4:57 - What the hell is Kim Kardashian doing at the Emmies? Her only contribution to television is being her slutty, voluptuous self in front of a camera.
4:58 - Wait, what? The commentators are already making snarky remarks about the worst hair and dresses of the red carpet before the red carpet show is over? Jesus, people, give it until at least 15 minutes after the show.
4:59 - Anna Paquin's dress - "This looks like something a matador in Spain would wear." Zouch.
5:00 - Glee appearance count: 1.
5:01 - Seriously? Fallon's doing a Glee themed opening? Why couldn't it be a Mad Men thing?
5:02 - Jon Hamm, asked and answered. Still, this would be better if everybody was drinking and smoking.
5:03 - Neil Patrick Harris! I suddenly approve.
5:04 - I can only imagine how funny this would be if I watched Glee. Oh, what up, Hurley!
5:05 - 'Okay Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, and assorted Glee-tards - just stand behind Jimmy Fallon and dance. That's all we need.'
5:06 - Every Glee joke needs to be matched with at least one cutaway of Neil Patrick Harris laughing in order to keep me satisfied.
5:07 - How much crack did Fallon have to do before this show to go from a song and dance number right into a guitar monologue? That requires Conan style energy.
5:08 - Oh, hi Amy Poehler's boobs. Are you pregnant, or... Yeah, probably pregnant.
5:11 - God damn it, Jon Hamm is like #4 on the list of people from Mad Men I'd like to bone, and I don't care who knows it.
5:12 - Well, shit. Eric Stonestreet is great on Modern Family, but Neil Patrick Harris is Neil Patrick Harris.
5:18 - Sofia Vergara is clearly taking boob tips from Amy Poehler. How long are you going to milk this, "I have an accent so I can't speak English" thing?
5:20 - Oh shit, Tina Fey's writing partner is a straight fox. Why isn't she on the show?
5:21 - Is this guy a TV writer? It's tough to tell - he's wearing a suit and appears to have bathed recently.
5:24 - What is Tom Hanks doing at the Emmys!? Can he just call them and say, "Hey! I want a seat at an award ceremony that I have no connection with. Can we do a thing? Forrest Gump, bitch."
5:25 - John Hodgman's commentary takes the sting off Glee winning things.
5:26 - Why the hell did they just play the song from Kill Bill before cutting to commercial? Nobody was trying to kill each other just then. I got all excited that Uma Thurman was a nominee for award, or there was some show about beautiful women with swords committing acts of hideous violence against one another.
5:28 - Big Oprah retrospective during the commercial break. Time lapse footage of Oprah is particularly interesting because you can always date the footage by her girth.
5:31 - Stop showing the Emmy control room. I don't want to see how my sausage is made.
5:33 - Neil Patrick Harris won for Glee. I both love and hate that.
5:34 - Oh God, Glee is like the all singing, all dancing, vaguely gay Lord Of The Rings of the Emmys.
5:36 - I wish I had 3D goggles just then.
5:37 - Eva Longoria? Hey, she looks as good as she did when I met her!
5:38 - Did I tell you guys about when I met her? It was really cool. I was on the Desperate Housewives... Oh, hey, I'm rooting for Baldwin.
5:39 - Huh, Big Bang Theory guy won. Anyway, I totally touched her finger.
5:41 - There's going to be a retrospective on reality TV? God damn it, if I hadn't started liveblogging this I could've walked the hell away. Sadly, I must stay true to both people reading this.
5:43 - The Infiniti M has silver dust polished into the interior? And that's a selling point? 'And the cupholder is designed to only hold The Holy Grail.'
5:44 - Haha, Neil Patrick Harris made a gay joke! That means straight guys can do it too, right?
5:45 - Are you going to give an award to Amy Poehler's boobs? They're working overtime tonight. Oh God, I'm saying a lot of creepy stuff about someone who's about to be somebody's mother.
5:47 - They actually give awards for reality TV? Do you give awards for bulkiness of bowel movements? Because if so, I think I'm a real contender this year.
5:48 - Smash cut from the dead Alaskan fisherman to Jersey Shore. Reaaaal classy, Emmys.
5:49 - Will Arnett probably shares my sentiments about Amy Poehler.
5:50 - How much does reality TV suck? John Hodgman doesn't even do announcements for the winners!
5:52 - Did anybody ever watch Peter Gunn? Lord knows we use the theme song all the time, but what the hell was the show about?
5:55 - 'Because of Ancestry.com, I discovered that my father was Josef Mengele. Thanks... Ancestry.com...'
5:59 - Emmys, if you spoil Mad Men for me with this fucking promo...
6:00 - Man, I miss the comedy guys. These presenters aren't nearly as funny.
6:02 - Yeah, Mad Men. You win those awards. You win all those awards.
6:05 - John Slattery spikes his hair? On Mad Men he gels his hair down, but in real life he gels it up. Fitting.
6:06 - Yeah, Avon commercials. Thanks for reminding me that the televised event I like is the one that women also like.
6:08 - 'Expo Markers - helping middle school janitors get high since 1981!'
6:10 - Fillion!
6:11 - Nathan Fillion giving Christina Hendricks the award for Best Supporting Actress would be an amazing Firefly reunion and also yet another opportunity for me to use this blog as a megaphone to broadcast to the world my love of Christina Hendricks.
6:13 - C'mon, Jon Hamm.
6:14 - This just in - Bryan Cranston loves his family more than baseball. To my family - I love you almost as much as Duck football.
6:17 - These new Tonka trucks - you just wind them up and they drive over the stunt track and do cool stuff all on their own. All I'm saying is, when I was a kid, you had to PLAY with your toys, not just wind them up and watch them play with themselves.
6:20 - If you'd get rid of the reality TV category, you'd probably have time to show people winning the guest actor/actress awards. Also, Robert Morse doesn't count as a guest actor when he's in like half the episodes.
6:26 - Cool, I hope that little musical number didn't spoil Lost for me.
6:31 - That guy in the Emmy band was playing the FUCK out of that cowbell.
6:32 - Patrick doesn't think Tina Fey is attractive. I think Patrick's totally gay.
6:35 - Is Coco nominated? I want Coco to win.
6:36 - The Emmys was already sort of gay, and then they brought Lady Gaga into the mix. God help us all.
6:38 - Joel McHale said 'Writers is good' and I just about shit my pants.
6:39 - What the hell are the Kennedy Center Honors? They always happen and I never know when they're on, or what they're about.
6:40 - The Emmys - the only award show to give an award for best award show to another award show. I may have said circle jerk on here in the past, but make no mistake - this is the end all, be all circle jerk.
6:46 - Gervais keeps showing up at our awards ceremonies. How come?
6:47 - Oh, wait, that's why - because he's fucking hilarious.
6:49 - BUCKY GUNTS, YEEEAH!
6:51 - Thanks for the human centipede joke, Colbert. I had ALMOST forgotten about that movie.
6:53 - Goddamn it, Stewart! Quit hogging the Emmys and give one to Conan.
6:55 - Why are they giving an award to George Clooney? He hasn't been on TV since like 1994. Which isn't to say that he doesn't deserve it. I have like four awards I want to give him. It's just, like, how is it relevant to TV?
6:58 - Is it just me, or are these commercials getting longer?
7:00 - No, Emmys, don't show pictures of charitable work and international tragedies. I can't humorously liveblog that! Man why you even got to do a thing?
