Tuesday, May 30, 2006

First Lurker!

I met my first lurker this weekend, possibly the only lurker this site has ever had. Fittingly, it was a cousin of mine, my cousin Barles. Barles is a very sweet guy and genuine regular reader. Maybe now that I’ve called him out he’ll be man enough to comment. It doesn’t take much.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Level Tired

In college, when I had to finish a paper in a single sleepless night, I would tell Jibs, my girlfriend at the time, that I was a certain level of tired, like "Level 3 tired." These levels never made it past the contextual, which is to say I couldn't tell you now what each level meant to me then.

I didn't have much need for describing myself as a numbered level of tired after college because I was not working in finance, but tonight I was reminded of them because I found I was literally too tired to walk in a straight line in my own apartment.

The biggest luxury I can get is to turn off my phone before I go to sleep. Turning off my phone, which I also use as an alarm, means there is absolutely nothing urgent to do the next day.

Tonight I turned my phone off.
And I'm definitely sleeping in.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I Just Worked a 16-hour day

We'll talk later.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Big Trucks

Next month I have a job driving a 14' cube truck for an independent feature production, and today I got to drive just such a truck for the very first time.

I was nervous coming in, but once I was in the driver's seat I felt really good. A big truck is up high, so you have a great view of the streets of New York. Other drivers give a truck respect, which means I can get away with a few things that I couldn't normally, like squeezing in to another driver's lane. I am normally a very defensive driver, and it's nice to have a couple of tons of steel to throw around.

Driving a truck is still not as fun as walking down the street, at least in New York. For one thing, there is the film production phenomenon of the fire watch. Fire watch means you are sitting in your truck waiting. You protect your truck from tickets, thieves and accident while other people do film things. It's a thankless task and usually falls to the bottom of the film production totem pole, production assistants. My first task the first time I was a PA was fire watch, and I've given that same job to other first time PAs. It is not something you want anyone of any value to spend their time doing.

The other thing is that there is no visibility out the back windows of a cube truck, because there are no back windows, only a giant cube. This is why I have learned to worship my mirrors. Their my only connection to the world outside my periph.

Still, once I piloted through Herald Square, I knew I was over the hump. This does not seem like such a horrible way to get paid this summer.

Saw Brick Again

I watched Brick again a few nights ago. This time I even got someone to come along, my friend Moni; we were going to see Friends with Money as the least objectionable option and then I though "oh, yeah. I have to see Brick again," so we saw Brick.

Most good movies don't seem as good to me the second time because I'm just confirming the things I saw the first time - "yeah, that was there. That was there. Everything seems to be in order." For her part, Moni liked Brick but didn't love it - she couldn't get past high school students speaking so unbelievably.

But for me, Brick was as good the second time, maybe even better. Brick is so clever about revealing its secrets, careful with character motivation and judicious with plot twists that it felt really good to know what was happening all along. Plus, there's a little bit of a learning curve with Brick because of the language thing, and I got to skip that.

Here's the thing: the third time I see a movie is usually better than the second, because I get to start seeing how the movie is made: how the shots were chosen, how the lighting or props reflect the story arc, stuff like that.

Like this time I knew coming in that one of the supporting characters was only in three scenes, that she was played by an actress I liked in Lost, and that one of the scenes was a flashback, so I got to see how her clothes and makeup were different in the flashback, how well she sustained the accent, and how close she played her one big scene (it reminded me of the soap opera audition scene in Mulholland Drive).

So I have to consider the merits of seeing Brick again. It's most likely better than any of the the crap coming this summer, and I can't imagine seeing Brick anywhere but a big screen since it's so pretty. It won't last at the Angelika forever (their print is already looking pretty banged up) and it doesn't look from here like it's headed for wide release.

