A GRANDE-SIZED CONFESSION

September 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s time to come clean.

I’m sitting here, at this table, in this public place, and I’m embarrassed.

Okay, it’s not exactly a public place, although I am currently in public. It’s a Starbucks, people.

After all the railing I’ve done against corporations, it is slightly humiliating to admit that I do, from time to time, frequent what my Australian friends sometimes call ‘Starfucks’ coffee houses. The competing small business across the street decided some time back to get tough on stragglers with their laptops who would sit for days on end, neither sleeping nor washing, as they sucked all the electrical juice that estabishment had to offer. At some point the power outlets were mysteriously covered over, so now when my Mac is running low on gas I’m forced to come to my local Bucks of the Star variety, if you will.

But that’s not the cause of my shame, not completely. What did it was my involuntary ordering of a ‘grande’ coffee.

I’ve always prided myself on being a ‘medium’ kind of guy, even though that word was deemed off-limits a generation ago, replaced in most situations by ‘regular’, a word with which I don’t have too much of a problem as long as it’s not describing me. Most corporate behemoths have also banished the categorization of ‘small’, as well. The sizes of soda and popcorn at most cineplexes now are regular, regular, regular or massive. I usually order the smallest regular, which looks like it’s the same size as the massive, which can be obtained for an extra four cents.

So medium is now just regular and small is non-existent or, in Starfucks case, it has become ‘tall’. Why is it that the only size described in English is small? Is that all Americans can handle in their own language? Did someone in the board meeting say, “I think once these coffee sizes start expanding and the prices go beyond fifty bucks a cup, we’re gonna need a different language.” Did they explore different options? My choice would have been Russian: “I’ll have a среда iced mocha hold the whipped and two большой pumpkin frozen alpacinos please.” Much more fun.

So that’s out of the way. Starfucks got me to speak in its frightening price-gouging, quasi-European tongue.

But there are other offences. I like Slurpees from 7-eleven. My weakness bleeds profusely from a gaping wound in my psyche. I can’t resist, the way the Coke starts off frozen and then transforms into tooth-rotting liquid form by the time I work my way to the bottom. The scoop-straw is an invention that would have made Edison quake. I even have a term for my addiction, and it’s disgusting: Getting my slurp on. Victoria has begged me to stop using it.

Of course there are other examples but in the interests of brevity and maintaining my loyal readership I will cease and desist. I hope you, dear readers, continue to view me as the indomitable anti-corporate warrior that I am. I still feel that my many abstinences and resistances more than make up for the occasional patronage of these mass-purveyors of junk. But, in the end, you will be the judge.

Be kind.

Picture : A postmodern innovation that has transformed so many of our lives.

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THE CLEANSE PARTS IV & V : THE LONG SHOWER

August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some might say that concluding a five-part series on my experiences of a five-day cleanse that ended before the third sun had risen may be a trifle redundant.

I would agree wholeheartedly, which is one of the reasons why Parts IV & V arrive together- I simply had nothing valuable or even interesting to say on the third day, certainly not while in the act of stuffing myself. I also allow myself the same license that recent filmmakers have taken; didn’t they shoot all three Lord of the Rings films together? Doesn’t the same go for the second and third installments of the Matrix trilogy? Yes, they were in fact two different movies- in the second, Neo fights Agent Smith. In the third, Neo fights Agent Smith in the rain. A stunning innovation.

I suppose I’m required to say something of food and cleanses at this point, by way of tethering this blog, however feebly, to the first three chapters of the series, but as someone who didn’t finish what they started, let’s face it,  I’m an impostor.

Cleanses are cool. Juice is fun.

Okay, that was Part IV. Now for the finale.

V

Here are my nominees for the Most In Need Of A Cleanse award for this week:

Barack Obama. Actually a firehose-powered shower might be closer to the mark. Another capitulation dressed up as ‘compromise’. Sorry, remind me what the Democrats got in this deal? Obama continues to look like either a timid and naive fool (as evidenced by the replaying all over the media of his press conference last year where he said, in response to being challenged on his self-imposed weak negotiating position in advance of the upcoming debt ceiling fight, that he would take the new leader of the House, John Boehner, at his word that he wouldn’t hold the country hostage over raising the ceiling – whoops) or a cynical politician who is quite happy to embrace Republican policies if it means winning another election, a calculation that may well blow up in his face anyway.

