Friday, October 7, 2011

Roland Saint-Laurent Vs. The Spanish Language, Take 27

Spanish has always been a language that has confounded and tormented me. Throughout my life, it’s always been there, creeping on me and laughing in my face. My dad’s Mexican, with English as his second language. Half of my family is Mexican and speaks Spanish, with a large number of them completely monolingual in Spanish. For whatever reason, none of them ever saw fit to speak to me exclusively in Spanish, at least to the point where I’d gain some basic, rudimentary understanding of the language. Therefore, when I took my first Spanish class in high school, I was diving in fresh, the same as the Chinese kids who were in there. The only things I retained from that class were a stupid rhyme we did to practice vowels, the alphabet, some numbers, and the memory of seeing my alcoholic Spanish teacher pouring a clear liquid from one container into his bottle of orange juice.

The next time I took Spanish was a couple years later at a community college. It was a summer class and was four hours per day, due to the shortened schedule. Aside from learning the basics in that class, one of the biggest memories I have is how immature everyone was there. The students seemed to be in that middle period, where they still have that high school attitude but are transitioning into college douchebags. In addition to hearing a rock en español Smiths cover, my biggest memory is of doing my final presentation on lucha libre and showing a clip from a Santo movie as a demonstration of Mexican wrestling excellence.

All this time I was still kind of half-assing it. I took Spanish 2 during another semester, and that’s when I really started learning the language. I like to think of this as the peak of my Spanish learning life, because not only was I learning more of the structure of the language, but I was also trying really hard at this point, and even had small conversations with coworkers. I was rocking some flashcards, writing translations to ridiculous sentences I could think up, and was basically ramming information into my head. Most of what I maintained was from those classes and that period of time, and a lot of it stuck with me, even when I abandoned Spanish and plunged head-on into French.

The last proper Spanish class I took was probably ten years ago, but in the time since then I’ve listened to audio courses and have done some independent learning. I can understand a decent amount of spoken Spanish, but if I didn’t stop, I don’t have any doubt that I’d be fluent by now. I don’t regret learning French, but I do regret not at least making a consistent, daily effort to learn at least one new thing in Spanish every day. Those days would add up and I’d be in a much better position than I am now.

My goal is to be fluent by the end of next year. Even if it doesn’t happen, just trying for it leaves me in a better position than I’m in now with the language. Right now I’m watching a ton of El Chavo shows because 1) it kicks ass, and 2) it’s Spanish for Spanish speakers and I’m actively trying to understand it because I want to get more of the jokes. I’ve also been listening to the Michel Thomas programs and transcribing the sentences by hand, which has helped me retain them a hell of a lot better than just listening to them. I’m not really interested in going over the grammar books again, but there are a bunch of constructions that I forgot, and I’ll be consulting my Idiots Guide to Intermediate Spanish to brush up on them, especially the conditional and subjunctive. I’m also going to read for pleasure and not try to stop and define every single word. Because I already read the books and know the plots, I’m going to read the Harry Potter series in Spanish. They were an impulse buy years ago, and I’m glad I still have them. Finally, I’m going to read, and re-read, and re-read again my all-time favorite language learning book, Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish. This book is so great that I wish there was a version for French and every other language I’m interested in.

Can I be fluent by the end of next year, or will I puss out again? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Library is Dying


I haven’t posted much here lately about libraries (or much of anything else, to be honest), but some major things have been happening due to the city’s budget being a black hole and services being chopped left and right. Though I’ve stayed fairly optimistic about the matter, I’ve heard that things have gotten to the point that a substantial number of full-time employees are going to get the axe, mainly due to their benefits and higher salaries. If my understanding of matters is correct, that means that part-timers such as myself will be able to keep our jobs, but will more than likely have to take on more responsibilities as resources continue to be stretched thin.

