Monthly Archives: April 2013

What if Penny Met a Dinosaur?

From “The Flop House” podcast episode, “The Third Annual Academy Awards Floptacular”, featuring the regulars, Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, and Stuart Wellington:

DAN
So, normally now we would do some recommendations, but I had an off-topic story I wanted to tell-

ELLIOTT
Well, I’m sold.

DAN
Did one of you have an off-topic story you wanted to tell?

STUART
I’d like to hear more.

DAN
I feel like one of you had a story you wanted to tell.

ELLIOTT
Stuart, you wanted to talk about previews?

STUART
Yeah, I feel like I’ve already burnt myself out.

ELLIOTT
Basically came down to complaining about Sucker Punch.

STUART
Yeah. I will not Sucker that Punch.

DAN
I wanted to tell you guys a story about the Internet.

STUART
O-kay.

DAN
So…

STUART
You discovered internet pornography again?

ELLIOTT
Again.

DAN
I have that Memento disease.

STUART
He had Men in Black-itis.

ELLIOTT
I call it Memento’s disease. The same disease Memento had.

DAN
I’ve tattooed on my body, “Porn: try the Internet.” I’m excited every time I see it…I was chatting with my brother on gmail chat. And the subject of Inspector Gadget came up.

ELLIOTT
This is off-topic.

DAN
Because my brother is as obsessed with childish things as I am. And he’s older than I am.

ELLIOTT
So you figure as long as he’s doing it, it’s okay for you to keep doing it too?

DAN
Yeah. As long as we maintain the same relationship between our ages, it’s fine.

ELLIOTT
One of you better not go into space.

DAN
But my brother brought up how much he always liked the score to Inspector Gadget, and I had waves of nostalgia come over me, I go to youtube, I look at some Inspector Gadget related videos on youtube-

ELLIOTT
Porn.

DAN
And I scroll down to the comments section, and one comment on one of the Inspector Gadget videos catches my eye. And it says simply, “what if penny met a dinosaur?” All in small letters. There was something sort of plaintive about it, caught my eye, I found it particularly beguiling…

STUART
“Is there anybody listening to me here?”

DAN
“what if penny met a dinosaur?”

ELLIOTT
My message in a bottle.

DAN
My question will never be answered, by canonical Inspector Gadget.

ELLIOTT
Certainly not by DiC…the animation studio that did Inspector Gadget.

DAN
So…I actually posted about this on Facebook. I posted about the “what if penny met a dinosaur?” comment on Facebook. A firestorm of Inspector Gadget commentary erupts. My friend Kelly says, she thinks if you plug the phrase “what if penny met a dinosaur?” into the internet, you would reach the end of the internet. And so I actually googled this; I googled “what if penny met a dinosaur?”

ELLIOTT
Your job, really, absorbs you. You get full satisfaction from it.

STUART
Well, there comes a point when a job becomes a career, Elliott. It’s called the terminus-ess, if you will.

DAN
So…following this train, it’s like All the President’s Men, I’m following the money, but I’m following-

ELLIOTT
You’re following the Penny.

STUART
The Money Train.

DAN
I click on another link google coughs up for me, and it appears to be some sort of bondage inflected illustration of an older Penny. What’s the rule, if it exists, there’s pornography related to it? It’s like Rule #34.

ELLIOTT
Yeah, I think Socrates came up with that.

DAN
No, this is like an internet meme. If it exists, there’s pornography – But there’s a bondage themed photo, and I scroll down wondering why –

STUART
It’s now a photo?

DAN
Not a photo. Sorry. It’s an illustration.

ELLIOTT
What drawing style, Ashcan school?

DAN
I don’t know. It’s an older Penny, tied up. I scroll down to the comments section of this…

ELLIOTT
Because of course this has comments as well.

DAN
And in the comments, someone says, “what if penny met a dinosaur?”

ELLIOTT
So, what you thought was an adorable, plaintive cry, turns out was a request for bondage themed bestiality porn.

DAN
Possibly. I go back to the google search. I click on the next one down. Same site. A less disturbing picture, illustration of Penny…

ELLIOTT
Thank goodness. She’s doing better.

DAN
I scroll down the comments. Again: “what if penny met a dinosaur?” So, now I’m intrigued by this guy. I click on this guy’s user-

ELLIOTT
You are bordering dangerously close to an obsession that will lead you to a web of deceit. And seduction.

DAN
It’s gonna lead me to Fear dot com.

STUART
Nah, I like the seduction angle.

DAN
I click on this guy’s user name, and I find-

STUART
Love Games. Starring Dan.

DAN
I click on this guy’s username, and I get this message that says: “This user has been permanently banned from this site.”

ELLIOTT
Wow.

DAN
For, I’m guessing, asking too much about Penny and this fucking dinosaur.

ELLIOTT
“You asked the wrong questions.” “You made some powerful enemies on the Penny bondage site.”

