Monthly Archives: November 2007

lucy van pelt holds the football

11/29/07

Jesus, Mary and Joseph. On Monday there was this terrific news: the major studios (collectively called the AMPTP) and the WGA (my union) were getting back together to negotiate. This was after weeks of nothing but picketing, bad blood and most of all, silence. Incredibly (almost unbelievably, if you ask me), the mood of the public tipped slightly in the writer’s favor – I don’t know if it was the viral videos, the lingering mistrust of giant companies… or maybe average Americans heard both arguments and concluded that writers were indeed getting screwed.

Hell, I was stopped for having an expired license plate in Massachusetts last night, and could have been arrested because of an unpaid speeding ticket from 1991. Instead, the cop asked what I did for a living, knew I was on strike, and being a union guy, he let me go with just a ticket. More and more, I’ve talked to people who not only have an affinity for the writers, but consider the whole thing a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, the rumors coming out of Monday’s meeting were beyond encouraging; gossipers were using words like “done deal”, saying an agreement had been struck by the major talent agencies as mediators, and we were all getting together just to iron out the specifics.

Ah, but then we all forgot, the Beast is a sociopath. The AMPTP came up with a proposal so bereft of value that it staggers the imagination:

– $250 for unlimited internet usage of TV shows for a year. Yes, two hundred and fifty dollars.

– NOTHING for unlimited internet usage of movies.

– they can still call an entire movie a “promotion” of that movie and give us nothing

– no internet jurisdiction of our material

And, well, you can read all the details and comments here. The studios’ move was meant to be a disheartening “brick in the small of the back again” as Morrissey sang, to demoralize the WGA so badly that we’d cave, and come limping back to work. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this kabuki theater dumb-show has only made me angrier.

Look at the WGA’s response and crunch the numbers. The WGA – as an entire body of thousands of writers – is asking for less than the sum total of the yearly bonuses and severance packages of the major studios’ CEOs. That’s right. Individual people, added together, are making more being fired than the entire WGA membership is asking for in residuals.

When did this country get so far out of whack? When did this become acceptable to you, to me, to everyone? When did we stop caring about anything being remotely fair? I’ve been loath to admit this, but the effortless way we can ignore these disparities in abject wealth says more about us than them. We’re so disconnected from financial equality, care so little about what the Big Guys do, that I’m beginning to think the real sociopath might be us.

mary in grilled cheese

11/28/07

Three Examples of Great, Though Fleeting, Human Achievement

1. I’m sitting in Mr. Everhart’s early Geometry class in 10th grade, and he’s explaining some proof about angles in a circle, while all of us are struggling to stay awake, half-dead in loosened neckties. He goes to the board and draws a giant circle, and gets a few more words out before stopping.

Most of the class snaps from their stupor, as we can’t believe what we’ve just seen: Mr. Everhart has drawn a perfect freehand circle. He wasn’t even trying – just swiped the chalk across the board, but there is no doubt that he has accidentally created abject perfection. Not usually swayed by interesting things, even Mr. Everhart stops and looks at the board, slightly mesmerized.

After class, some of us measure it – sure enough, perfect to the millimeter. It stays on the board for weeks, becoming something of a talisman, before the cleaning crew, unaware of (or unwilling to accept) divine truth, wipes down the board with a sponge.

2. We’re at the fraternity, about three of us guys lounging on the two single beds I stuck end-to-end, when we hear a commotion in the hallway. Apparently Jack, one of the handsome, good-natured bros from a New Jersey prep school, has been in the bathroom, telling some of the dudes to look in the toilet.

Sure, we think, this is going to be completely stupid. We weren’t the kind of fraternity that threw kegs out the plate-glass windows and told jokes about minorities; we were earnest dorks who were trying to get good grades, get laid, and run the school, not necessarily in that order.

But when we got to the stall, we stared into the toilet in awe: Jack had laid the biggest, most oddly-stunning poop any of us had ever seen. Yes, it sounds gross in the sober recollection of this blog, but in the moment, it was actually kind of inspiring. I won’t describe it, but you get the idea – perfect in every way. Later that night, I’d see other brothers, randomly informed of its presence, looking into the stall with their mouths agape, like pilgrims visiting Our Lady of Lourdes.

