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I joined the French Foreign Legion to avoid talking to my boss. Our yearly evaluations were fast approaching and I was anxious about my possible future with MicroBio Nicotine and Ice Cream Flavoring, Inc. While I am usually a reliable and productive employee, I’m not sure my boss appreciated the mannequin-cum-soap-box-derby races through the halls of the main offices which I single-handedly devised as a way to ‘boost morale’, or my well-intentioned, however ill-timed observation/comment/joke regarding the whereabouts of his wife at the recent company picnic and ‘did she divorce him for another man’ (which I later found out was partially true; she had run off with a man 20 years her junior to become part of a magic act in a traveling circus that sells Tupperware on the side). I have no stomach for confrontation and try to avoid it whenever I am able to, so, instead of enduring the inevitable bad review, or possibly the humiliation of being fired and having to walk through the halls with the proverbial box of personal belongings tucked awkwardly under my arm for all to see, I didn’t come in to work that day and decided instead to sign up for the French Foreign Legion at the local branch office. The forms that I had to fill out were thankfully brief, and smelled faintly of lavender and fresh bread. The entire process of entering the Foreign Legion was amazingly streamlined, nothing like my last trip to the DMV which lasted several days after becoming lost while in line (I was found several days later by a couple of brave DMV rescue workers near the computer road test stations, slightly dazed, having survived on a packet of half-eaten Tums I had in my pocket). Within one week the elite of the French army had trained me to become a part of one of the and best dressed fighting forces in the world. I learned how to fill a puff pastry at 100 yards, disarm a dancing bear and grow a mustache that would curl nicely at the ends when properly waxed. I was ready for adventure!

My first assignment however, was not the sort of gallant undertaking I had envisioned, least of all did it resemble one of the scenarios that had been pictured in the Legion’s colorful brochure (dropped into combat against a horde of plainly dressed Lithuanian accountants or pitted against a cult in Ohio that worships the tangerine, for example). My particular unit was sent to the south of France to guard a 100×75 ft. piece of Brie that was to be hauled across the countryside by dozens of groundhogs ropes cinched tightly around their furry torsos. That summer the government of France was staging a particularly obscure episode from the French Revolution which mostly involved barnyard animals and maître d’s of certain social breeding and temperament. The reenactment, Le Voyage De Fromage, is mounted every ten years, or whenever a piece of Brie of this magnitude is available for transporting. Due to the vulnerability of this moveable production at the hands of various bands of robbers, who often make off with segments of the Brie, the Foreign Legion has been assigned to protect the colossal cheese from the predictable assault for the last five decadal reenactments. Our unit walked alongside the groundhogs in the profuse, stifling heat for days, sometimes moving only a few feet in a span of several hours. We frequently stopped to rest, exhausted from pure boredom, sipping brandy or whiskey from ornate flasks that we had secretly stowed in our boots. The groundhogs dragged the immense cheese over the lush topography of southern France, the increasingly flaccid and fetid Brie slowly making its way up the side of steep hills, the spectacle of which in previous reenactments had become the focus of documentaries and films ( see: Achtung!: Brie!, directed by outstanding German eccentric, Werner Hertzog).

Then, a few weeks into the pilgrimage, a gaggle of French chambermaids fell upon our haggard unit. They gleefully surrounded us, purring like kittens at the sight of a large bowl of milk. They tickled us with well placed feather dusters, leaning us back, gently prying open our mouths with perfumed fingertips and tucked mints under our tongues ever so carefully while the rest moved around to the back of the cheese, out of sight, absconding with chunks of the Brie which is known for its curative powers, in addition to being delightful when spread over a cracker. The chambermaids giggled like French chambermaids are known to do, then disappeared into the countryside.

Finally, a few days later, we arrived at the end of the march, exhausted, our uniforms badly in need of ironing (this is one of the points stressed in the Legion Code of Conduct: all uniforms must be expertly pressed, at all times; you never know who you might see in battle) and the rear of the cheese, the rind, almost entirely gone. We were reprimanded by our commander and sent to bed without dessert.

