Archive for August, 2009

Many of my pet peeves have to do with driving, as you may have noticed. Perhaps because I live in a city where road rage will get you killed, I have chosen to vent here.

I have fallen victim to the following scenario at least twice in the past week.  I was behind someone driving the pace of a retarded snail, and as we approached an intersection with a green light, the light turned yellow and the other driver hit the gas like they’d suddenly morphed into an Indy racer.  Of course, this was done in such a way that I did not also have to make it through the intersection before the light turned red, so I ended up missing out entirely.  The other time, the person had completely and unabashedly cut me off, drove 15 miles an hour, and then inexplicably left me in the dust when the light started to change.  Enraging!!

Say what you will about Massholes, but self-absorption in Los Angeles is at preposterous levels, so I guess it stands to reason that you are left with selfish, rotten drivers.  Pay attention to what’s going on around you! And stop driving like a jerk!


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Hey Folks – here is another entry from my good friend MFH – hilarious!!Dear Former President Bush,

How is Crawford?  We here at East Coast Meets West Coast were thinking of you and wondering how you were enjoying your retirement.  What are you doing with yourself these days?  We assume there is only so much brush that one can clear.

The reason I bring up your retirement is that we are wondering if you’d like to come work for us.  It is a pretty well-known fact that you come from a family firmly rooted in baseball and that is something we have in common.  I mean to look at it from a baseball stand-point the argument could be made that you were a great President.  In baseball failing 7 out of every ten times is considered Hall of Fame material.  Let’s say you had 2 good years (throwing out Katrina and Harriet Myers etc) that gives you a solid .250 average.  Think about it, the Red Sox paid $75 million for JD Drew and he hits about .250.  Throw in the occasional home run (the speech on the rubble) and all the time off and one wonders if you weren’t the JD Drew of Presidents.

So, we are prepared to offer you a job if you are looking for work.  I’m new here myself but I feel I have this kind of authority.  Your vociferous love for reading is well-documented and accepted, no one has ever delved into your taste in film.  We here at East Coast Meets West Coast would like to bring you on as our film critic.

Before you answer, allow me to clarify what we are looking for.  We want you to review movies that featured actors playing you (or variations on you).

IMDb.com lists 89 examples of characters named “George Bush” (though some of them date back to The Golden Girls and Murphy Brown which one can assume were your Poppy).  And that’s 89 examples where the character is a parody of you rather than satire, like in “Silver City” Chris Cooper played a thinly-veiled facsimile of you named Dickie Pilager.

What we’re asking of you is pretty free-form and really dictated by your whim.  Say you want to sit down and watch Oliver Stone‘s “W”, just keep a few notes and shoot us a blog post afterwards letting us know how you felt watching it.

We’ll keep a rating system (say, 5 cowboy hats being great, 1 cowboy hat being Jimmy Carter) and translate your work into blog-able prose.

You can do them in clusters or you can watch them iindividually  Once a week, or spread them out so the impression truly marinates with you.  The American people are owed this much we think.  How does a former President feel about his portrayal in popular culture?

Did Dennis Quaid have it right in “American Dreamz” or was it the guy who sent Harold and Kumar to Guantanamo Bay?  That fat guy in all the commercials during the baseball play-offs impersonated you a lot, was that offensive (you’re not fat)?  Were you best portrayed in cartoon form on “South Park” or on “Family Guy“?  Or on Broadway by Will Ferrell (talking about guys who haven’t been relevant since 2001)?  Or in “jokes” (my quotes) stolen from other sources when you were “lampooned” (my quotes) on “comedian” (my quotes) Carlos Mencia’s show?  You are listed as a character in “Van Wilder 2:  The Rise of Taj“, who knew such a film existed?  Who knew you were represented?

You were played by numerous actors of varying talent.  A guy named James Adomain seems to have made a career playing you.  Have you ever met?  Would you like to?   The name Jim Nieb turns up alot too and one wonders how much of playing you was just a wig and a squint, but they did it, I did not.

Well, sir, just some grist for the mill.  Far be it from us to not let you practice your, er, love.  If this was something that would interest you, please get back to us ASAP (as soon as possible) so we can get started on this.  You commissioned your father and former President Clinton to be ambassadors for America throughout the world, and so we are now asking you to write blurbs about bad movies.  Each according to his ability, sir.

And anyways, it’s gotta be better than working on your memoirs.

