Tuesday, December 20, 2005

5 weird habits of mine

The original topic for this ongoing meme is "Your Five Weirdest Habits," but since I'm positive that I've overlooked some (and don't wish to mention some of the more embarrassing ones online), I've modified it slightly here.

Thanks to Donna for tagging me.

1. Ever since I was young, I've been in the habit of getting into bed before turning out the light. I guess this comes from a youthful fear of creatures under the bed, which would emerge and crawl around on the floor once the lights went out. I recall a time when there was no light next to my bed, and I actually practiced a technique by which I would jump, hit the switch on the way up, and sail toward the bed. I missed more than once before getting the bright idea to move the bed.

2. Unless it's completely unfeasible, I try to be at least fifteen or twenty minutes early for wherever I'm going. No matter whether I'm heading to work, a movie, or just a meeting with a friend, I can't stand the thought of being late. Even now that I have a cellular phone, I'd rather work my schedule around so I'll be early than have to call the person I'm meeting to tell them I'm running late.

3. Even at the height of summer when it's ninety-some degrees out, I insist on wearing long pants whenever I leave the house. Maybe this has something to do with my less-than-friendly relationship with sunlight.

4. I've saved every notebook I've used since I first started college over nine years ago. I can't explain why. What do I think I'll need them for?

5. Every time I use the bathroom, I turn on the fan (yes, there's a separate switch). I'll turn on the fan even when I'm just washing my hands or combing my hair.

I hereby pass the mantle on to... um... Jason, Tosh, Jay, Mark, and Lee.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


- Thanks for your thoughts a few weeks back, when my dad had bypass surgery. He's recovering now- still not allowed to drive or lift heavy objects or sleep in any position besides on his back, on account of the doctors having to cut through the breastbone to do the procedure- but he's doing what he can. For the time being, he can eat pretty much anything he wants, until such time as his appetite returns, so maybe I ought to bring home a burger or something for him to enjoy before the doctors say no more. He's not 100% yet or anything, but we're happy with how he's recovering.

- A strange and kind of welcome unforseen by-product of my dad's brush with the Reaper is that he has gotten less and less tolerant of bullshit. This is especially nice when he's talking to my brother, meaning he's much less inclined to indulge my brother than he was in the past. Not that it matters much anymore, since my brother officially moved out yesterday. Three months after we had originally planned, but better late than never, I suppose.

- One thing I hate about the holiday season is the omnipresent Christmas music in stores and such. Not that I am categorically against carols or anything- it's just the ones they play are so schmaltzy and shitty. We've all heard "The Christmas Song" thousands of times, so why is it necessary to hear the slowest, most overorchestrated version wherever we go (I'm glancing in your direction, Perry Como)? Even worse is that they subject callers on hold to the songs as well. Gee, just what I need- I'm sitting around the house, just trying to see if the bookstore has a copy of UGETSU, and I have to sit through a double dose of Mannheim Steamroller-fied holiday junk. Blech. Also, how did the chestnuts roasting song get to be "The Christmas Song?" Ask people to name one Christmas song and I'm guessing very few will name that one. I guess it's sort of like the div kid being named milk monitor or something. God, THE OFFICE is awesome.

- Chinese takeout is a lot like a relationship- when it's good it's awesome, and when it's bad watch the fuck out. This pearl of wisdom was inspired by a trip to a local Chinese takeout joint. I should have cut and run as soon as I walked in- what kind of restaurant is almost empty at 12:15 PM?- but feeling adventurous I stuck around. Hoo boy. I guess the wonton soup wasn't awful, though the wonton itself was little more than a layered ball of dough. The eggroll, on the other hand... the cabbage was really stringy, and there seemed to be a powdery substance inside. It might have been soy or something, but it was pretty off-putting. For the main course, I ordered what I usually order when I go to a Chinese place for the first time- chicken with broccoli. It's not my favorite or anything, but it's pretty much a gimme- chicken, broccoli, and brown sauce. It's only a gimme in theory, as it turns out- the single server on duty brings me out a plate covered in all kinds of unwelcome veggies, including (retch) mushrooms. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but there are quite a few people out there who don't eat mushrooms, either due to allergy (in my case) or simple dislike for them. So if you're going to put mushrooms on a dish, it would probably be a wise idea to advertise, to keep the fungophobes away. But noooooooooooooooooo, here's what the menu read: "Chicken and Broccoli." I asked the server to take it back to the kitchen, since I can't eat mushrooms, and she looked at me oddly, like I told her I don't breathe oxygen or something. But she obliged, bringing me back a new plate a minute or so later that was obviously the same one only with the mushrooms removed. I tried to choke down a few bites, but it tasted like someone cut up my work shoes, threw them in a wok, and served them over rice. Which may sound good if you're Werner Herzog, but doesn't appeal to me. Being nice/wussy, I paid for the meal, but I would have been better off driving by the restaurant, wiping my ass with a ten-dollar bill, and throwing it out the driver's side window. At least that would have been entertaining and left me without a terrible aftertaste.

- Brilliant idea du jour: reflex tests for the elderly when they renew their licenses. I suppose this was brought on by the idea that all of my grandparents are upwards of 85 years old, and three of them (including the oldest, 90 years old) are still behind the wheel. Nothing against them or the elderly in general, but I feel uneasy every time they mention driving somewhere. I feel particularly uneasy about my paternal grandparents, who are 90 and 88 and have a lot of trouble walking. Now, I understand that one needs to be mobile. Being stuck in one place can be tough- just ask my dad. But when you're driving, especially if you're on the highway, you need to be able to react quickly to avoid accidents. And I fear that many old people may be endangering themselves and others simply because the PC police don't want to offend their elders. Come to think of it, let's test everyone's reaction time. If you're still able-bodied, what could you possibly fear?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Flesh and blood

I apologize to all of you out there for not posting more frequently, but quite frankly these last few weeks have been hectic. I've been working a lot, plus I've spent a lot of my time at home working on applications, so that leaves me very little time for posting either to this blog or to the film blog. And to compound matters, I just found out last week that my dad has to get triple-bypass surgery. So as you might expect it's been pretty tense around the house since then. The surgery is tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and while I'm not really fearing the worst (I can't even bring myself to type out what "the worst" actually would be) it nonetheless gives me pause. I know my dad's in good shape, heart notwithstanding, but anytime they cut a loved one open one is bound to be concerned.

I had a conversation with my dad about this earlier tonight, and he asked me how I felt about the whole thing. To be honest, I wasn't sure how to feel. My dad had a mild heart attack about ten years ago, yet this still didn't quite feel real to me. Bypass operations are for old people, right? Well, not exactly. The truth is that heart trouble runs in his family. His dad has heart problems, and now he does. And what has really hit home is that, in terms of body type, I'm very similar to how my dad was at my age. Add to this the fact that I had a great-uncle who died of a heart attack when he was 29- yeah, I'm a touch nervous.

The other emotional issue I mentioned to my dad was that I figured out a while back that I'm the kind of person who get more frustrated when something bad happens beyond his control than when something happens that he (at least partially) caused. This is unfathomable to my mother, who is the "no sweat, it's all out of my hands" type, but my dad knew where I was coming from. I guess it's the control freak in me, being disturbed more by powerlessness than by responsibility, but it's just the way I am. And now when it comes to my own health, I feel more powerless than ever before. As my dad said, "I could probably have eaten salads for every meal and this still would have happened eventually." Even if this is a slight exaggeration, my dad's gene pool has a tendency toward heart problems, and that's part of the legacy he's left to me. Now let's see if I can do anything about it.

