Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Movies of 2008

Top two:

Paranoid Park
Flight of the Red Balloon

Next tier:

My Winnipeg
Wendy and Lucy
Up the Yangtze

Still good:

A Christmas Tale
The Man from London

Still need to see (top five of many):

In the City of Sylvia
Waltz with Bashir
Silent Light
The Class

Top tier if they count:

The Headless Woman (unreleased)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (maybe 2007)

Previews from hell:

La Misma Luna
The Visitor (why was a boom visible multiple times in the theatrical preview but not online?)
Doubt/Slumdog Millionaire/The Reader/Revolutionary Road/other gratuitous award season wanks I didn't have the displeasure of having to sit through

Favorite performances:

Juliette Binoche
Ann Savage
Sally Hawkins
Eddie Marsan
Galina Vishnevskaya
Emmanuelle Devos
Michelle Williams
Emile Hirsch

Predictions for 2009:

-Diablo Cody's slasher movie will be delayed at least one more time, get panned, and bomb
-Michael Cera will play himself in at least five major indie films
-Daniel Radcliffe will play a female sociopath with a Russian accent in another attempt to distance himself from the HP franchise
-More sci-fi, less Western
-David Fincher will make a movie that is one minute longer than Berlin Alexanderplatz and will include a 3-hour close-up of Brad Pitt's nearly motionless face set to the post-digital music of Stephan Mathieu

Friday, December 26, 2008

The 2008 Blake Review Part Three



The doorbell rings and Raymond’s sister, Lacey Cox-Sickle (wife of local pool and patio superstore magnate Dick “Enrico” Sickle, hurries to let Raymond and his family in for their annual Christmas Eve celebration.

LACEY: Merry merry! It’s fantastic to see all of you. Precious, you look just as thin as ever. It’s nice to see us girls keeping up our looks.

She manages a half-smile; her facial mobility has been temporarily limited by recent Restylane treatments.

WIFE: Your house looks absolutely gorgeous.

LACEY: It’s literally breathtaking! Don’t you love my precious li’l cocktail tree? To make your own, into your barware cabinet I want you to take all your martini classes, shot glasses, hurricane glasses, and so forth and just adhere them to the branches with piano wire from your regular stringed instrument specialty boutique.

RAYMOND: That nutcracker topper looks like a toy we sell at my store. People come in and ask for the nutcracker topper, and I have to remember they’re not confusing us for the seasonal décor store in the other strip mall across the street.

LACEY: That’s a real convenient location. Both malls have their own li’l liquor store! Sometimes I just have to check out both in case there are any special deals of the moment.

Enrico enters and helps Raymond’s family with their coats.

ENRICO: The old broad here has been cookin’ up a storm. I told her, “as long as it doesn’t look like that fucking piece of shit Easter ham, we’ll be fine.” Seriously, that pig died so a chunk of him could be turned into a blooming onion-looking shit blob.

LACEY: That was not my recipe, and I had too many white knight saketinis that afternoon. What have you cooked for me lately, sweetie?

ENRICO: It’s your job to cook and clean, bitch! Or, should I say, Ho ho ho!

Everyone laughs. Slim and Precious sit under the cocktail tree while their parents grab the loveseat next to the fireplace.

Lacey leaves to get drinks for everyone in the kitchen.

ENRICO (to Slim): What’s up, buddy? Gotten any memorable blowjobs lately? Oh, I guess you don’t want to answer that in front of your parents. Like they’re stupid enough to think a beautiful boy like you isn’t fighting off bitches who want a taste of your corncob.

PRECIOUS: Even the holiday time has been irretrievably imbued with hypermasculine ideological domination. It’s really tiresome, but at least it gives me something to appropriate. Something to grab on to, to use a phrase to which you might be more receptive, although that may ultimately contradict what I’m intending to actualize.

ENRICO: Sure, you learn all those fuckin’ fancy words at college, but the degree you should be aiming for is a M.R.S.! You don’t want to become one of those uppity overeducated broads on public radio.

Precious growls and tries to distract herself with the engineering feat that is the cocktail tree. Lacey returns with a large tray of martini glasses filled with a slightly slushy electric blue mixture and rimmed with dried coconut shavings.

WIFE: Those look special.

LACEY: Say hello to my snowball martini cocktails. Onto the rim of your martini glass I’ve put for you just some shaved coconut for a sweet li’l garnish. The drinks are a little strong.

SLIM: Just the way we like ‘em.

PRECIOUS: You could have called this an ice “Sickle” cocktail.

LACEY: I don’t get it.

PRECIOUS: Sickle, like your last name.

LACEY: Well, that would be pretty fucking weird.

SLIM: Word to that.

He takes a large gulp of the drink and nearly goes into shock from the extreme blast of pure alcohol goodness.

LACEY: I warned you: I made ‘em strong. More cocktail for your buck equals more fun! Speaking of which, I cannot wait to show you my life-sized nutcracker king, Bjorn. Come with me into my tablescape room and say hello to him!

Everyone rises reluctantly and follows Lacey.


Christmas Eve at the Rubenstein house: Saggy and Ratso are sitting in front of their plasma screen TV, drinking Icehouse and playing GTA 4. Ratso is on the phone.

RATSO: Dude, you should totally come over here tonight. Bring your friends. We’ve got beer and shit. . . . Okay.

He closes his phone.

RATSO: Whore!

SAGGY: She coming?

RATSO: She will be later when I’m alone with her!

They both laugh for several minutes.

RATSO: Yeah, she might stop by and maybe bring some other bitches. Dude, you just totally got fucked by that dude! He shot your ass so many times, I can’t believe you aren’t dead.

Chunky enters carrying a KFC bucket.

RATSO: Hey fag.

CHUNKY: Jesus Christ, I hate my fucking family. I just got to watch my mom get shit-faced on box wine and my dad and brother practically start a fist fight because my brother didn’t sufficiently appreciate the SUV antlers Dad bought him.

RATSO: Fuck, that is some poor white trash shit going on. And where’s the KFC from?

CHUNKY: Leftovers from Christmas dinner. Want some? It’s Extra Crispy.

SAGGY: Hella yes.

He grabs a handful and sets it on the couch next to him to pick at while playing GTA.

RATSO: No dude, I’m fine. Want some Icehouse?

CHUNKY: Fuck yes. We should totally bong it.

RATSO: Fuck, I lent my bong to Bulge the night my brother broke that sink at that one dude’s house when he was fucking Rachel Goldblatt in the bathroom. Remember that, dicksmack?

SAGGY: Not really.

RATSO: Well, you were pretty fucked up on Jag bombs, but that was fuckin’ hilarious. I’ll never forget the look on that bitch’s face.

CHUNKY: Was that the party I missed because I was hunting with my dad and his friend that got arrested like a week later for having an eight-year-old girl tied up in his attic?

RATSO: Yeah, I think so.

Chunky finishes his beer in one go and opens another one against his Confederate flag belt buckle.

RATSO: Is that new, dude?

CHUNKY: The buckle? Yeah, my brother gave it to me.

RATSO: That shit looks dangerous, like if your pants were at a fucked up angle or maybe when you were pissing or some shit, that buckle could cut off the circulation to your dick.

CHUNKY (worried): You think? That sounds fucking painful.

RATSO: Yeah, my cousin plays soccer and he was too embarrassed to buy a new nutcup so he had the same one from when he was like nine until he was like fifteen, and his dick would turn blue and he had to go to the doctor and a bunch of people were all staring at his dick in the hospital. It sounded pretty fucked up.

SAGGY: Fucker!

He throws the controller, which lands under a Led Zeppelin poster.

RATSO (laughing): You shoot like a bitch! But seriously, do not break another controller. Remember how pissed Mom was the last time.

SAGGY: Somewhat.

CHUNKY: You’re lucky to even have a 360.

RATSO: Just because your family is too poor white rash to upgrade your Game Cube doesn’t mean we don’t love you, man. We share the wealth. Speaking of which, why aren;t those fucking bitches here yet?

SAGGY: It’s not Christmas without pussy.

CHUNKY: Well spoken, my man.

He bumps fists with Saggy as Ratso nods in solemn agreement.


Slim and Precious are hanging out in Precious’s room, listening to the Phil Spector Christmas album.

SLIM: So, shit wasn’t as bad as it could have been tonight.

PRECIOUS: For once, Lacey’s horrifying forays into ultra-alcoholic cocktail crafting was a boon.

SLIM: Yeah, it was pretty fucking hilarious when Uncle Dick opened that Aneros prostate stimulator that Dad got him from the store. Do you really think he’s going to stick a plastic thing in his ass so he can get off harder when he’s fucking Lacey?

PRECIOUS: Between you and me, that is one thing I can spend a thousand Christmases never thinking about.

SLIM: Dude, you have a point. What’s Boobs doing tonight?

PRECIOUS: Gyrating viciously on the laps of whatever men are poor and/or non-Christian enough to spend the holidays at the Vu. Gyrating, up and down, over and around, left and right, until sexy time explosion occurs.

SLIM: Jesus, Bitch. Those Borat references are so dead.

PRECIOUS: I have no idea what you are talking about.

SLIM: Anyway, I think Chunky has a thing for Boobs. He’s always asking about her and he sent me this IM that sort of implied he had a dream about donkey punching her or some shit.

PRECIOUS: Typical. That child looks like a piñata filled with semen. I’m sure Boobs has a stable of politically powerful johns and drug dealers who give her exactly what she wants in a way no high school boy ever would. Like a famous female hip-hop artist once said—and I paraphrase—Boobs don’t want no one minute man.

Slim grins sheepishly and adjusts himself.

PRECIOUS: Anyway, this is our chance to bond during the holiday time. Confide in me your darkest secrets, your secret fears, you fearful wishes, your wishful fantasies. I’m all ears.

SLIM: I’ve been thinking about a lot of shit lately, and when I think, it’s usually not a fucking good thing. But really, I just want people to act fucking normal. I mean, what the fuck else can you hope for?

