Welcome, Fans of Dumpshovel!

Alien

DO NOT WANT.

Google Analytics are endlessly entertaining. For example, thanks to Google Analytics, I know this post prompted fans of the band Dumpshovel to stumble onto my site. Sorry, Dumpshovel fans. My bounce rate data tells me you took one look at the pink and the stars and fled. Also, a visitor from Germany! How fun is that? And New Mexico? Who the holy heck do I know in New Mexico? Or Maryland, for that matter? I don’t know, but I welcome you, New Mexicans and Marylanders, if that is in fact what you call yourselves. For that matter, welcome to all citizens of earth. But not aliens. You guys freak me out with your giant black eyes and pale grey skin.  You are not welcome. Everybody else, yes. Aliens, no.

Dan Hill Duet

Dan Hill

The man himself.

Many people argue that the 70’s was music’s greatest decade. They point to The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Elton John, Neil Young, Queen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Blondie, and a myriad of others.

Me, I point to one man. I point to Dan Hill. Why? Because he wrote and performed the greatest song ever written or performed, “Sometimes When We Touch.” Yes, the greatest. And while I do not deny the greatness of this song, I do take issue with some of its content. I got to thinking about what a duet might look like. Dan Hill, with his magnificent, clear tenor, and me, with my… well, what can be called a singing voice, after a fashion.

Without further ado, I give you “Sometimes When We Touch,” a duet with Dan Hill and Me.

You ask me if I love you
And I choke on my reply
Forget I asked. Really. I don’t
Know what I was thinking

I’d rather hurt you honestly
Than mislead you with a lie
Thanks

And who am I to judge you
On what you say or do?
Good question.

I’m only just beginning to see the real you
Just wait.

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty’s too much
Oh, let me introduce you to some
Honesty here, dude.

And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Wow. Really? Dramatic, much?

Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides
Yeah, see, I’m not too big on either crying or
Fear, so let’s just, you know, let this go…

Romance and all its strategy
Strategy? I just asked you a question.
That equates to strategy?

Leaves me battling with my pride
But through the insecurity
Some tenderness survives
Are we about to circle back to the
Fear and crying thing again?

I’m just another writer
Still trapped within my truth
Oh, God.

A hesitant prize fighter
Still trapped within my youth
Honey, you may be lots of things
But a prize fighter you are not.

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty’s too much
Look – you’re about to make me
unleash some serious honesty on you

And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Funny, I also want to die about now.

Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides
Sigh.

At times I’d like to break you
And drive you to your knees
Whoa! Where the hell did that come from?
Should I call 911?

At times I’d like to break through
And hold you endlessly
Okay, look. I think you may have an
Undiagnosed bi-polar disorder going on.

At times I understand you
I don’t think so, actually.

And I know how hard you’ve tried
To keep from throttling you? Yes,
That did take some effort.

I’ve watched while love commands you
And I’ve watched love pass you by
Whatever that means.

At times I think we’re drifters
Still searching for a friend
Okay.

A brother or a sister
But then the passion flares again
NO. WRONG. STOP. ICK. EWW.


And sometimes when we touch
The honesty’s too much
Honestly? Here’s the deal. I think you’re
A creepy, mentally underdeveloped
Man-child in love with the sound of his
Own voice and craptastic ideas regarding
“Art” and “Love.”  I hope you seek counseling.

And I have to close my eyes and hide
Well, that’s understandable, given the
Truth smackdown I just gave you.

I wanna hold you til I die
No! Haven’t you been listening?

Til we both break down and cry
Too late, I’m already crying at this point.

I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides
I think that would take about 45 years of holding
 And I just don’t have that kind of time.

For the original version, please check it out * In kaleidoscope vision, no less!

* Huge props to commenter macarri who says, “so easy a caveman can sing it.” Slow clap, my friend. Slow clap.

 

I Made You Famous. Not Rich, but Famous.

For NYE 2010 I found myself in New Orleans, visiting our friends Patrick and Gill and their son, Jack. (Visit Gill’s blog, The Reluctant Grownup.) After a long drive we began to settle in, chatting and snacking, and I swung by the bathroom. The Egan bathroom is comfortably large and nicely decorated, with a rustic little table to one side bedecked with books and magazines.

Ah, that book! I thought, looking at one of the titles. It was a popular book, a book you can get at any Borders, a book I’d been intending to read for some time, a book I know a lot of people liked. I selected this book and looked into the table of contents, found a chapter that looked most promising, and began to read.

And this is when my life took a most surreal turn. My brain had a delayed reaction, its thoughts in drunken slow motion. “Waaaaiiitt….thaaat’s abbooouuuut meeeeeee.”

