Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

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The Slings And Arrows Of Little Aleppo

Lopsang Biltzstein used to be named Karen. She also used to have a daughter. Everything changes; nothing lasts.

The monastery of St. Sebastian was on the third Segovian Hill to the left, Mount Faith, and there was no road up, just a nightmare of a goat path bracketed by brambles that needed to be regularly scythed lest it grow over and disappear back into the ravenous chaparral. Whatever the monks needed, they carried up the mountain. This led to asceticism.

Little Aleppo let the monks alone, and the monks did the same. A lot of people from the neighborhood had made the trip up, spent some time there. A lot of people from the neighborhood didn’t believe in rehab or psychiatry.

When Karen Blitzstein took her vows, she changed her first name to Lopsang.

“You really don’t have to,” Brother Yup said.

“I know,” she said.

“We’re not Buddhists.”

“I know.”

“Pretty sure Lopsang is a boy’s name.”

“I know.”

A monastery is a fortress is a castle is an ancient city is a Roman villa: build some walls and live in them. Turn the world binary. Out There and In Here. Them and Us. You always know what side of a wall you’re on. Build it high enough and time slows; build it thick enough and gravity stumbles. Carve out a piece of the world for yourself and damn the rest.

The Sebastianite brothers were idiosyncretic, which is a fancy word that means you were allowed to believe whatever the hell you wanted. Eremetic, Lavritic, Cenobitic, Skete. Flagellants and Penitentes. Visitandine novitiates, and Chthonian articulates. Wives and millers and knights fresh from pilgrimage. Warrior monks and fat old sybarites heavy with wine. An orphan or two.

A brother stayed awake all night, every night, to say Nocturns at midnight and then wake the rest of monastery well before dawn for Lauds. Breakfast, which was small and did not contain coffee. Six a.m. was Prime, and some worshipped Jesus and others the sun, but all the brothers worshipped, even if they were sisters. Terce and Sext followed at three hour intervals, and then the midday meal which did not contain meat. Dozing off was common during Nones, as was a senior brother hitting sleeping monks with a stick. Vespers is the prayer for the candles, the benediction of the lamp, and when all were lit in the monastery, you could see the faint and whitish glow from all the way down the Main Drag. Children would confuse the light for a star and make wishes, which are like prayers but more honest. Before all the brothers but one went to sleep, they would assemble for Compline.

Sturdy set of walls and a strict routine lets you ignore the world real good.

When they moved into the three-bedroom split-level on the Upside, Karen had noticed that the corner needed a stop sign. The house was on Crater Road, which was very long and straight, and so drivers would pick up speed. Probably didn’t even notice they were doing it. Children chase balls into the street sometimes.

Come to prayers and don’t cause too much trouble. Those were the rules at the monastery of St. Sebastian, and they were followed by some occasionally, and others fervently. The church was laid out east to west, which sat it diagonally within the square of walls. Well, “church.” Too many Muslims, Minoans, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Malanga’i, Hindus, and Sikhs had worshiped there for it to be rightly called a church any longer, even with the giant crucifixes all over the place: the monastery had been built by Christians, but then everyone else moved in.

Courtyard surrounding the church. Buildings in the courtyard: library and workshop on one side, dining hall, kitchen, and storehouse on the other. The cells were built into the walls, two floors worth and all the way around, looking inward and opening onto communal walkways like a cheap seaside motel. Mattress. Table. Chair. Window with no curtain. Door with no lock.

Knock on the door and the St. Sebastianite brothers will refuse you entrance. This is how it works: you need to wait outside for three days. The monastery being in Little Aleppo, however, the rules were more like guidelines: if it was raining, you could come in right away, or if you were hungry, or if you just didn’t want to hang around sitting on concrete steps for three days. You were still responsible for 72 hours spent outside waiting to come in; most of the monks chose to amortize the time over the course of several weeks and would goon around outside for a half-hour at a time. When the weather was especially nice, initiates would burn off an hour or two playing touch football.

Karen’s husband started drinking after the funeral, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t stand the sight of him anymore. She couldn’t stand the sight of herself anymore.

