Monday, February 28, 2011


Yesterday I wrote of something I saw in the park. Today is more of the same, and yet it is more than that. All I meant to do was see what the part had to offer beyond the library I so love. I saw basketball and tennis courts, ball fields and skateboarding facilities- all things I was prepared to see. I saw something else, though- something I never dreamed of seeing for myself. I was nearing the end of the full circuit I had been making around the rather large park, thinking about what I would be doing next that day. It was then that I saw it: a secret training camp!

There were perhaps a half dozen or so young men being put through their paces. A slightly older man exhorted them, and they were only too eager to go through with his bidding. Each of his pupils bore a cardboard sign roughly in the shape of an arrow. Each sign was emblazoned with vivid colors and writing which I could not make out, and the young men spun them and tossed them with fervent zeal. I was beside myself as I strolled through the stretch of my own endeavor.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Less Grievous Evil

While strolling through my neighborhood park, I noticed something. It's to be expected that the trees would be defaced, but my experience has been that people carve things into them with a blade. It's downright romantic and acceptable sometimes, in fact. Part of growing up is announcing to everyone via tree trunk that you are in love with somebody, or so I have been led to believe. I never did do such a thing or directly bear witness to it. In any case, I was aware that it happens- with a blade, as I said. What I discovered was that it also happens with spray paint.

I was scandalized, of course. Who could commit such an atrocity, degrading the quality of our fair city's green space? I wondered this until my thoughts took a turn. Is it really worse? It's uglier to see graffiti on a tree, and I would be the first one to say so. What is worse where the tree is concerned, though? Beneath the bark is a kind of membrane which transports the tree's nourishment from ground up to the very top. It's very thin, and carving the tree punctures it. That's bad for the tree, and can kill it if carried to extremes. Romantic a heart with names in it may be when carved into a tree, but not environmentally friendly.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Super Bowl Some Day

Yesterday was the Super Bowl, or as lawsuit-fearing business owners call it slyly, 'The Big Game'. Does that fool a soul? Now, the Super Bowl party is now a fixture of the average American's social calendar. Last year I went to an unbelievable blowout party which would have been better only if the rabid Indiana expatriates dominating attendance had their way and saw a Colts victory. I mean they had homemade blue donuts, so that should give you some idea. I and one other guy were for the Saints, and we were terrified. This year's party was good too, but I'll tell you what it was not: it was not the experience of seeing the world's biggest single sporting event live.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Flight Of The Mug

I am by turns sloppy and fastidious- sometimes Oscar, occasionally Felix. In my best moments, always in my intent, I'm the latter. I want to eat only in the 'dining room' where there's tiled floor, but am unable to stick to my discipline, and so I eat many meals before my computer or the tv set. That being the case, there is constant risk of a pervasive and constant nature akin to the boiler on some old wooden sailing vessel. It is one of the worrying things that ages me.

An excellent example is my coffee. I make enough for two cups most mornings, and usually have one to spare- supposing there's the need to share with roommates or unexpected visitors? In movies, they always say something like "Can I get you a cup of coffee? Just made some fresh". Who doesn't wish they were that larger-than-life figure on the silver screen? In any case, this digression has gone far enough. The coffee is an invigorating start to the day, but it is also my enemy.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

These Are The People In My Building

It's been a few days since the last time I wrote about my apartment building, which means quite naturally that it's time for the next time. Some things about the place were obvious from the start, but others were only going to become apparent to me over time, and one of them is the people in the building. I already knew four people who lived there, and of course began to know the landlady early on (Should I call her the building manager or supervisor? It seems so cold and impersonal). The strangers in the building are at last becoming known to me at a glacial pace.