STUART
He followed the money trail.

ELLIOTT
I guess what you’re saying is, don’t go chasing water falls.

DAN
What I liked about this whole experience was peeling back the layers of the onion. There’s always something new to discover.

STUART
So, are you plugging being a fucking kid detective?

ELLIOTT
Let’s look at what you discovered: there’s an Inspector Gadget themed bondage porn site; and that someone has irritated the moderator of this site.

STUART
Fucking congratulations, dude.

ELLIOTT
You cracked it.

STUART
Super-sleuth McCoy.

ELLIOTT
A regular Encyclopedia Brown.

STUART
You get the fucking key to the city. Key to the internet.

ELLIOTT
It’s too bad your dad the police chief can’t tell anyone about his genius detective son.

DAN
You guys just don’t understand the beauty of what I’ve discovered.

STUART
You know when you start turning over rocks, you’re gonna find some snails.

ELLIOTT
It was a fitting story for this bad movie podcast.

DAN
But guys, seriously, I guess what I’m ultimately asking is: “what if penny met a dinosaur?”

ELLIOTT
Because that commenter…WAS ME! Bap bap baaaaaaam.

STUART
Yeah. I don’t know what would happen.

DAN
She’d probably get eaten by the dinosaur.

STUART
Well, a brontosaurus wouldn’t eat her.

DAN
Yeah. It would eat vegetables.

STUART
Unless she and fucking Brain were dressed up as, like, a tree or something.

ELLIOTT
Who knows? Maybe one of Inspector Gadget’s employees might have made that happen. Brain always had to hide in costumes. The sight of a dog would destroy him.

DAN
And then Inspector Gadget would say, “IT’S A MAD AGENT.” And then wacky hijinks would ensue.

ELLIOTT
And then Don Adams would deposit the check. At his bank account. And then go on to do some Wendy’s commercials.

DAN
Anyway. So that’s my story.

ELLIOTT
Well, it’s not really your story.

STUART
It’s part of humanity’s grander story.

ELLIOTT
That was like an H.P. Lovecraft story where someone’s reading through journal entries left behind, except instead of a monster, it was the dumbest question ever asked.

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Haruki Murakami on Running

(What follows is taken from Haruki Murakami’s What I Think About When I Talk About Running; all these sentences are from the book preserved and intact, though I have edited their order and placement. The addendum, from the ending of a different book, is quoted whole.)

I’ve gotten back into a running lifestyle again. It’s been ten years since I last lived in Cambridge. When I saw the Charles River again, a desire to run swept over me. What this might mean for me, now that I’m in my late fifties, I don’t know yet. But I think it’s got to mean something. Maybe not anything profound, but there must be significance to it. Anyway, right now I’m running hard. I’ll wait till later to think about what it all means. (Putting off thinking about something is one of my specialties, a skill I’ve honed as I’ve grown older.) I shine my running shoes, rub some sunscreen on my face and neck, set my watch, and hit the road.

I’m often asked what I think about as I run. On cold days I guess I think a little about how cold it is. And about the heat on hot days.

When I first started running I couldn’t run long distances. I could only run for about twenty minutes, or thirty. That much left me panting, my heart pounding, my legs shaky. But as I continued to run, my body started to accept the fact that it was running, and I could gradually increase the distance. I was starting to acquire a runner’s form, my breathing became more regular, and my pulse settled down. The main thing was not the speed or distance so much as running every day, without taking a break.

Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal, more than anything: namely, a time they want to beat. As long as he can beat that time, a runner will feel he’s accomplished what he set out to do, and if he can’t, then he’ll feel he hasn’t. Even if he doesn’t break the time he’d hoped for, as long as he has the sense of satisfaction at having done his very best—and, possibly, having made some significant discovery about himself in the process — then that in itself is an accomplishment, a positive feeling he can carry over to the next race.

The same can be said about my profession. In the novelist’s profession, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as winning or losing. Maybe numbers of copies sold, awards won, and critics’ praise serve as outward standards for accomplishment in literature, but none of them really matter. What’s crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you’ve set for yourself. Failure to reach that bar is not something you can easily explain away. When it comes to other people, you can always come up with a reasonable explanation, but you can’t fool yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.

In certain areas of my life, I actively seek out solitude. Especially for someone in my line of work, solitude is, more or less, an inevitable circumstance. Sometimes, however, this sense of isolation, like acid spilling out of a bottle, can unconsciously eat away at a person’s heart and dissolve it. You could see it, too, as a kind of double-edged sword. It protects me, but at the same time steadily cuts away at me from the inside. I think in my own way I’m aware of this danger — probably through experience — and that’s why I’ve had to constantly keep my body in motion, in some cases pushing myself to the limit, in order to heal the loneliness I feel inside and to put it in perspective. Not so much as an intentional act, but as an instinctive reaction.

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate — and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world?

