Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Movie-Going For Morons

This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Bazooka Magazine.

Since I live too far from the thriving metropolis of Paducah to do any serious drinking and still make it home in one piece, I go to the movies a lot. There’s just not much else to do around here that’s still fun when you’re sober. I usually average around two movies a week, so it’s not unusual for me to encounter people who don’t seem to understand how the movie-going experience is supposed to work. If you’re one of these people, I hope this article helps.

Let’s start with buying tickets. This seems like an easy process, but some people manage to fuck it up. It’s important to decide what you want to see before you get in line. I don’t want to stand around listening to you and Mrs. Dumbass try to figure out whether The Men Who Stare at Goats is a porno, and neither does the person working the ticket booth. You can find out what movies are playing (and even read reviews, cast and crew details, and other useful decision-making information) online, in the newspaper, and even on your phone before you ever get to the theater. If all else fails, or you’re illiterate, there are a bunch of big posters with pretty pictures hanging on the outside of the building that you can look at before getting in line. And speaking of lines, if you and your little throng of adolescent obnoxiousness are more than 3 feet from the end of the line, you’re not in line. Don’t start quoting Dane Cook to me when I get in line in front of you.

Okay, you’ve got your ticket. Now it’s time to go to the concession stand. If you’ve ever been to the movies before, you already know what’s available there. They’ve had the same shit since Dillinger’s days at the Biograph. If this is your first time seein’ the movin’ pitchers, it’s still not too hard—popcorn, hotdogs, nachos, and candy. They’ve even got the containers up on top of the popcorn machines so you can see the sizes. Seriously folks, this ain’t Spago’s. Get your popcorn and get the fuck out of my way. And don’t complain or make jokes about the price of the snacks. The prices are high because that’s how the theater makes money, and everybody knows the prices are high. Your complaints won’t change anything and the poor bastards behind the counter hear the same jokes hundreds of times a day. If you can’t afford $10-$20 for popcorn and drinks, maybe you should be looking for a better job instead of wasting your time at the movies.

Once you’ve got your munchies, you’ll need to find a seat. Again, this is not rocket science. The way today’s theaters are built, there are really only a few bad seats (usually the first couple of rows). Find an empty seat and sit down. When you’re doing this, be aware that personal space preferences increase as the number of people in the theater decreases. If the house is pretty empty, give the other people a little space. I’ve already got plenty of friends and I’m not taking applications for new ones. Also, the farther away you are the less likely you are to annoy me. The only exception is if you’re Patricia Arquette and you’re there to fuck me so hard I kill Gary Oldman, steal a suitcase full of blow, and run away to California with you. I’d give up an eye for that shit.

When the movie starts, that’s your cue to stop talking. You’re not in the trailer anymore, so you need to be considerate of other people. I came here to ogle Amanda Seyfried, watch Jason Statham beat the hell out of a bunch of people, or be deeply disappointed by Roland Emmerich, not to hear about Aunt Earline’s foot operation. And if you’re talking because your wife can’t follow the plot of Last House on the Left and you’ve got to explain it to her, maybe fine cinema isn’t for you. I’m sure there’s an episode of John and Kate Plus Eight More Rat’s Asses Than I Give that you could be watching instead. The only time it’s permissible to talk during a film is if you’re of African-American decent and you’re talking to the characters on screen during a horror movie.

Eventually, the movie will end (even Transformers 2). DO NOT APPLAUD. The people who made the movie aren’t here, so it’s really kind of pointless. I’m sure Bruce Willis appreciates your support, but he isn’t watching you via hidden camera. Before you leave, grab all those (now empty) food and drink containers and throw them in the trashcan on your way out. The people who have to clean up after the show will appreciate it.

That’s about all the time we have this month. Look for future installments of the For Morons series, including “Turn Signals and You: A Moron’s Guide to Driving” and “ATM Machines: Convenient Technology or Satan’s Plaything?”

