If I had a hammer...
I've spent the last week correcting midterm exams. The next time someone says to you, "But NYU is a good school" you might delicately remind them that I get to correct sentences like:

"Sometimes childrens speak better when ask."*

When I asked the student what she meant to write, she said, "I meant that children express themselves better through Art than words."

Maybe I should have accepted exam submissions in the form of interpretive dance.

I'm not even going to bother to go through the other highlights, but it certainly came as no surprise to me that this Esquire article welcoming me to Idiot America contained the following quotation:
"We've been attacked," he says, "by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."

Oh, you'll know when you've been attacked, and you won't have enough of a jaw left to make comments to Esquire reporters.

* This sentence is not the actual sentence, but to protect the student I have altered it slightly while keeping the basic skill level intact.

He was weaving his way down the street when I came up behind him and grabbed his arm. "Hey there, Dean. How are you?" I can see from his face that its a bad day. He offers me a drink if I come in and sit with him, I accept the chair and take a coke.

He doesn't have the energy to flirt. He asks the obligatory questions about where I have been, how are things. I could tell him I was abducted by aliens and forced into intergalatic concubinery. He's not listening, just slowly shaking his head and staring off slightly above his Johnny Walker Red Label. "But how are you Dean? Having a bad day?"

He meets my eyes. "Ever lost someone you loved?" He knows my story, but he's so far gone, he can't remember. I've been that far down in sadness. When you can't even recognize your friends anymore, when you can't even recognize your living room.


He means dead. He's talking about his wife who died suddenly in May. In a way I envy him because death at the very least isn't personal. If you aren't getting phone calls or emails, it's not a choice, it's not just you, if the person is dead. Rejection is just a very personal death. Your loved one still goes about the day as if still alive, but sees through you, walks by you leaving only a chill instead of aknowledgement. An individual haunting.

"I've never been through anything like this before."

Almost seventy years old, and this is the first time he has experienced this kind of loss. No wonder I seek out the company of old men. They understand where I live, but how can someone go for so long without knowing this feeling? I thought it was universal. Apparently not. Apparently I get to be special. Again. A prodigy in loss.

He's beginning to cry. "I never felt like this when I lost my parents." I never cried at my father's funeral, I cried over Eric. Eric never cried over me, he cried over failing calculus. The things that break us: Love and Calculus.

"It's different. You expect to lose your parents."

"You're right." He turns to me. "You're a great person, you know that. A real sweetheart."

"Yeah, I'm a peach." I'm echoing someone else's words.

He takes my hand. Tears streaming down his face now. "I'm so sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about," I tell him. The bar is empty aside from the two bartenders. No shame in front of other men. I still occassionally break down in tears over Eric. Not like I used to. Months can go in between now, but in the beginning it was the fight for minutes. He's only six months in. I'm impressed he keeps his composure as much as he does.

I sit there holding his hand. There's nothing I can tell him. That it gets better? That it gets easier? That he'll find someone else? I'm drowning myself, but still I sit here and wonder how to save him.

"Every think you'll get married?"

I flinch, but don't pull my hand back. He doesn't remember. Too far in to be aware of anything but his own pain. He put his hand over his chest. That pain. I know it. The one that shouldn't be real, but is. That tightness over the chest. The weight. The feeling that someone has literally punched through your body leaving a hole in which you can feel the autumnal wind.


"Too bad. You would make a great wife."

I make an excuse. I have to get dinner. Haven't eaten all day. Have to get rest. He seems better now. Tries to cop a feel as we hug. "You're alright, kid" he says as I leave.

He doesn't know how wrong he is. I let it stay that way.

Let the Bodies Hit the Floor: Neighborhood Watch
Anyone who has had to deal with a less then sane neighbor will appreciate the premise of this film: a religiously fixated man decides to torture his new next door neighbors, a young married couple. Writer-Director Graeme Whifler, who also penned Dr. Giggles and has the best IMDB photo, was apparently influenced by the accounts of serial poisoner Michael Swango and the tale of a man who castrated himself on one occasion and tried to remove a "gland" attached to his kidney on another (unable to find this news story although I remember hearing it on the radio) .

This movie was a hard sell for me. The first half hour, particularly the initial sex scenes, really annoyed me. In general, I think the inclusion of unnecessary sex scenes, particularly at odd points in the film, destroys the story. A classic example would be in the film the Brain, in which two virgins are trapped in a school while a brainwashed horde of bloodthirsty townspeople attempt to break in. Rather than contemplate plans of escape or survival, the two teens, one of whom is an alledged genius, decide to have sex. Clearly, brilliance at work.

Here, however, the sex is justified later as a necessary element of the plot as it is what will drive main character, who is obsessed with removing sexual impulses, to act.

This film is clearly more in the gross out/goretastic vein featuring scenes involving hideous reactions to poison oak, chocolates laced with horse laxatives, and tainted water. It also features one of the best "medicalized" pseudo-sex scenes since the Re-Animator drill sequence, so I wouldn't count on having a nice dinner out afterwards. If don't believe me, this article about audience re-action might convince you that this is not a film lightly undertaken. After viewing this film, one of the other directors confided in me that it was a bit too much even for him. Imagine how manly I felt when after the movie, I indulged in one of the chocolates offered to me by one of the producers. Even my companion, a demonic little filmmaker himself, was impressed with by courageous decadence.

My favorite part of the film, and certainly the best writing, was the demented radio minister who inspires the main character in his quest to eliminate his own sexual impulses. The harsh "I'd like to help you, but I can't until you admit that you are a pit of oozing sin filled impulses condemned to wallow in your own putrescence" type of advice is both humorous and horrifying. I deeply regret that I can't remember some the exact lines from the radio minister, and I'm disappointed that the movie's website doesn't have of those audio clips because I would love to have just the minister's voice on a continuous loop in my office so all of my students could hear "Well I'd like to help you but..." as they sit and wait for a conference with me.

Nick Searcy, who you might remember from the series American Gothic, portrays demented Adrien, a very bad neighbor indeed. He gives a fabulous performance in a difficult role as he has to convincingly alternate between out of control religious fanatic and capable saboteur. When he screams at the tortured young wife during her "operation", "Don't be such a cry baby, it doesn't hurt that much," it's funny but believable.

There are problems however. The young husband's new job, which seems so important in the beginning of the movie, with lots of ominious indicators like the the "Zecor Love Canal" and the invisible boss with large Egyptian statues outside of his office, completely vanishes near the end of the film. I can understand trying to play with audience expectation by setting up the job only to reveal it to be innocuous, but too much time is dedicated to developing characters there (the shlumpy work friend, the "man eating" female administrator) for it to vanish completely in the later half of the film. But overall, if you go into this film with a sense of humor and a strong stomach, it's definitely a good viewing.

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