7:01 - "My dear friend, Mr. George Clooney." Don't we all wish we could say that?
7:04 - Jack McBrayer is always Kenneth the Page. He never stops with that stupid, happy grin. God bless him.
7:07 - This is the longest I've ever seen January Jones go without smoking. Apparently it improves her ability to read lines.
7:10 - Jimmy Smits - Diet Edward James Olmos.
7:15 - Man, there are a LOT of miniseries I never watched.
7:17 - Okay, Temple Grandin, that's cool, so now- Who the hell is the skinny blonde chick with the guitar? No, stop singing - WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? WHY DID YOU HIJACK OUR AWARDS CEREMONY?
7:18 - The creator of Gumby died? I guess my childhood died this year too.
7:19 - If I ever die, I don't want them to do a sad, melodramatic slow motion thing for my Emmy obituary. They can do that for everybody else, but then when I come onscreen the chick with the guitar shuts up and Slash comes out to play the end of November Rain while they play slow motion clips of me fighting aliens and teaching inner city gangbangers how to read.
7:22 - Oh hai BP commercial. It's very impressive how much you've done to try and repair the oil spill. Fun fact: If you hadn't spilled oil in the first place, you wouldn't have had to repair it.
7:25 - God, I need to take a shower. That has nothing to do with the Outstanding Writing for Movie/Miniseries category, but it is a fact.
7:28 - Return to Cranford looks six different kinds of boring as fuck.
7:31 - Why do they keep hyping the cast of True Blood? I cannot wait until The Walking Dead comes out and cures this country of its unfortunate vampire obsession.
7:34 - Thank you, Harry Connick Jr. - it IS time to get back to football.
7:37 - This must be pretty boring for Temple Grandin - she's publicly stated that she has no interest whatsoever in interpersonal human interactions, and here she is in a room full of people all patting each other on the back and talking about how much they love the people who helped them get where they are today.
7:40 - No, that's cool, Pacino, make a terrible speech. Clearly this is your first time winning an award. Oh, wait.
7:42 - All I gathered from the trailer for The Event is that it is a series about things happening that make people angry and/or scared.
7:46 - Oh, The Pacific. THAT'S why Tom Hanks is here. Well, God bless, I suppose.
7:49 - Wait, Temple Grandin just hugged that lady! I thought she didn't like touching people! Was this an amazing television moment that we just saw?
7:51 - FUCK yeah, Mad Men!
7:52 - Thanks, Christina Hendricks, for giving the Internet something to host images of.
7:56 - Modern Family represent! I wish I'd watched you more often so that I could claim to have liked Modern Family before it was cool.
Truman Capps is going to go take that shower now.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I think sometimes, ‘Maybe I should do standup comedy, y’know?’
Sure, I’ve seen all of the comedians go on TV and talk about how rough it is to get started, and how everybody has terrible shows, and how you need to be thick skinned and able to take a beating without hating yourself, and none of these are things that I’m at all capable of and I know that. But in the back of my mind, there’s this little voice saying, “You were a three time state finalist in competitive high school after dinner speaking speaking in Oregon. You’re probably so damn good you’ll never so much as have a bad show!”
And then, Patrick and I watched eight and a half hours of standup comedy at The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard, on a Sunday night, starting at 7:00 and going until almost 3:00 AM.
Patrick is writing a screenplay about stand up comedians, and unlike Mike and I, who get an idea for something and promptly sit down and bang out a screenplay as fast as possible, Patrick actually does painstaking amounts of research, because he’s concerned with the overall quality of his creative endeavors. Part of his research is going to comedy shows, and since I thought I liked stand up comedy, I went with him.
He plays a failed jock on the show, but in real life he's got wicked nerd cred. Also, he writes rap songs!
Earlier in the weekend we saw Donald Glover, who plays Troy on Community, and he was positively incredible. But, since Patrick’s script is about struggling comedians, we went to The Comedy Store on a Sunday night. Because, you see, Sunday is the least funny day of the week. Nobody wants to go out late on a Sunday and watch people tell jokes – they want to cry themselves to sleep asking their pillow where the hell their weekend went. It’s science.
This is an undesirable slot, so The Comedy Store offers it as a free show (as free as a two drink minimum can be at a place that charges $9 for a Jack and Coke), more or less an open mic night situation, from 7:00 PM until 2:00 AM – 40 consecutive comics, most of them amateurs with a few small to medium names sprinkled near the middle.
Patrick and I went into this sort of expecting to see some bad comedy. Hell, we were almost looking forward to it, at the time – it’d be a good ego boost, seeing how much funnier we were than the guys up on the stage. Besides, what’s wrong with spending an evening watching a bunch of court jesters trying to entertain everyone? As somebody who spent most of high school trying to make girls laugh hard enough to spontaneously decide to French me,* it would be fun to be on the other side of the situation for once. Sans Frenching.
Oh, right, like she would've married him if he wasn't funny. Hair only gets you so far, people.
As it turns out, though, bad comedy is even harder for me to handle than Tommy Wiseau’s guest appearances at The Room showings. When a movie sucks, it can’t tell that you hate it. When a standup comic sucks, he’s a few feet away from you, sweating, white knuckling the microphone, staring at you with big, scared eyes.
”C’mon, man!” He’s saying. ”I’m a funny guy, right? TELL ME I’M A FUNNY GUY!”
It was less a free show and more a free chance to watch souls get destroyed, which I don’t really enjoy unless the person on the receiving end is a University of Washington alumnus.
Here’s how you know a person is a bad comedian: When they make jokes about Facebook. The first ten or so comedians all ran with pretty Facebook heavy sets, which, let’s be honest, has become the new airline industry punchline. We get it – poking is sexually ambiguous and it’s bad when your Mom is on Facebook. You can stop telling jokes about it now.
Also, some of the people on stage were perhaps the only people less enthusiastic about the performance than the people in the audience. Multiple performers openly admitted that they were high, giggling through sets interspersed with sidelong rants about how hungry they were and their love of the McDonald’s value menu.
One old, fat guy with long greasy hair and a beard of equal length and greasiness stumbled onstage, grasped the microphone, and muttered several barely coherent sentence fragments. He exhaled deeply into the microphone a couple of times, moved it into a position that warranted a blast of feedback, then started to step away before regaining his confidence and coming back long enough to say,
“H-have you guys been watchin’ the Internet recently?”
The loudest silence of all time was his response.
“Thankyou.” He whispered into the mic before all but running off the stage and disappearing into the darkness.
It couldn't have been him. The Dude has a great sense of humor.
Another guy took the stage for his three-minute set carrying a big dry erase board and pen. He produced an easel from behind the stage curtains and spent 30 seconds setting it up, then placed the board on it, revealing a series of blanks.
“Hello.” He said. “Let’s play Comedy Store hangman. Somebody shout out a letter.”
There were about six audience members there, counting us, and nobody responded at first.
“Quick, now.” He said. “I’m running out of time.”
We started yelling letters, and as he began to fill the right ones into the board it became clear that the puzzle was spelling out his name. Yes, that’s right – this comedian finagled a three minute set at a comedy institution so he could go onstage and berate a tiny, disgruntled audience into yelling out the letters of his name, not necessarily in the right order. What was his name? Hell if I know – I forgot it as soon as the emcee said it, and even when it was sitting there in front of me I didn’t give enough of a shit to read it.
