Wednesday, November 23, 2011
This is my nephew. As you can see, he's gone zombie. This photo was taken minutes after he'd eaten the rest of the family. Look how delighted he is. And how civilized! Fork and bib and everything. If only all zombies were so well brought up. (And adorable.)
OK fine, it's beet soup. (Or so my mother claims.) Still: a little bit terrifying, right?
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, I recently watched the new Eddie Murphy movie, Tower Heist. It provoked some lingering questions, detailed below. If any of you can help clear these up, naturally, I'm all ears. (I'd insert the distasteful phrase "spoiler alert" here except that, honestly, who cares? But if you haven't seen the movie yet [yet!] and are going to be upset about learning some key "plot points," well, first, congratulations on being able to read; I'm genuinely surprised. And second, please stop reading now.)
The movie takes place in a luxury apartment building in Manhattan. Ben Stiller is the building manager. Casey Affleck is the concierge. Precious is a maid. Ferris Bueller is a disgraced "Wall Street guy" being evicted. Alan Alda is a super-rich penthouse owner who for some reason plays online chess with Stiller, who lives in an inexplicably posh Astoria flat. Eddie Murphy is among the thugs who lurk outside Stiller's apartment. Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand; Rush Hour) directs. About five people wrote the screenplay, apparently in isolation from one another.
My questions include:
When and why did Ben Stiller's entire staff go from "we hate you for losing our pensions" to "we're crying because you got fired"?
Am I allowed to count the pale, squishy lump that is Matthew Broderick in this movie as yet another of Sarah Jessica Parker's aesthetic crimes? It's her fault, right?
Wait, can we go back to that Lego model for a second? I'm not sure I'm clear on the plan.
OK so is the entire car made of gold? If yes, why are there car keys? I don't think solid-gold engines are known for being super drivable. (Too melty.)
Did I miss when mocking fat girls became hilarious again?
Not to nitpick -- I know it's only a movie -- but how did four non-mechanics disassemble an entire vintage automobile inside a drained swimming pool on top of a building, without so much as a screwdriver in evidence, let alone hydraulic lifts etc., and then box each part for shipping, in a single night, without anybody noticing? Was the UPS guy not a little suspicious?
Speaking of which, does the typical hotel worker know what to do with solid-gold car parts when they arrive mysteriously on the doorstep via UPS? Ask yourself: if someone mailed you an ingot, would you know how to cash it? (No Googling!)
Is Casey Affleck married in real life? He's dreamy.
What, no prison time for the old guy trying to slay a whole marching band with a delivery truck? Guess he seems pretty stable to you, then, what with the two suicide attempts, grand theft auto and the nonstop maniacal laughter?
Why exactly is that Snoopy float so terrifying, I wonder?
Do we think Alan Alda and Ben Stiller have resumed their chess game in prison?
And finally: why do you hate America, Brett Ratner? Is it because we deserve it?
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Depp plays Paul Kemp, a sort of proto-Thompson avatar who washes up in Puerto Rico having been hired from afar to work at an English-language daily that is blatantly collapsing. Depp's really good in it; he mostly abandons his Jack Sparrow mugging in favor of a deadpan nervousness with occasional twitching. (Remember when he played Ichabod Crane as a frightened little girl in Sleepy Hollow? It's weird how restrained that performance seems in hindsight.)
Even better is Michael Rispoli, who plays the staff photographer, Sala. He's the heart and the brains of the story, and everything gets sort of chilly when he's out of the frame. The villain is white-linen-suited developer (and ex journo) Hal Sanderson, played by Aaron Eckhart. He's too Evil to be a convincing character, but it's fun to see Eckhart being rotten again. Sanderson's girlfriend (Amber Heard) is supposedly a bewitching mermaid minx/damsel in distress, but I found her pretty dull. And Giovanni Ribisi shuffles around as sort of the Ghost of HST Future, a cautionary tale and/or inspiration, depending on which parts of the Hunter legend you're devoted to.
