Been & Going

[California Seething] Getting High on the High Holidays – 5776 Edition

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Yom Kippur was last week, and so, in observance of this most sacred holiday I’m recycling a dumb post about how I used to get stoned on it. Sigh. Good times.

Post is pretty much the same as it was in 2011 (5772) with a bunch of random updates. Enjoy!

The Ancient Greeks didn’t worry about whether God loved them. They didn’t wring their hands over the fact that God allowed evil to thrive in the world and didn’t struggle with the way that God permitted the righteous to suffer while the wicked prospered. That’s because, in Ancient Greece, the Gods were dicks. It’s like someone based an entire religion on the New England Patriots. Speaking of which- you’ve really got to admire the Patriots commitment to being loathsome these days- first the cheating, then the Trump loving- and this past week, pointlessly running up the score against Jacksonville Next week, I hear, Tom Brady buys an AIDS drug and jacks the price up.

Anyhow, Zeus was particularly nasty. He was far less concerned with the meek inheriting the earth than he was in changing into a swan and boning the meek’s wife (they had a pretty loose understanding of zoology as well.) The rest of the gods were no better- just a bunch of mean spirited, petty, vindictive, narcissistic, spiteful bastards who absolutely didn’t give a shit about humanity. It must have been wonderfully liberating in a way- like having a Republican president. After all, when Bush and co. were in power, we didn’t wring our hands and wonder WHY they were leading us into one pointless war after another for the sole benefit of their rich cronies or WHY they were making disastrously short-sighted fiscal policy decisions. We knew perfectly well why- they were dicks. They did irresponsible, self-centered, evil, destructive, selfish things because they were irresponsible, self-centered, evil, destructive selfish cocksuckers- plain and simple. All we had to do was fear them, loathe them and mock them. Good times.

With the advent of Judaism, though and the election of Obama, things became more complicated. Now we have to wrestle with thorny and difficult philosophical questions like WHY does God allow bad things to happen to good people, WHY does God turn his back on his supposedly chosen people as they are persecuted and killed, WHY did Obama extend the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy or WHY does Obama continue to order drone attacks on civilians around the wold. It’s a far more complicated world to live in as these questions fuel our doubts and erode our ability to believe.

But then, much like a new Presidential Election restores my faith in the Democrats by showing me just how terrifying the alternative might be, the Jewish New Year draws me back to synagogue by threatening me with DEATH if I don’t show up and repent my sins. Yup, that’s right DEEEEAAAAAAATTTTTTTHHHHHHH. We Jews don’t fuck around. We observe our New Year with a prolonged period of repentance, contemplation and prayer- exactly the way that Christians don’t. Scholars agree that this is the single most boring and painful way to celebrate a new year with the possible exception of watching Ryan Seacrest host the Countdown (Dick Clark’s face moves more than Seacrest’s and he’s been dead for four years). It wasn’t always this way, though. Back in the days of the Ancient Temple of Jerusalem- you know, the good old days Before the Crappy era (or B.C. as it’s typically known) majestically robed priests would ritually slaughter thousands of animals as burnt offerings to God while throngs of ancient Israelites stood silent in the Temple trembling with awe and wonder and the tangible presence of the Divine deep inside the Holy of Holies. Plus- tickets were free! Beat that Congregation Beth Bite Me!

Nowadays, synagogues charge $300 a head and open up the partition wall that separates the Holy of Holies from the Synagogue Multi-Purpose Room (hail to thee o Accordion Wall- for Modern Judaism would be lost without you) so that they can pack in Israelites on colossally uncomfortable metal folding chairs (the Seats of Repentance) all the way to the rear of the Multi-Purpose Room stage and pray at them mercilessly for hours on end as if to punish them for buying tickets in the first place (like LA Opera did with the Einstein on the Beach.) The Israelites, meanwhile, gaze with awe at how fucking slowly the Cantor is singing and the sheer number of pages remaining before the end of services and wonder just how long the Synagogue President can tell corny jokes and babble on about Judaism and his iPad until he just gets it over with and asks for the goddamn money for the pledge drive so we can sing Adon Olam and go the fuck home already. And then, for an encore, we fast from sundown to sundown on Yom Kippur while we grovel before God for our very lives. Happy fuckin’ New Year!

The ritual slaughter of thousands of animals still plays a role in our worship, BTW, they are just converted into brisket and wrapped in plastic far from our sight. Not as entertaining as the old days, but significantly more delicious.

Clearly, then, holidays surrounding the Jewish New Year, typically called the High Holidays or Repent-apalooza (2015- Celebrating 24 years of hokey Lollapalooza puns- Happy Hack-apaolooza!) are not what you would call “fun” unless you are what I would call “crazy”- but, hey, I figure I’m stuck with them, so I might as well try and get something out of them. Here are some of the strategies I’ve tried over the years in order to get the most out of the High Holidays:

1. Better Fasting Through Chemistry

Look, I didn’t intend to come home stoned for Yom Kippur the first time I did it. It’s just that I was in college and it was a Tuesday so naturally I was smoking up with my best friend and that guy Ed with long hair and a tan who was either Native American or Chinese or possibly Italian and sold high quality weed to only the best potheads on the downtown quad first semester sophomore year. You knew he was cool because he cut out the part of the cracker box that said “Baked not Fried” and Scotch taped it to the outside of his dorm room door, much to the tittering delight of us all. Stick it to The Man, Ed! (“The Man” being the R.A., Stacey). Anyhow, by the time it came to head over to my parents’ house for dinner and the evening Kol Nidre service my friend and I were quite impressively stoned. On the one hand, this was good, because it meant that we had a significant appetite and ate heartily of my mother’s World Famous Unbelievably Dry Chicken and Twice Microwaved Potatoes (shit. I’m going to have to atone for that joke next year. Sorry, mom.) On the other hand, less than an hour into our fast we were starving again and giggling more than is, perhaps, considered acceptable in Temple on the most serious night of the year, much to the consternation of my very unstoned and very jealous sister.

With the sun down and a long day of fasting and prayer ahead of us, we realized that  we had no other option but to man up, buckle down and smoke our way through it, just like Playwriting class (the play I came up with was called Dude and it was about a couple of stoned guys who are basically stuck in a really bad play and trying to come up with shit to say to each other. Then, a bunch of people get shot and the whole thing turns out to be a super-violent Scooby-Doo joke with Nazis. God I miss the 90’s. Just me?)

It may seem like a bad idea to use a drug that causes dry mouth and increased appetite on a day when you can’t eat or drink anything- like treating impulse control with Jager bombs but it turns out that weed and fasting go together like hamburgers and fries, peanut butter and jelly, bagels and lox and a whole bunch of other food combinations that sound really fucking good to me right now because I’m fasting as I write this and hungry as hell. For one thing, being high makes playing everybody’s favorite game, “Man, I could really go for a ___________ right now,” a lot more fun- case in point:

Unstoned person#1:
Man, I could really go for a burger right now.

Unstoned person#2:
Yeah, I could really go for a sandwich right now.

Stoned person#1:
Totally. I could seriously go for like, a HUGE bag of Combos.

Stoned person#2:
Yeah, and a Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia milkshake

Stoned person #1:
Fed to me by a crazy-hot Viking chick

Stoned person#2:
With a huge metal bra

Stoned person #1:
Riding a lion

Stoned person #1 & #2:
A Flying lion! (break out in hysterical giggles)

Stoned person #1’s Sister:
(seethe) (rage) (gurgle)

Perhaps it was all this fantasizing over food that allowed us to resist the temptation of eating actual food- because we ended up resisting some serious temptation. Halfway through the day, someone had the insanely masochistic idea to go apple picking. There we were- surrounded by ripe, juicy fruit, ice cold cider and the sweet hot fat smell of fresh cider doughnuts . As the non-stoned among us broke one by one and gave into temptation, only the stoned stood strong and ate nothing (my sister didn’t come.) Is it any wonder this became an annual tradition?

2. Take your fast to go

Sooner or later, weed will always betray you. Sooner or later, instead of coming up with goofy jokes and imagining cool things to eat fed to you by Valkyries, weed just makes you think about how everyone hates you and your boss wants to fire you and your landlord wants to evict you and the cops are outside ready to burst through the door because you could have sworn that you saw a red and blue light flickering through the apartment window for a second and that suspicious black sedan parked across the street hasn’t moved in a couple of days so clearly the FBI is on your ass for telling the doctor that you have a back injury so he’d give you a Medical Marijuana card when your back is actually totally fine and you’re just a filthy, stinking, worthless liar who’s letting everybody down. At this point, it’s best not to smoke anymore and to find other mechanisms for coping with Yom Kippur and life in general. Travel is a great one. Not only is it mind expanding, but if you start feeling paranoid it’s probably because the gypsies are really trying to rob you. Stupid gypsies.

When I lived in New York, I worked at a non-profit Jewish organization (NOTE FOR ANTI-SEMITIC JOKERS: “Non-profit Jewish” is not, in fact an oxymoron- and, yes, I’ve fucking heard that one before) with my non-Jewish soon-to-be wife. Naturally, we got the High Holidays off- a gesture which my wife and I interpreted differently:

Me: I’m glad that this organization gives me the time off required to properly observe these very important occasions.

My Wife: WOO-HOO! Four day weekend! ROAD TRIP!!!!

So, there I was, fasting in a rented Ford Aspire (it aspires to be a car!) which we picked up at Newark Airport, heading to Philadelphia. Of course, we couldn’t possibly waste a perfectly good trip through New Jersey in a rental car without hitting Ikea. Now, you may think that you have fasted before in your life or that you know what it is to repent for your sins- but let me tell you, my friend, you don’t know shit until you observed Yom Kippur in the cinnamon-bun scented Swedish amusement park of particle board and pain that is Ikea. After all, Ikea is an incredibly annoying place to shop for incredibly annoying things- like a torture chamber where you have to buy your own Iron Maiden and put it together before your tormentors shove you inside and slam the spikes in your face- which is totally fine by you as long as you never, ever have to use an allen wrench again. Anyone who can maintain their fast in the face of such colossal unpleasantness- and the omnipresent temptation of meatballs and the gooey goodness of cinnamon buns should be forgiven for pretty much anything.

Ultimately, we reached Philadelphia, known as “The City of Brotherly Love” or “The City With the Really Ironic Nickname.” As we drove around looking for the restaurant I had pre-selected to break my fast, we found ourselves caught in an endless loop by the art museum. Now, I love the “look kids, Big Ben…Parliament” gag from European Vacation as much as the next guy, but if I’m fucking starving and the stars are starting to come out it gets unfunny very, very quickly. Finally we exited our vortex of irritation, found a random charming restaurant in a random charming neighborhood and had a fantastic meal.

So- do I recommend travel for Yom Kippur? Hell, yeah! It was an adventure- and adventure beats sitting in Temple like steak beats hamburger; bratwursts beat hot-dogs; rich, thick slaps of strawberry covered delicious cheese-cake beats Jello cheesecake pudding (did I mention how fucking hungry I was?). In fact, a couple of years ago, I drove home from San Francisco on Yom Kippur after I hit morning services in the Mission at the Temple Beth’s A Lesbian. Good times. I sent my sister a postcard (OK, that’s a lie.)

3. Score Free Tickets

Look, I get free tickets to stuff all the time- and not just to artsy crap like plays and operas. I’ve gotten Dodger tickets, Kings tickets, Clipper tickets- hell, I’ve even gotten tickets to see teams that DON’T suck, like the Lakers (oh, wait, that was supposed to be an example of “teams that don’t suck” -HA! . But, until this year, I have never received the Ultimate Comp- free High Holiday Tickets. Normally, these are about as obtainable as tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (sweet, delicious river of chocolate…drool…..) so I have to resort to hitting the Chabad House if I want free services and getting my Jew on with the Ultra-Mega-Super-Duper-Right-Wing-Black-Hat-Crazy-Pants-Orthodox in an overstuffed little sweatbox of a room. It’s a little weird and slightly uncomfortable — a bit like getting free vegetarian food from the Hare Krishnas — nourishing, warm and generous on one hand, but it doesn’t really taste like anything you’re used to. Everyone there is chanting and mumbling and wearing the same outfits and you can’t help feeling a little squirmy about the fact that you might be hanging out with a cult just to get a bargain — like joining the Moonies to save on your wedding, though fortunately, they can’t serve Kool-Aid on Yom Kippur (Went there!).

