Even Reverse Cowgirls Get The Blues

It’s hot as hell down in Sin City where Frank Miller calls the tunes. In a rundown dive on the sleazy side of town a man sits on a stool at a battered piano. He’s unshaven and blinded milky-white in one eye. The other is bloodshot from all the years of cheap whisky.

He plays the keys like he’s a junkie romantic in a fever dream. Just don’t mention the name Tom Waits to him, whatever you do.

He used to be good-looking but that was years ago and now he resembles a tattooed candle that’s been left in the sun too long.

He has a voice like a bag of nails and he insists that people said that about him before they’d ever even heard of goddam Tom Waits. It’s wrecked and barely there, but no-one’s listening so it doesn’t much matter.

He sings a song he wrote decades before for the one that got away; he knew her before she was a somebody, before she was the somebody. And he knew her again when she wasn’t and came back as an empty shell. Before he sings the song he tells the story behind it that no one believes is true.

But it is true, he insists, every word; even the lies.

I burned for an old flame yesterday
I was drunk but she was pretty all the same
She caught me at the bar
Said ‘I been wondering how you are’
I caught fire

She said I’d like it down where she lives;
That it’s not quite rock bottom
But it is
Said she had a heart of gold
I said I’m buying; she sold
And I whispered

‘Chain me to your radiator
I want you on your worst behaviour
Girl I don’t believe in saviours
But I’ll make an exception for you’

‘You know it’s true’

Even cowgirls get the blues
Cowgirls get the blues
And when cowgirls get the blues
They seek comfort in the arms of a bull.

In the heat of my desire she melts
I got scratches I got bruises I got welts
Blood drawn from my wrist
Reminds me of the bliss
Of our tryst

I chained her to my radiator
I gave her all my worst behaviour
She said ‘boy I don’t believe in saviours
But I’ll make an exception for you’

‘you know it’s true’

Even cowgirls get the blues
Cowgirls get the blues
And when cowgirls get the blues
They seek comfort in the arms of a bull.

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When Star Trek Encountered The Internet

Captain’s blog 26112013 point 3.142. Starfleet has assigned the Enterprise to explore a region of space called the internet: the final, final frontier. Early readings have been unsettling to my crew who’ve found the internet mostly to consist of pictures of kittens and film clips of ladies doing bedroom things. There’s a cat pun in there somewhere. Not always in the bedroom. How about ‘the internet: it’s for pussies’. Note to self: edit this properly before Starfleet reads it.

I’ve asked science officer Spock for a theory but all he’s offered is E=MC2. I’m certain that’s a joke from the movie Loaded Weapon 1 but when he pointed out that we’re from the 1960s and that movie came out in 1991 and therefore logically he couldn’t have stolen it… well…

I had no reply.

Then he theorised that the internet exists in an ever-present now – that in or ‘on’ the internet phenomenon there’s no past, no future, no concept of time or space here at all; that we’ve stumbled into a singularity. Sounds like bullshit to me, but you have to let Spock have his little moments or he throws a tantrum.

Bones has offered no real insight into the biology of the phenomenon, either. “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a social media consultant,” note to self: I really must fire him; he’s a real negative nelly and an awful wingman.

Speaking of which, the crew informs me that the internet is full of women on MyFace.Pinterest and that the locals have strange customs like “tweeting” along to their preferred cultural abominations including something called a downton abbey. I’ve assigned an away team to explore and placed myself on it just in case the women are, well I was going to say hot but why pretend that I’m not a massive space whore?

Meme me up Scottie.

Captain’s blog: Supplemental: the crew have uncovered evidence that the internet phenomenon is aware of the Federation – full schematics of the Enterprise and detailed files on our missions are easily found. And details of our interpersonal relationships, under the disturbing subheading slash fiction. For the record I’ve never even touched Spock. Except that one time in Tijuana, but that was for a bet.

More encouragingly, my crew and I have come to the tentative conclusion that the internet phenomenon is not hostile to our values – it just chooses to communicate entirely in excessively, often sexually, aggressive posturing and pictographic ‘gifs’, which are not unlike hieroglyphs that move but lack artistry.

But it’s not all bad. Entire primitive cultures appear to have been built around us as though we’re gods. Definitely gonna’ get laid.

Kirk out.

THAT Speech In Full: Sin City

The night’s as hot as hell. It’s a lousy room in a lousy part of a lousy town – I’m staring at a goddess. She’s telling me she wants me. I’m not going to waste one more minute wondering how I’ve gotten this lucky. She smells like angels ought to smell, the perfect burger… the Goddess.

Big Mac. She says her name is Big Mac.

Subverting the RomCom: Celeste and Jesse Forever

Celeste and Jesse are childhood friends who married young and are now in the throes of a divorce.  They try to maintain their increasingly bizarre and destructive relationship while pursuing other people. 

Some things are obviously bad for you: Dan Brown’s latest page burner (the something man did something adverbly).  Others are more subtle, such as juggling chainsaws or wrestling grizzly bears.

Standing in a lift at work with a man making eyes at himself in the mirror might also count; one is, after all, witness to a burgeoning romance with a distinctly sexual undertone.  And on a personal note, I hope that that particular gentleman waits until he’s alone to consummate said relationship.

Talk of love and all its associated bodily fluids leads us in a dark, degenerate direction.  I refer of course to the romantic comedy.  A once-decent genre that gave us the likes of The Apartment and When Harry met Sally has become…well:

Blank-eyed mannequin has single obnoxious trait and unfeasibly large apartment as a result of an unlikely career path.  Meets blank-eyed mannequin of the opposite sex with equally unrealistic lifestyle.  They speak at cross purposes, maybe taking an instant dislike to one another. 

But they’re equivalently attractive so nature takes its course.  There is a sub-plot involving their two best friends, both of whom are slightly less good-looking but likewise equivalent to one another.  ‘Without warning’, a heavily foreshadowed obstacle crops up that derails the young romance.  Then there’s a third act set piece, probably involving an airport or train station, one of the mannequins does a call back to the obnoxious trait and they all live happily ever after. 

If the two best friends haven’t done so already, they get together during the credits.

Or as Matthew McConaughey puts it, ‘bullshit’.  And Kate Hudson instantly melts.  Don’t pretend you didn’t get the reference.  Or that you didn’t have to wipe away a tear at the memory.

Just me?

Sometimes a movie comes along that aims at subverting the clichés of the form, largely by playing up to them. It’s called having your cake and eating it ironically.

Celeste and Jesse Forever is one of these movies – he’s an aimless artist archetype (ie a manchild who can doodle), she’s a media trend analyst, whatever one of those is.  But get this: the movie opens with them in the throes of a divorce.

Yeah. Take that rom-com; it’s like an anti-rom-com.

Rashida Jones (Celeste) and Andy Samberg (Jesse) are both charming performers who share an easy chemistry onscreen.  Unfortunately they’re saddled with distinctly charmless characters – Celeste considers herself to be mature and sensible, when in fact she’s selfish and impulsive, content to ditch Jesse for not matching up to her requirements until he shacks up with another woman. At which point she suffers from wantwhatyoucan’thaveitis.  For his part, Jesse is weak and lazy – he takes up veganism at the behest of his new girlfriend but the film seems unsure as to whether this is indicative of him growing as a person and embracing much-needed change or whether he’s just adopting the lifestyle of his new squeeze for an easier life.

Things happen suddenly and without warning – a pregnancy that serves the plot but further obscures the film’s attitude to its protagonists.  Elijah Wood appears as the gay friend who’s trying (awkwardly) to emulate the stereotypical gay best friend beloved of lazy writers.  As a critique that’s fair enough, but as a character it makes for a hazy attempt at satire and a distinctly uncomfortable performer.  Elijah Wood can do comedy – he’s excellent in TV series Wilfred for example – but he’s better as the straight man rather than comic relief.

Emma Roberts plays a caricature of the spoilt starlet, rather than a character in her own right.  Her function is to show Celeste up for her arrogance (Celeste assumes her to be vapid and ill-informed, even though they, like, totally dig the same artist) then perform an abrupt about-turn and become Celeste’s bestie, helping her come to terms with Jesse moving on with his life.

As for the various love interests – the movie’s not particularly fussed and seems content to rifle through previous rom-coms for cast-offs – the focused grown-up man Celeste thinks she wants after initially disliking him, the free spirit earth goddess Jesse rebounds with falls for; the divorced man who’s a little further down the road.

Because really this movie is about Celeste and her changing feelings about her relationship with Jesse.

Between the snarky riffs on genre tropes and sudden plot developments it’s all a little disjointed, like Frankenstein’s agony aunt responding to every rom-com heroine who realised post-credits that maybe love requires a little more than a frou frou speech on a bridge.

Andy Samberg is a comic actor rather than a pure breed, and the cast’s other notable performers are Ari Graynor, fresh from similarly lightweight/bittersweet dramedy 10 Years and Eric Christian Olsen, of Not Another Teen Movie fame.

Damning with faint praise it may be, but they all make for a likeable group of people (albeit playing douchebags), while Rashida Jones takes on the dramatic heavy lifting, playing a deeply flawed character gradually gaining some awareness of those flaws.  Jones is the movie’s greatest asset by far, revealing a range and dramatic heft you wouldn’t usually associate with an actor best known for TV comedy.

But then maybe that was the point all along, given that she co-wrote the script with Will McCormack (who gets a small role as mutual friend).

The director Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind) lends an indie credibility to the film. He uses a well-defined colour palette and some lighting effects oddly reminiscent of Bladerunner to create a picture that is far more appealing than the genre’s tired norms.  Definitely a career to watch.

And that’s probably the conclusion I’d draw from Celeste and Jesse Forever – there’s plenty of talent on display here, but it’s a movie as showcase for talent.  A good enough movie rather than a good one: you’ll enjoy it while it lasts but probably not enough to watch it again.  Just like any other rom-com.

As a subversion of the genre it clings a little too keenly to the conventions, it mocks them while milking them for all their worth; it protests a little too much to be anything but what it is.

You just enjoyed a rom-com.  Don’t worry; I won’t tell your friends.

How To Win Or At Least End An Argument Part 2: The Filibuster

Part one of this lecture series can be found here.

A properly deployed filibuster has many advantages.  Mainly it infuriates your opponent, and once they lose the plot, they’ll start to lose the fight.  But that’s merely stage one.  At stage two they’ll start to lose the will to live and attempt to change the conversation.  This gives you two options:

  • you accept gracefully knowing that you’ve won a victory by default; or
  • you ramp things up and hammer your point home until they crumble like a poorly constructed Victoria sponge cake, at which point you’ve won by winning.  Congratulations.

But beware the filibuster, for it must be properly deployed to be effective.

First slam down your drink.  This alerts your opponent to the fact that you are about to make a big point with a capital BIG POINT.

Now, you might think it time to start the filibuster.  This is a rookie mistake. Under no circumstances should you jump straight in. Before that, you need to cow your opponent to avoid the possibility of interruptions, which can be irritating (because it’s YOUR limelight dammit and they should get their own).  You do this by taking a cue from the animal world.

Start with your most craziest of crazy eyes, invade their forcefield of personal space.  Bare your incisors and jump up and down on the spot shrieking.  If you’re up to it, try caterwauling.  Your opponent is now aware of the fact that you’re the dominant partner.  At this point you should consider flinging your faeces.

Finally, assert your alpha qualities with a prominent genital display.

