The Junk Food of Writing

Friday, May 26, 2006

I'm never punctual.

If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting me in the flesh, and have designated a rendezvous point and time, you probably had to wait a minute or two. To avoid being uncharacteristic, I decided not to reveal my Top something (I think it's 18) of the films released in the United States in 2005 until...nearly five months into the following year (I made it in just under five, actually -- it seems I am improving a bit). I have no comments to make on the cinematic year of 2005 because, well, that was soooo long ago.

Top 10 (in alphabetical, or -- err-- numerical, order):

2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
3-Iron (Kim Ki-Duk)
Caché (Michael Hanake)
Funny Ha Ha (Andrew Bujalski)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
Keane (Lodge Kerrigan)
Kings and Queen (Andre Desplechin)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July)
Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro)
The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach)

Then there's always a second tier which includes the other notable films of the year:

The Best of Youth (Marco Tullio Giordana)
(Ang Lee)
Last Days (Gus van Sant)
Look at Me (Agnès Jaoui)
The New World (Terrence Malick)
Nobody Knows (Hirokazo Kore-eda)
Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright)
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Nick Park)

And, of course, the worst (also in alphabetical order):

Cinderella Man (Ron Howard)
Crash (Paul Haggis)
Derailed (Mikael Hafstrom)
Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe)
Green Street Hooligans (Lexi Alexander)
Gunner Palace (Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker)
Land of Plenty (Wim Wenders)
Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall)
Mrs. Henderson Presents (Stephen Frears)
North Country
(Niki Caro)

These films were either woefully miscalculated, or insulted the medium and its audience by offering absolutely no insight or truth.

My annual count? 105.

The breakdown:

Very, very good (A-): 2
Very good (B+): 15
Good (B): 12
Mixed (B-): 28
Negative (C+ and down): 48

Thursday, May 11, 2006

An Afternoon at the Scientology Center of Boston

The sacred Scientology center of Boston -- which bears an uncanny resemblance to 111 Archer Ave. from The Royal Tenenbaums.

Two of my friends and I attended the service at 11:00, and it slowly evolved into a 'day at the center,' where we stayed for the next four hours.

We walked into the service a few minutes late. As we passed through the white doors, a man was playing folk-y songs on his guitar. We entered during a Moody Blues song, and then we were greeted to all of Simon and Garfunkel's "America."

Once the music ended, and we clapped, a middle-aged woman approached the podium. Before I go into detail on her reading, let me describe the audience she was speaking to. The room was rather small -- at least in comparison to other services I have been to -- and there were only about twenty-two scientologists occupying the metal, fold-out chairs. A few were dressed in their 'Sunday best' (including my friend and I), and a few were dressed in more bohemian-style hippie clothes. Behind the speaker was a fireplace, and a portrait of L. Ron Hubbard (who was amusingly referred to as LRH -- I, of course, was on an initial-based relationship with him by the end of my four hours, also) hung above it. To the left of the fireplace stood a podium with a sculpture of the bust of LRH. Obviously, they like this guy.

After perusing the room, I began to listen to the woman at the podium. She read a creed of sorts, which was very open-minded. I paraphrase: "We accept anyone despite their gender, race, color or religious affiliation to help discover their spirit." She subsequently read from an LRH essay entitled 'Personal Integrity' which implicitly (and occasionally VERY explicitly) spoke about pacifism and community. The woman, who had an eerily soothing voice, said that the way to understand yourself is to observe everyone else (we shouldn't only look into our own cranium, but also look at our neighbor, who is also looking into his own cranium). Afterwards, I found out that Paul Haggis practices scientology; my friend and I promptly created a thesis which proved Crash as scientologist propaganda.

We watched a video named "This is Scientology" which was a recording of a speaker (Mr. David Miscavige, if I recall correctly) at a large, celebrity-filled event (therefore, there were random cuts to Kelly Preston) that condemned 'the four horsemen': drugs, illiteracy, immorality and crime. Apparently, Scientologists have funded and built centers which aid to help cure wayward individuals of these four vices -- and these centers are open in 57 countries (Cut to a shot of a bunch of little African kids holding up a picture book with the yellow title printed on the top in big letters: "Learning to Learn"). They claim that drugs are bad and children are educated in the wrong manner (and, unsurprisingly, they offer no alternatives).

Next, we moved into another private screening room and watched a 20 minute orientation film on 16mm, which essentially starred the cast of Look Who's Talking (minus half of the swimming sperms). Luckily, the audio and visual began to move at different speeds and Kirstie Alley began speaking in Isaac Hayes' (who had testified right before her about his dedication to scientology) deep voice. Pretty funny.

