Oz the Great and Powerful is all of the above

 

So, not a full review. Just a quick reflection on it.

 I thought it was fantastic. Exciting and action filled but not full of violence. It added pathos to characters from the original film I have always found bland. I like the performances. Franco as a winking conman who isn’t great at it, Kunis (particularly the first half of her performance) kills me, and every time the china girl was on screen tears would come to my eyes due to the perfection of the technical accomplishment and the enormous metaphorical implications of her which I could go on and on about.

It wasn’t as flashy in the environments as, say, Alice in Wonderland or Avatar but I thought that was a wise decision. It invites wonder when the scene is about that (the reveal into color and the expansion of the screen is very effective) but otherwise lets the scene be whatever the scene is.

I thought it was tremendous. Smart, sweet-natured, and character driven. I guess those just aren’t the things that people want in movie’s anymore.

 

Oldboy remake

So, Spike Lee is remaking the Park Chan-Wook film Oldboy. This is pretty scary to me. I love the original. It is so brave and ballsy and shocking. The new version stars Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olson.  The really interesting bit in the casting is Sharlto Copely in the villian role. But how much of the original can possibly exist? I haven’t read the source material (a graphic novel, I think) and don’t know where they diverge. I guess Lee’s is based on the graphic novel. But I can’t imagine a Hollywood studio making an ending remotely like the original films. Hell, I dunno. Maybe. But Lee is a brave film maker when it comes to Theme. Not so much when it comes to content.

 

So will it be any good? I don’t know. I kind of doubt it. At one point Will Smith was attached. Which would have been awful. However, the fact that he left it makes it sound better to me. He turned down Django Unchained as well and it was a wild film, if a bit hit and miss. I wonder if the other two films in the Vengeance trilogy will get made. I doubt it. Lady Vengeance is really intense film and deals with some pretty unpleasant issues, particularly given recent news events. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is, I think, the most depressing film of all time. But, this is an age of re-makes and franchises. There are already plans for a Fast and Furious 7 even though 6 has yet to be released. Fuck. There were only three Godfathers. And only two of them were great. The third is worlds better than most things being made now. Yet they said it killed the series. 

 

What conclusion can we draw?

Swim Otters

January 18th, 2013

Swim Otters

Wherein I discuss baby swim lessons, Manti Te’o, Arnold Schwarzenegger, pornography, gun violence, ballet, Lance Armstrong, high school, the spirit of Horatio Alger, imaginary attack dogs, the Baseball Hall of Fame, acid attacks, and rhetorical questions.

Jet has started swim lessons. That may be overstating things. He has begun to float. Which, I suspect, is a far better thing.

It’s a program called Swim Otters and it’s an apt name, evoking visions of the sleek and lithe little darlings as they loop and flip through the water, seeming playful and joyous as they go about their otterly business.

Jet’s teacher is a young woman named Shelby. She is introduced to us as “Miss Shelby.” So that’s what we call her. She is easily fifteen years younger than me, fresh out of high school. She could pass for younger. She calls me “Jetson’s Dad.” Is she the only person who does? I think so.

We bring Jet to his ten-minute lessons (they can’t pay attention for much longer than that) in his footie Imagepajamas with a swim diaper underneath and a neoprene life vest over the pjs and lower him into the water. Miss Shelby slowly dips each ear into the pool and sings to him as she does.

“This is the way we wash our ears, wash our ears, wash our ears. This is the way we wash our ears. All. Day. Long.”

She has one of those sweet, tiny singing voices you want someone to have. The kind that would never attract attention in a serious way or even stand up to a karaoke night but exactly how you want a lullaby sung.

The goal of this whole thing is that if Jet accidentally falls into a pool, he won’t panic. He will calmly roll over onto his back and drift around until he comes to the edge. Once there, he will either continue to float or roll back over and grab onto the edge, bob there gently until help arrives and plucks him out.

The world is adrift in tragedy. That it is adrift in such is less surprising than it should be. Whatever that says about me. The range available to pick from in this cornucopia, this plenty of disasters is amazing. From the minor to the catastrophic, from seismic to incidental. Children and moviegoers being shot. Teachers being revealed to have pornographic careers in their pasts. Artificiality winning battles everywhere.

