Friday, March 25, 2011

This Week in Nelson, number 5, volume 12

We’re back, and with only a week and a half between. And, honestly, I really intended that first TWiN to count for last week. So, today, this week, and still on track.

So, something that’s been up with me lately is I’m GMing a Star Wars roleplaying game (GM being their version of DM since there are little to no literal dungeons in the old, faraway galaxy, excluding Owen Lars’s sex dungeon, of course. Got 7 people playing and 1 coming in May (with a few names interested on the waiting list), so I’m afraid if anyone’s interested in getting in on that, I have no room at the inn for now.

But, anyway, I’ve been working on that, which has turned into something of a part-time job. Most everyone playing is new-ish to the game, and rpgs in general, so I’ve been simplifying and combining the rules and info from a few books and making rules tweaks and putting all of it together (because Lucasfilm controls their properties with a Vader-like grip, online resources are a little lacking and 3rd party heavy). We play Tuesday nights. Tuesday went well. Escape from a crippled transport. Pile of dead stormtroopers.
Postgame, Willie and I killed some zombies as we’re lately want to do (Left 4 Dead 2). And after that, I just went on a near two-day bender of smoking, working the GM thing and watching/“watching” movies. What movies did I watch? Whatever was on the movie channels I get. Often, whatever was on after what I’d been watching. And it ended up being kind of an odd mix. I feel the need to share it. They were, more or less, the following:

-Bourne Ultimatum: I really like them Bourne movies. Want to watch the three back-to-back sometime soon. Haven’t seen the first one in a while. Good stuff.

-Scary Movie 2: Woke up and it was on. Only watched the last half. Laughed a few times, but mostly felt glad that I’d missed the first half. And felt bad that David Cross was in it. But I understood. Then I felt bad that we live in a world where David Cross pretty much has to be in Scary Movie 2.

-Masters of the Universe: The live-action He-Man movie. I’d actually been wanting to watch it again lately, so it was kind of fun that it was on. Does it hold up? It does and it doesn’t. It is both more and less odd and ridiculous than I remembered. My one question, where was Trapjaw!?

-The Cassandra Crossing: Have you heard of this movie? Crazy 70’s Italian disaster movie, with a super-plague outbreak on a train. The government sends commandos to take the train over and divert it to an old, abandoned concentration camp so the virus can’t spread, but the train has to pass over the Cassandra Crossing to get there, a rickety-ass old bridge that hasn’t been used since the war which will most likely collapse when they hit it. The passengers get wise and try to retake the train from the commandos before everyone dies on the bridge. It’s fucking crazy, and it has a fucking crazy 70’s disaster movie cast. Sophia Loren and Richard Harris as the leads, a successful, divorced couple (both toting a pair of machine guns and turtlenecks at one point), a young, long-haired Martin Sheen as a gigolo mountain-climbing drug smuggler and Ava Gardner as his sugarmomma, Burt Lancaster as the sinister Army colonel running the government show, O.J. Simpson as a priest with a secret, and Lee fucking Strasberg as a Holocaust survivor watch salesman. Equally ridiculous and at times legitimately exciting. One of the best metal girder through a dude’s chest scenes I’ve seen in a movie. And everyone knows I have a six minute chest girder compilation I have to watch to get an erection.

-Groundhog Day: Bill Murray is pure fucking A-game. If there was a zombie apocalypse I’d go to his house, too.

-G-Force: Yeah. It was about fifteen minutes in before I realized it was actually on. Yeah. I took a shower in the middle. I lost none of the plot. Yeah. I feel a little bad about pretty much everyone who was in this. But mostly the live action people. I feel like being in a shitty movie isn’t so bad if it’s a kids movie and you only have to do a voice. That’s like driving your buddy to the airport and getting paid scale for it.

-The Karate Kid: The new one. I had both misgivings and hopes for that movie since I’d learned of its coming existence and then read and heard things about it. I’ll say, they should have called it The Kung Fu Kid, mostly cause that’s what it is. Remakes and reimaginings of good movies are a sword of many edges. Even when they’re good, they’re good with a handicap. And when they’re bad they deserve a special place in Hell. I understand they want to capitalize on the existing past product. But I don’t know why The Kung Fu Kid doesn’t do that in a way that better reflects what the movie is and in a more, if not clever, then at least winky way. Regardless, I liked it. That kid’s supergenes are working. He’s got his dad’s charisma, swagger and physical prowess. And that may be Jackie Chan’s best acting job ever. He’s no Mr. Miyagi, naturally, because no one’s Mr. Miyagi, but he’s Mr. Han and it works. And, legit, there’s some pretty sweet martial arts in it.