Anyway. Kemp's an idealistic young reporter who is easily seduced by alcohol and mermaids and also maybe by the cash and sweet car Sanderson throws at him in an attempt to get the writer to plant some PR stories currying public favor for a hideous and probably illegal development project. The project is a grody bait-and-switch that would ravage a pristine island and make Sanderson heaps of money. It's the kind of widespread-corruption story that would make a young reporter's career, if that young reporter's editor weren't somehow involved and thus reluctant to print anything more hard-hitting than astrology columns and bowling-league results. Kemp does protest, but not too much, and he's pretty happy to borrow Sanderson's car. That whole "nail the bastards to the wall" part only comes once the string of selfish greed causes the newspaper's payroll to vanish.
The movie is really well made, and there are scenes of pure alchemical beauty in it - notably a dark, still moment in which Kemp and Sala drop a mysterious liquid into their eyeballs and wait for it to kick in. (And there's a line in this scene that echoes Withnail & I: "You're giving me fear!") The whole thing is a lot of manic fun. And yet....
The thing people forget about Hunter Thompson - and the thing this movie seems intent on distracting its audience from - is how genuinely sad he could be. It's the same way they forget how funny Hemingway was. We inherit these established ideas of what these writers were like, and then we never feel the need to look deeper. There's both accidental and deliberate confusion between the man and the myth. In Hunter's case the real guy vanished early into the character of Raoul Duke. And then that character himself became cartoonified (literally and metaphorically). People associate him with a trunk full of drugs, bats on the highway, lizards in the carpet. Nobody thinks of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a sad book. But that scene where he talks about seeing the high-water mark of the culture -- that's tragedy. He's staring out at the desiccated corpse of the American Dream, which back then you could still discuss without irony, and he's mourning. In The Rum Diary, there's a scene in which Kemp and Sala are watching Nixon on TV and Kemp says "When will this blizzard of shame finally end?" and you're supposed to laugh. And then he adds that in a few decades someone will come along who's so much worse that he makes Nixon look like a liberal. And again it's played for comedy.
Which is fine, I guess, because if you don't laugh at this stuff you end up spending your whole life drunk and then blowing your pickled brains out. But to me, the trouble with this movie is that it works so hard to distract you from its own substance. Even just the basic plot outline: aside from hallucinogens and cockfights and some really dodgy club scenes at Carnaval, what exactly happens? Kemp tries to play the role of journalist as scrappy superhero and save an island. He fails. Then he leaves. Sure, in the end maybe he gets the girl, but idealism and journalism and Puerto Rico all get shafted. And the way the movie's set up, we don't care -- we're psyched that Kemp and his pals didn't get shot or jailed. We're supposed to think they won, because they showed the bastards, they stuck it to the Man. But what about that island development project? what about the pillaged newspaper offices? Never mind - let's steal a boat and go chase that mermaid.
The lesson being that you can be a complete wreck of a person, fueled by rum and failure and a wholly untested idealism, and get just as much accomplished as if you're all freshly showered and sober in front of the typewriter, because whatever you write while sane is not what the Man will print anyway, so you might as well drop hallucinogens into your eyeballs - certainly beats working.
It is much, much cooler to imagine journalism this way, but it also kind of misses the point.
I should probably add that I've never read the novel; it came out after my love affair with HST had peaked. (It never ended, but it has ebbed slightly over the years.) I saw somewhere that Jann Wenner said Hunter would never have published the book 20 years earlier, and that was enough to make me avoid it, although at some point I'm sure I'll pick it up. (But never that last Hemingway novel, ever ever ever.) But if you really want to watch Hunter Thompson become Hunter Thompson, read Hell's Angels.