So my choices are to see it again and try to accept that I am obsessed enough to spend a total of $31.50 on a single movie, or to wait until I am a billionaire with my own private movie theater and watch it then, and I have a bit of a backlog for that place already.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I just watched Contact again, and now all of a sudden it's 4:00 a.m. Contact is one of those movies where if you start watching it at any point you just have to watch it the whole way through. Partly it's because Contact is an adventure story. Partly it's because the events, the way aliens choose to contact us, and how the world reacts all seem so plausible. A lot of it is that it basically has a humanistic message (we have to be here for each other regardless of the bullshit, etc.) Plus, the movie loves to keep its secrets (like once you decide Haris is in love with Eli, you get to look for it all the time.) But the most important is Jodie Foster.

I've been hanging out with some geeky people lately, and what I noticed this time around was just how geeky Jodie Foster played Eli, the woman scientist and hero of our story. This is a girl who can't get out of clashing colors and bad outfits for at least the first half-hour of the movie. She doesn't know how to talk to the press or the brass, she's routinely humiliated by her boss in public, her boyfriend is too attractive and important for her. It's the dorkiest character I've seen and been able to believe in quite some time. And just last year I was watching Jodie Foster own everybody in Inside Man.

Speaking of which, can you believe this movie was made nine years ago? I remember the first time I saw it because I was in Boston with these girls and I'm really not getting in to all this right now, but imagine everything I've done in the last nine years. If nothing else, I've watched the entire Carl Sagan Nova series, Cosmos. So I've got that under my belt.

There is always something going on when you look at Jodie Foster's face, especially her eyes. You could follow the whole movie just by watching those eyes, sound off, no effects, get McCaunaghay the fuck out of there. Being able to follow a story through one person's face means Star Quality. We've got our own stars, but there may be no Jodie Foster for this generation.

Saved on my TiVo

Saved permanently on my TiVo:

From the first permanently thingy to the latest.

Hudson Hawk
Lilo & Stitch
Futurama: Godfellas
Being Human
My Neighbor Totoro
Road to Morocco
Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill
Eddie Izzard: Circle
Porco Rosso
Futurama: How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Spurs Lose

This feeling reminds me of something. Oh yeah.

The night of the 2004 election my friend Emily came over to the apartment to watch. I remember when the night started we were laughing, drinking, having a good time and as the night went on and the returns kept coming in we were both just hung over and miserable. That night dragged on until Edwards came out and said "we can wait one more night." Then the next morning it was over.

That was a bad night, too.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Drew is Coming

My cousin the revolutionary and I have a very dear friend named Drew. For the last five months he's been living in Ghana (!) as part of some NYU program, and he's now in London making his slow way back to the States. He'll be in New York in early June, and we couldn't be more thrilled. Also, he recently said he loved me like a plate of spaghetti.

Because Drew is such an amazing kid, because his way of speaking and thinking are so distinctive, and because he's been gone so long, I've kept a mental catalogue of the things that I've encountered that could come close to being Drew.

I can't explain Drew to the rest of the world, but if you look at this stuff, then meet Drew, you will say "oh, yeah, that makes sense." It is my attempt to explain Drew through cultural triangulation.

Also like Drew, it is all very funny.

Ask a Ninja (my favorite is Ninja Omnibus)
Doogtoons' Nick and Haig
Overcompensating webcomic by Jeffrey Rowland
Comedian Dane Cook

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Doing My Part to Help Corporate America

I was reading about advertisers and networks bitching about digital video recorders in the Times a couple weeks back (they are bitching about DVRs in the Times again now) and I remember thinking that if an industry changes, those in the industry must change with it. Also that they were a bunch of bitchy bitches.

I never would have thought I would say this, but GE has an innovative solution. They're calling it the One-Second Theater. It's a hidden short slideshow inside their regular, 30-second ads.

With a DVR, you can pause a recording of the ad and click forward through each frame to read the slides. You could see how too much of this could get annoying, but for now, it's a clever idea. I just spent much longer than 30 seconds reading GE's latest one-second theater during an episode of the Apprentice, and then of course I'm making it a viral meme by blogging about it (hence the name of this post).

Understanding how people use and will use TiVo is not impossibly hard. Occasionally there's hidden jokes in the Daily Show for freeze-framers, usually at the expense of people who use TiVos (The Simpsons' writing staff called these "VCR jokes".)