PRECIOUS: World peace? Queer acceptance? The eradication of authoritarian hegemonic oppression of historically subjugated peoples?

SLIM: Be realistic, bitch! I’m still in high school. If I get drunk and hit on in the same week, it’s good times.

PRECIOUS: Oh, I remember those days, when aiming low meant something about urine and girls creamed themselves over the high school teacher that looked like Mr. Clean’s significantly more fetal younger brother. Enjoy it while it lasts. Soon you’ll be confronted with non-suburban people, the real possibility of weight gain, and cafeteria food. Enjoy your lithe teenage body while it lasts.

SLIM: Yeah, I guess. And dude, I still can’t believe Dad gave Uncle Dick something he’s supposed to shove up his own ass.

PRECIOUS: It is rather comical, I’ll give you that.


Precious and Boobs are back at Bob’s, having coffee and scones with Jogs.

BOOBS: And then he took out a needle and a bottle of rubbing alcohol and asked if I would pierce his Prince Albert while he jacked off. What the hell is wrong with guys these days?

PRECIOUS: As much as I would hate nothing more than potentially sounding condescending, you may want to consider that your profession has a limiting effect on the quality of people you are particularly likely to encounter.

BOOBS: I’m not naïve, but there is a time and a place.

JOGS: I totally agree. I would never ask a girl to pierce my dick. Just like I would expect her never to ask to smell it. I mean, you gotta have some trust in a relationship. You can’t spell “relationship” without “us.”

BOOBS: Wise words, my man. If you only lost seventy pounds, I would so be dying to ride your jock.

JOGS: God damn it! Why does this always happen to me.

BOOBS: Get some lipo and call me in the morning.

PRECIOUS: All these standards of attractiveness are so retro-bourgeois. I mean, bodies are made of flesh. There are no bodies without organs; there cannot be bodies without flesh. I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess, but in the meantime, there’s no reason to imagine the possibility of a present that can’t happen until at least the future, if ever.

JOGS: More girls need to see it that way. How about a date?

PRECIOUS: Fuck no. I don’t care that you’re fat, but you’re totally ugly and you really need to see a dermatologist.

JOGS: Fuck both of you! Why can’t I have the fantastic genes of my sister? The lottery of birth is so tragic sometimes.

BOOBS: Don’t feel bad. You’ll find a fat bitch who will want you to roll her around and find the wet spot.

JOGS: Ugh, cliché cliché. I guess I just need to accept the tragedy of my existence.

PRECIOUS: True that. But irregardlessly, what is the story with your sister? Where did you hide this hot model bitch from us while we were in school together?

JOGS: She went to a different school because my parents thought Edina was getting too Jewish.

BOOBS: Smart choice.

PRECIOUS: That explains everything.


Slim and Chunky are having breakfast together in a coffee shop on Central Avenue.

SLIM: I fucking hate the holidays. You always think something is going to happen, but it’s just the same old shit.

CHUNKY: Yeah: you think there’ll be girls to fuck and parties to get fucked up at and lots of cool shit going down, but it’s just the same routine with lame presents and relatives getting drunk and screaming and shit like that.

SLIM: Why doesn’t life cooperate with us?

CHUNKY: Dude, the eternal fucking question. Ugly motherfuckers like Ratso and morons like Saggy get bitches left and right, while attractive, cool guys like us are having breakfast alone like two homos who spent the last night having an anal probe-a-thon. Speaking of which, I gotta shit. BRB.

Chunky walks toward the bathroom.

Slim stares into his mug of coffee contemplatively, absently picks up a bacon strip and bites off its tip, then sighs.

A couple at the next table toasts mimosas, smiling satisfactorily.

A server drops a tray of food on the ground and laughs.

Time refuses to stop.



Thursday, December 25, 2008

The 2008 Blake Review Part Two



Slim stands at his front door, waiting to be picked up for an exciting party in his friends’ basement. His parents and sister are playing Mystery Date in front of the fireplace.

PRECIOUS: This Date looks like a hot lesbian. It’s so disturbing when boys like that have facial hair. I mean, of course I’m all for embracing the subversive potential of drag, but that doesn’t mean removing some of the rare attractiveness from campus.

SLIM: Fuck ever. You could have done what every normal person does and check Facebook to make sure there were lots of hot people at Sarah Lawrence. Instead, you made the free and rational choice to go to a college with a bunch of homos and bitches who don’t shave their legs and pits.

PRECIOUS: Some of that may be for axilism.

RAYMOND: You kids would be surprised about the kind of things people are sexually attracted to. People come to my store and buy stacks of magazines and videos with pictures of hairy women: hairy women in wheelchairs, hairy pregnant dwarf women, hairy women inserting automotive pistons into their anuses and vaginas . . .

WIFE: Now that is wacky! Ooh, let’s see who my mystery date is!

She opens the door to reveal her perfect match.

WIFE: Not exactly the face of an angel, but maybe he’ll make up for it downstairs.

RAYMOND: Where it counts!

SLIM: There’s Chunk-style. Gotta bounce, bitches.

WIFE: Have a lovely time!

Slim bounds down the stairs and gets in Chunky’s rust-colored El Camino.

CHUNKY: How’s it hanging?

SLIM: I don’t want to talk about it!

CHUNKY: Ever since our trip to the Vu, you’ve been uncharacteristically reluctant to discuss your own cock and balls. What gives?

SLIM: Your mama gives! And the bitch takes, too, from what I hear!

CHUNKY: So what? A bitch gotta make a living. What does your mom do when the cash is tighter than one of Michael Jackson’s potential victims?

SLIM: Dude, we’re totally rich. You think that the recession is going to make people stop jacking off?

CHUNKY: Fucking old people who don’t use the internet. I’m gonna start classes for them and your parents are going to be screwed.

SLIM: Why don’t you just try to hook up with Boobs Carlisle? Get a woman with a nice salary and live easy for the rest of high school.

CHUNKY: Good idea. Can your sister help a bro out with that?

SLIM: I’ll ask after she’s had a few Martha Stewart eggnogs on Christmas Eve.

CHUNKY: Noice.


Slim and Chunky are in the basement of the home of their friends, Julius “Saggy” Rubsenstein (so nicknamed because of his tendency to wear his pants like a black) and his brother, Ratso. Even though they are Jews, they have embraced the holiday spirit with cases of Bud Light emblazoned with the Claus family provided by their parents.

SLIM: Where the fuck is everyone? You didn’t tell us it was gonna be a four man sausage fest.

RATSO: Fuck you. A bunch of people are out of town and Bulge and a bunch of bitches are on the way.

CHUNKY: More beer for the rest of us.

SAGGY: Hella true.

SLIM: So what have you guys been doing on break?

RATSO: What the fuck, are you accusing me of not having a life and spending all my time posting on some web site for bitches? I have been going out and enjoying social activities, getting crunk in and out of the club, smoking piles of weed, and hooking up with hoes.

CHUNKY: We went to the Vu a couple days ago.

SAGGY: Hella awesome.

SLIM: It was actually pretty lame.

CHUNKY: Speak for yourself! They got Mr. Pibb and snatch! What else fucking is there in life?

SAGGY: Hella yes.

CHUNKY: Anyway, Slim here got a lap dance from some ho named Salsa and he won’t even tell me what went down. Or—I should say—up!

RATSO: Fuck, man, you gotta tell us.

SLIM: Dude, nothing happened! I mean, nothing didn’t happen . . . It’s just . . . I think it’s kind of fucked up that I’m supposed to tell my friends everything about everything that goes in or out of my body. Like, can’t I fucking shit or jack off and just keep it to myself?

CHUNKY: What the hell? We’re bros. Bros before hoes.

RATSO: What the fuck is wrong with you? This shit is just fucked up.

SAGGY: Hella mos’ def.

SLIM: Why? Why don’t we just pull out our dicks and compare them and then have an orgy and send pictures of it to everyone we know?

Saggy takes off his pants, which is not a particularly difficult feat for him.

SLIM: I was fucking kidding!

RATSO: Dude, Slim, you got some issues. And it’s pretty obvious what happened. So what? It happens to all of us.

CHUNKY: Yeah, we get it. So you didn’t last as long as you wanted to. I’m sure some random stripper bitch really cares. What, were you gonna ask her out afterward? “Let’s grab dinner at Maggiano’s and check out the new Dane Cook joint.”

SLIM: Fine. You win. Now give me another fucking beer and call Bulge to find out why the bitches aren’t here yet.

The doorbell rings.

RATSO: Bitches, check. Beer, check.

SAGGY: Hella.


Precious and Boobs are having coffee at Bob’s, a coffee shop on Lyndale with a diverse clientele including lesbians, bikers, and lesbian bikers.

PRECIOUS: It’s like the existence of strip clubs is one of the last things granting any sort of credence so second wave feminism. I just imagine, in the midst of a bed dance, your nipple releasing a single tear-shaped drop of breast milk that morphs into the disapproving face of Catharine MacKinnon.

BOOBS: Yeah, I don’t really philosophize about it, though. It’s hard to think a lot when you’re on oxycontin, methadone, crank, and D when I can get it.

PRECIOUS: Jesus Christ on a snickerdoodle! Have you considered rehab?

BOOBS: Oh, please. It’s way too expensive and I can quit whenever I want to.

An overweight boy approaches their table, holding a large café mocha and a brick of Rice Krispie bar.

BOY: Precious and Hope? This is so cool!

Precious and Hope look confused; obviously they do not recognize their admirer.

BOY: It’s me, Jogs Chignon. I know I look a bit different from high school. The freshman fifteen turned into more like fifty. It’s hard to stay svelte when automatic wheelchairs are just so fun. Plus, I really like beer and fried snack foods.

PRECIOUS: Jogs! I have to say, your weight gain is slightly horrifying, but it’s nice that you’re not giving in to the historical American disdain for the body and disquieting images of contemporary beauty.

JOGS: Yeah, pretty much once I realized I would never look as good in a loincloth as the dude from MGMT, I just decided to let myself go.

PRECIOUS: And your first name is a bit of an ironical performance now, or lack thereof. I heartily approve.

