Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Conversation With You

Reader: Dude, where've you been? We rely on you to write amusing web-based content every day. No posts for nine days! What's up with that?

Me: I've been around. Rochester, MN for Christmas (nice town). Las Vegas, NV the past couple of days (not-so-nice town - I guess that's why they call it gambling. Luckily I didn't chase my losses. Nope, I'm letting the USC Trojans chase them for me. Let's Go Trojans! Win by More Than 8! Fight On!)

Reader: Right on. But dude, where are your highly anticipated year-end lists?

Me: The year is not yet over. Lists will appear in the coming weeks.

Reader: How many times have you seen Lazy Sunday?

Me: Twice, I think. No, maybe four times. A dozen? Nope, I've seen it exactly thirteen times.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

December 22, 2005

I write this on the warmest Christmas Eve-Eve-Eve I can remember in the town that built the Mayo Clinic, encased in my new black USC zippered sweatshirt, the scent of Christmas cookies air-swimming in the next room, someone else's copy of Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits playing on a sound system I envy. This is a good day. However, it's a good day that followed one of the more treacherous nights of sleep I can remember. For the warmth of today was preceded by a bitter overnight chill that overtook closed windows and my soul. Between bouts of restlessness, I dreamt of Al Franken projectile-vomiting on me as we slept in separate beds in a barracks. Franken's vomit soiled my dream clothes, forcing me to miss the start of the final game of the summer camp soccer tournament. I'll never know if my team won the dream game because a cold cold air pocket slapped my nostrils and smacked by scalp, waking me before I even stepped on the field.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Good Boat

I was in Minnesota in October on the day Vikings' Boat Party scandal broke. I fondly recall overhearing two women in a coffee shop discussing the events and lamenting that Daunte Culpepper was involved. A nearby man interrupted them, saying that he had heard that "Daunte was on the good boat. There were two boats. Daunte was on the good boat." The women were visibly and audibly relieved. Never was there a moment that better defined sexual/racial/athletic relations in Minnesota. One day when I have a couple of hours I'll lay it all out for the world.

Apparently, Daunte wasn't on the good boat. Or maybe both boats were bad. Or maybe some people were in denial. Either way, I wish Daunte a speedy recovery from his injury. It's bad enough that Brad Johnson (the worst quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl) is getting the credit for the Vikings' six-game winning streak but there are people who truly believe - good boat or bad - that Johnson is an improvement over Culpepper. He's not. I have no real evidence of this, other than the easy schedule and the killer defense.

Anyway, who cares about the NFL? It's basketball season! If you peruse Wednesday's entry, you'll see an interesting NBA discussion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Keeps Getting Better

My new employer sure knows how to throw a holiday. So far – two holiday lunches, one holiday dinner, and one (casino-themed) holiday party. My former employer? English muffins and butter in the conference room, no toaster (fire hazard), maybe a few stray rice cakes or donuts left over from the meeting on the 24th floor. Okay, I’m exaggerating but… chocolate gingerbread cake and pumpkin ice cream! Giant scallops! Open bar! It’s a little overwhelming but I’ll adjust.

Good Arrested Development news. Sure, you need a Hollywood insider translator to understand Variety’s secret language but it looks like good news.

Last night’s Timberwolves loss to Sacramento (last-second three-pointer by Bonzi Wells) was particularly painful. Maybe they’ll gain strength from this tragic defeat. Maybe they’ll learn to put away an average team at home so it doesn’t come down to a guy with an unstylish headband knocking down an unlikely shot.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mad Dog Has A Blog

And this is where it is. Or maybe here.

Things I Was Right About This Past Weekend

The Vikings over the Rams.
Danni winning Survivor.
The Saturday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Things I Was Wrong About This Past Weekend

My car needing power steering fluid (if only it were that simple)
The fringes
The Friday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Friday, December 09, 2005

Billy vs. Neil

One of the five or so people who regularly read this thing lamented to me the other day that I hardly ever write lists anymore. This particular fellow was once the recipient of my pre-psahb “funny e-mails” that often included lists with titles like “Top 12 Spices” and “Worst 11 Decisions in U.S. History.” Back in 2003, he recommended that I publish these lists in a new invention called a weblog, or “blog” for short. I sneered and said “I’m no diary writer.” Well, you know what happened.

However, to this person’s surprise, my blog entries rarely take the form of lists or of my other e-mail-based specialty, the “celebrity poem” (which immortalized mortals like John Oates and Chazz Palminteri (sp?)). One time I proposed the idea of “List Fridays.” I think that idea lasted two weeks. Usually I write little “slice-of-life” pieces or bizarre basketball-centered manifestoes. Lists have pretty much disappeared, like the notion that Larry Bird was somehow a Top Ten Basketball Player of All Time (he wasn’t; he isn’t).

So, to appease Michael Brian (or is it Liam?) Gainor, here’s a list:

Top 6 Reasons Billy Joel is Better than Neil Young, Written in a Conversational Style That Refers to Both Boomer-era Singers Exclusively by Their First Names

6. Levity. Sure, Billy took himself too seriously. Half of Nylon Curtain and all of The Bridge are proof of that. But did Billy ever release album after album of “thematically experimental” works meant to annoy his record company? No, Billy only did that once (the instrumental album). Did Billy ever sandwich one of his albums with pretentious “bookends” like Hey Hey My My and My My Hey Hey? Oh wait, I forgot about The Stranger. Did Billy ever produce an “experimental” “docu-drama” like Greendale (which is actually pretty good)? No. Billy gets the bad reputation of being the defensive overly serious angry young man but compared to Neil dude was Peewee Herman.

5. Self-acceptance. Billy accepted (and trumpeted) his suburban (Long Island) roots, never pretending he was from “the city” (I’m talking to you Sinatra!). Billy also pretended he was Italian and not Jewish for only the first 35 years of this career. Neil, on the other hand, still pretends he’s not Canadian, overly embracing Americana and going so far as to emphatically support both sides of the Civil War (Southern Man for the Union and American Stars and Bars for the Rebels) at different stages of his career.

4. Signature album: The Stranger vs. Tonight’s the Night. The Stranger was a godsend, a touchstone, the most important album of my childhood/adolescence. I know every lyric of every song and sung many of the songs with my childhood friend Patrick in his basement (I handled vocals; Patrick played drums; there was nobody else, just the two of us – we were the White Stripes before there were White Stripes). Full of insightful lyrics, expertly sung, with sweet melodies, The Stranger is a flawless album that holds up even today, consistent from start to finish with no filler. Tonight’s the Night? I’ve never listened to it.

3. Seminal album: An Innocent Man vs. Rust Never Sleeps.
An Innocent Man got me through my difficult relationship with Maria Bissinger. Rust Never Sleeps destroyed me emotionally.

2. Post-career peak live performance: Neil at Lollapalooza, 1990-something vs. Billy at the St. Paul Civic Center, 1985. Neil was all bloated fuzz and sloganeering. Billy jumped around on his piano and played to the crowd. Neil sang half of Harvest Moon (his best album), electrifying the songs beyond recognition. Billy favored his “rock and roll” songs, trying to epitomize street cool. Neil succeeded. Billy failed. However, Billy’s songs were still better so he wins this one. And my date for Billy’s show (Annie – where’ve you been? I’m Googleable! Sorry I didn’t renew my car insurance policy through you back in ’97 but I found a better rate elsewhere) was better than my date for Neil’s (I don’t remember your name).

1. We Didn’t Start the Fire. I’m not kidding. I love this song. Sure, it’s a song anyone could have written – child, man, woman, elder, mentally challenged, etc. But in its amateurish listish fervor is a heart beating. It’s the heart of America, of the world, of the universe. It’s a heart of mercy, of movement and love and tenderness, of anger and pop culture and Long Island parkways and New Jersey four-lanes. Of Highway 61 and Wilshire Boulevard. It’s may be Billy’s last great song (at least so far, I can feel the comeback coming back) and he throws it all out there for everyone to see, to grasp, to taste, to love, to hold on to tightly. It’s the bible and the phone book wrapped up in one, yo. Again, it’s a song anyone could have written. But Billy wrote it. Neil didn’t.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Light of the Shadow

This should be a lovely day – perfect daytime weather, cozy evening cold. Instead, I am fully trapped in the clutches of a cold or flu – watery eyes, addled brain (and this is without medication!), lack of energy, ennui, etc. The work day is almost over (I’d have called in sick but it’s only my second week here). But I still have my trip to the secret store for secret Christmas gifts. And my drive home in the increasingly sticky westbound December traffic. And then I’ll be safe on my sage green couch, with sturdy remote and stocked Tivo (aka Moxi) inventory .So am I complaining? Yes. But, I’ll be healed. I’m always healed eventually. Perhaps my healing cat (Seymour) can be of use.

(note: I wrote the above post yesterday but due to website problems I couldn't post it until now. It pretty much describes how I feel today anyway. I wouldn't change a thing. I could've added something about how much I enjoy and respect the "pasta bar" I tried today. Or I could have thrown in my appreciation for the holiday party invites. Or I could have discussed yesterday's very entertaining Stephen Colbert interview on Fresh Air. Or the very fine Zadie Smith book - On Beauty - that I'm reading. But why tinker with perfection?)

Monday, December 05, 2005

I Confer Upon Thee....

This morning it finally hit me. During my lengthy work day, I can look outside. I have a window. Two of them. And the windows open!. I see two trees. Lush green trees. One of these days I’ll do a little research and give you the exact species of tree.

Occasionally I’ll spot a student strolling between buildings. Today, foot traffic is slow. It’s finals week. It’s the coldest day of the year. Everyone’s indoors, bundling together for warmth and mental support.

The prediction I made in the title of Friday’s entry came true of course. Now, it’s a long wait for the next big game. It should be a good one. We’ll host a party (we being Laurel and myself).

The new screenplay is proceeding well. Collaborative creative efforts often lead to conflicts and so far the only one we’ve had is: Flashbacks or no flashbacks. Now, to most of you the choice is so obvious that I don’t even have to say it. But to others it is not. We’ll work it out. All I can say is when you take a shortcut through the forest sometimes you miss the trees – the sickly barren trees and the lush green trees.

Friday, December 02, 2005

34 In A Row

My hiatus is finally over. I am settling into my new job. I am warming to the brutally cold Los Angeles winter weather. I almost needed something approaching a light jacket this morning!