No matter how much long-distance running might suit me, of course there are days when I feel kind of lethargic and don’t want to run. Once, I interviewed the Olympic runner Toshihiko Seko, just after he retired from running and became manager of the S&B1 company team. I asked him, “Does a runner at your level ever feel like you’d rather not run today, like you don’t want to run and would rather just sleep in?” He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, “Of course. All the time!”

When I first started to run the Jingu Gaien course2, Toshihiko Seko was still an active runner and he used this course too. The S&B team used this course every day for training, and over time we naturally grew to know each other by sight. Back then I used to jog there before seven a.m. — when the traffic wasn’t bad, there weren’t as many pedestrians, and the air was relatively clean—and the S&B team members and I would often pass each other and nod a greeting. On rainy days we’d exchange a smile, a guess-we’re-both-havingit-tough kind of smile.

I remember two young runners in particular, Taniguchi and Kanei. They were both in their late twenties, both former members of the Waseda University track team, where they’d been standouts in the Hakone relay race. After Seko was named manager of the S&B team, they were expected to be the two young stars of the team. They were the caliber of runner expected to win medals at the Olympics someday, and hard training didn’t faze them. Sadly, though, they were killed in a car accident when the team was training together in Hokkaido in the summer. I’d seen with my own eyes the tough regimen they’d put themselves through, and it was a real shock when I heard the news of their deaths. It hurt me to hear this, and I felt it was a terrible waste.

Even now, when I run along Jingu Gaien or Asakasa Gosho, sometimes I remember these other runners. I’ll round a corner and feel like I should see them coming toward me, silently running, their breath white in the morning air. And I always think this: They put up with such strenuous training, and where did their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, disappear to? When people pass away, do their thoughts just vanish?

The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky as always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky. The sky both exists and doesn’t exist. It has substance and at the same time doesn’t. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it in.

Sometimes people will ask me this: “You live such a healthy life every day, Mr. Murakami, so don’t you think you’ll one day find yourself unable to write novels anymore?” People don’t say this much when I’m abroad, but a lot of people in Japan seem to hold the view that writing novels is an unhealthy activity, that novelists are somewhat degenerate and have to live hazardous lives in order to write.

Basically I agree with the view that writing novels is an unhealthy type of work. When we set off to write a novel, when we use writing to create a story, like it or not a kind of toxin that lies deep down in all humanity rises to the surface. All writers have to come face-to-face with this toxin and, aware of the danger involved, discover a way to deal with it, because otherwise no creative activity in the real sense can take place. (Please excuse the strange analogy: with a fugu fish, the tastiest part is the portion near the poison — this might be something similar to what I’m getting at.) No matter how you spin it, this isn’t a healthy activity.

So from the start, artistic activity contains elements that are unhealthy and antisocial. I’ll admit this. But those of us hoping to have long careers as professional writers have to develop an autoimmune system of our own that can resist the dangerous (in some cases lethal) toxin that resides within. Do this, and we can more efficiently dispose of even stronger toxins. In other words, we can create even more powerful narratives to deal with these. But you need a great deal of energy to create an immune system and maintain it over a long period. You have to find that energy somewhere, and where else to find it but in our own basic physical being?

People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But I don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that.

I can try all I want, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to run the way I used to. I’m ready to accept that. It’s not one of your happier realities, but that’s what happens when you get older. Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. Even when I grow old and feeble, when people warn me it’s about time to throw in the towel, I won’t care. As long as my body allows, I’ll keep on running. Even if my time gets worse, I’ll keep on putting in as much effort — perhaps even more effort — toward my goal of finishing a marathon. I don’t care what others say — that’s just my nature, the way I am. Like scorpions sting, cicadas cling to trees, salmon swim upstream to where they were born, and wild ducks mate for life.

Breathing in the crisp, bracing, early-morning air, I felt once again the joy of running on familiar ground. The sounds of my footsteps, my breathing and heartbeats, all blended together in a unique polyrhythm.

Generally, unless some great change takes place, rivers always look about the same, and the Charles River in particular looked totally unchanged. Time had passed, students had come and gone, I’d aged ten years, and there’d literally been a lot of water under the bridge. But the river has remained unaltered. The water still flows swiftly, and silently, toward Boston Harbor. The water soaks the shoreline, making the summer grasses grow thick, which help feed the waterfowl, and it flows languidly, ceaselessly, under the old bridges, reflecting clouds in summer and bobbing with floes in winter — and silently heads toward the ocean.

Seeing a lot of water like that every day is probably an important thing for human beings. For human beings might be a bit of a generalization — but I do know it’s important for one person: me. If I go for a time without seeing water, I feel like something’s slowly draining out of me.

