Monday, November 27, 2006

Links As Ifs

If you're interested in a long drawn-out multi-blog debate about which basketball statistican is smarter, go here or here or here. I could read this stuff all day and dream of it all night - that's how fascinating I find this debate. And yes Blink's Malcolm Gladwell is involved.

If you want to see a great underrated film that's in theaters now, go see this one.

If you want to read Thomas Dolby's blog, you should do so.

If you want to read a Deadspin post with a headline that may be the funniest thing I've heard while half-watching a football game, go here. I know it's referring to Glendale, Arizona but still...

If you want to go to a Google-related site that will further change the world, this is the one for you.

And this stuff is goooood.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Michael and Mel

When Mel Gibson offered up his racist drunken rant a few months ago I took a different approach in my reaction. As someone who found Gibson's politics ridiculous (and disturbing) and his ego-driven films disturbing (and ridiculous), it would have been easy for me to pile on with scornful laughter at the whole situation. But I asked myself a question: what if it had been someone I liked? What if it was a celebrity I admired (or whose work I admired) that lost control and spewed hate? Would I be more open to forgiveness? Should I be more open to forgiveness?

I knew eventually it would happen, someone I liked more than Mel Gibson would say something horribly racist. I knew this because I like just about every actor/musician/celebrity more than Mel Gibson. I didn't have to wait too long for Michael Richards to give his now infamous rant. (If you've been busy lately, if you've been doing more important things like having babies, go here for the video.)

Having spent an unhealthy amount of time in my recent singlehood watching Seinfeld reruns on my cat-scratched couch flanked by cats, the artistry of the man who plays Kramer is fresh in my mind. The guy has talent. He's funny. He's seemingly smart. Years before Seinfeld I admired his work on the short-lived early 80s late-night alternative-to-SNL series Fridays. Since Seinfeld ended, I've rooted for him to get over his Kramer typecasting and for him to find true love (apparently he asked someone I know out on a date when she was assisting him in a retail establishment; she said "no" and at the time I thought she should have said "yes" because he's Kramer and he's got residuals and she had - at the time - no other prospects.)

I've watched the video of the incident and the resulting apology on the Letterman Show with Seinfeld and Letterman acting as oddly ineffectual (but attentive) parental figures. And I go back to my original question: What if it had been someone I liked? Well it was someone I liked and the whole thing is bizarre and sad. Part of me wants to believe it was one (not very good) stand-up comic attempting to be outrageous and edgy and his failure, likely fueled by other substances, led to a greater loss of control and deep-rooted rage (a subconscious rage that many people have - it may be targeted at individuals or groups or the world as a whole but it's there in a lot of us) came spewing out. Make no mistake, the rage isn't separate from the man. But the pain in his eyes on Monday night when the magnitude of his mistake and the difficulty in recovering from it was also real. It's easy to laugh at the guy and how he said "Afro Americans" during his apology but that's really no big deal. It was a common term in the seventies when he was a young man and it's an easy mistake when you're offering an unscripted, unassisted apology in front of millions of people, with the guy who controls your past and future livelihood (Seinfeld) sitting on a far more comfortable couch.

It sounds like I'm willing to accept an apology, for one man's really bad night. Is he a racist? Of course. He denies he is in the subsequent interview but racism is nothing but rage. And that was rage he was throwing out. Does he live his daily life like a racist? Probably not. Will he change for the better? I think so. Is this too much attention paid to a guy who we wouldn't be talking about if he hadn't been cast in a long-ago sitcom? No I don't think so. He was cast in that sitcom and he is famous (and admired by some) and he did go off on an incredibly racist (and well publicized) rant.

