Monthly Archives: June 2008

last gleaming

6/30/08

As we approach the 4th of July, there’s one piece of America that is still a giant fucking hole, years after a disaster – well, obviously two, if you count New Orleans – but I’m talking about the World Trade Center site in downtown NYC. If there was a testament, a piece of visual poetry, to perfectly encapsulate America’s self-image, you don’t have to look any farther than Ground Zero almost seven years after the attack.

I drive by Ground Zero all the time, and for six years, it has looked exactly the same: bulldozers, temporary walkways, dirt, and plastic sheeting. If we weren’t so used to it, the site would be considered a brownfield blight, a tragedy that started on September 12 and never stopped.

You’d think it’d be a matter of national honor to get this site fixed. What would be a better metaphor for the American spirit than another tower, a bustling workplace, a somber yet soaring monument – hell, even a pasture with cows – to raise the spirits of New Yorkers and all Americans? We could even hoist the old “Don’t Tread On Us” flag and mean it. Instead, we’ve got this rain-filled sinkhole beset by a bunch of bullshit bureaucrats and a bunch of architects whacking off on our dollar.

The Empire State Building was built in 410 days during the Depression. How about the Hoover Dam, which required tunneling through the Black Canyon (twice), diverting the Colorado River, creating Lake Mead, and pouring the largest concrete structure in the world? Done in four years, largely with hand tools.

Oh, and for a bit of irony – 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were from Saudi Arabia, now home of the Burj Dubai building [actually the U.A.E. – thanks, Ehren! -ed], which broke ground in September 2004 and will be the tallest man-made structure of any kind when finished next year.

Our festering gully of shame won’t even be finished by 2011. Seems we have another decade of squabbling, ninnyism, staggering inefficiency, cronyism, blame-shifting and ego to go through. What an incomprehensible lack of vision. Get used to it:

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she wheel’d her wheel barrow

6/29/08

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Spring 2008 Personal Achievement Awards for the fine folks among us. Let’s not waste any time, shall we? The following have shown exceptional gumption and talent this spring:

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Annie – Mademoiselle Humphreys and cohort Baxter have launched their website at hooppath.com where you can see what they’re all about, and, more importantly, pre-order their DVD. Check out the awesome pics, and I can’t say for sure, but I believe Annie is actually making the best hoops around now.

Jamie – iTunes finally has his major-label debut Timing is Everything available, along with my personal fave The Last Single Guy. Anyone out there who has listened to Block’s oeuvre knows how good he can be, and these albums crave reviews… care to write one?

In the meantime, an amazing (and controversial) video to his song “Sweet Potato Pie”:

see also Avenue A

my sister Michelle – Continuing on her quest for world dominance, Michelle was representin’ the 7-0-7 by talking up Napa Valley in the LA Times. Give it a look-see, see?

Kaz – Our sweet and wonderful Kaz has released an unimaginably intense and beautiful book: The Art of Wooing. We keep our copy in the bathroom, not (as I’m sure Kaz knows) out of disrespect, but because it’s so densely-packed with great visuals and ideas that I liked to spend a few minutes a day delving inside without overdosing: it’s a rich, rich cake. You can look at some pages online or go to bat for the home team and buy one!

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Kudos also to my fraternity bros Ali (for the latest national Verizon commercial) and Fred (starring on the new hit show “In Plain Sight” on the USA Network). And feel free to add any of your own highlights, toot your own horn, in the comments section. No piece of info is too small, as even the tiniest victories are much savored.

this blog was typed before a studio audience

6/26/08

So I can finally make it public on the blog: we sold a television show to an awesome major studio this month. It’s still a bit of a far cry to actually getting a show on the air, but it’s a fantastic career reaffirmation after a shake-up in 2006-07 that left me wondering why nobody thought we were brilliant. Turns out we were brilliant enough, we just didn’t have the right representation (but ain’t that true of all of us?)