Anyway. Huge rant, probably incoherent. But there you have it.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
|Part of the mill in Ljusnedal|
|Big barn in Ljusnedal. The light here was amazing; I couldn't really catch it.|
|One of the cabins we stayed in had a calendar tacked to the wall featuring "The Men of Härjedalen" - this is Mr August, I think.|
|Sami Hut in Arådalen|
|Captain Joe's cabin in Härnösand|
|Ha, ha. Real mature, Becky.|
|Downtown Uppsala (where Mom grew up)|
|Child-size Mom outside her old school.|
|Cute chicks in Härnösand|
|Mom's dream hut|
Friday, September 09, 2011
By now everyone has probably read this Times magazine article about willpower and decision fatigue. I read it yesterday and then spent the entire evening behaving exactly as the article predicted.
The good news is, I am blameless! If you've read it you know: I do silly things late in the day because of all the energy I've wasted making smart choices all morning. The root of the problem seems to be sugar sags:
"Your brain does not stop working when glucose is low. It stops doing some things and starts doing others. It responds more strongly to immediate rewards and pays less attention to long-term prospects."
Yep. (I'm looking at you, Sandy Hut.)
I'm thinking the judicious application of cookies and ice cream throughout the day might be able to correct for this weird biological quirk. Sadly, all we can do is hope to rescue our future selves from the results of our overtaxed and rumbly brains; the past is past and already recorded and posted onto the entire internet.
Of the many things that probably shouldn't have come out of my mouth today (and please note I'd already made several decisions all by myself just to get downtown, surely depleting the reserves), the one I feel least uncomfortable bringing up again concerns Battlestar Galactica. Mainly, I think I sounded like I was harshing on the series, and I didn't mean to - I've been watching it obsessively on Netflix and really love some of the characters (although now every time Tigh sticks his nose in a glass I'm going to picture Mike Russell howling). But I do find some of the choices exasperating and inconsistent, and I have a feeling the ending is going to piss me off. Also, Baltar is gross. Still, it's bitchin' TV.
The other thing that happened today (this happens often) is that I tried to talk about movies and ended up talking about male body parts. Not a tragedy but perhaps not as informative as some might like. So here are expanded thoughts on two of the movies we talked about today.
The Last Circus
(directed by Alex de la Iglesia)
Still no idea why this thing got to me as much as it did. I mean I like movies that make me feel terrible, I enjoy being wrecked by a work of art. But I didn't simply dislike this movie, I wanted to beat it with trumpets and cannonball it into a brick wall. It felt germy and sordid and wrong; I'm sure I will not feel dirtier after watching Contagion.
This seems like a lot of abuse to pile onto a weird little Spanish Civil War circus movie. And it does start out strong. For the first few minutes you're like, hell yeah! There's a burly clown in a pink dress and Nellie Oleson wig machine-gunning an army of bad guys. Awesome! But before you even have a chance to get into it, the movie stamps that little flame of hope right out. Suddenly it's 30-some years later and the rampaging clown's nerdy little son has turned into a pudgy sad-sack. He auditions for the job of Sad Clown in a crappy circus led by a drunken but handsome Asshole Clown. And of course there's the tightrope walker acrobat chick they both love, who turns out to be a trampy abuse junkie, of course. I think the thing I couldn't get past is that there is absolutely no one to pull for in the movie. Even the underdog, the guy you'd traditionally sympathize with, turns out to be a vile person. So you end up just watching a bunch of miserable assholes being self-destructively awful to each other for no good reason, for two hours, and then at the end you're like, yep, life is hideous.
Same thing's true of A Perfect Crime, probably de la Iglesia's best-known movie: It starts out fast and sharp and funny and stylish, and then you begin to realize that everyone in it is selfish and grasping and horrible. You assume the ugly-duckling savior girl is sweet and kind and the perfect match, because that's what always happens. Instead it turns out she's horrible. Which I suppose is new and interesting. But all it means is that, in this world, no one is sweet; everyone's an asshole, it's just that some people are also ugly.
Or maybe I was just PMSing or something.
