Saturday, February 28, 2009

Black History Month is almost over. I'd better make this quick.

Chicago's Black Ensemble Theatre has previously produced musical revues like Memphis Soul: The Story of Stax Records and I Am Who I Am: The Teddy Pendergrass Story (Pendergrass was listed as "the late soul star" in the Chicago Reader in the fall of 2007 in its one-sentence preview of the play—I promise I would've caught that if it had come across my desk). Their latest production is I Gotcha: The Story of Joe Tex and the Soul Clan, which focuses on the Texas-born soul singer, born Joseph Arrington Jr., and fellow "Soul Clan" performers Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett, and Solomon Burke. Unlike Pendergrass, Tex really is "late"—he died in 1982 at the age of 49.

The song of his I know best is "I Gotcha," a stomp-and-shout firecracker from 1972 whose chorus was borrowed by rapper Def Jef for 1989's "Give It Here." I love "I Gotcha," but it's one of the most sexually aggressive songs I've ever heard, as is "Give It Here." The object of affection should get a restraining order, but while she's waiting for the judge to grant one, a can of Mace will suffice. Here are the lyrics:

I gotcha (Uh-huh, huh)
Ya thought I didn't see ya, now didn't ya? (Uh-huh, huh)
Ya tried to sneak by me, now didn't ya? (Uh-huh, huh)
Now give me what you promised me
Give it here, come on!

You promised me the day that you quit your boyfriend
I'd be the next one to ease on in
You promised me it would be just us two
And I'd be the only man kissin' on you

Now kiss me
Hold it a long time, hold it
Don't turn it loose now, hold it
A little bit longer, now hold it
Come on
Hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it
Now ease up for me

You made me a promise and you're gonna stick to it
You shouldn't have promised if you wudn't gonna do it
You saw me and ran in another direction
I'll teach you to play with my affection

Now give it here
You never shoulda promised to me
Give it here
Don't hold back now
Give it here
Don't say nothin', just give it here
Come on
Give it here, give it here, give it here, give it here
Give it to me now, good God, hey, I gotcha!

Any man can understand the frustration of being teased along by a woman who hints you're next in line, then reneges on the deal. (A guy like Prince Charles understands it in a different way.) But once it's clear your oral contract isn't going to be honored, you have to move on. You can't threaten her. You can't call her names. You can write a song about her, and it doesn't hurt if you make it irresistibly funky, but keep the sexual menace to a minimum. Otherwise you're no better than the Jonas Brothers. Sure, they appear squeaky clean on the surface, but with a song title like "Live to Party," you know they're trouble. (They haven't covered "I Gotcha" yet, but they do cover Shania Twain's "I'm Gonna Getcha Good" on their latest album, Music from the 3D Concert Experience.)

Eddie Murphy used to joke that Teddy Pendergrass "scares the bitches into liking him" with his forceful baritone, but it's not a foolproof method. I would ask Teddy what his secret is, but I read somewhere that he died. (I gotcha.)

compact men

Last night on TV I saw 1989's Leviathan, which stars Peter Weller (RoboCop, Naked Lunch) and Richard Crenna and is essentially Alien transferred to an underwater setting. The screenplay is credited to David Webb Peoples and Jeb Stuart; Peoples cowrote science fiction classics like Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys and wrote Clint Eastwood's Best Picture winner Unforgiven, and Stuart's screenwriting credits include Die Hard and The Fugitive. But from what I saw last night, Leviathan isn't in the same league as those movies. In fact, it's 20,000 leagues lower. (Oh, hush. You knew that was coming.) It was directed by the late George P. Cosmatos, who had previously helmed the Sylvester Stallone blow-'em-ups Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra, so maybe he's the one to blame.

I've heard that most leading men are around 5'8". In Leviathan there's a shot where you see Weller walking toward the camera, and I got the feeling he wasn't that tall. Then I remembered walking past him in Chicago two years ago when he was starring as Frank Lloyd Wright in Frank's Home at the Goodman Theatre. I noticed he was my height. And I'm not tall. Therefore I should be a leading man.