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Books I Read in 2009 (Most with some kind of review)

  1. Almost History by Roger Bruns
    Collection of primary source stuff about things that almost happened, were supposed to happen but didn't, etc. Includes the speech JFK was supposed to make in Dallas, FBI memos about trying to deport John Lennon, and memos about the various plots to kill Castro, just to name a few. My only real complaint is that in a lot of cases the explanation is longer than the actual thing it's introducing. In some cases, this makes sense, but in others it would have been nice to see, for example, a complete exchange of information rather than a single letter/telegram/memo/whatever.
  2. I'm A Lebowski, You're A Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You by Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, & Scot Shuffitt
    This book was written (without blessing or curse from the Coens) by the guys who started Lebowski Fest. The heart of this book are the interviews with most of the cast (from The Dude himself to the Ralph's check-out girl) and the people The Dude and Walter (and some storylines from the movie) were based on--including the real life Larry Sellers. The book also has lots of trivia, a glossary, a few pages on Dudism, Lebowski Fest info, and a lot of stuff that I would make fun of if the book were about Dr. Who or something. But it's about the Big Lebowski, so most of it's ok (though a couple of the fan interviews are a bit much--I can see the interest in knowing what Patton Oswald or Tony Hawk thinks about the movie, but "the guy who built the Dudism website" is a litle too fannish for my tastes). If you're a fan of the movie, probaby worth a read.
  3. The Stupidest Angel, Christopher Moore
    It's Christmas, and a stupid angel comes to town to grant a child a Christmas wish. It goes badly, but in a very funny way.
  4. Redneck Words of Wisdom, Collected by Jamie Muehlhausen
    Some mildly amusing, some not redneck. I paid $1 for this book and feel a little ripped off.
  5. Swine Not?, Jimmy Buffett
    A story about a pig who lives in a fancy New York City hotel. Entertaining, but aimed at a younger audience, I think.
  6. World War Z, Max Brooks
    Very good zombie book.
  7. 'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out: Reflections on Country Singers, Presidents, and Other Troublemakers, Kinky Friedman
    Kinky muses about people he knows, people he thinks he knows, and probably a few people he forgot he knew. Quite entertaining.
  8. Buffy The Vampire Slayer RPG Core Rulebook by C.J. Carella
    Now I see why George Vasilamynamesoundslikeamadscientist felt threatened by my Buffy word document. This game is not terribly good (it's not awful either, but there's not a lot to recommend it). I figured it would at least have pretty pictures, but a lot of them are grainy. The game itself is completely mediocre, and the writer seems to believe the entire point of the show is witty dialog (which s/he tries (and fails--it sounds like Danny Tanner trying to be hip) to reproduce). Note to Hex creative department: If M. Alexander Jurkat ever applies for an editing job, politely send him away. Apparently he's behind the awful editing of this book, which at times makes early White Wolf editors seem nitpicky.
  9. Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener
    Tesla built a robot and now it runs a paranormal investigation agency and occasionally fights Nazi brains in domed robots, mobile pyramids, Jack Parsons, the ghost of Rasputin--the usual. Really no way for this not to be great.
  10. The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney
    Pretty much what it sounds like.
  11. The Damned by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
  12. The Damned: Prodigal Sons by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
    That Cullen Bunn--he's no Robert Kirman or anything, but still great stuff.
  13. Monster Spotters Guide to North America by Scott Francis
    M-Force 2E Research
  14. The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Les McClaine, and a few others
    The Middleman and his art school chick apprentice work for an agency so secret even they don't know what it's called. The first story is about a superintelligent monkey gangster. They also go up against luchadores, ninjas, giant mutant sharks, and big ass robots. No way to go wrong with that kind of material.
  15. Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead by Jonathan Maberry.
    Neat concept, but too much cop/gun/military fetishism for my tastes.
  16. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
    Great concept, but possibly executed too well--a lot of it reads like a survival guide.
  17. Dave Barry's History of the Millennium by Dave Barry