The surface of the water changes from day to day: the color, the shape of the waves, the speed of the current. Each season brings distinct changes to the plants and animals that surround the river. Clouds of all sizes show up and move on, and the surface of the river, lit by the sun, reflects these white shapes as they come and go, sometimes faithfully, sometimes distortedly. Whenever the seasons change, the direction of the wind fluctuates like someone threw a switch. And runners can detect each notch in the seasonal shift in the feel of the wind against our skin, its smell and direction. In the midst of this flow, I’m aware of myself as one tiny piece in the gigantic mosaic of nature.

As I suspect is true of many who write for a living, as I write I think about all sorts of things. I don’t necessarily write down what I’m thinking; it’s just that as I write I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down even deeper paths. No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination.

One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long distance runner.

An impenetrable mystery. . . .” He walked disregarded. . . . “This act of madness or despair.”

And the incorruptible Professor walked too, averting his eyes from the odious multitude of mankind. He had no future. He disdained it. He was a force. His thoughts caressed the images of ruin and destruction. He walked frail, insignificant, shabby, miserable — and terrible in the simplicity of his idea calling madness and despair to the regeneration of the world. Nobody looked at him. He passed on unsuspected and deadly, like a pest in the street full of men.

From Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent.

FOOTNOTES

1 S & B is a major japanese herb and spice manufacturer.

2 The course around the Jingu stadium. More information on the practice routes of Murakami in Japan can be found at Runner’s Diary #002 Follow the footstep of Murakami Haruki.

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Peter Coyote on Easy Rider

Most memoirs by actors of some renown I find very dull, with their only anima the nimbus of fame that surrounds people involved in mildly amusing, if not dull, episodes. Peter Coyote’s Sleeping Where I Fall is a happy double exception, an interesting memoir by an actor and an unsentimental fresh look at a decade of hallucinogenic blur and napalm death. Coyote does not write of this period as if it were a roll of icons, or a series of exhibits in a museum, but his own journey through vivid, youthful life. His work in independent theater and independent communities of that strange time are given in details, rather than as manifestations of a larger thesis of the era, be it sentimental picturesque or toxic underworld. Each fascinating person is given their space, with no celebrity given exceptional status – someone will need to stay at someone’s house to give birth, and maybe the houseowner will be Janis Joplin. It is a memorable portrait in part because it does not attempt to be the exceptional, definitive, or all-encompassing look, but simply the memories of a man who often had an exceptional view of the rarer landscapes of an upset world, whose quakes still ripple, above and below the surface of our own ideological patchworld quilt, where sex and drugs are finally becoming an entirely private matter, while workers, like those at the very site where you might buy Coyote’s book, are treated like scum, cattle, dirt.

A good, quotable section is his view on a landmark film of the time, an insightful perspective of countercultural man on countercultural product. The Mime Troupe were an experimental theater group Coyote was involved in, while Dennis and Peter are the obvious suspects:

Despite good feelings for Dennis, Easy Rider remains a sore point with me. Peter and Dennis had seen and been excited by the Mime Troupe and suggested that I write and direct a scene with the company for inclusion in the film. I was excited by this prospect and pleased because it could funnel a little cash into the pockets of my fellow performers, who were still subsisting on a five-dollars-a-show salary.

Several months later, they called with an offer: twenty dollars a week and a place on Fonda’s couch for me, but nothing for my friends – “because this is a real low-budget thing, we’re doing it because we believe in it” (as if we did not behave that way daily). I wrote them off angrily as spoiled brats and refused to play. Even in the realm of low-budget independent films and even in 1968, twenty dollars a week was a beggar’s wage.

The finished film added insult to injury when the two protagonists visit a commune in the Southwest where sincere and drab hippies, the kind of nutless townfolk John Wayne might have protected in a corny western, are given the full Hollywood spin as “good people,” as if they were Franciscan monks who just happened to smoke dope and dress funny. The community entertains itself by watching a clutch of dodos clump through a mindless commedia-type stage play announced by a crudely lettered sign as “Gorilla Theater” – an obvious travesty of the Mime Troupe’s guerilla theater and a backhanded slap at the communards, who are less hip than the individualistic, wandering biker heroes.

This was an inaccurate, smug, and insulting reflection of the life my friends and I were creating out of hard labor, with minimal assets and comforts. It was galling to see our style and our intentions misunderstood and misrepresented to the vast cinematic audience. What elicited my enduring scorn, however, was the film’s ending, where the two “free spirits” are blown off their motorcycles by rednecks in a pickup truck. This ending was more than infuriating and dishonest; it was counterpropaganda that suggested that the cost of living free in America was death – so if you don’t want to die, boys and girls, stay home and be audiences; real adventures are for charismatic, handsome people like Hollywood actors. But in fact, people were living “free” all over the United States at that time, dealing with the tough issues of subsistence, making peace with their neighbors, and developing appropriate spiritual and community practices while this sorry-ass subtext was being promulgated by guys who were queasy about leaving their safe haunts in their own hometown! This was the status quo in hip drag, and I was disgusted with it. I did not see Dennis Hopper for many years after that. When I did, we had both been resurrected as actors and men, and the joy of seeing him healthy and well (and the clusters of memories we share) wiped away all my bitter associations as if they had been fog.