I have tried to be realistic about this instead of bitching about how unfair it is and how the city doesn’t care about the library. If the city doesn’t have money, then there’s really not a whole lot that can be done. At one point the library was a hair away from being outsourced to a private company, which would have meant everyone re-applying for their jobs, more than likely with massive pay cuts. As a city library, there was also the possibility of it being incorporated into the county system, which would definitely have meant people having to take pay cuts (I worked for the county at one point and know how much they pay). That was avoided as well, but the solution we ended up with, the library still being operated by the city but with huge numbers of people losing their jobs, is not really that much better than the other two options. Basically the library had their choice of three terrible options, and either one that they would have picked would have screwed people over.

This may have been avoided, though, if people either knew about it or cared. As employees we were told to keep our mouths shut, since telling patrons about our situation would have been “unethical” and grounds for termination. Thus, the people who in all likelihood could have prevented the library’s budget from getting hacked to shreds, the patrons, were left in the dark about it all, while the library went understaffed and staff members became overworked in the rare occasions that they were called in. They were left to wonder why service at the library got so bad so fast, why desk staff hardly ever got up to help them out, why they were told to do everything themselves, and why policy changes were never followed consistently by staff.

I have not worked at the library for over a month now. Other staff members have had to take on second jobs because they’re not getting the income they need to pay the bills. I even heard a rumor that my boss, the head of the current library that I work at, has also put in applications at other libraries. At my previous branch, we were frequently under the threat of libraries being closed due to budget issues, but at the last minute people like the Friends of the Library would swoop in and save the day. Right now, that’s not something likely to happen.

The people who know me personally know the situation I’m talking about. Anyone else who has come here, either from an outside link or from reading my book, is just as oblivious about my library as our patrons are. I’m writing this not to try to convince people to save my library, but to let people know that libraries as expendable now, and likely to lose funding when a crisis hits. If you use your library or care about libraries, support them. Check out some books, make some donations. With Netflix jacking up their prices, you can always find good new and old movies at your library, typically for free. If you like your local library, tell people and encourage them to go. Let your representatives know that the library is important to you and not easily disposed of. There are real people that will be affected by this, from my friends losing their jobs, to low budget and homeless patrons losing the chance to look for work via our internet service or just escape from reality for a few hours by reading a book for free, not to mention the kids who will no longer have a storytime program to go to. My library may be falling apart, but that doesn’t mean that yours has to as well.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Welcome to Thailand!


In a way that hasn’t happened since I first picked up a France Gall CD and discovered the world of French pop, I have fallen head over heels in love with a new style from another country, but one not as familiar and vastly more difficult to understand. I am officially in love with Thai pop music.

I don’t pretend to know anything about Thai music, only the rudimentary bits that I’ve picked up from online research and reading the liner notes of the CDs I’ve purchased. Unlike French pop, which should be immediately accessible to people who can get past the retarded notion of not wanting to listen to something sung in a foreign language, the Thai pop CDs I’ve purchased definitely have their own unique sound, and the singing does take some getting used to, as it includes yodeling and vocal inflections that you just don’t get in Western music.

As it is, I feel like an asshole referring to it all as “Thai pop,” which I mainly do as a convenient shorthand. Most of what I’ve been listening to is I believe called Luk Thung, and is a mixture of Thai country music styles with American soundtracks and country music. But then when I do further research, I also see some of this stuff referred to as Thai pop, so I don’t feel as bad anymore. Whatever it’s called, the hipper record labels like Sublime Frequencies and Soundway Records have released albums of this stuff, and it has an exotic beauty that’s both hard to describe and even harder for me to resist.

Because of how enthralled I am with this music, I plan on reviewing some of these albums in the future. But for reference, here’s a list of available collections of Thai pop/Luk Thung albums. You should be able to get some of them on Amazon or at your local hip record stores. Brief comments are provided for albums I’ve heard enough to have an opinion on:

Thai Pop Spectacular This is the first Thai pop album I purchased, and the opening track “Roob Lor Thom Pai” by Buppah Saichol is one of the sexiest fucking songs I’ve heard in recent memory. There’s a generous helping of comedy on this album, but songs like the opener, the Onuma Singsiri track that immediately follows, and Chailai Chaiyata’s “Kwuan Tai Duew Luk Puen” make this album an essential purchase.