So I guess the joke’s on you, Hangman Comedian. Go to Hell – unfortunately, as I would later discover, Hell is The Comedy Store on Sunday.
"Stand still - Hieronymous Bosch is still setting up his canvas."
As we got into the 9:00 PM range, the room filled up a bit more and some more talented comedians began to grace the stage – a relevant and hilarious pit stop on the bumpy highway to 2:00 AM bullshitville.
One of the acts I particularly enjoyed was a woman whose thoroughly amusing set was anchored by jokes about the South and how many of her high school classmates are married or pregnant, which is really my comedy reservoir as well. Also, like most attractive female comedians, her set got me wondering whether I had a chance with her, and I spent some of the lamer sets of the evening imagining situations where I bumped into her and casually mentioned that I was a three time after dinner speaking state finalist, which would convince her to spontaneously French me.
In High Fidelity, John Cusak and his music nerd friends fantasize about dating a musician, and likewise I’ve always fantasized about dating an attractive lady comedian. I could see myself lounging around her house working on blog entries, coming up with jokes together, or the two of us going out to dinner and spending the entire meal quietly mocking foreigners and overweight people outside. Plus, I think we can all agree that I’m a comedy goldmine that no other girl has had the presence of mind to capitalize on just yet.
So all I’m saying is, if you Google your name and find this blog, Sarah Tiana, you should drop me a line even though I’m 11 years younger than you. That picture at the top of the page? That’s my actual hair. We both know you can’t walk away from that.
By about 11:00 the sun had disappeared and dark clouds were pouring down a torrent of increasingly bizarre crap. Audience members began to filter out, only some of whom were replaced by new, drunk, heckle-oriented arrivals. Patrick and I, sitting almost front and center, were the target of multiple jokes from the increasingly bad comedians onstage. Most of the jokes implied that we were gay, and one joke implied that we liked Ben Folds, which I found to be in very poor taste.
I had to listen to November Rain twice after just LOOKING at this picture.
The acts became more and more avant garde. One of the only good acts after midnight was a freakishly tall – I’m talking Stephen Merchant tall – guy in basketball shorts and a T shirt who started his set by announcing his phone number, standing on a table at the front of the stage, and making snarky (frequently hilarious) responses to durrogatory text messages sent by members of the crowd. The crowd didn’t find him as funny as Patrick and I did, and when a woman at the back of the room yelled at him to “Get off!”, he stared at her, wide eyed, and described himself masturbating while fantasizing about killing her.
When he finished his violent diatribe, he smiled and said, “Now I can get off.”
At that point it was 12:30 and I tried to leave, having seen enough ill will and human suffering for an evening, but Patrick followed me outside and in the time it took him to smoke a cigarette convinced me to come back in and finish the night.
As we rounded 1:00 AM, the room was empty save for comedians waiting to go on stage and Patrick and I, at which point it became less a comedy show and more of a one sided conversation. One lady comedian in her mid 50s started her set by marveling at some length at how Patrick and I were both young enough to be her children and how she really wanted to take us both home for a night of ‘hot fucking’ and then make us both peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Then she branched into a very detailed monologue about her pubic hair.
I kept an eye on my watch, waiting for 2:00 AM. When it finally arrived, on the heels of an almost tragically unfunny 18 year old Jewish girl, I began to tense the muscles in my legs in order to leave, but then the sleepy yet foulmouthed emcee was onstage again, introducing the next comic through a torrent of jokes about vaginas and requests for two audience members to come and have sex onstage.
A black guy got up and spent most of his politically charged set mocking President Obama for not cleaning up the oil spill, as though he blamed Obama for not renting a boat and spending a few months personally skimming oil himself. Meanwhile, a man dressed as Jesus – white robes, sandals, long hair, beard – entered and waited at the back of the room, while his groupies – three drunk black women, two drunker Irishmen, and a fat middle aged white guy in glasses who claimed to be one of the girls’ ‘acting coach’ – had a seat behind us and began to heckle.
Wait. Long hair, robe, sandals OH SHI-
The circumstances of my life had at that point grown so bizarre that I began to wonder if I would ever return to a world that was even halfway recognizable to me, populated by familiar objects like marching bands, The Mystery Wagon, and Battlestar Galactica. I was depressed, dear readers – as depressed as I’ve ever been.
I was watching a sad parade of society’s dregs onstage before me, comics so bad that they couldn’t even perform on Sunday night but rather early Monday morning, comics who knew how bad they were but soldiered on ahead anyway, even though they were playing to an audience of two. I wanted nothing more than to go home and forget that such people existed; to pretend that I lived in a world where everybody who was talented at comedy succeeded, and everybody who was bad got the hint quickly and then went back to business school.*
*Ha ha, kidding! Everybody knows business majors are only funny when we use them as a punchline.
The emcee introduced who I thought was the last comic as a ‘professional model,’ perhaps as a means to quiet the increasingly rowdy crowd of drunk Irishmen and (potential) prostitutes. The woman who took the stage was indeed attractive, wearing a nice patterned dress and high heels, but I could tell from the way she flounced that she was not the sort of lady comedian that I fantasized about.
“Hi!” She squeaked into the microphone in a voice that was a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Minnie Mouse. “I’m a girl!”
She then awkwardly curtsied several times, produced a notecard from her bra, and began to read off of it.
“Do you want to hear a joke about high heeled shoes?”
It’s painful for me to remember – hopefully you get the gist of the character she was trying to play. Picture female Andy Kaufman, only not funny. If you’re not an Andy Kaufman fan, imagine someone far less funny than you think Andy Kaufman is, playing to seven people, the majority of whom are drunkenly heckling, at 2:30 AM in a deserted comedy club on Sunset Boulevard on a Monday morning.
"Hey, waddaya mean 'thank you very much', asshole?"
When she was done (her set ended with her ‘dying from lack of attention,’ only to be revived when the emcee stormed onto the stage to demand that we bring her back to life by giving her a round of applause) Patrick and I locked eyes.
“Time to go?” Patrick said.
“Yes.” I said.
We got up and began to thread our way out, to the jeers of the drunk Irishmen.* The emcee took the stage once more.
*And fuck those guys, all being from a country far inferior to Scotland. Yeah, I said it.
“Hey, are you guys leaving?” He asked over the mic. “We’ve still got one more comic!”
I could see Jesus, waiting on deck in the shadows beside the stage. Patrick stopped and looked at me.
“You got one more in you?” He asked.
“No!” I said, emphatically, both to him and the emcee. “I’ve watched eight and a half fucking hours of standup comedy tonight. I officially hate standup comedy now.”
Everybody seemed to understand. Well, I didn’t see Jesus’ reaction, but based on his reputation I think he’d have been cool with it. And Patrick seemed just as happy to leave then, anyway, being as he had to get up for work in four hours. The Irish guys called me a pussy, I think, but they’re from a country that didn’t invent the deep fried cheeseburger, so the joke’s on them.
All the drunkenness of Ireland, only the food is better and they've got their own parliament.
In the parking garage, thankful to be surrounded by things that weren’t trying to tell us horrible jokes, Patrick fired up another cigarette and we got to discussing the evening.
I scolded Patrick for not letting me leave at 12:30. Patrick pointed out that I would have regretted leaving, and he was right. I said that eight and a half hours of comedy is a fate worse than death.
