In December of 2008, You Learned:
THE POORLY NAMED SHOW THAT WILL SURELY BE FUN.
If you are going to be in the NYC area over Christmas, here's some great news -- this year Christmas Eve doesn't have to be a poignant reminder that we all die alone!
I'll be performing in the 92Y Tribeca's Chanukomedy Show, hosted by JOE MANDE and featuring some great joke-makers, including JANEANE GAROFALO, LEO ALLEN, BRET GELMAN, AMY SCHUMER, and RACHEL FEINSTEIN. I stand by this line-up! Here are the details:
92Y Tribeca Presents Chanukomedy
Wednesday, December 24 @ 8pm
92YTribeca: 200 Hudson St. (just below Canal)
Tickets are only $12, and can be purchased here. You can also RSVP to the event on Facebook, just like they do in the future!
The show should be so much fun, you'll go from this...
A HANUKKAH MIRACLE.
What a blessed way to celebrate this festive Jewish holiday...Toronto Bodybuilder Eats 47 Latkes, Sets Record. The article says the previously held record for the number of potato pancakes eaten in one sitting was 29, which surprised me. As someone who has eaten potato pancakes (Jew) before, I honestly would have guessed the previous record was two and a half or three. Eating 47 potato latkes is one of those kinds of contests where the winner is the loser.
On a related subject, last night I watched part of a Discovery Channel special on the science of morbid obesity. It was fascinating in that "I just watched someone eat 47 latkes" kind of way. There were a number of interesting facts about morbid obesity, including this one: because of their unusually heavy load, morbidly obese people make their vehicles 10-20% less fuel efficient.
Another interesting fact: this Discovery Channel television special probably exhausted every piece of b-roll footage in existence of fat people shot from behind and below the head, waddling around shopping malls and amusement parks. They even had that rare footage of a fat person on an assisted-mobility scooter, stretching for a box of cookies on a high supermarket shelf. (That clip actually won a Rollie Award in 2006, for Outstanding Achievement in Padding Out a Human Health & Nutrition Local News Package.)
I found myself incredibly sympathetic toward the central "character" of the special -- a man who weighs over 500 pounds and, after several failed attempts at diet, is preparing himself for last-resort gastric bypass surgery. He seemed like he was really struggling with his weight, and clearly came from a family where food = love. Apparently, crash dieting is often a terrible and unsuccessful strategy for the morbidly obese because, as that sized frame begins to quickly shed pounds, the body goes into a kind of state of shock and begins producing extra hormones to increase one's appetite in order to help return to an "equilibrium weight." (Which, in the case of someone who was morbidly obese, is much higher than the average person.) Learning about the science of obesity honestly gave me a new perspective on people who make the decision to have gastric bypass surgery. It is not so much of a cop-out as it is a final, desperate act to live a normal, less wheezy life.
However, I must confess my compassion toward the gastric bypass candidate waned a bit during the footage of the "going under the knife party" thrown by his family. (After this party, he would have to go on a four-day clear liquid diet to help empty his body, since morbidly obese people often have 20-30 pounds of toxic, undigested food in their digestive systems at any time.) Rather than regard this as a turning point in his life, the patient saw the party as his "last hurrah" and piled high plate after plate of oily Central American snacks, devouring everything with giddy delight. I realize the producers of this special wanted me to see how tortured this guy is by his own tremendous appetites, but I will forever be haunted by the image of him ladling barbecue sauce on a plate devoid of vegetables, while sing-speaking, "ooh...this is yummy yummy yummy for my tummy." It's one thing to give in to your weaknesses on camera, but did you have to write a children's rhyme about it? I guess I just didn't expect to hear the words "yummy" and "tummy" on the lips of a man who was precariously close to eating himself to death. I sort of expected that when morbidly obese people binge, they are more likely to say things to themselves like, "oh, fuck, what the fuck is wrong with you, man?" or "oh, jesus christ what the fuck am i doing oh god i can't stop eating and crying and eating and pooping and crying."
IN DEFENSE OF FREDDIE PRINZE, JR.
By now anyone who obsessively studies weekend box office returns with nothing personal to gain from the experience knows that the animated film, Delgo, went on record as having the worst opening weekend in the history of American cinema. (According to receipts, it averaged approximately two tickets sold per showtime.)
