January 31, 2006

Hollywood Blvd.

Last night I went to a short film thingy that Film Independent* was doing. Lots of great short movies and the filmmakers were there to answer questions. The event was held in a bar called Cinespace which is over on the bad part of Hollywood Blvd. If you can't find a tattoo or some trashy lingerie or some crack or a way to get stabbed on this part of the Boulevard then you just aren't trying.

It's all pretty bad, though, which is disappointing even though I have never seen it as anything else. At some point heading west it gets marginally better with the cheeseball places like Ripley's Believe it or Not! and the Wax Museum, and then it breaks into full-fledged modern attraction with the big stores, and the Kodak, Egyptian, and El Capitan.

One of the movies last night was a documentary on the people who dress up in movie costumes for the tourists in front of the Chinese theatre. The guy who dresses up like Superman was on hand for the screening, in full costume. (It's one of the actual costumes from Superman III, we were told.)

Afterwards, I was walking out with some people, including Superman, and we all walked down the boulevard together for a few blocks before splitting off to go to our cars. Let's just say walking with Superman down Hollywood Blvd doesn't hold the thrill I might have imagined that it would as, say, a five-year old. But God bless him.

*Formerly IFP LA. I think the name change was a bit ill-advised - try doing a search for "film independent" and see how many hits you get.

Posted by Chris on 01/31/06

Do you remember what this documentary was called by chance?

Posted by: Taryn at May 10, 2006 10:21 AM

Entrepreneur!

Friend Jessica appears to be quietly building an empire for herself over at Cafe Press, with her line of What What Ed Hochuli Do? clothing:

http://www.cafepress.com/jarbys

The WWEHD line has even gotten a mention in ESPN magazine. Also check out the "Opposing Team Sucks" mugs.

Posted by Chris on 01/31/06

Thanks pal! I suppose you want some sort of commission for this?

Posted by: friend jessica at January 31, 2006 12:55 PM

Would it kill you? Now that you're Ms. Moneybags?

Posted by: Chris at January 31, 2006 1:06 PM

January 30, 2006

Me Putting on Clothes vs Me Buying Clothes

Me Putting on Clothes may not know exactly what he wants, but he knows he isn't seeing it in the closet these days. As he reviews the options open to him, sliding the hangers holding inexcusable selections quickly to the right with escalating anger, he shakes his head and curses Me Buying Clothes. What was he thinking?

He can trace the evolution of Me Buying Clothes's preferences the same way you can trace the passage of eons in the adjoining strata of a cliff face, and none of it is satisfactory. Here's the Old Navy Period, here's the Gap Period, here's a brief, unfortunate Attempted Bohemian Period. When do we get to the Looks Right, Feels Right Period?

There are always the old stand-bys that seem to please everyone. And the unfavorable things are pushed to the back so that only about 1/4 of the actual wardrobe is "in play" at any given time. Occasionally, Me Putting on Clothes will find a lost treasure over in that other, rejected 3/4. But it's rare.

Me Putting on Clothes leaves angry mental notes to Me Buying Clothes. "What is going on out there?" he asks. "I'm the one that has to put your insane experiments into action!" Usually the notes get lost, or arrive too late to make any difference.

In contrast, Me Buying Clothes is all alone, confused, wandering the aisles of the Men's Department without advice or context. Perhaps he is lulled into a stupor by the cumulative perfume cloud wafting over from the nearby fragrance counters, or maybe it's the flourescents. The only thing that makes sense are the same solid colors - WHITE, BLACK, BLUE - so he gravitates towards these, even while knowing that Me Putting On Clothes will not be happy.

But what is he to do? There is little to no communication from Me Putting On Clothes. Tomorrow morning he will open up the shopping bags, look at the purchases and go "What the-? What was he THINKING?"

Me Buying Clothes will remember his primary function one hour before arriving at the store, and having no direction from Me Putting On Clothes, will begin a desperate scan of the men around him on the bus, at work, on the street. Anyone watching him would find his scrutiny of these people unnerving and rude. But he has a lot of data to collect and analyze before he arrives at Robinsons Mays. He must formulate a theory, a preference, a solid LIST before arriving.

The pictures of the men wearing the clothes in the store may as well show alien beings in some other dimension - they offer no help.

Occasionally he will venture outside the standard pallette and be rewarded. But most of the time he has done nothing other than spend $75 to add something to that untouched 75% of the wardrobe.

At these times Me Buying Clothes tries to adopt the "persona" of Me Putting On Clothes, and the exercise is much like that of an actor cast in a biographical role far beyond his range. It is never convincing.

Similarly, Me Putting On Clothes tries desperately to analyze the thinking of Me Buying Clothes without ever having actually met him - hoping to glean some clue to what made these purchases seem like a good idea. Maybe it's me, he thinks.

The two may as well be from different countries and different periods in time.

Posted by Chris on 01/30/06

Alone? Really? Hmm...

Posted by: Wife Ami at January 30, 2006 2:01 PM

Yes, then you can help me understand how this button-down that made me look carefree and just a tad hip in the store now looks like someone's Easter outfit from 1987, and it also looks like I'm missing a tie.

Posted by: Chris at January 30, 2006 2:13 PM

SAY. MORE. THINGS. about the bohemian period. Were you wearing tunics and puffy shirts and sandals and things? Did you have "No Girl" hair?

Posted by: friend jessica at January 31, 2006 12:56 PM

Despite the fact that you come from a long line of shoppers, clothes, it seems to me, have been something that you have endured rather than enjoyed. Maybe I am shallow, but I feel that lookin' good and feelin' good are inexplicably linked. To me a great outfit is a magical thing. Good luck in merging your two selves -I too, despite my love of new clothes, do have some big questions hanging in my closet. Not to mention all the pants that I will one day be able to zip...........

Posted by: Vickery at February 1, 2006 1:01 PM

January 27, 2006

Citibank Billboard Watch #4

Another in a wonderful series of unintentionally ironic Citibank billboards:

WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT IF YOU COULD PAY FOR THINGS WITH A KISS?

Sure - like how about the balance on my two* Citibank credit cards, one of which has an interest rate of 15.240% and the other which has 18.990%?