But in spite of the tension, the plan for tonight was to get the family together for one more nice sit-down dinner before my dad's surgery. I had the day off work, so I prepared a nice meal, but alas, the plans came crashing down. From my vantage point, my brother was to blame, but I should accept at least some responsibility for it happening. The story as I remember it: I'm in the kitchen making dinner, and my mom's changing out of her work clothes. My dad comes home and changes, then comes out to the kitchen, and we start talking. My dad comes calls to my brother to come upstairs for dinner, and eventually my brother comes up. My dad and I continue our conversation in a fairly innocuous manner, and suddenly my brother seizes upon a harmless thing my dad says to sneak in one of his infamous offhand digs, this time at my dad. The conversation screeches to a halt, and I get PISSED. I tell my brother that I'm getting really fucking pissed at his need to tell jokes at the expense of others, especially his family, and he starts getting all defensive. "I'm just telling a joke! That's the kind of jokes I always tell!" he says. And I tell him that we were trying to have a civilized conversation, and that his humor is best kept to himself. And he starts getting pissed at me, so I reach for the nearest knife, although I fail to get a good hold on it, and it goes tumbling across the floor. But even without a knife, I start yelling at him (by this time mom has come out of the bedroom and is trying to make sense of it all) and my brother decides to get the hell out of Dodge. But, this being my brother, not before he can get in one more feeble remark- "Dad, good luck with your surgery. Paul, go fuck yourself." And the door slams.

I felt suitably guilty for my actions, of course, but the weird thing wasn't that I didn't feel guilty so much for attempting to draw a knife on my brother as I did for breaking up the nice family dinner we had planned. But why would I, a person who considers himself to be a peaceful sort, impulsively pull out a knife when my brother crosses me? Well, I've been thinking about that all night. I suppose a lot of it had to do with my dad. The whole point of the night was to give him a pleasant send-off before tomorrow's surgery, and after making dinner I wasn't about to let my brother pull his usual mouthy shit. But I also think that it's the culmination of three tumultuous months of my brother living with us. Simply put, all of the bad things I thought about him before he moved back have only been exascerbated by experiencing them with great regularity. Would you live with a roommate who lied, consistently made jokes at the expense of you or your housemates, left half-full glasses of soda sitting around the house, had piles of filthy dishes in his bedroom even after they started to get moldy, inserted inappropriate language or jokes into polite conversation, actively antagonized the mistress of the house, and watched television late into the night, loudly laughing heedless of the sleep schedules of everyone else? How much are we supposed to forgive just because he's family? Yet I've practically been a saint up until now. He's come to me numerous times, cornered me while I was busy with something and engaged me in insipid hour-long conversations about which I could really give a shit, and I've done my best to humor him even though I don't really want to, all in the name of keeping everything smoothed over between us. But now this. A knife, drawn on my own brother. True, it never would have made for much of a threat, not only because I dropped the knife but also because the knife I pulled out was a serrated bread knife, and lord knows that couldn't have done much harm. But still, it's the principle. Nothing good can come of this.

Anyway, my dad. I hope he comes out all right. He'll be home for the next month or so, so I'll see plenty of him then. I'll be in the hospital with my mom tomorrow morning, trying to keep her level. I wonder if my brother will show up. Just in case, I'll leave the cutlery at home.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Can't depend on anyone these days...

- I don't regret taking that promotion to management a few months ago, but man does it ever have its drawbacks. Foremost among them is my disillusionment with the majority of my theatre's staff members. Problems that would have seemed miniscule to me back when I was a staff member have become glaring. The issues have been there all along, far as I can tell, but the difference is that I can no longer ignore them. When someone continually shows up late for a shift, I have to deal with it. When someone consistently wants to take off on Saturday (as a rule, our busiest day) I have to convince him to change his mind. Or at least TRY to convince him. The problem I have with so many of my staff members is that they're so damn ungenerous. They whine and whine about how they don't make any money, how we don't give them enough benefits, and waa waa waa. But they don't really want to work unless it's on their terms. They want a 40-hour work week, but they don't want to work the peak hours. They want to be scheduled, but they can't be bothered to keep busy when they're on the clock. Perhaps they didn't get the memo, but working a service-oriented job like this is about being a member of a team. On a team, you have to think of everyone, and it's about give and take. Which does NOT mean that everyone can keep taking without giving anything. Because the giving has to come from somewhere, and more often than not it comes from me and the other two managers. And frankly, I'm getting sick of it. Something is wrong when I get annoyed just from SEEING almost every single person on the staff. I'm working on hiring some new people, but until that time I can't get rid of the old ones, barring any really problematic behavior (stealing, etc). And we really need to get some people out of there- one of the most popular staff members among his peers is a lazy, whiny asswipe who flaunts the rules and regularly guilt-trips managers, trying to make them feel bad for disciplining him. Yet this same non-worker is beloved by most of the other staff members, to the point where if we let them vote for staff member of the month, he'd be a shoo-in. I'm also reckoning with the conflicting impulses which are inherent in a job like this- I want to be a nice guy (I'd like to think I am a nice guy), but I also need to be a good manager, commanding respect and not allowing staff members to walk all over me. ARGH!

- Work isn't all bad, I suppose. Last night, we were paid a visit by none other than Tommy "Tiny" Lister, who was in Akron making a personal appearance and came to see a movie afterwards. I saw that he was here, but was inclined to leave him alone until he and his manager approached me and asked if they could have something sent to our fax machine. Naturally I said yes, and after the fax came through I took the liberty of asking for his autograph. Turns out that earlier that day I impulse-bought a copy of JACKIE BROWN (it was on sale), and since he's in that awesome movie playing Max Cherry's assistant Winston, I couldn't not ask. He was pretty cool in person- a big guy, as you might expect, but soft spoken and genial. The biggest surprise was that he wears glasses, which I guess shouldn't be a surprise since he is cross-eyed, but it was still a little odd to see. He signed for some of the other staff members and got a picture with my boss, whose head came up to Tiny's chest.

- Ladies and gents, the battle rages on. It's Irony vs. Sincerity- the Merchandising Years! In this corner, wearing the white trunks... Mr. Dick Van Patten! And in this corner, wearing the blue trunks, the People's Champ... Mr. Vincent Gallo! Who will win? My money's on the spooge.

- I took the GRE on Monday, and now that it's over my mind is at ease. I did well (610 verbal, 760 math, with writing results to come), but I really had to work for this. I took a fair number of practice tests to prepare for this, as well as checking a bagful of GRE-prep books out of the library. Remember when I could do well on the SAT and ACT without breaking a sweat? That was awesome. I guess it's like when you don't lift weights for a long time, and then you have to pick up something heavy- the muscles are still there, but you haven't used them and they're out of shape. That's how I felt during the test. Ah well, glad it's over. Now I can move on to applications. Oh yeah, I decided to apply to film school after all. If I don't get in, I'll try again next year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Dialogue Meme (originally posted on my Film Blog)

Well, it's all over but the crying. Below are all the answers to my Dialogue Meme, so you can slap yourselves in the forehead for not placing the quote, or slap me for using you folks as guinea pigs.

So what do the ten films quoted below have in common? I didn't expect you to guess that, since it's fairly arbitrary- they are ten of the films in my "next 25" list that I plan to make as an addendum to my top 100 of a couple years back. For the rest of the 25, stay tuned to this site.

1. "Ah yes, she was a Communist too. She believed in free love. At the time it was all I could afford."

1A. "I reserve the right to be ignorant. That's the Western way of life."

- from THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (1965, Martin Ritt)

2. "Sorry, I'm a bit of a stickler for paperwork. Where would we be if we didn't follow proper procedures?" - from BRAZIL (1985); answered by Vadim.

3. "You're hypnotized by this place, all of you. It's so bright and nearly wrapped you don't see that it's a prison too." - from DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978); answered by Jason.

4. "They think if they piss high enough they're gonna come across the monkey with the beard and the crap ideas and it's like, 'oh! There you are, captain! Are you busy, because I've got a few fundamental questions for ya'? You with me?"

4A. "What about the old diminishing pachyderm formation there?"

- from NAKED (1993, Mike Leigh)

5. "It was wonderful, he thought- how such depths of feeling could coexist with an absence of imagination."

5A. "I can't have my happiness made of a wrong to somebody else."

- from THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993, Martin Scorsese)

6. "Two more double bourbons. Make 'em nice and big." - from TOUCH OF EVIL (1958); answered by Tosh.