Patrick tossed his cigarette butt on the ground.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I think I’m going to do this again in a couple weeks.”
Truman Capps doesn’t know what the deal is with airline peanuts, nor will he ever.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Hey, folks! You may have noticed that this blog went up early on Monday as opposed to Sunday as usual. It bothered you, and it bothered me. I was late because I was watching eight hours of live standup comedy, a decision so terrible that I’m already writing it up for Wednesday’s blog. So just know that my tardiness is giving you a crackerjack midweek update. Look forward to it.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled Hair Guy!
This picture becomes relevant in a few paragraphs. Until then, it's just Han Solo, making this blog cooler.
I’ve been away from home, in one sense or another, for the past six months now. Of course, ‘home’ is something of a nebulous concept, but by my definition, home is the place where my box of Pop Tarts is, and where there is a toaster to heat up the Pop Tarts should I feel in the mood for That Sort Of Thing, and where there are old friends with whom to eat the Pop Tarts and reminisce about Pop Tarts we’ve eaten in the past.*
*It’s not that I’ve got a raging boner for Pop Tarts or anything, it’s just that they really fit into my rock n’ roll lifestyle because they’re basically the most passive food in the world. Cereal takes too long, what with the milk and the pouring.
One thing that people kept telling me before I left was that they were living vicariously through me. To be honest, I’d say at least half a dozen people have beamed at me and said, “God, Truman, it’s so exciting! I’m just living vicariously through you.” I mean, Mike said it, for God’s sake, and he’s made it clear in the past that he thinks it’s gay to use a word with more than three syllables.
Living vicariously – that means basically they want to experience everything I experience, from afar. Think of it as a really passive version of Avatar, I guess.
This puts an awful lot of pressure on me, having to live for multiple people besides myself, because as a general rule I seldom do interesting stuff. To those of you for whom I am living right now: Congratulations! In the past 24 hours, we have watched half a season of Mad Men, fixed the toilet, and invented a name for a drink.*
*Vodka + root beer = Mrs. Beer. Copyright Truman Capps, 2010, all rights reserved.
Please don’t take this as me being critical of your choice of vicarious life buddy, because I’m quite honored to be doing this for you. It’s just, if I had to pick somebody to live vicariously through, I’d pick somebody who did cool stuff nonstop, 24 hours a day – somebody who’s such a dude of dudes that he even sleeps in a badass way.
Who would I pick to live vicariously through? Well, Han Solo, naturally – that’s everyone’s answer, whether they know it or not (although I was not pleased a few years ago when Lucas reedited the movie so that the guy I’m living vicariously through just sits there while Greedo shoots at him). Second place, though, would probably go to Richard Branson, pictured below, for reasons you will understand when you see the picture.
On the rare occasion that some opportunity arises to do a cool thing, I’ve been trying recently to say ‘Yes’ as much as possible and just do whatever it is, so long as it doesn’t involve heroin or watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Some of this is out of concern for the various people living vicariously through me, and some of this is borne out of the insanity that comes from not seeing the sun for two months.
Last night, for instance, my cousin Gene and I went out to have some burgers and see The Other Guys. When we left my apartment, there was a house party in full swing across the street – people were piling out of cars, techno music and splashes from the backyard pool echoing through the neighborhood. When we got back four hours later, the music was still thumping and people were still milling around.
Gene pulled up at the curb near the house and as we discussed our plans for next weekend, a girl staggered up to the window and knocked on Gene’s window, which he rolled down.
“Do you guys need any help or something?” She slurred, hopefully.
“No, we’re fine. I’m just dropping my cousin off.” Gene explained, gesturing to me.
“Oh.” She said. “So, do you want to come to our party?”
I considered the situation – walking alone into a complete stranger’s house. Best case scenario, there could be some cool snacks, and maybe somebody there would be Neil Patrick Harris. Worst case scenario, the party could be an elaborate hit organized by Mara Salvatrucha, the world’s deadliest gang.
“Sure!” I said, hopping out of the car. I bade Gene farewell and followed the girl as she stumbled up the driveway into the house.
To start out with, some girls look a certain way when you’re looking at them through a car window on a dark street, and then a different way in a well lit area, and seldom is the difference an improvement. Also, while this house party may have been cool earlier, by the time I arrived it was a largely empty house, floors strewn with empty Coors cans and crushed Cheetos, the remaining 15 guests clustered in the far corner of the room, shouting to be heard over aggressively bad techno music blasting from the speakers.
My host stumbled and swayed, explaining with the elocution of a stroke victim about her job as a tax preparer in Long Beach, then struggling to describe the workings of the Long Beach Red Bull Flugtag she had attended that day, in spite of the fact that I told her I had been to one before and knew what it was all about.
She would stop, periodically, and just stare at me, and she had the look on her face that people have right before they ask if they can touch my hair, which is creepy enough when people I’ve known for years do it, let alone anonymous, trashed party girls. I made furious, brutal smalltalk in hopes of delaying that question, and at one point, when the music abruptly stopped as someone fiddled with the computer, my voice was briefly the loudest thing in the room.
I was immediately aware of everyone else in the room staring at me, these people with saggy jeans and spiked hair looking at me and sincerely wishing that I wasn’t there almost as bad as I did.
Fortunately, at that point I got a call from my imaginary girlfriend, one of the calls where the phone doesn’t ring loud enough for the other person in the noisy room to hear it, and I apologetically explained that I had to go before walking out, telling my imaginary girlfriend that I loved her, congratulating her for her 2006 SyFy Genre Award for Best Special Guest, and that I would be waiting outside for her to pick me up in her time traveling De Lorean.*
*What, your imaginary girlfriend doesn’t drive a time machine? Well, I guess I’m just lucky.
I strolled back across the street to my apartment, my imaginary girlfriend having done her duty, and settled in for another evening of video games and roaming Wikipedia. I don’t know where that party was going to go, but I’m pretty sure the people I’m living vicariously for would’ve hated it just as much as I did.
Truman Capps actually shrank the Richard Branson picture just a bit, just so that when his parents and 3rd grade teacher read this blog they don't wind up getting a facefull of naked supermodel.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I’m honestly kind of pissed that Neil Sedaka made as much money as he did off of ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.’ Because really, what does that sentiment offer to the world that we don’t already know? I mean, crap, dude, if I’d known that people were into songs about blatantly obvious things I would’ve skipped this whole blog business and gone to work penning chart topping hits like, “Eating Ice Cream Too Fast Gives You Brain Freeze” or “Spider Man 3 Was Disappointing.”
The reason I bring this up is because I had to break up with my job the other day, in anticipation of going back up to school in September, and even though the process went smoothly it was not easy or enjoyable.
I’m not really an expert about breaking up – I’m more of an expert about being broken up with. Most of my girlfriends have had the good sense to take a long, hard look at their lives and say “Oh my God. I’m dating Truman Capps,” which is always a shocking enough revelation to convince them that they want to be single again. This has usually worked out pretty well for me, as being dumped warrants zero personal guilt, vast amounts of pity (both self and from others), and a weeklong period when it’s socially acceptable to drink whenever you want to.
Admittedly, my breakup with The Ex Girlfriend ended with her donating my box set of Freaks and Geeks to Goodwill, but in spite of my DVDs’ valiant sacrifice it’s still preferable to be the victim.