The ‘Impartial’ Beltway Media

I nearly totalled my car on Friday when I heard an NPR reporter (aren’t they supposed to be smart and.. a little bit truthful?) say that the stalled negotiations were due to a unwillingnes to compromise. Excuse me? If only that were true. Thankfully for her, I can’t recall this reporter’s name but it seems that, if her comment is anything to go by, this dishonest hack’s idea of a Democratic compromise would mean a return to institutionalized slavery and Rush Limbaugh taking over as chairman of the DNC. Add water and repeat for the rest of the corporate media who trade reality and integrity for ‘balance’.

People Who Fail To Finish What They Start (or, to be more specific, Me)

I’m embarrassed. Like our President, I capitulated. Like our President, I sold out to avoid discomfort. Like our President, I’ve left my supporters feeling angry, cheated, let down, deceived. Luckily, the sun rises and we get another chance to move forward, to grow, to be the best we can be, to be true to ourselves and our deepest principles.

But not tonight. I’m taking a long shower with Barack, and it might take a while to wash the shame away.

Picture : Our impostor-in-chief.

PART II : AIDED BY JOHNNY & ANGELINA

August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

On Day 1 of a juice cleanse (or any cleanse for that matter), watch The Tourist.

The benefits far outweigh the cost.

Any growing appetite you may have will quickly evaporate upon watching this stupefying piece of celluloid offal. In fact, the urge to send whatever is left in your stomach in an upward direction may be overwhelming.

I write this at twilight on Day 2. We just finished playing a game popular with World War 2 soldiers adrift on rafts with no supplies, that of discussing one’s favourite meals. Those guys had it easy; they had no choice but to starve. We, on the other hand, live agonizingly close to:

7-Eleven :  The word slurpee has never sounded so appealing. Even the blue one, whipped up by old, monocle-adorned, secretive Austrian men in a lab in New Jersey.

Wok To Go : Our local Chinese eatery. Their Kung Pao chicken now having the same effect on my psyche as Miss Kenway’s sheer, translucent skirt in fifth period History, circa 1987. Everything from ancient Greece through to the Russian Revolution is a blur.

Western Bagels : I didn’t realize there were so many other Jews in LA. I only wish, for the sake of my own advancement, that there were more in the entertainment industry with any influence. But the rye bagels here are so good I almost forget my feelings of religious isolation.

Sushi joint (can’t remember the name) : The woman at the host stand (could be the owner) is kind of snarly. What is her problem? All I said was that between her restaurant, the aforementioned Chinese place next door and the Kung fu Dojo on the other side,  all we needed was a dry cleaners and “it’ll be yellow fever around here”. But meant as a compliment, because as I then told her, “you little buggers are so industrious.” My spicy tuna roll has never tasted quite the same since.

Albertsons  :  Yesterday I railed against these corporate behemoths. Sorry, guys. I was out of line. Now ring up my goddamned steroid-laced, factory-tortured roast chicken and shut your mouths.

Dell Taco  :  There’s a young lady who works at this fine purveyor of authentic Mexican cuisine who knows me. It’s always a lovely feeling to be able to have a place where everyone knows your name, where I can march in and announce “the usual”. This lovely young slave labourer is my Sam Malone, my free psychiatrist. I pour my heart out to her as she gathers my large french fries and regular coke. We share knowing glances at the foolishness of the drive-by customers – “yes sir, of course our beef is made up entirely of cowmeat and meets FDA regulations.”

Alas, none of  those houses of ill repute will garner a dime from me this evening. Why would they, when we have, in our trusty refridgerator, all the fricken kale and beets we can drink?

 

Picture:  Nirvana.

 

 

 

 

MY ROSS MOMENT

June 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

This one’s tricky, folks, because in order to write this post today I have to admit that recently I went to Ross.

Alright. Fine. Have it your way.

Recently I went to Ross.

If you’re not familiar with that company, allow me to enlighten.

