In December of 2003, You Learned:
10 MOVIES FOR WHICH I LOUDLY ANNOUNCED A THEATRICAL BOYCOTT BUT WOUND UP RENTING AND WATCHING ALONE IN THE DARK, ANYWAY, IN 2003.
[it should be noted, some of these films were released theatrically prior to 2003.]
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
- Bad Boys II
- The Sweetest Thing*
- Formula 51
- Kissing Jessica Stein
- Adventures of Pluto Nash*
- Rollerball (with ll cool j)*
- The Car That Drove Wicked Fast Into A Plate Glass Window, Followed By The Cop That Shot The Thing That Blew All The Columbians Up And Then Turned Away From The Explosion Super-Slow Just Before A Pretty Lady With Dirt On Her Face Kissed Him Really Hard On The Mouth And The Chief Of Police Shook His Head Really Slow And Smiled, Knowing He Was Going To Return That Cop's Badge First Thing In The Morning, But Not Before He Kicked The Bossy, Meddlesome Federal Agent In The Nads**
*indicates I did not complete this viewing
**indicates I saw this film numerous times
10 UNDESIRABLE QUALITIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD THAT HAVE ENDURED IN 2003.
- Tying my shoelaces with bunny ears.
- Sleeping with an extra bed pillow held in a tight and loving embrace.
- Losing my composure at the sound or sight of the word "titular."
- Obvious discomfort around adults. (particularly in the areas of addressing them, drinking wine with them, discussing practical matters with them, or shaking their hands.)
- Putting things in my mouth without first washing them in soap and warm water.
- Unbridled affection for chocolate cupcakes and Sour Patch Kids. (currently "under control")
- Secretly spitting food I don't like into my dinner napkin.
- Poor agility with scissors, glue, tape, and girls.
- Aspirin makes me vomit.
- So does reading.
HOW TO SINGLE OUT THE GOOD GUYS.
[Popular interest television programs and printed publications love the end of the year. It's when they can go on vacation, scrape off their spray-on tans with a putty knife, and replace them with real sun-nourished brown, or at least some fresh spray.
During this time of the year, instead of creating new editorial content, they simply run software robots that compile quotes, clips, and images from the preceding 11 months, and generate "year's best" lists based on the approval rating of those selected bits of media. In celebration of this practice, Tremble will be going list-crazy through the end of the calendar year.]
This year in music, like last year, was fun but the number of solid, full-length albums came up a bit short. Instead, small chunks of albums really stood outon their own. I'm not sure if it's a shift in the industry, or just in the way I listen to music now (on an iPod, while having sex) but I have received many short bursts of pleasure from music, and very few sustained joys. I don't mind, though, because there were plenty of bursts and I like bursts. Here's a list, starting...NOW:
TOP ELEVEN (i'm quirky!) SINGLES OF 2003
[in no certain order]
- "Milkshake" - Kelis
[ok, maybe this was my favorite single of 2003. and maybe my brain is a smooth and shiny pebble that can barely remember where pee is supposed to come from, but this is one of those great songs you hear young and old people singing while going about their business. pushing grocery carts, pinching their index finger and thumb into half a lemon, etc. they're all mumbling, "they're like, 'it's better than yours!'" in that staggery, rejuvenated cadaver way kelis affects. it's catchy as all get-out, like that crazy 'la da di la di da" crystal waters song written by a homeless woman. i hope that homeless woman is still collecting royalties and lives in a solid gold refrigerator box now, filled with flawless crystal urine jars. (that paragraph had two, totally distinct, references to pee. where is my pulitzer?)]
- "Stay Loose" - Belle and Sebastian
[i do not like everything on the latest B&S album. in fact, it would be safe to say i do not like many things on the new B&S album but i like this song very much. it reminds me of the pet shop boys, which is great, because it means i do not have to own an entire pet shop boys album to enjoy their music. it also means i get to own the latest B&S album, which endears me to many pale women.]
- "There's No Home For You Here" - The White Stripes
[did this album even come out this year? there are a few songs on the album i absolutely love, but i think i love this one the most. they should make it into a movie.]
