Thursday, February 26, 2009

Extreme Do Over; Box Edition

As you may recall, I live in a box in the Fish Offal District of downtown Los Angeles. This district boarders on the area commonly known as Skid Row. Wikipedia describes the area thusly:
"The area is home to one of the largest stable populations of homeless persons in the United States. Informal population estimates range from 7,000 to 8,000. People passing through this area immediately used to see cardboard box and camping tents lining the sidewalks. According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the official boundaries of skid row are Third and Seventh Streets to the north and south and Alameda and Main Streets to the east and west, respectively. Now, because of heavy involvement with the missions downtown, LAPD, and the Mayor's office, the landscape has dramatically changed from mid-2006 to current."
Currently my box resides outside of the boundaries described above. But only by about 20 feet. For all intents and purposes, I'm a homeless person living in an area in which one of the largest homeless populations in the country reside. At one time, not too many years ago, I lived smack dab in the middle of Skid Row, and became very familiar with the long time residents of the area. The following is one of the first stories I wrote concerning the Row and its colorful inhabitants, but it's not about them. Rather, it concerns the hypocrisy of certain media programs, pretending to help those who need help, without really helping them.

Extreme Do-Over; Box Edition

By Richard Joyce

“The answer to homelessness is simple. It’s a home.”
-Wade Killefer, Killefer Flammang Architects

“How’s my hair?”
“Looks good.”
“Twenty seconds, Brian.”
“My nose isn’t shiny, is it? It was shiny last week.”
“Looks good, Brian. No detectable shine.”
“Ten seconds.”
“And my hair’s okay?”
“It’s great.”
“Five seconds. Four, three, two…”
“Good morning America,” Brian whispered, mugging to the hand held television camera. “Brian Skycrest here, for “Extreme Do-Over; Box Edition.” We’re at Sixth Street and San Julian, in beautiful downtown Los Angeles, to help make the dreams of one… Rodney McQueen, self-proclaimed reformed; thief, brigand, con-man, felon, inveigler, prevaricator, rogue, and all around instigator, come true.”
“I’m joined once again by our very own Do-Over team of experts; Montana La Rue, electrical engineer and former Penthouse Pet…”
Miss La Rue, a stunning 5’4” blonde with deep, penetrating blue eyes, smiled for the camera, batting her long, graceful lashes. “Hi,” she said.
“And Jeff Dingus, our structural expert and Shopping/Style coordinator. Say hello Jeff.”
“Also we have Lt. Jack Over, of the Los Angeles Police Department, who has kindly agreed to come with us and, uh… distract Rodney, while our refurbishing team gets to work providing Rodney with a bright new home and hearth, where he can enjoy his new drug and crime free lifestyle which he has so wholeheartedly embraced, allowing him the opportunity to rejoin society as an active, useful member yet once again. Isn’t that right, Lieutenant?
“Everybody deserves a second chance, Brian.”
“They sure do. Alright team, are we ready to surprise Rodney?”
“Ready when you are B.S.”
“Let’s go then. Boy, he sure should be surprised.”
Brian and the camera/sound crew quietly moved in on a lone set of cardboard boxes set apart from the many others lining the dusty, trash strewn street. A small, but dedicated crowd of indigents looked on from the periphery, making sure to keep a respectful distance, owing greatly from the presence of Lt. Over, and the eight uniformed police officers accompanying him.
The particular brown box upon which was their target looked as if it was once used to ship a medium sized refrigerator, but lying horizontally on the narrow sidewalk, almost completely blocking pedestrian passage. A drab, olive-green blanket was drawn down over the opening near the curb, and a pair of large, booted feet extended a good nine inches outside, toes pointing blithely toward the slightly overcast skies above. Brian and his company stopped their march several feet away. He pulled his trusty electric bullhorn out from its holster, and brought it to his mouth.
As soon as the first amplified syllable left Mr. Skycrest’s lips, the feet of the occupant noticeably stiffened, and a rather large indentation appeared at the opposite end when Rodney bolted upright as if electrocuted.
Skycrest lowered his bullhorn. “Come on out Rodney. Let’s get a look at you!”
“What the…? Do-over… is that you, Brian?” came meekly from deep within the box.
“It sure is, Rodney. You’re this week’s “Do-Over” winner!”
Rodney’s big feet disappeared, to quickly be replaced by his shaggy head. “Brian?” he said, sleepily.
Two of the uniformed police officers expertly helped Rodney out from his box by grabbing him tightly about the shoulders and pulling mightily until he was fully extricated and wobbling next to Skycrest. Rodney, a tall Caucasian man in his late forties, with long, unkempt blonde hair, wearing worn and torn, dirty jeans and T-shirt, blinked stupidly at the camera, slightly blinded by the bright lights pointed directly at his weathered, pock-marked face. He raised his left hand to his eyes in a failed attempt to see what was going on around him.
“Rodney,” Skycrest confided, “your application tape stood out among the thousands we receive each week as being truly deserving. Why, you had Montana in tears after watching it. Isn’t that right, Montana?”
“I’m still misty thinking about it,” said Ms. La Rue, ruefully. “You’re one sorry individual, sir.” “Ah, thanks,” Rodney lamely replied.
“To think,” Skycrest added, “a decorated war hero… which war was that, by the way?”
“Uh, …Civil?”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! What a kidder. A decorated war hero reduced to a life of drug addiction and destitution, having to beg for pocket change and sabotage parking meters… nowhere to call your own except this dilapidated, worn out box. I’m afraid that it’s a situation that happens to all too many of us if we’re not careful. Isn’t that right, Rodney.”
“I guess.”
“And you certainly weren’t careful, were you.”
“How long have you been living in this box, Rodney?”
“Ah, going on thirteen years now, Brian.”
“Well, all that’s going to change as of today! We’re going to give you a brand new box to live in! What do you think about that!?”
“Wow! Really?”
“Yes, Rodney, we are. And while we’re busy getting that new box ready for you, we’re going to send you on a fully expense paid vacation!”
The crowd cheered. Everyone, that is, except the squad of police who quietly moved in around Rodney.
“Vacation!” Rodney exclaimed. “Gee, I never thought…”
“Yes, Rodney. Lt. Over, of the L.A.P.D., has been kind enough to help us out…
(Rodney’s smile, joy, and mirth, vanished at the mention of the well-known initials)
…and has luckily found a four year old outstanding warrant for you immediate arrest! Rodney. Lieutenant Over is willing to escort you right over to the beautiful new Twin Tower County Jail facility. Isn’t that right, Lieutenant.?”
“Yes it is. We were fortunate to notice it in time before the statute of limitations went into effect. That was a close one.”
“You devil, Rodney! You’ve been getting away with this one for a long, long, time. What was the charge on that, Lt.?”
“Compulsive Mongering.”
“Right. And by the time you get out, counting on “Good Behavior,” of course, we’ll be ready for you to see your brand new box! What do you think about that, Rod?”
“Jail? I’m going to jail?”
“Yes you are! Take him away, boys.”
The police moved in, picking Rodney bodily up, kicking and screaming (he did not seem pleased at all), and dumping him, without ceremony, into a waiting paddy wagon. This immediately raced off, sirens wailing, into the distance.
Brian Skycrest looked deeply into the lens of the camera.
“Okay folks. Time to get busy.”

