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Exit ArchiveArchive for January, 2005

Story of my life today, I’m afraid. After a fun but uneventful photo shoot for Teen People this a.m. (no, not me, of course!), I spent two #%@&! hours in the “returns” line at Poppins, assured that if I was one of the first one or two in line, there would be no problem. I was No. 1. I didn’t get a ticket.

So, I paid full price and will see her fly on Thursday, all by my lonesome.

I went to Target today to get a few things before heading to the airport and I have a major, major find to announce:


Of course, they are in the shape of SpongeBob Squarepants. Is that a plus or a minus?

I’m freaking out. I was supposed to leave for London on Saturday, but because the lovely and talented Ms. P. has decided Saturday is THE ONLY DAY she can do a photo shoot, I now have to leave on Thursday, and I now have to get four days’ of work done in two.


This has got to be one of the freakiest, oddest, indescribably bizarre and unexpected things I’ve come across on the Web lately. It’s particularly good if you’ve just been to Disneyland (or if you’ve been as many times as I have).

Barbie has an announcement to make: Barbie is going to star in her own science-fiction adventure-fantasy called “Barbie-ella.” Barbie thinks it will be an enormous hit with young boys who want to see Barbie wearing armor and shooting a gun while wearing stilletto heels.


It was kinda difficult—though not really—to spend $X,XXX recently on a new center channel speaker for my surround system. Add that to the $X,XXX already paid for the new matching main speakers, and that’s $X,XXX. While it’s all tax deductible, it’s still a lot of money for “just some speakers.”

But I feel better. I have been reading a free CES copy of The Absolute Sound, a stereo hi-fi magazine.

I used to subscribe to Stereophile back in the early ’90s, and one thing has been reinforced by my reading this competitor publication and recalling my Stereophile days: I spent nothing on my speakers.

Snotty elitist attitude of stereo hi-fi snobs aside (I know, pot, kettle, black, etc.), there is something impressive in the folly that is high-end audio. The article I’m interrupting to write this post is (brace yourself for some impressive but accidental alliteration) discussing an excellent sound set-up using a set of satellite/sub speakers that cost $83,500. That’s two speakers and a subwoofer. Three items. $83,500. The two pre-amps being used to drive these exorbitant speakers cost $21,380 for the pair. The two amps being used are $29,250 for the pair. And that’s sans cables and, as the magazine quaintly puts it, a “turntable.”

I am certainly not allowed to complain about people spending large amounts of money or vast amounts of time discussing and pursuing perfection. My cell phone post recently is an example of such ridiculousness. And I shall say that if there is someone who wants to spend their probably-not-hard-earned-cash on these items, please, go at it! I am in fact not writing to complain at all, but to verbally express how my eyes goggle at the concept of spending that much on some speakers and amps. It makes my semi-expensive set-up feel like a huge bargain, yet I still love how it all sounds.

Thank you, inordinately rich people!

Johnny Carson died today. A few moments for Johnny Carson, please.


OK, so, what I’m hearing everyone saying is the old, “The original trilogy is great, the prequels suck.” Well, far be it from me to disagree, but, well, I guess I disagree.

First off, I honestly liked both Episode I and Episode II. Did I have the same reaction to them as I had when I first saw Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back? Nope. But, then, I was 10 and 13, respectively, when I saw those movies, and I viewed them through the eyes of a 10- and 13-year-old kid. Interestingly, I was disappointed in Jedi in 1983, when I was 16, which is a very different age than 10. When I watched it the other day on DVD, I was genuinely surprised that it’s a good movie.

My point is, you were in your 20s or 30s when you saw The Phantom Menace. You had life under your belt. That always changes things. Menace was a movie about a 10-year-old kid, made for 10-year-olds. Deeper, it told the story of how a galaxy (read: country, culture, civilization) went from being peaceful, productive and luxurious to being at the brink of a war.

Clones was a “romance” made for people (that is, young girls) who think romance is sitting by a fireplace, looking deeply into your lover’s eyes and saying things like, “No one must know that we are in love.” To an adult, it’s silly — and, I will admit, in Clones some of the performances didn’t help matters. In the middle of it, though, is Anakin Skywalker (who is learning how to be a Jedi — or, in our terms, something like a UN Peacekeeper) talking to Amidala (a politician) about the need to control people, to get things done, to wield power. He believes that power should be taken by those crafty enough to have it, then manipulated to their whim — in short, a dictatorship. What he doesn’t realize is that his views have been shaped by his association with Palpatine, a mid-level politician with an eye toward being the most powerful person alive. Rings kind of true to our own world, eh? So, that’s in there, if you look beyond the surface of the movie.

The big difference is, Star Wars, Empire and Jedi had no real subtext, beyond the Luke-Vader thing. There was nothing “more” to them. And there shouldn’t be, because they’re relatively straightforward stories about a band of freedom fighters trying to overthrow an oppressive government. It’s just “let’s find a way to get ’em.”

What George Lucas did was surprising and tough to pull off — he wanted to tell a story about how the war started, to follow a group of people who would shape its destiny.

