Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Boiled Frogs, Brownies of Poo, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Spiderman 2

Somehow, a couple of stories from Sunday school actually stuck with me. One is the completely false example of the frog in boiling water. Supposedly a frog placed in boiling water will immediately jump out, but the frog placed in cool water will stay put even as the temperature rises to the killing degree. The point is that somebody does not become evil or morally corrupt all at once, but over time. It was a warning to be on guard. The story is false. The only way to make sure the damn amphibian stays is to hold the lid in place and listen to the pinging sounds as it jumps into the roof of its increasingly uncomfortable prison. Besides, who boils frogs? Frog legs yes, but entire frogs? The lesson should go: if you toss a frog into boiling water it will jump out, but if you chop off his legs he won’t ever jump again. Stick that in a fortune cookie and eat it.
            Then there was the poo brownies. This was employed to teach youngsters to be careful about their media intake. The teacher would go on for a bit about the most delicious brownies ever made. The more ambitious teacher might even have brought a pan of homemade brownies with them. Just as you swallowed the first bite the teacher would casually mention that a very small portion of excrement had been introduced into the batter prior to baking.
            “You may think it is ok to watch a really fantastic movie, even if it only has one or two small bad parts,” they would say, “but that is like saying that it is ok to eat poop, if it is part of a really fantastic pan of brownies.”
            You get the idea. A spoonful of crap can really ruin a batch of brownies (Go ahead and stick that in a fortune cookie as well). On the other hand, a single spoonful in a large enough batch might have little to no effect on taste. One also should consider the type of poop. Is it canine waste? Or perhaps civet crap, from which they make coffee for elitists? Or even bat guano, which rumor holds as an ingredient for some snack foods and salad garnishes?
            Last week I consumed allegorical crap in a really fantastic batch of hypothetical brownies (I really should work at a fortune cookie plant). I went and saw The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Add three cups of extremely talented actors, including Edward Norton, William Dafoe, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Jeff Goldblum, and Ralph Fiennes. Mix in a brilliant script by the director/cook, Wes Anderson. Then add a scoop of bat shit in the form of cuss words, sprinkle in a pinch of excreted 80+ year old nude ladies (or should I say pinch in a sprinkle?). 
Pull the confection out of the oven and you have a delicious, quirky and absolutely hilarious pan of brownies. The quality and humor is only complimented by the occasional crassness and even as you consume waste you know it just wouldn’t be the same without it.
Ralph Fiennes was the real surprise for me, but now I wonder who else could stand over the corpse of his 85 year old lover and say, “…You're looking so well darling, you really are. I don't know what sort of cream they put on you down at the morgue, but I want some…” with such a perfect, charming, strait faced delivery?
For me the Grand Budapest was Wes Anderson’s best to date. It had the quirky humor but was this time accompanied by a cohesive plot and the result was a 5 star gourmet brownie. Turn the temperature up, cut off my legs if you like, but I will definitely stay, like a good frog, to be boiled alive for this flick. Go see it if you can stomach some richly flavored, chocolate accompanied feces.
Spiderman 2 comes with little to no crap. I would not call it a gourmet brownie, more like an expertly  cooked box brownie. They were heavy handed with their theme, which is an attraction for me. I don’t want to be preached at, but I like a point to be made. Sneering elitist critics probably regurgitated their civet coffee in their mouths and swallowed the acidic mixture back down when they found out it was a movie with hope as its theme. “How very cliché,” they likely said, “how quaint. Hope is a thing for the common man. I read the New Yorker and believe in the hopelessness of the human condition.”
Personally I can not think of a better subject then hope for any movie. Us’n regular folk who work for a living and let our kids play on the McDonalds playground (insert gasp here) try to cling to hope.
 Did the movie follow a formula? Yes. I am ok with that. A celebrated cook might make brownies from scratch without the aid of measuring cups and spoons, but the rest of us (when not shaking the mixture from a box) follow a formula. Why? Because it works, and it works well.
The chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone was fantastic and believable and the movie was all about relationships. Setting aside Gwen and Peter, both of the bad guys were upset about relationships turned sour, or the complete lack of relationship, and that was in large part their motivation for trying to off Spidey. The movie was in turns sweet, captivating, and heartbreaking.
Were there a few plot holes and feats that defied believability? Uh, yeah. It is a super hero movie about a man who climbs walls and swings around New York on giant spider webs.
Of course it helps that I went to this one with my four year old son who threw a tantrum last Christmas because the Spiderman socks that he got in his stocking did not give him the ability to climb walls. He was impressed, to say the least, and so was I. It’ll have a place on my shelf when it comes out on DVD.
I guess what I’m really saying here is a little bit of crap can make brownies a delicacy as long as they don’t pile it in (I am looking at you, Game of Thrones creators), and I’m also saying that I can enjoy boxed brownies (will in fact choose them 9 out of 10 times).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Snow Painting

