I have designated the weekend of February 28-March 1 as the first annual Culture Weekend. To be more specific, this is a three day span where I will do nothing but immerse myself in music, movies, and books. I am doing nothing constructive, apart from cooking food and making trips to the toilet. Some people take trips to remote, humanity-free places in nature to clear the head, while I prefer to huddle inside my concrete block-like home and escape into worlds created by others. Here are some highlights of Culture Weekend:
The Psychopath, a/k/a An Eye For An Eye (1975)
One thing that really bothers me is the fact that none of my friends are into really terrible movies. I never liked Mystery Science Theatre 3000, but I was always kinda jealous that I could never establish a witty peanut gallery to watch cinematic atrocities. Instead, I watch terrible movies with terrible guilt, secreted away like a junkie, always ashamed to be discovered howling along to Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Xanadu, or Fuego (horrendous '60s South American trash, with 50% more tits!). A real shame. I mean, I like Kubrick, Scorsese, and Tarantino as much as anyone else, but who eats prime rib, foie gras, and haricots vert all the time? You have to eat a hamburger dropped on the kitchen floor every once in awhile.
This movie has it all: a ridiculous premise, over the top acting, unfortunate clothing choices, and a gutter-level sense of morality. Mr. Rabbey, "Tom" to his producer and keeper, is an awkward man-child hosting a children's TV show that looks exactly like the early-Saturday morning local crap folks my age were subjected to 20+ years ago. More creepy than cute puppets, tin-foil logos, and tinny music-box sounds entertain Mr. Rabbey's Rangers. Yuck. The host has a lacquered bowlcut, mascara, and a faraway look in his eyes. He hangs out in the kids ward of the local hospital, listens and lurks, and finds out one of his "special friends" is missing, the same one who might have been beaten to death in the opening montage. Oh no. A frenzied close-up of Mr. Rabbey's eyes later, and the entire plot of the movie is established.
Soon enough, Mr. Rabbey is murdering abusive parents with abandon. The police force, who bluster like CSI experts but are more like '70s cop show rejects, piece together a case against a killer most of them are silently cheering to victory. Can anyone really hate a killer that rides a basket-equipped bicycle who murders unsuitable parents? After hearing the hospital staff recite child abuse statistics, can you really be offended when the guilty party gets smacked with a Louisville Slugger? Sure, it's a horror movie, and the raving psychopath is the evil monster, but this movie blurs the moral guidelines like it knows better. One scene has Rabbey scanning a garage for something to polish off a nasty mother. He scans past the hacksaw and rubber hose, lingers briefly on some garden shears, and finally decides on running over her head with a lawnmower. The ridiculous spooky music and drama of the scene make it clear that the film makers are in on the joke. This is prime-grade crap that's never been on DVD, so I'm glad I finally tracked down a copy.
October Men by Roger Kahn
Books about baseball trail close behind music books as my favorite form of literature. A good baseball book transfers the excitement of a close game to the page, along with a healthy dose of quotes from mouthy players and coaches. This one, about the tense, ego-laden Yankee teams of the late '70s is a classic. No wonder, considering it was written by Roger Kahn, one of the greatest baseball writers of all time. Yeah, the guy who wrote The Boys Of Summer, which is required reading for anyone calling themself a sports fan. He weaves lines and paragraphs like a poet, with real wit that hundreds of fiction writers would kill to have.
The Yankees of the book are the first teams assembled by noted baseball tyrant George Steinbrenner, whose "best team money can buy" philosophy was still in its infancy. Back then, he cared little for such notions as team unity and chemistry, instead dropping the largest ego in baseball (Reggie Jackson) and a $2 million dollar free agent closer (Goose Gossage) into the clubhouse. Predictably, the free-spirited, gifted Jackson clashed mightily with volcanic, hard-drinking manager Billy Martin, and enraged the rest of the team by mouthing that he was the "straw that stirs the drink" in a magazine interview. Also predictably, the Yankees' former closer Sparky Lyle, who by the way won the Cy Young Award and led the league in saves before Gossage's acquisition, wasn't happy either, considering he was making the least money on the team and was demoted following his best season in the bigs. (Coincidentally, Lyle's book about the 1978 season, The Bronx Zoo, is hysterical and also required reading)
With all the drama, its incredible this team survived without murdering each other, let alone won back-to-back World Series. Along the way, every Martin clubhouse tirade, every Steinbrenner meltdown, every player begging to be traded, is documented in Kahn's meticulous style. So many classic baseball quotes emanated from this team, from a journalist writing "there's not enough mustard in the world to cover that hot dog Reggie Jackson" to Martin comparing Jackson and Steinbrenner by cracking "One's a liar and the other one's convicted." It definitely reminds me that players of today are muzzled by agents and PR men, and aren't allowed to get on the mike post-game and rant unfiltered. They don't all have mustaches and long hair anymore either, and above all, that is what bothers me the most (see JoeSportsFan's Worthless Baseball Card Collection for further evidence).
Speaking of baseball, I finally decided to take the plunge into obsessive nerd-dom and joined a fantasy baseball league. I tried football last fall, and lost one game in an indifferent league before getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. Baseball seems to be much more labor-intensive, but I think I'm ready. The Reds crushed the Yankees in spring training today, complete with Marty Brennaman's classic take on Jim Bowden's resignation ("I'd be less than honest if I didn't say this is a joyous day for me. I will have a smile on my face til I put my head on my pillow tonight.") Warm weather is around the corner, and God help me, I really like the Reds new "Paint The Town Red" theme song.
I'd like to introduce YOUR 2009 Queen City Stranglers:
C: AJ Pierzynski
1B: Derrek Lee
2B: Dan Uggla
3B: Ty Wigginton
SS: Jhonny Peralta
LF: Ryan Ludwick
CF: Ichiro Suzuki
RF: Xavier Nady
SP: Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt, Justin Verlander
RP: Huston Street, Grant Balfour, Kevin Gregg
BN: Brian Giles, Jeff Francoeur, Scott Rolen, and a few other sundry malcontents.
I missed you baseball, welcome back.