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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Content to be Arnold

I was recently reminded of the 21st century necessity to generate crap—I mean content—to continually replenish my rousing marketplace value and keep my awesome name before the unsteady eyes of an adoring but fickle public.

The problem—and you know there’s ALWAYS a problem of some kind—is that I’m not sure it’s humanly possible to maintain the extraordinarily high level of quality that people have come to expect from my intermittent Blah-ugh! pustules. I feel it’s important that I at least try to fool them into believing I’m keeping up with some degree of quality, whether provisions are bright or nye, but given the growing pressures of modern times to make this a veritable joke factory of regularity, I worry that those loyal readers—you guys—will somehow get short shrifted, or short changed, or possibly both, in my zealous attempts to grind a generous helping of delectable pap out of my editorial blowhole.

That said, there is never a shortage of important things to address, beginning with my utter laziness. The good news is I’m coming to see my laziness as a beneficial part of my work pattern—mainly the part where I don’t get anything done. This is actually very important because it makes other things I do seem that much more striking—or at least makes the things other people do seem strike-worthy, and if that’s not public service, I don’t know what is.

But this is about content and I have a lot to get to, beginning with an in-depth analysis of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography—Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. People will think I’m being facetious, but I’m actually astounded how informative a textbook it is for me, not to mention an entertaining and rather culturally intriguing pile of pulp. (Kudos to Arnold’s editorial blowhole!)

Still, I want to start with complaints, as they’re more fun. The first—possibly the prime, or even only—is the subtitle, which is grammatically stupid. I’ve spent many minutes wondering if he suggested the title and was then too stubborn to admit that it should be “unbelievable” and not “unbelievably.” (And by the way, if you’re too thick to know why they’re not interchangeable and would need me to explain it to you, you have no business reading a sophisticated Blah-ugh! like mine and I want you to unplug right now and go take an English class!) I imagine him sitting in his sunny office in Venice (CA) with his loving klatch of semi-sycophantic cronies, reviewing the business of the day in his bruised Austrian English, “Dis book, it should be just having a funny, simple title, like ‘My unbelievably true life story,’ because it is unbelievable. Don’ cha see?!”

Despite some of our political separations and his rather cruel treatment of Lou Ferrigno in Pumping Iron and his harsh foreign accent and his crude military haircut and his muscles and his money and his cigar smoke, I really like Arnold. I think his movies are the cat’s pajamas, and I can honestly say—with the possible exception of the third reel of Jingle All the Way—there isn’t a movie of his I wouldn’t call worth at least two viewings, if not many, especially if you have Alzheimer’s and forget things very quickly.

My fond memories of Arnold extend to when he was governor and I was living in California. One evening at a softball game in Brentwood—many of you don’t know this about me, but I was a highly advanced if not particularly well dressed softball player in my day—a cavalcade of very large, ominous black Humvees showed up near the field. The whole game stopped and everyone stood around in a kind of stupid terror, unclear what the danger was, for it certainly all felt very dangerous. A small group of large Secret Service-type men emerged and prepared the way for what turned out to be Governor Arnold, who was apparently stopping in at the adjacent gymnasium to pick up one of his kids, or perhaps watch one of them play basketball or do curling or something.

Everyone stood far away in dumb amazement and fear as Arnold, escorted by his large cronies, paced confidently toward his destination. But being me, of course, I had to jog over—actually putting all the men on momentary alert in what might have been a tense moment had not both Arnold and I handled it with such aplomb. “Hey!” I announced. “You’re the best!” We shook hands and he said, “Tank you!” He was shorter than I reasoned he was supposed to be—6’ 2” my ass!—but I didn’t want to be rude and mention it, though if I’d read his autobiography back then—that is, if he’d written it—I would have drawn a humorous comparison to him insulting Dino De Laurentiis about his height and accent, and we would have laughed … or perhaps not.

But none of that’s here nor there. I can tell you he was very sweet, in spite of his decaying stature. I advised him to start making movies again, to which he declared, “Ha ha!” And now, years later, as I read his book, I think of our moment together, which I suspect he looks back upon with all the acuity he might devote to some forgotten moment he was bitten by a mosquito in his Austrian past.

Now many of you are probably asking why I’m so smitten with this book, and I will say shortly it involves Arnold’s frank description of his Germanic discipline and his steadfast commitment to his vision. He offhandedly describes how he knew he was going to do certain things and at times even imagined them so vividly that it was as though he’d already done them. This is quite fascinating and inspiring, as was his explanation that he likes to go into situation like a “puppy” and not be told any of the negative possibilities that could occur. In fact, at one point when someone was telling him the reason why he couldn’t or shouldn’t invest in his first big real estate deal, he cut him off and said, in essence, “Oh my gosh, I was almost started listening to you and your negativity!”

Arnold offers a variety of great ideas to consider and even, perhaps, live by, provided you don’t get caught boinking your nanny.

It just goes to show that, if you’re open, you never know where you’re going to come across thoughts that could be of value to you—even in some stupid Blah-ugh!

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