“My nose isn’t shiny, is it?”
“Nope. Looks good.”
“Ten seconds.”
“Hair is great. Sprayed down, Blow dried, slightly balding.”
“Five, four, three, two…”
“Welcome back, America. Brian Skycrest again with Montana La Rue and Jeff Dingus, here at Rodney McQueen’s brand new, done over, residential box. We’ve all spent the last 10 days working real hard while Rodney’s been… away, to get it ready in time for his arrival.”
“Yeah,” Jeff Dingus’s ruggedly handsome features forced their way into the camera frame. “It sure was great to have those extra 3 days.”
“Yes it was,” Brian continued. “Seems good old Rodney had a teensy weensy problem mustering up that “Good Behavior Time”, but what the heck, we all have our bad days, and it was time well spent. Right Montana?”
The camera pulled back to reveal Miss La Rue (not her real name) adorned in her standard bikini/denim coveralls, with her carpenter’s utility belt strapped around her slim waist.
“Gee Brian,” she bubbled, “it just made all the difference in the world. I’m positive Rodney will appreciate all the little touches we had the time for.” She smiled at the camera and winked. “Speaking of time, folks. We’ve got about 2 minutes before Rodney gets here.” Skycrest applied his bullhorn. “2 minutes! 2 minute warning!”
Approximately 37 construction workers, dust covered and sweating, popped out from the tent now covering the spot where Rodney’s box had once been, and arranged themselves on either side. An extra large garbage truck pulled in front of the tent obscuring it from view.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s cruiser came to an abrupt stop in front of the assembled crowd, and a disheveled Rodney McQueen wearily emerged from the “guest seat” in back.
“Rodney! Rodney! Rodney!” the crowd jumped and cheered. Rodney rubbed his tired eyes and smiled sheepishly.
“Welcome home, Rodney!” Brian Skycrest smiled, placing his arm around Rodney’s slumped shoulders. “How was your vacation?”
“Yeah, thanks a lot you son of …”
“I think you’ve got the surprise of your life waiting for you,” Skycrest interrupted. “Are you ready to see your new box?!
“Uh… I guess so.”
“Okay,” Skycrest shouted. “Rodney McQueen, here is your new home! Move the truck!”
The garbage truck rumbled off to reveal Rodney’s new box, which resembled a miniature country cottage, or a large extravagant doghouse, depending on your frame of reference. It was painted white, with red trimming about the edges, about three feet wide, five long, and standing four high. The roof was slanted as to not accumulate snow during the harsh L.A. winters, and even had a well-manicured lawn a foot from the arched doorway, which surrounded the entire structure. A Lawn Elf poked up from the artificial grass on the right. The only oddities that differentiated it from customary living quarters were the lack of windows, and the flashing “HAPPY COLA” sign (product placement) revolving on top of the red-bricked chimney.
“Oh my God!” Rodney squealed, jumping for joy. “Not in my wildest dreams…”
“Rodney,” Brian went on, clearly pleased by the reaction, “your new box is constructed of waterproof, super tough and allergenic cardboard, secretly developed by the Halleburton Company for use as body armor for our soldiers fighting overseas. Guaranteed bullet proof for 3 days, or the second RPG, whichever comes first.”
“And able to withstand any and all types of weather. No more searching for dry boxes after a rain storm.”
“This is great! I can’t thank you enough.”
“Oh, we’re not done yet, Rod. I can call you Rod, can’t I?”
“You can call me anything you want, Brian.”
“Rodney, we noticed that your old box was, well, rather confining, so we had our team of experts work on making a little extra space for you to move around in.”
“You did?!”
“We sure did! We had to dig a little underground to do it, but we think you’ll like the results. Rodney McQueen, are you ready to take a walk through your new box!?
“Let’s go!” Skycrest smiled and nodded for the camera to follow.