Story for the Snow Blogfest Hosted by Roh Morgan: Snow Painting

     Thick fuzz coated John’s teeth and his breath tasted like he ate a hot pocket and a tub of stale pretzels the night before. He glimpsed the kitchen’s TV as he staggered to the bathroom. Fanatics waved signs and shouted end of days predictions. December 21 and John wondered if they were let down when they woke up to a still spinning world this morning. He supposed they’d say the day was not spent yet.
He passed the studio door and stopped to look at last night’s work. A bright array of reds and oranges covered the canvas in a sweeping arc. He listened. He knew true art would speak for itself. Nothing. He tried to ignore the letdown. An artist did not give up.
John knew he could paint. He’d done it before—really done it. Before, he’d paid the bills painting copies, but one night something special happened. That night he woke up all at once, not gradually, but instantly and completely. His fingers itched and his mind hopped along, from image to image in an art gallery he hadn’t yet created. He climbed from bed, careful not to disturb Becca, though he wanted to share his excitement with her.
John put on headphones, turned up what Becca called his angry music. The colors seemed to mix themselves. His hands seemed to move of their own volition. He wondered if religious fanatics felt this way. The whole time he imagined Becca’s face when she saw it. It was a trance, a trip, and he finished in a daze. That painting had not spoken, but sung. It sung and he waited for Becca to wake up. Never before had he felt such a high. He lay back on his chair, covered in paint, and heard a crash from behind. Becca walked past him, staring at the painting, a shattered cup in pieces on the floor as coffee soaked into the carpet.
That painting sold at auction for a cool hundred grand. The paper’s art review, written by none other than Barty Winchester, had praised the piece:
Compelled by the pulsating beat of the beautiful, wondrous, and horrific relentlessly butting clandescent heads, the work creates compositions of breathing life-like accumulation.
A meager budget gave John a year and a half to try and do it again, but nothing sang. Though a few had whispered to him, had sold for a pittance to local hotels.
This new painting remained silent. He imagined Mr. Winchesters evaluation:
Nothing but so much dross, a wasted stretch of depressed canvas, yearning like the duck to be a swan but brutally dispatched before the flowering of maturity. They say great artists sell their souls, but this painter unfortunately sold his talent.
He closed the studio door and sighed.
If only he had more time. Between a rotating shift at the hospital and his family, time to paint was rare. Last night his wife, Becca, wanted to watch a movie. As if he had time for movies or reality TV.
“How much time do just you and I have, John?” she’d asked him, “Let’s do something—play a game or watch a movie, I don’t know.”
“I have to paint. I haven’t painted anything for a month. I can’t be a painter if I don’t paint.”
Not a new conversation. John knew he shouldn’t blame her. In truth John spent more time finding animal shapes in the studio’s ceiling texture than painting. He knew writers could get blocked, but hadn’t considered it could ever happen to him. He needed routine. Sometimes it seemed like Becca resisted whenever he wanted to spend more time is the studio.
“You go back on shift tomorrow and we hardly see each other. I thought we could have some you and me time.” She smiled at him, laid a hand on his arm.
“Why is it that you won’t let me work, Becca? You don’t think I can do it? You said you’d support my dreams.” Using such cliché words and it made him angry.
“You had two hours to paint earlier and you played Mario Kart instead. You’re always doing that. I told you to go paint.” She was right, damn.
She watched TV while he stewed at a blank canvas. Finally he forced himself to do something.
Not a very good something apparently.
John stumbled onward to the bathroom. Locked. Damn. He could hear the shower. Why did she have to lock the door? He went back to the bedroom, put on slippers and robe, went out back.
It hurt to breathe the bitter cold air. New snow blanketed the yard. The breeze made the light crystalline snow swirl around his calves. John pulled down his boxer shorts and a yellow arch steamed in the frigid air.
He sighed, shivered. The stream shivered too, painting the white snow with yellow dots.
Sirens whooped in the distance, someone screamed. John looked skyward and forgot all about the pee shivers. The chill grey world made a horrible, stark contrast to the fiery red streak in the sky. If a Balrog mated then that might be what his sperm looked like. Some part of John’s mind recognized the comet for what it was, but the rest remained dumbfounded.
Talking paintings suddenly seemed ridiculous. He’d imagined dying young, dreams unfulfilled but those thoughts did not reoccur. Only Becca. He pulled up his boxer shorts and looked down at his best, most important artwork. Barty Winchester’s voice narrated evaluation:
The canvas of fresh snow clashes wonderfully with streaks and splashing puddles of dank yellow simultaneously bringing to mind the florescent dinginess of a public restroom and the frailty of mankind. But what gives it that certain beat, that visual rhythm, are the scattered droplets caused by the pee shivers, acknowledging the savage garden that is life, the randomness of existence. And the perfect offset to natural beauty? The slipper print marring the biggest yellow splotch, saying, “I am man, behold my print,” even while the work’s admirer knows print and painting will eventually melt, causing the overall reaction and inward reflection: what is really important?
It spoke to John, it yelled at John, screamed her name. He ran into the house and one slipper left yellow-wet prints on the kitchen linoleum. He faced death but didn’t think of silent artwork. He remembered the first time he’d seen Becca in the library. He remembered her smile when he proposed. John found her dressing in the bedroom and kissed her.
“I kinda like you, lady,” he said, “and I’m sorry I blamed my silent paintings on you.”
She laughed, “I know you’re stressed, John. Don’t worry so much. I’ll always talk back to you,” and she punched his arm.
Later in the afternoon John and Becca watched an American warhead collide with the comet. 
“Silly Aztecs.” John said.
“The Mayan’s, hun.”
“Oh yeah.”
They turned to go back inside. Becca took his arm and kissed his cheek, “I can clean up. Maybe you should go paint,” she said.
“Maybe I should just hang out with you. I’ll paint when he goes down for bed.”
John led Becca inside.
After December 21, 2012 John thought of Becca, his paintings spoke, sang, and worshipped Becca, and although he never knew it, Barty Winchester repeatedly praised her in the art column.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Legal Will