The past few years, though, thanks to my fancy-schmanzy, high-level, showbiz connections (I know a guy)- I was able to score some comps to a swanky Temple where I could repent in style and comfort. Hell, they even had a jumbotron in the back of the Multipurpose room, so you could see the Rabbi up close. I have to admit, I thought the Kiss-Cam thing may have been taking it a little too far but, you know, they’re Reform, so I guess it’s all good. And, the best part is, since they are Reform, there was no screwing around with the Service. It was like the NFL RedZone channel of prayer — just all the big highlights and none of that messing around and mumbling shit in the middle. In and out in under 3 hours!

Okay, so maybe it was a little too fast and efficient for me. I like a little ground and pound in my services, but it certainly beats hanging out with a bunch of aspiring West Bank settlers. It may even be better than watching my wife eat meatballs at a furniture store while I fast (OK, so she didn’t actually eat them in front of me. Call it “poetic license”- the only license I can get!)

4. Try taking it seriously for 5 lousy minutes

You’ve been an asshole this year. It’s okay. I’ve been an asshole, too. Probably a bigger one than you. Not as bad as Donald Trump or Tom Brady or Zeus, but definitely somewhere on the asshole spectrum. So, why not take a day and deal with it? Say I’m sorry. Forgive the people I wanted to stab in the face with a handful of sharpened golf-pencils. Think about being a better person- maybe not yelling at people so much on the phone when they turn out to be worthless morons who can’t actually help me- but, you know, they’re probably doing their best and not deliberately trying to give you an anger fueled stroke. Or maybe start actually giving a shit about Darfur or at least figuring out where it is on a map. Or…you know…something something Syrian refugees. I don’t know … anything to show that I’ve been thinking about repentance and I’m going to give it a little bit of a shot. Not so much because God cares or notices or even exists but because there’s a slim chance that not being so much of an asshole might in some infinitesimal way make the world a very slightly better place, so it may be worth trying.

I continue to find new ways of experiencing the High Holidays. In fact, the year I first wrote this, I observed Yom Kippur by fasting as I opened a heavy-metal, country and western, multimedia operetta with a huge cowboy shindig at intermission and an after party featuring chili shooters and Mountain Lion Margaritas — or as normal people would put it “going into the office on the holiday.” (aaah, I’ve Never Been So Happy- good times. And to think that back in 2011, I thought that was as wacky as things could possibly get! I guess I was about 3,000 boxes off on that one.) I guess our boring old religion still has some life in it, even if we don’t have animal sacrifices (sweet, delicious animal sacrifices. Goddamn it, I’m hungry) or a wicked cabal of evil a-holes controlling our fate (that’s Republicans are for.)

So…right, the whole atoning thing. Uhm…I guess I’m sorry to everybody who I might have accidentally offended last year. Except for Republicans….and Patriots fans….and Ryan Seacrest cause y’all can go fuck yourselves. (aaaah, the first appearance of the “I’m sorry…except” joke- since posted annually on Facebook. And to think I used it up this year on the morons who want to de-fund Planned Parenthood without even knowing that two days later there would be some colossal hedge-fund douche-bro who would jack up the price of AIDS medication. So many assholes, so few punchlines) . Oh, and Kobe Bryant really is a homophobic racist who should choke on a Cub-Scout’s dick (ahhh, memories. I’d almost forgotten how much I hated Kobe. It’s hard to stay so mad at him now that he’s old and useless- sort of like Ronald Reagan after he got Alzheimer’s). But, you know, I’m sorry to anybody who maybe didn’t deserve to be offended, like the makers of Lucky Charms. I’m sorry, I just don’t think it’s very good. I mean- hard marshmallows??? What the fuck??? (honestly, I’m not even sure what the hell I was referring to here. Seriously-does anyone remember?? Did I write something hateful about Lucky Charms four years ago? I have absolutely no recollection. Oh no- is this how dementia starts? Is this Karmic revenge for making an Alzheimer’s joke?? SHIT!!! Sorry, sorry, sorry- I’m barely even done with the fucking holidays and I’ve already got stuff to atone for next year. Plus it’s probably just all that weed – the Ghosts of Yom Kippur Past catching up with me.) Crap, I’m screwing this up already. Damn it. Maybe I’ll do better at atoning next year. I can at least aim for that. And, hey, I probably should apologize to my sister. We should have let her smoke with us.

So there you have it- Happy New Year- 5776! (That’s right- you read that correctly- Five-Thousand-Seven-Hundred-and-Seventy-Six. Our calendar could kick your calendar’s ASS.)

Originally published on October 10, 2011 on Fierce and Nerdy. Sort of.

[California Seething] Shark-noir-do

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SPOILER ALERT: This post may contain details and information that could spoil the experience of watching Sharknado 3. Then again, it would be hard to imagine I could possibly spoil the experience of watching Sharknado 3 Cal Seething- 081115- handsawany more than the bozos who made the movie already have. And therein lies the biggest mystery of Sharknado 3. No- it’s not whether Tara Reid lives or dies at the end- I guess they’ve just left that up to Twitter to decide- so do yourself and America a favor and hashtag “#AprilDies” on everything you Tweet – because the most believable part of her performance is her prosthetic chainsaw attachment which is the most human thing about her. But, anyhow, the biggest mystery about Sharknado 3 is – how did they manage to ruin something that was already so terrible to begin with? Look at it this way, any chef can screw up beef bourguignon- but it takes a special kind of incompetence to fuck up Ramen- and that’s exactly what the geniuses who made Sharnknado 3 did. How the hell did they manage that? All they had to do was take a cheap, pre-packaged shark movie, boil it in shlock til it was dumb enough to be funny but not so long that it was reduced to a brainless mush, and add in a shiny flavor packet of Gen-XCal Seething- 081115- ramen in-jokes (Ian Ziering is cinematic MSG) and voila- a Sharknado 3 that doesn’t suck. Just a tasty little movie with no nutritional value that’s even more delicious when you’re wasted. They followed this recipe and produced two perfectly good (or, let’s keep it real, perfectly bad) Sharknado movies- but they messed it up badly with the third one.

First of all, they overcooked it- going well past the “brainless mush” stage until nothing was left but a gelatinous glob of gore and idiocy. Then they emptied an industrial sized canister of celebrity cameos into the glob (David Hasselhoff is cinematic Cheez Whiz), deep fried the whole thing in product placement and served it with a side of cynical self-awareness- like oh oh oh- we know it’s dumb so that makes everything ok. Well, I’ve got news for you guys- it doesn’t. Dog shit with parsley is still just dog shit- and yes, I realize I just pulled off the extremely rare “metaphor inside a metaphor”- the blogging equivalent of the flashback inside a flashback. And, yes, I realize that was actually a metaphor FOR a metaphor- which is even more rare- as rare as a unicorn or a Lincoln Chafee supporter or a transgendered Republican reality TV star. Come to think of it- why isn’t Caitlyn running for president? I mean – Olympic champion, successful businessman, conservative Christian,Cal-Seething--081115--voltr pop culture icon and now a WOMAN??? That’s something for everyone! She’s a one woman Fox News debate! She’s five candidates in one- she’s GOPTron! Hell, she’s even got a black son in law (or, ex-step-son-in-law- close enough). Now if she can just get Khloe to marry Pitbull she’ll be UNSTOPPABLE.

Which gets me back to my original point- how did the producers manage to screw up Shaknado 3 so badly? The movie starts with a tornado full of sharks hitting Washington DC and destroying the White House- could there be any better metaphor for the election??? I mean, come on – 10,000 sharks hit DC and not a single one has Trump hair- how did the producers miss that? It’s like striking out at kickball. Sure, there was a tiny nod to political satire with Cal Seething- 081115- cubancoulterPresident Mark Cuban and Vice President Anne Coulter (easily the scariest part of the movie) but they could have done so much more. For instance: Obama orders Congress to evacuate- the Republicans refuse and are eaten by sharks. Trump says the sharks are murderers and drug dealers that are attracted by Megyn Kelly’s blood. Bernie Sanders has some great ideas but #SharkLivesMatter shouts him down at a rally which the mainstream media won’t cover. Jeb Bush claims he’s half shark, Fox News claims the science is still out on sharknados, Jimmy Fallon says the sharks can eat more than Chris Christie, Marco Rubio compares the sharknado to an abortion, and a shark eats some lion no one’s ever heard of in Zimbabwe and Facebook loses it’s GODDAMN MIND. Meanwhile Hilary hangs back and doesn’t say a damn thing cause she knows sooner or later the sharks are all gonna Cal Seething- 081115- hilaryeat each other and, when the storm clears, she’ll be the only one standing. Yup- that’s Hilary- President of a ruined nation, its institutions of government destroyed, standing knee deep in shark guts- but- hey- at least she got to be what she always wanted to be when she grew up- so the American Dream is still working for somebody. Slow clap for Madame President. Credits. And THAT’S how you make a Sharknado movie in Washington.

Sadly, though, that’s not what the producers of Sharknado 3 did. Instead, they expected us to believe that Mark Cuban is leader of the free world, an action hero and a passable actor- in ascending order of implausibility. Seriously, Cuban hasn’t been this unconvincing since he met with DeAndre Jordan. And then, after Cal Seething- 081115- iwojimaour heroes raise the American flag Iwo-Jima style in order to impale a flying shark, the worst thing to happen to Veterans in this country since the VA, the movie leaves DC for Universal Orlando- a perfect example of cynical corporate interests ruining something that pretty much sucked to begin with. Hey- come to think of it- you could say the same thing about the Republican party- so maybe this movie is a sly political satire after all!

Anyhow, back in Universal Orlando, Tara Reid is about to give birth to Ian Ziering’s baby (the Cal-Seething--081115--bodersecond scariest thing about this movie) and is hanging out with her mom, Bo Derek, who, in the movie’s only pleasant surprise, looks refreshingly human for an actress her age. Things just get dumber and bloodier from there and the whole thing ends up in outer space with Ian Ziering, David Hasselhoff – who turns out is a former astronaut (one of the less plausible things about the movie) and also Ian Ziering’s dad (one of the most!) and Tara Reid, who was fortunate enough to find a petite maternity space suit at the very last minute. Actually, that’s not really so surprising – what’s surprising is that they take the opportunity to do product placement “Finn- I don’t care if I am pregnant. If you’re going into space to save the world I’m going with you. And besides, I found the cutest little space suit at Pea in the Pod, and I’m just dying to try it out!”

Anyhow, they are launched into space by NASA on a secret space shuttle with the intention of creating a huge explosion which will somehow end the sharknado, which is TOTALLY PREPOSTEROUS. I mean, everyone knows if you want to blow something up in space you hire Space X. But anyhow, the explosion thing doesn’t work and they have to use the old SDI (“Star Wars”) satellites from the 80’s instead to fire a laser pulse into the heart of the giant storm. Well, before the ghost of Ronald Reagan can say “I told you so- wait- what were we talking about again?”, Hasselhoff leaves the shuttle to float out to theCal-Seething--081115--hoff satellite and hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete on it so that it can fire the laser- even though he knows it means he will die in space because the shuttle doesn’t have enough fuel to come back and pick him up. Which I guess is supposed to be heroic, and I guess we’re supposed to be inspired by his courage when one of the movie’s final shots shows him standing on the surface of the moon- but I have to wonder – if he could float 240,000 miles to the moon how come he couldn’t float 50 feet back to the space shuttle? But then again, I suppose I too would rather suffocate in the infinite blackness of space then spend ONE MORE FUCKING MINUTE ALIVE with Tara Reid #AprilDies.

Anyhow, sharks in space, something something something, space shuttle destroyed, Tara Reid gets swallowed by a shark, Ian Ziering goes in after her and she gives birth to her baby while plummeting to earth in the belly of an enormous flaming shark, ultimately slicing it open from the inside with the buzzsaw attachment on her hand (man, that thing can act!) and handing the mewling infant to Ian Ziering before slicing her way out of the carcass of the beast. And it’s perfect cause this is exactly what she wrote in the birth plan she gave her doula except for the Enya and aromatherapy candles.

