Monday, December 21, 2009

And so This is Christmas

I think I've done this one before...

I seem to do it every year, with the same title and everything (Hey, I like it.) This year, though, I want you to read it with a little more bite in your voice and end it like a question, like "And so, this is Christmas?"

As we close out a weird year of a weirder decade, I can't help but think that way. Think of it this way, we still don't know what to call this decade (that "aught" shit never flew). On a personal level, on a cultural level, or on a political level, this decade never had it. For eight years, we had a really dumb President, who has had our country in a really dumb war for far too long. Our country is suffering through a financial crisis the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time. Millions are out of work while buckets of money is spent on that ridiculous war. The Fall of the Roman Empire is happening right here right now in our own country and all people can talk about is how many chicks Tiger Woods fucked.

And so Happy Christmas, sang John Lennon. I wonder, if he were alive today, what would he be singing about?

I don't mean to poop on everyone's parade. I know people are trying. Every store I go into is packed with shoppers spending money that they probably don't have on gifts for loved ones. Despite what they are saying about the economy, I still see people trying. Office Holiday parties are still going strong. I went to several of them already. And yes, I got a pretty decent raise this year, in spite of my fears. I know I shouldn't complain too much, since a lot of people have no wage to get raised, but believe me, the raise wasn't that much.

So, I'm sorry to be like his, but how it is is how it is. I will celebrate Christmas with my family, as I do every year, and it will be fun and I will get some socks. And I hope everyone does. Come the 26th, though, it will be back to the old grind. The war will still be on. There will still be no jobs and no money. There will probably be some new news about Tiger Woods, so that'll be nice. I guess the one good thing is that this year, this decade, is over, and that we can look forward to a new one, hopefully a better one, with a clean slate.

Maybe Christmas can be the start of something better. Maybe it can be a good one, without any tears. Let's hope, anyway.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trouble Finds Me. I Swear

Everything around me seems to be on its ear. Everyone I know is breaking up or messing around or estranged in some way. As if I needed any more incentive to stay on my own. Not that it's exactly my choice. My sole prospect informed me today that she's seeing someone else. Someone who is no doubt much younger and less bald.

I, however, never seem to change. I keep chugging along, day after day, night after night, bar after bar. I mean, I think the ratings on The Dursin Show are still solid, but the storylines are mostly about everyone else. Most of mine are one-offs. But still very good stories. Take the other night, for example.

I went out with some people for my friend's birthday celebration. My friend was the only person I would know who would be attending, but I have this thing about birthdays, and drinking, so I went. She had sent out various facebook messages detailing the events of the evening, so while everyone else journeyed into the city with her in a rented limo, I met them at Dick's Last Resort, where I will only go again if it was actually my last resort.

One member of the party was quite a bit louder and more belligerent than the rest. He arrived and informed the bartender that there was a special lady coming and she needed something special. The bartender had no idea what that would be, but he would serve us whatever we wanted. We ended up with several 24 oz. Miller Lites and some kind of strange wine. This belligerent man also announced to my friend that the bartender would have sex with her. Yep, he was one of Those Guys.

Now, I did not speak to this man all night (although I did drink one of his beers. Why not? No one else was drinking that crap.) When we left Dick's, this guy claimed he could get us in anywhere in the city without waiting in line. My friend had no preference, but wanted to go where there was dancing. We ended up at the Black Rose, where there is, in fact, no dancing. My friend promptly left and headed to the Hong Kong, one of those shitty Chinese restaurants that turns into a nightclub. This place was $5 to get in, and when my friend wanted to go upstairs to dance, I paid her $5 cover for that (What kind of dick place has two covers?) I did this as part of my birthday thing, because I feel people should do what they want and enjoy themselves. After a few minutes, The Guy was back, along with some of the other members of the party. I stood by while they were saying something in her ear, but in the loud club, I had no idea what it was. Suddenly, The Guy pie-faced me for no reason. For the uninitiated, it's basically like you are shoving a pie in someone's face, sans pie, so you're just sticking your hand in their grill. So, yeah, a big meaty paw in my face.

So I popped him.

I probably haven't hit someone since I was eleven, and to be honest, I didn't really make any solid contact, or cause any harm. In fact, the bouncer took me right out of there before anything could escalate, and the guy at the door was quite nice, in fact. But, yeah, I got thrown out of another bar, this time for actually doing something, although it was certainly not provoked. I can only assume that he assumed I was putting the moves on my friend, but I certainly was not. maybe he was just mad about the beer I drank.

As I was on the street putting my jacket on and getting ready to go home, the party came out and I was signalled by one of the more sober members. this guy was kind enough to ask if I was going in the limo or needed a ride anywhere. I told him I was fine with taking a cab. As we walked past The Guy, he said, "I'll find you!" Which was odd since I was right there. I just told him to relax. The funny thing was I found him, on facebook, and saw pictures of his young son, which means not only did he get laid at least once, but that he is supposed to be some kind of role model. I wonder if he would encourage his boy to shove people around for no reason. Pay attention now, people. This is what happens when assholes procreate.

What I don't understand is why this stuff happens to me. Is it strange that I am always finding my way into weird situations by doing absolutely nothing except going with the flow? It's not like I get together with my friends and say, "Let's go fight!" or "Let's harass people until we get tossed out." In fact, the one time my friend Paul and I tried to get tossed out, we couldn't. Is it because I need stuff to write about on here? Is it because the universe needs my stories? Am I just a bad person and a magnet for trouble?

I wish I knew.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas in the Sticks - Redux

Saturday was my second annual trip to Dudley, MA for the Ed Humphries' Holiday Party. You may recall (if you read it. if not, here's proof it happened) that I attended this event last year, and it was noteworthy for two reasons: I won the Holiday Pop Culture Trivia Contest, and I left Boston. this time around, though, it seemed a little different. Because I did it last year, journeying that far out of my comfort zone wasn't so bad this time (and maybe I'm just not as cynical as I was a year ago.) However, I did not win the trivia contest this time around. Stupid Island of Misfit Toys.

Maybe it was different this year because last year I was still in my "Uber-single" phase, where I extolled the virtues of singlehood at every opportunity. I've adopted more of a "Live and let live" philosophy as far as that goes now. And I also have to admit that Ed is still someone who has brought balance to The Force, and can basically have his childish "guy fun" and keep the wife and kids happy. I'm not sure if that can be attributed to his juggling abilities, or that his wife (Andi, the Duchess of Dudley) is just so much more understanding than most wives I know, but there it is.

The other noteworthy thing about this year's gathering was the inclement weather. It was assumed that those who had to travel a great distance would bow out rather than risk their lives to possibly only end up with a lame Yankee-Swap gift (My contribution: those bottle tops you can put on soda cans so they don't lose their fizz. Seriously? How slow are people drinking their soda? I can finish off a can in seconds.) Instead, there was quite an awesome turn-out, and I think this can be attributed to the kind of guy Ed is. I think people are willing to drive to Dudley in the snow because that's the kind of guy he is, and he would probably do it for them. Granted, I wasn't actually doing any of the driving, but I was a passenger, so there's still a risk. But I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Even though I ended up with Nerf Cosmic Keep-Away.

Monday, November 30, 2009

13 Conversations About No-Thing

It's a few days ago now, but what kid of writer would I be if I didn't write about my 15-Year High School Reunion? (A much less annoying and self-involved one?)

The reunion of Abington High's Class of 1994 is slightly noteworthy (to me, anyway) because it largely came about due to Facebook. Our class never had a ten-year gathering, and I think a lot of people probably figured that we may never have one. But thanks to the miracle of technology, and the nature of people to want to stalk those we used to know, several of us became Facebook friends over the last couple years, and someone along the line suggested a reunion. And so it came to pass.

Personally, I went back-and-forth over whetehr I even wanted to go. Although, if I am being honest with myself, I think I look better than I did 15 years ago (less acne, not as dorky), I do have less hair and even fewer actual accomplishments. Plus the fact that I have to children to talk about, I was afraid I would have very little to talk about with anyone. Two things won me over; the realization that no one I graduated with became President or famous in any way, and the open bar.

On a personal level, I enjoyed not only the open bar but the fact that at least some, dare I say most, people seemed to remember me with fondness, and as a funny person. I think those who knew me then would attest that I was pretty much a wiseass, and the only difference between then and now is that I am maybe less mean and slightly more sensitive to the feelings of others. other than that, I'm still trying to be the funny man, and it seems like that's how people remembered me. Not someone they would ever sleep with, but at least a guy who tried to make them laugh most of the time.