There it stayed for days, until our caretaker Robert, not fully grasping the import of this benchmark by which all other human output might be weighed, flushed the toilet.

3. I’m playing hoops at Umstead Park, which was always third choice for pickup games in Chapel Hill. Dave, Andy and Bryan have already left, but there’s still lots of light left, and a new game needs a sixth. This one kid, a younger, shorter kid, makes a driving move and tries to English the ball off the backboard, but instead, it just hangs.

And hangs. The spin gives it one rotation around the iron rim, then it kisses the backboard one more time, and slows. Slows, and stops. Sitting on the rim.

Not on the back part of the rim against the backboard; while rare, I’ve seen that happen four or five times. This ball was actually resting on just the rim, perfectly balanced, held there by the most infinite of chances, in the tiny black grooves of the basketball.

We all froze, mid-dance, watching it, in total disbelief that we were seeing what we were seeing. Sure, it was a ratty ball, and a rusted rim, but in that split second, we knew it was magical, and nobody breathed lest the spell be broken.

Except for the kid who shot the ball. Frustrated at the lack of a score, and astonishingly unappreciative at the spectacle before him, he whipped his baseball cap at the ball, which fell silently off its perch like long ashes dropping from an abandoned cigarette.

he was no saint, and slew no dragon

11/26/07

I feel like I’ve seen the future legacy of George W. Bush, and it isn’t pretty for us progressives. Sure, he’s tied for the least popular President in recorded history, and almost every decent historian has rated him the worst President ever, and he has probably dealt the Republican Party a kidney-punch and groin kick that will reverberate for decades. But I can’t help the gnawing feeling that even when W finally serves out the rest of his eternally-seeming term, he’ll be reassessed by political culture in a way that will make survivors of his regime want to claw their fucking eyes out.

First off, corporate-owned media (sorry to use that hackneyed phrase, kids, but you gotta calls ’em like you sees ’em) won’t allow him to stay a villain forever. It’s never been in their interests anyway, and since 24-hour news stations (as well as salacious non-fiction writers) need reversals to keep their audience interested, we’ll get a flood of articles, stories and books with variations on the title “GWB: Was He Right All Along?”

Secondly, a terrorist attack of some gruesome nature seems rather likely to occur at some point during the next (Democratic) presidential term, which will lead headline writers – and other souls with gnat-like attention spans – to wax romantic about the days of Bush’s tenure when there were no evildoers doing evil on American soil.

Never mind the big one happened on his watch; that argument has never had any traction anyway. Progressives will tear their hair out trying to explain it was Bush’s policies and idiocy that led up to it, but instead, the blowback will be on whatever hapless Democratic president happens to be in office at the time.

As the years progress, whip-smart little fuckwits who are presently stealing crayons from Lucy at toddler group will grow up to worship GWB and perhaps even an aging, corpulent, arteriosclerotic Rove just out of spite. They’ll foment a bizarre resurrection of Bush’s reputation, the same way morons from my age group did with Nixon, leading old-timers like me to sucker-slap them in the kitchen if they say ONE MORE WORD.

A stopped clock is right twice a day, and I suspect Bush will accidentally look prescient. His Neanderthal ideas on alternative energy and his cruel position on stem cells will cease to have meaning, due to leaps in science he would never have predicted or encouraged – in essence, he will be saved by the very science that he and his evangelical cohorts fought to silence. Already, it looks like embryos can be avoided entirely in lieu of adult stem cells, and it feels like some new energy source for vehicular transport (and perhaps everything else) is tantalizingly around the corner.

Never mind the eight years we suffered under his utterly-backward line of sight – never mind the way gays were made to suffer, the poor were vilified, the country went into deep recession, the dollar became almost worthless, the planet heated up, Christianity became national policy and the Constitution was shredded in order to waterboard people with funny last names. George W. Bush will be resurrected because some people will think it’s cute.

tryptophan

11/25/07

TaconicFallColor3(bl).jpg

the drive up the Taconic State Parkway

JordiBarnoTGiving07(bl).jpg

Jordana and Barnaby

LucySnowballFarm5(bl).jpg

Lucy’s first snowball

Our Thanksgiving was awesome, thanks – how about yours? Any gossip?

going back to rockville

11/19/07

In high school, I harbored a long-standing, elegant crush on a girl all four years. She was in my homeroom class and her locker wasn’t far from mine, and though we never hung out socially all that often, my affection for her was elegantly steadfast and unchanged by all the crazy werewolf metamorphoses usually encountered by all denizens from 9th to 12th grade.

