The Skin I Live In: Torture Me Please, Mr. (Dr.?) Banderas

Update November 9, 2011:  FINALLY saw this film last night.  It was preposterous in the extreme, but if you accepted that going in, it was very well done and entertaining.  The use of nonlinear timeline as a plot device usually strikes me as a gimmick, but it served its purpose well here.  I also forgot that Antonio Banderas was Antonio Banderas (try that with Robert De Niro or half the leading men in movies today and see how that works out for you).  He was great!  Especially when hosing down captives in the basement.  Hubba hubba!

I am jealous of her.  Sort of.  Note the way she sits on his lap like a Ventriloquist dummy in this shot.  I have no doubt that this was intentional (to the director/producer).  But God, the intensity of his scrutiny.

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       OH!!! MY!!! GOD!!!

        Look at the sweet manna the heavens (or Director Pedro Almodovar) have rained down upon me:

        I just found out about the film and I watched the trailer four times!  Then I went to its Wikipedia page , read the full plot, and watched the trailer three more times!  It’s late at night and I should be getting to bed, but I decided it was best to write while still in a frenzy of…well….a frenzy!

        I ask you, gentle reader, could the subject matter be any more perfect?  If you were too lazy (or grossed out) to read the teaser from Rotten Tomatoes, I’ll cut-and-paste it here:

Ever since his wife was burned in a car crash, Dr. Robert Ledgard, an eminent plastic surgeon, has been interested in creating a new skin with which he could have saved her. After twelve years, he manages to cultivate a skin that is a real shield against every assault. In addition to years of study and experimentation, Robert needed a further three things: no scruples, an accomplice and a human guinea pig. Scruples were never a problem. Marilia, the woman who looked after him from the day he was born, is his most faithful accomplice. And as for the human guinea pig…– (C) Sony

        A mad scientist film with an uber-hot leading actor, chock-full of themes of violence, obsession, imprisonment, transformation, collusion, and mental illness!  Oh my God!  Did you see that scene in the trailer where Antonio Banderas was hosing down that captive, frightened guy with the metal chain around his neck?  With a lamp turned on him?  And then tying him down to an operating table?  And the woman with the masked  face and nude-colored leotard being observed on video-camera?  And in black, fighting the man toward the end?  And all those guns!  And the CLOTHES Mr. Banderas was wearing! That catchy, hypnotic score!  The mind reels!  It absolutely reels!

       See this quote from SF Chronicle reviewer Mick LaSalle: “The Skin I Live In” is like a David Cronenberg horror film as made by a director who doesn’t fear the body but revels in it, who is too sensual and amoral by nature to find anything truly disgusting or foreign.

      And I thought Taken had it all!

      It is imperative that I see this movie as soon as possible.  A matinee, a theater as empty and private as possible…I want to be alone with the film and my gleeful depravity.  Alone, all alone!

      Love is a very slippery concept for me, but when I think about it, I think it must be like obsession.  At least a little bit like obsession.  I am familiar with obsession, for better or for worse.

      You know, one of the things that I think of sometimes is that my psychoanalyst seems surprised, and rather interested, in the fact that I am completely and utterly unconflicted with my sexual leanings (that is not to say that she thinks I can probably practice them and live a truly fulfilled life).  I embrace it, love it, pursue it, the way pyromaniacs rhapsodize fire and arson.

      With the same predictable consequences.

Eulogy for Dr. Drew Pinsky

        Dear Dr. Pinsky;
          Hi!  I wrote about you in a blog post you can read here.  I’ve had a big crush on you since I was a teenager.  I hope that doesn’t embarrass you—I’m sure you get that all the time.  For what it’s worth, my feelings for you were never indecent.  I never really fantasized about having sex with you—that would be weird (though I have always thought of you as Dr. Pinsky, rather than Dr. Drew, because the title is more authoritarian and formal and therefore gives me a bit of a charge, I admit).

            See, I became acquainted with you when I was in high school, listening to the sex-and-relationship advice radio program Love Line.  Audience members—usually people around my age—would call in with their questions and concerns about health, drug abuse, their love lives, abuse in their homes. The show was very popular.  I remember listening to it while driving around in my car at night, or hanging out with my friends.  You played the straight man next to Adam Corrola’s abrasive, jocular meathead.  You were the voice of caring, reasoned expertise.  You never took pot shots at the callers, however clueless or obnoxious they were.  Sometimes I could hear you sighing in concern or distress over what you were hearing. You had the patience of Job.  In your pictures, you wore glasses and a necktie and had that glowing-clean crispness physicians often have.  You perfectly embodied the mature, responsible, protective adult archetype.  You were the man who would never flirt with you or try to molest you.  The teacher who never made you feel stupid.  The adult who always did what he said he would do. 