Previous billboardery:

"ON SALE," LOOSELY TRANSLATED, DOES NOT MEAN "ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY"

THE SHELF OF YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY HAS SOME GREAT LOANS, TOO.

WHAT PART OF WINNING A MILLION DOLLARS IS "REALITY?"

*Citibank bought out the bank that held one of my other cards some time in the past - I don't even remember which bank it was.
Posted by Chris on 01/27/06

May I suggest a balance transfer to a zero interest card - I've seen that offer as well - might be better that kissing a bunch of bankers?

Posted by: Vickery at January 30, 2006 12:50 PM

It would be good, if they'd offer me one with a limit high enough!

Posted by: Chris at January 30, 2006 4:26 PM

The Village Anachronist

While threshing grain one day Delbruk Farmer gashed his index finger very badly on the blade, so by evening when he arrived home most of the village was already in mourning for him.

"Aye, it's a terrible cut indeed," said his neighbor Thomas A'Blinkerd. He'd insisted Delbruk peel back the bloody rag to show him the wound. "I'd check with the Barber to see about getting that thing removed," said Tom. Nearby, Tom's old mother pulled a shawl over her head and wept.

But the Barber was out, and later Delbruk found out that while he'd been gone, A'Blinkerd had gone by Delbruk's house to tell Rosalin he would marry her when Delbruk passed in a few months.

Later that night Hans Oontzman, his neighbor on the other side, came by with a leech. Delbruk was grateful at first, but then noticed two things: one, it had been used. The thing was just lying there listlessly on the bottom of the bowl. Two, when he looked closer, Delbruk saw it was just a common slug. Oontzman had probably pulled it out of Delbruk's own garden before knocking on the door!

Also: he saw Oontzman eyeing Rosalin the whole time. Another suitor!

"Until I am in the ground, stay away from her!" threatened Delbruk, shaking his fist in the air. He whimpered - making the fist had caused his finger to throb all the more. Soon the bile would turn black in his veins and he'd be finished. Who would care for his twelve children? And for poor, plump Rosalin, who he loved so deeply?

"There is one thing we could do," said his young bride quietly.

"Don't say it," said Delbruk, striking her with a piece of firewood for speaking.

Later, when she'd regained consciousness, Rosalin was insistent. "We could visit the village Anachronist," she said.

How Delbruk hated the Anachronist. He hated the way the dirt on his face looked deliberately placed there, he hated his hideous teeth, so white and straight like an animal's, and he hated those little shiny circles of glass he wore in front of his eyes - probably used to mesmerize people.

All the villagers despised and distrusted the Anachronist - even more so when he cured them. Often those seen leaving his hut had rocks thrown at them, or had to move to other villages in shame.

But the next morning when he removed the poultice he'd made out of moss and the dung of a thrice-brindled calf, he found the two-inch gash on his finger still oozing blood, and tinged with green around the edges.

I don't want to die, thought Delbruk fiercely.

The accursed Anachronist kept them standing there for an hour while he fetched their "records." Then he asked to see a thing called their "insurance card," which Delbruk assumed was that stiff rectangle he'd sent them last Autumn. And he didn't seem willing to minister to Delbruk's finger without it.

What a useless thing. Delbruk had sucked on the rectangle for a day when he'd had a toothache, and it had done nothing to ease the pain. At the end he thrown it on the ground and poked it with a sharp stick for a while. Later he'd returned to piss on it for good measure.

But Rosalin produced the rectangle, the "insurance card," out of her pouch. She'd held on to it all this time!

The Anachronist peered at the rectangle for a while before speaking. "Well, you only have '19th century' class coverage," he finally said. "So I can stitch you up, but I can't use any real anesthetic." And then he smiled, flashing those horrible teeth. Delbruk winced at the sight.

It took three tightly-fastened leather straps, Rosalin, and the Anachronist's assistant, a feeble-minded boy named Durk, to hold Delbruk down during the procedure. It was agonizing. Better to lop the thing off! His curses and howls filled the hut.

Afterwards, he was amazed - the gash was held in place with thread. He'd been sewn together just like a doublet!

He held his stitched finger up for Rosalin to see. "Look, my love! Look at what the Anachronist has done!" Rosalin looked at his finger for a moment. Then she threw a rock at Delbruk's face.

"I'm marrying Tom A'Blinkerd," she said.




Posted by Chris on 01/27/06

January 24, 2006

Three Dots for Tuesday

  • When I am a major director I don't think I will ask my agent to make sure I get to have my name inside a small square on the poster. It really doesn't set it aside that much from the rest of the credits, and in fact it looks more like how for two dollars extra you get to have your listing in bold on EBay.

  • I have been extra-polite to the Landlords since the Unfortunate Incident, but they in turn have become less responsive. I think they are like Klingons - they interpret manners as weakness.

  • The spam in the comments section on this site got so bad that I had to close all comments to entries on every post before this month or so. Well, in doing so I somehow broke everything - now any link that went back to my archives is wrong, wrong, WRONG, can't you see it's WRONG. (Not including the one just above.) That will take a while to fix.

    Posted by Chris on 01/24/06

    I'm probably giving you information you already know, but I had the same problem at my website, but then I started pasting the spammers IP Adress into my "Banned IP" section. It cuts down on the spam quite a bit. I use Moveable Type, though, so this may not be helpful for you at all.

    Posted by: Foley at January 25, 2006 9:26 AM

    I use Moveable Type as well, and the "Blacklist" add-on - but I found blacklisting site names or IPs almost useless, since they change every time! You don't find this too?

    Posted by: Chris at January 25, 2006 3:13 PM

    No, but I probably don't get the amount of traffic you do. I don't know how spammers choose their targets, but I'm sure traffic has something to do with it. If I'm not mistaken, you're pretty good with technology, so you'd know better than I would. But anyway, I've got a pretty long list of banned spammers and I haven't noticed many repeate offenders, but to be honest, I haven't looked all that closely. I just ban them as they show up.