Oh yeah, sharks also eat the cast of the Today show but spare Kathy Lee and Hoda because they’re in recoveryCal Seething- 081115- aprildies and at the very end of the movie, a giant hunk of space debris falls out of the sky on Tara Reid and, we, the viewers get to vote on Twitter if she lives or dies – and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AMERICA, I’m begging you once more to tweet #AprilDies. An America that doesn’t want to kill Tara Reid just isn’t an America I want to live in.

Alright, so, yeah, Sharknado 3. Total crap. The worst movie of the summer not featuring Planned Parenthood. I’ve already written 1500 more words than that fucking movie deserved. And maybe the reason I’m being so critical of it is that I’ve been obsessed all month with the TCM’s Summer of Darkness- DVR’ing 24 hours worth of film noir classics every Friday in June & July and slowly working my way through them. Now, some of you may not be aware of what film noir is or have any knowledge of classic cinema- and that’s OK. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a culturally illiterate philistine wallowing in the excrement of your cinematic ignorance who thinks that being a sophisticated movie goer means spending $15 to see Pixels at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks. You know, per se. Hey, it’s your money (Mazal Tov, BTW, to the fast food workers of New York State for their recent minimum wage increase. They’ll be earning no less than $15/hour state-wide by 2021, which is perfect as it gives McDonalds exactly enough time to perfect the robo-cashier. Just hand over your money to the animatronic clown, kiddies, then never stop screaming in your sleep.) If you want to spendCal-Seething--081115--pixel your hard earned cash watching Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Josh Gad (add Jack Black and you’ve got the Mount Rushmore of Ugh) fight classic video game characters in a movie that’s been hacked to pieces so that it be sold to the Chinese (I suppose it’s only fitting. First we ruin Chinese food to make it palatable to Americans now we ruin American movies to make them palatable to the Chinese), that’s your terrible choice to make. Who am I to judge? (GUILTY!) Hey, we all have our taste in crap- I liked the first two Sharknado movies and I’m a sucker for the Fast & Furious franchise. But, sometimes it’s good to know that there’s something better out there and that’s when I turn to TCM. Because like Monterey Park hot-pot in a world of Panda Express- TCM has the real thing.

So what is this film noir thing anyhow? First of all- it’s important to know how to pronounce it- it’s not “Film New-ahh” with a silent “r” like it’s en francais or something – it’s “Film Newarrr” with the “r” pronounced American style. Cause while the name may be French, the film movement is as American as French Fries or French Dressing, although to be fair- the stories are actually told through the international language (film- what were you thinking?) Anyhow, there are a million ways to define Film Noir (or “freedom flicks” as Lindsay Graham called them in the mid 2000’s) but I like to start with this quote from Walter Neff, protagonist of Double Indemnity, the best film noir of all Cal Seething- 081115- nefftime:

“Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money – and a woman – and I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?”

And, weirdly, enough, it is pretty. Cause that’s what film noir is all about- making bad choices while looking good. And while I realize that could also be the logline for Models, Inc, it’s nevertheless true of film noir. Now, some of these choices can seem innocuous at first- pick up the wrong hitchhiker, notarize the wrong document, go home with the wrong guy and, boom, just like that your life can be changed forever. In these movies, fate can seem arbitrary and cruel- like a pop-quiz from the universe designed to test your character.

But in most film noir, the choices are not so innocent. Take our friend Walter Neff. Now, Walter has things pretty good. He’s a charming, handsome bachelor with a good job that allows enough flexibility to go bowling in the afternoon (my lifelong dream) and an apartment in Hollywood with underground parking- which in and of itself is something worth killing for (“I killed him for off-street parking- and an open-plan kitchen- and I didn’t get the parking and I didn’t get the kitchen”- House Hunters Noir!)

But he is dissatisfied. He’s restless. We’ve all felt it. This country was founded on restlessness and dissatisfaction- it’s at the root of the American Dream. But it’s dangerous. Hell, there’s nothing more dangerous than restless, dissatisfied white people- just ask anyone we haven’t killed yet. Now for the first 150 years or so of this country’s existence the answer to restlessness and dissatisfaction was always “go west, young man”. But Walter Neff finds himself in sunny Los Angeles- as far west as he can go. I mean, technically, I suppose technically he could move to Santa Monica but then he’d have to give up his underground parking spot and THERE ARE LIMITS. So, what does he do? He goes slightly north-east instead to the home of Mr and Mrs Cal Seething- 081115- walterandphyllis.Dietrichson somewhere in the hills. He is hoping to renew Mr Dietrichson’s car insurance but ends up concocting a much deadlier plan when he meets Mrs Phyllis Dietrichson, a very sexy woman with a really unsexy name.

In fact Walter and Phyllis sound less like a couple of sex crazed killers and more like my grandparent’s friends from Congregation Beth Emeth. Sure, Phyllis hosted a killer Hadassah luncheon and Walter was a hoot at the Brotherhood breakfasts, but my grandparents had to cut them off when they caught Walter cheating at canasta. He couldn’t help himself. He’s no good. He’s rotten. That’s the reason why most noir heroes and heroines make the terrible choices they do in response to their dissatisfaction. They’re rotten. And it’s the only reason we viewers need- we don’t need to know about their terrible childhoods, we don’t need to hear about how they are victims of society, how they suffer from FFS (Femme Fatale Syndrome.) Everything we need to know about their backstory is wrapped up in this quote from The Hollow Triumph – “It’s a bitter little world.”

The men and women of noir have been kicked around their whole lives and so they are shitty people with poor impulse control who are likeable because they are so damn cool. It’s a blast to watch them try and get away with stuff the rest of us barely dare to think about and cathartic as hell when they fall on their chiseled faces with success just tantalizingly out of reach- tripping over their shoelaces at the finish line of the marathon. Or- better yet, they cross the finish line and feel warm and safe all wrapped in the shinyCal Seething- 081115- marathon insulated blanket of success only to fall into an open trench reaching for someone to hug.

And in the best noir flicks, what trips our heroes up is not their wickedness but their inconvenient humanity- the shot they can’t take, the heart they can’t break, the home they shouldn’t try to go back to but can’t help themselves, the lover they can’t leave behind, the betrayal they never see coming. And sometimes, it’s just the fact that they can’t live one more day with their horrible, rotten selves and so they jump in to that open trench with a crooked smile on their face and leave the rotten world behind.

As for Walter Neff- I won’t tell you exactly what happens to him. Suffice it to say he makes some bad choices and they don’t turn out well. He doesn’t get the money. He doesn’t get the woman. And he’s probably gonna lose his parking spot. A bitter little world indeed.

There’s a lot more I can say about film noir and, in fact, I’m going to say it! In my next post, though because I’ve already wasted your whole fucking lunch hour (sorry). Why not? What am I supposed to do instead of wallowing in the great films of the past- deal with reality? Seriously??? Have you seen that place? There’s random violence, Cal Seething- 081115- debatesanctioned brutality and a perfect storm of right wing lunatics gathering in the skies above Washington threatening to strike the White House in 2016 (GOPnado). And since Shitnado 3 was such a major disappointment and I refuse to gorge myself on the globs of orange chicken being vomited out in 3D from IMAX screens, I turn to noir for distraction instead- a cool, dark cafe away from the blazing sun. And you know what, it’s nice in here. I think I’ll stay awhile. I mean, just look at what’s waiting for me in the outside world- armed white supremacists marching around Ferguson,  Trump gaining in the polls, the Jets punching each other in the face- why not live in the past??? The present blows! But the sad truth is that sooner or later I’m gonna run out of noir flicks on my DVR and I’m going to have to return to the present- and in anticipation of that terrible day- allow me to just say one thing- #AprilDies. It’s the least I can do to make the world a little less bitter.

[California Seething] Madness Revisited

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As far as I’m concerned, there are three types of people in the world:

  1. People who get sort of excited about March Madness and kind of miss it when it’s done.
  2. People who REALLY get excited about March Madness and look forward to it with the eager anticipation of Cal Seething- 040815- heartparents awaiting their first child only without the accompanying dread of terrible baby shower games (can we go back to not inviting dudes to these? I’m cool with that little bit of inequality if it means I never have to worry about tasting fucking baby food.) People like me who, when March Madness is over, feel as though a couple of nattily dressed brainlessly burbling SportsCenter anchors reached into their chest and ripped out their still beating hearts Temple-of-Doom style as they endlessly jabbered on about Tiger Woods’ chances at the Masters this year and the Opening Day of the fucking interminable death march that is the Baseball season. I swear, it’s like the Trail of Tears with Vin Scully filling in for Andrew Jackson and nachos for smallpox infested blankets.
  3. Weird, freaky, pasty faced people with hateful little beady eyes who don’t enjoy March Madness at all but instead prefer clubbing baby seals, leaving passive-aggressive notes on their neighbors’ cars, and watching fucking baseball.

So- clearly you’re waaaaaaay to cool to be one of the THIRD type of people- right? Of course you are. And that’s why I’m pretty sure that you miss March Madness at least a little bit and yearn for those magical days of endlessly chasing the buzzer beater dragon – just hours and hours of “What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? Don’tshootdon’tshootdon’tshootdon’tshootdon’tshooot no no no no no no…..YES!!! yesyesyesyesyesyes IT’S OVER!!!!! IT’S OVER!!!!! Good game good game good game good game game. ” Come on- you know you miss it- and that’s why I’ve decided to relive the glory of the past month through the email updates that I, as the humble commissioner of my company’s TOTALLY for entertainment purposes only March Madness pool sent the participants in the pool. Join me as we relive the almost infinitesimal number of highs and all the many, many, oh so very many lows, as I take you from anticipation to devastation to the inevitable conclusion- with as much of the really boring crap cut out as I could manage (so, yeah, just imagine how much worse this would be if I left that stuff in!) Also- names have been changed to protect the innocent, profanity has been ramped up cause FUCK THE INNOCENT and I punched up a bunch of jokes cause I can’t stop myself.

Plus- as a bonus- you get all sorts of random and totally outdated jokes about current events- it’s as much fun as going through the old newspapers in your mom’s house when you’re putting together her audition video for Hoarders! Not that I have any idea what that’s like.

March 4, 2015

Subject: It’s March- And You Know What That MeansCal Seething- 040815- march

….at least- I’m hoping you know what that means, because if you’re getting this email it means that you participated in last year’s CTG March Madness pool, which means (unless you were only participating out of a sense of obligation or because somebody smacked you on the back of your head and took your money) that you’re as excited to get this email as I am to send it!! Or, OK, maybe not as excited because I’m bouncing up and down with glee- but, you know, pretty damn close.

Yeah, all the rest of this is just boring functional crap- you just need to know that the winner gets 75% of the pool and buys bagels for everyone, second place gets 25%, loser gets their $5 back and the Most Creative Bracket name wins some random prize. I say all of this like 10,000 more times and people are still like “now, what do I get if I win again?” People are dumb. Not any of you reading this of course- but, you know, OTHER people.

Let the madness begin!!!!

March 13, 2015

Subject: Selection Sunday is This Sunday- Can We Please Start Freaking Out Already?Cal Seething- 040815- obama

OK, so last week when I sent out the first March Madness message a whole WEEK AND A HALF before Selection Sunday, I was told by some people who shall remain nameless but are dicks that I was being overenthusiastic and premature (something which I was often accused of as a teenager- if you know what I mean. Yeah- you got it. Raising my hand in English class. Sigh #lonelynerd.)

But, can you really blame me? I mean, clearly March Madness is the most important thing happening in the world right now- hell, it’s so important that the President himself takes time away from testing the patience of Westside liberals by fucking up traffic on the way to do Kimmel (seriously?? Kimmel??? They’re closing streets so you can do Kimmel??? What’s next- declaring a national state of emergency so you can be a guest judge on Masterchef Jr???) to participate- although, 47 Senators did send a letter to the NCAA to ignore Obama’s bracket. Hey Senators- when you make the foreign minister of IRAN look like the adult in the room- it may be time to admit you’ve gone too far. It’s like the kid who eats paste telling the kid who eats his own shit to grow up and behave already. (OUTDATED CURRENT EVENT REFERENCE ALERT) Anyhow, you see my point- I mean what am I supposed to focus on if not March Madness- the 99 Seat Theatre fracas? That’s like a Civil War in the world’s smallest, poorest and least relevant country with Facebook playing the role of Gettysburg and Charlayne Woodard as General Lee. (If you think you’d like to learn more about the 99 Seat Plan controversy you totally don’t.)Cal Seething- 040815- 99

Well, anyhow- I held off on sending any further communication- but now- now- Selection Sunday is two days away, Conference Tournaments are in full swing and it is officially, incontrovertably and indubidably time to start FREAKING THE FUCK OUT!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA !!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   etc.