You’ll throw up if you just take pills because your stomach loves you more than your heart does. Combine the pills with a dry cleaner’s bag and rubber bands.

Rent is work. Earn your bed, your rice, your fish and vegetables from the gardens chunked out of the hillside to the south of the monastery. Rent is prayer, which is also work. Prayer is a one-way street. Rent is communion. If you can’t fix yourself, fix your brother. If you’re not worth a prayer, then she certainly is. Or maybe she isn’t, but rent in the monastery of St. Sebastian was also the benefit of doubt. You might be the most fucked-up person behind these walls, but probably not.

The churches on Rose Street were not enough, and neither were the bars on the Main Drag, nor the painful pleasures of the Hotel Synod. Karen tried Christ and she tried needles and she tried strangers and their philosophies, and she had the pills and she had the dry cleaner’s bag right there in her bedroom in the empty house on Crater Road on the Upside. She had not listened to any music since the funeral, at least not intentionally, and it may have been a Thursday but she had stopped keeping track of that sort of thing: dawn breaking over the Segovian Hills, and she left the house without locking it up and walked west; there was a hiking path that went up Mount Faith and spiraled around the cone of the hill, and the shaky goat path to the monastery broke off the trail halfway up the mountain; the footing was crumbly and loose, and she slipped to her hands and knees several times.

When she knocked on the door, she left a bloody print.

Lauds in the pre-dawn morning, and Prime in the light. Terce, then Sext, and Nones is next. Vespers is the prayer for the candles, and Compline before sleep. One of the brothers does not sleep so that he can say Nocturns. Karen had been left down in the valley, and Lopsang Blitzstein existed behind a sturdy set of walls and a strict routine. Nothing changes, and everything lasts in the monastery of St. Sebastian, which is in the Segovian Hills above Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.

Meet Me At The Mission At Midnight

Forgot this song existed.

On Manchester

Manchester is a city in England. It began as a Roman colony called Mancunium, which is why people from Manchester are called Mancunians. It was to industry what the Tigress and Euphrates were to civilization: the very cradle. Modern factory was born in Manchester; modern world was born in Manchester. Engels met Marx in Manchester.

It used to be rougher. Everywhere used to be rougher, but Manchester was a hard town. Good music comes from hard towns. Herman’s Hermits, and Freddie and the Dreamers, and The Hollies. The Fall and The Buzzcocks. The Bee Gees were from Australia, but they got their start in Manchester. Tony Wilson started Factory Records in Manchester after seeing the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, which was next door to the venue where Dylan got called a Judas. Factory signed Joy Division, and A Certain Ratio, and The Smiths. Then there was the Hacienda Club and Madchester: the Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays. Raves were invented in Manchester.

Modern place now, Manchester. Hip, even, and still musical: it’s a city of half-a-million, but with two symphonies, a chamber orchestra, and a philharmonic. The Free Trade Hall is still there, but the big acts play the Manchester Arena. Seats 21,000. The legacy acts slap on grins and run through their old hits for the grown-ups, and the pop stars jump around for the teeny-boppers.

19 children are dead now, probably more by the morning, and no music will play in Manchester tonight. There will be dirges tomorrow.

All Roads Lead From Little Aleppo

Precarious Lee was behind the wheel of a 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. The car had four doors, and was 18 feet long standing still. The big engine, the 428 cubic inch V8,and she was a shade of gunmetal blue that the catalogue called Jennifer Blue. Stella’s sister, Precarious supposed. The seats were maroon, and plush enough to lose a small pet or child in. Only thing softer than the seats was the suspension: the Cadillac felt like she had ball bearings instead of wheels, and he commanded the window down with the nothingest flick of a finger and rested his elbow out in the baking sun as he drove southeast, away from Little Aleppo.

This is not a drag racer, the 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham in Jennifer Blue. The controls and pedals are smooth and mushy, and so is the acceleration. The car had a sort of gathering power, Precarious decided. Gained weight as she went until you got up to cruising speed and then you did just that, cruise. The trees were giving way to scrub on the sides of the highway. Off on the left, Precarious saw a roadrunner. Squatty little brown thing. Fast enough, he guessed. Precarious felt a bit lied to the first time he saw a real-life roadrunner. Did not match the billing.

