Monday, October 31, 2005

The weather changes.

It's funny how your mood can shift, how you can change your mind, how you can lose something you rely on and barely notice or care less. The small change can affect bigger, catastrophic results in your life that you later notice. Looking back, you see the pinpoint, the time when it all turned from sweet to sour. But, when the pinpoint actually occurs, you barely even notice it.

I'm mad at my writing class for reasons that I know are silly and a little stupid, but I just can't face them tonight. Class is already underway, but I'm swamped with work here at the office and just can't break away. And I don't really want to break away.

A year ago, I was occasionally messing around with this guy named Hennessy. The last time I saw him was the day after Halloween. Hennessy's entry into my life and escape from it was, I know now, not a big deal at all. Some groceries I've purchased will likely have a larger effect upon my life than Hennessy in the long run. But, I remember, at the time I wanted Hennessy to matter. And now I just feel stupid about it.

This morning, I put on my winter coat for the first time since maybe March, and I reached into one of the pockets and pulled out a dollar bill and Ash's business card. Now, there have been countless times that, on my way to the tollbooth, I could've used that dollar bill. And I remember when Ash fit into my life and how he fit. And that was a disaster doomed to end badly, though it didn't end as badly as it could have. But it's been months now, and he probably thinks on me even less than I think on him.

I haven't spoken to Movie Theater Stephen in a month. I've erased him from my phone, ended the pathetic, one-sided phone tag that I feel like he put me through. And I fear Movie Theater Stephen's shaping up to be this year's Dax or this year's Snapshot. I wish I'd learned what I should've learned from Dax and Snapshot so that I wouldn't have to learn such a stupid lesson again. Instead, the seasons repeat, and the patterns repeat. A year from now, that coat pocket will likely have a movie ticket stub in it, and I'll reconsider now and think myself wiser for the effort.

Today, some friends of mine e-mailed me to tell me that my new voicemail message is gay and embarassingly annoying, and I'll probably remember the conversations over my voicemail moreso than I'll remember why that voicemail message was changed in the first place. I was upset at 2 a.m. a week ago, frustrated that my work as a writer was going nowhere and would continue to go nowhere and that I'd be in the same place five years from now that I am now and that I'd still not know enough to give up the ghost, and I changed my voicemail 14 times because I couldn't sleep. I was angry, so I used my outgoing message as a means to communicate my frustration.

"Hi, this is Benjamin, failed writer, failed adult and general loser. Fuck you all ..."

"Hi, this is Benjamin, and I'm pretending to be a writer. Please leave a message."

I knew I couldn't leave them like that before I went to sleep or before anyone called, so I came up with the dumbass, benign message that my friends - expecting me to be more creative - derided for its gayness, its lack of bite.

I just ended a phone call with my friend Larry, and he told me not to let these past few days become a defining moment in my life, in my career.

I want something to happen. I want sea change. I am being an obnoxious, egocentric blowhard, though, because I'm not working on what I need to work on. Instead, I'm pouting like a baby.

Oh well, back to the work that I need to do before I can leave the office.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Things to do if you appreciate hauntings.

- So a glut of scary movies aimed at the Halloween-hungry audience hit theaters this weekend, and I think we should all be a little grateful that the ones were getting are, at least, a little clever. The one most of you will probably see, and probably should see, is SAW II, the sequel to last year's sick, bloody, twisted yet entertaining puzzler SAW (Incidentally, SAW is the movie my redneck stepfather said was the best movie he'd seen in ages). SAW II offers more bizarre, deadly contraptions and Donnie Wahlberg , Shawnee Smith and 7TH HEAVEN's Beverley Mitchell leading a larger cast than the first movie. God, I hope Lucy Camden and the New Kid on the Block both die.

- HELLBENT, the gay slasher movie that I've mentioned here before, also opens at the Landmark this weekend. In this one, a bunch of muscled queens in West Hollywood get beheaded by a gym-bodied serial killer. Dylan Fergus, who plays PASSIONS' clueless, expressionless and shirtless Noah, leads the cast. To its credit, the knife-in-the-eye poster looks cool. But HELLBENT's groundbreaking because, in it, all the people having hot sex and getting killed are gay. This is progress?
- My friend Larry, in honor of our friend David's birthday every Halloween, hosts an elaborate, fantastic wine-and-cheese dinner, and it's set for Saturday. During one of the seven courses, I may read my latest attempt at short story, "Vehicles Aren't Meant to Sit Still," even though the critique I received in my writing class makes me wary and gives me pause. I always have fun at the wine-and-cheese dinner. Instead of silly costumes, we get an excuse to dress up, be rather pretentious, have great conversation, see interesting friends and sample some really good food.
- The final performances of SOMETHING WICKED at the Center for Puppetry Arts are this weekend, and the special, costumed Halloween performance occurs at 11 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are still available, and the people at the Center tell me that it's going to be fantastic.

