Thursday, June 30, 2005

Today's Headlines





"I didn't think that, 'Yippee, Bono has given me his black trousers, or 'Yippee, Bono has given me his hat."


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Your Options

Tomorrow the new War of the Worlds movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Scientology go-to boy Tom Cruise opens all over the universe. I'm sure by now you've heard about Tom Cruise's appearance on the Today Show where he assured the country that he knows things.

I'm not quite sure what he knows - besides how to talk Katie Holmes into a fake relationship or maybe how to make muffins - but I'm glad he knows something.

I know that Tom should have kept his Scientology addiction out of the spotlight. I also know that I don't want you to go see that movie tomorrow. Cruise is a good actor, but he crossed the line when he called psychology a pseudo-science.

Here's what to do instead!

See the other 2005 version of War of the Worlds! That's right, starring C. Thomas Howell and Rhett Giles! I had no idea this even existed - but you can bet your butt they didn't have a Dianetics tent on the set. It's available on DVD now - no waiting for a commentary bloated double disc from Spielberg featuring the exclusive featurette, "Attack of the Thetans."

Rent the 1953 version of War of the Worlds with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. I used to have this movie on tape and watch it all the time. See a 50's ho-down! Gasp at real rubber aliens! Fear the post-production added green rays! Vaporized Priest!

Read the original War of the Worlds book. Yes! Those hard things with the paper inside them. Get a great deal at amazon. It's simply an added bonus that while reading your feet won't stick to the floor and that you won't be forced to see a doctor about the raisinette in your eye due to a sudden candy fight in the theater. Plus, it's $4.99 - way less than a movie ticket.

That book too easy to read? Try the book in French, smarty-pants.

Three words: Herbie - Fully Loaded

Monday, June 27, 2005

They Will Outlive You

This blogger thing is a pretty good deal. It's free, and it allows me to rant and rave and make fun of Tom Cruise as much as I like. Can't be anything wrong with that.

But even when something is free, I can find a way to complain.

I don't have a dedicated account or server that I can upload pictures to, so I depend on blogger for that too. I've been using the "Hello" program. It's a pain to get through, but it worked very well. Maybe too well.

Now Blogger is allowing users to upload photos from the Edit Post window itself - which is very good, I like the change, it saves a lot of time.

I used it to upload the photo above. I'm not quite happy with the resizing - I'd rather resize the photos myself and them upload them actual size - but it does a decent job. No big complaints there.

My problem is what the photo above contains. It lists the top two pages pointing to my site. For the last few weeks, fully half of the traffic to this site was directed by - linking to a bald Carmen Electra photo.

Why people love her bald I have no idea - it could have something to do with the fact that her bazoombas are almost flying out of her top in the photo.

Here's the rub - I wanted to simply get rid of the photo so that google images would re-crawl all over my site and stop referencing that picture, but you can't delete photos off the blogger system.

You can remove them from the post itself (I've removed the Carmen Electra photo from that post.), but the image itself will stay on blogger's (google's) servers. Which means people will still find it on google images. I don't like that at all. I'm not really comfortable with all my personal pictures uploaded to their server to stay.

I was hoping this new posting system would allow me to fully delete photos that I no longer wanted online - but that doesn't seem to be possible with the new system, either.

Yuck. Pa-tooey.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Not Really Away

I apologize for not posting the last few days. A few things came together that kept me quite busy - an exam in my class & being under staffed at work. Also, jury-duty.

I'm happy to say that Jury Duty has come to a close and I wasn't picked. I was excused from serving on the jury by a judge - but since I went down there and all, I don't have to go back for at least two years. I'm sure that will give me just enough time to forget how crazy boring it was.

Today started off well because I got to the farmer's market early. If any of you have a farmer's market near you, I urge you to go. The vegetables and fruits and other stuff from there is so much better than store-bought!

I settled today for cherries (first week for those!) some summer squash, snap peas, fresh bread and homemade feta cheese. I'm sure the prices are a bit higher than in the store (but not outrageously), but the difference in taste is well worth it.

I'm also on the look-out for something to do for the 4th of July. My friend who usually has a party on that day has moved the party to the next week - so I need to find something to do. What are you all planning for the 4th?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Scientology ... what's that?

This post has nothing to do with Scientology.

I've heard (from 3rd party friends who can't be subpoenaed) that Scientologists like to sue people that talk about their religion. I would imagine that people like them (but, legally, not them) might be angry if their secrets were released.

I will say, however, that recent events - including seeing the word "Scientology" in neon lights umpteen times in L.A. - has piqued my interest (also, why doesn't anyone use the world "umpteen" anymore?). So, I decided to look up information on line.

What did people do before the internet?

I live one block from the Founding Church of Scientology in DC. You can't miss it - there are always people out front asking you to come in for a free movie. Alas, it's never 9 to 5 with the impeccable Dolly Parton.

Some religions have stories about the past - and how we got to where we are. For instance, religions with names beginning with "S" may have these stories.

It was quite interesting! If you would like to read it, please click here. (note that I have no control over that linked website and I am not the author of it.)

Then, while thinking about something else, completely, I wrote the following story. Please note that this is my story, and has nothing to do with anything else, and that I would be very upset if people thought it had something to do with anything else or if I was sued into poverty.
Eighty-four billion years ago, there was a really important guy. He controlled 437 planets within the universe. He certainly was more popular than Paris Hilton and didn't worry about polling data. He ran Earth (which was then called Superloofahfoofah). His name was Com Truise.

Com was not a happy camper. All of the planet's subway systems were overloaded with tons of people - much like the DC Red Line on a weekday morning. It was time to fix this - but instead of just adding more rail cars, Com had a better idea.

Com sent out movie audition forms to each and every commuter on every single planet! When the happy soon-to-be starlets entered the audition halls they were grabbed by large numbers of clones - clones called Tohn Jravolta.