Like most schools, the spring semester of our senior year began its ritualized disintegration of the normal social cliques, and many of us were seen fraternizing with people we’d long since considered Them versus Us. Members of the string quartet were laughing with cheerleaders, and the Debate and Lacrosse teams were exchanging advice on colleges. And in those weeks, I got to spend more time with my crush, as our friend-worlds merged and began taking weekend trips together.

In an institution as balkanized as my prep school, I wondered how we could have broken these barriers sooner, but being 17 is being 17, and acne waits for no man. It didn’t matter – we were all escaping, off to re-invent ourselves however we saw fit.

Our school didn’t follow many common American rituals, but we did have a yearbook, and the last week was spent signing missives to whom we promised to be friends 4-ever. Being dorky intellectuals, some of us spent an inordinate amount of time riffing on the ritual – I even put a giant Pollock-like art signature in the yearbook of my friend Elizabeth Burgess that took me a whole evening.

Meanwhile, my crush and I had taken to long talks after school. She was very cute, very weird, from an old Tidewater family, and would occasionally stop me in the hallway and unleash bizarre non-sequiturs (once, it was about bananas, which is how I remembered this story today). Upon graduation, she went off to her Ivy League – or horsey Southern school – or expensive Northern enclave – I can’t remember which. We’d hugged at the ceremony, and I’d watched her drive away. Not exactly sad, because that wasn’t the nature of a long-term, kindly crush, but just hoping the best for her.

We haven’t spoken since. She got married relatively early (compared to my commitment-adverse peer group) and of course, years later, I did too. Not long ago, I was going through boxes in our barn, and I found my yearbook from that final year, replete with all the signatures of folks that shaped my early thought processes. And written with green magic marker, I read the nice paragraphs left to me by my crush.

I leafed through more pages and suddenly saw something I’d never seen before, in the twenty years I’d owned the book. Many pages away from the ghetto of signatures, there was another page in the index, with writing I’d never noticed. In the same green magic marker, there were the words “I……LOVE…….YOU.”

I put myself back into my old self, my white, pasty seventeen-year-old body with glasses and a tie, and think she couldn’t have meant it for me. I didn’t think myself a part of that world, a part of the pool of people who kissed those they longed for. I had my crushes, steady and languid, but accepted my place as farmer rather than hunter. Normal relationships, dating, kissing – those were all for other people.

But if the words were for me? I would have died a million deaths and been reborn a million bright suns. As it was, I was to go a long, long time, well into college, for my first kiss. If my crush had only said something, especially in the crumbling republic of the dying cliques, the difference it would have made. A message sat undisturbed in that yearbook for decades, but it only reminded me of how close I felt to disappearing entirely. You might dream of your lady in waiting, but when you hide yourself so well, you run the risk of never being found.

fix-o-dent

11/18/07

Hi, it’s Complaint Monday!!! That’s right, before the tyranny of Thanksgiving takes over and we start the holiday glow of tremendous well-being, let’s take a much-deserved day to list all the things that are pissing us off! Better get ’em off your chest now, before it’s too late – nobody likes a whiner during the Holidays™.

I’ll start:

Actually, things are going pretty well, despite my entire work force being on strike. But I’ll complain about this… they yanked out one of my teeth (my right maxillary first molar, or #3, for your dentist lurkers in the audience) in order to replace it with something ultra-modern and fabulous, hopefully like the tiles on the bottom of the space shuttle.

I should mention at this juncture that this tooth has been the bane of my frickin’ existence since I was about nine. It’s had so many fillings and was such a problem that one day in 1993 I went crazy with pain and started limping down McCauley Street hitting myself in the face with a basketball shoe. True story.