And yes all the questions and answers in the previous paragraph work equally well (in my mind at least) for Mel Gibson and Michael Richards (substituting "overrated apocalyptic sci-fi film" for "long-ago sitcom" in the case of Mel). When John Kerry offered up his bungled joke a week before the recent election, my knee jerk reaction was to believe his explanation and defend his right to say something relatively benign in the face of more outrageous comments coming from the other side. I reacted this way because I didn't want the Democrats to lose their chance of control of congress. But if was an entirely neutral observer (and I always try to become one, eventually), I would have realized that Kerry said something really stupid, that he probably meant it exactly the way it came out of his mouth, no matter how it was scripted, and that he wishes he never said it (being a Vietnam vet, however, gives him a little leeway.)

(on a related note - now that the Democrats won, does this mean Arianna Huffington can go back to being a Republican now?)

I'm often accused of taking positions opposite from everyone else to be different, to be a devil's advocate. But - and yeah my ego is talking a little here - it's not like that. It's easy to blindly root for your own "team" and condemn your "enemies" when it's convenient. It's more difficult to figure out each situation for what it is, digging for the truth that's just as deep-seated as the rage we don't want to see.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I Am Seated in an Office....

Last night I went to Jest Fest, a celebration of the 10th anniversary of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest at the great Skylight Books in Los Feliz. I read the book when it first came out in 1996, took a few breaks along my way through the book's 1,078 pages, and finished it some time in 1998. I rememeber reading the last words on a lime green leather couch at Dunn Brothers coffeehouse on 34th and Hennepin in Minneapolis. I remember being disappointed, not in the ending but in the fact that it was all over and I'd never read another book like that again. Yes, the book blew me away.

But the book did something else. It turned me into a more serious writer. It turned me from an occasional poet into a daily essayist and weekly prosist, into a screenwriter and blogger. I never really credited Infinite Jest with this transformation but I think it did the trick. Sure, there were other factors - 1996 was the year I started grad school and the year after my father died. I was equipped with disposable income in the form of an inheritance and a wide-open schedule due to my eight-year plan for graduation. But I look at the tone, the ambition, the quality of my writing before, during, and after the reading-Jest period (1996-1998) and it's clear to me now.

I'm not saying the book/transformation didn't send me down some misguided avenues (the Black Leaves poem, the infatuation with a black-haired girl who reminded me of Madame Psychosis, the ridiculous short story I wrote called Her Machine, etc.) but we all have to start somewhere and I'm not sure if I've ended up anywhere but I've traveled a long way.

I learned last night there would be an Infinite Jest movie. I never thought this was possible and though its chances of "capturing" the book are slim, I'll still go see it. I'm still waiting for Wallace's next novel. His essays are nice and his short stories are nicer but the man's vision, brain, and ambition demand something big, something huge, something infinite and 1000+ pages long.

If you haven't read Infinite Jest, go ahead and read it. Have patience and yeah it's okay to skip the Eschaton part (not saying I did). If you have read it, read it again. Once I'm finished with this (probably tonight), I'm going back to this (and maybe eventually this but not right now).

The highlight of the Jest Fest was Michael Silverblatt's amazing (apparently unscripted) 20-minute speech about the importance of the book. I make fun of Silverblatt on occasion. Today, I praise him and implore everyone to dig up something of interest from his archive.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bruce Hammonds and Liam McGee

When I was young and spry I would get a cold and it would proceed in a particular fashion:
  • Day 1 - Oh no. I'm sick. Tomorrow will be hell.
  • Day 2 - Hell
  • Day 3 - 90% recovery
  • Day 4 - The other 10%
The exception to this rule was the legendary strep throat winter of '96. Two weeks of dizzy misery.

This week I managed to pass through the first three stages, feeling nearly on top of the world yesterday, only to find myself back in Day 2 today. I actually took a nap in my office - on the floor, with my briefcase and my jacket as a head elevator/pillow. I think they vacuum the office floor regularly. I hope they do. I don't why I'm telling you all this. Maybe for some sympathy.

I e-mailed this link to many of my reader(s) but just in case you didn't get it, go HERE for the now-legendary "One Bank" video. I may write about this in more length in the future. I may forget about it entirely by the weekend.

