Saturday, February 27, 2010


Red got some bad news this week. So did the Liberian Girl.

(If you're new here, the former is my little sister. More or less. The latter lets me wake up at her house a few mornings each week.)

The news each got represented a pretty big professional setback. The kind of setback where you're staring across a great big gully at the other side of a road that is, all of a sudden, no longer beneath you.

You know how that feels, don't you? It feels like your whole life is ruined.

You could be relieved of your job. Your girl could leave you. You could smash up your car. Your college could suddenly find another big pile of debt for you to pay down. You could lose all your vinyl in a fire. Or a flood.

Whatever the cause of your ruin, there's a cliche for how you can handle it. The one about lemons and lemonade. Or that other one about taking a hit versus how hard you can hit. Or, in the parlance of our times, those three letters that signal your disgust with it all: FML.

There's something kinda stunning about the imagery of a person surrounded by the debris of one day's catastrophe. I think it's the holyfuckness of the moment.

Like, "Holy fuck, I'm still alive?"

Followed by, "Holy fuck, did that really just happen?"

Which eventually leads to, "Holy fuck, what do I do next?"

Amid the ruins there always is a next. Which is kinda the point of life. It goes on. Until it no longer has to. And when it no longer has to, there's no next for you to be worried about. And there's certainly no ruins to follow you. At least not as far as this silly bastard knows about.

So, as I said to Red, get used to it. Your whole life is gonna be ruined a bunch of times while you still have it. Dozens. Probably hundreds. And it'll be ruined more frequently the older you get.

But every time it is, you'll get to figure out what to do next.

"Holy fuck" is right. Maybe the only right way to understand the ruined.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Date Night: Avatar

An hour after word first began circulating that Kobe Bryant may end his two-week injurcation to suit up for the Lakers-Grizzlies game, I received this text message:

"I would like to have date night on Tues."

The Liberian Girl who sent that text had no knowledge of the status of Kobe's health on Monday, but she does know where the Lakers rank on my Priority List. She also knows where she rates on that same list.

On Tuesday night, as Andrew Bynum--also recently mended--jumped center in Memphis, I slid a pair of 3D glasses up the bridge of my nose in anticipation of my second screening of Avatar. The Liberian Girl burrowed into my left rib and nibbled on Nerds. She hadn't seen the film yet and finally caved to all the buzz about it. (After we ate a proper dinner first, of course.)

At this point, what more can you really say about Avatar?

The mythology of the film has been shredded, diced and gnarled by critics from all sides. "Why does the white man gotta save the natives again?" "Why is capitalism always the villain?" "How did we survive three hours without a single nipple slip?"

(Whoops. That last one is more pornographic than political. But those two disciplines share so many things that who can really tell the difference?)

The story--and this won't spoil anything if you've not seen it yet--is underwhelming. The characters are reduced, ironically, to flat caricatures. The dialogue is the height of cliche. There is more than one nagging continuity question. And, most alarmingly, there's no actual nudity despite the fact that those lithe blue bodies dance through the jungle for 2/3 of the flick.

All of which is to be expected.

Avatar is nearly three hours long, but it MOVES. It jukes through a brilliantly imagined world. And it sprints through a simple narrative that isn't meant to do anything more than provide back-up for a massive, MASSIVE creative accomplishment.

There are so many teams of people who collaborated on that film that you need a second mouse to scroll through the whole cast and crew list on If you know anything about the process of trying to make a film, the more people who get involved, the more likely it is that something about the finished product could suck. Long chains do tend to have lots of slack.

So if you're spending eight kajillion dollars to invent a whole new way of making movies, something has to give, no? If you're going to get anything really, really right, then you need to conjure up all the genius your acres of collaborators can muster to make sure the world you create together is jaw-dropping. Anything else--like the story--should probably be executed as simply as possible. That compromise, regardless of what non-lethal stereotypes it furthers or what agendas it hamhandedly espouses, can ultimately be forgiven.

Upon exiting the theatre, the Liberian Girl evaluated the film with a fitting eloquence, "The story wasn't amazing, but everything else was."