* * *

After this first tour of duty was completed I was then assigned to the latest installment of The Conquest of Algeria (staged sporadically). Finally, I could prove that I was made for the scathing ground of battle, not the Berber carpeted halls of my languid office existence!

This year, The Conquest of Algeria, for reasons of budget, was staged in Trenton, New Jersey in the parking lot of the Ramada Inn near the airport. The Algerians were played by the Trenton Mime Theater Group, Local 204, a jovial bunch even for mimes. Our unit mostly milled about in the hotel lobby or bar, occasionally grappling with the Algerians/mimes when we ran into one another, the abridged face-off always ending with the mimes creating an invisible box to hide in. The mimes proved to be unworthy adversaries and I found myself loitering around the hotel’s breakfast buffet in the mornings, just to occupy a few stray hours. I drank copious amounts of terrible coffee and gorged myself on uniformly voluptuous and over-frosted Danishes, tasteless and rubbery from their lengthy residence beneath a heating lamp. I watched local TV weather reports in my hotel room, switching between stations frequently to see how they differed from one another. One weather person had a hair piece while the other was simply bald. I noted the difference.

* * *

On the last day of the Conquest, I was approached by one Reginald Wittenbaum the Third, rabid entrepreneur and manufacturer of innovative gadgetry including the steam-powered vacuum cleaner and nose hair removal system. He was in town attending the local Scientific Inquiry and Gadget trade show sponsored by Intel to present his latest invention, a small contraption that harvested anti-matter and transmuted it into a delicious marmalade suitable for bottling. He was looking for someone to run the device, to test its limitations, a dangerous endeavor according to Wittenbaum. I must have appeared somewhat reliable in my uniform, even though it sported a few errant coffee stains and the occasional Danish crumb dangling precariously from a lapel like a climber hanging from a cliff face. I was in doubt as to my future with the Legion; the previous assignments had proved to be tiresome and I subsequently developed a slight case of French Legionnaires’ disease, characterized by sudden bursts of ennui and cravings for monogrammed handkerchiefs. The offer was intriguing. Wittenbaum was surely mad; however he did have nice trousers. A person with trousers that nice can’t be all that bad I reasoned, and I readily agreed to abandon the Legion and join him in the pursuit of scientific enlightenment.

We were about to board his unicycle-powered flying machine, when I thought of my goldfish, which I had purchased some months back in a spontaneous burst of responsibility. I had never owned a dog because I knew that I would forget to feed and walk it. I never acquired roommates, because, at some point, I would forget to pay the rent or my half of the cable bill or clean up discarded toenail clippings in the living room. This was also why I was never able to commit to anything beyond dating; marriage was a giant warship of responsibility that I was unwilling to board, much less co-pilot. Fish, however, seemed fairly straightforward; they could be my own small attempt at commitment.

Of course, it had been almost two months since I had abandoned my job and joined the French Foreign Legion. I wasn’t overly familiar with goldfish, but I was reasonably positive that they wouldn’t last that long without food.

As Wittenbaum and I took off from the parking lot of the Ramada Inn, I knew that I wasn’t quite ready to settle down, to fully embrace the routine of leading an average life. I just wasn’t that sort of fellow. It was adventure that I was seeking!

Besides, I could always buy more goldfish.

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Atheist. Provocateur. Eccentric. Foot fetishist. Luis Buñuel was all of these things and more. A Surrealist through and through, Buñuel was able to subvert even mainstream cinema, often working within ridged studio systems to produce films that were still deeply personal, that reflected his own sensibilities as an artist. Buñuel was also a dead-on satirist who crafted some of the most striking, controversial and visually stunning films ever made— a true original that produced images that would become iconoclastic. Who can forget the razor blade slitting the eye of a woman from his first film, Un chien andalou (1929)? His was a single-minded, uncompromised vision, tackling variations on the same themes for over 50 years: the Catholic Church, human desire and bourgeoisie society. He mined these tropes for decades, getting more mileage out of these ideas than most directors could have with dozens more. With The Phantom of Liberty (1974), the second to last film that Buñuel made for retiring for good, everything he had learned as a filmmaker, as satirist, as an artist was applied with truly groundbreaking results.