Several have become friends, but the jury is out on the others. I'm just now seeing some more than once, and I know their faces if not their names. Getting to know them is a curious dance. I ought to have introduced myself the first time I saw them, but I didn't, and so now it will be weird. I'm putting it off. I am getting to know them purely by observation and periodic, clipped verbal exchanges of one or two words. As I said, it's a slow process.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alley Oop

Every once in a while, I'm seized by the urge to go for a walk. Lest you draw the wrong conclusion from that fact, I will say that it has nothing whatsoever to do with my health. Any such benefit is purely ancillary. The real motivation comes from my fairly strong spirit of exploration. I'm a curious guy, and sometimes I just like walking around, looking around. It's not necessary for there to be any practical discoveries, but they do sometimes happen. One did in fact happen on one of my earliest excursions in my present neighborhood.

I now live in a building just off the main road in this area. It is lined with more or less bustling shops and restaurants. Customers access them from that main road. Proprietors do so by way of the alley behind them. I love that alley. It's an excellent short cut in certain situations provided I am alert enough to avoid the occasional car and truck traffic which sometimes clogs it up. Even if it weren't a handy way of getting places, I would play it up as one solely so that I would have something to be in the know about. who doesn't love being an insider about something?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Walking Blind

I wrote yesterday of my mp3 player, and that got me to thinking about something all to common these days: inattentive pedestrians. I am sometimes one of them, I'm sorry to say. I listen to music most of the time I'm on foot, and there's no denying the fact that it makes me less observant. I'm so into my music that I sing along lustily to virtually every track, only occasionally desisting in the immediate presence of strangers.

It dictates my pace often, does the music. A slow song will lead me to follow suit, and a peppy song will have me really hustling. I may not be so oblivious that I walk into people and jaywalk across busy streets, but an alleyway or neighborhood sidestreet is no match for the head of steam I build up when 'Boogie Shoes' comes up on the Shuffle. I'm cognizant of the risk I'm running in so doing. As they say, knowing is half the battle, and I now look intently while rocking out on the streets.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Of A Saturday Morning

I woke up at seven and felt like hell. I had done nothing to account for this the night before- as is my natural inclination, I had stayed in, and did nothing more outgoing than participate in a brainstorming session for a film script. I guess that I must have spoken my contributions too volubly, for  my throat felt as if it had been lost at sea and washed ashore to be found by the men of a fishing village. That is to say that my throat was sore and that I am uncomfortably close to being a kindred spirit to George Will in temperament. I got up, went to the bathroom, got a drink of water to wash down an ibuprofen tablet with and got back into bed.

I slept fitfully for the next hour, at which time I awoke again and still felt like hell. The train was leaving the station on the reason I had gotten up at seven. I ruefully watched it go and hoped nothing awful would come of my absence. An alternative plan for the day had been superseded by this one, and I effectively wrote it off as well. There was just not enough water out there to pacify my restive throat. With it still raging and my stomach waterlogged, I returned to bed.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shuffle Guilt

I got my first mp3 player during college. It was an off-brand, but it worked, and I liked it. I later got an Ipod which was then top of the line. It was stolen within two months of moving to LA, and I did not replace it until recently. I now have the Shuffle, which is a tiny little marvel. It's one fourth the size of a saltine cracker, and I love it. You can play the songs straight through, but what one mainly does is let them play at random, hence the name. You're not always going to want to hear the song that comes up, even though it is presumably one you like

When I skip a song like that, I feel guilty. I don't quite know why that is. As I said to a friend, it's as if I'm letting someone down. Is it the artist? They don't know me or that I'm in possession of their music. If they were to be let down, it would be if I did not buy their music, and even then it would be at people in general and not me specifically. I don't know that they would have any real emotional investment in what becomes of music once paid for.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Castle Keep

I'll just come out and say that the compulsion to write about my new apartment, which is fast becoming just my apartment, has gotten the best of me again. It is not for the last time, either. Not since my college housing have I lived in a multi-unit home with any kind of effective building security. Previous apartment buildings have appeared to be locked, but in fact were wide open. There being no actual security, I was under no obligation to support it. Things are different now that I'm in this place.