Astonishingly, the camera and sound crew beat Brian and Rodney to the underground reception grotto, and were able to televise the duo as they stepped off the velvet lined “down” escalator, which deposited them just left of the Kai filled wading pool with the statue of Cupid spitting eternal spring water from his frosty, marble lips.
“Welcome to your new home, Rodney!” Brian beamed.
“Oh my God! I don’t believe it!” Rodney jumped up and down like an eight-year-old girl on her first trip to Disneyland.
“Yes Rodney, It’s all yours.” Brian waved expansively toward Rodney’s new living room, and beyond. The camera followed and panned over the interior, focusing briefly on the Veggie Juice bar, Jacuzzi, plasma T.V., and state-of-the-art entertainment and computer center. The subterranean cavern was amply furnished in Modern-Suburban-Tacky, matching Rose-red couches, love seats, and easy chairs evenly spaced throughout. A green beanbag filling one recessed corner was balanced by the yellow futon on the opposite side. A large, crystal-topped coffee table served as the decretive central structure, and the subdued lighting gave approximately the same impression one might receive upon entering an Argentinean brothel. Blooms of vased, colorful, flowers were placed here and there, perfume scented and elegantly arranged.
“We’ve tried to decorate according to what we know about your personal tastes, Rodney. All those pictorial magazines you left in your box were a great help.”
“Good job, Brian! This is all for me!?”
“Of course, Rodney! Our only hope is that we can ease, just a fraction, of the pain and difficulty you must be facing on a daily basis in your continuing struggle to form a brand new alcohol, crime, drug free life. Do you think we may have succeeded, Rodney? Just a little bit? Rodney…?”
Rodney was momentarily transfixed, starring blankly at the gold-framed painting of Montana La Rue dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl, which hung on the wall just above the trampoline. A long string of saliva decorously draped down his left jowl.
“Rodney?” Skycrest snapped his fingers, “Rod!”
Rodney regained consciousness and faced Skycrest. “What?”
“Do you think we’ve helped, just a little bit?”
“Oh, you sure have, Brian,” Rodney beamed idiotically. “Helped with what?”
“Ease the pain and stress related to your ongoing efforts to lead an alcohol, crime, and drug free life. Have we in any way been able to help you maintain your status as a useful, law abiding citizen, allowing you to cease your past nefariousness?”
Rodney looked somewhat uncertain. “Sure,” he said.
“Good Rodney. That makes us very happy and all this worthwhile. How long have you been alcohol, crime, and drug free, by the way?”
“Ummm, let’see, …, 10 days at least, Brian.”
Brian Skycrest looked earnestly and directly into the camera, and the television audience at home watching. “10 days at least, ladies and gentleman. 10 glorious days. Truly a miracle. And I should know.”
“Rodney!” Skycrest shouted. “There’s more to see! Come my friend.”
“More! Oh, this is all too much…”
Rodney, Skycrest, cameraman and crew, continued the tour, passing over the moat, through the living and dinning area, into the ultra modern and well stocked kitchen and pantry (“A toaster! My very own toaster!” Rodney blurted. “Microwave too!,” Brain added), finally coming to the master bedroom, also following the basic red motif. All eyes gravitated to Rodney’s new hart-shaped waterbed, richly covered in shag blankets and satin pillows. Brian invited Rodney to lie upon it, wherein he exclaimed, “Rodney, we knew that we needed one more item to make this all complete. Do you know what that item is, Rodney?”
“Don’t tell me,” he sat up with a look of great expectation and unbelief.
“That’s right, Rodney!” Skycrest deftly flipped a small switch on the mahogany nightstand. “MAGIC FINGERS!!!” he shouted. Rodney began vibrating incessantly, ecstasy shinning from his rapt features, warming the hearts of the millions at home watching from far, far away.

