Quondam Dreams

Thursday, March 30, 2006


One good thing about knowing when my most recent contract was going to end was that I was able to schedule a bunch of appointments for this week. Apparently, I have lost weight since last time I've seen some of these people. Okay, then!

I'm starting to remember why not working stresses me out so much. It's not the lack of employment itself; it's the trying to fill the days. I think I've taken my laptop to every Starbucks in a three-mile radius. Given that I'm in West L.A., that's an awful lot of Starbucks (Starbuckses? Starbuckii?). Beats doing all this at home, though. At home, naps are very tempting. In public, I may not be getting much accomplished, but at least I'm awake and therefore theoretically productive.

And, hey! I've, like, been totally productive and stuff! I've spoken with my contracting agency twice, crafted a cover letter for a Real JobTM in which I'm interested, and posted my predictions for the whole damn baseball season over on It's A Talking Sport. Go ahead, read 'em. Longtime Dodger fans will either laugh or wince at a particular section. Which section that is will become abundantly clear when you get to it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Some Weekendy Things

In no particular order, but ordered anyway...

1. It's the last weekend of the month, so it's Channel 101 screening time! Sunday, 7:30 and 9:30, CineSpace -- you know, the usual. Free, but if you want to be sure you'll have somewhere to sit, make a dinner reservation.

2. Something is seriously wrong with this country when donations must be solicited and fundraisers held so that someone can afford emergency surgery. Please visit the Erica's Eye Care Fund Myspace profile for information on a sadly necessary kick-ass evening of comedy.


4. My most recent contract gig has ended (hi, anyone from over there), so I'm back on the employment prowl. There are a couple of promising possibilities for my next gig, but I could still be lured away from the wild world of contracting. Resume available upon request.

5. I'm sick. Someone please send soup. Thank you.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Short-term Planning vs. Longer-term Planning: An Illustration, With Cars

This afternoon, I was on my way out of a parking lot down the street from my current day job when a guy driving in the other direction stopped his car, honked and motioned for me to roll down my window. So I did, quite logically concluding that if the guy wanted to speak with me badly enough to stop the flow of cars in and out of that particular area of the lot, it must be awfully important.

"Hi, ma'am." ("Ma'am"? I'm never sure how to take that. I mean, it's a tiny bit better than "Miss," but in a situation like this, I think a polite "Excuse me" is the way to go.) "I'm very sorry to bother you, but I do body work..."

"I've got it covered," I said as soon as I could, and drove off.

"I'll give you a good price!" he called after me, barely audible over the din of car horns.

Let's review this, shall we? Here is an example of short-term planning:

"That woman needs some body work done on her car. I do body work on cars. I will stop and offer my services."

Here is an example of longer-term planning:

"That woman needs some body work done on her car. I do body work on cars. I would like to stop and offer my services. However, if I do stop, then I will block off the flow of cars in and out of this corner of the lot. If our conversation takes longer than about five seconds, the car behind me will probably cause my car to require more body work than the car at which I am looking. In fact, judging from the horns, the drivers of those cars have grown impatient with the one-second pause I have made to consider this matter. Therefore, I will refrain from stopping and offering my services."

Now, class: Does the fact that the man escaped with his car intact mean that the first scenario was the best one? Would pausing to weigh the options have been a waste of time?

Me, I would have gone with the second thought process. Judging from a series of recent interactions with various men, I can only conclude that the presence of a Y chromosome predisposes men to go with the first.

What is it with the auto body business in Pasadena, anyway? Is it all guys who work alone and only drum up business in the city's parking lots? I seem to get pitches like that about once a week. That's never happened to me in any other city.

(For the record: Yes, my car could use some body work. It needs some buffing and touch-up paint, and there's one metal thing that should probably be straightened out. I haven't had the space to do it myself, but I can't justify paying someone else ten times as much as it would cost me to make a bunch of non-essential cosmetic fixes -- not when I'm still out the money it cost to replace my front brake pads and rotor a mere eight months after they'd been put in. But that's a story for another post.)

In my next life, I'm living in a metropolitan region with decent public transportation options.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Purim, Or: Why Am I Not Drunk?

It's Purim.

Why am I not drunk?

*sigh* I'm such a bad Jew.


And for those of you who have no idea what that was about...

Around this time of year, quite a few traditions have end-of-winter blow-outs. Catholics, for example, have Mardi Gras. Hindus have Holi. And we Yids have Purim.

"So, wait," one might say. "You heckle a storyteller, dress in costume, mock authority and have a mandate to party until you can't remember why?"

Yes. Plus, cookies!

For those of you too lazy to Google Purim or grab your nearest bible and flip to the Book of Esther, here's the very brief rundown: King Ahashveros (or Ahasuerus, or one of any number of transliterations of various dialects -- this story's been around for a while, so things have gotten a bit confused) dumps his queen when she won't come dance for his pals. Being an ancient king, he decides the best way to find a new queen is to hold a beauty pageant -- 'cause, you know, why promote from within the harem when you can bring in fresh blood? This chick named Esther wins. Esther is Jewish. This is not common knowledge.

