Monday, November 29, 2004

As long as he doesn't answer...

On Wednesday night, as I shoved boxes into some kind of logical order to make the apartment presentable for some houseguests, the man from downstairs with the sensitive hearing came up and rang my bell. He complained about noise again, and I apologized and promised to stop moving stuff around right now. Then he said I'd been moving furniture at 2:00 the previous morning, and I told him that actually I'd been in bed...but I did hear him yelling at around that time. He asked me if I'd received a copy of the House Rules when I moved in, because they clearly state that "you can't make noise after 6:00" and that I had to have "everything covered." I told him I did have the rules, that there was nothing in them about 6:00, and that in fact we had to have 80% of the floor area covered. We do not yet have that many rugs (and there's no way we're getting wall-to-wall), and I asked him to be patient with us while we settle in. I also pointed out that somewhere under the boxes I'd been moving was a rug, but I wouldn't be able to put it down now because he'd just asked me to stop moving things around!

I refused to turn this into an argument I calmly pointed out that the apartment had been empty for six months, and covered in shag before that, so he'd have to adjust to some new sounds. I pointed out that we could hear our upstairs neighbors, our next door neighbors, the subway, and occasionally even him yelling at his wife or kids (attractive!). He missed the point, and said "I don't care about your problems with upstairs, that's not my business!" Me, calmly, "No, the point is, that it's not actually a problem." (Though I have to say, the more time we spend in the apartment, the more aware I am of how loud the people upstairs are simply walking around.) I reminded him that he had accused us of making noise before we actually moved in, and that he had banged on the ceiling twice when we really weren't making any noise, so it was both hard to take him seriously, and to discern what behavior is problematic. I promised, again, to be more cautious about moving things at night, and asked him to cut us some slack in exchange, and understand the difference between moving a sofa and pulling out a chair. I told him I hardly ever wear shoes in the house, but that I may, on occasion, drop something, and that's life.

He brought his daughters with him, which was odd. Was it like, "Look at the poor children you're keeping awake?" If so, the tactic failed miserably. The older girl, maybe 11, was clearly mortified. Whenever I tried to get a word in and her dad wouldn't let me, she would tug on his sleeve and roll her eyes. When I said something sensible, she'd look at me and nod and quietly go, "Dad, listen!" She was clearly on my side. The younger girl, Ashley (an odd name for a Latina child!) was just embarrassed and didn't know what was going on, but she clearly didn't want to be there. Radish made a brief appearance and charmed them all. It was exactly the confrontation I'd wanted, actually, and in the end I think we understood each other. We'll see how the next few weeks go.

But later on something he said struck me: "Every night at around this time, you're moving things around and making noise." Well, I'm not, and Boy's not, but... Radish does get frisky around the same time every night. He's perfectly cable of being sneaky and quiet, but when he wants to play he tends to jump off of things very heavily, skid across the hardwood floors, and occasionally knock things over. Could it be that Mr. Crazy isn't quite so crazy after all and he's hearing the cat?

When we first got the kitten we did some reading about training cats out of their nocturnal instincts so he'd be more on our schedule. We should have done it then, but sleeping kittens are so damn cute... and anyway back then he slept like 20 hours a day, so it wasn't a problem.

The "expert" advice Boy found online is pretty simple: If you want your cat to sleep through the night, don't let him sleep during the day! Yeah, very simple if anyone's home to wake him up and play with him. Not simple at all when Boy and I are both working six days a week.

So I'm calling him. The cat. I am calling my own phone to wake the cat up every half hour. Of course, he doesn't answer, so we have no way of knowing if this tactic is working. The article said it could take two weeks for their internal clocks to reset (ie, no matter how sleepy Radish is, he will naturally want to play at one am), so we may not even see results at night to tell us if he's being awakened by the phone during the day. We need a nanny-cam or something.

Chances are the cat is sleeping right through it but we're annoying the hell out of the people downstairs.

Get Out Of My Way

Last night in the Times Square subway station, I observed a group of tourists blocking a considerable amount of the large entryway because they were completely baffled by the MetroCard vending machines. I lingered a little bit, curious to know if they spoke English before judging them too harshly. They sounded like they were from the UK, so judge harshly I did. Those machines really couldn't be any simpler. Giant buttons on a touch screen with plain instructions. Get out of my way.


This morning I was a little late leaving the house, so I decided to try a different route to work -- a longer walk to the station, but a faster train once I get there. I was prepared for the insane crush of people on the much-too-narrow-for-a-station-this-busy platform (which is why I generally avoid it when I can) but wasn't prepared for the line of people at the "token" booth so long it actually blocked the doors into the station. Folks, maybe you shouldn't wait until Monday at 8:30 AM to buy your weekly MetroCard. Get out of my way.


When I finally made it down to the train, it was unsurprisingly crowded. What was a little surprising, was the woman with the double-stroller, containing two children, one of whom was clearly old enough to walk. I totally appreciate that raising kids in the city isn't easy, and you need to get around somehow, but lady, a double stroller on the subway at the height of rush hour? Come on! Get out of my way.


I was the last person to force my way on to the train, which meant I had to step off of it so as not to block the door so people could get off at the next stop. No big deal. Except the people who'd been waiting there didn't want to wait anymore, and Stroller Bitch was getting off. I had to physically restrain an old lady behind me to keep her from pushing me, or pushing past me onto the train...which she wouldn't have been able to get on anyway until Stroller Bitch stopped blocking the door with her brats on wheels. But I am a good subway rider. I let passengers off before shoving my way on. And dammit I already had a rightful spot in that car and no way was this old cunt getting on there before me. Then Stroller Bitch ran over my foot. Get out of my way, and OW!


I couldn't cope with all the people on the escalator at 53rd Street, so I walked, deciding it made up for not going to the gym all last week. I emerged, on schedule, into the beautiful day and took a deep breath. I walked a block and a half, and two foreign businessmen stepped halfway out onto the narrow sidewalk, and stopped right in the middle, apparently trying to get their bearings. One of them had a rolly suitcase sticking out behind him. I saw them in plenty of time, but gave the suitcase a good kick and made an exaggerated tripping motion anyway just to make a point. And that point would be (say it with me now): Get the fuck out of my way!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Holidays That Don't Exist

In honor of the holiday, a repeat post from last year...

Okay, kids, let's review...

Acceptable:
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
Thanksgiving Day Parade
Thanksgiving Parade
(if you must) Macy's Parade

Unacceptable:
Macy's Day Parade


Thank you for your time.

Hot Man-On-Eunuch Action

Thanks to the lovely Jenn scoring some tickets to a screening of Alexander last night, we have a first here at Judgment Call: I get to a review a movie before it comes out! Well, I guess it came out today, but close enough. WARNING: Many spoilers lie ahead. Not like the movie's not predictable, but just in case.

To give you a sense of what an easy target Alexander is, here are some of the other titles for this post I came up with:
The Gayest Story Ever Told (as long as no one kisses)
Lions and Elephants and Colin Farrell's Ass, Oh My!
(that one's sure to get me some Google hits)
Alexander may be great, but check out the rack on Rosario Dawson!
Maybe Jared Leto's born with it...Maybe it's Maybelline
Alexander: Pee First
I've hidden me Lucky Charms in Maced O'Nia!
Have the eunuchs stopped screaming, Alexander?
"It was said that Alexander was never defeated, except by Hephastion's thighs."


Thank you, I'll be here all week! Try the veal!

That last one is an actual line from the film, and it's pretty indicative of how -- not bad, really, but weird this movie is.

