PLACES TO GO


Wednesday, March 31, 2004
 
THINGS I DID ON MY DAY OFF

  • Marveled at how may people in Los Angeles don't have day jobs and how many have beagles. Those are two classes of people of whom I am very jealous.

  • Placed a call to the phone company, which started as a cordial call, then morphed into a mildly annoyed call when I was transfered the first time, then an angry call when I was transferred the second time, then a red-faced, snappish, veins-bursting belligerent call when I was transferred the thrid time, then, finally, a grateful call when I was connected with someone who knew what the hell she was talking about and who solved my problem for me. Thanks, Mindy.

  • Watched a man wheel up a large blue curbside-style recycling bin to the trash can at the gas station. He picked out the empty cans and bottles and crushed each one before putting it into his official City of West Hollywood-issued container. His possession of such a container and his meticulous crushing of recyclables made me wonder whether he was a homeless guy or some concerned college student doing his part to save the environment, until I saw him take a sip from one of the discarded water bottles. I had my answer, though, sadly, it was not the one I was hoping for.

  • Spoke to my "agent" for the first time in months. It was predictably pointless. She insisted that she just drove past the Groundlings building and that it was now a designer clothing boutique. (Though I haven't driven past the Groundlings building in at least four days, I am fairly confident that this is not true.)

  • Had lunch at Topz and actually scored a parking space on the street. While I was inside, they played "Something Got Me Started" by Simply Red. That made me almost as happy as the Aero-Fries. I'd give it all up for you. Yes I would!

  • Listened to the launch of Air America Radio on 1580AM Los Angeles, which was preceded by two Spanish-speaking men signing off to their listeners for the last time. It sounds unlikely, but I swear their last word before their signal cut off was "Ciao!"

  • Spent almost as much time working on this site as I did writing, which was supposed to be the point of today.

  • Forgot to read my friend's script, which was the one thing I was really supposed to do.

  • Thought about packing for my trip to New Orleans tomorrow, but did not actually pack.


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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
 
RIDING THE TROLLEY

It's always fun to have guests in town, because you get to do all the things people from out of town think Los Angelenos do all the time, like go to the beach and stalk celebrities. In actuality, I haven't stepped foot on a beach in almost a year. Fine, so I stalk celebrities on a regular basis, but the only time I ever bought an actual star map was when my sister was in town. Unfortunately, the map we bought seemed to date from the 70's, and the only homes we got to see belonged to Joyce DeWitt and Charo (who I believe now actually lives on a cruise ship).

For the last few days, Drew and I have been hosting Drew's brother Peter and Peter's girlfriend Veronica. I had to miss their trip to the beach, but it was fun to take them to mankind's greatest creation, the Grove, and see it through virgin eyes. Even they could tell it would be lame to ride the trolley (which travels the shortest distance in all of trolleydom), and that made me sad. I had spent all morning rehearsing what I'd say if anyone I knew caught me. "Oh, this is Drew's brother and his girlfriend. They wanted to ride the trolley. Can you imagine???" Alas, if you can't ride the trolley with out-of-towners, when can you ride it?

Peter and Veronica, who hail from Philly, wanted very much to take advantage of the nice weather by eating outdoors. Drew and I had a hard time thinking of a place to take them. Not that we never eat outdoors, but we just don't tend to classify restaurants that way, as eating outdoors is something we take for granted and we never make a special trip to an eatery just for its sidewalk seating. (We eventually settled on Swingers.)

The other fun thing about the visit was spending time with a family member of Drew's. It's always fascinating to meet the family of people you know really well. A lot of times, they can't help seeming a little like deformed versions of each other. Peter looks as if someone tried to make a life-sized doll of Drew and messed up some of the important details, or like the composite sketch a police artist will draw up someday if Drew is ever a fugitive from justice. It looks just a little taller, the hair's a little shorter and a little darker, and the eyebrows are bushier, but if that sketch aired on the local news, our neighbors would probably call the Eyewitness Tip Line and rat Drew out.

I always wanted a little brother, so seeing Drew and Peter together made me just a bit jealous. The little in-jokes they share. The way Drew gets to spoil Peter with spa treatments and sushi and hearty helpings of cruel brotherly teasing. The vast catalogue of memories they dredge up when they want to embarrass each other. Brothers get to be real jerks to each other, and there are few things in nature more beautiful than a noogie or a good-natured, button-pushing impression of someone you love. Thanks, Peter and Veronica, for the "Drew Megamix" of Drew's memorable quotes.

Now that the next season of "The Real World" is filming in Philadelphia again, it looks like Drew will be going there on business someday soon, and, assuming I'm able to join him, that means that we get to be the guests and let them show us around their city. It'll be fun to hang out with them again and get a look around their hometown and have them show us all the things they love to do. We'll make them take us to the Liberty Bell, and you better believe if there's a Liberty Bell trolley, I'm gonna get their asses on it.

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Monday, March 29, 2004
 
SO THIS IS WHAT FOOT TASTES LIKE

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an entry about attending a book signing for a book called "Join Me" by Danny Wallace (which you can see in the recommendation column on the right). Well, guess who read my entry and posted a comment about it? Danny Wallace himself. Consider me humbled.

Of course, I didn't think anyone read this blog, let alone guys who live on other continents and write books. I certainly never meant to hurt anyone's feelings, let alone someone I genuinely admired, so, with egg dripping down my face, I decided to write to him in response to his comment in hopes of doing a little fence-mending. And just to clarify my feelings about Mr. Wallace, his book, and the event, here's what I wrote to him:

Hey, Danny:

I just read your comment on my blog. I really hope what I wrote didn't offend you. (I just reread it myself, and I do think some of it may have come across as a bit harsh.) To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed -- and at the same time flattered -- that you read what I wrote about your book and the signing in Pasadena.

Just to be perfectly clear: I don't really think writers are under any obligation to take their fans out for madcap alcohol-fueled misadventures when they meet them. Quite the opposite. I meant for my piece to be as much a bit of self-deprecation about my own out-of-whack expectations as anything else. To put things in perspective, my entire readership could probably carpool to the next Karmageddon in one mid-sized vehicle, so my intention was never to turn masses of people against you -- nor was it to send you a personal message. If I were going to write you personally, I would've focused on the nice things -- we Americans are more polite than we sometimes come across on our blogs.

I hope that amid all my obnoxiousness, my compliments came through as well. As you can see, I still have your book up in my recommendations section. I really enjoyed reading it, and I'm happy to promote it. You're a terrific writer, and I hope I convinced at least a few people to pick up a copy of "Join Me" for themselves. I had a great time at the signing, too, and I'm really glad I went. You're a very natural and entertaining speaker, and the fact that most of the crowd didn't seem familiar with the book and yet walked out buying copies proves that you more than did your job that night. You entertained us, and you sold your book -- which is two things more than most authors probably do at their signings.

I'm glad you had a good time in America. And I'd like to remain a proud joinee, if you'll have me. Next time you're in LA, feel free to drop me a line.

And I promise, the beer's on me.

Cheers back atcha!
Jerry

P.S. I don't want you to think I'm the kind of guy who says one thing on his site and then writes you privately and kisses your ass, so I've posted this letter on my site so that anyone who read the last piece can read this, too.

Though I may have given the impression that Danny's signing was disappointing, I think I can accurately say that nobody else in attendance seemed at all disappointed -- well, except maybe for the Long-Haired Guy. But I don't blame Danny for not inviting him out for a beer, as he seemed a little weird.

