Thursday, October 27, 2005

Congratulations, Chicago White Sox.

You realize of course this is all a big conspiracy. Think about it: the last time the Yankees won was the Subway Series of 2000 -- one of the least-viewed Series in recent television history. Since then, the Bombers’ dynasty has been on hiatus… and for what? So that long-suffering underdogs or exciting expansion teams can capture the title and the American TV audience.

Well, now that Boston’s 86-year drought is over, and ditto for the White Sox’s 88 years… expect next year the Cubs to win their first World Series in nearly a century. Won’t that be thrilling? After that, who’s next? Hmm, the Indians haven’t won since 1948. Be sure to tune in for the Tribe's victory, too. And be prepared for to hear that “Cleveland Rocks” song over and over.

I know I sound like a frustrated Yankees fan, and maybe they were just out-matched again. But they’ll be back. Once every other dog has its day, New York will end the Nielsen-ratings-driven curse that will have plagued them for 8 years. Yankees in ‘08, baby!

In other sporting news, last weekend I went to the Staples Center to see the L.A. Kings vs. Calgary Flames. I haven’t been that into hockey since I moved away from my NY Islanders. But I guess in this game I’d root for the Kings ‘cause at least they’re an American team, right? Of course, nearly every player in the NHL is Canadian or Czech or Russian or Finnish… what’s the Slavic word for “puck”?

I had scored awesome seats -- third row, so when a player got cross-checked and body-slammed against the glass, you could see the whites of his eyes, the blood in his nose and the three remaining teeth in his mouth.

We were sitting in front of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and I saw my friend chatting with him for a bit. Later, I asked her what they talked about.

I said, “I hope you didn’t tell him, ‘Show me the money.’”

“No, he started talking to me,” she said. “He said that even though the seats were great, all the action seemed to be on the other side of the rink. So I said we’d be able to see it better next period. And he said, ‘Oh, they switch sides?’”

She seemed to be pleased with herself that she knew more about hockey than Cuba -- sure, he's got an Academy Award, but can you believe he didn’t know the teams would switch goals in the fourth period?

“Uh…” I started to speak, then stopped. I didn’t have the heart to tell her there is no fourth period. That we were in the third -- and final -- period.

Plus, the score was tied, and now they’ve changed the rules allowing a tie-breaking overtime, so maybe there would be another period. And if there’s still a tie, then they do a shootout, and a sudden-death shootout. The Kings were on the offensive, but at that point I hoped they wouldn’t get it past the goalie; I wanted to see more hockey.

With 24 seconds left, the Flames scored. Oh well, it was still a great game. Now that baseball’s over, I may start paying more attention to this sport. Unless there’s a conspiracy about Stanley Cup winners, too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What legendary monster will you be for Halloween?

Big Foot?
The Loch Ness Monster?
The Abominable Snowman?

How ‘bout the Mothman?
Or scarier yet -- The MakeMineMikeMan.

I hadn't meant to meet the Mothman, just Theo Rothman, my accountant. Imagine my frustration. That glowing-eyed monster can scare the hell outta you, but can it fill out a schedule C and itemize your deductibles? Grrr...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Halloween's comin' up, so I thought I'd show some photos of my favorite frightening creepy crawling creatures: spiders. There are over 30,000 known species of spiders and some believe that's only 20% of what's really out there. You can find these guys everywhere on the planet. Most are harmless to humans. So when I spot a spider, (despite what I've said in previous posts) I don't freak out, I just whip out my camera.

