Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Safe trip, my friend

With the move and everything, I was already behind on my blog plans this week, with the first round of reviews of the new TV season, the Star Wars DVDs, and some general crankiness waiting in the wings. And this morning (while, in fact, I was blogging), my trusty old iBook simply died. It was kind of like something from a movie, actually, with the screen sputtering out, flickering black lines like static. Apparently, a whole bunch of iBooks went out a couple of years ago with bad logic boards. I knew about this, but there's not really anything you can do until it dies, since a pre-emptive fix would still require you to send the thing back and risk losing all your data.

Anyway, long story short, my baby is on its way back to Apple to be fixed. The good geeks at Tekserve will back up my hard drive first, but regardless I will be without a PC -- or my several half-finished blog posts -- until next Friday. Obviously, I can get online here and there on other people's machines, so I will try to keep blogging, but I'll probably be a little lax.

I'm not even going to get into how cranky and sad this makes me or my head may explode. What a month this has been!!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Conversations with Radish

Okay, so, pet people, tell me if this is weird. Or extra-weird.

Sometimes Boy or I will ask the cat a question (not like a math question or anything, just something like "Why are you all frisky when we want to go to sleep?" or "Why is your poop so stinky?") and the other one of us will answer it in a "cat voice" (which is just a funny voice, not like some creepy Henrietta Pussycat thing). Okay, fine, sort of cute, and usually the answer shoots down the stupidity of the question.

The problem is, this isn't the end of the conversation. Whomever started it will then keep talking as if the cat had answered him. And we'll go on like this, having a complete dialogue. With the cat.

Remember when I said I wouldn't be one of those pet people? I think I failed.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Words I Enjoy Saying Out Loud


Friday, September 24, 2004

The Best Laid Plans of Kittens and Boys (Adventures in Real Estate, continued)

When I moved three years ago, I slept for maybe an hour the night before. My clearest memory is of trying to take my metal bed frame apart at 5 am without waking my roommate (in, thankfully, a different room). When the movers arrived – early – I wasn't finished packing. They were truly wonderful, amazingly nice and efficient, actually helping me pack and still getting the job done in record time. But it was a little embarrassing, and a lot exhausting, and I vowed that it would never go down like that again.

I thought I was being so good this time when I started packing and purging early. But then life got in the way and I lost my head start. As diligent as I tried to be, I was still up until 4:30 on Tuesday night. In fairness to myself, I'd been out of the house from 7 am until midnight, but it's not as if that was a surprise to me. If anything, I suppose I should be grateful I'd been as ahead of the game as I had! I feel like packing stemware while barely conscious is not the best idea. I ran out of bubble wrap and started tearing up the curtains that I wasn't taking with me. Radish helped with that, so at least he got to pull his weight.

Making things even more complicated, we got some concrete (if annoying) news about the apartment that at least kind of settles things. As we continued traveling down the Road of Miscommunication, some people freaked out about how much stuff we were moving in. In a weird way, I appreciate the result because it contains a shred of logic; I've wondered all along what the co-op board's definition of "living in the apartment" is, and how they would know if we were sleeping or showering or whatever there. With the realization that everything I own was moving in (a fact I've always been quite clear about, which somehow got overlooked), I guess it dawned on someone that we could very easily be pulling a fast one (although we weren't...much). So the building's lawyer, (who also handled the original sale for our seller), made a deal with the board president that we could move in whatever we want, and our appliances can be delivered next week, but after that we're basically not allowed back in until we close. (Curiously, our lawyer was not involved in this conversation at all, and I don't think he was invited.) Of course I'll pop in if I need something that's stuck in a box, but we are not to do any work, painting or anything, lest this be mistaken for "living."

It's fine, really, but it meant I had to put things aside while packing to have the movers bring to Boy's, and I'd already packed up certain things I would need in the same boxes with others that I wouldn't. My sneaky plan had been to basically treat the new place as an office until we can "live" there, hanging out for hours a day and watching TV and enjoying the high speed Internet. This means I'd foolishly moved the cable to the new apartment, instead of to Boy's, which, apart from messing up my complex TV plans, means we're stuck with dialup and no router. I called Time Warner and lucked out with an incredibly nice and knowledgeable operator who helped me with the very complicated process of moving my account and my service again (it was easy the first time, but doing it twice in one day is apparently trickier). Of course, because nothing can go even a little bit smoothly, the previous tenant in Boy's apartment -- from four years ago -- still owes Time Warner money, so before I can do anything I have to prove that Boy lives there now. I'm mostly annoyed at myself for not just moving it to his place to begin with, but I've just been so averse to doing stuff like that twice if it wasn't necessary...serves me right then that now I have to do it thrice (though I do appreciate having an excuse to use "thrice" in a sentence).

Anyway, the move itself went really well. Despite the lack of sleep (well, because of it), I was ready to go when the movers arrived, and I'd even had time to grab a last bagel from my regular place. Radish didn't come with us until later in the day, so he got locked in the bedroom with his litter, food and toys, and the furniture I wasn't taking with me. This meant everything that was going with me had to be moved out of there, so it was all in the living room. This, plus my fabulous movers, made for very quick work of the apartment. I helped, partly because I felt weird just watching them work, and also because they were getting paid by the hour and I wanted the job done! I didn't do anything very heavy, but it was still the best workout I've had in weeks. The movers made a stop at Boy's, while I went to the new place where we all met up.

It's exciting to have our stuff in the new place, even though we're not. It's starting to look at least a little like home. The office, which seemed so tiny, actually looks bigger with some furniture in it. We put almost everything in the living room. It seemed like the easiest thing to do, and it's useful for keeping up appearances with the board too, since if anyone even glanced through the front door they'd see nothing but boxes. I had a locksmith come by and change the top lock while the movers were still there, so no one would notice we were "doing work on the apartment."

I unpacked and repacked a box with some office stuff I'd need at Boy's, and when the crew was gone we wheeled it over to Boy's on my luggage cart. It's only seven blocks, so as annoying as it was, it could have been much worse.

We went back to the old apartment to get Radish, who seemed pretty content. He got right into his carrier without a fight, and he acclimated to Boy's pretty much immediately.

And here we all are. Not much furniture left here, and the dialup Internet is killing me, but we're in pretty good shape. Boy pointed out that for the first time in weeks we're not waiting for anything. We didn't get the answer we wanted from Them, but at least we got an answer at all! There's not much left to do. A couple of deliveries and appointments here and there, but mostly we wait til November for the closing. We know where we stand and what our schedule is, and we can concentrate on settling in where we are for a while. I won't pretend I'm not irritated about the way it turned out, but it's also a relief to be done. I can actually relax a little bit.

To finish up, here are some more pictures of the beautiful apartment we can't live in...

The chaos in the living room, with a glimpse of our Ikeagasmic shelves. The flash washed out that blue in the front, which is actually much darker than the blue in the background.

Here's a more accurate look at the two blues. I measured badly for the shelves so they're unfinished until we can get back to Ikea for some shorter ones, but the beauty of this "system" is that it'll be very easy to fix. And in better light (there's no overhead in the living room and these were taken at night) they look really great with the blue).

The office. I was scared of the green, but it actually looks better on two walls than it did on one, and oddly enough the room feels bigger with some furniture in it than it did empty. That light fixture has to go though.

