Your Bookshelves are Pretentious

I’ve never read Lee Child, though his name comes up often whenever modern crime writing is discussed. I’ve thought for a while now that I needed to rectify that situation, because so many of the “must reads” that I have encountered (George Pelecanos, Megan Abbott, etc.) have turned out to be all they were hyped to be. His main character, Jack Reacher, star of 13 novels, is described as “a possession-free maverick who travels from place to place and has no permanent address.” That sounds like something right up my alley!

I’ve talked before about wanting to strip down my possessions, live a little closer to mobility, etc. It’s tough to do with a house and family and all that, but I definitely try to live a little “less is more” lifestyle. I keep my books culled down to ones I’ll either re-read or use as reference, I don’t buy many DVDs (maybe 5 a year?), and my CD collection has been massively culled . . . that and I hardly ever buy any music anymore anyway. I’ve told Julia more than once that if anything ever happened to her, or when she finally gets around to trading me in for a 20-something, switch-hitting male model, that I plan to just throw whatever fits into my truck and disappear into the Great Unknown.

So when I saw a link to this article about Lee Child from the Wall Street Journal, titled “Reacher’s Minimalist Roost: Crime writer Lee Child creates a home that his fictional hero might approve of,” I was intrigued. A guy as successful as Child choosing to live Thoreau style? Awesome! This I gotta see!

It starts out well enough, where Child talks about having to draw the line at homelessness. I can deal with that. The article continues:

So instead Mr. Child lives in a two-room apartment in the Flatiron district that’s architecturally stark, wrapped in white and bereft of rugs, curtains, side tables or accessories. The entire left-hand wall—stretching from the white Corian kitchen counter along the living space and to the windows that open to a small balcony—is a plane of glossy white laminate cabinetry. Inside the cabinets are some 3,000 books, as Mr. Child believes books make a room visually chaotic and that displaying them is pretentious. The books are shelved randomly; Mr. Child said his photographic memory allows him to know exactly where each one sits.

Okay, doesn’t sound the kind of minimalist space I’d want, at least aesthetically, but to each his own. 3000 books ain’t exactly minimal, and if you ask me hiding them doesn’t mean they aren’t there, possessions-wise. I also felt a stab of umbrage at his assessment that “displaying them is pretentious.” But we’ll move on.

We next read about the bare furnishings, a single painting, the view. Next we hear from his friend and fellow author, Alafair Burke.

“Every time I go there I want to come back and clean my apartment,” says fellow crime writer Alafair Burke, a friend who lives a few blocks away. She says Mr. Child always laughs at things she has around her house, asking what she needs stuff for.

The article goes on to talk about how much the apartment cost ($1.5 million), how much he’s spent to renovate it ($800 grand), etc. We learn about his childhood and that he always had “stuff.” Then comes the crack in the whole friggin’ facade:

Then there’s Mr. Child’s other apartment on a lower floor, where he keeps many of his possessions. Smaller in size but similar in layout, this writing office has lots of visible books, New Yorker cartoons, Reacher paraphernalia and a “technology museum” consisting of all his old cellphones and his first laptop. “I need a stimulating environment to write because my books are driven at 100 miles per hour at a time,” he explained. “A calm environment is for after I finish work.”

Hmm. We hear of how he and his wife handle their different aesthetic ideals.

She currently spends most of her time at their homes in the south of France and Rye, N.Y., which she decorated in more of a country style, he said. “It isn’t that we dislike each other’s taste. It’s that there’s nothing compromised this way,” he said.

Okay, who exactly does this guy think he’s kidding? It’s like if I pointed to my back porch and said, “See, there is absolutely nothing in this ‘room,’ that means I am a minimalist and I laugh at you and all your possessions! Mwuh ha ha ha!” Then I go back to my garage full of music career (ha! on editing, I realized I’d written “career” instead of “gear” here. I’m leaving it, because it’s actually an appropriate description of my music life — stuffed in the garage collecting dust!) and junk, or my living room clogged with bulky furniture and dog hair, feeling all satisfied with myself.