Still, advertisers forget that DVRs also mean that users can watch ads multiple times. Earlier I watched the Mariah Carey / Pepsi ringtone ad for ten minutes during an episode of House, and I was not ashamed until this moment. There were some VW Bug ads that I became obsessed with on replay a few years ago (you can find one of the ads here; thanks to fight.boredom for hosting). [edit: the other ad, "Squares," is online at the director's site.]

All I'm saying is change happens. My advice to corporate America is to do us all a favor and not fight it, but find innovative ways to use it to your advantage.

Where I've Been: Sun., May 13-Sat., May 20

<-- Back to the previous post in this series

The first, median, and last sites I've visited in the past week. They say it's fascinating. Like, look, I didn't go online on Sunday. Who knew?

Monday, April 17 (51)

Tuesday, April 18 (86)

Wednesday, April 19 (67)

Thursday, April 20 (124)

Friday, April 21 (39)

Saturday, April 22 (117)

<--Back to the previous post in this series

Friday, May 19, 2006


I've got a new pair of sunglasses, and they make me feel like a superhero in disguise.

I don't often get to wear sunglasses. I use perscription lenses, and they're strong - I'm not legally blind without them, but I ought to be. Perscription shades are expensive, and I have a frustrating tendency to lose them (by the way, if you see some Oakleys with green lenses in the New Hampshire area and putting them on makes you feel like someone is hammering your head with a mallet, drop me a word). It's also tricky to switch between those and regular glasses, because my eyes constantly need to adjust. A lot of times, they're not worth the trouble.

Last week, I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a new pair. I picked these sunglasses out while I was buying new regular glasses with my mom. Picking out the new regular frames took me several hours (it's a big decision!), but picking out sunglasses frames took about 15 minutes. I just picked the most stereotypically sunglasses-like sunglasses that were there.

I've been carrying them around for a week now, and I'm starting to realize what I've been missing all this time. There's the benefit of being able to look around on a bright day without squinting, of course, but I look different, too. I don't look any cooler (and we're talking about a pretty low bar, there), but I do look less innocuous. I showed the 1st graders at my school, and one of them actually screamed and jumped back. Not necessarily a great sign, but at least I knew they had an effect.

There's also an odd psychological benefit. I'm able to pass as someone who doesn't where corrective lenses at all - just like an FX reality show. Plus, knowing I look different changes how I behave. All of which lets me feel different from who I usually think I am.

Irony Air

I've decided the secret to air travel is to pretend your travel experience is more convenient than everybody else's. This is surprisingly easy because so many people pretend their travel experience is more difficult than everyone else's.

You must play to this man's strengths. If you are carrying a laptop, remember that he is carrying a larger laptop. When disembarking a plane for a tight connection, remember as he shoves past you to retrieve his rolling suitcase from above your seat that this man has an even tighter connection. He will remind you of this by catching you in his gaze and rolling his eyes, trying to elicit a mutual disdain for the passengers in front of you and their lack of willingness to push past the passengers in front of them.

At all times, you must exhibit an attitude of unrushed detachment. Once on board - shoulders relaxed, seat leaned ever-so-slightly back, bags stowed, magazine or portable gaming device in hand, you will order a cocktail you reserve for such occasions and, once finished, order another. After all, for you, this flight is exactly where you'd always hoped to be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where I've Been: Sun., May 7-Sat., May 13

<-- Back to the previous post in this series

The first, median and last sites I visited last week, except for Monday. Monday is for suckers.

Sunday, May 7 (45)

Tuesday, May 9 (106)

Wednesday, May 10 (119)

Thursday, May 11 (33)

Friday, May 12 (189)

Saturday, May 13 (48)

<--Back to the previous post in this series

Monday, May 15, 2006

Another Story From Mom's House

Mom's cat, Taco, is rolling around on his catnip pillow while Mom and I are having tea. After a good five minutes, he sprints past the table in to the guest room. I swear to god I heard him saying "gotta go buy a car."

Mom's House

Mom is still a spring chicken, but she's old enough that I sometimes wonder if she's going crazy, or I am, or if she's always been this way.

