Wednesday, June 29, 2005

For future reference

Not so long ago I caught the opening night screenings at the annual film festival for UCLA’s school of Theater, Film, and Television. Catherine Hardwicke, purported alumna of UCLA’s film school and director of the recently released Lords of Dogtown, was slated as the awards presenter.

Hardwicke’s performance inspired me to share some handy tips for anyone finding themselves in a similar situation of emceeing an awards ceremony:

1. If you arrive hours late, such that the awards presentation is moved to the intermission (and then you still arrive late), don’t out yourself as a dropout of the program. Maybe it was just me, but her opener of “Gosh, well, yeah, I really enjoyed my time here at UCLA, even though I left before I got the degree,” didn’t really seem to motivate the young directors and producers in the audience to reach for the stars.

2. If you arrive late (see #1 above), use the time you’re stuck in traffic on the 405 to think about what you might say once you reach the podium. After outing oneself as a dropout, following up with “Uh, so, like am I supposed to say something that will inspire you or sumthin?” isn’t the strongest approach one might take.

3. Okay, let’s say you weren’t late because you were stuck in traffic, but because your wheatgrass shots at Jamba Juice took forever and your Kabbalah meeting went over. In this case you might not get the chance to exercise tip 2 of using the freeway time to prepare something coherent. Getting off to a rough start, you make the previous faux pas. Stay calm, all is not lost quite yet. As long as you do not, under any circumstances, embark on a long diatribe about how “maybe if you work hard and go out there and take some advice and work with the best person you can possibly work with – even if it’s getting their coffee – maybe after you work hard and do that stuff for a while, one day some of you will get lucky and have the chance to work on some good stuff. I mean, like I know you’re gonna be sayin, ‘Gee I have 2 degrees and I’m not doing anything big.’ But you know, like maybe at first if you work hard and do some grunt work, and after that maybe some of your will succeed. So good luck and congratulations.”

I leave you with these guidelines so that your own addresses to graduates of prestigious film schools may leave your audience, more, rather than less, likely to see your work than before you began speaking.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Not an L.A. story

The Appreciate Southern California Weather tour officially wrapped up today.

First, it turned out that the 93 degrees that welcomed me to Texas was due to an overcast sky. No matter - it was fun. Despite being mostly lazy, I met up with some friends from high school and from college. I ate sno-cones. I played with my parents' dog Hank.

I rode in cars at speeds I've only dreamed of since moving to L.A. I arrived at destinations in travel times consistently correlated with their distance from my places of origin. I puzzled over this sign:

I think it may be about masturbation, but I'm not sure.

My friend Krista picked me up from the Phoenix airport with news that it had cooled off to a mere 108 degrees in the Grand Canyon State.

Some of the weekend was spent on various arrangements for Krista's upcoming wedding. Krista mostly arranged and negotiated, Bethany and I concentrated our efforts on constructive role play.

I played with the supercute Henry, the adopted cat at Krista's house.

Henry's favorite activities include sleeping and watching television. Henry is really cute. We're really good friends now. Isn't she (yes, I meant that - Henry's a girl) cute?

I appreciated this mountain in the alpenglow.

And then someone else took the very last picture of my trip.

I had lunch with some friends on the way home from the airport today. Afterward I mentioned to someone who had also arrived in town this morning that I always like leaving Los Angeles and I always like returning to Los Angeles. "Yeah," he consented, "but I like returning just a little less than I like leaving." Indeed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dialing up is hard to do.

Back in Southeast Texas, I’ve been doing my best to embrace some of the local customs. A very important part of life here is offering up a significant portion of one’s flesh for consumption by local insects.

A log of my recent contributions:

1. Playing Frisbee w/ my parents’ dog: 10 mosquito bites
2. Going for a walk with my mom: 4 mosquito bites.
3. Getting out of the car at a restaurant: 3 fire ant bites
4. Waiting in the sno-cone line, general miscellany: 7 mosquito bites

I did some serious binging on the television front. After a day of grunt work at a house my parents are remodeling, my sister and I logged 8 hours of The Learning Channel and HGTV. My mom posted an impressive 7. 5 hours, but my dad came home from the other house to mow our own yard, only catching about 15 minutes of an especially entertaining episode of What Not to Wear.