BOOBS: So, what are you doing back in the Minneapple?

JOGS: Same as you: Christmas break with the family.

BOOBS: Actually, I never left Minnesota. I live with my parents and I’m a stripper at the Vu.

JOGS: That must be fun!

BOOBS: Well, unlike every other woman in the Twin Cities, at least I’m getting paid to be sexually harassed.

JOGS: Nice! Anyway, I should get back to my friends, but I wanted to let you know about this fashion event that my sister’s putting on at Club Fantasy tonight. It’s going to be awesome and I can get you and anyone you want to bring in for free with a non-perishable food item.

He hands them a small, tastefully designed flier.

PRECIOUS (reading): “Fashion Fucking Fashion for the Motherfucking Holidays.” Now you’re speaking my language!

JOGS: See you tonight, then?

PRECIOUS: If my psyche withstands another day of being assaulted by the pressures of the telematic age plus my bitch parents, I’ll try.

BOOBS: I’ll check it out after work if I don’t find a john.

JOGS: Coolio.

He waddles back to his friends.

BOOBS: I don’t remember him having a sister.


Precious, Slim, and Chunky are standing together next to a catwalk at Club Fantasy, waiting for the fashion show to start.

SLIM: I cannot believe how gay this crowd is. Can you catch gay by being near so many homos?

CHUNKY: Too bad I didn’t wear my asshole shield underwear.

PRECIOUS: Your queer fear is such a ridiculous put-on. Like you haven’t spent hours in sweaty locker rooms, engaging in football field ass-slapping and basket-grabbing, et cetera, et cetera. Like you really read XY Magazine for the articles.

SLIM: Fuck you. They have some useful tips on body hair management. Maybe you should get a subscription for your dyke friends at college.

CHUNKY: Pwned!

The lights dim for the show to start.

SLIM: I hope we get to see some titties.

PRECIOUS (whispering): Shhhhh! Behave!

An extremely flamboyant black man walks onstage wearing a salmon colored double-breasted suit jacket with brown leather pants and a matching fedora punctuated with a huge peacock plume.

EMCEE: Hello, ladies and ladies! This is Miss Joe, the bitch who started it all! And we’re here to check out the fierciest, fabbest, fantasticest fashions for ya’ll this holiday time. Here we go.

Explosive techno pumps through the speakers as the first model—a buff teenage boy wearing stonewashed gray denim shortalls cut off mid-thigh with denim UGG boots and pink glitter pasties—fiercely marches down the catwalk.

MISS JOE: Say hello to Armando, who looks stunning in this frothy confection of an ensemble available at Rainbow Road near the downtown Hyatt. Work it, bitch!

Armando erotically winks at Slim as he poses at the end of the catwalk.

SLIM: I just realized I have to take a huge shit.

He walks off toward the bathroom.

PRECIOUS (to Chunky): You aren’t going to leave, too?

CHUNKY: Fuck no. This is awesome.

Precious pats him on the back.

Slim returns just as the first female model hits the runway.

MISS JOE: Here is Jay, ready for a night on the town in this military-inspired halter dress with mock epaulets.

Slim is obviously entranced by Jay, a fierce walker who slaps her ass as she twirls at the end of the runway.

MISS Joe: Go girl! You better work, honey!

Jogs walks up to the group.

JOGS: I’m glad you could make it. How’d you like my sister?

He points to Jay just as she leaves the stage.

PRECIOUS: I would kill for an ass like that.

SLIM (aside): Me too.

JOGS (laughing): I gotta head backstage. See you after the show?

Precious shrugs.


All four members of the Cox family are gathered in the living room listening to Wife’s favorite Mannheim Steamroller album.

WIFE: This music is so gosh darn exhilarating! I feel so energized, it reminds me of the days with my first husband when we would have sex three or three and a half times in one sitting!

RAYMOND: Just the thought of that makes my balls hurt.

WIFE (laughing): This is why our relationship works so well. We’re life partners, not just starved horndogs pouncing on each other, having wild, animalistic sex all night.

SLIM: For the tenth time, shut the fuck up! Unless you’re buying me years of therapy for Christmas, I don’t want to hear about this disgusting shit.

WIFE: Oh Slim, someday you’ll find a sweetie to bang. It really can be something special when you find the right fit.

SLIM: I can feel the vomit struggling to escape.

WIFE: I’ll be quiet and enjoy the music. Just think, tomorrow it will be Christmas Eve.

PRECIOUS: One can only wonder what Jesus Christ would think if he returned to earth and saw Americans celebrating his birthday with an orgy of capitalist frenzy.

RAYMOND: It’s a real impasse, all right. But, you know, people come in to my store and buy the Jingle Balls Cock Sleeve, the Mistletoe Anal Tickler, and the Elfmaster 2009, so I roll with the punches.

PRECIOUS: That is something we cannot not do in this environment. I must depart and get my drank on now.

SLIM: Is that Jogs guy going to be at the party?

PRECIOUS: Why do you care, shit stain?

SLIM: His sister seemed nice.

Precious laughs, rolls her eyes, and rushes out.

RAYMOND: Now that your stupid feminist bitch sister is gone, there’s something your mother and I wanted to ask you about.

SLIM: What the fuck is it now?

RAYMOND: Well, you know we’re in for a few generations of economic horrors, and a growing boy like you needs spending money for food, fun, and fantasy products.

WIFE: It’s true. Wouldn’t you like to have the pride to go out and buy a burrito with your own money? Or a corn dog? Or a churro? Whatever you want to stuff in your mouth, you can get it yourself.

RAYMOND: So, how’d you like to try working for me? The boss man can be a pain in the booty, but the pay’s decent and you could learn about the family business.

SLIM: Don’t you have to be eighteen to sell porn and dildos and shit?

RAYMOND: Who cares? We could have our own family “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

SLIM: I don’t know. I’ll think about it or some shit.

RAYMOND: Don’t you want the satisfaction of knowing you sold a Fleshlight to someone who otherwise would have to use something less pleasurable and potentially less sanitary or even illegal?

SLIM: You’re not too consistent on the legality shit, dad.

WIFE: Your son has a point.

RAYMOND: Oh, fuck off for the love of all things holy. Anyway, sleep on it. Spend some time imagining what it would be like surrounded by hardcore pornography and relationship and pleasure enhancers for a few hours a week. Sweet dreams!

Slim goes upstairs and logs onto IM. Chunky immediately sends him a link to a video called “Peanut Butter Jar Fun.”


Monday, December 22, 2008

The 2008 Blake Review Part One

He was a boy; she was a post-op MTF transsexual. Can it be any more obvious? I know that (that) “it” is ambiguous, but it’s been a long, hard weekend. There have been sleepless nights, pillow fights, sexually confusing initiation rites, and—most of all—Christmas lights.

It all started in rural West Virginia just over fifteen years ago. He was a coal miner's son, squeezed out of the sooty loins of a child bride in a thatched hut on Christmas day, her howls mingling with those of stray coyotes in the hills above. In fact, he had a younger sister who was raised by coyotes for the first eight years of her life. Although she remained feral at heart, she eventually learned the social ways of the human world and found success as a high school ultimate discus player.

He, on the other hand, was born without the gift of athletic prowess. His father refused to come to terms with this, berating the child for his inability to develop bulging lats and glutes by age eight. He was no Richard Sandrak: he could barely complete four pull-ups, and lost in the first round of the second grade arm wrestling tournament to a primordial dwarf with carpal tunnel.

This embarrassment was too much for his father, who turned to the bottle, spiraling downward until, one fateful night, he drank sixteen purple hooters and got arrested for having sex with a picnic table four times in one hour, then smeared his feces all over the back of the police car that carried him off. The local publicity was too much for his poor wife, who whisked the kids away to start a new life in the great state of Minnesota.

She found a job as a sales assistant at the Fantasy Gifts in the Town and Country shopping center in Bloomington, where she met her second future ex-husband, Raymond Cox, who wooed her with erotic gifts: crotchless pantsuits, cashmere thongs, flavored body oils, and more. After a shotgun wedding at the Anoka Knights of Columbus hall, the Coxes moved into a sprawling home in Indian Hills and created a beautiful life for Slim and his still slightly feral sister, Precious.

Five years have passed. Now, Precious is a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, and Slim is a junior at Edina High School. This is the story of the holiday season experiences of the Cox family in 2008. I hope you enjoy it.



We begin in the living room of the Cox house, where Raymond’s wife and son are waiting for him to bring Precious back from the airport.

WIFE: It’ll be real cozy with us all here. My mama always said the home and the hearth are like the human womb in the holiday time. Some people may dream of sugar plums, but the sweetest thoughts in my noggin are shaped like cute li’l fetuses.

SLIM: That is so fucking gay. What the fuck is wrong with you, bitch?

WIFE (laughing): I know I’m a bit esoteric, idiosyncratic . . . some have even deigned to refer to me as “wacky.” But that’s what happens when you take a girl from the bucolic outskirts of Yakima, Washington, make her run away from home to escape her stepmother’s crippling dextromethorphan hydrobromide addiction, then set her up with a hard-drinking miner with a taste for light bondage, especially when there’s a full moon or a neap tide.

SLIM: Gross me out! That is some sick shit. Seriously, I’m so glad I haven’t eaten for three days, because I would have just projectile vomited all over your tits.

WIFE: It wouldn’t be the first time, sweetie.

Just then, the doorbell rings. Wife leaps in the air and squeals with delight as Slim lackadaisically throws the door open. Precious and Raymond enter along with a burst of cold air. Precious is wearing pastel pink tights, white fur boots, a vinyl miniskirt, and a sweater with a picture of St. Josephine Bakhita’s stern yet benevolent face on it.

WIFE: My sweet, semi-feral daughter! I’m so glad to see you. My cup runneth over.

SLIM: That’s what she said.

Wife embraces a detached-looking Precious, who growls softly.

SLIM: I was expecting you to look much more lesbo.

PRECIOUS: God, fashion sexual preference identity locationality is so jejune, even the neo-essentialists ask for their goulash, hold the FSPIL.