           “That’s not okay,” you would firmly, calmly tell some kid who called the show to fearfully confide that her new stepfather was always walking around the house in his underwear and drinking beer while her Mom was at work.

            “It’s not?  But he doesn’t do anything,” the girl would say.

            “No.  Absolutely not okay.  This is not a good environment for you.  This is wrong and he knows it,” you would insist.  And it was so easy to believe you.  You always sounded so sincere. 
           For years, you never lost your touch, even when your career branched out of Love Line and you became a celebrity in your own right.  Miraculously—and to my huge relief—you maintained your street cred through increasingly tabloid-esque cable news interviews and borderline exploitation TV shows like Celebrity Rehab.   As the years passed, I didn’t seek you out much—I was always worried about what I’d find if I paid too much attention—but your public persona remained solid as a rock.  You were the same Dr. Pinsky in 2010 as you were when I was in high school.  If anything, your media appearances made you seem even more grounded and serious-minded, given the wackadoodle parade appearing around you.  I thought my relationship with you was safe, Dr. Pinsky!  A love that would endure forever!  Surely, I thought, the last two seasons of Celebrity Rehab would be the biggest test my devotion to you would ever face.  They were really bad television, but you weren’t, so I could blame it all on the program directors. 

            Then you got your live TV show, Dr. Drew, on the HLN network. 

            One day I found it on TV and left it on to watch while I cleaned my fish tank.  Bad idea.  It was like being at Pearl Harbor.  You were interviewing some talking head about the verdict in the Casey Anthony trail, which had been announced earlier in the week.  It was devastating to watch.  I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.  You were trying to be serious and earnest, but not even you, Dr. Pinksy, could carry that material and make it endurable or relevant to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together.  I kept waiting for you stop the interview, take off your glasses, rub the area above your eyebrows as if you’d gotten a hell of a migraine, and announce to the camera that this entire topic was an insult to your human intelligence.

            I waited in vain. 
Please tell me this is not happening.

            In the days ahead, like any victim of trauma, I tried to forget about what I’d seen.  I was badly shaken, however, and intrusive memories of the show kept preoccupying my mind. 

           A few days later, I gave your show another chance.  Who were you interviewing?  NANCY GRACE!  Really?  Really, Dr. Pinsky?  Why?  Why?  Did you really go to college for 13 years for this?  Was it for money?  Didn’t you already have a zillion jillion dollars? 
           I checked the website for your show this evening.  You are discussing the trail of Conrad Murray, personal physician to Michael Jackson.  How can this not be personally humiliating to you?  I am embarrassed for you, and I’m not even watching it up close and personal. 
           It is with regret but without hesitation that I revoke my feelings for you.  Unfortunately, you are no longer the man I thought I knew. 
           Perhaps if you return to your senses, we can reconnect at a later date. 


             Miss Margo

Imaginary Boyfriend #5: Ambrose Bierce

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      Have you ever discovered a new writer, book, or musician and fallen utterly in love (of course you have–it’s a rhetorical question)?  When your enthusiasm is so intense that you become an immediate and unapologetic groupie?   You think to yourself: Where have you been all my life?!  

     Well, I’ve been struck. I might as well just forget about whatever studying or money-generating productive activities I had planned for this weekend.   I might be able to squeeze some of it in when my eyes get too tired, but I know myself–it’ll take at least 72 hours of near immersion before I knock the edge off this thing.  I have an addictive personality.

    I have been introduced to Mr. Ambrose Bierce.

“I derive no joy from my studmuffin mustache or my shampoo-commercial hairdo.  NOTHING MATTERS!”–Bitter Bierce 

       Mr. Bierce, where have you been all my life?!  