Oh, the bullshit. Oh, the bullshit of a place. It oozed in through your ears and nostrils no matter how quietly you tried to go about your business. Plans and chatter and the rumor of gossip. Open a window for some air? Let the smoke out? You can hear it babbling quickly like Little Aleppo’s sewers after the rains that come every 18 days. Go to sleep, and other people’s agendas become your dreams. It was tough to be in a place sometimes, Precarious thought. Going to a place or coming from one was much easier, and driving by a place was the easiest of all. You didn’t have to be in a place, not in America. Not on the highway. The roads went through towns and cities and villages, but highways went in between them.

You could leave it all behind and glide down the highway. It was in the Constitution. Precarious found the on-ramp to Route 77 hiding in a subordinate clause in Article IV, and found that there was precedent, and then he was in the Interstitial Highway System, which run parallel to the Interstate, and also perpendicular and asymptotically. Also, at a slightly different frequency. It had been a while. Precarious tilted his head towards the open window. He sniffed the air and listened, so he could see how the engine was running.

You could leave it all behind.

“Roll up the window, sweetie. It’s too windy,” Big-Dicked Sheila said.

Unless you brought everyone with you.

She gave his shoulder a scritchy-scratch; she was taking up very little space between Precarious and Tiresias Richardson on the split front seat. The Reverend Arcade Jones was behind the girls, and he was impressed: most cars’ backseats are not fit for 6’5″, 300-pound former University of Florida linebackers, but a 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was not most cars: long as a Russian novel and half again as thick, there was legroom and headroom and every other kind of room you could envision needing.

Penny Arrabbiata was behind Precarious. Her head was tilted back onto the maroon velour, and her mouth was open; she had a red bandana tied around her head blocking her eyes from the sun, and she was wearing a blue ball cap pulled down low. There was a cartoon ox on the front of the cap. Every few miles, she made a little noise like “mloccch” and turned her head a bit. It was ten a.m., which was well past an astronomer’s bedtime.

It was also past a Horror Host’s bedtime, but Tiresias was up and glassy-eyed and taking pulls from a tallboy of Arrow beer. Sheila had one, too, and the Reverend Arcade Jones had made his disapproval clear.

“I want to make my disapproval clear,” he said when they popped their first tops five miles outside Little Aleppo.

“Noted, Reverend,” Sheila said.

“We’re not driving,” Tiresias added.

“Moving vehicle. Seems wrong.”

“You don’t want one?” Sheila asked.

“I don’t want one.”

Tommy Amici’s office was in Jeremiad Springs, which was three days ride from Little Aleppo on horseback. The trip was much shorter in a Cadillac on Route 77, but no shorter than the boring old Interstate. Sheila asked Precarious,

“Why we taking 77?”

“Wanna stop at the chicken place,” he said.

Sheila was not from Little Aleppo. She belonged there, but she wasn’t from there: she had the bad luck to be born somewhere else entirely. And to lousy people. Precarious had known Sheila for longer than just about anyone else on the planet, and the most she had ever said to him about her parents was this:

“They were lousy.”

And she didn’t offer any more, and he never pressed. Person had the right to not dwell in the past, Precarious figured. Some folks gotta talk about how fucked up they are, and others gotta forget about it. Dick digs, but Jane buries, and Sheila was a Jane.

But they had met at the chicken place, the Pioneer Chicken Stand, and then Precarious had put her in his car–a white ’72 GMC Ambassador–and then they were in Little Aleppo and she was a new person entirely. He didn’t try anything, not that she would have minded. Sheila still wouldn’t mind at all if Precarious tried something. He was her raggedy gentleman, and her magic carpet, and she could feel his skinny arm against hers. They had met at the Pioneer Chicken Stand, and he had fed her and brought her home and let her smoke all of his cigarettes and choose the radio station; if he pulled the Cadillac over right now and threw her across the hood, he could have her, he could have her in front of the motherfucking reverend: Sheila didn’t care, she loved him and always had and would, and she wouldn’t say anything about the chicken but she knew it was his way of saying that he loved her back, taking her back there, bringing it all back home.