One day this weekend I opened a cabinet to get a glass and found a raw piece of meat and two raw pieces of fish, just sitting there.

This was one of those moments.

It turns out the meat and fish was just out to defrost, and Mom was keeping them in the cabinet so the cat wouldn't eat them.

Some Nicknames I Have For My Mom's Dog

My sister gave my mom's dog her first name, Tara, and I never like it. Since then, I have been giving her nicknames, starting with Fuzzy (because she is fuzzy). Here are some of the nicknames I've given to my mom's dog:

Fuzzoula, Montana
Fuzzy Bear

The Fuzzinator

Friday, May 12, 2006

Brick Is a Good Movie

After an aborted attempt to get Marmo to stay up past her bed time (she had to work at 8:30 in the morning, if you can conceive of such a thing) I finally admitted to myself that I wasn't to get anyone else to come and saw Brick on my own.

I was ready to be disapointed in Brick because there has been a rash of bad movies with good trailers lately. Plus, I read some bullshit reviews by people who couldn't seem to get a handle on it.

Sophomore year I saw Sean Penn speak at my college. He was talking about Amores Perros, and he said if he had made that movie, he would stop making movies (which makes sense if you watch, say, The Pledge). If I made Brick, I could stop making movies, but there's no way I would. It was just too good.

The World
In a fascinating interview at the film's official site, the writer and director of the movie, Rian Johnson, says that he set out to make an American detective movie (to get to the interview, click on "missing love" up top, then "about the production.")

He understood, though, that even if he made a great detective movie, it would be just another great detective movie. Audiences have too many expectations about what that genre means to be able to experience the story he wanted to tell as something real.

Johnson needed a world with its own rules, that was very visceral to the characters, and that wouldn't allow the audience to apply their own expectations.

His solution is to set the film at a high school.

It is here that I have to make my first reference, and although it may seem unflattering, it really is a compliment. Have you seen Fillmore!? It's an animated Disney series, a cop show set at a middle school. Like Brick, Fillmore! lets the audience enjoy conventions of the genre in a new way. Also, it has great chase scenes. That's really as far as I'm going with this comparison. Moving on.

It is so much goddamn fun to find the conventions and devices of a detective movie in this new, real world. There was a lot to love about Brick - the beautiful, open spaces, the surreal dialogue (which I guess people are making a big deal out of, but fuck 'em), Richard Fucking Roundtree. But getting to experience the best parts of an old genre as if for the first time - that's what I enjoyed the most.

The Good Friend
Casablanca is in my top-three movies of all time, right next to Die Hard, and one of my favorite parts of Casablanca is Rick's good friend, Sam. Sam always has Rick's best interest at heart, even when Rick doesn't. He's always there to help or listen and his loyalty can never be called in question. Best of all, it's never explained why Sam has this great loyalty to Rick. I tend to be the big listener in my relationships with my friends, and I always identified with Sam.

Brick's protagonist, Brendan, also has a Good Friend, Brain. Brain solves Rubick's cubes in under a minute. He knows everyone's locker number. And he's always there to help Brendan cover an angle.

The Main Character Regularly Gets the Shit Beaten Out of Him
Know how I keep talking about how much I hate Slevin? A big problem I had was that Josh Hartnett did not get the shit beaten out of him nearly often enough.

He has a promising start, getting his nose broken twice in the first twenty minutes, but then it's like the character shield goes up and no one can touch him. It's right around when Harnett is first getting on your nerves, when you're starting to understand that Lucy Lui can't carry this thing on her own and isn't she like 37 anyway, when you realize that everybody's probably in this as a favor to the Weinsteins. Basically, it's right when you're really rooting for Harnett to get the shit beaten out of him, and Slevin lets you down.

Brendan gets the shit beaten out of him constantly. He takes it in the face and just when he's coming back with nothing he goes all early Matt Damon on 'em. The great thing is that Brendan does not look like an action star - he's played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who's best known as the kid in 3rd Rock From the Sun. Violence in movies should be brutal and fun, and heroes should be tough, vulnerable and frequently beaten up.

