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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review & Resolutions ... for You!

December 30, 2009: In lieu of New Year's, I decided to take a long, pensive moment this week to consider my behaviors and actions throughout 2009 -- for the whole first decade of our 21st Century, in fact. I deftly weighed my shortcomings and made an honest appraisal of all my various defects down to the most minute, with a brave and candid eye toward my ongoing improvement and spiritual growth ...

Yet when all was said and done, I realized I was just fine the way I was. It was everyone else who had the problems. So, armed with this proven knowledge, I thought I'd take a moment to candidly fill you, Dear Readers, in on exactly what's wrong with you.

To begin with, ask yourself, "What have I done for Jarret today?" It's no secret that the number of my Blah-ugh! readers ranks high. (Some have told me it's a staggering figure, perhaps topping millions!) Yet only 13 people have taken the trouble to register as Followers (and even some of these louts have been banned from reading my site because they annoyed me for one reason or another). Why is this? Do people not feel comfortable admitting their allegiance to me? Is it not enough that I slave to provide you with a veritable feast of cerebral fodder, yet you can't take the 20-second trouble to register some false identity in order to honor my work and increase my numbers?

More importantly, how many of you loyal readers are actually giving any time to spreading news of my site (and me, for that matter)? How many of you have taken a moment to email all your friends about the keen, culturally relevant commentary that flows from this electronic spinet? How many of you can honestly say you've done your part to tout the value of this enterprise, and perhaps help save its creator from the depressing life of underachievement that looms so precariously before him?

I don't want to harp on all this, however, because there are other faults to address. For instance, I received holiday cards from none of you! What's that about?! You have my email address listed here. Do I not rate some simple (even impersonal) electronic recognition? Are you so busy? Obviously you have time to waste reading this ridiculous website. Come now!

I also wanted to touch on your poor driving habits, which continue to mystify me, as well as your lazy work ethic, your variable hygiene practices, and your political apathy ... but there's only so much one can do in a decade. Let's try to stay focused on the point at hand -- namely, me -- and let's all pledge, as 2010 rolls around, to do our best to help further my aims and those of my most diligent disciples.

On that note, I bid you a Grand and Glorious New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Closure

December 27, 2009: Another lovely Christmas season is slipping away from me in a brittle flush of failed wrapping and the diarrhetic cramps of turkey undigested. It was a lovely holiday, despite some awkwardly odd regifted presents I received, and I'll remember it well (at least for a short time, and then I'll possibly forget all about it because of my brain damage).

But before it goes, let me throw out some last-minute thoughts that still clog my mind. First and foremost, kudos to the great Celine Dion, whose breathtaking version of "O Holy Night" has displaced just about every X-mas song out there for me. I don't know how many of you have heard of her, but this woman is a great singer, and I thought I'd give her a plug in the hopes of furthering her career. (I think she's French or Australian or something, but I still really like her.)

On the film front, I can never say enough for some of the most magical movies that make up my holiday playlist: "A Christmas Story," "The Bishop's Wife," and "Miracle on 34th Street." The first story -- you know, the BB gun one -- is just a wealth of low-budget fun. The scene where Ralphie helps his father change the tire is still my favorite, followed by the great Chinese restaurant moment. Try to find better lines than Darrin McGavin as The Old Man shout-groaning, "Sons of bitches Bumpuses" ... and "Not a fingah!" ... "The Bishop's Wife" -- Cary Grant as an angel -- Say no more! Still, Monty Wooley almost steals the show as the Professor ... For me, the whole thing is just plain Wow! ... And of course "Miracle" is such a brilliant story, and gets me jerking with tears, even more than "It's a Wonderful Life," which is yet another holiday favorite (but already gets so much press) ...

I didn't make a church service this year, but I just wasn't in a singing mood. I did, however, manage to keep a good fire burning while my family and I watched about 12 straight episodes of The Honeymooners ...

So now it's time to clench my teeth and fight off the awful fear of having to face another 11 months of reality in a cold, bitter world of rap music, E! Hollywood gossip and drivers who don't signal ...