Alexander is a big sprawling mess, as epics like this tend to be. Also typically, it's visually stunning (at least, I think it was -- we got stuck in the 2nd row, and I have to wonder why they even design theaters with seats so close to the screen!), but the script is confusing at best, lugubrious at worst. At times the text, particularly the lengthy (but essential for coherence, I suppose) narration by Anthony Hopkins, reads like a history lesson, but I was still confused. I'm really not up on my ancient history and geography, so as dull and over-long as some of this stuff was, I kind of wanted more. I guess in a nod to the classic epics, there's a mosaic map, with a growing dotted line of tile charting Alexander's course, and as laughable as the graphic is, I wanted it to be on screen longer so I could get my bearings. A caption tells us we're in Macedonia, but the dialogue that follows implies we're in Greece, which has just been conquered by Macedonia. It's a subtle distinction, I suppose, but it doesn't help with clarity if you don't really understand the difference between the two.

Of course, the first caption of the film reads, "Macedonia, June 323 B.C." Not "Summer," "June." Yeah, Oliver? Mr. Historical Accuracy with the real elephants? The Roman calendar didn't exist yet, at least not in Macedonia. Most of the Entertainment Weekly reading audience tittered, and I knew we were at least in for a fun evening.

For all that I'd read about cuts being made to the gay content of the film, I have to say it's pretty damn gay! In some respects I feel like if some of the same scenes had come out in the 50s, it wouldn't be gay at all, but our 21st Century sensibilities read all those cues differently. I'll have to rent Spartacus and compare. Given that they barely touch, the actors (Farrell and Leto) are doing most of the work to gay the place up. But it really is way more than subtext. It's made very clear (and not just from campy lines like the one about his thighs) that Hephastion is the one true love of Alexander's life, that he's also messing around with his eunuch servant, who is in turn incredibly jealous of Hephastion (if you see the movie, look for the eunuch somewhere in every single scene after the one in which he's introduced. It's like shirtless Where's Waldo.). Curiously, men do kiss on the lips in this movie (they are ancient Greeks after all...Macedonians, whatever), but never Alexander and Hephastion. Though the only straight sex we see is an aborted rape of Alexander's mother by his father (issues!), and his scene with Rosario Dawson, which is amazingly unsexy and may just be one of the weirdest scenes in cinema history. The implications and allusions and open shirts of Alexander and Hephastion are hotter than anything else in the movie, and in a way a refreshing throwback to when people actually didn't do it on screen.

Would I have liked to see a proper love scene between Colin and Jared? Duh! But actually I'm more interested in who Hephastion was besides the Prettiest Boy In The Ancient World (a title that apparently comes with a lifetime supply of eyeliner). He's Alexander's most trusted friend and advisor, and we're meant to believe that he's the smartest and most level-headed person in the room most times. But in scenes with Alexander and his generals, Hephastion almost never opens his mouth. Do his love for and blind devotion to Alexander keep him from questioning him as others do? Frankly, Hephastion, with Leto in the lead, would have made a more interesting movie.

That's really my biggest problem with Alexander: It seems unsure of what it wants to be. At times it wants to be a love story, but of course no film this big and expensive can really be that kind of love story, and anyway it's really about war and pillaging and conquering, and sometimes that seems to get in the way of the romance and keep us away from the prettyboy sex scene we all so long for. But mostly the prettyboys just drag down what is, at its heart, an action movie. If it weren't, wouldn't there be more than a passing reference or two to Alexander's cultural accomplishments amid all the stomping and schlepping and fighting? Wouldn't the plot be slightly easier to follow, as if it, um, mattered? I found it very difficult to keep track of who was who, especially as the campaign dragged on and everyone got more facial hair. There was Guy With Scar, Guy Who Grows Up To Be Anthony Hopkins, Guy From Velvet Goldmine, Snarly Guy, Greek With Long Hair Who Looks Just Like Arab Prince From The Last Scene.... And in the battles, forget about knowing who's who. At one point I was positive a major character got trampled by an elephant, only to have him show up unharmed in the next scene.

None of which would matter if Alexander himself weren't kind of a schmuck. As charming as Colin Farrell is, it becomes really really hard to like this man who led so many of his people to death for no reason beyond working out his daddy issues. When Jonathan Rhys-Myers, who always manages to look pretty evil (or pretty, evil) even when the character he's playing isn't, screams "Alexander, be reasonable!" I found it hard to argue.

Near film's end, Alexander launched into a monologue about his plans for the next great conquest (which basically came out sounding like "blah blah blah me blah me me blah blah") while the one great love of his life lay dying, and I could practically hear the entire audience's eyes roll. When he shed a tear near the end of it, we all giggled. When he finally turned around and realized the man he was talking to had died, we guffawed. He seemed more upset than anything that Hephastion had died mid-speech.

That said, I actually really liked it. I mean, I had fun. It's not like we go to these things for high art, we go for spectacle, for pretty costumes and pretty sets and lots and lots of blood. The battles (as far as I could tell from the second row) are amazing and intense. In typical Oliver Stone fashion, they are a confusing jumble of jump cuts, shaky cameras, blurry effects and surround sound. It doesn't help with the plot, but it does give the sequences a sense of terrifying immediacy, with what I can only imagine is the realistic confusion of being in the middle of a massive ancient battle. And there are macabre fun touches too. Watch for the soldier using another man's severed head as a weapon.

I also never felt like I was watching a special effect (except for the ultra-obvious tracking shots of an eagle soaring over the battlefield, but that was only because it would be impossible to film, not because it's a bad effect). Stone has a fondness for making things a little grainy, and the old-fashioned look helps mask that too-perfect look that CGI can get as in, for example, the new Star Wars movies. I assume Babylon was CG, but for all I know it might have been a matte painting, or a miniature, or even an actual set. There were enough real elephants that if they ever switched to fake ones, I couldn't tell. Of course this may also have been another side effect of sitting so close.

The acting is mostly superb. Angelina Jolie is the film's Heather Locklear, vamping around with snakes and a miscellaneous foreign accent. She manages to make the ridiculous lines sound sensible (or at least in character), handles her share of the lengthy exposition with grace, and is the only one who consistently seems to be having fun (of course, she's also the only one who's consistently indoors, pretty, and not covered with sand, mud, or blood). She's entirely the wrong age and entirely non-period, and it simply doesn't matter.

If anything makes the lack of age make-up on Jolie work, it's Farrell, who I completely bought as aging 10 years over the course of the film. Some of this they do with changing facial hair and wigs, of course, but mostly it's the sparkle in his wide eyes as the 18-year-old prince. His facial expression matures, his emotion deepens, and it's all internal. It's lovely to watch.

Val Kilmer chews up the scenery deliciously, though it's a little sad to see how old and pudgy he's become (to be fair, of course, a lot of that's makeup). Rosario Dawson doesn't have much to do except look angry and flash her ample bosom ("like aircraft carriers!" said one patron as we walked out). As I said, the other men all kind of blended together, but there's not a bad actor in the bunch as far as I could tell. I ripped on Hopkins earlier but it's not his fault, and he handles his speechifying gracefully. Leto fares best, I think, but sadly will be the most overlooked. Because they're afraid to market any of the gay content in the film (he's absent from the posters and trailers), I doubt they'll do an Oscar campaign for him or anything. Not that he deserves an Oscar, but you can be sure they'll do one for Farrell.

Oh, and I mentioned the film was weird, right? Okay, so one of my big pet peeves is the film and theatre convention of having people speak English with a foreign accent when in fact they're not really speaking English at all. Unless the character's otherness is relevant, accents drive me nuts. Don't speak with an Italian accent, trust the audience to understand that if we're in Venice, you're actually speaking unaccented Italian, and we're all playing pretend. There's a sense that no one should be American in historical epics, which I don't agree with but I understand it -- the relative newness of America can make our accent jarring. Hal Prince favors something he calls a "Mid-Atlantic" accent, basically how Americans talk on the island of Pretentia.

Anyway, why do I bring this up? Because the Greeks/Macedonians in Alexander are all (wait for it) Irish. Yup. Farrell's Irish, so they're all Irish. I mean, really, why tax the lead with having to learn an accent when we can just have the entire rest of the cast learn one? It was one of the more ridiculous touches that completely endeared me to the movie.

