An Inconvenient Truth

As I sit at my computer on this fine April 20th (cough, cough), preparing to review Al Gore’s fine documentary/Power Point presentation (docupoint?) An Inconvenient Truth, it strikes me that most people have already either seen the film or they’ve been so inundated with hype they wouldn’t add it to their Netflix queue if you paid them. That’s why I’m not going to tell you why it’s your responsibility as a good Americal liberal to go out and rent it (you actually already agreed to go see it when you registered as a Democrat – it’s kind of like Jury Duty). Instead, I’ll simply point out the questions and concerns I was left with after watching the film, so that those of you who have already seen the film will have something to read too.

Laura’s Observations Regarding An Inconvenient Truth:

-Man, he’s really, really bitter about losing to George W. Bush! He uses the exact same level of solemnity when they show the aftermaths of September 11th and Hurricane Katrina as when he loses to GW. Appropriate? Biased?

-What’s with the forklift? Why’s he getting up on the forklift? Doesn’t he know he looks like a complete tool?

-When he talks about becoming disenchanted with school and traveling around the world (he doesn’t specifically mention Amsterdam, but come on), all I heard was “I did lots of acid.” In fact, there are times in this movie where I think he’s still on acid.

-I’m sorry, but the Melissa Etheridge song has to go. It’s a shitty song. I don’t care how inspiring she is or how much she made fun of her own song at the Oscars, and I don’t even care that she won an Oscar. Ugh.

-We tried to watch the additional material (an update, rather), and it was really really long. Fascinating, yes. But long.

-Where’s Tipper in all this? Are she and Al having problems? That would be too bad.

Conclusion:

Poor nerdy Al Gore. It’s like he’s a rock star, but a really lame one. He travels around the country giving his sad little slide show, and there are all these shots of him leaning his head against the window in like tour buses and airplanes, and it’s like they’re trying to be like Almost Famous, like he’s about to break out into “Tiny Dancer” any minute. There’s totally some Spinal Tap in there too, like when he’s wandering around confused backstage, and finally emerges triumphantly. But then instead of rocking, he just talks a lot. And he does a good job, I’m not saying I was bored, but he could liven it up just a tad more. Hire an intern off Craigslist and get them to make an animated film. You could have Shrek 4 in one semester if you get a few NYU seniors! Ah, bless the college internship: it’s like slavery and child labor all wrapped into one.

Book Review: Holidays on Ice

In case you hadn’t noticed, one thing Liz and Laura are not is timely. We don’t usually get around to reading, viewing or eating something until it’s somewhat old news. But we like to argue that our readers are just as lazy as, if not lazier than, Liz and Laura themselves, and probably haven’t gotten around to reading that bestseller either. So for those slackers among you, I present my long-overdue review of Holidays on Ice.

David Sedaris is one of those writers whose work I always intended to get around to reading, but somehow it never came to be. That is, until I found a box of books discarded in my neighborhood one day. I brought it home, much to Liz’s concern (for some reason she doesn’t like it when I drag in garbage off the street, even though that’s where the free stuff is!). Most of the books sucked ass. Among the ones I threw back in the sea (the sea of trash, that is) were The Notebook, some other books by the guy who wrote The Notebook, and some books about Jesus.

But lo and behold! Holidays on Ice was tucked between volumes of the diaries of Virginia Woolf, just waiting to be rescued. I read the book, which is a collection of short stories, in a couple of afternoons, and found it to be wonderful. That David Sedaris is just a delight! The story about the Christmas Whore I found particularly compelling. The gap-toothed whore reminded me of Liz, which made me laugh! Silly, cracked out old Liz.

I also liked David’s hilarious anecdotes about the various jobs he’s worked. I relate, as I too have worked quite a lot of jobs, most of them menial at best. Plus, having been a fan of Amy Sedaris from her work on Strangers with Candy, it’s always funny when he mentions her, which he does often. All in all I wish nothing but the best for David, who seems like a pretty cool guy, and who will probably end up being known as one of the century’s great writers. Now I must continue to read his work, although I don’t know about The Book of Liz. Anything but that.

Book Review: Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition, by geek favorite William Gibson, is an airplane read, the type of book you can finish on a weekend.  It’s light stuff, the literary equivalent of a pop song, but like pop songs, the book has an infuriating tendency to get stuck in the brain.  Like Stephen King, a fellow author famed for working in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, Gibson litters his writing with brand names and other cultural specifics in order to create a more convincing universe.  Although Pattern Recognition takes place in modern times, albeit in a variety of world cities due to the jet-setting adventures of our heroine, Cayce Pollard, the story is a far cry from the fantastical adventures portrayed in much of Gibson’s previous work.  Here the mystery comes from real people and places, although much of it takes place in cyberspace, which some would argue is the newest and most exotic frontier.

