Sunday, January 25, 2015

Philip Seynour Hoffman Craps Scene from Hard Eight

Los Angeles, CA

Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away almost a year ago. Here's a clip from P.T. Anderson's first feature film Hard Eight, in which PSH plays a minor role... but it is a doozy. It's probably the second film I saw PSH in (the first was Scent of a Woman), but I actually remember the first time I ever saw PSH act... in a random Law and Order episode. It was hard not to recognize his mad acting skills, even for a few scenes on a network TV show. As the saying goes, there are no small roles... or something like that

Anyway, here's the infamous craps scene in Hard Eight...



Saturday, January 24, 2015

Writing Music: Whiplash Soundtrack

Los Angeles, CA

Whiplash made my 2014 Top 5 films list. JK Simmons is the heavy favorite to win an Oscar for his portrayal as a jazz conductor who carries himself more like a Vietnam-era drill sergeant.

Here's the soundtrack, which has been in heavy rotation this week in the background while I work...


If you have not seen Whiplash yet... then get on it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Xanax Zombie Apocalypse

Los Angeles, CA


There's a Colorado band that my friends adore, but I was never into them as much as everyone else even though I probably saw them 50 or so times over the last 15 years. If anything, I'm more entertained by the social media melodrama that surrounds the band. There's always some sort of polarizing commotion... caused by the band members, or the fans, or involving the band and fans, or involving the band with other band members. Typically a friend passes along the cheesy drama du jour... either a shitshow in a forum thread or a Facebook post that went off the rails. Overzealous fans are always fun to poke fun at... but sometimes there are legit concerns with fans arguing over the future direction of the band, or calling out some of the absurd things that the lead singer complained about during an on-stage diatribe.

One of the drummers once posted a rant about how Xanax turns everyone into zombies. I thought it was silly that he was complaining about something that was low on the totem pole of substances that both band members and fans alike abuse.

Then I got turned into a zombie... and it wasn't funny any more.

I've had one of the worst batches of insomnia I've ever experienced. It's brutal and I refuse to take Ambien after the Australia incident from 2007. I was suffering from jet lag and a rough batch of insomnia so my colleague Schecky gave me an Ambien. I finally fell asleep, but somewhere in the middle of my deep slumber... I fell victim to one of the many side effects... sleepwalking. I got out of bed, and urinated on the entire bathroom floor and crawled back into bed. I was covering a poker tournament in Australia and staying in a swanky hotel in Melbourne with Italian marble floors and a walk-in closet that is the side of my brother's studio apartment in NYC. But the key to this story is the Italian marble... which meant that a cool layer of urine covered the entire bathroom. So when my girlfriend woke up in the morning to use the facilities, she stepped into a cold puddle. Initially she thought there was a leak or something... then she realized the horrifying truth. The leak was caused by my zombie penis.

Ambien bad beat stories. I whipped out my snake and unleashed a small lake of urine all over the marble floor. I have no idea what I was aiming for. I could've been aiming for a wall, or the sink, or the bath tub, or even the toilet. Despite the horrifying incident, I somehow I managed to avoid urinating on myself. But to this day, Nicky will never let me forget about the time she was standing in my piss. Hence... my allergy to Ambien... and why I've never touched the sleep aid since.

I heard stories about college friends getting so shitfaced drunk that they urinated in the most random places in my fraternity house. One guy woke up and took a leak in his laundry pile. Another guy was so drunk and groggy that he wandered down the hallway and barged into a room that he thought was the bathroom and he proceeded to piss on someone's desk. Another friend once stumbled out of a room to piss in a trash can. Booze and sleep deprivation never mesh well.

Ambien is too heavy, but Xanax (a benzodiazepine named "Alprazolam" but Xanax sounds hipper) is much lighter and supposed to flush out of your system in a few hours, which is why it is the perfect anti-anxiety drug on the go. You can pop a Xanax without getting too wasted and it feels more akin to the warm soothing effects of a couple of tequila shots, or smoking a joint. You're relaxed and your mind is not racing a thousand miles per hour.

Xanax is larger doses helps me sleep, but it's something I can only do once in a blue moon (like once every few months) because I don't want to become reliant on pharmies to sleep. I have enough problems as is... I don't need another addiction.

Xanax also amazing "landing gear" if you're partying hard and need something that will assist in a softer landing. But I don't understand how anyone would want to abuse Xanax as a recreational drug. I guess they're trying to hit that sweet spot. I mean, that's what we're all trying to do in life... hit the sweet spot so you have the proper balance of  being in the moment with the "I don't give a fuck" attitude. But the sweet spot is short-lived for Xanax and once it passes, then you're luggage. Or as the drummer said... you become zombiefied.

Xanax is dangerous if it is abused. It started out as an innocuous anti-anxiety prescription drug that so-called pill pushers (aka doctors) don't think twice about prescribing. Twenty years ago, you could only get Xanax from a shrink. Yes, a legit psychiatrist. There was a time when shrinks sat down and talked you through your problems, but these days, they're all shills for Big Pharma and throw a bottle of pills at you and expect you to do your own head-shrinking on your own time.