The king (and if you think I'm going to try to type out that name again, you're even crazier than I am) has this advisor, Haman. Haman is your basic power-hungry narcissist. His latest edict is that everyone should bow down to him when they see him. This doesn't sit too well with one Mordecai, who, besides being Esther's cousin (or uncle, or general guardian -- like I said, this story's been around for a while), is very wise. You may question the wisdom of not bowing down in front of a guy who can have you killed, but that's another matter.

"Hey, Mr. Your Majesty," Haman says to the king. "You've got a group of people in this here kingdom who don't follow your laws. You shouldn't let that stand."

"Hey, you're right, Dick Chen--" sorry -- "Haman!" says the king, who spent very little time thinking about the example he was actually setting for future leaders. "Do whatever you want with 'em." He might have looked into the matter a little more, but Haman was a trusted deputy, and it was naptime.

"Excellent," hissed Haman, and went to his secure undisclosed location to plot. He knew he wanted to kill all the Jews. Well, really, he just wanted to kill Mordecai, but he wasn't going to turn down a chance to off the rest of them while he was at it. It was going to take a little time to plan, though -- ancient Persia was freakin' huge -- and he needed a target date. So, he drew lots, and decided to schedule the massacre in for Adar 13th.

Mordecai, of course, found out about the plot. He went to Esther.

"Cousin," he said. (Or "niece," or "ward," or whatever.) "It's on you."

"What's on me?"

"Saving all of us. You're married to the guy who can stop this. Talk to him."

"Uncle." (Or "cousin," or "substitute dad," or "dude," or whatever.) "I'm just married to the king. I never actually see the guy unless he asks to see me. You want me to get fired like the last queen? Or killed, even?"

"Um, no. That's kind of the point."

"And that means I've gotta break the news that I'm a Jew, too. Great. Anything else you want me to do, Mordi? Go play in chariot traffic, maybe?"

"Nah, just save us."

So, Esther set up a little dinner party for her husband, rightly figuring that there's nothing like good food to make a guy forget that you're doing something he hates in principle. (In some versions of the story, Haman's there. While dramatic, it's really not important to the plot.)

"Now, about this plan of Haman's," she said, and laid out the whole thing in the most ass-kicking way imaginable.

The king agreed that it sounded like a seriously bad idea -- especially since it would have included killing the prettiest girl in Persia and the indeterminately-related Mordecai, who'd busted a murder plot against the king earlier on in the story. In the end, Haman was strung up instead, and the Jews partied to celebrate their victory over evil. This eventually lead to a Talmudic mandate that we should make with the merry until we can't remember the difference between good Mordecai and wicked Haman. Religious Jews observe a minor fast in the daylight hours leading up to Purim. Officially, this is to commemorate Esther's fast before making her pitch, but I think it may have more to do with the efficiency of partying on an empty stomach. (There's also some stuff about giving food to those in need, but we're supposed to make tzedaka contributions year-round as it is.)

That's the brief version of the story. We've skipped over most of the sex, booze and palace intrigue. It's out there if you want to read it. By now, you've probably missed local synagogue readings -- not that you would have heard much anyway; it's traditional to make a lot of noise whenever Haman's name is read, and it pops up a lot. Then it's off to drink, eat, and put on plays that mock authority figures.

One thing you may have noticed is that God doesn't figure into this story. Actually, that particular character doesn't appear in the book of Esther at all. You can ascribe whatever you'd like to divine intervention if you're so inclined, but at its heart, this is a folk-story about people and what they do. There's a long-standing tradition of telling the story using contemporary references. (You can Google that, too.) I was taught that the book of Esther was a late addition to what we now know as the Hebrew bible; turns out that the rabbis who were assembling the canon didn't want to include a God-less book that gave people license to mock them. Those people then said, basically, "If you dump Purim, we're dumping Judaism". Hello, Megilla Esther!

Those of you who know me know that while I'm Jewish as all get-out, I'm not particularly religious in a conventional sense. I'm sure that somewhere, someone is shaking their finger at people like me -- "You only do the things that are convenient!" That's something to tackle in another post; for now, suffice it to say that Judaism makes room for all sorts of interpretations, including us secular and humanist types. If there's one thing we can all agree on, though, it's that a day on which one is supposed to make a lot of noise, eat and drink too much, put on snarky plays and generally celebrate people not killing people just because they're different is a fine idea -- and a great way to blow off a winter's worth of pent-up steam.

As for why I've been sober this whole Purim: I'm not feeling all that well. Health trumps mandates. Fortunately, hamentaschen are quite acceptable cookies to eat when one is under the weather. I wonder if the deli near me will still have some tonight. Mmm. Cookies.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Obligatory Post-Oscar Post

The Magic 8-Ball got 5 out 25. Not great, but right around what chance would predict. (Yes, I know that not all of the categories had 5 nominees, and that therefore the results are actually a little worse than chance would predict. I'll do the math later, if I'm up to it. Right now? Splitting headache.)