The best thing (besides the open bar) about the reunion, and I suppose all reunions, was that it was one of those "Shared Experience" things, where a large group of people are there at that exact same time and can lose themselves in the genius of the moment. It wasn't really about the time Mike Donaghey threw the book through the window (although, that was quite awesome). It was more about genuinely catching up with people that you don't get the opportunity to see anymore, but you lirterally spent every day with them for four years. In the end, it seems like it is the same conversation over and over again ("What are you doing?" and "Where do you live?"), but it's not just about "stalking" people or seeing who put on a few pounds, because most of them really do care where you live and what you are doing. And when you get closer to the end of the night, and the remaining people are a little looser and liquored up, it becomes less about what you do for work or what you've been doing over the last 15 years, and it becomes about what you are doing at that very moment: having fun with old friends.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tonight in Zombieland

It has often been said that I hate movies (often said I hate everything, in fact.) But every thousand lifetimes, a movie comes along that I really do enjoy, and that's how people should know that it's worth seeing. As I read that over, I make it seem like I'm some kind of authority, or that I'm the only one who likes a certain movie, and ti sounds pretentious. But I believe that I could be some kind of movie barometer because I do have a discerning eye. So take heed, all ye looking for an enjoyable romp: my thousand lifetimes is up, and Zombieland has come.

My first impression of the trailer was that this movie may have some comedic moments, but it is most probably mindless drivel. Most comedies are, and I got the feeling that most of the funny moments were actually in the trailer and the rest was pretty stupid. I was glad to be wrong on this one. It is not mindless at all. In fact, there are oodles of subtle jokes that I found myself being the only person in the theater laughing at (granted, there were only about ten people there.) There was also a decent bit of character development (especially Woody Harrellson, one of the most underrated actors going), a not-entirely annoying love story, and a good amount of action and violence. Of course, there was some mindless, goofy, stupid humor as well, but that is perfectly acceptable in the small doses that it was worked in. Structurally, I can't think of any flaws. My God, who am I?

Because the villains are (SPOILER WARNING!) zombies, people will compare Zombieland to Shaun of the Dead, which I enjoyed, but yeah, kind of falls into the Mindless area. The writing in Zombieland was way better, as was the acting, and the special effects, and just the overall fun factor. I'd sooner compare it to Army of Darkness than anything else, even though there really aren't that many movies that can compare to this one. Maybe it's because it wasn't a re-make or re-imagining. Maybe because I've lost my taste for heavy dramas and sappy romantic comedies. Maybe it's because I would have made a movie like this if I ever did persue my Hollywood dreams (on my best day, but still... And that's not even me being pretentious. There are jokes in here that totally would have fit in Secret Monkey.) It may be a result of all those things, but I think it's just a good script, some money, and the balls to make an unconventional horror horror/comedy.

See? I don't hate everything.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Halloween Memories

Halloween is kind of a weird day in my mind. When you're a child, it was very exciting. You dress up in a sometimes silly costume and bug your neighbors for candy. Half the time your mother made you wear a jacket, covering up the costume you were so excited about, but you still got candy, so whatever. I don't remember specific Halloweens that much, but one of my favorite memories from childhood is the post-Trick-or-Treating Candy Exchange that would take place at my friend's house, where my cronies and I would gather to trade off the candy we maybe didn't want for stuff we did that was given to someone else. For some reason, no one but me liked the Sweet Tarts. God times.

As I got older, I wanted to hang on to the Trick or Treating as long as I could, so I would find some younger friend to walk around with and still net myself some treats. I thought it was brilliant, but a lot of my peers had given up on the whole thing. I loved it, though, so why stop? Again, no specific memories come to mind, but it was cool to get free candy.

When even my young friends got too old to go Trick or Treating, I finally had to give it up. Eventually, in my early twenties, my girlfriend and I used to dress up to hand out the candy at her house. Plus, we did all the local haunted houses and visited Salem every year. One year we even had a party, and I was Indiana Jones. I don't remember much else, but I'm sure it was fun.

Nowadays, Halloween has become like New Year's, where everyone asks you the next day what you did (and you better have had something to do.) Almost everyone I know dressed up as something to do whatever it was they were doing. I was shocked. Where were all you people when I was thirteen and I was the only one still clinging to the traditions?

I live in an apartment in the city, so no kids ring my buzzer, but I did take a little walk through the neighborhoods of Brookline to get into the spirit. I saw plenty of children (and parents) dressed up and getting candy, and it really warmed my heart (the fact that it was about 70 degrees out didn't hurt. No jackets required. Thanks, climate crisis.) But it was good to see in these cynical, uptight times that kids will still dress up and run from door-to-door demanding treats, and people will still give them. It may be the one day a year that I don't hate children. Of course, I don't have to answer a doorbell every five minutes.

For the adults that I knew that all had "something to do," most of them got dressed up and went to parties, and it wasn't about the candy for them. Granted, for a lot of them it's an excuse to dress like a slut or make a fool of yourself, but still, they are having a good time. I guess that's the only "candy" adults need, really. I mean, as a kid, you rely on Halloween for your candy intake for most of November (at least), but as an adult, if I want some candy, I can just go buy it. What I can't buy is a good time at a party with friends, and the memories that go along with all that (assuming, of course, you do remember it).

With all that in mind, I had a very interesting Halloween memory the other night. I was on my way home in the wee hours, and I hailed a cab. The cab driver, a gruff, middle-aged fellow, told me to sit in the front seat. That was creepy enough, but then he said, "We're gonna get some pussy."

I wasn't sure if he was taking the "trick" part a bit too far. "Okay?"

Then he asked, "Can you talk? Are you good at talking?"

I should have said, "Nope. Sorry," and jumped out then, but I wanted to get home. He proceeds to pick up a girl wearing one of those cloaks that Afgan women wear, and she was covered from head-to-toe. this was obviously her costume, because she was carrying a sign with some sort of political statement on it that I don't recall. She said she lived on the way to my place, so she got in and away we went.

It took Crazy Cabbie two seconds to start hitting on her, even going right for the phone number. I was like, "Dude, she could have two noses under there. You have no idea what's going on." He was undeterred, and soon they were speaking in Arabic to each other, as she said she was a student learning the language. he complimented her on her diction, too. This guy was a real smoothie, and I was wondering why she was talking to him at all, in any language.

I asked if she was a BU student, since she lived in the area, and she said she was. When I mentioned I worked there, she said, "Hey, I know you. You're the A/V Guy at CGS!"

Sigh. Small world. So, we chatted about that for a couple minutes, and soon enough we were in her neighborhood (at least, she said it was good and got out. I'm pretty sure she didn't want either of us to know where she lived.) I decided I had heard enough, too, so I paid the fare and walked the rest of the way. The girl offered me some money, but I felt she had suffered enough, so I refused. I wonder if he ever got any.

It was an odd ride on many levels. For one, I happened to be wearing leather pants, so there was at least a 50-50 chance that I wasn't even interested in women. Second, there were probably thousands of half-naked drunk chicks looking for cabs at that time, so why pick up the girl in the burqa? And to top it all off, she knew who I was?

Now that's a Halloween I won't soon forget.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yeah... except it's The Predator

That was the response to a friend when asked the question, "Did they have the movie, George?" The answer was most interesting seeing as how we had asked George, the only friend who could drive at the time, to go to the local video store and rent The Terminator. It's a lot like asking, "Did you order the pizza?" and someone responding, "Why yes, except it's Chinese food."

Semantics aside, I myself was not terribly disappointed that my friends and I were forced to watch The Predator that afternoon back in the late-80's. Despite being probably only 13 years-old, I was always allowed to watch R-rated material, and that period saw some classics: Running Man, Robocop, Die Hard and Arnold's "other" sci-fi action flick, The Predator. Sure, James Cameron had started a whole big thing with the first Terminator back in 1984, and we have since been saddled with several horrendous sequels and a short-lived TV series (featuring the most beautiful Apocalypse survivors ever). But The Predator was more than just a violent, summer blockbuster, and maybe I'm just waxing nostalgic because I was 11 when it came out (versus 8 when Terminator debuted, and thus, too young to appreciate the subtleties of Schwarzeneggar's performance), but I'll be damned if Predator isn't a better film.

Let's get this out of the way. Yes, there were horrendous sequels, and let's not discuss the Alien vs. Predator movies at all. I'm only speaking of the original Predator movie, in much the same way that Jaws is discussed very much independently of its ridiculous spawn. Like Jaws, in fact, Predator was directed by an action autuer in John McTiernan. And like Jaws, it's not an excuse to watch people get chopped up (watch the sequels for that.) Predator combines your basic "Most Dangerous Game" scenario with the classic man vs. beast dramatic situation. In this case, however, the "beast" is an alien game-hunter. It's just a way of amping up a classic dramatic situation, but it is made so well that you can see why Predator and Jaws are so good, and all the movies that they spawned are so bad. And it gave us one of the best lines in movie history: "You are one... ugly ... mother-fucker." Beats "I'll be back" all to hell.