A college football player is either the architect of an enormous con on the public or is the most naïve schmuck on the planet. Either way, he is being humiliated on a level that will, without question, ruin his life. Does a conman deserve such a fate? Does an overly innocent fool? Is the sacrificing of one thing or group of things worth it for what will be changed in the future as a result? Enough with these cowardly rhetorical questions. Here’s what I mean:

The Manti Te’o story will lead to massive changes. They may be brief but they will be significant in their time. Journalists will return to checking sources and backgrounds. This won’t be out of a sense of duty. It will be so that they keep their jobs and don’t look incompetent. Adolescents will be subjected to lectures about on-line security and identity theft and not being so trusting of strangers. To harden their hearts.

Lance Armstrong has confessed to using performance enhancing drugs and methodologies. The sport is rife with cheating. Everything short of putting tiny motors on the bikes. And maybe that, too. Who knows?

Another rhetorical question. Sorry.

The Baseball Hall of Fame rejected everyone from the steroid era.

How dare someone cheat? How dare they get a leg up? What does it matter if everyone did it if it is wrong?

But achievement is all relative. Our biggest celebrities are fools. Famous for nothing other than their fame and pilfered photos and videos of their most private moments and parts.

A high school teacher was recently revealed to have a previous career as a pornographic actress. She has lobbied to get her job back and has lost the appeal. Which is understandable. Students can’t have access to things like that with their teachers. I wonder if it would be better or worse if she hadn’t done such things professionally.

If America really does love a comeback story and redemption for past wrongs and self improvement, I find it hard to think of something more apt than someone who made fast, effortless money by exploiting their youth, looks, and body and then traded it in for the hard work and terrible pay of being a public school teacher. Helping students to find a better life. Do I think she should be a school teacher? No. Of course not. But I admire the hell out of her. She made good on the things we say we value. A porn actress ran for Governor of California. She was defeated by an actor who had a history of steroids, infidelity, and a career built on the glamorization of violence and the fetishization of guns. Huge, glistening, throbbing tubes of death, blasting their loads into the waiting bodies of hundreds of anonymous individuals whose only function is a biological one of fluids and shouts and immediate dismissal from our thoughts.

I’m tired of hearing about the second amendment. I’m tired of justification for selfishness. But that’s another thing entirely.

The artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet has been attacked. He had been getting threats. Many of them were specific to his eyes. He was exiting his car after a night out mingling with the cream of the Moscow art world and someone threw a splash of acid in his face. He has third degree burns everywhere above the neck. His eyes and his face have separate surgeons.

He is powerful beyond words in such circles. He decides what is happening in Russian ballet and, by extension, in ballet generally. It probably doesn’t seem important to you. Usually, ballet isn’t very important to me either. Today though, it seems penultimate. His job is to deliver the very best artistic dance possible to the world. His methods are often cruel. He kicked out one ballerina and ended her career when he said she was too fat to be a dance and too heavy to lift. She weighed 109 pounds at the time. It is a vicious, cut throat, and corrupt business. He is a former dancer. I don’t know how good he was. Better than I or anyone I know would ever be. I know that much.

Sometimes during the swim lessons a second instructor steps in they ferry Jet back and forth between them. They have him face down in the water when they do so. Just before his face goes down they count off and blow a puff of air into his face. He inhales sharply, closes his eyes, and they dip him down. They cheer each time he surfaces. I cheer, too.

I don’t know if I am helping him, really. Is it better to float above all of this? To serenely drift above the murk? I can’t avoid some rhetorical questions. Not as a device of logic or composition but because I don’t have any answers for them. Perhaps they aren’t rhetorical at all. I want someone to tell me.

They set Jet on the edge of the pool and gently pull him down and in, feigning an accidental fall. It seems like good practice. I find myself doing similar things all of the time. If that barking dog jumps that tiny fence and attacks the stroller with my son, what will I do? I have rehearsed the violence in my head many times. What about if they come into the house? Whoever they are. Escape plans, contingencies weighed, disasters imagined. They are grim and bloody and always end terribly. The degrees of terrible change.

The only thing to do, I suppose, is to do one’s best in the actual. In the present moment. I read something that said the world isn’t ending. It is just that our world is always ending. It dwindles down and down and resets for whoever happens to be newest.

