CategoryIan Adkins

Straight By Fiat

I have this old favorite joke that almost no one else knows or gets, but I can’t stop thinking it’s funny, so I’m going to do my best to rid myself of it by the only method guaranteed to destroy humor: dissection.

Like many things stupid but great, and most things Devon Sawa, I would never have seen the 2002 comedy Slackers if not for its champion, my brother Ian. It’s a pretty slight movie and as teen comedies go it is not exactly shifting any paradigms, though it does feature some ringers in the cast, all of whom appear in the above clip. Yes, that’s Michael C. Maronna, Big Pete from Pete & Pete, playing a character (Jeff) whose sexuality is part of a slow-burning running gag throughout the movie. Here’s what makes it interesting: none of the jokes are homophobic. His friends know he’s gay and they’re fine with it. The target of the joke is repression, not sexual orientation, and it benefits greatly for that. (Note that this movie predates the genesis of Tobias Fünke by two years!)

Besides less-obvious targets, here are some things that I will always think are funny:

I don’t think the clip needs much context, but here it is just in case. Maronna, Sawa and Jason Segel are the scheming heroes, who have been milking the creepy Jason Schwartzman for money. Schwartzman comes to Maronna and Segel with evidence that Sawa has betrayed their confidence to his love interest (Jaime King). Upon seeing it, the guys are infuriated, and in a three-camera sitcom we would already know where this goes: they turn on Sawa together, then eventually they realize that Schwartzman is the real problem, kick him out and reunite. In fact, you can already see this playing out in Schwartzman’s head! Just before the clip begins, he sputters “he betrayed you! He stole my girl! He’s not our friend!” He’s transparency-oblivious character one.

Then Maronna starts his monologue, and it follows that scenario… for exactly five seconds, before veering off into his desperate fantasy of male bonding. He has rehearsed this speech, he has seen an opportunity, and now he siezes the moment to execute his pitch. He knows they will object–this sounds pretty gay!–but he has anticipated that, and before they can get a word in, addends that it is in fact not gay. Triumph. There is no way they can resist now.

In thirty seconds, Maronna covers all four of the humor angles listed above. The first three points are all basically about the tension between expectation and reality, which is also the root of all suffering, which in turn goes back to the old axiom that comedy is pain happening someone else. The magic of point four, commitment, is that he makes the other three completely implicit. Nobody hands him a straight line to set up the zinger. Nobody winks at the camera.* There’s a lot of trust in the audience here, and for me, at least, it pays off in a way that I’m still giggling at ten years later.

Okay, I think the frog is dead now. Mike Maronna is very talented and should get more work. This is all to explain why, whenever I express adulation bordering on the ecstatic for a male role model, I will make a sly face and add “but it’s not gay” after describing how I want to suck his cock.

* For a perfect example of how literally winking at the camera can undercut flawless commitment, see the last forty years of Dwight-and-Jim gags in The Office.

People keep telling me I’m such a traveler

But compared to my siblings (who, I have explained to many people’s astonished eyes, are in Hilo and Oxford) I am the kid who ain’t never been past yonder fence. Caitlan has a beautiful post up now about her triennial trips to Italy with her friends Christi and Melissa, with whom I was privileged to ransack Innsbruck last summer.

There is another thing some do to moustache and it costs, I am told, a nickel

Can you believe Sam Elliott’s IMDB photo shows him without a moustache? I mean, it doesn’t even look like him!

Sam Elliott, clean-shaven.

Ian and I typed almost simultaneously today that his only real job in Tombstone (which I finally saw, and did anyone else realize that Ben Foster was doing a Val Kilmer imitation throughout 3:10 to Yuma?) was to grow a moustache, which is also what he did in The Big Lebowski and (apparently) Ghost Rider. Looks like he’ll be reprising that role in The Golden Compass. You can’t argue with success.

Sam Elliott, moustachioed.

I guess it’s like they say: some are born to moustache, some achieve moustache, and some have moustache thrust upon them.

Sam Elliott, action figure.

I’m willing to bet that anyone who meets Sam Elliott quickly becomes the latter.

Half an hour later, via text message: Brendan: “Best phone conversation ever!” Ian: “lol.”

When Ian and I talk on the phone it is for express and efficient reasons, so we don’t really bother with greeting protocols. When I called Ian earlier this evening to determine the provenance of one of Yale’s expletives, I forgot that he wouldn’t have my new cell number, and I was already on edge in a feverish Halo match. Thus:

Ian: Hello?
Brendan: DO YOU SAY FUCK BEANS!
Ian: … Who is this?

Yesterday Maria and I looked at the best apartment in the world, and today she applied for the lease; assuming she gets it, we’ll be moving in mid-February, and I will probably just be leaving my stuff in boxes in anticipation of leaving Kentucky. My very, very tentative plans for the move are to buy my brother’s truck for the transportation involved and drive to wherever I’m going sometime between February and April.

