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Sorry I have not posted in a while (except on Twitter). This post will be sad for many of you, because I’m revealing some of my Los Angeles driving habits. These are sad habits. Trust me, I could fill a book with my observations on driving in L.A., and I’ve been meaning to do some nice, long, hopefully funny posts about it here on The Wren Forum. I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Consider the below to be but a glimpse into my world of L.A. driving.

The moment I first hit the L.A. freeways in my little green Civic, September, 1994, I’d just driven from Colorado, and could not believe the chaos and congestion in my new city. I got my Disney job not long after, and I have been doing the 34-mile round-trip commute for over 13 years. That’s plenty of time to learn I had to become a different kind of driver if I were to survive.

On the 101 East this morning, as I was coming into work, I saw a big, red Cadillac with the license plate DR AGAPE (license plate holder: “Motion Picture and Television Fund: We Protect Our Own”) ease from the right lane into my lane, cutting off the car in front of me. They practically scraped bumpers. Now, the car I was behind was one of those annoying “maintain 40 car lengths” kind of drivers, and I do my best to not to stay behind these types. Keeping a gap is safe, sure, but there’s a difference between safe and paranoid, in my book. I understand another driver’s need to get in front of such a driver, trust me. But not like this. DR AGAPE did not need to cut so close to this guy, he just did because, well, obviously, he’s the only driver on the road.

So nearing the 134, I had to do my usual lane change to make it to the far left lane. And wouldn’t you know it, there was DR AGAPE, just behind me in the lane I needed. He was an older man, of course, and it turns out he’s one of those inconsistent drivers, leaving tons of space in front of his car, then closing the gap, then dropping back again. So I took the opportunity to change lanes in front of him during one of his gappy moments.

Here’s a truism that all L.A. drivers know, or at least should know: If you signal for a lane change as early as you’re supposed to, you will not be let in. I learned long ago to watch for a space, then signal just as I start the lane change. I know not to try to cram myself into a space where there is no space, so I try to change lanes into a gap where there’s enough room for my car. It does not matter when you signal, early or late; often the person behind will see your blinker and rush to close the gap, so best to already be half-way done with your maneuver.

Since I was trying to make a point to myself, I made sure I had just enough space to get in front of DR AGAPE, but not tons. I was nowhere near as close to him as he’d been to the guy he cut off, but that was my test, and DR AGAPE took the bait. As soon as I started to make my lane change and turned on my signal, he sped up, and then honked his big, blasting Cadillac horn at me. He was justified because, of course, DR AGAPE is the only driver on the road.

I raised my hand up when I’d finished changing lanes, and gave him a nice, long, languid hand wave, a thank you for his participation in my social experiment.

I have to be honest here; I am someone who will not always let another driver get in the lane in front of me. Horrible, I know. I have very complicated rules for when not to let someone change lanes in front of me. Are they heading for an exit or a freeway split, or just changing lanes for fun? Are they already going way, way too slow? Are they a “maintain 40 car lengths” kind of driver? Are they polite driver or an asshole driver? What kind of car are they driving? There’s lots to factor in. I learned that if I let that old mini-van, that Jaguar, that Prius, or that tiny truck with a lawn mower in the bed and three guys in the cab get in front of me, I’ll be behind their slow ass for miles, and as other cars fill the lane in front of them, they will maintain that huge gap, letting even more cars in front, and so on. It’s less about the minimal time I’m wasting behind such a driver, and more about how incredibly stupid such driving is in a region with over 10 million people. If everyone drove with huge gaps in front of them, no one would get anywhere. It’s incredibly sad, but true, and I hate it.

There was the chance that DR AGAPE had cut that guy off because he has similar rules of the road, and wanted to make sure he was not caught behind the slow guy. I guessed that was not the case, based on his car, his age, and the really self-absorbed way he changed lanes, slowly, ignoring the guy he was cutting off. He had no reason to cut so close to the other driver. But maybe. Maybe he doesn’t like getting caught behind slow drivers.

Once DR AGAPE and I were both on the 134, where traffic was flowing, I expected him to change lanes and speed by me. But he did no such thing. Instead, now that we were out of bumper-to-bumper traffic, he drove slowly, holding up his lane, and I was a quarter mile ahead of him by the time I hit my exit. And thus was my experiment a success. I had proven that DR AGAPE is a shitty driver, a clueless driver, and, without a doubt, the only driver on the road.

Ever wonder how so much time gets wasted while you’re supposed to be getting work done? Chuck (the NYC Chuck, not the O’Donnell Chuck) said this today:

Well, you’d be surprised at how much time is consumed by attempting to get anything done. (1) You have to find within yourself the willpower to do it; (2) you have to convince your body to do what you have willed in your head to do; (3) once you’ve considered and accepted the inevitable (that you will actually have to do something), you reconsider in hopes that someone else will come and do it for you; (4) a gnat falls in your morning coffee/tea/O.J. and then you gotta go fish it out; (5) well, with all that excitement you gotta tell someone, so you call that girl from high school you haven’t seen in ages to tell them about the gnat in your A.M. beverage…

Really, with all that goes on, I’m surprised any of us get anything accomplished.