    Posted by: Foley at January 26, 2006 5:42 AM

    Shut it down and leave it down ... there is no other way. I haven't written anything on my blog for a year and the spam has brought down my email account twice (I get an email when there is a comment). There is probably some sort of solution that involves renaming the comment and trackback CGIs since it's all the automatated crap that fills up the comments. You could also make people register to comment, that'd help a little.

    Posted by: relpek at January 27, 2006 9:24 PM

    Good suggestions. Since I closed off all comments except for the last month's worth, spam has gone down from about 50 a day to 1 single instance that I saw today. Renaming the CGI script is helpful, although the automated Spam Spiders from Mars can just get the name of the new one from the same comment page.

    I have so few visitors I hate to make them register, but I AM thinking of removing the "email" field on the comment page altogether - I fear the Spiders have been grabbing that for their spamming as well.

    Posted by: Chris at January 30, 2006 12:13 PM
  • January 22, 2006

    All In: Dennis Miller

    Why did I even watch Dennis Miller's new special on HBO? I guess for the same reason that I still pop over to Lileks.com every now and then - just to see if he's still crazy, and if so how much.

    Not much has changed since he "came out" in "Raw Feed." He must have taken heat for his views on global warming in that HBO special, because he took some pains to explain himself again: He seems to believe that since people don't throw fast-food wrappers out of their car windows on highways much anymore, how could it really be as bad as they say?

    He also explains that we should be able to do whatever we want in Alaska, because who's going there anyway, when you think about it.

    To be fair, later on he indicated that these were just jokes. As if his entire turn to the dark side is just a comic persona, I suppose. Like how Gilbert Gottfried's "thing" is to be shrill and screechy all the time, I guess.

    Like many people, for him the worst thing that has happened in the White House in the past decade is still... wait for it... WAIT FOR IT... Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Boy, was that guy a horny redneck. And that Hillary!

    Just purely from a comedy shelf-life standpoint - Clinton jokes? In 2006? And it's fascinating that for a topical comedian like Miller, apparently nothing in the Bush presidency comes close to Clinton's sexual indiscretions for sheer absurdity and injustice. Nothing about Bush warrants even a slight joke for him? Not even in the interest of equal time?

    I guess not, since none were on display, and to my mind that settles the question of whether red states can have good comedians or not: No, because they have to live in a state of mental denial. Good comedians are all about obeserving the world and reporting back from a fresh viewpoint, not toadying to some party line.

    I can follow the logic of the Neocons for whom Miller has become a favored jester, but his assessment of the issues that matter is so myopic it makes Mr. Magoo look like the Hubble telescope, to borrow his own reference template.

    Most shockingly, he also said that even if he were dead-set against the war, he'd make sure to keep his mouth shut until all our troops were home. Hopefully this was one of the jokes. Because to my mind this attitude overlooks a fairly big logical inconsistency. (Hint: it involves our "freedom of speech" and "representative government.")

    But what do I know - I'm not a professional comedian.

    Posted by Chris on 01/22/06

    David Cross called Dennis Miller what he is: the administration's court jester.

    One thing that always bothered me about Dennis Miller, even before he left comedy for wingnut shilling, was his laughing at his own jokes. Does he still do that?

    Posted by: simon at January 24, 2006 5:35 AM

    There is a good bit of self-satisfied giggling still. And to his credit, I did laugh at one thing he said - when he said James Carville looked like a "muppet washed on hot." OK, I'll give him that one.

    Posted by: Chris at January 24, 2006 3:10 PM

    January 20, 2006

    I'll Have No Truck With Your Decorative Guest Towels

    I'm at your house, I've gone to the bathroom, I turn around to wipe my hands on the towel, and there's all this decorative embroidery and monogram work to contend with.

    Very pretty, but how am I supposed to dry my hands on that?

    Number one, I don't want to wipe my hands all over some heirloom, number two, all that delicate threadwork isn't going to be very absorbant, now is it?

    Can you leave me one piece of simple terrycloth not festooned with lovely needlework? How many times have I come over and ended up wiping my hands on my pants because I was afraid of soiling the damn guest bathroom towels?!?

    Give me a real towel in the guest bathroom. I'll have no truck with the decorative ones!

    Posted by Chris on 01/20/06

    Come see us in AZ - we have both normal guest towels and paper ones - pick your pleasure. I have no truck with a "towel" that has to be ironed. Sorry Marz!

    Posted by: Vickery at January 20, 2006 1:01 PM

    "Festooned."

    HA!!!

    ....... awesome.

    Posted by: Big Fat Brian at January 20, 2006 1:37 PM

    Et tu, Google?

    The White House is still defending itself against charges of spying on us through wiretaps - and not even on the heels of that, but more like riding piggyback, comes the headline that they are also suing Google to get their hands on our web searches.

    These guys clearly are on a different page than me. Not only are they not trying to hide it, they are actually asking for more. What this tells me is that they don't even see the wiretapping of us as a problem in the first place. They don't "get" the privacy issue.

    More dismaying than this is that Joe Q. Public doesn't seem to have much a problem with it, either. What a surprise.

    Today on CNN an expert was being interviewed about the issues surrounding this Google lawsuit. The interviewer's first question was "What's wrong with helping the government track down child pornographers?" What ignorance! I'm sure the administration would love for this to become a debate about kiddie porn. Who's going to step up to defend that?

    Let's start connecting the dots little bit better. Based on what we've seen of the NeoCon policies and beliefs, do we really think quashing child pornography is on their top ten list of issues?

    No. Their thing, as evidenced by everything else they've pushed for, is expanding the powers of the executive. Child porn would be great to stop, sure, but isn't it more likely they're using that to make their actions unimpeachable?

    But Joe Q's attitude towards the wiretaps and the Google searches seems to be, "Hey, I'm not saying anything inappropriate on the phone - what do I care if they're listening?" Or "I'm not looking for anything inappropriate on Google! Let them have my searches if it helps find terrorists or kiddie porn users! There's a war on!"

    Be honest - is this your attitude?

    Here's the problem with letting them grab all this information about us any time we want: President Bush may have the best of intentions to use it stop terrorism (and I suspect that he does), but what about the other guys working for him? We've seen what some of them are willing to stoop to if they deem someone a political enemy. (Questioning whether decorated former Marine John Murtha deserved his medals? Insinuating that a political rival faked his shrapnel wounds in Vietnam? Wow.)