- Now, an anecdote. When I was a child, my mom and stepfather twice were responsible for building some bloody, scary haunted houses in Buford, my hometown. One of them was built for a Halloween party in our basement when I was in the fifth grade. In that one, my mother got dressed as a blood-soaked vampire and my stepfather dressed as Freddy Krueger, and they attacked many of the friends who went down into my basement. It was great fun. (As a result, there was a headless woman in a plywood coffin in my basement for a couple years.) Another of my parents' haunted houses was a hit of the Buford Fall Festival one year. While the houses were "in operation" with the smoke machines and the ghosts that jump out at you, I didn't visit my parents' haunted houses. I'm a scaredy-cat when it comes to those places. Thus, I've never been to Atlanta's premier haunted house attraction, Netherworld, though I've heard good things about it and frequently read over its billboard from the freeway. Every year, I consider going. Every year, I never go. I am not a haunted house person. As I said, there was a papier-mache headless corpse in my basement for years.
- If you prefer your haunted places to be legitimately haunted, you should go on a tour of the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park this weekend. There'll be both ghost stories and dead governors there.

- I don't do costumes for Halloween, either. The year of my parents' haunted house party, for instance, I dressed as Fred Astaire. I wore a suit, a mask and a glittery silver top hat, and I carried a cane with me and pretended to dance a lot. (There are photos in my fifth grade yearbook, if you don't believe me.) For every college costume party I attended, I wore my usual, dressier clothes with a cardigan sweater and told people that I was Chandler from FRIENDS. If you do costumes, though, you should try Junkman's Daughter. Their costumes are usually good.
- Joan Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, which has been winning awards and selling well in the bookstore, and the Augusten Burroughs essay compilation MAGICAL THINKING have led me to wonder: What in the hell is magical thinking? Is magical thinking something that only GOB from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and David Copperfield can do?

- I want to see SHOPGIRL. I want to see it really bad, not just because the reviews have been solid or because Claire Danes and Steve Martin are in it. I want to see SHOPGIRL because it seems like the sort of romance that the decidedly non-romantic sort would make. I'm a love pessimist. I don't think I could tell a good love story anymore. And I think this might be my kind of love story.
- Even though I don't like haunted houses and don't wear costumes, Halloween is always one of my favorite holidays because, if you can believe this, strange and wonderful things happen to me on Halloween. One Halloween during high school, my friend Vic disappeared on me in the middle of the mall, and I became convinced that I was being chased by a man in a devil suit. The time I got stuck in a McDonald's during a blackout was Halloween. When I was thinking of dating Vic in college, for instance, the first time that we really kissed each other and understood what it all meant was on Halloween. The time I got into a car accident in the middle of a rainstorm and then ended up making out with a drag queen, that was Halloween. The time that horrible Vietnamese colorist made my hair look like Vanilla Ice was on Halloween. Halloween's not scary at all. The day just throws me for a loop or just puts a strange twist on my usual story. So, for this week's question, what's your favorite Halloween memory? To be traditional, what was the best costume you ever wore? What's the strangest thing that ever happened to you on Halloween?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I make nice people cry.

This week, I appear to be as charming and amiable as molten hellfire raining down upon schoolchildren. Something happened that put me in a bad mood, and it has lingered and lingered for days now. Both people close to me and people who barely know me are advised to run and run quickly if I head in your direction.

The story critique from my class, perhaps due to the mindset and expectations I carried with me into the room that day, seemed to go badly, and I was upset about it. I tried to be quiet, but the class picked up on my disappointment anyway, because my body language is fairly transparent. One very nice woman, who'd offered up a comment on my story, thought that she personally had upset me, and she started crying - I say, crying - when I left the room because she didn't mean to hurt my feelings.

When I came back into the room, not initially aware that this nice woman had cried because of my mood, the prof lectured me a bit sternly about considering the feelings of others and properly expressing gratitude to my readers.

The whole thing was embarassing, and I fear that I came off as really immature. But, for a while, I wasn't sure I wanted to return to the writing class, but that impulse passed quickly.

God, it was a disappointing critique, though. I mean, I know I shouldn't go to them for validation regarding whether a story's good, but I don't trust a lot of people outside of class who tell me when they like something. (Jenipher right now is probably giggling that the story wasn't liked, which isn't true. The comments I received on the returned mark-ups were uniformly positive, but the critique didn't really reflect those positive feelings.)

Anyway, if you see me coming, stay away from me. If I call you on the phone, it should be safe to answer.

But, in person, as the weather has gotten colder, so have I.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The return of the Ken. reported this news from Mattel today.

WHAT A DOLL!: Mattel announced Thursday that Ken is undergoing an extreme makeover in an attempt to win back Barbie. The couple ended their legendary 43-year romance two years ago amid rumors that Barbie had fallen for an Australian boogie boarder named Blaine. Ken's new look — described by insiders as only slightly less gay than usual — will be unveiled this spring.

We at Life of Riley McCarthy, who conducted a now-famous, exclusive post-breakup interview with the living doll, tracked down a newly blond Ken at a health spa, pictured above, in order to get the scoop on his extreme makeover and his exact intentions with Barbie.

RILEY: So, Ken, what's the deal? You're going back to her?

KEN: Looks like it, I guess. I'm not really allowed to comment. Maybe you should call my people. Or hers.