After that reel malfunction, we headed downstairs and took personality surveys. It said I was a critical, neurotic, open-minded, outspoken, unhappy and unstable individual. Essentially, it told me I am a terrible human being and should seek improvement through the answers which Scientology will provide for me -- so, I am a perfect candidate. One of my other friends got rather similar results, and one was considered 'normal,' 'agreeable' and 'happy.' We made fun of him later.

After being told that I don't appreciate people, they hooked me up to a stress test. I had to hold the aluminum bars and think. Whenever the needle jumped, they asked me what I was thinking. I could never remember the thought. I was inadvertently making it very difficult to read me. Ultimately, I told him that the needle jumped at one point because I had a headache in the shower this morning, and I thought it might be a tumor (unbeknownst to me at the time, I was making a really witty allusion to Hannah and Her Sisters).

They never gave us an opportunity to leave, but I told them -- as I briefly sighed -- that I had a previous engagement at 3:30.

They were big on etymology -- always defining terms and their origins to shed 'light' on a topic. These details, however, rarely shed insight into the situation. That seemed to be the big problem with this organization: they gloated about having the answers -- yet they did not disclose the slightest bit of information on what these 'answers' may be. I think they just liked hearing themselves claim that THEY had the answers.

Yeah, it is basically a cult, but they did not make me wears Nike sneakers or drink Kool-Aid -- and they seemed like personable and well-intending individuals -- so they are A-OK with me. I would like to borrow one of their home theaters to watch films, though.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

To those who have the power, please rename this:

Please excuse the obligatory -- but, in the case, grotesque -- imagery. If you must, simple overlook it and misinterpret ever word which follows.

If you are an unfortunate individual, like myself, and occasionally wake up with a bit of gooey -- yet slightly hard -- bit of disgustingness in the corner of your eyes (as pictured above), then you will know how repulsive it is to scrape it out with your index finger. More vulgar than its color, squishiness and presence is its appelation. Unfortunately, there is no official name for it, so many use the crude slang words "eye boogers" to describe it. The other commonly used name is "crust," which is equally crass. Therefore, I beg anyone who has the influence to completely change the American vernacular to please give it a proper, and less tasteless term. So, please view this as a petition of some sort. Also, if any wonderful reader could tell me the scientific name (if one exists), I would be delighted.

Since classes/essays/exams ended this past Tuesday, and grades have been submitted and released, I have absolutely no responsibilites. Normally, I would be looking (or forced to look) for a job at this moment, but I decided to stay in Boston for another two weeks before heading back home to the exotic land known as New Jersey (I have decided to be a waiter this summer and find an internship when I return from Europe next summer). This has left me with an absurdly large amount of time to live a structureless life and do whatever pleases me. This, of course, is very, very dangerous. Simply put, I am confused by such freedom. Without a schedule, rigid or loose, I fear I may be leading a vacuous existence. Therefore, I try to kept myself occupied. In some cases, 'occupied' means spending time writing an entry about eye boogers.

Below, in bullets, are events I have partaken in within the past five days, due to my excessive, yet oddly welcome, amount of free time:

  • Had a picnic on the Boston Common with friends, where we played Wiffleball, ate hummus and fried dough, drank strawberry lemonade, and mocked tourists.
  • Ate 19 cheap Fla.Vor.Ice ice pops (and I am currently gnawing on an ice pop of the grape/purple variation -- yes, I am quite the multi-tasker).
  • Read my favorite playwright's (Edward Albee) adaptation of my favorite novel (Nabakov's Lolita).
  • Watched 6 films.
  • Finished a bottle of red wine by myself (in the company of others, of course -- I haven't gone that far off the deep end).
  • Wore my cheap black-and-white checkered sandals and walked in them for more than 100 feet -- and survived.
  • Misread 'sexiest' as 'sexist'...twice.
  • Listened to Modern English's new-wave "I Melt With You," which transcends 80's cheese, 16 times (its play-count on my iTunes is currently 137).
  • Witnessed a colorful sunset from the roof of my apartment building.
  • Went to Scientology service and stayed in the Scientology center (which looked uncannily similar to 111 Archer Ave. from The Royal Tenenbaums) for an extra three hours, where my friends and I watched two orientation videos, took a stress test, and filled out a personality survey (which told me I am a terrible human being and should seek improvement through the answers which Scientology will provide for me -- none of which they even slightly disclosed).
  • Walked at least 10 miles without the intention of walking a long distance.
  • Woke up without eye boogers/eye crust/[less uncouth name to be determined].
I am so accomplished.