Feels Like High School
From the interview with Johnson:

RJ: You know, Hammett was once asked if Sam Spade was based on any particular detective. He answered no, it's based on what every real detective would like to imagine himself to be. That's sort of analogous to our movie's relationship to real high school; it's not the way high school is, but it's the way high school feels.

When you're in high school, things don't feel - they didn't, for me - flippant and silly. A lot of high school shows and movies seem to me to have a very adult perspective on high school, the perspective of someone who is out of that world and is now seeing it in a slightly condescending manner. Once you get beyond it, it's easy to forget how you once were completely encased in its logic. Whereas when you're actually in it, and your head is completely encased in this microcosm, it's your world and it's a world you have to survive. And things seem, if not life-or-death, very important and mythical. The people you know and the dynamics of your relationships seem hyper-real. We tried to summon that here. The level of intensity that's in Brick equates to the level of intensity that I think a lot of us felt in high school.

To that end: a grand total of one parent appears, as comic relief. There's one other adult in the whole movie - Richard Roundtree as The Man (Assistant Vice-Principal Trueman.) That's it. Everyone else is high-school age, just like all the important people in your life when you were in high school.

The supporting cast, which is excellent, is not made up of stereotypes. Don't get me wrong - if you go looking for the femme fatale, the gangster muscle, and the football star, you'll find them - but these characters all get their own chances to step out of their roles, and that makes them different people than the ones we may have come expecting to see.

Setting everything in a high school also lets Brick get away with some other fun stuff.

People are making a big deal of the language used in Brick - the trailer and website, for one thing, but also the shitty Chicago Tribune review I don't feel obligated to link to again. There's neologisms ("Bull" means cop, "dose" means to take drugs, etc. blah blah blah), and then there's the dialogue style of the movie, which is surreal, elegant and a little difficult to place.

To me the only question is whether the language is justified or if it makes a typical audience member question the reality of the movie. Allow me to dust off an old argument I made famous when defending the frogs in Magnolia, namely, "anyone who disagrees with me just doesn't get it."

Here's why the language was justified for me: first, everyone is in high school, which is as ripe a breeding ground for neologisms as America is likely to see. Second, the language quickly becomes part of the mystery - one of a number of McGuffins. Neat.

Third, and this is where I start to get snooty about it, is that the sophisticated viewer has been watching unconventional dialogue on television for awhile now. You know, on HBO. The best example is Deadwood. This is a Western that sounds like Shakespeare except everyone keeps saying "cocksucker." Like Brick, when you can't figure out exactly what everyone is talking about, you can just let the words and the beautiful visuals wash over you. Call that point four.

Fifth, Speedrail is always making up words and it's funny.

People Act Rationally
Even, at times, cleverly. This is a function of good writing. Bad writing leads to idiot plots. Good writing (I am learning the hard way) is about making everything your characters do make sense. It isn't as easy as it sounds, especially in a plot as complex as Brick's where the audience never seems to have the whole story anyway. There are even a few moments of character genius, like the end of the chase scene. Fun fun.

Why I've Just Written 1,400 Words About Brick
Brick is one of those rare movies that made me wish I were still in the world of the movie after I left the theater.

I don't like telling people to see movies because movies are good for different things to different people at different times, and Brick will not work for everybody. However, something about this movie spoke to me.

Maybe it's that it was independently made, that it was written for a small budget for that purpose, that it was clever and different and smart about the context an audience would see it in. Those things remind me of the movie I want to make.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Cute Story About Sunkist

My friend Sunkist and I are eating in a diner. We've been hanging out together all evening and we are deeply involved in a discussion of long-term relationships. Sunkist glances at my shirt, the same shirt I've been wearing all night, and bursts out laughing. She can't stop laughing for the next five minutes.

Cute, right?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The San Antonio Spurs

My only sports-related passion is San Antonio Spurs basketball. I yell at the screen. I jump up. I clap, gasp, declaim about Bowen's corner 3's to whoever's in the room, and generally make a fool of myself. I'd say I love Spurs basketball better than I've loved some of my girlfriends, but that really wouldn't be fair - I've known the Spurs much longer than any of them.

