A Few Impressions: ‘Strangers on a Train’, by James Franco
One of the strategies that Patricia Highsmith employs in her first novel, Strangers on a Train, is to bounce the narrative between two characters. As the title suggests, these two strangers, Guy and Bruno, meet on a train at the beginning of the book and discuss killing people in each other’s lives in order to duck suspicions based on motives. Guy doesn’t take Bruno’s suggestion seriously, but after Bruno kills Guy’s wife, Bruno pressures Guy to murder his father. The structure of the book allows Highsmith to jump from one character to another and put them in completely different parts of the country, but because of their relationship and the vacillation between the two storylines, they feel as if they are very close to each other. It is almost a split screen effect, where they are living their separate lives distinct from each other, but the parallel structure brings them close together. It feels as if they’re in the same frame.
The linear form of the book prevents the stories from being played at the exact same time as a split screen might in a film (although split screens are rarely used this way in movies). But the two threads are woven in such a way that causes the reader to experience the stories as if they were happening simultaneously, at least that is the understanding conveyed. This technique causes the reader to go through one thread at a time, injecting a force of energy into the narrative. When each section is taken up again, it is resumed in the midst of the most crucial moments for that character. The back-and-forth transitions trim the fat and streamline the storytelling.
Michael Douglas’s Oral Sex Humblebrag Totally Failed
I say a lot of things I don’t actually mean to say. When I let my mouth run, I find myself implying that I can do 100 pushups, that my favorite movie is “something French and old,” and that I “read books for fun.” I guess you could say I’m a huge liar with absolutely no shame. That’s why when I found out that Michael Douglas, star of Behind the Candelabra and the movie that came before Basic Instinct 2, claimed that oral sex gave him throat cancer, I felt like I had finally found a celebrity to admire. Sadly, he couldn’t even keep that story going, because he’s retracted his claim.
As you can see in the below quote from the Guardian, and this audio transcript, Michael Douglas strongly implied, if not downright admitted, he got cancer because he loved to go down on women. Yeah, Michael Douglas decided to talk about how he loved to lick, suck, and drool all over vaginas. This is how it went:
Xan Brooks: Do you feel, in hindsight, that you overloaded your system? Overloaded your system with drugs, smoking, drink?
Michael Douglas: No. No. Ah, without getting too specific, this particular cancer is caused by something called HPV, which actually comes about from cunnilingus.
Nothing Is Less Funny Than Scientologists Doing Comedy
All the great men of history have had their escape valves, their private passions. Einstein played the violin. Disraeli wrote romantic novels. Napoleon used to rub two ferrets covered in sulphur together until one of them caught fire. So it is with the head of Narconon International, Scientology’s notorious drug-rehabiliation wing.
His name is Clark Carr, and when he isn’t fooling around with e-meters, he’s part of Laughworks, which claims to be a comedy group of some kind and also features the woman who used to voice Cubbi in Gummi Bears.
The guys and gals in Laughworks have been taking their laugh-an-hour routines around the Scientology world for the last decade, but of late they’ve gone quiet. Clark in particular has been busy defending his organization from charges that it routinely took out credit cards in the names of people it was supposed to be helping. All that changed last Tuesday, when Stand Up for Valley Org took to the stage in LA. As the name suggests, it was an entire evening of Scientologyl comedy devoted to raising money for the San Fernando Valley Scientologists’ plan to build an Ideal Org, which is a deluxe kind of church.
Celebrity Swatting and Other Popular LA Trends
Los Angeles kinda sucks. Ask anyone. It’s spread out, the people are weird, and also the devil lives here. Yes, the actual devil lives in Los Angeles. He has a duplex in Laurel Canyon and drives a Saab. His three kids are named Donald, Donna, and Rocketship.
In addition to the devil and his hell-spawn, Ryan Seacrest lives here. I think he’s tangentially related to Satan, but the blood test results are not in yet. Seacrest was the victim of a hot, new Los Angeles trend known as swatting. Due to the inescapable fact that Los Angeles is totally fucking boring, people here actually take the time to prank call various emergency-services agencies and trick them into responding to imaginary incidents at celebrity estates. Often times, SWAT teams will be called to the scene, hence the term swatting.
Swatting victims include Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher (who failed to see the irony in getting Punk’d), Charlie Sheen (who does not know how to spell the word irony), and Simon Cowell, who dealt with a false report that someone had been tied up in his home. Somehow, I doubt the report was actually false, since my only theory for why X-Factor is still on the air is that Simon Cowell is holding all the Fox executives hostage.
In the interest of honesty, let me say that I’m far more interested in the version of swatting where I get to slap Ryan Seacrest in the face, but I suppose we can’t all get what we want, can we? I’m not the Angelino who starts the trends. I just follow them. I went out to document all the hot new trends in La La Land and report back on them before they become passé in the next six hours.
Shove a famous person down your pants and sneak them through airport security. It’s even harder than it sounds, but it’s extra rewarding when you land in St. Louis with Jaden Smith in your cargo shorts.
The above gentleman is either cosplaying as a character from Sons of Anarchy, or he is just covering up a huge bald spot. Either way, dressing up is a big trending topic in Hollywood these days. This guy wants to escape his dull existence and pretend to be “hillbilly Michael Chiklis from The Shield.” My celebrity cosplay dream is dressing up like Shaquille O’Neal’s seventh illegitimate child, Rufus. If you actually just want to be yourself, chances are you shouldn’t be living in LA.