This is excellent analysis.

Is it any wonder that countries fight, peoples genocize each other, and couples can’t choose a place to have dinner? Communication is difficult, and sometimes it’s simply impossible.

Take the following exchange between myself and another guy on DList, a sort of gay MySpace.

To set this up, I have to explain that my profile asks people to send me a message and make some contact with me before asking me to be their “friend.” I hate sites where people just add “friends” willy-nilly. I mean, I get why they do that—the more friends, the more likely you are to be seen—but I can’t be bothered to have a huge list of people that I’ve never even talked to. That’s not why I’m on sites like this. My request is acceptable, and it is certainly not out of the ordinary.

So a fried request pops up on my account, after which a message comes to me, both from a guy calling himself BulkingUp. The message has the subject, “why do you have.” The message then goes:

to be one of those who needs a line to add a friend? I always feel awkward when I’m forced to write a message with the request, I mean what are you supposed to say? besides the obvious, that is…

First two warning signs: the subject line was used as the beginning of the message, and the guy calls himself BulkingUp. While the latter is about par for the course on a gay site, the former is inexcusable no matter what one’s sexual alignment. A third warning sign: poor capitalization. Not a deal-breaker, to be sure, but still grating. At least he was using punctuation.

Had the message been fun and cool, I could easily have ignored the warning signs. But the message was, I thought, obnoxious. He’s bitching about my requirement, but is not annoyed enough by it to decide against sending me a friend request. He was even unable to find anything to say aside from the bitching.

I should have ignored the message, but I was annoyed, so I wrote back a simple, “Sorry you don’t like it. Alas!”

To which he replied, “I was trying to be funny, I guess.” (He had no period at the end, however.)

Oops. Okay, so I misread it. It was easy to do, what with the complete lack of humor involved. So I sent back, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t pick up on that! Oops.”

“I was too subtle, I guess.” Hmm. Okay, yes, the humor was a bit subtle… to the point of near nonexistence. However, he seems to not be understanding that I get that, and that I missed his intent. So I shoot back, “Which is funny, because I’m the one who can often be too subtle! Ha! So I’ve tasted my own medicine! :) ” Every time I use an emoticon, I am ashamed, but sometimes it’s the only way to prove that there is no harm done, no harm meant, and no harm received.

Perhaps his browser turned my :) into a >:P, because his response was:

Dude, all I was trying to do was to add some sort of funny message to my friend request. You didn’t get it. Or it provoked the opposite reaction to the one I expexted. There is no reason to continue this exchange.
Peace.

On a grander scale, this is when the troops would be sent across the border to shoot up some town holding no strategic advantage. Oh, except he said, “Peace.” So maybe the border troop build-up would have been stood down. (Can you say “stood down”?)

I should not have sent anything more, but I did. “And I was genuinely trying to apologize. Sorry it got so botched. TTFN.” And the communication was done. For all I know, he thought “TTFN” stood for “Ta-ta, fuckin’ numbskull.”

There is nothing important at stake here, nothing to worry about, nor anything to lose sleep over. Yet I was, and still am, a bit taken aback by this. How could two random strangers so quickly and completely miscommunicate? Personally, am I really that bad at getting across my own intent? I don’t think I am, yet here is someone who does. I certainly think he’s no good at it. Is it really that easy for written communication to be so misinterpreted? What if he and I had met randomly in person, at a bar (SOOOOO likely!) or a sushi restaurant (SOOOOO likely!)? Would the visual connection have been able to diffuse such a miscommunication, or would something in each other’s demeanors have set us at each other anyway?

Is it personality, language, attitude, or perception that get in the way of being able to talk? Or all of those?

Whatever the cause, the genuine surprise that comes from an unexpected breakdown in dialogue is not really welcome. It gives me a case of the brow-furrows.

A great talk by Barry Schwartz.

The secret to happiness is low expectations. His example of jeans buying is perfect. When I have to get new jeans, I dread it. I spend a lot of time in various stores looking for what I know I want. If I finally find something I truly like, I may buy a couple pair. But by the time those jeans wear out, the styles have all changed. Then the process starts all over again.

I am in this stage right now. I need some new jeans, but Abercrombie no longer makes the ones I liked. I’ve spent a lot of time in their store trying on new kinds, and don’t like any of them enough. Now I have to try multiple new stores and… and it’s too daunting.

I both love choice and hate it all at the same time.

Yeah, I love the fact that I know I can get the kind of jeans I want since there is a wide variety of choices, but knowing that I can’t fail to get something I love wearing means I put off buying new jeans because I’ll have to waste hours in various shops trying on all kinds of different styles.

I should go back to my junior high days, when I hated jeans and would only wear cords. Cords are back, you know. I’m sure they are only available in one style, too, so I’m safe. I’m sure of it.

