Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

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The Oscar De Milos: A Farewell to Arms and Other Body Parts in the 2011 Academy Award Nominated Films

Posted by verywellthen on February 21, 2011

This year, the Academy should hand out Oscar statuettes with the arms cut off – little Oscar de Milos in honor of all the dismemberment in this year’s nominees.

I’ve seen all ten nominated films this year, and there’s a lot of missing body parts.

It’s no spoiler to anyone that 127 Hours is about a hiker forced to cut off his own arm to free himself from a boulder in the Utah wilderness.   But the amputations don’t stop there.   And I’m not just talking about all the times Mr. Potato Head’s arms fall off in Toy Story 3.

From the Best Picture nominations – here’s my list of severed and damaged body parts.

** Spoiler Alert ***

** This list is full of spoilers. Come back and re-read this later if you don’t want anything given away.  **

127 Hours – Hiker cuts off arm.

Winter’s Bone – Daughter cuts off hands of drowned father to prove father is dead so as to prevent the bondsman from claiming the family home.

True Grit – Mattie has arm amputated after snake bite.   An outlaw gets his finger chopped off.  Leboeuf bites through his tongue.   Rooster Cogburn has missing eye.

The Fighter – Marky Mark’s hands get broken by a cop.   General boxing film mutilation.

The Black Swan – At least in the paranoid mind of Natalie Portman, a finger-tip gets clipped off, plus some serious self-cutting.

Inception – There must have been some detached body parts somewhere in that Freudian-scape.  Or did I dream that?

Toy Story 3 – Mr. Potato Head’s arms.  Mrs. Potato Head’s eyes.    Oh, the Spudanity.

The King’s Speech – The cat has the King’s tongue.

The Kids Are All Right – Just some long-lost semen that isn’t missing after all.

Social Network – Lawyer’s suing for millions over emasculated pride.



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Road Traveled Remorse

Posted by verywellthen on April 17, 2009

200px-slackerposter2Road Traveled Remorse

Posnanski revisits a poem I know mostly for being on the back of every graduation program that was ever handed to me.   Given the graduation context, perhaps it’s telling that I wrongly remember the poem to be titled “The Road Less Traveled”.

Inevitably we only have the path we we are on to compare to a hypothetical.  You can do that as Frost indicates he will — rationalizing the choice.   Equally, you can regret the choice (Road Traveled Remorse).

Compare Frost with the opening scene of Slacker, when a young man* laments to a cabbie about not taking the other road only minutes after the choice.

I mean, it’s like…uh, you know, in the Wizard of Oz…when Dorothy meets the Scarecrow and they do that little dance at that crossroads…and they think about going all those directions…then they end up going in that one direction. I mean, all those other directions, just because they thought about it…became separate realities. They just went on from there and lived the rest of their life. I mean, entirely different movies, but we’ll never see it…because, you know, we’re kind of trapped in this one reality restriction type of thing.

Another example would be like back there at the bus station. As I got off the bus, the thought crossed my mind…you know, just for a second, about not taking a cab at all. But, you know, like maybe walking, or bummin’ a ride or something like that. I’m kind of broke right now. I should’ve done that probably. But, uh, just ’cause that thought crossed my mind…there now exists at this very second…a whole ‘nother reality where I’m at the bus station…and you’re probably giving someone else a ride, you know?

I mean, and that reality thinks of itself as this – it thinks of itself as the only reality, you know. I mean, at this very second, I’m in that – I’m back at the bus station just hangin’ out, you know…probably thumbin’ through a paper. You know, probably goin’ up to a pay phone. Say this beautiful woman just comes up to me, just starts talking to me, you know? Uh, she ends up offering me a ride, you know. We’re hitting it off. Go play a little pinball. And we go back to her apartment, I mean, she has this great apartment. I move in with her, you know.

Say I have a dream some night…that I’m with some strange woman I’ve never met…or I’m living at some place I’ve never seen before.See, that’s just a momentary glimpse into this other reality…that was all created back there at the bus station. You know, shoot. And then, you know…I could have a dream from that reality into this one…that, like, this is my dream from that reality. Of course, that’s kind of like that dream I just had on the bus, you know. The whole cycle type of thing.

Man, shit. I should’ve stayed at the bus station.

* Richard Linklater in the kickoff leg of his relay ramble of a movie

I found the full scene here.

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Chlorine Flashback

Posted by verywellthen on March 31, 2009

swimming1Memory is trapped in the olfactory — smell and taste — locked away as intense nostalgia ready to explode its vividness upon accidental disinterment.

I went swimming today — a bit player in my fitness regime.  I think I somewhat resemble C3PO swimming — if you can imagine that.   I don’t float too well and I possess a klutzy mechanical stroke.  In the crawl, I can only breath on my left side (a southjaw?), which led to a crimp in my neck today.  