We’ve partnered with some producers who put the “awe” in “awesome” and the next step is to craft a re-write of our script that is undeniably gripping enough to sell to one of the networks, or a cable channel. Obviously a show for CBS is going to be quite different than a show for AMC; networks have huge popularity and cable has huge freedom, and you tweak your show for each. But that’s all ahead of us.

Oddly enough, it’s a half-hour, and hitherto we’d only written hour-long light dramas or thrillers. I’m sure it vexes our agents to no end that we can’t be pigeonholed – being versatile is not necessarily a strength here – but this one sorta came out of the womb a comedy. Without going into any detail, it’s a single-camera show (like “My Name is Earl” or “Arrested Development”) that could be described as a good-spirited family comedy that asks big questions with occasionally Apatow-esque dialogue.

We’ll spend the next week or so in revision mode, and then take it out wide after that, and the rest is up to whim, conjecture, timing, casting and behind-the-scenes brokering that conjures up the old line about laws and sausages.

Immediately, though, the sale means that we’ll make the union minimum threshold for health insurance, which will ease an incredible burden over the next year. We’ve been on Cobra for a while, and, well, I don’t need to tell y’all what that’s like. The Writer’s Guild, like God, helps those who help themselves. Sometimes it’s the feeling of “being taken care of” that makes these goalposts so much sweeter.

pulling mussels

6/25/08

Aw hell – enough of my yakkin’! How about some pics for my sister Michelle’s birthday today?

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from my mom’s scrapbook – July 1972

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our school in London, circa ’77 – Michelle is middle left, removing jacket

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Michelle and I discuss Salisbury, England – circa 1980

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detail from family portrait, 1987 – ROCK!

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with Tessa at Manhattan drug store, 2003

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obliterating “Goodbye Stranger” w/me, Annie and Tessa at 2006 Jartacular

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with Lulubeans on her 2nd birthday

my sextant works though

6/23/08

Look, god dammit, it’s 2008 and there’s still so much shit that doesn’t work right. Let’s make this real simple. I’ll use a list so that people in charge can understand:

1. DVD Menu Navigation – Yes, I’ve said it before. But that was three years ago and finding the Director’s Commentary or Deleted Scenes on DVDs is still as cumbersome – and slow – as playing Myst on a 1994 Mac Quadra.

2. Universal Remotes – You can spend $300 on a Harmony 1000 or $19.95 on a piece of shit from Radio Shack, and you’ll wind up with the same thing: a plastic brick that doesn’t know how to turn on your stereo and switch to VIDEO 1. The option is having seven remotes on the couch, and then when the phone rings, I might as well answer my frickin’ shoe.

3. Flat-head Screws – I put together things. You know, I attach wood pieces to other wood pieces. I even attach metal pieces to other metal pieces if I’m feeling saucy. So why, oh why, companies? Why do you still use screws with technology from the John Quincy Adams administration?

4. Red-eye Reduction – I guess it’s cool that we’re just animals, really, like cats in car headlights, but is there some other technology for red-eye that doesn’t involve a blinding flash, and then a picture of someone who thought the picture had already been taken? Oh, and “The Red Eye” meant something else in high school, just FYI.

5. Gas Pump Handles in New England – In the West, you can squeeze the gas pump handle and it’ll lock onto three different flow levels, depending on your car’s esophagus. This allows you get away from the toxic fumes, or, say, tend to the toddler that is eating a whole tube of ChapStick. Not so in New England: there, you are forced to hold the pump handle THE ENTIRE TIME, especially if it’s 40 below zero outside in a blinding snowstorm and the gas pump handle in question is approaching ZERO KELVIN.

6. Hi-Def Video Sync – You pay for a big flat-screen LCD television, pony up for the HD channels on cable or satellite, connect it to your stereo and sit back for the big game. But guess what? Because audio is pretty simple, and video takes so long to process, ESPN HD has about a half-second lag between the sound and the picture. Call Comcast or DirecTV to complain… I dare you.