        Without a doubt, he is one of the most sardonic, biting, and funny writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Insofar as cynicism is concerned, I do not think that he can be equaled, much less bested.  Bierce reminds me a bit of George Orwell, only without the bourgeois good manners.  Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe–I love em all, and each one could viciously and gleefully savage the object of their scorn in his own breathtaking way…but Bierce really takes the cake.   His capacity for cruelty is beyond compare, but he is saved from being a common, nasty intellectual thug by virtue of his wit, hatred of hypocrisy, and what the astute will recognize as genuine empathy.  He also has a keen sense of justice, and if the readings I’ve done thus far are any indication, that sense of justice is consistently and logically applied, which makes it truly moral.

      Bierce had balls.  The guy literally did not give a fuck.  Take this piece of first-person narrative from What I Saw of Shiloh, where he served in the Civil War:

Along the sheltered strip of beach between the river bank and the water was a confused mass of humanity–several thousands of men. They were mostly unarmed; many were wounded; some dead. All the camp-following tribes were there; all the cowards; a few officers. Not one of them knew where his regiment was, nor if he had a regiment. Many had not. These men were defeated, beaten, cowed. They were deaf to duty and dead to shame. A more demented crew never drifted to the rear of broken battalions. They would have stood in their tracks and been shot down to a man by a provost-marshal’s guard, but they could not have been urged up that bank. An army’s bravest men are its cowards. The death which they would not meet at the hands of the enemy they will meet at the hands of their officers, with never a flinching.

Whenever a steamboat would land, this abominable mob had to be kept off her with bayonets; when she pulled away, they sprang on her and were pushed by scores into the water, where they were suffered to drown one another in their own way. The men disembarking insulted them, shoved them, struck them. In return they expressed their unholy delight in the certainty of our destruction by the enemy.

       That wasn’t published posthumously–that was published shortly after the war itself!  Imagine how well that went over with his Victorian audience–the American contemporaries of those who ruined Thomas Hardy from fiction-writing over Jude the Obscure.  Bierce accomplishes the spectacular feat of making Hardy look like Jane Austin.  Remember when Bill Maher derailed his career for a few years and received death threats for saying that the 911 hijackers were not cowards?  Comparatively small potatoes.

       Bierce also left us with The Devil’s Dictionary.   Go take a look.

      Some of my favorites:

ACCOUNTABILITYn. The mother of caution.

Advicen. The smallest current coin.

Apologizev. To lay the foundation for a future offense.

Callousadj. Gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another.

Conservativen. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others.

Corporationn. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

Cynicn. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.

Infancyn. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth, ‘Heaven lies about us.’ The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.

     That’s enough, or else I’ll be here all day.

     Look at this cartoon I found of him.  I sympathize.  I think he looks like he probably felt like Bill the Cat sometimes, too:

Torture Me Please, Mr. Neeson

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This evening I came across the film Taken entirely by accident whilst channel surfing.  Normally I’d rather amputate my own arm with a chainsaw than watch an action movie, but when I saw Liam Neeson on the screen, I decided to give it a shot.   I am of the opinion that Mr. Neeson is one of the sexiest men walking around on God’s green earth. 
            HOTTEST MOVIE EVER!!!!  Why haven’t I seen this movie before…?!  It came out in 2008, for God’s sake!  I could have been jerking off to it for three years by now!  

           Yes, Taken is exploitive predictable trash.  So what.  I thought Neeson was hot in Kinsey (bizarre, I know, but that’s how I roll):  

            “If you think I’m irresistible as a tweedy 1940s Midwestern college professor, wait until you see me punch someone in the face!  By the way, Miss Margo is a very eager student.” 

          In Taken, Mr. Neeson is even older and gets to intimidate, torture, and kill dozens of other good-looking well-dressed men!  The violence is absolutely relentless!  Every ten seconds, he was kicking someone’s ass!  This film had it all.  Sex slavery (trafficking is grotesque, of course, but the way it’s portrayed in the movie is so preposterous that I could enjoy it guilt-free)!  Gorgeous French locations!  Home invasion!  Knife fights and hand-to-hand combat!  Liam Neeson!  A scene where the bad guys have Neeson tied up and suspended from a pipe on the ceiling!  Oh my God!  And Neeson is kicking all this ass in order to rescue his daughter, which excites my….ah…Freudian issues. 