Adobe is not exactly good at providing an easy-to-use experience when you have to deal with their multiple licensing site. It sucks. I tried typing the password I was sent, but when you fail 3 times, the account becomes “invalidated” and you have to contact Adobe. After my third failure to log in, I noticed there was a colon (:) at the beginning of the password. Since that was right after another colon as part of the e-mail, I didn’t see it.

After some fumbling with the Contact Us maze Adobe gave me (it wandered through several Web pages and two PDF documents), I managed to get a chat session going with Adobe support. It began poorly.

Ethen: How may I assist you today?

Steve: Hey. I invalidated my password. I did not notice the : at the beginning. Can I get a new login?

Ethen: I understand that you are experiencing an issue while signing into the Adobe Licensing website. Am I right?

Steve: Are you a machine or a person?

Steve: Please see what I already typed.

[A very long pause. I imagine there was no automated response for such effrontery.]

Ethen: I am a real person.

Steve: Good.

Steve: Yes, I need a new login for that site. Is it something you can re-email to me?

Ethen: You need to reset password for your login.

Ethen: Would you like me to reset your password?

Steve: Yes please.

Ethen: May I have your login ID?

[A short pause.]

Ethen: We have not received a response from you in a while. Do you still need assistance?

Steve: Yup.

Steve: The ID is XXXXXXXXXXX

Ethen: Thank you.

Ethen: Please give me a moment while a look up for your account details.

When it took more than a moment for him to look up my info, I started typing, “We have not received a response from you in a while. Are you still providing assistance?” But then Ethen returned with a new password for me.

I’m still having navigation and download issues at the site, but things ended up perfectly cordial with Ethen. We’re the best of friends now.

NOTE: I wrote this on Thursday but did not get a chance to proof it and post it until now. I left all the timings the same.

Fuz, my new boyfriend, found out yesterday that a friend of his died. Ariel and his dad, producer/director Bob Clark, were killed by a drunk driver on the PCH.

Fuz told me this last night, late. This was following a major ordeal trying to get a huge-ass armoire Fuz had bought on Criag’s List up the narrow stairwells of his apartment building, which in turn followed a night of rehearsal on episode 5 of Life from the Inside. It was, overall, a tiring night.

We were eating Apple Jacks and Froot Loops we’d bought that afternoon at Costco. With vanilla Silk. It tasted okay. Fuz said, “I have something to tell you,” which means nothing really good.

It was difficult to know what to do. I was so tired, and this was quite some shocking news. I mostly just remained quiet, expressing my sorrow for him and commenting on what a horrible way that was to have to go. Fuz and Ariel had been trying to get together for a while to have dinner, but could never make the time, and were finally going to make sure they got together sometime next week. But now it won’t happen.

When I first started working at Disney, I was the receptionist in the foyer of a former warehouse which contained the Home Video I.S. department. I just sat there all day, answering some phones from time to time, greeting the rare visitor, and e-mailing my friends whose cubicles were just inside the door. I still have these friends today: Michelle, Carol, Marcy (who would come on the scene later), and Steve.

Back in those days, it was not unusual for a few of us to tool up the coast several times a summer to spend the day at El Matador beach. Steve and I took just such a trip one weekend day.

The traffic on the PCH was horrible, the kind of non-moving mass I was coming to learn was common in L.A. At one point, I turned to Steve and said, “I hope this is something like an accident. If I’m waiting in this kind of traffic, it better be for a good reason.”

Of course, it was a “good” reason. An accident. A horrible one. A completely maimed Mercedes convertible, mostly just a twisted wreck, and some other American car. A big thing. This was in the time before SUV overpopulation, so it was probably a Taurus or something. I can’t recall. Whatever it was, it and the Mercedes had hit each other head-on at high speed.

I felt horrible that I had said what I’d said. An accident like that rarely leaves anyone alive.

The traffic was still snarled many hours later, as we were driving back down the coast. I said nothing except maybe to comment on how incredible it was that one accident could cause so much traffic. Life and smooth traffic are both tenuous in L.A.

Back in the warehouse foyer on Monday, doing something no-doubt time-wasting but ultimately more creative than anything I do these days, one of the I.S. guys came in, someone I chatted with often. That morning, he was morose. I asked him if he was okay. He told me a friend of his had gotten killed in a car accident over the weekend, and he was very upset about it.

Deep down, I knew exactly where this was going. Just as you do now. When I got up my nerve, I asked, as carefully as possible, where the accident had happened. Of course, it was the one Steve and I had seen on the PCH. The I.S. guy told me his friend had been riding in a Mercedes convertible. She had been riding with a guy no one knew.

The I.S. fellow’s emotions were particularly bruised because he hadn’t seen his friend for a while, and they were supposed to have dinner in a couple days. But now it wasn’t going to happen.

The coincidence was quite horrifying. Oh, it was exciting, too, deep down, but in a sickening way.

Steve and I related our story to our friends later that day. I told them that so-and-so actually knew one of the people in the accident. But Carol had one more twist to add to the story.

At the time, Carol had a fiancé named Mike, who had a buddy who worked at a car dealership. Mike’s friend had told Mike that one of the guys at the dealership had been killed in a horrible car accident on the PCH over the weekend. He was in one of the dealership’s Mercedes, and was riding with a woman that none of them knew.