What he has is what amounts to a rich guy’s play room (nothing wrong with that, mind you, just call it what it is) that he can set up to appear like he’s some kind of stripped-down adventurer ready to throw a go bag in his Land Rover and ride off into the sunset. Please. I can’t see how he could participate in this article with a straight face. And if I were Alafair Burke, the next time he goes judgmental on having possessions I’d bust him in the face.

And he says displaying books in your home is pretentious? This cat just redefined the friggin’ word.

This One is for the Ladies!

One of the movie sites I look at on occasion is called Rama’s Screen. Honestly I don’t even know how I found out about the site, but they often have updates about movies coming down the road that I might be interested in. Plus they are kind of a DIY fan type site, and I dig that kind of initiative. Anyway, yesterday they posted an article called 15 Hottest Female Characters Of 2009, which I looked at with only mild interest. I’m usually not a big fan of “best of” lists, and I’m particularly tired of all the “best of decade” lists being thrown around. That, and most of these “hot” women don’t do a lot for me, and I haven’t seen most of the movies mentioned (in fact, I only saw 3 of them). One part in his lead paragraph caught my eye, though:

Now, I’m a straight guy who admires a woman’s beauty… so to all Rama’s SCREEN female readers out there, please understand that it would be awkward for me to start a list of hottest male characters of 2009. But if you wanna compile a list of your own, of which movie male characters you think were the hunkiest this past year, by all means, please share it in the comment section, your opinions are welcomed here. I’m sure some of you are itching to mention Jacob and Edward.

Now, I’m a straight guy who admires the ladies as well . . . but I’m not afraid to throw the occasional dude nod to another guy who’s definitely got it going on too, you know? Doesn’t mean I want to top the guy or anything, for crissakes, just like appreciating an attractive woman doesn’t mean I’m going to go all Tiger Woods either. I’m just sayin’, you know? Not only that, but the idea that there are women out there who would think of putting those goddamn nancy boys from Twilight on any kind of a manly list is just something I can’t abide.

This must be avoided at all costs!

So, for your holiday reading pleasure, I give you:

Chris La Tray’s Top 13 Studly Male Characters from 2009

I didn’t see enough movies that had leading male characters who I didn’t feel should be hip-checked out of the way for a studlier man to replace, so there are a few guys here from books and comics as well. Here we go!

#13 — Bruce Willis as Tom Greer in Surrogates

Okay, so I didn’t see this movie, but I will probably rent it. I haven’t even read the graphic novel it’s based on. But a brother’s got to give it up for Bruce. He makes (mostly) good movies, and he’s one of those actors that will make me check something out that I might otherwise stay away from. He rocks the bald dome as well as anyone, and he has that jaw that looks like it should be sticking out from under some rubberized mask on a kickass supersuit. Guys could do a lot worse than age as well as the mighty Bruce has — the dude is 54! His ex-wife had to go for a guy young enough to be her damn son to find one who could, presumably, match Mr. Willis’s manly prowess. Plus that’s an awesome leather jacket he’s wearing in that scene.

#12 Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake/The Comedian in Watchmen

Morgan’s position here is for you ladies who like your men nasty. And as The Comedian, he is as bad as they come. He’s basically a sociopath, but there is a tragic love story concerning his relationship with the original Silk Spectre that runs through the novel/movie that can’t be discounted, and will likely make you go “ahhhh.” Even though it started out as a rape, but hey, I said he’s not a nice guy. From a manly point of view, Edward Blake is a call-it-like-he-sees-it, take-no-bullshit kind of guy. His knock down, drag out fisticuffs with a disguised Adrian Veidt in the beginning shows he’s more than capable to hold his own, even when hopelessly overmatched. So he ends up splattered on the sidewalk . . . he’d be the first to admit he had it coming. But ladies, you know you’d be up to making a good man out of the kind of guy who has these rough-hewn good looks, now don’t you? To the tamer go the spoils!

