Saturday, March 31, 2007

I don't want to be thought of as a bad neighbor, but the rest of the block is starting to get to me today. Mom made me rake the gumballs and sticks and other assorted crap off our front lawn, and I just think that's the biggest bullshit job ever. I could see a point if we used our front lawn for anything, but as it is, the lawn's only purpose is to collect leaves and get mowed, and if I had my druthers, I'd pave over the whole damn thing. But I can't cause... what would the neighbors think? My family's been known to let the lawn grow into a mini-jungle, since our mower is petulant and we've got more important things going on, like porn and taxes, keeping us from fighting with it, but it's only the start of spring and so the debris can't be all that terrible. "Mom, the gumballs don't look that bad," I whined. "Why do we have to bother sweeping them up?"

And she explained, "Because we live in a neighborhood, and all our neighbors raked their lawns." I took a peek outside and all the neighbors did have pristine lawns; our suddenly looked a lot more feral. So I spent about an hour raking the lawn, grumbling the whole time about the Stepford robots who lived around me... stupid neighbors, cleaning their lawns. If they didn't waste their time raking, then I wouldn't have to waste mine.

The thing is that we have this deal where I reciprocate my neighbors' indifference, or maybe they reciprocate mine. I'm not sure who started it. I'm not very happy about it — I'd prefer to have a genuine human connection to my community, or at least the Stepford façade of one — but I've come to terms with what I've got. Anything more, like judging me because your lawn is manicured while I went for the all-natural look, is going to require something in return, more than us simply living on the same block.

I feel like there was a time when I had this attitude where there was this magical cycle of requited giving and happiness. Sure, I won't drive my car in front of yours, thirty miles below the speed limit, because I want to see you pleased. And then, because you're contented now, you won't tailgate me, and the world is in harmony. I wonder when that stopped, and not just between the random extras God throws into our lives, but between people who profess an honest relationship among each other. I know the spirit of communal giving was dead at Columbia, when they'd make me cheer along with some stupid-ass lion mascot before sending me wandering off into the cold, heartless maze of bureaucracy that was the soul of the institution. But before then?

People move in, means people move away, and it seems like the town was much less worked-on in my younger days. The park didn't have its child-safe playground and no benches (also child-safe) in front of the Corner Store on Martine Avenue. I don't want to fault the newcomers — being here a quarter of a century myself — but the more they add to the community, the more diffuse I feel, like Home is changing hands. Someday this place will be mine, and I'll rebel, tear up the landscaping, turn the front yard into a sand garden or something. I'll wrap the trees in enough Christmas lights to be seen from space, and in the summertime, I'll capture all the fireflies in glass jars and use them as lanterns. It'll be my formal introduction, and I might not be home, but at least home will have the opportunity to meet me.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

This... Isn't... Jeopardy!

I've been a vast repository of arcane, useless knowledge since my earliest days, when I'd spend hours after school reading the World Book Encyclopedia. There was something about those glossy pages that made them much more enticing than running around the playground; that, and there weren't approximately five billion wasps living in the encyclopedia. I didn't actually realize that accumulating trivia might have some long-term benefits, the most prominent being that I joined the quiz bowl team and got to play with those buzzers just like a real game show... from the 1960's. Look, if you're into painting, or playing tennis, or the flute, how often do you get to push a button and have an electronic gizmo make a noise? Never. That's how often.

But here in America, it's hard to find a quiz bowl — probably thanks to our proud heritage as ignoramuses — and even harder to find a good one. Last night, Harrigan, Jason, and I tried out Quizz-Off, the misspelled, apparently ad hoc pub quiz down at Pete's Candy Store of the drunken spelling bees, and it was a little disappointing. The questions were comically simple (see my note about our proud American heritage above), but more importantly, I don't remember quiz bowl ever being so lethargic. This is why you need the buzzers: to eliminate the long, dead periods between questions, while the team is conferring and writing out their answers in triplicate, or worse yet, while the emcee is walking around the bar, handing out crude photocopies of the pictures in the visual round. We didn't stay long.

I'd go back to Pete's though, maybe for their bingo night or poetry series, and of course to be jealous of the huge factories-turned-lofts all around Williamsburg. Just not to show off how smart I am.