I didn’t tell any of this to Fuz last night, even though it all went through my head while I was shoveling Apple Jacks into my not-really-hungry but bored maw. I also didn’t bring up Amelia’s death last year. I wanted to, just to kind of show that I understood what he was feeling. But a three-way coincidence and a child’s death weren’t really going to be helpful now. I know I can’t really do or say anything useful. I just need to be there for him if he needs me.

As for the now-vanished day trips up the coast, those newbie Angelino salad days long ago made way for a too-busy, same-old-grind lifestyle that keeps us from being more carefree. Maybe that’s what happens as you age and settle. You have to make up for it with more extravagant plans, like the upcoming weekend trip Marcy and Carol and Sven and I are taking to Austin to meet up with Michelle, who now lives in Connecticut. Flying to Texas for three days is our new El Matador beach day. Yet these sorts of get-togethers are still too rare, and I’m not exactly enthused about being aware that one day, every one of us will feel some pain over a loss made more bitter due to procrastination of friendship.

My friend Jin Ah was telling me that her already fashionable daughter was worried sick that Santa would bring her the wrong color shoes with all the wrong charms attached to it.

“Don’t worry, he will know,” said the tired mom.

“But HOW? HOW will he know?” the daughter insisted.

“Fine, do you want me to call him to make sure.”

“You mean YOU have his number!?!?”

It’s so cute how kids believe without a shadow of a doubt in such things. How I envy their innocence. I never believed in Santa Claus. I’ve always known it was just a hoax to get kids to behave. Tho once I did put my tooth in a sealed envelope under my pillow – just as a test, of course.  You can’t imagine just how unbelievably dumbfounded I was the next day when I unsealed the envelope to find a shiny dollar coin instead.

A tooth fairy?? For realz??

My whole world shook apart as my mind raced with crazy and daringÂthoughts that maybe there was indeed some magic left in this world. But within that same minute, I also consider that perhaps my mom replaced the tooth in the middle of night with the coin in a newly sealed envelope - tho that was so not like her to go through all that, I thought.

So the next time I lost my tooth, I tested my theory by tucking away my tooth under my pillow - but this time, I did not tell my mother… or father… or sister.

Of course, it was that next morning that finally killed off any remaining traces in me of whatever it is in kids that encourages them to ask, “But HOW? HOW WILL HE KNOW?”

Today is chock full o’ annoying news to delight the infuriation centers of the brain.

First off, Clear Channel is asking that the relaxed rules on station ownership be relaxed even more. Why? Because how can a fat man get even fatter if his pants only have a 96″ waist?

Next comes news from George B. himself, a consistent source for annoying news. He admitted that we did (“did”?) indeed have secret prisons overseas for holding terrorism suspects. Gee, quel suprise. He also pretty much insults the Supreme Court, says that anti-torture laws are vague and keep our guys from “doing their jobs in a thorough and professional way,” and asked Congress to pass legislation that will make it okay to try by military tribunal pretty much anyone, including Americans. If you can stomach it, read the transcript here. Or if you prefer a more progressive slant, read a transcript from today’s Democracy Now.

Want to enjoy some more RIAA fun? Good! Well, a defendant in one of those ridiculous RIAA music file swapping cases has asked that an independent third party be allowed to examine her hard drive for the evidence the RIAA seeks instead of sending it directly to a party of the RIAA’s choosing. Sounds entirely reasonable, but of course the RIAA does a little legal whiny dance, pounding its little fists on how unfair the world is.

Finally, some levity, though the levity arises from sour milk. The Onion still has some quality left in it, as their story on the dedication of the ground zero 9/11 Memorial Hole demonstrates. Wanna know what’s been going on and why we only have a hole there? Believe it or not, I’m going to send you over to USA Today for a fun interactive Ground Zero Development delay map! Fun and 9/11! They go together like over-eager 5th anniversary media coverage and tact!

You may feel that, following my cereal post, I have no right to speak out against an overabundance of variety. Yet take a peek at this, won’t you? This is the sight that greets the casual toothpaste shopper of a day:

Too Many Toothpastes!

That, friends, was the toothpaste section at Target as seen at noon today. What’s more is that this is only the COLGATE section of the toothpaste section! I feel the picture does not do justice to the bewildering array of choices avalanching upon the consumer, so here’s a little recording of me reading off the flavors and kinds.

Yes, I was doing that on my phone as people were shopping around me. I imagined they would believe I was a simpleton boyfriend listing the toothpastes over the phone to my girlfriend because, had I come home with the wrong kind… Well, you know what girlfriends are like.