#11 Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright in Terminator Salvation

Worthington earns a spot because he was also the main guy in Avatar, a movie which crushes this Terminator Salvation flick, but I don’t think you ladies would love him as much in that film because he’s at his best when he’s a ten foot blue alien. And since this countdown is mostly about rugged good looks, his role as a new-fangled Terminator gets the nod. He thinks he’s human, is the thing, and even when he realizes he’s not he still does the right thing and kicks copious ass on behalf of mankind. Along the way he does other manly things like get a beat up old jeep functional, befriends/mentors the young Kyle Reese (who we all know goes on to legendary badassery in the first Terminator movie by kicking robot ass and giving Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) some full-on lovin’ that ultimately results in John Connor, the leader of humans that Worthington fights alongside of in this movie. Confused yet?). Not only that, but as you can see in this picture, he totally owns the leather pants too. And gets to snuggle with Moon Bloodgood. That’s some manly awesome, right there.

#10 Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk in Star Trek

I know common wisdom would be to pick one of the Star Trek pretty boys in the roles of James T. Kirk or Spock (Chris Pine and Zach Quinto, respectively), but fuck those guys. Chris Hemsworth is the man in this film, even though he’s barely in it. Dig this. He takes over command of a doomed starship and single-handedly holds off the rogue Romulans long enough for about a million people to escape — including his beautiful wife, who gives birth to little J. Tiberius just before George rams his ship into the enemy. What a heroic way to go out! It doesn’t get any better.

More importantly, ladies, this guy is slated to play Thor in next summer’s superhero blockbuster. That’s right, THOR! As in, the GOD of fucking THUNDER! You’ll want to get in on the ground floor with this guy, ladies, so that when all your girlfriends start swooning over him next year you can be all disinterested and say, “Oh, him? I’ve been hip to him and his enormous, godly hammer for years now!”

#9 Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II in Watchmen

Right now you’re wondering “How does this friggin’ guy have the audacity to pick two fellas from that Watchmen movie, which sucks!” First off, you’re wrong. Watchmen was freaking awesome. Sure, the graphic novel was better, but, duh! As a separate medium, this movie was as good a representation as you could have hoped for. And as for this pick, I know what else you’re thinking: Dan Dreiberg was a nerd. Yeah, maybe. So what? The guy was probably the only genuinely good guy in the whole story. He wanted to do what was right. He was sensitive and empathetic to the women. He wasn’t in bad shape at all, and once they decided to start kicking ass again he more than held his own. Plus, ladies, he’s rich. Not Ozymandias rich, but loaded enough to have his own secret little Owl Cave full of gadgets and stuff. He may not have the strongest superhero chin in the business, but you have to admit there are worse specimens to have out front pushing the lawnmower around all summer, right?

And from the manly side of things, the dude is a friggin’ inventor of awesome shit. He kicks a lot of ass in fight scenes (mainly in the movie, but that is the version of the character we’re discussing here). And finally, he totally scores with Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) on board his little flying Owl Ship, which he friggin’ built, while she’s wearing nothing but her latex boots, all while hovering over the city. As they say, Halleluya!

Oh, and ladies? Don’t kvetch. I seriously considered adding Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach to this list, because I know some of you like your men, I don’t know . . . pint-sized.

#8 James “Bucky” Barnes as “New” Captain America in Captain America

We all have our fantasies, and I know you ladies have probably gotten all tizzified over characters that were even a little less real than a movie character, so here’s a comic book fella you can really close your eyes and let your fingers do the walking to, even if he did go by a nickname like “Bucky” when he was younger.

As a young man in World War II, he was sidekick to Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. He always seemed like kind of a twee little Robin knockoff, but Ed Brubaker, the current writer on the series, turned him into a total Nazi-slaying badass. Presumably he was killed in the same event that plunged Rogers into the North Sea, where he was frozen in ice until thawed out in modern times. Well, as it turned out Bucky survived in ice as well, only he was found by the Russians and turned into a brainwashed assassin. Story evolves, Brubaker kills Steve Rogers, and Bucky picks up the shield as his replacement.