OK- so- if you are getting this message and you played last year, or have already registered for the group- then all you have to do is:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, boring stuff about how to participate- blah blah blah.

I’ll send another annoying reminder on Monday! If you don’t want to play – just let me know and I’ll bug you no more, though I will think significantly less of you.

March 24, 2015- Rounds of 64 & 32

Subject: My Bracket’s Not Busted and I’m Sort of Freaking Out About It

When I awoke on Saturday morning from uneasy dreams and ran to check my bracket I discovered something very troubling had transpired the night before and somehow, inexplicably, I was very close to the lead. You can see why I was disturbed by this. I mean, normally, when I wake up all excited on the first Saturday of the tournament and check my bracket, I find a terrifying bloody wreck and my excitement quickly turns to horrified dismay, like a kid waking up on Christmas morning and finding the mangled corpse of a goat under the tree- and if that hasn’t been used as the opening of a Criminal Minds episode yet- then WHY THE HELL NOT? They can use a line from Had Cal Seething- 040815- goatGadya for the opening quote. Eh- Had Gadya? Obscure Passover reference? Fellow Jews? Anyone??? Is this foreskin on????

Anyhow- my point here is that I’m used to looking at my bracket and seeing a ruined mess, so it was jarring to see it all neat and tidy. I haven’t been this freaked out since I visited New York after a decade away and saw what Bloomberg had done to the place- hell, I went down to Tompkins Square Park and there were actually KIDS playing in a sandbox….filled with…. get this…sand! Not syringes and puke, shattered malt liquor bottles and broken dreams- but pure, clean, wholesome sand- WTF???? THIS IS NOT MY CITY. Sigh.

You know what I’m saying right- New York isn’t New York without the junkies and the piss and the crime and March Madness ain’t March Madness without the agonizing failure, crushing disappointment and wave after wave of punishing self doubt OH YEAH – BRING IT, BABY- THAT SHIT’S LIKE HEROIN TO ME. Plus all of my picks were predictable and dull and if there’s one thing the tournament should never be, it’s predictable and dull (aside from the first day- that was great- but, of course, that was the one day I was way too busy with my stupid “job” thing to actually watch games. By the time I started watching on Friday, it was like when I showed up all excited for my first summer at camp and all everyone kept talking about was how awesome last summer was. Sigh.)  It got to the point that by Friday night I started cheering for outcomes wildly in conflict with my own self interest just in the hopes that something interesting would happen. So- Dayton over Providence- SURE! Michigan State over Virginia- WHY NOT??? NC State over Cal Seething- 040815- piccolo‘Nova? ABSO-FUCKIN’-LUTELY!! Score that upset! Bust that Bracket! Make that piccolo player WEEP- IT’S THE TOURNAMENT, BABY- IF YOU AINT’ CRYIN’- YOU AIN’T TRYIN’.

And yet, despite the massive upsets in the East Region my bracket still looks pretty good. And, you know what- I think I’m OK with that- hell, I’m in a big tie for third, and, who knows- maybe I could actually win this thing after ten years of heartbreak and despair- or, much much much more likely, I can get my hopes built up REALLY HIGH only to slide into defeat like a coach off a chair. Man, that guy loves his son. It’s kind of weird, right? The only time my dad cried when he talked about me was when he told people I was a theatre major. Kidding! Kidding! My parents have always been supportive of all my creative ambitions. So supportive that they are probably gonna read this post- hi guys! Thanks for always having my back, Dad and not crying like a bitch about it in front of the whole fucking country:

Anyhow- all of this is to say- we’re just one week into this thing with games starting up again on Thursday two more weeks of (hopefully) crazy action to go and anything can still happen! (within reason) So- good luck, have fun- and GO WHOEVER IS PLAYING KENTUCKY!

March 30, 2015- Sweet 16 & Elite 8

Subject: I Guess I Was Asking For It

Look, I’m no dummy. I know I was asking for it. Hell, last week I was all “ooooh the tournament is so boooooring” and “why hasn’t anyone busted my braaaaaacket yet” and “oh boo hoo hoo I’m actually winning this year wah wah wah” shamelessly whining about my First World Problems like a Food-Babe-reading-Whole-Foods-mom screaming at a minimum wage cashier cause she can’t find the right brand of Cruelty Free Kale Chips (there’s no such thing, of course. Kale Chips are cruel by definition). I should have known that my hubris would never be tolerated by the Tournament Gods Lundquist and Vitale (who maintains his youthful vigor by sucking the souls from insufferable Cal Seething- 033015- ashleyactresses, but the joke’s on him cause she traded her soul years ago to take Sandra Bullock’s role in Double Jeopardy. Then again, he was able to suck out a mouthful of used Botox and stale collagen- which makes his look younger and gives him the energy he needs to extol the virtues of clean living in between shooting Hooters commercials.)

Anyhow, the Tournament Gods let me have my One Shining Moment during the Sweet 16 while I was competing for the lead, before they smote me with a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm (can you tell I’m getting psyched for Passover? Charoset in the Chouse!!) That’s right- in the very first game of the Elite 8 Wisconsin beat my super-brilliant pick to win the whole tournament: Arizona. Yeah, that’s right- Arizona. Gun totin’, immigrant hatin’, Jan Brewer electin’, MLK Day not celebratin’, Daylight Savings Time rejectin’, sun blasted, godforsaken, racist fuckin’ ARIZONA. Arizona- who’s only two attractions are a gigantic hole in the ground and an absurdly warm climate- making it, officially, the sweaty asshole of America. I mean, there’s a reason why Arizona was the last of the contiguous states added in 1912 after every single other territory had already been granted statehood- nobody wanted it! And do you think Congress was even serious about making it a state when theyCal Seething- 040815- carrie did? Hello no! It was like inviting Carrie to the prom- they were gonna dump pig’s blood on Arizona’s Senator on his first day of work (their all going to laugh at you, Arizona) but then they saw he was heavily armed and bat-shit crazy so they sad, “Screw it, we’ll keep the damn state. We can send baseball players there to train and old people there to die. Oh- and someday- someday maybe they’ll have an actual university. Yeah- and that university might have a basketball team- and that basketball team might get really, really good. So good, in fact, that some pundit might write an article about how in a large March Madness pool it’s actually statistically better to pick Arizona than the heavily favored Kentucky. And then, some complete and utter nincompoop with a beard who runs a theatre and sweats a lot will read this article and he’ll pick Arizona only to have them lose terribly in the Elite 8, blowing his bracket to smithereens while we laugh and laugh and laugh. Except of course, that we’ll be dead. Long dead. Almost as dead as that sweaty fuckwad’s bracket. Ha!” – and THAT’s the story of how Arizona became a state. It’s like Schoolhouse Rock up in this bitch.

And then- to add insult to bracket breaking- Notre Dame came within SECONDS of pulling off a gigantic upset and beating Kentucky in the second game on Saturday- which would have been awesome for a whole host of reasons, not Cal Seething- 040815- ndthe least of which being that everyone’s brackets would be a screwed as mine- only to lose in heartbreaking fashion in the final seconds of the game. Of course, it could be seen as karmic retribution that Notre Dame, which is located in Indiana, had their hearts torn out by Kentucky just days after the passage of the Religious Bigotry Act. Which, I know, is crazy when you think about it- when has Kentucky ever been the LESS bigoted state to cheer for? (OUTDATED CURRENT EVENT WARNING)

Alright- that’s all I’ve got- semi-final games are this Saturday and I’ll be watching on my phone during the Seder and trying not to yell out profanity during the Ten Plagues- or, at any rate, more profanity than is usual for our family Seder (come party with us!)

Good luck this weekend (to those of you whose brackets aren’t completely fucked)! Happy Passover (or Easter, whatever).

April 6, 2015 (Final Four Update)

Subject: Who Cares Who Wins? Kentucky Lost!

Alright, I promised myself I was gonna be gracious here. Be professional, be objective- just report on the facts. Not to Cal Seething- 040815- frankexpress my feelings about how ABSO-FUCKIN’-LUTELY AWESOME it is that Big Bad Blue Kentucky, led by coach John “Douchebag” Calipari  (hey, it’s not my fault that his parents named him that. It’s cause he was born with a full head of douchey coach hair- a rare congenital condition known as Pitino’s Disease. And also cause he’s a douche)  and his over-hyped gaggle of pumped up one-and-done, Happy Meal All Americans CRUMBLED  in the final seconds of the semi-final game like matzah under the weight of a Kaminsky-sized wedge of Wisconsin cheddar.

And, I’m sure as hell not going to talk about how TOTALLY AMAZEBALLS (is “amazeballs” still a thing? I’m very Cal Seething- 040815- ashley old) it was to see Ashley Judd and the rest of Big Boo-hoo Nation in the stands watching as their hopes and dreams for a history making undefeated season went down the toilet The “toilet”, I’m told, is a bathroom fixture that I eagerly look forward to revisiting just as soon as Passover is over. Just picture Wisconsin’s big men clogging the lane and you’ll have a rough idea what’s going on inside me. I know, TMI (is TMI still a thing? God, I’m so old).

Anyhow- like I said- I’m not gonna revel in Kentucky’s SOUL CRUSHING defeat (tee hee hee. Tee hee hee. Stop that!) – but I am going to report objectively and without bias that this has basically tanked just about half of the brackets in our pool- and has left only two players still seriously competing for victory. But in a way, we’re all winners- because whoever wins the tournament will be gracing us with the traditional Victory Bagels so that we can all share in the triumph. Except for me, of course, because Passover. And Kentucky because THEY LOST WOO-HOO!!!!! Sorry, sorry, sorry. I wasn’t going to celebrate. It’s OK Kentucky- you guys tried your best and it just wasn’t good enough. There’s no shame in that, unless, of course, you’re ashamed of being a bunch of fucking losers which, of course, you should be. Plus- it’s good for you to get used to losing- cause it’s all you’re gonna be doing in theCal Seething- 040815- jack NBA when you play for the Lakers next year. (All suck and no game makes Jack a sad boy. All suck and no game makes Jack a sad boy.)

tl:dr Kentucky lost. Wisconsin won. Everyone’s brackets are fucked and I’m inappropriately happy about it. (I know tl:dr is still at thing, cause it’s the most common comment on my posts. Sigh)

OK- to check all the standings please visit the site- and for any UK (and Laker) fans who want to punch me in the face- I’ll be out of the office til Wednesday. If you need to punch someone in the face urgently, please contact Charlayne Woodard immediately (though she’ll make you pay her minimum wage for the privilege  or, you can wait Cal Seething- 040815- randuntil Wednesday and punch me in the face when I return. And if you’re not following the whole 99 seat mess, you can just punch Rand Paul. Go on, do it. He’ll throw a little temper tantrum like a five year old who’s daddy took away his Fountainhead Lego set (build a towering skyscraper as a testament to human superiority and then smash it on the ground because it’s too perfect to exist).

Happy Final Game!

April 7, 2015- Final Update

Subject: Duke Wins. Oh Goody.

You know, I talk a lot of trash about Kentucky- but I really owe them a debt of gratitude. Because a few years ago, if Cal Seething- 040815- clDuke had won (oh, yeah, Duke won, BTW) I would have been full of piss and vinegar- all “entitled preppy white boys” this and “J. J. Reddick” that and “something something something cleaning my toilet with Christian Laettner’s stupid 90’s Lesbian haircut”. But now, because I find Kentucky so utterly loathsome and repellent – I’m totally fine with the fact that Duke won! Cause, you see, I take the same approach to sports that the U.S. Government takes to the Middle East- I just support whichever side seems less repulsive at the time (also a common strategy for U.S. voters and consumers of Passover desserts. Honestly, goyim- eat a goddamn macaroon and then tell me you don’t like Marshmallow Peeps.) It’s like- one year the Broncos are in the Superbowl and Seattle is the devil- and the next year Seattle’s playing the Patriots and I’m all “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST RUN THE FUCKING BALL!!!!!” – and, of course, no matter which side I support, I end up losing- so…hey- just like the U.S. Government in the Middle East!