Back on the sidewalk, Skycrest and Rodney stood before his new box.
“Rodney,” Brian began, “least we forget, we’ve invited Lt. Over once again to make a short statement (Rodney’s exuberance disappeared instantly, like a dust molecule zapped into a giant vacuum cleaner). Lt. Over…”
“Mr. McQueen. To help you maintain your new way of life as an active, contributing member of society, and in accordance with the contract we’ve signed with the UPEE Television Network, the dedicated officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, from this moment on, will stop harassing you on a daily basis.”
“Oh my God… really?”
“Yes, really. From now on we’re gonna make it every other day, for a full and complete 3 weeks!”
“Wow! Not in my wildest dreams. How can I ever thank you guys.”
“You deserve every bit of it, Rodney,” Skycrest continued, then belted, “and we’re not done yet!”
“Oh no. No more. You’ve done too much… what is it?”
“To help with your new and increased property taxes, we’re going to give to you, a cool… clear… one hundred dollars in cold hard cash!!!”
To prove his point, Skycrest held in his left hand one hundred dollars in fives, fanned out like a deck of playing cards.
The money vanished.
Upon closer examination back in the studio, using newly developed stop-motion techniques specifically developed by the Pentagon’s Office of Satellite Recognizance, in their ongoing efforts to combat U.S. sponsored opium production in Afghanistan, but still blurry, Rodney McQueen could just be discerned snatching the offered bills from Skycrest’s outstretched hand, while simultaneously pivoting on the ball of his right foot, then proceeding in a mad dash east on Fifth , currents and eddies of displaced air clearly visible, and following in his wake (Some likened the scene to that out of a Warner Brother’s Roadrunner cartoon).
“Wow!” Skycrest exclaimed. “I guess Rodney had an important appointment, or something.” (Unbeknownst to Brian, the camera caught a few of Rodney’s neighbors exiting from his new box, seemingly to be holding various pieces of new electronic equipment, and a toaster.)
“Well that’s it for this week,” Brain concluded. “For all of us at ‘Extreme Do-Over; Box Edition,’ we wish all of you a warm box, and a swell tomorrow! Say goodnight, Montana.”
Miss La Rue giggled, “Goodnight.”
“And so long, Jeff.”
“So long.”
“Don’t forget to listen to me, Brian Skycrest, each and every weekday morning on K.R.A.P., for the latest hits in, mega old school and Arabian polka. 157.2, on your FM dial. Until next week… bye, bye America!”
“Okay, and we’re off air. Good job, Brian.”
“How’s my hair? Was my hair okay?”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Non State of the Union

