Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lotsa talented wedding photographers out there; can't decide which one to hire for the big day. Besides, what do I know about good camera work? When it comes to manipulating megapixels, if it isn't an image of an arachnid, I ain't so interested.
IMG_1971 IMG_1976 IMG_1992

Monday, January 28, 2008

Usually by the time the Academy Award nominations are announced, I had seen most, if not all, of the movies up for Best Picture. This year I hadn’t seen any of ‘em. Of course, I don’t usually spend the winter -- when all the Oscar bait films are released -- planning a wedding.

All right, who we kidding, my fiancée’s been doing most of the work. So what’s my excuse? I’ve been busy playing with my new laptop and iPod, trying to catch up with music. But we realized we oughta catch up with movies, too, so we checked out a few flicks over the weekend.

First was Juno. It’s a cute little film. This year’s little indie that’s competing with the big boys -- the little engine that could, like Little Miss Sunshine, but a little better. I’d say a lot better, except for one thing. The fucking soundtrack.

Between every other enjoyable scene, they’d show a slow sweeping shot of a suburban street while prominently playing a cloying-annoying college-radio cutesy-wootesy lyrically laced shitty diddy. I’d squirm uncomfortably with a bad taste in my mouth, as if I’d bought Milk Duds instead of Sno-Caps and spat ‘em onto my seat cushion.

Speaking of candy, ever since I saw Hard Candy, I liked that Ellen Page. But just ‘cause her Juno character was adorable yet off-key, the music didn’t need to be. And since she professed to like punk music, why not play some Iggy Pop instead of that pretentious Moldy Peaches piffle?

In fact, y’know what would’ve been better on the soundtrack? Nothing!

Like in No Country for Old Men. Excellent film, and there’s no music ‘til the end credits. Who needs a score when you’ve got Javier Bardem menacing everyone with his cattle-prod gun and mushroom bowl haircut? Kinda like if Tootie from "The Facts of Life" went on a killing spree. Yeah, try singing along to that.

Or Cloverfield. Not an Oscar film, and unlikely to get any nominations next year. But for a low budget Blair-Witch-meets-Godzilla movie, it was awesome. And true to its pseudo-real-video-footage premise… there’s no music, aside from the ambient party songs, interrupted by smashed skyscrapers and screaming scary what-the-hell-is-that sightings.

Granted, these are all different kinds of movies, and I enjoyed ‘em. But which one stuck with me later, when I went back to my computer compulsion?

Well, after selling my old iMac, I decided to use some of the cash and treat myself to new music. I thought I’d buy a few used CDs cheap to upload to my iPod. And while perusing at Second Spin Records, I heard on their sound system Michael Cera & Ellen Page singing: "Here is the church and here is the steeple / We sure are cute for two ugly people…" And I wished I could climb into the speakers -- or into the movie itself -- and smash the acoustic guitar like John Belushi did to the “Gave My Love a Cherry” schmo in Animal House.

The guy working at the record store told me the Juno soundtrack has been selling like crazy, even more so than the Garden State one did a few years ago. And I hated that shit, too. So maybe I’m alone in my taste in tunes. But at least it explains a few things to me.

I know why I’ve been behind on my movie viewing the past few months, and now I realize why I didn’t keep up with music for the past few years. I love movies; I’ve just been too busy to see anything. But what most people listen to these days -- it sucks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

5 more hockey-related thoughts, inspired by Tuesday's Kings game:

1. The night before the Staples Center had a Lakers game. I find it amazing they can turn an entire arena from a basketball court to an ice rink in one day. It takes me a month to clear the crap off my desk.

2. We sat in the very last row. I've also sat all the way up in front. It honestly doesn't make any difference. You can enjoy the action from anywhere. Up front, you have a better chance of getting hit by the puck... or a tooth knocked out by a high-sticking.

3. Wow, the Detroit Redwings made the LA Kings look really bad. Clumsy skating, sloppy passing... that wasn't hockey, it was schlocky. My friend Epoch called them The Bad News Kings. Then he said, "Hey, they oughta remake that movie." They did, I said. "No, I mean with hockey players." Like Slapshot? "No," he said, "with kids." You mean like The Mighty Ducks? "Oh yeah," Epoch said, deflated. That's when I suggested they start more sports teams after Disney movies. Like, the Rancho Cucamonga Escape to Witch Mountain.

4. Speaking of movies, I enjoyed the films of the Kings in action. They didn't display them on the jumbotron, but on the ice itself. There was something cool about a silver screen you can skate on. Or yell at the Zamboni driver: "Down in front!"