So- yeah- Duke won. Whoopi-dee-doo. I was cheering for Wisconsin cause they beat Kentucky (the enemy of my enemy is my team) but, whatever. And – of course, that means that the winner of our March Madness pool is….Steve’s bracket “Steve” (congrats, “Steve!”)- and the winner of the Most Creative Bracket Name prize is……pretty clearly NOT Steve. Actually- that goes to “Unexpected Value of Ignorance” which is the best bracket name to be taken from an Alejandro Inarritu movie title since “Basket-Babel” and “21 SLAMS!”. And, of course, the second place bracket is “Crying Boys” – or as they are also known “The Harrison Twins”.

Alright, that’s all for now- I hope all of you beady eyed, pasty faced seal clubbers enjoy your stupid baseball season while those who prefer our sports “entertaining” drown our sorrows in the NBA playoffs while we wait for the start of FOOTBALL SEASON!!! WOO HOO!!! Go Jets…or Broncos…or whoever is playing the Patriots- it doesn’t matter. You’re just gonna lose anyhow. Crap.

Meanwhile- while we’re waiting for the football season, we can enjoy the build up to the NFL draft. It’s especially heartening that the NFL is so committed to raising awareness about violence against women that they’re selecting a known rapist with the number one pick. Shame on you, NFL. If only you treated violence against women as seriously as you treat the risk of brain damage to players- oh, wait, never mind- you do! (SADLY, NOT AN OUTDATED CURRENT EVENT WARNING)

Until next year!

Postscript:Cal Seething- 040815- ihate

I was jonesing so bad for some March Madness action that I finally watched the ESPN documentary I Hate Christian Laettner and, hey, guess what? I HATE DUKE AGAIN!!! I knew I should have watched it before the Championship- just think of all the red faced sputtering fury I missed out on. It’s like when I forgot to watch Schindler’s List before Germany won the World Cup. It’s a good flick, though- best video I’ve seen about white privilege in ages that doesn’t feature the NYPD. Oh well, there’s always next year- and, who knows, maybe Wisconsin will actually win the championship and I’ll have to come up with a reason to hate them. Beer swilling, cheese eating, Scott Walker voting motherfuckers! Cal Seething- 040815- cheeseOh, yeah. That’s the stuff- ONLY 11 MONTHS TO GO TIL NEXT MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRCCCCCHHHH!!!!!!!!!

March Madness. Fuck yeah.


[California Seething] Screw the Oscars – My Awards are Better

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The Oscar nominations were announced recently and, due to the lack of diversity, it now looks like these will officially be the Cal-Seething--012514--whitewhitest Oscars since 1998. Woo-Hoo! We’re Number One! In your face everybody else! Wait, no, sorry. Inappropriate. It’s actually terrible. Shockingly terrible. I haven’t seen a result this shocking from an old white male voting pool since….oh…well, I guess it would have to be the midterms. OK, but before that, well, if you want to get a result this disappointing, well, golly, you’d have to go all the way back to, oh let’s see, if I remember correctly, I think it would have to be almost every single election in the history of forever.

And, of course the other big story from the Academy Awards nomination announcement is Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ mispronouncing “Dick Pope” as “Dick Poop.” Although, some believe that this was actually a Freudian slip expressing how she felt about having to announce yet another fucking white guy, cause she also mispronounced Bennett Miller as “this is some bull-shit” and Clint Eastwood as “Ana Duverney.”

Now at this point, many of you are asking- “Hey, Eric- why do you even give a shit about the Oscars? It’s not like you like movies.” Well, let me the record straight, here. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hell, I’m not even sure how you got such a crazy idea. I mean, I suppose it might be because of posts I’ve written like “Summer Movie Preview- I Didn’t See Any, You Can’t Make Me” and “Sharkando 2 Makes Citizen Kane Look Like a Steaming Pile of Crap” but it’s probably because I’m a Jew and you’re anti- Semitic. Yeah, that’s it, nothing to do with what I wrote- hell, what’s the fun of taking responsibility for my actions when I can just accuse you of being a bigot? And you’re not even a good anti-Semite- I mean, if I’m a Jew, I should love movies- after all, the Jews controlCal Seething- 012515- hollywoodjew Hollywood, don’t they? I mean, not my family, we were never popular enough to join the really cool Jewish conspiracies. Not the Zionist Occupation Government, not the International Jewish Banking Cartel, and DEFINITELY not the Left Wing Jewish Intellectual Media Elite, hell, that’s like the Sky Bar of Jewish cabals. They offer Christian blood in bottle service.

No, the closest my family ever came to World Domination is having a moderately rich (not even Albany rich- like, Troy rich) great uncle who had a tiny ownership share of the Jets back in the 60’s. And let’s face it, that’s not so much a proud family legacy of power and glory. It’s just one more embarrassing box to check on the Family Medical History form of my life- Diabetes- CHECK, Heart Disease- CHECK, endlessly cheering for fucking losers year after year after year after year while your youth and your hope and your life slip away and all you’re left with are rage issues, a green pom-pom hat and a compost heap of broken promises where your heart used to be- check CHECK MOTHERFUCKING CHECK. But, hey, that’s my family legacy for you. We’re the Anti-Krafts, the Protocols of the Shmendricks of Zion. So take that microaggressors!! You see- not all Jews are successful. We’re banding together with the other victims of microagression- Asians who suck at math, black people who can’t dance, and gay men who are comfortable with their less than perfect abs. We’re through being polite and we say “NO MORE , please!” Take your well intentioned and, if I’m honest with myself, somewhat flattering BIGOTRY and shove it up your ass- assuming, as a white person, that you have enough ass to shove it in. #JeSuisDonNoSoulSimmons

Speaking of defying stereotypes- I was very encouraged, particularly in light of my last post, by all the number of Islamic leaders and academics who’ve spoken out against the attacks in Paris- most notably the leader of Hezbollah. Now I’m no terrorist, but if the head of Hezbollah is condemning your actions- you might have gone too far. Might be time to just dial it back a little. It’s like Marion Berry showing up to Rob Ford’s intervention or Bill Cosby giving Jameis Winston dosage instructions.

Anyhow like I was saying….at some point earlier today…I think… there’s a pervasive perception that I don’t like movies and it’s justCal Seething- 012515- crap not true. I love movies! What I don’t like is crap, and unfortunately, Hollywood studios don’t make movies anymore- they make crap. They manufacture as much brain-dead CGI fertilizer as they can, so they can spread it across the fertile fields of China and grow a new crop of suckers  movie lovers. So, sure, if you want to catch a Third Man, Night and the City double header or analyze Chinatown as an expression of Vietnam era American disillusionment- I’m your man. But if you want to catch the latest CGI cum stain to be spooged all over an IMAX screen by Michael Bay (I had a bunch of Transformers as a kid- but I don’t remember the one that turned from shit into cash) or any movie featuring the one man oompa-loompa minstrel show that is Kevin Hart (does Chris Tucker know his mini-me is loose?) you’re on your own.

Now of course not all movies are crap- but how can you tell which ones are worth seeing?  Well, it’s not easy- but I’ll share my top secret technique with you here, refined over many years. So- here’s what I do. When I hear that a new movie is coming out, and Cal Seething- 012315- archer2I’m trying to decide if I want to go see it, I say “Huh. Well that sounds like total crap” and I stay home and watch Archer reruns in  my underwear instead. Works every time!

Well, ok, maybe not every time. Sometimes, there might be a movie that I’m really tempted to see- like, let’s say Jeff Bridges is in it or there’s a really cool song in the trailer that’s not actually in the movie. Well, in that case, I wait until someone affiliated with the movie, like, oh let’s say Jeff Bridges, is on Jimmy Fallon. And then I watch impatiently as the Golden Retriever of talk show hosts obsequiously slobbers all over Mr. Bridges with his drooling declarations of undying love, until they show the clip, of, oh let’s say The Giver. I watch the clip carefully, scrutinizing every nuance- dialogue, cinematography, mise en scene. And THEN once I’ve carefully weighed the evidence and given it some thought, I say “Huh. Well that looks like total crap” and I stay home and watch Archer reruns in my underwear instead.Cal Seething- 012315- archer1

But, then, of course, the end of the year rolls around, and the studios dump all their award bait on the marketplace like prestige diarrhea. This is my cinematic Groundhog Day. The time when I stick my head out of my comfortable pop-culture hole in the ground, grudgingly put on a pair of pants ON THE WEEKEND and drag my ass out to see what Paul Thomas Anderson has come up with. And if I see something good, than it restores my faith in humanity’s ability to create something worthwhile, albeit infrequently, for another year. If not…well that’s where my manifesto comes in- but let’s hope it never comes to that- because, hey, as turns out, there were actually a few pretty good flicks this past year. (I’m joking of course about the whole manifesto thing.  You got that, NSA guys- there’s nooo reason at all to be concerned. But- hey- thanks for reading Been & Going! I’m touched, really. Like us on Facebook! That’s where I post all the REALLY big threats to national security. Kidding! But seriously, like me to find out for sure.)

So- alright, if I’m gonna watch these damn movies, then you’re gonna suffer right along with me- so, here, in honor of “Award Season” (recently ranked #4 on Terrible Seasons Magazine’s Top 10 list –right behind “Monsoon Season”, “Tick and Lyme Disease Season” and “Baseball Season”(shudder)) here are my own, personalized 2014 movie awards. Enjoy- or, at the very least, be thankful that I didn’t ask Ricky Gervais to host (shudder).

The “I Wanted to Love It but Only Sort of Liked It” Award- The Grand Budapest HotelCal Seething- 012314- grand

Look, I like Wes Anderson. No, you know what- fuck that- I LOVE Wes Anderson. I’ve seen just about every damn thing he’s made- and I’m not just talking about the Big Three- Rushmore, Tennenbaums and Zissou- I’m talking Bottle Rocket, I’m talking Fantastic Mr. Fox– hell I even saw the totally pointless Jason Schwartzman hotel room web video thing that was like a companion piece to that totally pointless Jason Schwartzman India movie. And you know what else I love? Hotels! And the faded glory of architectural masterpieces! And Cold War Europe! And complicated story structures! And WES FUCKING ANDERSON! So- yeah, I was super-duper-extra-plus-camel-on-Wednesday-actor-who-booked-national-Geico-commercial-Jason-Schwarzman-when-he’s-running-low-on-weed-and-he-finds-out-Wes-Anderson’s-making-a-new-movie-Obama-cause-now-he-doesn’t-have-to-give-a-FUCK excited to see this movie. So, given that, it’s possible that no movie could have lived up to my expectations. Hell, Wes could have made a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre where the New England Patriots’ bus breaks down on their way to Dallas and they get hacked to bits gruesomely in slow motion by Leatherface (Jerry Jones, natch) and I still would have been like- what- no Chris Christie??Cal Seething- 012315- christie

So, yeah, sure, Hotel checks all the Wes Anderson boxes- fanciful world crafted with dollhouse precision, extravagant characters costumed to almost self-conscious perfection, a framing device which embraces the whimsical storytelling and imbues it with wistful nostalgia, and Bill Murray- just cause- all there. But, in all of his other movies, there is The Moment. It’s that point in the movie where he delicately pushes my ribs apart and squeezes my heart like a dog’s toy, so that all that comes out of my mouth is a squeaky little gasp as I sit breathless and broken and captivated completely. “I’ve had a really rough year, Dad” in Tennebaum, “I wonder if it remembers me” in Zissou,  hell, even that totally pointless India movie had “I couldn’t save mine”.

