Friday, June 09, 2006

How Long Do I Have to Put Up with This Mothering Crap?

I had a meeting earlier this week with a woman in editing. Since I'm getting pretty serious about going into that field, she agreed to meet with me (at the behest of a mutual professor) and talk to me about the business, what she does, and what her experiences have been. It was very nice of her, and it actually helped me a lot. The outcome is that she sent me home with a copy of her company's house style manual, and she's going to try me out as a freelance proofreader. It's a good way to establish myself, make some contacts, and make some money before I'm out of school forever. It's not the long-term career I need, but it fixes some current problems.

So, I call my mom about it just to let her know what's what, because I'm excited about actually having a future for a change, and I tell her what's going to happen and what I can make. The first thing she says is: "That's all well and good, but you need a job with insurance coverage."

Yeah, Ma, no fucking shit. Gee, I almost experienced a moment of joy about something. Good thing you quashed that one.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fifthly, Co-Workers

Yet more people I worked with at Barnes & Noble.

The only thing I remember about JOHN V. is that he would mention his experience in the Peace Corps at the drop of a hat. He was one of those urbane types whose hair never moved and whose goatee was always perfectly trimmed, and once a week or so he'd tell me: "The funny thing is, these people have no real world experience. I was in the Peace Corps in Russia for a year, and here they act like these stupid books are the most important thing in the world." I always wanted to point out that books must be important, since he gave up "real world experience" to work with them, but I didn't care about it enough to have a conversation with him.

SEEMA was kinda hot, but she kinda scared the crap out of me. She had been in the army, and she still had a sense of toughness. She worked with me one day in receiving, during a time period when they were sending one person each day to actually help out. We spent the whole day working, but we also talked about languages in India, her experiences growing up as an immigrant in America, how feminism took a wrong turn, etc. She was great. That was a nice day.

RON was an unfortunate combination. He was inept, totally in over his head. But he was a nice guy, too. After I was demoted from receiving manager and my replacement, Arlo, moved to Washington DC or something, Ron was hired to take over. He felt he was hired because he had been in charge of inventory at a Coast Guard office. I think the management felt that he would be able to keep me in line and run the place with a military sort of efficiency. The thing is, the Coast Guard isn't exactly military; it's more like the water police. Hey, even Ron admitted that. And he told me that his biggest challenge as inventory manager had been to occasionally look in the supply closet and see if they needed more Post-Its. He got in trouble for throwing boxes of books out in the dumpster, but the truth is, that was my fault. I snapped one night and threw shit away. Then Tom found it while throwing shit out, the rat bastard. Who looks in the dumpster? Just out enjoying the garbage in the moonlight, were we? Ass. Anyway, I did let Ron take the rap for it; they let it go. He seemed to genuinely feel that he had accidentally thrown away a box of books with some other stuff. It was a small box. Anyway, he finally snapped and quit. Which is good, because he was awkward and out of place.

JOHN M. was gay, which isn't a big deal, except that he decided that was going to be his only defining quality. So he talked about being gay a lot. And Prince. He liked Prince a lot, too. He really bugged me, though; like nearly every gay man I've ever known, he tended towards over-sensitive and easily insulted, which became very tiresome. He was a snob, too. He made a big deal about how he owned a really nice BMW, and it was really nice, but why buy a BMW if the only place you have to drive it is work at Barnes & Noble? He also bugged me because he made a point of finding out who my favorite writer was (Harlan Ellison), and then reading his new stuff and telling me he didn't think it was very good. I told him to read Ellison's classic stories from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, but he didn't want to read anything old.

The rest of these people I only know briefly, from two Christmases when I came back to work part time for some extra money.

JIM was the guy in charge of the receiving room at some point. He was a nice guy, kind of excitable. I guess he scared a lot of the girls that worked there. Dude loved Star Wars, I remember that.

