Archive for October, 2010

She Wore a Grayish Pantsuit

October 22, 2010

I was sitting here minding my own bee’s wax—that’s just a figure of speech, by the way—when a co-worker, an Asian woman in her late 20s who I’ve barely spoken to, wandered by, threw on the brakes, picked up the CD comp of Ford scores on my desk, and said the following words, which I did not expect to hear coming out of her mouth: “Oh! John Wayne! I love John Wayne!” That kicked off a 10-minute blabbermouth session—she knows all of the Ford/Wayne movies cold—which ended with her skipping away yelling “Now I want to go home and watch The Searchers!”

As James Bond once said, I must be dreaming…

Profiles in self-gifting

October 14, 2010

Class Act

October 13, 2010

I was just having a smoke and I started talking to S., this guy who works in my building who I smoke with out in the courtyard sometimes. S. is a cool guy, 28, who’s deeply into hip-hop and who’s taught himself how to record his friends’ music. (And now he’s making videos as well—see below.) He has a pretty responsible office job—he dresses better than I do, anyway—even though he’s a little rough around the edges, by which I mean he has more than a little street in him. Racially I’ve always found him hard to pin down because he looks Latino but talks like a mix of black and white, going back and forth between the two worlds with easy fluency in both of them. (Unlike the goon I saw at the DMV yesterday, a white guy whose stabs at black speech and mannerisms were so forced that he made the white-dude-trying-to-be-a-black dude in Season 2 of The Wire look like the love-child of Beaver Cleaver and Eldridge Cleaver.)

Anyway, so just now S. was showing me the video he made for his half-brother’s band, and when he mentioned that his half-brother is black I said, “You know, I’ve always wondered about your ancestry” and he started rattling off his history—a Filipino dad and a German-English mother, etc., “and then when my dad went to prison, my mom started dating this guy she worked with, who’s black.” He sighed then, just like that older brother did in Capturing the Friedmans when the filmmakers asked an innocent question about his dad, and he told me that his father was sent up for molestation: he used to have sleepovers for the neighborhood kids, then he’d give them all (including S. and his two sisters) milkshakes dosed with roofies. The old man didn’t molest his own kids, but nevertheless when he got out (he only did seven years, I didn’t think to ask why such a short stretch) S. made a point of looking him up and telling him to stay far away from him and his sisters. That was 10 years ago and S. hasn’t seen him since.

Remarkable as all this was for a breaktime smoke, it was even more impressive because of the poised way S. told the story: it was so obviously the product of a man who’s worked his way past a world of shame. As he put it, “I used to tell people he was a bank robber because I was afraid that shit would rub off on me…” I just wish I had had it half as together when I was his age.

October 11, 2010


October 8, 2010

That’s how I felt about five minutes ago. On Wednesday night I was (mostly) knocked out by Blue Sky, Tony Richardson’s drama about an Army major (Tommy Lee Jones) and his sexual loose cannon of a wife. Jessica Lange plays the woman, who, in a script today, would be carefully labeled “bipolar” to make her behavior comprehensible to modern audiences. In Richardson’s movie, though, she’s a jack-of-all-nutcases: about equal parts nympho, nonconformist, mad housewife, and brainwashed by the media. (She keeps taking on the look of movie stars—Gardner, Monroe, Taylor—as she gleans them from womens’ fan mags, and the opening scene pays tribute to Bardot’s oh-my-god sunbaths in …And God Created Women and Contempt.) The movie’s last half hour gets lost in an uninvolving subplot about an Army scandal, but until then it’s just a killer portrait of a decent and intelligent man’s devotion to a helplessly carnal and unstable woman.

Jones and Lange are practically a perfect matchup, but I was really drawn to the handful of scenes between the couple’s two young teenage daughters, Amy Locane and Anna Klemp. Their mother’s very public antics and their father’s consternation have forced the girls to grow wise beyond their years, and the result is a sardonic but palpably loving attitude towards their parents. (“She’s crazy and he’s blind,” offers one of them. The other agrees: “They’re perfect for each other.”) Locane, who was 23 at the time but playing about 16, is just ridiculously watchable here; she even brought to mind Dana Hill’s incredible turn as the oldest daughter of another stormy couple, Diane Keaton and Albert Finney, in Alan Parker’s Shoot the Moon. Not being a big Melrose Place fan I wasn’t sure what else I might’ve seen her in, and it was while I was checking out her filmography that I stumbled across this news story. (Note the recent date). I know, I know, I should probably be getting all MADD on her ass, but there’s always a waiting-list of people eager to take that chore on. Coming so soon after Blue Sky, I’ll simply note what a waste it all is.

hot links

October 6, 2010

Some juicy stuff courtesy of my online mates. First, an oral history of GoodFellas; the writers had the presence of mind to look up Donovan, way down below the ocean (where he wants to be), and ask him where he was the night Billy Batts went missing. Even better, here’s David Simon’s original 79-page treatment for The Wire. Ah yes, who can forget those immortal characters Jimmy McArdle and Stringy Bell?

More seriously—or rather, completely damn seriously—there’s El Blog del Narco, the website of an anonymous Mexican blogger who’s countering both the Calderon government’s attempts at whitewashing the drug violence and the Mexican media’s fear of covering it by publishing uncensored photos and videos of the various crime scenes down there. Take my word for it, though: this shit is not for the faint of heart.

“The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen”

October 6, 2010

I had nothing short of a goddam blast in Austin—four or five days hanging out with a variety of terrific people, and enough of a good time that I’m wondering how much longer I’m going to last in San Francisco. I still love a lot of things here, no doubt about that, but Austin completely whips S.F.’s ass on a couple of crucial fronts. Mainly, the folks there are so welcoming and unpompous that it was easy to drop my own bullshit—all those impulses honed by spending too much time around hipsters and the vagrant, shaky egos on the Internet. Anyway, right now I’m caught between catching up on my work and falling fast asleep at my desk—I’ll have to write more later.

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