KEN: Oh yeah, I got into a lot of trouble with Mattel after my last chat with you. I didn't realize they wouldn't be behind my career without Barbie, but apparently I have a very limited shelf life when I'm single.

RILEY: You don't sound all that enthusiastic about returning to her, Ken. Tell the truth, is this more of a business thing?

KEN: Look, kid. I've tried dating around, keeping things casual, but my life - believe it or not - is much simpler when Barbie's in it. He-Man and I would go to the gym, then he'd take me up to Castle Greyskull to see his favorite sites on Eternia, but I didn't really care to live in a fantasy world with him, no matter how big his sword was. Besides, that damn Orko was annoying. I mean, who has a floating alien sidekick?

RILEY: What about someone else?

KEN: G.I. Joe was all about clandestine meetings and such. He'd say to me, "Look, no one can take our photo together. The army has a very strict policy about such things," so that didn't last long. After a couple nights where I had to dress up as COBRA Commander, that got old quick!

RILEY: Did you attempt to date any of the Bratz dolls or anything? Surely, they've got to be lower-maintenance than Barbie.

KEN: Those Bratz dolls are all kids. I'm way too old for them. Barbie and I dated for, like, 40 years before the breakup. Have you not done your research?

RILEY: But you look so young.

KEN: Yeah, well, wait until you see me this spring. Those makeover people are gonna work wonders for me.

RILEY: Do you think Barbie will take you back?

KEN: Sure, why not? Her people say that sales have gone down since she and I split, and that girl's all about making the money. She'll do whatever necessary to keep her two-story dream house and endless new fashions.

RILEY: But what about Blaine?

KEN: Um, Blaine ... well, things didn't work out for the two of us. He was all about catching waves and stuff, and I'm just beyond that. As for his relationship with Barbie, Blaine was last year's model. And I'm timeless.

RILEY: So you're not still upset with Barbie and her workaholic, shopaholic, glamaholic tendencies?

KEN: Time heals all wounds, kid. Time heals all wounds. Besides, Barbie, with all her faults, is a role model to Paris Hilton and breast-enhanced anorexics worldwide. That's power.

RILEY: So then this whole makeover maneuver is not about love.

KEN: Whoa, you're naive. Barbie and I aren't about love, and we haven't been for ages. This, my friend, is all about business.

RILEY: Oh, OK. Well, um, I have to ask, when they give you the makeover, will the nice people working their plastic magic see fit to endow you with some improvements?

KEN: Oh, probably not. Barbie wouldn't like me if I suddenly got all cocky.

Things to do if your friends make movies.

- My friend Marley Angel and this guy I knew in college named Jacob Gentry are both aspiring filmmakers, and they both recently had breakthroughs in regard to their ambitions. Marley just completed her first short film, SPEED DATING 101, and is submitting it to film festivals. Just click on the title to watch it. Meanwhile, Jacob's first feature, THE LAST GOODBYE featuring Faye Dunaway and David Carradine and filmed in Atlanta, was just released on DVD through Warner. Check out their movies.
- The new Regal Cinemas theater in Atlantic Station - the new, hip neighborhood sprouting up around the IKEA - just opened, I think, or is about to open. That neighborhood seems to have "happened" really, really quickly.

- Director George Clooney's GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. has been getting across-the-board good reviews for its subject, its pacing and its cast, particularly David Strathairn. It's about newsman Edward R. Murrow taking on Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and I'm all about journalism movies. Even if it is about television.
- Of course, as usual, you could do what I always say and hit the Center for Puppetry Arts. If you've already seen SOMETHING WICKED or another of their shows, you should check out their museum or workshops.
- Charlize Theron's getting even more Oscar buzz for her work in Niki Caro's NORTH COUNTRY, which focuses on the first case of sexual harassment filed in the United States. Wow, McCarthyism and sexual harassment movies, instead of something about superheroes. I guess we should be aware that it's no longer summer at the cinemas.

- The second season of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, now available on DVD, is absolutely hilarious, but I think I've figured out why people don't watch it from week to week on television. It's because it's more fun to take the show in giant, multi-episode doses. Perhaps Fox should only show episodes back-to-back or in marathons.
- Since I saw Ben Folds in concert a couple weeks ago, I've been listening to his music in my car at times when I needed to cheer up. When I had a caution light come on in my car and had to drive to Buford, for instance, I listened to ROCKIN' THE SUBURBS on the way home. When I had an identity crisis, I listened to his song, "The Best Imitation of Myself." When I had that abortion, I listened to "Brick." (Yay! Tasteless abortion humor!) Ben Folds makes good, quirky piano music, and I think you ought to listen to him if you haven't already.
- Finally, there's going to be a simple question this week. The great BATMAN BEGINS, featuring Christian Bale as the best Batman ever onscreen, just came out on DVD. So who's your favorite superhero? What's your favorite superhero movie? Who was the best actor to play your favorite superhero? And, to go a little Barbara Walters or Oprah on this question, who is your own personal, real-life superhero?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Shucking with your friends.