Much better — smarter and somewhat entertaining — is The Big Quiz Thing downtown at The Slipper Room, which contrary to the self-promotion on the website, is hardly New York City's sexiest event space. I've been in sexier auto body shops. It doesn't matter every other Monday night anyway, cause everyone's keeping their clothes on for trivia night. The Big Quiz Thing is emceed by Noah, who's half Wink Martindale and half campy Reno lounge act. I go to The Big Quiz Thing and I'm usually too distracted by his sequin-covered leisure suit to actually answer questions. At least he keeps the show moving with fast questions, inane music, and the sometimes-amusing banter between him, DJ Gretchen, and useless guy in the background Eric. It's not Jeopardy!, but despite the cheese factor, The Big Quiz Thing succeeds as a trivia contest, with a good range of questions from the Stuff You Should've Learned In School to stuff you've probably never seen before but a team of smarties could work out. The $200 prize and $1.89 trophy isn't bad either.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It was a good day today once I walked by the furrier down the street from where I work, Davidé Fur — I guess they're French or something — and saw the place emptied out, except for a few bare coat racks and some naked legless mannequins. I believe that if you wear fur, either you're an Eskimo or you're a horrible human being, but the 29th Street fur district is rotten even by the standards of people who club baby seals for a living.

All the fur stores in the neighborhood have the same window display, and I know the picture's not that good but, yes, those are adorable little stuffed animals lining the window sill. And yes, that appears to be a pink chinchilla overcoat. Could they make that poor animal's death any less dignified, maybe painting it with leopard spots or something? It's the teddy bears that are really egregious, though, because those little bundles of cuteness are what they're freaking skinning! It's like taking that "it puts the lotion on its skin" guy from Silence of the Lambs and hiring Victoria's Secret models to pose outside his house.

Davidé Fur was the worst of the worst because their window-dressing cuddly taxidermy was fucking life-size. They were pretty much inviting you, "Hey, you think this Siberian tiger cub is cute? How about you wear it home?" Maybe, maybe if they removed the stuffing and just laid out the animals' felt skin in the shape of a distorted, surreal Pound Puppy or something. It would still be despicable, but at least it would be honest.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dear Guys at Google:

That web clips you added to Gmail, that pulls feeds off the web based on what folks have mailed me — I'm totally indifferent to it. I just leave it up because I figure, maybe once or twice in a lifetime, something worthwhile will appear, like a new Spam recipe, and I just wouldn't be able to resist. Hey, I'm only human. But can someone please explain to me why I keep getting some variation on this ad in my newsreader:

I know Google's got its spidery tendrils crawling all over the Internet, collecting all the information in the world, but what on earth in my e-mails ever suggested to it that I'd be a good candidate for employment at the CIA?! My e-mail is essentially all either stuff related to web design or quick letters to my friends like, "Wanna get lunch on Thursday?" Unless I just stumbled on some sort of codeword with that phrase, I think Google's got some re-parsing to do.

Speaking of which, I'd like to look at this ad from a national security standpoint, and I just don't know where to begin, aside from the fact that someone in the government thinks I would make a decent spy. (Then again, someone in the government also thought that Rumsfeld would make a decent Defense Secretary.) How about this? The content of the ad itself is twelve words, plus some initials, and somehow the most blatant possible typo managed to slip through? There's a 'c' in "linguistics." I don't know who would've picked up the mistake first: me or Microsoft Word, but it looks we both would've beat the people writing our National Intelligence Estimates. This lends credence to the theory that we were supposed to go to war with Iran — you know, the country that actually is trying to develop a nuclear arsenal — but someone's finger slipped while typing up a top secret intelligence analysis and now we're in the nuagmire that is Iraq.

And, periods, people! Good punctuation is important. Compare: "Let's eat, Dad" versus the commaless "Let's eat Dad." Totally changes the meaning. While I'm at it, every word doesn't need to start with a capital letter, only the first word in the sentences you've conveniently omitted and any proper nouns. I'm starting to wonder if this ad wasn't written by an eleven-year-old girl who just got done updating her MySpace page, which leads me to my final point...

