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Steve’s gonna hate me for this.

About a year and a half ago, my sister gave me an iPod mini. Lime green. Love the thing. Yeah, it’s outmoded and old-fashioned now, what with its black-and-white screen and all. But, still. (I since got a 30-gig iPod, which is nothing by Steve’s standards, and it has become my primary one, but I still use the old green sucker.)

So, a few weeks ago, after several weeks of not being in operation, the iPod mini displayed a “sad iPod” when I turned it on. Now, I’m not Mac savvy, having not used a Mac since leaving Disney in 2001, but I know enough to recognize that a “sad” anything is very, very bad in the Mac world. (Does anyone actually call it “Macintosh” anymore?!)

Hoping that the little guy was still under warranty, I went online to see if I could send it in for service. Nope. Warranty’s expired. How convenient — a year or so after purchasing it, it collapses and the warranty just happens to have recently expired! The website says that my options are to send in the iPod for evaluation, but since they’ll have to see it to know what’s wrong with it I won’t know how much it will cost to get it fixed until they receive the gadget.

Or, the website says, I can take it to my nearest Apple store.

That’s what I did today.

What a nightmare.

I waited in line for 15 minutes at the cashier, only to be told that I needed to upstairs “and turn to the left.” (There are no signs that direct you to “service” in the store — there are no signs, really! It’s much too hip and cool for that.) Already exasperated (couldn’t they have had, oh, I dunno, a sign?!), I trod upstairs, turn to the left … and a hip and trendy, perky and cool employee says, “What can I do for you?” When I showed her my iPod and said, “I need to get this serviced,” she frowned. Like the sad iPod … call her the “sad employee.” She pointed. “Oh, you need to go to the Genius Bar.” (Emphasis mine.) That’s all. No further explanation. She turned and walked away.

Across the crowded upper level — an Apple seminar was being held — sits the “Genius Bar.” There’s no explanation of what this place is — explanations are, no doubt, far too 20th century for Apple. There’s a computer, though, that says, “Sign in here for the Genius Bar” on its screen. (Or some such wording.) There are two rows of images, with small words underneath like, “Apple Service,” “Creative Advice,” and other stuff.

So, I clicked on “Apple Service.” Then I got a screen that said, “Please enter your name and cell phone number to reserve a service appointment.” Wait a second, I think … an appointment? I enter the required information and click “Submit.” Then a nice little notice appears on screen. “The next available appointment is at 3:50 p.m.” I look at my watch … it’s half-past noon. Three and a half hours just so I can say to someone, “Can I send this in for service?”

I flagged down a way-too-cool employee. “Excuse me,” I say … already sensing I am losing my sanity. “I went onto the Apple website and it told me to come to my store to get my iPod service,” I explain, waving Little Lime in front of him. “Now I’m told I need to wait three and a half hours for an appointment?” He smiles at me, one of those smug smiles that people always smile when they have bureaucratic power over you. “Yes, that’s the way it works.”

At this point, thinking back to the screen that suggested I might hang out at the “Genius Bar” for “Creative Advice,” I’m envisioning Mr. I’m-Hot-You’re-Not Apple Employee hunkering down with a goth chick from Noe Valley, yammering on and on about how her nephew’s bar mitzvah invitation could look so much better with just a few sparkles around the Star of David.

I’m trying to be very calm, but I know I’m not going to succeed. “Well,” I say, “I drove here 20 miles from Oakland, and I just paid $16 to park downtown because the website told me to come here but didn’t say anything about needing an appointment to drop off my iPod for service.” He smiles again:

“You don’t drop it off. We need to look at it.”

“How am I supposed to know this, exactly?”

“I don’t know.”

“Neither do I,” I say, starting to fume, “but it would have been nice if someone had explained to me that I needed to make an appointment; I’ve only ever done that for my car.” I flash the iPod at him again, as if to underscore the point that a $35,000 automobile and a $199 electronic gadget are not equal in importance, even if Steve Jobs insists on having us believe that they are.

He smiles. A long smile. Frankly, a “f**k-you” smile. He tries to add a tiny frown and a little shrug, as if a non-verbal, “Oh, well, it’s your fault, not ours,” will placate me.

At that point, I turned and walked away. “Forget it,” I said.

That got him. Mr. Techno-Cool suddenly got worried. “Wait a moment,” he says. I don’t turn back. “I can get you in in about five minutes.”