While most people remember Arnold, Predator was also introduced the mainstream world to Jesse "the Body" Ventura, future governor and crazy person, and the onscreen debut of screenwriter Shane Black, who apparently was writing The Last Boy Scout while on set (and hopefully improvised all those awesome pussy jokes his character delivers). Arnold himself was still learning his craft (he kind of still is), but it worked here because he was basically the same as the terminator, a soldier with a single mission, only an actual person this time. This works to hide Arnold's shaky acting, and also gives credence to the fact that the Predator had actually met his match. Along those same lines, watching the movie again, it's interesting what a slow pace it cuts. The first sign that anything is amiss at all is when the commandos find their skinned colleagues, and assume it was done by their enemies. Of course, movie-goers who have come to see a horror flick know different, but these are battle-hardened warrior who have seen all manner of scary shit, and they would naturally assume the enemy was responsible. And they take out their frustrations in the movie's sole action sequence. The rest of the film is very deliberate, and downright scary.

In the end, Predator is not a social commentary or a technical marvel. It's s simple premise that has been used before, but with a little twist. Throw in a splash of character development (the friendship between Blain and Mac, the redemption of Dillon), and some cool effects when seeing from he point-of-view of the monster, and you got yourself one fine piece of film-making. Sure, The Terminiator may have more of a cult following, but if you ask me if that's my favorite Schwarzeneggar movie, I must respond, "Yeah... except it's The Predator."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"The Invention of Lying"... Starring My Friend

Months ago, my friend, Brom, got bit by the acting bug.

The romantic comedy "This Side of the Truth" starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner was filming in his town of Lowell, MA (although he keeps reminding me it's a city. Maybe Hamlet will satisfy everyone.) Extras were needed for a crowd scene, and my friend decided to sign up, despite the fact that I warned him it was really, really boring, having spent what seemed like hundreds of hours on the sweltering set of "The Great Debators" a few months before. He insisted it might be fun, so I told him to go with my blessing, but bring a book.

Brom came away from his days on the set with a drive to try his hand at acting. He regaled me with stories of meeting fabulous people and standing close to Ricky Gervais and making friends with his fellow extras and wanting to get a head-shot and asked what websites one goes to to find acting gigs. I was all-at-once excited for him and slightly amazed. Brom has a tendency to embrace things for a little while and then drop them. His history, coupled with what I knew about extra-work, made me absolutely sure that he was sugar-coating this whole experience.

Nevertheless, buoyed by his enthusiasm and feeling slightly poor, I went with Brom to a cattle call for the next Bruce Willis vehicle shooting in the area, "The Surrogates," where we met several people that he had worked with on "Truth." We all stood around for awhile and then pretended to fall down, and I was able to strike up a nice conversation with a couple lovely ladies that he had worked with (It's all about the networking!).

When the time came to shoot "Surrogates," I found the experience to be similar to "Debators," only with better lunch and at least one friend there to talk to. Despite the fact that Brom and I were given A's on our falling technique, we were sentenced to the very back of the shot, so there was no way that we would be in our scene. When the sky opened, Brom volunteered to stay outside and shoot some more, while I retreated to the nearest tavern. I should point out (although I do feel some guilt about it), that Brom and I got paid the same rate for the day. However, he still really enjoyed himself, and even parlayed it into a commercial where he was blotted out and an indy horror flick that may never see the light of day. But hey, the guy was loving life.

When "The Surrogates" was released, Brom saw it opening weekend. His review was somewhat tepid, and Brom has a very positive attitude. I would probably hate it, in fact. Since he told me that he saw nobody he knew, and certainly not either of us, I didn't bother seeing it at all, and almost wanted to shove a big, fat, "I-Told-You-So" in his face, because I'm just that much of a jerk.

But here's the clincher; "The Invention of Lying," the artist formerly known as "This Side of the Truth" was released the next week, and Brom again went opening night. The next day he told me that not only was it a funny movie, but that he saw himself in several shots. Now, I've known enough extras to know what that really means: you may have seen his arm for a tenth of a second wwwaaaayyyy in the background. Hey, I told everyone I was in "Great Debators," but I only knew I was in it because, through the miracle of technology, I can pause the DVD to the exact tenth of a second that I am actually onscreen. So, it was with skepticism that I saw the movie with Brom, asking him to point out the shots that he was in.

Here's where I eat a big fat helping of crow. Brom was clearly visible in several shots, and actually close to the action, ad even if he was not there pointing himself out, I probably would have seen him, and it was a funny, original, good movie. And I almost hate to admit it, but I think if I had been an extra on this one, I might have enjoyed it as much as he did, and thought, "Maybe I can do this more often, and not just for the money or to meet chicks." I can see why he got the bug from this one, as opposed to all the times I sat around a movie set, sweating my balls off, asking myself why the fuck I was there. His experience was probably the polar opposite of mine, and not just because he's a more positive person, but because the movie was better, the crew was probably better, he was probably treated better... Hell, the lunch was probably better.

The movie itself is interesting on several levels. At the core, it is a guy-meets-girl story, but there are layers under that premise., since the guy is the only person in the world who can tell a lie. At first, he uses it for financial gain, for himself and for the homeless man he passes on the street every day. Things take a turn after he tells his dying mother that the afterlife is filled with love and joy and mansions. Word of his gets out, and suddenly Ricky Gervais has spilled the beans on God, turning him into a sort of Christ-figure to the rubes of this world, who have never heard of such a crazy thing (pretty much coming out and saying that religion is a big lie, which I've thought for awhile, anyway.)

Even beyond the religious undercutting, there's the girl, the beautiful Jennifer Garner, who from the opening scene has told poor, chubby Gervais that she is out of his league and that, genetically, they are a poor match and so shouldn't bother dating at all (Remember, nobody lies in this world.) This, to me, is why this movie is almost the anti-romcom. This is where it skewers modern love as a whole, yet somehow embraces it because, in the end, (SPOILER ALERT, in case you have never seen a film), the guy gets the girl. In the real world, all animals seek out their ideal genetic partner, the one that will help them make the best babies. Humans do this, too, either consciously or sub-consciously, but it goes on, and it's probably why I have never met the "right girl," since I don't really want to make any babies, good or bad. This movie, however, is the only one that I've seen that comes out and says it, and it does it in such a clever way that it still has a happy ending, despite the fact that it pokes holes in the very genre that it's in and should, in fact, be kind of an indictment of the happy ending. the message in the end; You can be with someone who is not necessarily your ideal genetic mate, as long as that person makes you happy.

To me, there was another message to this one, because I find it ironic that a movie about lying can expose me to the truth: things are not always what they seem. Ricky Gervais may not seem like the ideal mate for someone as hot as Jennifer Garner, but he was in that case, and he made her happy. And extra work may not always be the most horrible experience of your life. It wasn't in that case, and it seems to have made Brom happy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coming of Ebay Age

I wrote a couple months ago (here, if anyone cares) about how I was selling my friends' comics on eBay (with some surprising results) and how my lack of knowledge of what sells despite my vast eBay experience may be a sign to slow down and take stock. I just had a couple doors left to knock on.

Well, I have knocked on those doors. I have sold almost all of my friends' comics, and I have reached the 1000 positive feedback plateau (Feedback is, of course, the backbone of the eBay community. Without feedback, there's chaos.) I think reaching 1000 is pretty good for a single guy who sells mostly his old crap, with out a store or anything to back him up. Especially when you throw in the fact that some people have never left any feedback, and a few wankers even left negative. However, my personal negative feedback-side looks back and has to wonder a.) where the money went, and b.) why didn't I think ahead and come up with some kind of system to keep track of it all? Maybe then I would know where all the money went. I started out just trying to score some extra cash for my Ken Griffey, Jr autograhped baseball (In '99, when I thought his career was pretty much over), and when that sold, I began looking around my house a little. Next thing I knew, most of my worldly possessions were gone. And so were some of my friends'. It wasn't something I planned on doing. It was just an easy way to make money and I was poor, so that was it. By the time I thought, "Hmmm, maybe I should organize this a little better," I figured I had sold most of my crap and it was too late to start worrying now.

Some of the problem stems from the changes over the years. In the beginning, when checks and money orders were the norm, I would simply deposit them and ship the item. When Paypal came around, I jumped right on board (No waiting for checks to clear! No waiting for the money order to be mailed). However, a friend of mine warned me early on that Paypal was not a bank and had no insurance, so if you had any money in there and the site was to crash or something, there's a chance your money would be lost forever. I had no evidence if this was true, but I was scared enough to always transfer my money to my bank account right away whenever I received a payment. So, transferrring those few dollars every couple days never really made much of an impact on my balance. Also, in the early days of Paypal, they had an option where you could pay your bills online through them. So, my plan was to knock down my credit card bills and pay the occasional cable bill by transferring the money directly from Paypal and not even needing to put it in my bank account. they eliminated this feature pretty quick for some reason, and so my brilliant plan went awry.