Precarious didn’t remember stopping for chicken when he picked up Sheila. There was no hidden meaning. He wanted chicken.

The sun was pocked in the sky. Beauty marks? Saballanian warships? Blips on the yellow, whatever they were, and Precarious angled his visor to block out the glare. Fast food billboards were having a sumo match on the road’s shoulder. On the other side of the highway, someone in an El Camino drove through a drive-through movie theater, killing several. Everyone’s a critic. A tour bus with no one at the wheel passed them; the marquee above the windshield read “Marie Celeste.”

“So, uh,” Tiresias wondered. “What, uh, what the fuck kind of road is this?”

She had never been on Route 77 before.

“It’s less a road than a ‘road,’ if you get me,” Sheila said.

“I don’t.”

Precarious grunted and pointed towards the glove compartment with his chin; it opened with a TCHACK and Sheila pulled out a small tin like a child would keep his prized possessions in. It had been painted brightly a long time ago, but that was a long time ago; the colors had faded, but you could still make out Tom Mix on the front. He had been stamped there, too. Behind him were Precarious Lee’s joints, fat and stinking: Sheila offered Tiresias the tin.

She nodded, smiled, FFT, PHWOO.

“Oh, come on!” the Reverend Arcade Jones yelled from the backseat. Tiresias handed the joint Sheila, and turned to look at the preacher.

“You’re right. So sorry.”

Tiresias’ window went down two inches.

“Not better. Put that out.”

“We’re almost finished,” Sheila said.

“You just lit the damn thing.”

“Deep inhalers, Reverend.

“She’s right,” Tiresias said. “You should see my lungs. Hell, it’s easy to see my lungs: they’re on teevee all week. AAAAAHahaha!”

“Hey, listen: I’m not an uptight guy. I just don’t want to get pulled over.”

“They don’t pull over Cadillacs on Route 77,” Precarious said, and took the doobie from Sheila.

There was quiet from the backseat. The Reverend knew that Precarious was not a liar, and so he said,

“Well, smoke yourselves silly, then.”

Southeast to the Low Desert like their ancestors, but faster and with climate control and an AM/FM radio. Precarious often felt thankful he had not been born in the past; wanderlust was a far more uncomfortable affliction back then. Fuck the trail and hang the horses, he thought. Man needs a highway, and an engine, and a window to hang his elbow out of.

And, sometimes, a man needs some fried chicken.

“If all of y’all will all stop yelling at me, I will explain the ostrich situation. Good gravy.”

Terrence Mompkins used to preach the Gospel; now he shoveled rhino shit. It was all show business. He was standing at the entrance to Harper Zoo in his pressed khaki shorts and many-pocketed adventure shirt with a tag that read “TERRENCE” and a pith helmet worn way back on his head of sandy, straight hair. (The zookeepers hated the pith helmets, and occasionally petitioned to get rid of them on the grounds that “people with lisps think we’re being vulgar.” No dice: the pith stayed.)

He had brought out the portable podium that the zoo’s president used for important announcements. It had the Harper Zoo motto on the front: HARPER ZOO: WHERE ANIMALS ARE, and it made Terrence feel very official. Reminded him of the pulpit, too, but now his congregation was Iffy Bould from The Cenotaph and Cakey Frankel from KSOS, along with a cameraman. A few Little Aleppians, smelling a free show, had also gathered.

“Okay, so: we do not–I repeat not–lose an ostrich.”

“Are you saying that the ostrich that terrorized the Main Drag for several hours last night did not belong to the zoo?” Iffy asked. He was cadaverous, and smoking.

“You didn’t let me finish,” Terrence said.

“Please continue, then.”

“We did not lose the ostrich because we knew where he was at all times. He was chasing people around the Main Drag. So, you see: not lost. You newspaper people and your words.”

“Ah, right. And how did the ostrich get out of his cage?”

“Oh, sir, the Harper Zoo has no cages. Our animals are in enclosures.”

“Okay. How did the ostrich get out of his enclosure?”