But I’m an optimist. What is the opposite of “defeatist?” “Victoriest?” I’m that. I know we can win. But there are so few who genuinely try. And they get smacked down. I don’t give a damn about Lance Armstrong. I don’t care about Manti Te’o. The Baseball Hall of Fame can let them all in or none of them or burn down and my life won’t change. I am concerned that guns are still seen as sexy. I lament that abandoning a slight and easy life for a meaningful and difficult one isn’t rewarded or, at the very least, tolerated. I worry that all my plans and my scenarios and all of my efforts can’t stand up to whatever is coming. On and on.

But this is just the first stage of swim lessons.

First of all: Float. Don’t drown. Cling to the edge until someone can reach down and pluck you out.

There are follow up courses. How to paddle. Doing laps quickly. Different strokes and techniques. Holding your breath so that you can swim down to the bottom and come back up.

Retrieving lost things.

Top Ten Worst Movies of All Time, Part Two

 

Part Two of this list continues with the awfulness that was listed in Part One and gets, of course, even awfuller. Please do recall my previous mention that “after much consulting with myself, I have come to the conclusion that these are, without question, the worst movies I have ever seen and therefore must be the worst movies ever.”

I also noted that they are all pretty recent releases. It isn’t that bad movies weren’t made before my lifetime. They were. But I tend to easily fall into “Well, by god, they tried their best.” The following films can’t say that. Is laziness a newer invention? Sure, why not. I can’t be bothered to look up everything. All opinions are solely my own and your responses, while almost certainly unintentionally hilarious, are wrong.

Are these answers the only correct ones and absolutely iron clad? Yes.

That said, if I change my mind tomorrow, I am allowed. Because I am me and you are not.

Your responses and arguments are valuable to me in that I will print them repeatedly and use them for kindling in my fireplace. After the roaring fire is built, I will then crank up my air conditioner and let them battle it out as I listen to the crackle and pop of how misinformed you are.

Love,

Irving J. Silvertoad

#5 Howard the Duck– It managed to do the following:

A-   Make Tim Robbins lame.

B-   Make Jeffrey Jones lame.

C-   Give me terrible nightmares as a kid of that tongue in the cigarette lighter thing.

D-   Give me terrible nightmare images of Lea Thompson making out with a duck.

E-   Make me no longer attracted to Lea Thompson.

F-    Be terrible in lots of other ways.

Why is there another emerging theme of interspecies sex on this list?

But it does have the most kick-ass crazy Japanese-Americana diner ever in it. I want to eat there everyday.

#4 Birdemic: Shock and Terror– Okay. I know I am putting it on this list. But you have to see it. It’s the story of a girl way too good looking to be in this movie dating a guy who might be asleep for most of the film who fall into a love that makes no sense and then the world is attacked by birds who think pollution sucks. It is written and directed by James Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who loves movies but has mixed feelings, it seems, about making them good.

I resisted putting it here because it is clearly the effort of people who tried their best and failed, which is relatively honorable. You should watch it, if only for the same reasons parents watch their kids ride their bike one-handed and pretend to be impressed. Questions to keep in mind when you see it:

Why are they the only people in the bar?

Why didn’t they tell her to wash her feet before the love scene?

Why is the boardroom scene so homoerotic?

Why do the birds explode like missiles on impact? Do they drink gasoline?

Where did the machine guns come from?

Shouldn’t a title sequence be checked for grammar?

Did they drug the child actors?

Can one successfully fight anything off with a coat hanger?

One could easily show the dialogue scenes to students and then just instruct them to do the opposite when they write.

Good news: A sequel is forthcoming. Bad news: It is aware of the joke and (judging from the trailer) winking at itself. Even a minor cash grab can ruin a thing. Better to just give Ngyuen a tiny budget and insist he needs to make a great piece of art. Please someone do this. It better be pretty shitty or I will be disappointed.

#3 Battlefield Earth– I’m guessing that in Scientology circles, John Travolta screwed up somehow and his penance was to put Hubbard’s magnum opus on the screen.  He managed to loop in Roger Christian, almost certainly through some kind of coercion or blackmail. Christian is a talented guy. He helped to make the Star Wars films and whenever you see old behind the scenes footage he is the wildly handsome hip guy who looks like he is hanging with the nerds just because, fuck you, he can do anything and still be rad. All that said, Christian fucked up here.