The Academy's official message this year was, "Go see movies in theaters. If you watch on DVD or iPod, you miss out on a whole, um, experience."
   The movie that won? The one with the distributor who sent DVDs to every person who could possibly vote for anything.

Larry McMurtry's tux jacket-and-jeans ensemble was the sartorial equivalent of a mullet.

I think I love George Clooney. I know. Get in line.

Like I said: Memoirs of a Geisha was a very pretty movie. I still can't believe it won for cinematography, though. Maybe too many votes were split between Brokeback Mountain and Good Night, And Good Luck. Or else the fact that total laypeople like me and the people with whom I was watching were able to point to those two films as being really well-shot means that we're totally missing the point.

No matter what you think of the winning song, you must admit: Three 6 Mafia seemed genuinely thrilled to be there. Which is more than you can say for a lot of the acting nominees.

I'm sure my mother assumes that if I win an award on an internationally-televised broadcast, I am going to thank her and my father profusely. She also thinks that I will wear my bridesmaid dress from my brother's wedding. I mean, I'm sure I'll name-check the folks, being as they're my parents and support me even when they're not quite sure what I'm doing and all, but they're going to have to share their time with other people. My friends, for example. My hypothetical manager. Every guy who's ever pissed me off. Whatever the award turns out to be, I'm sure that those guys will have provided fuel for it somehow.
   Definitely not wearing the bridesmaid dress, though.

Can I be Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep when I grow up?

The Wallace and Grommit guys putting little bow ties on their statuettes: Kinda cute. The March of the Penguin guys going up with huge stuffed penguins? Overkill. There is a happy medium, and I think it's around eighteen inches high.

In case those of you who don't live in Los Angeles were wondering what we residents thought of Jon Stewart's rundown of "what people are saying" about Hollywood -- "too liberal, out of touch with mainstream America, a modern day beachfront Sodom and Gomorrah, a black hole where innocence is obliterated, an endless orgy of sexual gratification and greed...":

I think I kinda love Jon Stewart, too. I know. Married.

Morning-after amusement: Watching movie critics try to figure out how Crash beat Brokeback Mountain. Hidden homophobia leading to Brokeback backlash? The fact that so many of the voters live in Los Angeles? Oprah? There must be some great, unrelated-to-the-movie's-actual-merits-(or-lack-thereof) reason. It certainly wasn't because Lions Gate sent out about 130,000 freakin' DVDs. Naaaah.

Midnightinis rock.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Magic 8-Ball Oscar Picks

We've reached that time of year when Oscar buzz actually doubles back on itself. (Example: Brokeback Mountain will win best picture not because a plurality of the academy voted for it, but because the people who voted against it split their votes between Crash and Good Night, And Good Luck.) Which means it's time to turn to that tried and true oracle: My Magic 8-Ball.

You know the drill, or else you're about to know the drill: Each nominee is presented to the Magic 8-Ball; most positive answer in each category gets the pick. Base your pool selections on this at your own risk; after all, it's not like the Magic 8-Ball has seen most of the nominated movies. Of course, if you do win anything with this list, I hope you'll remember who loves you enough to make sure you see the picks. Which would be me. Hi.

BEST PICTURE: Good Night, And Good Luck
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg for Munich (Note: It was awfully close between this and Paul Haggis for Crash. Maybe, in the end, the 8-Ball realized what small-h haggis is, and decided it didn't like the big-H one either.)
ACTOR: Joaquin Phoenix in Walk The Line
ACTRESS: Felicity Huffman in Transamerica
SUPPORTING ACTOR: George Clooney in Syriana (Like everyone who's picking him, I'm sure the Magic 8-Ball is actually predicting that Clooney he'll get it for all his work on Good Night, And Good Luck. The Supporting Actor award is rarely about the actual nominated performance.)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Brokeback Mountain
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Brokeback Mountain
FILM EDITING: Cinderella Man
ART DIRECTION: Good Night, And Good Luck
COSTUME DESIGN: Memoirs Of A Geisha
MAKEUP:Cinderella Man
SCORE:Memoirs Of A Geisha (Close between this and Brokeback Mountain. I think the 8-Ball just likes John Williams a little more.)
SONG: "Travelin' Thru'" from Transamerica
SOUND EDITING: Memoirs Of A Geisha
SOUND MIXING: War Of The Worlds
ANIMATED FEATURE: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit
FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Paradise Now (Palestine) (Or, if you're really touchy, the Palestinian Authority. If you fall into that camp, please note that the Magic 8-Ball is an inanimate object, and as such won't be reading any excoriating email you may be thinking about sending.)
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club

So, there you go. Enjoy. Or, y'know, don't.