That’s a tall order, and it requires patience from viewers. Worse, what the viewers really wanted, truth be told, was much simpler: They wanted to see a first movie that told the story about how a kid grew up to become Darth Vader, have him don the mask at the end of the first movie, then have the next two be about Vader crossing the galaxy causing destruction.

It will be interesting how naysayers view Episode I and Episode II in light of what they see this May, because (without giving away more than George did in Vanity Fair), they’re going to discover that Vader isn’t as horrible and evil and all-villainous as we imagined; he’s a person underneath there, a person who had to wear that mask and respirator for a reason — and when we learn the reason, we’re going to view him differently. Maybe we’ll even hate him even more because we know who he is, but there’s also going to be a bit of pity for this guy who had a choice to make and chose very, very poorly.

That’s not to say that Episode I and Episode II don’t have some bad acting and stilted dialogue — of the sort found in, say, Titanic or even (dare I say it?) Lord of the Rings. Particularly with the latter, so many people hold that trilogy up and say, “Here’s what Star Wars should have been,” without pausing to think that some might consider them bloated, lumbering and repetitive beyond belief.

Whatever, that’s just my anti-Rings rant. What I know is this: My 10-year-old goddaughters loved Episode I and Episode II. They fell in love with Star Wars and talked about the movies incessantly and bought Anakin t-shirts and read the books and bought the DVDs. They think the movies are great, because they saw them through the eyes of a 10-year-old — which is virtually impossible for us to do.

In the end, like I said, I’m going to change no opinions. But I think the difference between the trilogies is intentional and will make sense when you see Episode III. Maybe you still won’t like the prequels, but hopefully you’ll give Sith a shot and at least be able to say, if nothing else, that George Lucas stayed true to his own vision — even if you feel his vision was somehow flawed.

Steve’s rant was OK. Rodney’s was fine, except … well, imagine Daffy Duck here: “That’s just the last straw!”

Nothing I write is going to change any minds, I know that. But, just consider some things:

George likes to say, “The fans grew up. The movies didn’t.” I love that phrase.

Dang, I just got completely sidetracked. I’ll rant this weekend.

So did I mention I got a Star Wars Trivia day-by-day calendar from Jackie? Well, I did. And at first it was lots of fun because it started off with several days of questions from the first and true Star Wars movies.

Then the questions started inching into Episode I and II territory. For instance, this from yesterday:

What is the name of the Magistrate for the Corporate Alliance in Attack of the Clones?

A) Wat Tambor
B) Passel Argente
C) Ask Aak
D) Poggle the Lesser

For questions like this, there should always be a fifth choice:

E) Who the fuck cares?

You see, while the original Star Wars movies have earned their place in the hall of legendary films and thus are allowed to spawn such questions as “What model of blaster does Han Solo wield?” the new movies are so mediocre that they only deserve to be included in a trivia calendar with questions such as, “What kind of hat was the balloon vendor wearing in the park scene in Maid in Manhattan?” or “What important tool did Conrad lose in the jungle in Anaconda 2?”

The people who would know the answer to the Attack of the Clones question are the kind of people who so desperately desire a constant expansion of the Star Wars universe to satiate their Trekkie-like hunger that they are willing to overlook the below sub-par quality of the new movies and embrace anything George secretes from his atrophied imagination.

Ouch! Acerbic much?

(The answer to the trivia question, BTW, is B. The answer to the above questions is, sadly, yes.)

I have blathered excessively to friends about my disappointment over the lack of availability of the Nokia 6230 through our corporate AT&T representatives, and I am about to do something I do not want to do. I am about to order something other than Nokia.

I have always had a Nokia cell phone (okay, except for my first cell, a Qualcomm brick thing). I have yet to find a phone with the intelligent user interface features of the Nokias. Nokias, like Macs, are a pleasure to use, and work exactly like a cell phone should. Finding names in the phone book and entering message text, potentially the most tedious and frustrating of activities, are simplest on a Nokia.

But I am now asking myself if perhaps a little frustration with the user interface will be a fair exchange for having a phone with the features I want and a tad more technical reliability.

I have to be 100% honest here to say that, beautiful interface and pleasureness to use aside, most of my Nokias have had one or another kind of strange technical glitch. My tiny blue one would freeze and need to be re-set by removing the battery. Two of them have had headphone profile freezing problems, the phones thinking a headphone was attached when there was none there. And my current phone turns itself off if handled or jostled a certain way.

I do not know if any other phone makers have more reliability as far as bugs and glitches go, but I wonder if I should try. The Motorola Razr is looking awfully nice and has the features I want, but it’s a Motorola, and using Motorolas is a pain in the ass. It’s also a clamshell, which I find inconvenient and unnecessary. I’ve poked around my boss’ Sony Ericsson, and it’s cool, but suffers from its own interface ugliness. Is it worth suffering through the poor UI features of these phones to get something more reliable and full of the technical features I desire?

I could of course merge my Palm with my phone and, finally, have all my info and my phone in one device. But the Treo 650, while immensely cool, is relatively huge. I want the tiniest phone possible, since I carry my phone in my pocket at all times. The Treo would not fit very comfortably in my jeans, and it has an external antenna. Snap!