All the press I've read said that Stone has tried to make this movie all his life. It's hard not to wonder how many permutations the screenplay went through in that time, and if that accounts for the mess it wound up being. But when all is said and done, I really enjoyed myself. It's waaaay too long. A half hour less would have been nice. And I think it could have been achieved without missing out on anything besides Stone's tendency towards over-indulgence. The film could be much shorter without cutting a word of dialogue or even any real action. It's mostly engaging enough, but by the last ten minutes (and third false ending -- what is this, A.I.?) I could feel the entire audience getting restless. Yet for all the snark filling the room, everyone seemed walking out around me seemed to feel the same way I did too, generally smiling and happy, even if it was sometimes at the movie's expense. There are far worse ways to spend three hours.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ummmmm

A lot of bloggers post things that people have Googled to find them (something our Sitemeters tell us), but mine have never been terribly interesting.

Until now.

Someone apparently came here through a Yahoo! search for "its was the first time the 15 years old boy fucked a middle aged woman"

The search engine pulled the terms from all over The J.C., so it's not like I'm disturbed by my own content, but there are just so many things wrong with that search.

I mean, the grammar alone...

Monday, November 22, 2004

Gripe of the Week

Blogger's Note: Due to some computer problems at work, and general busy-ness at home, I had a bunch of things written or partially written but wasn't able to actually post them. I've spent most of the day at my blissfully quiet new job doing blog maintenance and I'm all caught up, so if you're the type who checks in every day (and if you are then I adore you), make sure you scroll down to get all the backdated stuff. Thanks for reading!



Oh good. It's been a few weeks since anything has really pissed me off, I was starting to worry.

Let's talk a little bit about umbrellas. No, let's go back even further than that, to a more basic level, and talk about arms.

People of New York, must you swing your arms wildly when you walk, like some sort of deranged tin soldier from the Island of Even More Misfit Toys? Because, you know, when you do this in crowded spaces, like the tunnel between 7th and 8th Avenues in the Times Square subway station, you hit people. I know this is partly a reflex, that the human body is made so that the arms swing in opposition to the legs, but I don't know, even at my most relaxed and my most insane rush hour speed-walking, my hands just don't get more than a few inches away from my torso. More to the point, it's an awfully easy thing to control. Just put a half a second of thought into it and you can easily stop. Put your hands in your pockets or grab the strap of your purse if it's a real problem. I promise you won't fall over from lack of balance.

Which brings us to umbrellas. I won't even get into how inappropriate a large umbrella is in New York City. There's just not enough room for eight million people to open umbrellas more than three times the diameters of their bodies. But I can almost overlook that because I understand the impulse to not get wet. However, it's overcast today but not actually raining, and for some reason each of those people with a big Mary Poppins umbrella feels the need to carry it at his side, horizontally. While swinging his arms. I'd just like to thank you all for waving a long pointy object so thoughtlessly near my crotch. This behavior is not limited to the street. Oh, no. They do it on stairs and escalators too, putting the sharp end of their sticks right in the faces of the hapless people behind them. And when I gently put a hand on the umbrella and push the tip towards the ground, they give me attitude?

As long as I'm on this rant, I've also noticed that the same manic arm-swingers are also all smokers? It's bad enough I have to breathe your smoke, could you at least please remember that the object in your hand is on fire and be a little fucking careful how you carry it??

Thank you.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I only hate a few people now

A follow-up to this post and a few others...

As instructed, I called my old building's management office again on Thursday at 10 am. Then again an hour later. Then again at 4:30. I never spoke to the phantom "Eric," but by the end of the day I was kindly told that there had been a miscommunication of some kind, and that I could expect my check by December 1st. I was so tired of the whole thing I didn't point out that I had been told November 1 on October 15, November 15 on November 1, and now I was being told December 1 on November 18. There's clearly a pattern here. We'll see what happens. It's almost a shame I'm working full time during normal people hours again, or I'd plan on schlepping out to their office on the 1st and camping out until I get my money.

On the bright side, I made all these calls from our land-line, which is working just fine. And in an odd twist of fate, I called a friend who lives in the neighborhood later that day, and it turns out we have her old number! She never took it out of her cell phone so I came up on her caller ID as "Home" and freaked her out pretty thoroughly. Fun!


In other home news, I made what I hope to be my last trip to Ikea this morning. You all know how I love the Ikea, but I'm over it. They didn't have the blinds we wanted for our bedroom last time I went, but since it's the bedroom and those windows really need to be covered, we got something cheap and temporary. It looked pretty assy, so I've been checking the stock availability online and went back today for what we really wanted, plus some more hooks on which to hang kitchen things. I figured I'd attempt to return the old ones too, even though I didn't have the packaging and left some of the hardware on my walls to save time installing the new ones, and to my great surprise they gave me a full refund (on my card, not even store credit!). Of course, the store was a madhouse and I think I may have killed a slow-moving woman and her screaming baby, so I'm staying away for a while.


Then there are the crazy downstairs neighbors. We still haven't met our poltergeist, and we hadn't heard from the whackos downstairs since we moved in. Until last night, when someone banged on our floor while I wasn't making any noise. I was sitting on the kitchen floor cleaning our metal baker's rack, and I ran the sponge across it in a way that made the metal sort of ring. But it was a soft sound, sort of nice in my opinion, like something from a Mickey Hart album. And I'm sure it reverberated down through the floor, but it was like a second, before 8 pm on a Saturday night, in a room where I assume no one was sleeping. And they banged on the ceiling? For the rest of the night every time I bumped something I paused, actually hoping they'd come to the door or bang again so I could go down and say, "Hi, I dropped a feather duster and I'm barefoot and the TV is off so you need to chill the fuck out." Earlier this week Boy ran into our upstairs neighbor in the elevator and he said, "I've been meaning to come down and apologize... I have 2 little girls and sometimes I can't stop them from running around." We'd noticed of course, and it was very sweet of him to say something, but if it's not moving huge oak furniture at 2 am or blasting the stereo at ear-bleeding volume, a little noise is just a part of apartment living. We hear the footsteps from above, and the TV from next door, and sometimes voices from the building across the way, and even the subway when the wind is right. Get over it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Temping, Temporarily

My big problem with temping -- rather, my big problem with getting temp work -- is that I can't not put that I'm a freelance stage manager on my resume. If I did, I'd have the saddest resume in the world, full of holes and temporary filler jobs. But with it on there (and not just on there but dominating the page and dropping famous names), it of course comes up in conversation when I meet with new agencies (or, as I did last week, with new people at old agencies), and they ask me how often I get SM jobs, and I always tell myself I'm going to lie but then in the moment it just seems like such a big huge massive inconceivable lie to say, "Oh, I've given that up. What I really want to do now is temp!" So they shy away from putting me on long term assignments, or even month-long assignments (though I'm mostly past the point in my career where I get work on 2 days' notice), and since the poor economy has companies cutting down on short term assignments, prefering to leave a desk empty for a week than to pay a temp, I wind up jobless.

Which is why I'm so thrilled to be sitting at this desk right now, despite my general disdain for temping as a rule.

After my crazy summer and fall, I decided to give myself a break and not worry about work until we closed on the apartment. I worked a couple of days a week at Box Office, and subbed a bit on a Broadway show, and made very good use of all the free time to catch up on sleep, play with the kitten, and work on the apartment. I sent out stage manager resumes, but didn't do a thing about finding a survival job. It was all very nice, and I willed myself to enjoy it and not worry about money. Then we closed, and time was up. My plan had been to go find a new agency (and lie to them) since I hadn't temped in so long and didn't have a particularly good time with my agencies in the past. But I was lazy and that seemed like a silly thing to do with the holiday coming up, so first I went through old emails and sent resumes to everyone I had ever been in touch with at any agency in the past. Since turnover is high in HR, I was surprised at how few of them got bounced back, and several even got favorable responses. One of these led to a torturous meeting with a new "relationship manager" at an agency I had registered with but never actually gone on a job for. I wanted to kill myself. No, I wanted to kill the little twit who was interviewing me so badly and who clearly had no idea what to make of me or my resume. It was not encouraging.