Death is no respecter of age, therefore I write this will on this the first day of March, 2010, in the twenty fourth year of my life.

The first orders of business are, of course, the funeral arrangements. I trust that these details will be followed meticulously by loved ones left behind.

To start with I would like to address my post life wardrobe. It is my wish to enter the incinerator wearing a white smock with a hole sewed in the middle to properly display my Tom Selleck tattoo with its nipple to nipple long mustache.

Secondly I want a man of African descent, preferably one who spent his childhood in the broncs, to do my hair and touch up prior to both the viewing and the incineration. I request this not as an advocate of equality, but because I want my limbs arranged in a particular gang sign which will be revealed to him via a sealed envelope.

Thirdly are the floral arrangements, if they can be called “floral.” I would like dried mangos to be scattered all over my body like falling rose petals, and around my neck shall be placed a garland of green tinted, under ripe bananas. This arrangement will be carried out for both the viewing and the incineration. I would like this task to be performed by some local orphans.

Number four; as indicated above I would like to be incinerated, body, fruit, tattoo, smock, and all. The only exemption will be my thumbs and my tongue, for reasons that will be revealed shortly. The following instruction is to be kept strictly confidential: I would like my dear sweet wife, AnneMarie, to secret my ashes into the funeral parlor and use them to fill the salt and pepper shakers of said house of death. This will be done in order to ensure that all attendees leave with a bit of me to take home with them. And as an added bonus, by virtue of the fruit content of my ashes, all will be cured of the constipation caused by the chili and funeral potatoes that will be served.

I believe that concludes the funeral arrangements, which leaves the accounting and distribution of all I possess to be dealt with.

First and foremost I would like to leave my inability to grow a decent mustache to Shad Seitz, who is ahead in that department.

Second is my sense of accomplishment. This I would like to leave to my dear cousin, Shane Tye, who, to my knowledge, has accomplished nothing.