RAYMOND: Those lesbians sure do like their harnesses, though. They come in and ask for the leather harnesses. I guess the economy hasn’t been too bad for them because they really like to splurge on my high-quality leather harnesses.

SLIM: Subarus must have good gas mileage.

WIFE: I’m going to go check on my baked Alaska. Slim, why don’t you help your sister with her luggage.

SLIM: Is it heavy?

PRECIOUS: It is no heavier than the pendulous testicles of a particularly large steed.

SLIM: You would know!

He grabs a forest green L.L. Bean duffle with the monogram “BWO” and heads upstairs with Precious, who is hauling a trunk plastered with shirtless pictures of “Beautiful Soul”-era Jesse McCartney.


Slim is reclined on a fainting coach in Precious’s bedroom to recover from the exertion of toting her duffle bag upstairs. She is mixing highballs with a vintage stainless cocktail set straight out of “Mad Men.”

PRECIOUS: The whole campus has become a knitting orgy. The frenzied social is merely a woolen happening. People are measuring others’ genitalia to make custom cock socks. I’m not sure if it’s refreshingly unselfconscious or sexually overwhelming. I suppose we have reached an impasse.

SLIM: Dude, that cock sock fad would be pretty cool if it came here.

Precious hands him a cocktail.

SLIM: What is this, Captain coke or some shit?

PRECIOUS: Lord no. It is a virgin brandy stinger.

SLIM: Is that supposed to mean something?

PRECIOUS: What sass! As if the concept of “meaning” can be invoked so casually. It must be right cozy living under the veil of structuralist assumptions. I envy you, really.

SLIM: Bitch, you crazy. But this drank is pretty baller.

PRECIOUS: Yes, few teenage boys can resist the allure of the virgin stinger. In fact, I once knew a lovely coyote called “The Virgin Stinger.” He had the most attractive pouty lips.

She growls suggestively.

SLIM: So, what’s college like? Is everybody constantly fucked up and fucking? My friend Will’s brother who goes to Madison said it was like that.

PRECIOUS: I don’t know what those ignoramus rubes in cheesetown are doing with their time, but Sarah Lawrence is quite civilized. Yes, my roommate was left overnight tied to an Ikea swiveling desk chair, but they made sure she could move her hands enough to smoke clove cigarettes. And anyway, the whole incident was about experiencing the transgression of boundaries, flirting with the erotic kernel of submission.

SLIM: Damn, that makes high school sound pretty lame. The closest thing to that was when that deaf girl got caught giving her deaf boyfriend a blowjob in the language stairwell.

PRECIOUS: Ah, yes. How ironical that was.

WIFE (calling from downstairs): Supper’s ready, children!

Slim and Precious both quickly finish their cocktails and head out.

SLIM: By the way, are you still friends with that one hot bitch, the one with the pink Geo Tracker?

PRECIOUS: You mean Hope?

SLIM: Yeah. I hope I can get inside her pants before New Year’s Day.

PRECIOUS: Actually, she goes by the name of “Boobs Carlisle” now. She’s a stripper at the Vu.

SLIM: Hot damn! We are so headed there tonight. Be still, my beating left testicle.


Precious, Slim, and Slim’s aggressively pubescent friend, Enrico (who goes by the name “Chunky,” which was earned after he was caught doing something at least minimally unsavory with Jif) pull into the Third Street municipal ramp in downtown Minneapolis.

CHUNKY: So, the guy shoves this empty glass jar up his ass, and of course all the guys watching were like, “Whatever.” Like, of course he’s going to shove it up his ass. But then the jar broke and all this blood and shit went everywhere and I started screaming like a bitch and ran to the bathroom because I thought I was gonna throw up but I didn’t so I decided as long as I was already in the bathroom I should probably just beat off.

SLIM: I’m so sick of those videos that start with some guy shoving shit up his ass. That shit is so 2007. The internet needs to have a New Year’s resolution to can it with the objects up ass shit.

CHUNKY: That “sounds” good to me!

Slim high-fives Chunky as they both laugh uproariously. Precious rolls her eyes and delivers a growl of subtle irritation.

They park the car and emerge.

PRECIOUS: It’s colder than Oprah Winfrey’s crotch out here! Bronxville might not be Tahiti but this is just horrific. Why would anyone live here by choice?

SLIM (pointing at Sex World): That’s one reason.

CHUNKY: My brother told me they have free popcorn outside the jack-off booths!

SLIM: Popcorn: America’s healthy snack, now with three hundred percent more protein.

CHUNKY: That is just sick, bro.

PRECIOUS: Before we go in, I want to make sure you guys promise to respect the sex workers. Being a sex worker in the 90’s does not mean you’re happy and free. These bitches have drug problems and most of them probably have the clap and the slightest insult can invoke a violent rage. You don’t want your eyeball torn off by someone’s acrylic bitch nail so keep it polite.

SLIM: How you know so much about whores? Have you been enjoying life south of the border?

CHUNKY: Spending your food money on box lunches?

SLIM: Experimenting with carpet samples?

CHUNKY: Snatch spelunking?

PRECIOUS: Har har har. Your juvenile euphemisms are so witty, I’m stifling a titanic guffaw right now. But actually, I took a class on sex-positive feminism last semester. What an academically bankrupt, essentialist discipline. It almost made me nostalgic for Phyllis Schlafly.

SLIM (to Chunky): Are you sure our fake IDs are going to work?

CHUNKY: Dude, of course. I got them from the same guy in Chinatown who forged a passport for that guy who blew up all those people in Canada last year.

SLIM: It’s just weird that this ID says my name is Michael Cholbi. That sounds really gay and I don’t even fucking know how to pronounce the last name. What’s your name?

CHUNKY: Michael Cera.


Raymond and Wife sit by a roaring fire enjoying hot buttered rum and gingerbread cookies made with novelty penis and boob cookie cutters from Fantasy Gifts.

RAYMOND: I’m getting worried about that boy of ours. All he does is sit around watching the "World’s Strongest Man" on TV and eating petit fours.

WIFE: You have to understand, honey, that my baby daddy didn’t treat him good. He’s been emasculated so many times. And just look at the contradictory images society projects to teenage boys. They’re supposed to look like Abercrombie models yet walk around in public holding shopping bags with pictures of shirtless Abercrombie models on them.

RAYMOND: That’s why I think he needs to spend some time in a real all-American red-blooded manly man’s place, and I’m not talking about the YMCA locker room. I’m talking about my store. He could earn some pocket money and learn the ropes of the trade.

WIFE: Mixed metaphor aside, are you sure he wouldn’t nearly explode with sexual frustration? He might get all worked up and into a state where the slightest trigger could make him explode. Imagine if that happened in a grocery store, or during square dancing in gym class.

RAYMOND: Insinuating that hours and hours spent among luscious pornographic materials would make a teenage boy sexually frustrated is fundamentally retarded. This is about capitalism, it’s about the economy, and it’s a little bit about leather harnesses, too. But only a bit.

WIFE: I guess we can talk about this with him, but not with that intellectual half-feral feminazi around!

Raymond laughs and nods vigorously.


Precious, Slim, and Chunky share a table at Déjà Vu, sipping Mr. Pibb and watching a stripper wearing a Santa hat and forest green spike heels pole Atlanta-style.

SLIM: You could choke someone to death with those thighs.

CHUNKY: I’ve got something I’d like her to choke!

Boobs Carlisle approaches the table wearing red hot pants with white fur trim and a matching bra.

BOOBS: Precious! Tony said some girl asked for me, but I never thought it would be you.

They embrace warmly.

BOOBS: We could have met somewhere classier.

PRECIOUS: Oh, hooey. I decided to embrace the Xmas spirit and take this little fucker and his friend to see some nice silicon-enhanced tits and heavily waxed bacon strips.

BOOBS: Awww, that’s cute. If either of them wants a lap dance or a table dance or a bed dance, I can suggest some hot bitches.

PRECIOUS: My brother is pretty frail. I think his heart might give out—

SLIM: Fuck you, you half-feral bitch! I get lap dances all the time. I had one the night before you got back.

CHUNKY: Yeah right: you had one right before you woke up in a pool of your own dick juices.

Slim bitch-slaps Chunky, then moans in pain and nurses his hand.

BOOBS: I gotta go get ready for my big number, but if you decide you want some hot one-on-one action, just find Salsa over there.

She points toward a spicy, racially ambiguous woman dressed as a Russian Orthodox nun.

SLIM: I wonder if they touch your unit.

PRECIOUS: Go find out. Just don’t blame me if you die.

SLIM: I’ll show you that I’m a real man right now.

He gets up and walks purposefully toward Salsa.



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Music Releases of 2008

In alphabetical order:

Autodrone: Strike a Match
The Bug: London Zoo
Cold Cave: Painted Nails
The Comas: Spells
Dan Friel: Ghost Town
Dead Leaf Echo: Pale Fire
The Fun Years: Baby, It's Cold Inside
Hauschka: Ferndorf
The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
Paavoharju: Laulu Laakson Kukista
Rustie: Cafe de Phresh
Teenage Filmstars: Star (reissue)

Best corporate music experience: Hearing "Marshmallow World" at Trader Joe's

Friday, November 28, 2008

The 2008 Glenbrooks Review

An Open Letter to Everyone Everywhere Along the Stretch of Highway 94 from Minneapolis to Chicago the Weekend of November 21, 2008:

All y’all suck. Big time. Our world has really gone to hell in a handbasket. I can smell the flames from Satan’s Rock, and I am not referring to the stone formation outside Tomah, but the fiery pit of hell from whence sulfuric and other stanknasty odors emerge. Everything is so dark-sided! Get the hell out of the upper Midwest in Jesus’ name I pray!

I don’t even know where to start on this list of grievances, ungodly horrors unleashed upon my person. I suppose that since we’re talking about the apocalypse and linear time is apocalyptic time, at least according to those damned gays, we’ll start at the beginning and go as straight as possible from there.

Which isn’t going to be easy.

