Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Run for your life

You never know when it's going to hit. You can try to prepare for it, but ultimately there's no preparing for it. One minute you're walking along, minding your own business, and then, bam!, it hits and all you can do is react with whatever kneejerk idea that comes to mind, and wait for it to be over. All you can really do is hope it doesn't happen to you.


As you may have heard (or experienced first-hand), at 11:42 this morning a magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit Southern California. That's not what I'm talking about.

I was at work, sitting at my desk, under a building in downtown Los Angeles that is over 50 stories tall (and is around 50 miles from the epicenter). My cubicle is on a subterranean floor. (Yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.) Directly above my department is the loading dock for the building, and it is not an uncommon occurrence for a loud boom to ring out and for the ceiling to shake when a tremendously large object is (presumably) dropped off a truck to the dock floor. We have grown accustomed to it.

When the earthquake struck, at least amongst those sitting near me, we pretty much figured it was another loading dock miscue. Only after it continued and the rumbling permeated the floor as well did we fully appreciate it was not that. Still, being a native southern Californian who has been through many earthquakes, I didn't even bother to get out of my chair and contemplate getting under the desk until the moment when, coincidentally, the shaking stopped. Where I was, the turbulence was not even strong enough to cause any items on the shelf above my desk to fall over, so from my perspective, it wasn't a big deal.

I did not flee the building, even though there is an emergency exit door approximately seven feet from my cubicle. (Not that running outside a tall building is prudent during an earthquake, but I heard tales of people up on the ground floor who did panic and run outside.)

Years ago I sat up on the 41st floor, and did experience an earthquake from up there. Where I sat was on the interior of the building, so we had no windows (a common thread amongst my desk locations). The building did not rumble or shake; the building swayed laterally (as it is designed to do). The only way I knew it was happening was because a marble on my desk started to roll back and forth on its own, and a slight feeling of nausea entered my stomach. When it was over, we all got up and asked each if that was an earthquake. People who had windows told us that one could look out and see the other skyscrapers of downtown swaying as well, which undoubtedly only made it worse.

But this time, being down below ground level, there was no swaying, just a bit of shaking, but it was over in about 10 seconds.

That's not what I'm talking about either.


As I walked to lunch approximately 90 minutes later I heard a voice from someone beside me say "Excuse me…" and I turned to see a gentleman in glasses with tousled salt-and-pepper hair, holding a notebook. He identified himself as a reporter; next to him was another man, holding a camera. He asked if he could talk to me about the earthquake. And I stopped and acquiesced.

I started talking right away, explaining how for me it wasn't anything that caused me any distress, that from my perspective it wasn't that bad. While I was doing this he was trying to get open his notepad and started jotting some shorthand. He even mentioned how in trying to listen to what I was saying he didn't get it all down. Understandable—I certainly couldn't hope to jot down what someone was saying as he was saying it. Heck, hours later, even though we spoke for only a few minutes, I fully admit I don't recall exactly everything I said.

However, we did talk for longer than just one or two questions. Amongst what I noted in those minutes was how when an earthquake hits it reminds us of what we are often (adopting a slight tone of exaggeration—I thought) blissfully ignoring. However, to better capture what I meant I should have phrased it more like "it reminds us of what we prefer to not think about"—that being, that we live with the constant possibility of the ground shaking violently, with no warning). I was not working from a rehearsed set of talking points; I was (imprudently) just saying what came to mind.

He asked me if I thought we were ready for a big earthquake. I replied with a request for clarification: "Do you mean all of Southern California, or just downtown?" He would take either, so I mentioned how I imagined that a lot of people around probably were not, but in downtown things probably were better, because we had practice drills and some stores of emergency supplies. Merely as a digression I admitted even I was not as well prepared at home as I should be, but what I considered my point was that, at least in downtown, there was probably a reasonable level of preparedness.

I was so convinced that none of what I said would be remotely usable for whatever article he was writing that when the accompanying photographer wanted to take my picture I didn't bother to take my sunglasses off. Even when they mentioned it, I left them on; I knew I wouldn't be the feature of anything, so it didn't matter.

At the end of our chat he got my name, and I looked on his notepad to make sure it was spelled correctly. He then asked what building I worked in, so I told him. He asked me what city I live in, so I told him that. He then asked me how old I was. And without thinking, I told him that as well. (He commented on how I didn't look my age, which I'm sure he meant as a compliment, and which is how I took it.) He also asked for an email address so he could alert me about the piece when it was done, so I gave him my old work one.