7. "This promises to be quite a trip. Personally, I don't intend to miss a meal."

7A. "My line? My most effective one is to tell a girl she has hair like a tortured midnight, lips like a red couch in an ivory palace that I'm lonely and starved for affection. Then, I generally burst into tears. It seldom works."

- from GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953, Howard Hawks)

8. "The fine line that runs from ear to chin is not as obvious anymore, but it is etched there by your easygoing, indolent ways."

8A. "Wednesday the third of September-- The tang of autumn fills the clear still air but it's mild and fine."

- from CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972, Ingmar Bergman)

9. "Well, you know music, and you can count. All the way up to two." - from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968); answered by Tosh.

10. "We have a saying in Brazil- he says to go up- it says, 'Deus e Brasilero,' which means, 'God is Brazilian.' So you see, we have no worry in the world. Of course, you have to worry some. That's the way of life."

10A. "Well, Cinderella. I was beginning to think you'd never come for your shoe."

- from POINT BLANK (1967, John Boorman)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

This is why I don't have kids (that and I don't have a significant other)

I was sitting at La Guardia today, waiting for my flight, when a family sat in the seats across from where I am. A couple, maybe in their late forties or early fifties, and a boy who looked to be maybe 11 or 12. Actually, I first noticed them not by sight, but when I heard the kid. I tell you, this kid just wouldn't stop. He kept ranting and raving- "I wanna fly now! NOW! I don't wanna wait! NOW! NOW!!!" His parents gently tried to quiet him without making a scene, but nothing doing- he stood up and started stamping his feet on the ground, throwing a little baby temper tantrum. You know, the kind like you see in movies but you can't believe any parent would tolerate? But these parents did. And after a while, he reached out and started slapping his parents intermittently in various parts of their body, as if to punish them for not allowing him to get on the plane. By this time, I was starting to get angry. I had been immersed in Cain's wonderful MILDRED PIERCE (a great American tragedy, in my opinion), but I couldn't concentrate with the overgrown baby putting on a show across the aisle. Eventually it seems he decided that his parents weren't enough of an opponent, so he began yelling at random people around him. He even looked over to me at one point, as I was pretending to read, and said "what are YOU looking at?" I then proceeded to make eye contact with his mother (or at least I think she was his mother) and she gave a weary, resigned smile and a shrug, as if to say "what do you expect me to do?"

Well, here's what I DON'T expect you to do, lady. I don't expect you to just stand there and let Bratty McGoo yell and scream and make a scene. You're his parents, for chrissakes. I'm not saying that you reach for the nearest mallet and pound him with it (though I would have been tempted myself were a mallet nearby). But do SOMETHING. Take the little bastard by the arm, firmly guide him into the nearest public restroom and assert your responsibility. Tell him that the world does not operate according to his schedule. Insist that there is no excuse for him to hit others, least of all his parents. And of course inform him in no uncertain terms that he's TOO FUCKING OLD TO THROW TANTRUMS IN PUBLIC. Seriously, this kid had to be in the double digits, and the stomping around and yelling routine loses its effectiveness long before this age.

Now, I'm not a parent (all you parents can breathe a collective sigh of relief) but last I checked one of a parent's jobs is to discipline unruly children. Again, I'm not advocating the use of the hand, the paddle, or my mother's favorite, Mr. Spatula. But just as one must reward good behavior, so must bad behavior not go unpunished, or else the kid won't learn the difference between the two. One look at the faces of Mom and Dad said it all- they looked tired, haggard, worn down. And if I had a kid who had been pitching fits for over a decade I'm sure I'd look like that too. But not only will letting this behavior slide not make the kid stop, it won't make you look any younger either.

To all you parents out there- am I way out of line here?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

On second thought...

The main reason I moved back home wasn't to assist my family or anything (although that's what I tell most people). In fact I'm here mostly so that I can re-evaluate the direction my life is taking. After the depressing-even-to-me New Year's post, I decided I need to do something with my life, because what I've been doing hasn't made me particularly happy. The goal during my time at home was to explore my options- in particular the possibility of applying to film school.

It's no secret that I've loved movies for years. And with my love for movies has been a far-in-the-distance dream of someday being a director. But now that the time has come to act on this dream, I'm having second thoughts. Last week I had a talk with my parents and told them that I'm not sure I want to go back to school at this time in my life. I know it sounds silly- "you've been dreaming of being a filmmaker for years, you fucko, so what's the holdup?" Honestly, I don't know. My mom thinks I'm afraid. See, my undergrad years pretty much sucked- the only education I found worthwhile was found in movie theatres- and they became a kind of cruel joke when it turned out that the only thing that I (who went in undecided) was interested in studying wasn't offered at a university with over 200 majors. D'oh! So, two years into my college education, getting plenty of financial aid from the school, I decided to finish out my time at OSU by... coasting. I didn't try, because I didn't care.

Cut to today, 4 1/2 years after graduation. I'm still working for the same company I did in college, making a good deal less than a college grad prolly ought to make (of course, this is relative; I grew up hearing from my folks that a college degree would open all kinds of doors for me, and now I'm just grateful to be getting medical coverage so that if I'm ever plowed over by a lorry [yes, I just wrote "lorry"- I also say "gair-idge" when talking about where I park my car at home] I won't have to die to avoid paying out the ass for the rest of my life). I don't mind my job, but it doesn't really fulfill me from an intellectual standpoint- consider today, when my entire staff was comprised of high schoolers (felt a little like Romper Room). So you'd think it would be prime time to pursue the dream, before I get too old and have too many firm commitments (wife, kids... oh wait, I'm talking about myself here hahahahahahahahahahaha). But no. With me, it's never as simple as doing something. I have to think about it. I've always had to think about it, and more and more lately my thinking about things has led me to one potential consequence- failure.


Some people wouldn't consider me a failure. After all, I'm a college graduate with a management job, complete with benefits. But mostly, I feel like I've let myself down.

But enough of the self-pity. It's more than three months until New Year's.

The question is this- do I really not want to go to film school, or is there something inherent in my personality that holds me back from pursuing things I really want? I know I'm capable of writing good screenplays- writer-friends who've read what I've already written have told me so. And I'm certainly not at a loss for ideas- at this point, I have roughly ten screenplays that are at least in the mental-brewing phase, if not partially or completely finished. And I have particular ideas for how I'd like them to be made as well, so I'd like to direct them myself. Everything inside me tells me that if I ever want these ideas to be put to film, then going back to school is the most sensible way to make it happen. But of course it is- my concerns now are access to equipment and making connections to knowledgeable collaborators. And since Portage County, Ohio isn't a filmmaking mecca, and since I'm not the kind of schmoozer who could charm the pants off film-smart types so as to make them work for/with me, film school makes sense.

So what's the holdup already? Is it fear of failure that holds me back? Or is it something more insidious? Namely, the malaise that has crept into my life ever since I went to college, the safe and unchallenging contentment I get from coasting through life? Or it is simpler than either of these options? Do I honestly not want to go back to college?

And what if cinema is just a phase for me? There was a time in grade school when I would pore over every book I could find about the Presidents, memorizing every little tidbit of info I could digest that was even tangentially related (ultimate proto-geek moment: in third grade, correcting a tour guide at Monticello as to a portrait of Madison- he said it was Monroe- hanging on a wall). Are the movies just a more adult variation on that same theme?

Anyway, I don't usually beseech the reader(s) of this weblog to respond- though it's always welcome when he/they do/es- but honestly, I'm reaching out here. What do you guys think I should do? Peptalks/bitchslaps/alternative suggestions welcome, particularly from those of you who could steer me in a film-related direction.

P.S.: also, I find that screenwriting is pretty fucking tedious. If I had one wish, I'd wish for all the ideas in my head to be put to paper as I thought of them- I have no trouble revising and re-writing. Just wanted to get that out there.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Odds 'n' sods

- My folks are out of town on vacation, and my brother is staying at a friend's place, so I've got the house to myself this week. Which means I can shower with the bathroom door open and no one will be the wiser.

