My computer’s been sluggish.

Everything has been slow.  Firefox, email, iTunes, everything.  Plus, out of nowhere, it overheats two or three times a week.

I assumed it was just old, and had gotten filled up with a bunch of crap, as computers will.  Little did I know the crap it was getting filled up with had come off my cats.

This afternoon, when it overheated for the second time in a day, I took the lid off, much as I would with the hood of my car, pretending I would be able to find something wrong.  Well, the CPU was entirely covered in a snuggly blanket of cat hair and dust (pictured above).

Now it’s running fine.
hit counter html code

My iPod is drunk again

I have over 11,000 songs on my iPod and it is set permanently to shuffle.  If I’m not mistaken, that means that each time a song ends, the chances of any other song coming up is at least 1 in 11,000.  And yet, in the past 30 minutes my iPod has played four David Bowie songs, all from Diamond DogsDiamond Dogs!

This happens every few weeks.  Not Diamond Dogs necessarily, but something.  It will play the same song twice in an hour, or a long string of Elvis Costello, or a whole hour of depressing, nostalgic songs pining for home and times gone by and lost love.  It went on a Leonard Cohen kick one afternoon and I had to shut it down and re-start it before it would play anything else.
hit counter html code

Lucky 1994-2006

1. Lucky at eight weeks, 1994
2. Lucky at six months, 1995
3. Lucky this morning
4. Drawing by Sam for Lucky “to take with him:” it features a drawing of Lucky both as a kitten and as he was this morning, Sam smiling at him to cheer him up, a tuna fish, and a “surprise for later.”
hit counter html code

Protesters in Santa Monica

Seen on the corner of Lincoln and Santa Monica Blvd.

A protestor, an older woman in a sun hat, holds a sign that reads “LET THE JEWS LIVE IN THEIR HOMELAND IN PEACE.”

And I think “Well, there’s a measured yet impassioned response to the current crisis.”

She turns the sign around.  The reverse reads “AND TELL HENRY KISSINGER TO SHUT UP AND STAY THE HELL OUT OF IT THIS TIME.”

And I think: “Well, okay, she’s only half-crazy.”

Meanwhile, there’s this piece from my favorite living author, David Mamet.
hit counter html code

Projector bulb update

I could have ordered this projector bulb from a number of places on line, but I thought I’d be a mensch and support a local business. So I called up the home theater specialist on the corner and asked them if they had a bulb in stock.

They did not, but said they could get one for me in a week.

That was eight weeks ago. During that time, I have actually gone to New York and shot a feature film and returned.

Now then. Based on my conversations with the knowledgeable, friendly guy on the other end of the line, I formed a mental picture of him in my head. I imagined him, for some reason, as an aging Venice Beach hippie type, I don’t know why, but I imagined him with long, thin blond hair in a pony tail and a perpetual three-day shadow. I imagined him coming to work in a muscle t with a Hawaiian shirt over it, and wearing yellow-tinted sunglasses indoors, and always chewing on a toothpick, and with a gold stud in one of his ears.

Again, I say, I don’t know why I imagined this, at all the other high-end video stores they have a bunch of smooth, well-groomed, oily young men who have no compunctions about selling you a $200 connection cord. Because this place looks more nuts-and-bolts from the outside, I guess, I imagined it was more like an auto-body shop or something.

Today, I was in the neighborhood so I thought I’d go in and say hi and ask what the hell happened to my projector bulb. The guy in my imagination was, of course, nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a guy who bore and uncomfortable similarity to Nice Guy Eddie from Reservoir Dogs. The guy was a little chunky and had short, wavy hair and even walked like Nice Guy Eddie. He also did a little huffing thing when he walked. He didn’t seem that out of shape, but the huffing thing struck me as odd.

Anyway, no bulb. Nice Guy Eddie has to order from a head office, and the head office doesn’t return his phone calls, and anyway now he says it “normally” takes six to eight weeks for a part like that.

Normally, at this point I get angry and say something like “Then why did you tell me it was going to take a week?” But for some reason, because the guy looked like Nice Guy Eddie and I am still saddened by the passing of Chris Penn, I decided “Hey, I live in California now, I’m not supposed to get upset about that kind of thing.”

So there’s an ever-growing stack of DVDs on my “DVDs to watch” pile, and my apologies to my dozen or so readers.