Of course, with my luck, Long-Haired Guy probably reads this blog, too.

No hard feelings, Long-Haired Guy.

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Thursday, March 25, 2004
 
HOW MY MIND WORKS, CONTINUED

About half an hour ago, I started having a strong craving for Taco Bell, which was weird because I haven't eaten there, or even thought about eating there, in a long, long time.

Then I realized my craving started around the same time I started checking the basketball scores. See, I don't know anything about basketball and really don't care much about it, but I join my friend's NCAA pool every year because gambling is fun, and if I win I get to go, "Ha, ha, ha! I beat all the jocks!" (Quietly to myself, of course. I'm still scared of jocks.)

Using a complicated formula involving team rankings, my assumptions about what picks other people would make, a possibly ignorant theory that any school with Michigan or Texas in its name is good at sports, and the words "eenie" and "meenie", I picked UConn to win it all.

And now that there've been all kinds of crazy upsets, if UConn's the champ, I have a pretty good shot at winning the pool. (It helps when half the pool went to Stanford and Stanford loses in round 2.)

So I safecrack into my subconscious and plumb around a bit, and I remember that the time that I visited a friend of mine at UConn, oh so many years ago, it was in a little hick town and there was nowhere to eat, and then he said, "Oh, wait, the Taco Bell just opened!" So we went there, and it was the shabbiest Taco Bell ever, and their dining room was constructed of plastic lawn furniture, which is sort of beside the point, but it was kind of sad.

And even though I know that the reason I stopped going to Taco Bell is that the last time I went there, they didn't wear gloves while they made my food, I still might pick up a chalupa on the way home tonight.

Go Huskies!

(I think that's what their mascot is.)

Update: UConn won, the Huskies are indeed their mascot(s?), and ultimately, after much deliberation, I passed on the chalupa.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
 
GOD, HE'S NUTS

As I write this, some kook is arguing before the Supreme Court that the words "under God" should be taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Don't get me wrong. He's not a kook because he believes in the separation of church and state. He's just a kook. And for those of us who agree with him, it's just not fair. I've been offended by that part of the pledge since I was in high school, and that was before I knew it was a relic of the McCarthy era, and back when I still believed in God myself. I couldn't help feeling like a school where I learned about freedom of religion in fourth period but where I was made to acknowledge God in homeroom was being hypocritical. Now the issue is finally coming before the Supreme Court, and an issue like this, as we all know, only gets one chance in a generation, if that.

And Mike Newdow, the guy who'll be arguing it before the Court, is hardly the ideal man for the job. He's a guy who doesn't have custody of the daughter whose welfare he's so concerned about. A guy who claims to have his daughter's best interests at heart, but who's shown no shame about savaging the girl's Christian mother in the press. A guy who's never argued before the Supreme Court, but who insists on arguing the case himself. (The Supreme Court doesn't usually allow someone so inexperienced to handle a case before them; they made an exception in his case.) Still don't think he's nuts? Then buy his CD for $17.89 (get it?) from his official website and hear the folk -- and, yes rap -- songs he's recorded about his plight, including "Establi-Rap" and "(Won't You Play Fair) Bill O'Reilly".

I don't believe in God, but I do believe in Hell. Hell is what will break loose if this guy wins, just like it did with the Texas sodomy case and the gay marriage issue and everything else I believe in. And I know that it wouldn't exactly help the Democrats for the separation of church and state to become an issue in an election year. In many ways, the timing of this issue couldn't be worse. But we don't get to choose the timing for these things any more than we get to pick the people who represent us.

Whenever I hear someone expressing embarrassment (or worse) about the decadence of gay pride parades and how it doesn't send America the best message about gays blah blah blah, I have to remind them that it was drag queens who rioted at Stonewall. Without them and the in-your-face troublemakers of ACT-UP, there wouldn't be a parade at all. We're lucky they let us march. No, I don't think the guys in the assless chaps "represent" me, but until very recently, the only image of homosexuality "respectable" gays like me ever gave America was the front of a closet door, so in a way, I owe those greased-up leather daddies a lot of gratitude.

After all, it's not like I've brought any cases before the Supreme Court lately. I'm sure other people feel the same way about the Pledge as Mike Newdow, but this guy was willing to put everything he has on the line for it. He's getting death threats, he's spending tons of his own time and money, and even people like me who agree with him are calling him a kook. And at a time when watching Jesus get the shit beaten out of him on screen is the #1 national pastime, you'd have to be crazy to bring a religious issue before the Supreme Court.

Mike Newdow is clearly crazy. And for that, I salute him.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
 
D & E are A.O.K.

Well, I finally got up the nerve to ask Person D about the wedding gift my friends and I got him and his wife back in September. To recap: a group of us chipped in to get them a big ass gift certificate to Best Buy, which I slipped inside a card and personally handed them in a parking garage about two weeks after the wedding. A couple of months later, Person D started talking about some expensive purchases he planned to make at Best Buy, which would've been a great time to thank me for the gift, or so I thought. Instead, he said he'd be buying his stuff with some Christmas cash from his grandma. Huh? Whuh?! A-hibbly-jibbly-whozitt?!?!?

Suddenly, I felt like I was living in a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode. Technically, newlyweds have a year to send their thank-yous, so I didn't want to be rude and bring it up. But I couldn't help thinking back to Jennifer's hairbrush in the Family Ties TV movie where they went to England, and thereby picturing some bizarre string of events involving a missing microfilm which was hidden inside an identical envelope that might've caused the gift certificate to be stolen by some bumbling European spies, who then treated themselves to a Tivo and an Matrix box set.

More months go by, the thank you still doesn't come, and my co-gifters keep asking me, "Have you heard anything yet?" It's still within the socially acceptable year, but I'm getting more and more nervous, and I finally ask myself, "What would Larry David do?" So I called D and got ready for the awkward hilarity that was sure to ensue.

D's response was, "I knew it!" I'm pretty sure "it" meant that he'd been wracked with guilt for months about not getting those cards out, but I couldn't help feeling like I'd just lost a battle of wills wherein he was hoping I would cave and call before he caved and thanked. Anyway, the point is that they got the gift, they're very appreciative, and they feel EXTREMELY guilty about not thanking me/us sooner.

And at this point, that's the best thank you I could imagine.

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WHINE COUNTRY

Tonight's American Idol theme is country music. That's all I need to post my picks. Expect lots of complaining, at least three renditions of "Crazy", and more goofy footwork from J.P.L. (who I'm guessing will do either "Friends in Low Places" or "Boot Scoot Boogie" -- but hey, those are just about the only country songs I know). And definitely expect me to fast forward past Steven Cojocaru's fashion makeovers -- ugh! Are they really calling him a "style expert"? Among people who outrank him as a style expert are Bobby Trendy, Jennifer Hudson's sister, my grandma and (just barely) Carson from Queer Eye.

I also predict that John Stevens will do Johnny Cash, Diana will give the night's strongest performance, LaToya will disappoint, Fantasia, even out of her element, will still be really great, and Matt Rogers will channel Garth Brooks in an embarrassingly over-the-top personal hoe-down and yet survive another week -- damn him.

Bottom 3: George Huff, Camile Velasco (the night's worst performance)

Sent packing: Jennifer Hudson (I like her, but her country will probably fall as flat as her "Imagine".)