The arachnid on the left was in my home, a live-in insect exterminator. The wooden door isn't really that orange; I played with the hues and saturation to get the best visuals. Plus it fits the Halloween theme, no? Ditto for the yellows and browns on the right -- I was on a friend's porch when a huge beetle wafted past us and a second later was stuck in this spider's web, along with leaves and dust. The little predator finally hit the jackpot with this prey, but it had to work to keep it. The bug was struggling to get free, and the spider kept hog-tying its legs. Each time the strong insect broke free of its silk bonds, the spider had already wrapped up two other legs. Nothing like watching a little animal kingdom bondage for entertainment on a lazy afternoon.
doorspder hogtdbtl

On the same porch was this nasty thing. Possibly the ugliest spider I've ever seen (a friend said it looked like one of those face-hugging creatures from Alien) but with a spectacular web, shown here from four different angles. I find it challenging to capture a webslinger and its spindly threads in a photo, so I was pleased these came out so well.
WVwebundrnth WVwebtreeWVwebprch WVwebside

Not all spiders create webs, but they all make and use silk. It's lighter and more elastic than nearly any rubber or plastic, yet proportionally stronger than any steel fiber. That's how this creature (an orb spider, I believe), manages to seemingly float in space outside my front door. Or when the wind blew a bug into the web, the spider could get to work on its meal while the gusts continued to toss its home around like a sail. The web was over four feet tall, stretched between two palm tree fronds. Click on each word here to see more, but I'm guessing you're sufficiently creeped out by now. Happy Halloween.
cuspdr sailspdr

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Questions... and answers

If I’ve still got a few weeks’ work to do on the TV show, why did we have a wrap party last night?
They wrapped shooting. It celebrated the end of production, even if we in post- are still at it, entrenched in writing and editing.

Did I do a lot of schmoozin’?
Yes. And boozin’. And any second now my lunch I’ll be losin’.

Why did I drink so much?
The editors kept offering me tequila shots. How could I say no? Poor suckahs are usually stuck in a room toiling away… they needed to let loose. Same as me.

So those of us who still have work to do… were the biggest lushes in the joint?
Yes. Is there a point to that question?

I’ll ask again: Why did I drink so much?
Sigh… ‘cause I’m an idiot.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

May your days be absent of boring tools.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Office gal: Michael, will you help out the incompetent office people with the things they’re too incompetent to do themselves?

Michael: *grumble*

OG: (mock sweetness) Thank you, Precious. (off Michael’s look) What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Michael: “Precious”?

OG: What’s wrong with “Precious”?

Michael: Among countless other things… it’s the name of the little wimpy dog that belonged to that guy in “Silence of the Lambs”.

OG: Which guy?

Michael: Not Hannibal Lecter. The killer they were after -- Buffalo Bill. You know: “It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. It does this whenever it’s told.”

OG: “Silence of the Lambs”… wasn’t that the one with, “Luke, I am your father”? (off Michael’s look) What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Michael: That’s “Empire Strikes Back”. The second Star Wars movie.

OG: Ohhh, right. How did I mix that up?

Michael: Did you mean, “Luke, I am your fava beans and a nice chianti?”

OG: No, no, no... But you could see why I mix them up, right?

Michael: Sure, their titles are completely different, one’s sci-fi, the other’s a thriller, they came out a decade apart and have no actors in common. I could see making that mistake.

OG: Thank you, Precious.

Michael: *grumble*

Friday, October 14, 2005

Celebrity sightings are common in L.A. You’re bound to spot famous people, even if you’re not working at the studios or frequenting the hip clubs or ignoring the restraining orders.

A lot of actors live in Santa Monica -- Viggo Mortensen eats at my local diner; I’ve seen character actor David Paymer several times at the book store, Will from "Will & Grace" at the supermarket, and Angelica Huston looking elegant as ever, even while walking her foofie dog down Venice Beach.

It doesn’t really faze you. You do a double-take, recognize ‘em, refrain from asking Julia Louis-Dreyfus if she could "spare a square", decide if John Travolta looks even fatter and Scientologicalisticaller in real life or wonder whether a strong breeze will blow that stick Renee Zelweger out of restaurant. Maybe you mention the sighting to your friends, but without much enthusiasm. After a week in La-La land, you’re jaded. You see one star, one palm tree, one stretch limo, one transvestite prostitute on the corner of LaBrea and Sunset… you’ve seen ‘em all.