- The Cedar Lee theatre up in Cleveland has what has to be the smallest men's room stall I've ever encountered. Whenever I use it, my knees rest comfortably against the door. Perhaps this was an attempt by the theatre's management back in the day to fit another toilet into a small space, but yeesh.

- The other day I put my boxer shorts on backwards, so that the opening was in the back. I was wondering what that draft on my ass was...

- Pet Peeve #2: People who don't leave messages on the answering machine. Isn't it about 25 years past time to be reluctant to talk to machines? My hatred of these sorts began when I was living alone and my telephone was positioned right next to the bed (the only jack in the house was there, so I didn't have much of a choice). I didn't mind when I was awakened by the machine picking up (I usually turned my ringer off, and a voice is easier to wake up to than a ring) but when people wouldn't bother to leave even their name behind, I felt downright insulted. Am I not important enough to know who is calling when I'm away from the telephone or something? Even now that I don't sleep next to the telephone, my disgust at these characters remains.

- Pet Peeve #3: Cars with exhaust pipes pointing to the side. I'm the sort of driver who prefers rolling the window down to turning on the A/C whenever I have the choice, but people who drive cars with sideways-pointing tailpipes make my day thoroughly unpleasant. The worst part is that I drive a small car, and the offending vehicles tend to be larger, making the likelihood even greater that the cloud of exhaust will be aimed at the level of my open window. It's bad enough when you get a faceful from a gas-burning SUV, but the worst is when you're seated at a stop light next to a twenty-year-old van like the ones repairmen invariably drive.

- For the last day or so I've had the Soft Bear song stuck in my head, with my own personal twist of it being sung to "Every Sperm Is Sacred." It feels simultaneously adorable and naughty, with the usual annoyance of not being able to free one's mind from a song.

Monday, August 22, 2005


- A few weeks ago one of the managers at my current theatre resigned, so the other two managers convinced me to apply for the position. So, not really sure of my chances, I sent it in, and last week I drove up to Cleveland for an interview. Yesterday I got the call from him, and he offered me the spot. So I'm pretty happy about that. I was a little uneasy at first, since the theatre is somewhat understaffed, and given that I'm usually scheduled the most hours of anyone who isn't a manager I wondered if it might cause trouble if I were to vacate my staff spot. But my head manager assured me that it shouldn't cause too much trouble, and more importantly if they (now meaning we) are to build up the staff the management team needs to be on solid ground. If the foundation is weak, the rest will crumble- I'm paraphrasing here- so I can be of greatest help in a position of greater responsibility. Anyway, I'm stoked.

- Tonight, driving home from work, I decided to take the scenic route, and on the road I hit an opossum. The funny thing is that, though I probably killed a living thing, I don't feel bad. Setting aside the fact that opossums are nasty creatures, I think my lack of remorse comes from the details of the incident. It was dark, but I was driving the speed limit on a straight road with my headlights on, and the animal clearly saw me (I noticed its head turn toward the light well in advance). Here's the kicker- the opossum made absolutely no effort to move out of the way. What the fuck kind of survival instinct is that? Say you're sitting there, minding your business, when something much bigger than you comes roaring at you with its lights on at a fairly high speed (in relation to how small you are anyway). What do you do: (A) get the blue fuck out of the way, or (B) sit there and stare? Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing (spelling?) but any little thing that chooses (B) gets no sympathy from me. A deer, on the other hand, is a different story. Those things can do damage, and no amount of free venison could pay for the repairs I'd need.

- I'm getting reallyreallyreallyreally tired of this creationism/evolution hubbub. Let's get this clear: science requires proof, and religion requires faith. I'm sure there's a place where the two can be rectified, but a science classroom is not that place. Teach the Bible on your own time in my opinion.

- I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages a few years ago, mostly because they contributed to the migraines that have plagued me all my life- I still get them, but not nearly so frequently- but also because they made me edgy. But sometimes I still crave the taste of cola, and since I don't like artificial sweeteners, I'm pretty much out of luck. Why is it that Coke and Pepsi have caffeine-free diet varieties, but not caffeine-free non-diet? Or do they exist in places where I haven't yet looked? If anyone knows where I could find caffeine-free cola that has sugar in it, please let me know.

- I dropped by DiVitis' Italian Market the other day for the first time since I moved home. Man, that place is great. They make their own sausage- I plan to try the new Sicilian sausage next time I visit- and they also have a good selection of other stuff, Italian and otherwise. I would have gotten a cannoli had any been made at the time. It's just a little locally-owned place, but every time I've gone in the past it's been pretty busy, which warms my heart. I love to see little stores like DiVitis' maintain a consistent level of success.

- THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN is awesome. More to come.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Sitting on the hillside / watching all the people die"

A rare and rather pleasurable thing happened to me this afternoon- the theatre called me at home and actually told me I didn't have to come in for work. I suppose I should explain further. Normally, I wouldn't be scheduled in the projection booth on Saturday night because that's when the union projectionist comes in. However, he took a vacation this week sort of at the last minute, so I was somewhat easily persuaded to take over his shift this evening (I had no plans, so why not?). But at 3:30 this afternoon I got a call from my manager, informing me that the union guy had gotten one of his fellow union projectionists to take over the shift, and so I could have the night off. So hey, cool.

But that's merely a lead-in to what's on my mind right now. When I mentioned the turn of fortune to my dad, he suggested I go out and do something tonight. Perhaps, he mused, I should call a woman I went out with once a few months ago, last time I came home. Now, I didn't have a bad time with her or anything. We sat and talked for a few hours, I liked her and I hope she didn't find me objectionable. However, aside from this one date, we've kept in contact exclusively via e-Mail for the past couple of months, and have never spoken over the telephone. So I semi-demurred, stating that I have several Netflix and NicheFlix DVDs sitting in my room that won't watch themselves (for the curious: Chushingura, Cool Hand Luke, Come Drink With Me, and Turning Gate).

But what troubles me is that maybe I've fallen into a pattern that finds almost no room for interpersonal contact. As a more cinephilic Max Fischer might say, "perhaps I should be spending less time working and watching nerdy movies and more time trying to score chicks." Is my love for cinema legitimate, or is it emblematic of a retreat I've made from the outside world? To put it more bluntly, am I afraid of the biggest unknown of all, other people?

As I said before, I had a good time on my semi-date a few months back. So it's not like I find the idea of talking to this woman unpleasant. And she gave me her telephone number in case I had to contact her last time, so obviously she's not horrified about the idea of my telephoning her either. But part of me just isn't comfortable calling her out of the blue like this. Since we've never spoken on the telephone, I don't want to commit some social breach with her by calling her when she doesn't know I'm going to, but is this a case of me being polite, or is it fear masquerading as decorum?

A final thought: what does it mean when your own parents are encouraging you to get a social life?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Under One Roof

I've been getting a distinct ROYAL TENENBAUMS vibe since last night, when my younger brother moved back into the basement temporarily. I guess he had some issues with his apartment and his job and his roommate and his car, so now he's crashing here for a few weeks while he hunts for a new job and a new place to live. I don't have a problem with him moving home per se- lord knows I'm in no position to- but I don't look forward to his time here either.

A lot of this has to do with his relationship with my mother, which is, to put it mildly, strained. More to the point, they've been antagonistic toward each other for years. While she's never been the smothering type or a disciplinarian, she's very strong of will and free to offer strong suggestions. I'm cool with that, but my brother is not, and he is incapable of just saying "yeah, uh-huh" and letting it go. Another problem is that my brother is actively lazy, to the point one can be without actually putting any effort into it. Leave him to his own devices, and he'll sleep fourteen hours every night and leave a stack of filthy dishes on the floor of his bedroom (I'm not hypothesizing here). So whenever he moves home, my mother feels the need to impose strict rules on him- she and my dad are in charge, after all- and since he clearly wants to feel grown-up and independent despite not having a job, an apartment, etc., he protests loudly. What really gets my goat is that his ideas of grown-up life are so unformed, yet he so resolutely refuses to change them to accomodate the outside world. He's like a six-year-old who looks forward to being an adult so that he can drive, watch dirty movies, and move out of the house, but can't quite grasp the responsibility that comes with this increased freedom. My experience living away from home was hardly a rousing success, but at least I got my bills paid on time.