*** Now, an astute observer might point out that I still could have just kept track of what I was making on eBay and still just used that money for bills. However, an astute me would reply, "Fuck you." ***

So, here I am, after more than a decade and selling more than 1000 items on eBay, most of them being toys or keepskaes from my childhood, and I have nothing to show for it. That's a lot of packing tape, boxes, padded envelopes and trips to the post office, and in the end, what did it get me? A little satisfaction? Yeah. The thought that it's possible I could be even worse off had I not sold all that stuff? Definitely. But mostly, nothing to look at and say, "See? That's what I got for all those toys."

Kind of a hollow victory, no?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I mentioned it a little in my previous post that I had played kickball over the weekend. Well, I mostly whined about my foot, but I mentioned the kickball, too. I wanted to elaborate a little more on it here because, well, I wanted to.

After Game 1, which we lost by what I perceived as a convincing score of 8-0, I scoffed at the idea of adults playing kickball with such verve and poked fun at the other team for stretching and having a game plan and, y'know, trying. Here I sit, about eight weeks later, backpedaling. And I say "pedaling" because walking is still slightly painful. Hence, the pre-game stretching by the other team.

I need to retract some of my statements from this earlier post after that first game, because I will say right now that playing kickball was maybe the most fun I've had in a long time. After that first game, where we struggled to field a full team, we won our next game by a substantial margin (like 17-8 or something), and suddenly, losing 8-0 with half of the team not being there didn't seem so bad. But there was something else "afoot." This second game was way more fun. Obviously, winning is more fun than losing, and whoever brought the cooler of beer should be thanked, as well, but you could feel that team camaraderie thing happening. Maybe it was the bright red shirts, but we were starting to pull together. We established actual positions in the field and strategies, like what to do when the other team bunts, and even caught the ball. The highlight may have been the huge 14-9 comeback victory after being down 8-2. Okay, okay. the highlight was actually the post-game team meetings at the Bus Stop pub, but the game was a blast, too. And in a real telling moment, the team using the field after our game a few weeks ago only had three members, and thus had to forfeit, but most of our team elected to stay and play for them in a scrimmage, and we helped them attain a moral victory, even if it went into the record books as a loss. The cool thing was that we actually wanted to play that second game, just for the hell of it.

By the end of the season, Team Hangover was 4-2, losing only to the two teams who ended up undefeated (and we really should have beaten that Green team). In the playoffs, it all came full circle and we were soundly trounced by the same team that defeated us on week 1, who eventually went on to win it all and take home an actual trophy (Well, they didn't take it right home. They took it to the pub and filled it with beer first. Did I mention that kickball was fun?). I still didn't like their win-at-all-costs attitude and their small-ball strategy ("Small ball" is right on the money. Even the men were bunting), but they had fun at it, too, so to each his own. Maybe the most gratifying moment came after the game, where, despite what I would consider some poor playing - by me, mostly - one of our opponents came over to us and said that we were the best team they had faced and played them tougher than anyone else all season. Cold comfort, but it did make me feel better. As did the cold pitchers of beer afterwords.

I guess what gets me is that a lot of people snickered (myself included) when I told them I was spending my Sunday afternoons playing kickball. I find it strange that a sport that is basically a combination of soccer and baseball gets bemused so. In fact, there are elements that are superior to baseball (no walking, no striking out), and truly, you don't need to be a very good athlete to play, but the fact it is played by children (or was. Who knows what kids are into these days?) makes people laugh at you when you play it as an adult. I don't know why kickball doesn't get accepted and yet lacrosse does. And wouldn't most people rather watch kickball than golf? Is it the simple fact that my generation refuses to grow up at all that makes this debate even possible? With some minor tweaking, can kickball be saved and brought into the mainstream someday?

Interesting questions all, and ones I don't have an answer for. but I do know this; I'm saving my red shirt, and if I am still physically capable, I'll be on that field next season.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A 33 year-Old Problem

I wrote a post on my birthday about 33 being the perfect age. That I was right in the middle of everything and right where I needed and wanted to be.

What a moron.

Sure there have been some fun times, although maybe not as unadulterated as years past. I still have that freedom to do and go whatever I want, but it's starting to feel different. I realize that I am usually the oldest person doing whatever I'm doing at any point in time. This isn't really so bad, because let's face it, I'm not that old, but it can lead to some trouble.

The other day, playing kickball(!), I was sprinting from third to home on a ball that was eventually caught anyway and somehow pulled something in my foot (Remarkably similar to an injury I suffered while playing softball a couple years ago). I shook it off as one of those things, and the next day I awakened to searing pain that I haven't felt since I split my head open when I was nine, and at least then I got a Transformer. Let me stress again that I was playing KICKBALL, a game that I should probably be watching my children play at this point in my life.

The very next day, I was trying to tough it out, but it was bad enough that I got this e-mail from my friend, "Hey, gimpy, Want to go to the bazaar at 11?" So it was bad enough that I got called "gimpy." the bazaar was being put on by BU for some charitable cause, but I really only went to see if there was something I could maybe sell on eBay for fun and profit.

While at this bazaar, with my foot feeling like it was on fire, I bought my first tennis racquet. It may seem silly for a man who can't physically play tennis (in my condition, or ever, really) to make such a purchase, but I had been meaning to buy a cheap one somewhere, as my friend recently asked me if I wanted to give it a try. I'm sure it's fine to pick up tennis at 33. I assume it's pretty much just like Wii Tennis, right?

Anyway, the woman from whom I bought the racquet seemed delighted, giving me two bucks off the ticketed price and even taking my picture with it. The racquet was in excellent shape, in fact, and she said she would not be selling it if the injuries hadn't begun piling up. I had to sympathize. She was definitely older than me, but probably not as much as I thought, or hoped, and here she was giving up a hobby that she enjoyed because she simply could not do it any longer. This, I realized, was not something I am ready to do just yet.

I'm not feeling any great sense of urgency just yet, but I am feeling the need to do something different with myself. Despite being in probably the best shape of my life (which isn't saying much), and probably better shape than most 33 year-olds in the U.S., I feel like time is running out for me to do a lot of things, or at least for my participation in sports usually enjoyed by children.

The thing is, I do not sense any great changes coming, because I don't know what those changes could possibly be. The obvious answer would be the company of a woman, but that's not something you walk to the store and buy. So what that is in my control can I actually do? In modern society, with the economy being what it is, let's face it, the answer is very little.

So, merrily we roll, and hobble, along.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jurassic Park: Still Awesome After All These Years

Last weekend, I saw 9, the Tim Burton-produced vehicle about odd-looking burlap dolls saving the planet from... whatever the Hell is was that had taken over the planet. It's only been a few days, but I can barely remember the thing at all. All I seem to remember is that the main character (Doll #9) was attempting to save his fellow dolls' souls that were trapped in this machine, and at the end, the dolls were still dead. I guess I thought saving them would involve saving them. That's why I'm a soulless bastard.

More than the movie itself, I remember the conversation I had with my fellow 9-ers. I went with a friend of mine and some friends of his, and one of his friends (who is much more optimistic and jolly than I) said that he likes movies because life is just too hard not to. He loved both live-action Transformers movies for the simple reason that he wanted to see stuff blow up (and Michael Bay movies occasionally feature such things.) Honestly, I cannot blame him. Movies are supposed to be an escape from the drudgery of every day life. However, must we sacrifice quality for explosions?

I pointed out to my friend's friend that J.J. Abrams' Star Trek re-make had plenty of action, and a few explosions, and was an excellent movie. far better, in fact, than anything Michael bay has ever directed. He concurred, yet was not swayed from enjoying Transformers. Which is good, because for whatever reason, I have a tendency to try and convince people that they are wrong and whatever movie they liked and I despised is, in fact, terrible, so I applaud him for sticking to his guns.

We live in curious times as far as our entertainment goes. We may forget that movies, as we know them, have not been around all that long, and yet there are so many of them that the audience takes good movies for granted and now just wants to be mildly amused for a couple hours. Plots, themes, being amazed by the special effects, these are all lost amid giant fighting robots who are mostly indiscernable from each other and super-heroes, who seemingly have to suffer such strife, yet always manage to defeat the villain and get the girl at the end. Of course, people will try to convince me that, sure, the story sucked, but the effects in Transformers were really awesome. Well, of course they were. They were all done by computer programs that we can purchase at our local Best Buy. To me, knowing that, if I had the time and money, I could do the same thing takes a little of the magic away.

This is why Jurassic Park is still one of my all-time favorite movies. There was still an element of "How did they do that?" when it came to the dinosaurs. The special effects wizards behind the Raptors and T-Rexes combined elements of CGI and animtronics to create creatures that actually looked real because they were. The dinosaurs had weight and dimension, things that no Transformer had. That logic, to me, also applies to the story. A man breeding his own dinosaurs opens up a big can of worms (the morality, the idea that they are selling this scientific boon that could probably used for more noble means. Or as Ian Malcolm adequately puts it, "What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.") Jurassic Park takes the first half-hour introducing the premise and developing the human characters before we even see a dinosaur. Transformers didn't waste a whole lot fo time developing Shia LeBouf or Megan Fox (not that she needs much developing). As I recall, the robots landed and the chaos ensued.