Perhaps the most subversive, audacious and freewheeling of Buñuel’s films, The Phantom of Liberty is also a movie that echoes the pure surrealism of his earlier works like Un chien andalou and the L’Age d’or (1930) as well as later films, Simon of the Desert (1965) and The Milky Way (1969). All of these films use non-narrative story structure to elaborate their particular scenarios, but it is the The Phantom of Liberty that is the most accomplished, the most daring. The film is structurally complex, revealing layer after layer, a charge of seemingly disparate scenarios that bleed into each other, one after the other. The brilliance of Buñuel’s conceit is that the film feels effortlessly random, truly dream-like (one of the tenants of a true Surrealist film). Unlike other films that claim to be “dream-like”, The Phantom of Liberty actually succeeds at this notion because Buñuel allows the film to give into this structure, or anti-structure, fully.  He uses traditional story genres like the gothic novel, with the more radical impulses of the Surrealists to tear apart both forms, to remake all storytelling in his own vision.

Part of a final trilogy of brilliant films—The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) the other two—The Phantom of Liberty boldly declares that Buñuel would never compromise his vision, even as one of the elder statesman of a movement that ceased to be relevant (he was 74 when he made The Phantom of Liberty). Indeed, these are some of his most pointed, funny and scathing statements on modern life. And with The Phantom of Liberty, Buñuel was returning to, no, embracing his surrealist roots with this film: the essential randomness of the overall structure fell in line with the original mantra of the Surrealists that Buñuel began working with in the 1920s. John Baxter, author of the insightful biography, Buñuel, pulled from Buñuel’s own memoirs in his section on The Phantom of Liberty with this quote: “Chance governs all things. Necessity, which is far from having the same purity, comes only later. If I have a soft spot for one of my movies, it would be for The Phantom of Liberty, because it tries to work out just this theme.”

The Phantom of Liberty is an incendiary work, and, within the film’s non-narrative structure, Buñuel crafted a potent critical analysis of modern morals. This is in no small way related to fact that Buñuel took the film’s title from the opening of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of Communism”), a work that takes critical aim at the establishment of the day. But even more profound, and less literally, Buñuel seems to be saying that society is an irrational, utterly corrupt institution, that it provides the illusion of freedom, of free will, when in fact chance governs all.

The Phantom of Liberty is composed of episodes that seamlessly blend into one another, each one working its way into the next, scenes within scenes, one collapsing into the next. We begin in the Napoleonic Wars and then move into present day via nanny who is reading aloud the prior events from a book on the subject. Characters and situations evolve in what seem like random, disparate events, leaving the viewer to arrive at their own conclusions. There are 72 actors credited in the film, and Buñuel uses the expansive cast to develop a wide-cross section of types. He seems more interested in the type of work a character does, or what stereotype they fall into rather than developing that character, and, in many ways, this works to the film’s advantage. The audience is never able to grasp any underling motivation of the characters, they are more often than not subject to chance in many ways, and again this routes directly back to the main argument of coincidence versus free will. Are the characters simply victims of a cruel universe (or in this case a cruel director) or can they navigate their own destiny? Perhaps they are simply victims of their of desires, lustful or otherwise, trapped in a cycle of self-imposed impulse, much like Fernando Rey’s brilliantly lecherous character in Buñuel’s final film, That Obscure Object of Desire. Trapping his characters in one circumstance or another is nothing new for Buñuel—he has done this many times with amazing results: the party guests who cannot bring themselves to leave the dining room in The Exterminating Angel (1962), or the friends who are endlessly attempting to sit down to dinner but are continually thwarted by one thing or another in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

Buñuel cleverly undermines certain conventions of storytelling, playing with the audiences expectations with often genuinely funny results. In one episode, much is made of a certain French postcard, which we assume to be erotic in nature, but once it is shown turns out to be a completely banal photo of a the country side; in another episode, party guests take their food and eat it in private in the bathroom, while the others sit on toilets instead of chairs at a table full of food which is never eaten.