True to form, I’ve oscillated between slothful recluse and budding socialite. Well, okay, the slothful recluse has been winning out. Dinner plans last night and tonight account for the sum total of my socialite tendencies. No need to overdo it.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Stick a fork in me. . .

I know, I know. The onus is on me to look away, to avoid the aberrant click to Defamer for all the gossip from the frontlines of the industry serfs. It’s like rubbernecking – yes, it’s more tasteful and refined to look away, but this isn’t the front parlor of the Junior League.

The relentless parade of nonmomentary lapses of sanity and public overtures step beyond acceptable realms of beard-dom or shameless promotion. I am officially sated. Celebrity gossip is interesting because it’s gossip – stuff I'm not supposed to know. When I know too much, I stop caring. Sort of like how moments of sleep are sweeter when I’ve hit snooze three times than after I give in and call in sick. Does “Tomkat” not remember “Bennifer” (part I)?

I’ve heard more than enough about religious conversions, cupcakes, the Eiffel tower, and the ‘best friend’ on staff to keep Katie Holmes on the straight and narrow.

I want to read about Hugh Grant buying vegetables, Lisa Kudrow walking her dog, or Peter Krause being hot. I think it’s high time to take stock of the celebrities who’ve chosen not to saturate the blogwaves and grocery store checkout lanes with ridiculous self-promotion and general insanity. How about regular, good-natured actors who tolerate some mild paparazzi now and again? Let’s give a hand for the Reese Witherspoons & Ryan Phillippes, the Tom Hanks & Rita Wilsons of Hollywood.

If there’s a silver lining to the nauseating obsession with Tom Cruise’s abduction of Katie Holmes' soul (and chances of working on anything other than Scientology recruitment videos), it’s that I may hate Paris Hilton a little less.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Hooray for me!

2 things:

1. Yesterday my arduous efforts to get my funding back paid off. Originally the Grad Division wanted to give me 43% of the money the government is giving them to give me. Now they're giving me 87% of the money the government is giving them to give me.

How did I celebrate the near miss with bit parts in poorly-produced adult films? By cashing in my frequent customer card for a free yogurt, of course.

2. Summer officially begins. . . NOW! By "summer," I mean the time when I TA, make sense of some new data, start a new IRB (if you don't know, it's about as fun as filing taxes), and be a nanny. Nevertheless, this show is hitting the road for 10 days tomorrow, so stay tuned for adventures from abroad (or not abroad, as the case may be).

Monday, June 13, 2005

Way Off Broadway

This weekend I saw the political satire "I'm going to kill the president: A federal offense." It looks like it's been running around the country for a couple of years now, but you have to call a hotline to get the meeting place and showtime.

Per the instructions, we arrived at the designated intersection 30 minutes before showtime. About 20 people are gathered on a street corner in a mostly warehouse area when a guy in his late twenties shows up and leads us away with a chin flip and an curt, "follow me, please." We follow him a few blocks and are directed to line up against a wall in an alley, where we provide our names and assurances that we're not affiliated with a law enforcement agency to a video camera. We walk a few more blocks and enter a little theater through the back gate.

We pay in cash.

The show I caught started at 11PM, and we were asked not to tell anyone the names of the performers were we to recognize them. The playbill had the names of the actors and crew blacked out. I believe the cast is associated with those who brought Abu Ghraib torture reenactments to the RNC last year.

Some elements of the show reek of a low budget endeavor produced by a bunch of stoners. Other parts, on the other hand, are extremely authentic and compelling. Overall, it's a pretty good show to catch if you have the chance, if only for the arousal/fright aspect of considering what life could be like if the far right drove progressive liberal thinking underground. As is common for all productions in America, I advocate not volunteering when the actors ask for one from the audience. My Swedish date, however, was not hip on this tradition of wizened, American reluctance in such situations and shot his hand up immediately. This wasn't his first misstep of the evening, but that is another story altogether.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

If 30 is the new 20. . .