    And what about the guys that come after them? Does it really take that much imagination to see how private information like what you're looking at online could be taken out of context? And potentially be used for nefarious purposes?

    You don't think that some day someone may want a list of people that routinely visit Michael Moore's website, or that ever searched for Howard Zinn, or Noam Chomsky? Or anyone else labeled unAmerican by a politician in the future? Does anyone remember the lists that Joe McCarthy used to make? The abuses of power by J. Edgar Hoover?

    Do you want to be called on to explain in public your reasons for visiting any particular website? How about when you visit them (ever surfed at work?), how often, and for how long?

    But it's OK, because

    the Bush administration insists it does not want to tie the search requests to the person or computer that made them...

    Excuse me? This is the only thing lamer than the kiddie porn excuse. Because if they can't even tie a search for "Al Qaida" and "atom bomb plans" to an identity or a computer, then what the hell good would it be anyway?

    I'm also dismayed at the lack of concern Joe Q. has over keeping the internet free from intervention. They have a place where the government controls the internet and what you can see on it - it's called China.

    My default position on voluntarily sharing information with ANY large organization? Whether it's the government or Wal-Mart or Amazon or my bank or my doctor? "No."

    I don't offer any more than the minimum requirement. And it's not because I have something to hide. It's because it's not their business, and I don't know how the info is going to be used.

    And it's not incumbent on me to defend my privacy - it should be incumbent on them to explain why they need it.

    Look - I know we're being data-mined to death. I know that every keystroke I send to the internet is tracked in various databases, and if some agency ever decided it needed to make a project of me, they could figure me out without too much analysis: who I am, what I read, what I watch, what I think, what I'm likely to do about it.

    That doesn't mean we have to hand it over on a platter. Fellow citizens, can you think these things through a little more before you gleefully sign your rights - and mine - away?

    And to Google - your famous corporate slogan is, "Don't be evil." I have no doubt that you're not trying to be, but perhaps the definition of not being evil might be expanded to include not creating services and "tools" that insinuate themselves into every single aspect of our lives - that can then be used for the wrong reasons by someone else. Someone else that perhaps does not work under such a slogan as yours.

    If you hadn't sought a way to create a list of our web searches in the first place, then there would be no question about handing them over.

    I am so damn sick of companies that feel the need to stretch some umbrella over my entire existence, to worm their fingers into every little nook and cranny of my life, trying desperately to be the one place I need to go for every single need I may have. I'm tired of companies that reflexively, mindlessly spread themselves in every possible direction, like some corporate slime mold. This is always what comes of it!

    Posted by Chris on 01/20/06

    I could not agree with you more! Thank you for putting my exact thoughts into words.

    Posted by: Vickery at January 20, 2006 1:07 PM

    Where did all the Republicans go? You know, the ones who wanted to get government out of our lives, the ones who viewed government as the problem, not the solution.

    If we've got money to throw away on illegal, unconstitutional wiretaps and spying on our own people, don't we have enough money to give us all another $300 tax cut? Where are the Republicans who want to give us those tax cuts?

    Posted by: simon at January 20, 2006 7:56 PM

    You realize that this will all become pointless once the Bugs attack and we're preparing to journey to Klendathu to repel them and capture the supposed "Brain Bug", don't you? When rule by might takes hold, and the only way to advance in society is through military service, and all others are unable to earn the rank of "Citizen" and vote and hold office and power? I'll put in a good word for you tho, maybe with your film background you can join the news brigade instead and not have to be a front lines "ground pounder" going down into the bug caves and all. I'm not sure if Doogie Howser will be able to save you or not, so I'll use my not-inconsiderable-powers to "pull some strings" for you as a friend, and keep you out of harms way, for old time's sake and all.

    Hehehehe... looks like catching up on your blog, discussions of your "culling of the novels", and my own late night insomniac movie viewing proclivities rear thier ugly head, hmmmmm. WANT TO KNOW MORE?

    Posted by: Ranger Dekiion at January 23, 2006 8:01 AM

    January 19, 2006

    Somewhere between one and two trillion

    The American Economic Association has estimated the likely cost of the Iraq War: "somewhere between one and two trillion dollars."

    Helpfully, they also provide some comparison and analysis:

    Had we waited [for the weapons inspectors to finish their work], the value of the information we would have learned from the inspectors would arguably have saved the nation at least $1 trillion enough money to fix Social Security for the next 75 years twice over.

    And, a conclusion:

    We conclude that the economy would have been much stronger if we had invested the money in the United States instead of in Iraq.

    Interesting. Oh well, water under the bridge, spilled milk, and all that.

    Posted by Chris on 01/19/06

    Hindsight is 20/20. Oh wait, most of us have been saying that this was a mistake from before it happened. Go figure.

    Posted by: klugula at January 20, 2006 7:30 AM

    Yes, but if we eliminate birth control, we'll have lots more minimum-wage earners to tax.

    But wait, wasn't Bush's "fiscal conservatism" the reason why folk (such as the log cabin hypocrites) were able to overlook his regressive social policies and vote for him?

    Posted by: simon at January 20, 2006 9:15 AM

    January 18, 2006

    Fantastic quote

    Embedded in this article on health care by Ezra Klein (on Tapped) is a description for our administration that should not be missed:

    Indeed, what's always baffled me about the Bush administration is that despite their unconcerned, craven approach to policy-making, they refuse to capture enormously popular issues by correctly appropriating liberal policies. When they try, as on Medicare Part D, they end up talking like progressives, but legislating like transdimensional beings composed entirely of greed.

    How fantastic is that.

    UHURA: Captain, the Xirgogians wish to begin negotiating a surrender.

    SPOCK: If I may, Captain. The Xirgogians are transdimensional beings composed entirely of greed. They cannot possibly be satisfied with anything you can give them inside this Universe, no matter how much of it you offer.

    KIRK: You're saying they'll always want more? Speak plainly, Spock!