In many ways The Phantom of Liberty is all about the audience’s expectations and how Buñuel disrupts those assumptions by giving us what is closer to a dream rather than a film in any traditional sense of the word.

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Jayne Mansfield always reminds me of summer, as strange as that sounds. Perhaps it’s all the photos of the smiling, phosphorescent leggy blonde in bikinis, often lounging by a pool, sunning herself, sultry and white-hot in the bright sunlight. Jayne Mansfield is the summer of Americana, of bygone eras that always appear glamorous in photos, always feel nostalgic despite whatever reality they actually inhabited. Vacationers lingering by pools, by lakes; the heady smell of newly cut grass, of hot dogs and hamburgers grilling, of ice cream pops dispensed from musical trucks; lazy days that stretch on and on, skies at dusk fading to a burnt-orange color. All around the sound of kids shouting and laughing, adults drinking and talking until it was dark.

This is the history that is exhumed, minus the racial chasm, the gangsters, the junkies, the crooked politicians, all of the foriegn entanglements—shot through the lens of a movie camera. Mansfield was certainly part of that; the American movie-of-the-mind, a summer drive-in double feature of sand and sun and the and good-looking young men and women dancing to transistor radios blasting static-ridden bubblegum pop.

But then there is the flipside: her often bizzare later career which spawned such tacky treasures as The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield (1968), and her terribly sad death in a car crash that killed nearly everyone aboard. This is the dark side of my associations of Jayne Mansfield. I cannot help but imagine that car accident when I think of Mansfield, the lurid details not only played out in the tabloids, but immortalized in film maker Kenneth Anger’s tell-all book of the dark underbelly of Hollywood, Hollywood Babylon. Much of the book is wholly imagined of course–amplified rumors and innuendo, or out-right lies, but these are the details that stick, the images that remain, the hot-bed of a public’s collective memory. This is the evil twin of the cotton-candy nostalgia: the awful, turgid realities that are twisted and distorted for the bizarre glee of an audience wanting all of the dirt on people who seem larger-than-life.

Still, Mansfield occupied a certain space, along with her “blonde-bombshell” counterpart, Marilyn Monroe, in the American landscape. Monroe mixed sexuality with innocence, but Mansfield was all raw sexuality. She was uninhibited and wild; she held nothing back, or so it seemed. Surely Monroe has posed by enough pools, retained that same sun-kissed glow of summer, but somehow Mansfield has become indelibly linked to all of those thoughts of summer, remaining somewhere in the back of my mind.

She lingers in black and white, sometimes in color, a woman who symbolized a nation’s new-found sexuality, bubbling with optimism, the sun as bright and intense as her short-lived career.

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“So here we are. Out.”

“Don’t make fun.”

“Yes sir…”

“Stop.”

“…out…”

“Stop.”

“What?”

“You know. That tone. That look.”

“I’m simply commenting. I mean, this is what everyone is talking about. The food prepared in picturesque portions, like the photos of meals in Gourmet magazine; the lights craftily placed about the room, as to create an atmosphere of cinematic reality. People laughing, drinking, conspiring…”

“Don’t be a jerk.”

“So this is out. I’m unimpressed.”

“Do we always have to be in? We’re always in. Work and home. That’s it. People are living in random and wonderful ways. Spontaneous ideas that disgorge them from their daily routines. People not afraid to revel in the unknown, in the benifits of unplanned travel. Backpacks carried. Shoes worn. Ideas mapped. We have no ideas.”

Somewhere, a plate falls to the floor.

“What’s so awful about being in, anyway? I think being out is overrated. When you’re in there are no variables only constants. You can relax. Take off your pants if you want. You can dribble on your shirt and read obscure 18th century books on botany without ridicule. You can imagine a young woman, a Victorian train passenger, crossing her legs from left to right, traveling across the English countryside while humming the lines from the St. Swithen’s Day nursery rhyme to herself; softly, sweetly. Eat a salad without utensils. You can sit and smolder. You don’t have to form complete and articulate sentences…”

“This is you being articulate? You’re rambling if you ask me.”

