Monthly Archives: December 2012

I don’t think Buddy Holly’s much of a waiter.

31 December 2012

You remember in 1994 when John Travolta appeared as hip gangster hitman “Vincent Vega” in Pulp Fiction?  Remember how it revitalized his career, bringing him back to the spotlight and letting us begin to believe him as something more than a pretty face who could dance?  Suddenly, he was able to pass as dark, quirky, and potentially even a badass in the right light (see Get Shorty, Face/Off, Michael, etc.).  It took something special though.  Not just the role, but the overall vibe of the movie.  It took the class and edge that directors like Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers bring to their features.  It’s not like Travolta didn’t have it in him all along — clearly he did.  But he needed the right opportunity.

Inspired by a conversation earlier this evening, I present my picks for actors that I believe deserve a John-Travolta-in-Pulp-Fiction style career resurgence.  Someone give these guys a chance to reinvent themselves and return to the spotlight!  I believe they’ve got it in them!

  1. Paul Hogan
    Yes, Crocodile Dundee himself.  I realize that maybe he was more of a 1980’s curiosity and one-trick pony, but he was charming as hell.  And though he must be way up there now (in his 70’s?), I feel like he’s got potential as a charming but menacing Bond villain or mob boss.  Someone get on that.  Time’s a-wastin’!
     
  2. Erik Estrada
    My love for Erik Estrada can be traced back to CHiPs and was in fact the subject of my very first blog post on MySpace many years ago.  I was briefly hopeful of a resurgence when he appeared in that great Butthole Surfers video in ’96.  Thought maybe he was getting hip again, but no such luck.  I just fucking love this guy.  He should be in every movie.
     
  3. Emilio Estevez
    Man, remember Breakfast Club and Young Guns?  This guy had just as much charisma as his brother or anyone else in the so-called “Brat Pack.”  There’s no reason Tom Cruise should be starring in these blockbusters year after year while we don’t hear a peep from Emilio.
     
  4. Ralph Macchio
    Perhaps “quirky badass” isn’t the direction to go here, but still, there must be something more we could be doing with Ralph Macchio.  It’s not like all his mega-appeal just suddenly dried up after the Karate Kid trilogy.  Couldn’t he find a place in a mob story or something?
     
  5. Robyn Lively
    Well since we’re talking about Karate Kid, ever since part 3 I’ve wanted to see more of Robyn Lively.  That’s all.
     
  6. Michael Keaton
    After Batman and Beetlejuice and several others through the early 90’s, he was all over the place.  Since then, it’s been all small parts or at least he’s been off my radar.  He’s totally ripe for a comeback, and as a real psycho too.  He used to do that well, and I bet he’d make an excellent brooding villain, assassin, or something of that ilk.
     
  7. Tim Curry
    He seems to be doing fine, but I think he’s vastly underutilized.  Look at Legend or It or Rocky Horror.  Aside from being one of my favorite actors, he has a natural creepiness that could be put to such great use.  I feel he’s being wasted on kids stuff these days, though that may well be by choice.
     
  8. Jeff Goldblum
    I know he’s been getting some work on television, and it’s not like Jurassic Park was that long ago, but still… Jeff Goldblum has a thing that only he does.  The same way Christopher Walken has a thing.  This thing Jeff’s got, well I’d like to see more of it.
     
  9. Clancy Brown
    Most memorable to me as the vicious Kurgan in The Highlander, his unusual look and sound have lent their talents to bit parts over the years, but I feel like he could really break out if given a central role — maybe paradoxically as an anti-hero — in a more serious film.  Why not?  The Highlander also introduced us to Chrisopher Lambert, who deserves honorable mention on this list.  Besides Highlander and Greystoke, I don’t really know his work.  But he was very entertaining in those.  Bring him back too, please!
     
  10. Tony Ganios
    I always relate to him as my first greaser role model through playing match-chewing “Perry” in The Wanderers, but he also appeared in the Porky’s movies and a few others.  I understand he’s retired from acting, and that’s too bad.  He had (and has?) more potential than we ever got to see him use.

Surely I’m forgetting some great actors and actresses, but these are the ones that occurred to me immediately.  Any other suggestions?

Benjamin: Doer Of Things!