Anyway, they had to put a bone graft in there to get it ready for the new tooth, and it takes, like, three months of dicking around. In the meantime, I had to get stitches that are supposed to dissolve, but instead, are annoying the ever-living YAK SHIT out of me. And I have to wear a “flapper”, which looks exactly like dentures except it has one vampiric tooth on it that regularly mesmerizes my daughter. And I keep leaving it in the car.

The surgery itself still aches, and I haven’t been able to eat anything crunchy in weeks. I bought sweet potatoes and cooked them down into a mushy puree. I bought cream-o-mushroom soup. I long for chips, peanuts, ANYTHING THAT CRUNCHES but even tough bread hurts it. I’m sick of eating on one side. And there’s only so much Advil I’m willing to ingest.

There. Now what was your complaint for the day?

and cheese that sticks to the top of the box

11/15/07

Things America Hates:

10. other people’s kids

9. DVD and CD plastic packaging

8. really queeny gays

7. people in America who don’t speak English

6. drivers turning left

5. overweight women

4. magazine selection at doctor’s office

3. paying for music

2. movie stars telling them how to vote

1. people who are “gettin’ away with it”

Yours?

openly bicoastal

11/14/07

Just a quick update on what we’ve been doing – especially since I find I’ve stopped writing about our travel habits and my personal demons because I grew weary of having to defend them about a year ago, and didn’t get back in the habit. Here’s the deal: we take a lot of airplanes. It’s how our life works. I flew back to NYC to cover an event for a magazine, and two weeks later, the whole family came back together.

Planes use a shitload of gas, but until someone invents hydrogen fuel-cell jets (with easily-extractable hydrogen – looks like it’s happening) then we’ll have to figure out other ways of lessening our impact. Besides, I’m not really sure how we can personally keep more planes from flying, especially when British Airways is flying planes WITH NO PASSENGERS back and forth across the Atlantic. But I digress.

We’re back in New York, in essence, to wait out the strike. We usually come home for the holidays anyway, but this trip will be longer, because, quite frankly, LA is a bummer. The strike began the first day of the time change (as well as a weather change), so Los Angeles became cold, dark and without immediate prospect overnight. We decided that if we wanted to be cold and dark, we were going to do it with our families and some of our oldest friends.

I’m writing this on the floor of Sean, Jordana and my mom’s apartment, because our other place has been rented out, and there’s nowhere else to sleep. Oddly, it’s insanely comfortable, and this kind of peripatetic lifestyle (while anathema to my wife) totally fits my A.D.D. quest for constant adventure. We’ll be shuttling back and forth from the farm upstate (also rented out), and in the meantime, Tessa can hang with her friends, I can play basketball on Mulberry Street, and Lucy can teach Barnaby how to walk.

I’m personally torn between the New York and LA decision, because I’m so utterly happy here in NYC, but there isn’t the kind of writing work that is consistent enough to call a true career. If the strike ever ends, working in television and movies – which, we’ve been told, we’re good at – is about the only place left to earn a decent wage and hope for a real audience. And those things, as well as Lucy’s amazing child care, are all in Los Angeles.

I get it; it sounds like a luxury problem, and probably is. But pretty soon La Luce will be in some sort of school that won’t take kindly to our travels, and… I don’t know. I can tell you this, however: we met with an estate attorney who gave us the Ten Most Important Pieces of Advice Every Married Couple With Either a Child or Real Estate Should Know. I will post what they are (if you’re interested) but one thing stuck with me.

“Bring in your horizon,” he said. Don’t make decisions you plan to set in stone for twenty years. Make decisions for the next three years or so, then reassess. Shorten the lifespan of your theories and see how they stack up. And I have to say, ever since I started making the future closer, it feels like it’s not coming on so fast.

this li’l light o’ mine

11/13/07

In the interests of keeping the WGA strike simple, from now on, you can just refer people to this entry for everything they need to know. You might have seen one or both of these, but here’s why we are on strike, in a nutshell:

Thank god the internet exists, for thousands of reasons (including all of you, my wonderful friends) but just being able to get this across visually is worth a million of us in red T-shirts.

Okay, now on to Carolina basketball.