Ross is a nation-wide department store specializing in “designer, brand-name apparel” for humans of all sizes, sexes (right now we only know of two but I’m keeping my options open for fear of offending) and moods, usually leaning toward the depressed. Their devastatingly persuasive slogan is “Dress For Less”.

It all hinges on how you define “less”, doesn’t it? But we’ll get to that.

Ross department stores garnered revenues in 2010 of over seven billion dollars. Now, I didn’t know that at the time but I was aware of the company’s success, noting the presence of their gilded ivory cathedrals in strip malls across this great corporation posing as a country called the United States. With that in mind, I fully expected not only superb service provided by beaming sales associates, giddy over the latest upgrade in their flush benefits packages and competitive living wage but also magnificent, finely appointed aisles of quality product at delightfully low prices.

Man, was I in for a surprise. It didn’t quite live up to expectations but then again, hey, I was at the Burbank store and maybe this particular one wasn’t meeting Ross’s lofty standards. This column should sort that out. I can almost hear the Ross quality-control men in black getting in their unmarked cars and speeding off, chattering into their earpieces about how they’re going to clean things up over there.

But let’s return to the past. I opened the door to my local Ross with a plan. I needed a cheap pair of trousers (do I look old in that word?), some dress shirts and a couple of ties. A simple objective. I figured I’d be in and out in fifteen minutes, twenty tops.

I now know what it’s like to do time. I emerged from the store around midnight, having arrived there just as the sun had passed its apex.

The first thing you need to know is that I found what I needed downstairs in menswear almost instantly. Two shirts, one blue and one white. Red tie. Reduced Calvin Klein undershirts (you may not be able to see the label when I’m wearing them but I’ll know). One pair of grey pants (just as I suspected – trousers does sound better). I had also grabbed a set of puce-colored place mats, a Scott Baio coffee mug and a bouquet of plastic flowers attached to a vase with Michael Dukakis’ face on it but decided at the last minute I could come back for them tomorrow- this was all starting to add up and I only had twenty bucks to spend.

It was at that point that I started to notice that the store was, well… a little understaffed. Except for the security detail: there must have been thirty of these uniformed characters, most of whom looking as though they needed a good lie down. But as for floor staff, people who might actually help a customer and not tase them, not a soul. The moment my stomach really plunged was when I saw the queue that had formed leading to a solitary lady behind the register.

As I fell into line behind a blind man carrying seven hawaiian shirts and an Emmanuel Lewis velcro wallet, my hopes were temporarily raised when I heard the security man whisper breathlessly into his 1983 Motorola two-way: “we need backup down here.” I assumed that meant opening another register and, feeling a little more optimistic about my chances of getting back to my car before sundown, I took to examining my fellow customers in line and that’s when I became aware of the commonality that binded all of us, workers and staff alike.

We all did indeed look depressed. Damn it, I felt depressed. The glaring fluorescent lights, the tacky detritus lining the aisles posing as desirable commodities, the slumped workers with countenances devoid of all humour and spontaneity. This wasn’t a retail store; it was a morgue. Dead objects, dead air, lifeless people. Low prices.

It was at this point that I started to think about how much money this company was making (seven billion gross, in case you’d forgotten). Someone was having a gay old time, sipping pina coladas out of crystal champagne saucers on some privately owned tropical island they’d bought from Marlon Brando for a song. Don’t tell me their margins were slim- they were raking in the dough but somehow couldn’t afford to man their registers or throw us an occasional person who might be able to tell us where to find shirts that weren’t hawaiian. I started to feel annoyed and, as the wait time for my solitary check out lady (sorry, “sales associate”) increased, so did my outrage.

It’s at this point that I have to include another factor: I’d initially bought another pair of trousers without trying them on (I know, foolish), having decided to take advantage of the fact that there was no one in line at that particular moment. On my way out of the store and seemingly ahead of schedule, I had taken a detour to the change room to make sure they fit. They didn’t and you can imagine my frustration when, having picked out, tried on and finally chosen this latest pair of trousers, I returned to the register only to find fifteen people in front of me. Committing the classic not-try-before-you-buy retail blunder in the first place, my annoyance with the company and myself began to push the mercury level to dizzy heights.