Travolta manages to channel the late actor/actress Divine here in preparation for his work in Hairspray, evidently. He plays a nine-foot tall (again!) alien with five working fingers and one floppy foam one on each hand who wishes that he had a better job. He screams and trills dialogue that makes Birdemic sound like Glengarry Glen Ross. The special effects aren’t special, unless you mean in a polite for stupid way. But that isn’t all. The movie is designed to make you sick to your stomach. EVERY SINGLE SHOT in the movie is dutch, meaning tilted. It’s like you are in constant danger of sliding out of your seat as you watch it.

Why is Forrest Whittaker in this thing? Did they hold his loved ones hostage?

You know that party game where people watch a crappy movie and drink and make fun of it? Playing that game with this movie often results in mass suicides.

#2 Disaster Movie/Epic Movie/Meet the Spartans– The least funny comedies ever. And are responsible for the youth getting dumber. Repeating scenes from other movies with different people in the parts is not funny. Mentioning whatever pop culture thing is current while filming is not funny. They are dated before they are even released. I hate these movies. Teenagers love them. Ergo, I hate teenagers. The “writing” and “directing” “team” of Jason Friedburg and Aaron Seltzer should be beaten to death with copies of Airplane! and The Naked Gun.

#1 Bad Boys II– Michael Bay pops his horrible, leathery, weasel with a wig head up again and takes the top spot. Whenever Will Smith gets too self-righteous about himself and his dignity and being above the fray, remind him that he was in Bad Boys II. I’m going to try and be rational, try to make sense, try to not just start frothing and screaming.

First, the obvious one: Cash grab. What in the world could possibly have made this movie appealing to make beyond the money? I can’t even hazard a funny guess. Nothing at all is appealing about this.

Senseless violence. I am not against violence in film. I am against violence without sense or consequence. Films that make violence fun. The ostensible “heroes” in this film love violence. The only consequence they face is getting a bullet in the ass and that provides them with lots of opportunities to make homophobic jokes. Which brings us to . . .

Casual hate. This film hates everyone it remotely can while keeping the powers that be happy. Every race, poor people, women, gays, they all get taken apart in this film. The most appalling thing in this is how much this movie even allows the heroes to brutalize a young black kid. In the film, a very sweet looking, polite young man comes to pick up Martin Lawrence’s daughter for a date. This poor kid is subjected to the ugliest series of threats and insults possible from the two hero cops! They insult his blackness, they threaten him with violence, they question his sexuality, and they pull guns on him! Why are these men so cruel? And the scene is played for laughs. Ha! He pulled a gun on that poor kid and scared the shit out of him for no reason. Hilarious!

Making the case for necrophilia: One of the biggest “laughs” in the movie is Martin Lawrence ogling the naked body of a woman with large breasts. This corpse is referred to as a stripper and a bimbo. Because of her boobs. Lawrence then manages to find himself hiding under the sheet with her on the gurney and face-to-breast with her. Is he appalled? Disgusted? Scared in the moment? Nope. He seems unsure if it’s okay that he clearly is into it.

Why doesn’t anything in the movie make sense in physical space? Transformers  is full of restraint and clarity in comparison. The much ballyhooed highway chase has some extraordinary shots in it but were apparently just randomly stitched together. I defy anyone to really explain what the hell is happening in this scene.

One last thing that I will mention out of the very, very many things still left to be infuriated by. The last chase scene rolls down a Cuban hilltop. Fine. But there happens to be an extremely poor village on the hilltop. The heroes roll through this town and absolutely destroy it. Okay. They gotta get away. Fine. But they ruin, easily, hundreds of lives. These people are living in shacks poor and all of their possessions are destroyed. I doubt they have homeowner insurance or 401K’s to fall back on. It is played to look awesome.

Will Smith, stop pretending you give a shit about other people. At least Michael Bay is aware that he is a shitty person and embraces it.

So, there it is. A top ten list of the bottom films of all time, without question, hesitation, equivocation or possibility of revision. If you feel a need to defend any of these, you are clearly a terrible person.

Top Ten Worst Movies of All Time, Part One

The reaction to Sight & Sound’s most recent list of their greatest films of all time has been as frenetic and crazed as such a thing could reasonably be, which is to say: not very. There are many good reasons for that. It is not possible to argue with much passion about the things we love. “Yeah, that’s great, but you know what’s really great” is the most boring conversation in the world. Whether the best film is Citizen Kane or Vertigo is a pointless argument (particularly because the correct answer is Lawrence of Arabia). The fun argument is for the WORST MOVIE OF ALL TIME.