“Bahwk…”

“Forget it.”

A few seconds pass.

“You weren’t always so anti-social? You weren’t always like this, were you?”

“Fwah…”

“Jackass.”

“Scheeeeeewp…”

A few more seconds pass.

“So here we are.”

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Dick Powell is a glutton for punishment. More specifically, Powell’s Philip Marlowe is a glutton for punishment. In the 1944 film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farwell, My Lovely, renamed Murder, My Sweet, Dick Powell played the part of the famous private detective as if it might be the last acting gig he ever got. He is funny, strangely charming, clumsy and a joy to watch even as he’s repeatedly beaten over the head, drugged, tossed in an insane asylum, and temporarily blinded by gunshot fire. Powell doesn’t simply play Marlowe as the typical tough-guy detective—there was always more to Chandler’s character than that—his version is fully formed; vulnerable, really vulnerable, which makes him more likeable, certainly more sympathetic. Much of the unintended glee in watching this film are Marlowe’s dealings with the somewhat sociopathic nitwit, Moose Malloy played deftly by Mike Mazurki. Moose is all blunt, dumb menace and is constantly annoyed by the wise-cracking Marlowe; his first instinct always violence.  As twisted as the plot can sometimes become, the interplay between these two actors helps to ground the film.

Many consider Humphrey Bogart’s take on the seminal literary figure in Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep to be the best rendition of Marlowe (Elliott Gould’s turn as Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is certainly odd, not bad, just odd), but Dick Powell is my personal favorite; his reverence for the hardboiled dialogue comes through in every scene and really, truly, he looks and acts the part. In my mind, this is Marlowe, sinking into the seedy shadows of old Los Angeles, waiting for the next case to walk through the door.

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The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

 

Barrels of Technicolor blood. Limitless rounds of ammunition. The melodramatic and the absurd. Innocence and clear-eyed reality. All these things run together in the universe that is Brian De Palma’s version of the late 50s TV show, The Untouchables. The violence is graphic, sometimes cartoonishly so, as it always is in a Brian De Palma film—his obvious affection for Italian cinema, especially that of the Giallo genre, bleeds through, gloriously staining his entire visual approach—but it is also operatic and lavish and weirdly seductive, an over-the-top rendition of Prohibition-era America that lives in the other-reality that is the Hollywood Movie. De Palma is clearly swinging for the fences here; he wants to create a film that is larger than life. He is aiming at mythos rather than any sort of historical accuracy (there are plenty of inaccuracies in this film), the myth of not just the gangster in America, but good and evil writ large. It is beautiful and repulsive all at once.

As a gangster film, more specifically a modern gangster film, The Untouchables is certainly different. The film does not focus on the mob life, the trappings of family obligations, of traditions. It does not track the history of any one clan. More to the point, it does not feel like any of the Godfather films, or Goodfellas (1990), or Casino (1995) or even Once Upon A Time in America (1984), which tackles the same era. The Untouchables is cut from the same cloth of the gangster films of the 30s and 40s, and it that respect, it falls more readily in line with the TV show upon which it is partially based. It is a crime film, mixed with adventure elements. And possibly because of this, it is hardly mentioned as a film of merit in this genre when compared to the Godfathers and Goodfellas, which is too bad. Quite possibly, this is one of my favorite films of this particular sub-genre because it feels like such an interesting departure. There are scenes that I never grow tired of, dialogue that still crackles as much as it as it did when I first saw this movie in the theaters.

The Untouchables opens with a roar: Al Capone (Robert De Niro) flippantly declaring to the press that “there is violence in Chicago, but not by me and not by anyone I employee”, juxtaposed with a scene of a little girl and other patrons of a drugstore killed by a bomb meant to send a message to other businesses. We are then introduced to government agent, Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) sent to Chicago to lead the clean-up illegal alcohol activity and its subsequent turf warfare. Ness is clean-cut and wide-eyed; his notions of right and wrong are steadfast, unwavering. He wants to “do some good”, but learns quickly that things are not what they seem, and that even those in the police force may not be trustworthy. Chicago is corrupt from the bottom up, and his mission may be simply be a fool’s errand.