7. Cell Phone Service – Really, don’t you just want to roll down your window and frisbee the fucking thing out of the car?

crime, tides and coyotes

6/22/08

A confluence of events made this a trying weekend here in Venice, CA: Lucy (along with some nursery schoolmates) came down with the Coxsackie virus, Tessa and I fought off a bronchial infection, it was the longest day of the year, and we shattered all the heat index records from the last thirty years. Oh, and the bizarrely full moon.

The awesomely-named Coxsackie virus is very common in kids (most of you have probably had it) but is still miserable: you get these strep-like blisters in the back of your throat, and Lucy’s fever went through the ceiling. Combine that with the heat, and its any wonder she still had half her usual effervescence. A cold towel and Pingu is all she really wanted, and exactly what she got.

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As for the beach, it was NutJob Central in these parts, as a quarter-million people descended on our sands to escape the 110+ heat of the inner valleys. A few blocks away in Santa Monica, it looked like those pictures of Coney Island in the 1940s.

Because of my Southern indoctrination, I don’t believe any porch should exist without a porch swing for days like this – so we sat, swung, and tried not to think of the heat. One of my gifts for Tessa last year was a “beach view”, even though an entire hotel built in 1919 blocks a direct sight to the ocean. Undeterred, I rigged up a solution:

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A cheap yet effective nautical telescope is locked on a high-grade mirror hanging from our birdhouse about 10 yards away. Simply focus, and you can watch boats far on the horizon, dolphins, and even see book covers read by beachgoers. I put the digital camera up to the telescope and tried to take a movie, but it didn’t quite focus and looks like something Edison filmed in 1899:

the people are pretty far – it’s about 500 feet to the ocean from us

Anyway, not bad for keeping things in perspective, and on days like Saturday and Sunday, any distraction was a good one.

*collapse, melt*

redemption, thy name is motor city

6/19/08

Dean From Bub’s and Troll’s had the best idea for a blog in a while – how ’bout them motherscratchin’ HEELS? I suppose I try to limit my boundless enthusiasm for my beloved Carolina on here because I don’t want to alienate the rest of you from other schools, but wow we’re embarrassed with riches for next year.

Some years ago, I made a point of not following college basketball gossip during the summer, especially all the “will he or won’t he go pro” boondoggles that are as perennial as the grass. I have our recruits in the back of my head, and when one commits, I’ll get the email from Inside Carolina (yes, I paid for premium) and Greg Parent’s emails give me everything else, but I’m not going to obsess over a process that often ends in heartbreak.

The rule, as far as I could tell, used to be “if a player is even thinking about going pro, they’re gone”. The only time that was proven false was Antawn Jamison’s sophomore year, when he held a press conference saying he was coming back. Pretty much every other time, you might as well clean out your player’s locker.

I’m not up on what happened this year, but Danny Green, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson all tried their hands at the pro level, and there was a lot of hemming and/or hawing, odd “scoops” from “inside sources”, and internet-fueled hand-wringing in general. In my book, they all lacked one particular thing that would necessitate another year at UNC, and indeed, that’s what happened.

I’ve heard rumblings that we now have the most talented class ever to play in college, that we’ll go 40-0, that the ring is ours. Most of us have been around the block WAY too many times to buy tickets to Detroit right now. The 1994 team disintegrated under the weight of its own egos, and the 1998 team had a Texas-sized brain fart. Hell, just two months ago we got our ass kicked twice by the same team in the same game.

But it doesn’t stop us from dreaming. And making sure our lucky shirts are staying laundered. Besides, this team ought to be pissed off at last season’s conclusion, and they should demand it of themselves to lay waste to the rest of the ACC en route to a great seed and a thrashingly fantastic NCAA tournament – and if you want to know where it all starts, Lucy has it on the wall in her bedroom, and is happy to point it out:

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click for bigger dunkage

guaifenesin

6/18/08

Poor little Lulu was supposed to graduate from “toddler bridge group” to “pre-K” today, but when I saw her lying on the couch doing nothing, I knew things had gone south. Her temperature was 102.4 and she was hot to the touch.

