Change O’Pace

26 11 2005

This year we decided to leave the Tyranny Of The Turkey behind and we went to the Steak option for Thanksgiving dinner.

Now there’s something to be thankful for.

[And how was your Thanksgiving feast? And for those of you outside the States, I apologize. And for those of you who would consider a banana a feast, I apologize.]

Low Rent

23 11 2005

RentIf you’re interested in seeing everything that could possibly go wrong with a filmed musical you must run out right away to see RENT (since it might not be around by next week). This is the film based on the hit Off-Broadway and then Broadway musical about a group of twenty-somethings who live amidst poverty, AIDS, squalor, and depression in New York City’s Lower East Side in the 80s.

Instead, what we’ve got is a musical about a group of thirty-near-forty-somethings who live amidst very well designed lofts, AIDS, strategically placed trash, and upbeat rhyming couplets in the a set that resembles something that someone who never lived in New York City’s Lower East Side in the 80s would dream of.

In short, it’s taken a very Broadway-ish musical and made it even more sanitized and completely Hollywood. Every edgy idea has had its edges sanded down by MRS. DOUBTFIRE director Chris Columbus.

Now, I was a fan of the original play even though its lyrics tended to veer way too close to the “moon/June” style for my taste. It’s always tough when people sing out their emotions; in the play you had to buy into the operatic theatricality of it all. Once you did, the energy came through.

Columbus, on the other hand, asks us only to buy into the fact that this was once a popular musical. His idea of choeography is, in most cases, to have people jump onto and off of tables, stages, chairs or fire escapes, while the camera swoops over and around them. There is no there there, and the characters (most of whom are way too old to be playing the starving artists they are intended to be) never rise above the artificial.

When I worked on HAIR, Milos Forman was incredibly concerned with how, in modern films, you can get the audience to accept the transition from dialogue into song — how you get the audience to believe that a character will burst into song. THough he wasn’t always completely successful, he worked very hard on those transitions to help the audience through it. Columbus not only doesn’t do that, but it seems like he’s not concerned with it in the least. How will people, in 2005, buy characters bursting into song in the middle of support group, or a nicely turned out loft kitchen? Well, according to him, all you need to do is start the music vamping.

Sorry Chris, it just doesn’t hold up. We aren’t living in 1950, and Gene Kelly didn’t do the choreography for this complete mess of a film.

The movie opened on 11/23 and it got lots of good reviews from what I can see. Go figure!!

Bleary Eyed

21 11 2005

Friday night we drove out to Palm Springs (well, “drove” is really too strong a word; what we really did is get in the car and sit on the 10 Freeway, watching “drivers” in other cars sit and watch us sit in our car watching them) to pick up our new puppy. Why Palm Springs?

Well, it goes back about 12 years ago, when we got our first dog — a Wheaten Terrier. Wheatens, in addition to being terminally cute and very good with kids (our daughter was six at the time and terrifed of dogs), are hypo allergenic. This means that they don’t shed and don’t have dander. This means that my wife could actually be in the same house as them.

And, did I mention that they’re also terminally cute?

In any case, we got Jasper and fell in love. Ten years later, when he died, we weren’t ready for another dog. But this year we felt that we might be and started badgering the breeder to reserve us another one whenever she had litter. [To be precise, she doesn’t have the litter, her main dog does. But I assume you can figure out what I mean.] It took a while but, on September 3, her dog Lily had a litter and, guess what, they were terminally cute.

In any case, the breeder has (in the ensuing 12 years) moved to Palm Springs so, there we were, staring at the car in the “fast” lane this past Friday night. We eventually got out there at about 9:30pm (we had started at 3:45 but stopped off for some great Chinese food at a mall devoted only to Chinese food and stuff) and collapsed into our motel room bed.

Saturday morning, Renton was ours.

There will be no prizes for people who recognize where we got the name “Renton” from but let’s just say that we have the only dog that I am aware of who is named for a drug addict. It makes for interesting conversation when the puppy isn’t being terminally cute.

But Renton is, as I’m sure I mentioned, terminally cute all of the time. So we don’t have to explain the name very much.

Since then, he’s gotten up at 5:30 Sunday morning and 3:30 and 5:30 today. So, I’m really really looking forward to teaching until 10:30 this evening. This is me — bleary eyed.