Because I'm so damn suggestible to (a) free things and (b) blogvertising, last night was a perfect marriage of these vices when UCLA's Campus Events Commission brought UCB*'s Assscat to campus. Why, I ask you, are smart, funny, politically aware men approaching 40 so attractive?

UCB co-founder Matt Besser probably doesn't ellicit tons of double-takes from women on the street. He's a tallish white guy with curly brown hair. It might even be said that that he's looking somewhat heavy around the middle these days. No matter, two minutes into the show I was crushing like it was 7th grade and my best friend had promised that she would, indeed, call Charles Gilliland and ask him who he liked.

Ideas anyone? Maybe men age better than women - maybe smart, funny men who become succesful in their thirties are too busy playing video games and writing in their twenties to venture out in public. Maybe older men are more attractive because they're more likely to have their shit together and to have developed higher standards of cleanliness.

A few weeks ago I was at a party when one of my least favorite subjects came up - age. "Wait. . . " says my friend's fiance, "You were born in nineteen EIGHTY ONE?" Yes, I was -- I can't help it! Last week I was reading a blog entry about a 33 year-old-guy who encountered performance issues when he "tried to impress a girl born in the 80s." The age thing is a separate issue, but creepy as it may be for 30-somethings to associate with people born in the 80s, it feels strangely geriapheliactic** to realize your latest speciality celebrity crush was born in 67.

*as plugged by Steve

** of or pertaining to an uncontrollable, intense positive regard for the elderly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

It was a Monday after all.

Yesterday morning got off to a stellar start. I woke up before my alarm, only hit snooze once, and caught the 8:17 bus to school. Books and papers commensurate with my expectations for weekend productivity had come home with me on Friday. They had to go back on Monday. In addition to the regular book bag, I brought an extra gym/lunch/APA manual bag. All was well on the bus ride to campus. About three-fourths of the way there, the multi-purpose tote falls over. Looking up from the paper draft I'm editing, I see an apple I had tried to convince myself I would eat and a yogurt tumble out. The yogurt landed squarely on its top on a step dividing the back and front of the bus. The apple, however, rolled around near the back door of the bus. I grabbed the yogurt but the apple was out of my reach. I heard it's thudding around for what seemed like 30 minutes before I lost track of it. "There goes your breakfast," said this lady as she stepped out of the bus. It wasn't my breakfast, it was my lunch.

Part of me what happy to be off the hook for eating an apple I bought a week ago. I loathe mealy apples and am a skeptical apple-eater. The other 94% of me was mortified about the great lunch escape and considered getting off the bus and starting fresh with people who hadn't been interrupted from their papers by a potentially mealy apple.

This experience captures the rest of my day - mostly good with some unpredictable and mildly disturbing fruit escapage.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Family bondage, er. . . "bonding"

You don’t have a choice about growing old. You can avoid tour groups.

I have no qualms about awkward situations. I’ve done internet dating. I’ve done speed dating. I’ve counted myself among the 50,000 Gentiles on JDate. I am now living proof that pre-emptive hair removal isn’t the only way to ensure an awkward encounter.

My Grandma Cy passed through town last week on her 10-day tour of the California coast. I met her at The Plaza in Century City. She called down from her room to book a reservation at the hotel restaurant, all the while telling me that we had to invite a “weird” woman whose companion left early on account of an 89-year-old-hip to dinner with our party. My grandmother introduces me to a leathery blonde couple in the elevator who are also on the tour. “Shelly!” they say, after hearing I’m a graduate student in Psychology, “Have we got a couple of cases for you,” as they wink and gesture between themselves. Jokes are so much funnier the 87th time.

