LD has started an interesting discussion on the worst books/movies/concerts/meals he's ever experienced. This topic hits close to home, since I bought an I-Pod ten days ago and have since been downloading all my CDs onto my home computer, a truly embarrassing process since it reminds me how much crap I actually own. The California Raisins Sing the Hits? Check. Greatest Hits of KC and the Sunshine Band? Check. Britney Spears' ...Baby One More Time? Yep, that one, too. (In my defense, I borrowed it from a law school friend when we were driving down to the Outer Banks for Beach Week in 2000 and never gave it back, but still, the fact that I went to the trouble of borrowing it cannot be justified in any way, nor can I justify the fact that I actually downloaded it into "Michael's Joy," the name of my I-Pod on my home computer.) I'm also embarrassed by the fact that I have too many Greatest Hits albums, the bane of any discriminating music fan. I can just hear John Cusack's character from High Fidelity lampooning me as I go through my CDs: "You know, Elvis and James Brown had some pretty fair albums. You might want to look into them." I then end up clutching my copious Dylan bootlegs and softly muttering "I'm eclectic" over and over again. Anyway, on with the show:
1. What is the worst DVD/video you own?
Oddly enough, the wife and I rented Midnight Cowboy from Blockbuster months ago, never returned or watched it before finally taking it in last night, and I found it bizarre, but I suspect that it will improve with subsequent viewings. It's nowhere close to the worst movie we own, certainly not when I have no fewer than three Adam Sandler vehicles on DVD. The Best of Will Ferrell, Vol. 2 is remarkably disappointing, featuring some truly inexplicable sketch choices. (How do you have two DVDs of his work and "Storytellers: Neil Diamond" still fails to appear?) I suppose that Road House is technically a bad movie, but it pretty much defines the category of "good bad movie," or at least "fun bad movie," so it doesn't rate here.
Off the top of my head, I'd have to go with American Pie II because after watching it more and more, it gets less and less funny. The premise is ludicrous. (A group of high school friends rent a mansion on the beach while working as house painters for the summer - that happens all the time, right?) The screenwriter made some indefensible choices in terms of giving lines to some of the worst characters (I defy you to find anything funny in any of Kevin's lines from the movie, with his frustrated monologue on the beach while staring off to the horizon, wondering what it all means, was a nadir in human existence) and writing very little for some of the funnier characters (Natasha Lyonne's character was pleasantly amusing but got no attention in the movie, and Lord knows she needed the exposure then.) The big gross-out scene with Stifler getting peed upon seemed like it took about 30 seconds to conceive: "Let's see. Stifler accidentally drank semen in the first movie and audiences seemed to enjoy it, so what bodily fluid can he be humiliated with in the sequel? Feces? No, let's save that as the piece de resistance for the third movie. What does that leave us?" And far be it from me to ever complain about a lesbian scene, but has anyone ever noticed that the red-headed lesbian just wasn't very good looking? Is that too much to ask when casting a character whose sole purpose is to look good while making out with another woman in her underwear?
2. What is the worst concert you've ever seen in person?
Attending bad concerts at Chastain Park is truly a rite of passage for Atlanta barristers. Nothing says "that rocks!" less than an amphitheater in an insanely ritzy part of town filled with professionals sipping chablis and talking loudly about that time they got lost and ended up on Memorial Drive. I'll vote for the George Benson show I saw there as a summer associate in 1999. The food was good and I got to drink, so it wasn't that bad, but man, was I bored. My Memory Palace of winning the Champions League for Barcelona in extra time and then unfurling a combo American/Catalan flag got a real work out that night. The good news was that I found out that Neil Young was not the first one to sing "On Broadway."
Weirdly enough, the last two shows I've seen at Chastain were alright. I saw Seal there with the wife and another couple last summer and wasn't overly enamored, but I was entertainined by watching all the women assembled stare intently at his crotch for two hours. The wife and I also saw Robert Plant there last summer and had a great time, although the concert wasn't sold out, which figures since Chastain only fills up for easy listening crap. Did I mention that the place was packed for George Benson?
3. What is the worst experience you've ever had at a restaurant?
I'm tempted to list any one of a number of dates in college and my first two years of law school, but in retrospect, the humiliation in those instances usually came afterwards when I made a series of ham-handed attempts to get some, only to realize that paying for dinner does not create a binding contract for smooching, petting, and fumbling at bra straps. I also saw a proposal at a Red Lobster in Orlando in the late 90s, which made me feel bad for those involved moreso than myself. I once got to watch my high school debate coach get into a shouting match with the manager at Grandma's in Peekskill, New York over charges for iced tea refills before piling us all into a rental van and shouting obscenities (and the occasional borderline ethnic insult) as we peeled out of the parking lot.
All that said, the worst experience for me in a restaurant was probably my father's infamous outburst at a Rax in Pittsburgh in 1983. I was eight years old, a good age to be mortified by one's parents (although it would have been worse had I been in middle school, when being around one's parents is, by definition embarrassing.) Dad ordered a beef stroganoff baked potato (I love him dearly, but he's never been noted for his great taste; as a family, we had to stage a fashion intervention by confiscating his pair of highlighter blue pants in the late 80s because he wore them every weekend) and, angered that there was an insufficient amount of beef on this culinary masterpiece, proceeded to bat it across the table, knocking over a flimsy flower vase that Rax had deployed to create a whiff of fine dining. Dad then proceeded to angrily fill out a comment card and refused to submit it to the comment box or to the person working the register, instead demanding to hand it to the manager in person. I can only assume that I blacked out at this stage, because I don't recall the encounter with the manager.
4. What is the worst movie you've ever seen in the theatre?
I'd have to go with either Sliver or The Color of Night, both of which were released in that dreadful period after Basic Instinct in which "psychological thrillers" were all the rage, thus giving filmmakers an excuse to portray human beings as horny voyeurs who would ultimately screw and murder one another. I can't express how bad these movies are. Matrix Revolutions is also up there. Speaking of which...
5. What is the worst book you've actually finished?
Without a doubt, Phantastes. This book was surreal in a stupid way and my enduring memory is arguing with my 11th grade English teacher after he tried to justify this impenetrable mess by asking "maybe we aren't really here?", at which point I should have said "so if I punch you in the face, nothing will happen to any of us because we're all constructs of some higher power's imagination, right?"
6) Who is the worst looking or least appealing celebrity you would have intimate relations with "just to tell the story"?
Ann Coulter. My left-of-center friends would be both mortified and highly interested to find out just how vigorous a rogering I gave her. Plus, when the act was done, I could reach into her chest cavity, Mola Ram style, and determine what she has beneath her sternum in place of a functioning heart.