Archive for the 'It’s All About Me' Category

My Favorite Boring Thing

When you’re young, anything short of a bikini-clad supermodel firing off an RPG into a Lamborghini is ultra-boring. Everything from your food (blue fruit roll-ups) to your clothes (yellow trousers) to your music (anything that rattles windows) has to be absolutely thrilling.

     What an exciting movie may look like.

When you get older, boring things start to become interesting. It starts small with gateway boring things like capers and Bergman films. Before you know it, you’re reading Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” and listening to Stravinsky. At this point, it’s all over for you. You enjoy boring things and there is no going back.

Now, I’m not talking about universally boring things like waiting in an airport or sitting through Sunday mass. I’m talking about boring things that millions of adults find absolutely riveting. There is only one defense for your favorite boring things: your boring things are much, much more interesting than other people’s boring things.

To that end, here are boring things that I find totally boring:

  Golf.

Symphony no2 in Dmaj by Johannes Brahms.

Frozen yogurt.

Now that I’ve outraged thousands of readers, it’s only fair that I come clean with boring things I really enjoy:

Tarkovsky films.

Roman history.

Black eyed peas.

But of all the boring things I enjoy, the most boring yet beloved of them all is…snooker.

How I view a thrilling evening.

It’s hard to explain. This British billiards game is inscrutable to those who don’t know the rules and dreadfully boring to those who do. Despite its  popularity in the UK and China, snooker has become a by-word for boring television.

So how can I possibly enjoy snooker?

Because there’s something devilish about it. Unlike most billiards games, snooker isn’t about potting balls in pockets. That’s only half the game. The other half is leaving the cue ball in a hopeless position for your opponent – snookering them. In fact, a good snooker will thrill the crowd like a well-potted ball. It’s the gall of it that makes me smile.

There’s something universally appealing about snooker. Just like every other sport, it’s human agency pushing against entropy to gain an advantage. It’s about precision and cleverness. And of course, luck. Like Fast Eddie said in The Color of Money: “The balls roll funny for everybody, kiddo.” You can do everything right, and sometimes you get hosed. You can do everything wrong and still pull off a home run.

So: since you people made me sit through boring shit like Phish concerts and Iron Man 3, you can sit back while I wax poetic about snooker.

Let’s begin.

This is the snooker table. To win, you pot balls to get the most points. Red balls are 1 point, and the other colored balls are shown with their point values. To score points, you must pot a red ball, then a colored ball, then a red ball, then a colored ball, etc. The red balls stay sunk, but colored balls are retrieved and placed back in their position on the table. You keep potting red balls and colored balls until there are no more red balls left on the table. At that point, you must sink all the colored balls in order: yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, black.

Simple, eh? Well, snooker tables are huge – 12ft by 6ft. Their pockets are very narrow. And the felt is fast as hell. The table is merciless. There is no room for error. This isn’t your local barroom table. Potting a ball on a snooker table is really damn hard. There are no easy shots. But that doesn’t even cover the best part.

When it’s your turn to play, you MUST make contact with a red ball. If you pot it, good for you. You MUST then make contact with a colored ball. If you sink it, hooray. But you MUST at least contact your object ball. If you hit the wrong ball or miss your object ball, your opponent gets points. So, if you cannot easily pot your object ball, you are best served making contact with it, then leaving the cue ball somewhere that utterly screws over your opponent: snooker them. (And yes: that’s where we get the term “I’ve been snookered!” when someone cheats you out of something.)

Snookered. Big time.

In the above image, our hero has already potted a red ball. He is now required to at least contact (if not pot) a colored ball. He CANNOT contact a red ball first. Look at him. He’s fucked. There’s no way he’s going to contact any colored ball. But he has to. These are the moments that make snooker great. Not because someone scored huge points or did something graceful. No. In snooker, you achieve greatness by making your opponent’s life hell.

People who enjoy snooker are looking for three things from a great player: the ability to pot balls, the ability to snooker their opponents into oblivion, and the ability to maintain their cool under immense pressure.

It’s as thrilling as pitching that final out, kicking that game-winning field goal, or defending the net as time runs out.

Snooker is awesome.

