Monday, March 25, 2013

Inspirational Images and Quotes for Your Facebook Wall

Facebook—everybody's doing it! Your neighbor down the street, that girl who sat behind you in Algebra II in 1980, some guy you knew in third grade, your cousin from Denton—that about covers it. And it seems like they're all sharing inspirational images and quotes on your wall. Well, don't just sit there—join in!

I've made some inspirational images and quotes for you to share with your loved ones and acquaintances on Facebook. Please do so as compulsively as possible. I have an inexplicable need to spread my special messages far and wide! Won't you spam, I mean SLATHER my message-images so that I can pat myself on the back without actually accomplishing anything? Thanks!

Here ya go!

Spiritual!



 Patriotic!



 New Age!



Thought Provoking!



Personal!




Thursday, March 21, 2013

A funny thing happened while reading a Mary Gaitskill story

Mary Gaitskill at the time I met her
I was reading "Mirrorball" by Mary Gaitskill the other night, from her short-story collection Don't Cry, when something peculiar happened. First of all, Mary Gaitskill—she's interesting. I'm not a very dark person by nature, although I've certainly had my moments, but she seems to be, judging by her work. Dark and lonesome, very intelligent and strangely fanciful. This collection of hers is pushing the idea of what short stories can do. She's not just focusing on inner states of being. She's getting into metaphysical states as well. If people were walking around with their shadow sides and souls loping alongside them, like characters out of Pullman's His Dark Materials series as imagined by a self-conscious William Burroughs, that would only begin to describe this work.

So there I was, reading away in bed, trying to decide if I liked this story or not, when I recognized the location of the mirror ball that she's referring to in the title. I was feeling a little triumphant that I knew the exact block of real estate in San Francisco, from her brief description, when LO AND BEHOLD, I came upon a piece of my life in the story. That stopped me for a moment as I read something familiar that had once happened to me years ago, in the middle of this almost-fairytale anti-romance. I had to do some mental calculating to figure out what had just happened.

It was like the time I was taking the garbage out in my parents' garage, and it was pretty dark and there was a hairy, fanged head, floating four inches from the ground by the trash cans, exclaiming, 'Ruh ruh ruh!" I stared at it for nearly a minute while my mind thought: there is no such thing as this thing I'm gazing upon. Then my eyes adjusted to the dark and I realized it was a Scottish Terrier, escaped from the new neighbors' house across the street. It was my all-time Muppet Show meets Zardoz moment.

So what's the moment from my life that Mary Gaitskill used? Take this quiz and find out! Actually, I'll just relate my personal story and you can guess what she referenced for her story. Then read "Mirrorball" and see if you won!

This was many years ago, not even 1990, I would say. My friend Monique had planned a trip to San Felipe, Baja, and she invited me along. I love Mexico, so I was excited to go. Unfortunately, I caught one of my frequent colds and instead of canceling, like I know enough to do now, I flew to San Diego with my congested ears and sinuses nearly imploding on three sides of my brain. While holding my head in both hands, making little "eeep" noises of pain as we landed, I re-read the page on San Felipe in my AAA guide book. It was described as a quiet beach town populated by clam fishermen, due to the amazing receding tide-line, which flows out for more than a mile at low tide. Except, noted my guidebook, during Spring Break, when thousands of America's youth converge upon the tiny town, racing their ATVs and dirt bikes across the nearby sand dunes and partying all night upon its usually quiet beaches.

Peaceful and serene San Felipe...
"AAA advices travelers to avoid San Felipe during this time," was the sentence that stuck in my mind the most. When I called Monique the week before and read her this out loud, she waved it away with a, "I'm sure it will be fine."

It wasn't fine. It was a town completely overrun by sweaty bellowing alcoholics on ATVs and dirt bikes, roaring around a two-block radius day and night. I know this because I filmed it with my 60s-era super-8 camera I had brought to capture the authentic Mexican fishing village. Instead I now have silent footage (stored around here somewhere) of neon-bikini-clad girls, parading their tanned bodies astride revving vehicles as half-naked neanderthals cheer them on. I'm not deriding them from my high horse. They really were like this and proud to be so and I have the footage to prove it.

After I procured self-prescribed, over-the-counter penicillin, which did not alleviate my cold in the least, Monique and I mournfully trudged the beach of San Felipe, lugging our midsized backpacks under the hot sun. We stepped over and around  countless bodies camping out for the night, cracking open their beers and rolling their weed-packed doobies. We dodged hurled footballs, Frisbees and beach balls, as we roamed to and fro, looking for a hotel room that normally could be had for next to nothing by spontaneous travelers, but had now all been booked up for weeks.