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Monday, March 22, 2004
 
A WEEKEND I'LL NEVER FORGET

Drew came up with the perfect theme to summarize this past weekend, but I honestly can't remember what it was. And that's appropriate, I guess, since we started off Friday night by seeing "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". I can't recommend this movie enough, not only because it's great, but because seeing it with your boy/girlfriend-spouse-legal partner opens up a whole new realm of good-natured teasing for you and your special friend. Drew and I spent most of the weekend threatening each other by saying "Don't make me erase you!" and reliving our own memories and imagining how the background components would be wiped away with high-tech effects. "Remember the waiter eating our leftover cake at the Grove? Whoosh! He's gone!"

Unfortunately, some things are destined to fade away, like my blissful memories of that first night at the new Target just three short weeks ago. I went back for the first time since then, and it just wasn't the same. The floors, once spotless, are scuffed. The parking garage, once crowded, is now impenetrable. (Big ups to my boy for finding the secret back entrance nobody else knows about. For you locals, enter on Formosa, then turn down the alley. But shhhhh! It's our little secret, okay?) And the clientele, once featuring Sandra Bernhard and Janet Charlton of the Star, now features the same ruthless aisle-hogging cart-pushers who inhabit every Target. Still no word on the opening date for Best Buy, but given the overcrowding of the garage, I'm almost hoping it never comes. Sad but true.

On Saturday, we saw "Dawn of the Dead". I'm not a big fan of horror movies, but in this one, the two scariest things happened after the credits rolled. First, I accidentally brushed my hand against the straw in somebody's soda, which for me is roughly equivalent to what rolling around in rat puke and medical waste for an hour would be for most people. (Don't look for me on "Fear Factor" anytime soon.) Then, on the way out, we ran into Drew's ex-boyfriend. Thankfully, he didn't try to feast on my brain, but he did have that look in his eye.

Then, on Sunday we did just about the dumbest thing you can do, which is to go to an animal adoption fair when you have no intention of adopting an animal. I realized that I'm almost as picky about pets as I am about men. Sure, there were plenty of cute mutts, but I never quite had my heart stolen. Or maybe I just had my wall up -- one more reason why I discovered dogs are a lot like men for me. Drew, on the other hand, fell in love with every pooch we passed, especially Topper, a blind English Spring Spaniel. He even practiced saying Topper's first name with his last name. That night, I discovered Drew looking for Topper on the rescue organization's website, and for the first time that day, my heart melted.

That's one memory I'm really going to miss when I have it zapped away someday.

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DEAF EARS

Benefit of having a blog, #1,842: when someone doesn't get your joke, you have another audience to try it out on...

Me: Hi, I'm calling about the non-disclosure agreement Kevin signed. I was wondering if you could fax us a copy of it.

Kevin's assistant: What is this again?

Me: It's a non-disclosure agreement.

KA: Kevin hasn't told me anything about that.

Me: Well, I'm glad to hear that. He's not supposed to disclose it.

(crickets, awkward pause that lasts all eternity)

KA: Yeah, okay. Well, I'll ask him about it.

Me: Okay. Thanks.

It's pathetic how much I'm giggling just as I type this.

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Thursday, March 18, 2004
 
KOO KOO K'KOO KOO ROO

What I wanted to say to the creepy guy who came up to me when I was in line:

"Well, yes, I am interested in Lasik surgery. Tell me more. You see, like most people, I've been hearing about Lasik surgery for years, but I didn't want to entrust my freaking eyes to just anyone. No, I've been waiting to be accosted in a fast food restaurant by a mumbly, unshaven weirdo with a pony tail who apparently approaches everyone he sees wearing glasses with his brilliant sales pitch. Since you're clearly not smart enough to see the obvious flaw in your marketing strategy, maybe I should clue you in to the fact that I'm being sarcastic. So go tell your brother-in-law or whoever actually does the surgery that maybe he should find a better way to score clients than to offer every freak in his address book a finder's fee."

What I actually said:
"Uh, no thanks."

What I wanted to say to the employee who got stuck cleaning up the plastic condiment cups that the customer in front of me knocked on the floor:

"You know what, it's really not sanitary to put something that you picked up off the ground back on the counter for customers to use. That's why I took the ones that I helped you collect (you're welcome, by the way) and threw them in the trash. Maybe you're thinking the five second rule applied and since you picked them up right away, they were still sanitary. Nope. One of the ones I threw out had a hair in it. No joke. Putting them back wasn't cool. Is it the money? Are you worried about wasting the 35 cents or whatever those two dozen plastic cups and lids cost? Well, here's 35 cents. No, take it. I insist. Just throw the cups away. Please?"

What I actually said:
Nothing.

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OVERQUALIFIED

Yes, I know bitching about your job in your blog is the #1 way to get yourself fired, but I've done it so many times now, I'm starting to feel invincible. And what would this blog be without it besides a lot of American Idol rants (see below)?

One of my bosses gave me something he'd written up that he needed typed. His handwriting was typically illegible, so whenever I couldn't read his writing, I guessed. At one point, I came across the following phrase (I've marked the illegible parts with x's so you can play along): "... either explicitly or imxxxxxxly..."

Think hard now. Do you have a guess as to what goes in the blank? Pencils down... now!

If you're like me, you probably would've typed "implicitly" and continued on.

And if you're like my boss, you would've "corrected" me by crossing out "implicitly" and writing "impliedly".

Yes.

That's right.

Impliedly.

This man went to law school.

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HOORAY FOR ME

Well, look who the big winner on American Idol was this week... me! I correctly predicted two of the bottom 3, including boot victim Leah. And that was before I even saw their performances. (After Tuesday's show, I probably would've switched George Huff to Matt Rogers, which still would have been wrong.) Okay, fine, so this week was a gimme. Nobody in the world enjoys Leah's singing besides Paula, Randy and Leah's creepy Bulgarian mom.

I'm not sure if they're humiliating the losers quite enough, though. I mean, forcing the bottom two to sing before telling them results was a nice touch, but maybe from now on, the bottom two should be dep@ntsed* and beaten as well. Remember when Seacrest was the positive one, who'd be nice to the kids even after they lousied up the stage so they wouldn't go home and slit their wrists? Remember when he didn't say his own name every five seconds? Remember when he was 28 last year? It almost makes me long for the days of Brian Dun-- nah, nevermind. I'd rather have a million depa&ts!ng googles than one hit from somebody looking for D^nkl#m@n info.

This definitely looks to be the year of the diva. Fantasia and LaToya are in a different league than most of those kids. I agree with Simon that Jon Peter Lewis will stick around for a while, but not because he's nearly as good a singer as the girls (Diana, Jennifer and Jasmine are all pretty outstanding, too). He sings okay, but the guys are way outnumbered this year, and J.P.'s the most interesting of all of them. Then again, laughing and cringing are of pretty much equal value with me, how about you?

I wish that, in addition to the bottom three, they'd tells us who the top vote getter was each week. It'd shake things up a little, give us an early indication of who some of the favorites are, and it'd be something positive amid all the gloom and doom and suspense every week. And as a reward, the winner should be allowed to sit out the embarrassing Brady Bunch Variety Hour dance medley they force the kids to do to fill up time in the results show. (And they make fun of Jon Peter's dancing?!) Let somebody escape with some dignity, please!
_______________________________
* Sorry for the punctuational euphemism. All those dep@ntsing googles get annoying after a while. Maybe it's time to reflect on my why I use that word so much...

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
 
AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG

You know what I hate? Charities.