"Apply Online Now" ...Online??!! This isn't a mystery shopper position that they're looking to fill here. Shouldn't there be a slightly more rigorous screening process, like maybe you have to show up in person if you want to handle our nation's most sensitive secrets? You know, just to prove that you don't have a comical Russian accent and a shifty black hat and moustache.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Last week, my computer decided to fall apart on me — literally, chunks of the thing were coming off in my hands, so I took the machine to Tekserve for some of their famous repair service. Fortunately the computer was still under warranty... but on the other hand, it was only nine months into its three-or-so year lifespan and I sort of expected my machine to be in the prime of its life. Workmanship these days just isn't what it used to be, I'll tell you. I could talk about my four-year-old Dell laptop, which works perfectly if not lethargically, or my Dad's second-generation iBook, now seven, suffering from an anemic battery, but otherwise working fine. But I'd rather talk about my Apple IIgs, purchased back in 1989, with no hard disk, one megabyte of RAM, and a 5.25" floppy drive that still works as if it's the first day out of the box. Man, did they know how to build things back in the eighties!

I brought my computer in on Monday and Tekserve estimated that they'd have it fixed by Friday, and I thought, "Well, that's just four days. I can live without my computer for four days, especially since we have five other computers at home." But it took less than six hours before Macbook withdrawl started, and by the time I got home Monday night, I was on my bed with my old laptop trying to get the same sort of dual-core fix and totally freaking out cause the Dell spent half an hour downloading and installing updates! It was pathetic. Like, I was carrying around notebooks with me, doing my work with pencil and paper. Totally Luddite.

Friday came and it was like Christmas with the anticipation of getting my computer back. I called up Tekserve and... it was horrible. A part was out of stock! It needed to be ordered! Try again Monday! It was like opening your Christmas gift and getting socks. I stopped by in person, too, cause maybe the guy on the phone was just toying with me. (I'd be tempted to do that if I worked in customer service.) I said I'd sit around, wait for a few hours... How could they not have the part? It's a relatively popular computer, not an obscure western European automobile! It's all they sell! Strangely, groveling didn't help. I went home disappointed.

But when I got home, the most amazing thing happened. Five minutes after getting home, my cell phone rings, and it's Ripley from TekServe. (Really? Your parents named you "Ripley"? Okay...) My computer's ready! Yay!... except now I've gotta go into the city tomorrow, and I told them I'd wait a few hours cause that's easier for me. And fine, they deal with computers better than they deal with people — which makes them my kind of people — but my computer's home! Welcome back, MacBook!

God I'm a dork.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Try Not To Be Glib About Some Extremely Stupid New Age Fad Bullshit

Oprah, who Mom loves and I despise, is busy plugging this new hyper-produced self-help tripe called The Secret. Enigmatic, huh? The vagueness hooks you and the shame of mingling among the uninitiated sucks you in. You might be willing to shell out your hard-earned money just to satiate your curiosity. Would it help if I told you D'ohprah (sorry, couldn't resist) swears by it?

I'll spill for free. The Secret is available in book, DVD, or unauthorized YouTube form, and it promises three easy steps to incredible upper-middle class happiness: cars and houses, relationships, perfect health, and wealth. Surprisingly, none of those steps involves selling spurious new age advice to gullible morons. The guiding principle of The Secret is the Great Law of the Universe: "Like attracts like." I thought the Great Law of the Universe was Fg = Gm1m2/r2, but at least now I know why I got a C+ in physics class. Through some ill-defined physical process that might or might not include messenger monkeys, the universe receives your positive thoughts and good vibes, then returns them to you in a more tangible form, generally piles and piles of currency.

Here's the secret:

Step 1: Ask.The canonical example off the DVD is a kid who wants a new bike. He cuts a picture of the bike out of an ad, then later we see him drawing a picture of the bike, sleeping with the picture under his pillow, dreaming of the bike... and one day his grandpa arrives on his doorstep with a brand new bike! Rhonda Byrne, the Australian reality-TV producer turned Secret creator (and who better to be giving life advice than someone who makes reality TV) puts it this way to USA Today: "People should start with little things like deciding a cup of coffee will come to you or that you'll see a feather. There's no difference between attracting a feather and anything else you want. It's as easy to attract one dollar as it is $10,000."

A cup of coffee? Really, aren't there easier ways to get coffee than calling upon the spirits of the universe? More to the point, I don't even know what that means, deciding that you'll see a feather. Let's say I decide that I'll see a feather today, and three days later I see a feather... so what, I was bound to see a feather sooner or later. A better example, Rhonda, would be the test I'm about to perform — I hereby decide that a six-legged smoke-breathing unicorn playing the harmonica will come to me. I have no doubt I'll be hearing hoofbeats and zydeco music shortly.