But, as with all things good and bad, it came to an end. I was on deck and my spirits lifted as the person in front of me left with four large trash-sized bags full of, well, trash and I took my place in front of the beloved check out lady. I told her I needed to purchase these trousers here, and also, I need to return these.

“No returns here. You have to go upstairs.”

….. what?

“Yeah, upstairs. But you can purchase the new trousers there as well.”

Pause. Stunned silence. Murder in my heart. Next choice: tears or rage?

Rage won out, a victory so immediate and complete in its manifestation that it surprised even me. A loud, guttural NO!  let loose. I backed away, as an Elizabethan monolog ensued, a rant against corporate malfeasance, customer neglect and Scott Baio. It continued all the way up the stairs, at which point I stopped, not wanting to disturb the sleep of the staff on the ground floor.

Long story short (as I look at my word count, I realize that this is a lie), I returned my fifteen-dollar trousers and got the hell out of there, vowing never to return until I needed another cheap, disposable item of clothing and was prepared to spend hours of my time obtaining it.

And there’s the rub. While things may appear to be cheap, we might find upon closer inspection that we’re paying for them in other ways. Is a fifteen dollar shirt at Ross really a better deal than buying a more expensive (and presumably higher quality) one somewhere else if it leaves me feeling angry, depressed and neglected, not to mention behind schedule for the rest of my day?

Here’s how you know when you’re handing your money over to a crummy company: the staffing is thin, the people are lifeless and you can only return items in one place. I know corporations are in this to make money but I don’t think it’s naive to expect them to at least pretend to try to make their customers (not to mention their workers) happy. But that might mean they make only 4 billion a year instead of 4 and a half.

At Ross, you might be dressing for less, but the company’s also hiring for less, operating for less and making ever more cash for less at the same time as more and more people, the kind who regularly shop at stores like Ross, attempt to get by with less.

They’ve gotten my last dime. It’s time to upgrade to Target.

Picture  :  A pox on Scott Baio’s house.

INSANITY

June 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Victoria’s looking at the Insanity Workout website; I’ve been thinking about purchasing the DVDs for a while and now she’s curious. But she’s concerned: she doesn’t want rock-hard abs. I guess the term ‘rock-hard’ doesn’t fit as well on women, unless one happens to be talking about a butch lesbian in tight jeans and a biker jacket, or a female professional wrestler. Victoria, as far as I know, is neither.

Slow weekend politically, what with memorial day and all that. But I was relieved to see a lack of jingoistic nationalism on display- oh wait a minute… I’m no longer watching sports. I’m sure there were dozens of the obligatory carbon-spewing flyovers that took place over many of our publicly-funded, privately-profitable stadiums. But here in LA I didn’t notice anything- we went to see Bridesmaids on Friday night and the usher didn’t even ask us all to stand for the anthem before the movie began. Quel relief.

Funny movie, by the way, about two chicks who get very bitchy with each other, with loads of quips and references to fashion, men and relationships. I was surprised to see so many gay men in the audience.

This column has suddenly turned very gay-centric. I didn’t intend that. Hope I’m not offending anybody, whether it be members of the gay and lesbian community or my very large homophobic, anti-gay rights readership. It’s hard, trying to please everyone.

Why do we turn the names of jerks and arch-criminals into acronyms? OBL (Osama Bin Laden), KSM (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) and now DSK (Dominique Strauss Khan). Does anyone else feel weird, when news actors say “KSM has been held for masterminding the deaths of 3,000 Americans”? Isn’t ‘KSM’ some kind of cuddly nickname, better used by his friends and neighbours? These people are not rappers. In 2011 the acronym is now reserved for mass murderers, alleged rapists and any condition affecting the genitalia or anything residing inside or near one’s asshole. Nobody ever has the F (flu), or SPD (split personality disorder) or BC (breast cancer) or RLS (restless leg syndrome which, by the way, is totally real).

Just had a salami sandwich. Not much to it: just three slices of salami between two soft, moist, thick slices of white bread. Delectable. What did people do before the Earl of Sandwich had a brainstorm? Could it be true that no one else, while carving the fatty flesh off a wild boar, ever thought to place it on a piece of recently leavened dough? Actually, cancel my previous statement- that sounds disgusting.