The story revolves around mysterious video segments which, in the world of the book, have become an underground cultural phenomenon due to the anonymity of their source.  The cryptic clips seem to be part of something larger, and Cayce Pollard seeks to discover the truth to the videos as part of an internet forum dedicated to this cause.  Cayce is plagued by an unusual sensitivity to brand logos and other strong symbols with cultural or corporate connotations.  This affliction comes in handy, as she’s paid handsomely by marketing companies as a consultant for her truly unique ability to spot effective advertising.

When she receives an assignment to track down the makers of the mysterious video footage, Cayce becomes half detective, half James Bond as she adventures around the world, solving the mystery.  It’s a fun ride, although not terribly deep, although the metaphor of film director as God is milked pretty heavily.  What really sticks with me, though, is Gibson’s details, especially the ones he lays on thick in the beginning for character development.  The descriptions of Cayce’s systematic de-branding of her plain clothing, for example, lend a Fight Club-type humor that is unfortunately lacking in some of the later chapters.  There is quite a bit of discussion about clothing, in fact, and interestingly enough, the jacket which Cayce wears throughout the novel and which becomes something of  a plot point, a black Rickson’s bomber, didn’t exist before the publication of the novel, but the clothiers were so flattered by Mr. Gibson’s reference that they created a limited edition line just for him.  I hardly think this is fair.  I write about stuff I want all the time, and I haven’t gotten jack.

All in all, I would recommend this novel, not for a life-changing experience, but for a pleasant read that’ll make you feel somehow cooler and more modern, and which will mysteriously compel you to purchase more and more plain black clothing…

Laura Gets a Haircut

As promised, here is a photo essay chronicling my dramatic new haircut, which was performed by no other than Liz (with help from Chris)!

As you can see, I started out with medium-length hair.

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The plan was for Liz and Chris to give me a mohawk before taking it all off, with the final goal being a buzz cut (not a complete shave).

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After shearing some random layers out of my hair, we discovered that I had what could easily pass as an expensive Williamsburg hipster haircut.

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Chris, with his extensive clipper experience, dove on in and started shearing away my golden locks, like wool from a very attractive sheep.

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I discovered what life with a mohawk (well, to be fair, it was more of a faux-hawk) would be like.

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Apparently it involves lots of drinking and striking rebellious poses.

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Finally, Liz went in for the kill. It doesn’t look like she knows what she’s doing, does it?

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At long last, I had a short (but sassy) new ‘do!

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At last, I’ve discovered the secret to getting free haircuts…getting your roommates drunk! I could’ve been saving literally tens of dollars every year! What a fool I am.

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Mary Does Jesus: An Erotic Short Story