Last Friday, we set off towards a competitive crossword-solving tournament in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I took five students with me, all adept wordsmiths. We travel together once or twice a month, which is lots of fun: They try to make me listen to terrible music and stories about their experiences with rifles and PCP, and I drive 120 miles per hour and tray to splat as many animals along the highway as possible.

The trip can be done on either of two highways: 90 or 94. Although the former has Medieval Times and a string of rural areas where I imagine the modern equivalent of Gilles de Rais would set up shop, we took 94 this time, since it takes us past the Dells, Racine, the Ho-Chunk, and Wisconsin Fun, the family fantasy fun experience between Hustler and Baraboo.

Before we even reached Wisconsin Fun, we saw one of those new-fangled windmills self-destruct: centrifugal force gone bad. I wasn’t surprised to see that happen, since God knows those unholy environmentalists who are always talking about clean energy and global warming and other lies are probably not capable of the craftsmanship it takes to make a nice sturdy windmill. Pieces of sharp metal flew all over the countryside; we even saw a slice lodge itself right in the middle of a cow.

Now, I don’t have a problem looking at dead animals. In fact, I once planned to go into taxidermy until I realized it required a two-year degree from the University of Phoenix (and not the online type!). But it will be awhile before I cut into a nice juicy piece of beef without remembering that windmill carnage.

“That poor cow. What did anyone ever do to him?” one of the students asked.

“Poor cow? What about the billions of women you have just violated by using a masculine pronoun. You are the one naturalizing domination and that domination is real because language shapes reality.”

“Shut up, you two-dollar ho-ass bitch-lady!” I said to the overly sensitive male student. “You’re both wrong. But you know what’s right? And right here?”

Wisconsin Fun! If loving Wisconsin Fun is wrong, I don’t want to be a gooderson. What could be more exciting than watching teenagers hoisted violently into the air by rusted-out cherry pickers equipped with ultra-powerful engines? I’ll tell you what’s more exciting: when one of those pickers bursts into flames and catapults a child three directly into a billboard advertising the Rick Wilcox Magic Experience at Wisconsin Dells.

Everything was going well until the device that connects your iPod to your cigarette lighter to your car radio to your asshole was working about as well as a liberal’s noggin. Just when we got to the rockin’ solo of a Led Zeppelin song, the bitch would short out, release a burst of noise that sounded like tortured ferret, then blast mariachi music at extreme volumes.

“This is a nice song,” one of the students said.

“I hear Air Mexico has good prices on tickets to Spain. Why don’t you go back there, you heathen?”

“I’m from Malta.”

“Same thing. Some land of dark-sided heathens putting curses on their small electronics exports so people in American can’t even drive down the fucking highway without having to listed to some Taco Bell commercial! And without that Chihuahua even.”

“Watch out for that sidecar!”

I swerved expertly, although the fat tattooed biker flicked me off. “Fuck you harder, Grandma Fuck!” I screamed. “You don’t even know me motherfucker! And what the hell is with this traffic? Is there a fucking sign that says ‘Please change lanes frequently’?”

Indeed there wasn’t. Instead, there was a sign alerting drivers to a white PT Cruiser emblazoned with the Schlotzsky’s logo which contained a child abducted by a man with a full beard and a long white dress.

“Jesus Christ!” I said, lamenting all that’s wrong with the world.

“Actually, that description does sound like Jesus Christ,” one of the students noted.

“Are you telling me some sicko would dress up like Jesus in order to win the trust of tender, delicious young children he wants to kidnap and violate repeatedly?”

They all nodded vigorously. But even so, why would someone so otherwise crafty drive such an easily identifiable vehicle?

We stopped for gas just outside the Bong Recreational Area, a place for tired motorists to relax with some Bong-related recreation activities. You can bet your crackpipe I wasn’t going anywhere near those dopers. However, we did stop at the nearby DQ, the one across from Mars Cheese Castle. Someone had mounted a cow carcass to the back of their trailer, an appetizing sight; I wondered if was the same cow vivisected by the windmill popping. Inside, there seemed to be quite a few Bong visitors hungry for Blizzards.

“Can you add some more hot fudge to that, dude?” the man in front of me asked the girl making his treat.

“I am not a dude, you rat-faced motherfucker!” she screamed, grabbing a squeeze bottle of butterscotch and assaulting his eyes with it. She jumped over the counter and assaulted him upside the head with a napkin holder, knocking him out cold.

We treated her nice, like ladies want to be treated, and were rewarded with expertly made desserts. Women really do know their way around the kitchen, and that’s where they should stay, if you ask me.

As we returned to our van, I nicely reminded the students that if they dripped in the car, I would strangle them to at least the brink of death with my malfunctioning iPod cord. From there, it was straight to Illinois and our hotel, the Hyatt Deerfield.

The Hyatt was the main hotel for the tournament, and as soon as we walked into the registration area, I saw the most feared competitor on the circuit, M. Online Reared, and his coach, Enrico Diablo. They had installed a rotating platform in the center of the room to allow them to sneer at everyone without having to move.

“Those smug motherfuckers are going to be surprised when my secret weapon anally rapes them!” I said to the coach next to me in line. He turned, revealing a priest's collar.

“Is it the new ultra-thick deluxe anal swizzle stick?” he asked.

“You’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.”

“God damn it!”

While I registered, the students ordered pizzas from a well-regarded local Chicago-style deep-dish pizzeria. We waited for the delivery while watching America’s Most Violently Destructive Yet Hilarious Bloopers. This is seriously the greatest show ever. Some guy tried to ride a bike down a steep slope of volcanic rock at over 100 miles per hour until the bike imploded and he splooshed face-first against the rock. And some kid was skateboarding down a hill, flew off his board, and landed crotch-first against a post.

“Right in the unit!” I said, laughing uproariously.

“What a nut-buster!” a student added.

“Excuse me? I have a call for Mr. Dick Hertz.”

“That’s enough,” I said. “Show some fucking respect to the poor man whose genitals may never function again.”

After watching a few more violent incidents, I realized it had been quite a while and still no pizza, so I called to see what was up. “The delivery guy was just there, and he couldn’t find you. But he’ll come back.”

“You better fucking believe he’ll come back, and he’ll take his tip of a nice sturdy silver dollar and swallow it and then call me tomorrow to describe the pain when he shits it back out. And if that ignorant fuckwit isn’t here within the next fifteen minutes, I will personally get every local Dairy Queen employee to trash your restaurant and smack the fat off your stomach.”

Eleven minutes later, it was dinnertime.

The next morning, we woke up at an ungodly hour and headed to Glenbrook South High School, the site of our preliminary rounds. All the poor fashion choices of the crossword community were out in full force: sagging pants, half-shirts, stripper heels, and B.U.M. Equipment sweatshirts. It’s so hard to deal with the assault on the senses from all that fugly. When I was choosing where to go to school, I just looked up all the girls on Facebook and chose the one with the lowest percentage of fugly.

Someone from another school came up and asked if our team was especially dressed up for this tournament. God knows why that would ever be an interesting topic of conversation, but we are talking about crossword people here and not people with even remotely acceptable social skills.

“Shut up and pull up your fucking pants!” I said. “Nobody wants to see the entirety of your boxers and the first few centimeters of your creamy, muscular thighs when we’re trying to focus on what five-letter word means ‘tweak surreptitiously.’ There is a time and a place for exposed boxers and thighs and it’s when you and your boyfriend are about to get busy in a Burger King bathroom.”

He walked away awkwardly, since there is no non-awkward way to walk when your pants are hovering just below buttock. Soon after, the first round was posted, and all the students went to their assigned classrooms to show off their verbal prowess. Between rounds, we spent most of the time marveling at the freaks surrounding us: the wolf-man lookalike, a couple making out in front of the ballot table, and the judge with unusual facial piercings who looked more like an attendee of a convention for arcane fetishists.

Our team was doing quite well, which apparently angered another coach from Minnesota, so he wrote down a list of all the ways to distract our students and passed it out to everyone in the tournament. Luckily, I had purposely fed false information that contributed to this list, and most of the items were things we spent practices desensitizing ourselves to: erotic lip-smacking, blowjob gestures, nipple tweaking, soft grunting, etc.

We returned to our hotel satisfied with our results. The World’s Most Explosive Explosions was on, but the narrator sounded kind of British, so we put it on closed captioning. Unfortunately, British people had apparently done the captioning as well. How else do you explain phrases like “Lo the dickaholic hitting thround” and “My value is that of justice?”

We changed to Lifetime, where the premiere of the original new made-for-TV movie The Thomas Dilts Affair was just beginning. The tagline was, “One paper, one argument, one enraged coach.” That also sounded like shit, so we got in the minivan to have dinner somewhere in Chicago. The traffic, though, was unbelievable. It was like a mass exodus from the suburbs. Some bitch in a red Chevy tried to cut me off before the tollbooth and I screamed, “I rebuke you in the name of the lord, Grandma Fuck!”

“No habla Ingles.”

“Then habla this!” I said, followed by a gesture meant to convey a fist going through a nostril. Just then, our stereo started blasting mariachi music, and the woman smiled, apparently assuming I was trying to be friendly. “Jesus Christ on a cracker!” I screamed, ripping off the faulty device. “On the highway of life, everyone sucks balls.”

We wound up ordering pizza again.

After a final preliminary round in the morning, the list of students advancing to elimination rounds was released. We had two in the group: not bad, but not great. One of them was in the same round as M. Reared. “What am I to do? He’s just too good for me,” the scared student asked.

“Remember this: He’s not a Christian!” I screamed. “He dabbles in dark-sided stuff. You need to be a God warrior, to rebuke his sinnin’ ass all over the room and win for the glory of the light!”

“I’ll try.”

“And if he gets all up in your face, don’t back town. Look him straight in the eye and tell him, ‘Smell it! Smell it! Take it!’ If he can dish it out, he can handle it.”