    SPOCK: I'm saying Captain, that their very essence... is want itself. There is nothing beyond it.

    (Sudden dramatic chord of music)

    Posted by Chris on 01/18/06

    Cheesesticks Enough At Last

    I am on a diet now which purports to be a healthy alternative to the Atkins thing. I have seen a few people try Atkins and go into a "wasting away" period, and I thought, hey! I could really stand to go through a few weeks of that! But others close to me disagreed, so I went with this one, which I have dubbed the Rod Serling Diet.

    Why? Because even after you strip away the evil, delicious things in your diet (yummy breads, scrumptious baked things, lotsa sugar, fruit, alcohol, caffeine, rice, things made from potatoes, the best parts of the chicken), you still have a lot of things to eat. Lots of vegetables that I don't find disagreeable, chicken breasts, steaks, various fishes, and - cheese sticks.

    In fact, I have been encouraged to snack on cheese sticks. Low-fat ones, true, but cheese sticks. Which is fantastic, because you see, I always snacked on cheese sticks anyway. And not just sticks - cheese cubes, cheese rectangles, miniature cheese wheels, and lopsided cheese trapezoids, the kind I'd make when I'd just swing the butcher knife at the block of cheddar and eat whatever happened to fall off. I love cheese. When I grate cheese to put in my omelette, I give myself a little extra cheese "reward" for my efforts. Hey - if I'm chopping olives for a recipe that doesn't remotely involve cheese, when I'm done I'll still reward myself with cheese. If anyone in the house is cooking with cheese, I levy a "cheese tax," which means that I take up to 5% of that which has been grated for my own, immediate use. Yes, it's steep, but then look at the services you get in return.

    Perhaps I have not made myself clear. Je t'aime the fromage. Je t'aime it a LOT.

    And here is the part that Rod Serling would have loved. Now, after two weeks, I have snacked on Low-Fat cheese sticks a good bit, and I am pretty sure that I never want to see another one. No thanks. I think the cheese tax has been abolished. No more hacking a good three inches off the cheddar as a snack. And this is a big deal. I expect a letter from the Dairy Commission any day because they will no doubt feel this in their quarterly earnings. I mean I was a big consumer. A lifetime member of the Curd of the Month Club.

    I'm not sure if this sort of reverse psychology is the secret point of the Rod Serling Diet, but I'll bet if steak had been my big thing, I'd be swearing that off now too.

    I scream to heaven to take away all the cheese sticks, just TAKE THEM AWAY, we tilt slowly up to the sky, DISSOLVE to a field of stars, queue Serling's closing monologue, and... FADE OUT.

    Posted by Chris on 01/18/06

    I had this same experience within seven days on Atkins (I bailed after two weeks). I couldn't tolerate another piece of pastrami schmeared with cream cheese, bunless burger or bacon slice. I love me some meat, but yeck!

    Posted by: Leigh at January 19, 2006 7:59 AM

    I really hate to say it, but the only diet that has ever worked for me is to burn more calories than I consumed, regardless of the source of those calories. The way to be thin, seems to truely be, to eat less and exercise like crazy and drink water. A cold, hard, nearly impossible to maintain, yet very simple plan. I wish you success and I'll take your cheese.

    Posted by: Vickery at January 19, 2006 8:54 AM

    Well, this one IS working a bit, and I'll have you know I am getting daily exercise! And I don't just mean the exercise of my fingers hitting the keyboard.

    For some reason the water only is the hardest part. What a bland, cruel drink.

    Posted by: Chris at January 20, 2006 12:41 PM

    Well, you could "thug it up" and spring for some of 50Cents grape flavor vitamin water (I believe I recently saw such a product...)

    Posted by: Ranger Dekiion at January 23, 2006 7:50 AM

    January 17, 2006

    The Traveling Library

    Over the past two moves I have been winnowing down my book collection, a painful but I feel necessary process. I love having all these books around me but the reality is, in order to keep them I have to basically live amongst piles and piles of books.

    I'd already skimmed off the easy ones, and then I made the second and third passes for the harder stuff. Now we're moved in a larger place and I still find myself maybe one or two boxes over.

    Looking over the vast selections, I am forced to admit that for the past several years my love of reading has been overtaken by my love of buying books. There are some that I remember desperately wanting, that I have not opened. But boy am I glad I have them.

    I can also see now that my interests are fairly easily classifiable. I think I stopped being interesting in the early nineties. These are the sections of my library:

  • The Tattered Classics. The well-worn paperback copies of Dracula, Frankenstein, Huckleberry Finn, Hero With a Thousand Faces, etc. They must always be on hand.

  • Great Works of Unread Literature. Moby Dick. The Golden Bough. Any Faulkner. The Odyssey. Dante's Inferno. Some I tried, some I saw in the bookstore and got very excited about finally reading such a classic, and then I got home and probably played a video game. It's probably time to let things like Plato's Republic go. If I ever get the urge again, I feel I can find it.

  • The Making Movies Genre. This genre probably makes up about half of all my books. There are accounts of making specific movies ("Empire Strikes Back," Jaws," and "Superman" are treasured tomes), a lot of the You Can Make Your Own Movie! sort, many with an angle on the legal / business side, lots and lots of screenplays, and a few glossy marketing things. A good bit of the highly theoretical books of criticism from college coursework that make me feel fancy. Most of these will stay.

  • Weird Science. Stuff about quantum physics, black holes, string theory, nanotechnology, etc. I have one called How to Colonize the Galaxy in Seven Easy Steps that is ridiculous but that I love.

  • Too Good to pass by in the Discount Rack. The Encyclopedia of Theories. A History of Perpetual Motion. The U.S. Army Survival Manual. I can give these up but it will hurt. Because what happens if am caught in a survival situation, or feel I have created a perpetual motion machine?

  • The Obsessive Collections. All of Ian Fleming's "James Bond" novels, and a tattered collection of all the Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars books. All the Shakespeares in paperback form, which are also represented in one single collection, so these can go. How ironic - I had rescued them all from a trashcan in college.

  • "Best of" Collections. Collected Edgar Allen Poe, Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury. Lots of Year's Best Sci-fi Collections. They should stay.