-Hollywood Homicide: I really like this movie. I always have. I really like Harrison Ford. I always have. Legitimately, I always have. You know, I’m a big Star Wars guy. Obviously. And to be honest, part of it might be that some of my earliest memories involve Star Wars. Reading Star Wars comics in preschool and seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater are two of my very earliest memories. I like the way Harrison Ford can walk the line between cool as fuck, on top of his game and broken down, barely scraping by. And, yet, even when he’s broken down, he’s still got this, “well, fuck it. I’m still gonna own it” attitude. Love that motherfucker. Still the best doughnut-infused sex scene in movie history.

-The Runaways: Eh. Kind of seemed like teenagers trying to act cool more than the Runaways who were actually cool. Also seemed like a weird excuse for people to get to watch Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning make out. If that’s your thing, then check it out, I guess.

-Extreme Movie: A weird sketch comedy movie about sex that wasn’t anything amazing, and was largely derivative and expected, but that was actually legitimately funny more often than I would have ever guessed. Matthew Lillard especially had a few good one-liners in a recurring “the more you know” kind of segment.

Something I fell asleep to which I don’t recall.

-Hellboy: Ron Perlman, I like. No bullshit. Woke up halfway through. Seriously, though, if I ever get to make some movies, if I have some kind of big, gruff, beastly character, especially one that takes no shit and kills some monsters, but he takes no shit and kills some monsters with a heart of gold. You know the type I mean. Like a Ray Romano type. Anyway, I’m gonna be like, “Ron Perlman? Is there any way?”

Side note, typing this, a funeral scene popped on tv, and the priest was saying as he eulogized, “As Viggo the Carpathian said in Ghostbusters II, ‘Death is but a doorway. Time is but a window. I’ll be back.’.” When I die, find this man. Gaus, add it to the will.

-Good Will Hunting: I’m a fan. Hadn’t seen it in years, I think. Missed the first twenty minutes or so. Had kind of woken up not sure about just leaving one channel on for a while any more, so I actually looked for the thing I wanted to watch most and hit the Damon again. But then I just left the channel on and ran some errands, and when I came back I didn’t give much of a fuck and first up was:

-Bad Company: The Chris Rock, Anthony Hopkins action spy comedy gun shots. I may not have chosen it, but sometimes I do enjoy a little, I’m funny and I’m in a ridiculous and dangerous situation, joke, gun shots, joke, “why are you being so hard on me?” “because you’re the only hope we have,” joke, more gun shots, joke, a lot more gun shots, hostage taking, this is no time for jokes, more gun shots, explosions, tense joke, we’re all gonna die, we made it, joke, “you know, you’re all right and we’re friends now” “you have earned my respect,” joke, music swell, credits.

-Bandslam: It was on next. I actually kind of legitimately enjoyed this. Which, aside from O.J. Simpson showing up as a priest (did the impact of that actually hit you when I said it earlier) may be the most surprising thing of the marathon. It wasn’t amazing, and there were a few rough edges on the script, and there was some of that, it’s delightful, you’re an individual in a sea of popular kids who are really losers and your individuality actually makes you cool but in five years you’re gonna be that kid in college where everyone cringes when they raise their hand in film class and then in ten years you’re gonna be that hipster douche going on and on about what you think art is, I mean, what it really is, you know, down the bench from me at the Pig while I’m like, who’s this hipster douche, but you’re still in high school so now you’re secretly cooler than all those other kids thing going on. But it was fairly clever, and fairly funny, and I actually kind of liked it. Weird.

-Spy Game: Robert Redford / Brad Pitt spy movie. Hadn’t seen it since the screening, I think. Not bad.

Then it was back to killing zombies. Not a bad couch, movie, stoned sometimes working on things odyssey. Thank you for letting me recreate it for you. Hopefully this TWiN is working. I realize that things were bad and I fought back with a TWiN and then we get Japan, so maybe I made a mistake. But now there’s a lot less Charlie Sheen, so, you know, maybe it’s working.

Maybe TWiN has defeated Charlie Sheen.

Maybe I’ll start putting that on my resume.

See you next week.

 N.

PS- Go Jayhawks!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Squeeze into them goretex pants, Satan, it's This Week in Nelson, vol. 5, no. 11

Greetings, all.

It’s been quite some time since we’ve gathered here, together, all of us, to peer collectively at my thoughts. We’ve all grown.

“Grown more beautiful,” you say, demure yet devilishly confident.

“Please,” I say, quieting your lips with the gentle placement of my pointer finger. “Let me finish.”