Finally, Radish helping me pack.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Adventures in Real Estate Episode V: The Buyer Strikes Back

I said I wasn't going to tell the saga of our new apartment here until we closed, but it's been coming out in dribs and drabs anyway as I get more exhausted and stressed. There are elements of the story that involve money and shady dealings that I'm still going to keep to myself, but since it's been another dramatic morning (and I have several new readers who aren't up to speed) I figure I can properly tell at least part of it now.

We'd always intended to move in mid-September, since my lease is up at the end of the month. We were hoping to have a place by September 1, so we'd have a couple of weeks to paint and stuff before moving in, then a couple of weeks to deal with our old places after moving (restoring our rented walls to white and what-not). We knew that the process of buying takes much longer than renting, and we'd heard enough horror stories about drama with co-op boards and delayed closings to know that we needed to start looking early. We figured it would be better to spend some extra money if we found a place and finished everything too soon than to wait too long and get screwed in the fall.

So we started looking in earnest in April, and in May we saw the place we're now buying. It was empty even then, and needed only minimal work done. Our realtor explained that it had been an investment property and the seller had never lived here, and her tenants had moved out sooner than she expected. For financial reasons that were never really explained, the seller "couldn't" close on the apartment until November, since that's when she had been planning to sell. But since the place was empty now we'd be able to move in "whenever we wanted," prior to the closing. This was actually perfect for us, since we were still four months away from when we wanted to move anyway. We said September would be fine, giving her plenty of time to do the renovations, and us to get our finances and schedules in order, and we made an offer that day. We were the first people to even see it. Oh, and bonus: We don't need board approval for the sale.

Cut to late July (there was more drama in between, but we'll just stick to the relevant parts of today's story). We get a call from the broker informing us that while we don't need the board approval to buy it, if we live in it before closing we're technically subletting, and we do need board approval for that. "But it's just a formality," we're told. There's no logical reason why they'd deny us since we were going to be able to move in anyway. "They just want an excuse to get into your business," our broker told us. Oh, and some money, since there's a fee to apply to sublet, but whatever.

Problem: The package the management company gave us contained materials for both subletting and purchasing. Even though we don't need the board for the purchase, it's unclear enough what's going on that we decided to just give them everything they've asked for, even if they didn't ask for it intentionally. Problem: This included our contract with the seller, fully executed. Despite numerous attempts to finish this, we didn't have it yet. Problem: The application also had to include our mortgage commitment letter. Which we also didn't have, because the application for that also included the contract.

Which brings us to late August, when we finally submitted the application.

And the rest you know. The board, or management, or someone, said no. We still can't quite fathom why, except that these people crazy about sticking to the letter of the law, which says no moving in before closing. Under normal circumstances, that makes perfect sense (in case the deal falls through), and since I once had a union rep at Actors' Equity tell me that she'd rather see my show close and 10 people lose jobs than make a concession to our producers that would "jeopardize the integrity of the contract," I actually have some experience in these situations and took it in stride.

But there's still the matter of our contract with the seller, which gives us access to the apartment (which, as the place is still hers until we close, is entirely hers to give), and there's still the matter of my old lease, which is done in just over a week. We'd considered staying in my place month-to-month, but as it is Boy and I are paying for three apartments (we pay the seller the maintenance fees on the new place in exchange for our access), and only living in one of them (I can't remember the last time Boy spent the night at "his" place). So the most logical thing was to move my stuff into the new place, per our contract, and camp out for a few weeks at Boy's until we close. This is all happening tomorrow.

We ordered our appliances yesterday and set up delivery for Thursday. This morning, while waiting in the new place for the cable guy, I got a call from the realtor: "Don't get the appliances yet, it'll look bad. If you don't have appliances you can't cook or anything, so you're obviously not living there." I reminded her that we couldn't get the mortgage without the appliances (apparently, when you're dealing with apartments, a kitchen is not a kitchen unless it's fully functional, so the bank's appraiser has to come back with everything installed), and we can't close without the mortgage, so we have to get them before November. Fine, she said, just don't do it the next day, do it next week. Okay. I asked her again about the mailbox key, since I don't have one and I don't want to have to change my address twice in six weeks, so I need to start getting mail here. I mentioned that I was here and had run into the super and asked him about it, but that any help on the seller's end would be helpful. Oh yeah: Complicating matters is the fact that the seller and her lawyer (who is also – have I mention this? -- the building's lawyer) are apparently fighting for this sublet still, since the management people are being doofuses. In truth, I don't really know what the seller is doing, or if it's the board or management who hates us, but until it's all done we've been asked not to speak to the management office, lest we rock the boat or tip the scales or make waves or whatever.

I hung up the phone and started to call Home Depot, and the realtor called again. "Did you say you're waiting for the cable guy?? What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking my lease is up in a week and I have to transfer my account somewhere." I didn't explain to her my unhealthy TV obsession, but instead used the fact that it's my Internet access as an excuse.

"How much stuff are you moving in tomorrow?" she suddenly thought to ask. "Is it going to look like you're moving in everything you own?"

"I am moving in everything I own! I'll say it again: My lease is up in a week!"

"I told [Seller] you were just moving in a couple of pieces of furniture."

"Well, since I never told you anything even remotely like that, that's your problem not mine."

She sighed. "I've never had a sale with this many complications before." This is where she usually gets me. Our realtor is a really nice lady, and she's bizarrely emotionally invested. In spite of everything, I would recommend her to anyone looking for an apartment in the area. I know that most of this isn't her fault and she didn't see it coming. But today, I've kinda had it.

"Look," I said, "You knew this was an issue. My lease is done at the end of September. When we agreed to close in November, it was entirely contingent on having access before then for exactly this reason. The board and management have seen our contract, and they know that we've made this deal. We're paying for it. I won't be sleeping there, I won't be cooking there, but I have to keep my stuff there."

Very quietly: "Okay."

"I'm not mad at you...no, you know what, I am a little bit mad at you. Because you told us in May that this would all be okay. You said we couldn't close in November, but that we'd be able to move in whenever we wanted. We started this process early for a reason."

"I remember."

"I know it's not your fault, that this stuff took you as much by surprise as it did us, but if you didn't know what you were talking about you shouldn't have acted like you did. If we had known it was November or nothing we never would have made the offer in the first place. We're here now, we're invested, we can't get out of our contract even if we wanted to, so I'm doing what I need to do and that's that. Call the seller and find out what the hell is going on."

If there's a moral here, it's don't fuck with me while I don't have cable.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Adventures in Real Estate and Finances

Boy and I went to Home Depot this morning to order our kitchen appliances. They should arrive on Thursday, though whether we will be "living" in the apartment at that time is still anyone's guess. They make me happy though -- we went with "GE CleanSteel," a faux stainless steel which doesn't take fingerprints and can hold magnets, and which, considering the source, I'm sure was developed for some sort of very tidy military purpose. Maybe Martha Stewart has a missile system protecting her home. Anyway, we think it will offset the orange stripe nicely, a fun mix of modern and Trading Spaces country.

Tomorrow, the Star Wars DVDs are released, and so my pre-order from months ago on Amazon ships, and the credit card charge must have gone through today.

The nice people at Discover just called me to make sure my credit card hadn't been stolen. I'm sure that Home Depot and Amazon are great, busy places to slip unauthorized charges through unnoticed, but are there really lots of thieves out there buying refrigerators and Luke Skywalker?