- "No Culture Icons" - The Thermals
[you can't get the word "thermals" out of your mouth before someone much nerdier than you screams, "THEY MADE THAT ALBUM FOR, LIKE, $4.99!!! ISN'T THAT A CRAZY STATISTIC THAT MAKES YOU ENJOY THE MUSIC MUCH MORE???" after you hold the nerd's tongue down with a pen to keep him from seizing up, you can nod slowly, and tell him, "shhh." when he seems calm and his limbs stop twitching you can say, "that song 'no culture icons' was worth every penny of that $4.99 production expense, and then some. and i'd kick in an extra $20 for 'black to grey' alone." if the nerd suddenly starts trying to form the words, "sondre lerche," you have my persmission to stab him with his own pen.]
- "Hey Ya" - Outkast
[i imagine outkast's latest album, "speakerboxx", will guilt its way on to the top album lists of many music critics who actually dislike hip-hop but fear their dislike of hip-hop is somehow linked to their latent racism. they'd be wrong; they're racist for other reasons, and speakerboxx just doesn't really measure up. ("my favorite things"??? andre 3k, i think your lime-colored suspenders are wrapped too tight.) this single, however, does measure up. since its release i cannot remember a single moment when i was in a room where "hey ya" didn't get people moving around spastically. and even the people who didn't know the song get up on their feet, shaking the paint off the walls, and ask, "who has done this wonderful thing to us?" outkast done done it again.]
- "I Luv U" - Dizzee Rascal
[it's probably pretty fashionable to like dizzee rascal right now, as he's a british hip-hop artist. and this year, critics don't have to feel sort of bad for promoting the streets, last year's hyped UK mc who actually kind of stank. the dizzee rascal album, which i think comes out early next year in the states (brag), has several good singles on it, but this one is the most meltdown robotic. if you can decipher 20% of the lyrics, i'll mail my pulitzer - earned for 'excellence in urine-related nonfiction' - straight to you.]
- "Song For The Myla Goldberg" - The Decemberists
[right now, who is more twee than the decemberists? unless rainbow brite and strawberry shortcake recorded a single together in 2003 and i missed it, then the answer is "NO ONE." and what could be more twee than a song dedicated to that google-spectacled brooklyn author of "spelling bee." that's right, nothing. but be warned - this turducken-esque twee within twee combination is dangerous. please do not listen to this song when you have all your cute 20-something friends over for knitting/scrabble night, or you might create a black hole. OF TWEE!]
- "Ignition (remix)" - R. Kelly
[holy cow, i almost forgot this song was released as a remix this year. thank god for the "shuffle" setting on my iPod. this song is absolutely amazing, if only for the fact that you get to hear r. kelly sing "it's the remix to ignition/hot and fresh out the kitchen," many times. just as missy elliott assures listeners, before each and every track on her last album, "this is a missy elliott exclusive," r. kelly makes sure his bases are covered. see you in the hotel lobby. (please note that i had an excellent opportunity to make another pee joke here, but resisted the trifecta. nothing should come that easily.)]
- "A.D.I.D.A.S." - Killer Mike
[damn you, outkast. you done done it again and again. big boi produced it, and puts down the nicest flow on the song, but damn if killer mike doesn't get all aretha franklin on the track when he sings, "because i don't need this A-I-D-S. a 'D' and an 'A' missing out my adidas." whew. i prayed this would be summer 2003's all-the-time jam, kind of like "hot in herre" was for 2002, but i think something went wrong along the way and radio slept on it a bit. catch up!]
- "The End Has No End" - The Strokes
[first of all, don't hate the player, hate the game. now that that's out of the way, technically this single wasn't released this year. the album's first official single, "12:51", is also excellent, but it doesn't get me jumping quite the way "the end..." does. see you next year, i hope.]
- "Hey Mami" - Fannypack
["cameltoe" was a little too dr. demento for me, but "hey mami" does it right. it's the catchy music and simple chorus you became infected with in "cameltoe" with none of the embarrassment of having it stand out on a mixtape like a barnes & barnes song.]
As I was making this list, several other songs jumped straight to my attention. "Made You Look" (Nas), "Bokkie" (Elefant), "Remember Me" (British Sea Power), "No Children" (The Mountain Goats), "Testament to Youth in Verse" (The New Pornographers) and "Wires" (from The Moles reissue) come to mind right away. But you know what? Writing takes time and, unlike the producers of "Extra!" (i added the exclamation point on my own) and the writers for "Entertainment Weekly!!!!!!", I am doing this for free.