Therein lies our systemic problem with our over-prescribed, pill-popping public... we think a magical pill will cure everything. It's a three-step process... 1) medication helps get you into a much better headspace, but then you have to 2) identity the root cause of your malaise or why you behave badly and make poor decisions, and then most importantly 3) you must follow through and correct the source of the problem.

Alas, once you get the pill, you forget about steps 2 and 3. It's very similar to AA or NA or GA. The whole point of those 12-step programs is to get you to stop the self-destructive behavior and get a clearer head so you can identity the cause of your problem and then take the necessary steps to fix that issue. Sometimes it's easier to blame booze or drugs as the main culprit instead of taking accountability for your own actions. Just because you stopped drinking doesn't mean you're still not a narcissistic asshole. You used to be a drunk asshole, but now you're just a sober asshole.

You gotta go deep. You gotta taste the pain. You have to confront your own naked mind. Otherwise, you'll never get out of the rut, the misery, the abyss.

Most of us seek happiness, but want a shortcut. They don't want to go deep, which is why we passive-aggressively avoid that internal conflict. It's easier to forget about your problems than actually work on them. Besides, everyone is so caught up in the rat race, where do they have the time to work out unresolved childhood issues, or mild personality disorders, or wrestle your own ego to regain control of your own life? People have to work... have lives to lead... have relationships to maintain... have families to support and raise. It's easier to just get the pill for a quick fix so they can continue on with their lives.

Fast food pharmacology. Welcome to 21st century America.

Yet there's something more nefarious at work... what if we all dig deep and realize that our most paralyzing problems are not really ourselves, yet our reaction to the fact that we're living in a rigged system that is flawed and broken because it was designed to be broken? The truth... the ultimate truth... not the propaganda you hear on alphabet news networks... but the stone-cold truth needs to be obscured, otherwise the powers that be cannot operate with impunity behind the scenes. The CEO puppet masters want everyone as miserable as possible because if everyone is too fucking depressed and caught up in their own misery then they'll never see the truths of this world. But in the meantime, their friends in Big Pharma can profit off of this fast-food method to treating serious psychological issues.

Better to have a zombie apocalypse of Xannied-up, debt-ridden, superficial consumers than angry, sober citizens revolting against the corrupt tyrants, who can barely hold onto a crumbling power structure without a militarized police force to keep the awake troublemakers in line.

Sure, there is a segment of the population with a legit chemical imbalance and many of these drugs work wonders for them. We all take it for granted that we can get out of bed without any serious debilitating mental issues, or walk into a room of strangers without freaking out. Some of these advances in the pharmaceutical industry were designed to help seriously fucked up cases. It all starts out altruistic and positive... until twenty years later, you can get Xanax from a dentist or your local doctor without seeing a shrink.

I'm not a Xanax guy. I limited it to a few times of year to combat insane insomnia. My only other intake? Long plane trips with crying babies. I made hundreds of jokes about Xanax being crying baby repellent, because if I pop a Xanax and open a book, I pretty much can tune out the shrill screams of a baby for the duration of a flight.

For a while, I always carried at least one Xanax on me  for the random chance I get dosed (in a bad way) and it's sort of my antidote to LSD. I grew up at the height of the 1980s anti-drug JUST SAY NO propaganda, so I was used to hear these urban legends about kids getting dosed at parties or whatnot. I wasn't freaked out or anything. Nope. I was jealous and a little bitter, because I wish I hung out in circles where I could get randomly dosed. It would made those boring days go a lot faster. I'm half kidding of course, but maybe I'm not.

One of the main benefits of widespread experimentation with natural, organic, and synthetic materials is that I know the limitations of my own mind and body. If someone slips something into my drink, or I eat something that was laced... I could identity that something is off before things get too weird. I remember the summer before 9/11 I was at a bar in NYC with a lady friend (Israeli born and she actually served in the army) and someone slipped something into her drink. She said it tasted a little off and I took a few sips but didn't notice anything. She requested another drink and asked for a fresh cocktail, but whatever was in the original drink started to come on fast. Swirling. Blurry vision. Wobbly knees. We only took a couple of sips (probably 90% of the drink was leftover) but we both excused ourselves to the bathroom before shit got too crazy. Our friends used to joke that she was a Mossad agent, but whatever military training she had kicked in and she made a beeline to the toilet to vomit everything. I also forced myself to puke with a finger down my throat. Yeah, I blew chunks yet never made it to a stall and yakked up in the urinal. After hurling for a couple of sweaty minutes, I was pretty groggy, foggy, and hazy until I splashed water on my face and stumbled into the corridor. The ladies room was right next door and I knocked. My lady friend had puked up a bunch of stuff, but semi-passed out in the bathroom stall. Luckily an off-duty nurse was waiting for the bathroom at the same time and she snapped into action when I blurted out, "Spiked! Drinks! Someone roofied us!" She was a Good Samaritan, hailed us a cab (and even got in the cab too), and we whizzed to the closest ER (about 12 blocks away). I nearly forgot about that shady incident until Hannibal Buress made that Bill Cosby joke heard around the world about spiking drinks and taking advantage of comatose women. We got lucky. Very lucky.