This Saturday, because our friend Liz was in town, some high school friends of mine - who usually post comments here on the blog, anyway - gathered in Canton at the Cagle's Dairy Corn Maize to traverse the 50-acre maze, eat some country-fried funnel cake and spend the day together. I took one of those cheap, disposable cameras along with me, occasionally forgetting to charge the flash, so all my photos came out looking like some blurred, hazy Sheryl Crow album cover. (OK, they're out-of-focus, taken while I was wandering blindly through that damn maze for 80 minutes, but I prefer to think of them as intentional and artistic.)

This is my friend Dena, who inadvertantly caused most of the people gathering at her Smyrna home to be late by accidentally giving them directions to an imaginary subdivision. (Dena is not actually taller than the corn. She's on a bridge in this one.)

My friend Steven, on his way to Dena's house, said he had to stop at both a Hispanic grocery store and a yard sale to get the right directions.

One of the women at the yard sale, he later related, said to him, "Honey, I don't think the girl who gave you these directions wants you at her house."

Concluding the story while wandering the maze, Steven said to us, "I always love being mocked at a yard sale."

Before we entered the Maize, which was largely filled with church groups and people with their kids, we jaded almost-thirtysomethings were told the official Maize rules by dairy officials. We were not allowed to pick the corn. (Fine.) We were not allowed to throw the corn at each other. (Fine.) We were not allowed to eat the raw corn. (Fine.) We were not allowed to beat each other up or anyone else in the maze. (Um, OK.) We were not allowed to litter. (OK.) We were not allowed to drink or smoke or use drugs while in the maze. (Um, if you insist.) We were not allowed to use foul language while in the maze. (OK, this is going to be a problem.)

The Maize, we were told, is policed constantly by "Corn Cops" who would punish us. (Upon hearing this, Liz the college prof mutters, "Did he just say 'Corn Cop'?) We could get ejected from the Maize at any point for bad behavior by these Corn Cops. (I hear Liz say, "I wonder if they're in uniform.") The Corn Cops were also there in the maze to help us find our way out. (Liz says, "Oh, I've GOT to get a photo taken with a Corn Cop.")

As you can see from the resulting photo, the Corn Cops only wear Dairy Staff T-shirts. I think Liz was a little disappointed, and I think this particular Corn Cop could tell that she wasn't flirting with him as much as she would if he'd been in uniform. (In her defense, he was a teen.) As a result of Liz's lack of enthusiasm for his Corn Cop prowess, this particular Corn Cop gained his revenge by giving us bad directions, though actually not worse than Dena's, three times.

As we wandered by the Corn Cop after yet another wrong turn, I looked at him and said, "You have a sick sense of humor."

The Corn Cop replied, "Hey, I'm in this corn all day. I have to do SOMETHING to entertain myself."

My friend CJ's wife Solenn, whom some of you readers may remember from other blog posts, was initially selected as our leader and given our team flag. She thus led the way as we walked into the Maize. (Of course, she didn't notice that there was a map on our team flag until we were far into the maze, but oh well.)

We were able to figure out a way around the foul language ban by using corn-based euphemisms.

For instance, I would say to Steven, "Hey kid, go shuck yourself!"

And he'd reply, "Suck my cob, Benjie!"

And I'd say, "No way, dude. I don't want to taste your corn seed."

Eventually, this caught on amongst the group.

CJ, Vic, Liz and Dena, I believe, started making naughty corn references.

The whole trip through both phases of the Maize took us 80 minutes, as I said. (Though Liz told us all to lie and say we finished it in about 20, so people wouldn't think that we weren't worth our college degrees.)

Then, after we left the wholesome land of the dairy, we all went to a good Italian restaurant and got drunk off bottles of Chianti.

It was a very, very good day.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Things to do with a blond Bond.

- The producers of the next James Bond movie, CASINO ROYALE, revealed today that the main character will now be played by British actor Daniel Craig. Craig's a good choice, even though I believe his hair is usually blond. He's ruggedly handsome and able to play suave, like he did earlier this year in LAYER CAKE. (Were you reading my "Things to Do ..." list when I mentioned LAYER CAKE six months ago?) In real life, he's been rumored to romance Kate Moss and Sienna Miller. Onscreen, he's played a love interest to Gwyneth Paltrow in SYLVIA and Angelina Jolie in TOMB RAIDER. Craig apparently said he'd take the part, additionally, after reading the script for CASINO ROYALE, which I think is a good sign for the movie. CASINO ROYALE was Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, and there's been talk that this movie may be faithful to the original book, which showed Bond as a conflicted, troubled man - not just some superhero.

- In preparation for the new biopic CAPOTE starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, I picked a copy of Truman Capote's true-crime novel IN COLD BLOOD a couple weeks ago, and it's a compelling, good read. (The fact that it was an instant classic upon its release and essentially created the true-crime genre should speak to its value far more than I can, though.)
- SOMETHING WICKED continues at the Center for Puppetry Arts through October 29, and I'm annoyed that, because I had to work, some people who read this site got to see the show before me and told me how good it was. I intend to check it out sometime this week, though I feel that the ultimate ticket may be to the show's final performance, which will be a late-night affair where Halloween costumes are encouraged.