 FUCK YEAH SNOOKER IS AWESOME!

So there you have it: my favorite boring thing. – snooker. Yeah, I sometimes fall asleep watching it. But more often I am glued to the screen, watching every brilliant pot, every fiendish snooker, every smirk from the vanquished foe. My boring thing is way better than your boring thing. :0)

 

 

The Mountain Goat Incident

Rainbow over Rainier: a portent of danger!

In July 2003, my friend John and I went on a an overnight trip to Spray Park, a flowery alpine area on the northwest flank of Mount Rainier. We went for the wildflowers, the glaciers and the beautiful landscape. Little did I know it would bring me face to face with mortal danger!

The hike in was wonderful. Clear skies and pleasant temperatures made the strenuous ascent a little easier. We passed up through the treeline, past waterfalls and alpine glory.

The requisite waterfall shot.

Eventually, we broke through the trees and found ourselves on the glaciated flanks of Mount Rainier. We were lucky to find a perfect campsite adjoining the glacier. We had a clear, flat area and access to water. We spent the evening shooting photos, playing songs on our kalimbas and watching the golden hour of sunset pass over the top of the world.

Sun sets before Rainier, which stands reflected in our little camp pond.

The night went by without incident, but John was taken ill. He caught some kind of nasty cold. The next morning, he put down some coffee and biscuits but informed me had no energy to continue up the mountain. There was a plaque at the top of Observation Rock (the rock jutting up on the right in the above photo). The exact elevation at that point is 8,364 feet and I thought it would be a cool idea to climb up there and see if my fancy new altimeter wristwatch was really accurate.

I would have to do it alone.

Approaching Echo Rock.

My plan was to head straight out of camp, then hug the glaciated area along the base of Echo Rock. I would then follow the gently rising slope in the upper center of this photo to Observation Rock. I wanted to hug Echo Rock because the ascent was easier and the shadowed area had firmer snow on it. Up I went.

Once I got to the shadowed area at the base of Echo Rock, they appeared…

MOUNTAIN GOATS!

A herd of mountain goats appeared over the scree above Observation Rock and headed right toward me! The digital zoom on my lousy camera could not do justice to the apprehensive atmosphere they created. They were marching right toward me!

Like most city folk, I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for dealing with mountain goats in the wild. Do you run? Do you puff out your chest and make noise? Do you climb a tree? What? I had no idea. So I just kept my mouth shut and hoped they’d walk past me. They didn’t.

Closer and closer they came!

They crossed the glacier and moved just above me. Here you can see the Alpha Goat regarding me with disdain. It was at this point things got really weird. The Alpha Goat bellowed to his flock: “Follow me! We will destroy this intruder!”

And so began the onslaught. These enormous beasts sidled past me and climbed up the scree above me on Echo Rock. At first I thought they would simply climb up and away from me. I was wrong.

Once the entire herd had mounted the scree, they started kicking rocks down onto me! I had to side step, duck and leap like a running back. Huge rocks bounced up all around me, many nearly clipping my head. I had nowhere to run. I backed off, but that’s where the rocks seemed to be landing. If I stayed forward, they mostly bounced over my head. And besides, I was afraid the whole herd would rush me if I ran.

An enraged goat grimaces at me mockingly.

I was unable to capture photos of the actual rocks flying at me because:

  • I was busy leaping, ducking and sidestepping.
  • I was in fear for my life.
  • Fuck the camera! I had bigger problems.

But I did pull out my camera a couple times to get fast, lousy photos of the goats. My hands were trembling, which didn’t help. However, I got a few more shots off. This one was the most shocking:

A baby goat forced into homicidal rage.

Most of the goats – about 15 of them – were kicking rocks down at me. But the baby mountain goat refused to engage in the cruelty. I continually moved below the baby goat because it was the safest place to be.  Then, one of the goats ambled over to the baby and started head-butting it and bleating loudly at it. He was saying “Kick rocks at the human or consequences will be severe!”

To my horror, the baby goat complied and kicked a few small rocks at me!  The rotten turncoat bastard!

An angry goat sizes me up closely.