I'm glad they called me and the system works, of course, but I do find it funny because my Discover Card has a limit of $12,000. I never asked for this, of course. Until now I've mostly used my credit card as a convenience, rather than a way to spend more money than I have. So my balance is low and I pay it every month, and either as a reward for my "good" behavior, or as an incentive for me to spend more money so the company can profit from "bad" behavior, they raise my limit about twice a year.

What's funny is that they're actively encouraging me to spend twelve grand, but bells go off as soon as I break a thousand.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

People don't completely suck. Go figure!

The other night after the show we received this note from a patron, written on a napkin from the theater's bar:

Dear Cast and Crew –

Coming into the theatre, I pushed the 'power' button on my cell phone – but obviously, didn't hold it down long enough. As a result, my phone rang during your incredible performance. I am so sorry. Please know that I understand how rude that is given the work that you are putting into this performance on our behalf. You have my deepest apologies.

Thank you for a wonderful evening despite me!

The phone rang at a particularly inopportune moment (of dead silence on stage), so I certainly understand this woman's mortification and even feel a tiny bit bad for her. For every idiot who actually takes a call in the middle of a theater, there's one who made a very innocent mistake (it's even happened to me), though knowing that makes it no less annoying for those of us on the other side of the footlights or the lighting booth. What impresses me here is that this woman was classy enough to fess up. She apologized personally to our star as well. It almost restores my faith in humanity and the theater-going public. Almost.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Blue skies return, along with blue walls

iPod is working again. Complete mystery. One of the possible reasons Apple suggests for the icon I was getting is that the battery is drained. Since there was no way for it to have been drained since I unplugged it last night (it was in its case, so the cat couldn't have walked on it or anything), and it wasn't responding even when plugged in, I figured this wasn't the problem, but whenever I wasn't cursing at it I plugged it into the wall – while we were working at the new apartment, and then again when I got to work.

A couple of times (but not always), when I tried to reset it, I'd see for just a split second a battery icon – but not the regular charging or charged icon. Right before the show I tried resetting it again and saw this phantom icon, completely filled in. Then the angry folder. So I figured it was charged but still hated me, and unplugged it to put it in my bag. But the angry icon wouldn't go away, and I didn't want it to be on. So just for kicks I reset it again – and after a moment it came up normal, full of music and happy. No explanation. I restored the software and re-synced it just to be safe. So fucking weird! We'll see if it's working tomorrow morning!

It wasn't an entirely dreadful day otherwise, so here's what should have been today's single, happy post:
The apartment stuff is still somewhat in flux – there's now a tiny chance that the sublet may happen after all – but one thing we know for sure is that we were right about not needing board approval for the sale and next to nothing stands between us and home ownership when we close in November.

Among other things, this means we've continued painting the apartment and assembling our Ikea goodies. Boy's been hard at work painting for several days while I was busy elsewhere. We did about half of our large shelf system today, and I put up a towel rack (grundtal!) in the bathroom (on the list of things that did suck today, I had no water in my apartment, so I had to shower at the new place).

As promised, here are some pics of the painting progress...

Pretty living room blue:

Orange stripe in the kitchen:

Office green:

More to come as furniture and appliances arrive!

Rise of the Machines, Part Ugh

The 4G iPod sucks. Or at least mine hates me. I synced it up last night, fully charged it, put it in its case and left it on the desk. And this morning it wouldn't turn on. At all. I plugged it into the wall, reset it, and got an icon of folder with an exclamation point. The computer won't recognize it at all. All the troubleshooting tips on Apple's website for the folder-with-exclamation-point icon involve restoring the software or putting it into disk mode, both things you can't do if the computer won't recognize it. So I have to go to the Apple Store tomorrow and throw a large fit. I want to cry.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Shiiiiinyyyyy Preciousssssss

Okay, the 4G iPod is hot. It's soooo pretty. On a purely aesthetic level, I love that it's no longer entirely white. The click wheel takes some getting used to if you're used to the old touch-sensitive buttons, but that's easy. The big differences are the little ones – the changes to the software you may recall me bitching about when they came out but weren't available for earlier models. The menus have been cleaned up a little, with some new options that I never thought I needed until I got them. Among the high points are the new Audiobook features: you can speed them up or slow them down without changing the pitch, and you can "bookmark" them if you go listen to something else. I have never in my life listened to an audiobook, but I'm going to download some just to play with the new toy.

Kudos too to Apple (and Amazon, from whom I ordered my headphones because I can't stand those stupid little earbuds which are not only uncomfortable but sound bad to boot) for getting my shipment out so fast, and with the free shipping no less. Three business days from my order and my precious is here from China. Good stuff.

Ah, preciousssssss iPodses....

Monday, September 13, 2004

Pride Goeth Before The Fall TV Season

(Gimme a break on the title, okay? It was either that or "The Fall TV Season of the House of Usher.")

I'm a little lost. The fall TV season, like September in general, snuck up on me. Last week's Entertainment Weekly with the season preview cover story never came, so I was really out of the loop. I hadn't planned my DVRing or put premieres on my calendar or anything and suddenly there was Joey! It's all very upsetting.

Though not as upsetting as it could have been, since Joey didn't completely suck. Joey was always my least favorite Friend anyway, but I don't think anyone from Friends could carry a spin-off. It's not that the characters or actors aren't great, but that the show was always about how they worked together as an ensemble. The worst episodes were always the ones where the group was separated, and people were off with guest star boyfriends and girlfriends.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing pretty consistently. The jokes were mostly pretty good, but of course the best Friends writers did the pilot. Matt LeBlanc is charming, and Drea DeMatteo is really cute (I'm not a Sopranos fan, so this was my first exposure to her), but I'm not sure that a female Joey is really what the show needs. I like all the other actors, especially the "sensible" blonde girl, but I just don't see where it's going. I'm afraid that "Watch Joey have a bad auditon! Watch Drea use a malapropism! Watch Jennifer Coolidge be bitchy!" will get really old really fast. I mean, sitcoms have run for years on much less, I'm just not that interested. And with it on opposite Survivor and The OC the DVR is booked (though not until November). It's comforting, at least, to see that the same warped rules of real estate in the Friends universe apply equally in LA and NYC.

Medical Investigation was the other early premiere, and I was underwhelmed there too. It's good, but not something I feel like I need to make a point of watching or taping. It's structured very similarly to the CSIs, which means not much character development or ongoing plots. And it's fucking creepy. I mean, odds are high I'll never kill anyone or try to cover up a car accident or anything, and if I'm the victim of a violent crime, well, I won't be around to see the results. But I have been known to eat at diners, and apparently bad salt can turn you blue! Not cool!!

Speaking of blue, apparently someone in Hollywood decided that it's the color of New York. The crossover of CSI:Miami and NY was all about the blue filters, and at one point in MI the healthy people were actually bluer than the sick blue people!

I just picked up the errant EW issue at a newsstand yesterday, and I can't say there's a ton of new stuff that looks interesting. The season looks pretty bleak, actually. I'm trying not to pick up anything that's returning but that I haven't gotten sucked into yet, though America's Next Top Model is sort of calling to me (I feel like it's okay because I'm not watching the new Surreal Life). The two-gay-guys twist on The Real World is irresistible, and I'm interested in the cast changes on the Law and Orders and CSIs. And you may recall I got hooked on Everwood late last season. The West Wing seemed to be finding its footing again by the end of last season, and they have some fabulous actors joining the cast this year, so that seems promising.