But every now and then, you react in a way that surprises even yourself.

It happened to me several years ago. I was still getting my haircut, a task I always hated. Kinda like clothes shopping. I don’t wanna waste a lot of time, money or my breath. To me it’s a quick errand, not a social occasion. Just cut the hair and cut the chit-chat. Maybe I’m just too much of a curmudgeon or maybe it’s a guy thing, I dunno. When you go to a hardware store, does the man showing you the skill saws give you a plastic smile and chirp, “so… how we doin’ today?”

So I’d skip the expensive salons and patronize one of those franchises -- coulda been Supercuts or Fantastic Sam’s… y’know, a local McCut&Blow joint. But it doesn’t matter where you go. The people there are always perky and grating and make small-talk, passing the time, pretending to want to know your whole life story. And you feel compelled to be polite since they’re standing over you with sharp instruments.

This one time it was a dude -- very tall, very heavy, very ebullient. Sure enough, he chimed in with the standard: “So… how we doin’ today?” Fine. “So… what line of work are you in?” Writer. “How’s that going?” Okay. “Well, I know how it is. I used to be an actor.” You and everybody else ‘round here, pal.

Since he gave me the opportunity to refocus the conversation off me, I asked if he had done anything I would’ve seen. He said, “Well, I was a child actor. I played this ape-boy for a few years on a TV show.” Now I was intrigued. What show? “Oh, I don’t know if you’d know it. It was on a long time ago. It was called ‘Land of the Lost.’”

My eyes went wide. “Chaka? You were Chaka?!” He practically dropped the clippers at my outburst. “I loved that show! With the Sleestacks! And Grumpy the T-Rex!” I started to sing the theme song: “Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition,
met the greatest earthquake ever known!”

He just nodded. Yep, that was the show.

I guess I was making him feel awkward now. But I had to know: “So, Chaka, what happened? You didn’t wanna pursue the acting thing anymore?” He told me that practically overnight, he went from being that diminutive prehistoric dude’s size to having the linebacker look he had today. It was hard to get work. So he got into other jobs, including hairstyling, and… where is he now? Cutting heads for cash.

But don’t feel bad for him. At the time, he said the entire show’s run was picked up for syndication on one of the cable channels. He would be getting residuals for every episode soon and was planning to quit SchlockyCuts and buy a house. I’m betting that he even got more money recently when they released the show on DVD. Way to go, ape-boy.

And for me, I shared that story with everyone. Most of my friends were just as excited and reminisced about the stop-motion dinosaurs, the mysterious pylons, and how the show jumped the shark when they replaced Marshall.

I started buzzing my head shortly after that. Not just because of thinning hair, or my bristling at bubbly barbers. The guy had done a decent job on my ‘do… nothing spectacular… but that was a great celebrity sighting. Nothing would top chatting with Chaka. That was the best haircut I ever had.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hella busy week and I hardly had time for the usual stuff: Blogging, running, watching the Yankees (I thought they’d easily dispatch the Angels and then I’d focus on the more-challenging White Sox, but what do I know?), or even getting together with the family.

So last night I called my sister and caught up on everything. We chatted for a good hour and then I ended it, knowing I’d be seeing her again in this weekend. Nothing was mentioned about the recent Jewish holidays.

Then five minutes ago, she called. "Hi, did you know tonight's Yom Kippur?" Yes. "Oh, I had forgotten. So what are we doing?" Together? Nothing, same as every year. She argued that we went out to dinner last year with our mom. No, that was Rosh Hashanah. She also forgot about that this year. Guess she’s been hella busy too. She continued to disagree with me about what we did when, and I insisted that I haven't spent Yom Kippur with them in ages. And still won’t. I learned my lesson.

This highest of holidays is a time of atonement, in which we fast for a day. The idea is that abstaining from the pleasure of food helps one focus on repentance and reflection of the past year. This is true, but I find that being with family kinda ruins it.