5. I searched the Center for the Westside Rentals Guy, but didn't see him. After the game, he was outside, dancing up a storm in the middle of Figueroa Street. Maybe he got kicked out by the Kings' lame mascot, Bailey the Lion. Epoch and I thought Rental Man was reminiscent of Homer Simpson, going on as the warm-up mascot before the Capital City Goofball. The hockey fans that got the most attention were three curvy girls who appeared on the jumbotron wearing shirts that said "Put", "It", "In". Hey, it got more cheers than that stupid lion. Mmm... double entendre.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My TV gig ended last Friday after a freakishly long run. It may come back again for another season, but in the meantime, I'm on a new job search. Among many places, I've applied for work with Lifetime -- the Network for Women, and BET -- Black Entertainment Television. I'm sure something will come my way, but I'm not holding my breath. I tell ya, it's ain't easy for a New York Jewish male in show biz.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hi, Adelphia. How’s my beautiful fiancée? How was your wedding dress shopping? Did you find anything you like? I know you went to lots of different stores, I barely saw you all weekend. Can you look up from your laptop and talk to me? What? You have to compare dress prices on the Internet? Those bridal shops are rip-offs, huh? Just to wear once and have me rip it off… Adelphia? Was that not funny or are you not listening?

So, Adelphia’s sister… How was the wedding shopping? It’s really great that you came out from New York to help. Did you also find a bridesmaid dress for you? Kinda overwhelming, huh? Think you'll have the time or energy to do anything else while you're in L.A.? Can you look up from your laptop and talk to me? What? You have to download all our CDs to your iPod for your plane ride home? And what? See if you can book an earlier flight?

Hey, Russ. Been getting blown off by all this girlie stuff lately, I had to give one of my guy friends a call. Say, wasn’t there a big game this weekend? I’m not much of football fan, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn the Giants were doing so well. But I heard they really had no chance against the Packers. Hey, aren’t you from Wisconsin? You must be a die-hard Green Bay fan. So who won, anyway? Russ? Hello?

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Adelphia: What colors should our wedding theme be?
Michael: What what should our wedding what what?
A: Our colors for our wedding. You need to have a theme for the invitations and decorations and everything. What should we have?
M: Well, it's a nice day for a... White Wedding..
A: What?
M: Sorry, I was downloading music and was considering some Billy Idol.
A: Oh, 'cause you sounded more like Kermit the Frog.
M: Hey, that's not a bad idea -- The Muppets Show theme...
A: C'mon, I need your help. What should be our color theme?
M: I dunno. Uh... red, white and blue.
A: No way.
M: Why not? It's patriotic.
A: It's also the New York Yankees team colors. I'm onto you.
M: Hey, I wonder if I can find that Joltin' Joe DiMaggio song.
A: Will you forget about the Yankees?
M: Fine, go with the Mets. Use their colors. I'll just say blue, orange and white is for the Islanders.
A: I don't look good with orange.
M: You don't?
A: It clashes with my skin tone.
M: You looked good in the pumpkin field.
A: That was 'cause of all the green.
M: Oh, well, you look good with green. It matches your eyes. Hey, Green-Eyed Lady's a decent song...
A: Well, I was thinking of blue and green.
M: Sounds good.
A: But our venue's outdoors with trees all around. There's already enough blue and green.
M: Yeah, like Kermit said, it's not easy being green. Or was that Billy Idol?
A: Will you help me? You know I'm bad at making decisions.
M: How do you think I feel? I've only got so much left on my iTunes account...
A: Alright, look, what do you think about pink and black?
M: Excellent.
A: Really?
M: I love 'em.
A: You love pink and black?
M: Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath? They rule.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On my last post, when I mentioned our old Commodore Vic 20, a friend commented about "Connect Four". That was a reference to a game I programmed on the computer. I wasn't savvy enough to design any artificial intelligence -- you couldn't play against the machine; it was a 2-person game. But it had some neat graphics and sound effects, which I had to create from scratch. The opening played a tune from The Thief of Baghdad, a family favorite. When you dropped your red or black disc, it made a descending "bloop-bloop-bloop" sound. And when the computer identified 4-in-a-row, it highlighted the winner and played a victorious "dum-de-dum-dum!"

Hardly the stuff of Playstation or Wii. Or even the primitive video games of the time. Nevertheless, my dad was super impressed by it, but this was from the guy who grew up thinking those Flash Gordon serials were cutting edge. He kept insisting I should try to sell my Connect Four program to Atari. I explained that Milton Bradley might have a problem with that. And even though I knew I hadn't composed anything extraordinary, I was confident in my abilities with this new technology and went on to take computer programming classes in college and even minor in the subject. Yes, I was a geek like in Revenge of the Nerds, ranking in coolness somewhere between Poindexter and Booger.

Flash forward to modern times. I'm sure I was the last person to get a cellphone. Could barely handle the intricacies of video games like Rock Band, which I tried for the first time recently -- fun, but much more complicated than Q*bert. And though I resisted listening to music digitally, my gifted mp3 player meant my cassette tapes were officially passé. And it meant I needed a computer that could process more than a megabyte or two. So my gift to myself was a launch into the 21st Century -- a new laptop.