I grew up in San Antonio watching the Spurs with my Dad at the old HemisFair Arena. Now, the Spurs are acknowledged as a dominating force in the league, the team to beat in the playoffs (although we've never grabbed headlines like a Shaq or a Kolby). Growing up, it was years of watching the team grow, struggle and change.

It's been a decades-long basketball arc. All through the Robinson era, we kept getting so frustratingly close to greatness, and then we'd lose in the first two rounds of the playoffs. I even remember a joke about it in a season two episode of the Simpsons.

I watched the Spurs struggle until 1999, when they beat the Knicks for their first championship. The '99 championship came just as Robinson was winding down his career and the Tim Duncan era was starting. A lot of the old team I'd grown up with was approaching retirement, and Duncan showed the promise that he's delivered on since then. I know I've got nothing on Red Sox fans, but what an amazing pay off.

With three championships, the last six years have been incredible for Spurs basketball fans. Now it's finals season, and I get to watch four vastly entertaining rounds (if we're lucky) of the best basketball in the world. I'm going to have a lot to say about them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Brick is Killing Me Like a Sack Full of Puppies

Despite my addiction to content, sometimes I don't post for awhile either because I want to get something right, even if it takes a couple of days, or due to a conspiracy of circumstance (read: drinking).

Tonight, it's a combination of the two. I'm trying to write about Brick, but it's proving to be an elusive subject. On top of that I went out and had a few Red Stripes with three new and attractive platonic female friends (which, by the way, made me feel like the biggest pimp ever.) Then I'm heading out of town tomorrow for a special occasion.

Johnny's solution to not posting is to make a point of not apologizing. Mine is to list the titles of the posts I have in progress.

Brick Is a Good Movie


ribble's Updates

The San Antonio Spurs

My Cousin the Revolutionary

ribble's Take on Blog Rules

Where I've Been Template

My G- G- G- G-

Natalie's coming back

T.V. Rediscovers the Crime Drama

Cover your eyes, Mom -OR- the post about porn

The Long Tradition of Ribble

Look Like ribble

Speedrail Speak

From the Archives

DSV stands for Deep Sea Vehicle

ribble's? ribble's what?

Wait a minute - compared to the Where I've Been series, this is a real post. Screw it, I'm not feeling guilty about a thing.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Did I Mention Obscure References?

Remember when I saw Slevin? The real highlight of seeing that movie (besides the rare opportunity to hang out with Cindy) was a two-minute Wes Anderson American Express commercial.

I watched the director's commentary to The Royal Tenenbaums last night and it reminded me Wes Anderson is one of the few people who are making good movies at the moment. The commercial is a parody of a scene Day For Night, Truffaut's movie about making movies. In that scene, Truffaut's propmaster asks him which gun he wants in a critical scene (Truffaut chooses a smaller gun because his actor has small hands). Truffaut's voice over explains that being the director is to be constantly asked questions.

The commercial is now viewable online. Click on the guy in the hat holding the french fry at the bottom of the screen - you may need to scroll with the stupid arrows. The commercial is nearly impossible to find if you don't know exactly where to look, and it doesn't look nearly as good off the big screen. Still, you have to admire a man who will go to such lengths for such obscure jokes.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Where I've Been: Sun., April 30-Sat., May 6

<-- Back to the previous post in this series

Sunday, April 30 (178)

Monday, May 1 (90)

Tuesday, May 2 (51)

Wednesday, May 3 (209)

Thursday, May 4 (71)

Friday, May 5 (158)

Saturday, May 6 (56)

<--Back to the previous post in this series

Another Thing I Like About New York

Bathrooms in restaurants with doors that double lock.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Adventures of Boris: Prom Season

It is prom season here in the U.S., and my friend Boris the Sheep/Russian Spy just stumbled home after an adventure last night at a prom on the East Side.

Boris told me it all this started when he discovered that Phibs, the penguin/criminal master-mind, was planning to assassinate the daughter of the Hungarian ambassador. Boris got orders from Moscow to protect the ambassador's daughter (Hungary being an important strategic ally of Russia) and, early in the investigation, he was able to run down a few of Phibs's henchmen at a seedy underground poker joint up in Washington Heights.