On my own, it’s not that difficult to fast. I do try to reflect, even if I don’t genuflect. Keep my brain busy so it doesn’t listen to my stomach. Not think about food? Piece of cake. Mmm, cake… No, no-- I mean, it’s easy as pie. Dammit, why do all clichés about simplicity involve pastries?

The hardest part is the last few hours. Whether or not I’m in temple, my own temples start to pulsate in pain. It reminds me of “The Tell-tale Heart”, hearing “a low, dull, quick sound -- much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton”, but before I start speaking “more vehemently” and “in a high key and with violent gesticulations” I remind myself it’ll be over soon…

But if I’m around my sister, she makes it worse. She counts down all day, especially toward the end (though she never wears a watch, enveloped in cotton or otherwise): “What time is it? Oh, I can’t believe we have three and half hours to go… What time is it now? You mean it’s only been fifteen minutes?!” She’s like a prison cellmate who keeps scratching a mark for each day of our incarceration into the wall. I wind up snapping at her, telling her to just carry out her friggin’ sentence in peace or I’ll shank her before the next fifteen minutes are up.

So I prefer to atone alone. Or next year I’d be repenting for fratricide.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

“Hey, LA Times… it’s me. Listen, we need to talk… this just isn’t working out.”
“You’re cancelling me? Why? What did I do?”
“Well, for starters, you stopped coming around, but yet you still want my money.”
“Are you calling me a gold-digger?”
“I’m calling you a yellowing old rag.”
“Sorry, sorry. Look, I don’t want to make this any harder than it is.”
“Don’t leave! I can change! I’ll deliver regularly again. Gimme another chance!”
“We had a good run… what’s it been? Four years?”
“Four years and three months! Hasn’t that meant anything to you?”
“Of course, but things have changed.”
“Is there someone else?”
“There is! I knew it! That damn New York Times.”
“It’s not --”
“Oh, sure the fancy schmancy journalism with the better-written stories and more thorough international news.”
“That’s not --”
“Or is it because they have Yankees baseball? Well, I give coverage of all the games, doesn’t that mean anything?”
“Yes, but --”
“It’s the more challenging crossword puzzles, is that it? Well, excuse me, Mr. Pretentious I’m Too Good for a Newspaper with Comic Strips! Go ahead and pay three times as much for an out-of-town publication. And good luck getting movie listings that aren’t showing 3000 miles away at the friggin’ Angelika!”
“Stop, would you? It’s not the New York Times.”
“Who is it then?”
“If you must know, it’s the Internet.”
“No! You said that would never come between us.”
“What can I say? With the high-speed DSL, one thing led to another… and it gives me everything I need. We’re talking about getting WiFi together.”
“Well, *sniff* I guess if you’re happy…”
“Don’t cry, okay? This thing between us, it wasn’t really meant to be. I mean, you had that little neighborhood kid come to my door with some ‘help me stay off drugs and outta gangs’ schpiel and I bought a subscription from him. This whole thing was predicated on guilt.”
“I didn’t know you felt that way.”
“Oh, it wasn’t all bad… remember when I was looking for local car dealerships? Or your human interest story about the old guy who surfed every single day for years?”
“Or how ‘bout when you wanted to see how I’d cover Arafat’s death?”
“Yep. Good times, good times…”
“Well, we can still be friends, right?”
“And, you know… if it doesn’t work out, or the power goes out or the network’s down…”
“I’ll definitely stay in touch.”

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

TV gig update:

As you may remember, I thought I was on shaky ground earlier because I was writing punny voice-over lines for this show, but didn’t know the producers wanted them racy. So I aimed to sleaze, launched the raunch, crescendoed the innuendoes. And everyone was happy.

Except the censors.

Last week Gene (the new post-production guy who took over for Jasper) told me that while he and the executive producer love my lecherous little lines, they can’t always get them approved. So I should have some clean alternatives. Okay. I'd write a quip about G-strings, and another that’s G-rated.