Victoria’s been hounding me about getting a dog. I was about to expound but then I saw the brilliant pun I’d just made. Stay tuned.

Picture:  The King Charles Cavalier, voted World’s Saddest Dog 3 years running.

 

 

 

 

 

TUESDAY TRIFLES : FEAR THE COLON

May 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a busy week news-wise.

I never feel comfortable using “wise” in this fashion. Seems amateurish and inarticulate to me, vocab-wise. But we’ll press on.

CONSIDER IT A DIVORCE

So now the word is Maria leaked the story. I guess leaking is what got Termie in this mess to begin with. Greatest Arnold line in the canon: he shoots a crocodile in the face in Eraser and says, “you’re luggage”. That has nothing to do with the current soap opera playing out. You ever notice that the only people who say “I feel sorry for everyone concerned” are men? I’m not one of them; I don’t feel sorry for Arnold. I do, however, feel sorry for the housekeeper: it was just reported that instead of offering her a post-coital cigarette, Arnold forced her to sit through back-to-back viewings of The Last Action Hero and Junior.

ANOTHER BLOWUP IN ICELAND

Victoria just saw an image of the latest ash cloud erupting in Iceland and said, “cool”. Very empathetic. Luckily this one isn’t going to do the same kind of damage. A good time to relate my favourite Iceland story: When my brother and I were on our way to Europe, we made a stop in Reykjavic. While we were waiting to board, we saw a suited gentleman, with a small entourage, board the plane. My brother jokingly said, “that’s probably the President of Iceland.” Well, it was. We flew with the President. The US could take a cue from that guy. Nothing wrong with a little downsizing. I was actually behind Iceland’s leader in line for the toilet. I don’t want to tell tales out of school but let’s just say Olafur Ragnar Grimsson must eat a lot of wild game.

TATTOO ARTIST FAILS TO SAVE US FROM CRUD

Don’t know if you caught this one- the artist who designed Mike Tyson’s tattoo attempted to halt the release of The Hangover remake (I refuse to call it The Hangover Part II, as if it’s the next installment in some kind of Tolkienian literary series) due to an attempt to extract money from Warner Bros for “copyright infringement”. Listen, I’m all for artists being compensated for their work and having it be protected from exploitation, but there’s one small problem: Mike Tyson, for the 7 people who didn’t see it, was in the first movie and this guy said nothing. I would have liked to have seen the kerfuffle if the studio did have to hold the release. Best idea: re-release the original Hangover and see how many people notice. Better yet: re-release Police Academy 3, just because I think it’s sad that Steve Gutenberg works at the Hollywood Way 7-Eleven in Burbank. And the movie should have been called Police Academy Part III. I read all nine books.

NEW YORK 26TH

As of this column’s writing, humans in New York’s 26th congressional district, usually a safe Republican seat or, as people of color describe it, The Right Time to Take A Detour, are voting to elect their member to the House of Representatives, after their last guy did the usual Republican thing and requested anonymous sex online. The news here is that the Democrat is in front due to the fact that the Republican nominee supported Paul Ryan’s “there’s too many old people anyway and they smell to boot” end-Medicare plan. He is, of course, absolutely right, but there’s got to be an easier way to thin their numbers than electing Republicans.

LAW & ORDER LA : TOAST

I must begin by saying that, as a writer and actor, I’m never happy to see a TV series which employs my colleagues in both professions, not to mention the hundreds of crew and production staff, cancelled. Having said that, a show that was devised with as much cynicism and artistic vapidity as this one deserves what it gets. Yes, I know the sole purpose of making TV shows is to make money, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be just a tad of creativity and artistic quality in the mix as well. Any show that uses another show’s title while adding a colon has me worried off the bat. The producers are already telling us the show can’t stand on its own,  kind of like the skeevy guy who tries to get into the chic nightclub by dropping names: “no, wait man, I’m a friend of those guys.” Unfortunately, as we all know there are a lot of idiots out there who have fallen for it and are right now watching CSI : Toledo and Diff’rent Strokes : Last Man Standing, the new CBS spinoff where Todd Bridges, the last surviving cast member of the old show, returns as Willis to clean up the mansion he grew up in, which is now filled with squatters after it went into foreclosure. His little brother Arnold will also be featured, now played by Steve Gutenberg on his knees in black face.