Siamese Soul - Thai Pop Spectacular 2 A worthy sequel. It took me slightly more time to get into it, but it’s a fantastic album and leaves me hoping Sublime Frequencies puts out a third part sometime soon. The closing track by Ubon Pattana reminds me a lot of the Velvet Underground’s first album.

The Sounds of Siam, Leftfield Luk Thang, Jazz & Malam in Thailand Though I started off with Thai Pop Spectacular and still consider that an excellent disc to start with, this one is much more consistent, has less comedy, and is pretty much incredible the whole way through. Also, it spans more genres and gives you a broader view of Thai music, but with those Western influences we all know and love. You may want to start with this one. Like the poster for Citizen Kane says, “It’s Fantastic!”

Thai Funk Zudrangma Vol 1 & 2 Limited edition CDs that I’ve so far only heard a couple of tracks from, but goddamn are those tracks great. Looking forward to diving into this set soon.

Luk Thung! The Roots of Thai Funk From the same series as the above, this one’s pretty incredible...at least from what I’ve heard so far. I lucked out and got this for a measly $10 at Ameba. It was a used copy, so I guess the buyer wasn’t as impressed by Thai music as I am. I’m most anxious to hear this one next, as the songs I heard rocked my socks off. Too bad the bamboo packaging makes it impossible to put in any CD cabinet you may have.

Thai? Dai! The Heavier Side of the Luk Thung Underground I’ve only heard part of a track from this collection, and it was a riff from Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. Holy shit! If this is a heavy metal variant on Thai music it’s going to make for an interesting listening experience, to say the least.

Shadow Music of Thailand If I remember correctly, shadow music is a genre of Thai music that was heavily influenced by instrumental rock bands. I hope there’s some singing on this collection, but as long as the music’s good and it doesn’t sound too Western, I’ll be happy.

Thai Beat a Go-Go Vol 1-3 I heard these years ago, and while they were enjoyable, they did seem to lean heavily on cover versions of hit songs, and the sound was much more Western than either of the Thai Pop Spectacular CDs or The Sounds of Siam. I’m going to go through these again, and now that my ears are more refined, I’m hoping that they’re more Thai than I remember them being.

Molam: Thai Country Groove From Isan 1 & 2 I own vol. 2 and I had a hell of a time getting into it. Unlike the other CDs I’ve heard, I remember this one being VERY Thai and much more folk than the other volumes. Much like the Thai Pop a Go-Go series, I’m going to re-listen to it along with the first volume and see what I missed the first time around. I briefly listened to one of the tracks from it and it was a lot more rockin’ than I remembered.

Radio Thailand Transmissions from the Tropical Kingdom: I don’t know much about this series, but I believe this these “Radio” discs are put out by Sublime Frequencies and are recordings of actual radio broadcasts, complete with DJs and commercials. I’ll definitely be listening to this one, but my listening preferences for entire songs without filler put this one low on my priority list.

Friday, September 16, 2011

WTF, Roger Ebert?

When I was a teen, I loved the comic book Spawn. So, in 1997, I was excited as fuck to see the film. As I watched it, every ounce of enthusiasm and joy started falling away, and I was shocked at the horrendous piece of shit I just witnessed. The special effects were pretty neat at the time, but I was mainly angry at the obnoxious, unfunny performance of John Leguizamo as the Violator. But I was a teenager then. Maybe now I’ll be less-harsh on it, with lower expectations and coming to it without loving the comic as much as I did. After all, I read Roger Ebert’s review of it, and he gave it his famous “thumbs up.” He called it “an experimental art film.” He praised Leguizamo’s “brilliant comic timing.” He called Spawn “an extraordinary superhero.” So high is his praise, in fact, that this is how he ends his review:

“So the way to view the movie, I think, is to consider the story as the frame--necessary, but upstaged by what it contains, which in this case is some of the most impressive effects I've seen. The disciplines blend into one another: Animation, makeup, costuming, process shots, morphing. They create a place and a look as specific as the places evoked in such films as ``Metropolis'' and ``Blade Runner.'' As a visual experience, ``Spawn'' is unforgettable.”