I think the same can be said for movies in general.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My City of Ruins

I have split the last 5 years living in Cambridge and Boston. College towns if there ever were. In these five years I have seen The Change that takes place every May (and working at a college certainly helps.) That's when all the students, literally thousands of residents, leave in a matter of days. Suddenly, the trains are empty, the streets are bare, and the bars are filled with adults who are more capable of holding their liquor. It's an amazing thing, really. With the changing of the season come a new era every year. It's like Christmas, and it lasts for three whole months.

And now, as a new school year begins and the days grow colder, all the students return. It's not all that bad, really. As someone who helps register about 700 incoming freshmen every year, it's fun to see their doughy faces as they start this new chapter. It's fun to see the moving vans, and the parents who are dropping off their children and have no idea where they are going, yet they want to be in charge of that situation. There is life to the city again. And I usually wish I had stock in U-Haul.

Then the moving vans gum up traffic, and there is old furniture and garbage in front of every apartment building. And the trains are packed with loud people. Worst of all, the bars are full of kids, buying their cheap beer and vodka and Red Bulls. "Why are they invading my city?" I always ask. I never get an answer.

Maybe I noticed it more this year, or there were just more people moving, or maybe riding my bike around the city made me more observant, but The Change seemed different this year. More moving vans. More old furniture. More clueless parents. Maybe it's because I feel like a veteran now, or maybe this summer just went by too fast before I could appreciate it, but I was not ready for it. And I cursed those vans.

Like I said, I make my living at a university (two of them, actually), so I'm not complaining. In fact, I see it as a changing of the seasons, and often wonder how people who don't live in a place like this deal with the monotony. It's like living in a different city for three months, and for those months, it's a city where every citizen knows where they are going and how to get there (Well, most of the time.) It's like living in San Diego; Sure, they have the best weather in the world, but it literally never changes. It's 70 degrees every day. Does it get boring?

So, despite the vodka and Red Bulls, I love this place. I've lived here and worked here for so long, I wonder if I could do it anywhere else. Sure, I've thought about trying something new once in awhile, but really, this is where I've wanted to be since I was a freshman in college all those years ago. And here I am. Sure, the rent is high, the T is loud and the drivers are obnoxious (myself included), but this is my city, and I've wanted to live here for a long time. I ain't leaving now.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

When the Weird Becomes Normal

That was the title of my old blog, before I got tired of the three people who read it saying things like, "I read your blog post. You made some interesting points, but why are you so angry?" and "Don't mention me anymore!" Okay, well, nobody said that second one, but I still deleted it because I wanted to rid myself of the bile and anger. I don't know that I have, but the same three people still read it, so I guess it made no difference either way.

In some ways, I think my life has become a lot less weird than it was in the days of the old blog, which is probably one of the reasons I don't write as much anymore (and when I do, it's not something like "This guy I know did this and he's a putz!" or "I went out drinking and snogged someone I don't like" or "Love me.") Maybe my life is the same, while everyone elses' is different than it was. Or maybe, just maybe, I just don't read into things like I used to.

Probably the third option. For example, one of my friends got broken up with via text. Absurd, yes, and I would throttle the guy who would do that to a friend of mine if I ever saw him. But, no long, raving blog post about what society has come to out of me. I just sort of hung my head and sighed. Another friend just helped his wife move to New Jersey so she could earn her degree while he remains in Massachusetts. Not your typical marriage, but I certainly didn't blame him for not wanting to uproot himself at this stage of his life. However, I did not write one word about it here, going off about how people shouldn't judge and a marriage doesn't have to be like it was on The Flintstones. I just helped him sell his comics to make room for his new roommate.

And finally, two of my co-workers are engaged, and they were surprised when i was happy for them. I don't know what kind of ogre they thought I was, but I genuinely am happy for them. And I was tempted to write about it (I, uh, had a very interesting relationship with one of them several years ago), but I never got around to it, and it's really none of my business anyway.

Point is, the old blog would have had pages about it. And maybe it's that I'm trying to respect privacy more (although I would not have used any real names). Maybe it's just that weird has become normal, and why would I write about normal things? Where's the fun in that? So, technically, I did just write about all of them, but it was short and not over-analyzed at all. It was more of a "Previously on the Matt Dursin Show" kind of thing.

Now we're ready to start the new season.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Decade of Decadance

As of September 1st, 2009, I will have been at my job for 10 years. I don't really know what to say about that, except that it's a long time.

Now, two things worth mentioning (I think); First, I was only 23 years-old when I got the job, but anytime you start counting things in decades, you know you're aging rapidly. Second, lest anyone think I've never experienced anything in the last ten years, I used to be a nine-month employee, so every summer I had to find something else to do to earn money, and I didn't always accomplish this. The summer spent filming an indie movie I never saw springs to mind, as does the phone book delivery job, which paid you per book. Not a way to put food on the table.

Anywho, as I talk to people about being at my job for this long, most of them think back to where they were ten years ago (some of them were in high school, which really frazzles me), and some people think this is some sort of accomplishment. I guess it is nice to have not been fired all this time, but it's not like I've been moving up in the ranks, either. But it is really amazing that I can commit to a job for ten years, but there's not much chance I could commit to a spouse that long. Maybe if she paid me.

The bottom line is that security is a big thing with me, and knowing my way around has kkept me at this job so long. But more importantly is that I work with some amazing folks over there, and there's no way I could do it everyday without them. They are the main reason I haven't wanted to leave, really. Sure, there are higher-paying jobs, but sometimes the paycheck comes second to peace of mind. Can't really put a price on that.

Monday, August 03, 2009

A Kick in the Head

Sometimes, I wonder why I do things. I guess being childless and single, you have to find things to pass the time, and so when people ask what you did, you have something to say.

Yesterday, it was Kickball. Yes, the same game that children are playing in schoolyards everywhere (I hope. Or else they're just getting fat.) I had not played Kickball since the 3rd grade, and I can say without any shame that I stunk back then. Truly stunk. In fact, my teammates eventually put me at pitcher because I was so bad at catching the ball, but even I could roll the thing (Except to those girls who would always throw it back, screeching "Too Bouncy!") In fact, the pitching role was one I took pride in because at least I could be useful somehow. I certainly wasn't much help on offense, that I recall.

Still, I had fond memories of playing Kickball back then. So, when I was invited to play in the local Social Boston Sports league, I said, "Why not?" Sure, I haven't played in a couple decades, but I'm bigger and stronger and smarter now. I must be better at it.

No, sir. I still stunk. In fact, my skills may have eroded over time, for at least back then I had some desire to win. This go-round, I just wanted to have a few yucks and get out of the house on a Sunday. Well, at least I had a few yucks.

As was the exact case when I started playing in the BU softball league a few years ago, I thankfully am on a team that would rather lose and have fun than win and pummel their opponents and look like they aspire to one day make it to the World Series of Kickball and be on ESPN 2 after the Hot Dog Eating Contest. No, I was on a team that decided after we were destroyed 8-0 that our team name should be the Hang-overs. And I am very grateful for that.

It's not that the Hang-overs didn't try. We did. We caught the ball when we could, kicked it when we had to, ran when we had to, and laughed when we wanted to. But there's trying, and there's trying. Our opponents were trying, trying to embarrass us and build up their fantasy stats while they did it, I guess. they were running and stretching before the game, while the Hang-overs were trying to wrestle up 9 people. At one point, their first baseman fielded the ball and rather than running over and tagging the base with his foot, happy to get the out, he leaned over and lightly touched it with the ball, just to shove it in our faces that he was so good, he had all day to get that out. And then, next inning, he did it again! Arrogant ass. I hope we play them again just so I can kick him instead of the ball. Also, our opponents had a strategy. they determined (obviously from watching hours of video) that if you kick a ground ball to the 3rd baseman, there is virtually no way for him to throw the ball over to first base to get the out. The ball is just not made to be thrown that far. So, they essentially bunted every pitch until they had the bases loaded, and then someone would kick the thing into the outfield and at worst they get a sacrifice fly, but that hinged on our outfielders actually catching it.

Sound strategy, even if it did make them appear to be the world's biggest wusses. but they needn't have bothered. Nobody on our team really cared enough to attempt to thwart them, including me. But the kicker (Pun!) is that they probably went home patting each other on the back and thinking about how awesome they did, all the while laughing at us.

Well, I got news for ya, superstars. The joke's on you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Who's Bad?

Longtime readers (HA!) may remember my post about the movie Juno awhile back. if you don't, you can read it here. Okay, I know you won't bother, but it was a good one, so I'll give you the short version: It was basically every Lifetime MOW with better acting and should have been about Jason Bateman's character and the tragedy of marrying the wrong woman. It's as American as apple pie.