Now, despite the audio-visual aids, I still do not feel I have impressed upon you, gentle reader, the true scope of Colgate’s offerings. Text is often mightier than multimedia, so here, cobbled from various lists off the Colgate website, is their current spate of toothpaste options (all ®s and â„¢s removed to, ironically, dispense with clutter):

Cavity Protection Great Regular Flavor
Cavity Protection Winterfresh Gel
Total Whitening Paste
Total Whitening Gel
Total Clean Mint Paste
Total Mint Stripe Gel
Total Advanced Fresh Gel
Total 2in1 Advanced Fresh Gel
Max Fresh Cinnamint Tube
Max Fresh Cinnamint Bottle
Max Fresh Cool Mint Tube
Max Fresh Cool Mint Bottle
Max Fresh Clean Mint Tube
Max Fresh Clean Mint Bottle
2in1 Oxygen Whitening Cool Mint
2in1 Whitening with Tartar Control
2in1 Icy Blast Whitening Gel
2in1 Kids Bubble Gum
2in1 Kids Watermelon
Tartar Control Whitening Crisp Mint Paste
Tartar Control Whitening Cool Mint Gel
Sensitive Maximum Strength Plus Whitening Fresh Stripe
Fresh Confidence with Whitening Gel
Luminous Crystal Clean Mint
Luminous Paradise Fresh
Luminous Cinnamint
Simply White Advanced Whitening Spearmint
Simply White Advanced Whitening Sparkling Mint
Sparkling White Mint Zing
Sparkling White Cinnamon Spice
Sparkling White Vanilla Mint
Baking Soda & Peroxide Fresh Mint Stripe Paste
Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening Oxygen Bubbles Brisk Mint Paste
Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening Oxygen Bubbles Frosty Mint Striped Gel
Dora the Explorer Mild Bubble Fruit
SpongeBob SquarePants Bubble Fruit
Barbie Sparkling Bubble Fruit

If you find yourself flummoxed by this vast register, the Colgate site has a handy dentifrice interface for choosing which of their 37 breeds will suit you.

Me? I still use the original Colgate—now called, simply, “Cavity Protection Great Regular Flavor.” Though the “Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening Oxygen Bubbles Brisk Mint Paste” sounds nice. Or maybe I’ll start using Crest. After all, they have 42 kinds of toothpaste. I applaud that commitment to consumer choice!

Dash SnowSo I think I’m way late in coming to this party, but I just got shuffled over to Tiny Vices, a website that showcases pictures taken by people. Just people. I recall hearing of the site before, but have never visited.

I got to the site from a link featuring a pic by someone called Dash Snow. Click here to see his pics at Tiny Vices. Dash’s medium is the good ol’ Polaroid. But just to warn you, these are not glamorous pictures. The world of Mr. Snow is a dark, dirty, depressingly gritty, sadly happy one. The pictorial blend of violence, blood, vomit, drug use, skanky sex, and crime is punctuated with hazy beautiful moments. A pic of a guy shooting up, a pic of a woman holding a cat, a pic of thugs kicking in a glass door, a pic of a woman and her daughter wearing bunny ears. It’s both a disquieting and serene set of pictures. Kinetics and action are there, but the still moment snapped in most of the pics evoke an odd, languid emotion.

This guy lives a lifestyle whose existence most of us tend to ignore. Though I do not know him or his life, it seems he is part of a crowd that lives solely for the tactile feel of doing things that are destructive. The kinds of things that at once destroy you and make you feel alive. The fluid-strewn alleyways and harmful powdered bliss of Dash’s universe are dirty, cluttered, mysterious.

This kind of world is as far from my reality as can be. I’m not even enticed by it. My visceral reaction is repugnance, and I so often wish the world were free of drugs and violence and the kind of ugliness unkempt lives create for everyone. But there is an attraction, through the lens of pictures such as these, to the underworld I never see. Human beings have created that layer of life. Why? For any number of humanistic reasons. I do not know what Dash’s reasons are. I can tell that he finds beauty in his world. Take a look at most of the people in his pictures. They are smiling, having fun. Perhaps that’s why these dark, messy pictures are able to express a hazy happiness.

A cursory exploration of the rest of Tiny Vices shows that there is more of this captured otherworld. Take some time when you can to look. The site is very poorly organized and not easy to navigate, but maybe that’s intentional.

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.

So – I do this thing on itunes where you change the official album name of a particular song to your own customized album label such as “Senior Year” or “2004 Summer.” This way, when I sort by album, I have immediate access to pre-set mixes. (Yes, I know what smart playlists are.)

ANYWAY

I downloaded AULD LANG SYNE last night and changed the album name from “Ho Ho Hoey” to “2006.” Writing out the TWO-ZERO-ZERO-SIX, I couldn’t believe that we were at the half-way point from the millenium to 2010. Wasn’t there like a movie called 2010 and wasn’t it about the FUTURE? and here we are with 2006 around the corner and 2010 not so far in the distance. In a way, our present is now the future. Blink and I’ve traveled through time. Of course, thinking this last night at 2am in the morning caused an onset of panic because if indeed we are already into our future, then woe is me that has accomplished so little to add peace and contentment to my life. Sigh! 2006 better kick ass cause I worked hard in 2005, mourned in 2004, and was depressed in 2003.