Then they were injected with a mixture created by Aristie Klley - which heated up everyone so much that they couldn't move (or turn down inferior TV deals from Showtime). Each person was loaded into huge airplanes that looked just like the Spruce Goose, except the engines had been replaced with bottle rockets.

All those Spruce Geese flew quickly to Superloofahfoofah. The hot people were dumped into icebergs around Antartica and West Hollywood (who doesn't hang out in West Hollywood?). Once that was done, Com Truise let Jennifer Lopez release a new movie on Superloofahfoofah - which, naturally, vaporized every person.

But, as we all know, each and every person has within them a part of them that will live on after death. You cannot kill it - it is the essence of you. I call it a fun-bag. Com Truise knew this - and he planned for it. Com set up big "Sale at Wal-Mart" signs all over the planet - this naturally attracted everything and trapped the fun-bags in space.

The "Fun-Bags" were all taken to a huge drive-in movie. Naturally, Lopez's movie had flopped, but all that was showing were really bad 3-D movies. These movies did more than drain your wallet and deposit corn kernels under your driver's seat that would never see the light again.

They also gave the fun-bags a new sense of the world and told the fun-bags to take control of the looboodoos. (looboodoos being the new species that was living on Superloofahfoofah, of course.) It worked kind of like hypnotism, but not like that at all. Fun-bags controlling the looboodoos would give Com Truise problems for the rest of his days - movie deals not withstanding.

EVERYTHING was implanted into the fun-bags, including ideas about a fun guy named Jesus and a hep-cat named Mohammad. All those ideas, simply false ideas learned at the drive-in. Just like learning during Body of Evidence that Madonna can't act without a proficient director.

When the fun-bags drove out of the drive-in they encountered a traffic jam, and there were many accidents. Cars were totally stuck together! Today, those traffic jams have somehow become the problem of the looboodoos. And they don't have insurance! The fun bags are causing all sorts of problems for the looboodoos!

There's only one way to get rid of that kind of problem. Pay off a judge, of course. Luckily, judges can be found in most major cities, and may, at some point, invite you to see a movie.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Oh. Joy!

Ah, my friends, my blogging friends, you must admit how wonderful it is when you don't have a big idea for a post - and some google traffic drops one in your lap. Then it leaps up and licks your face. Good google. Good google. Now fetch my router.

These are all google searches that have led to my little corner of the web.

Smearing Penis with Hummus
As far as I know, this poses no danger. Now tihini sauce, that's right out. Falafel is out as well - with the deep frying and all.

Homosexual LaRouche
Hey! No way you're pinning him on us!

Tonsil Cheese
No, not a new delight from Wisconsin. I bet you two dollars and a can of beans that this person is looking for information on thrush. Otherwise known as a big ol' yeast infection in your throat.

How's that dinner taste now, bitch?!

Will Lindsay Lohan Menstruate Easily
Star Magazine has found my blog!

Monday, June 20, 2005

To Tell the Truth ...

Unlike many Americans I've never been excited about Jury Duty.

Jury duty is crazy about me.

I've had to head down to the DC Superior Court once before for a petit jury service. "Petit Jury" translates to "sitting for eight hours". I think that's the case, anyway, because that is all I did. Petit Juries (if you end up on one) typically serve for about a week and handle small cases.

DC must have thought that I was a very good sitter because they elevated me. They've been trying to get me for a "Special" trial for years now. "Special" trials are special because they're held in a whole different building - though just as ugly - and can last six to eight weeks. You're officially on a "J" jury - it's called that because you'd have to be Jstupid to end up as one of the final 12.

Classes were an easy excuse to get these requests deferred, again and again, but I got a new form calling me in every semester. The most recent came in May and was set to start today.

I am still in class (I'm taking Spanish. Si.) - and I sent in the same excuse I always do. "I gots class, I can't do." This judge was having none of it. I had to go in today. Even better, I was to report at 8 am sharp.

I wasn't even aware there was a 8 Am. I knew about 8 pm, that's when all the good TV shows start. There's another one in the morning!

I arrived early - about 7:45am. I was hoping my tan pants and striped shirt said "Busy. I can't do," but I think they just said "Learn to iron correctly."

Turns out the building didn't open until 8am. DC is chock full of fun facts like these. They just keep coming, kids! Save 'em and trade 'em!

Once through the metal detector and relinquishing my camera phone (no cameras allowed) I was herded up to the juror's lounge.

When I think of "lounge," I think of shag carpeting with a kitchy color combination and some retro-furniture. Maybe that's what jury lounges look like in Miami. Not so in DC. Take an airline waiting area from the early 70's, squeegee every bit of charm out and you can imagine the jury's lounge.

"Special" juries are not allowed to sit around all day. You get in, you get a video orientation - complete with a definition of "evidence" - and then you're called up to the courtroom.

This sounds very fast, but I wasn't into the courtroom until after 11am. Workers there love calling out juror's numbers - to be sure we're herded in the right order. Those numbers are sacrosanct to them, I'm surprised they weren't branded onto my skin. I barely contained a "moo" as I sat in my seat, a seat a touch above granite in comfort. There were approximately 125 of us in the room. They need 12.

(One thing I have to say: Everyone there, from the security guards to the clerks to the judge was very courteous and helpful. If only some of them worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles.)

We all received a pen and a pad of paper, but the resemblance to a posh hotel stay ends there. Soon, (read: 35 minutes later) the lawyers for both sides piled in. I haven't seen so many lawyers in once place since the Fen-Phen convention of 2002.

I felt like I was right back in a gay bar - each lawyer sizing you up and trying desperately to make eye contact. The comparison is apt, in both situations you can end up fucked.

(A quick tip for the many officers of the court that read AtheC: Lawyers should not try to smile when they usually don't. They end up looking like Dick Cheney smiling - that is - a crazy jack-o-lantern on crack.)