I've also heard that many movie stars appear to have larger heads than the average nobody if you see them in person; I can't remember Weller's head looking that big as I walked past him, but on screen it's quite an impressive orb. On the fifth season of 24, in 2006, it looked even larger now that his hairline has receded. Side note: Did you know Weller earned his master's degree in Renaissance Art History in 2004 from Syracuse University and has taught a class there on "Hollywood and the Roman Empire"?

At the end of Leviathan, Ernie Hudson, a.k.a. the black Ghostbuster, is one of the three crew members who survives the monster attack. When he reached the surface with Weller and Amanda Pays (who plays a character named Elizabeth "Willie" Williams—it's important to amp up the homoerotic quotient in action movies by giving "the girl" a male-sounding nickname) after they'd blown up their underwater mining station and escaped, I thought, "Good for the black character surviving all the way to the end. That's rare in bad horror movies." But since it is a bad horror movie made in the '80s, of course there's one last attack. I was in the other room when it happened, but when I returned Hudson was no longer there, so the monster must've gotten him. You're never safe, black characters. President Obama, please address this problem.

Here's something I wasn't expecting at the very end of the movie, though: Weller and Pays are approached by a haughty female executive (Meg Foster) who tells them how glad she is they survived. Without having seen her earlier in the film, I knew she was there to fill the slot of the Paul Reiser character from 1986's Aliens, who values money over people. I jokingly said to the screen, "Punch her!" And Weller did! I was kidding, you jerk! At least let "the girl" punch her. Short guys like Peter and me are still angry these days (why is this stupid post taking me so long to fact-check?!), but 20 years after Leviathan there are at least fewer scenes of men punching women in mainstream Hollywood movies.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I love the Oscars!

I love them so much, in fact, that I finally finished watching last year's telecast a few seconds before midnight last night. Now I have plenty of time to catch up on other important business before this year's— ... oh, right ... it's tonight.

I do love the Oscars. Actually, "love" is too strong—I like the Oscars. I used to be obsessed with movies and wanted to make them and be in them, so I did look forward to the Oscar telecast every year from, say, eighth grade (1990) to my senior year of college (1998). But my obsession faded after college, so now I watch the Oscars for ... the suspense? No, that can't be it; I can't think of any big surprises that have happened since Roman Polanski won for The Pianist in 2003. I do watch for the speeches the older I get, and I even tear up a little when I hear some of them. (I promised myself I wouldn't cry like Paul Sorvino when I typed that, but look at me now!) Not the speeches where the winner almost loses it onstage and gives the impression that his or her life had no meaning until this very moment, like James Cameron (Best Director, 1998) and Halle Berry (Best Actress, 2002) did when they won. I'm talking about the speeches where there's genuine emotion on display that the winner is embarrassed to be showing but can't help it, like when Diablo Cody won for Best Original Screenplay last night— I mean, last year. I shouldn't tear up, but I do.

I also like speeches like the one Best Supporting Actress winner Tilda Swinton gave last year, where she teased George Clooney about wearing his old Batman costume under his Michael Clayton suits. She was having a good time and enjoying herself; the only thing being validated that night was her limo's parking stub. I also enjoyed Joel and Ethan Coen's two acceptance speeches for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director(s)—it seems to me that if you watch the Oscars every year and you know how long some speeches can go but you also know how frustrating it can be to see multiple winners for awards like Best Sound Editing get cut off by the orchestra two seconds after they step up to the microphone, then the best thing to do is just say "thank you" like Ethan Coen did.

I read in the New York Times last month that the telecast's new producers, Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, the director and producer of Dreamgirls (2006), respectively, wanted to shake things up this year (last year's ceremony was pretty dull, in spite of host Jon Stewart) by allowing more room for "mistakes," or unexpected moments. One of their examples was Network screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky coming onstage in 1977 to accept Peter Finch's posthumous award for Best Actor but deciding at that moment that Finch's wife, who was in the audience, should accept it instead, which must've thrown off the show's director and cameramen.