I still don’t turn back, but I’m thinking: If he can see me in five minutes, why does this so-called Genius Bar need an appointment system? Is it the 2006 version of the old ’80s “wait in the bar” admonishment at trendy restaurants? Is it just another way to try to be in-your-face with hipness?

The noise level in the store is unbelievably high, primarily with Bittersweet Symphony filling the air from various iPod speakers being tested. “Sorry,” I say. “I’m not playing that game.”

I start to walk down the stairs, waving my hand at him to give him my own non-verbal signal that I’m not up for this smug coolness. The last thing I heard him say was: “Actually, I could see you now, sir.” Then: “Sir? I can take you now!”

To no one in particular as I descended the stairs, I shouted out, “You’ve lost a customer.”

Whether I mean it, I’m not sure. But for now, Little Lime will just be a very expensive paperweight, until I can figure out a way to get it repaired that doesn’t remind me of what a tragically unhip 40-year-old I have become.

Over at Joblo.com, one of its bloggers is actually — wait for it — defending Mr. Lucas. In part:

And the absolute, biggest gripe I have with people about this is when they blame George Lucas for “butchering my childhood”. No! Georgie-boy didn’t butcher, ruin, alter, change, destroy, etc., your childhood because he changed a few movies 20 years later. If all it takes to ruin your childhood is for some old guy you’ve never met to alter a freakin’ movie, then you must have had one f’d up childhood. Your dad on his death bed telling you “I never loved you” would be something that could ruin your childhood. Your mom telling you she was actually a KGB double agent could ruin your childhood. A director changing his own movie has absolutely no effect on one’s childhood.

Quite an interesting fan perspective on Star Wars.

I know that Steve has implied that the blogger over at Epcot Central has essentially the same arguments — namely, making creative changes that irrevocably changed an experience; tinkering with something good only to find it has been lessened.  And while I would never want to imply that Steve’s implications are implicitly wrong, I will say this: In sum, the substantive changes to the Star Wars movies total about, oh, five to seven minutes out of about 380 minutes of movie.  That’s about 1.8 percent of the movies that have changed.

Now, if only 1.8 percent of Epcot had changed substantially over the years, not only would it be hoplessly mired in early 1980s technology and information, but that would mean that about one-third of just one attraction had been significantly altered (if I’m doing my math right).  I think that the Epcot guy could probably live with that.  Too bad so many Star Wars fans continue to get up in arms over the fact that 98.2 percent of their movies have remained exactly the same (except, of course, for the 100 percent that was restored and remastered a couple of years back).

Ooh, I just love playing devil’s advocate.  :-)

Good stuff.

Remember a couple of years ago when I got into that e-mail exchange with the woman who hated gay people?  Well, after reading a news story about another ridiculous anti-gay effort, I decided to write to the head of the Capitol Resource “Institute”. (I use that “Institute” term loosely.

Below is the text of my letter. I’ll let you know if she responds!
****************************************

 

Dear Ms. England,

I read your comments about the “gays in textbooks” issue in California, and while I certainly applaud you for standing up for your ideals and beliefs.

I hope you will agree that other Americans deserve to be able to do the same.

As a gay man, I can assure you of this: I have ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST in “promoting” my “agenda” to anyone, least of all children. Given how much animosity, hostility and humiliation we must endure from some sectors of society who believe we are “faulty,” I would not want anyone to “be gay” — unless, of course, that is how they were born.

I do realize that the idea that people are born gay is a difficult concept for people to understand. Just as I cannot conceive of being left-handed or being tall (something I sadly am not) or being Chinese or being a woman, it’s certainly equally difficult for someone not gay to understand that being gay is part of our genetic makeup.

But being unable to understand or empathize with an individual is very different from being able to respect and value that person.  I cannot imagine for a moment that you would want to instill values like hate, prejudice, hostility and intolerance in any child.  I hope you agree with me that the values we want to instill in children are acceptance, harmony, understanding and respect.  Why would you want to promote an agenda (and, yes, it appears that you definitely have one of those, just as you accuse “us” of having) of fear and ignorance, which can only lead to unhappiness and anger?

Can you imagine what the world be like if Michelangelo, Cole Porter, Oscar Wilde, Dag Hammarskjold, Socrates, Walt Whitman, Alexander the Great, T.E. Lawrence and Tchaikovsky had not been in it?  All of them were gay or bisexual, and just as YOUR most significant personal relationships have impacted your own accomplishments, theirs were informed and influenced by who they were as people.