The judge soon entered and he was wearing a wonderful black robe. Black really looks good on him. He addressed us and talked about the case. Here's where I have to get a bit ... vague. I can't talk about the case, or who was there, or what the case featured.

Thus began Voir Dire (jury selection). This part was OK because it allows me to use words like Voir Dire (and italics). Voir Dire is French for "Very Long Questionnaire." Well, that's what we needed to do, anyway. It's similar to the S.A.T.'s, but the guy next to me was in his late 50's and smelled of broccoli.

I can't tell you anything about the questionnaire either. They get pretty serious about this - they make you take an oral oath and sign and date the materials you hand in. They also shoot one perspective juror dead so you will live in fear. (Poor 01-0899!)

There are a few things that I can tell you (I hope):

1. The case is Jstupid.
2. [removed. better to be safe than sorry.]
3. I used 5 exclamation marks on the questionnaire.
4. Did I mention Jstupid?

At the moment I'm swimming in limbo. It's almost like an audition - if the lawyers like you, they bring you in for a call-back. I'm hoping that I am not their type. Any problems with serving (like, oh, a class that is costing over 4,000 dollars) will be heard after those call-backs. That part doesn't make much sense to me.

By the end of this week, I'll be able to hand in the letters from the school and my boss and be done with the whole thing.

They won't have 04-1809 to kick around anymore.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Postcard Club!

Blatantly stolen from Zulu's Subjectiveness - I'm just adding to the movement...

Postcard Club!

It's very simple. One of the newest forms of communication sparks interest in one of the oldest.

Quite simple: You e-mail me your name and address, I send you a postcard, then you send me one back. Getting mail is always fun.

Getting mail that isn't offers for credit cards and menus for greasy food is fun on a bun.

As an added incentive, I've just returned from L.A. with some great old movie poster post cards. Who wants Invasion of the Saucer-Men?

It should be fun to see what kind of postcards I get back as well. Send postcards of your town, or things you like, or just a picture you enjoy. I'll report back here when I receive replies.

The sharing of postal addresses can be a little weird, but trust me, my stalking phase has passed. And don't forget, you'll be getting my address, too. Don't stop by, the place is a mess.

E-mail away! Let's get this thing going!

Saturday, June 18, 2005


I'm glad the L.A. posts are done, because I have to say something.

Does ANYONE believe this?

And what has happened to Tom Cruise? When on talk shows in years past, he was reserved, or at least partially human. Now he seems possessed by the spirit of cheap publicity.

And now they are engaged?!

First, let's get the "how we met" story straight. OK? Because the idea that Cruise "interviewed" four of the hottest young actresses to see which one would be the best fit, you know, THE TRUTH, is getting old. Also, you have no other story. And Katie is no improv star. Not even close.

I really hope that people realize this is publicity schlock. I hope that Cruise's new movie, War of the Worlds, suffers because of it. (But not Holmes' new movie "Batman: The Beginning", cuz Christian Bale is hot.)

This is the most blatant publicity "love" tour I've ever seen. This may have done well in the days before the internet, and TV, and well, human intelligence, but now? C'mon.

Jump on a couch on your own time, Tom. I'm sick of your shit and I'm going to avoid your movie. (Sorry, Steven. It's not your fault.)

Tonight I burn my Top Gun DVD. Didn't see that coming, did you Hubbard?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Water From Above (L.A. Part 4) Fin.

It's a good day to wrap up the wall-to-wall-to -shaking-wall coverage of my trip to L.A. I have a lot of pictures I'd still like to share, so I'll let them do most of the talking, and keep my comments to a minimum.

It was a great trip. Not only did I get to see my favorite sister in the whole world (OK, my only sister in the whole world), but I had the chance to experience a great city, some great weather and a lot of new and interesting people and places.

As I've said before, I'm not sure what I could have done in L.A. that I didn't do. We didn't go to any television show tapings, but Jay Leno makes me gag like a puppy experiencing new sod and almost all of the other shows are on hiatus for the summer.

Beverly Hills really is beautiful. The streets are so wide and the trees so lush. Can you imagine living on a street like this? Yeah, me neither. Not on this salary.

Beverly Hills is also a great place to spot stars in their cars. There we were, sitting at a red-light, and who is right next to us but The Rock! Major movie star! I quickly snapped a picture of his wrist as he sped away in his huge, black, shiny car.

Alas, the next time we passed the car I realized my understandable mistake. It was a woman. The eyebrows threw me off.

I had to put this picture somewhere.

This is the ceiling of my sister's loft apartment. How cool is that? I told her that they need to get a porch swing to hang from the rafters. Also, barn owls.

There sure is some pretty scenery in L.A. Of course, it's all blocked by multi-million dollar houses perched on steep hills. Ah, no worry, a few mudslides will quickly remedy that.

Sometimes it seems as if everyone is rich and has a huge house. This house belongs to the producer of "Howard the Duck". That's just a joke - that producer lives in a gated community; I couldn't get pictures of his house.

Another exciting moment. This is the exact spot where Mel Gibson got the idea for the movie "Bird on a Wire".

Ha, ha! Not really, Mel Gibson's bird lives in a gated community. I couldn't get pictures of it.

On my final day in L.A. my sister and I went to Universal Studios. There are a few rides and attractions there, but you also get to take the front and back lot tour, which takes you through the studio area of the complex.

Above is a great pic of the soundstages. Many of the television shows you hate and movies you'll never see are produced here!

If you've a fear of being sprayed with water, avoid Universal Studios. While at the attractions there you will be sprayed with water from above to simulate spiders, beetles and, well, water. Almost every one featured it. I think it's L.A.'s lack of rain - Universal knows that no one remembers what rain feels like - so they set out to simulate it. Again and again. It's really fun in a not-fun-at-all kind of way.