The hostess at the hip and trendy Breeze restaurant downstairs is struggling with the allegedly weird Justine when we arrive. My grandmother adds to the buzz, three tour guests, four people total. Justine had made a duplicate reservation. A tall aspiring actor (I’m assuming, he is waiting tables after all) barely puts down our menus before the cacophony begins anew—who we are, who has a guest, who will be paying for the guest, and the big winner, that the guest has a coupon. Oh god. Say it isn’t so. . . Justine razzes my grandmother when she looks at the wine list, “Hey, what are you doing, your granddaughter is here!” And that’s when I’m certain this will be a long night.

The entire evening was a medley of typical “Cyisms,” only enhanced by this woman she felt compelled to include in our party.

Cue aphasia. My grandmother asks about my summer plans. I mention that my sister and I are planning a trip to Central America. “Oh, lovely,” she says, “Will you stay in a hospice down there?” Me: “Err…I hope not. We might stay in some hostels though.”

My Grandma Cy is notorious for taking copious, bad pictures at inappropriate moments. By some stroke of grace her camera had broken the day before. By another, the Century City mall doesn’t have a store that sells them. When the food arrives, my grandmother asks me in a pleading and serious tone to photograph my seared tuna. I comply, thinking it a small concession for such a nice meal. The next instant Justine is out of her chair, snapping away with a disposable camera. She takes pictures of each of us individually. On my turn she takes two pictures – one vertical, one horizontal. “That’s enough, Justine-- have a seat,” my grandmother swats in the air. Unphased, Justine is still snapping. “Have a seat, Justine,” my grandmother says again, in what must have been her stern, classroom voice. I stare dumbfounded as Justine sits down and wraps her disposable camera inside saran wrap before returning it to her purse.

My grandma tells a story about my uncle picking me up from the China Town bus station in D.C. this summer. I had a treacherous experience confirming a pre-paid ticket on the NYC-D.C. China town bus on a very humid day. At several points in the morning I was stumped by things like construction, an inability to speak Mandarin, sweat, tears, and the unfortunate choice of the front bus seat which meant that the portly assistant bus driver sat next to me and slumped over on me when he fell asleep. The bus was also 2 hours late. All of these things happened. What did NOT happen, however, was the bus arriving in D.C., all of the passengers but me disembarking and my uncle finding me asleep at the back of the bus. This is, however, the story my grandmother tells to the table. “That did not happen!” I spit out before I can help myself. Awkward silence.

My grandmother’s friend Gerry (whom Justine had already called by my grandmother’s name at the beginning of dinner) asks Justine about an upcoming Ivy Conference—yes, ivy the plant. Apparently Justine has 100 of some kind of plant in her backyard in Atlanta. She goes on about it. Gerry says, “But what about the hydrangea conference or the marigold conference? Justine says, “ I haven’t joined those yet. I’m just in the Ivy Conference.” It’s possible that Gerry was a real badass at that moment, but she looked so innocent it was hard to tell. My grandmother tells Justine that my mom has a green thumb (also not true) and that she is a master gardener (true). “So am I,” replies Justine, her jowls jiggling, “among other things.”

After she’s finished her entrée, my grandmother pushes her plate away. “Well, I’ve done my wad,” she says. What?!

I sense that my grandmother is really trying with Justine because every time Justine stops a conversation with another one of her nuanced social skills, my grandma resorts to one of the thousands of non sequiturs she has up her sleeve. Justine asks me if I grew up in California. After I tell her I grew up in Texas, my grandmother jumps in, “In the 3rd oldest town in Texas! Guess what their zip code is. . . . 7-7-5-7-5! Don’t you just love that? It’s my favorite zip code. When my son called me 25 years ago and said they were moving there he said, ‘Mother, you’ll love the zipcode.’ And I do. It’s my very favorite zip code.”

I’ll spare the details about making the rounds after dinner to meet other tour guests. I finally found some relief when I said, “If I don’t get back to my car in 4 minutes it will cost me seven dollars,” which brought the evening of magical bonding to an abrupt end.