The Hive

I'm just another dude with too much time on his hands. It really doesn't have anything to do with ants.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

40 Year Old Virgin review

Man, it bugs me to type 40 Year Old Virgin instead of the proper English 40-Year-Old Virgin. Must be the son of an editor in me.

Anyway, I've got this halfassed plan (note to self: do second in long, half-assed affair with journalism post soon) to write movie reviews for the Pullman-Moscow-area papers, so here's the first one. It's probably damn long for a newspaper movie review--600 words, good lawd--but I've got a sub-plan to make the next couple shorter to show my awesome range and potential for both talkability and brevity. Booyah.


The 40 Year Old Virgin wasn't supposed to be great. Good, maybe, and probably funny, with Steve Carell (The Daily Show, Anchorman) as co-writer and titular character, but not great. From all the marketing, it was made to be just another teen sex comedy--except instead of alternately cracking up and cringing at the helpless and depraved adventures of an 18-year-old who just has to get laid, this dude's 40. I'm no rocket surgeon, but that should work out to more than twice the humorous embarrassment as Carell's every effort at sex goes horribly wrong.

And starting off, that's how it looks like the movie might go, when Carell, who works in the stockroom of an electronics store because he's too socially inept to deal with customers, reveals to his coworkers that he is (wait for it) a 40-year-old virgin. Not because of religious or moral reasons, or because he moonlights as a nun, but simply because it never really happened. And once it hadn't happened by the time he was 25 or 30, that just made it harder to ever happen, until now, at age 40, he's resigned himself to a life of riding his bike to work to put in his 8 hours a day, then coming home to paint miniature models and gaze over his vast collection of never-been-opened action figures.

Needless to say, this just doesn't jibe with the plans of his young male coworkers, who henceforth devote themselves to making a man out of Carell.

This devirginizing process involves a lot of testosterone-sloppy talk about how he's built sex up too far, and how, to paraphrase a bit, a woman is just a woman, and he needs to get it over with and move on with his life. The second step is going to clubs and actually talking to women, the highlight of which comes when Carell, who has a natural low-key charisma, is instructed to repeat everything a smoking-hot young blonde says in a mysterious, interrogating style that all but charms the pants off her and, I'd wager, half the audience, male and female alike.

Meanwhile, he's developed an interest in Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), a smart, single, self-employed mother of three he met at work. That's when The 40 Year Old Virgin's depth shows up: their relationship builds gradually, with moments both honestly awkward and honestly charming, as Carell is forced from his stunted emotional state by an undeniable attraction to a woman who was wild in her youth but now realizes all she wants is a nice guy.

The 40 Year Old Virgin has caught some flak for portraying virginity as something to be ashamed of regardless of the motivation behind it, but Carell and director Judd Apatow's depiction of Carell's move from jumpy antisocialite to potential husband and father is surprisingly sensitive. At once funny and believable, his relationship with Keener provides an emotional core that rarely exists in romantic comedies, let alone teen sex romps.

Touchy-feely stuff aside, though, the movie's damn funny and doesn't forget it. At the same time it follows Carell's growing attachment to Keener and her daughter, it also spends time just hanging with his coworkers as they play video games, question each others' sexuality, smash fluorescent lights over each other, etc. In other words, a completely accurate and hilarious capture of what young men do when we're by ourselves.

It's a movie that's out of place, both Must-Get-Laid and Boy-Meets-Girl comedy, but that somehow emerges as better than either. For Steve Carell, who combines the straight man and the clown in every role he plays, it's the perfect place to be.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What can brown do for Johnny Law

So, I just had an officer in full uniform come in and ship something off to a forensics lab upstate. Despite the risks of lawbreaking, breach of customer trust, getting fired, possible biological contaminants, and maybe even getting my DNA on something that's been involved in a crime, I really, really wanted to open it. Just to see what's inside.

Not badly enough to risk all the aforementioned, of course. But still.

Lot of law-related stuff at this store. Just in my five weeks here, I've had an officer try to ship a disassembled service pistol (can't, not unless it's split between two packages--I guess they're worried about ex-CIA commandos shipping guns to their buddies, who then receive them at the office and assemble them before wiping out the entire Accounts Receiving department) and this piece of evidence.

In my buddy's time here, they were robbed two or three times, and once had someone try to ship a box full of weed to God knows where. The fun thing about shipping is the receiver isn't liable for anything sent to him, so if the sender gets off clear, you can end up with a box of weed stuck in transit without anyone to arrest for it. Just lots of paperwork for the UPS employees to fill out.

We make our shippers give us their name, address, and phone number, though, so the cop on the case was able to call up the dude trying to send the drugs--who foolishly answered his phone. They weren't able to get any further than that with it for reasons that escape me but which must nonetheless exist, cause it seems to me even if the rest of his info was fake you could just get his name and address from the phone company.