So, I thought this would be as good as time as any to practice right-side breathing.  It seems simple enough.  But my body starts to bob, as I reach higher with my head to breath on the uncomfortable side and splash down like a breaching whale’s return to the sea — each successive stroke reaching a greater amplification until …

I took a generous amount of water in my nose — a deep chlorinated nasal cleaning.    I don’t want to start the next drug craze, but I had an intense flashback.  It was the childhood equivalent of a wasabi-rush.   I was seven again — it was swimming lessons on Saturday morning at the Elk’s swimming pool in my hometown.     Being semi-weightless in the pool it was credible to believe.  I cycled through a few more strokes until the flashback ran its course.  

I didn’t fight the feeling.  I let myself be seven again.  It felt amazing.

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Posted by verywellthen on January 17, 2009

Image by Mr. Fix It


Some time back I wrote this essay. Many references within are Blue-Heron-Land specific, but you should get the picture.

Since writing this, I have shopped for and bought a new mattress. I correctly guessed, just by being in the store, which chain featured the annoying jingle cited below. The sales people were car-salesman pushy, and their shell-game pricing made my skin crawl. To answer their jingle’s question: you lost me from hello.


“Why buy a mattress anywhere else?”

When that insipid ditty from a TV commercial popped into my brain last week in the middle of grocery shopping, my first reaction after annoyance was one of gleeful spite. Despite the effectiveness of the jingle writer to get the irritating tune stuck in my head, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the name of the furniture store that paid good money for the ad campaign. But then I realized that without knowing the name of the furniture company, I might accidentally buy a mattress from them. I could inadvertently contribute to the greater banality of society.

Like any good contrarian, I try my best to vote with my dollars. No purchase is made without a very involved and contorted balancing of values — of both the conscience and pocketbook variety. I’m always on the look out for an organic, shade-grown, cruelty-free, quality-made widget from a local, family-owned, environmentally-sound, fair-labor company with no ties, historic or otherwise, to Nazis, apartheid, third-world baby-killing, or Bill Sizemore, all at one low price-point.

Into that convoluted calculus throw in my desire to punish over-reaching advertising. My instincts tend to view advertising suspiciously — corporate America trying to manipulate me into a consumption choice based on something less than meritocracy. So, when the spirit moves me, I swing my quixotic lance at products and services backed with gargantuan advertising budgets and I even carry delusions that my shopping choices subvert the dominant paradigm.

But I carry a deeper vigilance against advertising that annoys me, regardless of the deep pockets of its origin. When I drive near a video billboard I place my hand over the windshield to erase the eyesore from my landscape. Advertisers on those intrusive public TVs should be thankful that I refuse to look into the eyes of Big Brother, for if I knew who was footing the bill for those things they’d make the not-in-my-lifetime list. But, then again, casinos aren’t my cup of change anyway. (Obviously, I must have peeked.)
With conventional billboards I usually avert my eyes as if they were Medusa.

Murals pose a tougher call. I kind of like the Thomason cherubs at the downtown end of the Morrison Bridge and I miss waiving to the six-story Altoids devil-woman that used to watch over my commute down I-5. So I won’t reject mural advertising out of hand, but my personal opinion and spending habits are not subject to the First Amendment or Oregon’s Constitution and I reserve the right to discriminate based on content.

For content is the basis for much of my discrimination in the omnipresent ads. Radio, TV, pop-up browser windows, movie previews, urinal stalls. It’s an advertiser’s world and we just live in it. But their products start acquiring backlash points quickly. Insipid tunes, bad acting, manipulative statistics, intrusiveness, stupid writing, crashes to my browser — just remember, I’m taking notes.

When advertising misses its intended goal to get me to buy a product and instead produces in me a conscious backlash, I refer to it as adverse-tising. “They’ll rue the day they adverse-tized that commercial around me,” I’ll say. And when I stand before the grocery I’ll enter it into my mental consumer calculator. Now, if only I could remember which brand of beer has those obnoxious twins.

Though I’d like to think differently, advertisers are on to people like me. I’m just a factor in a calculus of their own. If the ad brings in more buyers than it turns away, it’s a success. Advertisers have always been wary of creating adverse reactions through their advertisements. That type of mentality led to TV shows where Gilligan and the Skipper had a more intimate sleeping arrangement than Mr. and Mrs. Howell. My reaction isn’t any sort of William Bennett American values crusade. Mostly, I just want ads to leave me alone, though I wouldn’t mind better copy.

When I was a teenager I read some statistic that a certain percentage of viewers will find any particular TV commercial offensive. That stat included a base percentage of viewers who find all commercials offensive. Back then I wondered how anyone could be so cynical. Now I wonder how I got to be like that. After a lifetime of advertising, is it any wonder?