I should probably talk about something besides my boyfriend Tom Hardy's amazing shoulders (god, can they act!) but it's late and I'm tired and I won't be able to do the rest of the movie justice. Also, it's not just me: this movie is very interested in bodies. I mean, it's a melodrama about MMA fighting. You can't ignore the muscles; it would be like not talking about the aliens in Aliens. Anyway, the trailer tells you the structure (I mean the entire structure, so don't get all upset - you can see all of this coming from the first few minutes anyway, and it really doesn't lessen the impact of the ending, I promise). It's a classic Rocky-style plot: underdog endures hardship, trains, is victorious. Except in this case there are two underdogs, my boyfriend and his older brother, played by Joel Edgerton (backup boyfriend), and you really want both of them to win.
Nick Nolte never takes his shirt off but is completely heartbreaking as the recovering-alcoholic dad; Jennifer Morrison from House doesn't get a lot of screen time as backup-boyfriend's wife, but her character is tough and cool and totally convincing. Recommended especially if you like training montages, slow-motion fist-to-face shots, honor and love among gruff and broken men, or shoulders.
Now for some deep knee bends.
Friday, September 02, 2011
This might be relevant.
What happened was, I went to Sweden for Lonely Planet and came back kinda grouchy. This could be because I've had an embarrassment of free time since March, and now I don't have any, and when I had it what I mostly did with it was nap.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
( LE MANS TYPE START MOTORCYCLE RACE )
Friday, June 03, 2011
X-Men: First Class
One thing I've learned from reading a lot of X-Men comics is that evil doesn't just spring up out of nowhere. More often than not it's born of carelessness: someone "good" says something thoughtless to a fragile soul on the threshold of darkness, and blammo, new supervillain. This happens twice in X-Men: First Class, which makes sense, considering how much of the movie is spent on establishing character -- or at least introducing characters.
A prequel to the four preceding X-Men movies (from the pretty good Bryan Singer-directed X-Men in 2000 to the universally lambasted X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009), First Class has so much fun with its setup that you almost wish it never got around to the saving-the-world-from-nuclear-annihilation plot. (Mutants solve the Cuban Missile Crisis; JFK gets credit.) It's a blast watching the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the future Magneto, aka Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), sashay around the planet collecting stray mutants to protect and school. Even more fun is watching Lehnsherr track and punish his Nazi tormenters -- this could easily be its own whole movie. The man has flair. (And teeth! My god.)
It's also cool to see how far the characters have come. Pre-wheelchair Xavier is a little smarmy (he tries the line "that's a very groovy mutation" twice). He's idealistic and brilliant but not yet wise. He lacks the weighty dignity of the Patrick Stewart years, and we get to see him make mistakes. (See above re thoughtlessness.) Other characters arrive fully formed; there's a great cameo that damn near steals the show. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) does a good job at toughing it out as Mystique, who must console herself with Fassbender after getting the brushoff from wimpy Xavier and nerdy Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). The other young recruits are mostly props for training montages -- and the nerd in me insists I mention that Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), although adorable, is really supposed to be Irish, and old enough to get with Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne).
As villains go, well, for starters you have the Nazis. Kevin Bacon makes a decent Sebastian Shaw, and the special effects around him are weird and impressive. But January Jones doesn't radiate enough intelligence for Emma Frost; the movie turns her into Shaw's penthouse playmate. She looks fabulous, though, as does the whole enterprise, particularly the bad guys' Austin Powers-y egg-shaped sub-submarine hangout.