Jesus looking sultry

Jesus first spotted Mary the night of graduation from Hebrew school.  Jesus and a bunch of his friends decided to have a tailgate party, so they drove their mulecart down to the lake and propped open the back, where they proceeded to consume large quantities of “water.”
Two of Jesus’ buddies, Peter and Luke, broke out a fatty J and handed it to Jesus, saying “You know you always get greens, J, don’t play dumb.”
Jesus high-fived Luke, replying “What can I say, it’s good to be the king!”
Suddenly there was a commotion across the lake.  A ghetto-looking cart pulled up onto the beach, and out of it spilled a bevy of nubile young ladies dressed in rather revealing earth-tone rags.
“Oh snap, it’s the chicks who go to school over in Magdalene!” Peter said.  “I heard that Mary chick has the hots for a certain son of God!”
“Seriously?  Which one is she?” Jesus asked, straightening his hair as best he could.  When he spotted the one Peter was pointing to, he shook his head.  “Come on, man, I heard she’s a downright ‘ho.”
“Since when did that stop you?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Jesus said, and after getting psyched up with a shot of Jäger, he lit a cigarette and strolled over to Mary’s side of the lake, trying to look casual.  The Magdalene girls giggled and whispered as he approached, and finally pushed Mary towards Jesus so she could talk to him alone.
“Hey,” she said shyly as he walked up.  She pointed to his cigarette.  “You got another one of those?”
“Sure thing.”  He pulled one out and lit it for her.  “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”
She smoked sexily.  “My friends and I come out here to get away from our parents, have a few drinks, the usual shit.”
“Hey, why don’t you ladies come and join us?  Seems silly us having two separate parties like this, especially when my buddy Luke there just got dumped by his girlfriend of two years.”  Jesus pointed Luke out and shook his head sadly.
“Oh my God, poor guy!” Mary said.  Her friends echoed this sentiment, and Jesus made a mental note that Luke owed him a beer.
“Yeah, ouch, right?  Come on, I’ll help you carry the cart.”
An hour and three rounds of “Asshole” later, Mary whispered something in Jesus’ ear that nearly made his head spin.
“Uh, we’ll be right back,” Jesus explained as he led Mary away from the beach.  Their friends hooted and hollered as the red-faced duo made their way into the woods.
“My friends are totally gonna give me shit about this,” Mary said, giggling.
“I’ll bet they’ll be doing the same thing in an hour.  Trust me, nobody’s judging us here,” Jesus said.  They stopped to make out, leaning against a tree.  After a few seconds Mary broke away.
“Hey, I don’t know what you might’ve heard, but I’m not a hooker.”
“You think I’d be here if I thought you were some kinda ‘ho?  Baby, I respect you,” Jesus said.
“I mean, I’m no virgin either.”
“Shit, neither am I,” Jesus said, winking.  “Now what do you think?  My place or yours?  We can use heaven.  Hang on a sec, let me call this guy and make sure my dad isn’t home.”  While Jesus made his phone call, Mary checked her makeup and made sure she had a condom (she hoped Jesus didn’t mind that it was lambskin; she knew he was a vegan and all).
“All right, it’s cool,” he said, hanging up.  “We’ll go in through the back way.”
“I like where this is going,” Mary said slyly.
Jesus did some kind of crazy magical transportation thing, holding onto Mary like he was Superman or something.  They re-materialized on a giant cloud, which had a luxurious silky texture that Mary found quite erotic, like satin sheets times a million.
“Chicks always dig the clouds,” Jesus said, kicking off his sandals.  Mary responded by undoing her sash, which caused her whole outfit to drop off in one fluid movement.  Jesus cringed with desire and fought off the urge to pounce on Mary, with her perfectly rounded melons and recent bikini wax.  He was secretly relieved that her nickname, “Hairy Mary,” was a misnomer.
Jesus removed his own sash and let his tunic-type outfit fall off.  He blushed slightly as Mary licked her lips, taking in the sight of what was literally the biggest Johnson in the world.  “Yeah, you know you want it, bitch,” he thought to himself.
They came together with a rush of passion that didn’t let up until they were both sprawled out, completely spent, across the cloud.  Jesus had never felt so turned on in his life, and as he thought back on all the nasty things Mary had done to him (not to mention the fucked up stuff he did to her), he thought “Damn, she could actually be the one.”  For a thought like this to enter the mind of a confirmed player like Jesus was nothing short of a miracle, and as he spooned with Mary, admiring the fullness of her booty, he said to himself, “Goddamn that’s a nice ass.  Hallelujah Amen!”

Built to Spill / Camper van Beethoven

This show came about only after months of anticipation.  I purchased the tickets eagerly in March or so for the May date, only to learn the horrific news that Doug Martsch had injured his poor little eye and would have to postpone the entire tour for a season.  In between I managed to catch a show in Tucson while I was there, which was pretty damn sweet and abetted my yearnings for a snippet.  Still, by the time October rolled around I was excited as ever to see these guys for the sixth time.  Let me say it here: Built to Spill is the best band ever.  It’s my favorite band.  I really like this band.

I’m also quite the fan of Irving Plaza, with their two conveniently located, accessible bars right at the back of the main floor and balcony.  It’s excellent that you can watch what’s going on, even while it’s happening right behind you and you can hear the program crystal clear, while facing the bar and staring at TV monitors.  It’s a fine way to casually absorb and consider the opening bands while not cramming in with the other confused, half-interested fools. We arrived a cool two hours after doors opened, thinking we’d have just enough time to gulp down a few exorbitantly priced cocktails before enjoying the show.  We purchased our booze and took a nice spot to the left, to see just what this “Camper van Beethoven” was all about.  It was about eleven and they seemed like a fun bunch to hear a few songs from…and then they continued to play for another hour and a freakin’ half.  I’ve heard of band time, but this was insane.  My knees began to ache, my bladder filled and needed to be relieved several times, and Laura began complaining loudly.  “Get off the stage,” in fact, was heard to be uttered by not just our rude, blatant selves.  Now, I don’t like to be uncouth, and I commend everyone for doing what they do and creating something that I certainly could not myself equal, but I think this set was a bit lengthy.  They played the “Take the Skinheads Bowling” song, and I was like “Oh yeah, those guys.”  Laura booed some more. I later learned that this very band had in the past become — and then ceased to be — Cracker.  Like being stoned indeed.