- Lupo and I caught the new Curtis Hanson film IN HER SHOES on Sunday, and its really good script and really strong performances from Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine made the movie much better than I expected it to be. It's really entertaining and smart, even though it looks like another chick movie.

- THE COMPLETE CALVIN & HOBBES is available on display in my bookstore now, and it's proven to be a distraction for me. It's hard to go to the information desk and not read a couple strips, even though I'm supposed to be helping customers or doing shelving. CALVIN & HOBBES was my favorite, moreso than PEANUTS or THE FAR SIDE. I want that book.
- John Banville's THE SEA won the 2005 Man Booker Prize this week. It's pretty much the highest honor a British or Canadian author can receive for a book, equivalent to the National Book Award or the Pulitzer. The winners, like Yann Martel's LIFE OF PI, are usually good reads. THE SEA hasn't been released in the United States yet, but you'll be able to find it in November.

- After hearing one of their songs in the movie preview for THE ICE HARVEST, I'm tempted to buy The Eels' latest album BLINKING LIGHTS AND OTHER REVELATIONS. The song was called "Trouble With Dreams," and for some reason I'm the sort that can't just download a song.
- Tomorrow, as planned, a group of my high school friends and I will converge upon the Cagle's Dairy Corn Maize, and I'm sure we'll be lost within it for hours. I expect a good story to come out of this.
- Finally, UNICEF's Belgium chapter released a brief anti-war ad showing the effects that warfare would have on the world's children this week. However, instead of stock footage, the people at UNICEF thought it would carry far more impact to employ animators at Peyo to show footage of the beloved Smurfs celebrating happily until bombs rained upon them from the sky, killing them all and destroying their little mushroom village. The message is effectively communicated, of course. Baby Smurf is crying after shrapnel rips apart Smurfette and the gang. Thus, war is bad. But this ad also triggers this week's question. If you could kill off any of your beloved childhood TV characters, who would you choose to kill, and how would you do it? Would you have the Thundercats spayed and neutered? Napalm Fraggle Rock? Tell me about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

How I learned to write about how I learned to ride.

I'm not entirely sure how this is going to work out. I mean, I don't know how I'm supposed to start writing this, and I don't know if it's a good or a bad idea to write about it on the blog. But, basically, I have another story idea. It's a story that I want to be taken from my childhood memories, but I want it to be an actual story that follows a structure, has identifiable characters and, perhaps, a unifying point. This is my goal. It seems simple, but it's proving difficult. I want to write a structured story with a point.

Since I usually do the confessional essay stuff, though, my first impulse is to write the memory like that, and that would get the story out there into the readers' hands. But it wouldn't show growth in method or growth in attempt.

If I were to write the story the way I usually write things, which would be the story of how I learned to ride a bike and how it taught me to apologize, then I'd fashion myself in the perpetual role of victim or observer that I usually choose, and I don't want to do that. There's a possibility that I could actually grow this story into something better and bigger, if I ever actually finish it. (Have I ever finished anything?)

Still, because the stories usually come from memory, there's no need for a clear timeline. If the story is more formally structured, then the timeline would have to become more concrete, wouldn't it?

Would the story lose impact if I jumble it all together? Would there be glaring fact-check issues if I compressed the timeline, which occurred over a couple years, into a single summer? If I wrote a portion of the story from my father's point-of-view, just in an attempt to define a character other than myself, can I keep him layered and vague? Would my own personal view of him paint him as someone unfeeling and cold?

In the story would I be 8 or 12? Would I compress it to something that made sense? Am I capable of doing this?

I've written the essay version of how I learned to ride a bike before; it was one of the first confessional essay-type things I ever really wrote. I wrote it in 1995 for a penpal of mine. His name was Patrick Flumignan, and he was in Canada. Now, his name isn't that, and he isn't there anymore.

I don't even have the rough draft anymore. This story is old. So, to retell it, I need to do something fun with it and different with it. I want it to still be funny. But I also want it to be better than the stuff I usually do.

And the winner is ...

My friend Steven Igarashi won the puppet show contest of last week's "Things to Do ..." list, and he attended the new show SOMETHING WICKED at the Center for Puppetry Arts last night. The show officially opens tonight, and it runs through October 29.

Thankfully, Steven was nice enough to share his thoughts on the show.

Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a performance of the Center for Puppetry Arts' new adult-oriented show SOMETHING WICKED. Having not attended a showing at the Center in years, I did not know what to expect. However, the Center's website, with its promises of a show that would "seduce, repel, entrance, horrify and satisfy," definitely peaked my interested. Upon arriving, we were invited to visit the museum (A real treat for anyone. Who doesn't love the Muppets and Waylan Flowers' "Madame"?) After our museum tour and a quick stopover in the Wicked Lounge, we made our way to the theater. With tickets in hand, my friend and I ventured into the dark theater not knowing what to expect.