Such important figures in California as Harvey Milk and Randy Shilts have impacted history far beyond this state and influenced the course of events around the world — and their very existence is the definition of modern history.  To not name them as gay, particularly in light of their accomplishments, would be like not naming you as a woman in a textbook in which your name appears.

I urge you to continue looking into your own heart to realize that California and the United States are founded upon the contributions of people from all walks of life, not just straight white people.

I absolutely PROMISE you that, unless s/he already is, not one child will “turn gay” because s/he has learned about a famous gay person; if it were that easy, I would have become a physician by learning about Dr. Jonas Salk, and I’m afraid I never even made it past basic chemistry.

My best to you,

John Singh

Looks like Wal-Mart has actually done something sensical and has taken a stand against the vile American Family Association. In a story reported today, Wal-Mart says it will sell and continue to sell the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain on DVD.

Bravo.

By its actions and words, the now-less-than-entirely-reprehensible Wal-Mart has said that Brokeback is a movie with an audience, and a movie they want to sell. (Perhaps they realize how many men will be coming in to Wal-Mart to surrpetitiously look at the package and maybe even buy the movie to secretly watch at home before they go back to their redneck lives in which they hide their true nature from their bigoted communities?)

In the Reuters story, a heinously misguided AFA spokesman says, “It wasn’t even a blockbuster movie, so if Wal-Mart isn’t trying to push an agenda, why would they put it at the front door?”

Perhaps the AFA should take a harsher stance against the other non-blockbusters that Wal-Mart routinely sells and promotes. You know the movies I mean—stuff like The Dukes of Hazzard, which grossed only $80 million in the U.S. (less than Brokeback, despite its Confederate flags); Because of Winn-Dixie ($42 million worldwide); Doom ($43 million worldwide); and Ice Princess ($33 million globally).

On the other hand, if the AFA is continuing to decry the mere presence of Brokeback Mountain on Wal-Mart shelves because of some Biblical objection to homosexuality, you have to wonder why they don’t object to the presence of such movies as Saw and Saw II, Sin City, and Red Eye, since the Ten Commandments lists “Thou shalt not kill” as one of the most important commandments from God. To date, I haven’t seen the notes from God requesting a Commadnment rewrite that “Thou shalt not have sex with men if you are a man.”

It continues to amaze me that the AFA uses obscure Scripture to object to homosexuality so vehemently, but rarely (if ever) makes mention of the legion of its own members who daily break one of God’s supreme Commandments (you think not a one of them ever says, “Oh, G-d”?).

AFA members will never read this, but if one of them should happen upon it, ask yourself: Shouldn’t you be upholding God’s laws before worrying about possible allusions to potentially “God-offending” behavior elsewhere in the Bible?

 

I find this hard to believe myself, to be honest.

Inspired by the interesting blog called Re-imagineering, I have started my own blog.

I’ve no idea whether I will keep it up, but it has been interesting, especially since I created it about such a specific topic.  But it’s one about which I’ve been passionate since I was a kid, one that inspired me to seek a career at Disney in the first place (and we all know where that got me!), and maybe one you’ll find interesting.  If not, keep your comments to yourself.  I already know I’m a dork.

This gives new definition to the term “jaw-dropping.”  I defy anyone to read this and not be astounded.

This is a reminder, an advance notice, a hint, a suggestion, a post that may end up making your life feel richer and more fulfilling.

The Amazing Race begins again on Feb. 28.

To say it is worth watching would be an immense understatement.

Just ran cross this interesting post today on Mouseplanet.com. Seems that while the suits have been fixating on Pixar, their true lack of understanding and appreciation of the characters that built their company has been increasingly apparent at Disneyland.

I haven’t been to Disneyland in years. Strange to say that. (I just marked my third anniversary of moving to Northern California, and am still in denial.) But it seems that Disneyland truly is a house of cards. Just as one area gets fixed, another falls apart, all due to years of neglect.

But the state of Toontown appears to be truly tragic.

Here is one of the most surprising, fascinating reviews of Brokeback Mountain I have yet seen:

http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/reviews/2645

Decentfilms.com says it is “a site of film appreciation, information, and criticism informed by Christian faith.” You’d think the movie would bash Brokeback Mountain. And, indeed, at first glance the reviewer gives the movie an “F” for “overall recommendability.”