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Good Taste

December 22, 2009: What an interesting discovery I made last week. So interesting that I forgot to mention it to anyone ... until now. You see, I don't want the year to end without you -- my ever-faithful reader -- gaining the greater value of my unique daily drama. (Little have I to offer you, you see, but for the more important shreds of my bitter experiences here on the planet earth.)

It all started on the way to work. I regularly meet my morning sustenance with a humble breakfast sandwich involving both peanut butter and jelly. (I'll usually trim away the lower quarter of crust, but I hesitate to mention that, as it makes me sound different from others.) Of late, however, I've re-discovered the joy of the banana, and have replaced my faithful fruit-only spreads with the unique-yet-ever-versatile mush of mankind's greatest fruit.

(On a serious note, it's important to be aware that the banana, as we know it, is in dire jeopardy of disappearing off the face of the earth due to a strange infection that scientists can't cure. I keep hoping to expound at length on that frightening dilemma, but I've been so busy lately with shopping and writing about Nazis, I haven't had time to give the topic the attention it deserves. Therefore, I'd like you to do some research on your own and understand the gravity of the banana situation.)

So it was I found myself ambling along Route 136, poised to bite ... and bite I did! But lo, what terrible poison was this affecting my sandwich. O, but it was bitter and tasted not like the grand peanut butter and banana of the day before. This was some awful anomaly -- a grisly mutation biting back my tongue, it's flavor a cold metallic monotone ...

It took me a minute to realize something, and imagine my surprise when I did. For you see, I had been eating my sandwich upside down. Yes, not literally, in the upside-down sense of having my head where my ass is (if you'll excuse the disgusting imagery), but rather I had foolishly gripped the sandwich so that the banana was on the bottom, and the peanut butter was on top. (If you're a normal person, you know that the peanut butter always gets spread first, and then the banana (or jelly, in some cases) gets put (mashed or spread) on top of it.)

I quickly turned the sandwich over and bit again. Needless to say, I was thrilled and relieved to find my breakfast returned to its former grandeur. It tasted great, in fact, and I ate heartily for the better part of my remaining morning drive.

So, I wanted to pass this bit of new information on to you. Do with it what you will, but I have no doubt its applications are great and far-reaching. I won't bore you with the scientific details relating to the reasons behind this phenomenon -- mainly because I have no idea what they are -- but instead let me wish you a Happy Christmas and a Tasty New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jewing It Down

December 15, 2009: In light of the recent unpleasantness infecting my Blah-ugh! -- (You people act like children, and all I ever wanted to do was to make you laugh, and sing, and perhaps take your clothes off and chant my name while writhing on some stone altar somehwere out on a moor at Midsummer's Eve!) -- I thought it best to focus on less controversial subjects for the time being (meaning until you all learn to behave!) ...

That said, I thought it a good time of year to address my fears of being Jewish. Please understand, I'm only half Jewish, but like being half black in modern America, they'll still send you to the inferior restroom as a consequence.

Jews today have, of course, found ever-increasing acceptance amidst the Goyum. But like other often-battered minorities (and Yes, I include the Eskimos here) our comfort is always a precarious one, forever at the mercy of some violent midwestern Redneck, or some well-educated northeast Protestant who firmly believes he has conclusive evidence to support some of the stereotypes.

When all is said and done, I simply feel it makes more sense to lay low. While I'm always one to tout my Jewishness amongst the Chosen People -- Hell, I've even purported to be all Jewish when I knew no one would really have the nerve to check -- I've found it practically safer to keep my Gentile face in front where others are concerned, if for no other reason than to avoid the chipper Gee-Whiz comments of the Christmas crowd. ("Oh, you're Jewish. That's great," the implication being "Better you than me!")

And Yes, it is an arduous brand we bare, as both Steven Spielberg and I know only too well. As a people with ne'er a land to call their own (outside of Israel, Hollywood and what the ever-dignified and articulate Rev. Jesse Jackson so sensitively referred to as "Hymietown), we find ourselves forever faced with the fear of being excluded, ostricized, and, on the worst days, put in ovens.