HOW TO NUMB THE PAIN OF THE REAGAN YEARS.
Angels in America was pretty wonderful, though I don't remember what happened in the last hour. (did they cure AIDS? don't tell me!) I actually passed out before it was over, because some old fraternity brothers were over at my apartment and we were playing the Angels in America drinking game.
You know the one. It's where you all sit around, and each of you picks an actor. (i had emma thompson) Any time that actor appears onscreen disguised as a secondary character - for instance, when Emma appears as the angel instead of the nurse - you have to drink. It's all, "Oh shit, dude! I think that Puerto Rican watch salesman is actually Meryl Streep. Drink, you faggot!! No offense to homosexuals and all, right, cause AIDS is a serious disease and its effects on the gay community are anything but trivial. Even today, AIDS has left the heterosexual attitude toward sex like a raw wound, its edges too remote to meet and scab over and - wait, hold up. I'm positive that black labrador puppy is Mary Stuart Masterson or whatever her name is. Now finish that hard lemonade or I'll punch your dick in!"
And then, after everyone's drunk a round separately, we all drink another together and scream, "ANGELS! ANGELS! USA!!" and we laugh and laugh and laugh like beautiful cherubs. Brilliant fucking movie, great pisser of a play. Totally deserves to be in the canon and shit.
HOW TO BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU.
Remember when everyone was rich? That was fun. And it was just a few years ago. Imagine. This was when you could walk into the fanciest French restaurant in the city and see a sign at the register declaring, "we accept cash, Visa, Master Card, and Beenz."
If you worked an office job back during the most recent economic boom, Christmas time was especially amazing. There were so many young, smaller companies, trying to suck at the teat of larger corporations - in consulting roles, etc. - that during the holidays they would shower your office with incredibly expensive gifts in order to more effectively suck up to you. The bounty was so plentiful that its recipients couldn't possibly consume all of it. So, instead, they would inevitably just leave the stuff out, for anyone to take. You could walk by any conference room and the table would be piled high with free gourmet chocolates and fresh fruit and bags of honey roasted diamonds, and giant, elegantly arranged trays of pussy. And none of that skank pussy, either – this was Beluga pussy.
But now that everyone’s broke, Christmas time has become a grim reminder of our conservative economy. There are no crate-loads of illuminated yo-yos being dropped off at our door from one of the offset printing facilities hoping to curry favor with our company. The rare occurrence cheese platters and smoked fish and flat breads never makes its way to the general corporate populace. The gifts have almost completely dried up. In fact, today I walked by one of our conference rooms, hoping to freeload off any treasures the vendors left behind and all that was there was an IOU for peanut brittle, and an open box of pancake mix.
HOW TO FINALLY ADMIT THE CRUCIFIXION WAS SOOO 33 A.D.
Over the last two days, I have been questioned almost incessantly about the new issue of TimeOut NY, because it features a a cover story on "The New Super Jews." While I am not specifically called out as a Super Jew - "should have studied your Torah portion harder, bitch," was the message my synagogue's cantor left on my answering machine - I guess people felt they could poll me as a representative of the tribe, hoping I would be able to tell them what it was like to finally be regarded as cool. As cool as pan-Asian cuisine or Red Hook, as cool as taco trucks and mukluks.