And, hence, the title of this post.

Audio Books and Cars

15 11 2005

Audio Books are the complete shit. Luckily, I never have to drive more than an hour at a time (I know, I know; those of you who live outside of Los Angeles are now thinking that I’ve officially lost my mind), but even at 30 minute distances, the only thing that beats a good mystery on an audiobook is listening to Randi Rhodes rant on Air America (I LOVE her! She’s Rush on Liberal Drugs!!).

Right now, I’m listening to LINCOLN LAWYER (by Michael Connelly). Before this I did something odd for me and went non-fiction — Joan Didion’s YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING [I totally recommend this book for anyone who has lost someone close to them, or intends to.].

My tastes generally run to easy-to-put-down mysteries. Janet (my wife) likes to listen to serious books as well but I actually like to use my driving time for non-strenous stuff — other than screaming at moronic drivers in the lanes next to me.

Speaking of driving, what is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen someone do in a car? I once saw a guy chomping down on a huge meal, complete with a napkin tucked underneath his chin. Another time I saw a woman get nearly completely dressed in the car next to me. The amazing thing is, is that she went from bra and panties to completely dressed in the space of one red light (okay, it was the light at San Vicente and Wilshire which is famously long, but still…) I’ve heard the expression that people here in LA, live in their cars. I had no idea just how true that wasuntil I moved out here.

Random Thoughts

15 11 2005

Why is it that job offers only come the day before you’re heading out of town for a short vacation?

Whose job is it to enforce the handicapped parking space laws and where the hell are they ever?

[The same goes for the people allegedly enforcing the ‘NO SUV’ rules in the USC parking lots.]

How come the traffic always suddenly picks up speed after I move out the lane, looking for some relief.

What do foreigners mean when they say “your president” when they all know damn well that I didn’t vote for him?

More News On The March

7 11 2005

David Lynch spoke here at USC the other night about a foundation that he’s involved with that helps people find TM. I missed it (I had to go home an watch… uh… what’s on TV on Thursdays??) Defamer had a review of it that, frankly, didn’t exactly sell it to me. Was anyone there who can tell me what really went on?

I Can’t Believe I’ve Sunk So Low

7 11 2005

This is hopefully the lowest I will ever EVER sink, but I’ve often remarked that Paris Hilton seems to have only one look, no matter how many photos I’ve seen of her (and I don’t even look at People magazine).

Someone got the brilliant idea to prove it. Give it a try. One warning, though. With this much concentrated Hilton face, all in one place, you might need to take a breath afterwards. Remember, put your head down in between your knees.

Ghosts of Halloween Past

3 11 2005

One sucky thing about teaching on Halloween night is that you miss all of the cute little five year olds who aren’t quite sure why they’re trekking around in Annakin Skywalker outfits except that a whole bunch of normally unseen neighbors keep giving them pieces of wrapped candy.

And they NEVER get that during the rest of the year.

All they have to do is yell “TRICKORTREAT!!” at the top of their lungs and shove a bag out in front of them.

The number of trick or treaters coming by our house has been declining in recent years. There is a small wave at about five o’clock — small kids with parents who hang back on the front sidewalk while their kids stagger up to our front door, plastic pumpkins dangling from their arms. They do the ceremonial TRICKORTREAT (does anyone ever say “I’ll take the trick”?), and then wait while we drop some candy or razor blades (oops, wait, I did NOT say that!!) into their receptacles. They then proceed to run back to their parents who are yelling “Say ‘thank you!!'”

They sometimes do.

About two hours later, a few older kids slouch through the neighborhood and a few of them even have some good costumes.

About 10:00pm, a new wave comes through the neighborhood — the kids of a lot of the Latina nannies in the neighborhood who, I assume, have just finished watching their charges while the parents are out drinking cider, bobbing for apples, and shooting heroin. Their treat bags and costumes have the homemade look to them, rather than the patina of something bought the week before at the local Santa Monica costume shop. The kids aren’t much different than the white kids — they still yell TRICKORTREAT and then have to be reminded to say thanks.

And then it’s all over.

This year, I taught on Halloween evening. One student wore a costume and she admitted that the wings that she had wanted to bring were too big to schlep from the car.

it’s just not the same.