Last night our new President delivered his first and only non- State of the Union Address. The reason it is a non-State of the Union Address being Barack Obama has not been President long enough to accept responsibility for the current state of the union. I for one don't blame him. If he were to accept responsibility for it he'd have to describe the state of the union as being f- -ked up! The country is involved in two huge military actions in foreign countries. We're suffering an economic meltdown not seen since the 1930's. Health care costs are out of control. Banks desperately require government funds to remain solvent. Seasoned companies are either failing or laying off workers by the thousands. The climate is warming. We are hated throughout the world.
You have to wonder about a guy who would actually want the job.
But I'm glad he did.
I have to say it was a hell of a speech. President Obama is a natural orator. He instinctively knows how to speak to a large audience, which was apparent in 2004 when he came upon the national scene at the Democratic Convention, and which probably is a large reason he is now President. That, and the way his mind works.
President Obama I feel is a pragmatist. A pragmatist is defined as one who takes a practical approach to solving problems. I like that. You know why? It's because I'm a pragmatist too, and proud of it. When I face a problem I naturally think of ways of solving it to archive the maximum benefit using the least amount of effort. I shift through all the possible solutions I can think of, choose the best (hopefully), and apply it. If that does not solve said problem in a satisfactory manner I'll shift strategies until I achieve my desired goal.
Women hate this.
Putting that aside, taking a practical approach to solving problems seems like a good thing right about now. The Republicans sure aren't doing that. Putting aside the fact that they are no longer in power (thank our non-existent God), and are not in a position to solve problems, still they offer few (no) solutions.
They offer ideology.
What was the Republican response to the President's plans to increase funding for domestic projects; to reform health care to the point where every American is insured and costs are stabilized, and our children receive the care they need no matter what income bracket they may fall under; investments in green energy, wind, solar, a smart state of the art national electrical grid; investments in education, so high school students stop dropping out of high school, and college students stay in college keeping the United States competitive with the rest of the world; maintain and support the automobile industry in this country, allowing it to evolve to supply America's changing transportation needs and once again becoming competitive on a global basis; supporting our domestic banking industry, even though they were mostly responsible for causing the mess we're in to begin with, and get the nation 's credit flowing once again; and allowing those homeowners on the brink of losing their homes the opportunity to refinance their mortgages and stay out of the ranks of the homeless (we don't need anymore around here, thank you).
What was the Republican's response? It was provided by the honorable Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal (who's ideological response to receiving 3.8 billion dollars in economic stimulus money was to turn down 98 million slated toward the 25,000 unemployed in his state (it's been said that he better run for President in 2012 because he sure as hell won't get reelected in Louisiana). His response was to bitch! The Democrats are spending too much! There's not enough tax cuts. The government is growing too big and using the tax payers money for it's own ends. They want to monitor volcanoes for Christ's sake (this provoked a particularly stringent response from the Mayor of Vancouver, Washington, which lies just 70 miles south of the active, killer volcano, Mount St. Helens)! They want to build an express train from Las Vegas to Disneyland (which even if it were true, which it may or may not be, there are currently no specific plans to build a train along this route, would still create thousands of good paying jobs)! What we need are tax cuts! Keep money in the people hands, not the governments! Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts! We did such a great job over the last 8 years, let's keep on doing it!
I admit that I am a recovering addict (booze, nicotine, whatever takes me away from the world). But even I know, and it has been explained to me quite well over the years, that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is tantamount to insanity.
For my part I'll take pragmaticism over ideology every time.
And it is so comforting to have a President who at least has a passing familiarity with the English language.
So President Obama, let's see how it goes. I'm certainly counting on you, and am behind you 100%.
Next year's the real State of the Union, and it's all yours.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fairy Tales

Referring to yesterdays post... Anne Hathaway most certainly deserved an Oscar.
I had not realized that "Rachel Getting Married," was directed by "Silence of the Lambs," Jonathan Demme. It's good to know that he's still productive and churning out quality work. The film was a tad painful to watch as I could relate to Anne's character Kym a little too much. It's a tribute to Ms Hathaway that she made me feel so uncomfortable.
And she's so pretty.
But I digress.
After watching "Rachel Getting Married," I still had enough time before the local broadcast of "Married with Children," to watch Bill Maher's "Religulous," his fascinating and courageous documentary concerning the follies of religion.
But let me digress.
Let's discuss growing up and fairy tales. Before I begin ragging on religion, any religion, I'm not prejudiced, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Scientology, whatever, I think we need to examine other institutional beliefs that might not have been sufficiently scrutinized.
1. Santa. The evidence concerning the existence of Mr. Claus is circumstantial at best (although actual photos of small children sitting on the lap of said Santa in certain local shopping establishments could, by some, be considered direct evidence. As far as I know, no claims of photographic trickery have been substantiated regarding the huge amount of pictorial evidence available at the time of this writing). Children go to bed on Christmas Eve, wake the next morning to happily discover gifts under the Christmas tree that had not been there the previous evening. NORAD annually tracks an unidentified flying object hurtling from the northern polar regions toward the North American continent (apparently under some undisclosed agreement with the federal government, as no instances of scrambled F22 Rapters can be ascertained to intercept this interloper within U.S. airspace). And cookies and milk left for Santa routinely disappear by X-mas morning. On a scale of 1 to 10, the evidence for the existence of Santa Claus stands at 3.571.
2. UFO's. There is a great deal of evidence regarding the existence of Unidentified Flying Objects. NORAD annually tracks a particular UFO hurtling from the northern polar regions toward the United States each December. Anecdotal evidence abounds of American citizens being routinely abducted by said objects, and probed without mercy. Photographs and movies of objects zooming across the skies are ubiquitous. Further, the very definition of the term "Unidentified Flying Object," pertains to any object detected in the atmosphere that has not yet been categorized, be it bird, flying dinnerware, the planet Venus, or swift moving swamp gas. On a scale from 1 to 10, UFO's rate a 8.212.
3. The Tooth Fairy. Again the evidence for said fairy is extremely circumstantial, yet promising. A child retires for the evening placing a recently extracted molar under their pillow, and lo and behold, some type of monetary compensation is discovered the next morning, attributed, one can imagine, to some type of calcium deprived spectral entity called a Tooth Fairy. Evidence scale = 4.175.
4. Leprechauns. I'm not even going to get into Leprechauns. I know they're real from personnel experience. Wiley little bastards. 10.
5. God. As yet there is no physical, photographic, or circumstantial evidence for the creator of all things that remains credible. All evidence for this entity is anecdotal, and derived from ancient, convoluted and contradictory documentation, that has since been proved obsolete by the rigorously applied standards of the modern scientific method. It is understood that the use of "God," or "Gods," depending at which point in history one is examining, was exceptionally beneficial for the human race while in it's infancy, although still extremely problematic. With the advent of scientific inquiry, it has been discovered that there is little that cannot be explained in nature that is more readily defined by science than through theologic rationalization. It is acknowledged that by the very nature of the definition of "God," it is as difficult to disprove as it is to definitively prove, therefore on a scale of 1 to 10, the evidence for God remains at 1.216.
So here we have discovered that there is more evidence for Santa, UFOs, the Tooth Fairy, and Leprechauns, than there is for God. As Mr. Maher rightly points out, in this day of religious fundamentalism, within this country and without, linked to global, possible nuclear terrorism, it is imperative that our species abandon adolescent myths and embrace the lonely, sometimes daunting responsibilities associated with living in the real world.
Bill Maher states the case eloquently.
"We have to grow up... or die."

