Friday, June 5, 2009

Man Killing Minotaur

Look, I don't want to toot my own horn or anything but ***HONK***HONK*** since this is my blog and all I just want to alert you to a pretty cool story I wrote several years ago Man Killing Minotaur that was published by our friends over at the excellent and subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize (which I'm convinced I lost out to Andre Aciman and/or Colm Toibin - but what can you do?).


Monday, June 1, 2009

Confessions of a Car Buyer

I bought a new car about eight months ago. My last car, a Chevy Trailblazer, had passed the 100k mile marker and was breaking down about once a month, requiring me to call a tow-truck, requiring me to have work done on it (about $500-$1000 a month). It was time.

To make a long story short: Buying a new car is often a horrible experience for everyone. But buying a new car is especially horrible if you're six-foot-eight. You see, as it turns out, most new cars are not designed with six-foot-eight human beings in mind. Why? I have no idea. Is it a cost-cutting issue? Is it a lack of awareness? Are there not enough tall people designing automobiles?

Allow me to take you on the abridged journey of my recent car-buying experience, in the approximate order in which I sat in and/or test drove them:

1. Toyota Yaris, 2-door: Tiny little thing. I really like these cars. They remind me of the French Renault Twingo, one of my all-time favorites. I actually sort of fit in this car. As it turns out, the size of an automobile has NOTHING to do with how much leg room it has in the driver's seat. It's hard for some people to wrap their heads around this (especially car salesmen, oddly). The problem with this car is you would die if someone hit you with their shopping cart. Safety first! No go with the Yaris.

2. Toyota Prius: 9-months ago this seemed like the no-brainer new car to buy. I put my name on a waiting list at the local dealer and waited. When it finally arrived I went to drive it and found that the gear shift thingy juts out exactly where my knee cap goes. Not comfortable. In fact, I found myself sitting in a really tense, awkward position in the hopes of not pushing my knee completely into this sharp piece of plastic. If I bought the car, I imagined myself, after several years, of having a deformed body, my gait having been entirely reordered due to this one ill-placed control stick. Thanks, Toyota, you fucking prick.

3. Honda Fit: Cool car. Also, kind of like a sarcophogous. I fit in the Fit but I felt genuinely claustrophobic. Not a good feeling driving off the lot.

4. Toyota Camry: Back to Toyota. I fit comfortably in the Camry with lots of room to spare. But the Camry's for old people and even old people know it. Still, a totally reasonable car. Nothing wrong with it. Except it's stupid and ugly and I don't live in Florida. Let me put it this way: If I had kidney problems, was a war vet, retired, and living in Florida with my third wife this would be my car. I don't know why but it's true.

5. Subaru Outback: Too small.

6. Subaru Forester: I bought this car. Then I turned around and sold it. For exactly what I payed for it. It's a long story. Let me just say: this is an awesome car. When I drove it to the beach with my girlfriend and mom the week after I bought it I could barely walk when I got out. My legs just fit in such a way that I lost all circulation to my feet when I drove this car. I know this sounds stupid but how do you think I felt?

7. Audi A3: Super cool car. I test drove this car about 70 times. I think the Audi people genuinely started to worry when they saw me coming. But finally it was a bit too small. Just a bit too tight. But close.

And then I sat in and drove about a dozen other cars: Ford Fusion (big enough, but ugly), used Mercedes, used BMWs, used Audis, second trip to the Honda Fit (still too tight), second trip to the Prius (still with the gear shift in my knee), Volkswagon Jetta Sportwagon (could have bought it...big, nice...), Mazda (all models way too small), the sporty 2-door Volvo...and about a dozen other cars. I can't remember them all anymore and frankly I don't want to. So, what did I buy?

Nth. Audi A4: Fits great. The Germans know how to make cars for tall people. Why? They're the fucking Teutons, that's why. It's the best car I've ever driven. It's way more than I wanted to spend but.... I'm not complaining. But what the fuck, car makers? What, like it's so fucking hard to design a simple, moderately priced car that a tall fucking man can fit in? I'm sorry, it can't possibly be that hard.