Only then did he actually introduce himself, and mention that he worked for Thomson Reuters. In retrospect, I probably should have wanted that earlier, but he was genuinely pleasant so I felt at ease talking to him (which is certainly a sign of good reporter). We shook hands and went on our ways, which was the last I thought I'd hear about it.


Three hours later I got an email from him with the text of three stories he'd written about the earthquake. He included an intro directed personally to me, thanking me for my time and saying I was fun to talk with, and I genuinely believe he did remember me, and that his statement was sincere.

Then he wrote: "Hope I quoted you properly."

(Properly is always a matter of interpretation.)

I scrolled down to the first story in the email, where the theme appeared to be summed up in the headline: "'Jaded Californians see quakes as part of life."

Well, that would be more or less the gist of what I said to him, so I skimmed through it, seeing quotes from others who weren't freaked out by the shaking, and who suggested that in this area we are able to keep from freaking out. Nothing from me, but that was hardly a surprise.

In the second part, it shifted in focus to preparedness, which was the thrust of the questions he asked me (and the ones where I kept asking for clarifications about the scope of the questions). There were quotes from officials for Cal Tech and the LAFD, noting how it was a wake-up call to remind people to get prepared, and a line with that same sentiment from someone identified as a secretary.

Then I got to the last paragraph:
"I would fit into the category of unprepared," said 40-year-old downtown Los Angeles worker Doug [my last name**]. "Collectively, Southern Californians are in a sense of blissful ignorance."
That's how it ended.

I dropped my head to my desk and laughed.

So convinced had I been that nothing I said would be used that I had overlooked what was the other obvious outcome: That out of all I said, the parts that I shouldn't have said would be the only parts included, and that the light tone would not come through at all, making it seem as though I impugned all of the millions of people living here.*

But at least my name was spelled correctly. And they didn't include any of the photos taken.

And identified only as "downtown Los Angeles worker," it's unlikely strangers will be able to find me all that easily. (As long as they don't find this post. Crap...)

And, ultimately, I have this forum here to elaborate (way beyond the point where any sane person would want to know, but an elaboration nonetheless), just in case Southern Californians do track me down.


Looking on the Reuters website at that point in the afternoon, only one of the other of the three stories was up, so it seemed as though the one with my "quote" may not get picked up from the wire service.

However, this evening, I see the story is on their site. But one has to click all the way to the third page of it to see what was attributed to me, and really, who has time for that in this crazy, fast-paced world? Especially when everyone should be getting their earthquake preparedness kits together.


And now, some advice:

In the event of an earthquake, try to stand in a doorway or crouch under a sturdy desk; do not run outside. In the event of an unexpected man-on-the-street interview, speak very slowly so the reporter can jot it down accurately; running away is also an acceptable course of action.

Earthquakes generally last only a matter of seconds, and as long as one can avoid falling debris one is likely to escape unscathed. Giving one's glib thoughts about earthquakes to a reporter for a man-on-the-street interview, on the other hand, can carry much further reaching consequences.


* I wish to interject a moment of 90% sincerity here (unlike the abject tongue-in-cheek tone most of this post has had): I do not believe it was the reporter's intent to make me look bad, and that what he attributed to me he intended to carry the meaning I intended. Perhaps it's only my interpretation that it doesn't quite come out that way. And hey, for having only hours to get it together, it could be worse.

Semi-ironically, it's not like there aren't other topics about which I would want to denigrate most of the metropolitan area; it's just that this wasn't one. Wait. I shouldn't admit that either, should I? Man, I am not good at discretion...


No, I don't expect anyone to actually get through the 1600+ words I blathered on about here. People really should be getting ready for the next earthquake.

Clearly I have no editor, much as I desperately need one.

It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: I am not a journalist.


** There's no need for full names here. We've gone years without my readers knowing it, so why start now? But as noted, it was correct in the article.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Changing it up

"May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house."
- George Carlin, noting new and interesting things to say along with 'goodbye' instead of "Have a good one."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Man of my word

A few days ago I posted a shot of a flower I had taken. Being an even worse with horticulture than I am with photography, I didn't know the name of said flower, so I put out a call to my readership to test their floral expertise, offering a post of praise in reward. And as happened the last time I did that, one reader was the first (and only) person to identify it.