What makes him a candidate here is that he has earned my respect as Cap, and I was pissed when it first happened. So if the guy can win me over, ladies, he can damn sure do the job for you too. He’s not all blue-eyed and blonde like Rogers either — he will definitely strum that chord in you women who like the roguish badboys too. He’s the kind of guy that will fight to the death for what he believes is right, even if that puts him on opposite side of the letter of the law. Who doesn’t love that? I’d say his strongest attribute — besides an ability to absolutely kick ass — is his loyalty to the people he loves. Loyalty to Steve Rogers. And loyalty to Natalia Romanova, aka The Black Widow, a former Russian agent he fell in love with while enslaved by the stinkin’ Russians, and with whom he continues to maintain a relationship in his current role as an Avenger. There is hope, though, ladies — I don’t think that romance is necessarily going to end well.

#7 Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee in Zombieland

Woody has managed to carve out a nice career for himself, both as an actor and as a spokesman for roasting fatties. I can’t think of any role I’ve seen him in that I didn’t enjoy, and his range seems to be broader than one might expect. For his role in Zombieland, Woody rocks the boots, jeans and leather jacket as well as anyone. Let’s face it — that’s a classic uniform for kicking ass in, isn’t it? Strap on a machete and plant a 12-gauge in the brother’s hands and he’s good to go. If you’re looking for love, ladies, this guy Tallahassee would probably be fun for a while, and a good hand to have on hand when the Zombie Apocalypse hits, but you’d expect to probably want to trade up soon as you hit real civilization. He’s damaged goods, and he’s not going to be happy unless he’s killing the walking dead. That doesn’t mean you can’t get your thrills off him in the back of one of those big, abandoned SUVs, though. Just post a lookout if you do.

#6 Gabriel Hunt in The Adventures of Gabriel Hunt

This is another fictional character that leaps out of the pages of the pulpy awesomeness that is The Adventures of Gabriel Hunt series of books. Gabriel and his brother are The Hunt Foundation, an organization that finds and investigates cool shit for museums and things like that. The books are about as fun as fun can be when your ass is planted in a chair and someone else isn’t planted on top of you. Gabriel is kind of a modern day Indiana Jones, always chasing around the world looking to find something/rescue someone/figure something out. There are always bad guys in hot pursuit, and there are always lusty women in his path.

Ladies, if you hook up with ‘ole Gabriel you’re in for an adventure. You can probably expect to squeeze some primo travel out of the deal too. He’s kind of old fashioned, but if you step up and hold your own he’s not opposed to letting you squeeze a few rounds out of his trusty Colt if the situation warrants it. Plus he’s got access to millions of dollars, and that never hurts if you’re after a sweaty weekend somewhere exotic. You might get shot at once in a while, or maybe even kidnapped and roughed up a little by villainous ne’re do wells, but that’s a small price to pay for an exotic good time.

And guys, if Hunt’s life and its full-on manliness isn’t apparent, then you need to go back to breaking down your stupid fantasy football roster for the week or something. You are BO-RING! If there’s one guy on this list that I would actually like to be, it’s this mofo. I even asked for a goddamn zippo lighter for Christmas because he carries one, and I don’t even smoke!

#5 Parker in The Hunter by Richard Stark, as adapted by Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel adaptation of one of the greatest crime books ever is an immediate classic. I’ve probably recommended it to more people than just about anything else in the past year. It kicked open the door to a whole new world for me — crime fiction — even if the “protagonist” is basically a total asshole. Parker is so mean he doesn’t even have a first name. He’s a guy that you double-cross at your peril. Do so, and you’re severely beaten, and probably dead — at his bare hands, no less. He’s not particularly nice, but if you hold up your end of the bargain he’ll almost be friendly to you. Almost. A character born in the 60s, the dude is also essentially a mysoginist. So why the hell is he here?