By the way, if you didn't already know: Ergonomics is Social Control. Tell a friend.

I Am a Video Gamer

The thing about video games is that they'll ruin your life.

When are we going to stop beating around the bush and just admit, as a culture, that video games are the superior media experience to films and literature? There's really no comparison any more. It should have been a dead give away when, a year or two ago, the video game industry's annual gross surpassed Hollywood's and (unless Hollywood really innovates) I don't see them overtaking video games as the primary media/entertainment outlet in the United States ever again.

We should throw Hollywood a retirement party. At this party, Hollywood will receive a plaque that says: "Thanks For Your Decades of Escapist Fantasy! What Would We Have Done Without You (Besides Read More And Become More Involved In Our Daily Lives)? Best of Luck In Retirement! By The Way, Do You Have That Ten Thousand Dollars You Owe Us? Sorry To Keep Asking!"

To be continued...

"Oh, God!"

This is Part 1 of what I hope is an on-going series of film reviews. You know A.O. Scott's film picks at the reviews will be kind of like those where I review whatever random film I happened to have watched that week except I'm not going to record myself on video standing awkwardly in front of a wall or red velvet curtains looking like someone was about to walk in the room and decapitate me. By the way, has anyone followed A.O. Scott's physical trajectory over the past year and a half since he started doing those nytimes video shorts? When he started out he was super white and pasty with huge black bags beneath his eyes, wearing whatever wrinkled clothes happened to be lying nearest to him on the floor that morning. But within the past year someone must have stopped him in the hall at the New York Times offices and said something. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

NY Times Colleague: Hey, A.O....
A.O.: Hey, what's up?
NYTC: Hey man, awesome film review video.
A.O.: Oh, thanks man, that's really nice of you. You really liked it?
NYTC: (Pause) was...uh...
A.O.: there something wrong?
NYTC:, it's just that...(looks around) look like shit.

Or something like that. Anyway, credit to A.O. for getting it together. Although, I have to say, I think A.O.'s shoddy appearance probably had more to do with the New York Times underestimation (and all of the newspaper business's underestimation for that matter) of people's desire/willingness to read/watch their news online. I don't think they had any idea that their little news videos would ever become a hundredth as huge as they are today. (Newspapers...we'll miss you...sort of).

Okay, back to the film review. For my first review...(drumroll)...I'd like to do "Oh, God!" Carl Reiner's 1977 film starring George Burns, John Denver and Terri Gar. Burns plays God and Denver plays the sweet supermarket manager whom he tries to convince to spread his word. Gar plays John Denver's wife who appears wearing a different super-tight pair of shorts or pants in every scene. I think this was her function in the film. They didn't even really pretend that Terri Gar was anything more than the smiling, blond tit and ass. She just was. And boy did she look great! You know, it occurred to me while I was watching this that Lisa Kudrow is basically her generation's Terri Gar - the goofy-yet-hot tall, skinny blond. (And then later that night I put on Lawrence of Arabia and thought about how Jude Law is his generation's Peter O' Toole and then I thought about how Hollywood basically operates on physical/character types which are repeated generation after generation, occasionally expanding into new types when the opportunity arises...I'm thinking, possibly, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a type-breaker, for instance....)

At the beginning of the film you think John Denver is horrible and that's why he never did any other films (besides the Muppets special) but he's actually pretty good. He's perfect for the role of a sweet, sincere everyman (who also happens to be your average non-believer...because obviously who isn't?) But the best part about this movie is the fact that it actually takes this scenario of God-returns-to-earth-to-spread-his-word-in-contemporary-America seriously. It would have been so easy to make a total farce out of this premise but they handled it really well. I was impressed.

Also, for some reason, the whole time I was watching the film I kept thinking it would be great to do a Japanese remake of it. I don't know why.

I give this movie three "YESSIR!"s. Wait, no, that's awkward. How about: I give this movie a big FAT LIP!?

No, here it is: I give "Oh, God!" a BIG SLAP ON THE NECK!!!