Perhaps the studio was to blame for choosing to open Delgo on over 2,000 screens without spending a single dollar marketing or advertising Delgo beforehand. Or perhaps you could blame this unprecedented bomb on the fact that Delgo was animated by a studio no one has ever heard of, or the fact that the movie deals with racism in some clunky and convoluted way that somehow involves lizard creatures. OR maybe it was simply because the title of this animated film is Delgo. DELGO? That sounds like the title of an obscure and sweet little Italian film about a unique young boy coming of age (i.e. masturbating on or with something crazy, like a piece of knitting or a freshly caught trout) in Sicily during WWII.*
I guess my point is, if one were to write an article about Delgo's massive failure on opening weekend, there are a number of angles with which to approach the story. Delgo had a lot going against it, honestly, which makes it very curious that Yahoo! decided this was the best headline to run: FREDDIE PRINZE JR. MOVIE BIGGEST BOMB EVER.
I want to say, "way to throw Freddie Prinze Jr. under the bus, Yahoo" -- mostly because I really want to get in on this whole "throwing X under the bus" phenomenon that's been going around lately. However, it might be more accurate to say, "way to leave Freddie Prinze Jr. under the bus where he's been for almost a decade, but then point and shout 'Hey look, it's Freddie Prinze Jr. There, under the bus!' loud enough for everyone to hear, Yahoo!"
For all of Delgo's obvious shortcomings, why go after Freddie Prinze Jr? It's not as if Delgo was his personal vanity project. His Postman or Battlefield: Earth or The President of the United States of Meshuggenah. (That is the working title of my vanity project about our country's first Jewish President whose mother comes to live with him in the White House to make him feel ashamed of his bowel movements.) To my knowledge, Delgo was not a Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicle. There were plenty of other actors involved, some of whom do not have the "Prinze Jr. Stink" all over them. Also, it's an animated film, a genre where the voice actors are usually the last thing to blame for the film's failure. I haven't seen Delgo, and maybe Freddie Prinze Jr. insisted on playing his role live action, in which case the blame could fall squarely on his horrible shoulders. But I don't think there is actually a single frame of Delgo in which Freddie Prinze Jr. is recognizable.
Which leads me to wonder, Yahoo, how did Freddie Prinze Jr. hurt you? Did he refuse to answer questions from Yahoo at his red carpet premiere of Wing Commander? Maybe he spied that ".com" on your mic, held up his hand dismissively, and told your correspondent, "Sorry, I don't do Web press." Did he bail on a live online chat? Did he refuse to cross-link? WHY ARE YOU SO HURTFUL TOWARD ONE OF OUR NATION'S COMEDIC TREASURE'S SONS?
I guess, mostly, I'm just disappointed that Yahoo has lowered itself to the ad hominem attacks that are the mark of so much entertainment journalism these days. Yahoo, I thought you were earnest, like AOL.com and not nasty, like TMZ.com. I thought you were better than this but I have to say, Yahoo, you really let me down -- kind of like Freddie Prinze Jr.'s wooden voice acting work let Delgo down.
*This kind of movie usually has a scene where a soldier gives the boy a deck of nude lady playing cards and then, later, the little boy sees a neighborhood lady in her bra through a keyhole or fence knot and masturbates in his bathroom, and then is caught in the act by his obese grandmother. It's the kind of movie you see a preview for in art house theaters and the only dialogue in the preview is various characters shouting "Delgo" at different moments in the film, because it is the only dialogue most English-speaking audiences can understand.
ONLY AN YSL SWEATER SIZED XXXXL WOULD BE BIG ENOUGH TO COVER KANYE WEST'S BIG, BROKEN HEART.
Say what you will about his singing (awful) or the emotional maturity he exhibits on his new album, 808s and Heartbreak (appropriate for a fifteen-year-old's impassioned Facebook Note), you have got to hand it to my man -- Kanye's new look is very fresh:
My friend, Gregg, told me I should be nicer to Kanye West because he's clearly still recovering from cataract surgery.
THIS IS A VERY GOOD THING.
The Morning News is a very respectable web publication staffed with very respectable writers and designers and illustrators all working very hard to disprove the idea that the web is a disposable publishing medium -- and, in my opinion, they are succeeding. However, just to disprove the point they just worked so hard to disprove, they have done something special with their creative energy: published (in the truest sense) the first-ever The Morning News Print Annual.
Among its 200 (!) pages, the editors have collected some of their favorite pieces from 2008 and have also (bonus!) commissioned 21 new pieces from some of their writing staff. One of those new pieces was written by me expressly for this annual, so if you'd like to read it you should buy this thing now. I would also add that there are 200 pages worth of other reasons to buy this damn thing. If I know the editors of TMN -- and I'd like to think I do -- I know they made certain they were producing a quality (maybe even respectable) product.