So, again, I humbly submit... Jenji still rocks. You should click on her name and read her stuff. (Which generally has nothing to do with flowers, interestingly enough.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's not the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

People who think the world is getting worse have a highly selective memory.

That's not saying the world is getting better, of course. And really, it's specious to suggest that there's an empirical method for determining "better" or "worse"; there's individual perceptions of those concepts, certainly, but that indicates merely the frame of mind of the perceiver at the moment of contemplating whether the world is "better" or "worse" than it used to be.

Or at least presumably that's what's implied by or "worse": That the overall state has worsened relative to a previous point in time—but when exactly? Worse than when gasoline cost under $2 per gallon? If one has a gas tank to fill, by that criterion, yes. Worse than when a plague wiped out significant portions of the population? Not so much. Unless you fear that overpopulation is a problem (about which one certainly could be legitimately concerned), but even with that factored in to the equation, it's questionable to consider having another rampant disease to be the best way to handle that issue.

Perhaps the only constant throughout time (at least pertaining to human perception thereof) is a latent fascination with perceiving that world, in the present moment, to be at its worst and deteriorating. Not that it would be a persistent thought, but that either consciously or unconsciously, our intellect employs an intermittent defense of having that most abject of outlook, perhaps to counter the realization of how impotent we tend to be regarding the state of the world.

Most religions have some story pertaining to the end of the world. Perhaps that indicates that there's some innate but unconscious fascination with wanting the world to end Why would we fancy that notion (although not necessarily realizing we are)? The answer, it seems to me, is ridiculously simple: That is the literal, unequivocal worst it can get; that is the point at which it cannot possibly get any worse, by whatever criteria one chooses to use to perceive it.

There's nowhere to go but up.

It's optimistic, in a manner of speaking.



When I'm not making mildly sardonic remarks and deconstructing unimportant things, I sometimes take pictures of nice things, such as the flowers featured in the accompanying photo:

Every so often I post some of them on the useless photo site.

Is it humanizing? Is it a waste of bandwidth? That's for you to decide. Click on over and have a look.

Okay, let me sweeten the deal: If you happen to know the name of this kind of flower, please note that in a comment, and if you happen to be right, or at least sound right, I will devote a post to your amazing intellect, which will be seen by somewhere between 2 to 14 people per day. Really.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sticking it to me (Spam of the day)

Today I received the following email in my work inbox. Three times.

In the body of the message it indicated (and I thought):
You are receiving this e-mail because you subscribed to MSN Featured Offers. [No, I did not, but do continue.] Microsoft respects your privacy. [Really? Since when?] If you do not wish to receive this MSN Featured Offers e-mail, please click the "Unsubscribe" link below. [Yeah, right.] This will not unsubscribe you from e-mail communications from third-party advertisers that may appear in MSN Feature Offers. [Hmm. Then what is the point of clicking the aforementioned "unsubscribe" link?] This shall not constitute an offer by MSN. MSN shall not be responsible or liable for the advertisers' content nor any of the goods or service advertised. [That's for the best.] Prices and item availability subject to change without notice.
Looking at the "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom of the message, it pointed merely to the MSN homepage. Not a special page, just to the homepage. Specious.

And what, pray tell, was so important that this purported MSN email needed to alert me about?

A link to: "Free Video Nude Anjelia Jolie"

Wow. I'm not sure who this Anjelia Jolie is, but it's quite fortunate that this sender found a nude video of her. Typing her name into Google comes up with 1,370,000 hits, and those are all redirected for the far better known Angelina. Before this Anjelia hits it big, I can have the chance to see her naked.

Looking at the properties of the link, it points to an .exe on an server with only an IP address. Hmm. That sounds more like a rather paltry attempt at running a program to install a virus.

And who would be so insistent about wanting me to see this other Jolie as a scam to infect my computer?


The sender was attributed to my old work email address (before we changed domain name), one that hasn't been in use for years.

Yeesh. I hate it when I do this to myself. At least I was apparently clever enough to get the message past the spam filters. But I wasn't smart enough to get myself to fall for it.