Then yesterday I got a call from another agency I had registered with years ago, and done maybe one day of work for. The manager went on and on about how great it had been to hear from me, and how much she liked me and I wondered if she thought I was someone else but certainly didn't complain. Then she offered me a job, replacing an administrative assistant who's leaving until they can find someone permanent, "through the end of the year and possibly longer." In other words, exactly what I need. A chance to get back in the loop and make a good impression with the agency, the possibility of work in January if I need it, but I'm only actually committed for six weeks so I won't burn any bridges if I leave at the end of that time. Perfection!

And as it turns out, this gig is going to be cushy. I'm at the New York office of a foreign law firm. I guess they're huge at home, but their presense here is small -- only two full-time attorneys here, plus a couple who are in and out a bunch. And me. The woman I'm replacing is still around for a few days, training me, and she's leaving because this is her career and she wants something more challenging. Fair enough, but I want something as unchallenging as possible. There's a big event tonight so she's actually busy, which means she has little time to spend with me and, like a kid visiting mom's office, the first thing she did was put me in front of a computer and give me her password. I asked if it was okay to go online, and she said, "Oh please, sometimes I spend my entire day on the Internet." She's a little bitter. I like her. In the free moments she's had she's shown me the phones and filled me in on all the dirt about who drives her nuts from the home office, who to talk to (and who to avoid) if I need computer help from IT, and reminded me again and again that being busy is actually an anomoly. The lawyers seem remarkably self-sufficient, and so far treat both me and my predecessor with the utmost kindness and respect. I attribute this to the fact that they're not American. And did I mention I don't really have to do anything?

I think I'm going to like it here!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Social Issues

Tonight Boy and I sent out invitations to our housewarming party using Evite.com. I have a love-hate relationship with Evite. On the one hand, it's incredibly easy to use, and makes keeping track of party stuff a snap. In case anyone's not familiar: you design your invitation (using one of their templates or making your own), input your guests' email addresses, and they all get a message with a link to view your invitation online. If you want, you can survey the invitees to choose the best date for everyone, assign things for them to bring, link to MapQuest, and send them all email updates and reminders. Guests click the link, select Yes, No, or Maybe, can write a message, and, unless the host chooses not to let them, can see the entire guest list and email other guests.

As a host, you can track people's responses, and even see if (and when) they've viewed the invitation if they haven't yet entered an RSVP.

In other words, you can become completely neurotic and obsessive with the greatest of ease. This is where the hate part comes in.

The first people to respond are of course usually people who know right off the bat that they can't come. But I don't want to look like a loser, so I check the Evite constantly and delete these people from the guest list altogether. If the Nos ever outnumber the Yeses, I panic. It's like being in 5th grade and sitting there with a cake and a pointy hat while no one shows up for your birthday party and even your mom is embarrassed for you. Not that that ever happened to me, I swear, but it's like that, only now you know in advance what a loser you are and so do your guests, which can be a vicious cycle. I used to hide the guest list until it was acceptable to me, but I had friends -- good friends, friends who were almost surely coming -- who refused to RSVP until they could see who else was invited.

Then there are all those "Not yet responded" people. Remember, I can see when they viewed the Evite. So why haven't they responded? Is there that much to debate? Either you're coming or you're not! Hell, there's even a "Maybe" option, so why not make me feel good with a little hope? We made a point of sending out the invitation pretty early, so that gives me all kinds of extra time to check and recheck and obsess over it, even if it also makes it perfectly reasonable that people have not responded right away.

There seem to be lots of people who don't understand how to use Evite too. I suspect many of the non-responders are these people. They look at the information but don't realize they're supposed to respond. Some people have replied to the email with an RSVP, rather than doing it on the website. Some post notes with their reply that they clearly don't realize can be seen by everyone. Thank god you can edit guest responses!

Thank god, too, that I have friends who understand my Evite neuroses, because my boyfriend does not. He actually invited people he knew wouldn't be able to come! Why why why would he do such a thing? Why voluntarily increase the number of Nos?? He also invited people with multiple email addresses multiple times, thereby increasing the Not Yet Replieds. It's a good thing I love him. Hmmm...probably a better thing that he loves me and can tolerate my mild insanity.

I'm sure the party will be a huge success, I just may have a nervous breakdown over the invitation before it happens.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Uh-Oh

So I went to weigh myself this morning, the first time since the day I unpacked the scale and since going back on Atkins on Monday (a fairly futile exercise since I will of course break massively for Thanksgiving, and probably for lunch with my mom when we go to the theater on Sunday, and I still haven't managed to get to the gym), and it's broken. Wouldn't turn on at all.

Do you think it's trying to tell me something?

Stupid is as Stupid Does

It's apparently the Week of the Moronic Patron here at Box Office.

We have a membership-based system that's kinda like what most theaters call a subscription, but different. Instead of signing up for, say, a series of Saturdays, or buying a book of passes that you then use to buy tickets later on, you buy tickets to a certain number of shows in the season, all at once, and get an discount on those tickets, and a bunch of other perks. It's pretty straightforward. There is a limit to how many tickets you can get at the discount, and that's pretty straightforward too.

So yesterday I was filling an Internet order, and the patron wanted four tickets to a show next week, which we didn't have. The rest of it was easy, and she got enough shows to make her a member even if we couldn't make the first one work out, so I filled the rest of it and then called and left a message asking her to call us about the problem. I moved on to the next order, and noticed a few things: This patron's last name was the same as the middle name on the previous order (actually not on the order, but on the old account that was already in the computer for her); they had the same address; they had the same email address; while the second order had fewer shows than the first, all the dates and times matched the corresponding events on the first order; and the number of tickets Patron #2 ordered was enough to put them over their limit for the discount. I called my boss to confirm that we allowed one membership per family, not per person. She corrected my wording to "household," but yes. I waited for Patron #1 to call back.

The thing is, they could have easily gotten away with it. If the orders had been split between two different operators, or if I had just been less observant. Truthfully, it was the email address that caught my eye, 'cause it had an odd domain name. And they made a point of using different credit cards, so it was particularly dumb of them to use the same email twice.

Patron #1 called back before too long, and a coworker picked it up. He knew the situation so he explained to her that part of the problem was with the double order. "My husband and I are separated," she told him. He pointed out that both orders had the same address on them, and she said, "I'll just change mine to my office then." At this point, he called me (I was working out of a different office that day).

"I'm not touching that," I said, "give it to Manager." She'd need the paperwork, and I wanted to hear how she handled this one, so I ran upstairs. When I got there, Manager was on a different call, and she told us she had to finish it and it would be a while. I took a deep breath and picked up the phone.

"Hi, ma'am, so we've got a couple of problems here. First of all, we've got two orders for your household and the total -- "

"Nevermind about that! What about my tickets for next week?"

"Um, okay... We don't have four seats together, let alone eight, if I were to combine the two orders." (Clearly I wasn't going to let that go.)

"Well what do you have?"

"We have single seats and some that have obstructed views."

"That's fine."

"Ummm...how many?"

"Eight."

Oy. As it turned out, we didn't have eight singles even, and some of the partial views are decent and arranged in a way that often leaves the good single seats next to them unsold. So, genius that I am, I suggested that she take a couple of pairs where one seat was full view and one was obstructed. Since the partial view seats cost less at full price than her discount, it gave her the right number of full price vs. discounted.

So that problem solved, I gingerly said, "So, the rest of your dates are fine, but now that we've put all of those seats on your order there aren't enough shows on the second one to qualify for a membership anyway." (Let's see how many ways I can explain to her that she can't get away with scamming us.) "Shall I just combine the two orders?"

"Oh yeah, yeah, just combine them. I just did it that way because we'd waited so long to do this this year, and I didn't think we'd be able to get that many tickets."

Wait, did she just admit she'd been lying?? Yep, she totally did. About the dissolution of her marriage, no less! The things people will do to save $18! (Seriously, that's all it would have been!)