Our other finalist was in a much easier group. Both of them were clearly defeated. “You’re all failures!” I told the team. “I do everything in my power to make sure you are prepared, that you can at least seem smart, that you don’t fucking suck at life, but what difference does that make? I may as well be speaking Swahili. But I bet you worthless shit lumps will understand this: What do you call a group of idiotic losers who deserve to go the way of the whooping crane?”

“A classic rock band?”

“Good guess, but the answer is: Y’all!”

They looked demoralized, but I wasn’t done yet. Far from it, in fact. But before I could continue my tirade, two coaches interrupted us with their own angry fight.

“You got more, bitch?”

“I got a lot more. Firstly, the way you treat people is some fucked-up shit. You go around with your stank face talking shit about everyone, but really you’re the one who’s shit.”

“Hahahahaha! That’s all you got, bitch? You don’t even know me, motherfucker! Let me tell you this: Talk to the fucking hand because the fucking ears aren’t listening.”

“I’ll do more than talk to your fucking hand, motherfucker!”

The argument continued as they walked further down the hall. I turned to the students and said, “Now that they’re gone, brace yourselves because it’s Daddy’s turn again.”

But before Daddy could resume, a coach from Texas approached a coach and student near us and started accusing them of some ethical shenanigans.

“How dare you call our tactics cockamamie? I’ma maim your cock if you don’t shut the fuck up right now.”

“Shit is just not right. Why you gotta act like that? You’re just making the whole community look like petty assholes.”

“Simmer down, son. I think you need to look up ‘petty’ in the dictionary because the only petty I got here is Tom Petty because, just like him, I won't back down, I’m gonna stand my ground, so you better get the fuck out my grill if you don’t want a cap to be busted.”

Everyone was enraged. The tournament had been taken over by the dark side; my own anger was useless. It was time to go back to Minnesota.

There was nothing left to do except have a hearty meal at the Machine Shed, risk assault for more delicious DQ treats outside Eau Claire, and briefly get caught in a rift in spacetime caused by the “Next Exit” advertisements for Wisconsin Fun.

It was this rift that restored my hope in a non-apocalyptic time, a new temporality that would resist the temptation to go to the dark side, that would bring us to a better time outside the cycle toward the toilet of chaos Satan seems to have us trapped in right now. I’ll say it fervently, angrily, but never surreptitiously:

Catapult us into a universe of post-linear temporality in Jesus’ name I pray!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The 2008 Apple Valley Review

Sometime over the next seventeen weeks, there will be a major crisis. Nobody knows when or who or how or whether it will interfere with the Young America’s Foundation Valentine’s cruise featuring John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, and other right wing luminaries. Even if you booked your tickets months ago, you may never have the chance to watch the sun set over Vieques while listening to Ashcroft croon a lounge version of “Back That Ass Up.” That’s the nature of crises: like felons, they’re wily and unpredictable; like hooligans, they cause shenanigans—and cockamamie ones at that.

This crisis will be the first major test of Barack Obama’s ability to lead our country. Some say he lacks the experience to lead. Some say his recent comments aimed to deter young men from extensive pants sagging are disingenuous at best. Some say he is a Marxist communist socialist anti-American hater of freedom. We will finally find out when this crisis arrives.

When it does, real Americans will do what they always do: form a line from here to Wasilla and pass buckets of water down that line to extinguish the flames of the crisis. Or some metaphoric equivalent of that. Until then, real America can enjoy itself at the many fine big box establishments in suburban, urban, and exurban areas. What I love is that I can go to Cedar Rapids, or Coon Rapids, or Rapid City, and there will be Chili’s, and Applebee’s. There will also be Red Lobster, but I have a serious shellfish allergy so I normally try not to go there.

Although there are so many big box restaurants I love, I must say my favorite of them all is Old Chicago. Although there are 72 Old Chicagos in 20 states, the one in Apple Valley is special to me for three reasons. First, my favorite waitress, Shellsea, works there. She’s the one with the Sarah Palin hair and accent. Second, it’s where I completed their World Beer Tour, sampling 110 different beers from all over the globe, including Germany, in order to earn a plaque that is proudly displayed on their wall of fame. Third, without checks on government, democracy becomes impossible because the state can ignore or override what people say, making it a prerequisite to all other criteria.

Friday afternoon, I could barely contain my excitement as I headed south on Cedar Avenue. I imaged Shellsea waiting for me, holding a big grilled chicken Caesar with my name on it, and a suggestion from their exciting list of seasonal beers. Unfortunately, though, there was an accident just north of 125th Street: a minibus driven by a sad clown had collided with a school bus filled with chickens. The highway was down to one lane, and it took me 45 minutes to go 20 blocks. I would have to head straight to Apple Valley High School and wait until dinner for OC.

Apple Valley High School is unique among Minnesotan suburban schools in that its design is heavily influenced by recreational psychedelic drug use. Its interior is an explosion of angular, bright-colored design from some forgotten era in the 60s or 70s, created by a team of hippies influenced by the Source cult from Southern California, who practiced vegetarianism and poorly produced free-form psych-rock before it was co-opted by Modest Mouse fans, fashion environmentalists, and gay homosexuals. Not that I have any problem with the gay; like Sarah Palin, some of my best friends are the gay, and as long as they aren’t allowed to get married and Ted Allen is gainfully employed, I’m as happy as a former felon allowed to vote again for the first time, rejoining the community and making a positive difference in the world.

I was privileged enough to spend the day watching and judging fantastic high school debate rounds. I got to hear the brightest young minds of our generation flaunt their extensive knowledge of SAT words, foreign languages (the term “a priori” comes to mind), and that most important skill of all: the ability to present four contradictory positions in seven minutes without wasting time responding to the opposing argument directly. Needless to say, it was a spiritually and emotionally fulfilling day.

To make matters even better, I got to see some of my greatest friends from all over the country. Debate is just one of those activities where you form strong bonds with people; because everyone in the activity is fascinating, unbelievably intelligent, and pathologically competitive, these are the bonds that last a lifetime. During the off-season, we swap shirtless pictures on Facebook, chat on MSN about the housing commission whores and stray Jews in our lives, and wait for the days when we will finally be able to see each other face-to-face again.

When we do meet in person, we exchange hilarious stories about the arguments we hear in debate rounds. These are truly some of the most entertaining stories you will ever hear in your life. One time, we were debating this team from another school that we sort of have a rivalry with, and they tend to run this kind of weird argument by this one post-modernist philosopher. Their cases are based on random books or something. The argument is okay, but we just think it’s weird. Anyway, the story goes on for another 25 pages, but I’ll leave it for another day.

One of my oldest debate friends was judging a very competitive round, and I playfully told him not to fuck up the decision. Immediately, a stunningly fat man wearing a gray Adidas tracksuit ran up to me and said there was no room in the debate community for toilet language, that garbage mouths like me should go back to Mexico to keep America’s children safe from our pernicious influence. “Where are you from?” he asked, threatening to report me to the tournament’s ethics committee.

“St. Louis Park.”

“What a frickin’ surprise,” he said sardonically irreverently.

Even in the face of poorly dressed obese school administrators, hungry for food and power and always trying to impose their formal rigid moralism on us normal debate folks, debate is still the best thing next to arcane Japanese animated erotica.

As the last round of the day concluded, I was sad that the tournament was already half over, but very excited to be minutes away from Shellsea. My last round was in a classroom belonging to a teacher who, like Obama, apparently was consternated by the sagging of the pants, as well as other revealing clothing. The area above the whiteboard was covered in a row of signs with cutesy poems warning children that provocative clothing has no place in a learning environment:

If we can see your thong, you’ve dressed yourself wrong!

If too far you sag, you’ll make them gag!

Keep your ass in your damn pants.

I have to agree with this teacher. Teenagers are already sexually frustrated as it is, but at least most of them can wait until they’re home alone to spend hours surfing the web in a porn cycle, fantasizing about transsexual dwarf amputees or whatever kind of perverse filth is popular with those hairy-palmed adolescent hornbags these days. To them, I say as long as it’s done behind closed doors and does not in any way involve real animals—although stuffed ones or Animatronics are fine—then I don’t care about it and I don’t want to know about it and I don’t want to talk about it.

And don’t get me started on those emos.

Luckily, all these distractions floated away as soon as I entered Old Chicago. It was dreary outside—the coldest day of the year by far with a mix of rain and snow coming down—but entering OC was like returning to the womb, the ultimate homecoming. Shellsea had new lowlights that went well with her uniform, and she enthusiastically hugged me before showing me to my favorite spot at the bar.

“It’s a real chiller outside, isn’t it?” she said. “That’s what ya get living in Minnesota though. They say that under all this Minnesota nice is a real tough cookie.”

“Preach it to me, sister! Now let’s hear about your seasonal beer specials.”

“Ooh, we’ve got some real exciting choices this time. There’s a Winter Warmer from Rooftop Brewery in New Ulm, and of course Autumnal Fire’s always good for what ails ya.”

“Especially if what ails ya is sobriety!” I said.

She cackled with laugher as I chose a stout from Wisconsin. I once knew a man who married a stout from Wisconsin, and boy could I tell you stories about him.

Digressions aside, the evening was as great as I expected—at least until a rowdy group of high school robotics coaches came in. Apparently there was a robotics tournament at Eastview High School. Those damn robotics people always show up to piss on your fiesta. They take money away from debate teams, and they treat us like doo-doo. They’re so classless, too. All the coaches were slamming Purple Hooters and loudly talking about their favorite techniques for pleasurable robot programming. I don’t want to hear about some robot scaring burglars away when I’m trying to focus on enjoying a chicken Caesar.

So I ignored them. Dire Straits was on the stereo, the food was enticing, and I anticipated another day of stimulating debate rounds ahead. After returning home, with a full belly and some leftover buffalo shrimp fettuccini for a midnight snack, I was thankful that real America was still just what is was: real! I fell asleep immediately and had dreams about Sarah Palin baking a variety of dessert bars for an American Legion meeting.