Both silliness and sap increase as the film rolls along, but the big action scenes are handled well, and it never becomes ridiculous enough to undercut the cool, shaken-not-stirred vibe of its first half.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The Sunshine Tavern is neither sunny nor a tavern: discuss.Let's get the griping out of the way: the Sunshine Tavern is not a tavern. It is many delightful things: a beautiful room, a mini-arcade, a chic new restaurant whose slender menu lacks nothing. But it is not a tavern, not in atmosphere and not in priorities.(Also, on none of my visits to the Sushine Tavern was there any sunshine in evidence, but it seems unfair to blame the owners for that.)Names set certain expectations. And if you're a pedantic little jerk like me, this sort of thing can ruin a night out. (I never quite surrendered my grudge against Taqueria Nueve: not a taqueria.) I realize this is absurd and self-defeating, which is why I'm glad my principles so often crumple in the face of a really yummy dinner. As it turns out, the Sunshine Tavern could wear a pretty hat and call itself the Queen of France and I'd forgive it, on account of the chicken.Sunshine's menu offers just three entrees, plus a handful of inventive pizzas, sandwiches, salads and burgers. Order anything you want as long as it's the fried chicken dinner ($14). You'll be rewarded with perfect, juicy, boneless hunks of bird on fat semolina waffles drizzled with honey. It is heaven. The same chicken is equally good on a spicy sandwich ($11), accompanied by a tawny pile of awesome fries. And I was exaggerating earlier: everything we tried was delicious. The chopped salad with french fries ($8) gets a lot of attention, but a boring-sounding iceberg wedge with buttermilk blue cheese dressing ($8) is even better. The baked-egg appetizer ($9), lauded in the Wall Street Journal, is worth trying for novelty, but it's less exciting than a platter of gravy cheese fries ($9), and not only because to eat them is to toy with death. (A small heart attack may be a fair price.) Even the humble burger ($10, more for extras like cheese, eggs or pork belly) holds its own.None of this is a huge surprise, considering that the Sunshine Tavern is owned and run by Jenn Louis and David Welch, the folks behind Lincoln. The drinks list is as well-edited as the food menu; it includes a handful of specialty cocktails ($7-8) and eight unusual beers on tap ($5 pints), plus lots of interesting things in bottles.But let's get back to the griping just for a second. If Sunshine is not a tavern, what is it? The place is confusing. It's an elegant room, with huge windows, tall tables, and rough dark wood smoothed into hard-angled shapes. The bar is made of an old bowling lane, and over it hangs a long metal Jenga-style light fixture that will blow your mind. The shuffleboard table at center stage has a lean grace not generally associated with the sport.Meanwhile, kids are running wild all over the place. Donkey Kong and Ms Pac-Man bleep their familiar bleeps from the corner. A bartender refers to a window-side six-top as the Party Table. The crowd is adult-looking, but they're sipping margaritas dispensed from a slushy machine behind the bar. The star dish -- that so-sweet chicken and waffles -- is practically dessert. And afterward you can have a bowl of ice-cream ($5) with house-made "magic shell" chocolate sauce. Remember magic shell? It's still fun!In short, the Sunshine is a place where you can be a parent and a child at once. In that sense, it might be the quintessential Portland restaurant. It's not a tavern. You wouldn't nestle in with a pint and a paperback. But it's a nice place to try some sophisticated comfort food and briefly abandon your hangups.Order this: The iceberg wedge, then the chicken and waffles.Best deal: Fried-chicken sandwich with fries, topped with slaw.I’ll pass: Slushy margarita ($7) -- fun idea, but not really worth it.EAT: Sunshine Tavern, 3111 SE Division St., 688-1750, sunshinepdx.com. Dinner 5pm-10pm Sunday-Thursday, 5pm-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $$-$$$ Moderate-Expensive.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Sorry, glob fans, for the recent neglect. I've been out gathering valuable insights to share with you. Oh, fine: I've been fooling around on motorcycles and watching lots of movies.
I will tell you about the movies eventually.
OK, I'll tell you about one of them right now.
Hobo with a Shotgun!
Hobo with a Shotgun opens tomorrow (Friday!) at the Hollywood Theatre. Like Machete, it's one of the movies that grew out of the fake trailers included in the Tarantino-Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse. You can watch the original Hobo with a Shotgun fake trailer here. In the full-grown movie, the hobo is Rutger Hauer and the shotgun costs ten bucks less. (Times are tough.)
The title kind of gives away some key elements of the plot, but here is the gist: a hobo (Rutger Hauer) makes the terrible mistake of getting off the train at the presumably once-idyllic Hope Town, now renamed Fuck Town, a place inhabited mostly by people made of ketchup. I'm only guessing about that last part. They seem to be made of ketchup, inside very tautly stretched skins, because whenever they are even lightly punched, kicked, stabbed or crushed by evil go-karts, they explode in a big wet splash of red and essentially vanish.
