Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Most Blatant, Awkward and Vile Disregard of MAN LAW...

I de-board the plane.

The last 2 1/2 hours have been quick and extremely productive. I have taken the travel time on Virgin Airlines between Los Angeles and Dallas to begin work on a new short story. As I enter DFW Airport, my mind now shifts to the excitement ahead- the anticipation of surprising my dad with my first trip home on Thanksgiving since 2002 (he previously believed I was taking a trip with friends in the mountains of Yosemite). Upon racing to the baggage claim, I realize it would be wise to answer the call of nature that is resounding in my bladder. Though it is not extremely urgent at the moment, it is quite a drive to our little burg in the country- Athens, TX.

Now I stand in line, waiting for a urinal... or hopefully a stall... to open up so that I may take care of business with some modicum of privacy.

Then I hear it...

Some gentleman at one of the urinals lets fly. Now, it has been known to happen before... if there is any acceptable place to fart in public it is in a restroom. But this is no ordinary wind. No sir, this is borderline atomic, "excuse me sir you should check your undies" gas.

As if this was not enough to make me cringe. The man giggles at himself and proceeds to announce:

"That was me."
As if there was any doubt.

But MAN LAW- which is a time-honored code of gentlemanly conduct for almost every situation, not the least of which is behavior in and around restrooms- dictates that the offender not be regarded by the other occupants of said lavatory.

Then, the unthinkable happens... the Farter, continuing to giggle, turns his head to the left and smiles at the fellow to his right, waits for approval or perhaps a congratulations/high-five, then upon finding none turns to the left and looks for the same.

It is difficult for me to pinpoint the gravity of this situation to the half of the species that do not understand and to whom MAN LAW does not apply. If it is not the Number One Rule in MAN LAW, it is most certainly Number Two:

Never, EVER, under NO circumstances, even under pain of DEATH or castration should you ever attempt any sort of eye contact nor turn one's head more than 10 degrees in either direction at a urinal.

There are reasons for this that exceed time and space. But, trust me, this law is for the best.

Now, this gentlemen just shunned this Law not once but TWICE, whilst GIGGLING. As if this wasn't enough to make every man cry fowl, there was more to come. Our offender had, at the time, occupied the urinal longer than anyone else at the row. Meaning he had gotten there first. Soon the 2 gentlemen of either side of him- whether they were finished or just needed to leave this awkward situation we will never know- flipped, zipped and walked away. Another pair of gentlemen took their places.

Surely, I thought, this fella will be done soon.

He continued to giggle softly at himself, his head rolling around on his shoulders as if he knew the Man Law he had broken and yet was tempted to break it yet again. Then, the next round of gentlemen were also done.

This was not fun, for it was now
My Turn.

Nervously, I approached the urinal. No sooner had I begun to unzip my fly than the man ripped another ass-blast. And we're talking major here... like tuba-esque but with substance to it. The kind that makes you want to vomit, especially if done in a smelly public restroom by a man one does not know.

His laughter was even more hysterical now. The Farter was giggling like a 9 year old school boy in church whose best friend has just popped Mary Margaret's bra strap in the row in front of you. And lo, from the corner of my eye, I see in my peripheral that our Anti-Hero is now looking to me for approval! The NERVE!

In full compliance of MAN LAW Number One (or at least Number Two), I stare straight ahead at the shiny white tiled bathroom wall- refusing to even acknowledge his presence. I strain my bladder to force my bathroom trip to end as quickly as possible, give the required "shake" or two, zip up and bolt for the sink.

The amazing thing is, the Farter has remained at the urinals! He has now outlasted 3 rounds of urinators! Now this is either some really serious peeing, or the man has been faking- this is an offense that is so unthinkable as to not even be named in the MAN LAW, however it MUST be punishable by death. Must be.

As I wash my hands, I thank the Lord that I am free of this man. It is at this moment that I notice him in the mirror behind me. He has finished, his fly is still undone and he is walking behind every man at the sink basin- looking in the mirror not necessarily at us but also not really at himself. Then, past every other many in the restroom who has witnessed his antics and a horrified Nate, he walks out of the bathroom into the terminal.

Not even a drop of water or soap touched his hands.

If I had had lunch, I would have lost it.

Part of me would find comfort if I thought this behavior was confined to this one incident at DFW Airport, but I instinctively know that it is not. I know there are loonies in ever town and every city and that there are people out there who are just plain nasty and unheeding of our most precious laws: the Torah, the Koran, MAN LAW, etc...

I can only hope we one day live in a world where such cherished rules are enthusiastically and religiously observed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dear People Who Poke On Facebook...

Stop it.

Nate's Verbal Hootenanny

Dear Women on the Roads of Los Angeles

Please cease the practice of fixing your hair/doing your makeup whilst behind the wheel of your car. Effective immediately.

In case you haven't noticed, no one else around you is neglecting their focus on operating their automobile. This is why they are moving... and you are not.

If this Open Letter is not enough to persuade to not suck, then perhaps my highbeams aimed directly at your side and/or rear-view mirrors and a lengthy horn check will help...