Step 2: Believe.

Real hard. Never lose faith. Clap your hands and sprinkle pixie dust if you have any. Rhonda doesn't really explain how the universe knows your thoughts aside from some quantum mechanics mumbo-jumbo, to weakly ground The Secret in an area of physics no one — even physicists — fully understand.

Some critics, those who look at The Secret from a social science standpoint, complain that this idea fosters a "blame the victim" attitude among True Believers. D'ohprah, if she's not disingenuous, should be distributing copies of The Secret to all the soldiers recovering in cockroach-infested Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, then telling them that they're paralyzed, limbless, blinding, and receiving mediocre treatment because they just weren't thinking positively enough.

Step 3: Receive.

Arguably the best step of The Secret, when, without leaving your comfy chair, the universe showers you with riches. Or, I suppose, if you asked for an end to the war, the universe has the Sunnis and Shi'ites lay down their weapons and start an orgy of hugging. But it looks like no one's asked for that yet.
The best part, though, is that you, True Believer, didn't have to lift a finger to improve your life. You got yourself a brand new bike without going through the trouble of, you know, a job. You lost thirty pounds without going to the gym, and there's one guy in the video who asks to date three women at once, and the universe brings three floozies right to his doorstep. So basically, The Secret makes your total douchebag fantasies come true (I just assume that he's dating three women at once because he's an asshole, and women love assholes) but it's not powerful enough to end the genocide in Darfur. Which is okay, though, since Darfur is far away, and I have magically appearing coffee.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Great Moments in Massage Chairs

You win, Brookstone. I concede victory to you and your lineage of ugly, overpriced, somewhat comfortable massage chairs. I was at the mall today, exhausted after ten minutes or so of walking around, so I popped into Brookstone for a robot backrub. The latest generation massage chairs have this big, big control panel with a ton of options: shiatsu, Swedish; more intensity, less intensity; kneading, rubbing, tapping; it controls your TV and your iPod and probably your garage door too. The Brookstone chair — the old generation chair, the one I grew up with — is quite possibly the world's most technologically advanced piece of furniture, like it was designed with Dr. Evil in mind. The new chair: I turn it on...

...and it starts talking to me, giving me instructions. Telling me how to sit in the chair ("head back, shoulders up against the rollers"). Thanks, Brookstone chair, but I've been sedentary enough in my short life that I don't need your advice. It's basically "ass on seat, get comfortable," right?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reason #105 To Love Grounded that you can come by in the morning, around 9:45 or so, sit down, order a coffee, and feel up one of the hot but not hot in a conventional way baristas. Grounded is this coffee shop in the city that I shouldn't be telling you about because it's a perfect storm of awesomeness and tinyness, and it's tough enough to get a table in here without you, dear reader, stopping by. (Although if you do stop by — you'll have to get a map and find it yourself — and you see me on the couch in the back, I'll slide over and make some room.)

There's this guy two tables down who's gotta be in his fifties and, okay, first I just saw him talking to the barista when she came in for work. Maybe he's a regular or whatever — he's there on his laptop minding, presumably, his own business and she came up to him. They're chatting. Whatever. Some people are just friendly, and Grounded has a brand of unpretentiousness all its own. The other, hotter but still not hot in a conventional way barista even smiled at me when I forgot to take back my buy-ten, get-one-free card, which those bitches at Casablanca Tea Room would never, ever do. Okay, but now Fifty-year-old Guy is sort of touching her, around the waist, like she's his prom date or something.

Maybe they're friends. Close friends.

My eyes are going back to my laptop but it's not two seconds later and he's all over her in ways that would definitely get him in trouble with the wife later on, massaging her thighs and ass like she's made of dough. You know that jar they've got up by the register that says, "Tips are good for karma?" Looks like they're good for something else, too.