I could brag that at this moment, I own 3 computers (my crappy old desktop, my mediocre old laptop, and this one). But it'd be nice if I actually knew how to work any of 'em. This is my first post on my new laptop. Considering how far I've fallen technologically, it's a miracle I got it done.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

5 thoughts inspired by attending last week's L.A. Kings game:

1. Since when did Columbus have a professional hockey team?

2. What the hell is a Bluejacket?

3. I wasn't the only confused one at the Staples Center. The guys seated behind us insisted that that a long slap shot on goal was a three-pointer, and they kept shouting for the Kings to pass the puck to Kobe.

4. But the most fascinating fan was the guy seated up front, three rows from the ice, who danced frantically at every break in the action. From up in our nosebleeds, we recognized his signature spastic moves -- it was the Westside Rentals Guy. The Kings' mascot was annoyed with him, trying to keep him seated. Guess it was because a hyperactive spaz wearing a powdered wig was a lot more fun to watch than some dude dressed like a lion. But I wondered if the lion would show up on the corner of Wilshire and 11th Street just to undermine the other guy at his workplace.

5. I'm getting a new laptop 'cause my other computers are way too out of date. Got me thinking to when I was a kid and we had a Commodore Vic 20. It bothered my dad that his kids knew something he didn't, so he took computer programming courses at the local jr. high school, and Dennis Potvin of the NY Islanders (hence the hockey tie-in) was in his class. But Dad just didn't get it. He'd toil away at his BASIC programming homework and shout from the living room, "Hey Mikeyyyy!" and I got too tired from running in to easily fix his dumb mistakes. "Give it up, Dad," I'd yell from my room. "Yer toooo schtupid." He insisted Dennis Potvin was also struggling in this class. I said, "Hey, you get four Stanley Cups, and then I'll let you off the hook."

Friday, January 04, 2008

At our house, the TV is usually tuned to MTV (The Hills), WE (Bridezillas), Bravo (Project Runway) or the Style Network (just about anything). And I'm usually in the other room, refusing to watch that crap.

There are some shows that my fiancée Adelphia managed to convince me aren't bad. The Amazing Race (those Goths grew on me, until they started bickering: "Vyxen, stop this car now! I'm getting so mad, color might come to my ashen face!" Still, I'll miss those Pinkies.) and Kitchen Nightmares. (Last month Gordon Ramsay & I crossed paths running on the beach. He said, "Oy, you call that a bloody pace, m'man? Me *bleep* mum runs *bleep* faster, yeah?")

I managed to have some success with my shows. Adelphia admitted that The Bronx is Burning was well-done, but insists a mini-series about the '86 Mets would've be better. And thanks to me, she recognizes the brilliance of South Park after such episodes as "Woodland Critter Christmas", "All About Mormons" and "Guitar Queer-o".

But I failed to win her over to the Discovery Channel. And that's the best network on TV. How could Adelphia not want to watch those lovable geeks of Mythbusters? They blow up water heaters! They catapult life-size dummies! They fold a piece of paper over 7 times!

However, there was no denying the allure of Survivorman. Les Stroud gets left in the middle of nowhere with nothing but camera equipment, his handy multitool and whatever scraps of junk he can find. Next thing you know, the guy builds a shelter and roaring fire out of an old tin can and a piece of chocolate. He's not only ingenious but tough as nails. MacGyver never had to go all week with nothing to eat but kelp or live scorpions. And anyone who can distill drinking water from his own piss is one badass mofo.

At first, Adelphia called him a "Negative Ninny" because of his cautionary comments to the camera. I explained that Les had to keep the audience informed about the possible dangers, 'cause even if no polar bears attacked or hermit crabs picked at his sore toe, it was fun to know that it could happen any second.

But after making her sit through several installments of Survivorman to see if one would be a Blair Witch show -- in which the film survives, but he doesn't -- my plan to get my fiancée into quality reality television backfired. Adelphia started to develop a crush on Les Stroud.

"I like that Survivorman," she'd say. Or, "he's kinda sexy all bundled up inside his lean-to playing his harmonica". And, "yeah, sure, Michael, the fire you made in the fireplace is nice... for someone who had the luxury of using matches."

I tried not to get jealous. I just told her that instead of going out for dinner and drinks, I'd build a trap to catch the squirrels that climb the palm trees by the Santa Monica Freeway. Using parts from a discarded cellphone I found outside and the Oscar Watch advertisement supplement of yesterday's L.A. Times, I fashioned a desalination device to drink the Pacific seawater. Local pollutants should make this concoction have as much kick as the Pinot Noir Adelphia would get at the restaurant. I informed her that wading in the ocean water during the early-morning tide, there's a good chance I could get bitten in the leg by a shark. Or hit in the head by a surf board.

Adelphia assured me I didn't need to worry. Survivorman's cool on TV, but in real life, his Negative Ninniness would make him impossible to date. And she prefers someone with another Long Island accent to Les Stroud's annoying Canadian one.

So when she and I go to bed tonight, we won't tune to the Discovery Channel. Or any network for that matter. Instead, I think I'll show her a new use for my multitool.

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