  • Books That Were Given to Me and Inscribed, so these need to stay.

  • Book Club Books That Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time. Most can go.

  • The Stephen Kings. Most already shipped back home. I'll hang on to Pet Sematary and The Stand.

  • The Thin But Cherished Steve Martin Section. A must-have.

  • The Faves. Pillars of the Earth. Again, Pet Sematary. Garp. Cosmos. Rebel Without a Crew. Marrow. Diamond Age. These stay without negotiation.

  • Obsolete Technical Books. HTML. QBasic. How-to Guides for software, three versions back. Happy to see them go but boy were they expensive.

  • Lots of individual Kurt Vonneguts that I can probably let go, plus lots and LOTS of individual Phillip K Dicks that can go as well.

  • A few stray Clive Barkers, a few stray John Irvings. Enh. I can get these later if the need strikes me.

  • The Best of the College Textbooks I Kept. I'll hang on to the philosophy and religion stuff; the Mass Comm Law book and Astronomy 101 worksheets can probably go.

  • Graphic Novels. Already ravaged when I gave away TEN boxes of comics to a grateful fan. Dark Knight, Watchman, Ronin, Concrete, etc. remained. These stay, absolutely.

  • The Childhood Books that can never go. The ancient pair of fairy-tale books. The Choose Your Own Adventure Books, in case I missed a possible ending. Splinter of the Mind's Eye. That one book where the pages are split into three sections so that you can mix and match animal parts to create wacky new creatures. The Stainless Steel Rat books. The Hitchhiker's Guide series.

  • Plays I'll Never Read. Get them out of here.

  • The Dune Series. Maybe late in my life when I'm bedridden or my exo-skeleton fails for an extended period I'll get to these - but for now, farewell Arrakis.

    I'd love to be able to find a good home for these books - but alas, to do that, I'd have to basically become a clearing house. Into a giant box they go, for some lucky soul at Goodwill.

    Posted by Chris on 01/17/06

    I finally "winnowed" my theater books last spring and sent the cast-offs to my high school. I went through two indelible black markers making sure no 9th grader could read my sophomoric scribblings in my old scripts and drama textbooks. In some ways, it was painful. In some ways, exhilirating. I packed up the box with a card to the theater dept. chairman wishing him well and never heard from him... Then I noticed a small note in the annual school magazine months later thanking me for the books. It was touching... I remember going through all those plays trying to find a monologue for auditions, and I thought, wow, all those scripts I stole are now back where they belong... cool.

    Posted by: Leigh at January 17, 2006 3:01 PM

    Whence the quotes around my winnowed? Is this some form of mockery?

    Posted by: Chris at January 18, 2006 1:23 PM

    Chris. That was LEIGH that commented above.

    Of COURSE it was mockery.

    DUH!!!

    Posted by: Big Fat Brian at January 18, 2006 1:36 PM

    How brave you are to sort through your library!
    The only books I have ever been able to throw were paperback romance novels that stowed away in some unknown box high in the attic. Thankfully, we have TWO houses so books can spread out - but the shelves in both are buckling.

    Posted by: annie mae at January 19, 2006 8:56 AM

    Thank you for seeing this for what it is - an act of bravery, an act of self-sacrifice. If I had the space, and did not feel it likely that we'll probably end up in some gypsy caravan by the end of our lives, I'd definitely have kept them!

    Posted by: Chris at January 20, 2006 12:38 PM
  • Top Ten Chuck Norris Facts

    Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

    http://www.chucknorrisfacts.com/index.html

    Posted by Chris on 01/17/06

    And also it blogs

    Why the silence from this blog lately? Have I found such peace with the universe that nothing remains to complain about? Hardly. I blame a variety of things: I have been slightly under the weather, maybe only 15% under the weather, and also I am trying to kick screenplay #5 into high gear.

    Regarding the weather-underness: There has been lots of productive coughing and much Therafluing and losenging and Store-Equivalent Sudafeding. Now would be an excellent time for someone to give me shit, because a) I am slightly buzzed from my over-the-counter cocktail and therefore care 26% less what people think, and b) my voice is often one register lower, which causes me to imagine that I can be that much more intimidating. How hilarious it would be if I actually got to test this.

    Regarding the screenplay: This was the "It will take just a month to write it" screenplay, that I'm now approaching three months on. I was surprised to learn last week that my protagonist was not in fact my actual protagonist. Instead, it turns out that his sidekick, a minor character I wasn't spending much time on because I planned on him kicking it in Act III, was the main character. This clears much up, but also necessitated some revision of story, theme, etc.

    One day I hope to learn how to write. On this screenplay, as on all of them, it feels like I am a stubborn sculptor that just walks around and around the marble all day, occasionally taking a swipe at it with the chisel but mainly just walking around and around it, considering it from the same angles. The thing eventually takes shape but it is slow. Commissions suffer. Breakthroughs are rare.

    Posted by Chris on 01/17/06

    I know exactly what you're talking about. It's always an amazing process when a story or work of art takes on a life of its own and you realize you're just along for the drive. That's special.

    Hope you get to feeling better soon.

    Posted by: Foley at January 17, 2006 12:37 PM

    Making any kind of progress at all on a creative work is magical, not because it is beyond your control, but because you did that. It's so neat, when you think about.

    Hey, I hope you feel better soon. And not only for your sake, buddy. One of my cube-farm-mates has sinus problems and coughs productively (I love that description) every two minutes. I want to tie a plastic bag over his head, bless him. Maybe I wouldn't care so much if I tried your drug cocktail...

    Posted by: Leigh at January 17, 2006 1:12 PM

    Ever since 123105, everyday since then, I have wanted to rinse out my sinuses with a fire hose and acid. I will let you know if i figure out a way to do this.

    About the sceen play, be kind to yourself, turn off the TV if you can bare it and it will come.

    Posted by: Vickery at January 18, 2006 9:43 AM

    Thanks for the healthy well-wishes. By adding Store-Equivalent Robitussin to the cocktail, I think I've got this thing solved. Plus, I've found an unobtrusive way to get drunk at work!