As for new stuff, I can't say I really have much interest in Jack and Bobby, but with Greg Berlanti, Thomas Schlamme, and Christine Lahti involved, I can hardly refuse. LAX looks absolutely dreadful (based solely on the print ads, I've seen nothing on TV) but the EW article made it sound bizarrely interesting, so I decided to check it out. I don't even know what Desperate Housewives is (haven't finished reading all the preview articles yet), but it's got Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross so I'm there. The one thing I'm really excited about is JJ Abrams' Lost, especially with my beloved Alias off the air until January.

It's scary how that's a light season for me.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Summer TV Wrap-Up (Finally!)

In all the drama of this week, I completely missed my bloggiversary, which was on the 7th. A lot has happened in the year since I started Judgment Call, but the time has really flown by. Thanks to those of you who've been here since the beginning, and welcome to our new guests!

It's appropriate that I remembered the Big Day as I was writing this post about television, which is more or less how we started. And here we are with the Fall TV season beginning, and I still haven't blogged about the summer one! That says a lot about what my summer has been like. So, in brief (maybe), my favorite highlights of the last few months of crap...

I'd like to say something deep about what it means for the season that the best show on the air was not just a reality show, but a reality parody of a reality show. But I think all it says is that the creators of Joe Shmo 2 are brilliant. Choosing to focus in on a specific genre (dating shows) rather than last season's hodge-podge allowed the satire to much more focused, and generally (in my opinion) funnier. It was still fairly hodge-podgy, with rose ceremonies rubbing elbows with folks meeting and lie detectors, but curiously the contestants never caught on. Well, that's not true, and more on that in a minute. The writing in the sections that were truly scripted (such as the final selection speeches by the bachelor and bachelorette) was brilliant and hilarious. It's really kind of amazing how over-the-top they were able to go and get away with it. As with any "reality" series, I have to wonder how much of that was done in editing, but there's just no way around the Pearl Necklace Eviction Ceremony.

There was a risk, of course, in doing a fake dating show, because of what if one of the real contestants fell for the fake bachelor/ette? Making someone look like an idiot is one thing, breaking his heart is another. One of the things that makes the show work (last season too) is that half the fun is in watching the actors struggle to stay in character and not blow the whole thing. The writers made that especially challenging this time around by making things so over-the-top. In fact, one of the Schmo's, Ingrid, caught on, and in one of the best twists in reality history (largely because it was completely unplanned), they invited Ingrid to join the actors, dubbing her "The Gossip," which wasn't much of a stretch. Her replacement schmo was charming and good-natured, and seeing her receive a big fat check for her trouble was worth any humiliation she'd gone through prior. Tim, the male schmo, seemed a little more upset, but he also seemed quite pleased with the consolation prize.

The other pleasant surprise on cable was The 4400. I'm still not sure why they kept calling this "an unprecedented television event," since it seemed like a pretty standard summer series to me, but maybe they just meant the novelty of having something watchable on USA. It was like a cross between V, The X-Files and CSI, which could have been a disaster but wound up being fairly compelling. Sure, there was some curious costume design (sweater vests over mannish dress shirts to indicate how uptight Scully – um, I mean...oh fuck it, I don't know here real name – is), some inappropriate homoeroticism (um, brothers and cousins??), and some bizarre lighting ("night" scenes clearly shot at noon with filters), but there was also some good storytelling, decent acting, and largely coherent writing. My only real complaint is with the ending, which only deepened the central mystery of the plot (one of those more-information-makes-it-more-confusing moments), and tied up none of the loose ends of the season. It certainly implies that the show will be back, and we could use a decent sci-fi series right now, so I hope it does.

More disappointing is this year's season of Six Feet Under. It's finally hitting its stride now as it winds down (finale tonight – woohoo!) but they really lost the love at the beginning. The thing about 6FU is that it's never been afraid to make its characters unlikable. They're deeply flawed, and they make bad choices, and sometimes they're annoying. They're real people. But here's the thing – as any editor on Big Brother will tell you, reality is generally boring, and sometimes painful to watch. Get over it, people! How much misery can land on this one family before it becomes too much? They wrote themselves into a corner with Lisa; as much as I like Lili Taylor (Joe lies!), her character was annoying and one-note, and based on everything we knew about Nate so far, little of his interaction with her rang true. The solution? Well, naturally, kill her off! But what to do with that pesky baby? And what to do with Brenda? She's a key part of the show as far as fans are concerned, but if she's not with Nate she has no connection to anything else going on. Sadly, her completely separate plot lines were more compelling than anything involving the Fishers.

They really lost me with the love-it-or-hate-it carjacking episode. Obviously, I was in the hate-it camp. It was painful to watch. Some people liked that about it, like we were meant to feel David's pain and terror, and that's valid, but my problem was I kinda wanted the guy to just shoot David in the head and get it over with. These characters are smart people. They sometimes make bad choices, as we all do, but no matter how lonely and sad David was I don't believe that he would make that many bad choices all in a row. Especially with a body in the back, since above all his work is sacred to him. I can't say how I'd react if I were carjacked, but by the third really obvious chance he missed to get away, I was done. It was just thing after thing after thing to the point of absurdity. And I suppose these things really do happen. Maybe it even really happened to one of the writers, I don't know. But fiction has a strange burden of having to appear somehow more believable than real life, lest someone says, "Oh that would never happen!"

Entertainment Weekly summed it up nicely in a recent blurb in their listings: "How hard can it be to make one right decision? Just one? Once in a while? Is it really too much to ask that the Fisher gang not run full-out, headfirst into that brick wall known as what-did-you-think-would-happen-you-moron? Apparently, it is."

BUT...they seem to be back on track. The funny is back, and the characters have made enough smart choices lately that I no longer want to smack them, which means I can have some empathy when things go wrong. I'm enjoying watching James Cromwell go steadily crazy (which is a little over-the-top but somehow I buy it), and Frances Conroy getting steadily stronger. David and Keith are cute, Brenda's mom rocks, and Michelle Trachtenberg as a pop starlet was inspired (she was the saving grace of the pre-carjack episodes). The teasers for tonight's season finale look great, so I'm hoping they go out with a bang. The thing about a show like 6FU is that even when I hate it, I'm measuring it by the very high standards it's set for itself. Hopefully it'll end with me wanting more for next season.

HBO's new series also pleases me. I don't find Entourage compelling in a must-see way, but I really enjoy it. It's funny and it certainly seems realistic, though I know nothing about the world of young Hollywood pseudo-stars. Jeremy Piven always makes me happy, and Samarie Armstrong is helping with my O.C. withdrawl. The parody is sharp and gross all at once (best line: "This could be another Big Fat Greek Bitch"). And casting a less-famous brother (Kevin Dillon) as the less-famous brother? That's using meta for good instead of evil.