My personal relationship with my brother hasn't always been rosy either. We're civil now, but it hasn't always been so. Back when we were both still living at home before I went to college, he seemed to equate me with mom because I wasn't exactly receptive to his shenanigans, and this was compounded by the fact that he was a few years behind me in school. Because of this, he had several teachers who had previously taught me, and they would sometimes approach him as my little brother, with the expectations that came with that. I was a good student once upon a time, and maybe there was some pressure on his part to live up to the expectations I set (a friend once dubbed him "LIPS"- meaning "lives in Paul's shadow"). But I wasn't off the hook either. Maybe because he has never been the kind of guy to do his own legwork, he participated in many of the same activities (Boy Scouts, marching band, choir, and so on) as I did, which became quite the annoyance for me, since he wasn't very good at most of them and was hanging around largely because I was there. If he was any other kid, he might have taken the hint that the activity wasn't for him, but because I was there, I suppose he figured that since I could do it so could he, and so he tried to coast on the goodwill I had built over the years.

My brother has always been mouthy, but ever since he served in the Navy he's gotten pretty unbearable. He seems to lack the capacity for empathy, and whenever he meets someone with whom he could establish some common ground, he instead adopts an antagonistic stance. For example, at a wedding we both attended in January, he met a girl who had served in the Army, but instead of commiserating about their service experiences he gave her crap about how the Army supposedly sucks compared to the Navy. Yeah, real cool. He's one of the most self-centered people I've ever met, to be honest, and it's this selfish outlook on life that causes him to learn precisely the wrong lessons from his bad experiences. Mom disciplines him not because he needs to shape up, but because she's a bitch (his word). The Navy cracked down on him not because he was averse to discipline but because they're a bunch of assholes. And so on.

So there it is, my brother. I know that he's not as entertaining a topic as Barry Manilow-themed license plates or Cameron Diaz's scrawny tush, but life isn't all sunshine and roses. I don't mean to sounds like I hate the guy, but maybe if I vent now I'll get it out of my system so I can just ignore him for these next few weeks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Funniest. License. Plate. Ever.

So I didn't work today, and when I went to the grocery store (alone, so don't expect a shopping rant) I saw a minivan with a license plate reading "FANILOW." Honest, I did. Now, I've listened to some sappy stuff in my time, but seriously, what kind of person actually proclaims himself a Manilow fan on his/her license plate, so that every snarky-ass person can chuckle to himself and maybe even write an otherwise pointless blog entry about it?

Heh heh. FANILOW.

Summer in the country

- Sweet jeebus it's hot outside. On top of that there are gnats everywhere. Honestly I can take these things outside, where I expect them to be, but when they're flying around inside the house it gets pretty annoying. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad except that they dive into my drink and die there, making it all a bit too morbid to drink. And yes, I know that insects crawl into everyone's mouth while they sleep, but at least I'm not awake when that happens. Plus if I partake of any more flying critters during my waking hours I might exceed my recommended daily allowance thereof. And I'm only willing to exceed RDA when it comes to fatty stuff that tastes good (see previous post).

- Seems like some local kids were out riding dirt bikes on the nearby farm for nearly the entire evening. Kind of annoying, but what can ya do. I can't help but think of the (earmuffs Jason) crappy second CHARLIE'S ANGELS movie and that lame dirt bike race. And come to think of it, I find Cameron Diaz pretty ugly and highly grating. Especially when she doesn't get strong direction, she gives off the vibe of a girl who would do something highly off-putting and even offensive and then put on an "ain't I a stinker" grin to try to get away with it. Yeah, I hate girls like that. I also hate when she tries to shake her scrawny ass. It's like watching a skeleton wiggle into disco pants, only not remotely as funny. Methinks she learned the WRONG lessons from THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY- people like her in that because the character is sweet and grounded, not because she hams it up.

- Finished Cain's SERENADE tonight, despite the dirt bikes. Awesome, of course, with less crime plot in it than I was expecting. The Sharp/Juana relationship has real complexity to it, and becomes more emotionally involving as the book progresses. The gay-panic stuff in the book was a little dated, but no more so than anything similar from that period, and Cain doesn't make it overbearing. I'm curious to see the allegedly awful Mario Lanza movie version, which jettisons a great deal of the story, and even turns the flamboyant patron into Joan Fontaine.

- Yeah, I know I haven't written about movies lately. Maybe tomorrow, or if not tomorrow then Thursday.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Food grab bag

One thing I love about Akron-area food is the sheer number of pizza joints that also serve chicken. I'm not talking about wings, I mean real honest-to-goodness fried chicken. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I grew up here, but I've always found pizza and chicken to be a natural combination. Order a large pie and an 8-piece box of chicken and you've got an instant picnic on a mild Northeast Ohio evening. Not that I'm well-traveled or anything, but I haven't seen the pizza-and-chicken combo anywhere else (have any of you?). Another wonder that can often be found at these restaurants is what is known as the jojo. Whereas chicken shacks far and wide serve potato wedges, jojos are a different breed entirely. These are some big shanks of potato, deep-fried and agreeably seasoned, often served as a side order with fried chicken. When I was younger, I used to dip mine in macaroni salad, but as you all know I'm weird, so don't mind me.

Another local delicacy, which I know can't be found elsewhere, is the Galley Boy, the signature burger of local legend Swenson's. The recipe is fairly simple- two patties (which if I recall correctly are seasoned with cinnamon), two slices of American cheese, barbeque sauce, chopped onions, mayonnaise, and sweet pickle relish, all on a toasted bun. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. I just found out there's a Swenson's near my new place of employment- another movie theatre, surprise surprise- and I'll drop in before work tomorrow to see if they're up to snuff. Although there's no reason to believe they won't be...

Cross at your own risk

Again, maybe it's just that I've been living in the city for so long... but ever since I moved back home I've noticed that the state of railroad crossings is far different here. In Columbus I don't think I saw a single crossing without both the swing-down gate and the flashing lights for whenever a train passed. But here in Portage County, OH, I'd say those highfalutin' railroad crossings are the exception rather than the norm. More often than not I see a crossing with only the flashing lights, although sometimes it's just the gate. And on lightly-traveled residential roads, I'm even prone to seeing railroad crossings with no signals whatsoever- just a sign that reads "Railroad Crossing" and a striped pylon. It's a good thing the pylon doesn't rotate, or else I'd stop there to get a haircut. I'm not complaining, understand- variety being the spice of life, things just wouldn't be as exciting if everything was standardized. But still, these things couldn't be reassuring for the railroads' insurers- what's the railroad company going to do if a car gets into an accident with a train at night because he couldn't see to stop? Are they just going to say "well, it's not like we didn't warn you or anything..."?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Notes From Flyover Country

- I know "flyover country" is a pretty condescending label that usually gets applied to Middle America by cosmopolitan-and-proud types on the coasts, but I can't help but feeling like one of those people as I survey the scene in my new hometown of Suffield, Ohio. I should have known this would happen when I was taking the highway through Akron and saw a city bus with a "SCAT" sign on the side. Of course, SCAT is an acronym for Summit County Area Transit (or something like that), but being Captain Irony from the Big City I couldn't help but giggle. And it happened again earlier today when I drove past Hustler Turf Equipment. I can't help it, I guess- and I'm a big fan of the Robert Rossen movie. While some might ask the question, "what kind of dirty mind would think of porno mags automatically when he sees the word 'Hustler'," I can't help but ask, "what kind of person would name a business with little regard for the potential negative connotations of the name?" I guarantee that nearly every teenage boy who sees the sign thinks the same thing I do.