A few notes from from my first week in my new non-teaching university job:

  • The people at this place believe anything can be done. The people at my old job believed nothing could be done. Confidence bordering on arrogance creates a far better work environment than bureaucracy bordering on inertia.
  • Last night, in anticipation of tomorrow's big game, there was a "bonfire" in the "quad." Blessedly, some things never change.
  • There is no secret handshake.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Patriots! Patriots!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I look forward to my family of origin's Thanksgiving traditions: chips and guacamole, blackened vegetables, and crusty bread. And turkey. And the new Laurel/Ali tradition of blonde brownies.

The new three-pronged scriptwriting project is proceeding. The three prongs are Laurel, Mike, and me. I met Mike at the downtown library today. We made some real progress with microfilm from the 1923 London Times. This thing'll write itself!

Wish me luck on my drive home. This morning my car was making a sad persistent clicking noise. I'll have it checked on Friday but in the meantime, I'll be taking Wilshire all the way home. Black Lightning isn't safe for the freeway.

Oh... good luck to my high school alma mater Central Bucks East High School in Buckingham, Pennsylvania in tomorrow's big annual Thanksgiving battle with Central Bucks West. Go Patriots.

POSTSCRIPT (added much later): The car only made it so far as Western and Wilshire. Wish it well during its diagnosis Friday at Hollywood Toyota.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Education

Things I learned this weekend:

That there is a Los Angeles branch of the Parrothead Society.

That Walk the Line is a really good movie – one of the few biopics that didn’t make you feel like you were visiting the Officially Sanctioned Museum of (insert name of biopic subject), tiptoeing quietly so as not to disrupt the “Do Not Touch” signs.

That the preceding paragraph’s metaphor failed completely.

That my new employer’s basketball team isn’t quite as good as its football team.

That a certain rabbi is a very good screenwriter.

That Wilshire Blvd. (from the ocean to downtown) can easily function as its own universe. It’s got the housing, the infrastructure, the businesses, and – on that stretch by the V.A. Hospital – it’s got Satan.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Longitudes

I think if you're going to sell a "Portabella Reuben" you should keep the sauerkraut and not replace it with cole slaw. Just one blog's opinion.

I recommend rabbikubota's two-part tale of a big event in his life. Great reading with some surprising surprises.

Mr. Bean is not funny. Sarah Silverman is funny.

The secret is out now: I'm leaving my job. I'm getting a new one, a better one (I think), a more rewarding one (perhaps). I'll miss that place. I won't miss the elevator or the cubicle. But I'll miss the people and the laptop. I know I'll have some good stories at the new place.

I just heard Frances Anderton say "chinoisery." My life is complete.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Trojan Pride and Extreme Prejudice

The three-day (courtesy of Veteran’s Day) weekend was full of movies and football and exciting irreversible life changes. I’ll provide some reviews:

Shopgirl is a nice little movie. It is both steeped in reality and completely preposterous. I’ll call it clumsily prescient. It would have been a great film if there was 12% less Steve Martin and 14% more Jason Schwartzmann. The Claire Danes ratio was just fine. Not that I don’t like Steve Martin. He was great in Novocaine. And he’s the second greatest person ever to come out of Garden Grove. But he appeared to be trying just a little too hard (as an actor and as a writer).

Pride and Prejudice is a really nice big movie. Normally, I’m the last one to attend – much less enjoy – a British period romance with waistcoats and bewigged servants but dude I actually paid attention all the way through, laughed out loud quite often, and enjoyed the presence of Kiera Knightly and the effective writing/direction of people I’ve never heard of. But…. (and there’s always a “but…” for me unless we’re talking about Boogie Nights)… Anyway but…. What’s up with Brenda Blethyn?! I’m sure she’s beloved in Merry Old but her cripplingly scene-crushing overacting as Elizabeth’s mother was so distracting that I hoped they’d stray from the book and kill her off in a “carriage o’er the hillside” accident. I understand that she’s going for a certain kind of “presence” in her acting but Brenda, please reel it in, take a breath, close your eyes and reflect. Remember how you ruined Secrets and Lies, how your overemoting turned it from a poignant reflection on class, race, and love into an unintentionally funny cringefest (I still remember seeing it with my cousin and our hysterical laughter being met with horrified shushes from the surrounding rows). Brenda, I know the libel laws in your country are pretty liberal so I’ll stop. I'm sure you'll get nominated.

I’m not sure why the local Los Angeles stations love to show Minnesota Vikings games but I’m not complaining. I truly enjoyed their undeserving win over the Giants. And it was nice to see USC beat Cal and now that I've said yes, how do I get tickets for the UCLA game?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

How I Spent My Lunch Break

Unlike most days, I decided to drive somewhere for lunch. I went to my car, parked snugly in the bowels of the movie studio down the street from my work place. Getting off the elevator at Parking Level C, who do I notice getting on the same elevator but Lauren "F*** Me Santa" Graham, wearing a red beret no less, and offering a pleasant "we're the only two people in the parking structure so I'll smile at you so you can smile back in a disarming way" smile at me.

Fresh from seeing a Gilmore Girl, I pull out of the parking structure, proceed two blocks down Bixel street, accidentally drive over a construction zone utility pipe abutting the curb (no orange cones!), and promptly blow out my right front tire. I pull over to a side street, call for roadside assistance, which arrives quickly but not before I had to dodge 2 meter maid people because I made the decision to pull over to safety in a "No Parking. Street Sweeping Noon to 3 Thursday" zone at exactly 12:01 on a Thursday.

(Note to cynics: Yes, I know how to change a tire. But I was wearing my good clothes and the standard Toyota-issue jack works about as well as Anthony Michael Hall playing a bully in Edward Scissorhands or was it some other movie?)

Then, after getting my tire fixed, I receive a wrong-number call on my cell phone from someone looking for someone named "Stanley" because he wanted to buy some "shit for the weekend." I suggested he call Anthony Michael Hall.

NBA Predictions Part Two: Western Conference

I swear… all of these predictions (placement, records) were conceived last week before the actual season started. It is only my incisive, intuitive commentary that has changed. You can find my eastern conference predictions by scrolling down or back to November 2.

Pacific Division

1. Phoenix Suns. They won’t miss Joe Johnson, a modern-day George McGinnis. They will miss Amare Stoudamire, but he’ll be back by mid-season so it’s cool. They will really miss Quentin Richardson, he of the sweetest three-point stroke since Louie Dampier. Sure, he only made like 4% of those three-pointers in the playoffs but Q is Q, meaning Q will lead the Knicks in scoring as they don’t even get close to the playoffs. But counteracting the things they miss is the arrival of Raja Bell, a rich man’s Devean George and you know that’s my highest compliment. And Shawn Marion is still Shawn Marion. Final record: 55-27.

2. Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe seems to be playing at a January/February 2003 level, a time during which his then-teammate Shaq was injured. He couldn’t miss anything and sure the Lakers couldn’t win but it was something to behold. And then came Colorado and the trade and the hell that is Karl Malone. Now, Kobe’s back, Smush is Smush, and Devean George is thisclose to stardom (I can feel it). And Phil is the man. 53-29.

3. Los Angeles Clippers. I could say so much about this team. Hundreds of words could be wasted on the talents of Corey and Shawn and E-Brand. I could point out the following truism regarding Sam Cassell – one good game, two bad ones, two good ones, injury. But I’ll just say this: It’s once again Hip To Clip. 50-32.

4. Sacramento Kings. Your time is over, Kings. It was a fun ride. I’ll still root for you when you play those annoying Texas teams. 41-41.

5. Golden State Warriors. They’ll be better than last year. Two games better. 32-50

Northwest Division

1. Minnesota Timberwolves. I’ll handle them in a separate entry, one that almost all of you will not read. I’ll say this: They remind me of last year’s Sonics, which is sort of a compliment. 52-30.

2. Seattle Super Sonics. They remind me of last year’s Timberwolves, who finished 42-40.

3. Denver Nuggets. Everyone loves the Nuggets. Frenchmen want to make love to the concept of the Nuggets winning this division. Sumatran coffee growers are currently growing a special “Carmelo Blend” in anticipation of his superstardom next Gloomburst. I don’t feel the same way. 36-46.

4. Portland Trail Blazers. True story. When I was a younger man of 34 matriculating at the University of Minnesota, current Blazer center Joel Pryzbilla was a freshman and the Gophers’ prize recruit. One day, while shopping for running shoes at Foot Locker at the underrated Mall of America, I saw a tall basketballish looking guy browsing the new releases. It was Joel, with a pretty coed at his side (did I just say “coed”?). Because his disappointing college career had just started, the locals still loved him. Referee shirt-wearing Foot Locker employees circled him, wanting to help the man who would one day abandon his college team early so he could one day average 7 points and 6 rebounds (as a starter!) for a bad NBA team. I have nothing else to add to this story. I think I may have bought some socks. 29-53.

5. Utah Jazz. Utah’s a nice state. Pretty rock formations. Impressive salt lakes. Mehmet Okur (the Turkish Shawn Kemp) is about to break out. But they’re still the Jazz. Jerry Sloan will figure out a way to steal their soul and make them below average. 24-58

Southwest Division

1. Dallas Mavericks. Their owner has a blog. Their coach should have a blog. Their best player is German. And for the first time since the Rolando Blackman/Derek Harper backcourt days, they haven’t overhauled half their team in the off-season. They’re dangerous this year. 57-25

2. San Antonio Spurs. I like equations. NBA Championship + over-the-hill point guard + over-the-hill shooting guard + Robert Horry’s and Manu Ginobli’s egos catching up to them = Loss in opening round. Isn’t it great that I can call people five years younger than me “over-the-hill”? 52-30.

3. Houston Rockets. More equations. Rik Smits – jump shot + Uwe Blab – the lost potential of Emilio Estevez + Michael Olowokandi = Yao Ming. (Kobe Bryant + Vince Carter) / 2 = Tracy McGrady. Phil Jackson – instinct = Jeff Van Gundy. 47-35.

4. Memphis Grizzlies. I liked them better when they played in Vancouver. 41-41.

5. New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets. When they move to Vegas next year, they’ll attract enough free agents and provide enough distractions to the visiting teams to squeeze in as an 8th playoff seed. Until then, 20-62.

Now that I have the energy, here are my playoff predictions:

Eastern Conference

First Round

1. Miami vs. 8. Cleveland. Miami in six games.
2. Milwaukee vs. 7. New Jersey. Milwaukee continues to astound the universe, in five games.
3. Philadelphia vs. 6. Washington. The Wizards pull off the upset in 7.
4. Detroit vs. 5. Indiana. Flip exhorts the Pistons to win in 7.