The back lot tour takes you right past the lagoon used for Gilligan's Island! Sadly, this is one of the most recent shows mentioned in the back lot tour - you get the feeling that the tour script needs to be updated a bit. The one they use now was written by Faulkner. (Oprah loves it.)

My sister's neighborhood did not look good after the earthquake.

Actually, the above are shots from the upcoming War of the Worlds movie - directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring the Dianetics clone currently posing as Tom Cruise. It's hard to make out, but that is a wide-body airplane that has crashed into a little town. It's one of the only wide bodies I saw on my whole trip. (mirrors excluded.)

This is the road that leads to the L.A. subway.

Just kidding! That was a "town" set used in countless movies. This picture features my sister in an L.A. subway station, which we took to Universal Studios. The subway stations are in pristine condition. They should be, no one uses them. (That myth is totally true.)

A fellow passenger turned to me on a stuffy train and remarked "I guess they don't air condition these trains." Yeah, thanks fellow, I'll remember that when it's 98 degrees out, I'm on the packed D.C. metro and I am using the armpit of a homeless man to rest my head. I really feel for ya. Bitch.

The final picture features a random street in L.A. that gleefully bastardizes my own last name. God bless the folks on Graciosa Drive.

I can identify with the transformation; L.A. is a city of high emotions set against a blissful sea. While there you can't help but be swept up into the flurry of entertainment excitement, expecting a star to appear around each corner; and yet you never forget that you're merely blocks from the sea.

Karen, Brian, thank you for an unforgettable five days!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Bunch of Debunking (L.A. Part 3)

There are some things that you simply assume about L.A. Some turn out to be very true, while others turn out wrong wrong wrong. Then some new things present themselves to you , and you have to deal with them if you want to or not.

1. The weather is always beautiful. Undoubtedly true. I visited during peak "June Gloom," a period of time - which happens, amazingly enough, during June - when the skies tend to be cloudy in the morning.

I have no idea why this is seen as bad weather. There was no rain, it was just cloudy for a few hours. The highs were in the mid to high 70's and in the evening temps dropped down to the low 60's. Humidity was always low. When God returns to earth he'll vacation in L.A. on the 7th day.

2. Everyone is skinny and beautiful. I did notice a frighteningly high number of really skinny women, of course, you don't need to go to L.A. for that, just watch the MTV Movie Awards. And for sure there are a lot of really attractive people there.

But not everyone is uber-attractive, and I didn't notice a startlingly high percentage of beautiful people. No higher than in, say, New York City (though they were considerably less pasty.) Consider that one debunked.

3. People are rude. I don't know where I got this one, I think it is because people always compare San Francisco with L.A. and talk about how much more uptight and rude people are in L.A.

This simply is not the case. Everyone we talked to or met - from people on the street to people working in stores - couldn't have been nicer. I think it may stem from the fact that you never really know who you are talking to in L.A., or who they know. And since there is one industry that dominates employment in the city (psst: entertainment) you can't afford to piss anyone off.

And there is still a definite West-Coast vibe in L.A. Even with all the traffic - and there is a shit-ton of it - I didn't hear many people honking horns or making crazy lane changes. It's almost as if drivers are resigned to their fate and take it in stride.

4. The Hollywood Tower is haunted. OK, this isn't really the first thing that comes to mind when you think of L.A., but I couldn't help but mention it. Many Disney themeparks feature the Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror ride.

That ride - or the house it's based on - is in L.A., it actually creepily overlooks my sister's place. Every time we'd walk up the hill to the apartment, there it was, HOLLYWOOD TOWER, staring at us. Freaky. Even the neon sign in Disney looks just like the real thing.

But, no matter how much web-searching we did, we couldn't find any information on how the Tower got such a bad reputation. It's easy to find the story of the ride... elevator plunging thirteen stories, actors died and bodies never found ... blah blah blah ... but the real Hollywood Tower isn't even 13 stories tall. Did anything ever happen here?

5. Sorting Clothes for the Lazy. There are some great used clothing stores in L.A. We visited one on Hollywood Boulevard and others on Melrose (Melrose, FYI, excellent shopping.).

But in each and every one of these stores all the clothes are separated into type - women's, men's, pants, shirts - and then separated by ... color. Color?! I know there are a vast number of skinny-minnie people living in L.A., but some of us like to look for our size first and then see if they have something we like. Especially when everything is one of a kind.

Thank God my sister was on the lookout for stuff for me. I didn't have the patience to go through everything just looking for my size. Annoying.

Next: A bit more.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Los Angeles Trifecta (L.A. Part 2)

There are a few things that come to mind when you think about Los Angeles. Yes, the Hollywood sign, but I already talked that one to death. There are more. In my short time there I experienced all of them. In fact, I experienced the following L.A. Trifecta:

1. Celebrity Sighting
2. A Movie Being Filmed
3. Earthquake

Now my sister knows all the cool clubs around town that celebrities are drawn to like flies to sticky sweet candy. So we avoided those, because they are lame. Who wouldn't see a celeb at the Spider Club?

We did spend time at some of the coolest restaurants in L.A. After a meal at the relaxed Birds restaurant (they have more than chicken), we headed to Alcove, a little restaurant in the Los Feliz area that has some of the greatest desserts, and the biggest portions.

As we were in line, my sister turned to me and said, "There you go", in a hushed voice that I knew meant "FAMOUS PERSON HERE". I looked at the guy and didn't recognize him at all. Singer Matthew Sweet? I had no idea.

It was the woman with him that was mentionable - the one and only Juliette Lewis (of Natural Born Killers, The Other Sister and From Dusk 'Til Dawn fame).

Her voice, and you know if you've ever heard her speak, is unmistakable. She looked stick thin. Here's a picture of her. Oh wait, that's from Universal Studios - I didn't get any shots of Juliette.