So what's up with being a zombie?

I got sick of several sleepless nights in a row, so I took a Xanax the other night but it didn't really work, so a couple of nights later I took a double dose. That's when I was invaded by the zombie brain snatchers. Instead of pissing on the floor, I created a flood. This time it was water and not a flash flood of urine. Brita water to be exact. Filtered flood. In the middle of my zombie conversion, I was sleepwalking but somehow I decided that I wanted a glass of water, so I sleepwalked out of my bedroom, through the living and eventually into the kitchen. I opened the fridge and pulled out the Brita pitcher, but somehow it was on a different shelf because we had a Blue Apron food delivery that day and the fridge was stocked with fresh ingredients, so the odd positioning of the pitcher contributed to me dropping said pitcher on my foot. That's when I woke up. Sort of. I was no longer in zombie sleepwalking mode, but instead I was in full-blown London fog, hazy, wobbly mode while standing in a pool of water. How could I flood the entire kitchen with a Brita pitcher? It was a standard 10-cup pitcher that was half-full... or half-empty? Somehow, I managed to royally fuck that up. My slow-thinking brain somehow came up with the genius idea to use one of the dirty bath towels to clean up the kitchen mess. Despite the dream-like state, I somehow managed to get everything dry but my entire pajama pants were soaked through.

Nicky woke up to go to work a few hours later and she found the kitchen floor dry, but a sopping wet towel was hanging in the bathroom. When I woke up, I had a bruised foot and tried to tell her what happened in my zombie-Xanax haze.

At least I didn't piss all over the kitchen floor. At least... I don't think I did.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Andrew McCarthy's Burned Feet

Los Angeles, CA


Insomnia is a bitch.

Cranky. Anger. Desperation. Fury.

And that's on a good night.

3am. Nothing is worse than having insomnia in a place where you have to be quiet. I'd love to watch  Nicky had to get up early to go to work, but my neighbors have a newborn baby. There's only so much mobility you can have with headphones and a laptop. I'm in a shitty situation... I can't make too much noise or the baby wakes up, or on the flip side the baby cries on an unpredictable time schedule. That little shithead woke me up last night and I was never able to get back to sleep. 

4am. Miserable mood. Stewing in the dark with the only illumination the flickering glow of the boob tube. On bad stretches for a week or more when I can't sleep more than an hour, I sink into a foggy depression until I finally get a decent night of sleep. On the average night of sleeplessness, I'll toke a few hits off doobie to help put me back to sleep, but my upstairs neighbor has been complaining incessantly at the odor, even though I have a legal medical prescription. I'm in a no-win situation, so I have to sneak around the alley at 4am to blaze up and hope I don't get shanked by a homeless person.

5am. I'm awake, yet exhausted, which is the worst possible state to be in because you're drowning in your own crankiness. So what do I end up doing? Watching a flick, a bad 1995 flick titled Night of the Running Man. Pretty much right out of the Skin-a-max repertoire. It seemed like a bad knock off of a Tarrantino-inspired script with Andrew McCarthy as a Vegas cabbie and Scott Glenn as a mafia hitman. Oh and how can I forget... a former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader as the main female lead.  

Night of the Running Man was original a pulpy novel that ended up on the big screen... sort of... it went right to video. I'm sure the novel was 1000% better, but it was compelling enough to get optioned by a studio, but along the way too many hands got into the creative cookie jar and the proper funding got pulled, which is why Andrew McCarthy ended up as the main star in the low budget film that went right to video.

The premise involves $1 million in stolen casino money that ends up in a Vegas cabbie's possession. A multi-state chase ensues because the cabbie is crafty and manages to evade mafia hitmen on multiple instances. At one point the cabbie is captured at LAX and tortured by a local freelance hitman, who shoves the cabbie's feet inserted into a tub of scalding water. The third degree burns will surely slow down the cabbie right? But like a bumbling Bond villain, the bad guy unties the cabbie and lets him wither in pain on a couch (unbound), while the torturer falls asleep. Guess who gets away? Cabbie ends up in a hospital and bribes a hot nurse to help treat him at a hotel room. Hot sex ensues. Oh, and the cabbie eventually kills the mafia hitman and escapes to a tropical climate with the hot nurse.

Fade to black.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Night James Brown Saved Boston

Los Angeles, CA

On the day after MLK was killed, James Brown played a concert in Boston. Neighborhoods were still burning from riots and looting from the previous night, but the concert was aired on television in hopes that James Brown could help broker some peace. For one night, he did.

Here's the actual concert...


And here's a documentary about that night...