- Went shopping with my mom yesterday, mainly so I could more easily find my way around the local stores if I had to buy something. Little did I suspect that I'd end up spending nearly ninety minutes inside a Marc's. For those of you who don't know, Marc's is a kind of discount retail emporium that sells a little bit of everything- groceries, health and beauty, home and garden, etc. But the real bargains, as I found out yesterday, are to be found in what's called Aisle One. Aisle One is a catch-all of all the week's sale items, and unless you're the bargain-shopping type, it's pretty much hell. Think plastic kids' sporting goods next to travel-size toiletries next to school supplies next to (I wish I was kidding) cheap lingerie. If you have the stomach for it, you can spend pretty much all day in there. My mom, happily, confined herself to about half an hour or so. But still, I was reminded of a fundamental difference between the two of us- our shopping philosophies. Years of living on my own have made me the kind of shopping who will buy only what he needs, whereas my mother is fairly compulsive in her bargain shopping (actual quote: "I might as well buy two of these basting brushes while I'm here"). One of the few arguments I've ever gotten into with my mother came when I was a senior in high school and I was in a store with her for some reason, and she insisted on buying me another backpack in spite of the fact that mine was perfectly fine. Her reasoning? Why, "it's such a deal," of course. But I wasn't having any of it. I liked my backpack, there was nothing wrong with it, and I'm still using it almost a decade later. Later, I felt kind of bad, not only to get into an argument with my own mother in public, but also because it seems like such a petty reason to argue. But some ideological gaps aren't easily breached. Anyway, a question for any parents out there- is bargain-shopping a typical obsession once you have kids?

- I've also decided to maximize my earning potential by getting a second job while I'm home, which should have the added bonus of making me feel slightly less down on myself. So today I went around to various local business to pick up applications. Checking out the four area banks, I noticed there was not a single male teller or manager working this afternoon. Of course, this may have simply been a coincidence, and there could very well be male employees who just weren't scheduled today, but it seems a bit of a stretch to me that there wouldn't be ANY guys working in banks here.

- The local library is TINY (seems weird that I'd capitalize in this case, but nevermind). They didn't even have a copy of THE LONG GOODBYE- the book, I mean. Or any of the other Marlowe books, actually.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Unthinkable

All of you folks who've been waiting on pins and needles ever since my New Year's mirthfest to hear what direction my life will take, wait no longer! Because help is on the way...

Not that I'm thrilled about it or anything, but desperate times, etc. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I'm going to moving back with my folks for a bit. Now you understand why I'm less than ecstatic.

Ever since I've graduated from college, I've been in this funk that has me wondering if I should incur the wrath of Cruise and submit to various drugs to make me feel happy again. No, it's not really that bad. I've just been kinda unmotivated to do anything. My lifestyle isn't really condusive to a get up'n'go attitude. I spend my days alone in a dark projection booth, and when I finish working I usually sit for a few hours in a dark movie theatre. Maybe I should start quilting or something, find people with similar interests who live near me.

So for the time being I'm going to bite the bullet and, at my parents' suggestion, bunk up at their place. The idea makes sense, I suppose. Aside from the twinge of shame I'd feel moping around THEIR house on a Friday night (at least when I moped around my place on a Friday night it was still MY place, right?), there are more practical reasons why this is a pretty kind of okay temporary arrangement.

To begin with, I'd be closer to my extended family, who I don't see nearly enough. In particular my grandparents, who are all still around but are currently all between the ages of 85 and 90 years of age. Some of them have not been too well of late, and I feel bad that I'm unable to visit them more than two or three times a year. I always enjoy talking with them, and I hope my company isn't too much of a bother for them. One of my assorted problems is that I'm lousy about calling people. Personally, I chalk this up more to the fact that I've always despised impersonal telephone chit-chat (Miranda July would be so proud of me) than to simple rudeness. Plus I always worry that I'm interrupting something when I call. So the opportunity to see them face-to-face on a regular basis is a positive of this move. Also, if any of them should take a turn for the worse, I'd like to be able to lend a hand if needed.

On a more selfish note, I need to save my money. I'm currently pursuing the idea of going to film school in fall '06, and while I'm sure I could get some monetary help both from my family and through various loans, I'd also like to chip in some of my own green. So I'm planning to work through the shame! In addition to transferring to another theatre (the theatre manager is also from Columbus) in order to keep getting health insurance and free movies, I'll also be getting another job for during the day. Between the two jobs and the decreased cost of living, the money will, if all goes according to plan.

Of course, there are drawbacks. My parents live out in the country (their property backs up into a farm), so I'll probably have to spend more on gas. I'll also need to get used to how quiet their house gets at night compared to the trains, garbage trucks and lawn mowers I'm used to hearing here. And if I want to see a remotely that is even remotely "artsy," I'll have to drive about an hour to Cleveland instead of the ten-odd minutes it takes me to get to the Wexner Center from my current place. In other words, I'll probably get much more selective in my viewing (unless I get paid to screen something).

At this point, the folks are limiting me to a year at their place, which sounds doable. It's not that I don't like my parents, I just feel like this is a step backwards for me from living on my own, independently, barely making ends meet but nevertheless getting by. Then again, sometimes one needs to take a step backwards to better see what needs done. If the film school thing doesn't work out for whatever reason (if you have any advice along these lines, don't hesitate to drop me a line), I'll probably look for a grown-up type job. Maybe I'll move back to Columbus, or maybe an even cooler city (one without asswipe Buckeye fans). But until then, I'll have a year to evaluate. Watch this space for occasional updates on my situation. I thought about doing a regular blog on the subject of my year at home, but right now I'd rather not commit to something like that. But if I change my mind, you'll be the first to know.

"My name is Paul. Your name is Paul. I'll find a job. You'll find a job. I'll get a friend. You'll get a friend. I won't fall into the rut. You won't fall into the rut. Good night. Good night."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Random observation

I was just thinking the other day- what is the big deal about alphabetical order? Yes, I know that it makes a handy-dandy filing system, but what I don't get is why the alphabet needs to be in a particular order in the first place. This isn't a unique thing- every alphabet has a special order, but there honestly isn't much of a reason for this. Sure, when you're in kindergarten the order (and the song that goes with it) makes an effective mnemonic device, but once you know what the letters mean, the whole thing feels arbitrary to me. The letters exist primarily as symbols for one or more sounds, and have no real qualitative value. In other words, A is no greater than B, and there's no concrete universal law that states that Z must be last (the ABC song must be different in Britain, where they say "zed"). This isn't a pet peeve or anything- it's just something I've been wondering about. If you can think of a compelling reason why the alphabet should have the order we all know (from a causation standpoint- I know the effect that alphabetical order has on modes of classification), I'm all ears.

Scenes From a Mall is a lousy movie but an applicable title in this case

A few months ago I transferred to another theatre because they were short-staffed. I like the change of venue- my coworkers are more friendly with me, I get all the hours I want, and the booth equipment is newer. However, the new theatre is not without its drawbacks. One of the big ones is that it's quite a bit further from my house- about 15 more miles each way, which hits my gas budget pretty hard. A more personal issue is that, unlike my old theatre, it's situated smack dab in the middle of a mall. And you know how I feel about malls.

Now, I'm not going to gripe about my ideological objections to mall culture- after all, I've done that already, and seeing as how I almost never update this thing the post won't be hard to find. No, this space is reserved for more specific observations/gripes about the mall in which my current place of employment can be found.

To begin with, the food options found within are slim and, for the most part, pricey. Now, nothing against PB&J, but you just get sick of eating the same thing every day, so sometimes you have to shell out for lunch. However, even the most modestly-priced restaurants can't fill me up for anything less than $8. Which may not sound like much to you but is a decent chunk of change when you're a non-union projectionist.

A more work-related gripe is a typical projectionist pet peeve- the staring audience members. Maybe this will come as news to some of you, but there are people who start the movies, and before they start the films they have to thread the projectors. But just because a person is doing something behind a glass partition doesn't mean you're visiting the zoo. Projection booths are filled with people who work this particular job because they aren't big on interacting with paying customers (who have a tendency to treat service-industry workers as subservient goons). As such, chances are the guy threading the projector doesn't really want to be watched as he is working, much less waved at. I'm willing to make exceptions for young children, but once you're in double digits, I'll ignore you no matter how largely you gesticulate in my direction.