28 December 2012

With the focus on my recent retreat last time, I neglected to get into general updates and current events.  As you may have noticed, I don’t use this blog as the detailed journal I used to.  The highlights though… my last TCB show happened at the end of September, and that was nice.  My favorite moment was the closure of getting to announce, “in our seven years together, we’ve performed 71 of The Smiths’ 72 songs” to some cheers… and then playing Golden Lights and getting to announce, “make that 72 of 72.”  So that’s a big chapter of my life behind me.  In the meantime, I’m on somewhat of a Smiths detox.

What else?  The Rumble Strippers spent a weekend (give or take) in the studio recording a half dozen songs.  For real this time.  Perhaps an EP in the near future?  And how about us getting a spot playing Viva Las Vegas 2013?  And signing with Tanoa at A-Town?  The hits just keep on coming!  Jared came to town for a few days, and it was so great to catch up with him and think about how life would be different if he lived here.  Oh and it’s December which must mean car trouble.  In the last couple years, it’s been drunk drivers, lightning strikes, and wild turkeys.  This year, it was me getting rear-ended and pushed into another car.  Sandwiched, if you will.  So it’s a rental for me for a while…

Recently I’ve been going out more, and all this going out has led me to explore the “spirit” world again.  Over the years, it’s often occurred to me that bartending seems like fun.  I guess I should probably confirm that with some of the bartenders I know.  I don’t see myself ever actually doing that for a living, but it couldn’t hurt to have those skills.  And maybe even fill in somewhere part-time just for fun?  The classes are more a time commitment than a significant monetary investment.  I’d like to know more about making drinks and what all the gadgets behind the counter are for.  I also have a minor fascination with the art of beer tap handles and of tiki mugs, though I don’t guess that would help me be better at the job.  And am I correct in assuming that serious bartenders generally aspire to have one of their own signature cocktails catch on nationwide?  I don’t know about taste, but in terms of pure cleverness, I’ve already got a couple up my sleeve.  First, the “Edwyn Collins,” which is similar to a Tom Collins, but also includes orange juice (get it?).  More recently, I had the idea for the “Ovaltini,” which would of course be a variation on the martini, but would include either Ovaltine, or maybe malt powder and some other creamy component… Bailey’s, Kahlúa, etc.  Maybe the malt flavor could even come from something malty like Guinness?  I’ll need to get into a bartending class and experiment.

UPDATE (December 2013): During my trip to Cuba, I had another great idea for a drink.  It’d be a shot.  A “Tetanus Shot,” which of course would have to be rust colored.  More research needed.

By the way, I just saw some interesting variations on my main drink: the White Russian.  Did you know there’s such a thing as a “White Mexican” made with horchata?  And a “White Cuban” with rum instead of vodka?  Yum!  Or that there’s actually a name for the White Russian variant I often end up with when bars don’t have cream?  It’s called a “Blind Russian,” and it involves substituting Bailey’s for cream.  Interesting…  I could see nerding out on this kinda stuff, but I’m guessing the local mixologists would just roll their eyes if you started throwing  terms like “White Cuban” around when ordering.

So anyway, as I said, I’ve been trying to get out more lately.  Throwing caution to the wind, and throwing myself to the wolves a bit.  And really just trying not to control every little aspect of my life.  Pushing myself to ignore the voice that always tries to shoot down new ideas, and then take it easier on myself when I fail.  Just cut myself some slack in general and let myself be imperfect and human.  A few very small experiments with this have taught me very quickly that life can drop some amazing things into your lap if you just let yourself be open to possibilities.  Putting myself in unusual or uncomfortable situations (at least for me) has paid off almost without exception each and every time I’ve tried it over the last few months.  Back-to-back days of back-to-back weekends of countless good times, new friends, and uncanny coincidences that would have never happened unless I loosened my grip on the reins a bit.  It’s incredible what’s out there waiting for you — all those possibilities — when you just take your damn hands off the wheel for a second.  It makes me think about all the opportunities I’ve wasted in life so far by being so rigid.

“For us, there is only the trying.  The rest is not our business.”
— T.S. Eliot

Yogi Bear returns from the forest.

16 December 2012

Well, I’m fresh back from my week-long meditation retreat as a Buddhist “yogi.”  The idea is that you go out into the forest with no cell phone and no internet.  You take a vow of silence and don’t even write notes to anyone.  You stay in a dorm-like closet, eat the food you’re given, have to do chores like vacuuming (chores! the very idea!), and meditate all day, every day.  Sound like fun?  That’s meditation, holmes.