            I was reheating a slice of pizza in the oven while I was watching the movie.  Burned the hell out of it—set off the smoke detector and scared the shit out of my birds. 
            Then I got online and read Roger Ebert’s review.  An excerpt:
 “Taken” reopens a question I’ve had. A lot of movies involve secret clubs or covens of rich white men who meet for the purposes of despoiling innocent women in despicable perversity. The men are usually dressed in elegant formalwear, smoke cigars and have champagne poured for them by discreet servants. Do such clubs actually exist?
            Excellent question, Mr. Ebert!  And if they do, where can I sign up?  Especially if I could be rescued by Mr. Neeson.  Or despoiled by Mr. Neeson.  Or beaten up by Mr. Neeson.  I wonder how much it would cost to hire Mr. Neeson to beat me up.  If he could be paid to do it in a film, I bet he could be paid to do it for real.  It would probably be really expensive, though.  Maybe I could send him an email and inquire.  
        “I am looking for this young lady, Miss Margo, so that I can beat her with a coathanger.  And then take her out for ice cream.”  

                   “I would rather be invading Miss Margo’s apartment at dinnertime!” 

            “I am even sexier than Dr. Drew Pinsky and this firearm is clearly a phallic symbol.” 

I would do anything to experience this, anything, anything at all.

I remember one of the most erotic sexual fantasies I had before I became sexually active (much less experienced).  The fantasy, miraculously, has retained its appeal and excites me to this day. 
            I was approaching seventeen and envisioned myself lying in a bathtub full of soapy water.  A man, fully dressed , sat on the edge of the tub, looking down at me.  In this fantasy, the man was always much older than me—old enough to be my father. 
            Sometimes he resembled actors or musicians or teachers I had some attraction to.  More often, he was a composite of my unrealized fantasy life—what I knew that I wanted, even though I didn’t yet completely understand what I was craving.  Acht, so difficult to explain…
            In my fantasy, the man would reach into the opaque soapy water and grasp my small ankle and raise my leg above the water up to my thigh.  In his other hand, he held a straight razor with an elegant pearl handle.  He used this razor to slowly, carefully shave my legs.  Once—early on—he deliberately cut me with it, though he did not admit that it was deliberate.  The point was to make me see my own blood, and to remind me of the cuts and pain and damage the razor could inflict. 
            I was frightened the entire time.  Worried that there would be another cut, a deeper cut, at any moment. My muscles were tense and the tendons on the insides of my thighs were taut as piano wire.  His hand went all the way around my ankle, holding me steady.  Keep still, he said.  Rinsing the razor in the bathwater.  The feel of the metal under the back of my knee.  Vulnerable. 

            I had almost no sexual experience at the time.  But I fantasized about this, yearning—that I would do anything to experience this, anything, anything at all.


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    Working the day shift. 

    If business at the House was any slower today, it would be moving BACKWARD!

     A colleague with whom I am modestly acquainted (that’s as good as it gets for me at school these days) is defending his dissertation today, and I decided to miss it in order to work.  Unfortunately, there is no work to be had.  It’s crickets and tumbleweeds around here!  

     Since the day shift is probably going to be a wash, I might elect to pull a double…sometimes we get slammed around 6 when all the Wall Street guys get off work.

     I’ve been really good about staying on the wagon, but the bottle of Jack on top of the fridge in the lounge is looking mighty nice.  Alcohol, my irresistible but abusive (abusive in the bad sense of the word) boyfriend.  Always there for me, doing pushups and pumping iron in the next room, waiting till I come back to him…

     Fear not, I have no intention of actually picking up (I never drank at work, unless you count professional conferences or cheese-and-wine meet n greet job talks). Whilst I wait for the monetary bounty that may or may not befall me, I think I’ll fortify my sobriety by watching clips of Dr. Drew Pinsky:

      Dr. Pinksy is one of my imaginary TV boyfriends (Dr. Pinsky, of course, is a real individual–only his status as my boyfriend is fictive). WHAT A BABE!!!  He has the whole “responsible, mature, accomplished, caring paternal adult” thing nailed down.  I have delicious, joyful Freudian dreams of Dr. Pinsky in which he presses my neck to the carpet with his shoe and then grades my homework assignments (I get all As, of course, because I am a total teacher’s pet).

     Oh, Dr. Pinksy, why don’t you come to see me? I would be happy as a clam just attending to your suit with a lint roller.  Anything! Anything at all!  I would defrost your dinner steaks by breathing on them–FOR FREE, it’s my privilege!

     At least this speculation has lightened my mood!  Now, off to YouTube!