The front door locks automatically, as does every door which offers ingress. I'm told that to lose the key which opens it would expose me to considerable financial penalties, the purpose of which would be to replace the lock entirely. That ought to impress upon the reader the seriousness of the thing. I suppose that it's a refreshing change from places where I have lived in the past, if the addition of more oppressive security measures can be considered refreshing. There's a reason I favor virtually security-less Greyhound over eminently safe airlines: I feel more free.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thief's Delight

There's something I see when I'm out and about which may not be my concern, but which gives me pause and tempts me at the same time. Every store loudly trumpets the virtue of its wares as much as it can via the street-facing facade, but some go a step further. I gather that their thinking is, "What better way to entice the passerby into purchasing our merchandise than to strew it all over the sidewalk outside? They will naturally pause to examine it. We will then, like a spider, detect the activity and emerge for the kill."

Unfortunately, their best intentions seem to be for nought. How many people actually are drawn in I cannot say, but I do know that no one has ever come out to sell me something when I've stopped to look at things outside. Maybe that's because they saw from inside the store that I'm clearly a low-grade prospect with little money and less serious interest. After all, I am walking past their store and not driving, but then that shows just how defective the logic of the plan truly is. I do wonder, what could they be thinking?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sweetest Or Elitist?

I'm a coffee drinker. Every now and again, I'll get a cup of so-called premium coffee from Starbucks (or, in Chicago, Caribou), but almost always end up feeling let down by what I'm getting. I like the stuff I make at home just as much, and it's as easy as it is cheap to do. To really do it right in my eyes, it takes whole beans, a grinder and a fairly sophisticated machine. I appreciate the value of the press device, but it's not for me. Coffee is my drink largely because it is so egalitarian. To me it is the people's drink.

Some quick research shows coffee to be the world's third favorite beverage behind water and my main interest in writing today, tea. Every once in a while, I get the idea that I'm going to start getting into tea. What stops me? Ultimately it's got to be my true nature which collides with my best intentions. At those times, I want to be someone who likes tea, but that doesn't make me such a person. I do not care for the taste, or at least the taste of what I have consumed so far.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Joke

They ought to regulate the use of humor the way they do with other things that are dangerous to the general public when misused. I myself would gladly volunteer to serve as Secretary of Humor, as I already have a fairly well-developed set of guidelines which I would make mandatory for all Americans, be they at home or abroad. I want to stress that it is no concern of the government whether humor offends. After all, people are entitled to their free speech. There are, however, always potential consequences when that right is exercised.

The main interest of this office should and will be to ensure that any intended humor fulfills all that the concept entails. Simply put, Americans will be immediately and severely penalized for failing to be funny when such is their intent. I appreciate that there is considerable subjectivity where humor is concerned, but Americans may trust that, like Justice Potter Stewart, I know it when I see it. Undoubtedly when my general set of parameters comes out it will allay any fears.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Well Red

Do you recall the news stories that came out every year relating George W. Bush's reading habits? Since he always was battling a perception of not being very bright or curious, it probably was no coincidence that articles came out trumpeting his recent conquests of some Camus work or a book about the history of salt. Many were inclined towards skepticism, openly doubting that he read what it's said he did. It seems now like an injudicious expenditure of outrage in retrospect.

I myself read at a prodigious rate, and got to thinking about Bush's claims after finishing a tome which took me quite some time, as I was not overly aggressive in consuming it all the time. When I was, I found myself hamstrung by a longtime bugaboo. My attention span is not so good, which makes it all the more remarkable that I should have accrued any of the knowledge with which I am credited. I have to work very hard at isolating myself, walling off all distractions. Even then, my mind is a whirlwind of activity. It's like a wild, impatient puppy yanking at its leash in hopes of pursuing whatever brightly colored or shiny thing it has spotted most recently. I find myself reading and re-reading passages of text several times before I've understood a word.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What The Pedestrian Saw

I saw something that to me seemed rather remarkable, so the second I got home and started my laundry, then browsed the internet for a while, I made sure to record it here for posterity. My first observation was of a screeching sound behind me as I crossed the street. I immediately connected it with an out-of-control car, and jerked my head around to see in case I would need to take evasive maneuvers. The next thing I saw was an older-looking sedan slowing down and weaving around a bit with a second car riding its bumper.