We soon meet the “poor beat-cop” Jimmy Malone, wonderfully played by Sean Connery. Connery’s Malone has seen it all, and had may have once been as clear-eyed and optimistic as Ness, but after years as a cop in Chicago knows the real score, and this is when Ness’ real training in the “Chicago Way” begins.

The rookie cop, George Stone, played by Andy Garcia and the bumbling accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), round out the “Untouchables” and their war against Capone and Chicago corruption is soon underway. No scene is wasted, nothing feels frivolous or belabored, and every frame furthers the steamrolling plot. De Palma deftly cuts together scene after scene, trying to one-up himself as he races toward the finale of the film. The war becomes bloodier and tragedy unfolds at every corner. Even with hyperbolae of some of the situations, De Palma is able to deliver much weight to the deaths of blank and Malone, partly because Mamet has written such likeable characters, but also because their deaths are so horrible particularly that of Malone, which De Palma juxtaposes with the Capone’s attendance of the opera, Pagliacci.

Then there is the infamous train station sequence, the centerpiece and first climax of the film, a stark, blatant homage to Sergei Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps Sequence from his groundbreaking film Battleship Potemkin (1925). Quentin Tarantino may receive plenty of flak for exceeding simple homage, but certainly Brian De Palma is guilty of the same thing with this particular sequence (as well as his take on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup (1966) which became Blow Out (1981) and Dressed to Kill (1980) which is seedy mix of the Giallo genre and Hitchcock films). It’s difficult to say how far is too far when it comes to artistic lifting such as this, but the scene is utterly breathtaking. De Palma is a master of pacing and the train sequence shows this quality in spades.

By the end of the film, Ness is forced to do the one thing that he has railed against. It seems the De Palma is tellling us Ness’ brutal killing of Frank Nitti (Billy Drago), is not only necessary, it is also cathartic. Nitti gets his in the end because he is evil and that is the way a just universe should work, but at what price? By this point, Ness doesn’t seem bothered by killing his enemy as he did previously; violence begets violence, the “Chicago Way” plays itself out.

True, much of the The Untouchables is surface and no substance. De Palma is clearly in love with the clothes and the architecture of the period; there are extreme worm’s-eye-views of the interiors of court buildings, of churches, he relishes shots of mobsters decked out in period-inspired Armani suits. And De Palma does not delve too far into the true motivation of any of the characters. De Niro’s Capone is cartoonish and all flash compared to his nuanced, sometimes tender turn as the young Vito Corleone. De Palma is almost fetishistic about the violence of the film, lingering on shots of blood spreading slowly outwards in all directions, the spray of bullets choreographed in slow motion. Clearly, subtly is not what De Palma is striving for in The Untouchables. It is all blood and thunder. That’s what makes it so thrilling. That’s what makes it endlessly watchable.

And if it is De Palma’s measured vision that makes the film endlessly watchable, then it is David Mamet’s screenplay that makes it endlessly quotable. “You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word”, “You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the “Chicago” way! And that’s how you get Capone”. Although the script lacks much of Mamet’s signature cadence, his character development and deep psychological interspection, you can still you can hear the odd juxtaposition of language that he his is know for (especially in the latter “That’s the Chicago way” speech). There has been much made about De Palma ‘s and producer Art Linson pulling apart of Mamet’s original script, so it is hard to say what exactly remained in tact, and how much of Mamet’s story was altered (much of the train sequence was De Palma’s idea), but it is hard to dispute the sheer excitement of the hearing dialogue delivered; it staggers and pitches, deploying period slang as readily as a gangster unloads his weapon.

