Shameless self indulgence, Uncategorized, Work, Writing

Beating the Heat

The sun scorched down today as your humble Monkey once again resumed pulling boxes out of his apartment and trying to get the move done. The sweat pooled down the front of his monkey chest, and covered his monkey brow.

“Hey,” the girl from the donut shop yelled up at him. “Where’s the puppy dog?”

Your Monkey could only smile and shrug.

“Too hot for her in the car today?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

Wow. What a deft conversationalist your Monkey is. Words tremble beneath his powerful tongue.

A three-day holiday weekend is a good time to move from the perspective that there is not the usual amount of work-a-day traffic, but all that time off isn’t neccessarily a good thing.

Your erstwhile Monkey is climbing the walls at home already. The dogs are looking at him and expecting something, but what to do with dogs when it’s hot enough to beat the band out there? Dragging them through the streets doesn’t seem fair.

Sweating and working on the world’s longest and most pointless freelance copyediting project seems to be the order of the day.

While others will spend their fourth lazing by the pool, your Monkey will be locked in a darked room, wrestling with CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS who would make a mockery of English with their tripled adjectives “he saw a massive, huge and very big rock” and their wanton disregard for the past, present and future tenses.

Sigh.

Music, Shameless self indulgence

And so the solo year begins

Your Monkey is now officially on his own my friends. A small studio apartment in an unfamiliar town is where he now calls home. There is no one to talk to but himself, no one to clean up after but himself, and no one to blame for all of life’s ills but himself.

So far the bedroom portion of the apartment is looking like home, while the kitchen side still leaves a lot to be desired. There is a table (purchased on craigslist for $30) to assemble, dishes to put away, and plastic tubs filled with clothes that need to find a temporary home.

The apartment was empty and clean when your Monkey moved in, but several small nagging issues remain.

  • All three outlets on the outer wall of the building don’t have any juice in them
  • The outlet in the bathroom doesn’t have any juice, either
  • Someone is parking in your monkey’s assigned parking spot
  • Someone else (or is it the same nefarious individual) has filled up your Monkey’s basement storage space with their stuff
  • No mail is being delivered here yet!
  • Shower pressure and nozzle leave a lot to be desired

Stay tuned for more updates and complaints.

In the meantime, here is a song to tide you over. Even your grumpy monkey finds it hard to stay cranky when listening to the glorious soaring sounds of mumford & sons.

Shameless self indulgence, Uncategorized, Work, Writing

The Grumpiest Monkey 150th Post Anniversary Interview Spectacular Extravaganza

In which your Monkey once again shamelessly uses the concept of the self-interview, so effectively used by Dave Eggers in his book, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” so ineffectively used here.

Q. So, Monkey. You are 150 blog posts into this experiment. And it’s almost a year since you started.

A. Why, yes. That’s right. Thank you so much for noticing. Of course, my actual 1-year anniversary is later this month, so you can expect me to dig up this dead horse of the fake self-interview for that event as well.

Q. Surely by this point in your illustrious blogging career you don’t have to resort to self-interviews anymore..

A. One would think that journalists would be beating down the door to find out what makes this clockwork Monkey tick. Sure, there are lots of blogs and a boatload of bloggers out there. But how many are written by typewriting Monkeys? Just this blog and the Huffington Post, I think.

Q. OK, Monkey. Enough about you already. Let’s talk pop culture. What is your view on the Jersey Shore?

A. I think the people on the show are assholes, and the people who watch it are assholes. But the biggest assholes of all might be the faux hipsters who watch it and smugly feel superior for doing so. Everyone just go screw with that show and white tank tees and fake tans and Jersey Shore parties and the whole gay phenomenon.

Q. What about American Idol?

A. I’m so tired of seeing the same tired act played out over and over again. How many voice-breaking, note-mangling covers of Stevie Wonder songs can one nation take before anarchy breaks out? Not too many more, I would think.

Q. What else is bugging you lately?

A. I’m tied of people who seem to think that their status updates on Facebook are a suitable place to re-report the news. I don’t need you to tell me that Patriots wide reciever Wes Welker was injured or that the health care bill is in jeopardy. I’ll go to a news website for that. Stop glomming onto current events that have nothing to do with you in a sad attempt to make it seem like you lead a full life.

At least this Monkey is wiling to admit he lives an empty life.

Also, anyone who attempts to use the earthquake in Haiti to scam money or promote themselves should themselves experience an immediate and unpleasant demise.