Today Gene tells me: Forget the dirty ones altogether. I guess they lost the battle with the censors and John Q. TiVo is safe from smut once again. So now I’m back to the silly innocuous puns. Whatever you want, dude, just keep me on the payroll.

I don’t make a dime blogging, but at least I can write whatever the hell I want here. And if any of you motherfuckers don’t like it, you can shove it innuendo.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I was thinking about one of the many times my sister and I traveled to visit our parents for the holidays. It might have been Thanksgiving or Passover… but hey, since Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown tonight, let’s just say it was to celebrate the Jewish New Year with the ‘rents that was the impetus for this memory.

You know that question?: If you could be seated next to anyone on a plane, famous or not, living or dead, who would you choose? And people pick someone like Einstein or Gandhi or Angelina Jolie… My answer is always, “Can’t there just be an empty seat?”

I don’t wanna talk to anyone on the flight. My sister is the same way. Julie typically takes the aisle to stretch out and I curl up against the window, with hopefully a vacant seat between us. We each bring a book, but often pick up something light at the airport. I like to occupy my mind with one of those crossword puzzle collections while scoffing at my supposedly sophisticated sister’s inane Us Weekly. And then halfway through the flight, when she’s done, I’ll borrow it, ‘cause, y’know… I’m just bored… not that I’m anxious to know who Kirsten Dunst is spotted dating this week or anything.

This one time we thought the plane would be empty, so with the flight’s open seating policy, we chose the little alcove area near the front -- the section with three seats facing another three seats. We could each put our feet up and enjoy all the room…

But, sure enough, a group of passengers came to fill the space to capacity. Buncha business people who seemed to have seen that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” commercial too many times. Trying hard to force some kind of woo-hoo! we so crazy! attitude, ordering overpriced cocktails and making more noise than the DC-9’s engine.

Completely counteracting curmudgeonly me. I buried myself in my book, but it didn’t help. The woman seated next to me tried to strike up a conversation. “Hi, I’m Amber. What’s your name? Whatcha reading? Are you writing something? Oh, a crossword puzzle! You need help? C’mon, I’m good at those. Gimme one. Okay, what? A five-letter word for a sticky resin or pesky passenger… starts with A… “Annoy”… No, that’s not a resin. Hey guys! Help us out here! We need a five-letter word for…”

Amber and her posse were yattering the whole flight. My sister and I definitely made the wrong seating choice. I looked to Julie to offer a regretful look, but she was passed out, perhaps tripping on dramamine. Did she even take it this time? She must have -- how could she sleep with all that noise? Lucky stiff. Amber asked who my traveling companion was, and not thinking fast enough, I told the truth. Amber seemed relieved. “Oh, she’s your sister? Ohhh…”

Then I was kinda glad Julie was asleep, ‘cause Amber fired up the flirtiness. Every time I made some brush-off remark, she’d crack up. “Oh, you are adorable!” She handed me her business card. “I want you to call me when you’re in LA. Not for a date -- if you don’t want -- no pressure -- just to, y’know, hang out. Or hey, you can call me while we’re in Vegas. That would be so fun. ‘Cause you are just adorable. Guys, isn’t he adorable?”

I’m hardly bragging. I appreciated the compliment, but man, that was just embarrassing. Thank goodness my sister was out cold and didn’t witness this. Though I was starting to resent her unconsciousness. If she were awake, we could talk amongst ourselves, discuss inside family stuff and cut these crazy cavorters out of the conversation.

“How was the flight?” my parents asked when we got to their house later. Julie said fine, and I mumbled in agreement. They wondered why I looked a little tired whereas my sister seemed well-rested. I insisted I was okay but they thought maybe I was working too hard, exercising too much, not eating enough, bubbalah…

Julie came to my rescue. “Mikey’s fine,” she said. And then with an evil grin, she added, “In fact, isn’t he just adorable?”

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