Update: Tuesday, July 22, 9:35 pm
I see from my site metering that since posting the above last night, it came up in Google searches from Pennsylvania, Romania, Denmark, Philippines, and right here in California. Clearly my old work email is still working hard, getting the word about this Anjelia around.

Song lyrics du jour

Cause America can, and America can't say no
And America does, if America says it's so
It's so!

And the anchorperson on TV goes...
La de da de da

- The Decemberists, "16 Military Wives"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Setting the stage:
As I've done many hundreds—possibly thousands—of times over the past eight and a three-quarter years I walked from the train station to the office. This is downtown L.A., with most streets being one-way, so at some intersections the left turn is merely hugging the corner (the mirror of making a right turn at a conventional intersection), rather than crossing lanes of oncoming traffic and swinging to the right. On my route, the second intersection I must cross is such an intersection.

I travel the opposite direction of oncoming traffic, so when I'm in the crosswalk cars turning left are coming from my left, generally waiting to turn toward my right.


Because cars are approaching the intersection in the lanes near to the sidewalk approaching drivers generally notice pedestrians already in the crosswalk and wait. Sometimes they slow nicely to indicate they see us, and sometimes they come to a sudden halt because they weren't looking until almost starting to turn, but most of the time they do stop and wait.

I get it that people perceive themselves to be harried and in urgent need to get to their destinations. I understand that all the one-way streets and tall buildings can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the area. Nonetheless, the rules of the road dictate that one must concede the right-of-way to pedestrians with a walk sign.

The scene:
This morning there was a wide enough break in the flow of pedestrians so that two vehicles turned and crossed the crosswalk (one of which was a Hummer—what a shock). Then with me leading a second pack of pedestrians, and well over 75 percent across another car started to turn. He then noticed me, a few steps away, approaching him. We made eye contact. And he stepped on the accelerator to whip out in front of me.

He raised his hand toward me in a gesture I imagine he intended as conciliatory, acknowledging that he did cut right in front of me.

It's not that I've never had a driver turn in front of me, but usually those who have were so oblivious that they didn't give any indication of having seen me at all.

I then did something I have never done before. Without breaking stride I raised my right hand, knuckles toward him, with my thumb, index finger, ring finger and pinkie curled down. I intended this gesture to indicate he could shove his conciliation in the personal orifice of his choosing.

And it felt kinda good.

It's not that he was any worse than the Hummer or other car who turned before him, who were also close to other pedestrians. On that point they were equally inconsiderate. He was merely the one who made the mistake of looking at me.

Should not his hint of acknowledging his guilt have earned him a reprieve? And I say that makes him worse. It wasn't blithe disregard for others; it was a conscious choice to be a jerk. He had the opportunity to brake, as he should have. His action clearly indicated he knew he should have. And he did not.

Do I think he saw my gesture? I do. Do I think it made him feel worse? I do not.

I didn't flip him off to make him feel worse; I did it to make it clear he was not "forgiven" by showing me his palm. I did it because he deserved it. I did it because I figured he wouldn't stop and get out to kick my ass.

I did it for all the times I didn't get a chance to flip off the asshole behind the wheel. I did it to make me feel a little better at that moment.

Juvenile? Somewhat.

I understand that by flipping him off, I stooped down to his level, made myself something of a jerk (at least in his eyes). It's entirely possible that doing so caused him to feel defensive, as though he'd been victimized (in a tiny way), because he tried to apologize (in his mind) and I rebuked it in an offensive way. He then was relieved of the need to feel bad about what he did (on the off-chance that he would have done so after that moment of hand raising).

I am, if nothing else, an inappropriately considerate schmuck when I am a schmuck. That's why I don't feel bad about it, and I'm sure, neither does he.

And thus I say to him now: You're welcome.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sound off

There's no point in me posting a reaction to specific TV shows, as I have no indication that my modest readership is interested in that sort of thing. Also, I am lousy at offering any cogent argument about why a show is good or bad; I feel no compulsion to deconstruct the reaction that way*, and thus no inspiration springs to mind. Besides, unless I plan on turning this into a site focusing on that sort of topic, that kind of thing is better suited for posting on a message board pertaining to the show(s) in question. There are no shortage of places on the 'net where one can find such a forum to engage in lively debate.

And by "lively debate" I mean one can be told that one is a "douche bag" for having one's opinion.**

More general notions, like disappointment, are fair game here.