It occurred to me that the front car must have or at least could have experienced a blowout, but in retrospect I could not recall hearing anything which would correspond with that, so I think now it could merely have been a flat. Here's where it gets interesting. The driver of the front car burst out, plainly furious. He began to take threatening steps towards the rear car, and while I was stunned, my mind began working at imagining what his grievance could possibly be towards the rear car. My present speculation is that he may have found it to have damaged his bumper.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Top Of The World

If the appetite for reports on points of interest in and around my apartment building has not yet been exhausted, allow me to attempt that now. After roughly two months, I finally have spent more than a few moments in the open air barbecue area which stands as my floor's most salient feature. I would call it a rooftop grill if not for the fact that the true roof is a scant few feet above and affords no real intrigue beyond the fleeting novelty of being where you should not.

I decided to avail myself of this area not for grilling but for reading. I had wished for some time to partake of a good book al fresco in my previous longtime home, but found myself substantially thwarted in that. In that dwelling, the cramped fauna-choked central corridor was insufficiently tranquil given the comings and goings of other building residents. The pool area was so small as to place my book in serious jeopardy of being splashed by activity which could hardly be characterized as rowdy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Room For Friendship

It's a curious thing to me what people think there is or could be between two people. What I mean is that in a community such as mine where just about everyone knows everyone else to some degree, it's interesting what the reaction is when someone finds out that two people are roommates. The way they respond would make it sound like the two are a couple and not merely sharing an apartment. This comes up plenty considering few of us are doing so well that we can afford to live alone but not so well that we are married or have live-in significant others of some kind.

In the two years that I lived with the guy who got me into all the improv and all, people never failed to be incredulous when told that he and I lived together. I guess it seemed that we had so little in common that we were bound to clash too much to peacefully coexist. It's true that there was some discord, but probably no more than the usual. For announcements of other groupings, the surprise was of a different nature, and more seemed to reflect a belief that it would be better known if true but was eminently possible.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Building Excitement

Two buildings on my little neighborhood side street are apparently in the process of being demolished and the lots redeveloped. It's a satisfying experience to me, getting a glimpse of the incremental progress every day, having this singular chance to see into what was and what will be. The first time I cared enough to look at them and really see them, it was obvious enough that they were terrible eyesores and probably health and safety hazards. One building on the street is already known to have been an ad hoc den of ill repute while unoccupied, and while I can't say what could have been going on in these other two, it's reasonable to guess that there was a considerable risk of some inappropriate usage.

There's a wonderful, positive feeling of renewal and agitation. Things are being shaken up, and I am excited at the prospect of something new arising. The last time I looked, one of the two buildings had been totally stripped away and nothing was left but the foundation. That may be boring to some, but I find it rather interesting. I'd like to get a closer look, but am not quite as bold as some in my family where satisfying curiosity is concerned.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Game Of Clicks

There's a computer game I just adore called 'Baseball Mogul'. That I like it is probably quite revealing, considering what it's all about. Where other sports games provide vicarious thrills by allowing the player to pose as an elite athlete, this one puts you in the position of the heretofore less-heralded general manager and president of a baseball club. What one does is set prices for tickets and concessions, determine levels of investment in areas like medical care and scouting, and of course draft, sign and trade the players who make up the roster from which you make a lineup, rotation and bullpen.If that sounds less than exciting, I can certainly appreciate your point of view.

Basically you spend a lot of time poring over names and figures as they change incrementally from day to day. As I said, it probably says much that I can't stop playing. I hadn't been able to for several years, as I believe it to be a PC-only game and I was for that time only using a Mac. Is it coincidental that I experienced considerable personal growth during the time I could not play the game? Even as I write this, I can hardly keep myself to this task instead of turning to that game. I don't know what it is about some simple, cheap games, but they hook you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I got my first cell phone during high school, as I recall. I had just started to see people around me get them in the year or two preceding, and these were of course primitive models by today's standards. The one I remember which belonged to a friend's mother of course did nothing but make phone calls and had a little extendable antenna. I used it a couple of times with wonderment when going from school to his home on the spur of the moment. It was neat, but I was then more upset about not having the internet at home. So I got one midway through high school, and I have not done without one for very long at a time since then, the big exception being during summer camp when no phone could obtain a signal.