Comedy Central (hm, it really was all about cable this summer, wasn't it?) gets an award for transporting Graham Norton intact from Britain. I've been watching his show on BBC America for a while now, and it's sheer genius. Incredibly fucked up, sick genius. If the best talk show hosts are sort of ciphers, allowing their guests to project whatever is necessary to plug the project they're there to plug, then Norton is not a good talk show host. But damn, is he funny! He makes it almost entirely about him, except when he's going shockingly out of his way to humiliate his audience (like when he asked a woman to list as many euphemisms for penis she could think of in 60 seconds, then showed video of her mother and grandmother doing the same thing). His guests always look like they're having fun, even more so now that they know what they're in for (American guests on the BBC show often looked a little lost), and letting multiple guests interact with each other, on a good week, is brilliant (Anne Hathaway and John Waters, anyone?). Comedy Central was smart enough to leave the show completely unchanged, except for some extra bleeping and more jokes about American pop culture and politics that we're more likely to get. My favorite guest so far has been Alan Cumming, who told a long story involving a cock-ring before realizing it might wind up unintelligible because of the bleeps. "Oh no, it's like a city in Ireland," said Graham. "Ah yes, cockring." Cock-ring, bleeped. Cockring, not bleeped. Either pronunciation, funny.

Speaking of funny British people, I couldn't make up my mind about season four of Coupling. They did win my undying love in the first episode with the line, "You can't just walk into our apartment whenever you want, this isn't an American sit-com," a clever nod to the dismal failure of NBC's version of the show. These kinds of spot-on jokes are the show's trademark, and this season seemed to have real problems with tone. The sudden loss of Jeff (the "wacky" guy) made things tricky, as a) the actor decided to leave the show between seasons, so he was never properly written out, and b) they had to replace a completely irreplaceable character and actor. To their credit, they tried to keep it from being cheesy and obvious, but this meant it took several episodes to integrate Oliver into the group, which still hasn't been entirely successful. (Though I find myself frequently using his catch-phrase, "Craziness!" which I suspect is actually a reference to someone else's catch-phrase that I don't get because I'm not British.) He mostly deals with Jane (the "wacky" woman), which has resulted in two Janes – the usual one when she's with everyone else, and an entirely different one with him. For a show that's been so good about consistency and character development (especially for a comedy), this is troubling.

As is often the way with sit-coms, I suspect that Susan has given birth to a little shark for everyone to jump. The baby stuff was funny when it was about Steve's fear, but got really sappy at the end. I hope I'm wrong, and hopefully next season will have enough sex farce to balance the infant. And again, I judge the show by its own high standards – it's still better than any American sit-com I can think of.

Trio is the new Bravo, and I wish I'd paid more attention to them this summer. I love the idea of Brilliant But Cancelled, but they're so under-the-radar that I always forget. I haven't watched the real Bravo all summer either. I'm officially over Queer Eye. I wish them well and hope everyone involved survives the shockingly fast flame-out (pardon the pun), but the show is just dull. I watched the one with the twins. I watched the one with the gay "straight" guy. I was bored. I thought the "sneak peak" of Queer Eye UK would be fun, but it wasn't. The difference between Trading Spaces and Changing Rooms, for instance, is the personalities of the host and designers. QE:UK is simply our version with cuter guys and different accents. But their personalities are exactly the same, their culture guy just as useless (which at least should prove that it's not Jai's fault, but the structure of the show). Blah.

Finally, everyone must watch Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends on Cartoon Network. It's hard to explain, but it's some of the most enjoyable animation I've ever seen. Sort of like Jim Henson on crack. The premise allows them to just make crazy shit up as they see fit, and that's highly entertaining.

...Unlike the ending of the post. Which is this. A complete lack of a button. Oh well.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Clean Clown!

The real problem with not showering for two days isn't that I start to smell bad by the end of the second day (though of course, I do), it's that on the third day I feel so disgusting that I wind up losing all track of time and scrubbing for 45 minutes, making myself quite late for work.

Friday, September 10, 2004

There's no excuse for anyone not to have renter's insurance. Well, unless you're not renting.

The people at Apple are mean. My new iPod remote (no longer standard issue) and carrying case arrived today. Before the iPod. What a tease! On the other hand, I ordered everything yesterday, and went with the free shipping, so I'm kind of excited that anything came today at all.

The Saga of the Lost iPod had the best possible ending, short of my original dropping out of the sky into my lap. My renter's insurance covers my property wherever it may be, and the nice people at Allstate are sending me a check today. There's a deductible, but otherwise I'm covered for the full replacement price of everything. It's worth pointing out that the check on its way to me today is for more than my annual premium.

Since I've coveted the 4th generation iPods since the day they were released, I'm putting a positive spin on the whole thing by calling it an "upgrade." So my insurance deductible becomes my "upgrade fee." And soon I'll have a new toy. Apple's offering free engraving right now, so I put my name and phone number on it, which will at least make it harder to re-sell if it gets stolen again.

It's still money I don't want to be spending, and I'm still wigging out a little bit about my address book and the files I had backed up on the hard drive (not that I've lost anything, but that someone may have access to all of that now), but it's the best possible outcome to a shitty situation, so I'm smiling.

(I know I said I'd blog about TV today, but I'm not finished with that post yet. Coming soon!)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Adventures in Real Estate (continued) and Employment

Note: There were three posts yesterday – two by me and one by MAK. Those of you following the MAK/Faustus thread will want to scroll down.

Tomorrow, I promise a post of my own about television, but today I must continue explaining why this is shaping up to be the Worst Week Ever.

The series of phonecalls during which My Precious vanished yesterday were with the various players in my real estate drama. You may have noticed that the Countdown to My Move is gone, and it's not because of the stuttering scrollbar complaints. The bastards on the co-op board denied our sublet. I'd be more okay with it if they hadn't basically told me that they simply never allow people to move in prior to closing. Which, okay, is fine, I guess, but then why the fuck did they make us do that whole huge application, and PAY THEM FOR THE PRIVILEGE???!!!!?

On top of this, the woman at the management office also tried to schedule our interview with the board. Why, I asked, do we need an interview with the board if they've already decided to deny our sublet? So they can approve your re-sale application, she said. We don't need board approval to buy it. My realtor says so, my attorney says so, and the crazy lady we're buying the apartment from says so. The latter actually thinks we don't even need the board approval to sublet it, since she was renting it out without board approval for years before, and that we only did the sublet application "to be polite." Yeah, I don't drop $700 to be polite, but okay.

So we're in limbo. We may or may not be meeting with the board on Monday. We may or may not still get the sublet after all. I suppose we may or may not even get the apartment at all. Just in case this happens, we've stopped doing any work or bringing any stuff to the apartment. The most likely outcome is that we still have the apartment (I'm 99% certain this whole board approval thing coming out of left field is a crock), but not until November. We knew this was a possibility, but frankly we haven't really done much to prepare for it.

And I was freaking out already when things were going according to plan. It's all my own doing, but I suddenly have no free time at all. My show is closing in a few weeks. In the larger scheme of things this is surprising (we'd thought it would run through the holidays), but there are mitigating circumstances and I'd been prepared for the official announcement for a couple of weeks when it came. In any case having this kind of notice is a rare luxury. I'm sad about it and will dwell and write on it more later, but for now I've made my peace with it.

One of the ways in which I've made that peace is by completely overbooking myself for the month in an attempt to save some money before what will undoubtedly be a light October. There's a one-man show in my theater on Mondays, and I've been babysitting them for a couple of weeks already. Not much work, but it does occupy me for four hours every Monday night. Now there's a cabaret of sorts coming in on Tuesdays, our other dark night. One of my actors is producing it and he asked me to come on board, so I'm in rehearsals for that all this week, with performances starting next Tuesday. Good money, but time I can't really afford to spend right now. Lastly, there's my unexpected return to the old box office job.