So then today a young woman/girl (late teens, early 20s?) came to the box office window, bought a ticket, and gave me a credit card. It wasn't signed, so I asked for ID, and I offered to loan her a pen so she could sign the card.

"Oh, no, if you don't sign it then they have to ask you for ID, so it's safer that way."

"Ummmm... Yeah, unless someone, y'know, steals it and signs it himself."

"Oh? Really? Oh yeah. I guess so. Okay."

She signed the card, but in the end I wish I hadn't given her the pen. I kinda wish I'd taken down her card number and gone on a spree on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

There's a reason they call it Flushing

I went to "Unemployment Camp," as my friend K calls it, this morning. EARLY this morning. For those of you who don't know, in New York State, if you claim unemployment benefits, you're required to go to an "Orientation" at the Department of Labor. Fine. The government is giving me free money, and the ultimate goal is for me to get a job and stop living off them, so I have no problem with this in theory. In practice, though, it's supremely irritating and vaguely offensive. For starters, I'm working part time right now, and some weeks I work few enough hours and make little enough money that I'm still entitled to partial benefits. In fact, since opening this claim last month, I have not had a single week where I've claimed my full amount. But here's the thing: I had to miss work to attend the unemployment orientation. Ironic, no? DOL's answer to this is that if I've "returned to work," I don't need to attend. But in their terms, I haven't "returned to work," because I'm still claiming benefits. And if I don't attend, I lose those benefits (which last a year). And there's no way to reschedule.

As long as I'm bitching, let me digress to an annoyance that isn't really the system's fault: They recently moved the Queens office from just over the bridge to Manhattan, to all the way at the eastern end of my subway line. I guess I should be grateful it's still on my home line, but it used to be 10 minutes away in a direction I would likely be traveling anyway (or at least near the gym), and now it's 40 minutes away in Flushing, from whence it then took me an hour to get to work. Now, Queens is a pretty gigantic county, and in geographical terms I suppose the new location is more central, but apparently someone who works for the state has forgotten that it's all about ME.

The orientation has actually improved since the last time I did it in early 2002. Back then it mostly consisted of "advice" on how to get a job. Here are some of the helpful bullet points for job-seekers:
  • Check job listings such as the New York Times
  • Send out resumes
  • Call friends and family to see if anyone knows of a job opening
  • Follow up with contacts


    So the assumption was basically that we didn't have jobs because we're all too stupid to even look for them. I was incensed. Especially in 2002, with the city's economy in the state that it was in.

    This time it was better, less insulting but no less irritating. In a room filled with classroom desks far too much like high school, we got a very bare-bones PowerPoint presentation (see, I'm criticizing the PowerPoint presentation -- I'm skilled, dammit!) which started by telling us how to claim our weekly benefits. Never mind that the orientations don't happen for weeks after you open your claim, so presumably we've all been doing this for some time already.

    After this came the real meat of the orientation, a dry and lengthy list of all the resources available to us at the Department of Labor Office, and on various city and state websites. Also various support groups offered by the DOL for people who've lost their jobs. Okay, useful probably to lots of people in the room, but couldn't they have mailed this to us? Or put it on the website that we use to claim benefits every week? Because I really wasn't interested.

    Now, I understand that I'm in the minority here. I know that I was probably the only freelancer in the room (almost certainly the only theater professional) for whom none of this was helpful at all. It's not that I don't want a job, and I'm certainly looking, but these people can't help me. I didn't lose my job in the traditional sense, my show closed, and that's totally normal in my world. But I accept that it's weird at the Department of Labor. But in this market, I have to wonder how many of the people in that room this stuff is useful for at all. I mean, no offense intended to anyone, but I have a feeling that the types of jobs coming into this run-down state office are not the types of jobs that are being lost by the score right now. To assume that the majority of us need instruction on how to use the Internet, or a resume-writing program for which "you only need to know how to use the mouse" (really? I'd expect the keyboard would be useful there too) is just condescending and a waste of time that could be better spent looking for a job. Or, in my case, being at one.

    The thing of it is, most of the system is automated. When you call to open your claim, 9 times out of 10 they already have your entire work history in the computer (linked to the IRS, I assume). You submit for your weekly checks (telling them if you worked the previous week, and if so how much, determining the size of your payment) either online or through an automated phone system. So how hard would it be to design a filter that identifies people who are frequently on and off benefits or have multiple employers (indicating freelancers or temps), or that shows a history of partial claims (indicating part time workers), or (probably harder) people working in certain industries, and exclude those people from the orientation? Or at least make better use of our time?

    Oh well. I guess if the government understood that the world revolves around me, we'd have a different president come January, so I shouldn't waste even more time ranting about petty state beurocrats.
  • Monday, November 15, 2004

    I hate everybody (again)

    Maybe real estate management companies are just inherently evil (or stupid, but I'm gonna go with evil). It's been six weeks since I moved out of my old place...a little more, technically, but six weeks since my lease ended. I still don't have my security deposit back. This is not an inconsiderable amount of money, and, being unemployed, I really kinda need it. The first time I called I was told I should have it in two weeks. When it didn't come I called again and was told that the manager had been on vacation and I should have it by the 15th. Which I don't. So I called again and was again told that the manager is on vacation. "For six weeks?" I said. The woman on the other end sounded genuinely stunned, and since these people never give their names I can't honestly be sure if I've ever spoken to her or not. But I went off on her anyway, yelling that every time I call I'm given an excuse, the blame always falling on this phantom manager whom I've never spoken to or met before. She told me there was nothing she could do about it until "Eric" returned from vacation, and I should call her back on Thursday. At least she gave me her name and extension. I just don't understand what the problem is. If they think there's a reason why I shouldn't get the check, they should have communicated it to me by now, and if not they're just being lazy or cheap. I just can't stand being lied to. Get your shit together, people, and get fucking Eric back from vacation.

    Oh, and our phone was turned on today...only it's not our phone. It's attached to an entirely different number, which someone else is using. I spoke to her. I think I freaked her out. Why is nothing ever simple?

    A new home for me, a new home for my blog?

    I've always believed .Mac to be a very elegant and overpriced marketing ploy. I pay for my ISP, which gives me email, and I have a forwarding service from my college so I don't have to give out a new address if I change ISPs. I've got more storage space for free on Gmail (or, for that matter, on a CD). My blog is hosted beautifully on Blogger, again for free. There are a billion sites with free photo hosting. .Mac just didn't seem worth $99.95 a year.

    But in the wake of the iBook Repair Debacle, I realized that $99.95 a year comes out to only $8.33 per month, and I signed right up. Suddenly the simplicity of the backup synchronization, and the ability to access my home address book and web bookmarks from any browser seems completely worth paying for. I only wish I'd had it before my logic board bit the dust.

    Anyway, I bring all this up because I figure as long as I'm paying for it, I should use it as much as possible. So I've been toying around with an application called Blogwave Studio, and I'm considering moving Judgment Call here.

    Blogwave is a cute little app, which integrates nicely with OS X, letting me post photos directly from iPhoto, and even MP3s from iTunes and file sharing from my .Mac iDisk. It's also got the one feature I've longed for with Blogger: Categories. My blog tends to be a little scattered, and I like that I can break up the archives by topic instead of by date. On the downside, I'm having trouble working out a couple of design kinks, and I will only be able to post from my computer, not online. Blogger's integration with Google would be missed, too, since a lot of my hits still come from random searches.

    So this is an experiment. I've been posting on both sites all month, and have transferred enough of the archives to get a good feel for the new site. I'll continue to maintain both for a while while we decide. I'd love your input if you have any kind of preference at all. Whichever site gets the most electoral votes from the readers wins.

    Saturday, November 13, 2004

    I think they've missed the point

    There's a big poster in the window of my neighborhood Burger King announcing that they'll be open on Thanksgiving. That's depressing enough on its own, but the sign includes an illustration of several turkeys sitting around a dining table. They appear to be serving ham, which I suppose is better than the cannibalistic alternative, but I still find it intensely weird and disturbing. If I go to Burger King on Thanksgiving, would I have to share the space with a bunch of anthropomorphized birds? And would they not be serving Whoppers?