Apparently, she was complaining about not getting parts because she no longer lives in L.A. In case you were wondering, she is featured in five movies coming out in the next year.

Also, look for my celebrity sighting on Defamer within the next week!

Driving back from Alcove, we passed by Hollywood Boulevard. It was closed off, trucks and police blocked any entrance, and a huge crane held up pipes above the street. The street was full of cars from the 1940's. A movie set!

During the day, a bunch of workers had attacked the Pantages Theatre, which is currently the home of the musical "Wicked." All the Wicked signs came down, along with any nearby modern signs.

Up went signs for the 1946 film noir "Black Angel" with June Vincent and Peter Lorre. During the day, we thought that maybe the Pantages was showing an old movie, little did we know it was all Hollywood deceit.

They were filming the upcoming Hillary Swank film The Black Dahlia. There was director Brian de Palma (who has done a lot of films, but I knew best for directing the scare-flick Carrie.)

There was the star, chatting with the director. He was dressed in 1940's clothes! He was tall and distinguished! He wouldn't turn around! (bastard.) So, he was either Josh Hartnett or Aaron Eckhart.

I thought it was Josh because I know his movies. My sister thought it was Aaron because she knows his. (Let the record show, I still think I was right. Maybe.)

The repetition surprised me. de Palma would scream "Action!" ("The guy who says "Action!" is the director." Thanks, Karen.) The cars moved forward about 20 feet and the crane camera swooped in for a shot. CUT! The cars drove backwards 20 feet and they set the shot up again. And again. And again. No wonder these movies cost so much.

The photos didn't come out very well because I couldn't use a flash - and the police were walking the line, looking for people with cameras. The cop kept staring at me, but I think he was just hitting on me. Karen thought otherwise. I have to admit, there's something to be said for a built guy in jackboots.

On Sunday morning, my sister woke me up by kicking the Aerobed that I was sleeping on. Before I opened my eyes, I wondered, "Why would she do this?" When I opened my eyes, she wasn't there, but I could tell that she was coming out of her bedroom because her door was rattling in its frame. I sat up. No sister. Then I looked at the light that hung over the kitchen table. It was swinging, oh so slightly, back and forth.


Here's the view out the window - yes, that's the Capitol Records building. At first I didn't think anything had happened. I walked to the window and saw people still walking, driving and watering their lawns. Didn't these people know the EARTH HAD SHAKEN?!

The local news confirmed it. An earthquake had hit south-east of Los Angeles. I wasn't crazy! I hadn't dreamed it! My sister had slept through it!

Amazing. I couldn't think of anything else that I would have wanted to experience during the week that I didn't do (or have done to me). It was the full L.A. experience in five short days.

Tomorrow: Myths debunked, and some not so debunked.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Elusive Hollywood Sign (L.A. Part 1)

I'm back.

There's so much to tell about Los Angeles - so much that I cannot fit it into one post. I was going to tell you what happened day by day, but that doesn't lend itself to the stories very well - some stories incorporate several days.

Stories like The Elusive Hollywood sign. Probably the most famous landmark in Los Angeles - anyone that has ever visited L.A. has seen it. However, it takes a few days of driving through the roads near the sign to truly respect it - and to get creeped out beyond all reason.

I stayed with my sister and her boyfriend in L.A. - in an apartment I wanted to take back with me it was so nice - and she lives a stone-throw from the sign. Literally, if you could throw a stone a few miles, it would hit the sign (you'd also have one hell of a pitching arm.) Driving on a street near her on the first day I asked - where is the sign? She turned the car 180 degrees and pointed out the windshield. There. Wow.

She told me about a road that her friend had taken her through - up the hill and around the sign - ending the in valley, which is on the other side (like, oh my GAWD! Gag me with a spoon!) That first night we drove up the hill looking for it.

There are no roads that lead directly to the sign. You can't get that close to it. This story doesn't end with me climbing up on an "O" and taking pictures. Sorry.

It's hard to accurately describe the roads that lead up the hill to the Hollywood sign. Try standing on your roof, looking down, and then running around and quickly turning - also, blindfold yourself and get drunk first. One of the roads that leads close to the sign is called LEDGEWOOD. I vote they change the name to Scare-the-Shit-Out-Of-You-Wood.

Driving up that first night, I wasn't very creeped out. I had heard that the sign was haunted. An actress had thrown herself off of the "H" to her death years ago - her soul still wanders the hill. I quickly became creeped out as my sister kept reiterating "Isn't this spooky?!" and "You know, we could die up here, and no one would know." Thanks, Karen.

Even without the prodding, I have to admit it is a spooky place. The roads - which must have been designed by Dali - curve randomly and alternate between steep inclines and crazy steep declines. A lot of them end like this. You'll be driving and BOOM - no more road. (Also, walk up past the end of the road for a bit and you fall off a ledge. BOOM - no more life.)

It may be hard to imagine, but there are houses on each and every road leading near the sign. In Hollywood - they will put a house damn near anywhere. Imagine living on the edge of a cliff - then imagine it ten times worse. That explains these houses. They are perched like coked-up birds on the very edge of cliffs hundreds of feet deep. In some cases held up by a single stilt. Next time you see houses sliding down an L.A. hill on TV because of a mudslide, don't feel bad. They know what they are getting into.

We didn't find the road that leads past the sign and into the valley that night. Let the record show that my sister was willing to keep looking. And that I had the heebie-jeebies and wanted to go home.

The next day Karen, her boyfriend Brian and I went up during the day (thank God). We still didn't find the magic street that took us over the hill, but I did get some great shots, even though in some you can't see the sign all that well (Yes, the red arrow in the picture with my sister and Brian is pointing to the sign).

That day it was interesting to see the backyard views of some of these ledge-houses. They can turn their head in their living room, look out the window, and see the Hollywood sign staring back at them. The crazy, spooky, haunted Hollywood sign staring back at them. They crazy.

