WEDNESDAY MARCH 29 2006
Lovely day; fifty plus. A cardinal in the backyard bird bath today. Most of the snow is gone, except for the hardened drifts which last forever, and have to be hacked to death with spades.
At the coffee shop. Nearby are two late middle-aged people who are using the free internet terminals to shop for faucets, look up old high school friends, and compare cruise-ship prices. They cannot shut up. Fine; it’s a public place. But both must be half deaf, or perhaps totally deaf in the ears closest to the person next to them, because they are LOUD, and every word out of their mouth is banal. The female member of this low-tech shoutcast has a broad ya-sure you-betcha Fargo accent, too. She just said she’s a political junkie and only watched Fox news, ya totally. He took that news with an almost palpable emination of grumpiness. Really: it’s like there’s a big humid piece of Grump on the floor right now.
The fact that everyone else in the coffee shop is quietly reading or quietly typing or quietly talking absolutely escapes them. The more we all hear their conversation – and believe me, no one’s doing much in this room except listening to them – the more it’s apparent that they don’t know each other that well, but have met before. First date, maybe.
“Whatcha lookin’ at now?” said Frances.
“I’m just looking for something for a friend who’s into Santeria,” said the guy. As casually as possible.
“It’s pretty powerful. It’s done some amazing things for this guy.”
“How do you know that?”
“If it’s not of God, it’s the devil.”
Silent surfing for the last five minutes. Date over, I think.
“Okay well gosh, see ya!” She just packed up and left. Errands to run.
Well, let ye who never hung around an Internet café looking up syncretic religions on the web to increase your chances of hitting the Gopher Pick 3 lottery, cast the first stone.
I’ve been listening to the second series of Gervais / Merchant / Dilkington podcasts, and it’s true: money changes everything. When you goof around for free, and people love it and email from all over the world. Fun for everyone. When you charge money, it becomes work. You feel an obligation. While the show is still funny (I almost wrote “amusing,” which is the last thing comedy writers ever want to hear; it’s such faint praise, the comic equivalent of “great personality and a lovely dancer”) there’s an odd sense of irritability and dissatisfaction, particularly from Gervais. I’ve been listening to some shows from 2003, when the three were doing morning radio in England – not as good as the podcasts, but better than 99% of most morning FM radio I’ve ever heard. Charging for the second series, however, may have been a mistake.
On the other hand, I understand the desire to extract gelt whenever possible – this is one of those days where I wish I was being paid lots of money to do this silly thing, since it’s given me no end of annoyance tonight. I did the weekly video – and I’m still at the point where that seems like New Fun, not Another Fargin’ Thing – and uploaded the new site where I’ll put all these things. Today’s unforeseen difficulty: no sound! No reason I can see – something in Dreamweaver code, no doubt. Just discovered the glitch, so let me go back up to the main office and pretend to know what I’m doing. In the meantime, enjoy these useless movie reviews, written earlier today when I found myself not doing something for ten minutes. God forbid.
Watched “Capote,” which was exactly as good as expected. Which is nice. Sometimes you find a film has been overhyped, and you find yourself irritated with it for not being something else; sometimes you discover its attributes were underplayed, and congratulate yourself on finding something others had overlooked. Then sometimes a very well reviewed film with an Oscar-winning best actor performance turns out to be exactly that. Hoffman is good – but since I just saw the real Capote on a Dick Cavett show, I can see the difference between his impersonation and the real thing. Capote had a way of being the Public Capote without speaking, and Hoffman didn’t quite get that; in the quiet moments, he let the glasses and the angle of his chin do the acting. But that’s a small small quibble.
Larger quibble: the depiction of William Shawn, who’s inevitably described as the “legendary” editor of the New Yorker. Did he really take a trip to Kansas? As I understand it, he was one of those classic agorophobic claustrophobes who had trouble getting on elevators. And how many people watching the movie knew that actual Shawn was the father of the voice of Rex the Dinosaur in the Toy Story movies? For starters.