"I think we're going to have to sleep on the beach," said Monique. "With them?!" I countered, pointing to the teeming humanity.

...except during Spring Break!
It was at this point that I lost my voice. Don't ever travel while sick, especially to see an old friend who you like to have conversations with. You're just going to lose your voice and then the conversations will be one-sided. While roaming a pottery garden, after buying hand-woven blankets from a vendor to use as sleeping gear, we had an argument. Some highly emotional venting about grief and loss. My beloved Aunt Maris, who was like a second mother to me, had recently and suddenly died. She was a huge part of my life and I mourn her to this day, and will do so until my end. This fight brought this out of me, my fresh, jagged feelings, all raw and inarticulate. It was a stupid fight that came out of nowhere and probably was a manifestation of our lack of accommodations alongside low-grade resentments over our situation. But I was fighting with my whisper-voice, and that was frustrating.

We eventually figured out how to deal with each other again and made our way back to the beach to settle in for the night. There was not a lot of space left, even at massively exaggerated low tide, but we squeezed in near some Mexican-American boys and a line of restaurants and bars.that looked respectable. The boys were there on their annual trip from Los Angeles. One very young cute guy took a shine to Monique. I got the small, odd-looking guy with the mouth. I'll call him Calvin.

He proceeded to "fall in love" with me within moments of our introduction and I could only listen as he talked his game. It was not bad, but I had already dated a wisecracking half-insane little man and didn't want to relive that moment."What's wrong, Lisa?" he demanded at one point, "Who has broken your heart?"

I laughed because I wasn't about to get into that, especially with laryngitis. At one point, Calvin gave up or needed a beer or something and he took off. Monique and the very cute young boy took off together. I was alone on a beach, among thousands, in a hand-woven blanket that I still have today as a keep-sake. I was quietly meditating on my fate when a massive guy showed up—well over six feet tall and quite rotund, in a muscle-bound way. He plunked down inches away from me, demanding to know who I was and what I was doing there. I whispered something about having a cold and needing some sleep but he kept on grilling me in an aggressive, menacing way. "Hey, hey. You. Talk to me. Hey. What's your story, huh? Why won't you talk to me?"

"I lost my voice," I whispered. "Go away."

"Huh," he said, unimpressed. "I'm not going to be ignored—got it? You got that? Answer me!"

Dread was seeping throughout my being. I turned over and pretended to sleep among the shrieks and whoops coming from bars and alleyways. Finally the hulking presence gave up and left to find more responsive diversions. I peeked from my blanket and saw a big empty space where he had been. When Monique and the others returned, I begged her not to leave me again. I didn't want to be found in a ditch weeks later by a local fisherman.

"Was he a great big guy, like this?" motioned Calvin. "Oh, that was just Diamond Dave!'

"Yeah!," they all chimed in. "Diamond Dave!"

Oh, how silly of me to be terrified of Diamond Dave. Still, Monique was instructed never to leave my side again until departure the next day.

"You girls aren't from civilization," enthused Calvin. "You're like running with the wolves or something. Like women who came out of the wilderness! With your backpacks!"

Monique and I looked at each other. That was us all right.

"I'm going to give you new names," he continued. "You," he pointed to Monique, "are Prestige. And you," he said, pointing to me, "are Infinity. Those are your new names. They suit you."

Now we were impressed. New names don't come along every day, especially ones like Prestige and Infinity. At this point we were all buddies. I even told the cute guy about my grief and how I would think of my Aunt when I looked at the stars, which were bright and beautiful that night. He said that was a good plan. He worked for Van's Shoes so we knew he was cool. Everyone settled down to sleep. Even the hoots and hollers trickled down to an occasional, "whoop!" in the middle of the night.

The next day, we changed into bathing suits in a public bathroom and splashed about in the warm fish-filled water, careful not to be beheaded by speeding recreational watercraft vehicles. We gave our new friends hugs good-bye when it was time to take the bus back to the border. Diamond Dave didn't get a hug because he never returned. Everything was better that day. We had survived accidental Spring Break in San Felipe and had stories to tell.

Refraction, anyone?
Which explains how Mary Gaitskill heard about our trip. Monique is a friend of hers and must have told her a version of this story. I've only met Mary once. She came to a party at our flat in San Francisco when Monique and I were roommates. She was very quiet and stayed in one area of the kitchen most of the night. Her eyes focused upon multiple scenes at the party and she was listening to conversations around her very intently, like a court reporter. I liked her, within the brief time we talked. There's something shining brightly in her. I especially liked her shoes—demure Mary Janes. I tend to judge people by their choice of footwear.