The ketchup is extra red because this movie is filmed in Hipstamatic. (Although the opening credits display the hilariously period-correct Technicolor logo.) I couldn't decide if I liked this or not. It's pretty, but it somehow looks wrong. I mean, y'know. More wrong.
Anyway. An evil businessman and his Raybanned sons have taken over Hope Town and spraypainted over everything nice. You can tell they're evil because their insults are uncreative, and also because they break a kid's joystick arm so he can't play videogames anymore. Dicks! And their clothes are iridescent white, so they like to congregate near bluelights, because it looks awesome, and they YELL all their dialogue.
The yelling is hilarious. Sample dialogue [please read at full volume]:
"I'm gonna wash off this blood…WITH YOUR BLOOD!!!"
Anyway. The movie starts out a little slow, but pretty soon someone is foolhardy enough to piss off Rutger Hauer, and things pick up quickly. (He eats glass! Did I tell you that already? They make him eat glass! Rutger Hauer!) And then, about the time you figure it's peaking, the main bad guy yells, "SEND FOR THE PLAGUE." Awesome.
The Plague is HILARIOUS. It's a metal monster thing that looks like an angry Lego.
I mean, you probably know what you're getting into with this kind of movie. Rutger Hauer eats glass. He yells at babies. He springs up out of a shopping cart filled with slurpy human guts. A guy gets his crotch shot out, and the camera zooms in on it -- twice. And kind of lingers there. To make sure you really get a good look. Because how often do you get to see a thing like that?
Also: death by ice skate!
Also: toaster used as weapon! Lawnmower used in anger! Motorcycle riders in spurs!
Here's this bonus note from the theater:
Before the shows on Friday and Saturday night, to make sure we get the crowd's adrenaline pumping, we'll be running a 35mm "RUTGERSPECTIVE" trailer reel, honoring the great Rutger Hauer, star of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
It's a fair question: "why does being safe have to involve dressing up like a DayGlo sausage, a European hairdresser or a large nylon pillow?"
Friday, April 08, 2011
Friday, April 01, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
"No other narrative art can get as close as the cinema to the variety, the texture, the skin of daily life. But its unfolding, its coming into being, its marriage with the Elsewhere, reminds us of a longing, or a prayer."
Monday, February 21, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Whatever you do, though, don't go see The Last Circus, unless you sneak a sharp object into the theater and can use it to immediately jab out the parts of your brain that store damagingly awful images of really stupid shit that no one needs to see ever. Stupid and ugly and weird and gross and TOTALLY not funny and just effing ridiculous. And I like weird! I even like stupid sometimes. But this was just pointless, like a migraine externalized and projected. I can't remember ever being so full of rage and scorn in a theater before. I can't even think about it long enough to explain in detail why I hated it so much. Who thought it was a good idea?!? Maybe other people liked it. A few behind me were laughing, but I think it was that hysterical laughter that seizes you uncontrollably at inappropriate times, like during funerals or while witnessing horrific accidents, right before the men in the white coats come and take you to a safer place. Damn it. I was in a really good mood today, too.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Monday, February 07, 2011
Friday, February 04, 2011
In Defense of Immaturity
I've lived in the same tiny studio apartment for years. In the kitchen there is a single spoon, one knife, one fork. The first time my mother came to visit, I told her she had to bring her own set of utensils. She also had to provide her own towel, washcloth, pillow and blanket. "I never want to own more than what I can fit in my car," I explained to her, as we sat cross-legged on my floor drinking wine out of rinsed-out jam jars. (She never complained.) Years later I sold the car, and my rigid aesthetics instantly softened. Without a physical limit on their number, possessions creep up on you. They fill the space allotted.