It’s the bittersweet filling that makes the fluffy cinematic confectionery so utterly satisfying. And in Hotel- it wasn’t there. I never had The Moment. Now, maybe it’s me. Maybe I was so angry and distracted by the sheer stupidity of the animated ski race Cal Seething- 012515- stingsequence that I forgot to feel it. Maybe I need to watch it again. Whatever it was, for me this movie was beautiful but unsatisfying- Tantric filmmaking at it’s finest. Hell it was so Tantric, it was like having sex with Sting, while listening to the Police and reading an insightful New York Times article about the box office struggles of The Last Ship. Turns out, BTW, that The Last Ship was a lot like having sex with Sting-  it’s really good but nobody comes. Thank you. I’ll be here all week. No, I mean it. This is a very long post.

I should add that, if Wes Anderson does clean up at the Oscars for Hotel, then he’ll also win this year’s “Scent of a Woman” Award given to the artist who gets the most deserved recognition for the least deserving movie. The last time I gave this was in 2007 to the Coen brothers for casting the sexiest Spaniard alive in Dumb y Dumbero.


The “I’d Like to Thank the Academy for Agreeing with me that this Movie Blows” Award- Nightcrawler

So, of course, we all know how important the local TV morning news is and how much power is wielded by the producers of local Cal Seething- 012315- jakeTV morning news to shape our understanding of the very world we live in. What’s that? No? Oh right- cause it’s TWO THOUSAND FUCKING FIFTEEN. Why would anyone possibly make a movie exposing the sleazy underbelly of the local news game, unless they were trying to appeal to the dentures and Depends set? And if that’s the case- what’s next: Andy Rooney- Baby Eater;  I Watched CBS and Now I Have Gonorrhea; If You Didn’t Want to Be a Burden then You Should Have Just Died  I mean, I like a scrawny, bug-eyed, amoral Jake Gyllenhaal spewing vacuous corporate double speak as much as the next guy….and judging by how much love this movie got when it first came out – the next guy must REALLY like that a lot, because there’s not much else that’s good about this movie. Nightcrawler is like a Harvey Wallbanger- it’s straight out of the 70’s and it would have sucked then. And I’m not just talking about the fact that it’s a local news movie in a Fox News world. Everything about it oozes pet rocks and bell bottoms. The fetishized urban grit, the tell-don’t-show screenwriting, the ridiculously heavy handed imagery (LOOK- Broadcast Towers! SEE how they dominate the landscape of Los Angeles AND OUR MINDS!!!), Rene Russo. It’s like they went back in time to 1976 to go dumpster diving near Paddy Chayefsky’s house and stole all the shitty scenes he threw out while writing Network.

When I saw this movie, I was worried that I was the only one who noticed it wasn’t very good- since it garnered a lot of critical attention and positive reviews from people I know and respect. That’s why I was so relieved when it was pretty well snubbed by the Academy. I was still a little baffled that Dan Gilroy got a Best Screeplay nomination, but then I remembered who was in the Academy and I realized that maybe an expose of local morning news wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Hell, they Academy voters are all excited to see who plays Andy Rooney next year. I hear Idris Elba’s amazing!

The “I’d Like to Thank the Academy for Agreeing with Me This Movie Was Awesome” Award- FoxcatcherCal-Seething--012315--fox

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been surprised by the response to this movie. I mean, I fucking loved it-but, as the year drew to a close, it seemed a lot of critics were sort of “meh” about it. And I just don’t get it. I mean, sure, some of the pacing was excruciatingly slow. And, yeah, ok, maybe the storytelling was a little wonky. And, fine, I get it, it’s one thing for audience members to leave early but when the main character walks out three quarters of the way through the movie  like “I don’t know about you guys- I’m out of here!” that’s sort of a red flag. And, ok ok ok ok FINE the Big Shocking Event that the movie is based on happens at the very end and feels totally tacked on like part of a “where are they now” montage at the end of an 80’s summer camp teen sex comedy. And, yes yes yes, I get it already- the plight of emotionally underdeveloped white dudes is hardly unexplored cinematic territory. I mean- hey, what’s next- a sheriff moves to a lawless town and tries to impose order. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan develop a relationship via some at the time cutting edge and now outmoded means of mass communication  (so many classics: Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Dot Meets Dash, I Only Have Eyes Semaphore You and MySpace or Yours.) So, huh, sure, I guess now that I think of it- Foxcatcher is a terrible movie! What the hell was I thinking? It’s garbage! I should just shut up and watch Oxygen. Oooh- I Want to Fax You Up is on- that’s my favorite Hanks/Ryan movie!

OK, so, yeah in the cold light of day maybe all the issues with this movie become apparent- but while I was watching it, the movie had me totally enveloped in its sweaty intimacy like a Mark Ruffalo bear hug. All I know is that, regardless of the flaws, I was right Cal Seething- 012315-toucanthere, living every painful, queasy, humiliating moment with Mark Schultz as he mistook John DuPont for a plutocratic Toucan Sam and followed his nose- only instead of Fruit Loops, he found  disappointment, disillusionment and despair (soggy Fruit Loops).

Anyhow, I was worried for a little while that I loved this movie way more than everybody else- but then I saw how many nominations it got and I felt vindicated. There’s nothing better than being validated by a bunch of racist, geriatric, sexist white men. Wow- this feels great- no wonder Mitch McConnell’s so happy!

If nothing else, you should see Foxcatcher for three simple (or, ok, not so simple) words: “ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist”. See the movie, watch the scene I’m talking about and tell me that it’s not fucking awesome. No- go ahead- tell me. Cause, seriously- whatever evidence you present, whatever arguments you make- I’m just gonna keep saying that you’re wrong wrong wrong. Wow. This feels great. No wonder Ted Cruz is so happy!

Cal Seething- 012315- tedmitch

The “Fuck the Academy- What do They Know Anyhow?” Award- Inherent ViceCal Seething- 012315- vice

So- ok, you know everything I just said about Foxcatcher being great despite it’s obvious flaws? Multiply that by, like, a googolplex (a googolplex, of course is an unfathomably large number-not to be confused with the “Googleplex” which is home to an unfathomably large number of Bay Area tech money dickholes), replace sweaty wrestling with stoner noir, add in a totally baffling plot about LA land use, Nazi prison gangs, vast right wing conspiracies and, I think, dentists?? And what do you have? An absolute total fucking disaster area of a movie- but a goddamn entertaining one.  The most entertainingly baffling LA movie since Southland Tales- and yes, I mean that as a compliment.

Inherent Vice is the unholy wedding of Big Lebowski and Chinatown, with Joanna Newsom as the officiant using the vows Thomas Pynchon stole from Nancy Reagan’s astronomer. Watching Inherent Vice is like watching Paul Thomas Anderson play Jenga using electric eels and jellyfish while blasting Sly and the Family Stone, driving a 1964 Dodge Dart from Manhattan Beach to Hollywood and rolling humongous joints in pages randomly torn from The Big Sleep, the Crying of Lot 49  and the Thomas Guide he’s supposed to be navigating with- all at the same time. And, yes- I also mean that as a compliment.

Actually, my feelings about this movie can all be summed up by a conversation I had with a spunky, short haired waitress (who only knows about the 60’s because  60’s nostalgia in the 80’s was part of the 80’s nostalgia she grew up with in the 00’s) late at night at a Vietnamese place in Culver City. She overheard that we were talking about the movie and said “Oh- are you guys talking about Incoherent Vice? I watched that last night and had absolutely no idea what was going on but I loved every minute.”  I laughed and complimented her on her cleverness for “Incoherent Vice” and she said, very earnestly and slightly crestfallen “Oh, wait- that’s not what it’s called?”

OK, fair enough- but if incoherence is a vice- then it’s one many of our finest writers periodically suffer from (though certainly not their only vice-let’s face it, Cal Seething- 012315- headno one ever died of incoherence of the Liver.) But, hey, if you think fiction is incoherent, just take a look at reality. And isn’t that why we yearn for guys like Doc and Phil Marlowe before him? Men who dive headfirst into the incoherent muck looking for that one shiny sliver of truth at the bottom of the urban shit-pile. And sure, they get hassled and harassed; beaten, bullied and belittled; locked up, smacked down, railroaded and fucked over- and that’s just by their clients. But at the end of the day- they just take one long pull of the office bottle or roll another joint on that bongwater scented couch- and dive right back into to the muck again. Cause every city needs a keeper-even if it won’t call them brother. And even when they solve their itty-bitty mystery- it’s still just one little right in a whole world of wrongs. But, hey, one is better than nothing- and sometimes you’re lucky just to get that.

Plus, I know that a stoner detective may seem counter-intuitive cause of the whole weed makes you stupid thing  (ahhh, the cancers I could have cured) but- really it’s a perfect job for a stoner. Think about it- the breezy familiarity with the criminal world, obsessing over details that less stoned men find insignificant, seeing the deep meaning and interconnectedness that lies just beneath the surface of modern life (and also Magnum PI.) And, hey- you can make your own hours, nap anytime, and get fucked up in your car while you work!

Clearly, though, the people at the Academy disagreed with me, since all this got was a screenplay nomination. Well, fuck them anyhow. You can rant and rave about how Selma and the Lego movie got robbed (it’s about 50/50 between those two on my Facebook outrage-o-meter)- I’m gonna be pissed off about Incoherent Vice.

Wow- this is just like a real awards show. It’s already too long and I’m nowhere near done yet! Also, like an awards show, I think I can make it all OK just by making a self aware joke about how fucking long it is- well, I’ve got news for you award show hosts- THAT MAKES NOTHING OK- WE STILL WANT TO PUT OUT OUR EYES WITH FONDUE FORKS. WHY WON’T IT END????Cal Seething- 012315- anne WHY. WON’T. IT. STOPPPPPP.

Anyho0, in the interest of dragging out the Awards Season as long as possible, I’m gonna pick this up in my next post. So – be sure and join me for such awards as “I Don’t Care How Good You Say It Is- There’s No Fucking Way I’m Seeing It”, “Best Performance That’s Going to be Totally Ignored Cause the Actor’s Not Ugly or Crippled”, “Best Pseudo-Fascist Propaganda Starring Bradley Cooper and Directed by Clint Eastwood and called American Sniper”, “Why Would I Possibly Go See This Movie? Real Life is Depressing Enough” and, of course the coveted “I Know, I Know, I Know- I Totally Have to See It- Just Haven’t Gotten Around to It Yet- GET OFF MY ASS” Award.

And, oh yeah, it might not be a movie award- but let’s go ahead and give the “Best Speech by a President Whose Keeping It Real”  Cal Seething- 012315- sotuAward, too. Wondering who’s gonna get it? Well, here’s a hint- he’s also “Best President who saved America and got nothing but shit for it”, “Best President we’re likely to see in our lifetimes, and doesn’t that make you want to kill yourself?” and “Best President to fill out a March Madness bracket on ESPN every year even though he totally sucks at it.” That’s right- it’s President “I won both of them” himself – Barack Obama. And, hey, come to think of it- that’s TWO elections right there that weren’t ruined by out of touch, racist, old white men. So, maybe, there’s hope for the Academy after all. Maybe. We’ll see if Ana Duverney gets nominated for Obama. Probably not, though- she’ll probably get shafted so Clint Eastwood can get nominated for American Oligarch, the Mitt Romney story. Talk about out of touch, racist, old white men- has Eastwood ever even worked with a black person? Hell, when he had to cast Obama, he used an empty chair.

Now, quiet- Tom Brady’s about to talk about his balls. Have I mentioned how much I love this story? If it wasn’t for this story, SportsCenter this week would be all about the Patriot way, and Tom Brady’s legacy, and Belichick’s genius- but instead all we’re hearing is balls, BALLS, BALLS!!!! And as a 40 something Jets fan with the emotional maturity of a 12 year old- I just have to say- thank you. Thank you Tom Brady. Thank you Bill Belichick. Thank you Gillette for choosing this horribly inopportune moment to promote “Flexball” technology. Cal Seething- 012315- flexballThe Patriots may win the Superbowl, but we’ll always have Tom Brady saying “I’m not squeezing the balls. That’s not part of my process.” among other great quotes.  So, in a way, we’re all winners. Wow- it’s nice being a winner. No wonder Tom Brady’s so happy all the time! Except of course, when his balls are being squeezed. Ha!


