In Case of (Dental) Emergency

I passed a car yesterday with a “Dentist” license plate.

And my first question was: Why do dentists get special license plates?

Somehow I couldn’t imagine that there would be some such pressing dental emergency that they would need a licensed dentist to mispark his (or her) car in order to rush to the scene like some dude on CSI.

Maybe I guess if someone broke their teeth by hitting a sidewalk (ouch), or had their tooth jammed through their gum (also ouch).

But somehow, it seemed to me that this would fall under the purview of a regular surgeon, an ER guy who, too tired from a long night’s work in the intensive ward, would wipe at his furrowed brow and think to himself, as he received the unfortunately-toothed patient:

“Just another day I’m doing a dentist’s work.”

In my head this surgeon/replacement-dentist is played by Clint Eastwood, the Clint Eastwood of some years ago, and he later on has to defuse a hostage crisis in the hospital using his own no-nonsense brand of medicine as well as the advanced military techniques he learned as a Ranger-medic in ‘Nam.

He’d kick some ass, save that guy who broke his teeth and the day to boot.

This all sounds a little ridiculous, but then again, so does special license plates for dentists.

***

That same day, I did something I try to do often: I ate a delicious sandwich.

I’d recruited J-Sam Bakken on short notice to fro’ it up with me (a replacement for bearding it up with my now beardless friend Rob Malone) and to go see a play over at the Ontological-Hysteric theater.

I had been seeing less theater lately, which was partially a consequence of the summer, a season with a dearth of new plays, and partially a consequence of my own somewhat demanding evening rehearsal schedule.

Speaking of which the play/boat I’m in (Showboat?) had been going fairly well. For someone without a true theatrical background (bit parts in middle school shows, but the kids who got the major roles turned out, much later in life, to be for the most part gay), it was interesting to find memorizing lines coming easier, interesting to have a litmus test for progress every day in rehearsal, a bar to challenge myself with. Acting provided me an outlet for energy that made me less depressed at home with the idea that I was wasting my life, while still allowing some break-days for Karaoke.

But as always, I was deeply unsure of my method acting (having failed my only class in it, kind of), so I decided to see the real thing and went to a show.

The show was unsatisfying, a one-act about “beautiful gangbangs” and “force-impregnations”, but the sandwich we got before hand was excellent. It was again, a Baoguette, which I had mentioned previously on this blog. However, this time, the bread was fresh out of the oven and toasty.

When I went in the other day for a job interview I think went well, it began with my explaining to my prospective boss about my concept of “value” in eating and how it wasn’t about going to Per Se on multiple occasions, like some food-a-tics, but rather about finding the right food for the right value. By this mark, KFC provided good value, as did Artichoke Pizzeria, since even though the slices were about $1.00 more expensive, they made up for it in quality. The Baoguette is a great example of this, a giant sandwich full of healthy, delicious things than can function as a multi-snack, a lunch or a dinner.

So I managed to fill myself up and gain perspective on my acting, that at least I wasn’t doing something as crazy as some “beautiful gangbangs”.

Sometimes, I guess, the satisfaction of a valuable sandwich is all you need to brighten your day.

***

To say “Ponyo” is Miyzaki’s worst film is to say it’s like any other animator’s wet-dream fantasy of what they could accomplish.

Still, “Ponyo On The Cliff, By The Sea” is Miyazaki’s most childish movie and thus his least satisfying. Here we are dealing with 5 year-olds as opposed to the hormonal teens of “Princess Mononoke” or the adolescents of “Howl’s Moving Castle”/”Sprited Away”. The story is minimal, though with beautiful touches, about a boy, Sosuke, who lives with tough-willed mom, on a cliff by the sea and discovers an anthropomorphic goldfish one afternoon who he shares a childish love with which allows her to become human.

There are the usual Miyazaki overtones of the fragility and resilience, wilderness and beauty of nature, along with respect for those who show respect for themselves and others in finding their place in the world. Then there are the backgrounds where the characters play, a tire swing drawn like a page from a storybook, blades of grasses bunched in broad strokes as if painted. Obviously, Miyazaki is going for that fairy tale appeal here, but his weakness has always been his screenwriting and here it shows. There is no real danger, no enemy, no sadness really in “Ponyo”. The great conflict or “stakes” of the film are established hastily, if at all. Worst of all, the ending is unsatisfying and cutesy, resolving pretty much nothing and ending with a saccharine and silly song by the younger siblings of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers respectively.

Yet, as always with a Miyazaki film, there is value to be found here. “Ponyo” is reverent in its respect for the elderly, alluding to Ozu in its treatment of seniors in the country, where they are respected. It shows a vision of a more utopian society, where people can get along together, just by innocence and love. Miyazaki draws a world full of magic and wonder because the film is about five-year-olds and seeks to experience the world simply as they do.

However, my favorite films for children are always the ones that push them to think about the world in new ways, as opposed to giving them a utopian bubble, easy to pop. “Holes” was a film (and a book) like this, that made one think about the concept of guilt, responsibility and legacy as well as the promise of America. Another Miyazaki film, “Spirited Away” would be another great example, where a young girl learns that the world is frightening and can be unforgiving, but that self-definition is the way to adulthood and that courage is resultant of faith in one’s self. I think Miyazaki’s problem is that in stooping to talk to the 5 year-olds of the world, he assumes a simplicity that is not necessarily due. But simplicity can be beautiful and “Ponyo” often is.

Still, this is the only film of Miyazaki’s that I can say is inferior to the work of his admirers at Pixar.

“So wait, someone stole Liam Neeson’s daughter and now he’s going to use all of his powers to get her?” I asked my friend Frank, whispering in his ear during the movie. “Isn’t this Taken? When is he going to twist that little kid’s neck?”

“Shut the fuck up, Nick.” Frank said and threw popcorn in my hair.

Which I then proceeded to eat.

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