ANYWAY

In the true spirit of the holidays, I began thinking about my life and searched for those re-occuring themes. All I came up with was HURT. HURT never changes. HURT still hurts the same after all these years. You’d think we’d get immuned to it after a while. Especially, the HURT of people lettting you down or people disappointing you. And not just people-people but the people in your life. Because just when you’ve almost learned that lesson where you prepare your heart by expecting occasional let downs from those that you turn to for strength, acceptance, validation, and a good laugh… just when you’ve almost got that practice down, you get hit in the head with the darker lesson that the people in the aforementioned lesson are all you’ve got in this life. but this time, I don’t mean anyone in particular. I mean people-people. You know, people in general because there really is no one else, really, but falliable people in general. There’s not that better soulmate who will love you faithfully, blindly, and without logic – as if love was a religion in itself. There’s not that better first love who will let you let him go since altho he may love, he knows that you love him more. There’s not that better man who will refrain from tracking dirt unto your off-key singing because they should know that singing is one of the few simple pleasures that you have maintained to hold on to after 30 years. There’s not that better buddy. Not that better boss. Not that better best friend. Not that better relative. Not that better role model. At 30 years old and at the end of 2006, this is a cold lesson that I’m now having to learn on top of that first lesson that still HURTS like a mofo. Swallowing. Ain’t it tough? Maybe she was right, that Sheryl Crow. Maybe its not about having what you want but wanting what you’ve got.

ANYWAY

Been watching Little House on the Prairie. Damn, what a good show. Pure. A bit idealistic but very pure. I’m finding myself either welling up with tears or containing my laughter with my hands covering my face like the Asian boy that I am because its now 3am and the new roommate is sleeping. Notice I said “new” and not “better” Maybe “new” is all we have left to look forward to. Maybe “new” is the new “better”

ANYWAY

The point that I’m trying to drive home is that I miss you Steve and this is me sharing myself on your forum.

So I’ve been very quiet on here lately, aside from all the comments on the last Thanksgiving post. And it just so happens something happened today that is relevant to that post.

But first, I never really explained what happened that fateful day/night. So get comfy, ’cause here it is:

After boarding the plane for a 4:00 departure, after we’re all sitting comfy on the 100% booked plane, the pilot comes on and tells us to get off. Not that rudely, but you know… There was an oil leak in an engine, so the plane was not fit to fly.

(I always get some amusement thinking that these kinds of problems only crop up between flights, that this oil leak, for instance, did not develop during the plane’s previous flight and it happened only while it was on the ground. Because, you see, the plane can’t fly with an oil leak. But I make no sense, so never mind.)

After deplaning, we were told another plane was wrangled into service for us, but we would not leave until 8:00. Then, quietly and without any verbal announcements, that time changed to 9:00.

I was not really hungry, but Marcy and I decided to eat to pass the time. Yes, we’re Americans. I went up to the gate agent and asked if they were giving out meal vouchers, which is common with such a long delay. Oops, I mean WAS common. “We’re not doing that since this flight was not scheduled for catering.” I simply smiled, shook my head, and did not tell the guy what I was thinking, which was, “But you never have catering anymore, so what does that matter? You don’t serve free food anymore! We have to pay for your crappy airline food now, and it’s only cold sandwiches! None of your flights are ‘catered,’ and therefore we get screwed out of a convenience once again because you’re all too greedy and stupid to…” And so on.

My burger at the restaurantesque establishment was terrible, but there was entertainment in the form of a tipsy woman on her cell phone calling everyone she knew to tell them about how she missed her plane in London. I caught her in a movie on my phone, so that’s another post for another time.

Our new plane finally arrived, after I got some good reading done on The DaVinci Code. At this point, an announcement happened: “Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t think a departure time of 9:00 is likely at this point, so we’re adjusting the departure time to 9:15.” Again, I launched into some vitriol, but this time out loud to my poor audience, Marcy. “Why don’t they just say 9:30? 10:00? We all know 9:15 is as unlikely as 9:00! Why lie? Just push the time to something more truthful!”

Thankfully, because passengers from the 4:00 who had connections had been shoved onto other flights, the new plane was not full. After boarding and settling, we sat and sat. We did not take off until 10:30. How these things happen is beyond me, but that’s how it goes. At this point, I simply did not care. I had a fun book, so I was fine.

Once up in the air, the trip was uneventful. Of course, they did not offer to feed us for free. We still had to pay $7.00 for a shrink wrapped wrap. I did not pay for said wrap, as I do not believe in it. The money the airlines save by not feeding us is not going to save them from bankruptcy. I’m sure they’ve been trying to figure out how to get rid of the food for decades, and 9/11 provided the perfect excuse. (I must bring up this old post, wherein United decided it’s more important to re-paint all their planes than provide either good customer service or decent benefits for their employees.)

Blah blah blah.

Cut to today, when the following arrived in my e-mail:

Dear Mr. Lekowicz:

It’s completely realistic for our most frequent travelers to put flight dependability at the top of their list of expectations from us. For that reason, we were disappointed to learn that flight 133 was delayed for so long on November 29. After our manager in New York apprised us of the details, we wanted to take the opportunity to apologize to you for the disruption of your travel plans to Los Angeles.

