song when I watched National Lampoon’s Vacation,” my dad exclaimed, “That shows just what a total DORK you are.” Then my dad put on “This Must Be The Place (Naive Medley),” by Talking Heads. It brought tears to my eyes.

After a few more videos and a few technical difficulties, dad gave up on YouTube and realized it was time to watch the Lakers, anyway. I went upstairs, thinking I’d finish the evening with some reading. Before cracking open my book, I went on facebook to read all my birthday wishes. Then I decided I needed to hear “This Must Be The Place” one more time. I guess I could say it brought tears to my eyes again, but that would be an understatement. The flood gates opened, and sweet Jack Guerney, they did not close for a good long while. I finally had to stop crying and run to the bathroom to wash the melted mascara out of my stinging eyes.

It is the evening of January 17, 2011, and I am now 24 years old. Old enough to know better, and young enough to still make a few stupid mistakes. Old enough to look for a grown-up job, and young enough to work part time. Old enough to set goals for the future, and young enough to escape with the help of a Peter O’Toole movie. Old enough to have a place of my own, but young enough to live with good ol’ mom and dad for a bit longer…

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round

I can’t help it when I feel uncertain. I think that goes hand in hand with being in your twenties, not to mention being in your twenties after eight years of George W. Bush’s master plan. If there’s one thing most liberals and conservatives can agree on, it’s that things suck right now. My paycheck isn’t huge, I need to save money, and yet my fear of pesticides and Dollar Menus compels me to spring for organic lettuce and other luxuries.

When ya think about it, though, isn’t it really kind of exciting? Struggling through uncertainty, I mean?

I feel numb – born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun

It’s true, Google failed me the night I watched The Creator, but Google also fails me when I try to find copies of rare Marlon Brando movies. I can’t let an internet search engine dictate whether or not my life has any direction. Direction! How could my life possibly have NO direction?

God, I’ve been told over and over, for so many years by so many assholes, that it’s all about The Future, The Future, and The Future in that order, but what about right now? No, that question is not cliché, it’s legit. Is it not better to enjoy today with your eyes and ears open than to miss today entirely for the sake of a day that hasn’t even happened?

The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along…

Fuck all that. I’m only going to be 24 once. I’m only going to be 29 once. I’m only going to be 35, 48, and 64 once. Yes, I’m sticking to the idea that 2011/24 will be about moving towards The Next Step. Yes, I know that I can only do so much to control what happens to me in The Future. Yes, I know that there will be many more moments of crying on my couch, thinking If Only I Had A More Stimulating Job, or If Only I Had A Boyfriend, or If Only I Had Been A Dancer All These Years, but I know that moments like these are par for the course.

So what if there’s a bummer of an evening in my future? Peter O’Toole enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at the Stevenson Coffee Shop, sitting at the table where nothing can hurt you. And so did I. Many times.

Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong…nothing…

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