Boris showed up there early in the night and was up $6,000 by the time Phibs's henchmen, a bookmaker named Sharky and a gorilla called Abe, had arrived. Abe and Sharky were both 38 hours in to a weekend-long bender and were ready for a blow-out game.

Boris staked himself. There were ten players altogether including Boris, Abe, Sharky, a French bear named Bearie and George the Mystic Rooster, who said he was an episcopal priest up from Kannapolis, N.C. but didn't much look it.

Boris played it safe at first. Over the first six hours, Bearie and George steadily won while Abe and Sharky steadily lost, and Boris stayed about the same, mostly by picking up the blinds when he was on the button. The others lost their stakes one by one. Around 4:00 a.m., Boris caught Bearie going all-in on a badly-timed bluff and cleaned out her roll with just trip 7s. He gave her $100 for a cab ride, and was such a gentleman about it that Bearie left him her number.

Boris, George the Mystic Rooster and the two henchmen were the only ones left in the game. By this time, Boris had befriended Abe and Sharky, and he could tell they were getting frustrated with George. Finally, after Sharky lost three big pots in a row to George and was ready to leave the table, Boris exposed the rooster as a mechanic. Boris had made him after the first hour, of course, but his sense of timing was impeccable. As Sharky and Abe happily kicked the feathers out of George, they offered to take Boris out for a night on the town.

Two hours later, somewhere between Chumley's and Lit, Sharky and Abe revealed that they worked for Phibs and that the assassination was planned for that very night at the U.N. School's prom. Later, at Hiro, Boris slipped a chemical agent in to Sharky's night cap while he was trying to order sushi, left a business card with Abe ((BORIS STOLICH - WOOL IMPORT/EXPORT)) and excused himself for the night.

Late that afternoon, Boris got the call he expected from Abe. Sharky was sick, he said, and Abe needed a second for the assassination. If Boris could take his place, he would be well compensated. Boris agreed, hung up, and immediately made another call.

He met Abe in the Garment District in the late afternoon. It was there he finally learned the details of the plan. Abe had coralled himself a date with a young filly named Gigi and had insisted on bringing his "friend." Once inside, Boris would poison the punchbowl at the U.N. School Prom just as the daughter of the Hungarian ambassador saddled up with her date. Then Abe would take a flop on the card table and scuttle the rest of the punch as she left (Phibs, who Abe called only "The Penguin," wanted to minimize collateral damage to avoid police attention.)

They would smuggle in the poison in a plastic flask to make it through the metal detector. Abe showed Boris the flask. Boris took it, opened it, took a casual sniff of the poisonous agent, closed the flask, and handed it back.

Boris said the plan seemed solid, but asked Abe why he didn't simply poison the punch himself. Abe admitted that he'd seen a picture of the Hungarian ambassador's daughter, Lisa, and she was cute as a button. He simply couldn't bring himself to do the deed.

Abe gave him a meaningful look. Boris would be able to go through with the plan, wouldn't he? Boris assured Abe that he would. Still, the Gorilla said he would feel more comfortable if he could hold on to the flask until the moment Boris had to strike. Of course, Boris said. There was one last detail - Boris would need a date to the U.N. prom. Abe suggested he call that nice bear from the night before. Boris agreed, and gave Bearie a call as they left to catch a cross-town cab.

Boris and Abe, dressed in tuxedos, met their dates outside the U.N. school just as the party inside got underway. Gigi turned out to be a tall girl with long hair, and Bearie looked radiant in a pink dress and large, matching bag. Though Abe was nervous, Boris was the picture of charm. They danced the night away until Lisa, the Hungarian ambassador's daughter, arrived, and she went straight for the punchbowl.

This was the moment of truth. Abe gave Boris the flask and ran interference with Lisa, engaging her in polite conversation while watching Boris out of the corner of his eye. Abe saw Boris pour the contents of the flask in to the punch bowl before releasing Lisa to her fate.