In the meantime, I’ve just discovered that I can post drawings from my own collection on this here blog, so I thought I might start doing that. Here’s one now.  It’s called “The Two Cinemas”

click for readable view
hit counter html code

Alcott Held Hostage, Day 5 : The Look of Lorne

My kids attend preschool nearby.

The school is in this weird kind of mini-mall. The mini-mall has an two parking lots. One is very small, like 15 cars, and on street level. The other is two levels deep and holds plenty of cars.

The first day I came to drop my kids off at school, there were no parking places on street level. I didn’t know where the school was located (it’s deep within this odd, twisty inner-court) so I figured I’d better park in the underground lot.

Parking in Los Angeles is a constant hassle. If they’re not trying to rip you off, charging you eight bucks an hour for parking your car, they’re trying to park it “for” you, so you have to tip the valet guys too. So there’s always a little tension around parking lots.

I pull into this parking lot. There’s an attendant there, looks like Lorne Greene, but older, maybe 70, with a grey moustache. He’s got a little desk in the middle of the entrance to the parking garage. It’s his job to hand out tickets to cars coming into his lot. Some garages have a little robot machine on a post doing this job, this place has Lorne Greene.

I roll down the window and say, perfectly cheerfully, “Hi, I’m just dropping my kids off for school.” Lorne Greene smiles at me and waves me in. No ticket, no paying. I park, I take my kids upstairs to the school, I leave, I get my car, I pull out of the garage, I wave to Lorne Greene as I go out.

Next time I go to deliver my kids to the school, I pull up to the entrance, Lorne Greene sees me coming and takes out a little ticket to give me. I roll down the window and say, again, perfectly cheerfully, “Hi, I’m just here to drop off my kids off at school.” This time, Lorne Greene gives me a look that could pierce tin. He waves me in with a wave that indicates that, if he chose to do so, he would crush me like a bug and eat my children while my severed head watched. This time, while leaving, I make a special point of trying to catch his eye so I can wave cheerfully at him. He makes a special point of avoiding looking at me altogether.

Every time after that, it’s the same thing. Lorne Greene hates me. Every time, he sees my car coming, takes out a little ticket, I roll down my window and say “Hi, I’m just here to drop my kids off at school –” and he gives me another tin-piercing look. He never says “Doesn’t matter, you have to take a ticket,” never says anything. Just that look. Every time, he hopes I’m there to park for money, and every time he’s thwarted, his unused ticket clutched useless in the iron fist of his Lorne Greene-like hands.

I know what happened. That first time, he saw a dad with a car full of kids, it was their first day at school, and he thought “Hey, I’ll givethis guy a break, show him what a swell guy I am.” But then I pulled the same stunt again and again and again, and now he feels like I’m taking advantage of his good nature. He feels like I think I’m some kind of landed gentry, rolling into his domain in my fancy carriage, doffing my snuff tin to him as he grovels in the filth for roots and berries. I can see it in his face. He’d like to murder me. He’d do it too, if he thought he could get away with it.

Look. I’m not a praying man, but this look from Lorne Greene has so unnerved me that every time I go to drop off my kids at school, I pray, I pray there is a street-level parking space available, and I rejoice whenever there is. It isn’t often.

This relationship, which has, to date, taken up a total of about 35 seconds of my life, has been haunting me all out of proportion. I’ve developed a Larry-David-level anxiety about what I’m supposed to do to make this man happy, and why he won’t tell me why he hates me so much. My wife, of course, thinks I’m crazy and imagining the whole thing.

Then, the other day, I’m hanging out with my son and a friend of his from school, and I’m talking about the school and the parking lot and his friend’s mother (her name is Susan) starts talking about Lorne Greene. Apparently I’m not the only one who approaches this man’s podium with fear. Apparently he puts the heebie-jeebies into everyone who parks there. Susan has taken it upon herself to learn the man’s biography, in the hopes of better understanding him.

It seems that Lorne Greene is Afghani, a doctor by trade, and fled his homeland during the Russian invasion back in the 70s. He came to LA with the intent of bringing his family over with him, but they were captured and killed by the Russians. Either from heartbreak or bad planning, he’s unable to practice medicine in the US, speaks little English and works at this podium in this mini-mall, handing out tickets to motorists all day. Apparently he’s one of the angriest, most miserable men on the planet, for good reason, and every time I pull up to his entrance I diminish him that much more by denying him the one miniscule action that American society has deemed him worthy to do.