That's just about as precise as Kobe was during the closing seconds in Memphis.

(So I was told by a very different text.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Online Retail Fail

Gil Scott-Heron released a new album last Tuesday.

That's an ALL-CAPS headline deserving of thoughtful, probing analysis. But I ain't hear the album yet. Got sidetracked by life. Although I did mark a very big star next to that item in this week's To Do List. (Translation: "You really need to tick this one off cause it's extra, extra important.")

On Monday afternoon of this week, Barnes & Noble (B&N) was kind enough to alert me to a big sale they're having. $8.99 for any single CD. Perfect. I was gonna buy the Gil album anyway and here was a nice price break to validate my neglect in being among the first to cop it.

This morning, I opened the email from B&N to begin making the Gil purchase. I've never ordered from them online so I had to fill in some standard shipping and billing info during the first phase of the checkout process. No biggie. After securing all of my information, B&N informed me that the brand-new, just-released Gil CD is usually available within 1-2 weeks and that I could choose an ultra-cheap shipping option ($2.98 to receive my order in 3 days or less) bringing the total for my order to: $12.57 (including tax). Suddenly, this didn't seem like such a good deal.

I opened a new tab and clicked over to Amazon. I've ordered from them several times before. Probably more than several. Many more. The Gil CD was in stock both new ($12.99) and used ($11-something). Amazon offered me the same fast click checkout option they offer all regular customers and promptly informed me that I could receive the Gil CD by this Thursday (less than 48 hours from now) for a total of $12.99 (free shipping, no tax). That sounded pretty cool.

If you're scoring at home, here's how the retail fail breaks down:

Barnes & Noble = $12.57 to wait as long as two weeks to receive a CD that was released last week
Amazon = $12.99 to get the same CD within the next day or two

I ordered from Amazon.

Thanks for the coupon, B&N. I put it to very good use. For your competition.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Secret to Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a terribly misunderstood holiday.

It's not really about flowers. Or chocolates. Or chocolate-covered flowers.

It's not some grand conspiracy intended to make single people feel embarassed about being single.

And it's not a dull obligation masquearding as an icon of passion.

Valentine's Day is actually a referendum that has little to do with how either party of a relationship feels about the other. Instead, it's about how people who are not the couple perceive the couple's relationship. Valentine's Day is a show and it has lots of judges.

Let's say you're a dude who likes a chick. Let's say this chick digs on you as well. As the calendar flips from January to February, you find yourself brainstorming for the best way to pay tribute to all the liking and the digging.

You're probably thinking that the chick is your audience, but she's not. Your real audience is the chick's friends. Maybe her family, too. Possibly even her acquaintences.

After February 14 ends, people will ask the chick how the two of y'all celebrated Valentine's Day. If you chose well, there will be some giggling and some cooing before the conversation trundles happily to another subject. If you chose poorly, there will be awkward sighs, reassuring pats on the shoudler and, hopefully, an abrupt end to the dicussion of Valentine's Day. If the conversation lingers harshly on your poor choice of a celebration, the judging could condemn your relationship. All because you bought the wrong chocolate-covered flowers.

You don't have to be a dude in order to fail at Valentine's Day. You don't have to be straight either. This kind of judging isn't exactly partial to any specific pairing of the sexes. But it is the driving force behind the holiday.

And now that you know that...what does that mean to you?

It's pretty simple, actually. You could retire from Valentine's Day like all of those smart people who stopped going to church every Sunday. You could spend some time prying into the minds of your S.O.'s friends and family to find out what won't offend their sensibilities. could talk to your ______ (whomever you wake up next to) and reach an understanding that certain things matter to both of y'all and certain things don't. Valentine's Day could really be one of the things that matters to one party or another. (Probably because one of y'all really, really enjoys chocolate-covered flowers.)

Once you both reach an understanding, then you can focus not only on who really matters, but on what it is that matters to them as well.

And you can disregard everything--and everyone--else. 'Cause what doesn't matter...doesn't matter.