Sure, every charity claims to have some noble purpose, like saving orphaned kittens or vaccinating children in Ghana or bailing out Willie Nelson from the IRS, but the truth is each and every one of them has one overriding goal: to raise money for itself. I get more junk mail from charities than from anyone else (with the possible exception of those stupid tree-slaughtering jerks at CapitalOne bank). I never used to get mail from charities. Then about eight years ago, I gave $25 to AIDS Project Los Angeles. But was that enough? Noooooooo! They immediately wrote me to ask for more money. And not just once, but constantly. I started getting solicitations from APLA on nearly a weekly basis, all of them telling me how much good my $25 had done, and how much more good I could do if I could just dig a little deeper.

And it wasn't just APLA that got greedy. Suddenly, it was like an alert went out to all of charity-dom. My petty contribution (every time David Geffen exhales, APLA gets $25) alerted every nonprofit deadbeat do-gooder leech that my bank account was open for business. I don't get it. If APLA knew I was good for a few bucks now and then, why wouldn't they keep it their little secret? I got the feeling they were going into charity chat rooms and swapping sucker lists. My mailbox was soon flooded with desperate pleas from Sally Struthers and Christopher Reeve and Jimmy Carter.

Oh, don't get me started on Carter. He sent me the nicest letter asking for help for Habitat for Humanity. He introduced me to the Zeller family, who thanks to HFH had a lovely two-bedroom home in Gainesville to call their own. So, of course, me, being a total sap, gets all teary-eyed and whips off another check to the first president I remember begging my parents (in vain) to vote for. What a dope I am. Soon enough, I'm getting other letters from HFH, but not from the big guy himself, from some paper-pusher I never heard of. "God bless you for your generous gift," it said. Who bless me? I didn't know he had anything to do with this. "Your gift helps us to do God's work," it continued. God, God, God. He was all over that letter. Hey, I never signed up to do God's work. Jimmy Carter didn't say anything about God. He said my contribution was going to pay for 1,000 nails. And that brings me to my other point: when you give money to a charity, you never know where it's really going. I decided that if I ever gave to Habitat for Humanity again, I'd just buy the nails myself and send those directly to Jimmy. That'd save me the rage I felt at knowing my cash was swindled for the sake of God's work.

The other thing charities love to do is guilt you into contributing. "Oh, look, they sent me address labels with pandas on them. If they spent all that money on this lovely gift, well, I just have to give to the Wildlife Fund now!" Guess what: no, you don't. Besides, I've discovered that even if you don't pay for them, those labels work just the same. You know what it's called when someone gives you something you didn't ask for and then expects you to pay for it? Extortion. And it isn't any prettier when you slap a panda on it. Yesterday, I got some address labels from Project Angel Food. And guess what? In that same batch of mail, there was another batch of address labels from Project Angel Food, stamped -- get this -- "Second Notice". In bright red block letters, like it was an unpaid bill. Well, either they're really pushy or they really want to help me with my outgoing mail issues. But does anyone really need all these address labels anymore? I mean, any schmo can print address labels on his or her personal computer these days. Hey, Project Angel Food, next time do me a favor. Send stamps instead.

I've got nothing against Project Angel Food or APLA or even Habitat For Humanity (well, except for their failure to be upfront with me about being a religious organization). But they've hired some really obnoxious marketers to raise funds. I never sent APLA another dime, but over the years, they've spent at least twice my original $25 on mailers designed to get me to give again. I've finally faced up to the harsh truth: sure, when you give Geffen-level money, they use it to construct buildings and name them after you, but when you give $25, they use it to print address labels and send unwanted junk mail to a bunch of strangers who are surely as sick of it as I am. So I've decided I'm going to do Jerry's work from now on. Until I can afford to give an amount that will really make a difference and to slide my check personally into Jimmy Carter's hands, I'm going to do the most charitable thing I can afford to do.

I'm going to stop giving to charity.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004
 
REJOIN ME

After careful consideration of the matter, I decided to join him.

You may have noticed the book on the right column of this site with the cryptic cover page. I picked it up a few weeks ago, and it's a really fun, easy read, one of those rare books I ration out to myself in small chunks because I don't want it to end too soon. It's a British book called "Join Me" that's just been released in America. The author is Danny Wallace, who could most accurately be described with whatever the British word for "slacker" is. His idea of fun is to phone a newspaper and post an advert that says "Join Me, send one passport sized photo to..." and then his address, just to see what happens.

The short version of what happened is that he started a cult that now numbers in the thousands. The long version is that only one person responded to his ad, so he started marketing "Join Me" more aggressively -- with subsequent ads, posters, a website, and yes, even -- cringe -- spam. All of this in the cause of, well, nothing. There's a fine line between clever and stupid, and Danny Wallace planted his flag right on top of it.

It seems like most of the people who joined, at least from that initial, enigmatic awareness campaign, did so just to show they were in on the joke. But some people expected something more, so in fear of losing his "followers", Wallace set them on a mission: do a good deed every Friday. Now he had something to document, something to keep "Join Me" alive and, least importantly it would seem, something to be proud of. Lots of strangers were doing lots of good deeds (well, if you consider buying Tori Spelling some muffin cups anonymously off her wedding registry a good deed), and he was raking in the credit. He even scored a publishing deal for the story.

So far so good. I mean, Wallace facetiously compares himself to Jesus, but I think he sells himself short. This guy's a slacker god. I can't think of another person who's gained so many followers by doing so little.

For the joinees, the only reward was karma, and, if they were lucky, a beer courtesy of The Leader. Wallace describes with great charm how when he'd meet up with his joinees, he'd buy them all a pint, from his first joinee in London to a massive crowd of Belgians who responded to his appearance on a Flemish talk show.

Wallace is currently on a book tour of America, and he's been chronicling his experience in an online tour diary. Judging by his entries, America is just like the rest of the world; bowled over by Danny Wallace's charm, strangers at his book signings happily proffer their passport photos and are rewarded with a getting-to-know-you pint at a local bar afterwards. I rarely go to book signings, but this was one I didn't want to miss. I wanted to meet Danny Wallace, and I wanted to Join Him and share in the adventures that were sure to follow.

So on Friday, I headed way the hell up to Pasadena with a passport photo in my pocket. There were about 25 people in attendance, and the most excited by far were the store employees standing up in the back. Most of the other people seemed like they had just walked in cold because they had nothing better to do or because they saw the imposing, enigmatic cardboard standee in the lobby and were curious. "We on the staff really love this book, and we're really going to try to push it this year," the woman who did the introduction said.

And then Danny Wallace took to the podium. He looked just like he looked on the book cover, only a bit taller, and he sounded just like I would've expected him to sound, soft-spoken but snarky in that particularly British way. He read the first few pages from the book, then told a few of the more delightful anecdotes from the next 300 pages. He was witty and charming, and we all laughed a lot. Hooray for Danny Wallace! Hooray for joining! Hooray for everything! Then, with the crowd in the palm of his hands, he offered to take questions.

Silence.

Uncomfortable silence.

Come on, people! You want him to take us all out for a beer, don't you? Let's wow him with our fondness for his work!

Finally, one of the gray-haired women in the front row raised her hand. "What are your parents like?" she asked. Clearly, she was curious about what kind of background produced this strange young Englishman in front of her. He answered her question with typical good humour, proving he was just as good off-the-cuff as he was with his prepared material. Still, the audience was very shy about asking questions, so I decided that, as someone who had actually read and enjoyed the book, I should probably contribute something.