Recently I had to leave my phone in a friend's car for a few hours by necessity as we went to be at a game show taping. I can only even think of a couple of times in years when I did not have my cell phone on me, and this is one of them. Interesting that this very subject should be brought up by the host during a commercial break (which is beyond my understanding given that the show is not live). Maybe it's an obvious thing, and it does certainly beat talking about the weather, which provides precious little stimulation in southern California.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What's It Gonna Be?

I haven't had a critical computer problem in some three years. That coincides with the catastrophic failure of my PC tower and my sudden total reliance on my Mac. I'd had that tower for some four or five years, and had swapped out enough parts for upgrades that nothing remained from what I had originally bought. PCs are neat like that- they're like the VW or lawnmower you can work on yourself. It's great if you know what you're doing, but I think most people don't. I was on the line, and there were plenty of scares before the thing finally died.

If PCs are VWs, then Macs are Porches. It's no comment on their quality, although I do regard them as fine computers-(they're the thing you want when you're in the film business). It's more that the consumer isn't trusted to affect repairs on their computer themselves. I have read about a change in the screws on the latest IPhone, the purpose of which is to keep meddling hands out of the innards. I think that's the source of this myth that Macs are somehow invincible, impervious to any virus and resistant to general wear.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"...And How Tough Are You?"

Yesterday I wrote of people who identify themselves as being part of their favorite team by saying 'we'. Such people are often the same ones I am thinking of today. There are some awfully vile people out there, and not to be overlooked are those who speak stridently about things of which they know nothing. Such people are often extremely good at making decisions for other people- very harsh decisions which do not affect them and which they would not ever make for themselves.

A going concern in the popular discourse these days is that of health concerns in athletics. For whatever reason, professional football in particular is more injurious to those who play it than it seems to ever have been before. There is an epidemic of severe concussion and other injuries, and people are evidently of two minds on the matter. Sometimes they have the right attitude, expressing alarm at what's happening and frustration at the ineffectual response or lack of any response by the authorities. Other times, they have a stunningly ignorant attitude about it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Who's We?"

They say most people don't like their jobs. When one also considers that people who both do and don't also may dislike what has become of the other aspects of their lives, there are a lot of unhappy people. That being the case, I certainly do understand why many people would feel the impulse to live vicariously through others. I just don't think they should do it, and it annoys me. One of the biggest areas I see this in is spectator sports.

Even though that's what it is, you hear a lot more 'we' than 'they' from said spectators. I say the latter because I do not have a playing or coaching contract with the teams I enjoy watching. I like them, but I am not them and have no practical stake in them. I may be happy when they win and unhappy when they lose, but my fate has nothing to do with theirs unless I bet on them, and I don't do that. I recognize that my life is defined as a success or a failure based on what I do, not what the Phoenix Suns do. I just enjoy watching good basketball and retain affectionate feelings for the place I came from.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Accusation And The Crow

I am not sure of why it is that the crow is tied to admitting that you are wrong. In other cases, there is a concrete reason why the name of an animal seeps into popular imagination in conjunction with a particular human concept. It's easy to grasp why someone with keen vision is said to be eagle-eyed, or why someone who reaps benefits by exploiting the fallen might be characterized as a vulture, but why is exuberant bragging also known as crowing? That's really an extraneous question, because the crow gifts us with two such expressions, and it's the second one that interests me. As I said, one must 'eat crow' if they have to confess being in the wrong. I should do so often, but frequently refuse.