Next day number two: It was colder than Fred Phelps at a Bette Middler concert outside, but that didn’t dampen my spirits a bit. Apple Valley High School was abuzz with competitors and coaches anticipating the first round of the day. As the preliminary rounds come to a close, there are always many epic battles, debates so good that judges have to periodically stop taking notes and simply marvel at the pure logic and intelligence saturating the atmosphere.

After round seven, the novice and junior varsity debaters returned from their respective off-site locations, and instantly the cafeteria was crowded with little kids screaming and crying and biting each other. I escaped to a remote corner of the school to talk about poker strategy with my friends. Stories about poker are almost as prevalent—and certainly as interesting—as those about debate rounds when you’re with forensics people. I was reminiscing about the time I had a big chick in the pocket and everything was looking fantastic until the river delivered a bad beat.

“That totally sucks, man.”

“Speaking of total suckage, I have a hilarious story about what happens when an open limp and a nut hand come together.”

“Is that the one with the donkey with the pocket rocket?”

“Oh, damn! I’ve already told you guys that one. That was my best story.”

And it was a great story. Real America is filled with real Americans and their great stories. If you don’t ask, though, they might not tell them.

After a delicious lunch of walking tacos and juice boxes, it was time for the announcement of which debaters had fought through the field and earned a spot in elimination rounds. The tension was incredible, but it was delightful to see the joyful reactions of those who made the cut. A novice from Scarsdale screamed out in thanks to his Rabbi when his name was announced, and another debater collapsed and started speaking in tongues.

Naturally, the elimination rounds were exciting to watch, difficult to judge, and took place in rounds filled with hygienically challenged kids. The temperature rose to Old Chicago levels, but instead of the delicious smell of pizza and beer, it smelled more like the locker room at a gym for gutter punks.

The rounds progressed toward finals, a match between two debaters that I had no interest in, so I left with my friends for our big night at Old Chicago. I always like to spend the first night there myself, for the pure experience and to reconnect with Shellsea, and save the second night for a communal blast. We sat at our usual round table, ordering several pitchers of Autumnal Fire and the app sampler with onion sticks, freedom fries, broccoli shooters, popcorn beef, and their famous spinach-artichoke dip with bacon, ranch, and corn nuts.

“Remember that time when that one debater had a value of that of teamwork?”

“What a retard!”

“Dude, I know. I haven’t heard anything that stupid since someone went for four-minutes straight Malthus good after the NC ran a spark blip after three Stav off-cases and a phil spec.”

“I haven’t seen a dump like that since the morning after my last dinner at Fogo de Chao!”

“Ho ho ho ho ho ho!”

“That reminds of the time when someone was running felon voting leads to nuke war with that Berube card, and they dropped a McIntyre a priori but still picked up two judges who thought the magnitude was sufficient or some shit.”

“That’s like when the brink overwhelms uniqueness with Wittgenstein hits someone running the gift K in front of mommy judges from Alabama.”

“Or like Mouffe. I mean, how can you take it seriously if her name is Mouffe. What’s next, Wang?”

“Better yet: Schlong.”

“Ho ho ho ho ho ho!”

It was a night to remember, a night in real America, the America we real Americans live in, where we drink American beer and eat American pizza and listen to good old American rock and roll. We are young and old, smart and smarter, men and women, straight and bi-curious, but our love of debate brings us together and keeps us that way forever.

That’s why I know that a year from now, despite how many crises occur in the interim, I will be back with my friends, my Shellsea, my grilled chicken Caesar, and a big smile on my face.

Dedicated to all my boyz in the community. Be real 4ever. Keep your RFD’s straight and your sexual relationships straighter. LOL & pz out 4-reals—

-Gelf-Dawg ‘08

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The 2008 Iowa Caucus Review

On Halloween morning, a group of students and adult supervisors from the Twin Cities area met in the parking lot of St. Paul Central High School. They were expecting to spend an enjoyable holiday weekend in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The City of Five Seasons. This seemingly paradoxical motto is, in fact, a reference to the Chamber of Commerce’s belief that time spent in their fair city is “a time to enjoy life, to enjoy the other four seasons.” Whether or not this makes sense is a question for the ages, like the chicken and the egg, or the Jew and the Cocker Spaniel. What is undoubtedly true, though, is that Cedar Rapids is all about enjoyment: enjoy your time, your life, your friends, and yourself. Since at least some of those are activities high school students tend to enjoy, the trip was a highly anticipated one.

That excitement only mounted—no pun intended—when their bus drove up. It was a futuristic, stainless steel bullet with white leather upholstered seats, individualized flat-screen televisions, and a talking toilet seat in its bathroom. The windows were so advanced that the diagrams instructing riders how to open and close them were completely incomprehensible. They may as well have been in Swahili. For all we know, maybe they were in Swahili. The right side of the bus had a pulsating LCD screen advertising the name of the bus company, Bus Daddy.

Before setting off toward central Iowa, the bus driver, whose nametag simply read “Justice,” laid down the ground rules. “What you got here is more than just a nice sturdy bus, the kind of bus a family could call a home away from home, away from the gridlock and shenanigans of the rat race. It’s my home away from home, and when you’re in my home or my home away from home or my home away from home away from home, you gotta follow three rules. Number wonderful, don’t throw any women’s products—if you catch my menstrual drift—in the shitter. Number two, put your garbage in the bags or the cans or up your craphole for all I care; just don’t put it on the floor. And the most important rule: for the love of all things holy, do not bring any beverage on the bus unless it is in a container with a screw-on top.”

That syntax elicited a flurry of giggles from the younger students, who misinterpreted the phrase “screw-on top” as something salacious. Just before the bus pulled away, a late straggler ran onboard, holding a large handbag and a Stein of Oktoberfest beef. “Stop it right there, young man. You are in blatant disregard of the rules. You gotta finish that drink outside before you get on the bus. Only screw-on tops!” The confused teen stepped back outside, quickly drained the rest of his brew, and threw the stein into nearby bushes. “Thank you,” Justice said, and the journey began.

The sights, sounds, and smells of late autumn in Iowa entranced and occasionally repulsed the group, or at least those who were unable to sleep through the waves of skunk odor, piercing morning sun, and horrible classic rock emanating from the laptop of some idiot who thought it appropriate to impose his taste in music on everyone else.

Just before noon, the bus pulled into an empty parking lot near the corner of 16th Street and 1st Avenue, near Pizza Daddy, a particularly ghetto Hy-Vee, the rollerblading dart players’ club, and Tobacco and Liquor Daddy, a popular store among the area’s college student and hobo populations. After a restorative meal, everyone regrouped to check into their hotel, the downtown Crowne Plaza, before heading to their tour headquarters, Franklin Middle School. One of the ninth graders attempted to get on the bus with a canned martini from Tobacco and Liquor Daddy, but Justice made him finish the refreshing cocktail before joining the rest of the screw-top rule followers.

Guy, one of the adult supervisors of the group, led his group of students to their room and quickly unpacked his various silk turtlenecks for the weekend before returning to the bus. Their departure was briefly delayed by a child wielding a juice box of wine, but Justice was vigilant as ever and the screw-on rule remained unbroken, much like the spirit of a wily felon having finished his sentence, a punishment that was necessary to respect the moral agency of the criminal, who doubtlessly chose to commit the crime knowing full well he would be caught and deservedly punished and disenfranchised, since there are no socioeconomic factors that could possibly problematize the view of crime as a totally autonomous internal choice.

Franklin Middle school was smack dab in the middle of the west side of the east half of Cedar Rapids, not far from Pizza Daddy, Washington High School, and a golf course ringed with upscale homes, decorated for Halloween with plastic glowing skeletons, devils, and Democratic politicians. Come election day, while felons are rightly reminded that they should not and do not have a say in elections, we’ll see who will ultimately, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, get the very final last laugh. Mark my words: we will see.

Built in 1923, Franklin was originally a junior high school, then a high school, then a junior high school again, and finally transitioned to its current role in the mid-70’s, after the explosive growth in the colonic health industry brought so many jobs and dollars into the once-suffering city. A stately brick building with neo-Gothic concrete details and entrances still marked separately for boys and girls, up and down staircases, and shadowy nooks and corner, Franklin’s eerie charm was undeniable.

The group convened in the theater, which was decorated for the fall musical, “Life: A User’s Manual,” based on the classic novel by Georges Perec. The stage was trimmed with large jigsaw puzzle pieces, and decorated to resemble a gracious drawing room inside an affluent apartment on Paris’s Boulevard Housemann. Ernestine Crawford, a lifelong Cedar Rapidian and feisty octogenarian with the gravelly voice of a woman not inexperienced with unfiltered cigarettes, introduced herself as their guide.

“My parents named me Ernestine after my great uncle Bootsy, who died in the great flood of 1934, when I was younger than any of you are. It happened exactly 74 years ago, this very weekend. Families were homeless for weeks, wishing the government could come in and give them a nice sturdy boat. When Katrina hit New Orleans, us survivors here knew just how they felt: like us, but far, far less white.”

Speaking of racial politics, Cedar Rapids has become quite diverse in the past couple of decades, and fully 26 percent of their black male population are unable to vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws, but there’s no way to stop racism because you would have to dismantle the entire government, and that would lead to anarchy.
“We’re going to spend the rest of the afternoon,” Ernestine continued, “watching a film about the history of Cedar Rapids, narrated by 90’s dance music star Gilette. Then you’ll have time to explore the city before you go back to your hotel for whatever illicit activities you stupid kids do when you’re away from your parents. Damn out of control juvenile delinquent fuckers. In my day, you would have been hung from a post in the town square for a fortnight, and that’s just for starters.”

The video was indeed stirring. Guy hadn’t seen anything this engrossing since the finale of Season Three of “Australia’s Next Top Model,” when Jane showed her roots as a lesbian dark-haired bitch. She and Steph H. were soy bad at modeling. A teen couple in the back of the auditorium were not as rapt, focusing instead on caressing each other’s perfect hips and thighs. Soon enough, they crept out of the theater, heading to the top floor of the school to find a deserted staircase where they could sex.