Most of the things I have - a coffee-stained Pier 1 loveseat made of foam, a creaky chest of drawers, two chairs, a few lamps - were thrust upon me by a family friend who was cleaning out her basement. I didn't ask for them. But the weight of ownership can be seductive. Before long, the chairs needed a desk, the lamps called for end tables, the couch demanded an ottoman.
An ottoman! Ten years ago I didn't even know what that word meant. It sounded exotic (presumably Turkish?), like some variation on the humidor - a decadent contraption safely confined to the adult world. At the time I was 27, arguably in the adult world myself. But I was committed to the principle of immaturity, all stubborn and pure in my insistence on childish things.
I'm still committed, but these days it's more complicated. Immaturity now strikes me less as a character trait than a position staked out. I'm not alone in defending it; most of my social circle cultivates a studied immaturity. In the '60s, people dropped out of the grown-up world; these days, we opt out. We don't like the rules, so we refuse to play the game. By this age, one should have made certain adjustments to one's lifestyle: acquired a mortgage, a mate, some manners, possibly even a regular job. I, on the other hand, live in a garret furnished with castoffs. I date boys in their twenties, and never for long. I don't know how to walk in heels or wear lipstick. Formal dinners terrify me. I don't have a retirement account; most of the time I barely have a checking account. My work entails whole days of reading comic books or watching movies and writing about them. I also write travel guides, which allows me to leave the country for several weeks every few months - a handy way to escape unwanted social entanglements.
What this sounds like, even to me, is a blatant shirking of responsibility, a cowardly refusal to grow up and do one's share. But the kind of immaturity I'm talking about is both more difficult and less silly than it seems on the surface. I know this because I'm constantly on the verge of losing it. The firm conviction I held at age 27 is, ten years later, more like an inclination, fragile and under assault. What immaturity really means is resistance. (Resistance to what, exactly? To the anaesthetized trudge of most of the world, to resignation, to just getting through the day.) And resistance is the one thing people get worse at the more they practice it. The world pushes in on you, on all of us; there's a tremendous pressure to take part, grow up, behave. It was easy to ignore this pressure when you were still the age at which everyone expects you to rebel. It gets exponentially more difficult as you get older, as the number of your allies shrinks and the awful machinery of commerce roars in your ears and the spectre of unrelieved struggle lurks ahead. Resistance tires people out. Sometimes you just want something soft, some easy luxury; you can't help it, you want some small margin of comfort in which to rest and put your feet up.
You want the ottoman. But you must not have it. You can't give in. Because it's not just an ottoman, of course; it's an instinct made manifest, and it's a bad instinct. Buying the ottoman means giving in to an urge toward domesticity, toward settling down, toward putting your energy into physical things - things that you will then own and worry about losing. Domesticity isn't inherently destructive, nor is it merely a chance to be lazy; but when it's adopted as a means for escaping the hard work of rebellion, or as a big fluffy bed into which the exhausted former adolescent wishes to collapse, it's a mistake. That kind of domesticity shifts one's energy from action to object, and it narrows the focus of fear until the most pressing threat is the loss of those objects.
The danger isn't simply personal. It can seduce whole movements. When the New York intellectuals of the 1930s settled down and started taking jobs as college professors, their radical spirits flagged. Russell Jacoby in The Last Intellectuals says this happened because, having achieved a measure of acceptance and a sense of security, they were suddenly afraid of losing it. Their alliances shifted subtly but irrevocably toward security, away from risk. Public life began to deteriorate; in Jacoby's view it has never recovered. By 1957, Norman Podhoretz was counseling the former bohemian radicals of Greenwich Village to "stop carping at life like a petulant adolescent" and "get down to the business of adult living."
But living isn't a business, or it shouldn't be. The goal of a business is to expand its worth, as measured in dollars; that's a warped goal for a human life. Besides, it doesn't work: we now know how easily all those things we're supposed to have achieved in the business of life - the house, the job, the retirement fund - can vanish just like any other object. Security is not acquired through possessions; it's a feeling. And although I sometimes forget this paradox, I feel the most secure when I'm the most completely immature.