The cavalcade of scree started to slow down. I had evaded their reign of terror. The goats now knew I was made of sterner stuff than they had expected. As the rock attack abated, I got off one more “angry goat” photo and started backing away slowly.

To my relief, the herd dismounted the scree just above me and started back up the glacier, curving out and around Echo Rock.

I stood victorious as the failed assassination broke up and the goats fled.

I took some very long breaths that morning as the goats gave up and headed back up the glacier. I didn’t know it, but far below my friend John was watching the whole thing from his telephoto lens. He was prepared to mount up and haul me off if I had gotten beaned by a big rock. I was in good shape back in 2003 and my 20-mile-a-week jogging habit had served me well. The five aspects of fitness: strength-endurance-speed-balance-flexibity. You need all five at times like these!

Off they go in search of a weaker human.

After they were gone, I took a few minutes to collect myself. I was uninjured, but I was still a bit shaky. I sat down on a rock and looked across the glacier. Just ahead was Observation Rock. The whole damn point was to climb up that stupid rock and I wasn’t about to turn around now. Not after all this shit.

I decided to get my act together and scamper up the rock.

Observation Rock beckons!

The hike across the glacier and up the rock was uneventful. But once at the top, I found I was not alone. Two Irishmen – Fergil and Tim – who were touring the North Cascades had been up there for some time. They offered me hot tea and snacks, which I greedily consumed.

Fergil sorts his gear.

I didn’t mention anything about the recent incident. Instead, I mentioned my cool new altimeter watch. I needed to see the plaque and see if the numbers matched. We jumped over to the plaque and I was pleasantly surprised to see that my watch was only off by about 10 feet. My sea-level calibrations had proved accurate!

We all sat down and quietly enjoyed the day when Fergil finally mentioned, with typical Irish understatement, “Bit o’ goat trouble back there, eh?”

I smiled. “Yeah”.

Then we all broke up laughing. They had watched the whole thing from Observation Rock. Apparently, I looked like a real fool jumping, ducking and sidestepping the goat rock attack. Yeah, laugh it up. It’s different when it’s your ass on the line against an enraged baby goat!

The boys and I loaded up. They were heading around the west of the mountain and I was heading down. They took a photo of me and we went our separate ways.

A rare photo of your humble narrator in the wild.

John was glad to see me back at camp. I told him everything that happened. I think he found the whole thing adventurous and was sorry he wasn’t there, but I put his mind at ease and assured him it was much uncooler than it looked and sounded.

We broke camp and headed back down to civilization. On the way I got a few nice photos.

In the end, adventure can be sought but sometimes it is thrust upon you. Be ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Fucking Movies

Enjoying yourselves? Fuckers?

I really love movies. I love ’em so much, I sometimes call them “film”, like a snob.

But I don’t go to the movies anymore. Once in a great while, a friend will cajole me into going, and I’ll go. But inevitably I’ll be distracted and irritated and want to leave, especially if I’m interested in the film. I sometimes think I’m the only person in the theater interested in watching (and hearing) the film.

Let’s recap why going to the movie theater sucks ass:

Mouth-Breathing Idiots


Two classes of these cretins exist: those who blatantly disrupt a film, and those who “whisper” about every event unfolding on the screen.

The former is easily handled: you tell them to shut the fuck up before you and your entire row of people rain blows down upon their heads. This works sometimes; other times it will shut them up for only 10 minutes, whereupon the threats must escalate and the film is now second fiddle to the real action.

The latter is more common. It happens when an idiot family from the idiot part of the county comes to watch a film slightly more complex than “Cars 2”. As the film begins and we see foreshadowing, they immediately begin whispering loudly to each other:

“Didja see that, Elmer? I bet she gonna cause him some troubles!”
“Ya think so? But she’s Cameron goddamn Diaz!”
“Don’t matter none! I can tell she’s gonna be the cause of all this trouble later on!”
“If’n ya really think so! But I’m not so sure about that there fella from the FBI, neither!”
“No! The FBI guy ain’t the killer! He woulda hafta been two places at once doncha think?”

This goes on throughout the entire film. And there is no remedy as the idiots will claim they were being quiet and minding their own business. Your only hope is to move out of earshot or leave and wait for the DVD.