Ladies, Parker is here for those of you who want to live somewhere warm and beautiful as a kept woman. Stark’s books describe Parker as a guy with an insatiable sexual appetite immediately following one of his heists, and this continues as long as he’s flush. As the money runs out and he starts planning the next score, though, the action will die down for you until the job is done, then it’s back to the sheets for some high octane romping. Some of you will certainly be breathless by now at the possibilities of this. A guy that is content to keep you in cash by the pool so long as the good stuff is readily available? He’s not a bad looking guy, pretty dangerous, but otherwise willing to just leave you the hell alone. You can know what to expect from him, so take what you need and enjoy yourself. Hell, you can probably even keep a pool boy or two on the side, he won’t care. Just don’t try and double-cross him, or that will be that. That’s got to be a dream for many of you, which is why he’s here — because I am well tuned in to what all different kinds of women like, and I’m offering it to you here, for free.

#4 Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglorious Basterds

You didn’t really think I was going to leave Brad Pitt off a movie hunks list in a year that he has a movie on the table now, did you? Please. Let me refresh your memories, ladies:

That’s got to be a dream for many of you, which is why he’s here — because I am well tuned in to what all different kinds of women like, and I’m offering it to you here, for free.

For the women reading this, I don’t need to elaborate beyond the words Brad Pitt. The dude could be playing Ted Bundy and the women would still be all “Omigod, it’s Brad Pitt, omigod!” So the rest is for the guys bearing with me.

Dig the scar on his neck in this movie. How awesome is that? It gives every red-blooded heterosexual male the opportunity to actually gaze upon Pitt’s rugged good looks and nod appreciatively, all while not feeling the least bit gay. Not only that, but Mr. Pitt kicks copious ass in this film. I don’t recall him kicking this much tail since Troy. As a further bonus you don’t have to watch him getting it on with some other starlet, so you aren’t forced to cry into your sleeve wailing, “And the fucker gets Angie too!” C’mon. There are worse fake dudes than Lt. Aldo Raine to aspire to, believe me. Next time your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend asks if it’s okay to call out Brad’s name when you are in the unholy clinch, just imagine yourself as Lt. Raine. You’ll get through it just fine, big fella.

#3 Vartox the Hyper-Man in Power Girl

Vartox has a problem. He rules the planet Valeron. In the opening pages of the awesome Power Girl #7 (written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, art and cover by Amanda Conner, colors by Paul Mounts, letters by John J. Hill), we see him fighting off a horde of monkey-looking pirate-like invaders. His opening line of dialogue is:

Let those who would threaten his people taste the raw destructive power of VARTOX THE HYPER-MAN!

That is about as manly a line of dialogue as I’ve read this year. I could hardly retype it, for crissakes. Anyway, Vartox successfully beats off the invasion, but they manage to fire a doomsday device over his city that makes all the people sterile! So he comes to Earth because he has decided that only Kara Zor-L, aka Power Girl, is sufficiently awesome to be his mate and provide a new genetic lineage for his people. He arrives in his floating head spaceship and proceeds to woo PG into getting busy.

Check this guy out. He is well-covered in body hair, which we’ve needed to make a comeback since the 70s. The dude halfway looks like a taller, young Ron Jeremy, aka The Hedgehog, so ladies — you know he can throw it when it counts. Plus how often do you get to get it on with a dude with Superman level power without all the boy scout bullshit for baggage? Sure, Power Girl is about as hot a woman as you could possibly have to compete with, but you can’t expect her to carry the full load when it comes to reinvigorating an entire civilization, can you? If I were a woman, I’d totally be on board. Vartox is a man’s man, and you ladies may not admit it out loud, but you know you want him.

#2 Hugh Jackman as Logan aka Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Hugh frickin’ Jackman. Or Hugh Jardon, as he’s known in my house. Julia has been kind enough to allow me an embarassing man crush on this fucker all year. When that picture hit the internet way back when, everyone assumed it was photoshopped. It wasn’t. The dude is freakin’ ripped. His workout routine is insane. He can sing. He can dance. He’s funny. He hasn’t gotten busted in any stupid shit and he seems happily married to his hot wife for however friggin’ long it’s been. Yet he still gets to roll around in this movie with Lynn Collins. The guy is almost too perfect. It’s bullshit. Bullshit, I say!