Monday, February 23, 2009

2008 Academy Awards

Last night the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held it's 81st annual award ceremony, at the Kodak Theater, right here in Los Angeles, technically the district of Hollywood. At the intersection of Hollywood and Highland to be exact. I always find this particularly annoying as the Metro Red Line (LA's version of a New York subway), is not allowed to stop at the Hollywood & Highland Station every Oscar night, even if that is where you were going. If you're trying to get to Hollywood and Highland on Oscar night using the Red Line, it won't happen. You'll stop at the Hollywood and Vine station thinking, "Boy, I'll get off at the very next station and then I'll be right there," but the train won't stop. It will rush right by that station, and you'll be standing on the train with your mouth hanging open, and pretty soon you'll find yourself in North Hollywood where no one wants to go (I'm allowed to say that because I once lived there. My sister, mom and dad too).

I mean really. Let's say you're an environmentally conscience couple, such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. What better way to be a national role model than to forgo the gas guzzling limo, take the Red Line and pop out of the Hollywood/Highland Metro Station right on to the red carpet? But Noooo, The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority won't let you do that because they closed the whole damn station!

But I digress.

As I often do.

Wolverine/Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) hosted, doing a wonderful job in my opinion (who knew X-People could sing and dance). He finally called out Meryl Streep for her blatant use of steroids to secure her record 15th Academy acting nomination. It's about time as far as I'm concerned. Congress should look into steroid use in the entertainment industry.

The lovely and talented Penelope Cruz won for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "Vicky Christina Barcelona," another Woody Allen sex fantasy acted out for our viewing pleasure. It just so happens that I watched this movie about three hours before the ceremony began, so I was very familiar with her performance, and agree, she was extremely deserving, although she beat out my favorite, the lovely and talented Taraji P Henson, the best thing about the film, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Heath Ledger became the second actor to win an Academy Award posthumously (Peter Finch being the first, for 1976's "Network"), for his remarkable creation, The Joker, probably the most menacing screen villain since last year's Anton Chigurh, portrayed by Javier Bardem, and before that Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter.

The lovely and talented Sean Penn won out over what most thought (I certainly did) was a sure win for Micky Rourke's performance in "The Wrestler." Sean was kind enough to pay tribute to Rourke at the end of his acceptance speech. Very magnanimous of him considering Micky had a tendency to insult him in the run up to the show.

Jerry Lewis won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his decades long advocacy for children with muscular dystrophy. And my god, he's lost a lot of weight (possibly do to declining health, I'm sorry to say). The last time I saw him on one of the late night talk shows, I swear to Christ I thought he was fooling around and wearing a fat suit. Although I've never been a fan of his brand of humor, I wish him the best, and congratulate him for this honor, which he richly deserves.

Danny Boyle, an Englishman, won for Best Director, for his picture about India, "Slumdog Millionaire," which went on to win the Best Picture award (which always makes sense to me, being that the director has total (or should have) artistic responsibility for the over all movie, hence, if the director wins, the picture should logically follow). Not bad for a guy whose last major success was a zombie movie ("28 Days Later").

I think everyone would agree that the biggest surprise of the evening was The Dark Knight's win over Wall-E in the sound editing category. I lost 20 bucks on that one.

And finally, although I have always been a huge fan of Kate Winslet, and she certainly deserved the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in "The Reader," (I watched that film directly after the Academy show to make sure she deserved it (you may ask how I can view these movies that have not been offered commercially yet as DVD's. Ask away), I have to admit I was rooting for Anne Hathaway, just because she is so pretty. And talented. I'm going to watch "Rachel Getting Married," tonight just to make sure she should have won. And for a girl who was 11 years old when he died, she does a mean Nixon impression.