I used to watch The West Wing (yes, on the EW "new classics"), and I found I really looked forward to it each week. Even through some periods where it wasn't getting good ratings, and even at the end when Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda were the focus, I enjoyed it. What that says about me is anyone's guess, but I like to think I merely liked it because it was, by and large, a well-done show.

Three of the actors from that show (although not necessarily the big names) landed on cable series. Mary-Louise Parker most notably got the lead on Showtime's Weeds, Dulé Hill got a co-lead (although really kind of supporting) role on USA's Psych, and now Mary McCormack is also on USA with the recently premiered In Plain Sight.

Coincidentally, all of those are series which start in the summer (or late spring) rather than in the autumn. *** So they have started up or will be soon.


I am not here to review any of those series. Let's be clear about that.

However, to sum up, I had enjoyed Weeds (although I missed its first season because I didn't have the pay channels at the time), especially the 2007 season. I found Psych to be a nice little way to spend a Friday evening after watching Monk, although it was not necessarily ground-breaking in its execution. And from the ads for In Plain Sight that started running back in January (for a June premiere), I thought it looked like it would be a good show.

And the fact that these all feature actors whose work I enjoyed in West Wing only enhanced things.


Psych starts its new season this Friday, so I can't say how that will be. That leaves us with Mary and Mary(-Louise).

The new seasons of both Weeds and In Plain Sight started a month or so back. I concede the current runs should not be judged until they have played out where they're going. However, my initial reaction to both—and I'm not saying I have any good reason for feeling this way; it was merely my glib but genuine response—was that, while both actresses are good in their respective shows, the shows were not quite what I was hoping they'd be.

Having had all winter and spring to gather up anticipation (which, conceivably the producers of the shows wanted) in my head, they were not eliciting in me the same level of can't-wait-for-next-week excitement that the show on which I really got to know them, The West Wing.



It wasn't that I abandoned all hope they wouldn't come around—or perhaps, that I wouldn't come around—as the summer progressed. I kept watching, perhaps because of the expectations.

With the latest episodes, I find Weeds really starting to get back to the response it caused last season. In Plain Sight is getting better at dragging my attention away from the computer, which is (believe it or not) something of a compliment.

I have to admit: I've given less of a chance to other shows. Perhaps there's many shows on which I've missed out because they didn't grab me right off, and I didn't keep watching to see if they'd improve.

And all because they didn't feature former West Wing cast members to get in my viewing door. Apparently, that was the road to redemption.


That, gentle reader, is a topic for this site.


* Although, yes, one might expect that from me--sometimes I confound even myself.

** I find myself disinclined to post anything on those. The reason it simple: I already know my opinions are crap; I don't need someone with nothing better to do than hang out on message boards all day telling me I'm a douche bag for having those less-than-supportable opinions.

Maybe I just don't know how to have fun.

*** It's a glorious time for TV viewing. In the past the summer was a wasteland of reruns, but now there are new shows that start their run when the fall shows have wrapped up.


P.S. I know that technically the names of TV shows should be placed in quotation marks, not italicized. In case you hadn't noticed, this is not a term paper. But I'm sure someone will think me a douche bag for italicizing.

Or for starting sentences with conjunctions.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Popping over

The usual Sunday post: Alerting my interested readers that they can take a break from looking at words to looking at new pictures (of poppies) that have been posted over at the useless photo site. Feel free to click over if you have a moment.

Friday, July 11, 2008


On Friday morning the new iPhone came out. And the producers of the local CW affiliate, the oldest LA station (KTLA), thought it would be good to send a reporter (sic) who had a ridiculously condescending attitude about technology down to cover people waiting in line for it.

The footage is available on the station's website (at the moment--on the News tab, scroll down to the "iPhone 3G Debuts - Eric Spillman" link), where our intrepid microphone-wielding bundle of abject journalistic integrity asks people waiting in line if they prefer gadgets to people, and (I am not making this up) if they have seen a woman naked.

At 3:55 in the video he gets called out by the guy to whom he asks the latter question, who quite accurately identifies it as "kind of Jackass." And the reporter (sic) accuses the man of lacking a sense of humor.

Were it me in that scenario and I had the inspiration to retort with what comes to mind now, I would have come back with: "I have a good sense of humor. And if you say or do anything humorous I'm sure it will let me know."