I have beheld the latter type of Mouth-Breathing Idiots so often that I’m actually amazed when they don’t appear next to me.

Crying Babies

Look who's enjoying "Salò, the 120 Days of Sodom"!

This one used to haunt me like a nightmare. In the 1990’s, it got so bad that I bet one of my friends that I’d have a screaming baby next to me, guaranteed. We went to the movie and left early. I was $20 richer.

Some sort of backlash must have occurred because baby meltdowns at the movies are kinda rare nowadays. If you go to a comic book movie or a kids film, you should expect a few snot-nosed brats raising a ruckus. But the onslaught of brats at R-rated films has dropped in recent years.  I’m hoping it’s because dullard breeders were shamed from such behavior. If parents think that’s unfair, they should either drug their brats into a catatonic stupor or try being more thoughtful about their reproductive habits.

Mastication

No, not masturbation. Most masturbators are quieter than the slack-jawed bovines who down quarts of popcorn and soda or wrestle with a noisy plastic wrapper for 40 fucking minutes. What’s being said in the film? Who knows? All I can hear is crunch-munch-munch-munch, slurpy-derpy-slurp and rustle-ristle-rustle-ristle. I think they said something about needing to escape the office building in order to find the guy who was…oh, I dunno. It’s all just a bunch of noise. Who can hear anything?

OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!!!!

Ka-FLOOM!

And when I’m not losing the plot because of all the noise being made by the perfumed hogs who surround me, I’m being deafened by the Hollywood soundtrack. If a character sets a mug of coffee onto a glass table, it has to land with a loud ker-CHLINK! noise that has been compressed and signal-gained eighteen fucking times before being inserted into the scene.

Ker-FLAAMM!! Buh-ZZZHINGGG! Ka-WOOM...WOom...woom...

And if the action really heats up? You’ll need ear plugs to shield you from the head-splitting noises generated by another idiotic car chase or Michael Bay explosion. At these moments, even the popcorn munchers are drowned out. And everything that happens MUST have an accompanying low-frequency rumble to make your groin vibrate. If there is no low rumbling noise, then the movie must be boring and we should all just listen to the popcorn munchers.

 Comfort

My ass hurts. Ass. Hurts.

As a person with chronic back pain, I have to take into account how much money in medical bills I’ll have to pay after sitting in a tired, scummy, beaten-up old movie theater seat for the 30 minutes of commercials, 20 minutes of previews and 2 hours of film I must endure.

I can’t hit the “pause” button and stretch my legs. I am a prisoner here. I must listen to the munchers, endure the ker-FLOOM noises and wriggle in my seat as my ass screams for mercy. Why did I come here again?

Advertisements

I paid $11.00 to watch this?

You have two options once you’ve committed to go to the movie theater:
1. Go in early, get a good seat and endure 20 minutes of television commercials.
2. Go late, get a lousy seat, miss the commercials and watch 20 minutes of previews.

There is no other option. Despite the fact you’ve paid a premium for a seat, burned gasoline to get there, endured a long line to buy a ticket and plumped down next to some popcorn-munching behemoth who smells like a Malaysian garbage dump, you STILL have to endure commercial advertising. Why? BECAUSE HOLLYWOOD SAYS SO.

Hollywood

Finally, there’s the content. I’m like anybody else. I enjoy watching spectacles on the big screen. At this point, that’s only reason I’d ever attend a public screening. If a movie intends to intrigue me intellectually, it can’t do so in a movie theater. May as well go straight to DVD (which is what most foreign films and independent films do anyway).

"It's Jim Carrey in...whatever. You'll pay to go see it. Fuck you."

I have no idea how mainstream America continues to line up for Jim Carrey comedies and stupid revenge films and all the “two women struggling against all odds in a world they didn’t make” movies. Somehow, these films make bank at the box office. I’d sooner shoot myself in the face than sit through that crap, but I guess that’s why the movie theaters are what they are: halls of consumption for the lumpenproletariat.

Will people eventually flee the blockbuster theater experience for the more civilized art house scene? I doubt it, and that’s a good thing.