MEL was the kind of jerkoff idiot I always hate no matter where I go, the kind of guy who thinks that loud, cartoony, and shameless are good substitutes for witty, interesting, and personable. He had long hair that flapped when he bounced his head up and down, which he did constantly, which always reminded me of Bimbo from the Betty Boop cartoons. He would ask idiot questions that he thought were "thinkers" and showed the many facets of his oh-so-precious faux-philosophical bent, like "I wonder if the reason films have gotten so faster is because people saw things more slowly in the past." Mental masturbation, totally pointless. Fucking hippie. I wanted nothing more than to beat him with a two-by-four.

ELIZABETH R. I remember mostly because, when she started, she was a mousy, shy little girl. Most of the guys wanted to fuck her, because she was so innocent and her breasts were enormous. I don't know what happened, but when I came back for Christmas, she had totally changed. She was dressing sexy, showing off her sexy body, and she was totally lording it over the high school guys who worked there. I would watch when she came in the back room with guys and ordered them to shelve books. It was awesome; it's rare to actually see a girl pull that shit off. A lot of them think they do, but they don't.

LINDA A. was the new manager after Linda K. went on to some other store or something. Linda A. was insanely hot, and she wore these slinky little outfits, real business domina type stuff. Loved her.

GARY had, by coincidence, been Carl's manager at the Nature Company before becoming an assistant manager at Barnes & Noble. He was one of the worst people I've met in my working life, just lazy and cowardly. If things got too busy, he would hide in the office. And that was pretty much all I ever saw him do; hide in the office. But he was just so weasely about it. I wanted to punch him and not stop.

And finally, there was GRANT, the privileged rich kid. Just so you know, those privileged rich kids you see as characters on television aren't exaggerations. He was the kind of kid who would crash his expensive car because he was driving 90 in a 45, and his parents would just give him a new one. He never worked; when you told him to do something, he'd try to talk his way out of it, or he'd sulk with bruised entitlement. The worst part was, his father was a district or regional manager for Barnes & Noble, so they didn't feel like they could safely hire him. He liked to spend his nights in the receiving room, holding court with the dumb high school chicks who bought into his power trips. I used to interrupt him so that a) he'd leave, and b) he'd look like an asshole. He tried to strike up a conversation about politics with me once, wrongly assuming that I accepted his idea that rich people should run everything and poor people should be lucky to let the privileged run their lives. This is when Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota, and Grant said to me: "Is that the stupidest thing you've ever heard, or what?" He was not happy when I said: "I think it's the best thing to happen in politics in thirty years. It proves that the people can still get whomever they want elected." The best moment with Grant happened one night when he was trying to be all slick and rich with the girls, and he noticed something that amazed him, and he said: "I'll be damned..." To which I just responded, out of the corner of my mouth, "Probably." And the girls laughed. He wouldn't talk to me for the rest of the night. So, you know, mission accomplished.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

What I've Been Watching

No Film Week this week because, well, I haven't seen any movies this week. What have I been doing? Watching old TV shows.

This past weekend on TVLand, they featured a 48-hour Benson marathon. Yes, I got caught up watching Benson all weekend. You know, that actually used to be a pretty good show. Up to a point, like all of them. It began as a spinoff of Soap, with Robert Guillaume's Benson DuBois coming to work for Governer Gene Gatling (cousin of Benson's employer, Jessica Tate; Katherine Helmond's character on Soap) as the manager of his household staff. Now, the show started in 1978, and like a lot of shows from the late seventies (All in the Family, M*A*S*H, WKRP in Cincinatti, Good Times, Sanford & Son, etc.) it had a real sociopolitical consciousness that was explored through interesting and/or funny characters. I love that sort of thing; you never see it on a show now. Sitcoms today tend to act as though all of the social imbalances we had were corrected, poor people accepted their lot, and all we have to worry about now is whether or not some hot guy returns Rachel's umbrella, or some dumbass non-character-driven plot. Most of the sitcoms I see today are petty and a little mean. Benson had interesting characters, politics, and some well-delivered humor that wasn't always just catchphrases. Yes, they did the same tired plots that every single sitcom has done--two characters who hate each other trapped in cold storage, the mansion nearly burns down, the search for buried treasure, the kid who goes to a concert despite what her parents told her to do, characters trapped on the roof overnight, someone has to pretend to be someone's husband for the sake of an overbearing mother, someone has to fly the plane when the pilot dies, characters getting caught in a convenience store during a hold-up--but inbetween, there was some genuinely thoughtful stuff going on.