Lisa drank, and Abe immediately made the flop, knocking the card table down and spilling punch everywhere. It was Bearie, pushing past Lisa, who first came to his side. Boris arrived a moment later, apologizing for his "drunk friend" and, along with Bearie, helping Abe and his date outside. There, Abe, racked with guilt, excused himself and went back to his place alone. Later, Boris told me, he had made his own way back to my apartment.

Once Boris finished his story, I was flabergasted. What of Lisa, the beautiful Hungarian ambassador's daughter? I asked him. All of that was under control, he told me. With only one sniff, Boris had identified the poison. His next call had been to a Russian agent to whom he revealed its nature, using a code he himself had developed that made it seem like he was arranging a date.

It was Bearie, pushing past the ambassador's daughter when Abe was distracted by the flop he'd taken on the punchbowl, who had administered the antidote to Lisa, sticking her with a needle concealed in her oversized pink bag and leaving her and the rest of the guests none the wiser. Bearie was the other Russian agent - she had been in on it from the start.

It was an amazing story, I told Boris. I offered to take him to breakfast, but he waved me off. After Abe had excused himself, Boris had taken Gigi and Bearie both out for a night on the town, and they'd ended up at Gigi's place. He would eat later - the two girls had worn him out.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New Script, Old Script, NewsRadio

Old Script
I just finished translating my notes from my meeting with Jay in to a list of script problems I need to solve. I am slowly coming to understand that writing is a function of ego as well as intellect. Before I started going through Jay's notes for me, I wrote one for myself:

1) The script is a script, which is quite something!
2) The script will be a good script after I work on it.

I felt pretty silly about that note until I realized just how many problems I needed to solve.

New Script
I know it's a comedy, and I know it's about food. Now I'm thinking my next script should be about food critics.

I couldn't shake the idea that if I was going to write something funny, it should be a workplace comedy.

Anna and I were talking yesterday about My Name is Earl and we decided saying a sitcom was better-than-average was not saying very much at all. That said, the sitcoms I've actually enjoyed over the years tend to be workplace comedies - NewsRadio, The Office, Sports Night, Wings, and I am man enough to admit I liked Murphy Brown.

To combine workplace comedy and food, my first thought was a restaurant. However, restaurants have been done welll and now they're just done.

They say write what you know, and use what you have. My first real office experience was in the college paper's newsroom. There are a lot of movies set in newsrooms because they have interesting people with often conflicting goals, the basic building blocks of drama. Plus, there are deadlines, which gives everything a sense of urgency. Newsrooms are also very cheap to build unless you really do it up.

Food writers also tend to go on quests. I got started on the food fiction idea because of a New Yorker article where a guy goes to Tuscany to learn to be a butcher. Quests are great because they give a protagonist a starting set of objectives.

The next step with this idea is to "brainstorm" characters.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Speaking of food

This past Friday my friend Marmo took me to Dinosaur barbecue way, way up by 131 St. in between a highway and a bunch of warehouses.

Now, barbecue is as Texan as Tex-Mex, like how lasagna is as British as chicken tikka masala. I've never gone on a quest for good BBQ in New York for the same reason my friend Apple's mom told her never to buy a reuben West of the Mississippi - good barbecue outside of Texas, the South, and Cincinnati, Ohio (for pork ribs) just seemed like a contradiction in terms. I went in to this place with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Dino BBQ ended up blowing my weekend because nothing else I did could ever live up to it. Marmo and I split a full rack and did not speak from the moment the food arrived until the last rib bone, stripped of its meat like an ambitious model, was taken from our greasy fingers.

I described the feeling as better than sex, but Marmo pointed out that I'd said the same thing about finishing my script a week before. Maybe it just felt like coming home again. In any case, after that I didn't feel like leaving the house for three days.

My problem, then, was that my cousin the revolutionary is himself a Southerner, and I feel that he needs to experience Dinosaur BBQ as well. But I couldn't bring myself to go back there for another month - I mean, I've seen "The Itis".

Finally, MCTR and I decided that we would take our good friend Drew there upon his triumphant return from Ghana in June. Nothing says America like high fat, high cholesterol food.