I realize that our expression of regret is of small consolation in light of the time you spent waiting in New York for your flight to depart. I hope you will accept the addition of 11,000 Customer Service Bonus miles to your AAdvantage(r) account as a more tangible apology. You should see this mileage adjustment in your account very soon. For your convenience, you can view your account via http://www.aa.com. We appreciate your understanding during the delay of your flight and hope to have your continued business. We will do our best to provide a smooth trip the next time you fly with us. We’ll look forward to the opportunity.

I first have to say that I was bowled over. I have made it no secret that I think customer service is, on a whole, horrible. To wit: this and this. So when a company actually admits to making a mistake and takes steps on its own to make amends, is so shocking it’s sad. Sure, it’s a form letter, which implies that they send out this kind of apology a lot, but it does not diminish my surprise.

A couple things to note about the e-mail:

11,000 miles? Who came up with this strange number?

It’s very important to put the (R) representation of ® there because, you know, I could steal it for my very own!

I’m glad I got this e-mail, because I’ve generally liked American more than United. They have more leg room on their planes, the same kind United now charges extra for. Their seats are much more comfortable, unlike the horrible ones on United that force your head to jut out in front of your body at an unnatural angle. Those two items alone can make a 5-hour flight much more endurable.

Now, the fun will be where am I going with these miles? Before the trip, I had 19,000 miles. After this trip and its various bonuses and apologetical addenda, I have over 36,000. Suddenly, the inconvenience of JFK has melted away into possibilities! And I did have time to finish my book, too, so…

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.

Random Matt Chun Memory of the Day
Category: One That Makes You Smile and Hurt at the Same Time.

In high school, not only was I a closeted, frail, and an almost-straight-A kinda kid, I was also a huge Mariah Carey fan and I was not afraid to show it. So when the coolest guy in our church youth group had asked me to be the MC at one of our regular revival nights, I was tickled with inspiration.

So much that I replied, “Oh and you know what, being the MC is perfect for me because first – M.C. can stand for Mr. Chun…

Hey, that’s right!” the coolest guy interrupts with a generous chuckle.

“… but it can also stand for Mariah Carey.”

In that moment of sharing my seemingly clever thought with the coolest guy, I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of – being. Being connected. Being meant to be. Being right. Being of purpose. Being the perfect fit. Being where I needed to be.

It’s amusing to see how a simple lame thought like that could easily make me feel that way but at the same time, it pains me a little and scares me a lot that I just can’t seem to feel it anymore.

In late May, just after I got back from the premieres, Showtime called me to say they had received a resume I had submitted via Showbizjobs.com and they would like to talk to me further. After a brief phone interview, I was asked if I could come down to L.A. to meet with them. We settled on June 16.

I spent about three hours there meeting with the senior vp of publicity and the executive vp of corporate communications, and received nothing but great feedback. They asked me to take home a copy of the pilot for Weeds, the network’s upcoming comedy series, and write a two-page brief on publicity strategies for it. At that point, I was told that I would probably not hear back from them for a couple of weeks as the exec vp was heading to Europe for vacation.

I submitted the brief the next day, and received a quick e-mail back from only the exec vp saying he was impressed with what I had done. Although I sent e-mails thanking the HR manager and the senior vp (who would be my boss), I heard nothing from them. (And lest you possibly think that doing the “thank yous” by e-mail could have been problematic, Emily Post says it’s appropriate now, as long as it’s followed up with a “real” note — which I did.)

On July 9, I heard from the HR manager that “you are the top candidate for the position,” and that as a formality they wondered if I might be able to come back down again. At that point, we discussed salary issues (which got a little contentious, as the initial comment on salary was that it would be just about 5% higher than I’m making now); my new position at Lucasfilm and the implications of that; and relocation issues, albeit very broadly. I was also asked to send references and to consent to a background check, both of which tend to be steps taken only when an offer is imminent.

Two days later, she called again to say that they were “really pleased” I would be coming back down, and to set a date for that. I went back down on July 21, and this time met with the vp of HR, the other publicist in the department, and the two execs again. I was also asked to do another writing project, this one involving watching the pilot of Barbershop and writing a pitch letter to the media. All told, I was at Showtime for 5 1/2 hours, and received nothing but great compliments and praise. When I asked about the other candidates they were talking to, I was told, “They’re fine, but they’re not like you.” There was some concern raised about my lack of television experience, but I was told that, “If you are who you say you are and you are as sharp as you seem, you’ll have no problem.” The last words I heard: “We’ll be calling you very, very soon.” (Emphasis theirs, not mine.)

I had woken up at 4:30 a.m. to get to the airport and to L.A. in time, and didn’t get back home until after 10 p.m. Nevertheless, the first thing I did was head to the computer and wrote thank-yous to everyone, expressing how impressed I was with the people I had met, how excited I was about the prospect, etc.

Since then, I have heard ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not a single one of them even hit “reply” to write, “Thank you and we’ll talk soon.” I am waiting for two checks of more than $200 each as reimbursement for my transportation costs (they offered), and they won’t even get back to me on that. It’s like going on a date you think went really well, except you never hear from him again.

