The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, December 8, 1994 - 3
Better Nate Than Never
If only life were 'Better Off'
'us the season
By KIRK MILLER
1985. A time when Reagan was
President, Madonna was still a virgin
and John Hughes ruled the teen movie
market. It was a time for change, for
something bold and funny. Most im-
portantly, it was time for another
Curtis Armstrong movie. "Better Off
Dead" was that movie.
Supposedly, there was a great deal
of hope for success going into it. The
director, "Savage" StevetIolland, was
a quirky animator making his first
live action movie. John Cusack had
won the hearts of millions playing a
disgruntled teen in "The Sure Thing,"
a role he would repeat at various points
for the next seven years. Armstrong
was freshly picked off his role as
Buggar in "Revenge of the Nerds"
and was about to find fame in "Moon-
lighting." And some bigwig studio
exec decided it was a can't-miss-feel-
Which was a shame, because "Bet-
ter Off Dead" was the first movie that
was made for teens, and in some ways
it was the quintessential movie of the
1980s. Cusack played Lane Myer, a
high school nobody who happened to
be dating the girl of his dreams, Beth.
Unfortunately, Beth immediately
dumps him for the hot new ski in-
structor. "I'm sorry, Lane," she said.
"I can't go out with you anymore. I
want to go out with someone who's
better looking and more popular and
drives a better car."
Lane is crushed and contemplates
suicide. Ever since Kurt Cobain be-
came a victim of a self-induced shot-
gun blast (a.k.a. he killed himself)
suicide has been out of bounds for
humor, but Holland was lucky enough
to predate angst. Lane unsuccessfully
attempts to off himself several times.
Not only does he have to win back
Beth, he has to deal with a genius kid
brother who builds space shuttles and
picks up loose women, a stern father
who demands he go out on blind dates,
and a mother who cooks food that
moves on the dinner table. All of
them are oblivious to his pain, except
forMonique, the new next-door neigh-
bor and foreign exchange student.
To be honest, the plot is kind of
dumb and it all turns into a big ski race
See DEAD, Page 5
to be shopping
Of the many rituals that accom-
pany the Christmas holiday, none is
quite as time-consuming as shopping
for gifts. Decorating the house lasts
for the better part of a day. Holiday
parties can go on for several hours.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" has a
running time of 30 minutes. Singing
all the verses in "The Twelve Days of
Christmas" takes about five minutes.
Buying gifts for loved ones - or
liked ones - or not so despised ones
- lasts more than a month.
It all begins on Thanksgiving Fri-
day - an unofficial national holiday
dedicated to spending money. While
most people are gobbling up potential
gifts like Pac-Man after Blinky (after
eating a magic pellet, of course), I
spend the first shopping trip wander-
ing aimlessly through the mall not
buying a thing - except maybe a
pretzel with cheese and a frozen Coke.
While battling the mob of Visa-toting
shoppers, I try to acquaint myself
with the stores and the new gift ideas.
Typical thoughts include: "Is there a
cooking utensil that my grandma still
doesn't own?" "What's 25 percent of
$34.99?" and "Is this the men's side
of the Gap?"
The next dozen or so trips to the
mall are spent interacting with Santa's
sales associates. It would be too simple
to take a piece of clothing and a wad
of cash to a register and expect to
make a transaction. "That's not my
department," the clerk, usually named
Marsha, snips, looking as if I was
holding an alternator in my hand in-
stead of a sweater.
Upon finding the rightdepartment,
I get to wait as the customer ahead of
me tries to use a credit card that is
over its limit and validate a stack of
parking tickets. Finally, Marsha's
colleague, Jan, affords me the privi-
lege of giving her my money. The
cash register goes "ring" and a shoe
shopper gets his wing tips.
Somewhere in our subconsciences,
there is an urge to project our wants
onto otherpeople's presents. This can
just be a normal shopping reaction if
you're buying your friend a CD that
you think you might borrow as soon
as they take the bow off and never
return it. If you buy a blue paisley tie
for your aunt from Florida, this could
mean you are over-projecting. Or it
could mean that your aunt is Mrs.
When it comes to the immediate
family, my sister and I go in together
to buy gifts for our parents. Transla-
tion: my sister buys my mom some-
thing and I pay her half, then my sister
buys my dad something and I pay her
half. It works out quite well. Before
buying for my sister, I ask my mom
how much my sister spent on me. I
then ask my mom what she thinks I
should get. Then my mom and I spend
the allotted sum of money on the
Once the presents are bought,
wrapping becomes an issue. Each year
I kick myself for not buying every-
one's gift at Sperry's department store
(in Port Huron, Mich.). Free gift wrap-
ping makes life so much easier. But
after one or two horrendous wrapping
jobs, my mom is afraid to let me waste
*any morepaperand reluctantly "helps
me with the corners."
Then I can kick back, eat red and
green cookies, and watch "A Kenny
and Dolly Christmas in Nashville"
until Christmas Day arrives and the
terror begins. I have to open up pre-
sents from Mom, Dad, Jessica,
Grandma, Grandpa, the other
Grandma, the other Grandpa, and a
elect assortment of other relatives.
hat's not so bad. It's watching them
open my gifts.
What I dread most are the puzzled
expressions and the "What's this sup-
posed to be?" The recipient's anxiety
subsides when I tell them that I saved
the receiots. but they still annear a
Just a sampling of french food (french fries, french dressing, etc.)
See DEAD, Pane 5
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