On the few occasions that I’ve instigated a breakup, on the other hand, I’m always left feeling like some sort of callous, diabolical asshole – as well you should when you tell someone you don’t want to spend time with them on a regular basis, I suppose. And in most cases, a bunch of other people start to see me that way too – namely the girl’s friends, who no longer appreciate this dorky addition to their social life, or her parents, who until then had all but worshipped me for my politeness and Republican, seemingly asexual outward appearance.
Believe it or not, though, the experience is more awkward when quitting a job, as I just found out, because essentially what you’re saying is, “You couldn’t pay me to work here. You tried, and it worked for a while, but now I would gladly trade a steady income in the midst of a horrible recession in exchange for not being an employee here anymore.”
And, y’know, maybe that’s cool if you’re one of the 96% of Americans who hate their jobs, but I’m not. I like my job, as I’ve mentioned before. And I like my boss, which is why it just about broke my heart when, once I’d walked into his office and stumbled over my words, he said, “Aw, Truman, are you leaving us?”
This hasn’t been an issue at the other jobs I’ve done – when I washed cars or bussed tables or made milkshakes, I did so with the understanding between myself and my supervisor that at the end of the summer I’d be off to school. Also, I hated those jobs. Like, a lot. And I was bad at those jobs. Like, really bad, which is presumably why I didn’t get hired back.
Roundhouse Kick Entertainment is different, though, because this is a career style job, the kind that people go to college and compete with one another to get, and I got it through luck and friends in (relatively) high places in spite of the fact that I wasn’t 100% qualified for it at the time. Also, in my interview I was purposefully vague about my plans to finish my degree in Oregon. The point is, my boss had stuck his neck out by hiring me on the spot, and by quitting the job to go back to school I feel as though I’m taking a dump on his kindness – metaphorically donating a bunch of his DVDs to Goodwill, perhaps.
Of course, this is what I’m feeling – it didn’t go down like that at all. My boss was completely understanding and encouraged me to give him a call next summer when I come down here for realsies; for this reason he is, as always, a straight up G.* I provide my own crushing guilt, whether it’s warranted or not.
*Everything I need to know about ebonics I learned from watching season 1 of The Wire.
Unlike breaking up with a girl, though, that’s not the end – I was just giving my boss my two weeks’ notice today. This means that for the next two weeks I’m walking past his office, preparing to vacate this badass position he cleared for me, feeling ‘ol Mr. Guilt every time he looks at me. Imagine dating a girl for two months, then buying her dinner and saying, “This isn’t working out. Let’s break up in two weeks.”
As with all breakups, though, I know I’m better off. Los Angeles is a big, vibrant place full of activity and culture and sweaty homeless Mexican dudes asking you for change, and it’s been fun living less than six miles away from Jack Nicholson, but it’s also been pretty lonely from time to time, seeing as my social circle down here consists of Patrick, my cousin Gene, and my two roommates whenever they aren’t asleep or out getting drunk with chicks they met on the Internet at trendy nightclubs.
What was perhaps most strange was that last night I was lying awake fantasizing about being back at college – this coming from the guy who spent much of this past year fantasizing about having a job in the entertainment industry in LA. Frustrating as it may be to take classes for a career path I’m all but certain I won’t pursue, it’s one hell of a lot better than working a full time job and having to pretend I’m an adult.
Truman Capps will miss those sweet, sweet paychecks, and that sweet, sweet employee kitchen.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I make too many dick jokes on here to post pictures of anything remotely related to 9/11. Thus, pic unrelated.
Hey, Muslims! Having trouble with your sunrise to sunset fast for Ramadan? Might I suggest working the night shift? It’s way easier to not eat during the day when you go to bed at sunrise and wake up a few hours before sunset. Unless… Is that cheating? Can you cheat at religion?
Everybody’s getting all riled up about Constitutional rights these past few weeks – both because the gay libertarian Bush-appointed federal judge made gay marriage legal in California, and then because a Muslim organization wants to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. It’s raised all kinds of questions about just what freedoms we have here in America, and have divided Americans in the way that only abortion, American Idol, or any other given issue that the media blows out of proportion can.
I’d talk about the gay marriage thing, but it would pretty much come down to me repeatedly saying “Gay marriage should be legal everywhere,” accompanied by at least one totally inappropriate anal sex joke, which I think we’d all like to avoid. Also, seeing as the current controversy over Prop 8 is more about the power wielded by the judicial branch, I feel like I should stay away, as it would require me to do a lot of hasty research about separation of powers on Wikipedia and use the word judiciary far more than I’ve ever wanted to.
What I do want to talk about, though, is the Ground Zero mosque – namely, the controversy over Muslims building a religious cultural center really close to a place where a bunch of seriously misguided Muslims killed three thousand people.
A lot of the reaction I’ve seen on conservative blogs amounts to the idea that putting a mosque near Ground Zero is basically allowing terrorists to do a victory dance on the site of their one great triumph over Western hedonism. I’ve seen it referred to as Islamic domination and expansionism.
This, I think, plays into the increasingly common idea that Islam is less a religion and more a vast, all inclusive conspiracy to destroy everything we love, right up to and including the McRib. In this worldview, mosques aren’t centers of worship and community organization but rather StarCraft style barracks – once built, Osama bin Laden just has to push a button on his command console and a terrorist pops out, all ready to fight, and all it cost him was 50 minerals.
Here’s the thing: If Islam really is the warlike religion of hatred that so many right wing figures paint it as, we are so fucked, you guys. There are 1.57 billion Muslims on Earth, accounting for about 23% of the world’s population. As I see it, if a billion and a half people have all united behind a common cause, your best bet is to bend the hell over (unless their common cause is ‘Bake Free Pies For Everyone!’, in which case we have entered what is commonly known as Heaven).
But that’s just it – we’re not fighting 1.5 billion Muslims, we’re fighting fundamentalist Muslims, and there aren’t nearly as many of them (probably because one of their favorite battle strategies is to blow themselves up). The vast majority of Muslims, I would assume,* are fairly ordinary folks who adhere to a religion that, like most world religions, is based on the practice of not being a dick to other people, even if that one guy really deserves it.
*There are 1.5 billion Muslims and not a lot of them live in Oregon, so it’s been taking awhile for me to meet everybody. Also, Cat Stevens won’t return my phone calls.
And plenty of Teabaggers and hardline conservatives will disagree with that last statement, trotting out various blogs that show the supposedly evil and warlike nature of Islam by highlighting the heinous lines in the Qur’an. And in that case, go to Hell – seriously, now – because I guarantee you your religion has just as much fucked up, heinous shit in it. I mean, come on, people, the symbol of Catholicism is a man nailed to a fucking piece of wood, and it doesn’t get any better from there.
What’s more, those of you fighting against having a mosque near Ground Zero have already failed. Twice. In the past. There’s already two mosques within 12 blocks of Ground Zero that have been there for decades, and the reason that a new, larger mosque is being constructed in the area is that the two mosques already in Lower Manhattan are too small to accommodate the number of Muslims in the area who want to use them.
See, the Ground Zero mosque isn’t a victory dance at all – it’s a religious organization in America trying to serve its community (largely comprised of Americans) by purchasing property on the open market and then building on it. It’s the exact sort of freedom of religion that’s protected by the Constitution.
Yep, double edged sword, that freedom of religion. Sure, it’ll be there to help when you want to fight to get prayer in schools, but next thing you know it’s off helping Muslims build a mosque in their own damn neighborhood.