Conference Semi-Finals

Miami over Detroit in 7 games. 5 of which are boring.
Milwaukee over Washington in 7 games, all of which are exciting.

Conference Finals

Miami over Milwaukee in 7 games, with Dwyane Wade triumphing over his hometown team because who wouldn’t want to triumph over their hometown team when their hometown is Milwaukee?


Western Conference

1. Dallas vs. 8. Seattle. This is their year. Mavericks in 6.
2. Phoenix vs. 7. Houston. I’ve been to Phoenix. Nice town. Suns in 7.
3. Minnesota vs. 6. Clippers. 7 hard fought games, the seventh of which goes to the Wolves. Ali and Jason nearly come to blows over the controversial ending to game 5 (“KG fouled Kaman!” “No, it was incidental contact – fully legal!” “Well, Marko is a punk!” “Word!” and so on).
4. Lakers vs. 5. San Antonio. Lakers put the most boring sports dynasty since the Clinton-era New Jersey Devils to sleep. In a sweep.

Conference Semi-Finals

Dallas is upset by the Lakers in 7. This is no longer their year.
Phoenix is shocked by the Wolves in 7. KG is on a mission.

Conference Finals

Minnesota over the Los Angeles Lakers in 7.

NBA Finals

Minnesota 4. Miami 3. Because I can write whatever I want. Bloggers are accountable to no one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I Now Have A Mac

My apologies to the world for my sporadic posting. I'm halfway done with my meticuolous recreation of my Western Conference predictions. You will see them. Before the All-Star break, I promise.

I'm enjoying the rain. I'm enjoying the relocation to Los Angeles of my friend Mike. He's currently cruising the Miracle Mile in search of pajamas and quince. I'm enjoying the defeat of all of Arnold's propositions. Arnold, you're not half the celebrity governor that Jesse Ventura was. I'm enjoying Laurel's chili. And, once again, I'm enjoying the rain.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Never Have Your Geese Counted

The NBA predictions will continue at a future date, perhaps some time before season's end. To say that I wrote a staggeringly astute basketball entry earlier today prior to losing every word of it due to a disagreement between Windows' "hibernate" mode and Gateway's "sleep" mode would be an understatement.

I do have some tentative good news, news that I can't really get too specific about for three reasons:

A. It's tentative (i.e., not final)

B. It's secret (i.e., not public)

C. It's good news (i.e., don't want to jinx it)

I will say this about the good news: Go Trojans.

I'm reading the Alan Alda autobiography Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. Surprisingly good. Almost as good as Dylan's Chronicles and likely truer. Hawkeye knows how to spin a yarn.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

NBA Predictions Part One: Eastern Conference

The NBA season started yesterday so it’s time for this blog’s first official NBA preview (I love that I can just call something “official” and it is. Who can stop me?). I will avoid letting last night’s games cloud my opinions and predictions. In fact, this may take a few days so I’ll go on pretending like the season so far doesn’t exist, that the overrated Nuggets didn’t justifiably lose last night, and that the Bucks aren’t better than everyone thought on the basis of one win over an average team, that they’re better because I say they are. Yes, despite the fact that ex-Golden Gopher Joel Pryzbilla is at this very moment shooting warm-up jumpers for the visiting Portland Trail Blazers as they prepare to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at the underrated Target Center in a formerly (and futurely) blighted part of downtown Minneapolis (What's up with that new movie theater and sports bar complex, city planners? All you did was move the dying mall across the street!), this season hasn’t happened yet.

Today, I will preview the Eastern Conference because I care about it less and I tend to build up steam the deeper I get into a project (see yesterday’s entry, in which the Festivus entry was far stronger than that of Greenspring). I will rank the teams in each division. Tomorrow (or the next day or the one after that), I will take on the Western Conference with the exception of the Minnesota Timberwolves who will, unsurprisingly, get their own day. Finally, perhaps in tandem with the Wolves entry, I will divulge my playoff predictions, crowning my NBA champion. It should be noted that I never get these things right (with the exception of 1983 – 76ers over Lakers. I saw that one coming).

As with my NCAA Tournament predictions, you don’t need to be a sports fan or an NBA geek to appreciate what I’m writing. I’ll slip in needless pop culture references and spend time recounting my experiences with some of the NBA cities including some I’ve never been to. I will

Atlantic Division:

1. Philadelphia 76ers. You never forget your first team and this is mine. Lonely teenage nights spent listening to Bill Campbell’s phlegmy play-by-play of WCAU, combined with the near-misses of the late 70s and early 80s, culminating with that joyous spring night in 1983 when they finally won it…. it all gets to me. Of course, some time around the drafting of Charles Barkley (the second most overrated player in the history of the NBA, the first most overrated TV “personality” in the history of media – this is not to say he wasn’t a good player or an entertaining personality, he’s just not that good), my interest for the Sixers waned until Allan Iverson, the NBA’s best player of the last 10 years (sorry KG) showed up. I still like watching AI, even if he’s lost half a step and can no longer wear replica jerseys during his way-overly-serious post-game press conferences. I like the team enough to put them in first place in a weak division. Final record: 48-34.

2. New Jersey Nets. I used to live in New Jersey. This much is true. I used to be proud of the fact that I used to live in New Jersey. But now I’m counting the days until 2007(8?) when the Nets move to Brooklyn because New Jersey doesn’t really need them. They’ve got the mall in Paramus and Aldo’s Pizza in Westwood and the cool curvy roads of Passaic County and the mechanical gorilla at the burger stand in Point Pleasant and the traffic circle in Flemington and Bruce Fucking Springsteen. What more could a state want? Back to basketball: Jason Kidd is past his prime, Richard Jefferson’s a nice player, and who is this Kristic guy at center? There’s a buzz about him. 46-36.

3. Toronto Raptors. They play in Canada. They’re coached by former Timberwolf Sam Mitchell who always had interesting things to say when he made guest appearances on Twin Cities sports talk shows in the late 90s. That’s good enough for third place. 36-46

4. New York Knicks. Larry Brown can coach. Stephon Marbury can play. That’s about it. 28-54

5. Boston Celtics. I used to hate this team in the 80s. I still think Larry Bird was beloved by fans (and referees) because he was white and I will carry this belief with me until the end. I still resent Kevin McHale for not re-signing Chauncey Billups when he had the chance. I still can’t believe Scott Wedman has a championship ring on a team that he actually contributed to. Now, I kind of dig the green uniforms. And Kevin M. got the Wolves into the playoffs eight years in a row. And Larry Bird seems like a nice guy in Indiana. But the players? Brian Scalabrine? Orien Greene? No Antoine Walker? 24-58.

Southeast Division

1. Miami Heat. They won’t be as good as they were last year. Dwyane Wade will be better. Shaq will be about the same. But Pat Riley will meddle enough so Stan Van Gundy resigns before the all-star break, creating a mini-mutiny that lasts until just before the playoffs and then they’ll get their act together before realizing that Riley never could coach and it was Kareem and Magic who got him his five rings. And yes I’m only mad at Pat Riley for his attempt to copyright the word “threepeat.” He was successful! You can’t even say “threepeat” without sending Riley a check for 19 cents. 56-26

2. Washington Wizards. Gilbert Arenas will reach the next level. 48-34

3. Orlando Magic. I went to Orlando once. As a child. 39-43

4. Atlanta Hawks. Joe Johnson, you’ll regret leaving Phoenix. 28-54

5. Charlotte Bobcats. On the rise. 18-64

Central Division

1. Milwaukee Bucks. The trade for Jamaal Magliore helps them but not all that much really. I mean he’s Jamaal Magliore for god’s sake. Drafting Andrew Bogut gives them a poor man’s (Timberwolves-era) Luc Longley and I mean that as a compliment. To Luc. I’m more impressed with Bobby Simmons and Michael Redd – the Eddie Johnson and Ricky Pierce of their era. And I mean that as a compliment. To Bobby. And Ricky. They’ll finish first in the best division (albeit in the worst conference) in the NBA. 51-31

2. Detroit Pistons. Flip’s worth an automatic 50 wins. The rest of the team realizes they weren’t nearly good enough to belong in the last two NBA Finals, that they were met with an extraordinarily amount of good luck. This realization is worth zero wins. 50-32

3. Indiana Pacers. Larry Bird loves Ron Artest. Ron Artest is a music producer. Larry Bird, therefore, is MC Kool Herc. 49-33

4. Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron reaches his next level but it’s not quite as high as KG’s next level (in ’98) or Kobe’s (in ’01) but it’s good enough for 46-36

5. Who’s the other team in this division? I keep forgetting. Let me visualize the Midwest. Okay, we’ve got Wisconsin, we’ve taken care of Michigan. And Ohio. And Indiana. And Minnesota is a western state according to the NBA (a fact that’s cost us – yes I said “us” – two championships). Oh yeah – the Chicago Bulls. Average team. They’ll miss Eddy Curry. 38-44

Tomorrow: The West.

Non-basketball note: I’m tired.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Greenspring, Gloomburst, Desertus, and Festivus

With a good friend of mine moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles (a move I have made three times myself), I thought it would be nice to occasionally present “tips” to help this friend make the necessary adjustments. Sure, he’s probably heard Seger’s Hollywood Nights, an effective if not thorough primer on such a Midwest-to-West transition. But does he understand the little things, the minutiae that make day-to-day life here in the beautiful Southland a qualified joy with minimal struggle? Does he? Perhaps. Either way Mike, here’s your first tip:

Those motorcycles are really allowed to drive between the lanes on the freeway. Better you know this now.

And for your next piece of advice…. just like much of the country, we have four seasons here. They’re just not the same seasons as everywhere else. In order to forestall annoying comments from transplants like “This isn’t winter. I’ll show you winter,” and “These aren’t fall colors. I’ll show you fall colors,” I’ve taken the time to rename and re-calendar the seasons:

Greenspring, Gloomburst, Desertus, and Festivus: The Four Seasons of Southern California

GREENSPRING. The cycle begins on January 16 (Laurel’s birthday), with Greenspring, the traditional “rainy season.” Tumultuous day-long rains clean the spotty L.A. air, making way for gloriously clean and clear post-rain skies, the vistas of which make it impossible to ever think about leaving this place even if the populace has forgotten that sometimes turn signals have a real function. But the true reward of this season is the natural beauty (trees and plants and such) that the rain makes manifest. Ending on April 15 (Tax Day), Greenspring is my personal favorite – messy and unpredictable, like the career of Frank Whaley, but in the end, more than satisfactory.