I haven't read yet who will be accepting Heath Ledger's award for Best Supporting Actor tonight if he wins, which seems likely. According to Roger Ebert in Friday's Chicago Sun-Times, his partner on TV for two decades, the late Gene Siskel, once said that when the Academy voters cast their ballots, they're essentially scripting the Oscar telecast. "It's hard for them to resist certain nominees because they know how dramatic it would be if they won." There's no suspense in Ledger winning, but if he does, it will be dramatic.

He's not the only posthumous nominee: Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack both died last year as well, and they're nominated for Best Picture as two of the four producers of The Reader, but no one expects it to win in that category. Some critics seem angry that it's even nominated or that Kate Winslet got a Best Actress nod for it instead of Revolutionary Road, which has also gotten mixed reviews. I haven't seen either film, but I do know that Minghella and Pollack have good taste and good instincts for quality material, and it must be some sort of record that The Reader's director, Stephen Daldry, has directed three movies so far in his career (2000's Billy Elliot and 2002's The Hours are the others) and been nominated for Best Director for all of them. The Reader marks the final nominations for Minghella and Pollack, of course, but it's Pollack's second nomination for Best Picture in two years—last year he was nominated for producing Michael Clayton, which he also starred in alongside Swinton and Clooney.

I'm curious to see how Hugh Jackman will fare as host. I'm actually looking forward to the first time since I've been watching regularly that a current or former stand-up comedian won't be the emcee. I'm also looking forward to being home to watch the Oscars for the first time since 2003—I've had to tape the show each year since 2005 because of Sunday-night performances or rehearsals, and as you can see, sometimes it takes me a while to actually watch the thing. (In 2004 I watched the Oscars with some friends, but they weren't that interested in it. Good thing I taped the show that year as well so I could see what I missed the next day.)

I'm looking forward to one other thing, but I expect to be disappointed: You know how nearly every time a winner finishes saying "thank you" and begins to walk offstage, he or she turns to the left instead of the right and runs into the presenter and the statuesque Oscar-statue model, who then redirect him or her to the "correct" exit? Why don't the people in charge just switch sides and let the winners go left? Clearly that's the natural instinct in a situation where you're disoriented and fumbling with your words, whether you're winning an Oscar or explaining to a one-night stand whose name you can't remember that you'll call her tomorrow. You and I would go left too if we were winning an Oscar, but luckily most of us on this planet will never have to worry about that sort of thing.

But now that I think about it, maybe it's a symbolic thing. Hollywood, after all, is a liberal town, so going left comes naturally to most of its inhabitants. Now I'm kicking myself for having erased the 1993 and 2005 Oscars—I can't see if two-time Best Director winner Clint Eastwood ended his victory speeches by moving immediately and proudly to the right.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The quality of salvation depends on the savior.

I can't remember how I came into possession of this at the Chicago Reader before I was laid off last month, but I have in front of me a list of the Alternative Weekly Archives the paper used to maintain, i.e. the alt-weeklies they kept each week and the ones they threw out after receiving them in the mail. In the "Don't Save" column is Atlanta's Creative Loafing, and the list is dated February 24, 1998, exactly nine years and five months before Creative Loafing, Inc. bought the Reader. The Tampa-based company filed for bankruptcy protection last September, and its case has remained in bankruptcy court ever since.

Don't tell Steve Guttenberg about my blog. (I'm just being coy. Please do!)

There was a movie on TV last night called The Boyfriend School. However, that's just its cable/video title and the name of the Sarah Bird novel it's based on—when it came out in theaters (briefly) in the fall of 1990, it was called Don't Tell Her It's Me. The revised title threw me.

