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laughing with alan watts and the wild hogs

WHO RECOMMENDED “WILD HOGS”? This fur­sh­lug­giner film is poorly con­ceived and pre­dictably point­less! It’s a biker-comedy (?) with an im­pres­sive if motley cast. There are four male leads, two roles filled by a couple of se­rious ac­tors that I enjoy seeing in just about any­thing. Un­for­tu­nately, a pair of sup­pos­edly funny ac­tors that I rarely enjoy in any­thing oc­cu­pies the other two roles.

Wild Hogs also boasts an im­pres­sive sup­porting cast with an­other fave (and un­der­used) se­rious actor, along with one of my fav­er­avest ever actresses—even if her talent and scenic value are wasted here.

First, some back­ground: Harley-Davidson owner and riders have been so­cial­izing with one an­other since for­ever! The com­pany it­self has had a tu­mul­tuous and in­ter­esting his­tory. At one point, might have ben­e­fited if Brian Wilson had written Little Harley in­stead of Little Honda! Their of­fi­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion is the Harley Owners Groups, ab­bre­vi­ated as H.O.G.; hence they are re­ferred to af­fec­tion­ately as hogs. 1

If you are of a cer­tain age, then you were prob­ably in­tro­duced to Harleys in the movie Easy Rider (1969). The two anti-hero-ish pro­tag­o­nists, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), rode cus­tomized ’50s Hydra-Glides that were dubbed Cap­tain America and Billy Bike in the movie. 2

 

Martin Lawrence, John Travolta, Tim Allen, William H. Macy

The stars of The Wild Hogs: Martin Lawrence, John Tra­volta, Tim Allen, and William H. Macy.

Ennui as source of creativity

Wild Hogs (2007) does not boast any mythic anti-hero fig­ures, just four middle-aged men who are bored and frus­trated with their ca­reers and lives. On week­ends, they tool around the local back roads on their Harley-Davidsons, pre­tending to be a biker gang called the Wild Hogs. These not-so-wild hogs have four mem­bers with family is­sues:

• Doug Madsen (Tim Allen) is a den­tist with trouble re­lating to his son.
Woody Stevens (John Tra­volta) is a lawyer being di­vorced by his lingerie-model wife.
Bobby Davis (Martin Lawrence) is a plumber with an over­bearing but oh so loving wife.
Dudley Frank (William H. Macy) is a com­puter pro­grammer afraid to talk to women (hence no family). 3

They set off on a week­long ad­ven­ture dri­ving from Cincin­nati to the West Coast. Along the way, meet a fun-loving highway pa­trol of­ficer (John C. McGinley, who glee­fully steals his scenes), a real biker gang named the Del Fuegos (led by sev­eral middle-aged men who are bored and frus­trated with their lives), and an in­ef­fec­tual sheriff (Stephen To­bolowsky) and his bum­bling deputies. 4

Yawn.

Worse than pre­dictable, the movie is d-u-m-b.

Dumb.

The movie is soooooo pre­dictable that the mo­ment Dudley sees Maggie (Marisa Tomei), we know that the lik­able dweeb will (of course) re­alize his man­li­ness and (of course) stand up to the Del Fuegos and that he will (of course) score with the beau­tiful, in­ex­plic­ably avail­able owner/waitress of the tiny diner in Madrid, New Mexico, who is (of course) a cow­girl at heart.

But the damn movie made us laugh …

 

The real stars of the movie were bad guy bikers Mur­dock (M.C. Gainey), Red (Kevin Du­rand), and the leader of the pack, Jack (Ray Li­otta). Here they are at home, obliv­ious to what’s about to change their whole world—the Wild Hogs!

Which brings up a ques­tion

When the Wild Hogs hit the road and im­me­di­ately run into a horde of low-flying in­sects and three of them take a few di­rect hits but Woody avoids the bugs and laughs at his bud­dies which is al­ways a sign of hubris in bad movies and so, of course, he gets his come­up­pance (no spoiler here)

and poor Berni just thought this was too f*cking f*nny laughed LOUD and laughed HARD and laughed LONG while I just thought it was D-U-M-B but laughing is in­fec­tious so I laughed first at her when that turned into me laughing with her

and she couldn’t stop laughing and rolled off the couch onto the floor like we used to do forty years ago smoking pot and lis­tening to Fire­sign The­ater (don’t crush that bozo on this bus!)

and I laughed even more be­cause it’s the hardest I have seen her laugh at a movie in years and as I said laughing is in­fec­tious and it was won­derful but the movie was still, well, you know … dumb.

D-U-M-B.

But what a great laugh!

Which brings up the ques­tion: “Is just plain laughing good for a body?”