Truman Capps hopes that if he was wrong and Islam is in fact a globe spanning conspiracy that this blog entry will curry favor with his new Muslim overlords.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"You're on a first name basis with lucidity, little friend! I have to call it Mr. Lucidity, and that's no good in a pinch."
Here’s why I don’t think that Leonardo DiCaprio and his merry band of dream thieves could successfully Inception me – I watched the movie, and as far as I’m concerned, the dreams they were whipping up were way too realistic. If I ever found myself in a rainy city in the middle of a Heat style shootout between two groups of armed men with physics and gravity in full operation, I feel like I’d know right away that it wasn’t one of my dreams because the things happening in it were things that, on some level, made a degree of rational sense and were possible in the real world.
Even when Inception did get weird, with big sections of Paris folding up onto themselves like some sort of briefcase sized travel Paris and people doing kung fu in zero gravity, it was still way more normal than any of my dreams. At the very least, it was weird in cool ways, unlike my dreams, which tend to be weird in creepy, Lars von Trier art film sort of ways.
Post Inception I’ve been interested in doing some lucid dreaming myself, so I Googled ‘How To Lucid Dream’ in hopes of getting some pointers. The first thing I found out is that wanting to know how to lucid dream is like wanting to know how to date beautiful women – if you Google the question, you’ll come up with multiple tutorials you have to pay for and a WikiHow entry that was clearly written by a 16 year old.
The second thing I found out is that if you want to be able to be bold and powerful master of your dream world, you have to be fully willing to make a fool of yourself in the real one. Since dreams are cobbled together from the stuff we do on a regular basis in real life, you have to integrate various dream tests into your everyday existence so that eventually you’ll remember to do them in your dreams. Dream tests include reading and then re-reading a block of text to see if the words have changed or leaning on a wall to see if you fall through it, and they are to be performed every time something bizarre happens in your life that gives you reason to think you may be in a dream.
When your job is to sit and watch video footage of a team of supposed psychics wandering around in the dark trying to talk to ghosts, you find yourself doing a lot of dream tests. Mine is to pick up a pen and drop it to see if it falls and bounces the right way. Of course, given my nonexistent understanding of physics, the pen could explode or turn into a unicorn and I’d still probably consider it a normal reaction.
The other method suggested to start lucid dreaming is to keep a dream journal in which you record the goings on of your dreams as soon as you wake up. The better you’re able to remember your previous dreams, they say, the better you can recognize common traits within your dreams and then realize that you’re dreaming. Here, let’s analyze some entries in my dream journal together and see what we come up with:
-My parents and I were staying in a hotel in the middle of the forest when a grizzly bear broke into our room. We all played dead. It spent several minutes sniffing me and licking my face, then went over to the wall and destroyed a painting of a beach identical to one my grandparents had in their house in the late 1990s, then left. We all got up and quickly checked out of the hotel.
I’ve been playing a lot of Red Dead Redemption recently, and late in the game you start to encounter grizzly bears in the wilderness who are pretty much the Old West equivalent of big furry Death Stars. The experience of walking through the virtual forest, minding my own business, and then being sent to the ‘GAME OVER’ screen courtesy of a big rampaging bear has instilled in me a suitable fear of the creatures. I’m not sure why the savage beasts hate my parents or my relatives’ artwork so much, though.
-I was at a vacation house somewhere in Washington. It was a massive building, so big that there were multiple smaller houses built within it. Somewhere in there I bumped into The Ex Girlfriend’s father, who started making me some sort of drink involving white wine/champagne. As I drank, I read a recipe I found on the table for some sort of onion dip.
Onion dip is the de-facto dip of the Capps family; if at any point in my life I’ve been eating a non-salsa dip, it’s probably been onion dip, save for my recently invented Battledip Galactica. Also, I drank with The Ex Girlfriend’s father on more than one occasion – although knowing what I know now about that particular gene pool I’d probably turn down any drinks for fear of getting roofied and having the rest of my DVDs and sweatshirts stolen. As far as the house, my family has been vacationing in Washington for as long as I can remember, so I suppose in my mind it’s earned a reputation as a place that there would be vacation homes – potentially even ones so big that they have smaller homes inside them.
Click here, Dad.
-I was attending a fundraiser at a fancy old mansion when I met Richard Nixon. He had been accompanying Mrs. Nixon while she showed guests around, but I guess he got bored and slipped away and bumped into me. We sat in the kitchen, eating leftover take out French fries from a tinfoil container, and he told me stories about his career. I took it all with a grain of salt, though, given his penchant for lying.
I can probably directly attribute this to the massive amounts of Mad Men I’ve been watching recently. However, out of virtually everyone involved with that show, Richard Nixon is probably the last person I’d want to meet.
Truman Capps hasn’t had any lucid dreams yet, but as soon as he does he’s going to be watching Firefly season 2 all night long.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
No, keep your pants on – I didn’t let my grammar slip. Ralphs, the oldest supermarket chain on the West Coast and a Southern California icon, does not have an apostrophe in its name. It’s not Ralph’s (the supermarket which is owned by Ralph, such as Roth’s in Salem, the supermarket chain owned by Orville Roth) but rather Ralphs, the name of a supermarket chain started in 1873 by George A. Ralphs in downtown Los Angeles, which I’m sure gave Reedsport a run for its money at the time.
Ha ha, this is a small town. In your face, old roommate!
Until I got to college, I had always assumed that Fred Meyer was a national chain. I mean, how could it not be? Without Fred Meyer, where would we go when we wanted to visit a department store with higher prices than Walmart but a less stylish ad campaign than Target? But as it turns out Fred Meyer, like Burgerville and Bigfoot, restricts itself to the Pacific Northwest.
Ralphs is more or less the same way – like In-N-Out and dangerously high levels of air pollution, it prefers to remain in Southern California and let the customers come to it. This strategy seems to be working, thanks in part to the single greatest product placement of all time.
There’s a Ralphs two blocks away from my apartment, and since my schedule these days mostly consists of waking up, eating, going to work, and coming home, Ralphs is a valuable and necessary component of my rock n’ roll lifestyle. Two weeks ago, for example, I had neglected to do any shopping over the weekend, leaving me with an apartment empty of food and no time between work, sleep, and semi regular bathing to wander through the aisles in search of the necessities.
Every day that week I would leave the house at 5:45, navigate the treacherous parking lot at Ralphs, and buy something from the deli to eat for my pre-work ‘breakfast’ as well as something from the frozen food aisle for my midnight ‘lunch.’ You know what the saddest thing in the world is? Eating greasy supermarket chicken fingers in the front seat of your Dad’s Subaru and all but praying that they don’t give you a case of the trots in 15 minutes when you’re gridlocked on the 405. (Good news, by the way – they didn’t!)
To be honest, I probably became gossip fodder for the staff that week – swooping in every day at the same time for my deli selection and single frozen dinner. Between my super lonely eating habits and the fact that the only window in my apartment is covered with cardboard and masking tape, I’m pretty sure the people of Studio City will eventually knock down my door with torches and pitchforks, eager to see how many dismembered prostitutes I have in my freezer, only to find me sitting in my boxers watching StarCraft II replays and drinking White Russians, my freezer full of Healthy Choice Café Steamers™ (the least masculine of all frozen dinners).