“Quite easily, it seems.”

“Right, but what I’m asking is: what went wrong?”

“From the ostrich’s perspective, nothing at all. He had a ball. Cakey, do you have question?”

“Does the snack bar still sell those big churros?”

“They do,” Terrence said.

“Oh, that’s super.”

Iffy Bould snorted, and smoke came out of his every orifice in his skull.

“So,” he said. “How did the ostrich get out?”

“Are you asking me?” Terrence said.

“No, I’m asking Cakey.”

“I have no idea how the ostrich got out,” Cakey said.

“I’m not actually asking you, Cakey,” Iffy said.

“Oh, okay.”

A shirtless man behind the two reporters raised his hand and shouted,

“I have a question!”

Terrence smiled at him and said,

“Sir, this is a press conference.”

“I am a citizen journalist.”

“You don’t have a shirt.”

“Did Woodward and Bernstein have shirts?”

“Yes,” Iffy said.

“He’s right,” Terrence said.

“Who are we talking about?” Cakey asked.

The shirtless man continued,

“Like I said, no one owns shirts. My question is this: why is the Harper Zoo lying to us about the existence of penguins?’

More people were gathering, and Iffy smirked. He had been a journalist for The Cenotaph for longer than anyone could remember: all the powerful people in the neighborhood despised him for the questions he asked, and all the common folks hated him for the answers that he wrote down. A journalist that people liked was a publicity agent, he figured.

“Answer the penguin question, Terrence,” Iffy said.

“Penguins are real! They’re mean, but real,” Terrence said.

And now another man from the crowd:

“Why don’t the tapirs pay taxes?”

“Because they’re tapirs.” Terrence had never been in a free-floating press conference before, and did not know what to do. A woman just arrived to the scene yelled,

“How much is Allen’s bail?”

“This isn’t a jail, ma’am.”

“Tell that to the penguins!” she shouted

“There’s no such thing!” the shirtless man answered, and they began wrestling.

The crowd, swelled and joyous, began peppering Terrence Mompkins with inane questions. Where do giraffes get off being such snobs? Why don’t you race your animals for the purposes of wagering? Do polar bears have a favorite band? Who are you to tell me I can’t eat a condor?

That last one caught on. The crowd began chanting,

“FEED US CON-DOR! FEED US CON-DOR!”

And Terrence, who was not used to being treated like this, picked up the portable podium and ran. Little Aleppo followed, having far too good of a time for a Tuesday morning.

Iffy, Cakey, and Cakey’s cameraman watched the chaos recede.

Iffy said,

“Buy a lady a churro?”

“Is the lady me?” Cakey asked.

“It is.”

“You bet.”

Iffy Bould stuck out his elbow, and Cakey laced her arm into his, and they went to eat Mexican pastries in a zoo.

A Cadillac and an American highway. Find a better combination, just try. Chocolate and peanut butter is fine, but won’t get you to Flagstaff in two days. Somewhere between 70 and 80, keep the speedo bouncing around there and there won’t be any trouble. Line up the front end with the road–right headlight on the single white line and left on the double yellow–and flick a look up to the rearview every ten-count. Don’t let the sun in your eyes. It’s an automatic, so your left foot is useless and it withers on your homunculus until all you are is vision and right foot Precarious Lee wore boots, heavy ones, but he could feel the engine through his big toe and he feathered off the accelerator a touch and adjusted his visor with his left hand because Sheila’s head was resting on his left shoulder and he did not want to disturb her. Tiresias was asleep, too, head lolled back like a dead woman and snoring, half-finished tallboy of Arrow clasped in her crotch.

“Just you and me, preacher,” he said.

The Reverend Arcade Jones looked to his left and saw that Penny Arrabbiata was still out like the tide. He smiled and met Precarious’ eye in the rearview.

“Appears that way.”

“Lightweights.”

Arcade laughed, but not loud.

“Night owls at noon.”

“The one in back, yeah,” Precarious said, and then nodded at the two women in the front seat. “These two? These two are messes.”

“They do the best they can.”

“Do they?”

“We all do, Precarious.”