So, in celebration of Hannukah, I intend to stand by my anonymity and keep the crosses off the lawn. And should, God forbid, things ever take a real bad turn to the worst of human nature, I'll swear we were only using the things because we couldn't find candleholders.

Next Week: Honoring (and taming) the dormant anti-Semite in all of us!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Tribute to Johnny Mathis

December 13, 2009: Despite the exquisite joy that Christmas music brings me, I still get very uncomfortable whenever a black person sings "White Christmas." They'll sing, "May all your Christmases be white," and the disturbing racist implications for someone like me -- someone who is, if not necessarily overly sensitive out of kindness, certainly suffering under the shame-based yoke of dysfunctional hyper-awareness -- can be alarming.

But I didn't want to take that tangent today. Instead, I hoped to devote a gentle column of celebration to the remarkable Christmas work of Johnny Mathis, who is neither black nor white, but a kind of seasonal caramel cafe' au lait -- a toasted chestnut, best tasted at the holidays.

Our family prides four of Johnny Mathis's Christmas albums, and each is better than the last. For me, Johnny's vaguely nasal heartfelt melodic enthusiasm perfectly captures all that I love about this glorious season. (And let's be clear -- it has evolved into a season -- a positive celebratory season of good vibrations and comradeship, assuming one chooses to look at it that way. The lingering religiosity is, to me, a quaint, vaguely amusing archaic vestige of mankind's nervous past, but the spirit that it's based in is an ideal one, one which I welcome and celebrate.)

(How odd it was to even see in the story "A Christmas Carol" a subtle challenge to that religiosity, when Scrooge frankly (and not unkindly) questions the Ghost of Christmas Present as to why his "kind" insists on quelling the Christmas-like joy of community by making shops and restaurants and everything close every seventh day. No one ever leaves those lines in in any of the movie versions, but they're certainly striking ones!)

But we were talking about Johnny Mathis, and I did want to point out how silly he sounds pronouncing "Baby Yay-soo" in The Little Drummer Boy song, and isn't that wording itself just ridiculous! Yay-soo indeed! But better still, how much more flamingly flambuoyant could Johnny get than in Sleigh Ride, when he notes that friends are calling "Yoo Hoo!" Gads, you've got to love his unfettered fagginess! ("Gone away is a new bird. Here to stay is a (gay) bird.") The freedom that comes with his heartfelt spirited songs of voices, openly proclaiming words of love and joy and fun. It just makes me want to get up and prance, and not care who sees me. (Woe that more of us don't invest time prancing, especially at the holidays ... But I'll analyze the fatuous ninniness of homophobia another time ...)

So that's my Johnny Mathis -- the great gay (and I mean here in the happy sense) glorious voice of the holidays. What better light to shine upon our blessed heads this joyful season, and what better man than this to pronounce in Voices the Word of wonder and hope and peace that is our lovely Christmas time!

Next Week: A detailed essay on why I hate Ashton Kutcher so much.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jarret's Frank Film Forum (FFF) -- A Review of "A Christmas Carol"

December 10, 2009: I've decided that the Patrick Stewart (TNT) version of "A Christmas Carol" may ultimately be my favorite, unseating the very dear version that stars Quincy Magoo. Call it the special effects, or perhaps just seeing Joel Grey wearing that Gregg Allman wig, but something about it buoys my heart and makes me wholeheartedly glad I'm not a Jew. (No offense Bonnie, David, Efrem, Mrs. Goldblatt -- the whole lot of you people!)

No one can deny that Stewart is a very gifted actor (although I'm beginning to suspect that achieving greatness in acting merely consists of being English and orating grandiosely with a shaky timbre). The nice thing about seeing him play Scrooge, however, is that he dances like he means it. I also thought he embellished the role with some keen touches, like a bald head, and while I found his gagging scene a bit confusing and disconcerting -- at first I thought they'd left in an outtake -- overall I found myself carried along and appropriately despising his guts.

Richard E. Grant proves a fine Bob Cratchit, despite his large forehead. (I'm very wary of people with large foreheads for a variety of reasons, and you should be too.) He affects such a striking collection of twisted pathos-ridden faces, you'd think he really was some awful Camdentown wretch with nine mouths to support. His teeth, in particular, play a fine role, and one wonders what work he had done in order to even get the chance to try out for the role.