After much consulting with myself, I have come to the conclusion that these are, without question, the worst movies I have ever seen and therefore must be the worst movies ever. They are all pretty recent releases. It isn’t that bad movies weren’t made before my lifetime. They were. But I tend to easily fall into “Well, by god, they tried their best.” The following films can’t say that. Is laziness a newer invention? Sure, why not. I can’t be bothered to look up everything. All opinions are solely my own and your responses, while almost certainly unintentionally hilarious, are wrong.

#10 Avatar– What a horrible, misguided, bone-headed, boring piece of shit. Cobbled together from easily identified previous films (Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, assorted snuff films), it is a wildly lazy movie. It cost more to make than many nations’ GDP but writer/director James Cameron couldn’t be bothered to spend the twenty bucks it would have cost to do another draft of the script. The racial politics in the film are atrocious. The natives are clearly designed to resemble the actors who portray them. Which makes sense. But they are primarily played by African American and Native American actors. Uh oh. And the hero who shows them the error of their shitty battle plans? A really boring white dude.

Wait a second, did he just have sex with that alien? I know he sorta has an alien body, but he’s a human. He’s sexually attracted to a nine-foot tall blue thing with a tail and what are bound to be hideous genitals.

Environmental message? Millions of people drove decent distances in cars to see the fucking thing. They probably didn’t carpool or take group buses. You could have done the environment more good by not making the movie. I could go on but there is no point.

#9 Forrest Gump– “Whoa! Forrest Gump! That movie is great!” No, it’s not. Shut up. A masturbation epic for Baby Boomers who want to believe that just being there is enough to change the world. Fuck. You. A moron wandering the planet spouting horseshit. And he gets to bed the hottest woman in the movie purely because, eh, why not? She has already slept with everyone else. Then she dies of what is clearly meant to suggest AIDS. How did Forrest dodge that bullet? Clearly he wasn’t using protection, because they spawn a tiny moron from their terrible union. Anyone who has actually achieved things in their life through ingenuity and hard work should be offended by this movie. He’s a war hero because he runs around. He accidentally designs a famous graphic by wiping himself off.  The movie should have ended with a group of laborers and thinkers beating him to death with buckets of shrimp.

#8 Saving Private Ryan– Here it comes. Here come the big protests. And what is my problem with Tom Hanks? I don’t have one. Bachelor Party? Hell yes. Big? Absolutely. Was he in Police Academy? Also awesome. But stick with me here.

How does that movie begin? Did you say with the D-Day invasion of Normandy? Watch it again. It starts with an old man and his progeny wandering through a cemetery looking for a certain grave. We are led to believe he then remembers the events of the movie as Tom Hanks. But it ain’t him. It’s Matt Damon’s character. How the hell does he remember what Hanks did at Normandy? The character is incredibly private with his thoughts and feelings. Does he share his shame and fear from that horrific battle? No way. Okay, fine. That doesn’t make sense. But worst ever list?

How does the movie end? First, an action movie scene. That whole bridge sequence is a spit in the eye of the brilliance of the Normandy sequence (and it is brilliant). But that isn’t the end of the movie. The end of the movie is in that same cemetery in, more or less, present day. The Damon character of the future is asking to be assured that he is worth their sacrifices. Is he? Really? How could he be? Did he end war? Solve disease? Who the fuck is this guy? And why is his granddaughter wearing the tightest sweater in the world right behind him in the frame? When they were framing the shot, someone placed some knockout young lady in the background so that her boobs are getting way more screen time than most of the soldiers who die in the film. The last shot? The American flag! “War is horrible, war must be ended, peace is the way, on and on!” I agree entirely. And then, the American flag? What are you trying to say? “War is awful. Unless it’s for the United States. That’s cool.”