I thought seriously about writing them to say, “What’s the scoop?” But at this point, their behavior has so thoroughly turned me off of them that unless there is a very good reason for the lack of communication, I am not remotely interested in working for them anymore. I was angry for a while, now I’m just amused by the whole thing. I forgot how “Hollywood” L.A. can be sometimes — “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

I’ve gone out for jobs I wanted before and didn’t get. But I’ve never had someone court me aggressively, only to never talk to me again! Weird.

Crap.

I just started a pretty good rant, then moved off of the page while I was still writing — only to discover my original text had disappeared into the ethernet.

Anyway …

I’m facing a bit of a dilemma. Well, not a dilemma, exactly, but I’m at a crossroads. Well, sort of. At least, I can see the crossroads ahead and would like to know what to do once I get there. Or something like that.

I got a promotion yesterday. I’m now “director of international publicity.” It came with a raise. A nice one — to the tune of 34%. Plus a bonus — not a shabby one. When I got home, Jeff’s reaction was the same as mine: Happiness quickly gave way to a realization. This changes things.

Or it could, at least.

We’ve been angling to get back home to L.A. I’m hoping that the job I interviewed for will still come through. It would be a very, very good job — at an exciting place. Up here, my boss doesn’t know I’ve been looking. Otherwise, I never would have gotten what I got. Down there, they know I told them I’m dissatisfied with my title and my salary. Now, I’m not. But I’d still be very, very interested in moving. VERY interested.

On the other hand, we’re about to move into the Letterman Digital Arts Center at the Presidio. When we do, ILM and Lucasfilm’s publicity functions will merge, and potentially I could have more to do by overseeing publicity at ILM. That means the work would get more interesting, as I’d help them publicize their work on shows like The Poseidon Adventure remake and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

On the other hand, it means I’d have to stay up here longer. And I don’t know if we can do that. We could move, but that might just be putting lipstick on the pig.

Then, the question arises: Do I tell the potential new employer about this change in my salary? The salary range we had discussed still is applicable — but just barely. I had been so dissatisfied with my salary here, that I lowballed them. Now, I’m at the very low end of the range I discussed with them, and I already have the director title. It doesn’t change anything, but could potentially make it more interesting.

At any rate, that’s what’s on my mind now. That, and going to Japan and staying in the Park Hyatt. We leave on Sunday!

Last night, a sad but expected thing came to my attention. The Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop near me has closed.

I knew this would happen because Cold Stone Creamery opened up on the same block. Just like Starbuck’s does with smaller coffee shops, I have noticed Cold Stone doing this to Ben & Jerry’s shops. I could tell B&J’s was in trouble when Cold Stone would often be packed while the Scoop Shop would be empty.

I did my part, of course. I ended up boycotting the Cold Stone and going to the Ben & Jerry’s instead. I didn’t go often, but when I was in the mood for a walk and a scoop, I’d head on up and plunk down my moolah. Voting with dollars; that’s all America understands.

So now the shop is closed, and I am sad. Ben & Jerry’s is a good company. (Even though they are now owned by a giant conglomerate, B&J’s has managed to keep to their good business practices, as far as I can tell.)

I don’t hate change or progress. I hate when a good thing goes away.

Well, you will not believe this! I could not bury this coincidence in the comments area of my previous post on the new highway font.

I got an email from a software company that makes a cool little Mac utility called You Control: Fonts. (It puts a WYSIWYG font menu in the menu bar for use in most running apps. In case you’re interested.)

Here’s what they say:

If you’re like us, you look forward to every March. Sure, it’s the start of Spring and the flowers are starting to bloom and trees are getting their leaves back. But wouldn’t you rather be sitting on the couch or driving to an arena to watch some fantastic NCAA College hoops? If you happen to be out on a road trip to catch some games, keep your eyes peeled for a new typeface that has been Federally approved for traffic control devices called Clearview.

As a serious font user, you already know the power that a typeface like Clearview can have on a project. And choosing the right font has never been easier than with You Control: Fonts. Combine customizable WYSIWYG previews, grouping by font family and the ability to set hot keys for individual typefaces so you can set them on the fly to your text and you get a great product that has been recognized by Mac Design magazine and by Macworld magazine as a superb value.

So while the NCAA Tourny hasn’t started quite yet, our March Madness has with a limited time offer to get You Control: Fonts for only $9.95! That leaves you with $20 extra to put in your office NCAA Tourny Pool. But hurry, our Madness won’t last forever.

I imagine some guy at the You Software offices (a coffee house in Seattle, perhaps?) somehow running into my post here (through the magic of happenstance), looking up my name to see that I’d already paid full price for the software (though Uncle Walt reimbursed me), found another tidbit somewhere that I could give a flying hoo-ha about anything the NCAA does (though I don’t hate sports so much as I tell people I do), and wrote this little mail just for me to tick me off.

But, of course, I flatter myself. And I like the app. And coincidences. I’m all a-twitter over this!