    Posted by: Chris at January 18, 2006 1:25 PM

    January 12, 2006

    This year's Mardi Gras

    It seems that people are very excited to descend on New Orleans again this year for Mardi Gras. Some may even be doing this in the spirit of charity, knowing full well that the city is still in disarray, but assuming that their tourist money will contribute to the cause.

    I'm sure New Orleans could use some tourist money right now, but what I think they can use more than that is just money - without having to make a big parade about it.

    I don't think the city is ready for Mardi Gras yet. (Although I bet even New Orleans won't admit that.) But with every report I read like this one, saying that Katrina evacuees are being asked to vacate hotel rooms to accomodate tourists, and just looking at the pictures, I think they should have done something different this year.

    What I think should happen is, instead of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it should be in Las Vegas - and Chicago, and NYC, and Dallas, and Atlanta, and every other city that can get it together. Or people should just have their own Mardi Gras parties. Anyone who ever enjoyed Mardi Gras or Jazzfest or just strolling through the French Quarter should come together from far and wide to party their ass off, and the proceeds should go to rebuilding New Orleans.

    Posted by Chris on 01/12/06

    I don't know Chris, it sounds like you're cooking up a war on Mardi Gras.

    Posted by: simon at January 12, 2006 5:00 PM

    January 10, 2006

    Mantis! and other random thoughts

  • 39 cents? I don't mind the increase, really, because, lo though I bitch, the postal service is pretty amazing. No matter how they glare at me from behind the plexiglass at the local branch, I appreciate the overall offering.

    But 39 cents? I know many studies were probably commissioned seeing just how far they could push it, but did they also figure in all the penny-handling time that will be spent on each stamp transaction with this odd number? Did their research show the sum total of CO2 that we can expect to be expelled annually from postal workers, as they sigh heavily when customers reply that no, they do not have four pennies?

    I'm sure there will be some impact to the ozone layer.

  • Splenda. I'm trying this stuff out, but it seems like a prime candidate for the kind of substance we'll find out in few years causes some awful sort of cancer. There's something about that light flakiness that just isn't right. Maybe I should keep records of how much I ingest for the lawyers.

  • Mantis! The construction next door has slowed down considerably. When they were finished levelling it all off at the bottom, they then dug a series of regular, square depressions. I assume these are to be future burial spots for treasure, or maybe where support columns will go.

    Today I opened my window to see an enormous green mantis-arm stretching over the entire lot, a hose dangling from the end. It would lower the hose into the wells and then suck something out. There were about four joints on this thing, and if it were stretched out to its total length, it would have been about 1 1/2 blocks long. If it had been coming right at me instead away I would have shrieked the moment I pulled the blinds. Horrifying. Fascinating.

    Posted by Chris on 01/10/06

    BIG TRUCK!!!

    Posted by: Big Fat Brian at January 11, 2006 1:44 PM

    Obviously, the mantis-thingy is removing the pods placed there thousands of years ago. Thankfully, you will be spared being turned into fertilizer!

    Posted by: annie mae at January 11, 2006 2:09 PM

    And today, each of the wells has been concreted over. WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?!?

    Posted by: Chris at January 11, 2006 3:04 PM

    Awwww man, and when I saw this headline, I assumed you'd be discussion that great 90's show about the crippled scientist guy who made the cool exo skeleton suit to fight crime in his city. It was AWESOME.

    You have disapp....oooh... BIG TRUCK! BIG TRUCK!

    Posted by: Ranger Dekiion at January 12, 2006 7:38 AM
  • January 9, 2006

    Goldenherring

    I found this entry saved in the "drafts" section from last year, before Daniel Craig was officially named the new Bond. Oh well, it WOULD have been a good idea:

    Since the James Bond franchise is between actors right now, no doubt the search for the new 007 is in high frenzy. Here's my idea:

    Skip the big announcement about who it's going to be before the next film. Say instead that people will have to go to the movie to find out. And then, in the movie, skip the post-opening credits MI-6 exposition.

    We will then see the "new" Bond on a mission, being suave, man-handling swarthy types, smiling at the babes but not afraid to slap them if they're Communists, shooting people with his watch, etc. This needs to be a high-profile, name actor - someone who could plausibly be cast as Bond.

    But then we see Bond do something really nasty, like bad-guy terrorist nasty. And then we cut to ANOTHER agent somewhere else in the world, introducing himself as Bond, James Bond. Again, this needs to be someone who could plausibly be cast in the 007 role. We learn now that someone is running around impersonating Bond, and he must be stopped by the real James.

    So that's fine - but then we see this second new Bond do something really mean and not at all in keeping with the British ethos - and then we realize that he is ALSO a fake Bond.

    Only then do we cut back to MI-6, where the REAL new Bond comes in and is given the file on these two malefactors. Voila, that's him.

    If the producers were very brave they could indicate that "James Bond" is not one agent but an identity that has been passed around the agency since the early 60s. Or is that too close to Doctor Who?

    All three actors have to be name players that could be great Bonds - and ideally actors who have been floated as possibilities in the past (Jude Law, Rupert Everett, Clive Owen, etc.)

    Posted by Chris on 01/ 9/06

    What a great idea! No movie will be good enough now.

    Posted by: Vickery at January 10, 2006 7:14 AM

    I honestly do think this is a wonderful idea. It would make all of the past Bond movies relevant as mirrors of their time instead of continually retrofitting a character born for the cold war. Sometimes the simpliest ideas really are the most brilliant!

    Posted by: Foley at January 10, 2006 7:07 PM

    January 6, 2006

    Movies I saw over the holiday

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - I am always at the ready to mock this series because it feels like such an obligatory adaptation, but I found this fourth installment in the Potter series... are you ready for it? I'm going to commit to this word, even though it is somewhat emasculating, because it perfectly describes it: delightful.

    Maybe it's because the characters are now dealing with things like dating and dances, but this one seemed somehow more interesting than the rest. Not sure, but I might rank it as #1, or #2, after the previous one. Mike Newell was obviously a good choice for director. The movie made me want to pick the books back up again, after having neglected the last three or so.