Wow. That’s some pretty high praise right there. Could I have been wrong? I typically respect Ebert’s reviews, so I checked it out from my library and watched it again.

Nope. It still sucks, and not even in a “I can understand how someone could really like this” way. No, it sucks in a “this is a horrible fucking movie that is impossible to like” way. And the special effects look really fucking bad, though I guess in 97 they might have looked amazing. But seriously...comparing it to Metropolis and Blade Runner? What the fuck? I don’t understand at all why Ebert loved this movie so much, since the plot and acting are fucking terrible. And Leguizamo’s “comic timing” is being overbearing, obnoxious, in-your-face, and making fart jokes. Ebert typically WOULD NOT let this degree of plot and acting slide for any other film. I just don’t fucking get it.

Ebert gave Spawn *** 1/2. That’s half a star shy of PERFECT. To compare, the following films in similar genres are not as good as Spawn, going by Ebert’s rating system:

The Matrix ***
LOTR Fellowship of the Ring ***
LOTR The Two Towers ***
(Only LOTR Return of the King is as good as Spawn, with *** 1/2.)
District 9 ***
Captain America ***
Iron Man ***
Batman **
Batman Returns **
Batman Forever ** 1/2 (no fucking way is the worst Batman film the best one in the original series)
Batman & Robin **
Thor * 1/2
Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan ***
Star Trek (2009) ** 1/2
X-Men ** 1/2
X2: X-Men United ***
X-Men First Class **1/2
Blade ***
Spider-Man **1/2
Brazil ** (I had to include this because WHAT THE FUCK, EBERT??????)
Superman Returns **

All of these films, by any sane viewer, are better than Spawn. Yes, even the shitty Batman movies. In fact, The Matrix, the LOTR trilogy, Iron Man, Batman, Star Trek II, X2, Brazil, and Spider-Man are undeniable classics in this fantasy/adventure genre.

Ebert also gave Cars 2 a ***1/2 rating. I just don’t get it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Defending Annie Hall: Or, Clearing up the 50th Academy Awards for Nerds

Annie Hall was, and is, a better film than Star Wars. This is coming from someone who just “likes” Annie Hall. In terms of enjoyment, I have to say that when I sit down and want to just watch a movie for fun, I’d probably pick Star Wars over Annie Hall because Star Wars is well-done mindless fun. I’d also prefer to relax watching Spider-Man over Citizen Kane, but there’s really no argument over which of those two is the “better” film. Fans tend to ruin fun things, though. A fun space adventure has turned into a weird Ayn Rand-esque cult, even though the entire series consists of two and a half great adventure films, and three and a half unbearable pieces of shit (the half and half is Return of the Jedi, of course). Because of the fanatical attachment that fans have with Star Wars, and because of it’s undeniable influence on pop culture and film, nerds snarl indignantly when they discover that Woody Allen’s romantic comedy Annie Hall beat out their beloved Star Wars for best picture during the 50th Academy Awards. Are you fucking serious?

First of all, this isn’t some bullshit like Dances With Wolves beating Goodfellas. If we were to go back, look at both films and “redo” who wins the Oscar, Annie Hall still wins, easily. In terns of science fiction, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind wins, and it wasn’t even fucking nominated! See, the thing that a lot of tards have a hard time understanding is that there are certain core aspects of a film that determine whether or not it’s a great film. Among the most important are the script, the direction, and the acting. Let’s do a rundown of each, shall we?

The Script

It has been well-established by now that George Lucas lifted pretty much the entire story for Star Wars from such sources as the Hidden Fortress, Dune, and Flash Gordon series. But that’s fine, as long as the dialog is memorable. Star Wars, and every other film in this series, has some of the most cringe-inducing dialog known to film, including such winners as the following:

Darth Vader: I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now *I* am the master.
Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.
[lightsabers clash]

Sure, there’s a few memorable lines, but come on. Is anyone honestly going to say that the writing in this fucking movie is award-winning? It’s also been noted that much of the success of Star Wars came from other people meddling with it and demanding changes. When Lucas got total control over his films, he produced the prequels.