What part of the story did Mary Gaitskill use for "Mirrorball?" Was it:

A.) Two friends fight about grief and loss while on a supposedly fun vacation.

B.) A girl feels victimized by a stranger in a strange town, narrowly missing a terrible fate. Or was it all in her fevered mind?

C.)  Two girls are nick-named Prestige and Infinity by Mexican-American boys on a beach.

Postscript: When I returned to San Francisco and told this story to my friend Richard, he snapped, "Prestige and Infiniti are the names of cars!"


Monday, March 18, 2013

"Dedicated to Coney Island" by Tom Duncan

My favorite art critic, Jerry Saltz, went to the Armory Show and one of the pieces he liked caught my eye: Dedicated to Coney Island by Tom Duncan. Jerry describes this colorful and dynamic diorama as "a homegrown modern version of Calder's Circus."

You can take a tour of Dedicated to Coney Island, Duncan's 15-years-in-the-making autobiographical work, in the video below.



Alexander Calder's Circus (part 1), made from wire, corks, fabric scraps, whatever was handy. Calder's inner child would not be denied, thank goodness.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Movies You May Have Missed - "A Home at the End of the World" 2004

I remember when A Home at the End of the World came out and thinking, that looks different. And it is. I finally saw it on DVD recently and it was an emotional experience. Not because I particularly related to any of the three main characters (four, if you count Sissy Spacek's boundary-busting mother role), but because this film explores the world of emotion, feeling and connection, and how that can shape lives, for better or for worse. I can't remember seeing a film from any time period that truly moved me in such an emotional way.

Based on a novel by Michael Cunningham (who won the Pulitzer for The Hours), first-time director, Michael Mayer, at first struggles with the time sprawl of the book. The story begins with nine-year-old Bobby, living in Cleveland in the 1960s, and ends in the mid-80s in upstate New York. The initial 60s-storyline, showing Bobby's connection with his beloved older brother Carlton, looks right, but feels like telegraphed exposition. Yet Bobby's adulthood story would be emptier without this prologue. So it's a necessary aspect of an otherwise flowing narrative.

Introduced to adult concepts at a very young age by Carlton, Bobby miraculously absorbs the lessons of the freewheeling 60s while maintaining his sweet nature. As a teen, he's loosely adopted into his friend Jonathan's family, and together they explore their sexual natures, which for Jonathan is gay. With Bobby, sexuality is open to interpretation. He gravitates toward love, wherever that may be. Jonathan's mother, Alice, played by Spacek, immediately recognizes Bobby's capacity for love, and this leads to some confusion. What to do with all that love within a traditional marriage in suburban Cleveland?

After high school, Jonathan (played by wry, low-key Dallas Roberts) moves to the East Village in the early 80s, and Bobby (Colin Farrell) eventually follows. Jonathan is living with an older woman, Clare, played with surprising intensity by Robin Wright Penn. Clare is divorced and a bit lost in the casual dating scene that is New York City. She and Jonathan might have a baby together, even though Jonathan is cruising guys during his free time. In steps Bobby and the dynamics of their impromptu family change.

Bobby and Clare form a couple. Eventually, all three manage to live together as a family, and the entire film is based on that dynamic. How to form a family as an adult and how to deal with the emotional ups and downs of being a trio, are nice twists on the traditional melodrama. And because the chemistry between the principle actors is so strong, watching them together and apart is very moving. The roles among family members alter with time and circumstance. Bobby and Jonathan are friends, brothers, then lovers, then something in between. Clare is a lover and wife. Alice is mother and friend. It flows, like it was supposed to back in the 60s, but never quite did. But it also creates tension and heartbreak, and faith that it will somehow work.

It's all a bit mysterious and open to interpretation, like Bobby himself, who is extremely well-acted by Farrell. I don't think anyone could play this role without a big heart, and it shows in every scene. Child-like and knowing, Bobby is a unique presence in film. Perhaps because I lived in the Castro for several years, I gravitate toward this make-a-family narrative. I know that throughout the film, I wished each of these characters could be in my own life somehow. I haven't felt that way about a film in years.

Bobby and Carlton in Cleveland. Carlton will help shape Bobby into the adult he'll become.


In New York City, Bobby and Jonathan reunite and have no problem showing their affection. Not always rare in life, but rare in film.


Clare meets Bobby. She and Jonathan are a sort of couple.