Then begin your filibuster.  Now, despite the much-publicised contents of Ted Cruz’s recentish filibustering shenanigans, you should avoid talking about just any old crap to fill time.  There is never any excuse for Ashton Kutcher.  Instead, the skilful among you will attempt to keep your filibuster on point for at least the first 7 minutes.  This must take the form of a semi-coherent rant with many clauses and sub-clauses, a variety of submissions, all mixed up with some confused personal anecdotes that you pretend illustrate your point.

At no time should you introduce any semblance of logic or narrative flow to your filibuster.

You’re not a pro at this yet so around the 35 minute mark you will notice that your own interest is beginning to flag.  At this point, if you are a girl, you should weave in a detailed story about how you used to practice kissing with the other girls at the Catholic girls’ school you attended.  If you are a boy, you should weave in a detailed story about your many amorous adventures whilst attending a Catholic girls’ school as the son of the headmistress.  You will notice that your opponent immediately perks up – this is nothing to be concerned about because they will instinctively start to think about sex and begin to consider you as a viable sexual partner.  This has two knock-on effects.

  • they will forget whatever broadside they were about to make; and
  • you will be cast as passionate rather than merely cantankerous, which boosts your sexual capital.  Advanced students will be aiming for potential angry make up sex (not advisable if you’re fighting with your sister-in-law*).  Which is the best kind.

If you’re not inclined to have sex with your opponent for whatever reason, not to worry: all the x-rated chat has distracted him or her sufficiently that you are now in prime position for the win.

But the filibuster doesn’t end here, much as you may want it to.  You are now at stage two.

Return to your original point, or better yet introduce a long-winded ancillary point that tenuously supports your main premise.  The sexy stuff has woken your opponent up and given him or her hope that the conversation has changed.  The aim here is to undermine and eventually destroy that hope by filibustering for at least another 45 minutes, or until their eyes are more glazed than a glazed donut with extra glaze.

Then and only then will you start to wind down, eventually taking an ostentatious gulp of your beverage.  Here you should pause for as many beats as it takes for your opponent to start speaking again.  As soon as he or she does so, you must jump straight back into your filibuster.

Try introducing a new main premise and set of supporting propositions.  As always, make your sentences as long and convoluted as possible so that they’re harder to follow (did I not mention that earlier?)  For example:

‘And of course one must also consider the mating habits of the common or garden variety sparrow, which further serves to illustrate my earlier proposition that cheese is merely – at best – a kind of edible broadsheet journalist, and, again, this in turn leads into the second submission of my third ancillary premise that The Beatles were IN FACT survivors of the Chernobyl incident thrown back in time, a thought experiment which I’m sure you’ll agree was highly salient in the context of…’ 

At this point you are encouraged to use words like ‘premise’ and ‘proposition’ explicitly – the extra impact of technical language should push your opponent over the edge.

This is another, albeit limited, exception to the ‘no jargon’ rule discussed in the last lecture.  Words such as ‘aphorism’ still must be avoided, along with any debating jargon that doesn’t translate as ‘sentences’, because, as we established in the last lecture, you have some self-respect.

When last orders are called at the bar, the wedding ceremony is concluded or the meeting ends; or your opponent leaves, falls asleep or begs you to talk about something else, congratulations.  You have successfully deployed the filibuster.

Win.

*Unless one or both of you looks like Penelope Cruz, in which case: as you were.

Friday’s Mental Exercise: Caption Competition

Typical caption competitions feature a picture and an invitation to provide a caption.

Instead of that, here’s the caption:

“No sir,” he said, “it was like that when I got here.”

You provide the picture, and post the link in the comments below.

This could be turned into a fun game for all the family, perhaps around the Christmas holidays, when even people who don’t do Christmas find themselves under pressure to eat too much food and sit around too bloated and fatigued to do anything more challenging than play games that lead to massive family feuds that cause unnecessary bloodshed and holding of grudges for years to come.

Or you could supply your own caption, and I could think about finding a picture and posting it but then don’t because I’m far too lazy.