GLOOMBURST. Beginning on April 16, Gloomburst is marked by periods of gray cloudy rainless skies (Gloom) and fiercely bright sunshine (Burst). Most common is the gloomy morning making way to the bursty early afternoon, with late afternoon and early evening being a crapshoot. If Greenspring has been particularly rainy and the vegetation especially lush, Gloomburst can be the most physically beautiful season of them all, with the sudden changes from cloudy to sunny taking on a cinematic if overly signifying quality (imagine Mystic River if Clint Eastwood had someone to restrain him and he didn't surround himself with toadies and yes men that keep him from being a genius on the level of say, a Spike Lee). Gloomburst ends on Bastille Day, July 14.

DESERTUS. The driest hottest season, Desertus starts on July 15. This is when you go to the ocean. This is when you stay away from the hot places like Encino and La Verne. Long days, short nights, difficult air, but oh the ocean! Nothing feels better in mid-August than a drive west from wherever you may be living to the cooler air of the Pacific, then maybe north to Zuma Beach, and then maybe you make a U-turn by the Starbucks up by Trancas Canyon and then you parallel park on PCH (watch out for the randomly placed No Parking signs!), and then you grab your sandy boogie boards from the messy Desertus detritus of your trunk and, after attaching your key to your swimsuit with one those cool stretchy key bands, you run into the greatest body of water in the world braving the waves and three hours later you’re tired and all you want are some fish tacos from Wahoo’s so when you’re driving home you call ahead and Wahoo’s always has your food fresh and ready when you get there but don’t forget to ask for the extra salsa. That’s Desertus, although towards the end of September the ocean gets too cold and the fires start and it’s sort of awful for a few weeks but don’t worry – Festivus is coming! Desertus ends on October 19, a day of no significance to anyone.

FESTIVUS. First, let me thank Frank Costanza. Festivus. The dark season. The holiday season. Beginning on October 20 and ending on January 15, Festivus is the shortest of the four seasons but spans Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. With the clock changes of late October, the darkness hits and evening rush hour turns from a slow ballad to a bluesy dirge but at least the sun comes up earlier and maybe you can start getting to work earlier. Festivus is when you dig out your light jacket and umbrella. But be prepared for volatile weather – one day the rain hits hard and you think Greenspring is early but that’s just a tease because the aridity of Desertus comes flailing back the next day like a Chazz Palminteri character you just can’t kill off. But eventually, after Halloween, Desertus is climactically quiet and methodically darker and cooler and then suddenly it’s Thanksgiving and you forgot to buy the Tofurkey and then it’s Christmas and though it’s never a white Christmas at sea level, the snowcapped mountains where Leonard Cohen once lived beckon whiter than an Irish bar in Santa Monica and after that it’s a slow crawl to the more frequent rain of Desertus and the cycle is complete.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Two Kinds Of People

On the night that he allegedly murdered Lana "Not Patricia" Clarkson in his Alhambra compound, Phil Spector apparently told police "I didn't mean to shoot her." Today I heard that Spector's statement will indeed be admissable in court during his murder trial.

There are two kinds of people in the world. One kind of person hears this news and immediately imagines a Spector-produced Wall-of-Sound number featuring sweet pseudo-military drums, echoey piano tinkles, and Ronnie Spector singing "Oh I didn't mean to shoot her / No I didn't / No I didn't." The other kind of person wonders who the hell would build a compound in Alhambra.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Man (Watching Out For)

The perceptive among you may have been puzzled by my endorsement of the Chicago White Sox in this year's World Series. You may have thought "Ali, don't you dislike the city of Chicago with the needless intensity of a Hans Zimmer soundtrack?" You may have been prompted to throw out the following location/year pairs to gauge my reaction: "The South Side/2000." or "Lakeshore Drive/1996" or, most likely, "Evanston/1997." You would have been right to raise your brows but really I 've been trained to dislike the abstract game and to appreciate the nebulous players. And any city that gave us Liz Phair and John Cusack can't be all that bad even if it is. I'd still rather see the Astros win a game or two to make this interesting and I know a woman in Minnesota with a huge crush on Andy Pettite and he'll only pitch again if it gets to a sixth game so Go Astros.

Music recommendations: Tanglewood Numbers by the Silver Jews, Lookaftering by Vashti Bunyan, and Cripple Crow by Devendra Banhart. And the song Watch Out For The Man by the King of France.

Speaking of The Man, I'm compelled to write something cryptic about my experience with the higher-ups at my workplace. So, higher-ups, I tell you this: When you ask a gopher to dig a deeper hole, sometimes he locates the squirrel flesh you're trying to hide.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sacrifice

What's up with the Internet today? Slower than Mark Madsen on a pick-and-roll. Stickier than a Walter Becker bass line circa 1978, with the wolves howling at his door. Spottier than Bill Paxton's acting career (note: Bill Pullman is a different person). Maybe it's just an office thing but I seem to have had the same problem at home last night.

World Series predictions: White Sox in 7. Because of Ozzie, that's why. And the Astros seem a little fratboyish for my refined tastes.

I watched the first couple episodes of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Wow. More energetic than the deep cuts on Christmas's In Excelsior Dayglo album. More spot-on than Stephen Fry's The Hippopotamus. Funnier than Parker Posey in Henry Fool. More full of truthiness than my sophomore Sociology professor, the one with the flower in her hair and the lisp but maybe she was just a T.A. even though she seemed too old to be a T.A.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I Understand Your Point But My Decision Is Final

I saw Sideways on DVD last night. In the theater, I was impressed. Now I'm awed. If it hasn't been scooped by screenwriting teachers and acting coaches as the perfect example of story structure and face-acting, it should be. Good montages, too. Tonight, I'll watch the legendary Giamatti/Payne commentary.

You know those Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" and "Real American Heroes" commercials? WFMU is currently playing every one of them back to back, all 100 or so of them. They're doing it for art, not for commerce. I can't describe how enjoyable this is. Listening to two or three of them is amusing. A dozen is grueling and disappointing. Listening to all of them, non-stop? It all makes sense. The universe makes sense.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Questions

Why do I keep eating lunch at La Salsa? The food is weak. Their fish is fishy. The atmosphere is cramped and fluorescent. The outdoor tables are wobbly. The manager treats her employees cruelly (dude, you're not a warden, this isn't a prison). Is it because it's the closest place to where I work? If only I would walk a few blocks further, I would be exponentially happier.

Why does WFMU interrupt their stellar music broadcasting once a week to air a creepy talk show hosted by a disturbed conspiracy theorist who says "Isn't that convenient?" way too often? Why not just play more obscure British adult-as-innocent-child power-pop?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Briefs

In the past 8 months, I've written 87 blog entries and 1 1/2 short stories.

In the preceding 8 months, I wrote 0 blog entries and 6 short stories.

Are these facts connected?

Short film reviews: Wallace and Gromit: fun. A History of Violence: lots of fun.

Short sports reviews: USC-Notre Dame: greatest football game ever. Wisconsin-Minnesota: didn't actually happen. White Sox: team of destiny (if destiny exists).

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ben Marcus = Genius

In the October issue of Harper's there's an extraordinary essay by Ben Marcus in which he presents a lengthy and convincing case for experimental fiction. It's mostly enjoyable for his perfect debunking of everything Jonathan Franzen has ever said in opposition to experimental fiction or in defense of "realist" fiction, a frantically nebulous idea of a genre. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the realists. And sometimes I'm puzzled - and even bored - by the experimentalists. And I've been accused of being both. And neither. But I've never read a more passionate, hilarious, and (non-defensively) well-presented defense of experimental fiction - why it's important and why it shouldn't be universally derided by those prickly realist snobs. Only a small excerpt of the massive essay is available online but you should read the entire thing for the full effect. Harper's may cost $4.95, but in addition to the essay you'll get a lot of context-free irony and centered statistics.

The article also highlights the essential Jonathan Franzen problem. He's a very fine writer. I really liked The Corrections; this can be confirmed by the fact that I finished it, more than can be said of other realist (or not) novels of the past 10 years, like Middlesex (got to about page 100), White Teeth (p. 175), Atonement (p. 45), or The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (p. 2). But, despite his skills at writing fiction, Franzen is staggeringly wrongheaded in everything else he presents to the world - his deranged essays, his pompous screeds about the literary "industry," his fame-and-sales-obsessed book reviews, his limp non-fiction, and his author photos. And I haven't even mentioned Oprah (neither did Ben Marcus - that would be another 6 small-fonted pages and Harper's needs the space to present unintentionally funny in-house e-mails sent to employees of corporate offices with name recognition).

So, Ben Marcus, you've got my vote. I'll go read your book now.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Stealing From the Children

A prize of $2 (in the form of a two-dollar bill) will be given to anyone who can identify the source and context of the new blog title. It doesn't appear to be googleable. Hint: It's from a movie. John, you're not eligible because I know you know and it's simply not fair to the other reader(s). If you can name the person who actually uttered those words, the prize doubles (i.e., a four-dollar bill).

I've updated my links. You'll see a link to a A Brief History of the Rise and Fall of Ten Minutes Ago, the very fine blog from my frequent commenter, rabbikubota. And there are a few more new links, including my vew favorite radio station WFMU and my new favorite minimally graphic online literary journal Eclectica.

The Angels must win tonight, if for no other reason than the frown on A-Rod's face. And I also want to see Vladimir Guerrero get the extended national attention he deserves. Dude's named Vladimir.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Lacking a Unifying Theme

The lure of cinnamon is a strange allure, built on scent and texture but not flavor.

In my mind, the American League will always be superior to the National League, in spite of and not because of, the designated hitter rule.

November is my favorite month though it does indeed spawn monsters (at a much higher rate than does October, I’ll note).

Although film seems to be losing its steam as an effective artistic medium, television continues its 21st century upsurge. The last two nights of TV may be the greatest since that Wednesday/Thursday I recall in January of ’83. I’m still in awe of Monday’s Arrested Development. You see, he was an analyst and a therapist. And they had a fun sexy time.

In the northern/eastern states, November does feature dead and falling leaves but they grow back.

Cinnamon works well in tandem with just a little sugar. In the early nineties, there was a noted murder case in Orange County. A teenage girl named Cinnamon killed her father (I think), but in a semi-justifiable way. I wonder what happened to her.