Immediately, I was impressed to find Vanessa Olivarez listed as a cast member. For those who don't recall, Vanessa was a second-season finalist on that little-known show AMERICAN IDOL. I knew immediately that we would be in for a treat with such a talented cast. The show incorporated many different elements, using film clips, live actors, musicians, special effects and the ubiquitous puppets. Though it definitely had a macabre tone, the show itself was not scary per se. Parts were actually very funny, and the whole audience relieved some nervousness with their giggles.

The actors were all quite good, and I was impressed with the production as a whole. I really enjoyed the use of mixed media. The music, film clips, live action and special effects all blended seamlessly. The show was over an hour and a half, and not once did I feel bored. Rather, I was engrossed in how the vignettes tied together and wanted to see how the story unfolded. At the end, I was a bit disappointed for it to be over; I left knowing that my new passion was for puppets and that I would soon be returning.

I highly encourage everyone to go out and see this great show. It makes for a fun evening out with friends, and would also be great for a date! The museum, show and lounge were all worth the low price of admission. If you go, I am sure that you will be impressed by the amazingly talented cast and the polite, helpful staff. So, I extend to you my invitation to see SOMETHING WICKED, no strings attached ... poor puppetry pun completely intended.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I don't know what I learned.

I'm going to make a list this week. Lupo said he'd help me with a "changing my life" effort so long as I put more work into it than he had to. I'm going to start by doing something that's possible. I'm going to start by making a list of what I like about my jobs, what I enjoy doing that I'd want to do in some new job. If I can't generate the optimism to seek out a new post, I'm supposed to fake it.

Thus far, the list is short, which is why I think I'm supposed to work on it for more than a day.

I used to be really good at this motivation thing. Honestly. I used to be formidable, which is like my word of the week.

By the end of the week, Lupo will have a list from me. I want to get this ball rolling. Again. Finally.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Whatever and ever amen.

Tonight, Lupo, Kenn the Artisan and I caught the Ben Folds concert at the SCAD auditorium, and, although some halter-topped young girl in the seats behind us named Cecily who howled like a hyper chihuahua seemed irked by actually having to pay attention to the stage, we all thought the show was rousing and fantastic. I've been a Ben Folds fan since Whatever and Ever Amen, and I think I met Lupo at a point when he was already Folds-faithful. So I'd like to think that we, who sat throughout the concert and paid attention to details like the lyrics, were the target audience and that girls like Cecily can't relate.

I do that. I get distracted by minor elements from my own good time.

I don't remember the exact playlist. I remember that some band called The Fray opened, and they actually had to ask people to stand up and come toward the stage in order to cultivate a better response to their set. When you ask for your standing ovation, you don't earn it, in my book. (But, please, still pay attention to all the e-mails directing you to my blog, people.) Anyway, The Fray was all right, I suppose. In five years, when they're no longer labeled as derivative of Coldplay and have their own sound, I can say I saw them in concert once upon a time, and I'll take pride in that. The lead singer, in a goofy way, was charming, but he was too pudgy to go shirtless in front of the crowd of art students. Boy's gonna need to work out or embrace his geek chic niche. I'm probably being too mean, though. Give them a listen. They're trying.

(Just so you know, the best opening acts I've ever mocked were Soul Coughing and Local H. And, later, I became a fan o' the Soul Coughing, so there you go. I'm drunk, by the way. Or at least tipsy. So I don't know what's going on. I just got my ass handed to me by Lupo during a Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture Edition showdown, so I'm not exactly coherent. I expect an e-mail from Miss Gibson about this post, though. I want her to call me brilliant.)

So are you one of those people who has to fill every possible silence with some story or joke? ... Oh, it's just me then. Oh, OK ... It's completely silly, but, when it gets quiet on my visits anywhere, I feel like silence means that I'm failing my audition at making new friends and/or being charming. No matter how much this isn't the case, I feel like I have to insert some comment into every available silence, if the silence lasts too long, and I need to either work on my compulsion to tell bad jokes or let the paranoia go. Tonight, at the concert, I think I saw the right choice to make. I'm letting the paranoia go. Or, um, I'm going to try to let it go. I'm not going to accomplish this all in one magnificent night, after all.

Anyway, the concert proves Ben Folds' new band does a mean cover of Dr. Dre's classic "Bitches Ain't Shit." It also proves that Folds, given the opportunity, would be a kickass choir director. (In one of the encores, he required a singalong with the audience. During one of the takes, my voice broke like Peter Brady on that very special episode of BRADY BUNCH. Lupo snickered, which was fitting, for the note I hit was truly horrible.)

Piano rock rules. Folds is amazing. The songs are fun, with lyrics more clever than cutesy. This trip is giving me an opportunity to practice being quiet and cool about things and secure with new friends, although my usual Trivial Pursuit mad skills are apparently waning.

Does having to take an Advil during a concert mean that I'm merely sick or that I'm getting old?

I ran into Russ Bynum at the concert, and he's a reporter and editor for the AP now. I went to college with him, and I had my first beer ever while a guest in his home. Walking up to Russ and saying hi, I reintroduced myself, which I immediately realized was stupid and unnecessary. Ego or not, I'm a fool if I don't think I'm capable of making an impression on people.