[California Seething] Lenny’s 2008 (and 2009) Holiday Letters- Keep Mope Alive

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Ohmygodyouguys- do you remember “Hope”?? Ha! How crazy was that?? Remember how we thought that once Obama was elected everything would be all rainbows and unicorns and Oprah leaning on white dudes?? We were soooo Cal Seething-092014-oprahsilly! Just thinking about it now is like looking at pictures from sophomore year of high school where I’m rocking the mullet and the pornstache and a shitty tie dye I made myself at Camp Givah that looks less like a series of brilliantly mind-blowing psychedelic spirals and more like I found some dude on the street was shot five times in the chest and then puked on himself and I thought “hey- cool shirt” and took it off him. I mean- don’t get me wrong- Obama hasn’t been a bad president- he’s expanded access to health care, championed equality and he’s almost as good at picking the right middle eastern rebels to arm as he is at filling out his March Madness bracket. The problem was the we voted for a messiah, and just elected a president, and that never works. #ReadyForHillary #IGuessifIMust #Sigh.

Lauren and I got swept up in all the hope and change mishigos- new president, new jobs, new house. Lenny wasn’t having any of it though. You can read all about that is his 2008 Holiday Letterplus our first few terrible missteps on the long painful road of home renovation. #Sigh.

Speaking of Hope- I was really Hoping to get one of these written per day, but of course, I’ve failed at that – so here’s the 2009 Cal-Seething--092014-kirkHoliday Letter as well. In this one, Lenny was so inspired by Kirk Douglas’ one man show Before I Forget that he wrote his own show I Forgot Who You Were the Minute Your Left the Room- which I think any of the house guests who Lenny growled at every single time they came out of the bathroom like they were an army of invading huns he’d never seen before will relate to (ironically, when the Huns did invade, he was lovely.)

So yeah- we’ve got 2008 and 2009 covered and we didn’t do one in 2010 cause fuck that year, so the next one up will be 2011. Enjoy!

2008 Holiday Letter
2009 Holiday Letter
And, in case you missed them- here are the other ones so far:

2005 Letter
2006 Letter
2007 Letter





[HorroR Stories] Don’t Get Mad About the Madness

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My company has banned March Madness pools, brackets, etc. company wide. I’m wondering your thoughts on this?

Banned? I love the word banned. I love when grown adults walk around telling other grown adults “You are banned from doing that! Stop it!” I think that ALWAYS goes well. Really, I’ve never, in my 15 year career, ever seen that not work. Never.

You don’t believe me, do you? Well, you shouldn’t. Because it does go wrong. Oh, baby does it go wrong.

But, come on, we all know by now that anytime you ban something that someone really wants to do, they’re going to do it anyway, they’re just going to hide it from you. So I’m guessing that there are all sorts of secret March Madness pools whipping around your company right now. Those that banned it look kinda dumb, kinda like they don’t have any authority, don’t have any leverage, and don’t have a clue. I hate to say it, but kinda like Obama right now in this whole Ukraine situation, but that’s a different post.

Conventional wisdom and every single HR bulletin and newsletter sent out this time of year warns at the productivity loss that March Madness brings. And things like “The Hopper,” cell phones, iPads, etc. make it worse. But, come on guys, it’s like trying to stop the flood, or Putin, or Wal-Mart from selling cigarettes, sometimes you just gotta let it happen and then clean up the mess.

In my dream company I would advise managers not to beat ‘em but to join ‘em. And I’m not just saying that because the first 2 days of March Madness are as holy in my household as the first 2 days of Passover, or Lent, or Christmas, or whatever, which is to say, we take the days off, sit on our couch, eat chicken fingers and scream at the TV. Just like Passover, except the chicken fingers are breaded with matzo. Weird.

Anyway, why not embrace March Madness? I have found that competition is one of the best way to build cohesiveness in companies. So why not create brackets, have departments compete against each other, set up some TV’s in the break rooms? Sometimes you have to let employees feel like they are getting away with something. It builds loyalty, usually. I mean sure, it could also go horribly awry, but that’s life, right?

As with anything when dealing with employees, focus on the outcomes, the production, the performance. “Hey Jan, finish that report and then we can go watch the end of the VCU game for a few minutes.” It’s a bonding experience. It brings you all closer together. Hold hands, scream at the TV, wish for the death of the receptionist who chose her brackets based on mascots and is currently beating everyone else. But wish for her death together.

And for those companies who are terrified of the word “gambling,” and therefore “ban” anything that comes close, don’t approve or sanction bracket pools that have a buy-in. For the company wide competition just buy pizza for the winner. That’s not gambling, right? And then verbally tell everyone to keep their personal bracket pools at home, or in the lunchroom, during lunch hours.

I’m in la-la land, I know. Brackets are banned where I work currently as well. Sigh. But these are my thoughts, for which you asked. So good luck in your clandestine bracket pool. Hopefully you didn’t pick Duke. Horror- 032614-mercer

[California Seething] CPR is Optional but March Madness Isn’t

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I was in a CPR class with my co-workers when an interesting question came up. Our instructor, Safety Bob (not his real name- but very, very close) was stressing the importance of using breathing barriers when giving mouth-to-mouth in order to avoid the spread of disease when one of my colleagues asked “what if you see someone who needs CPR but you don’t have a breathing 50th Anniversary Of CPR Marked In San Franciscobarrier with you?”

Well- Safety Bob had a quick response for that one, and he shot back with a rhetorical question- “Look at the person who needs help on the ground in front of you and ask: how important is his life?” Wow. Point made. We all nodded – clearly understanding the value of every human life.

But then, much to our surprise, Safety Bob began to prioritize:

“If it’s a family member- then, of course, no question- do what you need to do to save their lives.” OK. Yeah. Got that. Don’t let your sister die. Noted.

”If it’s a co-worker. Well…yes. You should do CPR. Probably” Nervous laughter around the room as we all avoided eye contact with that one guy with the English accent who was on nobody’s “probably” list.

“And, if it’s a homeless guy passed out on the street- absolutely not. Your life is way more important than his. I see a homeless guy unconscious with a brown paper bag and an empty bottle sticking out of it, the most I’m gonna do is poke him with my foot to make sure he’s breathing.”

I know. It’s shocking right, this attitude towards human life. I couldn’t believe it- I was like – Best CPR Teacher EVAH! I mean, here I was totally stressed out about taking this class because I was sure that, once I took it, if I saw some super-gross icky homeless dude lying all passed out in vomit on the street and I thought he might be, you know, dying or something, then I would have to, like, actually DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. EWWWWWWW Homeless Guy mouth SOOOOO GROSS. Turns out, though- I’m off the hook! I can totally just let him die and I don’t have to feel bad about it cause Safety Bob said it was cool. This Republican CPR is AMAZEBALLS.

And it doesn’t stop there- even co-workers are just a “Probably”. So think about that- Mr. “I Reply All to Every Fucking Company Wide E-Mail That Has Nothing to do with Me Because I Have to Make Sure Everyone Knows What I Think at All Times Because I’m So Motherfucking Goddamn Important” and Ms. “I Make Every Single Fucking Meeting Last An Hour and a Half Longer than it has to Because I Always Have to Have the Last Word and I Can’t Stop Myself From Asking the Stupidest Fucking Questions Especially When the Meeting is Going RIGHT THROUGH LUNCHTIME.” Cause the next time you’re about to email “Great job everybody, go team!” to 150 people who hate your fucking guts for cluttering their goddamn Inbox or say “So…wait…how does this new email system work again?” at 1:30 PM when we’ve been talking about it for TWO FUCKING HOURS – just remember – YOU’RE ALL GOING TO (probably) DIE.

OK, so, to be fair, Safety Bob was just talking about the risk of pathogens passing through mouth to mouth contact and, strictly speaking, if I see a homeless person on the ground, then I should still do chest compressions if I think he needs help. Well, I mean- of course he needs help– he’s homeless- that comes with the job description – but I’m not teaching a fucking life skills class- I’m just doing CPR. I mean, sure maybe I can save his life but I can’t give him something to live for.  Not that CPR really saves many lives- I mean, mostly it’s just a way to feel better about yourself when someone drops dead in front of you- so that things aren’t so awkward if you ever meet the family. Let’s face it- it’s much better to say “I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. I did all I could, but I just couldn’t save him.” as opposed to “Sorry ‘bout your dad, dude- I totally Instagrammed that shit! #badsamaritan  #sadpanda”

Now- you might think I’m really tempting Karma by joking about all the co-workers I probably wouldn’t save, but I’m not worried Cal Seething- 032414- santabecause I perform a very valuable service for my company. No- it’s not “playing Santa at the holiday party” or “making wise-ass remarks during boring meetings” or “operating the Kirk Douglas Theatre” pffft- whatevs. No- I run the company’s annual STRICTLY UNOFFICIAL FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY March Madness pool. In the years I’ve been running the pool, it’s grown from 15 to 56 brackets, making it the fastest growing enterprise in non-profit theatre- and it now includes players from theatres around the country – which is so typical of our field these days. Even the March Madness pool is a co-production.

Now, for those of you that aren’t familiar with March Madness cause you’re one of those people who don’t like things that are awesome- like, maybe you’re a baseball fan or a botanist or that old couple from the Safeco ads whose idiot son drowned tragically while Cal Seething- 032414- Safecojet-skiing with his Shiksa wife (which serves him right for going camping on his honeymoon and not listening to his mother. I mean- camping- does that sound romantic to you? At least he had that Safeco “Death Wish” policy they keep advertising for motorcycle riding jet ski enthusiasts, or whatever those commercials are for)  March Madness refers to the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament (there’s a Women’s version too but who cares #marchsadness.) It is, arguably, the most exciting three week period of the sports year. Seriously- if you love watching young people working their ass off for no money in a ferociously competitive environment but you don’t already work in entertainment then March Madness is the next best thing. And I know a lot of people think it’s not fair that big corporations & the NCAA make billions off March Madness but the players get nothing- but I prefer to think of the well being of our young people. I mean- what kind of lesson would we be teaching them if we told them life was fair? How does that help prepare them for the world? I mean, if we don’t teach them how to be exploited by big corporations in school, how will they be ready to be exploited by big corporations when they graduate? We can’t count on Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Discover Card to do everything.

So much like watching NFL Football or a Woody Allen film festival or reading the works of Heidegger in your Book Club for Douchey Pricks (we meet at Intelligentsia Coffee and it’s BYO Kale) enjoying March Madness means shutting out all the evil stuff behind it. But isn’t that also one of the most important life lessons we can teach our young people today? I mean, unless you want to work for a non-profit and eat raw foods and ride your bike everywhere and make your own clothes from hemp- sooner or later you’re going to have to learn how to compartmentalize in order to survive, cause sooner or later your parents are gonna get sick of you bitching about the coded Transphobia on RuPaul’s Drag Race and they’ll kick you the fuck out the house. Anyhow- there’s so much awesome stuff about March Madness- why dwell on the evil? I mean, it’s not just about the NCAA and their Corporate Overlords  Champions making billions of dollars on the backs on unpaid workers- NO- it’s about gambling and lost productivity and making a whole bunch of totally arbitrary decisions about something you know absolutely nothing about and then basing your entire sense of self worth on the outcome of those decisions and WHAT DO YOU MEAN KANSAS IS LOSING??? I Cal Seething- 032414- kidHAVE THEM GOING TO THE SWEET 16 HOW THE FUCK CAN THEY LOSE???? Come on Kansas, you’re a Goddamn superstar championship team, don’t you see that little white kid crying in the stands? Win it for him! You’re one of the best teams in the country, so remember who you are, get your shit together and WIN ALREADY and then with the next one AND THEN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLAY LIKE THE STINKING FUCKING USELESS LOSERS YOU ARE AND LOSE TO FLORIDA!!!! I won’t be wrong again!!! This year I’m going to win this fucking pool!!!!!!!!