Years have gone by since that film made a fortune and introduced America to national treasure Jack Nicholson. Peter, Dennis, and I have grown and changed, and I have no desire to chain anyone to an identity they’ve since transcended. However, that slow-motion cinematic death still burns in my mind as a betrayal of the sensibilities it capitalized on. Far fewer people will read these words than have seen that film, I am sure, but at least I’ve marked my objections, and I can drop that chip from an overloaded shoulder, leaving it in the road behind me with those crushed bikes, sprawled actors, and fake blood.

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The Meet in The Pope of Greenwich Village

(SPOILERS.)

This post, and recent others, are interim, idling points while in the middle of larger, more ambitious work. It was made a few days after the death of Roger Ebert, a man who was an old-fashioned newspaperman, a movie enthusiast, and a man whose struggle against a fierce illness demonstrated a strength that I would never claim without entering such struggle first. I place a remembrance by an acquaintance whose work he championed in a footnote rather than the main text1, because the eloquence is not mine, and because public mourning for a public figure so often seems intended as a focus of attention for the mourner, rather than the mourned. Included is a song, which, appropriately or not, connotes passage, but one well used in a movie that gave me temporary but great relief. This invocation of beautiful escape, so rare, and so often hoped for from the movies, perhaps makes it suitable for a fellow moviegoer.

Near the very end of The Pope of Greenwich Village:

CHARLIE puts out his best suit, his best shirt, and his dressiest shoes. He gets an expensive manicure, a shave, and a shoeshine. His face is never at ease, shows no joy, but is always solemn, no longer even fearful, but simply analyzing every point of the moment that will come next. He is dressed to the nines as he walks along the neighbourhood streets, but there’s no ease to the walk, absolutely no swagger, maybe even a little stiffness, as he moves closer and close to the gentleman’s club. He stops, takes an inhale from the cigarette like it’s oxygen and he’s about to dive deep into the ocean, then enters the establishment, a place whose streetfront glass is blocked by green felt, and marked with a simple small cursive: “Members Only”.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

NUNZI and PETE sit at a table with some espressos, NUNZI has just finished lighting a cigar. PAULIE stands nearby, waiting any orders. They are the only ones in the front of the club.

NUNZI
This is a private club, pal.

CHARLIE
Well, I’d like to see Eddie Grant.

NUNZI looks to PETE, who gives a nod of assent. NUNZI puts down the cigar, gets up, and pats CHARLIE’s front down. With a rough move, he shifts CHARLIE to the side, so he can pat down his back. CHARLIE gives a contemptful smirk.

NUNZI
He’s in the back room.

CHARLIE takes an inhale from his cigarette, then slowly, and very deliberately, blows smoke directly in NUNZI’s face. PAULIE looks at this with a nervousness like they’re in the Vatican and CHARLIE just spat on a cross. CHARLIE makes his way to the back room, giving PETE a hard stare along the way.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The back room is an unassuming, shabby place. An unrepaired hole in the wall is off to the side, and the door squeaks. The only importance in the room is BEDBUG EDDIE, who begins speaking almost the moment CHARLIE enters.

EDDIE
You’re Charlie Moran? You’re one of the scumbags that robbed my money.

CHARLIE gives a non-commital small shake of his hands.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

EDDIE
You were brought up around here, no?

CHARLIE
Carmine street.

Charlie moves into the room, and goes to sit down. We see more of this unimpressive throne room: a photo to the right of the door commemorating an important handshake between two men, a Last Supper above it, and a black and white pin-up to its left. Below the pin-up are some stacked cardboard boxes of glassware that probably fell off some truck.

EDDIE
Same thing. You know you owe the neighborhood some respect?

CHARLIE is now sitting at the non-descript wood table, across from EDDIE, CHARLIE’s hand on the table. EDDIE might want to kill CHARLIE, but his voice remains controlled, never changing in volume, staying at a level closer to mild exasperation, rather than murderous rage.

EDDIE
People steal from Eddie Grant it makes for a total breakdown. No one knows right or wrong. Before you know it, you got moulinyans2 moving in. What the hell brings you in here?

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

CHARLIE
A tape I took off a dead cop…that’ll hang you by your balls.

EDDIE gives a silent laugh out of the side of his mouth.

EDDIE
You walked in here to threaten me.

CHARLIE
You’re fucking right I walked in here to threaten you.

EDDIE now gives a quick, full, raspy laugh.

EDDIE
Last time somebody talked close to me like that was from the Village, too.

NUNZI and PETE, still at the table, are looking at what’s going on in the back room with nervousness. PAULIE looks on too, less with nervousness and more determined hatred.

EDDIE
I parcel-posted the scumbag home.

CHARLIE
He didn’t have the tape that could put you away for twenty.

EDDIE’s voice now drops lower in volume.