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Carry That Weight

    So the scale has been packed for six weeks.

    Now it's not.

    Let's just say you'll get to hear me complain about my diet again real soon.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    Adventures in Home-Owning: Home-Owning!

    It's official! We finally own our apartment! Well, technically, we own shares in a cooperative corporation, and those shares are represented by our apartment. And actually, the bank owns those until 2034. But why quibble? We're homeowners!

    So I promised that when we closed I'd tell the whole story. I already told a good chunk of it, but I skipped some of the legal details before. I'll be brief, but it's kind of interesting, especially if you're going through this process too.

    So back in May we saw this perfect apartment and made an offer. The broker we'd been working with was also the broker for the seller, so we were actually the first and only people to see it, 'cause we'd had several appointments fall through at the last minute, and seen some real crap, and Broker felt she owed us and is good at looking out for us like that. Broker also looked out for us in the negotiating process. We of course gave her a number slightly below what we were actually willing to pay, expecting a negotiation to follow. Broker had us sign an offering form for that, as well as another one even lower; that way, we could start low just to see what would happen, and she could counter-offer immediately without having to consult us or wait for us to sign another form. So, our low-ball offer went in, Seller countered with something perfectly reasonable, Broker counter-countered with our "real" offer (which was right in between the two), and Seller accepted it. Woohoo!

    Then Boy left town for three weeks.

    A few days later, I got a call from Broker. We'd seen the apartment before any renovations had been done. Seller had been planning to redo the kitchen, and we made it a condition of our offer just to be safe. Seller didn't expect to have a buyer so soon, so she figured since she did she might as well get our input on the changes. Well that was awfully nice! So I went to Home Depot and picked out some really cool dark grey tile. I really have no idea what these things cost, so I picked out second, third, and fourth choices too, in case I'd overstepped Seller's budget. I gave several options for simple cabinet door and drawer designs too.

    Weeks passed. Three or four of them. We still hadn't received a contract from Seller, but since Boy was out of town and couldn't sign it, and the kitchen thing had seemed like a sign of good faith, we didn't worry.

    Then we got a call from Broker. She was very upset (yay, professionalism!). It seemed the super (whom I had met, and who knew that we were buying the apartment and had been very nice to me) had been showing the apartment in the weeks we were without a contract, and someone else had made an offer that matched Seller's original counter offer. She was willing to honor her verbal agreement with us, but at this higher price. Now, this price was a) still fair (and actually probably still a deal), b) not much money in the grand scheme of things, with a negligible effect on our mortgage payments, and c) what we'd been willing to pay in the first place. If Seller had been a better negotiator, or Broker a worse one, she'd have had this price with no fuss. I say all this with hindsight and logic, but at the time we were super pissed off on principle!

    Broker told us that the kitchen was done, and insisted that we go look at it (and the rest of the apartment) before even considering the new deal. So the next morning we went and looked. The place looked fabulous, and the kitchen was...not at all what I had asked for! Now, I've posted pictures here, so you know that the kitchen is beautiful. You also know that the floor is not dark grey. Seller had actually purchased the style of tile I'd asked for, but in a vastly different color. And countertops that leave quite a bit to be desired.

    Seller had us (and Broker too, since if the place went to a buyer that Broker didn't find Broker loses her fee) over a barrel. We certainly didn't want to start the whole process over again, and the fact is that we were still madly in love with the apartment, and the new price, like I said, wasn't really a big deal. So, clearly, we agreed to the new deal. But it was the principle of the thing. We were very unhappy about the way we'd been taken advantage of. Most importantly, any semblance of trust was gone for both Seller and Super. We got the contract pretty quickly after that, but of course it had to go back and forth from lawyer to lawyer with revisions and riders, and we were terrified and on Seller's ass for six weeks until that thing was fully executed.

    Meanwhile, the appliances hadn't been purchased yet. One of Seller's excuses for raising the price had been that the kitchen renovation cost more than she expected it to. Considering that buying and reselling apartments is pretty much what Seller does with her money, and that she agreed to the kitchen stuff when she accepted our offer, this is pretty much bullshit. But okay, if that was her logic, we wanted some pretty spiffy appliances! So I asked Broker to find out what she was planning to get. She emailed back and told me she was getting a standard 30 inch stove and a 14 cubic inch fridge, both in "almond," from Kenmore, for $X00.00. I, of course, immediately went to Sears.com and saw that you can get a 30 inch stove and a 16 cubic inch fridge in white for $X00.00. Maybe the stove had fewer bells and whistles. Maybe white is cheaper than almond. I don't know. All I know is that a 14-inch fridge is small, and Boy and I both like to eat (and I like to organize). So I email Broker back, complete with links, and tell her what we want.

    The next morning Broker calls and tells me that Seller is over it, and she's just going to give us a $X00 credit and we can go and buy whatever we want ourselves. So we splurged a bit, combining her money with our own and went for the 18-incher, and a stove with a window in the door and a light inside, and we're very happy with the way that turned out.

    As soon as we moved our stuff in, we changed the locks on the apartment to allay our fears about the dishonest super.

    Then came the nonsense with the management company, and the even more nonsensical nonsense with the board.

    And here, finally, we are. I've since gotten to know the super pretty well, and he has earned my trust again. One day while he was fixing the sink, he told me, unprompted, how lucky we were to have this apartment because there'd been a lot of demand for it. He told me someone else in the building had his eye on it, and someone else had told a friend or relative about it. This friend or relative had access to the building through the resident who'd told him about it, and apparently kept harassing Super about it, demanding to see it, and eventually was put in touch with Seller, at which point he made his higher offer. So it's not like Seller and Super were actively seeking out another buyer. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle of the two versions.

    Now that everything is finished, and I doubt anyone will Google this anyway, I have to mention that the super's name is Dionisio. As in the Greek god of drama.

    At the closing this morning, we met Seller. She looked exactly liked I imagined she would, minus the snakes where her hair should be. She arrived an hour late, in stained jeans and a sweater, with a baseball cap on her head. Okay, so I imagined she'd be a little better dressed. But the disorganized sheaf of papers, including a checkbook that looked like it had had a fight with a wet dog, was just right. She was pleasant enough, but barely looked us in the eye, never officially introduced herself or showed any particular interest in who we are, even as I handed her a check for five figures.

    Of course it couldn't go completely smoothly. At the last minute, after everything was signed and everyone's checks had been passed around, there was an issue. The tenant who had been renting the apartment from Seller before had some kind of senior citizen's discount on her maintenance. There was some uncertainty over whether or not the City had paid this credit to the management company (or the board, or whatever), and if they hadn't it would mean that Seller owed them money in back maintenance. Yeah, I'm confused too. None of this really ought to have affected us, but without all her accounts in order, Seller couldn't unload her shares. No one understood why this was coming up now, and why the paperwork from the City (that Seller miraculously pulled out of her bizarre file) didn't settle the matter. Of course, if Seller had been on time, we would have been done and gone before this came up.

    It got taken care of, of course, or this would be a very different post, but the whole thing took three hours.

    Now, in hindsight, a lot of this has turned out very well. As annoying as the six month wait has been, if we were bidding on this apartment today, we'd almost certainly be paying quite a bit more. We couldn't lock in our mortgage rate too early, and it's actually gone down since we did our pre-approval. Having all this time to work and set stuff up without living there was kind of a luxury, especially when we discovered a leak in the bathroom (just normal old building stuff and covered by the building, since it's in the walls) that involved messy plastering and stuff that would have been a huge pain in the ass if we'd been living there. We were supposed to pay the maintenance in exchange for our access to the place in September and October, but when we made that deal with Seller she'd assumed the board would let us live there, and when that turned into drama she graciously waived the whole thing, so while our stuff has been stored here and we've been painting and stuff, we haven't paid a dime. We were alerted to the problems with management before moving in, and the board is well aware of them as well. As a result, the board seemed to take pity on us (not that we plan to take advantage of that, but you never know when it might come in handy later).