At this point, anything is better than reality TV. And if you live in New York’s 26th district, vote for Kathy Hochul.

Pictures, from top:  Arnold in happier times with the crocodile community.

Iceland’s President: Smelly poos.

Gutenberg: Slurpee purveyor.





WEDNESDAY WHITTLES

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hasta La Vista, Psycho

Ah, the strange, evil, bearded one is gone… he has appeared on our screens for the final time. No longer will we have to listen to his waubling, his screams, his call to millions to stand by his side as he walks the path to glory…

Yep. Casey got knocked off Idol.

Not that I’m a fan of the show. Glorified karaoke. Although I do have a strange mancrush on Ryan Seacrest. Darn it, the kid’s just so clean-cut. Virginal, almost. That hair- impervious to sex, I bet. I  just want to roll with Ryan on a bed of hay in some barn and see if that hair gets at all tousled after we make love, Ryan all the while whispering sweet everythings in my ear like, “you’ll never be in my bottom three.”

Sweaty Betty’s Boy Ties The Knot

Then there was the ‘royal’ wedding. If you want the real truth, the stunning tale behind the scenes, William & Kate is a must. I watched it on Lifetime recently and couldn’t speak the rest of the day. I was rocked by the performances, the story with its twists and turns. First he meets her and they like each other. Then they get to know each other a little bit and they like each other. Then he’s going to marry her. Then he’s going to marry her. All those misdirections almost exhausted me, but I hung in for the cliffhanger ending.

Thank You, Vin

More good news: Fast Five, the latest installment of this movie serial that has soothed of psyches of men with small penises the world over, raked in bucketloads of cash its opening weekend. I’m so frigging relieved. Just when I thought Hollywood couldn’t make movies for adults anymore. They’ve actually made the next one already. It’s called Slow Six. This one’s got an environmental bent to it; Vin Diesel and his posse deck themselves out in souped-up Nissan Leafs. The car chases are a little more gentle and very quiet. There’s a terrific chase through a solar panel field, although it’s a little stop start, what with everyone having to stop and recharge every five minutes. “You go ahead,” Diesel huskily whispers to a comrade in the middle of the action as he plugs his tiny cord into a yellow fluorescent outlet, “I’m gonna get me some kilowatts.”

More Idiots By 2100

A sobering report this week from the U.N, predicting that our population will reach 10 billion by the end of the century.

Sure, it sounds like a lot. But that number wouldn’t be so scary if I were convinced that it wouldn’t be the wrong kind of people, like the woman at the CVS the other day who couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t take a check. Or the 19,342 waiters in Los Angeles who order me to “please enjoy” my meal. Or people who bring nachos into a movie theater; what’s next?? An Indian buffet in the front row? You take your seat, under which is a pull-out drawer with a plate, silverware and napkin. Just go help yourself during the film whenever you get peckish. Wonderful. If god had intended us to eat smelly hot food during movies, he wouldn’t have given us nostrils.

Family Ties Visits West Virginia

Victoria has found her ultimate guilty pleasure: the Hub channel. There used to be a strip club near my mother’s house in Sydney called The Hub. The difference between the club and the cable channel is that one leaves me feeling dirty, used and morally vapid- the other is a strip club. The Hub Channel is a revelation, an ABC Family affiliate showing edgy, gritty movies for children and an evening lineup featuring Doogie Howser MD, Happy Days, The Wonder Years and Vic’s favourite, Family Ties. Victoria’s obsession with this series is getting out of hand; the other night, she wanted to do a little sexual role play. It consisted of her getting dressed up like Tina Yothers (blonde wig, braces, acne makeup, the whole nine yards) and yours truly impersonating the lanky, bearded father (the wonderful Michael Gross). Gross.

Pictures, from top: 

Casey – the next bearded target of extrajudicial assassination?

The two dull, uninteresting actors who miraculously transformed          themselves into two dull, uninteresting very rich people.

Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin & Lewis…. voila.

The father in Family Ties: my sexual doppelganger.

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