    The depiction of the Quidditch game has now evolved to the point that it feels not at all like a video game but exactly like an amazingly popular sporting event, complete with fans spending the night outside before game night, and plenty of painted faces. And even though I am jaded by well-accomplished special effects, I thank whoever designed the sailing ship emerging out of the water.

    Also: what do you do if you're a well-regarded British actor and you are NOT asked to appear as one of the Hogwarts' staff? What recourse do you have? There's always "Narnia," I guess.

    The Family Stone - I am on record as not being a big fan of SJP, but she did a great job. All the actors did, but I'm afraid I didn't buy the family Stone, and that's the fault of the script. First SJP's character was absurdly stiff, then the Stones were completely cruel to her. There were a few standout scenes. It's the best thing I've seen Dermot Mulrooney do. But I felt it could have lost a few characters. I'm a big fan of the many-characters-gathering-for-the holiday genre, and this one I'll study for where it goes wrong.

    Munich - Although Steven Spielberg is known for his ability to make people misty-eyed and awe-filled at some diffusely-lit wonder, he also has a subversive talent for detailed violence that even cinema bad-boys like Quentin Tarantino haven't shown. He only depicts violence this way in his later, "serious" works, when he really wants us to feel it - "Schindler's List," "Saving Private Ryan," and now "Munich."

    Each murder or assassination in "Munich" includes a sharp, disturbing and sickly fascinating detail to the act. People aren't just blown away, they are shot through a grocery bag, and then the blood mingles with the spilled milk; they are shot and then take way too many minutes to die, as the blood finally decides to spurt through pencil-mark bullet holes; or they are shot right through the cheek.

    Only Coppola has depicted violence in this sort of way - little details that make you gasp in horror but at the same time stare with fascination.

    Posted by Chris on 01/ 6/06

    January 5, 2006

    Smitewatch

    Pat Robertson continues to distinguish himself as the go-to man to explain God's mysterious smiting patterns. According to the 700 Club evangelist,

    From CNN:

    ...Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which Robertson opposed.

    "He was dividing God's land, and I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America,'" Robertson told viewers of his long-running television show, "The 700 Club."

    Nice! But what's the point of tracking this man's amazingly classless comments anymore? A better headline would be when he DIDN'T say something horrible after a tragedy or disaster.

    Posted by Chris on 01/ 5/06

    They just gave a rundown of his recent eyebrow-raising quotes on the Today Show. Truly, he knows the will of God and it letting us know the truth. He is appreciated and I am blessed to hear him speak the word of the Lord. Otherwise, how would we know what God is telling the world? Thanks Pat Robertson!

    Posted by: klugula at January 6, 2006 5:46 AM

    Isn't all of this technically "God's land"? Letting Palestinians have some of their land back isn't as much a division as, say, building a security "fence" (that's twice as high and three times as long as the Berlin Wall security fence). It's not as if this "God's land" has disappeared, it just has different tenants.

    I can't wait until Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the rest of these Christ profiteers get their smiting. Hopefully it will be something involving falling stained glass or the body of Christ wedged in a windpipe.

    Posted by: simon at January 6, 2006 2:31 PM

    How about a death scene straight out of "The Omen"? That sounds good to me.

    Posted by: klugula at January 6, 2006 2:38 PM

    ...and another thing: what kind of god watches his people do something wrong (in His eyes) and then acts? Surely a god with any sort of power would prevent the wrongdoing rather than wait for it to happen then strike with physical punishment. This god would make a lousy parent.

    All this is beside the point that old people often have strokes.

    Posted by: simon at January 6, 2006 6:29 PM

    January 4, 2006

    I Am A "Hand & Foot" Explanation Critic

    Over the holidays we played "Hand and Foot," the world's longest card game, and one that is rarely played at my house not only because of its length but for the number of rules it has. This game is possibly more complex than Sabacc (and if you know what that game is, then truly you belong with me amongst the geek clouds).

    Few in my family have patience for complicated games, or games with many parts. I believe as a kid we played exactly one-half game of "Cootie-Bug" together until everyone wandered away but me, after which I just opened it occasionally to build the bugs. "Monopoly" was right out. "Risk" was bought but never played.

    Always with these games the first skill set required is being able to explain the game to others in a way that maintains their focus and interest. With "Hand and Foot" it's an uphill battle from the moment the cards are brought out. There is a detailed, non-intuitive scoring system (that has to be jotted down on a notepad for everyone), a particular set of wild cards, and the game requires something like three decks of cards plus one deck for every player. Often we never get past this first step in playing the game.

    Sometimes I have tried to be the explainer, but really I am best at sitting back, letting someone else go over the rules, while I act as silent judge of their Hand and Foot Rule Explanation skills.

    I have found that people easily lose the thread of the narrative in their explanation, getting bogged down first in what makes a dirty book and a clean book, whether the red 3's take 100 points away, how many points you have to have to initially lay melds down, whether or not you can pick up discards, etc. before even explaining the basic point.

    A perfect narrative to explain this complex game has been evolving in my head. In three or four more games, I'll be ready and I'll just DEVASTATE with how easy I make it.

    Posted by Chris on 01/ 4/06

    I'll stay in the bone yard - thanks though.

    Posted by: Vickery at January 4, 2006 11:47 AM

    The world is unfair!

    Why is it that I learn that you know how to play Hand and Foot AFTER you move to LA? Jessica and I both play and never get to because we don't want to take the time to teach anyone.

    **sigh**

    Stupid world!

    And... Red 3's take 500 points away.

    Posted by: Big Fat Brian at January 5, 2006 6:33 AM

    darling, we TAUGHT chris and ami how to play hand and foot.

    Posted by: friend jessica at January 5, 2006 6:36 AM

    I am, officially, the stupidest man in the world.

    Sorry.

    Posted by: Big Fat Brian at January 5, 2006 6:52 AM

    Not stupid, just forgetful. I will be forever grateful for the teaching of Hand and Foot to us by you.

    We've enjoyed the knowledge immensely (and are even better teachers of it than my mother, who plays so often with the seniors group in her town that she actually has a little lanyard to hold her Foot while she plays her hand - gah!).

    Posted by: Wife Ami at January 7, 2006 11:55 AM