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Misheard Lyrics: Paper Cotton

Posted by verywellthen on January 17, 2009

Over on Joe Poznanski’s ostensibly-baseball website, he asks for song lyrics the way you heard them which are better than the actual song lyrics. Here was my response:

In the Replacements “Bastards of Young”, the consensus lyrics on the web are

Dreams unfulfilled, you graduate unskilled
It beats picking cotton and waiting to be forgotten.

Long before I saw the above lyrics in writing, I crafted my own last line out of Paul Westerberg’s garbled vocals.

With a piece of paper cotten, waiting to be forgotten.

To me, the “paper cotten” was a diploma. It’s an admittedly awkward construction to get to a rhyme. The more accurate “cotten paper” would describe a higher grade paper that a diploma might be printed on.

The diploma reference dovetails nicely with the “graduate unskilled.” More importantly, it Westerbergianly states that no diploma will save you from being forgotten.

Compare this to the consensus lyric, where the unskilled graduate narrator a) will not be doing hard labor and b) will not be the one who is forgotten, it’s the cotton-picker that will be. On relisten, I concede that the consensus lyrics are correct, but I like mine better. But who I am to second guess the epistles of St. Paul.

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Stuttering Into the New — Solstice, Christmas, New Year

Posted by verywellthen on December 16, 2008


Sunrise or Sunset (Library of Congress) Public Domain

Sunrise or Sunset (Library of Congress) Public Domain

In grade school catechism class I learned that the early Catholic Church placed Christmas on December 25th to counter the pagan holidays occurring at the Winter Solstice.  I repeat this with authority, because on matters such as this, I consider the source to be no less accurate than Wikipedia.
Whether this Fourth Century strategy of declaring December 25 to be Christmas was to co-opt the existing spiritual mindset or to use the wonderful symbolism of the savior born as the darkness begins receding, it is maddeningly inaccurate.  Christmas typically misses the solstice by 3 or 4 days, depending on the year.  
Equally annoying is the fact that New Year’s Day is not until a week later. Sixteenth Century powers that be set up an annual calendar that delineates “Before Christ” from “the Year of our Lord”.    But each year itself has a “Before Christ” period, followed by a “Few Days of our Lord.”
I know nobody believes that the calendar by a centuries-long committee got much right.  I’ve heard theories placing an actual date to Jesus’ birth based on which season the Shepherds would have been tending their flock at night and when an astrological event might have illuminated a celestial beacon to guide wise men to the Christ Child. As far as the year – prevailing thinking has Christ born several years Before Christ.
Now, I don’t expect leaders of the Middle Ages to be accurate, but couldn’t they have been a bit more consistent?  If you’re assigning an arbitrary birthday based on the solstice, why not place it on the solstice?  When you’re establishing a first year based on the birth of Christ, why not start it at your already-established date of the birth of Christ?
So, Year 1 A.D. is the year Jesus was born.  With the Little Lord Jesus arriving late in the year, under the established scheme, it was already Year Two of Our Lord by the time Jesus was a week old.
Which brings me to my biggest calendar peeve of all – that the calendar designers started the yearly odometer at 1 instead of 0. As one trained in computer programming – this drives me crazy.  Start your iterative loops at zero and you’ll avoid a lot of trouble – remember that whole debate whether 2000 or 2001 was the start of the millennium?  There are consecutive historical years of 1 B.C. and 1 A.D.  That’s counting from -1 to 1 while skipping over zero.
The season of annual rebirth ends up as a big old Western Calendar fudge factor.  This year’s winter solstice arrives on December 21 (Northern Hemisphere, GMT), giving us a twelve day period of renewal. Hold it, the Twelve Days of Christmas?  That sounds familiar. But, alas, those musical 12 days are based on the period from Christmas to the Epiphany, which is – get this – 13 days.   I guess in the fabulous game-show-eight-day-seven-night-vacation-package logic – you would only be charged for 12 days for the hotel room. Mr. True Love got lucky he didn’t have to buy Thirteen somethings somethinging.* 
It’s too late to do anything about it now, of course.  And, I guess, like all good fudge factors, this thing works okay in its own way.  The calendar gives us three distinct beginnings each winter season — the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s Day – one natural, one spiritual, one secular.  I don’t know about you, but I could use all three.

In the litany of the “12 Days” gifts — note the interesting gift order.  For seven days, it’s birds, birds, birds – with just a day interlude for the golden rings.  Imagine the Eighth day:    

True Love:  Honey, guess what I’ve got for you today?  Close your eyes and don’t open them until I tell you.

Honey (to herself):  Oh, god.  Please not more birds.  How about some more of those golden rings.

True Love:  Okay, you can open your eyes.

Honey (opening eyes):  Who are the hayseeds?

True Love: Eight Maids A Milking, my love.

Honey:  Humans?  I get servants?  I’m going to need to hock those rings just to pay for their salaries. 

True Love:  Dear, just you wait for the rest of the week.

Honey:  Well, at least they’ve got an agriculture background.  Maybe they can help take care of all those damn birds.

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