"Don't Tell Your Boyfriend He's Watching a Steve Guttenberg Movie" features the Reagan-era superstar as Gus, an overweight cartoonist and Hodgkin's disease survivor whose hair hasn't grown back from the chemotherapy yet. His sister, Lizzie (Shelley Long, probably regretting her decision to leave Cheers by this point), is a romance novelist who wants him to start dating again, so when a pretty magazine writer named Emily (Jami Gertz) interviews her for a story, she invites Emily and Gus over for dinner so they can meet. Magical screen chemistry between the Gute and the Gertz does not ensue.

"Don't Tell Anyone This Movie Is on Their Resum├ęs" is a typical romantic comedy, with the Gertz not being interested in the Gute at first because he's fat and hairless. But once Long, sporting a red dye job, turns him into a chopper-riding, blue-contact-lens-wearing, hair-extensions-sporting, New-Zealand-accent-affecting hunk, the Gertz can't wait to get in his pants, even though she already has an on-again, off-again boyfriend—her editor, Trout (only in the movies ...), played by Kyle MacLachlan. Too bad Trout's a typical movie jerk who's cheating on the Gertz with Madchen Amick, the hot young thang at the office. (MacLachlan and Amick were both cast members on ABC's Twin Peaks when Don't Tell Her It's Me was released, but this movie is a long way from David Lynch country.)

Emily doesn't know it's Gus when she first sees "Gus 2.0" since he's no longer wearing a bald cap and a fat suit. She also apparently has no clue what an authentic New Zealand accent sounds like, because the Gute's is terrible! All you had to do was effectively fake an Australian accent and she wouldn't have known the difference, Gute. You're lucky she's so sheltered.

Gus eventually tells Emily his true identity, but only after he sleeps with her. High five, Gus! After all, he probably hadn't had sex since before he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's, and even before that he probably wasn't attracting the attention of women who looked like the Gertz did in the late '80s. Every man could use a Shelley Long-supervised makeover.

"Don't Tell Me How This Movie Ends in Case I Ever Want to Rent It" ends with the Gertz rushing to the airport to stop the Gute from leaving town. (C'mon, you know you're never going to rent it.) You've seen it all a million times before, though at least it's revealed that Gus is simply leaving town for the weekend to attend a friend's wedding; that redeems the stock romantic-comedy ending somewhat.

When I was in a film-school program during my freshman year of college, I couldn't think of an ending for the romantic comedy I was trying to write for a class, when it suddenly hit me that the protagonist should chase down his girlfriend at the airport in Chicago. Genius! Why I didn't realize what a giant cliche that already was, I have no idea. (I don't think I knew back then that there are two airports in Chicago. My research wasn't painstaking, to say the least.) But at least my screenwriting teacher said, "I'm glad you're not writing a road-trip comedy about three friends finding themselves. I've heard too many of those pitches already." Score one for the 19-year-old writer with no life experience!

The most interesting thing about "Don't Tell Me You're Still Talking About This Movie," at least in my opinion, is that it was filmed in Charleston, South Carolina. Dude, I've been there! Several times! I've even been to the Charleston International Airport. I totally recognized it, dude!

I missed the beginning of the movie the first time it was on (yep, I made sure I caught the rerun), so I didn't hear Long's character mention Charleston, but as soon as I saw her house and the Gertz's, I thought, "These look like southern homes." Do the locals still speak of the Gute's hair extensions in hushed tones? I asked my friend Beau, who's lived there since the late '90s, but he says no. I think he's just too embarrassed to admit it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pandas are hot.

I receive an e-mail each week from All Music Guide about new releases, and it appears that Hot Panda has a new LP out this week called Volcano ... Bloody Volcano. Who's Hot Panda, you ask? Who cares! AMG says they're a Canadian band, but all I care about is that pandas are hot hot hot right now! I'll spare you any "panda-monium" jokes, but— oh, who am I kidding, no I won't ... IT'S TOTAL PANDA-MONIUM RIGHT NOW!!!!!! (I need something, anything to take my mind off the economy.)