Precarious snagged the pack of Camels from the pocket of his tee-shirt, and flicked the bottom with his finger. Two cigarettes flipped up, not parallel, and he put the leading one in his mouth and pulled it from the pack. Zippo. SHVIP. He inhaled. PHWOO.

“Well, shit, I’d hate to see our worst.”

The Reverend Arcade Jones laughed again, loud this time, and if the ladies woke up then that was on them. Precarious grinned and grasped for the gearshift by instinct, but there was none–the Cadillac was an automatic–and instead grabbed Sheila’s knee and did not take his hand off right away. The radio was still picking up KHAY, but faintly: it sounded like cotton on fire with a song under it, an old number about teenage fuckery sung by a grown man, and Precarious mumbled the words around his cigarette as the miles rolled by. There was fried chicken in their immediate future, and meetings beyond that, but for now there was just Route 77, which is the road out of Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.

Just A Man, With A Man’s Courage

In show biz terms, it’s a “single.” Just one guy onstage doing his act–singing, telling jokes, tying his dick into animal shapes, whatever–is called a single, and it takes balls. Way easier to be part of a group, or have a partner. Garcia couldn’t do it. Played solo once in his life and demanded the promoter fly John Kahn in for the next show.

But Bobby always was the brave one…

I’m Getting Too Racist For This Shit

“Hi, Will.”

“Lilian Monster! Nice to see you.”

“JEWS START THE WARS!”

“How are you?”

“Good, good. Saw you were doing Daytona.”

“THE IRISH ARE SECRET BLACKS!”

“Yeah! Had a little wreck.”

“Gotta shake and bake, Lil.”

“EVERYONE’S GETTING RAPED BY JIGABOOS!”

“I need me a John C. Reilly.”

Everyone needs a John C. Reilly.”

“OBAMA DID 9/11!”

“Do you hear something?”

“I do not, no.”

“POLACKS COME FROM MARS!”

“Good seeing you.”

“Same, same.”

The Script To The First Twin Peaks Episode, REVEALED!

EXT. TWIN PEAKS – NIGHT

Fog.

Jazz.

White actors.

White viewers.

INT. TWIN PEAKS DINER

Whathisface eats pie, and everyone’s like “OH MY GOD, THEY BROUGHT PIE BACK!”

And then he drinks coffee, and all the white people’s heads explode.

CUT TO: COMPLETELY INEXPLICABLE INTRO CREDITS.

SOUND CUE: SHITTY JAZZ

INT. SOMEONE’S HOUSE

A fragile, pretty white lady in 40’s drag is dead. Or maybe she’s not. No one fucking knows.

DREAM SEQUENCE #1

Midget talks backwards.

EXT. BASEBALL FIELD – DAY

Incredibly unattractive and untalented actor enters, says lines that make no sense in a monotone while holding a “weird” object.

DREAM SEQUENCE #2

Oh my God, the baby is a monster!

INT. MALL – DAY

Everybody’s got a doppelgänger!

DREAM SEQUENCE #3

Log!

SOUND CUE: MORE SHITTY JAZZ

FADE TO BLACK, ALL VIEWERS BEGIN WRITING THINK PIECES.