In the same way that I picked up English as a three-year old by reading the sports section, I’m learning Spanish by overhearing conversations in elevators about the Angelitos losing to the Yanquis.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Caketopping

A new story of mine can be found today on the literary site Eclectica. Click on the October/November issue, then choose fiction. I'll be in there somewhere. It's one of my favorite stories in that it features made-up words in addition to made-up people. And I wrote most of it on a plane so it feels all transportive. My apologies to little people (if I misinterpreted the rules) and British people (if I screwed up the dialect). The rest of the issue is worth reading too.

I may be 19 years late on this particular bandwagon but is there a cooler radio station than WFMU, straight from my (very) old stomping grounds in New Jersey? Their internet stream has been flowing directly into my brain for the past few days at work. It's not that I really need the Swedish rockabilly, Portugese death metal, and KFC corporate sound collages. It's that I want it. I also appreciate WFMU's total refutation of career arcs and music marketing. I might tire of it all in a week but what's a blog for if not overenthusiastic championing?

I'm a bit embarrassed at my overenthusiastic championing of the Minnesota Gophers football team. They were crushed by Penn State (a school I have a love-hate relationship with in that I hated going there as a freshman and I loved leaving it when the family packed up and moved to the Land of 10,000+Lakes in the now-famous "caravan of '84"). Or is it .")?

I could write in cryptic tones about what's been happening in my place of work. I could discuss the quicksand-like bureaucracy that's slowed civic progress to a degree that would upset all citizens of this crazy but lovable town. I could bemoan the seasonal decrease in fresh-cut watermelon available in the 2nd floor cafeteria. Or I could just stop blogging and get back to work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Freedom Is Free

I really like the new Devendra Banhart album. The sun has been too bright for me these past two mornings and evenings, but the residual glare has been assuaged by Cripple Crow. He looks real scary and he sings real quiet. He uses his background vocalists, alternate languages, and obscure instruments to perfect effect. I picture Devendra holed up with cider and notebooks in a mountain cabin. He keeps a dog named Jack and a cat named Esmerelda. It’s quiet at night except for the wolves at the door. And there’s a caravan of simpletons and geniuses coming up the hill for a visit.

Back in the mid-late-nineties, I had a daily routine that I liked very much. Wake up late. Not with the sun but with the body. I’d fill my body with rich baked goods and a medium-strength medium-size latte in a warm room in a cold city. Then I’d stroll around the campus, reporting for duty at my appointed time. I’d learn or I’d teach and or both or neither. I’d come home, shuffle off my shoes in the mud room, and there would be conversation or cable TV or dinner in cold restaurants. Maybe I'd run in circles. Who am I kidding? I never had a mud room. Not in the nineties.

Why do I bring this up today, seven or eight years later, in the far distant land of Los Angeles? I don’t know. It was just a thought.

I liked the Dylan documentary, despite its sixties focus (Jokerman!). But I have something to say to Bob: Bob, I lived in Minnesota. Minnesota is a friend of mine. And maybe post-war Hibbing or Dinkytown in '59 are a little more muse-crushing than Eden Prairie in the 80s or Minneapolis during the turn of the century but dude! It’s not that desolate. It’s not a soulless wasteland of deathfaces, sad fisherman, and stunted-growth charlatans. There’s a spring and a summer and a short fall. Winter can be nice sometimes. There are rainbows and nightingales and waterfalls. And icicles and leafless trees. And shut-ins. It’s more complex than you make it out to be. So, while you recline in the comfort of your Encino manse ordering your valets to fetch you some Baja Fresh, remember that though one should never look back, especially when there’s no direction home, one can still have one’s eyes open in all directions – sad lowlands, joyous highlands, craggy crags, and rangy nethers. I’m not making any sense. I’ll stop.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Release The Doves

The new headphones (birthday present) have changed my life. I'm in another place at work. Not necessarily a more productive place. But not a less productive place either. But it's clearly a different place.

The headphones are not exactly soothing though. The music (or erudite NPR talk) enters my brain directly, no longer conduiting via the outside world which no longer exists. I get dizzy easily. My hair is kinkier.

But I will remain in the new place I find myself in. Presently, Clem Snide is singing a gentle la-la-la-la song. I feel a phantom fever in my phantom head. I am possessed by something delightful and jarring. And whole and empty. There's a sun squeezing out through the 22nd floor windows, splitting downtown into thirds.

I'm going back to the screenplay about the poet on the mountain. It needs a 7th and final draft.

I'm hungry but not for cheese. There's been enough cheese this week. Too much chocolate and salt too. It's time for something more refined. More delicate. But only for today. Tomorrow, back to the basics.

Monday, September 26, 2005

It Will Come Back To You

I have once again changed my blog's name. Incarnation of Mango? What the hell was I thinking? I've decided to return to the original name, minus an s. It will not change again.

Some reviews:

Film review: Thumbsucker. Nice but nothing happens. Fluffier than goose down. Lots of funny haircuts.

TV review: Curb Your Enthusiasm season premiere. Brilliant as always. But the "phone next to the bed that rings during sex" plot device needs to be put to bed. Has anyone in the history of phones and beds ever had a phone next to their bed? Still, I like how Larry feels exhiliration at the news that he's adopted.

TV preview: I can't wait to watch the Bob Dylan documentary, though I'd have to agree with this article bemoaning how Dylan's post-60s output gets ignored. Jokerman! Has anyone heard Jokerman?!

College football review: Minnesota Golden Gophers. 3-0. They beat Purdue on the road. Inspiring. Do I see a championship game matchup with USC? Maroon and Gold vs. Gold and Maroon.

Music review: Prefab Sprout's 1988 album From Langley Park to Memphis. 17 years later, it still brings a smile to my pushing-40 ears - the swells of Nightingales, the thrust of Enchanted, the solemnity of Venus of the Soup Kitchen... the way Paddy Macaloon makes up for a lifetime's worth of bad song titles with a career's worth of perfect songs. It all makes me hope for a new Sprout album. But I'm afraid that bird may have flown across the river of forgiveness, bound for the aerie of solemnity, 'neath - nay o'er - the perch of chagrin.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rhetorical Questions In Pairs

1. Is it possible to eat too much watermelon? Will I become sick?

2. Is My Name Is Earl really as good as the first episode? Or am I crazy?

3. Is regret a bad thing? Is it distinguishable from fear?

4. Why aren't there more Indian restaurants? Is it poor marketing?

5. Will my life change drastically in October? Or will it be just so?

6. Do the Timberwolves really think Marko Jaric is a starting point guard? Do they?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

We Will Not Rock You (a poem)

(note: I wrote this a couple of years ago as a sort of manifesto for a non-existent movement. It still rings true, even if the movement never manifested itself)


We will not rock you
We will not spike your slipstream
We will not sanctify your porn
We will roll and we will grow
We will spank and we will swirl
Dogs and puppies, kiss the girl

We will not rock you
We will not trim your hedgerow
We will not atrophy your angst
We will steam and we will spew
We will rage and we will growl
Cats and kittens, fist the prowl

We will not rock
No, we are not for rockers
Art is amplified
Turned to twelve, the bearded scruff
Shady ancients slimmed and tough
I've heard the road is rougher stuff
We will not rock
Rock is dead but so is death
Bless the baby one more breath

NO!

We will not rock you
We will not spill your teenflesh
We will not squirrel your seabed
We will not rabbit your jetpulse
We will not grovel your guesswork

We will not rock
We will not forage your sweetbread
We will not baby your breakneck
We will not holler your oatsack
We will not ruckus your backtrack

We will not rock
We have no rocking instructions
We only rock for destruction
And we've already been destroyed
Art is null and null is void
We will not your sully your sweatsuit
We will not canvass your slutfeet
We will not hover your hoarfrost
We will not rock you at all costs

Monday, September 19, 2005

Myopia

Sometimes you have to shock the system a little. This is why I put myself into my car early Saturday morning, drove 6 hours north, and visited my cousin in San Francisco, only to drive back late last night so I'd be fresh and ready for my work day today. That's 800 miles in 40 hours. In between the drives, I got to help my cousin try to locate 2 of his 3 (newly) lost cats. One came back quickly. A second one waited a day. The third is still unaccounted for but he doesn't really count because he was never my cousin's cat in the first place (mistaken identity). I think I watched some TV and ate some meals but my weekend was pretty much just driving and cats.

Today, I'm back in the cubicle, strategizing my future and pining for sleep.

I did have the following thoughts during my 12 hours of driving alone:

1. More saxophones
2. What's up with cows?
3. Could there have been more perfect weather than what I experienced Saturday afternoon in San Francisco?
4. Weeds is a good show

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Gentle Artifice

Sorry for the sporadic postings lately. I have no excuses. None.

I'm at a loss for what to talk about. Let's see... there's the weather. Today, downtown Los Angeles is overcast and cool - my kind of morning. I hope it lasts into my lunch break during which I intend to once again go "beyond teriyaki."

The John Roberts hearings make for fascinating radio. On my new Bose headphones, I'm alternating between well-chosen music and the Senate committee's well-rehearsed speeches-disguised-as-questions followed by Roberts' well-reasoned non-answers. He's either the creepiest lawyer alive. Or he's Jesus. I'm leaning toward the former.

Speaking of my new headphones (birthday present from Laurel. Thanks!), I'm amazed at how well they block out all the office noise. To say I was in the "zone" yesterday would be an understatement.

I was watching Boogie Nights on HBO the other night (on their "all-Boogie Nights" channel). Eight years later, it's still the best film ever made. Every moment is infused with a comedy-tragedy tension (or, if you prefer, a laughter-pathos give-and-take). The acting is tremendous. And yes, I too prefer sunrises to sunsets.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ambition

I don't want to go to the meeting today. I don't want to go. Don't make me go.

Sure, now that I'm at an "advanced age," I should see opportunities such as today's meeting as a way to improve my standing in the larger governmental entity that I find myself working in, that I should script a "shining moment" during the meeting when I irrefutably demonstrate my indispensability and "thinking outside the box" go-gettedness. No more sitting in the background waiting for the world to come to you, Colonel F.!

But still... I don't want to go. If I get there early, maybe I can find a corner seat where I can write some dialogue for the screenplay without anyone noticing.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Wishing

Three birthday wishes:

1. That Kanye West and Mike Myers immediately begin filming a series of buddy movies. Their on-screen chemistry rivals that of Hope/Crosby, Gibson/Glover, Belushi/Aykroyd, Eckhart/Malloy, or Chan/O. Wilson. In fact, I'll start writing the script today.