Kung Fu Panda grossed $215 million last summer, and a sequel is planned for 2011. But the animated film did cause some controversy in China last year. On July 8 a blogger named Mu wrote on, "Although the 'theft' of the Chinese symbol of the panda gives us pain, at least it makes the Chinese movie industry consider why we are always one step behind in globalizations [sic] war of creation." Creation. (Hunh!) Good God, y'all, what is it good for? Well, it's helped give evolution a run for its money in religious debates, but aside from that, absolutely nothing.

Last November the Associated Press reported that a Chinese college student jumped the fence of a panda's habitat in Qixing Park, a tourist attraction in the town of Guilin, "hoping to get a hug." The panda, Yang Yang, bit the 20-year-old student in the arms and legs. As the student later explained in the hospital, "Yang Yang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him. I didn't expect he would attack." The AP didn't say if the student was drunk when he went for the hug or if he was still drunk when he spoke to the press in the hospital, but I guarantee there are easier ways to impress your frat brothers, no matter what hemisphere you live in.

The AP report continues: "Last year, a panda at the Beijing Zoo attacked a teenager, ripping chunks out of his legs, when he jumped a barrier while the bear was being fed. The same panda was in the news in 2006 when he bit a drunken tourist who broke into his enclosure and tried to hug him while he was asleep. The tourist retaliated by biting the bear in the back."

That panda's name is Gu Gu, and according to an AP article from September of 2006, "Zhang Xinyan, from the central province of Henan, drank four jugs of beer at a restaurant near the zoo before visiting Gu Gu." When he touched the panda it bit him on the right leg, which made him angry, so he kicked the panda, which then bit his other leg. That's when Zhang put his teeth in Gu Gu's back. As he told the Beijing Morning Post, "Its skin was quite thick."

Zhang had seen pandas on TV before and noticed that "they seemed to get along well with people." This is true, but once the cameras are off they're like Christian Bale all of a sudden if you don't leave them alone. You can't buy into the lie these pandas perpetrate when they're acting. Besides, many people—and animals—don't like to be hugged by strangers. If your hug is refused, don't get angry about it. Just walk away. If that person or animal is famous, like Gu Gu, you can retaliate later on your blog by saying what a jerk the celebrity was.

"No one ever said they would bite people," Zhang told the Beijing Youth Daily. "I just wanted to touch it." But, he added, "I was so dizzy from the beer. I don't remember much." In Zhang's defense, I said the same thing after attending a midnight "brew 'n' view" screening of Kung Fu Panda last summer with my four-year-old niece. Or was it WALL-E? Like I said ... (Gu Gu struck again last month when a man jumped in his pen to retrieve his son's toy. Tools had to be used to remove Gu Gu's jaws from the man's legs. The lesson? The kid eventually would've stopped screaming about his toy. It was probably only worth a couple bucks, which won't cover the hospital bills for permanent ligament damage.)

In July we received a press release at my former job for Chicago author Jian Ping's Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. It says that one of the "compelling themes" of the book is "the triumph of breaking the chains of conformity and embracing free thought and independence." Yes! That's exactly what those panda huggers were doing! Of course they couldn't have broken those chains of conformity without the help of alcohol, so it's particularly interesting that Mulberry Child's author "works as National Director/Tsingtao Beer for the US importer of the brand. Her business dealings with the Tsingtao Brewery has taken her back and forth to China several times a year for twenty years, keeping her abreast with the development of China today and in close contact with her family members." It's also kept her in close contact with drinkers like Zhang and that college student, who clearly owe Jian Ping a debt of gratitude for their newfound free thinking, if not their scars.

(Side note: I would've called her "Ms. Ping" just then, but is she "Ms. Jian" if she lives in the U.S. now? I've never been sure about the proper use of Chinese surnames, and the press release for Mulberry Child is no help: it calls her "Jian Ping" over and over again. I wish people would call me "Robert Cass" whenever they address me, the way athletes like Rickey Henderson have addressed themselves in third person whenever they're being interviewed.)