The writing in Annie Hall is smart as fuck, something that grown ups tend to like. There’s smart jokes (“Sylvia Plath - interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality), dumb jokes (the scene with the lobster) and, of course, sex jokes. Most actors would kill to be in a Woody Allen film, and much of his reputation is based on how clever his dialog is. As for the plot, the disjoined story telling was ridiculously inventive and influential for its time, something that few mainstream films had the balls to do. The next huge film to do something like this again was Pulp Fiction.

For the final word on George Lucas as a writer, here’s something Harrison Ford said to George Lucas after going over his dialog: “George, you can write this shit, but you can’t say it.”

The Direction

A lot of what made Star Wars great was the contributions from other people, contributions that did get recognition by the Academy. John Williams’ amazing score contributed so much to the film that it easily beat out his main competition...John Williams’ score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Star Wars also won for sound mixing, art direction, visual effects, and film editing, all categories that this film excelled in. Hell, if anything it got robbed for not even being nominated for best cinematography, but that’s neither here nor there. Star Wars is a movie you experience, and many of the key players in that experience did get the recognition they deserved. Lucas did a competent job directing the film, but still, a lot of those memorable scenes were taken from other sources. Those amazing space battles were taken from WW2 footage of dogfights. Much of the pageantry surrounding the Storm Troopers and Darth Vader were taken from Triumph of the Will. The lightsaber battles from samurai fights. Now, discrediting this would be like saying that Quentin Tarantino never deserved an award for his film, but we all know that Quentin actually knows how to work with actors, write a script, and come up with multiple creative ways to film a scene. Lucas’ previous film, American Graffiti, was a hit because of a script that he didn’t write, and his first film, THX 1138, was a boring, cold failure that hardly anyone likes. George Lucas as a director peaked with Star Wars, and really, what made that film so good was how outsiders tampered with his vision and used it as a springboard to be creative.

Woody Allen is a fucking movie-making machine, pumping out films every goddamn year. He’s done slapstick, romantic comedies, and dramas, and they all have that distinct Woody Allen stamp on them. You know when you’re watching a film of his, because his voice is that distinct. A lot of what’s great about his films comes from the writing, but his direction has always been top-notch as well. It might not be as exciting and flashy as Star Wars, but for what he sets out to achieve in his films, it works beautifully. There’s an intimacy you get with his films, and what makes Annie Hall so great is how he constantly involves the audience as being a part of what’s going on. The disjointed structure of the film also arguably turns the viewer into a character of sorts in this film, almost like Allen’s therapist. It’s ambitious, funny, and created the modern romantic comedy. And it’s a Woody Allen film.

The Acting

Star Wars has two good actors in it, and a great villain whose performance boils down to walking around like a scary man and having his lines overdubbed to sound menacing. Alec Guinness did a great job as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Harrison Ford was fantastic as Han Solo. Everyone else? FUCKING CARDBOARD. Another great Harrison Ford knock against this goddamn franchise was when, during an interview, he was asked if he’d ever play Han Solo again and he flat-out said “no,” but said he’d play Indiana Jones again in a heartbeat. Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

As for Annie Hall, yeah yeah yeah, Woody Allen only plays one character, but so do most actors, and it works in this film. Diane Keaton did such a good job in this film that she’s been destined to play the same goddamn character in every movie since. Actors love working with Woody, and he gets some damn fine performances from everyone, from the main cast to the supporting players. Much of what makes Annie Hall work has to do with how the characters interact with each other, and with the audience. Comedy’s a tough thing to pull off, and only good actors can do clever dialog. Overall, the people in Annie Hall seem real. You can relate to what’s going on, and their characterization is strong enough that, while there are some neat tricks with the timeline and random cute gimmicks going on, nothing seems superfluous. It all fits. Give these characters wooden actors and the whole fucking thing crumbles apart.