Why can’t I just get the phone I want? Why do I have to go through this nonsense? Or—and this is the most important question—why do I care so much? My life would be easier and I’d be more relaxed if I didn’t give a flying crap what kind of phone I had. That the tiny details of industrial and interface design cause me so much stress is a bane, and I wonder if I should just let it all go.

Long pause.

I of course am dreaming. Details matter to me, and I think they always will. Perhaps what I really need to do is move beyond accepting the fact that I am too picky and through to the admission that not everything will meet my draconian standards of quality. In accepting that most things are made like garbage, perhaps therein I will find relaxation.

So, is it a Razr, a Treo, or wait another 46 months for a 6230? Decision time.

Well, effluence and nasal discharge aside, the most disgusting thing I’ve had to endure is catching one of my children drinking the “water” from the toilet brush holder. Ugh!

On Thursday, two representatives from Burger King came to meet with us to talk about Episode III. One of them had a red nose and puffy eyes, and just as I entered the room I caught her sneezing into a Kleenex and blowing her nose. Then what did she do? She got up and extended her hand. Within 1/4 second, a hundred thoughts ran through my mind, most having to do with how to gracefully decline her hand — but instead, I shook it. Coupled with Jeff and my boss both being sick, it was too much, and now I have a cold.

Watery, itchy eyes. Runny nose. Sneezing. I look like a zombie and feel like one, too.

Thanks, Burger King. Guess you didn’t let me have it MY way.

Beyond that, we also were forced by our head of marketing to go see “The Phantom of the Opera” on Friday, because I had gotten into a public argument with him about the movie. I think it’s a piece of … well … effluence. He thinks its great, and keeps lobbing at me: “Did I tell you what George thought of it?” Yes, Jim, you did — a dozen times. That does not make me like it anymore.

I wanted to be a good sport, though, so I went on Friday. I think that contributed to my illness. What a nightmarish travesty of a “movie.” As Roger Ebert might say, it’s ukelele picks. No, on second thought, even ukeleles would reject that piece of crap.

Okay, it’s been 2 hours and I still can’t get back to sleep. I think it’s the discussion that I overheard at the beach while watching Steve play volleyball on Sunday. It replays over and over in my head. This IS driving me insane. I’m a corporate Attorney, dang it. I SHOULD know the answer to this, of all things. What if I wrongly used it in the past? What if a judge or jury noticed the gaff? Did a client suffer some indignity as their attorney mispoke on their behalf?

At long last, I can rest:

Affluence: That which results from wealth.
Effluence: That which flows or issues from any body or substance; issue; efflux.


I have to take a moment here and complain.

Yes, shocking, I know.

Why on heaven’s green earth is custom framing so wickedly expensive? I have had exactly one thing custom framed in my whole life, a print from the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid. That was back in Boston when I was poor-ish, and I nearly choked on the cost. It was worth it in the end, but it was an economic sacrifice.

Yesterday I spelunked into an Aaron Brothers under the impression that their 1¢ sale might apply to custom framing. Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Not entirely surprised that I’d have to pay full price, I dove in and swallowed the bullet and bit my pride and, nearly $500 later, got my The Iron Giant poster and Red Herring Delivery graphic framed, along with three pre-fab poster-sized frames for my X-Files teasers. I got three other frames for the legendary 1¢.

I have ceased to become sticker-shocked the last few months, what with the apartment re-do and A/V equipment upgrades, but, I’m sorry, $500 for FRAMES? The furniture is functional and I will use it every day. The A/V equipment is a tax write-off for me. But the frames? I understand they add style and beauty to my cherished wall crap, but I think there needs to be a price adjustment. If Apple can make a Mac for $499, I think framing places can gimme four planks of metal and a sheet of glass for less than $225. Maybe the EU can force us to lower the cost of our frames just like they want us to test the chemicals we use in our products.

I will enjoy my newly-framed masterpieces without fail. They really will make my place look nicer. However, I think this marks the beginning of another 10-year hiatus from the world of frames.

Permalink Comments Off on iPod WorldComments Off on iPod World By

Now, this is peculiar, and decidedly British in its humo(u)r: iPod World.

It’s created by The Mantlepies. Yes, I see. Hmm.


What I hate more is when my toaster beats me at Scrabble.

I did it! I finally trounced Ashanti!

I have had this Backgammon game on my phone since Thanksgiving, and I am playing the Tournament variation, where you keep meeting different "players," moving on to the next challenger only after you’ve soundly beat the last.

I have been incredibly frustrated that my latest opponent, "Ashanti," has been creaming my ass for many, many weeks now. Do you have any idea how it feels when your cell phone is better than you at Backgammon? Do you? Of course, I have attributed many an Ashanti win to really lucky rolls on his/her/its part, and really unlucky rolls on mine. Such is the prerogative of the consistent loser.

Today, just now, Ashanti bit the dust. He/she/it even had the balls to redouble me after I’d redoubled it, right when my victory was 85% assured! I kept that son of a bitch on the bar for several turns, blocking him/her/it in until there was nothing he/she/it could do but whimper in defeat. Oh, such sweet victory!


Though it is, of course, just a cell phone.