Realizing it was Friday, a "Good Friday" in the terminology of Join Me, I knew exactly what to ask. "Did you do your good deed today?"

Now, for someone who only jokingly claims to being a cult leader, he looked an awful lot as though I had just asked him why the spaceship hadn't come yet to take him away to Blisstonia*. "Well...," he stammered. "I bought a woman a coffee. In fact, it was that woman sitting next to you." I looked beside me, and a woman held up her coffee as evidence. But The Leader seemed to think I wouldn't find that answer satisfactory. Maybe she was his publicist or something. "I'll do another one later, if you want to stick around. I'll go up to someone and buy their book for them. Or something." I thought I'd tossed him a softball, but he was being awfully defensive.

He moved on to the next question. A long-haired man in the row in front of me raised his hand, and with a joyful cackle in his voice asked the question that was surely on the mind of anyone who'd read the book: "So, are you going to take us all out for a beer?"

But again, our leader was flustered. "Well, I'll tell you what. How much does a beer cost in America?" It seemed an odd question for someone who'd already visited half a dozen cities, and bought plenty of beers for plenty of joinees, at least according to his blog.

"About three to five dollars."

"Okay, we'll say four dollars. Why don't you all close your eyes for twenty minutes, and I'll hide four dollars in a book somewhere in this store. Whoever finds it can have a beer on me."

Ha, ha. Very funny. But really... where are our beers?

Next question.

Well, okay, so he doesn't want to hit the town and buy beers for a bunch of strangers. Totally understandable... except of course for the fact that that's what he did all through the book and at the previous cities on his U.S. book tour. And the way he responded by going right off the far end of the sarcasm-meter was a bit condescending, as if to say, No of course I'm not going to buy you a beer. What are you thinking, you stupid American wanker? You can't believe everything you read in a bloody book!

What was wrong? Didn't The Leader like LA? Okay, so we were no Wisconsin. He'd written gleefully about the overwhelming response he'd received in Wisconsin, so I'm sure a couple of old ladies, me, the long haired guy, the coffee lady and 20 other people in Pasadena couldn't quite compete with that.

But I had an ace up my sleeve, in the form of a passport photo in my pocket. I was sure that becoming an official joinee would be a great way to win him over.

I waited patiently until the end of the Q&A, then got in the queue for my autograph. I even bought another copy of the book to send to my friend Janice, who I know would appreciate the humour. I watched as one person after another got an autograph and said a few kind words. About eight people went up before me, but not a single photo was exchanged. At last, it was my turn. "I'm ready to join!" I said as I slapped my picture down proudly in front of The Leader.

Danny thanked me and shook my hand to welcome me to Join Me. Then he picked up my photo. "I'm going to put this right... er...". He searched around for somewhere to put it. Huh? He didn't carry his shoebox of Join Me members around with him? He didn't have somewhere special to file all the photos of new joinees he was collecting on his tour? All the joinees whose photos he talked so proudly about all through his book and all through his tour diary? It was as if he never expected to get a photo at all! "... er... here!" He slipped the photo inside his own dog-eared copy of "Join Me" and then got onto the business of signing my book.

Needless to say, the process of joining was all a bit disillusioning. I wondered how Danny would recount his LA visit in his blog. Maybe he'd admit to being disappointed at the turnout, and he'd lament that his publisher booked him in stodgy old Pasadena instead of somewhere hip like Westwood or WeHo. "Except for this one nerdy chap with a funny voice who wanted to know what my good deed that day had been and another guy with long hair, nobody seemed to have read the book. I was so disappointed, I couldn't even get up the energy to take the attendees out for a pint afterward," he'd confess, regretfully, of this first major setback in his plan to spread Join Me to the USA.

So I checked out the latest page in the online journal with some curiosity. "Maybe I spoke too soon about Wisconsin being the official Join Me state," it said. "Californians seem rather into the Karma Army, too." Well, okay. It was fair to say that people enjoyed the reading. But then he went on: "The reading was a blast - especially when so many people presented me with their passport photos afterwards." Huh? Did I qualify as "so many people"? Did five hundred people rush into the store after I left? Even the long-haired guy took off without a signature.

He then talked about being taken out afterward to a bar with live mariachi music. And there, alongside the diary entry, was a picture of him at the mariachi bar, the mariachi bar none of us were invited to! He didn't say who took him to this bar (I have a sneaking suspicion it was that woman with the coffee), but if he was going, why didn't he invite his joinees like he always did?

And then I noticed something very telling about that photo. Other than the mariachi band he's talking about, there's nobody in it but him.

Despite everything, I still highly recommend "Join Me", a very funny, well-written and utterly unique book.

Look for it in the fiction section.


* Regretful Simpsons reference

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Friday, March 12, 2004
 
REMEMBERING RAY

Ray died.

If you didn't know Ray, it's because you don't go to my gym. Or maybe, like me, you do go to my gym, but you still didn't know Ray. All I know is that this morning, my gym taped up Xeroxed pictures of a man labeled "Ray" and including the location of a memorial service. The picture showed an older, hefty African-American man, with a suburban street in the background, smiling broadly and wearing a beret. It was almost too perfect, as if someone had said, "Ray, you're going to die soon, so I want to get a picture of you showing your lust for life, and preferably wearing something on your head that rhymes with your name."

I recognized Ray's face. I think I saw him just about every time I went to the gym, lifting weights and looking tired, with a sweaty towel draped over his shoulder. I guess he was like part of the family there. I guess other people talked to him and got to know him. I guess they liked Ray. And looking at his picture made me a little sad. No, not for Ray, who, as I said, I didn't know. But for me, because I know that when I die, they won't put any pictures of me up at the gym.

I mean, even if I die at the gym, and even if they wanted to dig my membership card out of my corpse's pocket, copy it and hang it by the elevator on a page that said, "R.I.P. Jerry... this is not an admission of liability", they couldn't, because my membership card doesn't have a picture on it. The only mark I'd leave behind is if they had to cordon off the weight bench where I got crushed by a barbell, or if they drew a chalk outline on the belt of the treadmill where I slipped on my own sweat and broke my neck. People would avoid using that treadmill at first, out of respect, but in the peak post-work hours, someone would get tired of waiting and go "Screw it, I'm using the dead guy's treadmill." And then it would be fair game again, and everyone would use it, and the chalk would slowly fade as it was pounded by Nike after Nike.

If I die away from the gym, forget it. They'll never notice. "How come it's just slightly less difficult to find an available elliptical runner on Friday mornings?" someone might say one day, and whoever they're talking to will respond with a disinterested shrug. That's about the most I can hope for. I don't know Ray, but it says something, I think, that he's the kind of guy whose death makes an impact at his gym. I wondered if there were pictures of Ray at other businesses around Los Angeles, like the diner where he bought his piece of apple pie and cup of black coffee every morning and where he flirted with LuAnn, the sassy waitress, or the barber shop where he hung out with Eddie and Lou and Buddy McGee, swapping stories of the old days, and the 7-11 where he played the lottery every week. "Good ol' Ray," Sajid the cashier would say as he hung up a picture of Ray wearing a toupee. "7-9-26-31-48, bonus 12, those were his numbers." Of course, maybe it's just my imagination here, and maybe outside of 24 Hour Fitness, everyone in town thought Ray was a total prick, but I doubt it.