In conclusion, I’d like to state once again that I really liked the first two Star Wars films, and think that Jedi had potential to be as good. Those first two films are masterpieces of escapism, only surpassed by Peter Jackson’s excellent work on the Lord of the Rings films. But Annie Hall was the better film. Better written, better acted, better directed, and arguably just as influential. And I don’t care how many “Woody Allen is a pervert!!! LOL” arguments you make, nothing he’s ever done, either in film or in his personal life, has ever been as bad as the fucking Star Wars prequels.

The end.

Monday, February 28, 2011

My Short Life as a Hot Dog Vender

After the routine of going to school ended for me in 1998, I was hit with the realization that it was time to get a job. That prospect scared the shit out of me, but I went ahead and started putting in applications. I only remember a few places that I applied to at the time, but to give you an idea as to what was going through my head, one of them was Del Taco, another was one of those video stores that they used to have in various supermarkets (not a small wall of movies and a counter, but a full-on video store within the store, only slightly smaller than a stand-alone), and another was Hollywood Video. The last place I remember applying to was Wienerschnitzel. Unlike most people I know, I love eating at this place and have never once considered it anything other than delicious. The location I applied to was fairly close to my house, but was in a rather shady area. It was located next to the Home Depot and the Spearmint Rhino strip joint. Across the street were another couple of strip joints, one proudly proclaiming that it was an “Adult Book Store” (a girl in a creative writing fiction class that I took the next year worked at this strip joint, and I was shocked at how unexaggerated she looked). I was interviewed by the owner, who was a fat, gray-haired man that owned classic cars. Much to my surprised, I got a call shortly after the interview and was offered the job. I would be starting on a Sunday and then work various nights throughout the week. I was thrilled.

Before starting on this grand adventure I was given a purple t-shirt, a visor, and a videotape that was supposed to train me on the basics. The video was filled with “humor” and had an actor playing an asshole and the other actor playing a dimwit. I’m assuming this was done to make the training part simplified to such an extent that even an idiot could understand it. It was actually pretty charming in its own condescending way. When I started my first shift I was greeted by a woman who was going to start training me. She appeared to be in her late 20’s/early 30’s and constantly talked about certain things “selling like hotcakes.” She showed me how to wash the pots and pans in the back, where things were located in the gigantic freezer, and how to make the chili.

To make the chili, you grab a giant pot and unload a can of “chili sauce” into it. You then grab the frozen unsold hamburger patties from the previous night and start cutting them up with a large flat blade. Dump the old meat into the pot, add some water, and then stir the living shit out of it. Once everything is mixed together you place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top and drag it into the freezer. Surprisingly, this did not kill my appetite for their chili.

The scariest thing that I had to do, and I believe I only did it two times, was dumping out the hot fry oil. We had to carry the container over to the dumpster outside and tip it over to start pouring the oil into the dumpster, without getting burned by either the bottom of the container or by any of the oil potentially splashing on you. This was the only aspect of the job that terrified me, because I’m a pussy when it comes to getting burned by hot oil.

On my first day I got hit with the afternoon rush, and had to make over twenty chili dogs for a single customer. Since I was just learning how to do this shit, it was a pain in the ass. During the rush I remember dropping the tongs and not having the time to wash them due to the rush. The chili dogs were easy to make, and it took a short amount of time to learn the ropes of caramelizing buns, cooking burger patties, and preparing the chili. In those brief moments when it wasn’t busy I was told to make a few extra chili dogs and leave them wrapped and sitting under a heat lamp. Also, there was an area above the grill which was filled with steam to keep the hotdogs and hamburger patties hot. This steam burned my hand almost everytime I had to reach into it. At the end of my shift, because of how hectic the pace got, I accidentally spilled chili on my thumb and scalded the shit out of it. It was shockingly painful and I had to spend the next several hours at home with my thumb soaking in a cup of cold milk. So went my first day at my new job.