    And while we had our share of problems, we had hardly any typical problems that befall co-op buyers (anyone thinking about this process must click that link and buy that book). No insane negotiations, no big bidding war (a little one, I guess), no groveling before the board as they go over our financial information with a fine-toothed comb and try to understand why my having seven jobs in one year is a good thing, no tragic delays of the closing.

    And y'know what? As I sit here on my couch on the Internet wirelessly, reunited with my big TV, watching the kitten explore the apartment that we own, I find I don't really care much about any of what came before. My boyfriend and I own gorgeous apartment! It's ours! We're done!

    Needless to say, I don't plan on ever moving again.

    (I'll post photos in a few days as we get more settled in.)

    Monday, November 08, 2004

    Welcome to the ZZ, Bitch!

    I was going to make a joke about how the season premiere of The OC was more disappointing than the presidential election, but obviously that's not true. Pretty close though. I mean, I was sooooo excited about it, and it was maybe the lamest, most boring episode ever.

    Dealing with summer (the season, not the character) has always been the bane of high school-based dramas. Not like it was the paragon of quality television, but Dawson's Creek usually handled it by compressing the break into an episode or two, or sending the characters off to Paris or the ocean and then never speaking of it again. On The OC though, a lot of things apparently happened over the summer, and while none of them were very interesting, the writers thought we needed to hear all about them. I guess they're also appealing to new viewers who realized too late that they were missing out on the latest TV trend, but wouldn't reruns have been a better way to handle that than an hour of cringe-worthy exposition?

    At the end of that hour, I didn't even understand half of what had gone on. The Cohens are distraught over the departure of Ryan and Seth so they're...having the house redone by a bunch of ambiguously gay contractors? Sure! Seth set sail for Tahiti and wound up...in Portland with his ex-nemesis and his (the nemesis') gay dad? And they just took him in? Okay! Marissa and Summer (the character, not the season) have really done that much nothing all summer (the...oh never mind)? Why not?

    Also, what's up with the teen characters all looking 30 all of a sudden? Is it an attempt to make Micsha Barton, who actually is 17 but looks older than the actress who plays her mom look better? Adam Brody and Benjamin McKenzie (who, inexplicably, became "Ben" in this season's credits) are both 25 or so, but they've never looked so much like adults on the show before. Even in the world of TV teens these two were looking weary. Someone make these boys shave!

    And then there's Chino. Mythical, ghettolicious Chino from which Ryan must escape at all costs, even if it means his girlfriend has to lie about a miscarriage. Looked pretty nice to me. I mean, it's not The OC (bitch), but Theresa drives a pretty nice car, and her house looked very comfortable and had a lovely kitchen. Sandy wasn't afraid to park his car outside Ryan's construction job, which he seems to enjoy as much as Scowly Boy ever enjoys anything. I mean, what's the big deal?

    Okay, enough ranting. It's not like I won't be watching again this week, so why bother?


    Speaking of unrealistic teenagers, I've actually gotten into life as we know it (why is that in all lowercase in print, but all caps in the opening credits?) against my better judgment. These guys all look 25 too, but since they take their clothes off a lot more than Ryan and Seth I actually prefer that. It's kind of like MTV's Undressed (down to the casting) meets Dawson's Creek. Kevin Williamson really did kind of ruin anything. Not only are these "teenagers" over-articulate and absurdly self-aware, but they talk directly to the camera to share their inner monologues. But did I mention they get naked a lot? Of course, the "nerdy" one is the cutest in my book (the theoretical lead looks too much like Tom Cruise for comfort, it's a little bit creepy) and he's the only one of the three actually having sex but he has yet to take his shirt off on camera. What's up with that?

    As for his sex life... it's with a teacher, but the age difference between the actors is unnoticeable. At least Ms. Jacobs was a bona fide adult. Also, I missed the pilot, but from what I've seen the teacher pretty much just went after the student, and so far she seems to be feeling no guilt or shame or, y'know, fear that she might go to jail at all. At least Ms. Jacobs had issues.

    Kelly Osbourne also has issues. She's not a terrible actress but her diction makes me absolutely crazy. And the fact that she's, y'know, Kelly Osbourne. Reality TV (especially home-based reality TV like hers) is a bad launching pad for real acting, I think, because we know way too much about her personal life. Or we think we do, which is maybe even worse. To the show's credit, they're not treating it as stunt casting, and have barely even publicized Osbourne, but I find it all just a little bit distracting. Plus, no desire to see her naked even a little bit.


    I am, however, curiously drawn to a cartoon character. Comedy Central's new show, Drawn Together, is a take-off on The Real World featuring animated stereotypes. It's a low-brow mish-mosh of pop culture references, which of course makes it right up my alley. The reality TV jokes are obvious, but still fun (it's no Joe Shmo though), but the animation parodies are where the real payoff is. There's the Disney princess (complete with musical number about overcoming her racism through a lesbian kiss), the black Josie and the Pussycats girl (complete with musical number about vaginas), the frat boy superhero, and my two favorites, the flamingly gay fantasy video game hero on "a neverending quest to save [his] girlfriend" (complete with pan flute and Zelda music), and the Pokemon who speaks in subtitled faux-Japanese, who everyone thinks is the house pet but is actually a highly articulate and vicious killer. Like I said, it ain't highbrow. One of my favorite critics, Heather Havrilesky (clearly I've been reading a lot of Salon lately) called DT "a show so juvenile it could only appeal to dim-witted children and those who cope with life's little foibles by inhaling common household solvents. Featuring a random collection of cartoon characters who live in a house together, 'Drawn Together' stretches the limits of taste so far that using the word 'taste' at all to describe the show is pure folly." But she also liked the OC premiere, so what the hell does she know?


    In the highbrow world, The West Wing is back! Sample dialogue: (CJ to Josh and Toby, who are bickering over duties) "Hey, I've got an idea. You be the communications director, you be the deputy chief of staff, and we can use the old barn as a stage!" In an episode as generally heavy as this one (Leo near death, Jed moping, peace talks on the verge of breaking down) it was nice to have some of the old Sorkin-esque zing back. (Spoiler alert:) Sad as I am to see John Spencer go, they'd sort of of written themselves into a corner with Leo (though, watching older episodes on Bravo I think it was a very natural arc and progression for the character and his relationship with Jed), and at least they've kept the option open for him to come back occasionally. Also couldn't help laughing at the many mentions of a curiously off-screen Mallory. I did a little happy dance at the announcement of CJ's promotion, which both made perfect sense in the storyline and made me happy as a fan. Maybe Allison Janney's role will get a little less thankless. The women on this show have been in a bit of a slump, but with Donna out of the hospital and Stockard Channing all over these last two episodes, maybe that's over. It was hard to watch the fantasy White House goings on the day after the real election, but also strangely comforting.


    Speaking of which, what the hell is up with Jack and Bobby? They made a big huge deal about having shot multiple endings based on the outcome of the election, and then it was two lines that didn't matter to the story even a little bit. Oh well. It was a pretty good episode though, wisely focusing more on the teen angst than on parental flip-flopping and future politics. Made me a little sad though that Scott Foley has nothing better to do than 2 minutes in a role that almost certainly won't recur.


    Higher-brow still is the latest PBS/BBC educational reality show, Regency House Party. At the moment the cast is a little too large and too similar-looking in their period costumes for me to really follow the "plot," especially with all the facts they're throwing at us about the period, but I'm into it. It must be such an intensely bizarre situation for the participants, since they're supposed to be all immersed in the period but of course there are cameras and crew people all over the place. I'm utterly baffled by two of the contestants (one of whom left the house by the end of the first episode) who keep whining about how hard it is. The man thought it would be more fun, all boozing and being a pre-PC lout, and the woman is having a hard time with being a second class citizen in the house. Um, hello??? Did you see Frontier House? You guys have it easy! And why on earth would you go on a historical reality show if you're not vaguely aware of and prepared for historical realities?? So sad. I'm in love with the old lady who is the party's chaperone. She gets it, has done her homework, and is totally hardcore. I can't wait til she eats one of these little girls for lunch. I'm also fascinated by the servants, who aren't part of the game but are everywhere. Are they actors? Professional servants in costume? Seems like such an odd job, and such a huge expense for the producers.