Yet …

Read the review.

Go ahead. Read it now. Seriously. Then come back to this.

I mean it:

http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/reviews/2645

OK.

Now that you’re back, is it not possible that this shows, in some ways, that at least some conservatives might be coming around to the idea that love is good, even if you don’t understand it? Keep in mind, most of his objections revolve not around the idea of a gay romance, but of marital infidelity.

In some ways, this review has left me reeling.

It’s one of those afternoons in which the sky has been threatening to open up all day but has yet to actually do so. I spent the day driving to the new house (which is 30 miles from the current one) to meet a contractor to talk about building a fence. What I hoped would be a project of $1,000 or so to build a fence in the yard to give the dogs an area to romp has turned into a $4,000 “event” — at a house we will rent. As my boss says, though, if we are doing this for the dogs, we just have to remember that we wouldn’t bat an eye if one of them got hurt and we had to pay the vet $4,000.

Still, I’m learning that renting a house is far different than renting an apartment! I’m not sure we’re quite ready to live in a place that’s 2,800 square feet!

To Steve’s previous mention of Brokeback Mountain, let me clarify: I did not dislike it. But I did find myself curously unmoved, admiring the scenery, the performances and the machinations of the plot more than finding myself engage by them. I wondered to myself whether Ang Lee, if he ever were to hear of my reaction, would not be unsurprised. He seemed, to me at least, to bring a sense of detachment to the story, almost as if he were as detached from the emotional side of the love affair as Ennis and Jack had to make themselves in order to survive. Just as he did in The Wedding Banquet and Hulk (two of the only movies of his I’ve seen — and I was one of the few who thought Crouching Tiger was terribly overrated), Lee seemed to bring an almost clinical perspective to the story of Brokeback even while keeping it absolutely, stunningly beautiful; it was if the characters most certainly felt their emotions, but that Lee was only observing them, rather than commenting on them.

My reaction is no way intended as criticism. I will not be disappointed if Brokeback wins, on a completely “industry” level; I wll be very happy if it does from the perspective of a gay man (one who, sadly, did indeed involve himself in an affair with a straight man a number of years ago — two, actually; both of them are now married, to the best of my knowledge). Nonetheless, I believe Good Night, and Good Luck. is the movie most deserving of the Best Picture Oscar this year. It’s made with a truly artistic flair, tells a “socially important” story with incredible skill, and delivers an amazing “punch” right at the end that suddenly makes the story’s relevance to today’s society all too clear. It has great performances and, most of all, is entertaining and not filled with faux intellectualism. (That is not, by any means, a glancing reference to Brokeback, but to another movie that happens to star George Clooney that I found intolerable.)

Although Steve wasn’t he, a friend of mine asked me the other day what my five choices for best movie of the year are. No, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith is not among them. But, for arguments’ sake, here they are:

1) Good Night, and Good Luck.
2) In Her Shoes*
3) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
4) Brokeback Mountain (which should settle any claims that I dislike it)
5) The Weather Man*

* I missed these two in theaters, having been misinterpreted a lack of financial success to mean a lack of quality. I caught up with both of them on DVD, thanks to a friend in the Academy. Both are stunning. In Her Shoes deserves serious consideration as Best Picture. The Weather Man won’t be for everyone, but those who can identify with a feeling of being incomplete despite outward signs to the contrary — as well as those who like strangely depressing comedies — may like it as much as I did.

It’s too late. Jeff is in L.A. I’m at home with the dogs. They need baths.

I need to be up in the morning far too early because a rock hit my windshield and caused a crack, and because my insurance deductible is $500 I have to pay it out of pocket.

It’s been a while since I wrote on here. So I’ll launch the new year (plus 11 days) with some random stuff:

* Why did I not think Brokeback Mountain was “all that,” though I admit it was pretty good.

* I found out over the holidays that a friend of mine is HIV-positive. It’s amazing how people can give up on life thanks to a basically invisible virus.

* The dogs smell and need baths.

* We’re moving. We sold the house, I made a pretty substantial profit, and we’re going to become renters for a while.

* I don’t like moving.

* Oddity: I dislike avocados intensely but discovered something I had forgotten about myself: I like guacamole.

* The Chronicles of Narnia was much better than it had any right to be.

* King Kong proves that money does not equal quality.

* I have dry skin and it itches.

* The dogs smell and need baths.

* Buying on the Internet is way too much fun.