The next few days at work were less frantic but still unappealing. There was another manager who came in and was incredibly rude to me. She had a Deliverance face and breasts so large that it looked like she stuffed two footballs under her shirt. In fact, one skeezy guy called me over when this woman went to the back and said “she’s got big tits, huh?” That encounter was my first interaction with a patron, and 13 years later I have to say that very little has changed. That night ended with me seeing a mouse hauling ass between the seats, and I finally decided that I didn’t want to be there anymore. I asked the rude woman if it were at all possible to change my shift to mornings or afternoons, and her response was something along the line of, “you were hired to work nights, and if you don’t want to work nights, then tough.”

The cherry on top of it all was on another day when I bent down to grab a tray of buns and the back of my pants just ripped open in front of two female coworkers, one of them being the nice woman who trained me and the other being a classless girl with a face riddled with zits. Prior to this happening the zitty girl was doing a happy dance because she had the weekend off and her boyfriend was coming over to bang her. I was told to just go home for the rest of my shift and come in the next day. After three short weeks at this place, I decided that the world of fast food wasn’t for me. Maybe it was because I was a lightweight, but the job just defeated me. I called in and told the manager that I was quitting. After the expected “why are you leaving us?” conversation I was told to come in a couple days later to pick up my check from the owner and drop off my shirt and visor.

When I went in the owner went about everything like it was your average, everyday occurrence, which it was. He barely said a word to me and just wrote out my check, which turned out to be a pain in the ass to cash because it was a personal check and I had to go to some random Asian bank to get it cashed. The zitty girl who was so excited about getting boned gave me one of the meanest looks I’ve ever seen and let me know that because of me quitting she now had to work my weekend shift. I left Wienerschnitzel feeling a little relieved but at the same time disappointed that it took under a month to break me. It would be another month or so before I got a much better but also short-lived job at the post office, sorting packages by zipcode. It was seasonal work, so I didn’t feel like such a failure when that job ended.

I don’t know what happened to anyone who worked at this place after I left, but it’s gone now. A few years ago it was converted into a Starbucks, which for some reason seems out of place in this location. I looked up the owner online a bit ago, and found absolutely nothing. I’m guessing he’s no longer in the hotdog business and is content driving his classic cars and cheating on his wife. I, on the other hand, have not worked in fast food ever since, but I still eat at Wienerschnitzel on occasion and love it, despite knowing better.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Partial Victory!

Awhile back (actually May 13, 2008) I wrote a blog post asking people to go to the Turner Classic Movies website and vote for five unavailable Tennessee Williams film adaptations to be released on DVD. After voting for them over and over again, I gave up hope and resigned myself to taping showings of these films once they aired on TCM. I have seen all five movies now, and have enjoyed them to varying extents (even a shitty Williams film can’t be too bad due to his dialog), but I honestly haven’t thought about these films since getting my own copies to watch. Imagine my surprise when I went on Amazon to look up Tennessee Williams stuff and found out that two of these films were FINALLY available on DVD! That’s right, the 1961 adaptation of Summer & Smoke and Sidney Lumet’s gloriously trashy Last of the Mobile Hot Shots are now available to purchase, each being released last year. I placed my order today and am waiting with baited breath to crack these bad boys open.

Summer & Smoke was released by some company called Olive Films, and is in widescreen format. No extras are included and the cover art kinda blows, but who gives a shit? You can own it now! All of the flowery dialog and sticky sexuality is back! As for Last of the Mobile Hot Shots, this was released via that new “on demand” thing that I’ve seen on Amazon, where basically they don’t make a copy of the film until it’s ordered. Even though the price is pretty steep ($27 new, but I got mine for $13 used), it’s a fantastic idea for these kind of obscure films. Seriously, hardly anyone even knows this movie exists, but there is money to be made by catering to film snobs or those with ultra-obscure tastes by doing it on demand. I’m fucking thrilled that I can now own a copy of a movie that I’d probably never get a copy of otherwise.