Thoughts On Kong: Skull Island

  • Why do I do these things to myself?
  • Three minutes in, Enthusiasts, I knew I should turn this shit off.
  • Wait, no: ten minutes.
  • I missed the first seven minutes of the movie because I was making food or pooping or standing in the hallway confused; one of those things.
  • There is no dialogue in Skull: Kong Island.
  • There is expositioning.
  • Yelling.
  • And then, in the third act, there is direct explicating of the subtext by Samuel L. Jackson.
  • (Samuel L. Jackson yells while explicating, obviously.)
  • The first few scenes are characters stating basic facts that the people they’re speaking to should know.
  • “We’re going to meet the Senator now.”
  • “Yeah, I know. We drove over together.”
  • “This meeting about monsters is very important.”
  • “Who are you talking to?”
  • And so on.
  • I don’t want to nitpick so early, so: this movie could have been the greatest ever made.
  • Monster movie meets Vietnam movie.
  • Viet Kong.
  • (I made that joke before, but I don’t care.)
  • Y’know what else was a monster movie/’Nam movie?
  • Aliens.
  • Which was pretty decent.
  • Partially for its look, but mostly of the characters: fully-sketched human beings (and an android) that you identify with and root for (or boo, in the case of Gorman and Burke).
  • Ripley and Newt and Vasquez and Bishop and Hudson and Hicks and that mean old Sergeant.
  • And Hudson.
  • Aww.
  • The characters in Island: Skull Kong are as follows:
    • John Goodman as Sweaty Man With Secret.
    • Samuel L. Jackson as Yelling Gun Man.
    • Loki as Pretty Gun Man.
    • Brie Larson as Woman Who Looks Up.
    • John C. Reilly as Dennis Hopper
  • There’s a lot of Apocalypse Now in this sucker; directors need to stop strapping speakers to the sides of helicopters: it has lost its novelty.
  • So, there’s Skull Island and no one’s ever heard of it or been there, but America needs to get to it before the Russians do and Communism sets in; a half-cocked paper-pusher and a war-crazed lunatic launch an operation based on lies and rumor; the very first thing they do is begin carpet-bombing the island.
  • Are you getting the metaphor yet?
  • Bomb bomb bomb, and then King Kong jumps up and starts throwing helicopters into mountains; the helicopters respond to this by remaining at all times within his reach.
  • “Shouldn’t we back up and shoot him with our cannons, Captain?”
  • “Nah, I’m going in closer. Gonna try to cut his nose off with the rotor.”
  • “Please don’t.”
  • “I’m gonna.”
  • And so on.
  • All the helicopters crash and everyone dies except for the leads.
  • Woman Who Looks Up looks up.
  • She and her tank top have survived the crash unscathed.
  • And so she looks up.
  • (You think I’m kidding: her job in the film is photographer. All photographers do is look at stuff and make a note of the looking. Plus, she talks her way into the mission by saying she was “embedded” with so-and-so, which was not a term that existed in Vietnam, and is just one example of this movie’s utter disregard for its very premise. Everyone’s haircuts are wrong, and the uniforms are all off, and one of the soldiers plays with his phone in the background of several shots: it’s a mess.)
  • The survivors have landed in two groups, and now they have to reunite while braving deadly terrain before they can go home.
  • Observant readers will note that that is the plot of Armageddon.
  • Yelling Gun Man and Sweaty Man With Secret are in one place, and they want to kill King Kong.
  • Pretty Gun Man and Woman Who Looks Up are in the other, and they’re like, “Noooo, he’s nice.”
  • I don’t know who decided Tom Hiddleston could be an action hero, but that person should have to go out to the track and run laps.
  • Whatever: PGM and Woman run into Dennis Hopper, who crashed there during World War II and lives with the natives.
  • Then a bunch of bullshit happens: monster fights and giant spiders and John Goodman gets eaten; the plot of this movie is not the point of this movie.
  • The point is monkey-fightin’.
  • And there is some damn good monkey-fightin’ in this flick, Enthusiasts: the CG is damn-near perfect, and Kong beats the shit out of every mutant lizard and whatnot he sees.
  • But.
  • Kong is now, roughly, a million billion feet tall.
  • This is not your daddy’s monkey.
  • They scaled him up so he can fight Godzilla in a movie next year, and now he’s so large that the ratio of him to us is around the same as humans to ants.
  • Kong used to be 30 feet or so, and so the relationship was more of a human to a smallish dog.
  • You can read a dog’s facial expressions, body language, etc.
  • Not an ant, though.
  • How does King Kong know which white lady to fall in love with if we’re so tiny to him?
  • This movie about a secret island full of giant monsters makes no sense, dammit.
  • If you watch Isla de Kongidad and want to have some fun in between monkey-fightin’, count how often the sun rises and sets; they’re supposed to be on the island for three days, and the sumbitch goes up and down 19 times.
  • When there hadn’t been any action for a few minutes, the heroes would be attacked by pterodactyls; the birdmonsters would pick off one member of the party with the greatest of ease, and then they’d just fly away.
  • That’s not how animals work.
  • (Is that nitpicking? I figure nitpicking is being the jackass that starts explaining how doubling something’s size cubes its mass and therefore a giant monkey harbledarble. Or, “Where does the food a gorilla the size of a suspension bridge need come from?” Those are nitpicks.)
  • Anyway: good monkey-fightin’, bad everything else.