"I know who you are," Bynum, cigarette in hand and a smile on his face, said to me. "How the hell are you? What are you doing here?"

"I'm visiting friends in town," I said to him. "I just saw you and thought I would come over.

"Of course," Bynum said. "Thank you for saying hello, Benjie."

The last time I saw Bynum was at a party welcoming Miss Gibson back to the States. Bynum rules. They used to call his student house in Athens the Voodoo Lounge, and he hosted the greatest parties there.

Anyway, this is random.

Ben Folds played "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces," and I thought of Doug Gillett while it was playing. He used to love that song. During "Brick," I hugged Lupo, though it's not like either of us have been party to an abortion. I was just happy to be there.

I'm just happy to be here. I'm just happy to be here.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Isle of Hope.

Lupo and I went on a tour of downtown Savannah, so to speak. Neither he nor I were interested in stopping anywhere, per se, because we've done it before. I've seen the FORREST GUMP bench already. The crowd of tourists outside The Lady and Sons restaurant, making it look like an attraction on par with The Hard Rock Cafe, dissuaded me from wanting to eat there. (Lupo doesn't eat outside a set menu anyway, so there was no argument when I suggested we avoid the Paula Deen fans.)

We rode in his car, listened to some mix CDs on the stereo and mocked the tourists, of whom I am no better but mock anyway. I realized River Street is a bumpy, sad road of unfortunate people in bad outfits now I've traveled down it more than twice.

All the while, I realized again that, for me, Lupo is a role model. He has his house, his relationship, his goals within reach, his organization in check. His life isn't perfect, by any means, but I see where he is from where I am. And he seems further along the road from me. He's managed to do something, something that required work that I haven't been able to do in my own life, and I want my goals to come as his have and will. He has method. He has drive. I do not.

When all of life is done for me, I hope that I'm on a better path than I have been. I hope it's not all insurmountable goals. I need to know the steps, and Lupo makes me feel like I can learn the steps.

Lupo provides me with hope, a sense that we came from the same defeatist mindset that he's been able to escape from. I'm still a self-defeatist.

We sat on the beach at Tybee Island. I talked about the men in my life - the choices I'm making that probably aren't leading anywhere or fulfilling me. I talked about the job that I've hated since I arrived there, the desk job I was supposed to work three weeks that I ended up working five years - a detail that now feels more like a punchline than a comfort.

At the end of the tour, Lupo drove me to a place called the Isle of Hope. The seaside houses there were beautiful and big. The neighborhood seemed friendly, and it was filled with private docks. Lupo said that people probably didn't live there year round, that there were probably just well-kept vacation homes. Still, some of the colonial manses with white picket fences looked cozy and well-kept, the sort of places where you wish you could live while also being a place that's better appreciated if you're only there for a season.

Savannah country day.

So I'm blogging now from Lupo's. I think he's in the other room shaving. I hugged him a few minutes ago, completely random. It's nice to be here, though I'd forgotten how self-conscious I can get while visiting people.

Last night, just after meeting Lupo's boyfriend Kenn for the second time in my life, I started this odd, out-of-nowhere non-sequitir anecdote. And, in the middle of it, Kenn offered me cider, and I stopped before answering Kenn to end the anecdote, "And, Lupo ... I kissed him. I kinda made out with him."

Everyone was silent, until Kenn finished and said, "That's fine. So do you want some cider?"

Ack. I think things have settled down. I'm a little less awkward. Kenn beat Lupo and me at Trivial Pursuit last night, which means that the long-standing Trivial Pursuit challenge between Lupo and I remains unresolved. During last night's game, Lupo and I both emerged as losers.

The dog Jonesy is cool. He finds me less-than-approachable, but he's warming. He's gotten to the point where he'll put his head near me, expecting me to scratch under his neck. If I move my hand, he calmly backs away from it. I think he's feeling the way I did when I got here, unsure of how to act.

Lupo and I are going for a tour of the city in a few minutes, so that should make for some good, sarcastic fun. Tonight's Ben Folds. Kenn's going shopping for a gun for an art project this afternoon, so we're going to see the ocean and River Street without him. If Lupo shows me the bench from FORREST GUMP today, we may both pretend to urinate on it.

This is random. I need more Diet Cheerwine so that I can wake up.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Things to do if you're not headed to Savannah.

- So I'm heading to Savannah today to spend the weekend with Lupo and his boyfriend/personal artisan Kenn. In thinking up things to do while in Savannah (but trying to avoid any Paula Deen, FORREST GUMP or MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL attractions), the only thing I can think of doing is grabbing a copy of RIDING THE BUS WITH MY SISTER from Hallmark, so the three of us can collectively mock Rosie O'Donnell's performance as an "inspirational" mentally retarded woman with a loud clown voice. (Yeah, I got the idea from this week's GILMORE GIRLS, but the clip they showed looked hilarious.) In addition to learning lessons about life from Rosie, we also may be able to discern how to act like a mannequin from her co-star Andie MacDowell, my friend Stephen's least favorite actress. ("Oh my God, Andie MacDowell can't even deliver a convincing line in a hair care commercial," Stephen says wildly.) OK, right now, I'm looking at the photo I posted, and I'm noticing that Rosie's feet are in the same bowlegged stance that mine take. Maybe I'm in no place to judge her. Wait, mine do that on purpose. I can completely judge her. Game on, Rosie. Game on!