Boo-ya! (Of course, had I been there--not that I would have been there, but hey, it's their lives--it would not have come to me when the camera was on me. Such is the way these things go.)

A reporter (sic) for a local station assigned to cover the release of a new device really is in no position to consider himself superior to anyone, least of all people motivated enough to queue up overnight outside a store.

Mostly he should be happy nobody in line gave him the ass-kicking he most certainly deserved.


For those of you who live in other parts of the country: This is why you should hate L.A. It's not that we are destroying so-called traditional values with some "Hollywood agenda"; we're simply embarrassing ourselves with what we allow to be broadcast on our morning "news" programs.


Why do I not move away? 1) Because I was born here, and 2) I figure I need to stay to keep the percentage of non-morons from going any lower than it already is. I am holding back the storm of idiocy as much as I can. Which isn't much, I admit.

Song lyrics du jour

I complain very little because
It's better than it was

- Fastball, "Better Than It Was"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Getting out (of it)

This weekend my employer is holding a "family night" at a popular Southern California location. (No, not that one.) Employees from multiple offices will bring their spouses and children for an evening of fun.

I'm not going. And I'm fine with not going.

Around the office over the last couple days I've had several co-workers ask if I was going, and when I've indicated I was not there has been either an overt or implied follow-up where I'd need to justify not going.

At some point today it occurred to me that I could just as well ask them to explain why they were going.

It's not that I hate my job or the people in the office. However, why does me not choosing to spend time with hundreds of my co-workers' children on a Saturday night make me the oddball?


I grasp that the people who asked me were perhaps implying that they would consider me being there as improving the event. While that's flattering, the reality is: I'm not that exciting. They're grasping for anything to try to make it worthwhile. Thus, it's also kind of suggesting that I'm the one making the better decision.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Song lyrics du jour

You're asking me, "will it be alright?"
If you're asking me, don't take my advice

- Ray Davies, "You're Asking Me"

(does anyone ever wonder why I post these SLDJ?)

Monday, July 07, 2008


A couple weeks ago I commented on the number of movies that I'd seen touted by EW as the classics of the last quarter century. Glancing over the lists for the "new classic" TV shows reveal I've watched 42 of the 100, which, while not 75% (like the movies) is still at least a reasonable number of them as well. My music collection includes more than a few of the so-called classic albums since '83. (Okay, only 30 of them, but that's probably more than the average person.)

With the list of best books, however…

I have read three. Out of 100.

And two of them are graphic novels. And one of those I only read because I did a paper in college about how comic books (graphic novels) were not merely "kid stuff" (as their reputation was at the time), and it was one of the examples I cited.

And of the three I've read, there was only one that really floored me, and which I would enthusiastically recommend (Watchmen). And that's being made into a movie, due for release next year, so within another year one could just a well see it on the big screen (although undoubtedly without capturing all its nuance).

I suppose now is an inappropriate time to mention I was an English major (and clearly not much of one). It's certainly only a matter of time until my alma mater finds out and rescinds my degree.


Recently I was in Borders, using up a gift card I'd received. Of the books I purchased, I only got one in the fiction category, and it came out 39 years ago. Slaughterhouse-Five.

I'd been meaning to read it, as I have enjoyed other Vonnegut novels, and it was available in a small paperback that wasn't too expensive and which (more important) fits in the back pocket of my slacks, so it's easy to carry and read on the train.

It's not getting me closer to being able to claim to have read anything from the last 25 years, but it may just keep me from losing the ability to claim myself as a college graduate.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fire worked

A heads-up to my readers who also may be interested in my camera work:

The useless photo site has been updated with pictures of 4th of July festivities, like this one below (click here).

And, yes, the fact that these were posted within two days of being taken is remarkable (for me, at least).

Friday, July 04, 2008

How far they go

Although this holiday weekend seems geared toward making Hancock top at the box office*, I'm still hearing ads for Wanted (probably because when it opened last weekend it was not the most popular movie, despite having Angelina Jolie).

To be clear: Last weekend we visited my father (it was his birthday) and did not see any movie. And if at some point this weekend we find ourselves in a position to see a movie, will we be purchasing tickets for Wanted? Even though the marketing department for Universal is spending money to try to promote it, I think we will not.

In fact, I'd say because of the continuing marketing efforts we probably won't be seeing it.