2. That the lovingly nostalgic and ubiquitous phrase "back in the day" be replaced with something new. It's time. I suggest "before it went awry" or "in my harvest years."

3. Peace in the world, recovery on the Gulf Coast, and cool breezes through window screens everywhere.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

So As Not To Carry Over My Sick Days Into Year Two

I'm home sick today. It's just me and Seymour and the laptop. Laurel's in Minnesota until tomorrow night, likely eating wild rice soup and talking about the weather (that's what people do there). Oh, Lily's here too, staring out the window at the birds, challenging them to come anywhere near her. Lucky for them there's a screen between them and certain death.

Okay okay, a one-week moratorium on cat talk.

But what else is there to write about? There's a big life event coming in two days. How about some NFL predictions? I haven't talked football in a while.

I'll save myself the trouble of writing too much and just pick the playoff teams.

AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: I don't know... the Bengals?
AFC South: Titans
AFC West: Chargers of course
AFC Wild cards: Colts, Raiders

NFC East: Giants
NFC North: Vikings
NFC South: Falcons
NFC West: 49ers (don't laugh; it'll happen)
NFC Wild cards: Seahawks, Eagles

AFC Playoffs: Bengals over Colts, Titans over Raiders, Patriots over Raiders, Chargers over Bengals, Chargers over Patriots

NFC Playoffs : 49ers over Eagles (sorry T.O.), Giants over Seahawks, Falcons over 49ers, Vikings over Giants, and... to break my 10-year streak of picking the Vikings for the Super Bowl,
Falcons over Vikings

Super Bowl: Chargers 24 Falcons 21

No, I've never been right before.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Coldest Turkey

On Friday I decided that it would be a good time to begin my third attempt at ending my 33-year long caffeine habit. Coke and Pepsi as a child and adolescent. Mountain Dew (aka The Dew) as a young adult. Coffee and Diet Coke as an older adult - the scourge of the world's safest addictive drug is a fierce one.

My reason for kicking (I love that word) caffeine is that it may be responsible for the jumpy nature of my mind. To those who don't know me well, I seem like a pleasantly mellow fellow, with a calm demeanor and a quiet old soul. But, on the inside, I'm often a tangled mess of tangential thought. Swirls of ideas and eddies of affect play puncuated games of ping pong with external stimuli. Sometimes, I conduct my own seminars in there. It gets to be too much.

So no more caffeine. Will this result in a tamer, less fascinating blog? Maybe. But it could just as well lead to clearer blog entries, with beginnings and ends and taut middles. Or it may have no effect.

Am I having withdrawal effects? I had a headache for a few hours on Friday, a sleepy-good aura on Saturday and Sunday, and a sluggish Monday. Today, I'm back at work and I could really use the pick-me-up. But I will not stray.

And... I went back to Minnesota over the weekend. A recap: Lush trees, thunderstorm, rainbow, State Fair, milkshakes, hot sun, cool breeze, goats.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lake Street Is For Lovers

Tomorrow I leave for Minnesota, for a long weekend in the heartland. There will be a trip to the State Fair. And an early celebration of an upcoming birthday (mine). And an airline on strike. And a rental car. And quaint accents.

I like my trips back to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as their cousin city Rochester. The familiar streets comfort my shaky shoulders. The green fields and thick trees soothe my ocean-kissed/smog-shrouded pysche. I entertain thoughts of moving back. This especially happens during visits that don't coincide with that crazy winter thing. September is especially beautiful (the early fall colors on the trees high above the Mississippi, the cool breezes, the threat of frost, the Vikings and my early season hope). I feel almost giddy writing about it.

Then, inevitably, on the flight back to LAX, somewhere between Las Vegas and Fontana, it hits me. I'm glad to be back home. I look out on the massive infrastructure of Los Angeles and say "yo, this is it."

Then, invariably, the next morning, as I lurch toward downtown L.A. on the 10 freeway, I long for something smaller.

I'm never satisfied.

Book update: I gave up on William Vollman's Europe Central. Maybe next year. I'm amused by Saul Bellow, but I'm procrastinating. I like Wesley Stace's Misfortune but I'm not feeling Victorian these days. So I'm on to Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper and that's what makes me happy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

They Poisoned Me

I’m not a medical expert. Sure, I have one of those Ph.D.s and you can call me Doctor. But I wouldn't know a renal gland from a Caeserean section. Still, I know how to navigate WebMD. And I’m pretty sure the bastards food-poisoned me.

Who are these bastards? Well, to avoid legal ramifications, I’ll just say that I will never again eat at a certain fast food chain that shares its name with an underground urban transportation system. I shouldn’t have eaten there anyway but it was just too hot to walk anywhere else during yesterday’s lunch hour. It's my deepest regret.

Thus, the hours between 8:00 and 11:00 last night were the most physically painful hours I’ve ever spent, at least since the Chicago hotel incident of ’95. What did they put in that tuna, I ask?
Okay, okay, I don’t want to make you queasy. I feel so much better now. I didn’t even call in sick. No, I braved the drive back to the city that poisoned me. I’m saving my sick days for the revolution. Or maybe the apocalypse. Or perhaps just a cool gray day in October.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mango, Not Mango

Just to clear things up - the title of this blog is not in any way a reference to the Mango character played on Saturday Night Live by funnyman Chris Kattan. I just saw the word "incarnation" and I felt the word "mango." It's the best fruit. Not that there's anything wrong with Mango or Chris, who can often be found at Whole Foods Market, as can the fruit.

Just to clear some more things up - yes, the Timberwolves signed Damien Wilkins. But, because he's a restricted free agent, the (Super) Sonics were able to (and indeed) match the Wolves' offer. To make a long story short, Trenton Hassell is still a starter. And to correct my other mistake, Damien is Dominque's nephew, not his son.

Yesterday, NPR aired a fine piece about my current favorite band The Hold Steady. You can listen to it here. The annotated lyrics are especially fun.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Applehead Man (a short story)

(Not just a short story but my most rejected (by far) short story. I believe I'm 0-for-11. I hope you like it)

Cousin, I have much to teach you. If you find yourself shrouded in uncertainty, the way to confront it is to spill yourself to the world, scream the insides of your coiled heart and hope its arteries flow and when they don’t that it’s temporary.

The applesauce is for the children. Don’t touch it. It looks like it’s good for you but it couldn’t be. It’s processed and processing kills the goodness in everything.

Yes, you’re no longer a child.

The girl at the ice cream shop likes you. She gave you a free extra scoop. I saw it. Her eyes are blue like jeans. She’ll be your best friend if you let her.

I’ve often felt the uncertainty myself. I ask a question and I’m not sure of the answer. That’s when I get eaten up by the brain people – the little men with knives and women with blankets and children with horns – and then I’m older than I was a minute ago.

I can teach you only what you desire to learn. And only what I know, though I’m not beyond lying for effect. The girl at the ice cream shop is named Janis, like from the seventies. No one young has that name.

Well yes, except for her, with her little stumpy sample spoons and plum-colored bobbed hair with the bounce of a pole-vaulter. I collect the spoons she gives me. I’ve thought about asking you for the spoons she gives you but who am I to think you’d be inappropriate along with me?

There is truly no comparison between a farm-fresh apple and applesauce. You’re young. You’ve been hospitalized for a long time but you should know that better than you let on.

After the apples fall from the tree I like to eat the good ones and make people dolls with the bad ones. The underdeveloped red ones make great heads. I use Popsicle sticks for legs and sample spoons for arms and a day at the orchard flies by like a round of mini-golf. I could take you to pick apples there tomorrow but I was planning to show you the corn maze. It’s shaped like America this year.

I think I know why you like the applesauce. They fed it to you at the hospital, didn’t they? Every day. That’s why you crave it so. And you don’t seem moved by ice cream or Janis. Even though she likes you and not me because you’re her age and she sees the blisters in my brain when I ask for a second sample. And a third. Sometimes her hair is so shiny I could swear I see my reflection in the top of her head as I tower over her because I’m a giant.

Giants are scary. You’re scared of me, aren’t you? Because I won’t buy you applesauce and I make people dolls out of fruit and garbage. And I attach my keys to a chain on my belt and you’ve never seen that before, having lived in a hospital or a foreign country all your life. But you’re family. We’ll always have that.

Tomorrow I can also take you to mini-golf for real and I won’t just reference it as an analogue. We’ll pay extra for a second game and we’ll tip the clubhouse kids so we get the best clubs, the recent arrivals but not the brand new ones because you have to break them in and might as well let someone else do it. They do what I say, the clubhouse kids, just like Janis. Because I’m a giant. I’m a visible threat. My purple eyes are creepy because the whites are too white and they blink one at a time. But what can I do? These are the eyes I’ve been given. This is the body I’ve been granted.

The apple dolls last longer than you’d expect, though after a while the head falls off. I think it’s because the apples get bigger. It’s obvious the Popsicle sticks and sample spoons didn’t change stature.

Here’s a gift. This doll is you. Ask Janis to autograph it. I wonder what her last name is. Why don’t they make apple ice cream? Ask Janis that too. We’re going back for ice cream tomorrow, after the corn maze or mini-golf or both. Fall’s almost over. The sun comes down earlier every day and next week is Halloween and after that just getting up in the morning is a crapshoot.

Standards, Pumpkins, and Cabins

I thought about deleting yesterday’s post. It’s clearly not up to my “standards” of timely, witty, biting, and relevant-to-everyone writing. I just rambled on in sentence fragments about my uninteresting day. Who’d want to read that?

But I don’t want to censor myself. So, I’ll leave it all out there. If I don’t censor other people’s comments in which anonymous people in my posts are outed, why would I censor myself when I write of men with Cheeto fingers touching my workspace?

It’s interesting. There are people out there who would recommend changing the “So” that began the preceding paragraph’s second sentence with a “Thus.” I’m not one of these people. “So” works just fine. But then again, I don’t have orange fingers.