Also watched – and don’t laugh – “White Noise,” a Michael-Keaton thriller about ghosts who appear in the static on Tvs and radios. Apparently the afterlife is a TV studio in Fort Wayne, NJ, that broadcasts only on the UHF band. I only watched it because I like Keaton, whose scarcity over the years seems somewhat selfish and inexplicable. Why? He’s the thinking man’s Tom Hanks, and you’d think he’d have his choice or roles. “White Noise” was mostly ridiculous, especially towards the end, with its lame non-twist and useless conclusion. We can’t think of way to end the film, so let’s shock them with a sound effect and an abrupt edit that set up a sequel. I can’t recommend it to anyone. I did, however, watch it alone downstairs with the lights off, and when I checked the doors and headed upstairs, where it was also dark, I felt severely creeped out.
Okay, I’m back. It works in GoLive, but not Dreamweaver-generated site. Shoot me. (Gearheads: here’s the fancy new video site; what am I doing wrong? Besides the overlarge main page graphic, which I’ll scale down.) All this for two fargin’ minutes of needless urban archeology. Ah well – at this point I’m still testing it all to see how quickly and efficiently I can do this, if I want to. And I do. But you’ll have to excuse my lapse into severe Documentary Voice at the end, because I have a 30-minute time limit on doing this. If I can get the voice-over right the first time, looking at the pictures and yapping, then that’s that.
I feel a kindly hand on my shoulder: my spirit guide, telling me that I really should take that vacation. Interesting: judging from the sensation of warmth around the bottom of my earlobe, my spirit guide has a cigarette in his hand. Must be the ghost of Disney. Back off, Walt.
On the other hand, I did the Diner, since I’ll be busy the next few nights, and wrote the copy for the conclusion of the Fredericks of Hollywood site, which has to go up because I mentioned it in Thursday’s column. It’s been a busy night. Time to do some email, then write the next column, then settle into the sofa for 27 minutes of television.
A word about the email – I do read it all. I just don’t get to answering all of it, and that pains me; I should do better, but I just can’t keep on top of it all. I am amused, however, by some of the flame mail, and the assumptions they make. I have one fellow who writes from various accounts, and seems keen on illuminating my manifest deficiencies. A recent account of the man standing on the corner yelling his head off, or rather rapping, brought this:
What's funnier than what you wrote about the rapper "fellow" below?
The image of a middle-aged white guy, hairline receding, sneaking glances of the rapper-fellow from the safety of Starbucks, while also trying to catch the eye of any Starbucks clerk – (Well? Are you going to do something!?? His expression implores.) – nervously pushing up his glasses between frantic bursts of keyboarding, cowering inside at the thought of such alien people loose in the world and so near to him now.
Uh huh. Yep, that’s me, all right. I’m not amused by a guy standing on the street with a little boy and a baby buggy striding around shouting out rhythmic boasts of indeterminate purpose, I’m cowering – in the safety of Starbucks! – and wishing the clerks would shoo him away with a broom. Gwan, git! Because in my comfy vacuum-packed world these people are alien. Why, it’s like my TV got stuck on BET and those horrid things with the gold teeth crawled into my living room! Icky Icky!
Yeah. That’s it, all right. He’s right about the receding hairline, too. That’s the giveaway. I suppose if I’d had more hair I wouldn’t have found the sight amusing. And I wish that was the case. There is nothing funny about a guy with a baby carriage walking around outside a video store hollering like he’s on the Murder4Life tour. Hell, if you notice him, you’re a racist.
By this logic, I am also afraid of dumpy white dorks who use Ask Jeeves to find out the best Santeria rituals to impress Sean Hannity fans. Why, I’m pushing up my glasses at the very thought of them.
And now to work; see you tomorrow. Oh! Right: here's the weekly video. It's an ancient house downtown I pass daily. No real reason for you to see it, unless you're bored; like I said, I'm just practicing. It'll get better. Unless it doesn't, in which case there's always something else.