#7 The entire Transformers TrilogyI was so excited for the first movie. If someone had asked me as a kid what I wanted to see in a movie I would have said robots punching each other. It seemed like it couldn’t miss. But my god. What a horrible idiot I clearly was as a child. Michael Bay managed to take one of the easiest great ideas ever and insert a grating man-child into the lead role, a vapid pencil smudge into the love interest slot and the shakiest camera man in the world behind the lens. And it doesn’t make any damn sense. Did that robot just piss onto John Turturro? Why in the world can they piss? Don’t introduce logic and then shit on it. Here’s what I mean: They learned English from keeping track of radio transmissions from space? Okay, I can buy that. But when Megatron is unfrozen from an ice coma he has been in for 10,000 years, the first thing he does is scream at everyone in English. How can they possibly sneak around a backyard? Skidmark and Mudflap, teaching children that racism is hilarious. Not only are they caricatures of black people, they are dumbest characters in the film! And their names are also slang for shitty underwear and fat asses! They have gold teeth and Stepin Fetchit movements! Kids will love them! Michael Bay is an idiot.

Why doesn’t the camera stay still for one damn second? I’m not talking about being totally static, just don’t rattle like a seizure victim until no one can possibly tell what is actually happening. Why go on? They suck. And I watched all three anyway. Clearly, I am still a stupid child.

#6- Matrix Reloaded/Matrix Revolutions– Is there a theme emerging here? I am not against making money. Blatant cash grabs can occasionally be pretty great. I’m looking at you, Godfather Part II. But unnecessary sequels have to either make themselves necessary to the original and then enhance the original story (see above) or find some new story to tell (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Does anyone in the world think the original Matrix is improved by its sequels? No. It is ruined. All of those ideas that were cool and interesting are kung-fu’ed in the face and replaced by ideas the Wachowskis misunderstood from their tattered copies of Roland Barthes for Dummies and How to Pretend You Are Interesting at Crappy Cocktail Parties. The original is great because you don’t really get a chance to think about how fucking stupid the whole conceit is. And that’s fine. But the sequels not only invite you to analyze them, they demand you analyze them and find them brilliant. They aren’t. Here’s a solution, machines. Don’t farm humans. Farm cows. They have more mass, less complicated diets and produce not only bio-electricity but also enormous amounts of clean burning methane. You know how complicated their matrix program needs to be? Eat grass. Poop. Repeat. There’s more to say about all of the Savior Jesus-y crap but to reflect on it further would only dignify them. It’s worth noting these two also made the masterpiece Bound, wrote the terrible Assassins, made the terrible-but-better-than-it-should-have-been Speed Racer. Hopefully their next movie is good. Hope springs eternal.

Appliances- An odd short story with too many endings

 

Appliances

“Hey. Did you take back the new microwave yet?” Neil had not yet taken back the new microwave though he had meant to. He wasn’t sure where the receipt was. It probably was in the kitchen somewhere. Neil didn’t think it was fair that he had to. It was the concern of all the roommates, as far as he was concerned. Tom could have done it. As could have Harold or Jermaine or Desmond or Buttons. Buttons was not Buttons’ real name. His real name was Bertrand. The only one who could not have returned it was Mitchell.

Neil noticed that the microwave was broken almost as soon as he plugged it in. He took it out of the box and brushed off the Styrofoam crumbs that had stuck to it and took one of the larger ones and stuck it in his mouth to chew on. It tasted like water that had been stored in the sun in a rubber bag. It reminded Neil of licking a tire or how his girlfriend tasted after he wore a condom. Neil chewed on the foam and grew an erection and plugged in the microwave and made some popcorn. The microwave beeped and buzzed and Neil ate the popcorn but was dismayed when it stained his fingers blue and tasted like gasoline smells.

“Why don’t you fugging take it back? It’s your fugging microwave, too.” Neil had stopped swearing but hadn’t stopped wanting to swear. Thomas didn’t like being quasi-sworn at but bit his tongue. It wouldn’t help the situation and he didn’t want it to become a bigger issue and he didn’t want to wake up Geoff or Mikey or Giggles or Antonio, all of whom were still asleep.

“You know I don’t want to get near the thing.” Thomas held up his bandaged hand.

“Fine. Let me look for the receipt.” He wondered if Mitchell had done something with the receipt before he had used the microwave. That would explain why they couldn’t find it. Pieces of Mitchell had been turning up now and then. Rajiv heated up a cup of tea and found Mitchell’s right ring finger. We knew it was that finger and that it was Mitchell’s finger from the class ring. Devon had taken to wearing it on a chain around his neck and whispering to it when he thought no one was listening. Mitchell’s ears were found under the plastic foil of a steaming tv dinner.