Yesterday, I went to the soon-to-be-imploded main Santa Monica Public Library. They’re moving to a new location down the street and around the corner. Until then, it’s cramped and musty and messy. But I’m not complaining. In the New Books section, I discovered that William T. Vollmann (one of my 3 or 4 favorite authors) has a new novel out – Europe Central. In all my wayward distracted reading of literary/book websites/blogs, I had heard nothing about this book. Considering that it’s 800+ pages and weighs more than a fair pumpkin, I imagine he’s been working on it for some time. Either the smallish press publicity machine has completely missed me or William likes to keep secrets. Anyway, it was with great excitement that I grabbed and later checked out the behemoth of a book about the wartime governments of early 20th century Soviet Union and Germany. It’s like a surprise Christmas present on December 27th. Or a “lost” Seinfeld episode finding the light of day. Because it’s a new release, I have to give it back after two weeks if someone else requests it, which, I’ve discovered with this crazy town of Santa Monica, is not an unlikely event. I hope I can finish it in two weeks. Considering that it took me three years to get through Vollmann’s last novel about the Queen of the Whores, The Royal Family, this is unlikely. Also, I’ve read about six pages and I have to ask - William, what the hell are you talking about?

And to address the one recent event that all of you want my opinion of... I'm glad that the Timberwolves signed Damien Wilkins. He's Dominique's son, so he's got to know something about the game. And the team needs to get younger. Plus, Fred Hoiberg isn't about to walk through that door any time soon. He's up at his northern Minnesota lake cabin healing his heart, so some big guard/small forward depth is warranted. Does it scare you that I actually located and linked to a story of an obscure NBA player's presence at his lake cabin?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Colonel

Not much time today. Must be brief. No time for complete sentences. Greetings everyone. Busy day. Will get busier. Weather hot. Office claustrophobic. Hey you, don't touch my keyboard with orange Cheeto fingers.

My friend Mike's space zombie script is really good. Named a character after me. Colonel F.

Quick reviews: Virgin movie flawless. Andrew Bird CD moving. Six Feet Under finale bleak, wondrous, fitting. Toblerone in 2nd floor convenience store too melty. Tofu burrito on the other side of downtown really good today.

Not much time today. Must stop now.

Friday, August 19, 2005

20 Minutes

I’ve updated my links. Adjust your gaze slightly to the right (my left). There they are. Feel free to link to these sites directly from mine so that my url shows up in their “linked from” statistics, creating a chain of events and reciprocal links that leads to my blog being viewed by more than 5 to 11 people per day. You may notice that I’ve increased the proportion of snooty literary blog links. What can I say? I like long involved snooty blog entries that occupy my time and make me consider the history and current state of literature. I hope you like them too.

To answer a question that no one asks (Why do I list my home as “Los Angeles” when I live in a city that abuts Los Angeles but is clearly not Los Angeles?), I’ll note that I’m usually (83% of the time) in Los Angeles when posting. Does this mean I post from work, rather than do my job? Well, I’ll remind everyone of my two union-negotiated 20-minute breaks per day. Others use this loophole to leave 40 minutes early. I use it for my mango thing.

I had a brief breakdown yesterday when I posted a comment to a comment to a comment to Wednesday’s post. Apparently, I actually seriously considered seeing a film noir double feature films tonight. And you know how I feel about noir films: There's only been one good one ever - The Last Seduction. No, make that two good ones - The Last Seduction and The Long Goodbye. Instead, I urge everyone to rush to their local theater to see The 40 Year-Old Virgin, so the Apatow/Carell/Ferrell/Rudd mafia can continue to hone their craft. I’ve watched my Tivoed Anchorman about 6 times in the past week and I can’t believe I only slightly liked it when it came out. It’s a masterpiece.

They’re playing Nina Simone on that one radio station I link to. Nina Simone is crazy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Svenska Pride

I often allude to the Egyptian half of my heritage. Today, I wanted to acknowledge the “other half” – my Swedish side. I was born in Sweden. I spent a good deal of the first month of my life there. Apparently, Swedish was my first language. Later, after my second language – English – erased my first, my parents communicated in Swedish when they wanted to hide things from me. I visited Sweden the summer before I turned 9. I remember the town square of my birth city Eskilstuna like it was yesterday – the claustrophobic kiosk where I bought packs of soccer cards (it was a World Cup summer), the green grass, the…. well, that’s about all I remember.

In honor of the Minnesota Wild (a hockey team) signing free agent Daniel Tjarnqvist (I don't know him either), I think it’s finally time for my Top 5 Things About Sweden (in no order):

1. Bjorn Borg. Along with Dr. J, this lanky long-locked Swede was the epitome of 1979-1981-era athletic cool.

2. IKEA. I’ve written about them before. Check the March archives. Hey Blogger people, why can’t I easily link to my own entries in Blogger? I know it’s free. I appreciate the simplicity. But still…

I realize now I don’t have enough material for a Top 5 list. I’ll stop here. I’ll mine the inner depths of my soulful mind for more good things about Sweden. Feel free to sent suggestions in the comments section. And don’t give me ABBA or the Cardigans. They don’t do it for me.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Absolute Ultimate

A review of the Tofu Festival: We didn’t go. We were looking for parking spaces downtown and then we decided we’d have more fun at Allegria. We were on the East Side anyway. It was the right decision, the only way. I had the fish tacos and the slushy papaya juice.

(the next paragraph may not appeal to anyone outside of the greater Los Angeles area)

Speaking of the East Side/West Side divide … it appears that the superiority chip has completed its transplant from west side shoulder to east side shoulder. The process, which began in the spring of 1995, stalled somewhat in 1999, and started to appear inevitable in late 2003, is now complete. You Eastsiders won. You’re finally the default. You and San Francisco can now share a glass of under-reviewed red wine. Just remember the responsibility that comes with your victory. You actually have to start frequenting the deep East Side. Echo Park doesn’t count. Neither does Alhambra. Me? I’ll be on the Third Street Promenade breathing the fresh air. Or maybe in Westwood, waiting for the light to change so I can cross safely. Or in Culver City, for no reason at all. I’ll be slipping in and out of the secret places, smiling.

(the next paragraph may not appeal to anyone but me)

Once, in 1997, during a summer thunderstorm in Minneapolis, the power in my apartment building went out. Not wanting to stay home in the stifling bricked humidity, I found myself later that evening at the Mall of America watching the Jodie Foster vehicle Contact, accompanied by a squeaky-voiced businesswoman and her wily oily leprechaun friend. I find it interesting that today, roughly eight years later, I’m finally able to accept that it may all have been a dream.

Top 5 songs of the moment (in alphabetical order, without ignoring "The"):

Sovay – Andrew Bird
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman (essay forthcoming)
Unsingable Name - Doughty
Breakfast Is Hard – Moby
Certain Songs – The Hold Steady (series of essays forthcoming)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Saturday

The rare Saturday post. Second time ever, I believe.

Last night: Junebug. A very good movie. I think it's the best movie I've seen this summer. Despite stealing its title premise (pregnant woman....wants to name the baby Junebug) from a short story I wrote a few years ago, I highly recommend it. Strange, dark, light, sweet, mean, and cool. And dialogue that rivals that which has been written by Paul Thomas Anderson and the guy who wrote Judy Berlin.

Tonight: The Tofu Festival in Little Tokyo. This is my first Tofu Fest, so I don't know what to expect. But I plan on having the grilled Tofurkey Italian Soy-sauge sandwich with peppers and onions. And maybe a tofu taco. And there's apparently a smooth jazz artist playing tonight and you know how much I love the smooth jazz.

Tomorrow: Is Sunday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Inkwell

I have a concern.

I’ve written a story. Or, maybe you’d call it an essay if you were a stickler for fiction being fictional. But, if you were a stickler for essays being truthful you’d have a problem there too. Whatever your preference, it’s a very fine piece of work. I would like to submit this piece for publication. I think it deserves to be read. And no I don’t want to post it here. I’d like to find a place for it where it will reach a double-digit audience.

This is my concern: The opening sentence of my story/essay may be perceived as offensive. The sentence is so evocative that I don’t want to remove it or reword it. It sets the tone. It ties the piece together.

Now, I’m not one to self-censor (e.g., see my college basketball entries from the March archives). But I don’t want my work to be summarily rejected for its opening sentence. Nor do I want my name put on lists. Now do I want to appear insane.

I’m not so much asking for advice as I’m stating the facts. And those are the facts.

What’s the sentence? No, that’s too easy. I’d rather have this topic up for discussion in an abstract form. That’s how I roll.

I had a nice day at work today. Yes, that’s what I said. I had a meeting on the “Golden Floor.” That’s where the bigwigs with their bloused secretaries and inkwells hang out. They listened to what I had to say and scoffed at what I reported others saying. Where is this leading? Well, you know I like to keep my workplace secret, but those of you with the full local (L.A.) digital cable package may see me working the Power Point on one of the Deep Channels some time before Labor Day.

Yes, he had an inkwell. I saw him dip.

Laurel tells me that the new couch arrived today. I can’t wait to get home, to recline in sage green luxury, to run the cable channels up and down, all the way up to 213, while Laurel studies the Buddha on the East Side. Monday, I ran 2 miles and climbed 66 flights of stairs. Tuesday, I wrote the perfect report for internal dissemination. Today, well you know about today. Tonight, it’s me, Seymour and Lilly (cats), and the sleek soft-yet-unpuffy couch.

His pen ran out of ink and rather than borrow a ballpoint from any one of seven people at the conference table, he went to his desk and pulled out an inkwell!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Next Time I'll Smile

I’ve begun Week Two of my no-elevator lifestyle. I’m doing this for exercise and because of a complete lack of trust in the elevators in my workplace (the stories I’ve heard…). You’d think it would be the walk up to the 22nd floor, not the walk down, that would be the bigger struggle. You’d be right. I’m starting to notice the little things: the piece of discarded gum between 17 and 18 in Stairway 2 (I used to consciously avoid it, so as not to ruin my soles. Now, the gum is so hardened and embedded in the stair that I can laugh it off and step on it confidently); the fact that there are 16 steps per floor on office floors and only 14 on the parking floors; and the comparative loneliness of Stairway 3 compared to #2 (people must be scared by the “Alarm Will Sound” sign; I know better). Careful readers may remember my previous vow to exclusively take the stairs in favor of the elevators. I may really mean it this time.

My promised trip to the ocean this weekend was derailed by the slightly too-cool beach temperatures. Instead, I was as lazy as a lazy man could ever be. Sure, there was the movie and the other movie and the folding of laundry. But other than that, I hardly moved a muscle.

My favorite 5 songs of the moment:

Chicago – Sufjan Stevens
Multitude of Casualties – The Hold Steady (only rock song ever to reference dryer sheets)
Circles – Soul Coughing (my definition of “of the moment” is pliable)
When Smokey Sings – ABC (heard it at Trader Joe’s)
My Doorbell – White Stripes

Two good links: An interview with America’s finest poet. And a touching essay by The Aristocrats' scariest contributor.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Warbles

I'm so tired today. It's a good tired though.