My next observation isn't a gripe so much as just something I noticed when leaving the mall today. On the way out to the garage where I usually park my car, a modeling agency has an office, and today they were advertising for "free screen tests for reality TV show." I didn't really think much of this until I noticed that there were three sharply-dressed model-type girls standing by the sign trying to reel in mall-walkers (they didn't bother with me, to my relief). To me, this says just about all there is to say about reality television as a genre- only type-A photogenic (or in this case telegenic) hotties need apply. THE AMAZING RACE is pretty cool though.

Then there's the parking lot itself, where I have recently rediscovered the phenomenon of the space-stalker. You know the types- when the lot is semi-full, these are the drivers who circle the lot in search of customers who are leaving in order to swoop in and steal their spot. Today, this was taken to an almost frightening extreme by a guy who followed closely behind me like the world's most inept stalker while I strolled out to my car. If I wasn't in a hurry to leave I would have taken a nice long walk around the parking lot, up and down a bunch of rows (or maybe even levels), acting lost so as to throw this asswipe off the scent. Following someone around simply to have first dibs on their parking spot is pretty much the definition of being a selfish leech.

Which brings me to my final gripe- customers who park in employee-designated spaces. Perhaps this doesn't sound like a big deal to some of you, but I really hate this. Say I'm working the late shift on a Saturday and I get stuck in traffic. Lot's pretty much full anyway, but there is absolutely no way I'm getting an employee spot. Half of them are invariably filled with cars no mall employee could possibly afford (H2s, Lexuses, etc.). Sometimes I see these people parking and getting out of their cars, and some of them even have kids with them. Yeah, great example for your progeny, parents- take a parking spot that's designated for someone that's not you. Children have a tendency to pick up on little things like that, and can seize on the realization that rules aren't really all that important. Listen, the employee parking spaces weren't designated in the lot for the purpoe of stealing space from the paying customers- they're a courtesy given to mall employees for convenience, and they are certainly convenient. When I'm on a schedule, I shouldn't have to hunt for a place to park for twenty minutes. The sooner I turn the car off, the sooner I can come in and start your movies. So leave me the spot, so that everyone wins.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The pet peeves column only the people in Dallas can see

Seeing as how it's been nearly three months since I last posted here, I figured it was time to poo or get off the pot, so I came up with the idea of writing posts about little things that bug me. If this works out, I'll keep doing them every so often when I think of something. So, without further ado...

When I was in grade school the school lunchroom they would sometimes sell orange juice. I always loved orange juice growing up, so I'd buy that whenever they had it instead of milk, just for something different. I remember that there was always one kid who complained every time they had orange juice because he couldn't stand the pulp. He was a pretty big kid so I never asked him why (I didn't want to get him angry, I guess), but I always figured that he was just a weirdo.

Flash forward to a few years ago. I'm at my local grocery store and I have a craving for orange juice. I head over to the dairy case and I notice that there are all sorts of orange juice- regular, "heart-smart," calcium-fortified, and you guessed it- pulp-free. Which either means that big grade-school pulp-hater guy grew up to be the president of Tropicana or there are lots of pulp haters in the world. I'm leaning toward the latter.

Honestly, I just don't get it. What's wrong with pulp, folks? You like oranges, right? Well, oranges are full of pulp. So why not drink orange juice with pulp too? Seems a logical extension to me. But pulp-free orange juice seems to sell almost as quickly as regular orange juice, if not faster, since when I went to the grocery store this evening the pulp-free row of the dairy case was actually more empty than the normal-level-of-pulp row.

I fear that it's only a matter of time until scientists genetically-engineer an orange with no pulp. I know it sounds odd now (I imagine the orange slices will be nothing more than little baggies full of juice) but corporate science being the way it is, they'll do their damnedest to appeal to the pulp haters of the world. "Love oranges? Hate vitamin C? Introducing Sunkist pulp-free oranges. Loaded with all the vitamins, minerals, and great taste of regular oranges, but without all that pulp you hate." And then maybe they'll throw in a dig at pulp saying that the Taliban loves it or something.

But for me, orange juice without pulp just isn't orange juice. Try fresh-squeezing yourself some. What are the chances you'll get a batch without any pulp? Oh... wait, let's see here... well, whaddya know, zero. One time I stopped at a convenience store late at night with a raging OJ craving, and all they had in stock was pulp-free. So I bought it, opened it up in the car, and took a drink. I swear the first thought I had was "who put Tang in my OJ?" That's what it tasted like to me, an orange drink- sweet, sort of orange-y, but lacking in the body and presence that pulp provides.

Recently, my salvation has arrived in dairy cases. That's right- orange juice with LOTS OF PULP. More than just answering the question "where does pulp go after the wussy fake-tasting OJ the kids like has had its soul sucked from the mix?" extra-pulp OJ just tastes so much better to me than that de-pulped concoction. This is a drink that puts on no airs and harbors no illusions- when you take a drink, you know exactly where it's been, and it's like the orange is right there, giving you the gift of its goodness. Or something like that. I first tried LOTS OF PULP OJ when I had a pretty bad cold- sneezing and coughing and the like- and just drinking it made me feel better. On top of that, when I went into a coughing fit later in the day, little bits of pulp came up with the lung-butter I coughed up into my mouth, and it tasted a lot better than it would had I been drinking juice without pulp. All right, so that was kind of gross, but it really was a cool moment, in a weird way.

So maybe I can't stop the wussification of the American consumer (why can't they just drink apple juice, fer chrissakes?), but I can do my part to show my love for old-school pulpy OJ. Imagine an orange juice that was 95% pulp, with just enough juice to give the pulp flavor, and it would come out of the carton slowly, like cream soup or ketchup. I know I can't be the only pulp fan out there. So I ask you- pulp, yea or nay?

Monday, March 07, 2005

hahahahahahahaha heeheehee *snort*

In case you haven't heard about it already:


What a jokester. I know I find the idea of basically taking out an entire country pretty hilarious. I mean, hey, when I was young, I got bored one afternoon and asked my mom what I could do, and one of the suggestions I threw out jokingly was "can I bomb Libya?" Of course, I was eight at the time, and yeah, she called me on it.

The point here isn't that someone is joking about nuking Syria. I'm all for free speech, after all. But it's one thing when, say, a standup comic, a radio talk-show host, or an idle kid jokes about it, and another entirely when someone in an actual position of power makes the suggestion. Then it takes on a level of irresponsibility on the part of joker, I'd say. I'm sure all the people of Syria found it pretty hysterical, to say nothing of its neighbors, who no doubt would've suffered from the fallout. And how about all the parents of the dead and injured soldiers from the Iraqi war, who've died while (vainly, thusfar) searching for the WMDs that Sen. Johnson is so eager to make light of? Rolling in the aisles, I'm betting.

Yeah, Sen. Johnson was within his rights as an American to make that joke. But that doesn't mean it was a good idea. And as a senator, he should know that being not only in the public eye but in a position of power and influence carries a degree of responsibility for one's actions that wouldn't be an issue if he was just a private citizen. That one of the people he was talking to at the time was President Bush, who's almost always in the public eye, makes it worse. I'd like to hear what the people of Syria have to say about this incident- not just his inappropriate joke at their country's expense, but at his dismissive "hey, didn't you realize I was just kidding?" response when he was questioned about it.

Oh, and "just talking between veterans?" Now there's a joke for you. As they said in the film THE OPPOSITE OF SEX, "just because I've gone to a bar mitzvah doesn't make me Jewish."

Friday, February 25, 2005

For the time being...