How To Write About The Dead: A Deconstruction

This is the first paragraph, and I’ll do two things in it: establish my credentials as a hip and self-aware arbiter of musical taste, and make note of the fact that the Grateful Dead are giant suckbags and their fans should be rounded up, bathed, and shot. Maybe I’ll even be self-referential about it, who knows? I, the Working Music Critic, have been listening to neo-boxwave, soundtracks to Italian horror movies, and Kendrick Lamar. The Dead? [INSERT SENTENCE CONTAINING ONE ORE MORE OF THE FOLLOWING WORDS/PHRASES: 60’s, hippies, Baby Boomer, smelly, acid, tie-dye, jam.]

A  joke about how long the songs were goes here.

But now–and hold your hats–I shall reveal that even though my ear is perfectly attuned to the cool and that my record collection (vinyl or die, yo) is impeccably curated, I do enjoy the Dead. My older brother/cousin/buddy from marching band played me Europe ’72, and I’ve seen multiple iterations of the post-Garcia touring diaspora, and read several books about or by the band. Still, though: Dead suck and all their fans suck.

Here’s where I try to throw a little context at you: Nixon and Reagan usually get mentioned, and so the whole Rock scene of the 70’s, too. Probably going to quote from a book or two, pad out the word count. Capsule bio of the band? Could be. Nitrous reference? If we have time.

And now we get to the meat of the article, which is a review of the latest piece of Dead-related content that requires reviewing in the omni-ouroboros of today’s media ecology. Someone does a thing, and then someone writes about the thing, and then someone comments on the writing, and then someone gets outraged, and then someone writes a thing about the outrage. It all goes around, like morons in a clothes dryer.

In this paragraph, I apologize for enjoying the [movie/CD/book] and list the reasons why even you, a sane and righteous person who naturally despises the Grateful Dead, might enjoy the [movie/CD/book].

The National will be mentioned somewhere around here.

In conclusion, please check out the Grateful Dead, even though they are an embarrassment to the human race and also my favorite band.

p.s. Sorry that I like the Dead

Second Verse, Chooglier Than The First

Hey, Oteil. Whatcha doing?

“Singing! And playing bass. But the singing is the headline. Gonna take lead this summer.”

Good for you. What songs?

“It’s a surprise.”

Boo. You know all the words?

“Of course I do.”

Well, forget about a quarter of them. You’re a Grateful Dead, dammit. There are standards and precedents.

“Nope. Gonna kill it.”

You’re a positive man, Oteil.

“What’s there not to be positive about? Playing music I love for huge crowds, making lots of money, flying on private jets, my kid’s healthy, and I got a mohawk. I’m a happy man.”

You’re awesome.

“Right back atcha.”

Nice.

“I know you see me, asshole.”

Hello, Red Metal Stool.

“You’re a hater.

No I just hate you. Your actions and behavior and statements have caused me to hate you. Not a free-floating hater.

“Jealous.”

Of what?

“You want Bobby to sit on you.”

I truly do not.

“Plop right down.”

Is this gonna be all summer with you?

“Yeah, I’m thinking about evolving my character into a more antagonistic-type deal.”

Wonderful.

“Hey, tell Chris Robinson to suck my red metal dick.”

I am not in contact with any of the Black Crowes.

“He looks like hippie Slender Man.”

Granted, but I don’t speak with him.

“Tour, baby!”

Everything about this year is worse than everything about last year, and last year was the worst year.

“Really? ‘Everything?’ The ‘worst?’ You sound like him now. This year is worse than 1920?”

Yes.

“Five percent of the world’s population died from the flu.”

Fuck ’em. I am distracted by the news. This is worse.

“You’re a monster.”

You’re a stool.

“Touché.”

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