Mike Toomey
East Coast Meets West Coast

PS We at East Coast Meets West Coast are fully aware that the new Elements of Style dictates that President no longer be capitalized in reference to the chief executive of these United States however have too much respect for the office itself not to do so.

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In an earlier entry, I mentioned that I was so far disappointed in Tori Amos’ latest album Abnormally Attracted to Sin, and that I was hoping it would grow on me.

Well, I wanted to follow up to say, not only has it grown on me, but I truly cannot stop listening to it.  The album is strange.  She is strange. But she is just a brilliant musician.  Her songs have so many layers, and for years I’ve been in love with her voice and the way she drags out her syllables in songs.   The results are always oddly beautiful.  It’s definitely worth a listen, even if you think you might not like it.

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F** Your Dog

Ok, ok, calm down.  I don’t hate dogs.  In fact, I have always considered myself  a “dog person” having grown up with a dog as the family pet.  I do not have a problem with dogs in general.

My problem is with people who treat their dogs like children, but specifically those who do this with a permissive parenting style.  It is these people who think it’s cute when their unruly mutt sniffs your crotch or jumps up on you.  “Oh look, he likes you!”, they’ll say.  Well, I say, “F** your dog.”  Learn how to control it.

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If you read tabloids or even watch the news, you will see much mention of the Hollywood Hills.  It is an enclave of celebrity housing and thought to be very exclusive and glamorous.  Well, I am here to tell you, the Hollywood Hills suck.

I was duped by the supposed glamour of the Hills when I first moved here and actually lived in Laurel Canyon for 6 months. It was more inconvenient and stressful than I ever could have imagined.  I couldn’t take a left out of my driveway because the road was too windy and people go 50 mph around the bends.  So, in order to head down to Hollywood from my apartment, I would have to head in the opposite direction, take a right up another tight and windy road and coast down through the Mt. Olympus estate, which is essentially a 70% grade hill.  I blew through my brake pads in no time.  Also, it was impossible to have guests come and visit because there is nowhere to park.  Since there are virtually no sidewalks, walking also is an not an option unless you have a death wish.

Luckily, now, I do not have much reason to stop in the Hills, but since I live in the San Fernando Valley, if I want to to Hollywood or the West Side, traveling over one of the Canyon roads is a necessity.  As I was doing this on Friday, I was thinking about how much I hate these roads and that the people who live in the Hills have to be partly crazy. Especially those weirdos whose houses are half grounded and half on stilts. This, in a region known for earthquakes and mudslides.

I also saw a guy on a small side street, waiting to take a left onto the main road.  With the steady stream of traffic in both directions — in addition to the fact that it’s so windy, it’s pretty hard to see what’s coming — I wonder if, two days later, he isn’t still waiting.

Another big gripe I have with the Hills is the lack of user-friendliness.  One thing I do like about Los Angeles is the grid system.  Most roads are logically laid out North-South/East-West.  It makes perfect sense.  The Hills make no sense whatsoever.  If you take a wrong turn or are lost, you really do have to pull a three-point turn (or a ten-point, really, because the roads are so narrow) and go back the way you came; assuming you can go the equivalent of “around the block” to get back where you came from is something I’ve fallen for more than once, and it has never, ever worked to my advantage. I’m lucky I’m not still driving around up there right now. 

For all of this, I say, f** the Hollywood Hills.

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 Here is a special treat for ECMWC readers (reader?).  An old friend of mine, known to this blog as “Melanie’s First Husband,” has contributed an entry.  I am very excited about this, not only because I agree wholeheartedly with the subject matter but because MFH is a talented and hilarious individual.  Back in my college days his (hand-written!) letters were always a treat – for the writing and also for that fact that he would include random items like bottle caps and those little plastic hangers you get when you buy a pair of socks.  Enjoy!
First of all, let me say that I have come here to praise Joseph Gordon-Levitt not bury him.  My wife and I saw “500 Days of Summer” this weekend and, while it wasn’t the best movie we’ve ever seen nor was it formulaic or entirely predictable (addendum: it was unpredictable in ways that go beyond the fact that the finite-ness of the title actually makes it impossible for the two leads to end up together (apologies for spoiling that for anyone who can’t read and/or deduce that if they got together it would be called “Endless Days of Summer”). 