I know I'll never be like Ray myself. When I die, there won't be any pictures of me at any small businesses. I'm just not the kind of person to amass large numbers of casual relationships, to warm the hearts of relative strangers and find surrogate families everywhere I go. Small talk is one of my greatest fears. I go to the gym, I work out, I leave. In a lot of ways, I envy Ray, even as I fear becoming him. I cringe every time I order a Chinese chicken salad at the mall and they remember that I don't want water chestnuts. Or when I catch a glimpse of recognition and hear someone say "Welcome back!" How do you remember me, Video Store Guy? What did I do wrong that made me stick out? Ray would've been friends with the Video Store Guy, and he would've rented "Reservoir Dogs" one day on the guy's recommendation. "That's one screwy movie ya made me watch there, Joey!" he'd say when he brought it back, and they'd talk and joke about it for a good twenty minutes.

I overheard a couple of guys talking about Ray in the locker room. "Have I talked to you since Ray died?" one guy said. "Nah, man. That was sad," replied the other guy. They talked about Ray, the fact that he died and that it was sad, for a little while longer. Neither of them was going to the memorial, but they both agreed they were going to miss him.

I'll miss Ray, too. I never talked to him or got to know him myself. But I'll always remember him... as the guy everybody remembered.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004
 
MY BRAVE FACE, JERRY'S STORY

People like me shouldn't be allowed to watch TV movies of the week. I'm not talking about the Wonderful World of Disney musicals or "The Facts of Life Goes to Australia". I mean those tear-jerking movies that start out with a nice, normal, healthy family that, before the first commercial airs, gets ripped apart by some awful, unforeseen twist of fate, after which their lives will never be the same. Years of watching other people's real life sob stories played out on screen have left me convinced that some sort of horrid, freakish tragedy is the inevitable consequence of the pursuit of happiness.

I worry about everything. Freak crane accidents, routine medical exams with unexpected results, botched surgeries, unshaven loners with semi-automatics and bizarre vendettas, unexpected late-night phone calls from people I haven't heard from in years. When things are going well, that's when I'm the most miserable. You're living the first act of a TV movie, Jerry, I tell myself. Be afraid. I'm terrified of taking anything for granted, because the one thing you take for granted is the thing you're sure to lose.

The other day, while crossing the street, a car blazed past me way too fast and way too close, sending a rush of wind past my nose. What if he'd been just a bit closer? I thought. What if he'd hit my nose? I decided I don't appreciate my nose enough. If TV movies were any indication of how life worked, my nose was doomed. I started picturing the scenario in which it'd happen. I'll be waiting for a train and I'll bend down to pick up a tissue that fell out of my pocket when, suddenly, I slip. Oops! I just fell nose-first onto the tracks! Then WHAM! Commercial break!

I'll survive the incident, but the nose, of course, will be history, leaving a gaping, unsightly hole in my face. I'll have to adjust to children's cruel jokes, adults' wincing glances, and a plastic surgeon who finally sits me down, rests his hand on my shoulder, tears in his eyes, and tells me, "I'm sorry, but there's nothing else I can do." I'll have to have a special contraption designed to hold up my glasses, and on Thanksgiving, Victoria or somebody will say will say to me, "Doesn't that turkey smell good?" And everyone will turn and glare at her, then look at me with pity. "Oh, I'm sorry," she'll say. "I just forgot that--." And I'll throw a glass against the wall and scream, "Well, it looks like you've all found something to be thankful for -- your noses!" And I'll storm out, and everyone will turn to Victoria and say, "Nice job, Vic!"

Poor Drew will have to deal with things he never bargained for. It will be really hard on him, but he'll stick it out for a long time. Finally, one day, he'll break down, throw a glass against the wall and scream, "It's not just the nose, Jerry! You've changed!" And I'll realize he's right. In a moment of selfless love, I'll encourage him to move on. "You deserve a man with a complete face," I'll say, my voice sounding pinched and squeaky like when Lily Tomlin does the phone operator character.

Realizing I need to get my shit together, I'll join a support group for people with no noses. I'll be shocked to learn that there are others who've been through exactly what Iím going through. I'll meet people like Nate, who was waiting for a bus when he bent down to tie his shoe, and Janet, whose backstory features a curb-jumping Hummer and a pooper scooper. "Join us," they'll say. "Let us be your new nostrils." I'll go see a priest, who'll tell me, "This is all part of God's plan. For some reason, he wanted you to lose your nose." And somehow, in that moment, it'll make sense. I'll find my calling. I'll lobby on Capitol Hill for a bill to protect the facially disfigured. I'll meet with the President, and he'll say, "Well, that's a problem I hadn't thought about, and you really nailed it." And I'll smile, wink at him and reply, "No, I hit it on the nose!" Closing credits.

And then I smiled, turned the radio on and continued driving to work. Sufficiently appreciated, my nose would now be safe for a while. My sanity, I feared, was another matter.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004
 
ONE CHICKEN CLUB SANDWICH, HOLD THE SOAP

Yes, it's true that some Wendy's employees were photographed bathing in their store's sink. But let's get to the part of the story that interests me...

According to the online poll that accompanies the story, 8% of people (as of the time I viewed it) had voted that this would make them MORE likely to eat at that Wendy's. Think about that for a second. In raw numbers, that's 2,606 people who think, "Hmmm... fast food workers sudsing up their armpits and scrubbing their acne-pocked backs in the Wendy's kitchen? Wow, I could go for a FrostyTM right now!" Or, possibly more likely, "Hey, dude, wouldn't it be, like, biggidy-bang radical hella extreme da bomb if we clicked 'yes'? Haw, haw!" As if we needed further proof that online polls mean nothing.

If I thought I had any sort of substantial, motivated, sufficiently jackassy readership, I'd do everything I could to drive those poll numbers up, just to savor the thought of those newscasters looking at the results and going, "Whoa! This just in! Unsanitary restaurants are a hit!" Alas, whyjerrywhy.com is no fark, so I'm just going to sit here and click yes about a thousand times myself.

Haw, haw!

Update: I guess the Farkers were behind those screwy results all along. Looks like they beat me to it. Their jokes were better, too.

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Monday, March 08, 2004
 
... AND YOUR LITTLE DOG, TOO!

Rich vs. Gibson is turning out to be even more fun than Ebert vs. Gallo or Franken vs. O'Reilly were a while back. Well, maybe "fun" is the wrong word. Frank Rich published his latest return-fire against Mel Gibson and his movie in the New York Times today, mostly to counter Gibson's attacks on his three favorite targets: Frank Rich, Frank Rich's intestines and Frank Rich's dog.

The fun part of these feuds, for me, is to see two public figures -- one guy who's really smart and one guy who's a complete jerk -- going at each other hardcore. The smart guy responds to the jerk's jerkiness with intelligent, well-reasoned arguments, and the jerk responds to being outsmarted and out-argued by resorting to lunatic, childish attacks which make us all laugh.

The problem is that the smart guy is supposed to win. Gallo's movie got shelved, and pretty much the whole world came down on Ebert's side. Hooray. And Fox News' lawsuit against Al Franken's book backfired, turning it into a best-seller. Victory again. But Frank Rich has had to sit back and watch "The Passion of the Christ" become the 21st Century's "Star Wars". In response, Mel becomes more smug and self-righteous, and Frank has to satisfy himself with whatever favorable letters to the editor trickle in. It's like watching the Ebert/Gallo feud all over again in Bizarro World.

Yeah, "fun" is definitely the wrong word.