That's about to change.


Robin Wright Penn is terrific in this film. She brings a nervous energy that I've never seen before in any of her roles. Clare is free to live her life, yet that freedom makes her anxious for something substantial and real. Here, she's worried about Bobby's hair—telling him that the wrong haircut can alter your life by telegraphing the wrong things about you to the world. Artists...


The trio, entwined, but struggling with their arrangement.


Composition designed to portray emotional states of being.


New York City in the 80s. Yup.


Connection, distance, tension.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Transfashionable Drag Queen Makeovers

Once, long ago, I was at one of those frequently held warehouse parties in San Francisco. This was well before the dot-com boom and bust of the 90s, and boomlet of recent years, both of which have cleared most warehouses of any debauchery. This party wasn't anything too crazy—a birthday party for a friend of a friend. I don't know why I was even there, especially since I was on my own. Kind of pathetic, but I was young and up for anything.

I really wanted to get rid of some vintage earrings that a cad have given me. I vaguely knew the birthday girl and thought she'd look good in them. Yes, I was re-gifting. Recycling is good for Mother Earth. She really liked the earrings too, so I was right, even though they were clip-ons. Anyway, there was this very tall drag queen at the party, offering to do makeup for anyone for free. Wow, I thought, free makeup! No one had ever done my makeup before. It seemed fitting that a drag queen at a warehouse party should be the first. I had a blast during my makeup session. My makeup artist was really nice too, saying things like, "Oh, but you don't even need any makeup, you're so young and pretty!" What girl doesn't want to hear that?

After she was done, I thanked her profusely and ran into the bathroom to check my new look in the mirror. I wasn't usually a big makeup-wearer. Maybe just a bit when I went out. I have medium-toned, sponge-like pores, that simply soak up anything I put on my face, so lipstick was my choice for "nighttime glamor." I peered at my exciting new visage and gasped. I looked terrible! Raccoon eyes and a salmon-colored mouth. Salmon! I kept trying to justify the eyes. Perhaps they were merely smokey? No, they looked like black eyes from falling down the stairs. I looked like a zombie chewing on a tangerine.

Ruefully, I sopped everything up I could with damp paper towels, and avoided my new makeup-artist friend for the rest of the evening in case she wasn't drunk enough to realize my editing process. I'm happy to report that The Stylish's YouTube show, Transfashionable, hasn't had a moment like this. Yet. So far, the makeovers (and one under) have been blissful events for all. Plus there's roller skating in Xanadu drag! Enjoy.

Jonny Makeup and Courtney Act (Australia's Australian Idol semi-finalist) teach Natasha how to look more girlish, in case the need should ever arise.



Willam Belli and Jonny give Heather a fabulous make-under, or as Willam calls it, "less work."



Miles Jai gets a triple-crown makeover from three queens, after getting roasted on Willam's show, Willam's Beat-down. This episode includes a visit to a wig emporium, so I'm a fan. Plus roller boogieing!



Today on Transfashionable: a very special makeover.



Update: I have to post this latest episode on drag kings! Spikey Van Dykey helps her friend Laney realize her drag-king potential. Learn the secrets of duct tape (ouchy), fake nipples, spirit gum (a theatrical gal's best friend), what to put in your briefs, and cool menswear that's fun to wear. Great episode.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Showgirls Animated Gifs Will Class Up Your Joint

I've waited a long time to unleash this post upon the world. But I think it's time. Call it a feeling in the gut, one that's by turns nerve-wracking and nausea-inducing. That's why I waited. But the time is upon us. I'm working on a screenplay and Showgirls is an inspiration—of what not to do. Ever.

Perhaps you've seen Showgirls and thought to yourself, GOOD GOD, THIS IS A ONE-HUNDRED-PERCENT BAD MOVIE. It is. But having worked on films in all facets of production, I know something you might not. It's a lot of work to make a feature-length film. But you might not know how much work it takes to make a movie this bad. It doesn't just happen, like a climate-change-induced hurricane disaster.

Every facet of the film must be wrong, or off. The combination of drugs and alcohol-fueled "creativity" must be just so. It takes experimentation to get that correct—like all chemical outcomes. The script must be coherent enough so that future generations recognize what's supposed to be happening, even if none of it makes sense. The dialogue must be ridiculous but never dull. The stars must be mis-directed and suitably fame-hungry for maximum scenery chewing. The set design must be eye-popping but somewhat thrown together, as if by a high-school-musical stage crew, coming down from cheap crank. The editing must be pedestrian, never calling attention to itself, like a forgotten episode of Starsky and Hutch. Most importantly, the director must have complete conviction in his vision, no matter how inane.