The point is that it wasn’t the best movie, in part because if it had been, Joseph Gordon-Levitt wouldn’t have been in it.  If it had been the best movie it would have been offered to Leonardo DiCaprio.  Then Matt Damon.  Then Ashton Kutcher.  Each of whom would have destroyed it in their own way (addendum: I like Matt Damon but he’s too big a star to not do what is described in the next sentence).  For “500 Days of Summer” to be made as it was, it required an actor that (paradoxically) has the clout to get such a movie made and distributed but doesn’t have the clout to re-write it to fit the “character” he plays in the American (like how John Wayne always played “John Wayne”).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn’t have this problem (addendum: this might because he’s not that good looking.  My wife called him “an uglier version of Cang” who is a guy we know.  You’d be hard-pressed to refer to any of Mr. Gordon -Levitt’s aforementioned contemporaries as an ugly version of anyone you know).  He isn’t a huge “movie star”.  Yet.  He’s an actor who is forced to follow the material and pick good projects.  And thus far he has been picking movies that I have enjoyed.

“500 Days of Summer” is equal parts rom-com, musical, drama and animated Bollywood dance number.  And Mr. Gordon-Levitt is alone at it’s emotional center (addendum:  a lot of people will say that Zooey Deschanel is shouldering some of the weight but I would advise that they see it again).  He plays is the one who loves and loses, she is merely the object of these.

Gordon-Levitt has made “The Lookout” which is a the kind of movie that would have made him a star in the ’70’s.  And “Brick” which is unequivocally my favorite movie made in the last decade.  Again none of these can be mass-marketed to sell T-shirts or cross-promoted with Burger King but they are the kind of movies that fans of good movies should enjoy (this may be the best streak of an actor making movies exclusively for one person since Jim Caviezel made a movie about baseball then a movie about Jesus and then a movie about golf seemingly to impress my father).

The point is that those movies wouldn’t have been made (or, at the very least, wouldn’t have had been made as they were) without Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  And therein lies my dilemma; do I root for my favorite working actor to do well and get cast in bigger movies or do I hope that he maintains the status-quo and just makes movies that I like?

It is like hoping that a restaurant you discovered does well enough to stay in business but not so well as to preclude you from getting a table.  And please bear in mind that I’m totally the good news guy.  I don’t really root against anyone (not even the Yankees, I just want the Red Sox to win their games!) but I find myself secretly hoping that Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn’t have a tent-pole in his immediate future.

Now there is the “GI Joe” situation, which one hopes he made in the same way that George Clooney made “Batman and Robin” i.e., as a pay-cheque that freed him up to make some really interesting choices in the decade following.  Without having seen it, I assume “GI Joe” to be a Channing Tatum vehicle and/or a pyro-technic vehicle and doubt Gordon-Levitt will shoulder any of the blame for that debacle.  But all of that said, it is a fact that “GI Joe” will make more in it’s opening weekend than “Brick”, “The Lookout” and “500 Days of Summer” will make in their combined theatrical run.  And that being said, one can imagine that it is difficult to turn down the kind of bank those movies offer.

But maybe he will.  Maybe he’ll continue to take interesting projects; maybe he’ll work with quality directors (that’s the key, by the way); maybe he’ll be the rare actor that wants to be an actor not a movie star; maybe…maybe.

Either way, I’m rooting for him.

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Seeing people text while driving freaks me out.  In an earlier post, I mentioned a segment I saw on TV demonstrating that texting while driving is actually more dangerous than driving drunk.  Well, it was on the Today show, and they showed an experiment by an editor from Car & Driver magazine.  They outfitted a car with a red light in the windshield and when the light went on, the driver was supposed to brake. They then measured the distance it took the driver to stop after the light went on, four different times. First while completely unimpaired and undistracted; second after a few drinks; third while reading an email; and fourth while sending a text message.   The link to the segment is below – it is enlightening, to say the least.  If you don’ t feel like watching the video, here’s the upshot:

* Unimpaired, it took the driver about half a second to hit the brakes

* With a BAC of .08 (legally drunk), he drove an extra 4 ft. before braking

* Sober but reading emails, the driver went an extra 36 ft. before stopping

* While texting (and still sober), the driver when an extra 70 ft. (!!!) before hitting the brakes

This is horrifying, especially when you think of it happening on the freeway at super fast speeds, or even worse, on side streets with kids running around. 

So stop texting while you drive!!! I guarantee that whatever you think is so important can wait until you’ve stopped your car.  It’s certainly not any more important than your life – or someone else’s.



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