It would make a fine gift, and also a fine small, selfish gesture during this holiday season. Plus, for this initial run there is only a limited quantity of 200 copies. So please, do us all a favor.
QUIT LOOKING AT ME.
This season's Top Chef has the distinction of having the contestant with the deadest eyes (Jeff) as well as the contestant with the craziest eyes in the history of the show. (Carla)
I wasn't able to find any photographs online of Jeff speaking directly to the camera, because he is a dracula monster whose filmed image disappears at sunrise. I can, however, tell you this: hearing Jeff speak of his passion for cooking in that uninflected, unblinking robo-speak is exactly like watching an imprisoned serial murderer detachedly recount the grisly details his crimes. Jeff is Top Chef's B.L.T. Killer. (HUGE APPLAUSE) He's the Hannibal Lecter of cooking things that aren't people's faces. (STANDING OVATION) He's John Wayne Gravy! (DEVELOPMENT DEAL WITH NBC) The Zodiac Griller! (ENOUGH! OK? ENOUGH!!) Jeff has dead eyes.
But even if Jeff were talking about preparing a meal with fava beans and a nice Chianti (an incredibly obscure film reference - METACRITIC IT!) it would not be nearly as scary as his ocular opposite, Carla:
Oh man, quit it. If eyes are indeed the windows to the soul (I made that up but it has an inherent truth to it, no?), then Carla's eyes should have iron bars on them and be made up unbreakable plexiglas just in case Carla's soul tries to smash its head against it. Also, Carla's soul should have its shoelaces and belt confiscated. There are other jokes I could make but, seriously, mental illness is a real disease and diseases are not funny. (With the exception of Spina Bifida, which is only funny in name, and not at all funny in many other ways.) Carla has an intensely nervous energy. She actually seems to vibrate when she speaks. At one point in the last episode, one of the judges mentioned that Carla made her uncomfortable when she was giving an on-camera cooking demo. I wonder what could have made her uncomfortable? Was it the fact that Carla was having a little trouble finishing her demo on time? Or maybe it had something to do with her being a six-foot eight electric eel in a fright wig whose eyeballs are so large they press up against the lenses of her glasses? Seriously:
"Hey chef, I'll have two eyes, over crazy!" (CONGRATULATIONS, JAY LENO, ON YOUR NEW PRIMETIME WEEKDAY PROGRAM.)
My search for a new couch has been driven primarily (maybe even solely) by concerns of the feline sort. When I moved into my apartment just over two years ago, I bought a couch through Craig's List. It was an old couch -- what I guess you would call a "mid-century modern" design if you are someone who wears tight-fitting merino wool sweaters and displays his casual, laid-back side by wearing Camper brand adult sneakers -- and it was in nearly perfect condition. Apart from a small, almost imperceptible tear along the bottom edge, the upholstery (aquamarine, with a neat silver thread woven through it) was pristine. It was also the exact texture of a scratching post. The first time I witnessed one of my cats getting a claw caught in the sofa's loose weave, the moment passed between us in a quick series of flashes, like that drug abuse montage from Requiem for a Dream: Ble's claw, snagged; close-up of my worried eyes; Ble's cat eyes, rapidly dilating, and glazing over with a "holyshitihavefoundparadise" expression; the claw, flexing; threads pulling free; me shaking my head, woefully; liquid boiling; a syringe filling; my pupils dilating; etc.
Within six months, the couch looked like a middle-aged prostitute--and not one of those high-class ones, either. The kind of prostitute that make lots of mistakes on the job, forgetting to tell johns to pay cash up-front, picking a mean pimp, walking over subway grates in heels, and so on. Now, nearly every edge of the sofa is torn beyond repair and its stuffing exposed, except in certain places where the stuffing has been completely removed and secreted away in various cat hiding spots around the apartment. The frame is visible through giant tears on the sofa's arms; you can slide your arm inside and press it against the fabric to make it look like the couch is breathing. And these days, when the cats drag their claws across the couch, they do so joylessly, like they're just going through the motions. It's not quite as sad as coming home each night to a couch that would look more at home in an underground compound inhabited by mole people than a Brooklyn apartment inhabited by an effete snob, his wife, and a pair of lousy cats.