The most common case of being wrong that immediately comes to mind is when something is missing. Naturally my first thought is that someone has moved it or stolen it outright. This happens at my parents' house, where professionals are called periodically to clean. On my most recent visit, minutes before I had to leave, a library book which I had to eventually return on getting back to LA was missing. I could not find it where I believe I had left it, and so naturally I pinned the blame on the aforementioned cleaners. I stalked the house in the foulest, darkest mood, muttering awful things and thinking worse. Of course the book turned up in a different place entirely when I remembered having had it in the car.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Celebrity Birthdays

A staple of the newspaper entertainment section is the listing of entertainment industry notables whose birthday it is. They run them in TV entertainment news shows as well. It's a curious thing to me that anyone should be interested. I try to fight the impulse to look and become invested, and while I have sometimes limited success, you can rest assured that I consider there to be very good reasons for eschewing this odious bit of genuinely useless information.

Probably the only necessary reason is that I don't know these people. If it's Adrian Zmed's birthday, I'm not going to call him with well wishes, send him a card or buy him a gift, because he's not a friend or relation. The nature of entertainment and public relations is that there is a deliberately cultivated false relationship between star and consumer which starts the latter to thinking that something like the star's birthday has some significance. It's all I can do to keep up with the birthdays of people I do know, so that's what I'm going to focus on.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pull The Trigger?

It's interesting to me how the social networking websites that have come to dominate the internet have affected the mechanics of our relationships. With the exceptions of marriages and committed romantic relationships of an informal nature, the ties that bound us once were largely unspoken. Two people were friends then only because they both thought so, and sometimes one person thought they were more so than the other.That could fly because there was nothing in writing to contradict it. How different things are now.

It's like marriage certificates for mere platonic friendships. If one person gets the idea that they are friends with someone who doesn't think so, a rude awakening is coming to the naif in question. For me it has gone both ways. Like many, I have struggled to integrate new technology with the social rules I've learned or conceive of new rules to deal with it. You used to see somebody one, twice and then a few more times, slowly becoming more familiar until you realized they were your friend. Now it's a thing that happens in the blink of an eye officially against the same slow progress. When do you extend that official offer?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fast And Loose

I tend to draw a lot of possessions into my orbit, and this happens in two ways. One is that I acquire things at a high rate and cannot bear to get rid out them outside of when I am moving. By chance this has happened three times in as many months recently, but I don't plan on another time for a while. The other possession glut is that I have a hard time going out and about with few items on my person. I may not be alone on that any more than I am the other thing, but not having a car means that I can't just have a bunch of things in the trunk at any given time. There is no trunk, so things have to go in a backpack or some such thing.

That makes transit somewhat awkward and somewhat difficult. The choices are that or being absolutely sure of what I need and ruthless in standing by my decision to leave behind the rest, In the past I have always made the first choice and addressed remarks on the subject from friends by saying, "You never know what you might need". In truth the number of times I have needed things from my bag without having been able to predict it is few. Sometimes I need things I felt I would need. I feel like a fool every time I get it wrong like that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Case Of The Eighty-Sixed Drunk

There's a great deal to like about not knowing things. They  say that ignorance is bliss, and so far as you can carry on in that way without suffering the inevitable consequences, it's true. It's not that which is so interesting at the moment, however. What's rather stimulating for me is to try and figure out something I've witnessed when I have only part of the narrative, and maybe not even much of it. It's less putting together a jigsaw puzzle than taking one with pieces missing and trying to determine what the whole looks like without any knowledge of what is lacking. It's fun.

I happened to be out at a bar in Hollywood some time ago- a rather large bar passing itself off as an Irish pub. What it lacks in authenticity it makes up for in affordability and general entertainment value. An excellent example of the latter happened on this occasion. As closing time draws near, the establishment takes progressively more severe measures to coax the barflies out on their own volition. First they have last call and then start turning off tv sets. After that they make everyone move forward to the front of the bar. It was at this stage that several burly employees muscled a somewhat disordered-looking man out the front door from the upper floor. As they went down the stairs, an janitor with mop and bucket in tow went up the stairs. That's all I know for sure.