Third and fourth are my senses of humor and direction which go to Christopher Tye, that he may laugh when he can’t find his way.

Fifth item shall be my utter sense of serenity and calm while in traffic. This I leave to my Uncle Mark, who needs it badly.

Number six: I leave my ability to count to Matthew Glaittli.

Tenth item is my conscience. I would like to leave this encumbrance, this tie to reality to Rachel Inkley, so that she can have a bit more room to breathe…

To Jeffrey Maw I leave the seventh item; my thumbs. What greater gift than an extra thumb for each hand? If our single set of thumbs set us apart from the lower life forms, than surely this act will set Jeff above all living, earth bound creatures.

Eighteen: I leave my tongue to Elizabeth Glaittli, so that she can say something that is not a movie line.

Last, but certainly not least I leave my children to my loving, beautiful wife Anne, to love, support, and pay for, without my help. Good luck and sorry babe. This is my last will and testament. Remember, I live on in you. Literally.

Mitchell Inkley

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rejection by Post

The reason for naming this blog the way I did was two fold (discounting the not so clever pun). Firstly I wanted a place to post the letters I write when I feel uninspired. I write letters when I'm uninspired and stories when I am (thus conveniently providing an excuse when the letters are sub par). So I write these letters and I put them in the post when possible. Obviously there was nowhere to send Audrey Hepburn's letter. I sent the letter to the Pope to the Pope. On the envelope I wrote:
The pope
The Vatican
(In the midst of Rome)

And I covered the entire thing in stamps. He never wrote back. I sent the one to Gandolf and wrote The White Havens for the address. Anyway, that is the first reason for naming my blog thus.

Secondly, which is to say first and foremost (figure that one out!), this is the blog by and about a writer who wants to do what he loves professionally and one who apparently refers to himself in the third person. One bain of aspiring writers are rejection letters received by post. At first they were all form letters. Then about the time I had to trade a paper clip for one of those big black paper clamps to keep them all together I got my first personalized rejection. A meager helping of acceptance has given me hope but the rejections keep coming and I've had four or five personalized No's. These personalized rejections are actually better because they are from quality magazines whereas the acceptance has come from a more local source. Anyway, some of the rejections were amusing and so I will post them here.

The first personalized rejection was for the Pope Letter:

Well Sir,
I've seen the application--and it says you have to have produced
at least three provable miracles. (I don't think financially bailing out this
magazine counts, though I'll testify if you give it a try.)

Another one was for a story called "Porcelain Hope":

I'll give you credit for this: After seventeen years
as an editor, this is my first talking urinal story.
(If only Hal had been so helpful to Dave in "2001: A Space Odyssey".)

For the same tale:

While I appreciate the story's sentiment,
I just don't feel the whole bathroom/talking urinal
thing is right for my magazine.

Another for the same:

The talking urinal did pull a smile out of me.

The few others I've had were more technical and less amusing so I'll keep them to myself. My rejection letter stack has not grown at the same alarming rate it used to. Were it that it was due to some acceptance, but alas, tis due to my own laziness. So, a goal. You will see more of these this year, personalized and posted.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

CD's and Vinyl

My wife and I were both raised by construction working fathers. We were discussing nostalgic things the other day and I struggled to say what I wanted just the right way and then she said it for me. She said, "There is nothing like the taste of saw dust in soda." Sometimes I think she ought to be the writer. Nostalgia always hits accompanied by a feeling of loss, something that can not be reclamed. In this case childhood. You can work in the garage and drink saw dusty Dr. Pepper, but that doesn't bring back carefree days.

One thing that I miss are CD's. Yes, even with the convenience of my whole catilogue at my fingertips via iPod, I miss purchasing, unpackaging, and admiring a new CD.

My first CD (not counting Anamaniacs) was Hotel California. Owning the disc meant there were nine fewer songs I needed to request on 103.5, nine fewer songs to wait for with my index finger hoovering over the record button for my mix tape, and nine fewer songs that had some off-key DJ singing the last line. That fist CD was beautiful, they all were.

I remember browsing in Greywhale, waiting for the perfect album to jump out. I could always tell. It spoke to me. I held it again in the car, the plastic bag I'd carried it from the store in discarded on the passenger seat. There was something satisfying about picking off the plastic wrapping and struggling with those super adhesive stickers on either edge. The CD would stay unmolested in its case while I read the booklet front to back. Only then would I put it in the player.