(Side note #2: The name of this blog, Mulberry Panda 96, has nothing to do with China. It's a combination of three things that hold sentimental value for me, but Kung Fu Panda did come out on June 6, or 6/6, last year, and if you turn a 6 counterclockwise it becomes a 9. If you want to give me credit for saying China is repeatedly turning back the clock on progress, go right ahead, but I have noticed that a 9 and a 6 side by side look like yin and yang going their own way instead of chasing each other's tails.)

After the Olympics ended in August, Time magazine's Simon Elegant (now there's a name that should be repeated in full whenever he's addressed) wrote about Chinese society being at a potential turning point, noting that during the Olympics a Chinese biweekly magazine named Southern Window had this headline on its August 11 cover: "Rule of Law Starts with Limitation of Power." Simon Elegant (see?) commented that in China a headline like that is "almost revolutionary."

The same IMDB news item from July that mentioned the "war on creation" comment on reported that a cultural-affairs committee in China's parliament had concluded "the government ought to relax its oversight" on film production in the country; only then can films like Kung Fu Panda be made there. Maybe, but how many feature-length animated films has China produced? Hasn't it accomplished much more in the realm of human rights violations? (I kid, I kid. Put the bamboo down.)

I'd be happy if they simply allowed filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai to create whatever they please, because Wong's Chungking Express (1994), which was made in Hong Kong just a few years before the UK gave control of the territory back to China, is one of my favorite films. I saw it for the first time in the spring of '97, a year after its initial American release (thanks to the efforts of Quentin Tarantino, a fan of Wong's movies) but only a few months before the July 1 handover of Hong Kong to China. It's one of the best romances I've seen, even though it doesn't feature any pandas, animated or otherwise, or panda biters, drunk or otherwise.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Blart No Blunder: B.O. Boffo! (Hire me, Variety.)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop was the number-one movie in America for two weekends in a row before falling to second place last weekend. I don’t think anybody predicted it would land on top its first week, let alone its second.

Its PG rating probably helped, bringing in parents who might’ve stayed away from the kind of movies the film’s producer, Adam Sandler, usually stars in. But Sandler scored a family hit over the holidays starring in Bedtime Stories ($108 million and counting), and since Will Smith faltered with the drama Seven Pounds ($69 million; A.O. Scott of the New York Times said it's "among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made"), does that mean Sandler is now the biggest movie star in the world? I believe it does. However, his last PG-13-rated comedy, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, barely crossed the $100 million finish line last summer (final gross: $100,018,837), which means his next comedy not designed for the kiddies needs to top it in order to keep the box office analysts off his back.

Paul Blart’s success also has something to do with its star, Kevin James, who costarred with Sandler in 2007’s gay-panic comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and costarred with Smith in 2005’s Hitch. He was still doing his long-running CBS sitcom The King of Queens when Hitch came out; its nine-season run ended two months before Chuck and Larry was released. That show is now on TV every day thanks to syndication. So people know who Kevin James is. And they appear to like him.

“In these tough, recession-laden times, you’d think people wouldn’t want a movie that’s based around a mall, but they totally do,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the president of box-office tracking firm Media by Numbers, in an Associated Press roundup of the top movies the week Paul Blart was released. Now, I might not want to see a movie about people working in a mall that’s dying one storefront at a time, because that sounds depressing, but I don’t think people will mind paying to see a movie based in a mall that isn’t about to close. Everybody likes watching movies about rich people, especially if they become poor before getting their money back, but even if they stay rich the whole time, that’s fine—we escape at movies, and we’d rather be a fly on the wall of some rich jerk’s life than someone more like ourselves, whose bathroom fixtures aren’t nearly as fancy.

Besides, Paul Blart is a movie about a fat guy. “Fatty fall down” is funny to lots of people. If Adam Sandler’s friend and former Saturday Night Live castmate Chris Farley were still alive, he’d be playing this role, not Kevin James. Besides, the main character’s last name rhymes with “fart.” What do I gotta do, draw a map for you, Dergarabedian?!