Unfortunately, American sitcoms are also on for far too long, and as the Benson marathon wore on, right around Sunday afternoon, it became grating. It's hard to tell exactly when Benson became a bad show, but for me, the harbinger of doom is Rene Auberjonois. Nothing against the man personally, and his character isn't as annoying as his character was on Deep Space Nine (I can morph into anything, but I'm not going to, because it would be too expensive), but he signalled a shift in attitudes. Which is unfortunate, because he came on in the second season. His character, Clayton Endicott III, replaced Lewis J. Stadlen as John Taylor. Taylor was a more interesting character, a little more layered; he and Benson didn't get along, but Taylor tended to act more respectably in the end. By contrast, Clayton was weaselly and little else. He was like a cartoon character, never changing and never growing, barely ever doing anything out of character.

Also coming on in the second season was Ethan Phillips as Pete Downey. Phillips is yet another Star Trek actor, and he is every bit as annoying in everything as Neelix was on Voyager. He's the type of actor who just annoys me, reveling in his weakness the way he does. He was an unneccesary addition, but something that could be dealt with. But the show lost some of its focus on, you know, real problems. Instead, the show became about Benson, his personal problems, and his endless quest to get laid. Seriously, for a while there it seemed like he had a new girlfriend every week! Who knew he was such a hound?

The show becomes completely unsalvageable when Benson starts rising through the ranks of the state government. Ironically, at this point, the show becomes less about politics. In the third season, Caroline McWilliams left and was replaced by the slightly irritating Didi Conn, whose character became involved with Ethan Phillips's character. All of the layers were gone completely, and with every character acting so stupidly, it all gets very annoying. Granted, James Noble's Governor Gatling wasn't the sharpest plane on the industrial arts table, but there was a kind of quiet dignity about him in the early years. As his inability to catch on quick became more and more of a broad joke, the other characters (except for Benson and, arguably, Miss Kraus) became more insipid to even things out, and then... well, people must have liked it, because it went on until the 1985/1986 season. But after two seasons, I'm out. By the time Clayton is getting kidnapped in Hong Kong by a fashion designer who mistakes him for a rival and commands an army of ninjas... well, it's long past time to let this one go out to pasture.

I've also been getting Soap on Netflix. I'd never really seen it before, and decided to try it OnDemand. I really got into the well-choreographed humor, the surprisingly good emotionalism, and the impeccable timing of, once again, Robert Guillaume. Plus, you know, I was sexually fascinated with Katherine Helmond on Who's the Boss? when I was a kid, and this is just bringing that out again. Richard Mulligan, Ted Wass, and Billy Crystal are especially good, too. Episode Ten, where Jodie (Crystal) tries to kill himself, actually had me in tears. Not because of the suicide, but because the old Jewish man he was sharing a room with told a very touching story about the death of his wives that was poetic, emotional, and somehow realistic. It's rare that a show can do that to me (unlike the movies, say). I wanted to keep watching, but then OnDemand did one of the typical things that makes it so deficient and overrated: they skipped an episode. They end with Jodie killing himself and closing his eyes... and they skip the next episode?! Well, that's where Netflix comes in handy. To my surprise, the first season of Soap is very, very good TV.

Now we'll just have to see how long it takes to run itself into the ground.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Revealed at Last! Just What Happened to Lindsay Lohan to Turn Her Evil!

I was flipping channels last night, and the movie Life-Size was on Disney Channel. I watched about ten seconds of it; I've seen it before, and it's not very good. It was made for the Wonderful World of Disney in 2000, and it stars Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan. As the first movie Lindsay made after The Parent Trap in 1998, I turned to Becca and asked: "Gee, what happened to that little girl's poor twin sister?" And then I realized: that's the answer!