Scientology Hates Psychology
Illustration by Grant Gronewold.
Scientology’s hatred of psychiatry and psychology has been well documented, but what happens when one of their members has a breakdown? Alice Wu, a young Taiwanese Scientologist living in Sydney, found out when she showed signs of mental illness and was allegedly thrown in an isolation room. According to what her family has told the media, Alice was held against her will, but when an Australian TV station reported the story in late February, the church denied all allegations and Alice herself, who now is back in Taiwan, sent the station an email saying she hadn’t been detained or mistreated.
I spoke to “John,” an ex-Scientologist involved in Alice’s saga, to find out more. (Like many former members of the church, John is worried about being harassed by Scientologists and only agreed to an interview if we withheld his real name.)
VICE: How did you first learn about Alice?
John: There’s an online message board where a lot of former Scientologists communicate. A Taiwanese national described Alice’s story, and I organized a few former Scientologists to visit her. We got someone else to contact the family in Taiwan.
Have you had any personal experience with detainment like Alice allegedly went through?
I’ve known of several attempts to treat mentally ill people in that way. I was told of one guy who spent six weeks on a farm just resting. The problem was that no one was allowed to talk to him.
[Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard said when people are in this state, you take them somewhere quiet and try to keep them calm until they straighten out. But if you want to make someone feel like they’re nothing, just ignore them. And that’s what would have happened to Alice.
John’s statements are his opinions and do not reflect the views of VICE Media Inc. or its affiliates.
Read more from our Grievous Sins issue:
New Roma Ghettos
Meet the Last Lykovs
Let’s Get Physical
Does Don Draper Want to Legalize Heroin?
I’ve been reading about how bad the war on drugs is for so long that I’m not actually sure what the arguments in favor of prohibition are other than, “Drugs are bad, mmmmkay?” The government’s efforts to use law enforcement to get people to stop getting high costs of billions of dollars a year, results in nonviolent people being sent to prisons that ruin their lives and, in many cases, stick them in a cycle of recidivism that’s nearly impossible to escape, decimates poor and minority communities disproportionately and deprives many children of fathers. The war on drugs is racist, cruel, expensive, and it doesn’t even work, since people are still getting high—in the past few years, illegal drug use among kids has increased, while legal drug use (in the form of tobacco and alcohol) has declined. We need to get people out of an overcrowded prison system and back to productive society and their families, and we can do that by releasing those convicted of drug-related crimes. Fuck the law-and-order conservatives who have pandered for votes for decades by describing a world full of violent criminals who need to be locked up for life; fuck the for-profit corporations and prison-guard unions who make money off of human misery. Close the prisons, legalize drugs, stop trying to solve every societal ill with a badge and a gun, end the war on drugs. And so on and so forth.
You probably agree with a lot of the above paragraph—according to the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, and Michele Alexander’s great, bestselling book, The New Jim Crow, brought widespread recognition to the idea that mass incarceration and the war on drugs are racist as well as massive failures. But it wasn’t until the past few days that the movement to end the drug war achieved the mark of every mainstream political cause in America—a bunch of celebrities attached their names to it.
What Do Hate Groups Think of Anne Hathaway?
Have you ever met anyone who likes Anne Hathaway? No? Me either.
Even if someone doesn’t know who she is, you can just show them a picture of her smarmy, drama school face or that clip of her saying “blerg” in an effort to appear human, and they’ll be an instant lifelong “Hathahater.”
Last week, I called around hate groups to see how they felt about Jennifer Lawrence, and it turned out they, like everyone else on earth, all liked her (kinda). So I decided to call up a few more hate groups and see what their feelings were on Anne.
COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE CITIZENS
Who are they?
A white supremacist group that, amongst other things, are against racial integration, the gays, and interracial marriage.
What do they think of Anne Hathaway?
Could I just ask, really quickly, if your group has an opinion on Anne Hathaway? Do you hate her as much as the rest of the world?
Who’s Anne Hathaway?
Catwoman in the new Batman movie? She just won the Oscar for Les Mis? Princess Diaries?
I don’t know who that is.
You didn’t see The Devil Wears Prada?
No. Why are you asking me this?
Because I really hate her. And I was just hoping to find some kind of group I can join that feels the same way.
Well, why do you hate her?
I don’t know! It’s weird. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it has something to do with her face.
Is she white?
Yeah, she’s white.
I don’t know. We don’t have an opinion on everything in the world. I don’t look at many movies. But I guess my daughters or my son or my wife might have seen her in something.
Are they there? Maybe you could ask them what they think of Anne?
[to his daughter] Renee, do you know what the Princess Diaries are? [to me] Yeah, she’s heard of it.
Ask her what she thinks of Anne Hathaway.
She just went to the other room…
Well what kinda stuff is your group into?
We’re the voice of a no-longer-silent majority. We’re paleoconservatives and populist conservatives.
I don’t really know what anything you just said means.
We’re like Andrew Jackson.
Was he Michael Jackson’s dad?
No, no. He was the president.
What do you guys think of Michael Jackson? It must be a hard one for you guys, right? Because he used to be black but then he was white.
Oh, I don’t know… I don’t really have an opinion on him.