Q. Well, this interview has certainly taken a turn for the grumpy. Maybe we should end things with a song to lighten the mood.

A. What a capital idea. Here is a snappy little song from a band called “The Love Language.”

Movies

La Jetee: The Grumpiest Monkey Watches the Inspiration for 12 Monkeys

La Jetee
Directed by Chris Marker
1962
Starring Davos Hanich and Hélène Chatelain

“La Jeteé” is a 1962 black and white short film that is best known for being the inspiration for the 1995 Terry Gilliam film “12 Monkeys.”

“12 Monkeys,” for those of you not familiar with the film, is the story of a man from a bleak post-apocalyptic future (Bruce Willis) who is sent back in time to stop the release of a devastating virus that wiped out most of mankind in the 1990s and sent the rest scurrying underground.

While traveling through the past, Willis’ character meets a sympathetic psychiatric (Madeline Stowe) and an eccentric animal rights activist (Brad Pitt), both of whom may play a pivotal role in creating the future world that Willis inhabits.

“La Jeteé” is also the story of a man from a post-apocalyptic future who travels through time, meets a woman in the past, and tries to find answers. This 28 minute black and white film tells the story almost entirely through still images, with a voice-over narration providing the plot points.

Your Monkey has always been a big fan of “12 Monkeys.” It manages to be both a rousing sci-fi thriller and an interesting thought piece on time travel, fate, and inevitability.

So the big questions your Monkey Movie Fan had in sitting down with “La Jeteé” were:

  1. How and why did this 1962 film inspire Terry Gilliam to make 12 Monkeys more than 30 years later?
  2. What elements from the original made it into the remake? What was changed?
  3. Which is the better film?

So how does “La Jeteé” compare to “12 Monkeys”?

Well, the framework for Gilliam’s film is all there in Marker’s earlier work. In fact, “La Jeteé” almost seems like a storyboard draft for “12 Monkeys.”

We have all the same major plot points. And instead of seeing them play out in live action, we see them as a series of photographs.

Marker’s work is more spare from a storytelling standpoint as well He doesn’t tell us much about the man, or the woman, or the worlds in which they live. He doesn’t delve into the emotions of his characters, but lets us fill in the blanks.

The use of black and white still photography for the vast majority of the film creates an interesting effect. Much like a time traveler, we feel like we are just getting brief glimpses of another world, rather than actually living in it.

But in this Monkey’s humble opinion, Gilliam’s movie is much more well rounded. We have more characters, a more detailed plot, and overall a more satisfying viewing experience. He took the shell that Marker created with “La Jeteé” and filled it in with a much more emotionally resonant film.

So is “La Jeteé” worth seeing?

It is if you are a fan of “12 Monkeys.” It’s interesting to see what another artist does with the same basic story framework. At a paltry 28 minutes, it’s not too big of a time investment.

And it is available on DVD from Netflix in a Criterion Collection edition that includes a second film. So you get two shows for the price of one!*

Here is the trailer from “La Jeteé”:

* Unfortunately, that second film is an interminably long travelogue about a photographer’s journeys in Africa and Japan. You may want to avoid it like the apocalyptic plague in “12 Monkeys.”

Uncategorized

The Man at Work Who I Hate

There’s a guy at work that I hate.

He sits right next to me and talks my ear off from the moment I get in until the moment I leave. He crowds my personal space, interrupts my work,  and compromises my productivity.

I try everything I can to get him to stop his relentless yammering. But on he goes. “This job is pointless.” “This place stinks.” “What are we doing here anyway?” “Why do we bother to get up in the morning?” “I’ll never amount to anything.”

I try everything I can think of to block him out. I glare. I shake my head. I roll my eyes. I turn my back. I put on headphones and try to drown him out. But still he keeps talking.

It’s like this every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. This guy never calls in sick, he never takes a vacation, and he never has a day when he just doesn’t feel like talking.

How am I supposed to work in an environment like that?

I know, I know. I should pay a visit to human resources, or talk to my supervisor, or ask to switch seats.

We all have work to do, and it’s not fair that I should have to put up with a constant stream of abuse all day.

I mean, this is the 21st century.

We have codes of conduct and standards and ethics that we have to uphold.

We cannot verbally harass our co-workers.

There is no gray area here.

I am in the right.

There’s just one little problem, however.

That guy is me.

Uncategorized

The TLC Freak Show Continues with “My Monkey Baby”

As a member of the primate community, your Monkey is saddened but not surprised to see that TLC has once again sunk to a new low in reality programing.