- SOMETHING WICKED, the new, haunted, creepy, sexy adult show at the Center for Puppetry Arts, has arrived in time for Halloween, my favorite holiday. The Center is calling the show a "dark cabaret" hosted by creepy characters named Banshee, Wraith, Siren, Specter and Vox - who I think are all going to get turns having their way with the audience. (A new article in SOVO suggests SOMETHING WICKED's a bit homoerotic. So, you know, cool.) And, from the sound of things, this creepfest is not a show to miss. The show opens October 12 and runs through the 29th, when the Center will hold an extra-dark late-night performance. This should be all kinds of horrific fun.

***** My friends at the Center have provided me with a special treat to offer my readers, by the way. They've given me one pass for two people to give away to a preview show of SOMETHING WICKED at the Center for Puppetry Arts. The special show is Tuesday, October 11, at 8 p.m. First person to e-mail me here a note with the subject line 'BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS' will win the pass-for-two!!!!! Remember, it's an ADULTS ONLY show.

- This is not a fun week for me to have a low bank account. In addition to having to actually budget around buying gas, something I used to not fret over, I also couldn't indulge this week in new albums from Liz Phair and Fiona Apple. With SOMEBODY'S MIRACLE, reviews say Phair's continuing her course toward poppier, commercial music, which is fine by be since LIZ PHAIR was a great album. As for Fiona Apple's EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE, it's taken six years for Apple's follow-up, and reviews suggest that it's a really strong, if not commercial, album. If you already love Fiona, though, this one's supposed to be just what you want.

- How hilarious are the ads for the new Al Pacino-Matthew McConaughey movie TWO FOR THE MONEY? I mean, honestly, Pacino gets lines like, "If you want something from me, you're gonna have to RIP IT OUT OF MY TALONS!!!" The idea that Pacino has talons, or as he calls them 'taaaaaaaaaaa-lons,' is just ludicrous. HOO-HA! I love Pacino when he chews scenery, given the most ridiculous speeches known to man, in SCENT OF A WOMAN and THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE. TWO FOR THE MONEY, aside from the shirtless, sweaty shots of McConaughey, looks just horrible.
- EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED opens in town this week. The movie's gotten good reviews, but I couldn't get into that book to save my life.

- THE COLORADO KID, a new book from Stephen King that's being released exclusively in mass-market paperback, is supposed to be a throwback to old pulp crime novels. It's cheap. It looks like a fun read. I'd pick it up whenever.

- WALLACE & GROMIT cartoon shorts are the best, funniest, Oscar-winning stuff most people have never heard of. Now that the full-length feature WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT is being released in theaters, more people will hopefully discover and appreciate this stuff.
- I wonder if celebrites are having a competition to see who can come up with the most ridiculous baby name. This week, as you've probably read, Nicolas Cage has named his newborn son Kal-El Coppola Cage. Thus, in case you didn't know, Cage is nuts, and he's named his baby the Kryptonian name of Superman, whom Cage almost played in a movie once. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, when they have their baby, are going to have to reach deep into their Scientology craziness to come up with a name dumber than Kal-El. So here's this week's question: If you were a celebrity and could name your baby the most ridiculous thing possible and get away with it, what off-the-wall name would you give your baby? Try your level best not to ground the name in any kind of reality. Try to outdo Nicolas Cage.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

It's a start.

I used one of the resume kits on to post a makeshift resume online, which is a step forward for me that I suppose I should be happy about. It asked me for an objective statement, and I think I said that I wanted a job that - in describing it - I realized was both a longshot and something I didn't appear qualified to do. Still, the resume's out there.

How do you go about changing careers in the hope that you'll find something that you actually feel driven about doing? It's so weird for me to feel passionate about doing my bookstore job, but that's what's happened. I can de-stress about it because it's part-time. I can be confident about it because, at this point, I know the store and the way the store operates pretty well, and I get compliments from customers about my service.

But I don't know exactly how to take the next step forward in terms of "career goals." At this point, I'm uncertain about them.

I met this photographer named Gerard Lange at my store on Friday, and I went to see his work at this furniture store called City Issue. Some of the pieces were really good, so I e-mailed him something complimentary in regard to them, which spurred me to talk about art and think about art and discuss art in a manner I haven't since I went to the Tate in London.

Last night, I ended up talking with Scotty about art history for a good three hours, and he said that I "got" art in an impressive way. So this morning I called the Mary Pauline Gallery in Augusta, a place I used to frequent and cover for the newspaper there. And Molly the owner was glad to hear from me, though she couldn't understand why I would call her from out of the blue. And I honestly couldn't tell her.

But, in talking to her, I felt like my confident self, my ambitious self. I am capable of stating opinions without apology, capable of intelligent discussion without downplaying myself first.

I like that version of me. I want to get back to him. Such things are possible if you try.