Prior to last weekend, based on the trailer we'd seen, I was fairly ambivalent about it, and my fiancée thought it looked like a summer popcorn movie (read: bombastic action). Now, while my fiancée soured due to a bad report she got from a co-worker who did see it last weekend, I was not turned until yesterday when I heard a commercial on the radio for Wanted.

Running the trailer in previews before movies or airing on television, with the visual element, the promotional effort can just show dazzling special effects and a glimpse of Jolie's bare (and tattooed) back. However, on the radio the ad must fall back on quoting reviews.

Now, I'm not suggesting I am an expert on advertising, nor am I necessarily all that good at persuasion in general**, but I'd guess that in such ads they'd start with their strongest quote. That way, if listeners change the station before it finishes, at least the best line gets heard. And the first review from which they quoted was this one attributed to Hollywood.com:

"Scene for scene this may be the most visually inventive, trail blazing film of its kind in light years."

In case it didn't jump out at you like it did to me when I heard it (even being said in that enthusiastic voice-over tone), the "light year" is a unit of distance, not a unit of time; that's just a "year." And while I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was an attempt at clever use of language, or that in some possible interpretation they were referring to tremendous distance, I'm pretty sure it was more that the writer of the review doesn't know what a light year is.

The thing about that: I'd guess there's a lot of people who don't know that a light year applies to the vast distance traveled by light in a year. Included amongst them, as far as I can tell, are the writer***, any editor of the review, and the people who decided which quote to include first during the ad.

But I do know what a light year is.

Thus, those promoting Wanted sought to (unintentionally) alert listeners if you know what a light year is then it is probably not the movie for you. I can thank them for letting me know before I spend any money on the film. Frankly, that's more than I would have expected.

So if we do get out to the multiplex during the weekend, we'll probably see Wall-E, which my fiancée has thought would be adorable ever since seeing the trailer for it months ago, and which I've heard is actually good. And the marketing for which has not misused "light year" (that I've seen) so it has not turned me off (although, because it appears that Wall-E takes place in outer space, if that same term were used in reference to time rather than distance, it would probably seem a clever play on words rather than an indication of inadequate education).


Seeing the text of the Wanted review (rather than merely hearing it), I do take a tiny bit of comfort in seeing "its" properly used ("...film of its kind..."). Someone involved at least knew that much. And that might just get me to sit through it when it comes on cable in a few years.


* Linda Richman digression: The box office does not sell boxes, and really is not an office. Discuss.

** Obviously.

*** I suspect the writer is actually a shill for those who seek to promote the film, so it's hardly surprising that it would seem the best quote to those making the radio spot.

Happy Independence Day

From last night's extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


If the man recalled correctly what he'd heard, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain was a few years younger than his father. (The man was himself five or six years shy of presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama's age. An interesting coincidence, certainly, but nothing more.)

The man imagined the reason his dad likely would vote for McCain in November was not so much due to an age connection, or even a disdain of the younger generation. His dad was a conservative, and thus had to cast his ballot for the Republican candidate; McCain would be the only one of those two who approximated representing his father's political beliefs. (His father would not be voting for a third party; his dad's political beliefs didn't go that way.)

And although McCain was a hollow shell of his former political self, it occurred to the man that if he did get inaugurated the next January, McCain might not represent either the man or his father all that well. However, by the mere fact that McCain could speak in coherent sentences (not necessarily exciting, well-orated sentences, but coherent ones), and because the man and his father both spoke in generally coherent sentences, the Republican nominee would come closer than the bumbling nitwit who took over the desk in the Oval Office seven years previously.

McCain did have that going for him.

And if McCain did end up winning the election in November, the man was pretty sure it would be due to the fears of people, not because McCain energized conservatives.

The man didn't like thinking that. It suggested the worst in people, suggested that the lofty rhetoric of McCain's opponent would inspire only dread in significant percentage of voters; not dread because of the rhetoric but dread because of the way he looked and the spin on facts those who work for McCain (directly or indirectly) would almost certainly spread to inspire dread as the election neared.

However, his father would vote for McCain because that was what a conservative would do. It was not despicable. It had nothing to do with what Obama looked like, nor with any spin by pundits, merely with the side with which Obama had aligned himself.

But the man did not consider his father to be representative.


Obama had a better chance of getting his father's vote than Hillary Clinton would have had. That much was certain.