Nate's Verbal Hootenanny

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear AFTRA...

You are a worthless, second-rate organization.

Despite never having benefitted from any services you provide in 5 years of membership, I am forced to turn over a few year's worth of dues to you so I can collect on a paycheck. And I do this with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Please use it wisely before SAG takes you over... um, excuse me, "merges" with you.

But I'm not gonna hold my breath...

Best Wishes,
Nate's Verbal Hootenanny

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"I Wish I Could Do This Forever..."

The words in the title of this post are among the last that Andy Rooney spoke to the world on "60 Minutes" just a few short weeks ago.

They are words that gave me pause. Andy Rooney had... for lack of any better term... a point of view about the world that amazed me. It was so many things at once: poignant, curmudgeonly, charming, hysterical, and wise. Rooney himself even said that he had a way of expressing ideas that made people go "Hey, yeah, he's right" and that made him feel good.

"A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" always made me think. Not always hard, not always deeply- but that wasn't always the point. He wanted your attention and he knew how to get it- by sharing ideas on topics both minute and grand that made you stop and rethink things (or, on some subjects, form opinions for the very first time). No matter what I was doing during the broadcast of "60 Minutes," I always stopped to listen to Andy. Sometimes he made me laugh and shake my head, sometimes he made me sneer and sometimes he made me just go "Awww, you're old." But he made me think and he made me feel, and in this day of loud, obnoxious 24-hour news networks that have turned journalism from a noble profession into a trashy one, that is a treasure.

One can hope someone else like him will come along, but I doubt it.

If I had known Rooney's "final regular appearance" on "60 Minutes" would actually be his last, I would not have erased it from my TiVo. Instead I would have listened closer to a man who had a wisdom and oddball relevance that meant a lot to this country throughout the years. I would have soaked it up more, because I will certainly miss the few minutes a week he came into my home on Sunday nights.

But I guess that's what YouTube is for.

"I wish I could do this forever..."

I do too, Andy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dear Indie Films...

I love you.

It is you who keeps me from losing my inspiration when I get tired of the endless stream of poorly thought-out romantic comedies, dizzyingly laughable action flicks and dreary/ineffective horror/thrillers being churned out these days.

Bless you from continuing to find new and inventive ways of telling me a unique story. Even if the story itself is not unique, thank you for making the effort to tell it in an uncommon way.

However, I do beg of you one thing...

Please do not forget that it is ok- perhaps even advisable- to actually end the story you're telling. You know, wrap it up. Resolve it. Give us something that doesn't leave us going "Huh?" For the second time in a week, I walked out of a really intriguing independent thriller feeling the need to rush home and see what all the good ol' folks on IMDB were message-board'ing about the ending.

And, listen, when your film is making me resort to the IMDB message boards, we've got a problem.

Martha Marcy May Marlene was the first of these films this week. A really gripping look at the life of a girl who returns to her estranged sister after escaping from a cult, this movie distorts the line between a character's perception of reality and true reality in a really effective and surprisingly non-vague way. The ending, however and without giving anything away, was one that I needed to go home and ponder. Not inherently a bad thing mind you, but I've just given your film between $10 and $20 depending on the theater and 2 hours of my time... I don't always need to spend another 30 minutes deciphering your finale. Despite my borderline psychotic obsession with you, I do indeed have other things to do with my time.

Take Shelter is the other film in question. Now... this one won't appeal to quite as many people. I actually struggled with it myself. It moves rather slowly at first, and the inevitable conclusion seems pretty obvious (or does it?). However, what this movies does have going for it are the crazy strong performances of Michael Shannon (who cranks out engaging performances after engaging performance) and Jessica Chastain (in a very difficult role of devoted yet befuddled housewife who never becomes redundant or annoying). Eventually, the tension that warrants this film's categorization as a "drama/suspense-thriller" picks up and by the end of it one doesn't care what the outcome is going to be- one just wants to get there. Again, however, despite the ending being leaving perhaps very little room for speculation- it still felt vague and too brief. After 2 hours of building to its climax, another 5 minutes would not have ticked me off. Rather the opposite- assuming it was done right.

(Fun film fact break: A young Michael Shannon, in his days before great roles in the above-mentioned film and being the only good thing about Revolutionary Road, can be seen as a googly-eyed, love-struck, engaged Wrestlemania fan in one of my favorite films Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I know you've never noticed it before... and you're welcome.)

Anyway, maybe I'm too picky. I do not mind an ending that leaves something to be desired. However, as in every facet of filmmaking, having an ambiguous ending has to be earned. You have to justify it in such a way that makes the audience go "Yeah... that was the best ending you could have given." And with any small amount of luck, said ambiguous ending should create a debate between viewers. The classic western Shane for example has one such a conclusion: Is Shane dead? Seems obvious but there are still some wistful fans who want to believe he rode off into the sunset and recovered in true Shane fashion.

To make a long story short (too late), keep me guessing but don't confuse me. Unlike adding Tabasco to food, you can go too far in your delivery of artistic uncertainty.

In other words, don't be afraid to show me a little more leg.