Gone are the glorious high brow days of “Toddlers and Tiaras”, “I Have an Embarrassing Medical Condition” and “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.”

Now we have “My Monkey Baby,” a show in which people treat their monkey pets like babies. They dress them up, they paint their nails, they put on makeup, and they spoil them like children.

Since most Monkeys can’t speak for themselves, let your humble Monkey narrator weigh in on behalf of my fellow primates.

We like climbing trees and swinging from vines and munching on bananas and hanging around with our monkey friends in the jungle.

We don’t like wearing dresses and riding in strollers and accompanying you on errands and generally being the only interesting thing in your otherwise boring and miserable lives.

If the only way you can stand out in life is by taking a creature that’s not supposed to be a pet or a child and forcing him/her into that role, than maybe you should take a deeper look inside yourself.

Leave us monkeys alone*

* P.S. TLC: Maybe if someone at your network had a soul you guys could do a documentary series on the capuchin monkeys that are trained here in Boston to help out paraplegics with the tasks they can’t do in everyday life. That program has tremendous value and the bonds formed by those relationships are truly moving. Visit them at MonkeyHelpers.org.

But we all know that you just like to put pathetic people in front of a camera so the rest of us can point and laugh and gawk at them. We all know we’re going to get this sad and exploitative crap

P.P.S. ABC News: Good job covering this as a legitimate story. Peter Jennings would be proud.

Movies

What is the Big Deal about the Big Lebowski?

For years now, your Monkey has been puzzled by how popular the movie the Big Lebowski has been among film geeks and hipsters.

Having seen the movie only once (shortly after it was released in 1998), your Monkey found all this Lebowski worship to be pretty confusing.

He did not remember it as being particularly good or entertaining. In fact, the film felt like a letdown after the Cohen Brothers’ excellent film Fargo.

Your Monkey was ready to dismiss the Big Lebowski as nothing more than a sub-par Cohen Brothers effort, but it just kept creeping back into his life.

It was mentioned time and time again on the Filmspotting podcast.

It kept showing up on top 10 favorite movie lists on the internet.

And then the House of Blues in Boston announced that it would be hosting a Lebowski Fest in September. Here’s a link to that event for all you fans.

Curiosity finally got the best of your Grumpy Monkey, and he had to take another look at the film. What kind of movie could spawn an event that would draw enough people (presumably) to fill one of Boston’s larger music venues?

So your Monkey added the Big Lebowksi to his Netflix queue, and rewatched the film with an eye toward figuring out what the fuss was all about. Perhaps now that he was older and wiser and geekier, he might see what he missed the first time around.

Here’s the trailer for any of you who might not have seen it yet.

The verdict?

Still mixed. Okay, the movie does have its strong points. Jeff Bridges’ character of the Dude does have a certain charm that might have been lost on your Monkey the first time around. His cool stoner demeanor and willing to roll with whatever punches life dishes out (and there are a lot) make him fun to watch.

John Goodman is also appealing (if not maddeningly frustrating) as the amped-up Vietnam Vet Walter Sobchak. Goodman is the unstable and emotional counterpoint to the Dude’s cool and detached demeanor, and you can’t deny the way that his energy crackles on the screen, even if you don’t particularly like his character.

Goodman here is playing a character similar to the one he plays in Barton Fink. This Monkey would argue that his performance in that earlier Cohen Brothers’ film is better because it starts off small and builds to a boil. Here we pretty much have only one speed — full raging lunatic.

The story itself also offers a nice twist on the traditional “kidnapping goes bad” story. There is a point early on in the film where it threatens to become a formulaic cautionary tale about greed. How many movies have we seen where the characters try to grab the money and run, only to have everything go horribly wrong?

But the Cohen Brothers are smart enough to play with this formula and take it into a different direction before it becomes tired and predictable.

On the negative side, there are some parts of the plot that are confusing and overcomplicated. The movie gets a little too silly at some points.

And while it is entertaining to watch, it’s not exactly a must-see. Your monkey watched it in bits and pieces over the course of a week. It never once grabbed his attention and refused to let go.

Overall, though, the movie had enough going for it.

It’s fun. It has good lines. It has a good vibe.

Is it something that is worthy of such a rabid cult following ?

Maybe not.

But people could do worse.

So enjoy, Lebowski fans. Your Monkey won’t be joining in at Lebowski Fest this year.

But he doesn’t mind if you go and have a good time.