    Collection of Dave's year-end reports, with a "Millennium End report" for 1000-1999 added.
  18. Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (movie novelization) by Richie Tankersley Cusick
    Pretty straightforward adaptation of the movie, written at about a 5th grade level.
  19. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
    Great Gaiman short story collection. The creepy-ass Snow White retelling is probably my favorite, but there are a few other contenders.
  20. Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip-Mining of American Culture, Edited by Katharine Washburn and John Thornton
    Most of the essays aren't so much about the good kind of elitism as they are about snootiness and conservativism.
  21. Muzzled: For T-Ball to Terrorism-True Stories That Should be Fiction by Micahel A. Smerconish. Review at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_Muzzled_From_T_ball_to_Terrorism_True_Stories_That_Should_Be_Fiction_Michael_A_Smerconish_Michael_Smerconish/content_471024832132
  22. Invincible Volume 2: Eight Is Enough by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Otley. Review at Kingyak.com: http://www.kingyak.com/categories/8-geekdom/16-invincible2.html
  23. Heaven, LLC by Wayne Chinsang and Dave Crosland. Review at Kingyak.com: http://www.kingyak.com/categories/8-geekdom/19-heavenllc.html
  24. Global Frequency Volume 2: Detonation Radio by Warren Ellis, Simon Bisley, Chris Sprouse, Lee Bermejo, Tomm Coker, Jason Pearson, Gena Ha, and David Baron. Review at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Global_Frequency_Planet_Ablaze_by_Warren_Ellis/content_471680388740
  25. The Pro by Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner. Reviewed at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/pr-The_Pro_Garth_Ennis_Books/content_472272440964
  26. Bluntman & Chronic by “Banky Edwards and Holden McNeil” Review at epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Bluntman_and_Chronic_by_Banky_Edwards_and_by_Holden_McNeil/content_472371531396
  27. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen T. Colbert. Reviewed at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_I_Am_America_And_So_Can_You_Stephen_Colbert_3/content_478874668676
  28. Cyberpunk: Hackers and Outlaws on The Computer Fringe by Katie Hafner and John Markoff. Review at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_Cyberpunk_Outlaws_and_Hackers_on_the_Computer_Frontier_Katie_Hafner_John_Markoff/content_478960586372
  29. Monster by A. Lee Martinez. Review at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_Monster_A_Lee_Martinez/content_478966091396
  30. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Review at epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Naked_Lunch_by_William_S_Burroughs_and_by_Barry_Miles_and_by_James_Grauerholz/content_479188913796
  31. Three Days to Never, Tim Powers
    Einstein's great-great-grandson and his daughter get caught up in a race between the Mossad and a group of bad guys who are trying to get a time machine put together by Einstein and Charlie Chaplin. Neat time travel story and better characterization than some Powers novels.
  32. Spook Country, William Gibson
    Neuromancer took me several attempts to get into enough to finish, but when I did I loved it. This was the opposite. It starts of really strong and then just kind of runs out of steam. The ending is anti-climactic and too ambiguous to be interesting (and remember, I usually like ambiguity).
  33. More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman
    Follow up to The Areas of My Expertise. Lots of completely made up information on a number of subjects including the perks of being a minor celebrity, which presidents had hooks for hands, and lots of information about Mole-Men (who may in fact be the new Hobos). Very funny stuff.
  34. Death’s Daughter, Amber Benson Reviewed at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_Death_s_Daughter_Amber_Benson/content_486108663428
  35. El Zombo Fantasma by Dave Wilkins and Kevin Munroe
    Story about a luchadore who returns from the grave to protect a young girl who's the incarnation of an ancient Aztec goddess. Not bad. Artwork is very pretty but not particularly good at storytelling.
  36. The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. Reviewed at Kingyak.com: http://www.kingyak.com/categories/9-forteana/66-book-review-the-men-who-stare-at-goats.html
  37. Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down--Dave Barry
  38. Bible Stories for Adults--James Morrow
  39. The Werewolf's Guide to Life--Ritch Duncan and Bob Powers
  40. The Wordy Shipmates--Sarah Vowell
  41. The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell
  42. Merlin, Norma Lorre Goodrich
  43. Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell