Monday, August 30, 2004

I showed up to Hollywood Hell House on Saturday with my little sin-plagued Scooby group (two gays and a Jew), all of us excited at the prospect of watching snarky comedians writhing in the pits of eternal grime and pestilence. As it turned out, Hollywood Hell House is actually located in Hollywood proper, which not only supplies the snarky comedians, but the eternal grime and pestilence as well.

We arrived about five minutes after tours started, only to be told that the event was sold out and we’d have to put our names on the wait list. (HHH offers no reservations or advance ticket sales, a move seemingly designed to thwart unscrupulous Hollywood bigshots who don’t like to wait around with commoners like me who don’t have money managers and first-look deals. And tours run continuously from 8 to 10pm, so five minutes late is also an hour and 55 minutes early, depending on how you look at it.) We were about the fifth group down on the list, so we opted to wait and hope Jesus or whoever was manning the ticket podium would look kindly upon us.

So we stood in the parking lot, and all the people who were smart enough to arrive earlier filed past us into the building. Our only entertainment was to watch as several other latecomers tried unsuccessfully to talk themselves into a ticket. A couple of people played the “don’t you know who I am” card, and we didn’t know who they were, which means they were probably agents. If anyone deserves a sneak preview of Hell, it’s agents. Nonetheless, they were made to wait, too -- and glare hatefully at the admissions guy as their blood boiled and their tiny hearts thumped ever closer to giving out altogether. Maybe this was Heaven after all.

Also back-burnered was Joe Rogan, the only “famous” face we recognized in the crowd. (Everyone else in Hollywood appeared to be in the show itself.) The host of "Fear Factor" arrived about half an hour after we did, and he stood a few feet away from us as we waited in our little parking lot purgatory to learn our fate. After about 45 minutes, we were told there was no room for anyone on the wait list, so we should all leave and come back another week.

Disappointing, sure, but at least the admissions people seemed to be doing the good Christian thing and sticking to the first-come-first served policy. Well, at least that’s what I thought until this morning, when I read that Joe Rogan got in even though he arrived long after us. I can forgive most of what gets people banished to Hades in the show's script -- you know, abortions and school shootings and all of that -- but line-cutting privileges for C-level celebs is a true sin in my book.

I’ll be back another week, and I’ll get there earlier next time, but I’ll be a little more cynical, and a little more jaded, a little more convinced that the words “Hollywood Hell House” are needlessly redundant. Until then…

Damn you! Damn you all to Hell!



  • Best Bloggin' Buddy BittyBoo has been pretty under the weather lately. Stop by her blog, check out her greatest hits and give her some love. Get well soon, Karen! We miss you!

  • After twelve total years of living in this apartment (eleven for him, one for me), Drew and I may have to move. On Friday night, we came home to find a note on our door saying that the building had been sold to a creepy, faceless corporation whose name begins with the word "The" and ends with the words "Investment Corp.". If, as I suspect, the point of investments is to make money and the point of corporations is to cut out all that awkward sentiment and good will that messes up business relationships, then our sweet rent deal isn't going to last much longer. That means: a) looking into our rights so we don't get screwed more than legally allowed and b) exploring the terrifying world of home ownership earlier than we planned. Two of Drew's assistants have recently bought condos, so why not us?

  • R.I.P. Laura Branigan. According to reports, she'd been complaining of headaches for two weeks, but never got them checked out and ended up dying in her sleep of a brain aneurysm. She filled my youth with song and my weekend with tales of people like the girl Drew knew who ignored her stomach aches for three weeks and then died suddenly of stomach cancer. My near future will be marked by bouts of hypochondria and occasional longings to hear "Spanish Eddie".

  • If you are a gay man who adamantly insists that other people are gayer than you, odds are you're actually the gayest one in the room -- and definitely the saddest.

  • I couldn't be prouder that blogging mentee and oldest member of the ever-growing Drew Club is posting more regularly, but he still has a few things to learn to learn -- like the fact that if you link to an online photo album where a female friend's nipple is accidentally exposed, not only are you inviting throngs of greasy-haired, mouse-clicking strangers to gawk at that friend, but that the friend's husband can totally trace it back to you.

  • Man, I miss New York.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

It's makeover time.

Today, I heard the following words, spoken to me by someone I had just met:

"You know, you look just like Clay Aiken."

What's worse is that those words were preceded by these words:

"I'm sure you get this all the time, but..."

Uh, no, actually. First time.

And then, just when I thought it couldn't get worse, those words were followed by these words:

"I mean, you look just like him! It's uncanny!"

Okay. Stop now. Please.

But the more I protested, the more she insisted. The more I tried to explain that being compared to Clay was not a compliment, the more she assured me it was. "He's really popular!" she said. "He has a huge following!" The one thing she didn't say was that she herself thought Clay was attractive.

To me, celebrity comparisons are a tricky issue. If you're going to draw a comparison, make sure it's to someone people want to be compared to. Tell a woman she looks like Cindy Crawford and you're probably safe. Tell her she looks like Roseanne and there's a teensy chance you might hurt her feelings. (No offense, Roseanne -- hey, you've got a big following, right?)

If there's any doubt about whether your comparison will be taken as a compliment, keep it to yourself. There are billions of other possible conversation topics you could choose. Pick one of those instead. And if you're completely unable to discern which topics are appropriate for general human interaction, then just stop talking.




Okay, so I figured Clay was pretty firmly in society's "do not compare" list, but maybe I'm wrong. So I could've forgiven her initial comment, massive insecurity-exposing blow to the ego that it was. What I can't forgive was her inability to let the subject drop and allow me to escape with some dignity. Several hours later, she was still calling over strangers and saying, "Doesn't he look like Clay Aiken?"

Thankfully, no one else saw it. (Or at least they were kind enough to pretend they didn't.)

She's clearly an idiot. As to the other topic, you be the judge:


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A couple of things Drew left out of his account of our trip to Hairspray:

As we waited to go into the theater, we spotted a heavyset man in middle-aged woman drag. It might've been an unusual sight at "The Lion King" perhaps, didn't it seem quite so strange at this show. This particular Turnblad wannabe was with three or four young women and was overheard to exclaim, "I got tickets for all my girls!"

Little white girls with cornrows would be disturbing at any theatrical event, but two rows in front of us were two sisters, about 7 and 8 years old, with intricately cornrowed hair. A certain boyfriend of mine was heard to exclaim, "I really hope they just got back from Jamaica."

Also spotted in the crowd was a guy I used to date, which unfortunately can't be summed up in a single one-liner.

There's a long story behind Steven/Stephen, who not only couldn't decide how to spell his name, but who had problems getting just about everything in his life in order. When I met him, he claimed he was recovering from a recent head injury, and though he was usually perfectly cogent and well-spoken, there were times when he became easily confused and distracted. I suspected drugs were involved, but since my experience with drugs is severely limited, I wasn't sure how to recognize the warning signs.

Suffice it to say he was a guy who needed a lot of help. And for some reason, he didn't want it from me. We dated for a couple of months, then broke up over a minor disagreement. In the extended squabbling that followed, I realized just how severe Steven's problems were, but he rebuffed every attempt I made to reach out. Twice I tried to meet him for dinner, and twice he stood me up. (I know, fool me twice...) There are few things in life more hurtful than telling someone that you care and having them respond, basically, "I don't care that you care."

I met Steven on the internet, and when we broke up, I realized how little I still knew about him. I'd never met any of his friends, didn't know much about his family and had very few means of getting in touch with him. (He didn't own a cell phone.) He quietly slipped out of my life, but I continued to worry about him. About six months later, I got a very disturbing "goodbye cruel world, thanks to all of you for being so kind to me" email. If you're ever going to issue a cry for help, take a tip from Steven: keep it short and vague, because a lack of detail will maximize the frustration your recipients will feel. The email ended with a quote from the farewell episode of M*A*S*H, which was probably the most disturbing part of it.

If not for the M*A*S*H quote, the saddest thing would've been that Steven's farewell to humanity went out to a grand total of nine people. By that time, Steven had moved, and his phone number had changed, so the only contact info I had was that email address. I hit reply and scrawled off some version of "WTF? Are you okay?!?!" There was no response.

Not knowing what else to do, I hit "reply all", then deleted Steven from the recipients. I asked everyone else on his cry for help list if they'd been able to check on him, and if he was okay.

I received three responses. One person wrote only, "Have the cops run a welfare check on his house." That's it. Not even "I'll have the cops run a welfare check." Just a suggestion. As far as he was concerned, I could take it or leave it. Who even knew that this was a service the police department provided? As far as I was concerned, if you had that much experience with welfare checks, you owed it to the rest of us to step up and put your expertise to use.

The second person's response was even starker, though just as short and to the point: "He has done this a number of times over the years. I am tired of dealing with this sad, pathetic individual." And this was one of the people Steven was reaching out to for help.

But the third response was the worst of all. "I don't even know this guy. I answered his ad for a roommate a few months ago, and he won't stop calling me. Needless to say, I'm really glad I didn't take the apartment!" Right, needless to say. And those were all the clues I ever got as to what was going on with Steven. I had no more leads to follow, so my investigation ended there, and his fate remained pretty much a mystery to me.

That was two years ago. I worried about Steven a lot since then, but there was nothing I could do, and he didn't seem to want my help anyway. Whatever was going on with him, he didn't want me to know. The "Hairspray" sighting was the first time I'd seen him since the suicide email, my first confirmation that he was still alive.

And I didn't go talk to him. I watched him from afar and saw him chatting with a group of friends. Were they new friends, or were these the same people who'd responded to my email to say they didn't give a shit about Steven? I didn't know. It still stings and confuses me that he simultaneously reached out to me and rebuffed my offers to help. I wish I could be like him and cut people so easily out of my life, although there's only one person I've ever really wanted to do that to, and that's Steven himself.

I'm far beyond trying to help Steven, and I've given up trying to figure him out. Still, it was a relief to see that he was okay and that he'd found some friends, and that's probably the only kind of closure I can hope for with him.

And it didn't hurt to see that in the time since I'd known him, he'd put on a ton of weight.


Saturday, August 21, 2004

I shouldn't need to say this, but there's one thing I'd like to make perfectly clear:

I am not a terrorist.
In fact, I'm not even close to a terrorist. I think terrorists are bad. That's right, I'm anti-terrorism, as anti-terrorism as they come. I'm disgusted and saddened every time I hear of any terrorist activity anywhere in the world, whether it's in Chechnya or Tel Aviv or here in the homeland. I hope we catch all the terrorists who are already out there and do whatever we can do to ensure that no new ones are created.

When you break it down, I don't fit the standard profile of a terrorist in any way. I'm not a religious extremist. I don't even believe in God. Sure, I celebrate Christmas, but just because I want the loot, not because it's you-know-who's birthday. I'm also not some psycho gun nut or explosive freak. I don't even like violent movies, except "Pulp Fiction", but that was just because of the witty dialogue. And has there ever been a terrorist from suburban New Jersey? Not one I can think of.

The one thing I do do, and I understand how this may have confused certain authorities, is that I occasionally travel alone to local L.A. establishments and take lots and lots of pictures.

Okay, I know what kind of world we live in, and I know that the bad people also travel to local establishments and take lots and lots of pictures. But, as I explained to the nice lady from security at the Beverly Center today, there's a good reason for what I'm doing. I think our conversation went something like this:

"Sir, is that your car you're taking pictures of?"


"You're not allowed to take pictures of our establishment."

"Okay, I'm sorry."

"May I ask why you're taking pictures?"

"Yeah, I have a blog, and I take pictures of cars that are illegally parked."

"A blog?"

"Yeah, like a website."

"And what's this website?"

"It's called Make Mine Mike."

Okay, so I didn't actually frame a fellow blogger. The truth is, I was working on something for my little piece of blog chicken on the side. See, every post at LAist needs to have a picture to go with it, and I can tell already that this requirement of the job might pose a bit of a challenge for me. I'm not normally the kind of person to be of concern to mall security for any reason. And believe me, I felt super-creepy driving up at the Grove at 7:30 a.m. last week, when it was totally deserted, then snapping a bunch of shots of the movie theater and taking off five minutes later. I know how it must've looked.

I also know that recent U.S. history is marked with several instances of people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and may have been fingered for something they didn't do. And I don't want to be one of those people.

So I'd like this post to serve as an official record of my stance against terrorism and an explanation of why I may occasionally be seen around this wonderful city of ours taking pictures that may seem to be of little interest to anyone.

And if you have any questions about this activity, direct them to my real cyber-home, There's a Monster at the End of this Blog.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

In all of the craziness going on lately, I haven't had a chance to mention that I'm now writing for LAist. You can check out my contributions so far here, here and here. If you're not an L.A. resident, they may not mean much to you, but trust me, the Grove is one nutty place.

I'll continue making a couple posts a week over there, unless and until I run out of aspects of my home city to write about. There are only so many famous toilets in this town, I tell you.

The great thing about LAist is that all their posts are written in the first person plural. So if I post anything that turns out to be controversial, I can always blame it on some faceless corporate entity. "I didn't say that... weeeeeeeee did." *wink* In fact, I've already run into a debate over my knowledge of urinals. (I know exactly as much about urinals as I'd like to, thank you very much.)

The downside is that I have to limit all my posts to three paragraphs, which is about 19 paragraphs shorter than I'm used to. Seriously, LAist, I can't order lunch in under three paragraphs... I don't think you knew what you were getting into with me.

And though I feel a little like I'm cheating on Why Jerry Why, I promise not to abandon it. I'll just come home at the end of the day, my collar smelling of other blogs, my embrace a little more forced and icy, my attention a bit more divided. Don't worry about us, though. Why Jerry Why and I, we've worked it all out. As I'll tell my children some day whenever someone new joins our family, there's plenty of my love to go around. Sometimes, I just have to ration it out in smaller portions, so don't get too clingy.


Monday, August 16, 2004

Thanks to Drew for pointing this out...

Something is amiss with the poster for "Without a Paddle".

Can you tell what it is? Let's just say the movie isn't called "Without an Apple Box".

I'm not trying to height-hate on anyone here, but isn't Seth Green, well, tiny?

Or was I wrong?

Nope. Here's a production still from the film that straightens everything out...

Now, I'm sure Seth had nothing to do with those posters. And as a fellow member of the vertically challenged community, it's nice to know that, even if the studio marketing people don't want you to know it, Seth seems perfectly comfortable appearing diminutive on screen, unlike certain other image-obsessed mini-stars who relentlessly control all depictions of their stature so as to maintain the illusion of altitude -- at least according to rumor (not that I believe rumors).

Seth Green, you're a giant in my book.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

As much as I'd like to ignore this and see it fade away, I won't feel right until I do this, so here goes...

I didn't go back to the coffee shop yesterday. Well, okay, I drove up outside, saw that the guy was not only there but had brought his friends along, and I decided not to go in. To be honest, I was afraid. Yes, I was afraid of some stupid schoolyard showdown where I got shouted down and verbally bashed by the cranks who've been mouthing off in my comments all week. But more than that, I was afraid that somewhere along the way, somewhere in the process of airing my frustration over a stranger's minor etiquette transgressions, I'd become the bad guy, that my position in this matter was not as defensible as I thought it was.

As I said earlier, my blog has a relatively small readership. When I posted my piece, I did it thinking the odds of it ever getting back to the guy in the coffee shop or anyone who knew him were infinitesimally slim. I never anticipated that for the first time, something I wrote would be linked on Defamer and read a large number of people. My intention was never to humiliate anyone, just to vent.

By the time I learned of the exposure the blog was getting, it had already been read by large numbers of people. It was already clear that the spread of the story was beyond my control. The odds of the entry being seen by the guy in the picture or people who might recognize him were now much greater. So I asked for an apology. I figured that would be the easiest way to resolve things. Nobody else knows exactly what happened in the coffee shop besides me and the guy in the picture, so I figured it was only fair that I offer him an opportunity for a rebuttal. I hoped he'd admit that he was a little inconsiderate, that he should've said something before sitting at my table, and then I could proclaim that he wasn't such a creep after all. I'm a sucker for happy endings.

He chose not to contact me, and instead, his friends came to his defense. I can't blame them for doing that. If someone called my friend a creep, I'd be pissed off, too. I stand by my version of the events that transpired in the coffee shop, and I still think the guy in the picture was rude on those two occasions, but I have to admit that things got out of hand, and I'm not going to pass the buck for that onto anyone who linked me or anyone who fanned the flames with malicious comments. I take responsibility for what goes on on this blog, and I'll admit that the punishment was way out of line with the crime.

That being said, the tone of the commenting was also out of line with my crime. I decided early on not to censor or respond to any of it, allowing the haters to spread their vitriol and expose their true nature. But that, too, got out of hand. I discovered that most of the comments were coming from the same two people, posting again and again under different fake identities. At some point, allowing them to spout off interminably and assault my character with complete impunity seemed overly generous of me, especially in a forum I created for the purpose of expressing myself. So if you've noticed that the ranters have suddenly disappeared, it's because I started banning anyone whose comments I found offensive. This is my home. If you insult me, I kick you out, and you can find somewhere else to orchestrate your hatefest.

So to the haters, I say goodbye. You made your point. You're not welcome here anymore.

To their friend, I offer a sincere apology. This went too far, and I regret that it's taken me so long to admit that. You're still welcome to contact me with your version of the events, but if you don't have anything to say, that's fine. I respect that. For my part, though, I'm truly sorry. I didn't mean to hurt or embarrass you. I take back calling you a creep and my mortal enemy. I don't know you, and two mildly rude acts is not enough for me generalize about your character. I intended my piece and my description of you to be comical, but I can understand why the humor was lost on you. I've also taken down your picture. LA is a big city, and I'll probably never run into you again, but I really have no interest in having a mortal enemy, and I hope we can put this behind us.

Nobody or nothing is making me say any of this -- except, of course, for my own conscience.

And unless I hear from the guy in question directly, I won't have anything else to say on this matter.

This blog was meant to be a reflection of who I am, and for the last week, I'm not sure it's been that. It was also meant to be light and fun and entertaining. Let's return to that.


Friday, August 13, 2004

Yesterday was a bad day for the gays. First, California's Supreme Court ruled that the gay marriages performed in San Francisco were illegal and declared them void. Then, on the other side of the country, a popular governor's seemingly heterosexual marriage also disintegrated before the nation's eyes.

It's no small coincidence that these two events happened on the same day. Jim McGreevey's announcement that he was gay could've been a powerful statement of equality, at once an inspiration to gay kids of what they can accomplish and a declaration to the world at large that sexuality is an irrelevant issue when it comes to public service. But McGreevey didn't stop at outing himself. Instead, he announced his resignation, as if this were a foregone conclusion, as if being gay were incompatible with serving in public office. And then came the news that what motivated all of this was a clandestine affair capped off with an extortion plot. So much for gay empowerment.

The sad thing is that Jim McGreevey seems to see being gay as his problem. Now that people know his private secret, he can no longer live a public life. Instead, his problem -- and his apparent solution to it -- were both rooted in deep, crippling shame. His mind is still buried in a time where homosexuality needed to be hidden, where a good gay did the smart thing and married a woman, then inevitably cheated on her and ruined her life as well as his.

That's why it's so sad that all of this had to happen the same day California ruled that this is the only kind of marriage gays can legally enter. If Gavin Newsome's brave move a few months back was our one step up, I think we just had our two steps back.

What really bothers me is a quote in this article from Alice Whitman Leeds of P-FLAG. She says, "Coming out always takes an incredible amount of bravery... we applaud and appreciate his stand." You can call McGreevey's announcement and his resignation a lot of things, but I'm stunned anyone would call him brave. He outed himself only out of fear and necessity, and in the process, he ruined any opportunity he may have had for heroism. A hero doesn't run away when he's needed the most. A hero is someone we look up to, and I pity anyone who looks up to Jim McGreevey. We can find better heroes. P-FLAG should know better.

Ultimately, what people do with their sexuality is their own business. And now New Jersey's governor can return to a more sheltered life where he can handle who he is in his own way. He wants his privacy; let's give it to him.

Jim McGreevey is the past. Here's to the future.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Could I be more excited about the impending matchup between Alien and Predator?


I still don't know whether Freddy beat Jason, and yet I have no lingering fears of either dreamworld or summer camps. Maybe a more appropriate grammatically mangled tag line for AVP would be "Whoever wins... we don't care."

I'm all for Hollywood resurrecting titular movie villains of decades past, but for once, could it be characters I actually still give a crap about -- characters who haven't already been beaten into the ground with endless tweaks to their ever-more-shapeless cinematic mythology? (Who knew the aliens and predators were neighbors in the first place? It's a big universe, people.)

As long as logic isn't an issue, let's pit The Graduate against Edward Scissorhands. For lovers of independent film, might I suggest Hedwig vs. Amelie? Or for some triple crossover action, how about Herbie the Love Bug vs. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 3 Fast 3 Furious?

The possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, my patience with Photoshop is severely limited. Therefore, if I had to pick just one cinematic showdown to pitch to the powers that be, it would be this...

Foul creatures are on the loose at Westerburg High...

JD offs Miss Pauline Fleming by nuking her in the microwave...

Phoebe Cates tearfully confesses how her father died on Christmas Day from Ich Luge bullets...

Yes, it's...

Please, people. Corey Feldman needs the work. And I need to see him die in a repressed homosexual suicide pact.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I hereby promise to quit bitching about all the poor, misguided fools drawn to this site searching for pictures of obscene billboards and spoilers about shark movies. Last week, they gave me my highest week of traffic ever -- by far. But since I don't pride myself on being a source of info for people who like to see ugly guys get hummers overlooking major metropolitan streets or people who can't wait for release day to see if the shark gets it in the end, it was kind of a hollow, empty victory.

Well, yesterday, I got more hits than I got all last week. In one day. And I've nearly passed that total again today, and it's only 7 a.m. I know nobody cares about traffic except the schmo who runs the site, but for this schmo, this represents something of a victory.

That's because for a change, all these people are coming to read something I actually wrote. My post about the jerk at the coffee shop got linked by both LA.comfidential and Defamer, thus fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine. Yes, a lifelong dream, because I don't know about you, but for me, life didn't begin until Defamer came around. And they didn't make fun of me (I think).

Of course, the flip side to all of this is that a bitter, mean-spirited post I expected a handful of people to read will now get read by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of LA dwellers, people who may actually know the creep. Right now, a conversation beginning with the words, "Dude, some guy's totally ragging on you on his blog," may be taking place somewhere in this city. Oops.

Well, a lesser blogger might back down at this point, but I say it's time to step things up. Creep, if this gets back to you, I'd like an apology -- and if I get one, I'll print a full retraction and let everyone know you're really a swell, misunderstood guy. I'll even let you send in a picture if you found mine a bit unflattering. But beware: should you choose to stand your ground and assert your right to spoil movies loudly in coffeeshops and invade people's personal space, I will renew my call for retaliation*.

In that case, you might want to find a new place to manage your iTunes -- or there could be a lot of people sitting at your table next week.

* "Retaliation" to be limited to minor annoyances in the immediate vicinity of coffee shops. I repeat yet again: do NOT harm this man (or verbally abuse him).


Saturday, August 07, 2004

I have a new mortal enemy.

This morning, I decided to go to a local coffee shop to do a little writing. I got there early enough that the place was virtually empty. By "virtually empty", I mean the only people there were me and the cashier/coffeemaker woman. That's ideal for me, because the whole point of going out to write is to avoid all the distractions in my apartment.

So I placed my order, sat down, plugged in my laptop and got to work. And about a half hour later, this guy comes in and sits down at my table. At that point, there was exactly one other person in the place, a college kid studying his chemistry textbook. There were at least ten wide open tables where this goon could've planted himself, but he chose to sit directly across from me.

What makes this even worse -- nay, in fact, completely unforgivable -- is that this was the very same guy who was spouting off his "Village" spoilers exactly one week ago at this same coffee shop.

It was clear at that point that I was finished writing. The distraction of sharing a table with a stranger + overwhelming rage = Jerry out of his creative zone. I could've told the guy in not-so-polite terms that he was bound by all standards of human decency to move his smelly ass face to another table pronto, but it probably would've provoked a dispute about coffee shop manners that would've ruined most of my day. Or I could've moved to another table myself, but I'm just not that kind of person.

The kind of person I am is a vengeful person. I couldn't attack, and I couldn't retreat, but I could make him regret his decision.

So I stared at him. I never stare directly at people, because I'm too afraid they'll notice, and I'll have to look away and pretend like I wasn't staring and they'll know I was, and most of my day will be ruined. But this time, I wanted him to notice. And when he caught me looking, I had my next move already planned out: I would keep looking at him. He would either get creeped out and leave, in which case I'd win, or he'd start an argument, which would go something like this:

"You're staring at me!"
"Yeah, well you sat at my table!"

Game, set, match: me.

But he kept working on his computer -- iTunes, no less, yes, his important job that he needed to do two feet away from me was to manage his fucking iTunes for an hour. And he completely ignored my staring.

This guy was clearly a brilliant tactician. So I moved to Plan B. I began to exaggerate every sound I made for maximum annoyance -- coughs, sighs, moving my chair back and forth on the floor -- CREEEEEEEEAK!!!! -- drumming my fingers on the table. I started humming along to the music -- loudly. The place was still dead enough that I wasn't worried about annoying other people. Sure, there was College Boy, but screw him. He should've come to my defense when he had the chance.

Then I took out my phone -- just to spook him into thinking I was going to start making loud celph calls in his face. And that got him to look up. A-ha! I'd found his Achilles' heel! But I'm too celph-conscious to let the world hear my calls, and I didn't want to start bothering people at 10 a.m. just because I was at war.