A few minutes later, after she's punched her timecard or whatever, she goes back to this guy's table with her nose in a bag of organic fair-trade coffee, the most erotic of all the olfactory sensations, and they're ready for another go-around. Jeez, some of us are here, trying to think of stuff to write in our blogs, and you two really need to get a room. Still, it's always nice to know the possibility exists; it's a huge improvement over the Starbucks "they can touch you, but you can't touch them" policy.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I subscribe to this podcast, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, like my seventh or eighth-favorite podcast of the three that I listen to. It's produced by the New England Skeptical Society, which is devoted to the ultimately futile task of lifting the masses from their holes of ignorance by spreading the rationalist, empiricist philosophy of James Randi and debunking claims of the supernatural and paranormal. Progress report: stagnant, of course. It's a bit like your tenth-grade chemistry class, with that one student who, after fifty minutes of explanation, was able to comprehend that the energy of a wave-particle equals its frequency times Planck's constant, but then totally forgot E = hν by next class. Four freaking characters, and you could totally replace that Greek letter nu with an 'f' if that helped you remember "frequency," and you could program the whole thing into your calculator because your manic teacher completely teaches towards the test anyway, so it doesn't matter if you really understand the concept. But no, every day for a month, it's like, "How do I find the energy of a water molecule vibrating at 750 kilohertz?" and then for another month, it's like, "They're only telling me an excited sodium molecule emits light with a wavelength of 588 nanometers. How the hell do I find out the energy from that?" And it's the constant questions like those that keep us from taking first place in the New Jersey Science League competition.

Sorry. Right, skepticism. The podcasters from the New England Skeptical Society are getting more than a little frustrated with our culture of truthiness. It's not that I blame them; it's more as if I wish the timing weren't so much like a residual effect of our national stupidity. Things are, slowly, getting better: The Kansas School Board dropped intelligent design from its curriculum. Global warming is a Bush-certified fact. The idea of a nuclear Iran, the apocalyptic sequel to "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction," doesn't have same popular resonance as the first episode. It looks like the national skepticism index is directly proportional to the national "anger over government fuck-ups" index.

The New England Skeptical Society, and the whole skeptical movement really, was on the forefront of these issues. They're basically the people who kept asking Cheney and Condi and Rumsfeld for a little evidence, and the people who had a bunch of uninformed Toby Keith lovers (how's that "putting a boot up Osama's ass" thing going, by the way?) calling them unpatriotic for their troubles. Now the dividing line between the critical thinkers and those who call them narrow-minded because anecdotal evidence isn't evidence is sharp; although being on the side of the skeptics, I'll say that the other guys started it.

The problem is that the podcast is largely devoted to (duly) calling idiots the names they deserve to be called, and the guys on the podcast sort of come off sounding like jerks. You read this blog, so you probably have some idea of what I'm talking about. I want to sort-of apologize for that, on behalf of all of us who care about logic and reason and don't care about what you think... or more of what I want to apologize for is, in our zeal to keep more and more of the sheeple from falling into evangelical clutches, our pandering and condescension, our quick-and-dirty appeals to your base emotions and argumenta ad hominem. I can see the arguments in favor of dumbing down the scientific process so you no longer need a brain to comprehend it, and maybe there's some merit to saving one retard from the clutches of L. Ron Hubbard by calling Tom Cruise the looniest loony in all of Loonyland and insinuating that he keeps Katie locked up in their gigantic basement and impregnates her with alien sperm — but maybe there's also an argument that we'll eradicate more ignorance by explaining the process of critical thought and letting science do what it does best: question the existing beliefs.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I got my hands on the library's copy of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum the other day... and perusing the book for my own enjoyment and satisfaction, I suddenly remember why I haven't read a damn book since I graduated from college. Not really sure how I picked the book up, six-hundred and something pages, when there's plenty of good TV I can finish in an hour or less. Foucault's Pendulum has been called "a thinking person's Da Vinci Code," which sounds less than promising, since I don't think a thinking person would think much of The Da Vinci Code in the first place. At least I get to feel erudite, all mired down in the linguistic cacophony of great literature. Half the words in Foucault's Pendulum don't make any sense, and the other half aren't even words.

So far, I'm about a hundred pages in, and I'd still have no idea what the story is about if it weren't for the book jacket, and even those three paragraphs are tough to slog through. I don't what a Foucault pendulum has to do with any of this, but it looks like the novel is going to be about, sooner or later, three co-workers in a publishing house who have a computer randomly create a massive Pynchon-esque conspiracy theory that happens to be true and blah, blah, blah something about the futility of the quest for ultimate (or Ultimate, as Eco would randomly capitalize) knowledge. Mainly, I think you read the book cause it's on a syllabus, or otherwise to keep up with the other smarties at your Mensa gatherings.