So on the one hand, having the pressure off the move is kind of nice, since I have no time now but will have plenty in October to deal with it. The only problem with that is that my lease is up at the end of the month. I can go month to month, but Boy's lease has several months still on it, and he hasn't actually spent a night there in weeks. We started paying the maintenance this month on the new place too. So it makes no sense to pay rent on three apartments, two of which we're not living in. Our contract with the seller allows us access, even if the board says we can't live there, so the best plan as I see it is for me to move on schedule, sending all my stuff to the new place, and sleeping at Boy's (which is just a few blocks away from the new place) until the closing. This seems silly in many ways (not least of which: how would the board know if we were sleeping there, which seems to be the only definition anyone can give us of "living"), but it makes the most financial sense. It does nothing to help with my scheduling issues though, except I suppose that it gives us some more time to deal with painting and appliances and stuff.

And of course, this could all change again next week. I may have a breakdown by then.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


It's a good thing I wrote that post offline earlier today, because all I can think about right now is the fact that I LOST MY FUCKING IPOD!!! I had a really bad afternoon today and somewhere in the midst of a series of progressively more irritating cell phone conversations (a subject for a later post), I completely lost any memory of taking the headphones off my neck and the Pod off my belt, though I clearly must have done that since they're not there now. So without that memory I have no idea where I put it, but there just aren't that many options, and it's nowhere to be found.

I suppose the up-side is I now have an excuse to get one of the new ones.

Sunday in Grant Park With Boy

First of all, my thanks to Faustus and MAK for keeping everyone (including me) entertained while I was away (though I suspect we haven't heard the last of them quite yet). And a hearty welcome to those of you who followed them over here and are new to The J.C.. Later in the week I'll get snarky on the subject of summer television, the nightmare that my September is shaping up to be, and hopefully have an update or two on the apartment saga.

But first, I have a deep dark secret to confess: I cry like a baby at weddings. I haven't actually been to very many of them, but so far I'm 3 for 3.

I started off so well. It was an evening wedding, and they did photos beforehand, so we got to see MCM and ME (who long-time readers know from their frequent comments here) before they went and hid for their grand entrances. They both looked fabulous, elegant and weddingy, but entirely like themselves. MCM's gown was gorgeous and somehow simple and elaborate all at once, and this woman I've almost never seen in anything but jeans and t-shirts looked completely comfortable gliding across the lobby. I kvelled a great deal but didn't get verklempt yet.

And speaking of Yiddish...though friends with both bride and groom, we wound up sitting on the shiksa side of the aisle, which was fine though when the rabbi directed his explanations of the Jewish portions of the ceremony to us I felt like I should raise my hand and pitch in.

Anyway... I was reading a little piece about friendship in the ceremony, which I was fairly terrified about (public speaking and I are not friends). Fortunately I was near the beginning, so I got it over with. I hadn't been able to make the rehearsal, and it didn't occur to me until I stood up that I had no idea where I was supposed to stand. Fortunately, the most logical spot was with my back to the entire wedding party, or I probably would have started the water works then.

Ultimately, it was MCM's fault. Figures. They wrote their own vows, and in hers she said that ME describes her laugh as a "joyous cackle" – a highly accurate description – and that while she pretends to be offended by it, she secretly loves it, because he is responsible for the joyous cackle. Couldn't you just die? I got teary again when they kissed, and then I figured I was safe.

We ate some lovely food and drank some lovely wine and enjoyed the lovely company of our table-mates (minus the sorely missed KED), and then it was time for the toasts. Father of the bride? Cried. Brother of the bride? Cried. Best man (also a good friend of mine)? Yup. I thought I was good with the matron of honor until the bitch quoted "Over The Rainbow." Cheesy and trite, I know, but MCM is a frighteningly huge Wizard of Oz fan, so it all fit.

Surely by this time I must have been safe. Nope. The DJ was a little odd. A good chunk of the playlist can be described only as 1988 Bar Mitzvah. Of course, we were all pretty drunk by then, and I'm sure the sight of adults, several of them in formalwear, twisting to "Twist and Shout" and squatting during the "little bit softer now" part of "Shout." Of course, I'm a sucker for "Let's Go Crazy," but the man should lose his wedding DJ's license for playing "Purple Rain," which may be one of the best pop songs of all time, but is also one of the best breakup songs of all time! Anyway, the DJ's oddness gave way to MCM and ME's, and at their request he played the Buffy The Vampire Slayer theme. The five of us who got it were very excited and moshed like idiots (including, again, one in a rather billowy wedding dress). This was followed by "Under Your Spell," Tara and Willow's love song from the Buffical, and as I danced with Boy I – yep – cried, thankfully for the last time of the evening.

The crying may be a normal occurrence, but this was the first wedding I'd been to that kinda made me want my own. I generally feel like I have better things to spend my money on (the pairing may be lasting, but the party, alas, is not). And I don't want to have a ceremony of any kind until the union it creates is legally recognized by this country. But as I sat there I found myself pondering who would be in my wedding party, who we might ask to sing, which one of us would break the glass (as it turned out, it's apparently acceptable nowadays both for a woman and a non-Jew to do it, as MCM and ME each stomped on one, so I guess the answer to that one is both of us!).

So my thanks to ME and MCM for turning me, at least for one night, into a complete sap, and more importantly for inviting me to be a part of their beautiful and perfect wedding.

As for the rest of the trip... You know you're in the Midwest when people are allowed to smoke everywhere, including the lobby of your hotel. ...When the example of the fine dining available in said hotel is a photograph in the elevator of a pizza with lettuce on it. ...When they post a schedule for the subway and it turns out to be accurate!

Seriously, the biggest culture shock for me was the noticeable lack of security in major public spaces. This says much less about Chicago than it does about how accustomed I've become to what's happened to New York in the last 3 years. The El station for our hotel let out into a mall, which was closed for Labor Day (which is weird in and of itself, isn't Labor Day a big shopping day?), but we were completely free to wander around the creepy Dawn of the Dead halls before we found the proper exit. At the brand new (and lovely) Millennium Park, there were staff areas under the park and the bandshell that were wide open and unguarded. At another subway station I exited right into an office building, which they mostly don't let you do here anymore unless you work there. The extra security in New York doesn’t necessarily make me feel any safer, but I'm so used to it now that I felt weird being in a major city without it.

Although I know it's the norm in pretty much every American city except New York, I'll never get used to being in a place with such strict delineation between residential, business, and commercial districts. Our hotel was in a businessy area, so it was dead on the weekend (see the aforementioned darkened mall). There were lots of other hotels, actually, so we found restaurants easily, but not much else. Even the theater district didn't have much open – don't these people have matinees?

That said, I enjoyed my brief time in Chicago. I actually think I'd prefer living there to visiting. It's pretty clean, the people seemed nice and moved at a pretty good pace, and I really like the El (once I got the hang of the Loop, which Boy had to explain to me twice). But even flipping through hotel brochures, we couldn't find much that stood out in the way of touristy things, especially given the short time we had. Not much of the architecture particularly moved me.