Of course, the third part of the holy trinity that came together to make The Untouchables, was without a doubt composer Ennio Morricone. Morricone produces one of his most memorable scores, and, in large part, is one of the driving forces of the film. From the opening theme, Morricone is setting the relentless pace of the rest of the film, mixing elements of pop, classical and period influences, he creates a score that doesn’t exactly represent the period in which it was set, but presents something that is boldly out of time, and arguably iconoclastic. You know a Morricone score when you hear one, and you know that you are watching The Untouchables with this particular score: the two are so inexorably intertwined with one another.

The Untouchables ends on a sober note to be sure: half of the squad dead, a trail of slain mobsters left behind, Ness thinking back upon the past events and remarking, “so much violence”. Of course this is more of a comment on the film itself rather than any real summary of the era; De Palma is utterly complicit in the filmic carnage, and in some ways might relish it. With The Untouchables he is out to create larger than life characters whose only recourse begins and ends with violence. De Palma wants to add a chapter to the myth, not record an historical document; even the truth in this case is almost too banal for a Hollywood movie.

 

 



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1 out of 4 Americans believe something bad will happen to them if they sneeze.

4 out of 5 doctors recommend eating a diet low in carbs, high in bran and Styrofoam, extremely low in grass-roots organizing and middle of the range in tofu that resembles the President of the United States.

Percentage of Americans who favor the white candies in a box of Good ‘N Plenty over the pinks: 60%. Percentage who favor the pink over the whites: 30%. Percentage that have combined the pink and whites into one super candy in their basement laboratories: 10%.

According to 8 out of 10 marriage counselors, the best way to avoid loneliness is to marry someone who shares your fear of loneliness. Divorce is statically unavoidable in these situations, about 1.6 trillion to one, but at least you can say that you were married once.

Percentage of Americans who can engage in a meaningful conversation regarding the fact that the space/time continuum is currently caught in an endless loop: 7%. Percentage of Americans who can engage in a meaningful conversation regarding the fact that the space/time continuum is currently caught in an endless loop: 7%.

Rank of injuries―fork plunged into hand, hot coffee thrown in face, nagging feeling that you’ve “made a mistake” which over several years develops into a crippling feeling of regret―among those sustained after ending a long relationship with the following sentences: “I love you, I’m just not in love with you.”, “I guess I was never really in love with you after all, it was just bad indigestion.” and “I’ve been transferred to Siberia.” while sitting in a booth at a crowded Bob’s Big Boy: 1, 2, 3.

Number of scientists surveyed at the annual Science Extravaganza in Cannes, France who agree that dinosaurs did not die out 65 million years ago, but actually retired, migrated from the Earth in extra-large Winnebagos and are now living in spacious assisted living communities on Mars: 100 out of 100.

Half of all movie stars who make over five million dollars per picture report that they are not satisfied with their lives and believe that Llamas are happier, more productive individuals; except, of course, Julia Roberts, who recently announced in a press conference that she is in fact a Llama pretending to be a movie star.

At one time 85% of physicians in this country concurred that swimming on a full stomach was dangerous. This conclusion was then revised; 90% of physicians advising people to swim on a full stomach. More recently however, 79% of physicians strongly recommend that you eat a full meal, begin swimming and then induce vomiting while swimming, especially if you are in a pool belonging to a neighbor that you despise.

Nearly 57 % of all urban legends are completely untrue. The rest have some basis in fact. And, by the way, that phone call you received a couple of minutes ago advising you to “check on the children”, it was coming from inside your house! Get out, get out of there NOW!

Number of times that Dick Clark’s clone has hosted “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve” since Dick Clark’s death: 12

Approximately 1/2 of all Americans over the age of thirty still believe in the boogeyman, while 3/4 of American children under the age of 12 no longer believe that the Dollar can compete against the Yen.

9 out of 10 survival experts polled suggest that if you’re on a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest and are approached by Bigfoot, that you not run, or act erratically. Rather, you should remain calm and consume a standard automotive spark plug. If none are available, redirect your stated goals in life to include more interaction with those you loathe/pity/desire. Play hopscotch. Bathe in pickled herring. The latter options will also work in the event that you are approached by the Loch Ness Monster or any reality TV star.

96% of people surveyed agree that you should never look a gift horse in the mouth because they’re liable to bite your face off.

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