Yes, my friends. The chapter began with an anecdote that directly involved me.

For some I suppose it ain’t no thang to be in a book. But I have lived an anonymous life. I am not mentioned in books. Let alone very popular and successful books that you can buy at any Borders you come across.

To tell you the story of how I came to be in this book, I need to begin with one man. And his name is Peter Exline.

At some point in college I was signed up for an industry workshop class. I think this was in Fall of my Junior year. If not, close enough. When I say “I was signed up for” – as a Filmic Writer at USC your class schedule was drawn up for you, then you picked electives around that. So I had not sought this class, didn’t know much about it, didn’t know anything about the teacher, but I was looking forward to hearing from working professionals on a weekly basis.

I arrived early for the first class and found my friend Aaron had as well. The tables and chairs were in disarray, but we found a table to sit at and began to chat. That’s when this tall guy walks in. He’s a little Clint Eastwoody in appearance, but with a Goodfellas agitation level. He starts stomping around, roughly organizing tables and chairs. Aaron and I look at each other. What’s with this guy? we think, but we don’t let it stop our chat. This prompts the tall guy to walk over, slam his hands down on the table right in front of us and bark, “are you going to help or just talk?”

peter

Peter, in his element.

Wow, I think. What an @#%*!.

Aaron and I get up, help organize the chairs and tables and soon enough class begins. The tall guy introduces himself as Peter Exline. He will be our teacher. I’ve decided I hate him and will make his life miserable for the rest of the semester. He starts telling us a story. About how he once had the Coen Brothers over for a barbeque, and kept remarking about how this abandoned rug he had reclaimed from the urban jungle, “really tied the room together.”

This sounded familiar. I couldn’t help myself. I started to laugh.

He also talks about Big Lou. (Who you can see for yourself, if you wish. He’s the submarine driver in Titanic.) During Big Lou’s varied career – he had been a mercenary in Angola, among other things – he picked up the private detective business. When Peter’s car was stolen and then remarkably retrieved by the L.A.P.D., Big Lou made all kinds of incorrect pronouncements about the culprits based on the evidence left behind. Primarily fast food wrappers. But Peter finds the most important clue of all, a book. An algebra book.

This is sounding very familiar, and I am laughing so hard my sides hurt.

Walter

This actually happened.

Inside the algebra book Peter finds homework, homework by some kid named Jaik Freeman. It so happens that in all of Los Angeles, Peter knows exactly one kid, a kid who hangs out in front of a convenience store Peter frequents. Peter asks this kid, the one kid he knows in all of L.A., “do you know Jaik Freeman?” The kid looks stricken. Yes, he knows who Jaik Freeman is. He’s bad news at this kid’s middle school. Peter gets some background on Jaik, while Big Lou does some research. They find the Freeman household and make an appointment to come see little Jaik.

At this point in the class, tears are streaming down my cheeks. I had already seen The Big Lebowski in the theater and this was my favorite scene in the movie.

Big Lou takes the fast food wrappers and the homework and puts them into baggies. Upon arrival at the Freeman home they find Mrs. Freeman dressed elegantly, a pumps and pearls sort of woman. They also discover Mr. Freeman is in a hospital bed in the living room. He’s reading scripts. At no point does Mr. Freeman say anything. Peter would eventually discover this man was an old school Hollywood heavyweight, an Oscar nominated screenwriter. But at this moment, Peter and Big Lou are focused squarely on little Jaik. Who stonewalls them. He refuses to answer questions, even when Big Lou threatens to dust the fast food wrappers for prints. Eventually mother and son exit stage left. The mother reappears to inform Peter and Big Lou somebody borrowed Jaik’s algebra book, and that’s that. Big Lou and Peter leave defeated. (They do not destroy a Corvette.)

By the end of the first class Peter had won a convert. I started out hating him, by the end I loved him. (It must be noted that not only was Peter’s story innately hilarious, Peter is a gifted storyteller. This tale told by him in person is infinitely funnier than anything I could ever put down.) 

Peter’s workshop class became my favorite, and I looked forward to it all week. We had great guests and Peter is a talented interviewer. We learned a lot and we laughed a lot. And I talked a lot. It’s what I do. It’s hard for me to stop. One day I was sitting next to Mikey Ireland, and we were talking. In class. When we shouldn’t be. Peter called me out, rather brutally, as was his fashion. He asked me, “care to share with the class what you were talking about?”

I replied, “oh, about how Mikey’s going to kick your ass after class.”

Mikey, God bless him, chimed in with, “yeah. You better watch out.”