Strangely, Lorne Greene is not the only “sole survivor” we know about in our neighborhood. Apparently the West Side is teeming with Iranians who fled Iran when the Shah got kicked out. My son has a friend at school whose father is a sticker magnate (yes, he manufactures stickers for a living, and a good living it is) and whose mother is some kind of actual Iranian royalty, again, whose entire rest of family was killed trying to escape on camelback.

And all I ever escaped from was Illinois.
hit counter html code

Alcott Held Hostage — Day 2

Finally losing hope that my projector bulb might spontaneously repair itself, today I emerged from my pitch-black screening room and blinked, pale and squirming, into the sunlight on this, the first day of summer.

The grass was green, jasmine wafted on the breeze, a child batted a barrel hoop down the street, laughing and gamboling as his tiny legs pumped in joyous fury.

Not only was this all in high-definition, it was in 3-D, and interactive.

Thrilled at my discovery of this new entertainment medium called “the real world,” I hopped in my car and went for a drive.

Hit standstill traffic on Santa Monica Blvd.  Some kind of construction.  Turned around and went back home.

Maybe I’m taking things too fast.
hit counter html code

Tragedy strikes

Yesterday, during a routine viewing of an episode of Transformers, my 5-year-old son Sam called to me from the screening room.  I came to his call, as is required of me, and he reported that the “picture had gone out” on the TV.

My son is quite keen to learn about remotes and my home theater system is complicated and persnickety, so I assumed that he had hit some button he should not have.

Closer inspection revealed that, in fact, the bulb had blown out on my projector.  Exploded even.  Its little housing filled with grains of shattered glass.

Well, no problem, think I.  I’ll mosey on over to my local home theater store and pick up another.

I call to make sure they have them.  They do not.  Nor do they think anyone in the area will have them.

They offer to order one.  They say they can have it maybe by next Monday.  Cool, says I.  How much does that run?


!  “Really?!”  Keep in mind, I did not purchase this home theater system.  Rather, it came with the house when I bought it.  I know nothing about its history, legacy or place in the hierarchy of home theater systems.  All I know is that I love it like I have never loved another collection of machines before.

Oh yes, the man tells me.  My projector, he tells me, was top-of-the-line 4.5 years ago (when the house was built and the theater installed).  The previous owner was a stickler for quality and he was willing to pay top dollar.  $635.00 might sound like a lot to pay for a light bulb (in fact, it’s more than I paid for my last TV set), but (the home-theater-guy continues) keep in mind that the projector cost $10,000.00 when it was new.

Now then.  Looking around my office, I’m seeing the stack of components that make up the rest of the system and doing some quick seat-of-my-pants math, and I realize that my home theater system probably cost more than my car.

Well now.  What can I do?  It costs what it costs.  I would have said the same thing if they were talking about a pacemaker.  What am I going to do, stop watching DVDs on a high-definition projector?
hit counter html code

pestilence update

Now that House Finches are coming to my bird feeder, I find the enormous, capybara-like squirrel who comes and sits in the middle of the seed to feed less cute. Especially when I can hear the finches yelling at him to get out.

Today I went out and, instead of merely shooing him away, I snuck up on him, then waved my arms and made a big noise. Well, he exploded out of the feeder, then charged halfway up a tree. But then he stopped, turned and started barking at me. It sounded like an apoplectic Donald Duck. It so amused me that I stood there for a good ten minutes trying to replicate the sound myself, and the two of us stood in my yard, carrying on what must have been an obscene conversation in Squirrel.
hit counter html code

pestilence update

1. Haven’t seen silverfish in the screening room recently, but it’s usually pretty dark in there.

2. Hung up a bird feeder in my garden a couple of weeks ago, but no birds have shown up. Instead, there is a squirrel so huge it looks like a capybara wearing a fake tail that paws through the birdseed every afternoon around noon. He’s so regular it’s like he’s on a time clock. I can see him hanging out, chatting with his squirrel friends, and then suddenly saying “Oh shit, it’s noon, I’m due over at the Alcott joint.”

3. Hung up a tiny hummingbird feeder, and immediately three hummingbirds started fighting over it. The thing empties out in about three days.

Roy Scheider in Beaks: “We’re gonna need a bigger feeder.”

4. Usual assortment of spiders. Magic Schoolbus says that you’re never more than three feet away from a spider.

UPDATE: Two sparrows attacking the birdseed this afternoon. Birds eating birdseed! And, hummingbird feeder now emptying in less than a day. Hummingbirds too fast to see.
hit counter html code