The next night, with the help of google maps - we had directions over the hill, past the gorgeous Hollywood Resevoir (more like a lake in the middle of the hill) and down into the valley. Heather Road is the key. Take Ledgewood to Heather - then keep going left.

This road took us up further onto the hill, and allowed us to stop and see the sign just a few hundred yards away. Coo-Coo Crazy spooky. Each turn on the road allowed the Hollywood sign to disappear and then peek out again.

Pictures of this evening didn't come out so well. Maybe if I had a flash a few hundred times stronger.

You'll simply have to trust me that this is the best shot I got of the sign at night. Which brings up your part of this post. I was shocked to realize that the Hollywood sign is not lit up at night. I can understand why - the houses up there are really pricey, and who wants tons of tourists heading up into your neighborhood every night to look at a sign? Still, I thought for sure it was lit at night. Let me know what you thought.

The lack of lighting is what made the sign so mysterious at night. Imagine driving up a road and suddenly seeing one of the world's most famous landmarks - cast in shadows on a steep cliff. It really makes you examine your thoughts and feelings about things you think are so common - to contemplate the things in your life and put them into perspective.

Then we went to the valley and I had fish and chips at a brew pub.

More L.A. tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wipe those tears.

I won't be able to blog for a few days, I'm going to see some stars.

Until then, have great days, fun nights, and don't sit on cold cement.

I'll talk to you next week.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Move On

I think a Congressional Committee should immediately be formed to look into why only young, pretty blond girls like Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart and Jonbenet Ramsey are being kidnapped and/or killed.

If not that, let's get together all the news agencies and let's ask them why they'll only cover young blond girls. I don't have anything against young blond girls, well, nothing really vicious anyway.

But it's not just that they are young and blond. They are also the greatest, smartest, kindest people on earth. I know this will never happen, but just once, wouldn't you like to see someone on the news say, when asked what they thought of the missing, "eh, she was kind of a bitch."

I want the next-door neighbor of the mass murder to say "I knew it! He was a fucking freak!" and not "My my.. he was so quiet.. and nice to his mom..." Also, I want the storm survivor to say "What do you think it was like! It was a fucking tornado you jackass!" and not "Well, I was sittin in my house a-watchin the Wheel, and all of a sudden I was hearing these noises. Well, I only had time to grab little poof-poof and my hummel collection and get down to the half-basement before the roof a-came off!"

I'm not trying to mock the loss or pain that these families that have lost a loved one are feeling, but if the public hears story after story about missing girls, and sees one "amber alert" after another, they're going to stop caring. I don't blame the public - that's a natural reaction to hearing the same thing over and over again.

Here's what gets me. Ever since Natalee Holloway went missing in Aruba earlier this week it has led the news. Every day. Every newscast. Let's face it folks, the word is out - it's time to let the police do their job. I have no doubt that every person in Aruba knows about this missing girl. The Today Show showed a full page of information about her that is running every day in the local paper. (The story led at the top of the hour, natch.)

So it's time to move on. Please stop your obsession with white women in trouble. Give the publicity to another family suffering with the loss of a child, or, just maybe, take some time to cover the government, science, economics ...

Monday, June 06, 2005


It's come to the point where I'm considering avoiding television altogether. It's not worth the aggravation.

I saw a new commercial for Southwest Airlines on the television tonight (I couldn't find it online). I've never been enamored with Southwest, their method of seating people should simply be called the "line" system, as it's one after another after another.

Then their little seating system allows people with children and the disabled can board before everyone else. Anyone with a kid under 23 forces their way into the plane first, followed closely behind by assholes faking limps. Fly healthy and childless on Southwest and you'll find yourself in a center seat. But I digress.

The commercial features customers checking in at the Southwest counter, one after another. In each case their hair is really messed up, as if a huge gale had been blowing outside.

The tagline: "Planning on flying to Chicago?"



Chicago isn't called the "Windy City" because of weather fronts. In 1893, Chicago hosted the world's Columbian Exposition, a huge fair that cost millions of dollars and attracted millions of visitors. Fairs were really big back then - people didn't have stupid commercials to distract them.

New York Sun editor Charles Dana, tired of hearing Chicagoans boast of the world's Columbian Exposition, dubbed Chicago the "Windy City." (This story is disputed - aren't they all? - and I've heard other stories explaining the "windy city" tag - none of them include gale force winds.)

I know the good people at Southwest know that "Windy City" isn't a weather thing, and some people watching it will too. But it's a matter of principle - Southwest is furthering a misconception - and for what, a really bad joke?

Southwest Airlines, it's time to straighten up and fly right. (See, anyone can make lame jokes.)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Blame RitaPita

Not really!

But her "tag" for all things book related made me take a good look at the books I have on my shelf. I felt bad for leaving some of them out in the last post, so I wanted to showcase them in some way. All of the books below are highly recommended.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
I know this sounds awful, but this is one of the funniest books I've ever read. You're going to find yourself rolling on the floor laughing while tackling topics like dissection, crucifixion and cannibalism. Yes, I am a freak. So are you. Buy it.

Here's an excerpt: (This sort of thing is probably illegal, but I'm just trying to sell more books for ya, Mary baby.)
The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken. I have never before had occasion to make the comparison, for never before today have I seen a head in a roasting pan. But here are forty of them, one per pan, resting face-up on what looks to be a small pet-food bowl. The heads are for plastic surgeons, two per head, to practice on. I'm observing a facial anatomy and face-lift refresher course, sponsored by a southern university medical center and led by a half-dozen of America's most sought-after face-lifters.