Ralphs is also home to some of the most spectacular savings I’ve ever encountered. You see, Ralphs is a 24 hour operation, yet they carry a lot of perishable items that due to various state and national laws have to be either sold or thrown out within a few days of being stocked. My roommates have figured out how to abuse this system and will routinely go shopping at around 2:00 AM, and often come home with steaks they bought for less than what I paid for a pound of dry macaroni.
Also, one of my roommates has a subscription to the Omaha Steak of the Month Club, courtesy of his father, so for a while there I woke up every afternoon to the sound and smell of multiple steaks of different cuts being grilled up on all four burners of our gas stove, which, with one notable exception, is a dream come true for me.
By far the greatest savings at Ralphs, though, can be found in the liquor aisle. To be honest, I visit the liquor aisle every time I go to Ralphs, regardless of whether I’m buying liquor or not. I just like to marvel at the fact that there are some places in America where a man can buy hard alcohol at the same place where he buys his hair gel, and that with his Ralphs Club Card the top shelf alcohol may well be cheaper than the hair gel.
I was pretty burned out two weekends ago, at the end of the week where I had to eat five meals in the Ralphs parking lot, and on my way home from work at 5:00 AM I resolved to swing by Ralphs and pick up a bottle of vodka so I could have a drink to celebrate the end of my week from Hell.*
*The road to Hell, it seems, is paved with greasy chicken fingers. It’s a slippery road that would go better with honey mustard.
Walking into the sparsely populated store as the sun just began to brighten the sky, I made a beeline for the liquor aisle but faltered as I got closer. I had already distinguished myself at this Ralphs as the guy with the sarcastic T-shirts who exclusively buys single servings of chicken fingers and frozen dinners – did I want to cap it off by being the guy who buys a fifth of vodka at dawn?
I’ll just explain to them that I’m on the night shift. I reasoned. Really, this is my Friday night, even though it’s Saturday morning for everyone else. I should be able to march right up to the counter and buy my vodka, no questions asked. This is America, after all.
As I entered the liquor aisle, I found an old Hispanic man in a Ralphs apron stocking the shelves, one of the two employees on duty that morning. I hesitated, as I had expected I would be the only one looking for booze at that hour of the morning. Sensing me there, he turned to look at me and smiled.
“Finding everything okay?” He asked with the gentle voice of a friendly and benevolent Stand and Deliver era Edward James Olmos.
“Yes.” I murmured, backing out of the liquor aisle, unable to further sully my already damaged Ralphs reputation in front of this employee among employees.
Five minutes later, he was at the cash register when I paid for my box of Pop Tarts.
“You got a Ralphs Club Card?” He asked.
I checked my pockets but realized that I’d left mine at home, and the registration paperwork allowing me to give them my phone number hadn’t gone through yet.
“It’s at home.” I said.
“Here.” He ducked under the counter and came up with a Ralphs Club Card, still in its packaging, which he swiped across the scanner for me.
I only got 16 cents worth of savings, but I thanked him all the same. As I left, I was glad I hadn’t tried to buy vodka and earned myself a reputation as a lush. Ralphs is too good of a place to be ashamed to enter.
Truman Capps later found out that it’s against California law to sell alcohol between 2 AM and 6 AM anyway, which would have made the situation far more awkward if he’d tried to buy.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Things I’m not good at:
2) Processing lactose
3) Exercise (all kinds)
4) Women (all kinds)
5) Micromanaging futuristic intergalactic military campaigns
The first four don’t bother me that much – there are people who can do those things and people who can’t, and the ones who can generally don’t have almost the same name as a prolifically effeminate gay socialite, and I came to terms with that a long time ago.
But being a poor commander of space marines and Siege Tanks? That’s dorky and obscure enough to be right up my alley, and yet nearly every match I’ve ever played in the popular real time strategy video game StarCraft has ended in a humiliating defeat and tragic loss of life for the men in my command. Nobody said universal domination was going to be easy, but I was hoping it would at least be somewhat accessible.
In business, I’ve heard it pays to get good at golf. In college, you’ll do well socially if you know how to play poker. And among nerds, if you’re not playing Dungeons & Dragons,* it’s going to be StarCraft all the way – I suppose we’ve got around our weak social skills by driving one another to military ruin instead.
*I’m also not really good at D&D, as it’s built around basic math. Admittedly, there’s no way to win at D&D, so I guess being bad at it just makes me a bigger loser than everyone else playing.
Released in 1997, StarCraft is a military science fiction saga about a three way intergalactic war between the Starship Troopers style humans, the Jediesque Protoss, and the insectoid Zerg, who are also one hell of a lot like the bugs in Starship Troopers.
Unlike Starship Troopers, StarCraft does not feature Nazi Doogie Howser.
Top down real time strategy games were nothing new then, but up until StarCraft they had usually consisted of two armies differentiated only by the color of the shirts they were wearing, which worked really well as a commentary on the futility of war and the oneness of mankind but made for something of a dry and predictable fight. In StarCraft, different armies fielded different units that demanded different tactical skillsets, and as with all things that are both complex and meticulously well designed, legions of people threw away their social lives in hopes of mastering it.
The Korean Peninsula isn’t known for its masculine teen heartthrobs or functional systems of government, but thanks to StarCraft South Korea has distinguished itself as arguably the nerdiest member of the United Nations by fully embracing StarCraft as an element of its culture. Televised StarCraft matches are one of the most popular things on Korean TV, and professional StarCraft players not only exist, but also make more money than you do and probably get laid more often to boot.
Lim Yo Hwan, the Magic Johnson of StarCraft (sans AIDS).
When in high school I became aware of StarCraft and the godlike status of its players in South Korea, I for the first time in my life began having the fantasies of dominance in a competitive activity in front of thousands of people that most young people start having as soon as they get into sports.
The thing is, I had never gotten into sports – then and now they’ve always seemed like something of a futile enterprise that never caught my interest (especially soccer). To be honest, I think the only reason I love college football so much is because it’s a chance for the University of Oregon to show how much better it is than every other college in America.*
*Especially the University of Washington. Fuck those guys.
For whatever reason, though, StarCraft – a game about fictional armies fighting with nonexistent technology on a computer generated alien battlefield – circumvents my ‘futile enterprise’ hangups entirely, and so for a while in high school I dedicated a fair amount of time to trying to get good at the game. Finally there was something directly competitive that I had a chance to get good at!
Whatever hopes I’d had of becoming The Great American StarCraft Champion were dashed when I discovered that StarCraft is actually pretty stressful for something that’s supposed to be a recreational activity. From the moment the game starts you’ve got to be managing your economy, fortifying your base, building an army, attacking your opponent, scouting, and planning your next three expansions, and as a general rule I play video games because when I want to do less thinking, not more.
As it turns out, even though I’m terrible at the game itself, I still love watching the replays of professional matches that get posted online. Yes, it may sound pretty lame that I’m so bad at a video game that I can only enjoy it when I watch superstar Koreans play it, but I know a lot of fat and lethargic people who love basketball, so I don’t think I’m alone here in loving to watch something I can’t do myself – only my thing is better, because it has spaceships.
Recently, StarCraft 2 was released, a full 13 years after the first installment, to widespread critical acclaim and outstanding sales. Now, in the age of YouTube, it’s far easier for replays of epic battles to be shuffled around the Internet, and I’ve spent an embarrassing number of my midnight lunch hours at work eating frozen dinners and watching StarCraft 2 tournaments with English commentary, an activity which is seldom ranked high on the list of habits of people who will one day be successful.