Anyway, Juno was on HBO recently, and I watched it again (Well, most of it.) I still really liked Jason Bateman and kind of hated Juno (especially that part where she says she's 16 and she knows stuff. Whatever, kid. Go get a job!), but did find more sympathy in Jennifer Garner's character, so I'm not a total wanker. Am I?

This came on the heels of Season 2 of Mad Men showing up OnDemand, which I ravenously dived into. So far, I think Don Draper is written even better this time around, and I actually found myself rooting for him to have affairs. I was talking about it at work, and one of my co-workers said that she watched most of Season 1 in a marathon one holiday weekend. Another colleague asked if it made her want to slit her wrists. Que? That thought would never cross my mind. Just the opposite, in fact. I would be in Heaven.

These are not isolated incidents, by any means. I may be going to a level beyond cynicism ("showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, esp. by actions that exploit the scruples of others," according to I may be shifting into evil. It would be kind of scary, if I believed in good and evil.

I believe that there is no right or wrong, just what you do or don't do, which is determined by whatever values you have in there. I choose to do what I feel is right, just like Jason Bateman's character in Juno, and Don Draper on Mad Men. It may not coincide with what a lot of other people feel is right, but that's their opinion. But when you look at these two examples, we see how times have changed. Juno is a hero for getting pregnant at sixteen and giving it up for adoption. Peggy Olson, the cute-as-a-button-secretary-turned-copy-writer from Mad Men, is scorned for having a child out of wedlock and giving it up.

I don't mean to turn this into an analysis of two pop culture polar opposites. That all just came to me. The point is, I guess, that not everything should be looked at one way. Juno was universally praised for depicting a heart-warming tale of an irresponsible teenager fucking up and then whining about it a lot. Mad Men is also universally praised for depicting grown men behaving like teenagers (only there's far less whining), but there's nothing heart-warming about it. It's a dark, angry show that makes you think about things, and suicide, I hope, is not one of them. For me, sometimes being bad can be good.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Green Monster

I admit. At first I did it to see a free game.

My affiliation with Boston University garnered me a spot on the Fenway Park Green Team. Technically, I think the Green Team is mostly supposed to be comprised of students, but I've taken classes, so be quiet, you! Anyway, the Fenway Park Green Team walks the aisles during the game and collects the plastic bottles and cups and helps save the Earth and keeps Fenway Park clean. Green team members are given a free, very bright green t-shirt and a voucher for a free hotdog and soda. And you are at Fenway Park during a game without paying billions of dollars. You can't lose.

So, when I got my e-mail saying that I was selected, I was all, "Cool! Free game!" Obviously, I'm a Red Sox fan, but more than that, I have come to realize that Fenway Park is possibly my favorite place on Earth. So, any excuse to be there is fine by me. However, I am also a bit of an environmentalist (I'm not going to chain myself to a nuclear reactor or anything, but I recycle a lot), so it's basically win-win. I get a free game, and the Earth gets saved.

What I did not realize going in was that Red Sox Nation would also be into this. At first, I was a little nervous that I would have to wander around telling at the top of my lungs to get people to throw their plastic cups at me. But as the game began, and a lot of beer was consumed, all I really had to do was get the ball rolling a little by picking up a cup here and there, and pretty soon I had folks clamoring to recycle their plastic. One lady, waving her coke bottle, yelled, "Hey, Green Team Man! Over here!" I told her that I was indeed "Mr. Green. I'm so serene." I had people asking me how to get on the Green Team (incidentally, you can probably find out more info here.) I had one guy ask me if the bottle caps are recyclable, because he heard they weren't. I actually felt bad that I didn't know, although I had been recycling them all night, so I hoped they were. At least he cared to ask.

But what really gave me the warm fuzzy was all the people who thanked me for collecting their stuff. Honestly, I was grateful for them to be giving me the stuff. Why were they thanking me? One gentlemen even said that I was doing a good thing. I wanted to say, "Really? Getting into a free game?" I admit, it was tiring, although I was really enjoying being at the game. But my friend Heidi (who volunteered with me, and incidentally filled 4 times as many bags as I did, thanks to her yelling technique, and, I suspect, the fact that she's a cute girl.) pointed out that we were in fact volunteering, and that is always a good thing. And when I told my brother about it, he said, "Hey, just because you're getting something out of it, doesn't mean that it's not a good thing."

I think I was really shocked because of late, I had become rather disillusioned by people's lazy and sometimes gross attempts at recycling (the soiled diaper I found in the paper recycling bin at work may have had something to do with it.) It never faield to irk me when I see plastic bottles being carelessly thrown in a bin clearly maked PAPER ONLY. I mean, if you're thinking about it enough to not throw it in the garbage, how much more thought does it require to throw it in the bin marked PLASTIC? and there are those people who think it's all a myth and that the planet is actually okay. Well, fuck you. Take a trip to Greenpland and stand on the cost for awhile. Betcha fall in in a couple days.

So, I think this experience has made me a little more positive about the whole thing. There are a lot of people who care about the environment and want to recycle (if the small sampling of fans in sections 19-23 of Fenway Park on Saturday night are any indictaion). I may not have saved the Earth, but in the end, maybe I was the one who was saved.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Geek Post: Selling Comics

My friend Brom has asked me to help him sell some of his comics on eBay, using the strength of my 900+ feedback to make some room in his condo. I am fine with helping him out, and I might as well admit now (after so many auctions) that I get a kick out of selling crap, especially other people's crap so I don't have to worry as much about how much money I make. I also kind of like to think of it as a race. How long will it take me to sell off that many comics?

I started off doing my research and seeing what was selling, so I started with some Manga stuff, and and Wolverine, because he's really popular right, and the first appearance of the Thunderbolts, that should be good, and the Infinity Gauntlet should bring in some gap. Since I had two full long boxes (which I think is around 500 books), I decided to try other methods as well, so I went to and sold some books over there (even throwing in a few of my own) and netted about 28 bucks.

Anyway, there were some underwhelming results, at first. I had to relist several of the lots and lower my prices in order to just sell them at all (I only live in a one bedroom, man.) So, as I went along, I started getting to what I considered the dregs and started going with Buy It Now auctions to see if that would work better. To my surprise, the Rocket Raccoon limited series from the mid-80's sold for 5 bucks. Six issues of Count Duckula sold for $8.50. Thirteen issues of Groo the Wanderer sold for $6.99 (Buy it Now). And the coup de grace, his ALF comics sold for $5.99 (again, Buy It Now. Kind of wish I had let the auction play out.) Seriously? ALF?

Now, I've sold a lot of weird crap on EBay over the years, but I thought I knew a few things about comics and what was worth dough. Clearly not, since the Wolverine comics totaled $12.99, which is slightly more than 6 issues of Count Duckula. I know Wolverine under-performed at the box office, but that's kind of an insult.

So, because things started to fizzle on eBay, I tried Craig's List. My logic here was simple; if I can get a comic fan into my apartment, maybe I can unload more comics. It worked. My listing of Avengers/Fantastic Four/Dr. Strange/Alpha Flight sold to a kid from Salem, who then went through the long boxes and bought some more, and I got an extra five bucks out of him. Very pleased. I think the Craig's List thing works because you don't have to rely on the very few people interested in these comics happening upon your auction for the seven days it's there.

Still, as I consider myself an eBay guy, I was shocked that I didn't quite get as much on there as I thought. Now, there is not a whole lot you can do to hype up your stuff on there. If no one wants it, then no one wants it. And this whole experience has me thinking (along with the fact that my local post office is now closed): after almost a decade of selling my old crap (and other people's old crap), I an starting to wonder where all the money has gone. I have sold hundreds of items, and yet I am still below the poverty line. I'm not sure if I should ask myself where I would be financially if I hadn't sold all that stuff, or where I would be if I had not spent so much time wandering to the post office and listing this stuff. Other than my car, I've never really made good money on anything from eBay, so maybe it's time to take a break and see what happens.

After I empty those long boxes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Playing... for Money

With the pending bloom of Hollywood East, we have recently seen and heard of a plethora of movies being filmed in the Boston area, and the entire state seems to be aflutter. Literally.

Last Friday, my friend and I attended a casting call for a Ben Affleck movie being shot in the area called My Town, or The Town, or Our Town (okay, not that last one.) In some ways, this was not your typical cattle call, because they specifically asked for people with a Boston accent, and even asked each attendee to read a line to see if we had what it took. Of course, what I took were classes to try and get rid of my Boston accent, so alas, my size card was not adorned with the "BA" initials. Which I learned did not stand for "Bad Actor" or Mr. T's character from the A-Team. It stood for "Boston Accent." So, I probably won't get my line, but I'm not sure if I'm terribly disappointed in that fact. I'd rather not sound like Ted Kennedy all the time than tell people, "Hey, I once had a line in a movie and sounded like a dope."