Annie, you can victory sign me any day.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Hi! My name is Richard Joyce and God asked me to write this. Not the previous sentence particularly, but this blog or web site in general. I for one am going to do what God says, even though I don't believe in Him, and He knows it (I use the masculine term for convenience, if this offends you, please feel free to substitute "She," "It," "Majestic, Mighty, All Powerful Spiritual Presence," or whatever, I don't mind, and neither does God. He told me).
I live in a box in the "Fish Offal District" of downtown Los Angeles. It's a good box, and I'm comfortable here. I've lived in this box for over five years now, and I have no intention of leaving anytime soon, especially since I just got my cable TV hooked up a couple of weeks ago. It sure is expensive, but at least I don't have to fuss with an antenna anymore. Channel 5 comes in crystal clear now, almost every time.
Anyway, I was sleeping peacefully one night, minding my own business, when God grabbed me on the shoulder, and said, "Wake up Joyce, you've got work to do."
When this kind of thing happens to me I usually attribute it to the consumption of huge quantities of malt liquor from the previous evening. However, I vaguely remembered having stopped drinking and using most mind numbing substances years previously. "Leave me alone," I cried, as I rolled over onto my side and tried to quickly return to the oblivion of sleep.
God was obstinate though, and a tad obstreperous.
"Joyce!" he cried. "Get up now! I haven't got all day."
"Go away," I replied, stubbornly digging my head deeper into my pillow.
Then he gave me a leg cramp.
I bolted upright, hopping out of my rack as if struck by a bolt of lightening (and considering the circumstances, that could have easily been the case).
There is only one sure fire remedy that I'm aware of to ease the razor like bolt of pain that usually accompanies the cramping of the lower leg. That is to put your full weight on the affected leg, standing as straight as possible, stretching the calf muscle to counterbalance the involuntary contraction. Usually this procedure quickly de-cramps the muscle, shooing away the agony almost instantaneously.
I sat back on my bed, breathing in spurts, looking up to see Morgan Freeman sitting on a sofa directly in front of me, looking back at me with what I believed to be bemused distaste.
I thought this was decidedly odd, as I don't own a sofa.
"Morgan Freeman," I stuttered, "what are you doing here?"
"I'm not Mr. Freeman," God said. "He was just the last one to have portrayed me in a movie. Damn fine actor, though."
"If you're not Morgan Freeman, than who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"Not too quick on the uptake, are you, Joyce?" He leaned closer to me and whispered, "I'm God." "Ha, ha," I replied. "You can't be God."
"Why," God asked.
"Well, for one thing... I don't believe in God."
"How do you explain the couch."
"Well... I'm not sure. This can all be some kind of elaborate joke... and you can be one of those celebrity look-a-likes..."
"Want me to prove it to you." He snapped his fingers.
"Not really..." At this point my leg began to cramp up again.
I stood up, winching. "God Damn it!" I cried.
"Watch out for what you ask for, Joyce." He snapped his fingers again and the pain in my leg disappeared immediately.
I fell back on my bed, breathless. "Jesus H Christ!" I called out clutching my offended limb.
"Still don't believe me," God Asked.
"No," I cried, "of course not. You're probably something I ate last night. Some kind of hallucination..."
God raised his fingers again.
"No, no... wait a minute. Okay, okay, let's say you're God. What do you want with me?"
"Ah, now we're getting someplace," God said. "I want you to start writing on the Internet. A blog, is what I believe they call them."
"You want me to write a blog? That's what this is about? Why would I do that. I've got enough to do," I protested.
"Downloading porn off the Internet is not what is normally called a considered career choice, Joyce."
"What? How do you know..." I gave up. "What do you want me to write about?"
"The truth, of course. I'm so tired of all the lies being spread out there, using my name to legitimize anything from pipelines, to wars. Everybody thinks I'm on they're side. The Americans think every despicable thing they do is supported by me, and it's just not true. The Muslims think that every despicable thing they do is supported by me. That's not true either. To tell you the truth, I'm not on anybody's side! The Buddhists are the only ones who give me any peace, and that's because, like you, they don't believe in me... I'm tired of every pipsqueak politician using my name to advance some petty, selfish cause, or horrendous humanitarian blunder. I'm tired of of being used to legitimize brutality, to back national aggression, to promote injustice, to sanction lifestyle choices. Do you really think I spend a lot of time worrying about homosexuals getting married?"
"Well, I imagine your quite busy..."
"You're damn right I am! I don't spend any time worrying about it. I don't care what they, or anybody else does, as long as it doesn't hurt any one."
"Seems logical to me."
"Yeah," God continued. "And don't worry about the Bible. I didn't have anything to do with that. A bunch of drunken, overzealous sheepherders came up with that one. No one asked me?"
"You're kidding? So many people think that it's your direct word," I said.