The heads have been put in roasting pans - which are of the disposable aluminum variety - for the same reason chickens are put in roasting pans: to catch the drippings. Surgery, even surgery upon the dead, is a tidy, orderly affair. Forty folding utility tables have been draped in lavender plastic cloths, and a roasting pan is centered on each. Skin hooks and retractors are set out with the pleasing precision of restaurant cutlery. The whole thing has the look of a catered reception. I mention to the young woman whose job it was to set up the seminar this morning that the lavender gives the room a cheery sort of Easter-party feeling. Her name is Theresa. She replies that lavender was chosen because it's a soothing color.

It surprises me to hear that men and women who spend their days pruning eyelids and vacuuming fat would require anything in the way of soothing, but severed heads can be upsetting even to professionals. Especially fresh ones ("fresh" here meaning unembalmed). The forty heads are from people who have died in the past few days and, as such, still look very much the way they looked while those people were alive. (Embalming hardens tissues, making the structures less pliable and the surgery experience less reflective of an actual operation.)

For the moment, you can't see the faces. They've been draped with white cloths, pending the arrival of the surgeons. When you first enter the room, you see only the tops of the heads, which are shaved down to stubble. You could be looking at rows of old men reclining in barber chairs with hot towels on their faces. The situation only starts to become dire when you make your way down the rows. Now you see stumps, and the stumps are not covered. They are bloody and rough. I was picturing something cleanly sliced, like the edge of a deli ham. I look at the heads, and then I look at the lavender tablecloths. Horrify me, soothe me, horrify me.

They are also very short, these stumps. If it were my job to cut the heads off bodies, I would leave the neck and cap the gore somehow. These heads appear to have been lopped off just below the chin, as though the cadaver had been wearing a turtleneck and the decapitator hadn't wished to damage the fabric. I find myself wondering whose handiwork this is.

"Theresa?" She is distributing dissection guides to the tables, humming quietly as she works.


"Who cuts off the heads?"

Theresa answers that the heads are sawed off in the room across the hall, by a woman named Yvonne. I wonder out loud whether this particular aspect of Yvonne's job bothers her. Likewise Theresa. It was Theresa who brought the heads in and set them up on their little stands. I ask her about this.

"What I do is, I think of them as wax."

Theresa is practicing a time-honored coping method: objectification. For those who must deal with human corpses regularly, it is easier (and, I suppose, more accurate) to think of them as objects, not people. For most physicians, objectification is mastered their first year of medical school, in the gross anatomy lab, or "gross lab," as it is casually and somewhat aptly known. To help depersonalize the human form that students will be expected to sink knives into and eviscerate, anatomy lab personnel often swathe the cadavers in gauze and encourage students to unwrap as they go, part by part.

The problem with cadavers is that they look so much like people. It's the reason most of us prefer a pork chop to a slice of whole suckling pig. It's the reason we say "pork" and "beef" instead of "pig" and "cow." Dissection and surgical instruction, like meat-eating, require a carefully maintained set of illusions and denial. Physicians and anatomy students must learn to think of cadavers as wholly unrelated to the people they once were. "Dissection," writes historian Ruth Richardson in Death, Dissection, and the Destitute, "requires in its practitioners the effective suspension or suppression of many normal physical and emotional responses to the wilful mutilation of the body of another human being."

Heads - or more to the point, faces - are especially unsettling. At the University of California, San Francisco, in whose medical school anatomy lab I would soon spend an afternoon, the head and hands are often left wrapped until their dissection comes up on the syllabus. "So it's not so intense," one student would later tell me. "Because that's what you see of a person."

The surgeons are beginning to gather in the hallway outside the lab, filling out paperwork and chatting volubly. I go out to watch them. Or to not watch the heads, I'm not sure which. No one pays much attention to me, except for a small, dark-haired woman, who stands off to the side, staring at me. She doesn't look as if she wants to be my friend. I decide to think of her as wax. I talk with the surgeons, most of whom seem to think I'm part of the setup staff. A man with a shrubbery of white chest hair in the V-neck of his surgical scrubs says to me: "Were y'in there injectin' 'em with water?" A Texas accent makes taffy of his syllables. "Plumpin' 'em up?" Many of today's heads have been around a few days and have, like any refrigerated meat, begun to dry out. Injections of saline, he explains, are used to freshen them.

Abruptly, the hard-eyed wax woman is at my side, demanding to know who I am. I explain that the surgeon in charge of the symposium invited me to observe. This is not an entirely truthful rendering of the events. An entirely rendering of the events would employ words such as "wheedle," "plead," and "attempted bribe."

"Does publications know you're here? If you're not cleared through the publications office, you'll have to leave." She strides into her office and dials the phone, staring at me while she talks, like security guards in bad action movies just before Steven Seagal clubs them on the head from behind.

One of the seminar organizers joins me. "Is Yvonne giving you a hard time?"

Yvonne! My nemisis is none other than the cadaver beheader. As it turns out, she is also the lab manager, the person responsible when things go wrong, such as writers fainting and/or getting sick to their stomach and then going home and writing books that refer to anatomy lab managers as beheaders. Yvonne is off the phone now. She has come over to outline her misgivings. The seminar organizer reassures her. My end of the conversation takes places entirely in my head and consists of a single repeated line. You cut off heads. You cut off heads. you cut off heads.

(see how easy it is to blog when you simply rip use the excellent work of someone else?)

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
If you don't know David Sedaris, a frequent contributor to NPR and PRI radio programs, please pick up one of his books. This is my personal favorite, yet not his most recent release. The stories revolve around his life and the lives of his family members. In a really twisted, warped, hilarious way.

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
by Chris Ware
I always enjoyed graphic novels. Not so much comic books - I was never one of those kids that hoarded old issues of Fantastic four while reading by candlelight in the attic. (Anyway, we didn't have an attic.) Graphic novels were always a bit more adult - but the popular ones usually stuck to the fantasy/sci-fi range.