    Back to the lowbrow, my favorite of the Manhunt boys got voted off last week. Small price to pay for also finally losing Rory on Survivor. So now I'm rooting for the gay guy on Manhunt (well, the openly gay guy) and the lesbian on Survivor. Sounds like a reality spin-off in the making!

    I'm not ready!

    I know it's November and it's getting cold, and I know Chanukah is stupidly early this year, but I'm just not ready. They were hanging the big snowflakes in Times Square today. I got some tea at Starbucks and the cup said "Get ready for wondrous wonders," which doesn't even make sense. Target is full of singing Santas and "sugar plum" scented candles. Even the Container Store is like freakin' Santa's workshop.

    I'm just not ready for all the damn cheer, to say nothing of the tourists.

    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    Sorry!

    One more link, this one a funny.

    More links

    I posted some links to Salon the other day, and those articles generated some great followups, so I thought I should post those too.

    From blue people in red states.

    On gay marriage.

    On dissent.

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    Also...

    This article got me fired up, in a good way. I recommend skipping to the second page, where the author makes her point, instead of the first, where she vents and made me upset again!

    And here's one with a bunch of really smart stuff about moving forward, minus the rage and despair. Intelligent, productive, rational thought? Be still my heart!!

    Of Thee I Sing

    I was going to avoid the political fray, and I pretty much am, but I had an unexpected coversation last night that actually improved my mood a little bit so I thought I'd share.

    In the interest of getting over it and moving on with my life, I did the only natural thing to do and drank heavily last night, which meant I had to take a cab home. I wound up making small talk with my driver, which is something I normally avoid like the plague. He didn't know Queens very well -- not in a "Crap, I'm never going to get home" way or anything, but he was asking questions about the neighborhoods and why Queens is set up so differently from the other boroughs.

    I asked him how long he'd been driving a cab.
    "Two months."
    "How long have you lived here?"
    "Five years."
    "Where are you from?"
    "Pakistan."
    "Do you like it here?" I meant New York more than anything, I was fuzzy from the bourbon and really didn't want to have a political discussion or debate the merits of life in the States versus life in Pakistan. But he said, simply...
    "I wouldn't stay here if I didn't like it."
    I let that sink in for a second and said, "I guess it's nice to have the choice."
    "I have friends from my country," he said, getting a little agitated, "who curse America. I tell them, 'Don't you curse America! Curse George Bush if you want to, but don't curse America! You're here, you're making money, you didn't have to come here."

    And for a moment in that car, I felt better. For this man, and for lots of people, the classic idea of the American Dream still exists. Even after four years of arrogance and alienation, there are people in the world who believe in this country as a place where they can come and maybe lead a better life. I guess there was an unfortunate tinge of "America: Love it or leave it" in what the driver said, but in his voice I heard more of "Love it or fix it." This was a man who was far from blind to the problems we're facing, and to the travesty that was committed on Tuesday, but he still wanted to be here more than anywhere else.

    So today I'm depressed again, and I'm usually not the first to wax patriotic, but I know we'll get through this. We've been here for 228 years, through civil war and world wars and depression and terrorist attacks. We can stick it out for one more term.

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    TV is educational!

    For the first time since the season started, I'm completely up-to-date on all my TV. (Well, not completely; I missed the pilot of life as we know it and I've been recording it since but haven't bothered to watch it yet. I should just give it up since I don't need another bad teen drama and it'll probably get cancelled soon anyway.)

    So here are some thoughts on this week's TV, which was very educational.

    They moved LAX and I happened to be home (and Boy was not, so I couldn't watch Lost), and it's even worse than I remember. I mean, really really bad. I just don't understand what they're trying to do. Is it meant to be episodic? Is it meant to be a soap? Are supposed to care about...anything? We all know Heather Locklear can save anything, and she soooo can't save this.

    Survivor is still boring (but not boring enough for me to stop watching), and Rory is still dumb. I love when people try to strategize elaborately by acting or emulating players from the past and wind up acting like complete idiots. I just wish he weren't so smug about it. Because it's not actually working, there are just people around more useless than he is. I'd love to think he'll watch the show and feel like an ass, but he'll probably still think he's the man. He's mentioned having planned strategy with his wife, so maybe she's watching and thinking he's a tool. Are his kids embarrassed? I sing a little song about how much I hate him every time he's on screen. And now there aren't any cute guys left at all, so my little song is about my only joy in the show. Well, that, and rooting for the lesbian to win.

    Everwood was pretty good last week. Nothing really exciting happened, but I enjoyed it anyway, which backs up my hypothesis that my problem with it before came from watching too many in a row. I'm really enjoying Anne Heche's performance on the show -- she provides a nice antidote to Scott Wolf's annoying character. And the Ephram/Amy thing is cute, and looks like it will get a little more hot and heavy next week, which of course I support.

    Felicity Huffman's storyline on Desperate Housewives finally got satisfying this week, and I'm really liking her character now (she was bugging me before; I just didn't buy it). Marcia Cross is getting levels beyond crazy, and Teri Hatcher beyond loser. The writers seem to be backing off a bit on the quirky now that they've established themselves, and the show is settling into a nice groove as a mystery/comedy (mystedy?). Good good stuff.

    The West Wing continues its streak of not sucking this season. Last week's faux Mideast peace talks was actually one of the most articulate and even-handed discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I've ever seen, and made me wish one again that President Bartlet were real. The ending was a little over-the-top, and kind of ruined by the incessant commercials NBC ran, but I'm genuinely worried about Leo (and what John Spencer's absence will do to the show if Leo is dead) and anxious to watch again this week (the day after our real election -- ack!), and that didn't happen much last season at all.

    Speaking of the real election, Jack and Bobby is pulling a stunt next week with two possible endings depending on who wins tomorrow. Just when I thought that show couldn't get more annoying! The thing is, there are moments of greatness. Really good writing and acting, interesting ideas. And then it just contradicts itself. They go too far with something or a character (usually Grace) does a complete 180 for no apparent reason. Last week's flash-forwards didn't even make any real sense. I want to like it, but they're going to have to work a little harder.

    I promised this would be educational, didn't I? Well, I'm a big nerd, so I performed a little experiment during Lost this week. There's been a lot of chatter on message boards and such about how many commercials there are on Lost. I'm usually sensitive to these things, but I honestly hadn't noticed. This is partly because of the magic of the Explorer 8000 Home Entertainment Server, but also because all the breaks land in logical places. The show is structured as a series of mini-cliffhangers, so the breaks never seem obtrusive. So, true to my stage managerial instincts, I timed the show last week. Sure enough, while there may be more breaks, they are shorter. The show itself is about 44 minutes, just like every other "hour" long show on TV.

    I also learned something fascinating thanks to the censors at The Real World, and I will leave you with this. Apparently, you can call something "retarded," and not get bleeped, but you cannot call someone "a retard." I'd love to be in on the meetings where they decide these things. When did "retard" come back in vogue anyway? I remember when I was a kid in the 80s, and it was kind of fashionable then but we were told never to use it because it was insensitive to people who were actually mentally challenged. In the last year or two, I've found myself using all variations of "retarded" constantly. Is it okay now because it's no longer okay to call actual retarded people retarded? It's all very confusing. Fortunately, nobody bleeps me.

    Bounded in a Nutshell

    Okay, seriously, this election cannot be over fast enough. Last night I dreamed I worked in the White House. The Bartlet White House. Leonard Nimoy was the Vice President. We had a nice chat, but then I had to get back to work on a task I seemed unable to complete through no fault of my own.

    Is it January yet?