“Just take it back without the receipt and tell them that it is broken. You will just have to fill out some kind of form or something.”

What Thomas didn’t know, what only Mitchell had known, was that Neil couldn’t read or write and the prospect of having to fill out a form filled Neil with dread and put vomit in his mouth. He wished Mitchell was there to help him but they hadn’t found enough pieces of him yet to try and put him back together. Neil knew that pieces of Mitchell only came from the microwave.

“I dunno. Maybe we should keep it just a little longer.”

 

Now choose your own ending or stop here. Or choose all of them.

 

One

Neil would do anything to not take it back. If human sacrifice would save them, he would do it. He couldn’t think of who would be best for it. Joey didn’t have much in the way of reasons to live. He smelled strange and there was a rumor that he only had a limited number of toes. No one knew how many. But maybe a person without reasons to live makes for a weak sacrifice. Neil thought about who had the most reason to live. They should be killed. The microwave decorated with their remains. At least some of their teeth, ones without fillings so that the metal wouldn’t mess up the device.

 

Two

What they all needed was Kate to come in and solve things. She was one of the only roommates who did not have a Y chromosome. All the others were stacked to the gills in Y. She was stocked in how. She would know how to fix this. Then she could read them all a story. They would all gather in the great hall and Mitchell would be there and he would listen to the story with his perfect ears back on the sides of his head and they would hear about what it was like where he had been and maybe he would have souvenirs for all of them. John would receive a plaster cast of the Sphinx. Harrison would get a pair of sunglasses in the shape of cupcakes with SPRING BREAK 1986 stamped on the arms.

 

Three

It was just then that Mitchell walked into the kitchen. Class ring on his finger, which was on his hand and ears on his head. He was smiling softly. He had a nose bleed but it was the wrong color. It looked like the syrup in the CocaCola machine. Sticky and dark brown and sweet.

Neil walked up to him carefully and ran a finger along Mitchell’s chin. Licked the tip of his finger.

“How did you wind up so refreshing? How did you wind up so new?”

 

Four

Paulie turned on the microwave before Neil could stop him. It buzzed and hummed and whirred. The bell chimed. Paulie opened the door and a great cloud of purple steam rolled out.

The steam faded away and a small puppy leapt out, ecstatic and free and perfect. It barked perfectly in the key of C and then bark-sang some otherworldly song. Neil and Rajiv and Edward and Ed and Ted and Eddie and Ward all began to cry. The song so lovely and so strange.

Paulie reached out and took the puppy in his hands.

“This isn’t what I wanted. This isn’t what I asked for.”

They all looked to him. What could he have wanted that this wasn’t better for? But they didn’t ask it out loud and he didn’t answer.

 

Immediate response to Sandy Hook shooting

I have largely stayed out of social media and away from the news. The particulars of all of this are nothing that I really need at the present. My thoughts are slowly evolving on some things. First, while in love with the first amendment, freedom of the press shouldn’t mean exploitative sensationalist journalism. It falsely glorifies the killers. I know that isn’t the intent. But the mentally ill who hunger for attention find inspiration in it.

Second, I remain adamantly anti-gun. How to change this problem in a practical way? For a start, anything that isn’t explicitly for hunting is immediately outlawed. Or bullets carry an extraordinarily large tax. I don’t know.

For those who hide behind the second amendment: The founding fathers had no way of anticipating modern weaponry. That whole argument is nonsense. We don’t need citizen militias, as the country did then.

Some say “Well, the first amendment should also be changed then.” Well, not really. There are no new controversies in the press. They were yellow and exploitative then, too. Pornography existed then. So did outrageous portrayals of violence. Look at Hogarth. Or just believe me on this.

But.

I am making a real 180 on something else. I have always protected video games under the first amendment. I no longer am. I think games that glorify the killing of humans are a detriment to society. Getting points for killing is repulsive. Films and literature are different from it. They show consequences. There are repercussions. Not that all pieces treat it responsibly. At all. But if you can kill over and over for fun and then restart and do it again, that’s a problem.

Maybe you can have the game but they have an ethical device built in. If you do something ethically unsound the game destroys itself and you are out a bunch of money.

Anyway.

Opinions long held and preferences long treasured need to be altered and changed. Isn’t saving people worth adjusting what our norm is? I think so.