We did spend a chunk of a beautiful Monday afternoon wandering around Grant Park, and taking in Lake Michigan, which was pretty great (pun intended). Millennium Park is an amazing use of space and has the kind of public art I'd love to see more of in New York – innovative, accessible, and most importantly fun! On Tuesday we took in the Art Institute, which had a big Seraut exhibit. I don't know much about visual art, but I know my musical theater, and seeing La Grande Jatte up close, along with all kinds of stuff about how it was made (minus Mandy Patinkin) was very exciting. The painting is much smaller than I expected (though still quite an impressive size!), and I realized later that it's entirely because of the original production of Sunday in the Park, which at one point featured a reproduction on a scrim which was at least 1/3 larger than the real thing. Dammit, if there's one thing I expect from a Broadway musical, it's realism! Anyway, the rest of the museum was nice too, and I took lots of pictures of all different sorts of things that I thought were cool for one reason or another.

It was a fabulous weekend, and great to get away, but I was happy to get home to NYC and the kitten. As if to emphasize the point, our plane took my favorite approach to Laguardia: north along the Hudson. Now that's a skyline! If I'd tried harder I could've spotted my building.

Home sweet home...but then, that's another story.
My dear Faustus - my poor, disillusioned Faustus - I do believe that, during the conversations leading up to that fateful first date, I made it quite clear that I do not share. Except for orgies, which you would have known had you had the courtesy to invite me to yours. So, therefore, you should have known better than to give me the puppy dog eye routine and rob me of the newfound joy that was the deep-fried Mars Bar. I should not have been so foolish as to try and make a good impression by sacrificing the final morsel of battered-and-fried chocolate delight for you. And, lastly, I can only assume that by "take my virginity" you meant "be the most recent guest at Hotel Faustus." Because if not, then you're not the only baffled party here.
MAK, I am shocked--shocked, I tell you--at your flagrant revision of history, at your shameless manipulation of data to support your own version of events.

It is true that, as you state, I ate the last bite of deep-fried Mars Bar on our first date.

What you fail to mention, conveniently, is that it was the only bite you allowed me to eat. After I introduced you to the delicacy--which you would never have even heard of if it hadn't been for me--you callously and insensitively devoured all but a tiny scrap, which you then condescended to share with me.

I should have known then that you were a selfish, unfeeling cad. I am baffled, in fact, that, having witnessed such a display of boorishness on your part, I ever allowed you to take my virginity.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Good afternoon, Judgment Call readers. MAK here. Faustus has flung down the gauntlet in an attempt to humiliate and punish me for the way I ended our brief relationship during the summer of 2002. I suppose that I could respond with a barrage of insults, such as "I would never have dumped you if you had been a better kisser" or "I may have misspelled doppelgänger but at least I have good hair." Or I could mention how Faustus was going to sex clubs and orgies during our short time together, causing me feel that my sexual performance (which had received high marks in previous ventures) left something to be desired.

But, alas, none of these statements are true (well, except for the doppelgänger misspelling). Faustus is in truth a very good kisser, his hair was always perfectly styled, and I never doubted my own sexual prowess so much as I was just bitter than I never got invited to the orgies.

I choose to use this opportunity and take the high road. I respond to Faustus’s challenge with the truth. For the first time ever, I will reveal the real reason for ending my affair with Faustus those dark and distant months ago. Not even our gracious host, Adam, knows what really happened. It is time for Faustus, and the entire world, to know why I could never give him all of my heart:

He ate the last bite of Deep Fried Mars Bar on our first date. And for that, I will never forgive him.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

It is I, Faustus. MAK and I had this whole plan where we were going to do a point/counterpoint kind of thing about random banal things, like chocolate vs. vanilla ice cream, but each of us would keep veering off inappropriately and uncontrollably into comments on the other's behavior during our brief but dramatic relationship, which MAK foolishly ended two years, one week, and two days ago, not that anybody's counting or anything. However, I realized that, in fact, the eternal and endless regret he must feel daily is actually not punishment enough for his mistake, so I have decided to betray him, abandoning our plan and leaving him high and dry and in a position to feel some faint shadow of the terrible agony he caused me.

How does it feel, MAK? How does it feel now that the tables have turned?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Laying out the welcome mat. (Hee hee...laying.)

After a bit of a lull, I feel like I've finally got Judgment Call back on track. I've been averaging a post every other day, and I think I've struck a decent balance between pop culture stuff and personal stuff, cute kittens and pissy New Yorkers. My writing has been fairly consistent (consistently what, I leave up to you). All in all I'm really pleased with the old blog.

And nobody's reading it.*

So, since I'm going out of town this weekend anyway (to MCM and ME's wedding!), like Brian hanging out with Claire the Monday after detention, I've asked two of my more well-trafficked blogging friends (their blogs are well-trafficked, they are not...well, one of them is) to make some little guest appearances here over the next couple of days. The three of you who've been here all along can look forward to what I'm sure will be very entertaining posts from Faustus and MAK (whom, it's worth pointing out, once dated briefly and dramatically). I hope those of you who they've helped me lure here will stick around and explore for a bit. There's a freshly updated list in the sidebar on the right of past posts I'm fond of, and links galore. So enjoy, and would a bookmark and a weekly visit kill you?

And please comment, even if you don't have anything nice to say. Comments make me feel all kinds of special.

*According to my Sitemeter stats

Adventures in Home-Owning, Part 1

We still don't have our "sublet" approval, but our access to the apartment became all official and legal yesterday, so we started painting today. Very exciting! We did our boldest choice first: An orange stripe around the kitchen (filling in the space between the counter and the cabinet, and then extending that width all the way around). We were originally going to go with "burnt sienna," but on almost a whim we decided that was too brown and went a shade lighter, which is called something like "fiesta." We're calling it out "Trading Spaces Room." With the appliances (which are stainless steel) and various other gak in place we think there will be a nice contrast, but opening that can was scary. It was like the sun! We tried a trick we learned on one of those Canadian design shows on HGTV – When you mask off edges, paint flat clear acrylic over the edge of the tape to seal it ('cause paint always leaks through that blue masking tape). Then when you paint, you'll paint over the acrylic on the wall, and never know it was there. We didn't remove the tape today, but I'm anxious to see if it worked. I'll post pictures after we do the second coat; I think it's going to look really good. It's a little blah and domestic, but I think I'll post a series of photos as we go through this process. It's not like we're doing any major work on the apartment, but we're setting things up in stages that seem to lend themselves to some kind of time lapse record-keeping. And, frankly, I'm endlessly in love with the apartment and want to show it off!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Polyphonically Spreeing

I haven't had much to say about music lately. I listen to music constantly, but I've been fairly blah on the subject lately. I've mostly had the iPod on shuffle working my way through the Never Played playlist, so I haven't concocted new mixes to blog about. I downloaded a bunch of Ben Folds after the concert, but I already wrote about him. I don't listen to the radio much, but when I do it's usually while I'm in the shower, and it's usually a "mix of the 80s, 90s, and today!" station that I used to like as vapid background very much. Lately though I've been hating pop music (or at least this station's bland light pop music). The appeal of Maroon 5, Scissor Sisters, John Mayer and Jason Mraz eludes me completely. Maybe it's just because they're so overplayed I want to kill myself. But I don't know, pop music used to be fun. I guess I'm too young to officially pine for the 80s (and, hello, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" trauma!), but I miss the fun. Or at least grunge, which was a) in response to a decade of bad (but fun) pop, and b) often had something to say. It all seems to labored now, like everyone's trying to be arsty or sell a song to a car company. I guess "Take Your Mama" is supposed to be fun, but all I can hear in it is how hard they're trying to sound like Elton John. And failing. It takes work to be more boring than Elton John.