Having discovered a televised competitive event which, unlike virtually all sports, I both understand and enjoy, I’ve now come to share the same aspiration of most journalism majors: I want to become a sports commentator, only my sport has no penalties and involves casually laughing at widespread, horrific violence (not unlike UFC).
Imagine getting paid to watch people who are really good at video games play video games, and then talk about the video games. That’s a job that I think I’m really well cut out for.
Unfortunately, since competitive StarCraft isn’t everything in America that it is in Korea, English language StarCraft II commentaries are usually just recorded by a couple of guys sitting alone in their Dad’s garage (something I still could be good at). Competitive video gaming, like yogurt Pepsi and pornography vending machines, is yet another great Asian invention that has yet to make its way West.
Truman Capps knows that some amount of professional gaming happens in the States, but it’s more sweaty and creepy than cool, just like the porno vending machine he installed in the student union.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
One of our family friends, David, has made no secret of the fact that he doesn’t get my parents’ and my affinity for Mystery Science Theater 3000, the brilliant Minnesota based movie mocking puppet show that ran for nine glorious seasons. Adherents love the show because it’s centered around making fun of crappy movies.
“But at the end of the day,” David always points out. “You’re still just watching a crappy movie!”
If you share his sentiment, then the rest of this update probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to you.
So there’s this movie, right? And it’s called The Room. It was written, directed, and produced by its star, the mysteriously accented, seemingly ageless Tommy Wiseau, for about six million dollars. The film is ostensibly a straight up melodrama about the Christlike Johnny (played by Tommy) whose unbelievable charity and goodness to those around him is not returned when his fiancée Lisa spontaneously decides to start an affair with his best friend, Mark.
And it’s… Well, words can’t describe it better than this scene:
The whole movie is pretty much like that. Major subplots involving drug addiction and terminal cancer are introduced and then never mentioned again, the set design makes no sense whatsoever (in the titular room, a television is placed behind a couch, next to a coffee table adorned with pictures of spoons), the same six establishing shots (including blatant lifts from the opening credits to Full House and Monk) are used constantly, characters parade in and out of Johnny’s house with no introduction for seemingly no reason, and the movie features four of the longest sex scenes in the history of cinema, all of which are heavy on nudity from people you don’t want to see naked and are, at times, seemingly anatomically impossible.
This movie is bad in virtually every way a movie can be bad. Sure, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Out Space was terrible, but it didn’t include any scenes where you spend ten minutes watching the director’s naked, strangely muscular ass pumping as he dryhumps the overweight, topless lead actress.
To be honest, watching this movie I can’t be sure that Tommy Wiseau had even seen a movie before he made it. Maybe his dad had told him a story about a movie once. “Well, Tommy, characters walk around and say things, and then there’s an establishing shot so you know which city you’re in, and then more characters walk around saying more things, and sometimes there’s a sex scene.”
And if that’s the model he was shooting for, then mission fucking accomplished, because The Room is exactly that – two hours of people walking around saying things and occasionally boning, interspersed with about two dozen slow pans back and forth across the Golden Gate Bridge. Do the things they’re saying make sense? No – not even in the warped, funhouse reality of the film, let alone in real life. Is there a reason for them to be walking around? Not really – the only reason anybody walks into Johnny’s house is so they can say things and then depart as soon as they’re done saying things. Is there a reason for the sex scenes? Punishment for the audience, maybe.
Since the movie came out, it’s developed a sort of Rocky Horror Picture Show cult following, jumpstarted by celebrities like David Cross and Seth Green. A theater on Sunset Boulevard shows The Room on all five screens on the last Saturday of every month, and people line up around the block to go heckle it, sing along with the execrable soundtrack, and throw plastic spoons every time the camera lingers on Johnny’s framed spoon pictures.
I had already seen The Room on DVD a couple of times, courtesy of Mike, who wisely pirated the movie rather than pay money for it. However, I wanted to see The Room on the big screen, and I was in luck, because Patrick and his friends have gone to The Room showings some 14 times in the past two years and were planning on going again last night.
Was it awesome? Yes, it was awesome. Fans shouted synchronized responses to characters’ asinine questions, yelled actors’ names moments before they would accidentally break character and look at the camera, and yelled ‘BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!’ every time the overweight harpy Lisa walked through the room.
But in addition to being awesome, it was also kind of sad.
Tommy Wiseau was there, you see. He goes to every single showing in LA to drum up the buzz for the movie, and does a quick Q & A before every showing in each theater. The fans love him, they mob him for pictures and autographs, and they inundate him with creepy questions about his sex life. And he plays along, God bless him, acting like he’s a cinematic wizard who doesn’t know how badly his movie stinks.
What’s sad about it is that this movie was certifiably a labor of love for him – he thought he was making the best movie ever, and this is according to interviews with multiple members of the cast and crew who watched his bizarre, Red Bull fueled antics throughout the course of the shoot. He thought The Room was going to set the world ablaze with critical adulation, but instead it – and he – have become a laughing stock for both the filmgoing public and the Hollywood elite.
And he embraces it, which is great, but I can’t imagine what it does to a guy to go out and play MC once a month while thousands of people line up to pay money to mock you and the creative endeavor you spearheaded and sunk six million dollars into. It’s like if Truman Goes To The 2007 Sprague High School Prom was some sort of cult sensation – I don’t know if I’d want to show up every night and watch drunk fans chant, “BOYS DON’T CRY!”
When Tommy stumbled into the theater for our Q & A, wearing baggy jeans with a blazer and white vest, greasy hair hanging to his shoulders, a pair of 80s wraparound shades obscuring his eyes, he received a standing ovation before taking questions.
“Who are some of your influences?” Someone yelled.
“I don’ have influenzes – I influenze ze ozer directors.” Tommy slurred, to great applause.
“Where are you from?” Came another question.
“Alright, clearly you are new to Ze Room, so maybe zomebody who knows about Ze Room wants to tell him about zis, yeah?”
(Tommy Wiseau’s age and nationality are closely guarded secrets. This is one guy whose birth certificate I actually do want to see.)
“How’s progress on The Neighbors?” I shouted, referring to Tommy’s followup sitcom.
And to be honest, I don’t really know what his response was. Part of it was because he was slurring his words like a drunk stroke victim and part of it was because of the accent, but also there came a point at which it seemed like he was just saying words because it seemed like a good thing to do. The most I got was that he wanted to make ten episodes but some third party only paid him for one, and after that his speech had all the cohesive quality of that kid who just got back from the dentist.
Tommy Wiseau is a smart man – not a good filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s got enough going on upstairs to figure out how to milk The Room for all it’s worth (there’s talk of a Blu-Ray release and a 3D version). Unfortunately, this means that whatever his next project is won’t be anywhere near as funny as The Room, because he’ll be trying to make the movie corny and unbearable, which isn’t nearly as fun as laughing at a guy who thinks he’s an auteur. God bless Ed Wood – the poor guy didn’t know how bad he sucked and just kept on trying. Tommy, on the other hand, is going to make a career out of sucking.
But who am I to talk? Mediocrity got Mike and I 700 hits on funnyordie and a bunch of friends who quit watching halfway through the first episode. Maybe Tommy’s got the right idea.
Truman Capps has to admit that The Room is still way better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.