(I know I can post the actual video on my blog and make it easier for you but I can only seem to do that with YouTube video and the Google version is far more technically sound)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Story About 1990

(as an experiment, I'm taking pieces that I wrote years ago (in this case, 1998) and editing them into modern-day blog entries. This could turn out to be a huge mistake. I don't know. Anyway, despite its overly florid language, I like this one)

Debbie and I listened to that John Wesley Harding tape over and over again back at the dawn of the 1990s (JWH the singer, not JWH the Dylan album). We grazed the surface of many a personal ego structure in those times. Debbie and Wes and I.

There was the time we drove through Compton, not for the fun of it, but because that’s where the good Mexican restaurant was. Or was it? It seemed then like the border was moved over a few blocks and what once was Compton was now Paramount and the food was too good to reconsider. We ate and went back to our homes and all would be good in our small world. Sexless lovers. Loveless drivers of luckless cars. And Wes sang on and on and on.

The sun would come out tomorrow. But the sun couldn’t spell. And the sun had a reason for not exposing its arrogance. So clouds were the form of the sky gone slumbered. Clouds were the form and me and Debbie and John rode on and on and on, traipsing the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel on a laughable lark. That was for the fun of it.

She had a child (not mine, not J.W.’s, hers only really) and she left a trail. The tidal swirl of a dozen mistakes washed over that trail and I never saw her again. I still have the pictures and though I’ve lost the tape, I knows where to find a new one if I need it. If only the cut of light was more flattering on my distracted face.

Once I thought I saw her on the Seal Beach Pier. I was walking with two people I would never see again. I thought I saw her distraction and I walked toward it until it folded itself into the water and revealed itself to be a trick of the sun.

Another time I thought I saw her in a Barnes and Noble in Cerritos. But that was just someone with her hair and her gait and her child and her sunny distraction.

Another time I thought he saw her on a Mar Vista bus bench, hand to forehead in lieu of sunglasses, childless, distracted twice over, pretending to read yesterday’s paper, wondering where the time went and thinking of law school. I saw all this from my car and no it wasn’t her, I knew that.

Yet another time she was the resurrection of the bounty of the first millennium. Meaning this: they chopped up the sins, they wove them into wood, they turned the wood to legal (more or less) tender, they traded most of the tender for sustenance, they built a wall with what was left over, they painted a face on the wall (a face which to this day is burned in my mind from the one time he spotted it, Boston bound, on a billboard), they made the face look like hers (it wasn’t hers), and so on and so on. Nothing more than that. She was the resurrection and she couldn’t even make it count.

So those where the times I thought I saw her and surely did not see her.

But I take comfort in knowing that whenever she found herself humming Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega, she would have to think of me. We heard the dance version of that song for the first time when we were together in my car (always my car) and from that time forward allowed its insidious yet beautiful creepiness to creep right in, all the way in.

I was so poor once I had to sell an old VCR to a pawn shop on Van Nuys Boulevard. It got that bad by accident, I tried to convince myself, by accident!

I was so rich once I waved the waitress over and said you can give that check to me, the other seven don’t need to pay. This was two hours after I said goodbye to Regis Philbin.

Harding is a writer by another name. Based on a Google search, Debbie might still be in Long Beach, working for the community college there as some sort of specialist. I’m here, figuring it all out.


I've never read The Bible. I'm not familiar with its teachings. Still, I know that The Brick Testament is one of the most amazing things ever. I know so much more now. Don't click on the link unless you don't want to get anything else done for the next 3 hours.

If you only want to be busy for a few minutes, there's always The River.

Monday, November 13, 2006

High Land, No Rain

When living in Los Angeles, it's sometimes a good idea to go over the hill, to 818/626 land. I've spent much of the past 4 years darting between the east and west sides of town, ignoring the potential of the north. But the north has its charms, its hills and valleys, its chips and chairs, its boulevards and back-and-forths.