Tessa has come down with sinus misery, and by late this afternoon, I could barely swallow. This whole house is laid low, man. Can someone out there be effortlessly witty and delightful in my stead today?

views both aft and stern

6/17/08

Earlier on in the political season, I made a few people fairly upset, one dear friend in particular, with my posts about Hillary Clinton. I tried writing an email several times, but my mood kept changing as the primaries wore on – swinging from righteous indignation to scorched-earth anger to mea culpa, and so on. So I’d like this entry to be an open letter about the subject.

The blog that got people most upset was this one (only eight sentences – now THAT’S economy in ranting) when I said “CAN WE PLEASE PUT OLD PEOPLE AND RACISTS ON AN ICE FLOE AND KICK IT OUT TO SEA? This country isn’t theirs anymore, and they have nothing left to offer except offensive jokes and car farts. It’s time to move the fuck on. A more enlightened future is waiting, and they’re not invited.”

I once wrote about the hierarchy of information, and thought that “blogs” rated somewhere above “text message” and below “voicemail” in terms of historical permanence. In other words, blogs are the first draft of your thoughts, and chances are pretty good you’re going to let out a few farts every once in a while. Especially when the blogger in question starts to get emotional.

By late April, Hillary Clinton had gone from being one of my heroes (whom I constantly defended) to someone I couldn’t stand to watch. Three things in particular made it clear for me:

1. The Florida/Michigan Debacle. My three-year-old daughter has a better sense of fairness and a vastly more sensitive moral compass than the Clintonites who demanded that these states be counted in full. It was brazen, shameless and indicative of terrible governance.

2. The Faux Populism. After Barack’s “bitter” comment in Pennsylvania, the sight of her doing bourbon shots at a bowling alley with Joe Americans made my skin crawl. Then she floated a “gas tax holiday” that was called irredeemably stupid by every economist of every stripe. She responded that she isn’t swayed by “experts”. That was such disingenuous crap that I’m surprised she didn’t explode. Hmmm, pretending to be a proletariat, calling everyone else “elitists”, pooh-poohing overwhelming evidence provided by every specialist in the field… who does that sound like?

3. The Fear Card. Hillary pulled out references to Bin Laden before New Hampshire, before Pennsylvania, and every other time she wanted a cheap bounce. The “3am” ad was totally uncool, and by the time she said the Republican was ready to be President and Obama was not, I was through. I’ve had it with fear: it put me through three years of therapy and six years of Celexa.

It was in this state of genuine anger that I wrote the blog that was so upsetting. Did I mean to say that all Hillary supporters were/are old, stupid, racists? Absolutely not, and I apologize profusely for my messy brushstrokes. I would have counted myself as a Hillary supporter before the conduct of her campaign became clear.

Do I really think people who voted for Hillary – and by extension, my “political opponents” – should be silenced? I have to admit, there have been moments when the answer would have to be “yes”, particularly back in the days leading up to the Iraq War. Why should my family bear the brunt of these insane political decisions by a moronic President and his asinine electorate?

Similarly, I didn’t want huge swaths of openly-racist Appalachia DECIDING FOR ME that we can’t have a black guy in the White House. It was infuriating. But that’s America, take it or leave it, and unless we’re leaving, we’re taking it. Hell, American Coastopia was a place in the mind, not on the map. So I’d like to apologize for that inference as well.

All progressives/Democrats/call-them-what-you-will basically want the same thing, and the mean-spirited primary season made that easy to forget. I’m on your side, and I will lay in the trenches with you long after our feet go numb.

Could I have been so magnanimous if Hillary had won? I don’t know, I’ll be honest… it would have been really hard. In November of 2004, our political will and spirit were completely broken, and Hillary, in some way, is paying for it. Mostly because her Democratic opponent came out of nowhere, and planted a seed we’d long since abandoned – optimism. In a way, I’m as surprised as you are.

so much depends

6/16/08

At a dinner party, you’re asked to make a selection from somebody’s very odd collection of single-malt scotch. Whether you know anything about it or not, which one do you choose?

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