Chris Ware went ten steps further. If you think that you can't be as affected emotionally by a book with pictures as you can by any other novel, I suggest you give Ware a try. The storytelling is well up to par with the incredible art in this tone, and the six years he put into creating this work were well worth it.

A few others:

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
An excellent telling of one man's journey from addiction to recovery that pulls no punches.

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot by Al Franken
I don't care how much weight he lost, this book is still freakin hilarious. Pop some oxycontin, settle down with a glass of wine (not made in France) and enjoy.

Madam Secretary: A Memoir
by Madeleine Albright
I started reading this on a very long train trip and was finished by the time I arrived. It's not a quick read (it was a VERY long train trip), but it's a fascinating story of Albright's life journey from adopted child to first female Secretary of State for the United States of America.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tag Sale

I've been tagged... TAGGED!

I've never been blog tagged before, it's quite an honor.
Thanks RitaPita - and see, I've proved you wrong, I am responding.
So now I'm required, by law, to answer the following questions:

1.) Total number of books I have owned:

Egads. I have no idea. During college I was required every semester to purchase at least 14 tiny tiny books that cost at least $150 each. Most of those are gone - traded those suckers in right-quick for cash.

Right now I only have one bookcase in my apartment - and more books in the closet. I have maybe a hundred on-hand here. More at my parents house.

2.) The last book I bought:

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

What a trip. Vowell (Who was recently the voice of Violet in "The Incredibles") follows three presidents, and three assassins - visiting prisons, presidential libraries, and more. Vowell manages to make it quite an entertaining and funny trip. Highly recommended.

3.) The last book I read:

McSweeney's Issue #13
There are a lot of reasons to dislike Dave Eggers experiment in a quarterly literary experiment. #13 is not one of them.
Edited by the incredible graphic artist Chris Ware, Issue #13 is an exploration of classic and contemporary graphic storytelling. It includes the work of over 20 artists, all incredible, but Ware's is easily the best of the lot.

4.) Five books that mean a lot to me:

This is very hard.

A. Totally typical, but I still have a thing for Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Go for that brass ring!

B. The Big Book of Hell - by Matt Groening. Before he created Simpsons, there was more humor, interesting commentary and a lot more rabbits.

C. The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton
Easily re-readable at least once a year. God and Anne Sexton's estate lawyers forgive me, here's my favorite poem, The Break. It doesn't get much better than this, folks.
It was also my violent heart that broke,
falling down the front hall stairs.
It was also a message I never spoke,
calling, riser after riser, who cares

about you, who cares, splintering up
the hip that was merely made of crystal,
the post of it and also the cup.
I exploded in the hallway like a pistol.

So I fell apart. So I came all undone.
Yes. I was like a box of dog bones.
But now they've wrapped me in like a nun.
Burst like firecrackers! Held like stones!

What a feat sailing queerly like Icarus
until the tempest undid me and I broke.
The ambulance drivers made such a fuss.
But when I cried, "Wait for my courage!" they smoked

and then they placed me, tied me up on their plate,
and wheeled me out to their coffin, my nest.
Slowly the siren slowly the hearse, sedate
as a dowager. At the E. W. they cut off my dress.

I cried, "Oh Jesus, help me! Oh Jesus Christ!"
and the nurse replied, "Wrong name. My name
is Barbara," and hung me in an odd device,
a buck's extension and a Balkan overhead frame.

The orthopedic man declared,
"You'll be down for a year." His scoop. His news.
He opened the skin. He scraped. He pared
and drilled through bone for his four-inch screws.

That takes brute strength like pushing a cow
up hill. I tell you, it takes skill
and bedside charm and all that know how.
The body is a damn hard thing to kill.

But please don't touch or jiggle my bed.
I'm Ethan Frome's wife. I'll move when I'm able.
The T. V. hangs from the wall like a moose head.
I hide a pint of bourbon in my bedside table.

A bird full of bones, now I'm held by a sand bag.
The fracture was twice. The fracture was double.
The days are horizontal. The days are a drag.
All of the skeleton in me is in trouble.

Across the hall is the bedpan station.
The urine and stools pass hourly by my head
in silver bowls. They flush in unison
in the autoclave. My one dozen roses are dead.

The have ceased to menstruate. They hang
there like little dried up blood clots.
And the heart too, that cripple, how it sang
once. How it thought it could call the shots!

Understand what happened the day I fell.
My heart had stammered and hungered at
a marriage feast until the angel of hell
turned me into the punisher, the acrobat.

My bones are loose as clothespins,
as abandoned as dolls in a toy shop
and my heart, old hunger motor, with its sins
revved up like an engine that would not stop.

And now I spend all day taking care
of my body, that baby. Its cargo is scarred.
I anoint the bedpan. I brush my hair,
waiting in the pain machine for my bones to get hard,

for the soft, soft bones that were laid apart
and were screwed together. They will knit.
And the other corpse, the fractured heart,
I feed it piecemeal, little chalice. I'm good to it.

Yet lie a fire alarm it waits to be known.
It is wired. In it many colors are stored.
While my body's in prison, heart cells alone
have multiplied. My bones are merely bored

with all this waiting around. But the heart,
this child of myself that resides in the flesh,
this ultimate signature of the me, the start
of my blindness and sleep, builds a death crèche.

The figures are placed at the grave of my bones.
All figures knowing it is the other death
they came for. Each figure standing alone.
The heart burst with love and lost its breath.

This little town, this little country is real
and thus it is so of the post and the cup
and thus of the violent heart. The zeal
of my house doth eat me up.
D. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Ever felt like to don't quite belong? That you're groomed for greatness and have just wasted opportunites and it's all your own fault? So did Sylvia.

E. Requiem for a Dream - Hubert Selby, Jr.
Quite simply, four lives, and the destruction of hope. An incredible work.

5. Tag five people and have them fill this out on their blogs:

Ah, I don't want to bother people, but I know Lori's list would be interesting.