When there were only CD's the order of the tracks and the mood presented by each one was important for a perfect record.

Then burned CD's became big, none of us realizing what we were losing. I remember being jarred when an odd song would play after a remembered favorite. It sucked to have Misery off the Beatles' Please Please Me end, to already be geared to sing along with Anna (Go To Him), and be rudely interupted by Abba or something.

By the time I realized something was lost it was too late (not that I could have done anything anyway). It hit home one day while I hung out with a cousin. We all had our own huge car case to keep the discs in one spot. It was sad to see ugly gray discs outnumbering the glossy albums. Then my cousin pulled all of his empty cases off a shelf and threw them all in a garbage bag. He pulled the sleeves from in front of the discs in his giant case and threw those away too. I panicked and was never able to do that myself. I'm still a bit mad about it when I remember.

Things got a bit better with the iPod. I mean the cover image would pull up with the song. But that's like drinking saw dust infested soda. It does not revive the art of the album. How many times did I buy a CD for one song and only a few days later that song was my least favorite? It was the best way to discover new music.

I'll never get my childhood back, or CD's, but I found something better. I'm obsessed with vinyl.  I went into Greywhale on a limb and came out with Mumford and Son's Sigh No More on Vinyl!  I had the same feeling of long ago, but with more class. I bought a record player from the DI, rebuilt it, and was set. Now I have everything from The Wing's Band on the Run to Johnny Mathis' Greatest Hits to The National's High Violet.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A letter to Gandolf

Another old letter to post. The mailman must have thought I was mad when he looked at the destination but it hasn't made its way back to me so it ended somewhere. Whether in the White Havens or in the trash bin I don't know. Warning: This letter is somewhat racy. If you are easily offended stop reading immediately and click this link:

Dear Gandolf,

            Let me begin by establishing my complete recognition of the fact that you are an entirely fictional character. You’ll find, Gandolf, that something of this nature is hardly a deterrent where I am concerned. If you can help me than this small snag in our inevitable relationship will be of no consequence. The last I heard you had set sail for the White Havens, so I am addressing this letter to you assuming that is still your residence. I do not know where that is so I hope that the postage applied will be sufficient to see this document safely into the wisest of hands- yours.
I am familiar with a few of your adventures and the role you played in them. For the most part it seems that you talk big but let other people do the work. Please take no offense, this is just my observation and I am unaware of the work you may or may not do behind the scenes. It seems that you trade in information. And it is information that I am in need of. Now, let me describe to you the nature of my problem.
            It would be counter productive to ask your help if I did not start at the beginning of my tale. I hope that despite the caliber of the experiences that are yours you can find my story of some interest. I assure you that it is completely necessary. As with a great many narratives mine begins in the bedroom, however I do not believe that my father would appreciate me giving an account of the occasion. Besides, I am sure he is the only one that could do the story justice. So we shall skip that, and my birth, and move directly to the portion of my tale that bears weight on the current situation.
            It began last month. It was innocent at first, but it has grown wildly out of my control. I am not one to wear jewelry of any kind, and maybe that is the root of my current problem, namely my ignorance on the subject of the proper way to wear these shiny accessories. Before now I was cynical when it came to the subject of dangerous jewelry. Had I been Frodo and you had told me that my ring had an evil and destructive nature and would consume my life I would have laughed at you. I would have sooner believed that my shoelaces would revolt against my tyrannical bow tying policies and strangle me in my sleep. Now, my dear wizard, you may count me as a believer. If you told me my underwear would tire of my dribbling and cut off the circulation to my legs I would strip them from my beautifully tanned and sculpted thighs and buttocks right now.
            You may rest assured of one thing; I will never buy a box of cracker jacks again. I, like Frodo, have happened upon an evil and destructive ring in the most unlikely of places. I took my prize from the box and without any thought of potential danger I slipped it onto my finger. I have used all sorts of lubricants and oils, of which I have many, but to no avail. I have been to countless jewel smiths, but they, like me, are unable to get the damn thing off of my finger. I write to you Gandolf in all urgency. One of the fingers that I am now typing with has turned a nasty shade of purple and because of the swelling I often press several keys instead of just the desired one. Help me please! I beg an urgent response if not your personal appearance.

Your friend in need,

Mitchell Inkley