The thing is that most of the people there would love to have that line. And not because it was a little more money and a better meal than the extras. They are all looking for their big break, and I guess they think that one line in one movie will catapult them to stardom. And of course! I mean, think of the many interviews with famous actors that you've read that featured an answer like, "Yeah, I was hanging out in Extras Holding when a PA came up to me and said, 'You! You're my star!' and the rest is history." I know there's resume-building and all that, but the desperation in some of these people's faces is amusing, if it weren't so sad.

Despite my history as Dursin the Firestarter, Dr. Demento and Ookla from the planet Zonk in my early filmmaking career, I have never fancied myself an actor. In fact, I think I kind of stink. Maybe I could be passable in a comedy, but probably only the kind I'm used to, where there wasn't actual dialogue to memorize and I got to just say whatever the Hell I wanted. I'm not really one for "the process" of putting yourself in the character. In reality, it's just playing, much the same way my friends and I would play in the yard when we were kids, and I insisted on being Spider-Man or I would go home crying.

The actors I've met (which isn't a lot, I admit) are a rather pretentious lot, considering they are doing for money what I did as a kid for my Saturday afternoons. This is coming from someone who over-thinks everything in the world, but when they handed me "copy" at the door (a crumpled up piece of paper with 4 lines of dialogue on it, 2 for men and 2 for women), I was quite shocked, and almost refused. Still, I filled out the size card and got in line, while my friend poured over the copy, which was fine for him, because he wants to be an actor. I was just there for the money. The very effeminate casting director asked me how I was and which line I was going to read, and I read the shorter one. Something about going around back to the cargo bay (or cah-go bay), and we hit him right there. I don't remember because I don't care. To the King of Over-Thinking, I feel that was one I could let slide. Acting may be a difficult job, but for that one line... Well, I think I gave it its due attention.

Maybe it's because I spent time in L.A., or maybe because I've done the audition thing a couple times (Once, I was actually approached by a casting director in L.A. who was putting on a stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar and wanted me to play Christ, simply because I had a beard.), but I put acting up there with most other high-paying jobs. It would be nice work if I could get it, but I'm not going to go to any great lengths to learn the trade. In my mind, I'm already a character. Why would I need to play anyone else?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The New Women

Let me start off by stating that I am an unmarried, child-less, heterosexual male in my early 30's. I believe this makes me a minority, and probably subject to some sort of benefits or special treatment. Okay, I wasn't born this way (the early 30's part, anyway) but at least I should be entitled to something, like for people to listen to my complaints. (Why not? All other minorities do it.)

Here's a complaint: why don't guys man-up anymore?

Seriously, when did we all become such wusses? And I don't mean in the drink-beer-and-belch way. Men still do that. Hell, women do that, so I'm not being sexist or anything. When I say "men are wusses," I'm talking about emotions. For instance, having them. Or, more accurately, showing them. I suppose the men in ancient Rome had emotions and appreciated beauty, they just never told anybody about it for fear that their buddies would scoff and probably rape his wife, and possibly him as well.

Sometime in the last half-century, men have been domesticated, like the common dog. At some point in the past, women said, "What are you feeling?", and like Pandora's Box, they all came flooding out. While the men were crying, the women said, "Someone's gotta wear the pants in this family," so they took the reins. And instead of saying, "Hey, those are my reins," the men handed them over.

This paradigm has resulted in men literally becoming the new women (like pink being the new black). Men now get jealous, and lonely, and selfish. Let me give you an example from a friend of mine. Her boyfriend was upset because my friend was using what precious little vacation time she had to hang with an old, college girlfriend, this guy all but saying, "What about me? Sniff." My friend is much nicer than me, but I think she was probably stifling the question, "What about you?" She sees this guy all the time, while her friend was traveling down from Toronto. Is this something that people need to discuss? And seriously, turn the clock back a few years and can't you see the girl worrying about the guy spending time with his friends and not having enough for her? Am I the only one who notices this stuff?

Think about it for a minute. Back in the day, men were the head of the household (and not necessarily in a mean, domineering way). How many men do you know are the head of their household these days? I think I know one. And again, I don't mean that a guy who does nice things for his wife or girlfriend is a wuss. Or that men should be working while the women stay home and bake the brownies. All things being equal, things would be equal. However, all things are not equal. In fact, nothing is equal. And so we have divorce, because things can't really be equal, because Domesticated Man can't make decisions on his own. Surely, that would upset his wife, and that cannot happen. Therein, I feel, lies the rub. Upset Woman leads to many, many problems. God forbid we upset anyone in these days.

Some may be thinking, "This is why this guy isn't marred." And if you said that, YOU'RE RIGHT!!! Maybe I'm not married because maybe I'm not a wuss. I'm the head of my household. I make decisions based on what I want, because I don't have to worry about anyone not approving. I approve of everything. In my life, anyway, all things are equal.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Letter to the Jerks

I actually sent this letter to the Harvard Vanguard Patient Billing Department:

I recently inquired my Primary Care Physician (Dr. James Roseto) about my possible deviated septum. He recommended "conservative treatment" before moving on to a ENT specialist, despite the fact that we were both fairly certain that's what it was. He suggested Sudafed, a humidifier and prescribed a nasal steroid. Six weeks later, I saw him again, and the conservative treatments had failed. I was referred to a specialist, who confirmed that it was a deviated septum and suggested a CAT scan to see if there was anything else to be concerned about. I received the scan and was given another appointment with yet another ENT "specialist," Dr. Ralph Iannuzzi. He also confirmed my deviated septum and said that there is sinus inflammation that makes me susceptible to sinus infections. None of this is news to me, of course.

This third doctor suggested more "conservative treatment," prescribing yet another nasal steroid and a Neti Pot or a sinus rinse. He also asked me to return in six weeks, which is where I am now, fairly certain that none of it was necessary.

At this point, I'm about ready to live with my condition, as I have spent considerable time and money (Sudafed, humidifier, 2 steroids and over $60 in co-payments, to be no farther along than when I started) on what is not a life-threatening procedure. It is extremely disappointing, as I honestly feel like I have been given the runaround and taken advantage of. Every visit is taking money out of my pocket for three doctors to tell me the exact same thing, and I want that money back. I have had 4 appointments at $15.00 each, adding up to $60.00, for basically nothing. I am perfectly willing to give all the documentation you need (receipts, etc.) to facilitate this refund. After all, anyone performing a service should stand behind it. If I took my car in for service, and they never fixed the problem, I would not pay for that. Why am I paying you?

Matthew Dursin

I doubt it'll work, but at least my voice has been heard.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Art? Art Who? Garfunkel?

I think I became a film major because I always wanted to be an artist, and yet, was not born with anything that could be construed as artistic ability. Creativity? Maybe, but not in abundance. I do consider writing to be a form of art, but a lot of people can do that. I mean, click on over to Amazon and see how many books there are, and then consider that I have never actually written a book, and tell me how good an artist I am.

In high school, I took some photography classes, and really enjoyed them despite the fact that my freshmen Photography teacher was a crusty, old woman who instructed me to "take pictures" as my first assignment. And she wasn't being altruistic, I don't think. Just lazy. I distinctly recall also signing up for a Photojournalism class in high school, until it was canceled because I was the only one who would dare do such a thing. Think how my life might have been different if I had teachers who actually fostered creativity instead of, y'know, not giving a shit.

I think I wish I had tried at art more as a kid because the idea of a gallery show has always appealed to me. Not going to one, because I'm not really very smart about things and often feel like an idiot (Also, my inherent need to make sarcastic comments at every moment is hampered by the fact that the artist is probably the one I'm making the comments to). But I think it would be really cool to have something I'd done on display for people to see, or even buy if it was good enough. Usually, screenplays aren't considered fine art in that way. Sure, people buy them, but they generally don't have gallery openings for them. They have those gigantic, cattle-call pitch meetings, but come on, nobody really cares about those. There are enough writers actually working in Hollywood these days. Nobody who is anybody needs to go out actually looking for scripts.

But I imagine selling a piece of art must be a very cool experience. Something that you painted or whatever being good enough that someone wants to put it in their home. Hell, I thought it was cool when eleven people wanted to buy Secret Monkey #1, but that was probably because I had sunk gobs of money into it and wanted to recoup at least a tiny bit of it. And all I did was write a few jokes for that. I didn't consider myself a working artist. Besides, modern technology has changed the standards for creativity too much. I mean, because I ramble on in this blog does that make me a writer? If I doodled something trying to figure out Photoshop, does that make me an artist?

In the end, I'm not terribly disappointed in my life path, even though it would have been interesting to experience having a gallery opening once. Truthfully, I don't think the life of a starving artist would be for me (I'd much rather be a starving Audio-Visual tech.) Also, I think to really call yourself an artist and not be a hypocrite, you have to feel. You have to feel love and desire and pain and passion for your work. You need blood and humanity. You need to have that passion in order to be a real artist, and as I've pointed out many times, I don't feel a whole lot of passion or love or desire for anything. Pain? That I got.