To be fair, Dergarabedian is quoted every single weekend by the Associated Press for analysis on why the #1 movie is #1 instead of #5, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s too tired to give a good answer sometimes. In the summer of ’06, when
Superman Returns was released to solid opening-day numbers, he said something like “People really seem to be in the mood to see superheroes right now.” They’re also in the mood to get out of the house and, with any luck, shut their kids up for a few hours. You’re not telling me anything I don’t know, Paul!

Of course, the Associated Press shouldn’t quote him if he has nothing worth quoting, but that’s not Dergarabedian’s fault. If nothing else, his last name keeps proofreaders on their toes, so in that sense he provides a much more valuable service than anyone whose name rhymes with “fart.”

Speaking of malls, back in November I was curious to see if I could find anything online about Record Bar, a former chain of record stores that had a spot at the Macon Mall when I was growing up in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Thanks to Wikipedia, it's easy to feel like everything from your past is just a few clicks away on your computer (well, not everything, but that's what Facebook is for—it allows you to voluntarily invade your own privacy and share pictures and memories from high school that had previously been offline for a very good reason), but there was hardly anything on the Internet about Record Bar.

However, I did find a blog post from August of '06 that's written by a former employee. The comments under his eight short paragraphs stretch into 2009. It’s fun to see former coworkers reconnect after many years apart and share their memories from the '70s and '80s, though a sentence in one of the comments speaks to the dangers of nostalgia: "Sigh, it kinda makes me sad." Coming down from a nostalgia high can be a bitch, especially if your life now doesn't quite resemble the dreams of your teens and 20s. But living up to those dreams is a tall order for anyone. For one thing, those dreams were concocted by someone with the metabolism of a hummingbird. Don't blame yourself—your body, like your government, gave you false hope.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop, you’ll be lucky if you’re remembered as fondly as Record Bar is 30 years from now. Now fall down again, fatty. I need a good laugh.

once underfoot, now six feet under

During my freshman year of college 14 years ago, my friend Julianne would occasionally mail me an advice column from an alt-weekly newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, where she attended the College of Charleston. The paper's name was Doormat, and the column was called Dear Doormat. The questions were supposedly real, but the answers were always sarcastic, so once you figured out the gag you had to be a masochist to ask for advice. Then again, people still make fools of themselves on The Daily Show nearly 13 years after it debuted, because some people will do anything to get on TV. Or, in Doormat's case, see their words in print.

Here's a question printed in Dear Doormat during the 1994-'95 school year:

Dear Doormat,

I'm hooked up to the internet and I'm currently surfing the network. Could please publish your e-mail address for easy access?


The reply was:

Dear On-Line,

We don't do internet. Fax you.

For what it's worth, Doormat no longer exists, though I have no idea if it was another casualty of the Internet age or not.

To protect the innocent (though he is guilty of mediocre writing), I won't name the author of a Doormat column from November of '94 in which he listed the things he is and isn't thankful for. It's typical of college-newspaper op-eds, at least from when I was an undergrad: "I am thankful for all talented musicians who put passion into their work and are able to communicate it to those who listen. I am not thankful for uninspired dorks with instruments who should know who they are, but are probably too stupid."

He continues: "I am thankful for the modern technology that appeared as I grew up, such as remote control, VCRs, Compact Discs, and personal computers. But I am really not thankful for any modern technology since 1988, especially 'advances' that use the following terms: internet, on-line, superhighway and cyber-space. The same goes for Virtual Reality. Isn't Reality Reality complicated enough?"

But technology seems to have changed so rapidly since '94 that I'd imagine there's a ten-year-old somewhere in the world right now saying, "Now I can program the DVR with my phone? I just learned how to program the DVR period." Then again, probably not—I'm just old. The upside is that I'm thankful it's not November 1994 anymore.