Many of you have pondered at the whereabouts of these thoughts of mine, have longingly eyed your inboxes hoping for a prodigal return, have screamed my name to the heavens as if TWiN had dazzled you with European handsomeness and vengefully marooned you on an interstellar research station with your estranged ladyfriend and son. Your fond remembrances and concerns have been duly noted and thankfully received.

And why wouldn’t you decry a lack of TWiN? In its absence, our world has been rocked by economic turmoil, civil unrest, natural disasters, Tea Partiers and Charlie Sheen.

Naturally, I feel somewhat responsible.

Is it possible that TWiN has been the finger in the faltering dike which holds all worldly evil at bay?

Some might watch the news and reply, “of course.” And the effect on Bill O’Reilly has undoubtedly been hardest of all. The poor man has been forced to become the level-headed moral compass of Fox News without my rhetorical and mildly homoerotic nagging.

The very idea!

I would like to say that I put our time apart to good use. Traveling the Orient in search of ancient blogwriting techniques, penning a Bill O’Reilly one-woman show, finishing my thesis.

Alas, no.

I’d also like to say that I’ve merely been Salingering it up, TWiNning daily and then locking those TWiNs away in a filing cabinet because of my disillusionment with public expectation and critique. Or that I’d been shipwrecked on a lonely island, still writing out my thoughts, but instead of a laptop I’d been forced to commit them to cavewall in an ink I’d developed with crushed berries and my own feces, and that the entirety of these lost TWiNs would soon be released in book form with a pending pilot being developed by JJ Abrams.

Once again, no. Except for my development of a revolutionary new ink substitute, which is all too real and has drawn a surprising amount of interest from Mr. Abrams.

In all honesty, there were three real reasons for TWiN’s lengthy hiatus.

1) Far fewer idle hours on the back porch of the Pig.
2) A feeling like TWiN had grown somewhat beyond my control. That it had come to encompass so many parts and requirements which I was either half-assing, struggling to complete or continually ignoring. In short, it had actually become more like work than something fun, or at least an exercise which left me considering the merits of, “if I don’t really have anything to say, should I say anything at all?”
3) Stu. I don’t know why, exactly, but those of us who know Stu realize that he is perennially, on some level, to blame.

So, much like Superman II, I tried to set aside my duties only to realize the dire need our world has for TWiN, and Charlie Sheen was my less bearded, less stylish General Zod. And as I replace the metaphorical White House roof above your collective heads, I make my promise that this won’t happen again.

TWiN has risen from the ashes, and will once again patrol the skies above, ferreting out evil and tying its weapons into knots.

Will I miss a week here and there?


Will I sometimes have little to say?

Quite possibly.

Will many of your favorite or barely tolerated segments be absent?

Yes, often.

Your new TWiN will be a leaner animal. Swifter. Sleeker. Sharper. Probably still the same percentage of robot parts, but robot parts that more resemble a newly minted Skywalker hand than the cohorts of aliens who plagued our forefathers in America’s supposed golden age. You may see some old TWiN mainstays make appearances here and there, but the new TWiN will be more free-flowing and less bullet-pointed.

If this disappoints you, I apologize. I hope you won’t take to scrawling intricate federalist formulae on a chalkboard while openly weeping and murmuring about how you want your country back.

Would that I could give it to you. Would that it had ever existed at all. If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me.

I will, however, try to give you one thing.


Or, at the very least, some half-formed thought or opinion which you may take, and eat, and think of me. Because words are the tacos of the soul.

It says that in the Bible.

So, what do I have for you today, you ask, those of you for whom two pages of a partially explained absence is not enough.

Two things:

First, because I think they might have been one of my favorite parts of the TWiN gone by (The TWiN is dead, long live the TWiN), the part which is most likely to remain (at least periodically), and because I had a bunch of them still lying around, unused (I believe), I give you:

Random out-of-context quotes of the week:
--AOf course, the criminal can=t run for long. He=s wearing three pairs of pants.@
--AWhat do you do if you=re a mall cop? Do you kill yourself? Is that the next step? I wouldn=t know how to proceed.@
--AI need to flip the cushion and change my pants.@
--AYour baby has a mohawk and boobs.@
AYour baby=s like a chick from The L Word.@
--“Cooking seafood smells like getting your period on a camping trip.”
--“I knew it! I knew that rebellious guy did something weird to you!”
--“Bread is like us. It wants to live.”
--“It didn’t work. It was like trying to cure gonorrhea by pouring alcohol on your penis. The problem was internal!”
--“You can’t know a man until you know his taste in cartoon women.”

Second, TV.