Now, heretofore, my lifelong propensity towards cheeky, off-the-cuff comments had delivered unto me many things. It had delivered me trouble, detention, and the most unpleasant comments written into my report cards. But on this occasion, my cheeky, off-the-cuff comment gave me Peter’s respect. I had known that if I just kept trying, it would one day pay off. And it only took 30,000 negative experiences to get one good one! I am, after all, pure determination.

Not long after I threatened Peter with a beating by Mikey Ireland he asked if I wanted to join his bowling group. I did.

And so the next few years flew by. At some point, I must really tell all y’all about the Pookie in Korea Town incident or perhaps the occasion wherein Peter threw a package at me, yelling, “OPEN IT! IF IT HAS ANTHRAX IN IT YOU’RE GETTING THE ANTHRAX!” Alternatively, I could tell the Dead Camper at the Airport story. (Peter runs a digital film camp at Pepperdine. Once, when I was arranging camper pick up, I forgot one. At LAX. For the record, the camper did not actually die.)

Suffice it to say, Peter and I became friends. When LebowskiFest became a phenomenon, I asked Peter, “why aren’t you in on this deal?” Peter responded, “I don’t know.” So I, righter of wrongs that I can sometimes be, sent an e-mail to Will Russell, one of the founders of LebowskiFest. I told him about Peter and why Peter should be involved in LebowskiFest, adding a story about a time I audited a class of Peter’s. He kept tripping over a chair leg as he paced about, giving his lecture. He tripped one time too many, picked up the chair and tossed it, shouting, “first Vietnam, now this chair!” In early 2006, I received an e-mail requesting Peter’s contact information.

The book. That I am in.

The book. That I am in.

Peter participated in at least one LebowskiFest, maybe more. He met Will and the other guys who run the show. When they created the most excellent book, I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You, Peter constituted a chapter. It begins with a little anecdote about how they met him. I think they were looking for a way to include the line, “first Vietnam, now this chair!” 

After discovering my inclusion in I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, I texted Peter, demanding to know why he hadn’t told me about it. He responded, “oh yeah. That. I made you famous. Not rich, but famous.”

As an aside, there is much discussion in I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski as to why The Big Lebowski resonates so thoroughly with so many. Many folks believe there is comfort to be taken in the notion that The Dude abides, takin’ it easy for all us sinners. I have my own answer. Independent of the fact the movie is just plain funny, I find that its plethora of one-liners are amazingly universal. When I offer up a grudging acknowledgement that somebody I don’t like is good at something, I say, “that creep can roll, man.” When somebody is unfamiliar with a topic at hand, I say, “obviously, you’re not a golfer.” When something is in doubt I say, “this is our concern, Dude.” And when I have a beverage and someone is jostling me, I say, “there’s a beverage here, man.” For nearly every moment in life, there is a corresponding Lebowski quote to go with it. It is stunningly like the Bible in this way. A Bible for slackers, bums, and achievers, too.

P.S. If you have a kid who might be interested in film camp, send them! I don’t work there anymore, they’re safe now. It is an amazing program put on by US Performing Arts. I cannot say enough good things about it. Here’s an example of a film shot back in my day, The Bored Room.

Dear Universe

puppy

Justin Bieber, recording artist

I think this is the seventh day in a row that I’ve opened the front door to discover a basket. Inside that basket, nestled into a fuzzy red plaid fleece, is a Toy Poodle puppy. The puppy has Joey Lawrence’s hair from the 80’s and his name tag reads Justin Bieber. Every day I close the door, hoping he finds some other family to live with, but the next time I turn around, there he is again! Universe, you may have become confused, but Toy Poodle puppies have no sway over me. I do not want a Toy Poodle puppy, I will not ever want a Toy Poodle puppy. Please take your Toy Poodle puppy and put it somewhere else.

What was that, Universe? Oh, yes… that. {sigh}

Yes, I did say the exact same thing about the female Chinese Crested Hairless that you insisted upon dropping off, not only at my doorstep, but in my car, at other people’s houses that I happened to be at, at the gym. I didn’t want her either, and seriously, Universe, you stacked the deck against her when you named her Lady Gaga. Who wants a Chinese Crested Hairless in the first place, let alone one named that?

Chinest Crested Hairless

Lady Gaga performs at the Grammys.

Yes, yes, Universe, it’s true. I did eventually bring her inside and she became part of the family. What can I say? Paparazzi broke me down and Bad Romance did me in.

But that’s not happening with this Justin puppy. And I mean it.

VICTORY, INDEED

People, prepare yourself for an awful lot of ALL CAPS. Why? Because I am EXCITED.