So I started sending text messages. When he realized I wasn't going to talk, he went back to work. But little did my tormentor know that since our last showdown, I had purchased a new celph -- a camera phone, no less. I realized that by holding my phone at text message level, I was perfectly positioned to capture his ugly, inconsiderate face so I'd have a record of his transgression against humanity forever. And if he didn't want his picture taken, he'd have to move.

He didn't. Oh, well.

So now I ask your help. If you see this man, do not harm him. I repeat: do not harm him.

But please, please, please annoy the shit out of him.

Pontificate loudly about recent films. Spread spoilers in his general vicinity. Invade his personal space. This is a bad man, people, and he lives among us. For the good of humankind, let's make him pay for his crimes.

I've been calling for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and now I finally know where to send them instead: a little coffee shop in my neighborhood that used to be pretty quiet on Saturday mornings. In fact, I know the exact table they should occupy. Their mission: to protect and to annoy. They can leave their guns at home and bring their kazoos instead.

Until then, this is my war. And one thing is for sure: I will be going back to that coffee shop next Saturday. I have a mission, and, besides that, I really need to get some writing done.


Monday, August 02, 2004

Today was my first day at the new job. After a virtually sleepless night, tossing and turning and thinking, "I'm going to be bad at it" and "Nobody's going to like me" and "I'm going to hate it" and "It certainly isn't going to help to show up exhausted because I couldn't fall asleep" and "I'm going to be bad at it" and "Oh, yeah, I already thought about how bad I'm going to be at it, so why can't I just stop thinking about that and get to sleep?", it turned out that it wasn't that bad, and I didn't hate it. It really seems like it's going to be a pretty cool job for the next three months, and I probably lost a lot of sleep over nothing. But that's what I do.

And then I came home and saw that today was also the highest-traffic day ever for this blog, which was really exciting until I realized that a bunch of people came here looking for "open water spoilers", which I don't really have, but I just felt a little guilty for possibly misleading those people. And then I saw that a whole freaking slew of people -- probably 90% of today's hits --came here looking for this, which I don't have and don't want. (If that's what brought you here, you can find it here.) Now, shoo, you pervs! People's moms read this blog!

This has plagued me since I first mentioned the controversy about the film a year ago. To this day, I get more hits for people searching for some variation of that than for anything else, and they don't want my opinion of the psychotic filmmaker. They want pictures and downloads and graphic details. Blog traffic is one thing, but I doubt any of these people are sticking around to read my entry about watching "Dora the Explorer" with my niece. I've tried going back and editing my old posts, but the hits still come. Oh, no. I said "come" -- that's only going to bring more of them. Is there any way I can ever cleanse my blog of this junk and the jerks it opens my door to?

Great, something to keep me up all night tonight.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

Warning: Contains spoilers for "The Village" and "Open Water" (but probably nothing you couldn't figure out on your own). Oh, yeah, and "Jaws", too. For a spoiler-free "Village" anecdote, see my previous entry.

The biggest spoiler I read about "The Village" before I saw it -- and the one that perfectly encapsulates everything that's wrong with the movie -- is the explanation of the film's PG-13 rating which you can read in any newspaper ad: "for a scene of violence and frightening situations".

A scene of violence? That's it? I thought this was a horror film. Worse, this scene of violence comes about halfway through the movie, so after that, you know the good stuff's pretty much over.

But then again, maybe the bigger and more revealing spoiler are the words "An M. Night Shyamalan Film" in the ad, since that should've told you all the same things anyway.

Steven Spielberg gets a lot of credit for rejuvenating horror films with "Jaws". His trick, which was pretty novel at the time, was not to show the shark at first. Instead, he teased the shark with music, with creepy shots of a dorsal fin slicing through the water, and with gruesome off-screen deaths, so that when audiences finally saw the shark's face, it was milked for maximum effect.

The problem with M. Night Shyamalan is that he never wants to show you the shark. He wants to wait until the last five minutes of the film and then tell you that the shark was actually a guppy. And once you know this, you don't enjoy his movies the way you're supposed to. You sit there not so much interested in the characters, who's going to live or die, or how they're going to conquer the beast. You can't enjoy any of the typical pleasures of a horror film, because all throughout, you're just trying to figure out the puzzle. And once you do, the tension is pretty much gone and you can skip the rest of the film. I think Shyamalan has a lot of talent as a filmmaker but a very misguided notion of how to please an audience. The fun of a movie shouldn't be in trying to outsmart the director. As one guy at the showing I saw muttered on the way out, "I wanted to see a horror film..."