I believe I mentioned my personal psychological theory when I reviewed The Da Vinci Code: the institutions that organize and run the world have grown apathetic towards the individual that alienation has become a sort of self-devouring epidemic, and even as we're powerless, there's comfort in feeling part of a powerless many fighting for access to the esoteric halls of knowledge. Oops: Foucault's Pendulum, set in the intellectualism of Europe in the sixties, and proudly inpenetrable, lives on the wrong side of our imaginary culture war — which is itself some sort of fascist conspiracy, maybe? — and eschews the confused, lonely, and oppressed who gave the government blood and semen samples so they could sit on a plane and read Dan Brown.

I don't mean to further split our cliques in a world where everybody's supposed to come together and sing, or something. But that attitude is, well, stupid, and it's unworthy of the non-existent elites. Despite what the Republican talking heads on FOX News will tell you, the divide isn't between the intellectual, liberal elites and the rest of you saps but between the rich, greedy power-brokering elite and the rest of you saps. We, the smarties, will let anybody in — you have to read Eco, and Pynchon, and Borges, but no one cares if you can't comprehend them. The bullshit is part of the joke, although our egos are too fragile to admit that. On the other hand, try stealing a ten-dollar DVD from the billionaires running Wal-Mart and see how fast minimum-wage security is on you.

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Bathroom of One's Own

I'm so looking forward to the day I get my own place, because between the IKEA catalog and last night, I've got so many awesome decorating ideas for having the most pimped-out bathroom on the East Coast, I can't wait to start going all Top Design carte blanche on my shower. I was at happy hour at this trendy Brazilian sushi weird-fusion place last night and I faked having to pee — turned out to be a big mistake, by the way, when I had to pee for real later. I go out and I don't think I'm the only one with a weird fascination over bathroom aesthetics. Maybe the news hasn't been passed down to gas station attendants and convenience store clerks, but some of us like our clean, private spaces in the middle of the hubbub. Hence the uber-chic switch-foggy glass doors, expensive British soap, and old dude handing out paper towels (that last one seems kind of overboard to me). And I don't even know what sort of paradise the women's room — or, uh, ladies' lounge — is. Probably have free mud baths or shiatsu massages or something in there.

Someone thinks the bathrooms at Rio 22 are something special because there's a whole web page devoted to them. And yeah, they're nice. Like, I would totally not be pissed off if the hostess sat my party in the handicapped stall rather than at a table. So here's what I learned:

First, the bathroom doesn't have to be some bright, pastel color. I don't know why white, or coral, or turquoise because the standard bathroom colors; it's almost like designers were going, "Now, what color would best complement the urine that didn't quite make it into the toilet?" I have to say that the dark walls and floor and the spot-directed halogen lights provide both the illusion that the room is larger than it is, and that you're somewhat sophisticated performing your bodily functions. Also, the buffed rocks in the sink; I guess you need to start off with some neutral base colors to pull this off, but they really turn washing your hands into a total Zen experience. I'm so doing this when I get my own place and totally making my friends jealous with their Western, mundane and materialistic hand-washing. Try to compete with that, organic soap and recycled paper towels!

But the best thing in the bathroom was the automatic toilet seat cover dispenser. You just wave your hand over the device and this plastic sheet snakes across the toilet, and I could play with that thing for hours and not get bored. It's really the best bathroom invention since the bidet. God, all this bathroom needed was the sexy-lady talking urinal and I could live in there.

Friday, March 2, 2007

I Ruin A Really Boring Three-Hour Movie For You

Lisa and I saw Zodiac this evening — because Wild Hogs was sold out :-) — and I don't get the reviews. Mainly it's the favorable comparisons to Seven and Fight Club that I'm at a loss to explain. Not that Zodiac isn't good: it's a wonderfully filmed portrait of its protagonists' growing obsession with solving the Zodiac killer enigma. But as a character study, and unfortunately, by design, it's not a study of the movie's most interesting character, it doesn't really explore any new territory, in the sense that Seven and Fight Club were, for their flaws, completely original visions. The whole theme where our otherwise irredeemable character gets lost in a puzzle for its own sake, then still fails to be redeemed, is nothing I haven't seen before, and the genre's conceit — at least the mystery is solved at the end — feels tenuously attached to Zodiac. Let's just say it's worth the ticket price, but I won't be bothering to watch Zodiac again when it makes its basic cable world premiere.