I just watched a FANTASTIC movie called “Dark Victory,” with Bette Davis, some random dude as the love interest, named DR. FREDERICK STEELE, a very young Humphrey Bogart as a stable boy, and Ronald Reagan as a good time Charlie and drunk.

IT WAS THE BEST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN.

Long story short, this proud, rich girl (Bette) discovers from this famous brain surgeon (clearly, a somewhat sci-fi career in 1939) that she has – not a brain tumor or brain cancer, but a “growth.” He operates, even though she is very fearful, and afterwards learns that it is malignant. How long does he have to wait for test results to come back? Thirty seconds. That’s all it took. The other surgeon just looks at it and goes, “it’s malignant.”

So, instead of telling her she is going to die in 10 months, he tells her best friend. Her best friend asks in a quavering voice whether she will suffer. He then tells her, helpfully, that about four hours before she dies, her vision will dim, then be gone altogether, but other than that, she will be totally symptom free for ten months. He knows this. Don’t ask me how, but he appears pretty certain. He then tells the best friend, SHE MUST NEVER KNOW.

Yes, they must keep it secret from her that she is dying. Friends, I tell you, go look up this movie for no other reason than to hear DR. FREDERICK STEELE deliver the line, SHE MUST NEVER KNOW.

LOVE IT. 

So, DR. FREDERICK STEELE falls in love with Bette (naturally) and decides to marry her to make her last few months super happy.

Bette’s best friend is appalled by all this deception (SHE MUST NEVER KNOW!), but doesn’t do anything about it.

Just before moving off to Vermont, Bette happens upon her case file. She sees all these concurring opinions from different doctors that she has a “PROGNOSIS NEGATIVE.”

Perplexed, she asks DR. FREDERICK STEELE’S secretary, “what does prognosis mean?” and the woman goes, “what’s going to happen in the future,” and then Bette asks, “what does negative mean?” and the woman goes, “that there’s no hope.”

Bette, who has heretofore seemed very bright and well read, asks the woman, “what does negative mean?”

Answer, “that there’s no hope.”

 You can see why this is the BEST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN.

Davis and Bogart

Humphrey Bogart, Stablehand. Bette Davis, Awesome.

So then Bette makes a glorious scene, breaking up with the doctor and her best friend, and then goes through an entertaining period of hard drinking and hard riding (there’s a lot of upper class white Connecticut horse riding in this movie) but rebuffs the advances of Humphrey Bogart, who demands of her, IS IT BECAUSE I AM A STABLEHAND?!?!

Of course, it’s really because she’s still in love with the doctor.

So, she comes around and decides to marry him after all, and they go off to Vermont.

BEST SCENE IN THE MOVIE.

Bette is sitting in this huge country kitchen with not one but two servants behind her, reading a letter from her best friend Ann about some horse show, and she says:

“Oh, why do people make their lives so complicated with their big houses and all their horses? Here we have nothing, Martha (Martha being the white servant) but we’re as happy as we can be!”

DUDE. YOU HAVE A HUGE COUNTRY HOME IN VERMONT WITH A HOUSEKEEPER AND A COOK.

“Here we have nothing, Martha, but we’re as happy as we can be!”

BRILLIANT.

If only Martha had been given a line in reply.

Bogart randomly shows up for a visit and she tells him to put Challenger (her favorite horse) in the Grand National. He tells her, “you look great, Judy, why, you make me think all these prayers I’m saying are actually working.”

Bette says good-bye to him and then runs up to her best friend going, “there’s a storm coming! The sky is getting darker.”

BUT IT’S BRIGHT SUNLIGHT.

So we know Bette’s totally about to kick it.  In about four hours. And so does Bette.

Dying Bette

This is where she kicks it.

Bette then sends her doctor husband off to New York to win some prestigious doctory award, and then, with the help of her best friend, she plants some hyacinths, the doctor’s favorite flower, WHILE BLIND AND DYING.

I’m telling you, BEST MOVIE EVER.

She then sends her best friend away and goes upstairs and dies.

I mean, CAN YOU BEAT THAT FOR ENTERTAINMENT????

I THINK NOT.

Best freaking movie I’ve ever seen.

Addendum: My friends Wooster and Bond inform me that it is a tragedy that a USC Film grad was not previously familiar with Dark Victory, the best movie that was ever made. I concur. Bond adds, “that random dude is George Brent.” Apparently he was a notorious womanizer and blah, blah, blah super famous blah, blah, blah made a lot of movies. All I know is, he played DR. FREDERICK STEELE and gave me my favorite movie line of all time, “SHE MUST NEVER KNOW.”