So I was kind of excited to discover The Polyphonic Spree. For one thing, I love the truth in advertising of their name. It's a 25 member conglomeration featuring an orchestra and a choir. That's the polyphonic part. And they're goofy and fun, so there's your spree!

I was already a big fan of "Light And Day (Reach For The Sun)," which was featured in Volkswagen and iPod commercials, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but based on the iTunes samples of the album I wasn't really into anything else. But I recently checked out their new album, and downloaded the whole thing, plus a live single of Bowie's "Five Years" that totally rocks.

The orchestral element sounds, true to their name, very much like Sgt. Pepper era Beatles. But this doesn't seem like the throwback you might expect. The lead vocalist has that very modern, sort of whiny delivery reminiscent of Coldplay or Ben Folds. There's a sort of neo-hippie element (they always wear sort of clerical robes, and the music tends to lean towards "everyone love each other" sentiments), but without being all annoying like Phish.

Most of all I like how much fun they seem to be having. It all sounds very spontaneous, as if any band that requires a harp could ever be spontaneous. For all the arranging and harmonizing that has to happen, it never feels like they're working nearly as hard as the singer-songwriter-guitarists who are trying desperately to show how arty they are.

True, all the spreeing can result in lyrics that seem more at home on a bad morning cartoon than a serious rock album (eg, "Hail to the sky / hail to the sky / it's time to watch a show / it's time to watch a show / the trees wanna grow / grow grow grow"), but I'll still take that over all the whining on my radio any day.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Getttt Ouuuuuttttt of the Houssssssse

Remember the leak in my kitchen a couple of months ago? The funky damp smell never fully went away, because I won't allow anyone in to re-plaster since we're moving out soon anyway and it's not worth the hassle, but for the last couple of days I've been smelling it more and more strongly, and this morning I looked up and saw brown spots on my bathroom ceiling.

Now, it's worth mentioning that my upstairs neighbor and I have had a little feud going on since I moved in three years ago. The thing is, I actually like her. I don't really know her, but she seems pretty nice, and she's one of the only people in the building who speaks English as a first language -- not that I have anything against the people who don't, but since it's allI speak it certainly makes communication easier. We both work odd hours (though I have no idea what she does) so we run into each other a lot, usually when she's walking her cute little dogs, and we always exchange pleasantries.

Both of our apartments have very long entrance hallways, so while I've been to her door, I've never actually seen anything inside hers. But what I imagine is a living room lined entirely with speakers, like some kind of home entertainment system from Hell. There are times when my apartment actually vibrates. Usually it's not even music, it's the TV -- probably action movies -- so it's not even a steady beat, but these unpredictable whooomps of sound, from an explosion or a dragon's wing or a swell of score. And the thing I can't manage to get her to understand is that volume is not really the problem; it's the bass, which apparently is turned up to 11. And she hasn't seemed to grasp the concept that if it's too loud or boomy when I complain about it, the same level will still be too loud or boomy the next day. Basics of apartment-dwelling, people.

In the middle of all these speakers, she sits comfortably atop a large boulder, with an anvil for a side-table, and whenever she can't sleep at 2 am, she moves these around. She's only been walking one puppy lately, and I suspect that the other one was crushed in a horrible furniture-moving accident.

All of that said, since the kitchen leak had been caused by something in the pipes inside the walls, I did not immediately send waves of hate up to this woman when I discovered the mold this morning. It's an old building, and these things happen.

On my way out this morning, I found the super, who said, quite casually, "Oh yeah, I was in your apartment the other day look at that. The lady upstairs left the sink on and ran over."

Shocked, I said the first thing that came to my mind: "I hate her."

My super, who I couldn't help noticing has improved his English greatly since I moved in, said, "I know. She's crazy. Always the loud music. Completely crazy."

It's a shame I'm moving out just when I've made this bond with the super (whose name, I should add, is also Adam) and learned that I'm not alone in my vendetta against the woman upstairs, but it's really like the building is giving me signs that it's time to go.

Now if only we'd hear from the damn co op board....

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Just when I thought I got out, they pull me back in!

One of my work-study jobs in college was at the campus arts center's box office. I kind of enjoyed it, and, despite my generally bitchy disposition, I was pretty good at it. Actually, I think my generally bitchy disposition makes me better at it. Anyone who's nice to stupid people for 8 hours every day will eventually explode.

Anyway, right after graduation, I moved back to New York and promptly got a job in the box office of a non-profit theater. I had the basic skills already, and my natural affinity for computers made me a very quick study on the archaic, DOS-based system they used. I worked there for two years, until I realized that as much as I liked my coworkers and liked being in an arts environment, it made much more sense for me to quit and start temping. I was starting to get more stage management work, but lots of it was last minute, and the box office's schedule wasn't flexible enough, and they really didn't pay very well anyway. I thought that would be the end of my customer service career.

In 2001, I was working on a show, and a guy on my crew worked part time in member services at a family theater with a very similar membership scheme to the one I had worked at. They used the same computer system as my previous job, and they were looking for staff. Since I had a full-time job but could always use some extra cash, I figured I'd pick up a couple of shifts if they'd have me. I met with the Manager and we hit it off right away (she's been mentioned here before, but she shares initials with another friend of mine anyway, so from now on she'll be known simply as Manager). I was a pro on the computer, since there'd been lots of downtime at the old job and I like to push buttons and see what they do. I was hired.

Something about the nature of family theater seems to make the patrons even stupider. Because it's not just about them, it's about their kids. What's most amazing is that the majority of these parents seem unable to read. They don't follow instructions, they don't read the brochure or the member guide (which is, like, a page), they don't even read their kids' school calendars. My favorite calls were all variations on this: "Hi, we have tickets for this Sunday and we need to exchange them; we didn't realize it was Thanksgiving weekend." How do you not realize it's Thanksgiving weekend??? And that's the other problem with family theater: Everyone wants to come to a weekend matinee, and no one can fathom the fact that they sell out quickly. I don't know, when I was a child in New York City, occasionally I'd be able to stay up past 9:00. But you'd think we'd asked if we could drink their toddlers' blood when we suggested they come to a Friday evening performance.

I burned out quickly and left. Well, actually I got a show and never came back. Like the other job, it didn't really pay well enough to be my only source of income, and because of New York's arcane unemployment system, three or four days of work were worse for me financially than none. When I did have another job, it was getting trickier to schedule around so that the box office was extra. Just as important, I don't know how people make a career out of customer service without burning our in a year. Manager excels at it, and I sometimes suspect she's not human.

I've stayed friendly with lots of people from there, including Manager, who lives nearby and has a cat I sometimes baby-sit. And last week she asked if I wanted to pick up some shifts, since she was short-staffed. And since I need as much money as I can scrape together right now, I'm going back. They changed the computer system (Windows based but somehow more arcane and counter-intuitive) just before I left, and I got good at it but never riding-a-bike good at it, so today I'm going in to re-train.

Wish me luck, I'm going back to the Dark Side. If there's a silver lining it's that there will surely be no shortage of blog material. Wish me luck!