EDDIE
Okay. Let me give you some advice. You’re behaving like a mamalucco3, capise? You walk in here, you don’t show the club no respect. You’re acting like a real scumbag. You’re half-irish, so —

EDDIE cracks his knuckles, as if it’s CHARLIE’s very spine he’s breaking, and what’s said next is a pleasurable, loud exhale.

EDDIE
–I MAKE CONSIDERATIONS.

PAULIE nows looks on with nervousness. EDDIE’s pupils are dark and cold, like olives on a bed of ice.

EDDIE
I give you this for the tapes.

EDDIE makes the classic vaffanculo gesture, the fingers brushing against the underside of the chin.

EDDIE
I promised myself I’d wipe my ass with this hand…

EDDIE reaches out to grasp CHARLIE’s hand on the table. The emphatic part is said in a whisper.

EDDIE
…and nobody, nobody but the pope, could walk out of here with his hand.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

We see through the door NUNZI get up from the table, but PETE blocks him with his arm from going any further.

CHARLIE struggles a little, but EDDIE has his hand tight in his grasp. CHARLIE leans close to say the next part.

CHARLIE
Mister…I am the pope. This might be your church, but right now, I’m the pope of Greenwich Village.

CHARLIE uses his free hand to give the clasping fist of EDDIE an emphatic tap.

CHARLIE
Because I got a tape, alright?

The Pope of Greenwich Village

EDDIE lets CHARLIE’s hand go, but EDDIE’s eyes are dark, cold, and wild: he’s already picked out a place where this young man’s body will never be found. CHARLIE returns the stare, then gives a smirk.

EDDIE
I like you, you have balls. I don’t get too mad at that.

PAULIE comes to the door.

PAULIE
Coffee, Eddie?

Despite what EDDIE has said, his eyes remain in the same state: CHARLIE will probably never be seen alive again. CHARLIE gives a cold, unceasing look in return.

PAULIE enters, and puts down the espresso cups. EDDIE stares, CHARLIE stares back. The lethal energy between the two men could kill off every fly in the room.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

CHARLIE briefly breaks his stare to look down at the espresso cups being put down on the table, and EDDIE gives a happy grin: of course he’s tougher than this prick.

PAULIE
Three sugars, Eddie?

CHARLIE returns to his old stare, however, unweakened. EDDIE is back to his mad, murderous state; his eyes are both cold and bulging out. PAULIE puts the sugar in EDDIE’s espresso.

PAULIE
I already put your sugar in, Charlie.

It’s now EDDIE who breaks the stare and looks off at PAULIE, and CHARLIE gives this break a cool acknowledgement: you sure you’re tougher than me?

EDDIE stirs his espresso, without looking down. He takes a grip of his espresso. CHARLIE turns to look at PAULIE, trying to read what’s going on in his strange friend: why does PAULIE stay fixed on the mafia chieftain, as if he’s waiting for something to happen? PAULIE realizes what he’s doing, and abruptly looks off into the distance. CHARLIE returns to the staring contest, but EDDIE has already taken this prolonged break as a victory. He lifts the cup to his mouth, eyes always locked on CHARLIE, drinks the espresso as if it’s CHARLIE’s blood, all in one gulp, then gives a pleasured HMMMM – before falling out of his chair in a sudden, violent movement, crashing against the floor.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

FOOTNOTES

1 From the podcast “Day 6”, hosted by Brent Bambury:

WERNER HERZOG
What sticks out for me is that he was one of my earliest discoverers and defenders. Decades ago, when I came out with my film Aguirre, the Wrath of God, he put it on his list of the best ten of all time. And people started to listen…he was like an icebreaker for my films, and he always had the feeling that my films were something which made his life right, that he was working [for] in this field. I think we have lost someone who…with him, an epoch ends. The epoch was intelligent, deep discourse about cinema. And all this, in the last two decades has been lost…gradually, it has shifted over into celebrity news. Roger was much larger than life, in a way, and I don’t see the successor, but there’s a big cultural trend, and that’s beyond you and Roger and me, and that is a shift, cultural shift within audiences, and the reflection in that is that almost all print media have gotten rid of their film reviewers, and today they all write about celebrity news. So, it’s bigger than just the passing of Roger Ebert. An epoch, in a way, ends with him.

He sometimes would call me the good soldier of cinema, and I have to give it back to him. I would say to him, Roger, you are the real good soldier of cinema. You are holding out in an outpost that has been given up by all the others. You are the one who is afflicted now, you are the wounded soldier. He was the wounded soldier, he was afflicted, he was silenced – and just wouldn’t give up, and just plow on, and that gave me a lot of courage, to plow on.

“This Time Tomorrow” by The Kinks, from The Darjeeling Limited soundtrack:

2 A slur for african-americans; absent a better source, I guide those to the urban dictionary’s etymology, where there is division on whether or not it comes from the italian, melanzana, for eggplant.