Showgirls has all that and more: Vulgarity on parade! Bad vibes! Sexuality as grotesque spectacle! What's not to like? Thanks to all the gif-makers out there in Internet-land.

Let's do this!

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Whee!

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Classic meet-cute!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Romance!

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Frustration!

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Intrigue!

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Artistry!

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Corruption!

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Kyle MacLachlan's butt!

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Retribution!

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Personal growth.

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Realizing the dream!

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And finally, a learning experience.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Movies You May Have Missed - "Idiocracy" 2006

Mike Judge is a clever fellow and his muse is dumb people. He mines that dumbness for all its worth in his TV shows (Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill), and in his cult film, Office Work, but especially in Idiocracy, where the future United States is populated by more than 300 million stooges. The premise: smart people wait forever to have a minimal amount of children, until "the time is right," while unthinking people procreate like rabbits. At this rate, we're doomed to become a nation of stupefied vulgarians.

Like Woody Allen in Sleeper, Joe, well-played by a perplexed Luke Wilson, is a reluctant time-traveler. Sitting out his career in the corner of an Army library, waiting for his pension to kick in, he's the most average protagonist you'll ever meet. He's handpicked, alongside a prostitute, Rita (Maya Rudolph), by his superiors for a deep-sleep experiment. With no family ties (other than Rita's pimp), Joe and Rita are the perfect human guinea pigs. Except something goes wrong and they wake up in the year 2505. Joe and Rita are now the most intelligent people on a planet full of brain-damaged oafs.

This is a future world were proper English is considered "faggy," and television entertainment consists of a guy getting his balls kicked in every 10 seconds. Movies are completely plotless, just endless images of farts being laid, and corporations have taken over everything, including drinking fountains, which spew green liquids full of electrolytes because we're told we need them. Infrastructure has collapsed because people are too dumb to figure out solutions to their man-made problems, and marketing is EVERYWHERE.

The one-joke premise drags in places and average Joe is running from authorities too often to hold my interest. These types of directorial problems don't hurt Office Space, because the world of that film mimics the sameness (and lack of ups and downs) of office culture itself. But when you're creating a future world, the drama is expected to be ramped up and more arc-like. Anyway, Idiocracy was dumped off the face of the earth by its distributors, only opening in six cities before whip-panning into a DVD release. Savage satire is not always embraced by the corporations it's targeting.

I do find a lot to enjoy in this vision that is, like most sci-fi, exaggerated notions of today. The visual effects are hilarious—apparently our future is one of filthy, highly sexualized, over-the-top decay. A surprisingly large VFX budget was spent on a film doomed to obscurity. But the joke runs long. I don't like anyone in this future population, which is run by idiotic bullies from my middle school (Update, 2016: well, waddaya know? What a prophetic film). My genetic make-up is satirical in nature, but I felt despondent for Joe and Rita throughout much of their story. I'm only human, with my puny emotions.

There's also some initial stereotyping until later scenes when everyone is lumped into the same caricature boat. Casting and surnames should have been balanced out throughout the film, not only to avoid racism pitfalls, but because stereotypes are jarring, taking us out of this future world, and plunking us back into our present (Update, 2016: the prophesy continues!). I wish Rudolph, who can be so casually funny in almost anything, had been given more to do. Her hooker without a heart of gold is just as much of a "genius" as Joe, but he gets all the conflict and resolution. Still, Judge's message is apt and gives us a bit of hope: use your brain and celebrate others who do so. And don't recap Celebrity Wife Swap on your blog, like I thought about doing today.


And now: Idiocracy. These are mountains of garbage that everyone is too stupid to do anything about. Sounds familiar.



Luke Wilson looks pretty much like this throughout. He should do more comedy—a very good understated actor.



Time for some home entertainment. Ow! My Balls! is on.



Our heroes, like many of us today, head to Costo for some answers.



This is only a slight exaggeration of Costo, or at least what Costo feels like.



Dawn at the White House. (Update, 2016: Oh, Jesus, this film is scaring me.)

Dawn at the White House

Future fashion consists of tight, synthetic athletic-wear, plastered in corporate logos. Wait, what year is this again?



Our dumb future—can't wait. (Update, 2016: God, help us all.)



And welcome to Costco.




Leonard Maltin recommends Idiocracy in his book, "151 Best Movies You've Never Seen." Leonard Maltin is my obscure-movie Jedi knight and I follow his advice.