FIERCE ANTICIPATION: The Joe Rusin Edition Volume II
another substitute blogumn by Joe Rusin
I’ve got nothing. Last week Ryan Dixon used his one phone call from a Georgia Correctional Facility to ring me up. He asked me to 1) bail him out and 2) cover his Fierce Anticipation column again. I refused the first (who’s got the time really?) but agreed to the latter.
Unfortunately, as this week wore on, I slowly came to the realization that there is quite literally NOTHING that I am fiercely anticipating. Springtime is a wonderful time of year, but not a particularly exciting one. We’re not to the NBA or NHL Playoffs yet, and my Pitt Panthers didn’t make it beyond the second round of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Baseball hasn’t really started, and I wouldn’t care if it had, since sitting through those games is as tedious as the 4 hour cut of Steven Soderbergh’s CHE. Health Care has passed, and now it’s just the ugly boring partisan fights afterwards. There’s some good television (AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is one of the most exciting and unpredictable shows on TV) and movies (Greenburg is a great indie comedy), but nothing too exciting (HBO’s “The Pacific” miniseries feels too good for you to be enjoyed—like a big salad without any dressing or bacon bits). Exciting movies, sporting events, concerts, plays, etc. all seem to be some time away (i.e. not before another edition of Fierce Anticipation). For the coming week, there really seems to be…well, nothing.
Is that a bad thing?
People say that in order to be happy you always have to have something to look forward to. I really am not looking forward to anything right now. And I feel great. You should, too. Why?
There is a great quote in the cult comedy Office Space. The character Peter has skipped a day of work and when asked about what he did on his day off he replies, “I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.”
“Nothing” is often held up culturally as a negative, but what is so bad about nothing? After all, was it not the subject of one of the best sitcoms in television history? Nothing has been very good to Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld.
I’m currently not working a regular job, so you could classify what I did yesterday as nothing. I woke up late, made breakfast, went for a walk, read, wrote a little (you, dear reader, might say very little), worked out at the gym, and had some spirited conversations with friends. This was a great day.
Now people could say this wasn’t nothing—that I in fact just listed several somethings that I did. But none of these were really planned, none of them conform to a story structure, and if someone were to ask me what I did today, I’d probably begin my response with, “Nothing much.” Maybe nothing can actually be something, but it is something that is only significant to the person who does it.
My new favorite podcast is The Moth. It is a series of people telling a live audience stories that happened to them (incidentally, it’s a great soundtrack to walking, cleaning, or other “nothing” activities). Every podcast ends with the announcer wishing the listener “a story-worthy week.” That’s all well and good (though it reminds me a bit of the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times”), but don’t forget to leave a little room to enjoy the time between those stories doing nothing of consequence.
Obviously nothing is unsustainable. Eventually (sooner rather than later) I’ll have to get work, make long-term plans, yadda, yadda, yadda. But in the meantime, I view nothing like seafood. The world is running out of it, and it will some day become downright irresponsible to indulge in, but in the meantime when I do get a taste of it I’m going to savor it for all it’s worth. And you should do the same when you can. There’s nothing quite like it.
KINDA WANNA SEE
No, I don’t mean the cheap 1996 horror film starring Corbin Bernsen as a demented DDS who performs a lot of unnecessary drilling on his patients. Just watching the trailer is enough to keep you from scheduling your next cleaning for a while.
No, I’m kind of looking forward to being in the position that I can see a dentist annually, or at least as often as they say you should. I don’t have a toothache, I brush well, floss, and chew lots of Sugar Free Trident (which claims now to help fight cavities). But you never know what’s going on with those teeth, and I like to get the reassurance of a professional that my teeth aren’t going to start falling out the next time I eat corn on the cob.
Unfortunately, unless I get another job with excellent dental coverage, I won’t be going anytime soon.
I love that the Obama Healthcare Plan passed. On a weekend where the Penguins lost and Pitt was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, the Health Care Bill was the one thing I was cheering for that actually won. I think it’s an important step forward to making Healthcare in the United States more humane and effective. But it’s a very small step. To use a sexual metaphor we’re not even to second base. Hell, I’m not even sure we’ve kissed. So far Ms. Healthy Ideal has just allowed us to buy her a drink (that spending metaphor is for all you fiscally-minded Republicans out there). We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get to see her naked.
Still, I can dream what it would be like to go to a doctor for regular checkups, or go to the dentist without spending all of my rent and grocery funds. Until then, this under-employed, uninsured fellow is going to save his money and make sure to brush and floss very thoroughly.
WOULDN’T GO IF YOU PAID ME
There’s very little I wouldn’t do for money these days, within the bounds of the law and good taste (so we’ll have keep those photographs classy and “artistic”).
But I certainly wouldn’t pay to see Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND again. I can’t remember much about the movie, and I only saw it a few days ago. Luckily for me, I had a free pass to get into the IMAX screening, so I didn’t actually diminish my limited bank account on this stinker.
I’ve always held that it’s far better to be terrible than to be mediocre. Terrible implies that you tried something and failed horribly, and usually horrible failure is at least interesting in some sense. M. Night Shayamalan’s THE HAPPENING was an awful movie, but giggling through it with a group of friends was one of my most fun theatrical experiences of the last few years.
Burton’s ALICE, like most of his films of the past decade, was a visually well-crafted bore. His recent films feel like they are someone else (maybe Brett Ratner) trying to imitate the brilliant filmmaker who made EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ED WOOD. The new films’ stories are slapped together haphazardly, the characters are one-dimensional, and the computer-augmented visuals are proficiently done but lack the twisted artistry of his early work (NOTE: I exclude SWEENEY TODD from this number, but only because it had the benefit of Sondheim’s brilliant music and words to guide it).
I wouldn’t care so much about this, but Tim Burton movies were once very important to me. In high school, he was one of my favorite filmmakers. BATMAN RETURNS got me into comic books. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS helped push me to like musicals, and appreciate motion picture scores (it was the first soundtrack I bought). ED WOOD basically convinced me to be a filmmaker (whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen). I had forgotten all of this until I walked into the Tim Burton retrospective exhibit at MoMA in New York last December. Made up of his early childhood sketches and designs he did for his films, this exhibit reminded me of everything there is to love about Burton. It also made me excited to see ALICE. More is the pity.
ALICE is completely unnecessary. It feels like it was thrown together quickly, and without much care. It doesn’t have much fidelity to the source material (indeed, if you love Caroll’s books you’ll probably dislike the new Warrior Alice and the Mad Hatter as a conscientious revolutionary with a past). The movie feels like a child’s art assignment, one that he was forced to complete adhering to strict predetermined rules (use only these colors, draw a famous literary character, etc) when the child’s real brilliance is in the doodles he makes in the margins of his notebook. I wish Burton would stop taking all of these assignments and get back to doodling.
Unfortunately the ridiculous box office returns for ALICE (over $273 million domestic and counting) almost guarantee more of the same from Mr. Burton. He is attached to a new ADDAMS FAMILY movie, which seems like it should be perfect for him. Alas, so did SLEEPY HOLLOW, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, THE CORPSE BRIDE, BIG FISH, and (yarg) PLANET OF THE APES. Am I missing any? They’re so hard to remember.
Come back to us Tim. We miss you.
(By the way, you can still catch the Tim Burton Exhibit at MoMA until April 26. Here’s the website. It’s sooo much better than seeing ALICE IN WONDERLAND.)