What do I know, though. The closest I get to the police of this fair nation is telling them they can't ship guns UPS, and them telling me to pour that beer down the drain this instant.

What is up with all these new bands

I'm talkin about all the new new wave stuff that somehow totally rocks. Dudes like Hot Hot Heat, Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs, maybe the Killers, maybe Head Automatica, and I'm sure there's others out there. I'm more of a grunge man myself, but these bands sound awesome blasting out of a stereo.

I'd ask where they all came from, but maybe we've finally hit the upside to having a shitty political climate for the last five years and the foreseeable future--the monstrously great art that tends to come along once people have had a while to be bummed out and angry. I wouldn't have guessed we'd see a bunch of rocking Duran Durans out of this particular point in history, but hey, if they sound this good, you won't hear me complaining.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Football football football (and also deep boring life stuff)

So I spent 12 hours at Ken's today watching TV. That's about ten hours of football (three games--Panthers beat the Patriots, hooray; Seahawks managed not to lose to Atlanta after going up 21-0, huzzah; Chiefs beat the Raiders, yay), 1.5 hours of animated Fox shows, and 30 minutes of flipping between awesome junk like The Surreal Life, ESPN highlights, Dirty Jobs, and nature programs. It was at once very satisfying and very malaise-inducing: satisfying because, after a week of working and drinking and everything, it's nice to have a day of absolutely nothing (those Sabbath-holders knew what they were doing, though I don't see how watching TV all day doesn't qualify as "rest," but that's the kind of inflexibility that happens when you get tied down to millennia-old belief systems and start acting like they're the Word of God or something); malaise-inducing because I've been on hiatus with my writing lately and really don't intend to work at a UPS store and just generally hang around Moscow for the rest of my life.

I can think of worse lives than drinking lots of beer and hitting on girls and never waking up before noon except to watch football despite working 30 hours a week, granted, but I have a hard time staying in maintenance mode. As in, just doing what's necessary to keep myself alive, then hanging out as soon as I've done all my homework (back when I had homework; those were the days) or made the day's money or, back when I was graduated and unemployed, watching HBO, eating when I got hungry, and remembering to brush my teeth before bed. It's fun for a while, but eventually I get really, really restless. As in, start-a-new-book or move-to-a-new-city restless.

Which probably simply has to do with finding a balance between keeping yourself alive, wasting time in fun ways, and creating things that seem meaningful, if only to yourself and possibly the last girl you impressed by talking about how you're an artist/craftsman/social activist/etc.

My latest ambition, then, is to write movie reviews for the local paper(s), or possibly for somewhere on the web that is worldwide. The newspaper thing, bizarrely enough, should theoretically be extremely possible for me: English major from NYU, long, half-assed background in journalism including two jobs with a paper, and oh yeah, my newspaper editor dad is old friends with the editor of the locals here. Plus I'm a decent critic and, I think, have a style that appeals to younger people, which is what newspapers everywhere are looking for, particularly those that exist in a region that is something like 33% 18-22-year-olds. All it would take to give it a shot is putting together a few reviews and sending them over to see what they think. It wouldn't take more than a few hours of watching movies and writing about them.

I get the laziness something fierce, though. Like I watched The 40 Year Old Virgin last week, and while I know exactly what I want to say about it (cliched here and there, but consistently funny and surprisingly deep for a movie like that), actually sitting down and writing a structured piece expressing those thoughts is like waaaay hard. I've actually got the start of a review open in the background here, where it's been sitting unchanged for the last few days, but I know I need to delete it and rephrase those thoughts already because they ain't exactly newspaper material yet. It was pretty easy when I was writing reviews of books or movies or both for the ol' high school paper, but back then I was doing it every 2-3 weeks and got into a rhythm. It's been forever since I wrote a review that wasn't for a personal website, though. And getting more structured is always hard, because entropy's a bitch.

All right, fuck this. I'm going to go work on that review a while. Cause I might be the ant of destiny, baby, but immortality-through-Hollywood-movie-reviews requires actually writing those reviews.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

How drinking lots of beer saved my life

It's true. Went over to Ken's last night to play some $5 poker and beer pong and after a few tubs of beer I was in that glorious state where I wasn't slobbering and reeling but certainly wasn't competent to drive. End result, I ended up sleeping on Ken's couch till I woke up around 9 AM (a scant 5 hours of sleep), when I drove back home to nap, take a shower, and come into work. But when I pulled into my driveway (as much as you can call a nearly vertical patch of gravel in front of the trailer a "driveway"), a woman informed me they were repaving the road up to the house, and if I was going to go anywhere else that day, I needed to park at the bottom of the hill.