"Your right. They also believe in astrology, little green men visiting from outer space (Oh, they're out there all right, but like me, they've got better things to do than come to earth and poke people), Santa Clause, Tarot cards, ghosts, that Rush Limbaugh tells the truth..."
God tried for a small moment to hold it in, but couldn't, "...HA, HA, HA, HA, HA!"
God's laughter is infectious. I busted out too, "HA, HA, HA, HA, HA!"
God: "HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha..."
Me: "HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha..."
God: "Ha, Ha, Ha, He, He, He., He, Ha, HA, HA, HE, HE, He, He, HEeeee..."
Me: "Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, HE, He, He, HA, HE, HE, Heee..."
We couldn't stop laughing. After a few moments I had to slap God on the back as he had begun a huge coughing fit.
After he recovered, somewhat, he looked at me and said, "Don't ever touch God again, Joyce."
"Oh, sorry."
"My point is, some, a lot of people believe anything! It's ridiculous." God looked at me, "That's where you come in."
"Me? What can I do?"
"Not much, admittedly. You people are so screwed up down here, it's hardly worth the bother. But I need you to try."
"Try what?"
"I don't think you're paying attention, son. I need you to spread my word through your blog..."
"Now wait a minute. I can't do that. If I start writing that God is speaking strictly through me to spread his word they'll lock me up in the looney bin so fast it will make your head spin."
"Yeah, and rightly so, HA, HA! But you don't have to tell anybody that it's really me that's telling you what to write. You just go ahead and write it, I'll help you out once in a while. I like your stuff and think you're on the right track."
"Wow, I don't know..."
"Listen," God said, "You don't really believe you're talking to me right now, do you? To the creator of all the Universes. You still don't, do you? You think you're dreaming all of this, don't you? Come on, tell God the truth."
"Well, yeah, you're right..."
"See! You're the perfect person to spread my word. A die hard atheist. I doesn't matter if you tell them that you're writing my word, or not. I don't care. Heck, as far as I'm concerned, you can tell everybody that God told you to tell them that there is no God! How do you like that?! It certainly would bring me some peace."
"Yeah, you said that already. So, you ready to get started, or what?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"Sure you do. Sure you do. Everybody has a choice. Your's is to either start writing this blog... or I'll send you to the Fiery Pit for all eternity."
"What the... now wait a minute... your kidding... aren't you?"
God continued to stare at me with that God like stare of his. He didn't look like he was kidding.
Then he busted up.
"HA, HA, HA, Ha, Ha, He, He, He... yeah, I'm kidding. If you don't believe in me, you sure don't believe in the Fiery Pit?" He became serious again, "Or do you?"
"Now wait a minute... you're, you're kidding again.. right?"
"Sure, I'm kidding," not laughing. "You'll do this for me, won't you? I highly recommend it."
"Well, if you put it that way... I guess. But boy, a lot of people are going to get real mad at me."
"So what? Tell them you're on a mission..."
"A mission... from..."
"Yes Elwood, you can tell them you're on a mission from God."
"Gee wiz! Yeah, okay, I'll do it."
God was happy. "Good, that's settled then. I've got to get going..."
"Hey, wait a minute, I've got a question, or two..."
God looked inpatient. "What is it?"
"Well, let's see, huum. Michael Shermer (Famous skeptic and sex symbol) would kill me if I didn't ask this..."
"Okay, you're God, right? Creator of everything..."
"Yeah, well..."
"Where did you come from?"
"Ha, Ha... I knew you'd ask that one. Well, the answer is quite simple. I came from..."
"...yes, yes?"
"What! How can that be? God has a mother?"
"Of course I have a mother. What did you think? That God just popped out of the non existent cabbage patch?"
"Well I had no idea... alright, but where did she come from?"
"Flunk high school biology, Joyce? She came from my grandmother."
"Right!, then where did she come from?"
"I can see where this is headed, Joyce, but I'm afraid it's mothers all the way down!"
With that, God disappeared in a flash light and a puff of smoke.
He took the sofa with him.
"Damn," I said. "I liked that sofa."
Well, that's how it is folks. I'm officially on a mission from God.
He didn't explicitly say it was okay, but I intend to use this blog to make weekday entries, as well as publish some other stuff.. short stories, my screenplay of The Day the Earth Stood Still, (more traditional than the 2008 version, I believe), and two long memoirs (serialized).
We (I) will be discussing all kinds of issues, of varying degrees of importance. Politics, economic disparity, war, homelessness, science, movies, me, the Los Angeles Metro Transit Authority (Damn them!), the giant ants that live in our sewers, and serious stuff too.
As Steinbeck reminded us in "East of Eden," there are real monsters in this world. Sociopathic, narrow minded, self important, cruel, exceptionalist, selfish, brutal, inhumane, lying bastard monsters that hide (like giant cockroach monsters) behind false shields of respectability, such as religion and family values.
Don't worry, we'll talk about the Democrats as well.
Cordial and respectful comments are welcome. Profanity will not be tolerated unless it is absofuckinglutly necessary. Thank you. Rick Joyce