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November 2004

Unfaithful and Inaccurate

Uh oh. Another bit of screwy Hollywood geography. (This is in danger of becoming a new obsession.) In Unfaithful, Diane Lane drives into Soho to see her on-the-side lover (hot, hot, hot Olivier Martinez, whose character must secretly be as rich as a Midas, judging from the size of his Soho loft), only to spot him dashing through the rain with another chippie. She immediately pulls her car into an available lot (!) and runs off to follow them into a bookstore aorund the corner. Now, to give proper credit, I think they really show her driving down Mercer Street, where this dude is supposed to be living, and I even think there's a teeny lot there (not that it's likely to have a free spot in the middle of rainy weekday, but that’s another bit of nonsense altogether). The crazy bit, though, is that when Diane Lane rushes around the corner (toward, in theory, either Spring or Broome), only to appear walking into the Strand, which is actually about 14 or 15 blocks north, on Broadway.

I know, I know — it doesn't really matter, except that I know both the areas in question too well, and seeing these little bits edited together just make my brain go haywire for a second.

Also, the movie features myother big pet peeve. There's a school-pageant scene in which the kids, like the kids in every Hollywood costumne party or school play, are wearing outrageously cool, professional (and therefore unrealistically expensive and complicated) costumes as part of the fun. I’ve been to my fair share of school plays and costume parties, and I assure you that they are never that fancy.

Oh, Hollywood, is it possible that you feed us nothing but fantasy and lies?

Robot Love

I love, love, LOVE Diesel Sweeties and heartily endorse all its related merchandise and think you should read a new installment of it every weekday. (I think it was even PJ who first brought it to my attention.) It's always sharp, always funny, always poking fun at goofy things that are near and dear to me, and I like robots, so what's not to love? Today's strip is the kind that goes right to my heart — comic-book jokes that lovingly acknowledge what dorks we are! I’m getting moist.

Wonder Bar

We're watching an old Wonder Bar, a crazy, bawdy bit of post-code lunacy from 1934 that’s amazingly racy considering the code was already in effect. Murder! Sex jokes! Gays dancing as a couple! The very scandal of it makes me weak.

The raciness isn't the most curious thing. Y'see, although the bar in question is supposedly a little supper club in Montmarte, it follows the surreal logic of the old Hollywood musical, in which a tiny Parisian club suddenly has all the room of a soundstage — enough for dozens of twirling Busby Berkeley couples, 15-foot-high mirrors, revolving floors, and aluminum palm trees. God, I wish I could pull tricks like that with the space at my disposal.

Of course, the saucy gay jokes and loopy dance numbers are nothing compared to one of those moments that make modern audiences gasp in disbelief: "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule." This is the sort of thing that solidifies Al Jolson's infamy (or, as they say in the movie, "one of his characteristic numbers, for which he is famous"). In this number, eternal paradise is imagined (and of, course portrayed in the club which again becomes an endless soundstage) by the blackfaced Jolson as a honty-tonk hootenanny with pork chops growing on trees, piles of free watermelon, and tap-dancing angels in blackface.

Jolson is so...difficult. I get that he was actually trying to give all this traditional black music its due, but he plays up so many damaging stereotypes that make it all so wrong, wrong, wrong. It's funny and weird as hell, but very difficult for a modern-day liberal to take lightly. If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the lyrics:

Verse:

Ever since I was a little pickaninny, I’ve rode an old Missouri mule.
that’s the only way I’m ever gonna travel, I’m a superstitious fool;
And when the good Lord tells me that I’ve sung my closin' song,
My soul will still be on that mule, a-joggin' right along;

Chorus:

When I pass away on that Judgment Day,
I’m goin' to heaven on a mule, an old Missouri mule;
Bye and bye, I'll be ridin' high,
Across that rainbow in the sky to heaven on a mule.
Mammy waits at those Pearly Gates,
I'll see all those Harlem babies struttin' to the tones of saxophones again.
And I'll roll a lot of sevens when I roll the bones with Emp'ror Jones again,
Yes siree!
With a "Glory be," I'll be glad to see
Abe Lincoln like he used to be, the man who set me free;
Yes, I’m goin' up to heaven on a Missouri mule.