In 1986, a pair of twins are born: Lindsay Morgan Lohan and, let's call her, Lorraine Melissa Lohan. The two girls grow up in Long Island, become Ford models, and act in commercials. Then, one day, Disney decides to remake The Parent Trap in an actual watchable version (after the first forty minutes, anyway), and they need cute, perky twins. Lindsay and Lorraine make their debut in the film at the age of 11, and it looks like success.

The problem is, Lorraine drifts towards bad behavior, and she's obviously the less talented of the two, and one night their parents walk into the bedroom to see Lorraine holding a pillow over Lindsay's face. The girl is obviously unstable. So, for the safety of the family and to lessen the possibility of embarrassment, Lorraine is locked up in the basement, and Disney removes her credit from The Parent Trap and releases some story about Lindsay playing both roles and trick photography and computers or what not. The movie makes over $100 million, and Lindsay becomes another Disney kid, making Life-Size in 2000 for the Wonderful World of Disney, the awful Get a Clue for the Disney Channel in 2002, and the surprise hit Freaky Friday in 2003, which sets her on the path to proper stardom. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen didn't turn out as well as it should have, but when Lindsay gets cast in Mean Girls, an unusually smart teen comedy, and it makes over $80 million in box office, Lindsay is set to be the Next Big Thing. She comes across as nice, people love her, she's gorgeous and incredibly talented, and even the talk of her recording an album doesn't quite seem like the ridiculous I-can-do-it-all madness of other starlets; after all, she sang in two movies already.

But then, something terrible happens. Lorraine Lohan has been seething with resentment for years. Somehow, the girl breaks out of her prison, and becomes a staple on the club scene. People assume she's Lindsay, and she doesn't correct them. Wanting her sister's life, she finally tracks Lindsay down right in the middle of both recording her first album, Speak, and filming Herbie: Fully Loaded, her final movie for Disney. After a struggle, Lorraine murders Lindsay brutally and manages to stash the body somewhere that no one will ever find it. Then, she just assumes Lindsay's life. And now there are stories about Lindsay the slut, the coke-hound, the drunk, the party girl, the one who says incredibly stupid things in interviews and lords her idiot sense of entitlement over as many people as will buy into her bullshit. She records a second, incredibly shitty album, A Little More Personal (Raw). She runs her acting career into the ground. She antagonizes everyone to such a degree that people can't stand her. She's run her popularity into the ground.

And it's sad, because the girl can't help it. Lorraine is just not as talented as Lindsay. She's mildly retarded, and she has a violent temper. She's a human train wreck.

But at last we know why Lindsay Lohan's talent suddenly just disappeared.

And to think, if I hadn't read all of those Marvel Comics as a kid, I'd never be able to figure all of these things out...

Up next: why George W. Bush is obviously a Skrull agent.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I Hate "Get Fuzzy"

I hate this comic. Posted by Picasa

I finally figured out why I find Get Fuzzy so unsettling and lame. It's the way that creator Darby Conley writes. It's not funny, it just vacillates between mean and overly sensitive. It's like it's being written by a bipolar manic depressive; some days, he thinks that just being cruel is hilarious, and on others, he feels incredibly bad about it. The above strip is his third specialty: treating Bucky Katt and Satchel as though they are children who get puns "amusingly" wrong. But Get Fuzzy is so wildly unpredictable that this sort of thing could easily set off a week of Bucky being punished for his cruelty, and Satchel finally feeling sorry for him, and the whole thing ending in more schmaltz than you would find in a year of Peanuts. Darby Conley reminds me of those kids who don't think Bugs Bunny cartoons are funny because all they can see is Elmer Fudd being treated so poorly. It's so overly sensitive that it doesn't know what the humor of the strip should be. The cruelty and sentimentality and hurt feelings are treated in such a way that it comes across as some hamfisted attempt at realism, which is merely confusing. The last thing this strip is? Funny. Or even amusing.

Jesus, Rob, if you think he's that stupid, just give away the fucking cat.