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I WOULDN'T NORMALLY DO THIS KIND OF THING

I've never been a proponent of outing. I definitely advocate people voluntarily coming out, but who am I to tell someone who's earning $20 Million a movie or running for Congress that they should risk their career by opening up their private life to every goon with an AOL connection or a subscription to Premiere? And really, did anyone's life change all that much when George Michael came out, except for George Michael's? (Well, okay, including George Michael's.)

The only way I've find outing justifiable is when the victim is an anti-gay-legislation-supporting elected official. Homosexuality is never worth outing, in my opinion, but hypocrisy always is.

That being said, I have a message for the Big Name Star who appeared at the HRC dinner this weekend slobbering over introducing Barbra Streisand. Sure, like most people, I've heard the rumors about you. But I stopped listening to those rumors years ago. There are unsubstantiated gay rumors about just about everyone in Hollywood, and furthermore, see paragraph one above. I have to admit, though, that I was a bit stunned by your behavior. I mean, it's great for a heterosexual man to appear at a gay rights organization to lend his support to a good cause, but when doing so, you're under no obligation to appear so, well, gay.

What was startling about the whole display is that it didn't seem to be an act. (Or maybe you're a better actor than I thought.) I got the impression you were actually letting your guard down and having a good time, that maybe for the first time ever, I was witnessing you just being yourself. Believe me, I'm not one to assume people are gay at the mere drop of a wrist. This went way beyond gaydar. Remember those things you said about worshipping Barbara when you were a kid and wanting to dress like her and play her roles? Straight kids don't do that. And I think you knew your audience well enough to know how we would interpret your speech. Your behavior was so unmistakable, I turned to my boyfriend and said, "Is he coming out right at this very moment?" He turned back to me, equally puzzled, and said, "I feel like Tom Cruise is going to walk out next wearing a dress." (For the record, Tom was a no-show, and furthermore, no, I don't think Tom Cruise is gay.)

I hope I'm wrong, because the thought that you've been living a double life through your whole, long career and that this one night of being yourself was so liberating and exciting for you is more than a little sad. I'm glad you had a good time and all, but wouldn't it be nice if you could feel that free all the time?

Then again, maybe you wanted to create suspicion. After all, I'm sure you know that if you want to keep your sexuality quiet, camping it up and gushing over Barbra in front of three thousand gay men isn't the best way to go about it. Maybe you're ready. Maybe you're going to do it the hard way, like Rosie O'Donnell or Elton John. First you're just supporting gay causes like a good Hollywood liberal. Then you get divorced. Then you start hanging out with Rosie O'Donnell and Elton John and saying things like, "I don't like labels." Then you're talking in public about how you worship Barbra and how you've always wanted to dress like her and play her roles. On second thought, maybe you skipped a step or two.

Okay, fine, I'll stop now. I won't name names or drop really obvious hints like I would if I were the tabloids or Page Six. But I hope you realized on Saturday night that the other side isn't so scary. There could be a whole lot of HRC dinners in your future, and maybe you could even be the guest of honor next time. Maybe you could even marry Jason Gould and call Barbra "Mom". I know I realized something on Saturday night: that maybe, in addition to hypocrisy, there's another justifiable motive for outing.

Pity.

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Sunday, March 07, 2004
 
OUTSOURCING, NETWORK STYLE

The only thing more offensive than all the content warnings that have suddenly sprung up all over TV as a means of placating those ever-more-jackbooted thugs at the FCC (isn't that what the stupid little ratings boxes were for?) is the way NBC is using its Apprentice website to solicit challenge ideas for the next two seasons. Guess what the grand prize is if your idea makes it to the air?

A. A free trip to New York where Donald will personally fire you
B. The piece of plaster that fell on Omarosa's head
C. A date with stern, hypercritical Trump toady Carolyn
D. A pallet of Trump Ice

Actually, the grand prize is... get ready... absolutely nothing! That's right. No compensation. No mention in the credits. Not even a call from Jeff Zucker thanking you for saving him the five dollars an hour or whatever they would've paid to hire an extra non-guild staff writer to come up with these ideas for them. That's right. This isn't a promotion at all. NBC is looking for regular folks willing to do its job for them at a cost of no more and no less than zilch.

Just so there's no confusion, the website offers this scarier-than-Trump's-hairpiece rights waiver to potential submitters:

If you submit task ideas to "Suggest a Task," you are granting NBC and the producers of "The Apprentice" a world-wide, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable and non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt and publish your submitted Tasks in "The Apprentice." You are also granting NBC and the producers a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display your Tasks (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed.

Cheap and exploitative? Absolutely. But you have to admit, it's a shrewd business move. After all, amateurs have been writing ER scripts for years now.

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Friday, March 05, 2004
 
GROWING PAINS

So here we are. My new site. Since I'm still learning, I'd appreciate any feedback you feel like giving, from "Your columns aren't formatted properly, you clod" to "Is that logo blurry on purpose?" to "Did you design that glossary page straight from the Chapter 1:Just the Basics tutorial of 'HTML for Dummies'?" (Well, not on the first try, I didn't!) to "I miss those wonderfully charming little ads Blogspot used to put on the top of the site on how to make money blogging and where to buy spy cameras. My life feels incomplete without them." And don't worry, I've got the thick, thick, super-thick, impenetrably thick skin of a writer, so feel free to go as Simon Cowell as you want on me.

Now back to the hard part...

What to post about next...

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I BELONG IN THE ZOO

When you woke up this morning, did you feel something blowing? Were you wearing your birthday suit? Was there a strange, tingly sensation tickling you in the back of the neck?

Well, if so, it's probably because it's my blog's birthday, and the winds of change are gusting full force. (I have no idea what's tickling you, though, so I'd turn around reeeeeeeeal slowly if I were you.)

Every good blog deserves a birthday present, so I decided to give mine a nice little redesign. Well, okay, I can promise that the redesign is "little", but I've still got some work to do before it's "nice". I've been spending the last few months teaching myself some basic HTML, stealing code from studying the design of blogs I like and tapping away feverishly at my prehistoric copy of FrontPage98, and I'm finally ready to unveil WJW 2.0.

I still have a lot to learn about web design, as you'll notice from my circa 1992-looking new site. It's like the step up from a Vic 20 to a Commodore 64, but I hope you'll be charitable and think of it as "retro". I'll continue to make tweaks as I learn more and I have the time, so for now, I consider this my blog's pubescent stage, which means my blog hit puberty about 18 years faster than I did. Congratulations, Why Jerry Why.

So why not take a look back at my humble beginnings...

... and then head over to my humble new beginning. (There's a tiny little link that says "enter" at the bottom of the page, just one of many things I still need to fix, and that's where you'll find the blog.)

(Please update your bookmarks, yadda yadda. Unless the new site comes crashing down through my ignorance or gross negligence, this is probably the last new message you'll see here at the blogspot URL.)

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Wednesday, March 03, 2004
 
DO-SI-D'OH!

Some Texans Boycott Girl Scout Cookies

It's never easy to agree with someone who thinks you're going to Hell, but for once, these right-wing kooks are right. If you're giving money to an organization, I think you have a right to know how they're spending it. And if they're doing something you don't believe in, you have a right to withdraw your support from them (and alert other people to what's going on, if you feel they'd want to know).