 

WildHogs_Tomei2

Marisa Tomei is the love in­terest in both the movie Wild Hogs and in my pre­vious essay, On Being Em­i­nently Bed­d­able. A tal­ented ac­tress who can be funny as hell and sexy as all get-out, in this movie she is merely there. Anyone could have played her role, as little is re­quired of her ex­cept to look good. Which she al­ways does.

Let’s look to a master laugher

The name Alan Watts should be a house­hold word—especially if you have a former-hippie house­hold. One of the pri­mary people re­spon­sible for turning West­erners on to Zen Bud­dhism, he was a mover and shaker in the Amer­ican coun­ter­cul­ture for decades. He was Dean of the Academy of Asian Studies in San Fran­cisco, wrote many books on many topics, and gave count­less lec­tures, many on laughing as Zen med­i­ta­tion. 5

“Laughter is not an in­tel­lec­tual thing. It is an emo­tional re­ac­tion, and the point is the emo­tional re­ac­tion. If there­fore a joke is ex­plained to you, you may laugh out of politeness—a throaty laugh—but you will not laugh spontaneously—a belly laugh. Now the ob­ject of Zen sto­ries is not to pro­duce laughter, but to pro­duce awak­ening, clar­i­fi­ca­tion, en­light­en­ment, or what is called in Japanese satori.

Satori is like laughter, some­thing that hap­pens sud­denly. You don’t, as a rule, slowly begin to laugh and then laugh louder and louder, be­cause you see a joke in­stantly. A joke is al­ways a matter of an Ah-ha! So in the same way, these sto­ries are in­tended to pro­duce an Ah-ha! re­ac­tion in you of ‘Oh, but I see! Now it’s clear!’

And re­ally they don’t con­tain any in­for­ma­tion. Their de­sign is not to tell you some­thing, that is to say not to im­part in­for­ma­tion or knowl­edge. Their de­sign is to get rid of some­thing, to get rid of a false problem with which you are wrestling so that the problem will dis­ap­pear as a re­sult of un­der­standing the story.”

In 1968, Watts recorded more than ninety min­utes of con­ver­sa­tion and nar­ra­tion ex­plaining as­pects of med­i­ta­tion. This was pared down by pro­ducer Gary Usher and re­leased in 1969 as a two-record album ti­tled WHY NOT NOW (To­gether ST-T-2R-1025). It was sub-titled “Dhyana – The Art of Med­i­ta­tion.” Each side was one un­in­ter­rupted piece of the con­ver­sa­tion.

The album in­cluded a four-page brochure on med­i­ta­tion by Watts. This album is a rather rare record but has lim­ited ap­peal to col­lec­tors and can usu­ally be found for a rea­son­able price ($30-50 in near mint con­di­tion). Here is an ex­cerpt from the album about laughing with Alan Watts:

 

Alan Watts - Let’s All Just Laugh

Conclusion: laugh lots!

Good, loud, hard, long laughing is good for clearing the mind’s si­nuses and un­stop­ping the soul’s bowels. In­fec­tious laughing is better be­cause it’s shared and al­most every­thing is better when someone else is a part of it …

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   The origin of the nick­name ‘hogs’ for Harleys is much older than H.O.G. and owes a nod to farming. Read up on racing champ Ray Weishaar and his Wrecking Crew during the ‘Teens and the Twen­ties.

2   If you are among the un­for­tu­nate bil­lions who have never seen Easy Rider, get thee hence to Netlix or Red Box or your local li­brary and order a copy and make sure you have a cuppla six-packs and a joint for watching. Don’t see it alone—the ending will make you cry and no one should cry alone at a movie.

3   Wanna guess which two I don’t care if I ever see in an­other movie?

4   Del Fuegos is Spanish for ‘the fires’ and cor­rectly should not be re­ferred to as ‘the Del Fuegos’ be­cause that trans­lates as ‘the the fires.’ And that brings up the ques­tion as to whether or not the great rock & roll group from the ’50s, the Del Vikings (of Come Go With Me fame), used ‘Del’ Spanishly—in which case they should not be re­ferred to as ‘the Del Vikings’ for the same reason.

5   As an in­tro­duc­tion to Watts, I highly rec­om­mend his au­to­bi­og­raphy In My Own Way and The Joyous Cos­mology, which should be con­sid­ered the psy­che­delic primer.

 

WildHogs_Watts_LP

“I’m sure many older viewers have had this kind of ex­pe­ri­ence: one first reads Alan Watts when young, got ex­cited, and it led to other writ­ings, to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of tra­di­tions, etc., in light of which one’s memory of what Watts said seemed su­per­fi­cial. And now, in later years, one comes to hear or read Watts again and re­al­izes that, ac­tu­ally, he pretty much said it all—and very clearly.” (Guru George)

 

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