Sorry, I’ve been watching basketball practically non-stop for four days. It’s begun to take its toll. I’m unshaven, I haven’t showered, I’m hoarse from screaming and totally out of touch with the world. In four short days, I’ve gone from a productive member of society to Howard Hughes – if Howard Hughes had picked Syracuse to go to the Elite 8 only to watch them LOSE TO DAYTON!!!!! WHAT THE FUCK SYRACUSE????? You would think after all these years that I would have learned that no matter how good they might look Syracuse is always going to disappoint EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME- oh, wait, sorry- except for that one year where I picked them to lose in the Round of 32 and they went to the Final Four. WHAT THE FUCK, JIM BOEHEIM?? Haven’t I always been a fan? Didn’t I used to have a small novelty Syracuse basketball and HOLY SHIT Kansas is within 3 with 15 seconds to go. They can win this thing!! The white kid in the stands stopped crying!!! Come on…come on… shootitshootitshootitshootit OK- wait, yes, pass it to the Intense Little White Guy Whose Name I Don’t Know. Good plan. COME ON INTENSE LITTLE WHITE GUY WHOSE NAME I DON’T KNOW!!! SHOOTITSHOOTITSHOOTITSHOOTISHOOTIT YESSSS!!!! NO!!!! He missed. Ball is loose GET THE REBOUND. No!!! NO!!! FUCK NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  IT’S OVER. Yeah, Yeah. Shake hands, shake hands. Good game good game good game good game. LOSERS. Ha- that’s awesome- they keep showing that crying little Kansas fan kid. Go on, little white Kansas fan, cry your little eyes out- this is only gonna be on YouTube in 10 seconds for the entire world to ridicule you (isn’t the Internet great?)- but don’t worry- you’ll get over it. Someday, you’re going to grow up and go to Kansas and wear a giant stuffed Jayhawk on your head and Cal Seething- 032414- jayhawkcheer your heart out only to watch Kansas crush all your hopes and dreams ALL OVER AGAIN while you shamelessly weep and the entire world ridicules you again cause if there’s one thing funnier than a little kid weeping it’s a dude wearing a giant stuffed Jayhawk on his head crying like a bitch. ISN’T MARCH MADNESS FUN?????????? Yes. Damn it. Yes.

Look, you would think I’d be used to this annual humiliation- but I was sure this year was going to be different because, this year, I was counting on Big Data to save me. That’s right- no more picking sentimental favorites or media darlings or schools with funny names or Gonzaga (all of the above)- this was the year I would rely on Cold Hard Math and Slightly Warmer but Equally Hard Data to make my picks- and the Prophet who would take me to the Promised Land of Probability- none other than Nate Silver. That’s right- Mr himself- the man about whom I said in a previous post “Nate Silver and My Wife are AlwaysCal Seething- 032414- natemath Right” the man who predicted the 2012 Obama landslide, the man who…well…I’m sure has also been right about a whole bunch of other stuff too, even though I have no idea what it is. No longer would I wander in the desert, lost in a wasteland of speculation and guesswork- this year, I would finally come home. I would be the Prodigal Fan and Nate Silver would prepare a banquet of perfect picks before me to feast on. Baptized in numbers, sanctified by statistics I would ascend like Elijah to heaven on a flaming chariot of accuracy to the top of the CTG March Madness pool and for the first time in eight years I would finally finish HIGHER THAN 6TH FUCKING PLACE HALLE-FUCKING-LUJAH!!!!

With the fervor of a true convert- I turned to Nate Silver’s Super Duper Handy Dandy Auto Adjusting  Bracket-ator O-Matic Bot Thingy (NOT the official name, but it should be. Nate- you can totally use this one. Uhm….you’re welcome? Dick)- using my Clear Thinking Left Brain to make my picks and ruthlessly silencing my Mushy Headed Right Brain Instincts, Feelings & Anecdotal Information at every turn.

Right Brain: Gee, Left Brain Eric- you’re picking Duke to go to the Elite 8? Didn’t you think they looked awfully listless and apathetic during the ACC Tournament- plus they don’t really have much experience. I feel like…

Left Brain: QUIET YOU. They numbers tell me they will reach the Elite 8.

Right Brain: Wowzers, Left Brain Eric- you’re picking Kansas to go to the Sweet 16- you know that Joel Embiid is out, right – and Cal Seething- 032414- brainthey’re gonna need his defense. I feel like….

Left Brain: SILENCE FOOL. You know nothing. The numbers say to pick Kansas, so I shall pick Kansas and have them lose to Syracuse in the Sweet 16.

Right Brain: Wait- Syracuse? Dude- are you fucking kidding me? Syracuse has been tanking lately- they’ll be luck to get by Dayt….

Left Brain: ENOUGH YOU INSOLENT BUFFOON. I shall tolerate no more of your anecdotal nonsense. THOU MUST NOT QUESTION BIG DATA. Now- will you behave? Or do I need to read another painfully long article about the possible whereabouts of flight MH370.

Right Brain: No, no- I’ll be good.

Left Brain: Are you sure? Look- this one has nautical charts!

Right Brain: GET IT AWAY! I’ll behave. I promise.

So with my Right Brain properly disciplined I set about making my….wait…come on…OK…YES!! OK Wichita State- down by 2. You can win this thing. 3.2 seconds left….inbound the ball… GET IT TO EARLY…or wait…OK….get it to the Floppy Haired White Guy….COME ON FLOPPY HAIRED WHITE GUY…no…wait… he’s passing to the Other White Guy…why is he doing that….COME ON OTHER WHITE GUY…shootitshootitshootitSHOOTITSHOOTIT!!!!! YES! Wait NO!!!!!!!! It’s Over? FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!! Yeah, Yeah. Shake hands, shake hands. Good game good game good game good game. Thanks a lot Kentucky for validating everything wrong with College Basketball. Oh wait- hold on- I had Kentucky winning in one of my brackets. SWEET! Thanks, Kentucky- for validating everything that’s great about College Basketball! Sigh. Cal Seething- 032414- wichitaI’m such a whore. Hey, look, it’s a crying Wichita State fan. Man! I haven’t seen this many white people cry since Romney lost. I mean there were a whole bunch of them crying during 12 Years a Slave but that’s cause they knew everyone was watching (“no, seriously, you guys – I’m like soooo sad about slavery.)

And speaking of Romney, I was confident that with Nate Silver at my side I could avoid his fate of looking at data selectively to validate what I wanted to be true only to be crushed when reality reared its ugly head. No, this year I would be like Obama- looking carefully at the real numbers and leveraging the data to my advantage so that everything worked out exactly as planned  (2012 Obama, not Obama.) I even strategically hedged my bets and used my two brackets to make slightly different picks to maximize my chances of triumph. Victory was practically guaranteed- hell I was kicking myself for not signing up for the Billion dollar challenge- cause with Nate Silver at my side, it would be like taking a billion dollars worth of candy from a baby who looks disturbingly like an 83 year old man from Omaha who, itCal Seething- 032414- buffet turns out, is significantly harder to take candy from.

Anyhow- after Day 1 (or “Thursday” as some people call it) things were looking pretty good. I mean, so, sure, OK- OSU lost to Dayton- but that was OK- I had them losing in the next round to Syracuse anyhow. Oh, yeah, and North Dakota State took down Oklahoma- but, that was fine- I mean, those 12 / 5 games are always tricky and, it’s all about playing the percentages, right? I mean- that’s the thing about Big Data- you’re not gonna be right all the time- just more often than anybody else. Right? I went to bed Thursday night in good position- tied for 9th just a couple points off the lead and confident that Big Data would lead me to glory in the long run and that I would emerge triumphant.

Right Brain: Ooooooh, I’ve got a bad feeling about this….


Right Brain: I’m good.

Turns out, though, that my Right Brain was right to be concerned because Day 2 was, as my wife called it, “carnage”. By the end of the day, my bracket was covered in digital red ink as all as loser after loser after loser was crossed out. Now I had just learned in CPR that teachers aren’t supposed to use red ink anymore because it’s bad for our children’s self esteem to see all that red ink on their test page. Now I happen to agree with this 100%. It’s terrible for children’s self esteem to see so much red ink on a test- and the best thing we can do about this is make our kids less fucking stupid. But then again, we can’t even say “stupid” anymore. I’ve been notified by certain parents that “stupid” is a bad word and I can’t say it in front of their kids. Do you know how hard that it? I mean, if I can’t use the word “stupid” then what am I supposed to say when parents tell me that I can’t say “stupid” in front of their kids. Retarded?? That’s seriously verboten. Still- I must admit it’s a brilliant solution to our education woes. Why do we need our kids to be smart anyhow- what is this, India? It’s way more important they have good Self Esteem. Cause in America- we like our kids like we like Mitch McConnell- Over-Confident and Under-Educated!

OK, so yeah, I’m bitter, I’m lashing out, I’ll admit it. Day 2 was an unmitigated disaster.  Duke, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, UMass, VCU- all teams I picked. All GONE. And yet, somehow, at the end of it, I was still very much in the fight. Sure one bracket was in 35th place- but the other was in a very respectable tie for 11th. I was confident that all my defeats were simply statistical aberrations and that surely in the next round, Nate Silver would come swooping down like an avenging angel from heaven yielding Cal Seething- 032414- natehearthis Flaming Sword of Statistics (Worst. D&D Weapon. Ever) and would carry me to glory! Right? Right????

Right Brain: Yeah, not so much.

Yeah, not so much. I don’t even want to talk about what happened on Day 3. Or on Day 4 so far for that matter. Suffice it to say, I’m in 44th place. In a tie. With myself. Oh, wait, no hold on- sorry, didn’t check after the Kentucky game – one bracket is up to 32nd. Zippidie. Fucking. Doo Dah. OK Wait- COME ON IOWA STATE. 15.7 left- don’t fuck it up-passing….passing….using the clock- what are you waiting for??? Shootitshootitshootitshootit – OK – yeah yeah yeah – get it to that guy- D’Andre Something Or Other With the Flat Top- he’s dribbling…he’s dribbling….he’s dribbling- DO SOMETHING ALREADY –CUT-PENETRATE- – SCORE!!!!YESSSSSSS!!!!! WAY TO GO D’ANDRE SOMETHING OR OTHER WITH A FLAT TOP- YOU’RE A FUCKING ROCKSTAR!!! 1.5 left. UNC has it- dribbling over half court- time running out- do they get the timeout???? Do they?? Uhm. Nobody seems to know. Refs are talking…they’re talking…they’re talking….COME ON ALREADY….talking…talking…looking at the screen….talking…talking…YES!!! IT’S OVER!!!!!  IOWA STATE WINS!!!!! IOWA STATE WINS!!!! I’ve never in my entire life given a shit about Iowa State one way or the other but you bet your sweet ass I do now because I GOT ONE RIGHT TODAY!!!!!! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!! WE’RE NUMBER ONE. Well, OK, strictly speaking I’m in 28th place- but, hey- WE’RE NUMBER 28!!!! WE’RE NUMBER 28!!! In one bracket. The other is 43rd. OK,Yeah, Yeah. Shake hands, shake hands. Good game good game good game good game. HA! I’M A FUCKING GENIUS!!!!!  28th PLACE- BITCHEZ!!!!  I’m on the comeback trail. Sort of.  And, oh, of course- here’s a UNC fan crying. God- get over it white Cal Seething- 032414- uncpeople. Sure, you’re going to be a minority soon- but you’ve still got all that cool stuff from Pottery Barn.

Anyhow, that’s where I leave you- at the end of Day 4 with my brackets clinging to life. And while the prognosis isn’t good- I do feel like if Safety Bob saw my brackets on the ground he would definitely perform CPR. Probably. Let’s see how the UCLA game goes. What? They’re winning?? WOO-HOOOO!!! It’s you and me all the way Nate- we’re gonna win this thing!!!!

Right Brain: And he calls himself the rational one.

P.S.- UCLA won. Hurray!!! But Creighton lost to Baylor. FUCKKKKKKKKK!!!!! God this is rough- I’m gonna need CPR myself if things keep up at this rate- and the way I’ve been carrying on – no one’s gonna want to save me- ESPECIALLY not my family (the dog is particularly over it- but fuck him, his bracket’s doing great). But hey- what a way to go- Death by Bracket! I wonder if Safeco covers that?

Oh, and I couldn’t find a picture of a crying Creighton fan cause seriously, it’s Creighton, who gives a shit? So here’s that crying Kansas fan white kid again. Cal Seething- 032414- kidHave fun back at school kid! Don’t worry, you’re cool- I’m sure no one in Kansas was watching.

God, I love March Madness.