To put it in more personal terms, what if I found out that an organization I give lots of money to -- say, the United States government -- was spending large chunks of that money on things I don't approve of -- like a misguided war and the legitimization of bigotry in the Constitution? Okay, so I'm not going to stop being a U.S. Citizen, but I'm going to write mean things about the president in my blog. You stink, Bush! See what one motivated citizen can do? If Bush ever tries to sell Girl Scout cookies in my neighborhood, he can forget about winning the trip to Disneyland.

-----------------------

ON AN UNRELATED NOTE... You know William Hung has made it now that he's a pop-up ad. I just got an ad of the Ridiculously Easy and Unfailable Quiz variety, and the question was which song he sang for his audition. As if William Hung mania wasn't annoying enough already, now the e-jerks are on board...

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RIGHT ON TARGET

I couldn't be more excited that West Hollywood is finally getting its own Target and Best Buy, a mere five minutes from my apartment. (No more driving to Culver City for me!) And I couldn't have been more excited than I was last night to attend a sneak preview pre-opening shopping night at Target for charity. I've been waiting for this for two years, driving past the construction site on a regular basis and watching the achingly slow process through which a junky old car wash and vacant lot turned into a sparkling new shopping complex. (Seriously, could I be lamer? No... seriously.)

Sandra Bernhard was the emcee, meaning Drew got to see two of his idols within a week. The Target dog was there, being walked around the store by some guy who looked like a Teamster. And there was lots of Target-themed (i.e., cheap) food available for snacking. I especially enjoyed the cookies-on-a-stick with red and white targets drawn on them in icing. All the aisles were neatly stocked, and you could tell what other people had been buying by the few gaps on the shelves. Look, someone picked up some Herbal Essence! The bathroom was a sparkling oasis of porcelain that had yet to be splattered, soiled or otherwise unholied. I even pulled the lever on the paper towel dispenser with my hand, rather than using my elbow as I normally do in public bathrooms. New Target knew no germs!

I was a total goon, snapping pictures with my camera whenever I could get up the nerve to look like the kind of guy who'd take pictures at a thing like this. (Trust me, it's a night I'll remember forever, however sad that may be.) I tried to ignore the severely undersized parking lot, the fact that the shopper-clogged aisles were almost impossible to navigate even with this reduced crowd, and the fact that we really could've used this place during the grocery strike, which, wouldn't ya know it, just ended three stinking days ago. Nothing else in the complex was open yet, and the Best Buy looked at least a few weeks away from completion. I can only imagine the crowds who will flood the West Hollywood Gateway (as my Heaven is formally known) when it officially opens, how impossible it will be to park, how big a headache I'll get from the mere thought of going there.

For one night, it was everything my geeky little heart dreamed it would be.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004
 
BREAKING THE RULE

Like most people who live in Los Angeles, I've seen plenty of celebrities. I've seen Keanu Reeves wearing a neckbrace at a movie, Scott Thompson eating breakfast alone (twice), and on an elevator ride, I discovered I'm taller than the Fonz. But there's kind of an unwritten rule that you don't approach famous people in public. L.A. is like a gigantic celebrity zoo, and unless you're a total jackass, you know better than to tap on the cages.

It's a mutually beneficial rule: it protects them from us slobbering asskissers, and it protects us from finding out that our idols are big stinking jerks. Still, I think we all have one or two people we'd make exceptions for. You know what I mean, the kind of person whom you'd want to talk to so much that etiquette would fly right out the window and you'd be willing to sneak through the bars of their cage and toss them a few nuts.

On Friday night, Drew broke the rule for Brett Easton Ellis. As far as I'm concerned, just the fact that he recognized Brett Easton Ellis qualified him to break the rule. Writers probably don't get approached much, and when they do, they can be sure it's a true fan. Drew's read all of BEE's books over and over and always dreamed of meeting him. So Drew went up and gushed, and Brett was really nice about it, and Drew was giddy with glee for the next two days.

So it got me to thinking: who would I break the rule for? Who would I talk to if I saw them in a bar? Nobody immediately came to mind. After some thought, I came up with a few names, but none of them seemed quite right. I mean, for one, there's Ellen DeGeneres. But what would I say that a hundred other people don't say to her every day? And if she were at all rude or dismissive (as she'd probably have every right to be), I'd be really hurt. So forget her. Then there was Bill Clinton. I'd have so many things to ask him, and I'll bet he'd friendly. But I'd also want to tell him what a schmuck he was for fucking his intern when he knew the bad people were out to get him. Couldn't he just rope in his libido for a few years for the good of his country? Hmmm... with his Secret Service posse all around him, maybe I wouldn't want to get confrontational. Better just to admire him at a distance. Maybe John McEnroe. If he were rude to me, I'd consider it an honor. But realistically, I'd be too intimidated to talk to him, and I wouldn't have anything smart to say about the state of tennis today, or whatever you're supposed to say to John McEnroe. I'd been thinking about it since Drew's Brett Easton Ellis encounter, and I still didn't have an answer.

This morning, I went to vote, and as usual, I'd done all my homework like a good citizen. I read up on all the less-publicized races and the ballot measures, checked the endorsements of organizations I trust and came in with my sample ballot all marked up so I could just poke my punchcard in a few dozen places, slap on my "I Voted" sticker and go home. But once I was in the booth, I realized I had forgotten to make a decision about the race on page 1: President of the United States. Oh, my God. I'd become one of those people: the Undecided Voter. The kind of person who tells exit pollers they didn't make up their mind until they were in the voting booth. I mean, what kind of moron does that? Don't they know what an important decision it is? Don't they realize how much is at stake?

So there I was. It's rare that there's still more than one viable candidate in the race by the time I get to vote in the primaries, but the one time I had an actual decision to make, I wasn't prepared.

I'm not the world's biggest Kerry fan, but he seems like he's ready to take Bush on, and it's pretty much a done deal that he'll be the nominee. Should I vote for him just to help wrap things up? Or should I vote for Edwards to keep Kerry on his toes a little while longer, like the LA Weekly suggested? I even toyed with voting for Al Sharpton, who's by far the most entertaining candidate and probably the most liberal. But I take my vote far too seriously to throw it away on a kook with a bad moustache who'll never win.

Then I saw Howard Dean's name. Yeah, he's still on the ballot, even though he dropped out of the race a couple of weeks ago. I was never a Deaniac, and I'm not even sure he would make a great president. But I like what he stands for, and I like what he's done for the Democratic Party. He defied Bush while Kerry and Edwards were cowardly voting for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. While other Democrats were content to roll over and do the Republican Party's tricks in hopes of getting tossed a bone or two, Dean got people excited. He energized long-dormant liberals, and he said the things that so many of us couldn't believe no other politician was saying. (Wasn't anyone checking the figures on Michael Moore's book sales? How could they have given up on liberalism?) I think back to a year ago, even six months ago, and all I remember is how everyone was saying that Bush was a lock to win reelection, and that the Democratic candidate would be whoever seemed the most like Bush, and that they would lose.

Everyone was saying that... except Howard Dean. He found new ways to campaign, new ways to raise funds, and utilized one very old-fashioned way to get people excited: he showed them that they had a choice. It took guts, it took brains and, sure, it took a little bit of crazy, but he transformed the race. He woke up the Democratic Party, and he turned Kerry and Edwards from play-it-safe politicians hiding in Bush's shadow into candidates I'd consider voting for. To put it simply, he gave us hope.

That may not have earned him the nomination, but it earned him my vote. And it answered my question as well, because I realized that if I ever saw Howard Dean in a bar, I'd go up to him and thank him.

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