Shyamalan doesn't help his case by coming off like an arrogant prick in interviews. It only leads geeks like me to write patronizing reviews like this. If you really think you're such a great director, M. Night, you should realize that the third act of your movie is built around a horror movie contrivance so unbelievable (let's send a blind girl after the monster... all by herself!) that even a garden variety hack would never try to get away with it. Sorry, but an Oscar nomination doesn't entitle you to insult the audience's intelligence. But just when you're ready to forgive the director's pretensions, he shows up in his obligatory cameo, reading a newspaper in which every headline drives home the movie's all-too-obvious-at-that-point-anyway theme.

When you strip away all the storytelling tricks and plot holes of "The Village", there's actually a pretty interesting premise behind it. It's just a shame we never get to enjoy the movie it could've been.

So I left theater disappointed, still wanting to see a genuine horror film. My only hope was that "Open Water" might take the bad taste out of my mouth when it's released next weekend.

And then I was stupid and looked at the ad for the film in the paper: "Rated R - for language and some nudity". Language and nudity?! No mention of violence? Even "The Village" was slapped for "frightening situations".

Oh, well. At least we'll get to see some sharks.



A while ago, I introduced here the abbreviation "A&E", which stands for "arrogant & entitled", and which I vowed to use whenever someone annoyed me by exhibiting those characteristics in my general vicinity. Not surprisingly, living in L.A. gives me an opportunity to use this little bit of homemade slang on an almost daily basis. But lately, I've started to feel like it's inadequate to capture all the things that bug me about the bad people. Oh, those bad people -- you don't know how much they bug me! Here's a little anecdote from this weekend to illustrate:

On Saturday morning, Drew and I were hanging out at a coffee shop, which seems like a very L.A. thing to do, which is why we never do it, but what can I say, we did, and we were quickly reminded of why we shouldn't. Soon after we sat down, a particular breed of L.A. denizen known to frequent coffee shops -- whom I will call a "film geek" -- entered the establishment and spotted a fellow film geek friend of his, typing out his screenplay on a powerbook.

Geek #1 approaches Geek #2 and immediately starts talking about the movie he saw last night, "The Village". (Don't worry, there won't be any spoilers in this entry, though watch for my review soon...) It just so happened that Drew and I had already purchased tickets for an afternoon showing of this very same movie, and, as it was one of those movies rumored to center around the revelation of some mind-blowing twist, we had carefully avoided reading anything about it in order to preserve our enjoyment of the film. And we were seeing it opening weekend because we knew that some spoiler leakage was inevitable in the days ahead. (Fine, we're film geeks, too.) But at this point, the movie had been out for only one day, so who'd be so obnoxious as to spoil it?

Well, Geek #1, that's who. He began talking very loud, giving his detailed review of the film and basically recounting the entire plot. This put us in a tricky situation, and it was at this point that a very annoyed boyfriend of mine chose conflict avoidance and literally ran out of the coffee shop with his hands over his ears. I tried to stick it out, but the geek clearly wasn't going to shut up until he ruined the entire movie, so I ran out to the sidewalk, too.

And we waited there, watching through the windows as we saw Geek #1 act out the movie in pantomime for the next five minutes, our stuff still trapped inside helplessly. Drew became angrier and angrier at the A&E on display, first thinking it was his right -- then his duty -- to complain to the geek and let him know the pain he'd caused us.

So when Geek #1 finished talking to Geek #2, we went back inside, and Drew told him, as politely as possible, that we had overheard the conversation and had to step outside because we were afraid we'd hear spoilers. You'd think a film geek might understand this, right? The geek's response: "Oh." And then he put his head down and went back to his latte and his screenplay.

No "sorry", no "oops, I didn't realize I was talking so loud", no "don't worry, it's a piece of shit anyway". Just "oh".

A&E? Yes, but not the whole story. And out of this came a new acronym:

A, E, I, O, U

Arrogant. Entitled. Insensitive. Oblivious. Unmannered.

It's a bit more rare to see all of these qualities on display at once, but congratulations, Film Geek #1, you earned the quintuple crown.

It seemed appropriate for there to be a "sometimes Y" in there, but we couldn't think of one that worked. In this city, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before it comes to us.


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