By the way, when I wrote my last blog I hadn’t seen Last of the Mobile Hot Shots and had no idea why it was rated X. After watching it I can now say that the X rating is due to seeing a black lady’s tit, some cross dressing, and the implication that a white woman is going to have sex with a black man. Pretty fucking weak shit for an X rating, but that’s how things worked back then. Bring this film to the MPAA now and it’d get a PG-13 rating at most. Regardless, I really liked this movie, and have incorporated a quote from it into my love life (the line “we’re going to make that bed beg for mercy” or something to that extent).

Unfortunately, The 1950 version of The Glass Menagerie, Period of Adjustment, and Boom! are still unavailable. To that I have to say...you’ve gotta be shitting me. It’s Tennessee William’s 100th birthday this year, for Christ’s sake! Release the goddamn films on DVD already. MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

Friday, January 28, 2011

6 Reasons Why Kindergarten Was Fucking Awesome

School life seems to go through a U-shaped development...or rather, a backwards J. Elementary school is typically the best time you're going to have in your free, public school education, junior high is a nightmare world of goblins and hormones, and high school is when things either improve or at least aren't as shitty as they were in junior high. With that in mind, I'm going to write this under the assumption that your peak enjoyment of school starts right off the bat in Kindergarten, and here are my reasons:

1. You can piss in your pants and it’s still OK.

This is the last time you will ever get away with peeing in your pants in school. Granted, other kids will laugh at you, but teachers will give you a little more leeway than they would in, say, 3rd grade. There's still the assumption that school is a new experience, and therefore accidents will happen. If you've been at it for a few years and you're still pissing in your pants, you're going to get some concerned looks and possibly a trip to the school shrink. Full disclosure: I never peed my pants in school, but a classmate did and we all got a good laugh out of it.

2. You get to watch cartoons of tall tales like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed.

American folktales are part of our heritage, and it is your duty as an American child to know who Pecos Bill, John Henry, and all these other people are. Well, not really, but teachers think you should know, and Disney cartoons of these figures were a staple of my Kindergarten experience because these figures are “important” and this therefore the cartoons were "educational". You also get to watch shit like "Ben and Me," which taught me the valuable lesson that if you're small and have little power, all of your ideas will be stolen by someone bigger with more influence.

3. Your teachers won’t scold you for scribbling when you’re coloring something. In fact, in some instances scribbling is encouraged.

The shrill cries of "STAY INSIDE THE LINES!!!" are less shrill at this point in your education, since teachers rightfully see you as barely able to walk without knocking things over, let alone hold a crayon straight.

4. Expectations in kindergarten are so ridiculously low that this is the only point in your educational life where it’s impossible to fuck up and be held back.

Everything you learn is so basic that you've already gone over it numerous times on Sesame Street. The main point of kindergarten, especially for those who never went to preschool, is to get kids adjusted to being away from home for several hours at a time, and getting used to the routine that's going to dominate the remainder of their lives. Also, the fun to work ratio is ridiculously skewed to the "fun" side, and that will change exponentially with each grade they move up.

5. Almost every new thing you get introduced to is amazing.

I remember nearly bursting with excitement the first time I saw a cornucopia, or a diorama. We read books like How the Spider Saved Halloween and they were awesome. People came to class in costumes to teach us neat shit about history. We even had a guy dressed up as an Indian come in and tell us about corn and shit. All the things that become "lame" as you age are mind-blowing when you're a kid.

6. If you have a really cool book filled with pictures of dinosaurs, you automatically become cool by default.

OK, so this one's a bit specific, but it still holds. I had a big dinosaur book that I brought to school one time. It was thick and had a ton of pictures of dinosaurs. As soon as I opened it up, it was like the Popularity Fairy sprinkled its dust on me, because people gravitated towards me to look at the book and became friends. This teaches you a lesson that you keep for the remainder of your life, for better or worse: owning nice things makes you a more important person. The first kid who had Super Mario Bros 3 suddenly had more friends wanting to go to his house. This creates happy little capitalists who high-five each other over their iPads and brag over the superiority of their cars. Wait a minute...maybe this isn't such a great thing about kindergarten. But still, my dinosaur book is better than yours.