So you see, if I'd gone home and slept till noon or so as per usual, when I went out to go to work I'd have found myself playing chicken with a dump truck full of asphalt, and one torn-to-shit street to try to navigate down. And that's assuming I even made it past the traffic cone-wielding construction workers.

I'd have been stuck, then, and have to walk the 1.5-2 miles in to work (a stretch I used to pull all the time in pedestrian-happy New York, but which just seems ludicrous out here in the rest of the world), making me a solid half hour late. Needless to say I'd be fired and then starve to death under the awnings of the Kibbie Dome. But instead, I had free access to my car and the road out, and even made it in to work a few minutes early.

All because of a little friend named beer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My long, half-assed affair with journalism

Had a pretty good talk with my dad last night about doing some movie and book reviews for the local paper (the Moscow-Pullman whatever) and possibly the Tri-City Herald, if it meets their exacting standards. Process is pretty simple: put together a few samples, send them over to whoever at the paper, and see if they're interested in me freelancing for them. The worst they can say, as my dad put it, is "Go to hell," and considering I've basically heard that approximately 40-50 times in the hunt for an agent for my first novel, that doesn't exactly phase me.

My dad's a newspaper editor, and I decided I was gonna be a writer after cranking out a 15-page fiction opus in the 6th grade, so I've always sort of had journalism in my mind as a potential career. Sometimes it seems more appealing than others, though.

Freshman year of high school I knew a few people on the staff of the paper there, so in the last few months of the year I started telling my 6th hour Spanish teacher they wanted me over in the journalism room for various nebulous reasons. Spanish was a required class and ours was mostly juniors and seniors who didn't give a damn; result being, I was practically by default one of the best students in the class, and with the teacher being a kind, trusting woman, she never asked questions when I'd skip out once every week or two to hang around with my friends down in journalism.

I got into the class next year and quickly learned I didn't really like journalism. Not the news part of it, anyway. I'll tell you this, reporting what actually happened, unbiasedly and unobjectively, it's just not much fun. I can see how chasing down a story can be a kick--I worked in a newsroom for a summer after high school, where I was the brief-writing file bitch, and during that time we had a big fire and a few sporting events that had the place pretty exciting--but in general, it's a lot of fact-checking, fact double-checking, and adhering to pretty rigid stylistic guidelines. In other words, lots of responsibility, and when it comes to writing, that isn't really my thing.

Fortunately, the class was populated by yahoos and hilariously bitter smart kids with big opinions, so while about half the paper was devoted to school and school-related news, as well as sports, the other half was entirely spent on entertainment, opinion, and the "Zing!" section, which as you may well guess, was a sort of catch-all section that was generally supposed to be humor.

Anyway, time to close already, I'll finish this up later.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The proverbial bottle of champagne on the good ship Ant of Destiny

Ha, right. Like I'd waste good champagne.

It's a rainy day in Moscow, Idaho, where I've been living for the past month. I'm currently on the job--the UPS Store, where I replaced my buddy Ken--which, unfortunately, turns out to be the #1 most reliable internet connection currently in my life. Let's give it a rundown:

1) The UPS Store. Swift enough connection, despite all the machinery (computers, fax machines, printers, etc.) being so old they appear to be made out of some sort of mud-and-wattle frame, but impossible to use for downloads of any kind, or until the last two hours of the day (5-7 PM), when my co-worker and manager have both left. Also regular interruptions by "customers" wanting "service." Still, excellent for checking baseball scores, reading baseball blogs, email, and generally messing around.

2) The wireless connection(s) at my trailer. There are a few of them floating around up there, as a solid 40% of the general populace is daft, kind, or both enough to leave their wireless networks unprotected. Sadly, the signal in my room is inconsistent at best, not to mention slow as a dead slug. Well really, it's not as slow as I remember the internet being back in the day of 14.4K modems and the like (I'm old school but not that old school), but it's still way too slow for any heavy lifting, bandwidth-wise. On the plus side, if I go sit on the back porch, it's a pretty sturdy, okay connection.

3) Wireless at the Perch. The Perch is the home of Ken (well, its dry, well-lit, yet nonetheless hellish basement, at least), as well as my soon-to-be second employer, a bar/convenience store run by a somewhat paranoid guy who has both password and MAC protection on his wireless network, and while I should ostensibly be added to the list of the Chosen at some point, I can't hop on just yet. Furthermore, given that Ken and I are a couple of leeches who siphon the icy-cold blood out of his kegs at every given opportunity, he's sometimes humorously hesitant to reset the router. So between that and all the security gunk, it's a bit of a pain.

And in fairness, he might not be so paranoid, given that he's already had his network hacked once by college students with too much time on their hands, but come on. I've got fantasy football to keep up with.

Anyway, time to head to a movie with Ken and his sister. Oh yeah, and close this bitch up.