Those of you who have been waiting for me to write something new on this thing will have to wait a while longer until something worth writing about comes along. I come across blogs all the time where people will write what they did that day, what they had to eat, etc., and that's really not my bag. In other words, still lonely, still underappreciated at work, still unable to get any substantial amount of writing done. Oh, and the bells situation (as described in a previous post) has only gotten worse, I'd say. But hey, seeing plenty of movies, so if you want fresh content, you'd be better off with my film blog at:


However, here's something to tide you over for now, one of those strange news stories. I swear I didn't make this up, even if the incident sounds like something you'd find in a HOME ALONE knockoff. But the vocation of the genius in question is what makes this priceless.



Saturday, January 01, 2005

Unhappy New Year (please don't read)

(Warning: loads of self-pity contained herein. Do not read on an empty stomach, or on a full stomach for that matter. And no, I'm not drunk.)

So it's 2005, and I still don't have a flying car. But my mode of transport, crappy though it may be, isn't really on my mind right now, since it survived the recent severe dip in temperature and ought to do so again when the time comes. No, with the turning of the years, the time has once again come to assess my life and where I am right now. And what a sad bastard I've become.

Yes, I actually cried just a few minutes ago. I shed tears, the first time since, oh, last New Year's, when I re-watched that masterpiece 25th HOUR. This time, I suppose my tears could potentially be explained by the shattering combo of DOGVILLE and Nico's haunting synth-y version of "My Funny Valentine." But that wouldn't really be accurate. No, I cried for the same reason I did when I was young- because my life has made me sad. This time it wasn't one particular thing, like a painful fall or a sudden loss of a pet, but the combination of every little thing I've been sitting on and wallowing in for years now, and which I haven't really done much to resolve.

My work situation most of you already know, so I'll spare you the gory details. It's a piece of the puzzle that is my life, and though I spend a great deal of time working, my anxieties in life don't really have much to do with the work itself- in fact, fretting over job-related matters is a welcome reprieve from the all-consuming troubles of the world at large. Instead, I think a lot of my problems can be traced back to where I am right now- sitting at home, alone, typing something up on the computer.

This is SO not where I saw myself ten years ago. I know that it's like that for just about everyone, but fuck, this isn't even remotely close. Hell, I didn't even know what I wanted to study in college back then, much less what my plans were in life, but living with a roommate, working long hours, weekends, and holidays to pay the bills weren't on the agenda. The hopeful version of the high-school-me might have imagined the today-me sitting at the computer, yes, but I'd be hard at work writing some great screenplay or novel, not an onanistic blog in which I mostly just feel sorry for myself. Nothing against onanism, you understand. It's just that when you yearn to complete something major and substantial, jotting down your personal feelings feels a little like treading water.

Of course, I've been pretty much blocked for the last month or so, and the few occasions I have been able to eke out a few pages they don't really fit into anything larger. Writer's block is part of the game, of course, but this is getting pretty ridiculous, in my opinion. Part of me wants to just give up. There's a difference between a dream and a goal, after all, a dream being something you hope you might someday find yourself doing, and a goal being something you actually work and strive for. Naturally, the two can coincide, but I'm less and less sure that they actually have in my case. To say nothing of my yearning to actually direct movies. I just have no goddamn idea how I'd get from where I am now to the point where I'd actually make a movie. Sad but true.

It's not that I'm opposed to the idea of "selling out." Back in college this was a big and nauseating idea for me, the idea of trading in one's lofty aspirations to instead find a place in the everyday grind. Right now I can't even find an entry point into this world, much less a comfortable niche in it (hell, I can't even be comfortable in shopping malls, as you already know). I've never been the kind of person who can assimilate easily into his surroundings, and ever since I went to college I've gotten worse and worse at it.

Which brings me to my other problem- I'm really fucking lonely, and I'm scared to do anything to change this. I've always been a solitary person, from the time when I was young, and I've become a bit of a social retard (if you'll pardon the expression) as a result. I've recently discovered that my personality can be alienating or discomforting to those around me, and because of this not a lot of people really want to socialize with me for any extended period of time, not even to tell me in any kind of depth what's wrong with me.


How does one react to finding this out? Well, if you're me, you smile and nod and stroke your chin, saying things like, "hmmm, I see," and "yeah, I'll work on that." But, to extend Brad's question from I HEART HUCKABEES, how can I be not myself? I've always seen myself as being genial and easygoing, and while the perceptions of are only a certain portion of what I really am, these perceptions are all they've got to go on, and if they're put off by what they see, I can't convince them otherwise. They can't walk the proverbial mile in my shoes, so to speak.

Which brings me to a dilemma- I want to be close to others, but I don't really have much experience with it, and others don't seem to want to be close to me. Maybe it's only certain other people who don't want to be close to me, but right now these people are pretty much all I've got. The wedding I'm going to next week casts this into pretty sharp relief. The bride, the daughter of some family friends, is three years younger than I am. Meanwhile, I'm not married, not engaged, and I haven't even had an honest-to-goodness girlfriend in years (I won't say how many). I'm not saying that marriage is something I crave in the near future- far from it- I'm just extremely lonely, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

How do people meet people? This seems like a silly question, but in my case it's actually fairly sincere. I know that people go to parties and clubs and the like, but frankly these places tend to frighten me. The situation at work is weird (it was a group of coworkers who leveled with my about my personality), and I don't really have many other avenues in my life. I don't need a lot of friends around me- I'm not the kind of person- but a few people I can hang out with on a night like tonight isn't an unreasonable expectation for a guy like me. The upcoming wedding also made me think about this- if I was getting married soon, I have no idea who I'd choose to be my best man. I only keep in semi-regular contact with my best friend from high school, and I'm not close enough with any of my friends nowadays to even consider them. I suppose I'd choose my younger brother, not because we're particularly close but because I wouldn't really have anyone else to turn to.

Thankfully, I don't see myself getting married anytime soon. Again, I'm cool with this. But my loneliness has caused me to yearn for women even while my crippling insecurities have kept me from going anywhere with them. If I have a problem meeting friends, it's at least twenty times as bad when it comes to dating. Most of the females I encounter in my life are in my work environment, meaning they're either (A) career-minded women looking for a mature, settled-in man, or (B) college-aged girls out in search of a good time. I generalize, of course, but in my life the women in between these two extremes are few and far between, and usually spoken for. I've reached the point in my life (three years after graduation) where the trappings of my college years- roommate, casual and faded clothes, no real career prospects- are getting harder and harder to justify as anything other than laziness. But at the same time, I'm not a party guy looking for a casual screw (grass being greener, would that my life were that fun or that eventful). So I'm too much of a slacker for the women in category (A) and too much of a drag for category (B). Add to this that I live in Columbus, where most women here love Buckeye football (I can't stand it) and you've got quite a predicament.

I know, I know. It could be worse. It could always be worse. I have a family that loves me, although I'm kind of a deadbeat son who doesn't keep in touch as often as I should. I'm employed, with health insurance to boot, which in today's job market is nothing to sneeze at. And hey, I still have my health. Or do I? I'm beginning to wonder whether my anxieties haven't affected me physically. Despite having given up caffeine a full six months ago, I've lately had trouble getting a full night's sleep, often waking up two or three times a night even after a long and exhausting day. The resultant fatigue has even affected my sight- on more than one occasion in the past few weeks I've had some trouble with reading numbers out of order (for example, at work I read print number "4214" as "4124").

So what am I to do right now? Even if I get friends, get a better-paying job, and maybe even find a girlfriend, my anxieties will most likely remain. I've had them for years, and it's going to take a lot for me to shed them, I think. I wish I had someone to talk to about my personal issues, maybe even a professional- an analyst, I mean, not a hooker. I don't want to self-medicate (at least not with prescription drugs- whereas if the wedding has an open bar, I'm there), but what could possibly help me break out my current funk?

Many people I know have made New Year's resolutions, but I can't bring myself to do that this year. I guess part of me has gotten tired of my history of not following through on them in years past, but then again the problems in life rarely have concrete solutions. After all, if it was so easy to solve these problems, they would've been solved long ago. I know I have problems, and I know I have to work on them. But I also can't lose the essence of myself, even if it something manifests itself in ways that can make others uneasy. So where do I go from here?

(Thanks for reading. Much less self-pity in the future, I promise.)