For those of you paying attention: yes, this means I’m going to get my driver’s license.

There really isn’t a better time in my life to do this. Everything I need to do my job fits in a backpack, and I can work from any coffee shop in the country. All that’s missing is a destination.

Excluding New York City and the South in general, where should I move? I want to live in a metropolitan area with a healthy tech sector. Also, truck or no truck, I want somewhere with good public transportation. Chicago (sorry, Flora) and St. Louis don’t really interest me; all the places I’ve traditionally talked about are coastal, but it’s not like I surf. Said places:

  • Boston: I understand there is neat stuff here, and also they put all the cars underground.
    • Downside: I’ve never been there and I might dislike it for the same reasons I dislike New York (cold, dark, smells bad, cost of living).

  • Providence: I’ve been there and I liked it a lot.
    • Downside: Not really a rising-star tech city, and rumor has it the sun sets for six months at a time. Iffy public transit (but highly walkable).

  • San Francisco Bay Area: Been there and liked it too. Kind of the standard to which I compare all other potential destinations.
    • Downside: I would be a twentysomething male web developer living in the SF Bay Area. Also, insane rent.

  • Seattle: High scores in tech and coffee-shop availability.
    • Downside: See SF Bay Area.

  • Portland: Apparently the place where kids move these days.
    • Downside: See Boston.

  • Hilo or Honolulu: Ian might be in Hilo in August, plus, y’know, Hawaii.
    • Downside: This is a stupid idea.

  • Greensboro or Raleigh-Durham: The model of a rising tech area; driving distance from Jon and Amanda.
    • Downside: Jon and Amanda might be moving, and more importantly, this defeats the whole point of getting out of the South.

  • San Diego: I’ve been there and I liked it; solid tech score; not wet, dark or smelly; people can crash my place for Comic Con.
    • Downside: Poor public transit. Would probably be considered outcast for weird skin patterns that emerge when I tan.

  • London: I have beautiful illusions of this place.
    • Downside: This isn’t actually a possibility. I’m pretty sure I cannot legally work there, or afford to live there under a weak dollar. Also I’m enjoying those illusions and would dislike having them crushed. Consider all this repeated for Sydney and Toronto.

The pachyderm in the pantry is that except for the unlikely choices (North Carolina, London, possibly Hawaii), I have no friends in any of these places, and I am spectacularly bad at meeting new people. All of my current friends were obtained through academic programs with enforced social contact or Internet. So, friends on Internet: where should I move?

Update 1038 hrs: Maria got the apartment! Who wants to give me driving lessons?

Thanks to everybody who has commented or emailed with advice and information. You guys are the best Internet ever!

I discovered a few minutes ago that I have not only a big black splinter in the heel of my hand, but a hell of broken nail on that hand’s ring finger. My hand was in no such condition when I went to bed last night. What exactly am I doing in my sleep?

I know I haven’t written anything in here in like ten weeks; I have been saving up the biggest thing for the day when it actually happens. Meanwhile, Maria bought a red car, we ate at the Mayan Gypsy three times in a week, Ian touched down like a spinning stone, and Brenna will never trust us again.

I’m 25

I have a camera for a face.

I made brownie pie and we ate Spinelli’s. DC and Beth got me a book and a bunch of great Actors Theatre stuff, and Yale got me some stuff he found in his car, and he, Ken, Kyle, Scott, Lisa, Monica, Mom, Ian, Maria’s family and especially Maria got me a present I would never have let myself buy: a real camera.

Thanks, ballers.

My brother Ian wants to move to Hawaii and live in a sailboat. He also enjoys poker.

Me: Bad news–all gambling is illegal in Hawaii.

Ian: Illegal gambling isn’t!

Ian has been and gone, leaving giggles and makeouts in his wake. Thank you very, very much to Deb Core, Sumana Harihareswara, Joan Wood, Sharon Calhoun, Lisa Brown, Scott Stauble, Kyle Neumann, Angel Brooks, Ken Moore, Monica Willett, Sean Hoban, and especially Maria, whose idea this was in the first place. You guys are the champions of friendship!

HEY BALLERS. There will exist, this week, an unprecedented Wednesday Night Basketball because that’s when Ian will be here. There will be games and pizza. There will be shouting. Tuesday Night Basketball will not happen, because we will need the evening to fortify the apartment against you barbarians, but if Scott and Yale and Kilz0r are available we should try to do the thing with the stuff, that night. Right?

PS If you have pledged money toward the Bring Ian Home Fund and want to give it to us so you get to sign the card, the next few days would be ideal for that–we’ll be handing it over Wednesday night. (If you have already paid but can’t be there, we will forge your signature.) Thanks very, very much to everyone who has helped with this!

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