3 An idiot. Definitions at vocabulary.com.

(All images and excerpts copyright MGM / UA)

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The Happiest Millionaire’s Daughter

From the Flop House podcast, “Episode #86 – The Happiest Millionaire”, the usual gang of Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, and Stuart Wellington have a discussion about interesting hypothetical millionaires which devolves into a moment of sexual tension and mononomina:

DAN
So, this is where we recommend something, in case you don’t want to watch three hours of a story about a singing millionaire.

ELLIOTT
I don’t know why you wouldn’t.

DAN
What’s something you might have seen?

ELLIOTT
He barely spent money on anything in this movie. You expect it to be like Arthur, or something like that. Where the guy’s spending the money stupidly on crazy things.

STUART
Yeah, he’s got a solid gold car, or-

ELLIOTT
Yeah, exactly. Or solid gold hat.

STUART
Plays tennis with a giant diamond, or something.

DAN
Or solid gold hits.

ELLIOTT
Yeah. Because it’s Quincy Jones. He’s the happiest millionaire.

DAN
Probably is. I mean, he got married to Peggy Lipton…

ELLIOTT
Heir to the Lipton Ice Teas fortune.

DAN
Yeah.

ELLIOTT
His daughter is a successful actress.

DAN
Lovely woman in her own right.

ELLIOTT
Don’t get creepy.

DAN
WHAT? She’s pretty. All I’m saying is-

ELLIOTT
Stop.

DAN
She’s physically-

ELLIOTT
Do not bring her butt up, okay?

DAN
I never-

ELLIOTT
Stuart, have you ever heard this before?

STUART
It’s kinda fucking creepy, right?

ELLIOTT
Of coure.

DAN
She’s a lovely woman, I-

STUART
Can we change the way we sit when we do this?

ELLIOTT
Yes. I want to be as far from Dan as possible.

STUART
And I don’t want him to see my bottom.

DAN
I’m not making any lewd suggestions about her…I’m just saying…

ELLIOTT
It’s all in your countenance. It’s in your countenance. It’s all lewd.

STUART
It’s in your timbre [pronounced tom-bra]…or whatever you said.

DAN
Stuart, you gonna recommend something?

STUART
I am gonna recommend something, Dan. First off, Steve…

DAN
You’re gonna recommend the name Steve.

STUART
No. You know the guy Steve?

ELLIOTT
Vergotis.

STUART
I want to say, you were right. I Saw the Devil was great. Thank you.

DAN
James was his actual name. “Steve” was the name you called him by.

ELLIOTT
You think everybody is named Steve.

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Geraldine Page in The Pope of Greenwich Village

(Spoilers.)

An excerpt from the under-rated Pope of Greenwich Village, when Mrs. Ritter, an irish mother who’s as tough as a primeval rock, is mourning the death of her policeman son when she is visited by his corrupt colleagues, two detectives searching for tapes he may have made which will implicate them in graft and other criminal schemes.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

MRS. RITTER, is dressed in mourning black, and she speaks with a first generation american irish accent. When she speaks without anger, it doesn’t feel as if the blade has been sheathed, but that she’s simply maneuvering it to a better stabbing position. The words she says with emphasis are spoken with her jaw clamped down low, and it’s as if her words pass through long and deadly fangs.

MRS. RITTER
Can I offer you a drink?

BURNS
We’re on duty.

MRS. RITTER
Hey.

MRS. RITTER CONT’D
‘Scuse me. You on duty too?

GARBER
Yeah.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

BURNS
Just a few questions, Mrs. Ritter. Did Bunky…act peculiar the last few months or so? Different?

MRS. RITTER
What the hell has that got to do with some thief pushing him down the elevator shaft?

BURNS
He was wearing a tape recorder, Mrs. Ritter. (pause) You know anything about that?

MRS. RITTER
How the hell would I know? You’re the policeman.

BURNS
Did Bunky have a girlfriend?

MRS. RITTER shakes her head, no.

GARBER
Who were some of his friends?

MRS. RITTER
No one. He went to church a lot.

MRS. RITTER takes a drink.

MRS. RITTER
Sacred heart. Most of his free time spent there.

GARBER
He must have had some friends.

MRS. RITTER gives another shake of her head, blows out smoke.

BURNS
It’s important…that we locate any tapes that Bunky may have had.

MRS. RITTER gives a nasty cackle.

MRS. RITTER
Yeah, I bet it’s important. I bet it’s very important to the two of yous.

BURNS gets an involuntary, nervous blink in his left eye.

MRS. RITTER
The internal affairs people were here hours ago. (her voice develops a nasty venom as it goes along the next sentence, but it’s gone by the sentence after that.) Two college educated little pricks. Acted like they was born and bred in Ohio.

MRS. RITTER knocks some cigarette ash out.

MRS. RITTER
I’m gonna tell you…what I told them. Walter…neither drank…nor gambled…he disapproved of the lottery. His spare time was spent making novinas, over at the Sacred Heart.