* I’ve learned in the past week that managing other people is a very different task than managing your own damned self.

* Steve may be the only other person I know who likes Monopoly; I always imagined I was alone.

* The more money you have, the faster it goes.

* The dogs smell and need baths.

Good night.

In the vein of things getting too serious, I offer you …

Lucy.

A small dog.

It seems my job has been the source of 90% of my anxieties for the past year. (The other 10% are caused by imagined physical ailments, sexual tension and concern that we have not seen Vicky from The Love Boat in far too many years.)

Three weeks ago to this very day, I received a completely unexpected phone call from a professional acquaintance who offered me a job. He did not say, “I am interested in getting you down here,” or even, “Would you be interested in talking with us?” He said, “I want you to work for me, and I want to pay you (this much). Yes or no?” Of course, the answer was not that easy, and a great deal of time in the past three weeks has been spent hearing the offer, negotiating terms for possible acceptance, and contemplating the prospects. It was a very good deal. Today, I turned it down.

My current employer has also offered me more money — replete with more responsibility — to stay here. Meanwhile, there is a third prospect that remains active, but which shall not yet be discussed here.

I have never in my life been in a position where I was being sought for a job rather than seeking one, or in the position to request considerations from my current employer. It’s unusual. It’s not as pleasant an experience as I would have imagined. When you are in one job and actively apply for another, you hope you will be chosen, but since your employer does not know what is happening, if things don’t pan out you can remain gladly in your present capacity. In my situation, everything (well, almost everything) has been done in transparency with my employer. They know there are other offers. They know I have choices. The other would-be employers know I’m in a good situation here. Essentially, I’ve found people fighting over me, and I always imagined that must be a wonderfully flattering thing to have happen.

It’s the biggest stress-inducer I’ve ever experienced.

Aside from tripping in Spanish class in 10th grade and having to endure taunts for the rest of my days in that class. Which is why I ditched it so frequently.

… I am still here.

John the Apprentice

So, here’s one of the many reasons I haven’t had much time to post things lately.

I am in London.

No rant, no exposition. Just a fact.

Welcome back, Steve! Sorry to hear your return was less than relaxing. My vacation ended up with stress, as well — although, in my case, it was because both Jeff and I came back sick. We got back on Wednesday evening, and when we woke up Thursday morning, we both said, “Does it feel like we never even went on vacation?!”

So, here’s my own little tale of woe for you and the massive Wren audience:

As you probably know, one of the sole positive accomplishments made by Arnold Schwarzenegger as California governor has been to pass a bill allowing owners of hybrid vehicles to use carpool lanes.

Three weeks ago or so, the DMV finally made the application available. I downloaded it, sent in all the requested information and my $8 and went on vacation. When I got back, I had a notice from the DMV saying that my request was “suspended” and would be released pending receipt of “needed information.”

What, I wondered, could be needed? I followed all instructions explicitly. One of the required documents was a receipt from FastTrak(r), a cleverly spelled ruse that requires you to pay up front to use the numerous bridges in the Bay Area. I had sent in my receipt, but now the DMV was telling me that the receipt did not show the license plate number and make/model of my car. I re-read the DMV’s website carefully, and, of course, nowhere does it say this information is required.

So, I called FastTrak(r), to ask them to send me the requested receipt. No, I was told, they cannot do that. Rather, they need a copy of my DMV registration to prove I have a hybrid vehicle. I will need to send them THAT information before they can send me ANOTHER form to fill out in order to claim the hybrid-HOV decal that they have kindly “set aside” for me. (They also cashed my check for eight bucks.)

I lost the paper on which I wrote down the FastTrak(r) address, so today I called FastTrak(r) again to get it. And guess what? The woman who answered today told me something entirely different! No, that’s not what I need to send in, she said. Rather, I have to download a different form from the FastTrak(r) website requesting a “new hybrid transpoder” for my car, which will cost another 40 bucks. After receiving this, I can then re-apply for the DMV’s HOV sticker, which has already been “set aside” for my convenience!

I am not sure what to think of all this. All I know is, I begin my commute to the Presidio next Monday, and even though I have been trying to get this sticker for more than a month, it now appears I will not have it in time, and will have to sludge through traffic with everyone else.

Sigh. Welcome to Big Government. I can only imagine what people in New Orleans and Biloxi must be going through.

Where’s Stevie?

Now this does indeed make for good reading … darn good reading!