Maybe I would make a decent artist, after all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Prodigal Idiot

This isn't another big anti-religion rant, but I never liked the story of the Prodigal Son. I never got the lesson there. In fairness, if you asked my brother, I would be the one who would "waste his substance with riotous living" while he would tend to the crops, or whatever, so maybe I'm bias.

For those unfamiliar, the story goes like this; A guy has two sons. The younger, petulant one demands his inheritance, even though his father isn't dead yet, and goes off and parties like a rock star, blowing every penny. He hits a low point while he's looking after the pigs and decides to return home and beg for his father's forgiveness. Even if his dad says, "Screw you! You're my slave forever now, punk," at least it's better than smelling like pigs. So, he goes back and his Dad welcomes him with open arms, even slaying the good, ol' fatted calf, (that older brother has been looking after all this time) to celebrate the homecoming. All is well.

EXCEPT - older brother gets a little peeved. "What's up, Dad?" he asks. "I've been hanging out here helping you out for years, and then you roll out the red carpet for this deadbeat." And Dad says, "yeah, but this guy was dead to us, and now he's back. Lost, but now he's found. Like that song."

Well, I don't buy it. I know the idea is repentance and all that, but where was the incentive to be the good guy who stayed home to help out? Where's the benefit to doing the right thing, rather than living like an idiot? The end result is that the idiot gets the fatted calf, anyway.

Apply this logic to modern society. People who have spent unwisely for years and racked up enormous debt, or bought homes they couldn't afford, or whatever, or companies who spend $20,000 so their employees could fly somewhere for lunch, are getting helped out and bailed out. the government is cooking up that fatted calf for them and everyone is happy. Meanwhile, some ordinary Joe, who has tried to work hard to pay his debt and pay his school loans, is getting no help at all. Where's his bail-out? Where's his fatted calf?

In the belly of the Prodigal Idiot, that's where.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Before I get to the good stuff, my friend Melissa sent me this awesome website, that featured this clever cartoon, among others:

Anyway, there may not be a God, but maybe Hell has frozen over. No, I'm kidding, but I do feel weird. See, one of my oldest, youngest friends, whom we nicknamed Yo (come to think of it, maybe I nicknamed him that), is now a father. I remember him running around our neighborhood in diapers (I was six, but I still remember it), and soon, his son will be running around the same neighborhood, although probably in new diapers.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Aw crap. Another rant about how old this guy is or the passage of time or some such shit." No, gentle reader, although time has surely passed, and probably passed me by. But I don't feel old on this one. I should, but maybe it's because I am happy for the little guy. He grew up the youngest child in his family, with three older sisters. he was also the youngest kid on the block, and was sort of adopted by my friends and I, probably because none of us had actual little brothers. His family dynamic being what it was (his eldest sister is a lot elder. I think his oldest nephew is around 10 years younger than he is, and his youngest sister is my age, so about five years older), in a lot of ways, I feel he was almost raised by us neighborhood kids, which may be the modern suburban equivalent of being raised by wolves. When I look at him, I think we we did a good job. Maybe this is how parents feel when their kids grow up.

Now, my version of "doing good" may differ from others. This young man is not yet married, although this was a planned pregnancy (so he says). I don't know if marriage is in their future, but he certainly told his Dad it was. And someone like my father would look at Yo, with his long hair and scruffy beard and his job as a dog-walker, and scoff. And, yeah, he never finished college, preferring to take his band on the road and get educated that way.

So, maybe his road is the one less-traveled, but it's still a road and it ended up in the same spot as most people. And when I talk to him, even though it's only once in awhile, it's like we talk every day, and I can see that he is a smart, funny, well-rounded guy, and okay, I admit, he has more going for him now than I do.

Which brings us back to my favorite yarn about the ol' Dursy, the Last Man Standing. Is it official? Am I the Last Man, since now the boy has become a man and has surpassed me? If so, where's my prize? The other day, one of my married friends said he sometimes envied when I told him my big problem of the day was whether or not to buy Combos or Doritos at CVS. Yeah, there's a prize for you. A life that consists of not much more than Combos vs. Doritos.

And at that pace, probably not a long one.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Impassioned Atheist?

A few days after writing my post about kinda being an atheist, I ended up in a conversation with a girl at a bar that yielded this lovely chestnut:

"You should come to my Atheist Luncheon."

Uh, yeah. Sweetheart, you seemed to have missed the point. The reason I'm an atheist has very little to do with whether or not there is a divine higher-power guy and everything to do with the fact that I don't like doing crap like that. I don't know why people subject themselves to church every week. Why would I want to sit in a room and talk about NOT believing in something?

Basically, this is the problem with the atheist movement in America (and there is a movement.) It's tough to get the passion-less, apathetic, or disillusioned to do anything. That's why they are who they are. However, just as there are jumbo shrimp, there are impassioned atheists, and I assume they will be at that luncheon, eating sandwiches and talking about how they came to be an unbeliever. I, however, question their non-faith. I suspect that not being religious is their religion. If you don't believe in God, and someone else does, why should you care? And isn't trying to convince someone to not believe in God as bad (or worse) than someone trying to convince you that there is a God? Religious nuts certainly turn me off. So, I imagine, would non-religious nuts. I guess I don't know because I don't think I'll be attending the atheist luncheon, although I bet it's a good story.

There's good and bad everywhere. A few years ago, I went with some lesbian friends to the steps of the State House to yell at people about same-sex marriage (I was for it, natch.) While it was very cool to be there in that moment and actually stand up for something (a new thing for me), my most vivid memory was the Bible-thumpers on both sides of the argument. I remember two radicals viciously quoting the Bible at each other, trying to prove that gay people are or aren't an abomination. And even though I obviously agreed with the person who was saying that they were not an abomination, she still scared the beejesus out of me.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Enlighten Up - Yoga Doc Fraught with Boo-boos

The other night I saw the Yoga documentary "Enlighten Up," written, produced directed, and everything else'd by local Kate Churchill. As someone who likes to dissect films and someone who has dabbled in the healing arts, I thought it would be interesting. It certainly was, but for reasons maybe that the filmmakers wouldn't think (or even want.)

The premise is that Churchill was taken aback by all the "Baskin-Robbins yoga" we have here in the West, and was determined to get to the heart of the whole Yoga matter. Her idea was to take a layman from New York and try and see if six months of immersion in the Yoga culture could transform him physically and spiritually. Now, the film would have you believe that they chose this guy (Nick Rosen) out-of-the-blue, but the post-film Q & A Churchill conducted at my screening revealed that she had prior knowledge of him and she selected him for a reason. Nick is a journalist who was writing nothing really very interesting, but had just the right amount of skepticism that it would make for a great story when he finally converted at the end.

Well, as 29 year-old Nick started doing his Yoga thing, visiting different trainers and schools, throughout the world (even, most hilariously, ex-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page's "modern" take on it in his "Yoga for Regular Guy's" class, where DDP encourages the camera man to scope out his ex-wife's cleavage during one of the poses.), he definitely feels physically stronger and better, but the spiritual awakening eludes him. Much to Kate's chagrin. At several moments, we are privy to their conversations, and she seems to be antagonizing him, trying desperately to steer him the way she wants him (and her film) to go. This struck me as kind of horrible. At no point during this process did she think, "Well, I guess you can lead a horse to water..."? There were even times when he said he kinda, sorta thought he was feeling something, but I'm wondering if he was feeling it because she wanted him to, or he wanted her to leave him alone. There was even a segment when he said she didn't speak to him for days.

Now, documentaries are supposed to report the facts, by definition. However, make no mistake, they have a story just like any movie. Clearly, Kate had this plan, and it wasn't going the way she wanted. Nick was not finding any inner peace through Yoga. After months of pushing him to try and force it, Kate finally had to punt, I guess. This is where the film fails, because I think it was evident in the final product that her "arc" wasn't there. In fact, the final conclusion of the film, as illustrated by "Ultimate Yogi" Saran Ananda, is that enlightenment is different for everyone, and how you get there makes no difference. And if Nick wants to do all his poses and still go home a heathen, then that's his business. As those crazies I see daily outside the abortion clinic prove, you can't force spirituality/beliefs/religion on anyone. And in fact, the more people try, probably the less successful they will be.

That's my main problem with the doc. Technically, there are a few mistakes. She has a few head-on shots, with people talking directly into the camera, and it's jarring and distracting (You should always kind of have your subject off to the side a bit. That way they're not talking at the audience.) She also would cut people off in mid-thought and jump to the next scene, and I'm not sure if she was making a point or was just being sloppy, but it wasn't good.

In the end, it's a pretty good film, but I doubt anyone other than Yoga enthusiasts will be terribly entertained or enlightened, so she's pretty much preaching to the choir. Hell, the guy in the movie wasn't terribly enlightened. Why should I be?