Hipboot Chicks

I don't have any problem with superheroes wearing outfits that are a little garish or impractical for the real world. In fact, I think I prefer them that way. They jive pretty well with the internal logic of the medium, so I don't quibble too much about them and just enjoy them for their flair.

But then there are the ladies with the hip boots. Now, if Seven of Nine is willing to defend the use of high heels for a character then I’m willing to let that detail slide, but I don't get the hip boots. Maybe you have to be a straight guy with some degree of appreciation for female strippers (because the basic appeal isn't entirely lost on me), but for a crime-fighter it's still a look that’s less "I’m gonna kick your ass" and more "I’m gonna lick your ass."

Of course, female superheroes have long been dressed for titillation rather than intimidation, so maybe the thigh boot is just a sensible enough way to protect one's legs from cold and abrasions when one is already dressed in a thong. I’ve never been in a fight or scaled the side of a building in a bathing suit, so I can only guess. Is it possible that Emma Frost is more sensible than we give her credit for being?

Parallel Universe

The problem with living in New York and knowing your way around the city is that it's totally maddening when you see movies or TV shows get it all wrong. It's almost like slander, at least to someone like me who's so devoted to this town.

For instance, I’m watching one of the TBS reruns of Sex and the City, and Carrie is all weirded out because apparently her favorite show repair guy has been replaced by a comic store. It seems he couldn't afford the rent and had to close up shop and head back to Williamsburg.

First of all, I don't think the little shoe-repair shops we've got here deal with the kinds of shoes that strumpet wears. But that’s a minor point, at best.

What's more troubling is that she's standing all befuddled in front of St. Mark's Comics, so apparently Carrie hasn't had her shoes repaired in about 20 years. I mean, it's not the greatest shop, but it's been around for ages and it's got a distinctive sign on a busy street. Would it have been so unreasonable to give a little nod to reality when they set up that scene?

And the shoe repair couldn't afford his rent, but could afford to move back to Williamsburg? With what's been going on there for the last few years, that’s just the mad talk of a Bizarro universe.

Tonight!

The WYSIWYG Talent Show

More Identifying Marks

I decided to commemorate my latest departure from steady employment by getting an addition to my series of typographic tattoos. As always, the letters don't stand for anything, but are chosen for what I like about their abstract shapes.

In this case, I’ve overlayed a section symbol from the Champion Middleweight face with a lowercase g from ITC New Baskerville. I like the way each character has a different quality to its curves compared to the other.

Section-g diagram

Fatty Fatty 2-by-4

Enough people have commented on how much weight I’ve lost that I’m starting to wonder just how obscenely corpulent I had been. I know I ballooned a few waist sizes and have since returned to normal, but was it really that obvious? My god, the shame! More than anything else, this probably just goes to show that I don't know how to properly dress a fat chassis. Whatever bulk I had must have been very poorly camouflaged, or maybe it was just the way I refused to spend too much money on clothes for a physique I was too horrified to accept. All my favorite t-shirts are size small, so I’m just glad I’ve returned to the shape I’ve had for most of the last 15 years or so.

Note to self: never take antidepressants ever again, and put down that second helping of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch! A fat Sparky isn't a cute Sparky.

Ugh.

We're so fucked. I’m clinging to that teeny cotton thread of hope, but it looks like we're fucked, especially if I start to think about Congress.

If you voted Republican, don't tell me. I mean it. If you tell me, you rob me of the belief that I can respect your judgement and your values. What was it? Tax breaks? The war? Religion? Stem cells? What makes you think things are just fine the way they are, and will only get better? Yes, you're entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine. And my opinion is that you betrayed me. You personally betrayed me. (You also personally betrayed the generations that will foot the bill for your tax breaks and for the war, but right now I can only dredge up the most abstract kind of anger about that.)

You betrayed me for people who say that I don't deserve the same rights you do. You betrayed me for people who believe that might makes right. You betrayed me for people who think it's more honorable to send people to die for democracy than contribute to its cost. I hope the unparallelled arrogance and self-righteousness we are about to witness makes you feel good about your choice. Enjoy that tax break! You earned it!

Me? I didn't need it.

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