Then Built to Spill came on.  Martsch and the boys casually slouched onto the stage, to the yelps of a few who recognized their faces and demeanors, and played around with their instruments for a bit.  They have always presented themselves in a similar fashion, not so much creating an engaging stage presence, but certainly playing with rockin’ awesomeness and impeccable skill.  They all maintain a very casual, aloof sensibility, one that suggests they could do this in their sleep, while somehow managing to play very clearly some of the most difficult live music I can think of.  Martsch occasionally leaned in between songs to give the crowd a “Gee, thanks,” and everyone giggled.  Back in the day at my first Built to Spill show in Tucson, I casually got backstage due to being acquainted with the opening band.  This was sadly before I was a superfan, and like the fool and drunk that I am I left mid-way through simply because I had run out of beer.  My love of booze may override all of the other joys in my life, but at present these guys are on the top of my awesome list, and I promise to appreciate them even more so now.  I have and will.  Like, I said, sixth show.

The band played a wonderful mix of songs old and new this time, much to my enjoyment. They threw in a fine smattering of tunes from my favorite album of theirs, Perfect from Now On.  They also did some old hits from There’s Nothing Wrong with Love, which got the crowd a’swayin.’  And of course, everyone goes crazy and wets their pants for Keep it Like a Secret. Most specifically “Carry the Zero,” which I think they’ve played every time in my viewing history.  One song that I’ve never heard live however, but would melt my heart were it to be so, is the oft requested “Time Trap.”  Folks were yelling requests for it right off the bat, and this continued until some poor fool chanted “Play Timewarp.”  Martsch giggled sheepishly and muttered into the mic “No, we’re not gonna play any Rocky Horror.”  Oh, those crazy guys.  I will go to see Built to Spill anytime they play in a town I am in, and I will feel love, joy, and happy butterflies.

Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins

It’s always exciting to attend the show of a band who’ve only got one album behind them — you’ve never seen them play live before, which in and of itself provides the joy of anticipation, and you’re guaranteed to hear all of your favorites off the album.  To this extent, Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins at the swanky Town Hall did not disappoint.

I’d been to Town Hall only once before for the Pink Martini show, which was an awesome time not only because of the band’s excellent performers and worldly flavor, but because our very own Laura’s cousin is a bona fide member!  Anyway, I like me the venue with its fancy assigned seating, which while lending a touch of class to the occasion, also makes for a lot of squirming on the part of my ass. This is the case because while attending a concert event I’m almost certainly inclined to “shake it.”  The discipline demanded by such a setup really brings you back to the music, as they say.  I’m used to attending shows where simply in order to sort of see, I’m forced up onto the tips of my toes, and this only after squirming and/or pounding through throngs of fans large and small, kindly and not.  Plus, at most of these venues they got them a bar or two in back, so there are surly drink waitresses pushing this way and that, and drunken hags sloshing their beverages while clinging to their boyfriends’ sweaty necks.  It’s nice to go to Town Hall and sit back in those booty-friendly plush seats, scan the entire stage and get an eyeful of each and every band member, and not be distracted from your favorite song because some unfortunate college student is “showing her titties.”

And my Goodness is Jenny the cutest little thing I ever did see!  She and the gargantuan twins scooted on out dressed in gorgeous black evening gowns, chanting “Run, Devil Run” of course, and swaying rhythmically to choreographed foot movements.  They soon burst into “Big Guns,” and the show was really underway, whilst I sat tight and tapped my foot furiously. The first thing I noticed, besides her general adorableness, was that Jenny has an amazing voice.  I mean, we’ve all heard Rabbit Fur Coat and her Rilo Kiley albums, but situated in this live environment as I was, her voice came boomin’ on out crystal clear and perfectly on key.  She didn’t skip out on the high notes or nuthin.’  In fact, she displayed even more vocal range than on the albums, spicing up certain parts and really letting it out.  Vocals add a crucial element to a song that can sometimes make for disappointment in a live setting, but here I was more than blown away.  And then there were those crazy Watson sisters.  My, are they tall!  Cute in their own way and elegant as ever, they also delighted by performing, along with their harmonic accompaniment, impeccably choreographed dance moves in unison.  And by dance moves, I mean sways, little side steps, and clapping.

I was already to the point of awarding this concert with an A+ when much to my surprise, the girls pulled out one of the most entertaining moves in the book…a costume change!  And out came Jenny in cowboy boots and a rainbow sequined party dress. Let me tell ya, the crowd and I went wild.  Several marriage proposals were screamed (the gentlemen, they like Jenny).  The girls skipped back onto the stage, and broke into a hand-clappin’, boot scufflin’ shimmy like no other!  They sang an hilarious ditty about men and their troubling dating behavior, and scooted around like real line dancing cow folk, much to the enjoyment of all in attendance.  All this Western flair really evoked a West Coast tinge in the ‘ol heart.  I mean, they’re so LA.

And so, fun was had by all, the men folk left with longing in their loins and hearts, and I vowed to purchase my very own party dress.