My feet hurt. My eyes are weary. My brain is slow. Everything is taking twice as long. The Friday NY Times crossword took me 30 minutes instead of 15. The post-lunch walk up 21 flights of stairs required a break on the 14th floor, where I caught my breath before gliding up the rest of the way.

I can't produce anything all that readable today. Instead, I direct you to Bill Simmons. Today, he cross-pollinates Anchorman and the NBA off-season. Be sure to read both parts 1 and 2. Brilliant.

Tomorrow, the ocean will cure me and rouse me from my slumber.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Marbles

Pre-dawn. An unseemly time of day. I should have been sleeping. But there I was, showering, dressing, driving – all before the sun fully rose. Too early. But, to be fair, Long Beach at 6:30 in the morning looks almost romantic. I’d never been in Long Beach that early in the morning.

Wait. Yes, I have. The summer of 1995. Let me purge it from my memory. Let me forget the yellow street lamps, the surprisingly easy drive to the freeway from the part of town where the crafty lesbians run their cafes with such managerial skill. Let me forget the way the drive north always got sluggish at the airport, or at some invisible horizontal line extending east from the airport. Let me forget her not because I’m married now (and happily so) but because I was wayward then. Ten years is a long time. It’s like a decade. Let me forget.

Okay, I’ve forgotten.

What was I doing in Long Beach at 6:30 this morning? A better question would be: What was I doing in Seal Beach at 6:45? And so on.

Changing the subject. It’s okay that the Timberwolves have done nothing this off-season other than hire a new coach, lose Latrell, draft another 6’5” guy, and resign their 10th man, the oft-mentioned Mad Dog. They have the foundation. Last year was an anomaly. The coming season will culminate with a long playoff run. KG is at his career peak. Wally has stopped caring if anyone likes him. Sam may actually be healthy. And sure assuming that all of you know whom/what I’m talking about is a pretty big assumption but it’s an improvement over the first four paragraphs today, isn’t it?

I’m in Los Angeles now. Downtown. Where the streets have names. It’s almost a nice day, if only the temperature would dip a few degrees. I finally got that second draft of that almost-interesting report completed. I’m reading six books. I’m blogging three times a week, on average. What more could I need?

Ten years. I look better now. The hair is still strong. I drive almost the same car. I eat better. My shoes are still good. I walk with more purpose. Then, I wrote poems called “Marbles” and “Riverside” and “Breakfast Is A Woman.” Today, I write The Mango. And other things (the script, the new short story about the picture frame-obsessed Rastafarian, and the policy paper). Today is better.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Seymour Is Mentioned

Who is this unusual person, with her own unique way with the language, who keeps posting feline-centric comments about the blog? Is she a spy, sent by the power elite? A lonely teenager pining for a purpose? Who is she, I ask?

But, to make her happy, I'll relate this: The way Seymour jumps into his blanketed basket is like that of a ballet star - lithe and sleek, despite his bulbous form.

I can't write much. I have to go attend a meeting, one which is so marked by a lack of necessity that I find it crucial to attend for anthropological purposes, even if my attendance is completely voluntary. During this meeting, I will hear speakers express alarm about loosely organized systems that are working perfectly well. Wheels will be reinvented. Eyes will roll. And, at about 4:30, the meeting room doors will open and 200 pairs of shoulders will collectively shrug as we all try to beat the traffic to the West Side. Or Pasadena. Or Long Beach. Or, especially, Baldwin Park.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Mango Mush

It seems late in the day to be posting, doesn't it?

It seems late in the work week to be posting for the first time, doesn't it?

What is there to say? Hmm.

Today, bored from waiting for the elevator, climbed 21 flights of stairs. Twice. It's invigorating and sweat-making.

I am taller than most of my co-workers. And more dapper. But am I a better person? That's a question for others to ponder. Though I know what my answer would be.

I've heard whispers from my marriage mate that "The Mango" is an inappropriate and kinda lame name. Feel free to offer your secret comments on the matter. I may do something rash like call the blog "Interlopers and Acerbs." Or I may quote a random Reagan-era British pop lyric. Or I may simply go title-less, tossing a John Cage basketball off the existensial backboard of modern communication. The Mango.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

All Things Go (plus Circular References to Names)

Today, a new blog name. This one, much like the juice of its namesake, might stick.

I’m happy to live in an age during which Sufjan Stevens is making music. His new Illinois album is incredible. It may even cause me to appreciate or at least feel nostalgic for the state it’s named for. And that would be a miracle. The above link contains a very fine bio and this related link contains a very precious "statement from Asthmatic Kitty and DC Comics." The seven preceding en-quoted words have likely never appeared together before in one sentence, at least until the recent incident.

Through a Googling escapade yesterday, I discovered I’m only three degrees removed from a screenwriter of major bio-pics, including one whose very title bears a resemblance to my first name, the three degrees being: 1) Ex-girlfriend; 2) Best friend of ex-girlfriend; and 3) Husband of best friend of ex-girlfriend. What do I plan to do with this information? Nothing, other than writing this paragraph. But…JR-nee-H, if you’re reading this, I say to you: Yo.

I promise the ellipses in the preceding sentence will not become a regular thing. I will store my dot-dot-dots in a safe place, only bringing them out for very special moments.

So, Larry “The Bladder” Brown, you’re now coaching the New York Knicks. Good for you. I suggest trading four of your six undersized power forwards to the Lakers for four of their six appropriately sized small forwards. If this happens, I can guarantee you at least a 43-39 season.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Shadow of the Light

I’m a screenwriter again. After a few months of resigning myself to writing nothing but short fiction and quarterly research reports, I’ve become sufficiently inspired to take on a feature length script. By myself. No “team” of 3, bouncing ideas off each other only to see them roll away under the couch, joining Seymour and Lily’s cat toys to collect dust and wait to be loved. I won’t isolate myself though. I will still accept feedback. I will ask others to read my work. I will incessantly bother Laurel with questions about structure.

This being the Internet, I won’t give away too many details about my idea though some of you (i.e., those who write comments) have heard this idea. I will divulge the following:

1. This is a period piece. I can’t believe I’m writing a period piece where the period is not mid-summer 1985.

2. The dialogue will be in a foreign language. That’s if you think British English circa-1923 is different from present-day American English. In this way, I’ll be a lot like Mel Gibson, who I have to actually praise for writing his new film in Mayan and his last one in Aramaic/Latin. It always bothers me to see things like the Germans in Hogan’s Heroes speaking English with a German accent. So Mel, even though I think you’re a crazy crazy man, I respect the language portion of your freaky-ass visions. Um, did I just reference Hogan's Heroes?

3. There will be no outlines, other than those in my head.

4. The story is based on a real event.

5. If the screenplay is actually sold and the vision isn’t diluted, I may have to disappear for a while like Salman Rushdie. So, to any potential edict issuers, I say this: It’s all in the court transcripts!

6. It will be disconcertingly dark and sweetly funny.

7. Hal Hartley, if he hasn’t otherwise turned things around by then, may want to adapt it. Maybe I’ll finally get to meet Adrienne Shelley.

But enough talk. I have to get to work. And for those who haven't heard, Mad Dog’s back!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Dead Mouse on Beaudry Street

On Monday, I saw you for the first time. Freshly killed, on the center of the sidewalk between the parking garage and the place where I work. You were on your side, more bulbous than one would expect, but fully formed. If you had started to move right then, I wouldn't have been shocked. But I peered more closely - yes, that's a dead mouse. Too small and lovely to be a rat.

By Tuesday, they had started to eat you. By "they," I mean the gallant pigeons of downtown L.A. or maybe the hill ants, moseying down the weedy cliff alongside the visitors' lot that's not meant for visitors. You were a little less fatty, but you still had a form and a face. And you were finally out of the way, pushed to the grass alongside the sidewalk. No risk in me, or any of the other servants of the people, stepping on you.

On Wednesday, I forgot to look for you. Perhaps this was for the best.

By Thursday, you were a figment of your former self. Reduced to a skinny husk, face down, your head no longer to the side. If there was anything left of you to eat, the eater would have to be very very hungry.

Today, I could barely look at you. But I forced myself. No more will I avoid facing the difficult or the ugly. I'm a new man, with a new striped shirt. This morning, you were just a tiny stump of flesh-backed mouse hair, devoid of all nourishment and life. In a better world, you would have made a good head of doll hair. A male doll, swarthy with brown hair, lightly salted from the sea. Or maybe a female doll, an elderly detective with a matronly graying mop.

I'll be passing you at around 4:47 today when I go back to my car for the final time this work week. I doubt I'll see you on Monday. If I do, I'll give you a proper burial. I'll cover you with dead leaves and stray towels discarded by the homeless. I'll cover you with yesterday's front page of the L.A. Daily News, emblazoned with a story I had a little bit to do with (but I'm just the messenger!). I'll say a eulogy. "You loved Los Angeles, born and raised and died here, with the roar of the 110 Freeway your principal soundtrack. You succumbed to the heat of the dusty spotty summer. But there are worse lives. I didn't know you by name. But I'll give you a name. I'll call you Cynthia."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Open Letters, Part Two

To friend in South Pasadena whose stoner screenplay I've been reading:
Um, I lost it. Somewhere, in the transfer of boxes from apartment to storage space, or perhaps in the transfer of office papers from desk to recycling bin, I inadvertantly threw it out. Can you e-mail me a new one? Or drop it off the next time we play Crap on Your Amigo? But the first 25 pages were great. I'll do one more thorough search tonight. I lost my cell phone charger too, so don't feel bad.

To friend in Mendota Heights whose zombie screenplay I've been reading:
Great first two pages. I'll keep reading. Zombies notwithstanding, there's got to be a way to fit in a Jimmy Buffet-type character - perhaps a man with zombies in his past, who swore he'd stop waking the dead and all he wanted was a life of leisure in the tropics with booze cruises and swim up-bars and an early retirement. But then his illegitimate son enlisted Jimmy's help in fighting the Ultimate Zombie. And he couldn't say no to One Last Fight.

To DJ on internet radio station I'm listening to now:
Good choice.

To editors of online literary journals who keep rejecting Applehead Man:
You don't know what you're missing! It's not allegory. It's not metaphor. It's just life, dude.

To co-worker who received my first open letter yesterday:
You came through. I'm so proud of you.