First off, it’s beautiful out there.  You’re out in the middle of the relative/moderate wilderness (at least compared to The City), and you get some of those benefits.  Some mornings, I would see a few wild turkeys walking through the grounds, or a family of deer.  Being able to get 15 feet from them or so without them running off.  Not exactly the typical San Francisco experience.  The night sky was incredible, just being able to see so many stars that are all but invisible to me where I live.  (I wonder how the night sky is in Maui?)  And then having to be up every morning at 6am to go sit and meditate means you get to see a lot of sunrises.  And beautiful sunny hilltops from a valley covered in fog.  Pretty spectacular.

I mentioned Hawaii, but the whole experience did somewhat remind me of Hawaii.  I didn’t wear socks or shoes this whole time.  I was barefoot or in slippers.  This life of rolling out of bed, throwing on some slippers and starting your day just as you are is akin to that carefree lifestyle of vacationing on Maui that I loved so much.  Wake up, throw on your shorts and walk barefoot to the beach.  I should mention the food too.  It’s all taken care of for you, all vegetarian, and mostly delicious.  My favorite was on the first night… a salad dressing called “Hollyhock” which basically consisted of tamari, sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar, and nutritional yeast.  Ever had it?  I hadn’t, but it was delish!

There were some interesting rules, side effects, and observations I wanted to mention:

  1. Nike has perfected the sweatpant.  I haven’t owned sweatpants in a very long time, but I had to get a few pair to prepare for this trip.  They have it down in a way they didn’t when I was a kid.  The drawstring is sewn in crisscrossed, so you don’t even have to do the first half of tying them.  You just pull them as they are and they cinch up.  Amazing!  Plus they are reinforced at that stitch in the crotch that used to be the first place you’d get a hole every time.  Color me impressed.
  2. Right Guard works.  The teachers stressed again and again not to use any scented products out of respect for some of the other sensitive retreaters.  They said “trust us, we’d much rather smell you.”  I thought, that cannot possibly be true.  But they learned, and so did I.  One shower a day with their scent-free soap and no Right Guard, man I was pungent.  I didn’t realize how hard Right Guard (and Irish Spring) work for me every day.
  3. I didn’t want to use the alternative scent-free hair products, so I went au natural the entire time.  Turns out after five days of no shampoo or conditioner, I don’t need pomade.  My hair will stay slicked down on its own, all day.
  4. When I say silent, I mean silent.  People generally don’t make eye contact even.  The whole time.  It drove me nuts because it is in my nature to say please, thank you, excuse me, etc.  But you just have to accept that no one is intentionally being rude, you just can’t talk.  But this means that all the meals (which are taken in the dining hall) are face to face with people you can’t talk to or even look at.  Luckily, this is something for which I have much practice already.  A whole meal in silence and no eye contact?  So if you’ve dated me and thought I was good at this before…
  5. I got to see what I might look like with facial hair.  I decided not to shave until the final day, and when I did, I checked out my look with a goatee and various flavors of moustache.  I am most partial to the Hulk Hogan style or maybe something bizarre like a mini Fu Manchu with a separation in the middle… and though part of me would like to know what I look like with facial hair before I die (is there an app for that?), the overwhelming hipster-ness of moustaches these days will keep me clean-shaven, at least for now.  At least I have my chops.

Oh, and I had the Radiohead song “Reckoner” in my head all week.

As far as what did I actually learn spiritually?  Well, I won’t go into that.  I don’t think it’s done with me yet.  But I will say that being in silence all that time with a bunch of people on the same general quest as you… you cultivate a certain gentle demeanor and a sort or universal good will.  I mean, I always try to be “nice” in my day to day life, or at least I thought I did.  Fair, polite, etc.  I didn’t realize what a change this enviroment really was because we sort of eased into it.  It’s a disposition that I’m going to carry with me for as long as I can, with the goal of making it part of my natural habit.  The teachers warned us before leaving that we might be a bit sensitive as we transition back to the “outside world.”  Like a lobster without a shell is the metaphor I think they used.  They suggested we consider delaying before jumping right back into the thick of things, checking all our email, and so on.  I thought to myself, hey, I wasn’t that moved.  I’ll be fine.

Well, I wish I’d listened.  When I stopped for lunch on the drive home, not a half hour out of the retreat, I’d powered up my phone and first thing checked CNN.  The top five stories were about a school shooting in Connecticut.  26 victims, including 20 kids ages 6 and 7.  I don’t know how I would have reacted to that news two weeks ago.  But today, I admit — it was too much.

“If only [people] could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”
— Thomas Merton