Near the end of the film, Guy thought he heard a piercing scream, but he wasn’t sure if it was coming from somewhere in the school or the video, which was covering the FBI raid of the notorious Irish strip club O’Boobigan’s, the scene of the most filthy vice Cedar Rapids had seen since the Prohibition era.

After the video, the group returned to the bus, which was finally not delayed by someone brashly violating the screw-on rule, but instead by the absence of two students: the very two students who had left the film to sex. Attempts to phone them proved fruitless, much unlike a Cher concert. The supervisors split into teams and searched the school, a search that ended with a gruesome discovery of two exsanguinated bodies. Their young lives, so full of potential and spirit, had been crushed like a pound of pancakes.

The next morning, two obituaries were prominently featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. One of them read: “Congratulations to Tina for a lifetime of accomplishments, including once going 3-3 at a high school debate tournament as a freakin’ junior, and finishing third in a statewide coloring contest at the age of eight. Tina is succeeded by her parents, Christi and Christ, and her older brother Bubba.” The other obituary was in Swahili.

At the morning meeting at Franklin, the mood was somber, tense, saturnine, sinuous, and somewhat inquisitive. Ernestine assured the group that everything was being done to find the evil killer, but there was a hint of disingenuousness in her voice, although that could have been a stray tobacco chunk lodged in her soft palate. Guy raised his hand and asked, “This situation is dead serious, ladies and germs. Riddle me this: How are we going to find who, or what, is responsible for this abortion of that of justice?”

“I made it through the Great Depression, the Great Flood, and the Reagan Era. I can make it through this, and so can you,” Ernestine said.

“Dude, that doesn’t answer my question. Stop trying to weasel your way out of a sticky wicket and—damn it, woman—put your money where your mouth is.”

“I’m getting there,” she said, sounding less than confident. “But right now, I have a more pressing need.” She excused herself and hurried to the female bathroom. A shoe, presumably attacked to a prone body, peeked out from one of the stalls. “Damn elbow-benders and their Halloween hijinks,” she muttered under her breath, expecting to find a passed out drunk bitch. But when she opened the door, what she found was far more troubling: the third victim, exsanguinated, white as a sheet, dead, gone, murdered, killed, gone to a better place, to meet her maker.

Seventeen minutes later, the police arrived on the scene, still with no leads on the first two murders. Sheriff Troons departed from his minibus and surveyed the scene. There was no visible evidence of horseplay or other shenanigans, so his deputies bagged up the body to take back to headquarters. Feeling angry and endangered, Guy asked for a ride back to the hotel, and Troons was happy to oblige. As he sped through the streets, nearly killing a jogger and taking out a lamppost, he told Guy something fascinating: Franklin was rumored to be haunted.

“To be perfectly honest,” Troons said, “I always thought it was hooey, but my daughter said she heard weird noises there, and three of her friends saw the ghost of an old woman in a wheelchair. It scared the living shit out of them, and they really seemed to believe it was real. Sometimes I don’t know what to believe.”

“In an age where felons retain the right to vote in some jurisdictions, I don’t believe anyone who doesn’t say they don’t know what to believe. But riddle me this: why the haunting? Did something happen on that site?”

“That is one darn tootin’ good question.”

“Fuck the hotel. Take me to the library.”

Troons immediately swung a u-turn, causing a hearse to careen into a ditch. “Ironical, that!” he said, laughing maniacally.

Guy spent the next several hours reading old issues of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, determined to find a story about Franklin that would explain the alleged paranormal activity there. His breakthrough came from a 1974 issue, commemorating Franklin’s 41st anniversary. It was just a sentence, a simple reference to something that happened there during the flood. “Things lost in flood” had to mean something. It had to hold the key.

With trembling fingers, Guy fed the October 1934 roll of microfiche into the machine, and scrolled to October 31. There was nothing there, so he tried November, and everything became perfectly clear.

During Prohibition, a bunch of sots and hoochers started a speakeasy in the basement of Franklin Middle School. Its unlikely location led to great success, particularly among the elderly and infirm residents of the enormous Mercy Care Center on nearby 1st Avenue. The weekend of Halloween 1934, the speakeasy was packed with drunkards, dancing and singing and having a generally gay old time, but when the flood started, the emphasis was on “old,” because the able-bodied ran for the hills—literally—while the incapacitated elderly citizens were deserted. With no way to escape, they shrugged and poured another round: a farewell toast to life, and to the great beyond.

Guy turned off the machine and realized he was ravenous, so he ordered a cab from Taxi Daddy and headed to Gringo’s Mexican Eatery for a margarita and a sizzling fajita platter. Before he could finish his drink, the phone rang with more tragic news: there were five more victims, and for the first time, an eyewitness survivor: a young girl in shock, muttering about a posse of ghosts chasing her down the hall in wheelchairs.

It was obvious there was only one thing to be done: get Troons, the police’s ghost hunting unit, and Ernestine, and make the ghosts show themselves. But first, there was a sizzling fajita platter with Guy’s name on it, written in fresh guacamole and queso, and it was time to take a big bite.

Later, at midnight on the dot, the ghost hunting posse crept into Franklin Middle School though the girls’ entrance, thinking that might be the first way to disturb the ghosts. That explained why Ernestine was wearing a men’s suit and a rubber Richard Nixon mask. They stuck together, walking down the stairs leading to the basement, shouting disparaging ageist and anti-alcoholic remarks in the hopes of getting a rise out of their nemeses.

“You dirty old boozehounds deserved to die!”

“Washed out in a flood of booze, and then a flood.”

“No offense, but I seriously hate all old people.”

A piercing noise, like broken glass and guitar feedback played backwards through blown speakers, ripped through the room. The hunters all froze in terror. A pale green light appeared from the top of the stairs, and an old man on a flying wheelchair slowly descended. Drops of water from his hair and his chair left a trail on the floor.

“We knew you would come, you who dare taunt the victims of the flood. All we want is peace, not a bunch of stupid kids walking all over our territory. We’ve shown you fair warning, yet you didn’t listen. So now you must die.”

The walls began to crumble as dozens of wheelchairs surrounded the group, creeping ever nearer. It was like the “Thriller” video, only not as popular with Filipino felons, whose disenfranchisement reflects the government’s need to exclude citizens who fail to respect the social contract. Guy opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out. A pale, bony, moist hand approached his throat.


“Wake up, Guy,” a cheerful voice said. It was Tina, Christ’s daughter, a frickin’ junior who was riding the bus to Cedar Rapids with him. “We’re already here. It’s dinner time.”

They had stopped on Collins Road to enjoy a variety of big box options before their first night in Cedar Rapids. The Perkins Guy chose was handsomely decorated for Halloween, and Sasha, the waitress, served up soft drinks and chicken Caesars with élan.

After dinner, the bus was about to leave when a latecomer ran aboard holding a goblet of red wine. “For the last time, finish that outside. The screw-top rule is not optional,” Justice said.

The bus dropped the group off at Franklin Middle School, where their tour of Cedar Rapids was to begin with a historical video followed by a Halloween derive. But Guy was too disturbed by his dream to pay attention to the video, and left to check out Pizza Daddy. There was a full moon outside and the streets were empty, save two masked trick-or-treaters running away from 1st Street.

Guy turned onto it, crossing 19th, which took him to the Mercy Center. Outside the building, behind a wrought iron fence, a row of men and women in wheelchairs, wrapped in white blankets, stared silently at Guy. The wheelchairs were lined up, single file, and spanned the entirety of the long block: behind, ahead, and right where he was. Their dead eyes stared not at Guy, but into him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ten Halloween Movie Suggestions

Unfortunately, Killer Workout (AKA Aerobicide) is only available on VHS and very hard to find, but here are 10 horror film suggestions for the upcoming holiday weekend:


The transcendent Felissa Rose stars as Angela, a quiet camper hiding a secret that may or may not have something to do with her deranged aunt, a tragic boating accident, or the unbelievably tight and revealing clothes the male campers at Camp Arawak wear. Her cousin saunters into the mess hall in a cowboy hat and gets in a slap fight with a bunch of guys. A boiling cauldron of corn kills a pervy cafeteria worker. Did I mention the clothes?


Sometimes labeled incorrectly as a sequel to Cannibal Ferox, this questionably dubbed tropical trash-fest focuses on a somewhat random group of people whose plane crashes in Indian territory. Will the Vietnam vet with the alcoholic Julie Masking-lookalike wife snap? Will the brothers who look like Zagat from Street Fighter II resurface? Will someone explain why there is so, so, so much unnecessary nudity? Will that obnoxiously repetitive steel drum soundtrack go away?


This Spanish delight, directed by Jean Piquer Simon--whose oeuvre also includes Slugs and Mystery on Monster Island--centers on a college campus where someone is killing and chopping up young women. Featuring the most riveting delivery of the word "bastard" ever captured by celluloid, Pieces is also a brilliant psychoanalytic text, a quaint commentary on homosexuality in the early 80's, and very unusual clothing, a recurring theme in its genre.


A truly surrealistic Honk Kong fantasy horror movie from the director of the unimpeachable Riki-Oh, The Seventh Curse is a rare opportunity to watch Maggie Cheung and Chow Yun-Fat together before they were superstars. The convoluted plot involves a jungle tribe, supernatural flying monsters, the fantastic Old Ancestor, and too much more to mention.


A crazed wigmaker who talks to a stuffed cat terrorizes coeds who spend their days at the beach and their nights eating buckets of KFC at slumber parties. It's 1967 and these are the contents of Herschell Gordon Lewis's brain. As usual, he's put together hilariously incompetent actors, overlong gore scenes that are almost shockingly unrealistic, and inexplicable stylistic flourishes like an opening discussion between two bewigged foam heads in a shop window.


Lucio Fulci's New Orleans zombie gross-out experience features poisonous spiders, eyeball scenes, acid corroding skin, and a spicy soundtrack.


Valley girls navigate immediately post-apocalyptic Los Angeles and remain totally bitchin'.


One has the most unrealistic laser effects and thick Baltimore accidents. The other has full frontal male nudity. I won't tell you which is which.

10. TROLL 2