MRS. RITTER kisses her cross.

BURNS
Did they dig around in his room?

MRS. RITTER gives a quiet nod, no.

MRS. RITTER
I wouldn’t let them.

BURNS
We’re gonna have to. It’s important. Now, uh, which room is Bunky’s?

MRS. RITTER
You are not pokin around in Walter‘s room.

BURNS delivers the next line as if he were dealing with a gang chieftain resisting arrest.

BURNS
We’re going through this place, Madam. You obstruct me, and I’ll personally see that you never see a cent of his pension.

MRS. RITTER gives an ugly, dismissive laugh.

MRS. RITTER
Aha, get out. Get outta here, the two of yous. After you’re gone, I’m gonna tear this place upside down like a cyclone hit it. I’m gonna call the Daily News, to do a story on how the New York City police department treats the mother of a hero. My brother’s a priest. He is an old-fashioned, parish priest, with gray hair. The two of us could do a scene on the six o’clock news that would have the city in tears.

BURNS lets some fear show.

MRS. RITTER
My Walter…was as tough as a bar of IRON. And he didn’t get that from his father. Now. You wanna fight…OFFICER?

She punctuates this with an exhale of thick smoke, and it’s like the warning fumes of a dragon that can breathe a terrible and lethal flame.

MRS. RITTER
Or do you get the hell out of my house.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The detectives move to leave, and when they are gone, MRS. RITTER puts out her cigarette, and her demeanor changes entirely. She is overwhelmed with grief over the death of her son, and she kisses her rosaries, before shielding her eyes as she starts to shake from the onset of weeping.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

(All images copyright MGM / UA)

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Nightly Rituals

An excerpt from the always entertaining “Flop House” podcast, where the hosts, Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, and Stuart Wellington, watch a bad or questionable movie, and then talk about it; what follows is from the podcast episode devoted to the Friday the 13th re-make. When the film’s teen heroes flee the legendary killer Jason Voorhees, they encounter some eccentric characters, and this conversational tangent is devoted to these characters’ nightly behavior.

ELLIOTT
Oh, and I didn’t even mention the weird masturbator they run into. There’s a guy they run into who owns a barn with a woodchipper in it, which comes up later. And he’s really boastful, and – there’s a weird streak of characters masturbating in this? That character looks at an issue of Hustler and then starts coming onto a mannequin? And then Jason kills him.

DAN
He also licks the issue of Hustler.

ELLIOTT
He licks the issue of Hustler, and then says “Do you like that?” to the magazine.

STUART
He did start smoking weed though, which is usually what I do when I smoke weed.

ELLIOTT
It’s just like the scene in Zapped! when the guy hallucinates from smoking weed. And then, later, one of the characters, the character who doesn’t have a girl to match up with and isn’t dead yet in the cabin, he gets high, and he’s like, “Well. Guess I’ll masturbate to something.” Pulls out a box of tissues, then picks up a J. Crew catalog, or a Land’s End catalog? And flips to an image of a woman in her mid to late thirties wearing a sweater and slacks. And goes, “Alright. This is it.”

DAN
I found this very interesting. Because, apparently, one has to believe that he masturbates every night at 10:30, exactly. Because it wasn’t like there was something that turned him on, there’s no one around, I guess what I’m gonna do…he’s like “Oh well, geez. Gotta masturbate. Whatta we got here? Oh, well. J. Crew.”

STUART
I gotta take my insulin and masturbate. That’s what he’s saying. The thing that’s concerning for me about this character is you’d think he’d have more stuff stored up in the spank bank?

DAN mmm-hmmms.

DAN
He can’t just fantasize about something in his head.

ELLIOTT
He was just watching a girl writhe around to music in very short shorts…and some kind of tight top.

STUART
I would think he’d be able to think back to…”I remember that night I was watching Big Saussage Pizza clips for four hours.”

DAN sighs.

DAN
Ah, god. We should really get some money from that web site. Because we’ve mentioned it three times now.

ELLIOTT
Just the clips. He’s just watching Brazzers previews all night.

STUART
He knocks a quick one out, then his friend shows up, and he helps him kill Jason. Now, he runs around with a boner on.

ELLIOTT
It’s a trenchant message on the lack of imagination in today’s youth.

STUART
I agree.

DAN
And the sexiness of LL Bean catalogs.

ELLIOTT
They’ve been desensitized by the media and the images they’re bombarded with.

DAN
Well, apparently not, if he can get it up for a picture of a woman in a sweater.

STUART
Well, it’s that he’s so bored with everything else he’s seen, he’s like…

ELLIOTT
Yeah, he’s seen too much.

STUART
He’s like, finally, a woman that’s fully clothed…

DAN (weary)
Alright.

STUART
…turns me on.

ELLIOTT
“You know what turns me on about this? The class.” This woman’s sheer tastefulness.

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