I like TV. I watch quite a bit. Admittedly, I “watch” a lot of that TV, that is, it’s on and my attention to it is half-hearted and distracted. To Freud it out, in my youth, my parents were often busy and my sister was considerably older than I was, so I spent a lot of time on my own. And while I watched a lot of TV, it was often more of a background, white noise to drown out the quiet of an empty house as I played, or drew, or wrote or just fucked about with whatever little project I was onto at the time. This is a mechanism which I still employ today, and there are a lot of shows I’ll watch while I do other things. Shows which I “watch,” as I’ve already said. But, there’re also shows that I WATCH, that I devote my attention to wholly. Some of them because I just enjoy them, some of them because they’re legitimately excellent, and some for both reasons.

I would like to take a moment to speak about one of these shows which I WATCH watch for both reasons. That show is Fringe.

I just read a little article in Entertainment Weekly which was begging people to watch this show, because it’s excellent, because its ratings have grown sparse (after a big first season, now in its third it was moved to Friday nights, where I Love Lucy would have had trouble putting asses in seats), not enough people are singing its praises, and it’s on Fox (who will a cancel a show because they ate one piece of toast that morning instead of two).

I honestly believe it’s the best thing on TV right now.

It started as a solid, scifi-infused procedural and has grown into something truly exceptional. Looking at its progression, it has the pace of a novel. It consistently builds, both in plot and in emotional, character-driven substance. It will utilize a “monster-of-the-week” convention, but as it moves along you start to see how every one of those monsters fits into the overarching plot and mythology by which the show operates. A mythology which, while it took about a season and a half to completely establish the framework for, ultimately answers as many questions as it poses, and makes sense within the world it creates, not just so far as plot and science are concerned, but with character as well. It continually raises the stakes. It also strikes an excellent balance. It’ll flow from dark and moody to humorous and ridiculous, from bleak to hopeful. These characters are each exceptional, but damaged. They’re confident, but fearful. They find themselves facing increasingly more daunting odds (interdimensional war, the unraveling of existence itself, and familial and romantic love hampered by guilt and regret), and they find themselves questioning morality, and ends and means, and facing Sophie’s Cohoices on both personal and universal (literally) scales. But at their heart they seem to be operating upon an ideal that something better exists in the world, and even if it doesn’t, that they must find a way to make it exist, otherwise, what’s the point?
It also makes continual nods and allusions, both very likely intentionally, and other times I would guess not. Watching it I see facets of The X-Files, and Lost, and Philip K Dick, and Warren Ellis, and Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore, and The Wire, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Shakespeare, and Tolkien, and Battlestar Galactica, and Vonnegut. I see the question of humanity in the modern age, and realizing both the best and worst of what we’re capable of on a myriad of levels, and questioning what limit do we place on that capability? What is justice if it’s tempered by vengeance? What is security if it means the innocent must suffer? Must die? How much is a life worth? How do we determine whether we do something out of love for someone else or out of selfishness? If our actions create unforeseen tragedy, how damning is that to us? How much control do we have over the course of our own lives, and how much do our conscious actions actually affect that course? How far can we bend the natural world before it breaks? Is love all you need?

This show’s like if Oppenheimer and John Lennon had a baby.

And that baby solved mysteries with the help of superscience.

And John Noble is fucking great in it. I love John Noble. And not just because he wore the pimpin-est clothes in all of Middle Earth. And I’ve always loved that Joshua Jackson kid. I was unapologetically Team Pacey. And this thing feels like it’s perfect for him. Everyone’s really good in this show. Anna Torv is great, I just don’t have a previous frame of reference for her. It’s got Lt. Daniels from The Wire!

Seriously, if you don’t watch this show, you need to start. Either jump on some Netflix or itunes or whatever the hell and start catching up, or just jump into it and if you’re confused I’ll Cliff Notes it for you. I would have said more about what happens while I rambled here, but I don’t want to spoil anything for them what don’t want spoiling. There’s ultimately not a lot of characters, and while there’s definitely been stuff going on, there’s not a lot you really need to know to follow what’s happening.

Seriously, if not the best thing on TV right now (for over a year now, I’d say), it’s at least the thing I like the most. It’s the thing I most look forward to WATCHing, and which I most want to see the next episode to, as soon as the episode I just watched has ended.

That’s all I’ve got for now. (4 and a half pages! Damn!)

Tired of having TWiN back already? Hopefully not. Cause I’ll see you back here next week. And many weeks after. Maybe not every one, but possibly even multiple times in the same week?

Who can say? Just as it gives you answers, the TWiN, she asks more questions.

--> N.