One thing I didn't like was the outfit worn by Belle in the break-up scene. The hood just seemed so overproduced, and I found I didn't even follow the dialogue because I kept looking at that stupid hood. Looking closer, I think I may have also recast the role of Feeziwig as well. While Ian McNeice was adequate, I thought the bulk of his fat chin and neck weren't matched by a believable girth, and so I found myself -- much to my own disgust -- wondering, for the sake of continuity, what he looked like naked.

I remain a fan of both the Reginald Owen and Alastair Sim versions, although I find the idea that someone created a musical version of this fine tale (which I've read numerous times) despicable. (I won't even touch the idea of Kelsey Grammar recreating the role, and will instead continue to pretend he doesn't even exist.)

To summarize, if you're only going to watch one version of this classic Christmas story this holiday season, try the Stewart version, though it's somewhat hard to find. TNT, which also created the greatest version of Stephen King's "Salem's Lot" has done it again, and while it took me 10 years to finally notice, I'll stand by my record of only supporting the best.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jarret Liotta on Writing -- Part I

December 2, 2009: Many of my most loyal readers constantly ask where I get my ideas for essays and stories. (Maybe they don't actually ask, but I can tell what they're thinking from the way they look at me.) As a rule I don't like to talk about myself, but I thought I'd make this rare exception and, per chance, enlighten some of my fans and followers as to the esoteric processes that drive and motivate this complex and -- dare I say -- scintillating young man.

In actuality, I get a great number of ideas when I'm out walking. I like to walk because it gives me a chance to ponder my victories and agonize over my defeats, as well as get a little exercise.

Just tonight, for instance, an idea came to me for creating a lengthy fantasy interview with a car company executive who explained to me why headlights were being made much brighter these days. (The blinding headlights I kept being flashed with also played a role. The exec's name was Milton Dickwad, and in that frustrating politically charged avoidant manner unique to corporate PR men, he tries to convince us that the brighter, sharper headlights, though they hurt one's eyes beyond reason, are actually generating more energy back toward the cellunoid (whatever that is) through a very complicated process we're all too stupid to understand, thereby making the car more fuel efficient and, therefore, more environmentally friendly. And, of course, in the most classic of mass-American-appeal fashions, we blindly take his word for it and exit the interview grateful for the little pine tree air freshner he granted us gratis.)

Another recent idea, which came about thanks to a coworker, after he saw me drinking a bottle of Snapple iced tea, centers on exposing the sham of Snapple's "Real" Facts inside their caps. Very few people seem to know that these "facts" are mostly lies, but not all them. In order to differentiate, you have to visit their stupid website. I find this somehow monstrous, as they're planting stupid ideas in my and my children's heads every time we're stupid enough to read their stupid caps (and believe me, we're that stupid!) It infuriates me, because I know from experience that misinformation, once learned, will, over time, become fact in a brain, unless it's replaced. Therefore, unless we take the time to flush the information out by researching the facts -- and I promise you, we never will! -- we're stuck going through the rest of our lives believing erroneous trivia about bees and Indian monkeys and a whole variety of other stupid things ... Fucking assholes! I wish I'd stop drinking their stupid tea. (That'd show them!)

But I digress. I merely wanted to point out how easily and arbitrarily my story ideas arise. The key is getting them down. In some strange way, once the idea hits, in an instant I can almost feel exactly how the thing is to be written, and yet I still have to discipline myself through the process of doing it. More often than not, as you can see from the above, I flippantly make some notes on one idea or another, then never get back to it. On rare occasions I'll regret it, and maybe even revisit an idea many months later, but mostly those ideas are replaced by new ones which -- upon entering the mind -- simply seem like the best, most vital, most original and engaging idea ever to be thought up ... until the next one replaces it ...

Anyway, the most important point is, Why are you wasting your time reading about these stupid ideas when you should be away from your computer nurturing yourself with ice cream and pornography? Haven't I taught you anything, O favorite readers of mine!