Between the ages of 18 and 21, I kept a diary in a graph paper notebook. It wasn't an emotionally expressive diary filled with secrets nor a reflective journal filled with insights. It was a journalistic accounting of what I did each day, whom I did what with, and what the top 10 songs of each week were. When I reread my diary now I'm amazed at how much I left out. But interestingly enough, I remember everything I left out. The songs I was listening to in a particular week or a restaurant I went to with a particular group of friends triggers a clear emotional memory. In this way, my spiral notebook graph paper newspaperish account of my early college years proves just as insightful as a flowery diary with a swirly bow.

This is a long way of telling you that I don't confess too much in my blog. But just know it's all there. I do.

Friday, November 10, 2006

You Call That An Autosave?

I wrote an amazing post today.

It took me an hour.

The computer crashed.

It's gone.

I don't feel like trying to recreate it.

Maybe next time.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


As an experiment I want to write about one of the most boring things in a world, just to see if I can sustain your attention.

I've lived in many places. Something like 23 homes in 3 countries. Within the U.S. I've lived in 5 states (counting the "Massachusetts Experiment"). I've lived through it all - a man walking on the moon, Michael Jackson's moonwalk, the invention of call waiting, the birth of e-mail, the death (and eventual resurrection of) punk, and that one time my car got stranded in South Pasadena back in '93. I've lived!

The world has changed around me but one thing has remained a constant: cereal. I've always liked it. It's always been around me. In all forms: big boxes/little boxes, hot/cold, healthy/sugary, oaty/flaky. Sometimes cereal is just a routine - a slightly healthy appetite satisfier. Sometimes it's the most beautiful thing in the world.

The trite thing would be to make a list of the best cereals I've ever tasted. It would include the long lost original Apple Cinammon O's (on the market for a depressingly short time in '92) and that English stuff I praised in my 10/27/06 post. A list isn't in the cards today.

In fact I'm a little bored by this topic. Goodbye.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


My 4 favorite events:

1. NBA Draft (every June)
2. Christmas (every Christmas)
3. Presidental elections (every 4 years)
4. Mid-term elections (every 4 years)

Tonight - #4! I look forward to watching the slowly oozing results with friends and pizza and wine and chocolate-covered almonds. Let's hope for a Democratic takeover.

Another of my favorite events - the first televised Timberwolves game of the year. Tonight they play the Lakers. I'm looking forward to competitive game marked my fair play and honor. It'll be nice to see the new KG and the rookies.

One of my favorite poems is today's poem-a-day.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Unbelievable Truth

I saw Borat last night. Funny but not as funny as this - my favorite commercial ever. The look on his face, the body language, the song - all of it combines to create something truly special. Is it a coincidence that I just switched my car insurance to Geico?

Today is an impossibly beautiful day in Los Angeles. 72 degrees. No smog. Blue skies, except for a few puffy clouds. The breeze could accurately be described as sweet. I took a drive toward the ocean this morning. There was hardly any traffic. All windows were open.

Too much positivity in one blog post? Probably but there's got to be some positivity to partially counteract the way-too-early death of one of my favorite actresses, Adrienne Shelly.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

November Thursday

My favorite month of the year is November. My favorite day of the week is Thursday (oddly Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday.) So today is a good day.

Have I been quiet lately? A little.

But there's lots of stuff to read over here.

The John Kerry controversy. How anyone could be offended by something so benign and mild is way beyond me. I'm a little upset he apologized. I still think his big mistake in 2004 was John Edwards. He should have taken more of a risk. Everyone should take more risks in politics. More fun that way.

Based on the first 2 days of the NBA season, I have a few observations:
  • The Lakers will be NBA champions (sorry Jason)
  • They will beat the Wizards in the finals (I have my reasons)
  • The Timberwolves will make the playoffs
  • The Heat and Spurs will not
I think the Borat movie will either be the funniest movie of all time or the biggest failed opportunity since CB4.