Honestly, at first it felt funny but it quickly started feeling shitty. When I think about how much backlash Williamsburg and moustaches have received on Craig's List, I can't help wondering if Jews are next. Is reducing a rich, ancient culture to a fleeting slot on some weekly's hot list (including an endorsement by the always-reliable Courtney Love, who claimed "Jews are cooler than fucking Billy Corgan and forgetting where I left my baby.") going to do anything for Jewish people? Or will it give anti-semites a convenient way to sublimate their hatred as just a harmless reaction to media-appointed hipness? I can see people rushing to their blogs, furiously deleting their negative opinions about Rick Moody, just to be the first to trash the new hot Jews. Am I going to start suffering entries like, "I guess it's easy to announce your trendy new status when you OWN THE MAGAZINE!!! And the media! And RGB color!! And the original Gutenberg press!! And the Orlando Magic!!!" and "I guess if you want to be cool now, you just have to parody shit with Yiddish, huh, Jews?? Oh wait. Check it out, I'm a Jewish MC and my name is "Slim Schvitzy." Aw yeah. Dr. Dreidel. MC Schmegegge. I'm in Run Daled-M-C and I'm about to drop my new album Raisin' Bagel. YOU ABOUT TO GET MORE LIFTED THAN THE BRIDE AND GROOM DURING THE HORAH. FOR 8 MILES AND 8 DAYS I'LL LIGGITY-LIGHT YOU UP LIKE A MENORAH. MOTHERFUCKERS WANT TO BITE MY HAFTORAH, THEY BETTER RECOGNIZE! SUKKAH MCs KEEP YOUR SHIT CORRECT OR I'LL BEAT YOU LIKE A LULAV AND GET GLATT ON YOUR ASS, FULL-BLAST, THEN STOMP YOU HARDER THAN A WEDDING GLASS. I'LL SPIT L'CHIAM WHILE I'M WATCHING YOU DYING!!!!
Or will the attention swing the other way? Will there circumcisions on St. Mark's Place? A Cadillac Ark? A copycat Exodus? Will they have to excise that part of the Bible so dumb Nebraska teens won't wander in the desert for 40 years without Powerade, just to be cool? Will I be fetishized like silk panties or Asians? There are so many exciting questions this new article raises. In fact, I was so moved by the piece that I actually did something I rarely bother to do: I wrote a letter to the editor of TimeOut. Don't know if they'll publish it but at least we can have it for ourselves:
Just read the "New Super Jews" issue of TimeOut NY and I have to say, as a representative NY Jew, I think it's adorable that your publication considers Jewish people the new Williamsburg. There's nothing quite as gratifying as discovering your several thousand-year old culture is finally doing something cool enough to make ink alongside stories about "Yoga for Dudes" and guys who pop boners when they imagine themselves strutting around in low-rise jeans. In your face, Hitler!
Very much looking forward to your upcoming issue about how black people are doing hip and interesting things, too.
Shalom (that's our hip, secret word for "later!"),
I can't wait until I get rounded up...FOR THE V.I.P. ROOM!!!
HOW TO FEEL HURT, NOSTALGIC, LOVED, IGNORED AND NAUSEATED IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS.
This year I spent Thanksgiving away from home, in Chicago, hosted by an old (but youthful) friend and his gracious wife. (with guest appearances from miss annie tomlin, who has matured into a sophisticated woman.)
I broke my right index toe on Thanksgiving, which was a drag. The pain was not half as annoying as the act itself, because when you say you did something as innocuous and non-life threatening as break your toe, it's like telling someone, "Hey, I fell down-boom and got a boo-boo on my wee-wee spot."
In the several instances I've told the story, I've emphasized the ridiculous irony of breaking my toe. I showed up at my friend's place, wearing boots. Got into drinking immediately - his family has a way of encouraging the consumption of alcohol and dairy enzymes. After about an hour and a half I was told to take off my boots, and relax. I went into the front room, took off my boots, spun around, and slammed into a piece of furniture, cracking the toe. The joke, along with the little chips of bone inside my skin bag, was on me.
However, there was an important detail deliberately excised from the story. Good detective work would reveal a 45-second gap between the time my boots came off and my toe was broken. That's because I was obsessed with how fat I've grown since Halloween and, as soon as the boots came off, I dropped and did 30 push-ups. Upon hopping to my feet, I banged my toe into furniture and broke it.
I felt it was important to remove that sliver of data in telling the story. A broken toe is humiliating enough, and does not require the additional strains of insecurity, vanity, and gluttonous obesity weaving their way through the tale. You certainly wouldn't want to tell someone you got a hernia by forgetting to bend at the knees before lifting a 25-pound block of caramel fudge to your dinner plate. Or that you developed ocular protuberance from peeing too hard. As long as there are no witnesses, it's your story alone to tell.
Oh, and it was 25 push-ups. I mean, if we're being honest. And it wasn't my toe; it was my wiener bone.