If they let him keep this leather jacket, I’ll tell you what. . . .

#1 Michael Jai White as Black Dynamite in Black Dynamite

It’s only the movie I’ve been dying to see that hasn’t shown up anywhere near where I live. But still — you know I’m right about this. Just look at this bad mofo. Underneath those slick threads is a man made of pure muscle. Don’t believe me? Check him out in Blood and Bone, another movie in ’09 that he kicked righteous ass in, where he spends half of it shirtless!

This dude is the real deal. Someone needs to make a Black Panther movie and put his ass in it.

Black Dynamite is simply what every man wants to be, and whom every woman wants to do the dirty two-backed beast with. Deny it all you want, the universe knows it’s true. And the holiday season ain’t no time to be jivin’ with the universe.

So there you have it. Thirteen men to either be jealous of, aspire to, or lust after. Take your damn pick. If you think I missed anyone, then let me know. But keep those awful glow-in-the-daylight Twilight prissies away from me!

Put ’em Up, Not-My-Mom!

Last night I was sitting on the floor in the hallway of Meadow Hill Elementary school with Jimmy’s wife, Liz, and their two youngest kids. We were the first ones on hand for our indoor soccer game; we were lacing up various ankle braces, strapping on shin guards, popping ibuprofen . . . you know, all the preparations adults have to go through before engaging in any kind of serious physical activity. We were just outside the door of the gym where our game would take place. At the moment there was a youth basketball game going on. Suddenly the door burst open and this woman came staggering out and about fell onto Liz and her kids. Immediately in her wake was an older woman who had clearly shoved the first woman out. They were jawing vehemently at each other. Down the hall, another gym door burst open and this guy came charging down the hall, “You don’t talk to her like that, mom! You never talk to her like that!” and he had to be restrained by the first woman. It was quite exciting . . . and more than a little embarrassing.

I walked off down the hallway a short distance while they sorted out their disagreement. 10 minutes or so later the younger couple were back in the hallway, joined by another guy. From their conversation this was the gist of what was going on: apparently, the game was some kind of AAU girls’ team playing a boys’ team from the school. The girls were pretty high speed — they had fancy uniforms, knew the game, and were apparently putting quite a whuppin’ on the boys. It looked a little mismatched; the boys were a motley-looking bunch, one looked like he was only about 5 or so. The family disagreement was complex. There was the husband and wife, his parents (the mom was the one going mano e mano with the wife, his dad was apparently doing a lot of screaming and yelling inside the gym), and apparently a brother on the other side of the contest being waged on the court, or maybe he was the coach of the boys, I don’t know. The whole thing was a classic case of parents taking a youth sporting event waaaay too seriously; throw in that families were involved with different ideas about how things should be handled and we had all the ingredients of a bru-ha-ha.

The crux of the disagreement was that these poor boys should not have to endure getting their asses handed to them by a bunch of girls. Quotes were along the lines of “don’t they know what these boys will have to endure at school if they lose to girls?” and “their egos will just be crushed!” I actually had to walk away because I was amused by the absurdity of it all. Look, if these poor boys couldn’t handle losing to girls because the girls are better players, then the parents are the ones who should be ashamed. I think losing a basketball game is a perfect introduction to the kind of rejection and humiliation that (most of) those boys are going to suffer at the hands of women in the life stretching before them (with parents like the ones described, the boys who are actually gay are going to have an entirely different set of problems to deal with).

So, clearly, misogyny is still being practiced in our nice little city, and our boys are being indoctrinated into it early. Not that I’m surprised, I see misogyny all over the place. It almost makes me want to vote for Hillary. Unfortunately, I’ve read one or two things too many about her that make me just not able to get on that bus. I mean, I’d cast a vote for her to make McCain or Romney cry when they get mocked back at the country club, but I’d rather not have to do that. Then again, I do like to point fingers and laugh now and then. . . .