In an attempt to avoid a similar outcome with our new couch, precautions were taken. Lisa and I did a lot of research. We tried "no claw" sprays -- some kind of bottled mist that is supposed to smell like farts to cats, which is a pretty incredible thing considering how much cats enjoy the odor of "salmon and liver"-flavored cat food and each other's anuses. Unfortunately, it seems my cats equally enjoy the smell of farts because that spray prevented nothing except a repeat-purchase.
Next up: Soft Paws. Soft Paws are kind of like Lee Press-On Nails for cats and come in an assortment of colors, including special holiday-themed mixes. Lisa and I had some disagreement about whether these would be a viable solution; I thought applying and maintaining them would require as much, if not more work than just cutting their nails; Lisa thought they'd look really hilarious. We were both right.
Soft Paws are actually kind of fun, providing your idea of fun is participating in weeks-long scavenger hunt, collecting the ruby red plastic sheaths your cats have chewed off their nails and deposited all around your apartment. But as an alternative to worrying about our next couch purchase, they were kind of a big, fat failure. (Coincidentally, I think "Big, Fat Failure" is also the title of the 37th Garfield Comics Treasury.)
As a result, shopping for a couch has not been the fancy experience I'd hoped it would be. I haven't even bothered visiting nice home furnishings stores like Conran's, ABC Home and Carpet, and Design Within Reach. Instead, I've been spending most of my time on cat-related message boards, where cat owners share helpful advice about cat-resistant fabrics. I read a lot of arguments for (and, frustratingly, against) leather, microfiber and microsuede, but I also found a lot of advice like this:
"...to keep my twelve feral cats from wrecking my furniture, I simply drape my IKEA futon in a couple of old mismatched bed sheets, then and wrap hotel bath towels around the arms using electrical tape. Works like a charm!"
"I bought a couch upholstered in sisal. BIG MISTAKE! I learned my lesson real quick, and got rid of that thing. These days, when I want to watch my stories, I just stretch out on a pile of saved-up plastic grocery bags. The cats still claw at them and sometimes the noise can be unbearable, but at least the bags are easily replaceable. So I guess you could say we're all living happily ever after!!"
"There is only one foolproof way to keep your cats from trashing your furniture: mittens."
"Hi. I'm wrapped in a hand-made afghan covered in cat fur, and waiting for a mail carrier, Chinese food delivery person -- anyone, really -- to ring my doorbell and become part of my life, even for a few precious minutes of human interaction."
When we finally settled on a couch -- a model that was neither outrageously expensive nor upholstered with chain-mail -- and found a few fabrics we liked, Lisa assessed the various colors against our apartment's decor. I, however, had my own ideas about what to do with our fabric swatches. I arranged them in a small grid on one of the couch cushions and had Lisa transport one of our sleeping cats from the floor to the couch, directly on top of the swatches. I wanted to test the various colors and materials for their respective properties of Fur Magnetism and Ease of Removal. After a few hours, I lifted the cat's belly and removed the swatches to examine them for hair distribution. This is what it's come to, I guess.
The whole experience made me feel a little like a sad shut-in -- the kind of person who posts hundreds of photos of himself on a European vacation, and you can kind of tell, usually by the distance of the camera to the subject, the angle, or the presence of tensed shoulders in the frame, that all of the photographs were self-portraits. But necessity is the mother of shut-ins, and these measures were necessary. I'm just grateful that, in 10-12 short weeks, we'll have a brand-new couch to replace the tired prostitute we sit on these days. And just to be safe, I'm probably going to buy some filthy bed sheets and electrical tape, too.
MY VERY IMPORTANT NEW WEB PROJECT.
SMELLS LIKE MONEY.
Riding the train home last night, late, when two black guys board. Now, ordinarily this would be my signal to flee, but I decided to risk it because Obama, etc.
One of the guys was carrying a plastic McDonald's take-out bag, I guess because he's one of those people who are too busy to sit down and enjoy a nice meal in the comfort of a McDonald's. In his other hand he was holding a drink. It was some kind of brown liquid in one of those tiny, semi-transparent Dixie cups you get at movie theaters and pizzerias, as their way of shaming you for requesting tap water instead of Sierra Mist.
As the train bumped along, he took small sips from his Dixie cup. Finally, his friend asked, "what's that?" Mr. Sips slowly raised the cup in a toast, and replied, "Courvoisier. Smells like money, don't it?" His friend laughed and heartily agreed; I would have agreed, too, if I had been able to smell the Courvoisier over the stronger, headier aroma of Chicken McNuggets.