Favorite Waste of Time
The Red Badge of Laziness
By: Randy Harward
People just don't understand how much work, how many arduous couch hours, this column takes to get off the ground. One DVD box set review takes an entire day out of my life; even when it's a good DVD box set, that's kinda pitiful. And yet, I risk bedsores, weight gain and amotivational syndrome just so you can read my half-assedly formed opinions of them and maybe, just maybe, waste or not waste your money on the product. This is the gravity of my devotion to you who may stumble upon this column (most certainly never seek this out twice).
So--by my calculations, I spent an average of nine hours out of every day this month on the couch (no allowance is made for time spent asleep). Was it worth it? Did anything justify the utter squandering of precious life time? Yeah, actually.
I enjoyed the Freaks and Geeks complete season (Shout! Factory) immensely. I never did see the show while it was on, but couldn't ignore the admonitions of friends and anonymous messageboard posters not to let this one pass. Besides the satisfaction of knowing at least one 13-hour day (and part of another, checking out the copious special features) was well-spent in Judd Apatow and Paul Feig's 1980 high school reality, I have a new unrequited love in Linda Cardellini. Oh, and I came away with an important self-realization that eluded me in years of therapy: I'm both a freak and a geek.
Insight notwithstanding, I reverted to geek for a couple of days and watched Rhino's Transformers Season 3, part 2 and Season 4, plus Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Volume 5. I don't dig the Transformers as much as I used to, which blows my mind. Remember how it used to seem so larger-than-life (even on a little 13-inch TV) and even potentially real? All that shit is down the crapper. Perhaps I've lost touch with the ol' inner child, despite my blossoming irresponsibility and continued immaturity?
Fox really came through for me this month, too. I found their comprehensive special edition of The Commitments to be a divine waste of time. Great movie about great music (blue-eyed soul is best when imported from Ireland, innit?), with insightful added features (and some that are a complete waste of time, as usual).
X-Files Season 9 was as expected: the most disappointing season of one of the best shows, ever, plus the requisite bonus features that rate a three out of ten (maybe a five if you're obsessed with the show). Is that my prejudice to filler material showing?
Know what's funny? I even watched the whole Bernie Mac first season, even though I hated that show after I saw the first five episodes repeated ad nauseam during its inaugural summer. Ain't that lovin' you, babe?
You may have already see Stuck on You, the Farrelly Brothers joint with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as conjoined (fuck this... Siamese) twins. Sucks, don't it? The stars alone are a recipe for hemorrhoids, but the sense that the Farrellys have blown their dick-joke wad is excruciating. Who do we turn to when their well runs dry?
Let's see--what else? Star Trek: Voyager Season 2 (Paramount). I stopped watching Star Trek spin-offs after the first few Deep Space Nines [Dear Trekkie dorks: if I somehow missed the fact that Voyager came first and am therefore committing a factual error, please confine your scoffing to the imaginary messageboard] and for a good reason: Trek spin-offs serve little purpose other than keeping Trekkies from suffering delirium tremens at withdrawal from new Trek-related plots (however repetitive and dorky) and B-list actors from the breadline. And yet, they are somehow extremely satisfying when they happen to be on during sleepless nights or when under the influence, which accounted for about 75% of my time consuming this package. That means I liked it.
Also from Paramount, the latest Phillip K. Dick joint-made-into-a-film, Paycheck, was pretty good sci-fi/action fun, even though Ben Affleck is as wooden as co-star Uma Thurman is sexy. The special features weren't a complete waste of time, either.
And despite my busy schedule of television consumption, I still found time to play around with Professor Television's Photo-Theremin. For the uninitiated, a theremin is a boxy little instrument invented by some Russian dude. It's played by moving one's hands around two antennae...one that controls volume, and another that controls pitch. You never touch the antennae; it's the proximity of one's hands...and one's own sensitivity to pitch...that matters.
The photo-theremin is operated similarly, only instead of antennae, it works with a light-sensitive electric eye; the more light it picks up, the higher the pitch. Less light, naturally, results in a lower pitch. Additional functions are controlled by knobs...you can get that cool 50s B-flick sound out of it, or you can get a guttural growl.
Playing any theremin would take a lot of getting used to, unless you have perfect pitch (of course, I don't). Plus, the whole light-sensitive thing means in order for your instrument to be "in tune," you must always play it in a room that is always lit the same; if your main practice room uses a 60-watt bulb with a lampshade of a specific opacity and you go play outside under the sun or in a different room lit by 75-watt bulbs, the distance your hand must be from the sensor...and the technique you use to block out the light...won't produce the same result. Once I figured this out, it took about five days for me to coax a melody somewhat akin to "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Your results will vary, depending on your ear.
Now, my ear being what it is (a dull, waxy, slightly cauliflowered thing), I mostly fucked around with this. It was great fun making all manner of sci-fi sounds, and especially enjoyable when plugged into a small Marshall practice amp, smothered in gain, and played with the window open...at as high a pitch as possible. It totally fucked with the dogs in my neighborhood.
That's not say, however, that I have give up on making actually music with this thing. A few weeks after my "Mary Had a Little Lamb" breakthrough, I got the main riffs of "Iron Man" and "Smoke on the Water" out of the little monster. And I'm not stopping until I can play "Don't Worry Be Happy" in its entirety.
Two more things I experienced this month: my third GWAR concert. They used not just red blood, but also blue and green this time...rrrrrrock!...and flayed in effigy Courtney Love, Mike Tyson, Osama Bin Laden, George W. Bush and John Kerry--in that order. Infer from that what you'd like...maybe even email me your speculation as to what it all means in the grand scope of the universe.
I also, and I'm not sure why I did this, ventured into the local lesbian bar to catch Sophie B. Hawkins. I can't remember honestly liking her music, but I do remember her being hot as fuck and, in her words, "omnisexual, which is loads of fun to ponder. The show was good...no denying her talent as a songwriter, singer, instrumentalist and all-around entertainer--you should have seen her trying to shake her ass right out of her jeans...but it was very disconcerting to have entered a lesbian bar for the first time while under the influence of potent baked goods.
Everyone was more than hospitable, but my poor, paranoid, brownie-addled mind kept telling me I was on shaky ground, that getting The Boot was imminent because, as the hallucination of a Buford T. Pusser-esque woman was shortly sure to tell me: "We don't serve your kind here." It didn't happen, natch, but my portly, short-haired, almond-eyed shape attracted the eye of a lady whose face registered supreme disappointment when she realized I wasn't--her type.
The good thing was, I realized I shouldn't take it personally. Or maybe I should, 'cause it was rejection after all, no matter the reason-- Somebody validate me! Please?