Zodiac did inspire me to reach into the newly popular "serial killer as twisted moral guardian" genre and come up with this movie pitch. Tell me what you think.

So there's this killer, right? And what he does is he sneaks into movie theaters showing important, critically-regarded films and he takes a seat behind the philistines who can't shut the hell up. I think you see where this is going. He kills the talkers in all sorts of gruesome, needlessly complicated ways, then makes some sort of wisecrack. He doesn't take himself too seriously.

I've got the first page of the script, too.


We open in a somewhat crowded movie theater, playing the classic film "CITIZEN KANE." Near the back, we see RAY, 25, glasses, T-shirt, exquisitely good-looking, watching the movie silently because, even though "CITIZEN KANE" is slightly more boring than watching grass grow, he's polite to everyone else in the theater. Sitting next to him is THERESA, who is also respectful and quiet, and, again, incredibly attractive.

In the row behind them, there's a middle aged MARRIED COUPLE, fat, ugly, drooling slobs stuffing their fat, ugly, drooling faces with popcorn and soda. There's also three slutty, mildly-retarded TEENAGE GIRLS a few seats to the right.

Ohmygod, I can't believe this is in
black and white.

I know! Like, am I gonna have to read
this, too?

Ohmygod, like you've got the cutest
cell phone!

No, like your cell phone is so much cuter!

Lemme take a picture of you two with my
cell phone!

(loudest stage whisper ever)
What did that guy say?


What's a rosebud?

Oh, I bet it's his sled.

Suddenly, a CRAZY KILLER jumps out from the back row. He runs up to the couple and shoots both of them in the head! Then he shoots the three teenage girls.

(turns around)
Hey, do you mind? We're trying to watch the movie.

Sorry. My bad.
And it's just like that, over and over, for the next eighty-nine minutes. Three words: best movie ever.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

I went to lunch at this restaurant Rice, this eclectic pan-Asian place where the dishes feature — go figure — rice. It's actually a pretty good place to eat, especially when it's not crowded, but lunchtime today was really busy and I was sitting about an inch away from two people who were annoying the living hell out of me. First of all, they weren't using their twelve-inch voices — and I'm gonna go off on a tangent here, but I don't understand why cell phone users are singled out in public for librarian-style shushing. We've all been around those cell talkers who've apparently never used a phone before and are unaware that you don't need to scream into the thing because the microphone is a millimeter away from your mouth, and I totally wish they'd make it legal to physically gag those assholes, but I don't see how people talking to each other like their conversation is a great proclamation that needs to be spread to the masses is any less irritating. I think the general rule of thumb should be, "Don't talk any louder than I'm talking," and I'm just taking a moment to enjoy dreaming about what a pleasant, tranquil world that would make.

Anyway, this couple's talking really loud, which annoys me, and then the waitress comes for their order and they're asking her for recommendations, which annoys me even further. Not that they're getting recommendations, but if I were the waitress, I'd totally be like, "I don't even know you, how the hell am I supposed to guess what kind of food you'd like?" Which is why I don't wait tables. Also because if I did wait tables, the first dumb question such as, "Is the chicken marsala good here?" or "Does the fettuccine have any salt in it. Cause the doctor says I can't have anything with salt in it and now it's been such a long time that I'll taste even a single salt molecule and...," and I would just fly into a homicidal rage. I mean, I go out to eat with my parents (rarely these days, cause I know better) and they ask dumb questions and, frankly, it makes me want to strangle them. What do you think they're going to say when you ask if the crabcakes are made fresh? "No, we usually buy our seafood a week old or so, and then sometimes the chef takes a piss in the sauce, too."

These people were getting recommendations on everything, but what really made my ears perk up and hope these people choked on a skewer is when one of them asked the waitress, "What kind of rice would you recommend with the curry chicken?" Granted, the place is called Rice, and they have a larger-than-expected choice of rice, but dude, it's freaking rice. It's not fine wine here! I've been going to Rice for about seven years now, so I'm not just saying this: they all taste exactly the same, which is to say, they all have that distinctive nothing taste of goddamn rice! This might just be a hang-up of mine, because when I go to Rice with one of my friends and they ask me which rice I prefer, I feel like I actually need to justify my answer (the Thai black rice, because I bet you've never seen rice that's black before...), but still, I think we can agree that you've gotten a bit anal when you're micromanaging rice.